Votives from Vravrona Sanctuary

From Athens News:

Rare wooden votive offerings of the 5th century BC have recently been discovered in the sanctuary of Artemis at Vravrona on the eastern coast of Attica, according to a statement released on October 3 by the Greek ministry of culture and tourism. Unearthed during infrastructural improvements on the archaeological site, these fragmentary wooden artefacts are remarkable for their state of preservation and detailed ornamentation.

Archaeologists from the 2nd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities were supervising the excavation of a new drainage system west of the site’s partly reconstructed stoa and north of the sacred spring, where they uncovered a rich deposit of ancient ceramic and bronze objects. The objects included Archaic figurines, two intact bronze mirrors and pottery from the Classical era.

Perhaps most impressive in the deposit are wooden objects, including the head and upper torso of a female figurine (ca 500-450BC) wearing a peplos, or body-length garment, and a headscarf over ornately curled hair, with traces of red pigment. Also discovered among the wooden finds are fragments of ceramic vessels and flattened pieces of wood, perhaps from plank-shaped figurines.

Particularly unique are the wooden soles of a woman’s sandals, only partly preserved but highly ornate with incised decoration. The sandals may represent the remains of a votive offering dedicated in the sanctuary by a female follower of Artemis Vravronia.

Botanical specimens collected may assist in reconstructing the sanctuary’s natural environment. This diverse cache of ancient artefacts may be the contents of a bothros, a pit used in antiquity for the discarding of sacred objects.

Once preservation and documentation of the artefacts has been completed, the most exceptional items will be displayed in the Vravrona Archaeological Museum

… a photo of a rim or something accompanies the original article.

Lycian Tomb Complex from Rhodiapolis

From the World Bulletin:

Archaeologists excavating at the site of the ancient city of Rhodiapolis, located in the Kumluca district of present-day Antalya, have uncovered a series of Lycian-era tombs.

Rhodiapolis excavation leader and Akdeniz University archaeologist Dr. İsa Kızgut told the Anatolia news agency last week that his team had uncovered what he believes to be a Lycian cemetery complex that dates to roughly 300 B.C.

The complex, explained Kızgut, was a series of tombs that surrounded a larger necropolis in ancient times. Today, although the necropolis and most of the tombs have been destroyed over the centuries, Kızgut says that the tombs they have so far uncovered will serve as key examples of the often elaborate style of tomb architecture found in Lycian Anatolia.

Kızgut believes the tombs grew incrementally, expanding in width and height over multiple generations. “When another person was buried in the tomb, they were buried … on top [of other graves in] the tomb.” Kızgut said, explaining that the large two to three-story structures were often the result of such additions. “The structures were made of brick and topped with arched roofs. We believe these characteristics are rooted in the cultural heritage of Pisidia,” Kızgut added, referring to a mountain region located north of Lycia in ancient times.

Kumluca District Mayor Hüsamettin Çetinkaya voiced his own excitement over the discovery of the necropolis to Anatolia, stating in an interview that “when we began to uncover and analyze the tombs, it was truly impossible not to experience wonder over the architecture and construction of these complexes.” Çetinkaya indicated that work on the site will continue in the coming years, but he added there is a strong possibility that sections of the site could be opened to visitors next year.

Romanize Your Hallowe’en A Bit

Debbie Felton (UMass Amherst) is hanging her shingle out again as a media source for info that will no doubt be filling Hallowe’en press coverage … here’s the UMass press release:

Centuries before movie and television audiences thrilled to tales of werewolves, vampires and wizards and Halloween became the second biggest celebration of the year, the ancient Greeks and Romans were spinning scary stories about monsters, ghosts and the afterlife, says Classics professor Debbie Felton, who studies the folklore of the supernatural.

Felton is the author of “Haunted Greece and Rome: Ghost Stories from Classical Antiquity,” which relates stories of ghosts and hauntings from ancient times, many of which are similar to modern tales of the supernatural.

“I think these Roman stories are great, and most people don’t realize that ghost and werewolf stories like these were being told 2,000 years ago,” says Felton. “There are many reasons why people enjoy them and enjoy being scared by them. There’s certainly a cathartic effect to hearing a ghost story and being scared out of your wits without ever being in any real danger. But, more essentially, ghost stories ultimately reflect religious beliefs concerning the importance of a proper burial and the survival of the spirit after death. The dead have a need to rest in peace, while the living have a need to believe in an afterlife; who really wants to think about eternal non-existence? And the humor in a lot of ghost stories is a good way to deal with the disturbing reality of death.

“For example, the Roman author Pliny the Younger tells a wonderful little ghost story about a haunted house in Athens,” she says. “It’s a prototypical haunted house story: the horrific ghost of an old man scares everyone away, the house is deserted and falling into disrepair. Finally a brave man comes along who dares to spend the night in the house. He is not afraid of the ghost, and instead realizes the phantom wants to communicate. He follows the ghost to a spot where it disappears; he digs up the spot, finds bones, buries them with the proper rituals, and the ghost never appears again.”
According to Felton, another great spooky story from antiquity isn’t about a ghost but a werewolf, told by the Roman author Petronius in his work “Satyricon.” A man is going from Rome to a villa in the country to visit his mistress, and a soldier offers to accompany him. They stop to rest at the cemetery outside the city, and the soldier does something that terrifies his companion: he takes off his clothes and turns into a wolf. The man runs as fast as he can to the villa and finds that a wolf has ravaged the flocks there, but that one of the servants managed to wound the wolf. Hearing this, the man heads back to Rome, where he finds the soldier being treated by a doctor for wound. The man realizes the soldier is a shapeshifter. As with Pliny’s ghost story, this early werewolf story has many of the prototypical elements found in later such stories, including the presence of a full moon.

Along with classical writings, Felton studies literary ghost stories from the Gothic novel through British writers such as M.R. James down through American authors like Stephen King. She is currently the resident expert and coordinator for the “ghost” entry in the forthcoming Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters, where she has been collecting entries from authors on ghosts in literature and cinema from all over the world, including Africa and the Caribbean, Japan, Southeast Asia, Europe and South America. Felton is also writing a number of entries for the encyclopedia, including “The Bell Witch,” “Poltergeist” and “Ghosts in American literature and cinema.”

Her most recent work is on monsters in Greek and Roman literature and thought, and she recently contributed a long chapter on that subject to the Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous. She is currently working on a book about serial killers in the ancient world, the topic of a number of public lectures she has given around the country.

via:Shades of antiquity: Be afraid

If you’re itching for more, N.S. Gill has a nice page: Ancient Ghost Stories and Ghosts

The Ancient Standard has Pliny’s Ghost story: An Ancient Roman Ghost Story (ca. 61-115 AD) … and The Earliest Werewolves

We’ve also covered (with due skepticism) assorted claims of Roman ghosts: Ghostly DoingsAnother Roman Ghost Story

Wrestling as Oldest Sport?

So claims some folks in USA Today based on a bit of papyrus from the 2nd century A.D. … an excerpt:

The “greatest” part of that is a matter of taste. But when it comes to “oldest,” the sport of wrestling now is showcasing some ancient documentation to make its case.

Written in Greek on an 18-inch wide fragment of papyrus and dated to between 100 and 200 A.D., it is a list of instructions on how to wrestle.

“It’s such a historical find. It’s the oldest written instruction on any sport know to man to date,” says Lee Roy Smith, executive director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla.

In a presentation Tuesday at Columbia University in New York, a replica of the artifact was presented to the Hall of Fame.

According to the Hall of Fame, the document was found in the late 1800s in Egypt by a couple of graduate students from Oxford University in England. It was found in a region southwest of Cairo that had been favored by Greek colonists.

In 1907, the artifact was among fragments of papyrus shipped to Columbia , which at that time was among the schools pioneering college wrestling in the USA.

In September of this year, Hall of Fame wrestling historian Don Sayenga published a report on the artifact.

“This document helps wrestling as a sport if more people recognize that wrestling is the oldest sport,” says Sayenga. “Not only is wrestling the oldest sports, but it has indisputable artifacts.”

Well, there certainly are no instructional texts dating to 100-200 A.D. on how to putt a golf ball or hit a baseball. And the language of the artifact, translated from Greek, does contain the stuff of wrestling instruction.

The Greek word “pleckson” is seen throughout the text. According to a translation published in 1987 by Yale University Press, that word translates to “fight it out.”

Here of some of the translated instructions:

•”Stand to the side of your opponent and with your right arm take a headlock and fight it out.”

•”You underhook with your right arm. You wrap your arm around his, where he has taken the underhook, and attack the side with your left foot. You push away with your left hand. You force the hold and fight it out.”

•”You stand up to his side, attack with your foot and fight it out.”

… well, close, but no cigar I should think. This might be the oldest written instructions for something like wrestling, but regular rogueclassicism readers will surely be aware of myriad pots and the like dating back hundreds of years before that. We might also point out that the Olympics traditionally ‘began’ in 776 B.C., although I’m not sure if wrestling was part of their programme at the time. It seems likely that the religion-athletics connection the Greeks long seem to have had would make such competitions pre-date the Olympics. Whatever the case, claiming wrestling as the “oldest sport” based on a second century (A.D.) papyrus seems a bit of a stretch.

By the way, if you want a better look at the document than the crappy photo that accompanies the original article, here is the APIS entry, which has a number of sizes and more ‘familiar’ references for you to peruse.

Circumundique ~ 10/17/11

Around the Classical blogosphere and environs yesterday:

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem xv kalendas novembres

ante diem xv kalendas novembres

  • 48 B.C. — Octavian dons his toga virilis
  • 17 A.D. — restoration of the Temple of Janus at the Theatre of Marcellus (and associated rites thereafter)
  • 31 A.D. — Execution of the commander of the Praetorian Guard, Lucius Aelius Sejanus, after revelation of his activities against the emperor Tiberius.
  • 33 A.D. — Death of Vipsania Agrippina (Agrippina ‘the elder’), wife of Germanicus and mother of the emperor Gaius (Caligula), among others.
  • 84 A.D. — martyrdom of Luke