Tomb of Alexander the Great Found?

This appears to be a hoax … the site Greek Reporter got it from is a hoax site that I’ve warned others about. Oh tempora! Oh mores! Dang. (tip o’ the pileus to M Fletcher on Twitter for pointing out my folly)

 

From Greek Reporter, which is not known as a font of accuracy alas, but they mention all the right things, more or less:

A team of archaeologists and historians from the Polish Center of Archaeology have revealed a mausoleum made of marble and gold that might be the tomb of Alexander the Great. The site is situated in an area known as Kom el-Dikka in the heart of downtown Alexandria, only 60 meters away from the Mosque of Nebi Daniel.

The monument was apparently sealed off and hidden in the 3rd or 4th century AD, to protect it from the christian repression and destruction of pagan monuments after the change of the official religion within the Roman Empire. It is a testimony to the multicultural nature of Alexander’s empire, as it combines artistic and architectural influences from Greek, Egyptian, Macedonian and Persian cultures. The inscriptions are mainly in Greek but there are also a few Egyptian hieroglyphs, mentioning that the mausoleum is dedicated to the “King of Kings, and Conqueror of the World, Alexander III.” The finding is extremely important as it can provide new information about Alexander the Great.

The mausoleum contains a broken sarcophagus made of crystal glass, 37 bones, mostly heavily damaged, presumably all from the same adult male and some broken pottery dating from the Ptolemaic and Roman ages. A carbon-dating analysis and a series of other tests will determine the age of the bones and if they belong to the Macedonian emperor.

Long time readers of rogueclassicism will know that we frequently get claims about the tomb of Alexander and it is one of the items which can set off the rogueclassicist’s skept-o-meter, but this seems to be the first one which actually puts it in the right place (i.e. Alexandria), has the right sort of sarcophagus,and it seems to be found by legit archaeologists (the Polish Mission has been digging there since at least (scroll down abit)). The only thing I’m not sure of is whether Alexander would have been referred to as Alexander III in an inscription — that, however, might be just a slip in an interview situation.

… our breath is bated for coverage from other news sources …

ADDENDUM (a few minutes later): adding to the intrigue is that this is the area where back in 2010 a temple of Queen Berenike was found amid speculation it was the actual location of Alexandria’s royal quarter. See Zahi Hawass’ undated press release:

… and an item in the Independent which helps us date the press release:

The Papyrus Series I: Egyptian Soldier Letter Home

Back in March we first heard of this interesting letter, translated and published by Rice University graduate student Grant Adamson. From a Rice University press release:

A newly deciphered 1,800-year-old letter from an Egyptian solider serving in a Roman legion in Europe to his family back home shows striking similarities to what some soldiers may be feeling here and now.

Rice Religious Studies graduate student Grant Adamson took up the task in 2011 when he was assigned the papyrus to work on during a summer institute hosted at Brigham Young University (BYU).

The private letter sent home by Roman military recruit Aurelius Polion was originally discovered in 1899 by the expedition team of Grenfell and Hunt in the ancient Egyptian city of Tebtunis. It had been catalogued and described briefly before, but to this point no one had deciphered and published the letter, which was written mostly in Greek.

“This letter was just one of many documents that Grenfell and Hunt unearthed,” Adamson said. “And because it was in such bad shape, no one had worked much on it for about 100 years.” Even now portions of the letter’s contents are uncertain or missing and not possible to reconstruct.

Polion’s letter to his brother, sister and his mother, “the bread seller,” reads like one of a man who is very desperate to reach his family after sending six letters that have gone unanswered. He wrote in part:

“I pray that you are in good health night and day, and I always make obeisance before all the gods on your behalf. I do not cease writing to you, but you do not have me in mind. But I do my part writing to you always and do not cease bearing you (in mind) and having you in my heart. But you never wrote to me concerning your health, how you are doing. I am worried about you because although you received letters from me often, you never wrote back to me so that I may know how you.

“I sent six letters to you. The moment you have(?) me in mind, I shall obtain leave from the consular (commander), and I shall come to you so that you may know that I am your brother. For I demanded(?) nothing from you for the army, but I fault you because although I write to you, none of you(?) … has consideration. Look, your(?) neighbor … I am your brother.”

Adamson believes that Polion was stationed in the Roman province of Pannonia Inferior at Aquincum (modern day Budapest), but he said that the legion to which Polion belonged is known to have been mobile and may have traveled as far as Byzantium (modern day Istanbul).

“Polion was literate, and literacy was rarer then that it is now, but his handwriting, spelling and Greek grammar are erratic,” Adamson said, which made English translation of the damaged letter even more difficult. “He likely would have been multilingual, communicating in Egyptian or Greek at home in Egypt before he enlisted in the army and then communicating in Latin with the army in Pannonia.”

Adamson believes Polion wrote home in Greek because writing home in Egyptian was not really an option at the time, and because his family in Egypt most likely did not know much Latin.

To establish an approximate date for the letter, Adamson depended on handwriting styles and a few other more specific hints.

“Dating ancient papyri is generally hard to do very specifically unless there happens to be a date or known event mentioned in the text,” Adamson said. “But you can make a preliminary decision based on the handwriting.”

Another hint is the soldier’s Roman name Aurelius; he could have acquired it as part of a widespread granting of Roman citizenship in the year 212. And another hint is Polion’s reference to a “consular commander,” which suggests a date after 214 when the Roman province of Pannonia Inferior came under consular governance.

Because of the letter’s personal nature and common theme of familial concern, Adamson’s publication of it in the latest volume of the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists has been receiving national and international media attention. News organizations from Finland to Spain and the U.S. have written about the letter this week.

“One thing that I think is important about this letter is that it reflects the emotions of a soldier in the ancient world,” said April DeConick, chair of Rice’s Religious Studies Department and Adamson’s faculty adviser. “His emotions are really no different than those of soldiers today, who are longing to go home.”

The papyrus, which was on loan to BYU in 2011, is housed at the University of California, Berkley’s Bancroft Library.

(Rice University)

The press release includes a link to Adam’s paper in BASP: Letter from a Soldier in Pannonia and a nice little video report as well:

What is nice about this particular item — outside of the information from the papyrus, of course — is that it pretty much represents the ‘standard’ in regards to publishing of papyri. A papyrus from a well-documented provenance is studied by a scholar in an appropriate field and published in one of the journals one would expect such things to be published in. It is also nice that University press offices are drawing attention to it, with the result that it gets a fair bit of ‘regular press’ attention. Here’s some further coverage if you want to see how it was spun by the headline writers:

As can be seen, there really isn’t much ‘spin’ going on, although I really don’t like the words ‘decode’ and ‘decipher’, especially in a post-Dan Brown world (there really isn’t anything being deliberately hidden; we’re just translating some messy writing), and it’s kind of pleasant to see the Daily Mail having the most realistic/responsible headline description.

That said, our most common ‘soldiers’ letters home’ source is the Vindolanda Archive, available online. We should also mention some writing tablets found near Utrecht a few years ago which don’t seem to have received much attention in the English Press (Vindolanda-like Archive from Fort Fectio (not Utrecht) ).

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The Papyrus Series: Introduction

As many folks are aware, there have been a number of newsworthy items regarding recent discoveries of papyri which we haven’t specifically mentioned in rogueclassicism yet, although they have appeared (to some extent) in our blogosphere curations. I do apologize for not ‘keeping up’ with such things (I’m having an unusually hectic year this year), but what is rather fortuitous is that sitting on so many related posts-in-the-making has allowed a very interesting ‘big picture’ to emerge about the vast majority of these papyri (including recent developments with the Sappho papyrus and the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife). As such, over the next few days you will be seeing interspersed amongst other things, posts with some allusion to the ‘Papyrus Series’ … I’ll also set up a Category for it in case you’re worried you miss one or two. The ‘big picture’ post will hopefully show up by Wednesday at the latest and should bring all the erstwhile apparently disparate threads together. Stay tuned; I think you’ll enjoy this ..

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem xi kalendas maias

ante diem xi kalendas maias

  • Parilia (a.k.a. Palilia) — originally a festival in honour of Pales (who protected shepherds and their flock), it eventually evolved — in the city of Rome, at least — into a ‘birthday of Rome’ celebration
  • 753 B.C. — traditional date for the foundation of Rome
  • 43 B.C. — pro-Caesarian forces “under” Octavian defeat the forces of Marcus Antonius at Mutina
  • 47 A.D. – Claudius celebrates the ludi Saeculares (?)
  • 148 A.D. – Antoninus Pius celebrates the 900th anniversary of Rome
  • 248 A.D. – Philip Arabus celebrates the 1000th anniversary of Rome

Statue of Demeter Found/Recovered

Brief item from Greek Reporter:

A statue, believed to be the ancient Greek goddess Demeter, has been unearthed at an illegal excavation in Simav, western Turkey. The statue, weighing in at 610kg and standing 2.8 meters tall, was discovered by two Turks, Ramazan C. And Ismail G, 26 and 62 years old respectively, who are alleged to have been conducting illegal excavations in the wider area where the statue was found. The two men were taken into custody by the Turkish police and sent to court.

The head of the statue and the altar, missing during the raid, were later found in a house in the city centre.

In Greek mythology, Demeter, one of Zeus’ sisters, so the story goes, was the goddess of agriculture, nature, abundance and seasons, and mother of Persephone, wife of Hades.

The original article is accompanied by a photo of a statue; it isn’t clear whether this is the statue they found or not …