ICYMI ~ The Classical World in the News ~ January 12-17, 2016

[I’m thinking of making this a regular feature]

The Ancient Greece and Rome section of my Explorator newsletter for this week (full issue available here):

Horse burials from an 8th century necropolis in Athens:

http://www.amna.gr/english/article/12498/Intact-horse-skeleton-discovered-in-ancient-cemetery-in-southern-coastal-Athens
http://horsetalk.co.nz/2016/01/16/horse-skeletons-ancient-greek-cemetery/#axzz3xVa3dQu4

Plenty of evidence found during A1 construction suggests the Romans were in Yorkshire a decade earlier than previously thought:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-35314396
http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/our-yorkshire/heritage/spectacular-discoveries-could-put-romans-in-yorkshire-a-decade-before-they-settled-in-york-1-7676043
http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/14205317.display/
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3401618/Treasure-trove-Roman-artefacts-A1-Pots-beads-jewellery-177-000-pieces-unearthed-roadworks.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

Remains of a Bronze Age village near Aquileia:

http://www.thelocal.it/20160113/bronze-age-village-found-near-ancient-roman-city

Nice feature on some Greek pots at Yale:

https://yalealumnimagazine.com/articles/4177/at-home-in-ancient-athens

Bice Peruzzi is studying burial practices in Central Apulia:

http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.aspx?id=22681
http://phys.org/news/2016-01-ancient-burial-rituals-lot.html
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/uoc-abr011116.php
http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/01/2016/the-changing-burials-rites-in-pre-roman-central-apulian-region

That Bodicacia inscription is now in the Corinium Museum:

http://www.wiltsglosstandard.co.uk/news/14204968.UPDATE__Bodicacia_tombstone_arrives_at_Corinium_Museum/

Studying/recreating Greek pottery:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/health/bs-hs-greek-vases-20160117-story.html

Feature on the Battle of Watling street and other Boudiccan things:

http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/lifestyle/nostalgia/west-midlands-location-britains-bloodiest-10739813

Roman London was a pretty cosmopolitan place:

http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/01/2016/roman-londons-cosmopolitan-history-revealed

Lessons from the Iliad:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/160110-homer-iliad-ancient-world-alexander-ngbooktalk/

They drained the Great Bath at Bath:

http://www.bathchronicle.co.uk/Great-Bath-Roman-Baths/story-28511353-detail/story.html

On black Classicists:

http://www.bu.edu/today/2016/black-classics-scholars-an-untold-story/

Review of Holland, *Dynasty*:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/08/books/review-dynasty-tom-hollands-chronicle-of-the-first-five-emperors-who-ruled-ancient-rome.html

More on Knossos being larger than previously thought:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ancient-city-was-three-times-bigger-archaeologists-suspected-180957759/

More on Roman toilets and parasites:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/roman-sanitation-didn-t-stop-roaming-parasites/?WT.mc_id=SA_syn_RDFRS

Sixth Century B.C. Domus on the Quirinal

This story is actually a week or so old, but I had to do some investigating … the source for most of the coverage appears to be a report in ANSA; an excerpt:

[…] The sixth-century BC abode had a rectangular layout most likely divided into two rooms, on a tufa stone base and with an entrance possibly preceded by a portico opening onto one of the long sides, with wooden walls covered in clay under a tile roof.

The discovery was made this summer during preliminary archaeological excavations conducted by the superintendent’s office on the historic building and is considered one of the most important of recent years, as it redesigns the map of Rome between the sixth and the fifth centuries BC.

It is also remarkable for the good state of conservation of the structure and since it had previously been thought that the area in which it was found was used as a necropolis and not as a residential area. Since 2003, Palazzo Canevari – which is now owned by the Italian savings and loans bank, which took charge of the excavations when it purchased the property – has been surveyed to see whether ancient relics were on the premises. Following a period of extensive excavations, in 2013 an enormous fifth-century temple was found. And now this latest find, dating back to the time of the Servian Walls, has been considered revolutionary.

“This building is basically absent in archaic Rome, and there are only traces in the Forum area. The home was probably used for about 50-60 years prior to when the temple was built that was discovered in 2013,” Mirella Serlorenzi said during a press visit, who directed the excavations on behalf of the superintendent’s office. “The position of the house near the temple hints at it being a sacred area, and that whoever lived there was watching over what happened therein. But it is even more important that we can now retro-date the urbanization of the Quirinal zone. The Servian Walls encircled an area that was already inhabited and not a necropolis.” “This means that Rome at the beginning of the sixth century was much larger than what we expected and not closed in around the Forum,” she added, stressing that “the excavations will continue for months more. But everything depends on what we find.” […]

The Telegraph adds some useful detail, inter alia:

The hill was thought to have become a part of the city of Rome during the reign of Rome’s sixth king, Servius Tullius. It was previously believed to have been used as a sacred area, with temples and a necropolis, while the city’s residential area was believed to be further south where the Roman Forum is located. […]

… and some nice commentary by amicus noster Darius Arya:

“Many grand projects of restoration going on now are focused on the monuments we know, like the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, but there is much of Rome’s history that is not so well preserved,” Darius Arya, an American archaeologist currently excavating Ostia Antica, told The Telegraph.

“What is so amazing is that this discovery dates back to Archaic Rome, a crucial period – the regal period – that made Rome so great.”

Folks wanting to track down coverage of the temple find back in 2013 will need to resort to the Italian press:

… which also mentioned a potentially interesting infant burial (was it part of the foundation?).  What I was trying to figure out (and still can’t, really) is whether this is the same site (I get confused by all the Palazzi)  which found a statue of a Maenad which some were suggesting might be a link to a Temple of Quirinus (but later that suggestion was changed … Maybe the Temple of Quirinus Is Somewhere Else?). What became of that?

More coverage (mostly based on AP):

Pondering Lead Sarcophagi and Codices … hmmmm

Okay … I’ve been forcefully woken from my blog slumber by some images that initially seemed just a little suspicious to me, but might eventually set alarm bells off in my head. Folks who follow me on twitter (@rogueclassicist) might be aware that earlier today I was pondering thusly: first, I noted this sarcophagus at the San Antonio Museum of Art (and @MariolaRub posted the photo … the official page says it is “probably from Tyre”):

… had a panel or two that were remarkably similar to an item coming to auction (from a Florida private collection):

liveauctioneers

… then @keftiugal noted a lead coffin at the UPenn Museum, with similar panels “Provenience: Lebanon Tyre):

… and then I came across this piece, in very high relief and with similar panels, at J. Bagot:

Sarcofag_b_JBagot

  • via: J.BAGOT Arqueología – Ancient Art (go there for other views; this one is said to come from the necropolis of Tyre and was “decatalogued” by the Chrysler Museum … hmmm, I wonder why they decatalogued it)

Then there were actually two (not one, as I previously mentioned on twitter) examples in McCann, Roman Sarcophagi in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, specifically a Lead Sarcophagus of the Columnar Type (number 25; from Tyre) and a similarly described one which follows (number 26; not sure where from).

Last (for now), but not least, there is one at the-saleroom (from a private NY collection):

134-20141014144422_540x360

As I saw more and more of this image, I openly speculated that we must be dealing with some sort of factory situation and then the conspiracy portion of my brain wondered whether that factory was ancient or modern.  Then that portion of my brain suggested I focus on the ‘medusa’ image from the liveauctioneers piece (which is similar to all the others, but a bit more visible:

liveauctioneers

 

Does this image not bear a certain resemblance to an image from another controversy from a few years ago, namely, the Jordan LEAD codices? Specifically, this image:

apollojesus

I borrowed that from Tom Verenna’s post from the time, back when we were all thinking the image was Apollo. [in case you need a refresher on the Lead Codices, see: Lead Codices – Once More into the ‘Reach’ along with the links provided therein]

So now I’m wondering … were the sarcophagi and the codex image the product of the same stamp? They have the same ‘right’ eye indentation and square jaw … the same ‘bird’ over the right eye, etc.. Lots of things here to make you go hmmmmmm, no?

Bronze Mask of Pan from Hippos-Sussita

From a University of Haifa press release:

A large bronze mask of the god Pan, the only of its kind, was uncovered at the University of Haifa’s excavation at Hippos-Sussita National Park. According to Dr. Michael Eisenberg, bronze masks of this size are extremely rare and usually do not depict Pan or any of the other Greek or Roman mythological images. “Most of the known bronze masks from the Hellenistic and Roman periods are minature”.

It seems that in recent years, the mysteries of Hippos-Sussita have been revealing their secrets in an extraordinary way: first, a sculpture of Hercules was exposed by the winter rains of 2011, then, two years later, a basalt tombstone with a sculpture of the deceased’s bust was uncovered. Now there is a new surprise: the only finding of a bronze mask of unnatural size, in the form of the god Pan/Faunus.

Excavations at Hippos-Sussita are usually conducted in the summer. However, a series of intriguing structures on the ridge of the city, where the ancient road passed, led to a one-day dig in the winter. The dig focused on a basalt structure which the researchers assumed was a type of armoured hangar for the city’s projectile machines. The finding of a ballista ball made of limestone, a different material from the basalt that was customarily used at Hippos-Sussita to make balista balls, made them realize that it was an enemy’s projectile.

In light of this interesting find the researchers decided to search the structure for coins to help them date the the balls. It didn’t take long for the metal detector, operated by the capable hands of Dr. Alexander Iermolin, head of the conservation laboratory at the Institute of Archaeology at the University, to start beeping frantically. The archialogosts were not yet aware of what was in store for them: “After a few minutes we pulled out a big brown lump and realized it was a mask. We cleaned it, and started to make out the details: The first hints that helped us recognize it were the small horns on top of its head, slightly hidden by a forelock,” said Dr. Eisenberg.

Horns like the ones on the mask are usually associated with Pan, the half-man half-goat god of the shepherds, music and pleasure. A more thorough cleaning in the lab, revealed strands of a goat beard, long pointed ears, and other characteristics that led Dr. Eisenberg to identify the mask as depicting a Pan/Faunus/Satyr. “The first thought that crossed my mind was, ‘Why here, beyond the city limits?’ After all, the mask is so heavy it could not have just rolled away. The mask was found nearby the remains of a basalt structure with thick walls and very solid masonry work, which suggested a large structure from the Roman period. A Pan altar on the main road to the city, beyond its limits, is quite likely. After all, Pan was worshipped not only in the city temples but also in caves and in nature. The ancient city of Paneas, north of Hippos-Sussita, had one of the most famous worshipping compounds to the god Pan inside a cave. Because they included drinking, sacrificing and ecstatic worship that sometimes included nudity and sex, rituals for rustic gods were often held outside of the city”, Dr. Eisenberg explained.

Now the archeologists have begun to uncover the basalt structure, in the hopes of finding more clues to its purpose. They assume that it was used for defensive purposes “Perhaps in a later period, during the Pax Romana, when the city fortifications were not required, the building turned into a place of worship to the god of shepherds, and maybe what we have here is a magnificent fountain-head or burial offerings of a nearby mausoleum,” Dr. Eisenberg suggests.
As mentioned, the researchers are unfamiliar with any similar bronze mask from the Roman or Hellenistic era of Pan or a Satyr. “Most of the masks are usually similar in size to theater masks, are made of stone or terracotta and are of ritual, apotropaic, decorative or symbolic significance. I contacted the curators of some of the world’s greatest museums, and even they said that they were not familiar with the type of bronze mask that we found at Hippos. Hippos-Sussita cannot compete in wealth with the ancient cultural centers of the Roman Empire and as such, a finding of this kind here, of all places, is amazing,” concluded Dr. Eisenberg.

The YNet coverage adds some details (inter alia):

The researchers, who were looking for coins with the help of a metal detector, discovered a huge metal block. “We dug out a huge brown block from the ground,” said Dr. Alexander Lermolin the director of the conservation laboratory at the University of Haifa’s Institute of Archealogy.

“We gently cleaned it from the dirt and began to realize the details: Small horns at the head of the mask hidden between forelocks of hair were the first hints in identifying the mask,” said Dr. Lermolin.

“The horns immediately pointed to the fact that it was (a mask of) Pan, the god of goats, who is half man and half goat, and he also represents music and entertainment. After a thorough cleaning in the lab, they clearly identified the size of the goat, the long and pointed ears and other characteristics that led to an almost certain identification,” said Dr. Lermolin.

The thought that there was a main altar along the main road to the city is definitely appealing,” Dr. Eisenberg summarizes.

“Maybe in a later period, when the city’s fortifications were no longer needed, the designated purpose of the building changed and became a ceremonial site for the goat god. Or maybe we have before us a magnificent fountain head or burial sacrifice,” said Dr. Eisenberg.

The Ynet coverage also includes a nice video that’s worth a look as well as a photo of one of Dr. Eisenberg’s co-researchers holding the mask in question:

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Dr Michael Eisenberg photo via Ynet

What seems really interesting is that the Pan is beardless (so young) and seems to be employing the terrifying voice he was known for. I can’t really find any indication of/reason for a cult centre in the area.

Other coverage worth checking out:

… and the dig’s webpage might be worth perusing too, although it doesn’t seem to have any more details on this find.

Slimy Plasmodiumque Romanus? Let’s Not Get Too Excited …

As I try to reestablish my blogging rhythms here, I couldn’t help but wonder how much excitement will be generated by a recent story making the rounds due to an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. Here’s the an excerpt from a University of the West of England press release:

A paper entitled ‘Slime Mould Imitates Development of Roman Roads in the Balkans’ has just been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. The unique heuristic abilities of the slime mould, Plasmodium polycephalum, inspired the scientists to apply the method for the first time in archaeology.

Co-author Andrew Adamatzky, a professor in unconventional computing from UWE Bristol, said, “We used acellular slime mould P. polycephalum to analyse the historical development of the ancient Roman road network in the Balkans.

“Plasmodium is a single cell organism which – when foraging for food – spans its environment with a network of tubes that under strictly controlled conditions can reproduce human-made transport networks such as roads or railways. Research done during the last decade has shown that the slime mould can physically imitate technological artefacts and processes in a variety of ways undetected by conventional computational methods.

“After conducting a series of experiments and with the help of a computer-based simulation the team discovered that the slime mould managed to develop a network of tubes providing a good match to the network of roads that served the needs of Roman Empire from around 100 BC to 400 AD and its expansion into the Balkans 2000 years ago.

“The living mould not only reproduced the two major military roads that crossed the area, Via Egnatia and Via Diagonalis but also the smaller roads or routes connecting the hinterland of the Balkans with the coastal Aegean area.” […]

As might be expected, the original report is behind a paywall … the free abstract from Science Direct isn’t exactly helpful either:

Due to its unexpected computing abilities, Physarum polycephalum, a vegetative stage of acellular slime, has been repeatedly used during the last decade in order to reproduce transport networks. After conducting a series of biological experiments and with the help of a Cellular Automata (CA) model we try to explore the ability of the slime in order to imitate the Roman road network in the Balkans, an area which was of great strategic importance for the stability of the Roman Empire in the East. The application of Physarum machines hopes to offer a first step towards a new interdisciplinary, almost unconventional, approach to archaeology.

We still don’t know exactly what these unconventional interdisciplinarians did, but fortunately someone does seem to have had accessed the study … over at Popular Science, inter alia:

Using a map of the Balkans made of agar gel, the researchers placed oat flakes in the locations of 17 major Roman cities. The mold was placed initially on the oat flake for Thessaloniki, a city in the northern Aegean region that was a major urban center at the time (and still the second-largest city in Greece today). The researchers ran the experiment 18 times, with the mold starting its spread from Thessaloniki for each run. The molds recreated with remarkable accuracy a network of roads similar to that used by the ancient Romans, even tracing out paths of relatively unknown and obscure roads like the West-Pontian road traveling northeast though the Balkans. […]

So basically, they put food on the cities and waited for the slime to find it. It’s apparently an amazing thing that this mould travels in straight lines, but I’m not sure why. Just to get an idea of the process, though, this sort of thing has existed on Youtube for ages. Here’s the Tokyo subway, e.g.:

… or the U.S.:

Somehow I don’t think this is going to have the impact the Journal seems to think it will …