Cup Used by Perikles?

As folks have probably already seen, the interwebs are burning up with the discovery — apparently — of a cup used by Pericles.  eKathimerini’s coverage seems to embrace all the coverage making it to the English press:

A cup believed to have been used by Classical Greek statesman Pericles has been found in a pauper’s grave in north Athens, according to local reports Wednesday.

The ceramic wine cup, smashed in 12 pieces, was found during building construction in the northern Athens suburb of Kifissia, Ta Nea daily said.

After piecing it together, archaeologists were astounded to find the name “Pericles” scratched under one of its handles, alongside the names of five other men, in apparent order of seniority.

Experts are “99 per cent” sure that the cup was used by the Athenian statesman, as one of the other names listed, Ariphron, is that of Pericles’ elder brother.

“The name Ariphron is extremely rare,” Angelos Matthaiou, secretary of the Greek Epigraphic Society, told the newspaper.

“Having it listed above that of Pericles makes us 99 per cent sure that these are the two brothers,” he said.

The cup was likely used in a wine symposium when Pericles was in his twenties, and the six men who drank from it scrawled their names as a memento, Matthaiou said.

“They were definitely woozy, as whoever wrote Pericles’ name made a mistake and had to correct it,” he said.

The cup was then apparently gifted to another man named Drapetis (“escapee” in Greek) who was possibly a slave servant or the owner of the tavern, said archaeologist Galini Daskalaki.

“This is a rare find, a genuine glimpse into a private moment,” she said.

Ironically, the cup was found on Sparta street, Athens’ great rival and nemesis in the Peloponnesian War that tore apart the Greek city-states for nearly 30 years.

General of Athens during the city’s Golden Age, Pericles died of the plague in 429 BC during a Spartan siege.

The cup will be displayed in the autumn at the Epigraphical Museum in Athens.

The eKathimerini coverage (and others) include a small photo of the cup, but it isn’t easy to see the names. It is somewhat suspicious though (but that’s my nature), so I tracked down the Ta Nea coverage referenced in the article, which provides some important details (and photos). I’ll present to google translate version here … it’s not too bad until towards the end:

A simple wineglass – a black-glazed Skyphos – 5th century BC found in a humble tomb in Kifissia comes to rock the boat of archeology, as not only it is almost certain that it was used by Pericles, but not impossible to bear and the handwritten signature. Which makes the humble vessel as the first tangible evidence of the daily life of one of the most famous personalities of history.
“It is a rare find. A lively authentic element of a private moment “says archaeologist of Second Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities Serenity Daskalakis the vessel of only eight centimeters uncovered the foundations of a building under construction on the street at 18 Sparta Ave.
Just two meters below the surface and in a grave not identified bones archaeologist found the vase broken into 12 pieces. When annealed, the surprise was great. On one side below the handle was engraved six names in the genitive: Aristeidou, Diodotou, Daisimou, Arrifronos, Pericles and Efkritou. And all along was mounted on a frame.

NAME-KEY. How do we know that Pericles stated in the vessel is the man who has linked his name with the creation of the Parthenon? “The name Arrifron is very rare and brought his grandfather and elder brother of Pericles. The mention of his name over that of Pericles on the surface of the vase makes us 99% confident that they are the two brothers and entered as Pericles is none other than the man who guided the fate of Athens in the period of highest edge ‘ explains the secretary of Greek Epigraphy Society and editor of archaiognostikis inspection “IOROS” (term), the anniversary edition which published the study’s important findings, Angelos P. Matthew.

“It’s not the first time we have the name of Pericles in full inscription, as he is known only in fragmentary” continues stressing the importance of the find. “Assuming that the Aristides (usual name, but at the time we are talking about the famous politician lived stayed in history as Righteous), Pericles and Arrifron of skyphos identified with eminent Athenians, I see that they do not coincide in politics.

Aristides acted the years 488-478 BC, Pericles the period 460-429 BC But there might be overlap in a social interaction. In 470 BC for example Arrifron would have been 25 years old, 24 and Pericles Aristides around 50, “says archaeologist, which dates the adiakosmito vessel (vessel hijacked and not of great house) using the formula of between 480 and 465 BC .

The six men may be found together in a banquet or pub. And since they drank from the same vessel – something that was common – carved their names in general to show that the glass belongs to them. And periekleisan a framework to make it clear that it was nothing, starting with the largest.
Experts distinguish at least two handwritings, but can not know whether the one hand belongs to Pericles. “It certainly was dizzy from the wine as it is clear that whoever wrote the name of Pericles made a mistake initially and wrote at par and then corrected it,” says Matthew Angel.

OWNER. Whose but the vessel was found in Kifissia? The answer lies at the base of stating a name yet: Runaway, written in nominal rather than in Attic, as other names, but in the Ionic alphabet. Who could it be? “This is a main male name denoting status, brought that someone who left secretly, probably a slave” does the Serenity Daskalakis, which does not exclude the possibility that it was he who served in the banquet men or the owner of the hijacked and they gave him the vase as a keepsake. Gift precious family heirloom that was not separated nor his grave.

Even better, the Ta Nea coverage has some different views of the cup, which includes something that doesn’t seem to be mentioned anywhere: it’s written upside down. I have to include the photo:

periclescup

Ta Nea Photo

Visit the Ta Nea link up there for the ‘runaway’ inscription on the base. If genuine, this would be an amazing find, but there are causes for concern. First of all, scratching names on some black figure piece would be an amazingly simple way to add value to an otherwise boring black figure piece. It is also ‘iffy’ to base ownership on the basis of a collection of names (see, most infamously, in regards to the Talpiot tomb claims as neatly elucidated by Mark Goodacre: The Talpiot Tomb and the Beatles.) But even without that, just looking at it raises questions that need to be answered. If these guys were sharing the cup, why would they need to put ALL their names on it? Has another cup been found with this sort of thing? Getting ‘autographs’ as a keepsake seems to be a modern phenomenon. Why has a box been drawn around the ‘signatures’? Why are they upside down? Perhaps more importantly, if the cup was broken in a dozen pieces, is it just a happy coincidence that the names seem to come from a large unbroken piece? That paleographers distinguish two hands is also suggestive … perhaps that’s your best indicator that this is a ‘value added’ piece? (i.e. the cup originally had the first three names (or whatever) then a more recent hand added some more, then drew a box around things to give the impression it was all done at the same time.)

I think the jury is still out on this one …

Archaic Pithos Burials (and others) from Chios

Brief item from eKathimerini:

A dig on the eastern Aegean island of Chios has unearthed parts of an ancient necropolis dating to between 7th and 6th centuries BC and belonging to the Archaic period.

The graves, which were found by archaeologists in the Psomi area, were pithos burials – meaning that the dead were placed inside pithoi, or large storage vases – and the bodies were placed in a supine position on layers of sea pebbles.

Archaeologists also uncovered a number of sarcophagi and the remains of a horse, which have been transferred to the Archaeological Museum of Chios for further examination and preservation.

… the original eKathimerini article includes a nice photo of the horse burial.

Additional sources below have some different photos:

Ruts in the Roman (?) Road at Ipplepen

From the University of Exeter:

The excavation at Ipplepen, run by the University of Exeter, is back on site following the discovery of a complex series of archaeological features thought to be part of the largest Romano-British settlement in Devon outside of Exeter.

Wheel ruts found in the newly excavated road surface are thought to be like those at Pompeii caused by carts being driven over them. This is cause for excitement according to archaeologist Danielle Wootton, the Devon Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. She said:“The road must have been extensively used, it’s intriguing to think what the horse-drawn carts may have been carrying and who was driving them. This is a fantastic opportunity to see a ‘snap shot’ of life 2000 years ago.”

The geophysical survey and a significant number of Roman coins found when the site was first discovered highlighted the importance of this extensive site and its potential to explore the relationship between the Romans and Devon’s native population.

This year’s dig, directed by Dr Imogen Wood has uncovered a few more Roman coins, two of which date from between AD 43 to AD 260 and around six late Roman 4th century coins. One can be accurately dated to AD 335 – 341. However, the location of personal artefacts, such as the newly discovered Roman hair pin , brooch and bracelet are equally as thrilling for the archaeological team.

The pin would have been used to hold the hair together much in the same way similar items are used today. Danielle Wootton said:“Roman women had some very elaborate hairstyles which changed through time like our fashions do today. Hairpins were used to hold complex hairstyles like buns and plaits together and suggests that Devon women may have been adopting fashions from Rome. This period in history often gets flooded with stories about Roman soldiers and centurions; this is interesting as they are artefacts worn by women.”

Green and blue glass beads have been unearthed, which suggests that colourful necklaces were also worn. Two amber beads have been discovered which are likely to have travelled many miles possibly from the Baltic coast to their final location at Ipplepen in the South Devon.

Wootton explained:“During the Roman period amber was thought to have magical, protective and healing properties. These very personal items worn by the women that lived on this site centuries ago have enabled us to get a glimpse into the lives of people living everyday lives on the edges of the Roman Empire.”

Pottery has also been discovered by the Archaeology Department’s students and local volunteers on the excavation. Dr Imogen Wood, University of Exeter said:“The pottery recovered suggests people were making copies of popular roman pottery for cooking and eating, but also importing a small amount of fine pottery from the continent such as drinking cups and Samian bowls for dinner guests to see and envy.”

The excavation is being carried out until the end of July and is likely to reveal further exciting finds which will help to further our understanding between Roman Britain and its native population. [...]

Hmmm … I wonder if this is a Roman road we’re talking about; we certainly seem to be expected to infer that. I also wonder, given how frequently wheel ruts in a Roman context are linked to other things, whether we should be taking bets on how quickly we see the Railroad Gauge Canard again?

 

Alternate/Derivative sources:

Our previous coverage of the site and its finds:

… and possibly this:

Mosaic from Sweida … Seriously?

A very strange, brief item (to me, anyway) from Syrian TV:

 Sweida Antiquities Department said that parts of mosaic representing geometric shapes and dating back to the end of the Roman era and the beginning of the Byzantine era were discovered at a house in Shahba city in Sweida.

Head of Sweida Antiquities Department Hussein Zaineddin told said that the unearthed parts are 6 meters long and 4,5 meters wide.

Zaineddin added that the unearthed parts will be joined to the picture which was discovered in 1970. The previously discovered picture is 3,5 meters long and 4,5 meters wide .

He pointed out that the picture to be displayed later at Sweida or Shahba museums after restoring it.

The original article is accompanied by a less-than-useful photo which doesn’t really add any veracity to the report. Apparently — given all that’s going on in Syria right now — that archaeology is proceeding normally. I’m not really sure what “discovered in a house” means (was the mosaic removed from a site? was it in situ?)  and find it strange that we aren’t told where the “picture” portion is. I’m not sure we can lend any credence at all to this report.

Plans to Rebury “Parthenon of Thessaloniki”

From Greek Reporter (I’m not sure this is news; I could have sworn we’d heard about this before):

Local residents of Thessaloniki in northern Greece are outraged by a decision to build an apartment block on top of a recently discovered ancient Greek temple in the heart of the city. The temple of goddess Aphrodite, which was brought to Thessaloniki from the city of Aenea in the 6th century B.C., is said to be priceless in value thus the locals named it “Parthenon of Thessaloniki.”

The temple lies in an area now called Dioikitirio (administrative centre). In Roman times the area was known as the Square of the Sacred Ones, as most of the city’s temples were concentrated there.

The ancient Greek temple was brought to light in 2000 after the demolition of a two-storey building. The archaeologists found the eastern part of the temple’s krepis, statues of Greek and Roman times, and numerous fragments of architectural parts.

While most of the temple remains in Dioikitirio, some parts including the columns of the temple, as well as many of the other remains, are currently being exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.

According to the school of Architecture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Antigonidon square can be reformed in two levels, so that the temple would be rebuilt and become visible in its entirety.

Making Fake Roman Coins in 1st Century India (!)

Very interesting item from the Deccan Herald:

For those who think financial fraud or circulating fake currencies is a modern day phenomenon, an ancient Roman coin mould on display at the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage in the city is a startling revelation.

The Roman coin mould, which is being displayed for the first time since its excavation in 1993, indicates that fake coins were in circulation around 19 to 20 centuries ago. The terracotta mould is among the most important objects displayed at the exhibition, apart from terracotta figurines, iron objects, bronze dies, stone beads.

M S Krishnamurthy, a retired professor of Archaeology who led the team that unearthed the mould, told Deccan Herald that it was a mould for Roman coins in circulation during the first century AD. “The coins probably were minted either during the period of Augustus or his son Tiberius,” he said.

“In the area where we spotted the mould, a foundry with a crucible was also found. Considering this, it is possible that a person living in Talkad was minting duplicate coins of Romans,” he said. He added that it was one of the rare and unique moulds excavated in the State.

Archaelogist Gowda N L said that the mould contained an inscription of Greek goddess Livia with words, ‘Maxim Pontis’.

“The coins with the same inscriptions were in circulation around the country. Roman coins belonging to the first century AD have been found in various excavation sites around the country. However, such a terracotta mould has never been found elsewhere.”

He added that the coins might have been minted at Talkad and circulated around the country. “It is possible that the value of Roman currency was more in India during the period, which might have led a few individuals at Talkad to indulge in minting fake coins,” he added.

Talkad, of course, is in India … so already in/around the time of Augustus we’re getting fake Roman coins abroad. Anyone know anything more about this find (was it ever published in English? Identifying Livia as a “Greek goddess” doesn’t really lend confidence to this)? The original article is accompanied by a grotty little photo which doesn’t really give you an idea of the coin …

Assorted Theatre Excavations in Turkey

A useful little post from Hurriyet:

During the destruction of expropriated shanty houses in the outskirts of İzmir’s Kadifekale neighborhood, the stage and some walls of an ancient Roman theater have been unearthed, Doğan News Agency has reported.

The İzmir Metropolitan Municipality has so far spent 11 million Turkish Liras for the expropriation of buildings around to unearth the ancient theater. Dozens of parcels have been expropriated to unearth the theater, which were stuck among the shanty houses.

While deconstruction continues on an area of 12,000 square meters where the theater is located, Roman artifacts have become clearer as debris is removed.

Among the artifacts are the stage and walls of an ancient theater and stones used in the construction. When the destruction is completely finished, excavations will start in 2015, according to officials.

The most comprehensive information about the ancient theater in Kadifekale can be obtained in the studies of Austrian architects and archaeologists Otto Berg and Otto Walter, who conducted studies in the region in 1917 and 1918, from their plans and drawings.

The remains of the theater, which is thought to have held a capacity of 16,000 people, has characteristics of the Roman era according to many researchers, the study reports.

Ancient resources claim Saint Polycarp from İzmir was killed in this theater during the early ages of Christianity, namely the paganism period of the Roman era, suggesting the theater has witnessed some tragic events in history.

When completed, shows and concerts will be organized in the theater just like in the Ancient Theater of Ephesus.

Ancient theater serves as graveyard

Another Roman theater in the northern province of Bartın’s district Amasra is being used as a graveyard. In the district it is possible to see many artifacts from the Hellenistic, Archaic, Byzantine, Roman, Genoese, Seljuk and Ottoman times. The ancient theater in the neighborhood of Kum began to be used as a graveyard after the 19th century.

During the Amasra-Bartın highway construction between 1970 and 1980, the walls of the ancient theater were damaged and its stones were used in pavement. The graveyard would have to be moved for the ancient theater to be explored.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the Amasra Museum Director Baran Aydın said they thought some parts of the ancient theater had been covered during the highway construction. A large part of the theater could be revealed if excavations are carried out in the area, he said.

“We don’t exactly know how many parts of the theater have been protected. The best protected side of the theater is its tunnel called ‘Vomitorum.’ Unfortunately, since the area is used as a graveyard, we cannot carry out archaeological excavations at the moment. If it is moved, we can start excavations. But this is a complicated process for both the municipality and the relatives of the deceased,” the director said.

Capacity of 15,000

Aydın said the ancient theater in Amasra was as large as the ancient city of Teos in İzmir’s Seferihisar.

“It was a theater that possibly held the capacity of 15,000 people in a 250-300 meter diameter. We should drill there and find the walls on the right and left, which we call ‘Analemna.’ Then we can speak about the theater,” he said, adding that excavations should be conducted in five-six points in the area.

For some previous coverage on the Izmir theatre:

Wax Tablet from Yenikapi

Some excerpts from an item in Hurriyet … a bit out of our time period of interest but I’m sure folks will like this:

Yenikapı excavations that started nearly 10 years ago has brought back Istanbul’s historical heritage to 8,500 years. A wooden notebook, which was found in a sunken ship, the replica of which will sail, is considered the Byzantine’s invention akin to the likes of the modern-day tablet computer.

[...]

Calling the objects the “miracle of Yenikapı,” Kocabaş said, “In one of the ships, we found something like today’s notebook. It is made of wood and can be opened like a notebook. It has a few pages and you can take notes using wax. Also, when you draw its sliding part, there are small weights used as an assay balance. Yenikapı is a phenomenon with its 37 sunken ships and organic products. I think these organic products are the most important feature of the Yenikapı excavations.”

[...]

(Hurriyet)

I can’t resist posting the included photo:

via Hurriyet

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a wax tablet with this many ‘pages’ before …

From the Italian Press: Phoenician/Punic Settlement on Mozia

From La Repubblica:

Un complesso sistema di strade, mura, pavimenti, abitazioni, strutture rettilinee e curvilinee di un antico quartiere nascosto sotto i vigneti, è stato localizzato nell’Isola di Mozia, di fronte a Trapani. A metterne in risalto l’immagine, grazie a magnetometri e georadar, un gruppo di ricercatori dell’Istituto nazionale di geofisica e vulcanologia (Ingv), in collaborazione con la missione archeologica di Mozia dell’Università Sapienza di Roma, la Sovrintendenza ai beni monumentali e ambientali di Trapani e la fondazione Whitaker.

I risultati dell’indagine sono stati pubblicati sul Journal of Applied Geophysics. “I dati geofisici, raccolti con magnetometri e apparecchiature elettromagnetiche – ha affermato Domenico Di Mauro, ricercatore dell’Ingv – ci hanno permesso di individuare l’immagine del quartiere urbano presente nell’area a sud-ovest del Tophet, il santuario a cielo aperto dove anticamente venivano praticati sacrifici e sepolture. Le geometrie, le dimensioni, la densità degli agglomerati, tipiche delle strutture delle colonie fenicio-puniche del Mediterraneo sono state poi confrontate con altre evidenze già scoperte sull’Isola”. Mozia, uno dei più interessanti siti dell’archeologia fenicio-punica, esplorato ancora in minima parte, custodisce le vestigia di una delle più fiorenti colonie del Mediterraneo. Con un’estensione di quasi 45 ettari, l’isola vantava un’efficiente organizzazione urbana.

“Lo studio consente di formulare alcune ipotesi sulla popolazione di Mozia al tempo del suo massimo splendore (IV-V secolo a. C.). A differenza di quanto stimato dagli storici nel secolo scorso, che calcolavano il numero di abitanti intorno alle quindicimila unità, si è potuto quantificare un numero non superiore alla decina di migliaia”, ha detto il ricercatore. Le prospezioni geofisiche eseguite sull’isola hanno il vantaggio di essere non invasive e di rapida esecuzione. La strumentazione portatile è in grado di rilevare i resti archeologici, non ancora rinvenuti, sfruttando le proprietà magnetiche, elettriche ed elettromagnetiche dei materiali costituenti. Il contrasto tra queste proprietà e il terreno può fornire informazioni preziose, in termini di mappe e immagini, su quanto cercato nel sottosuolo. “Lo studio rappresenta un ulteriore esempio di applicazione delle metodologie di indagine geofisica in ambito archeologico, al fine di evidenziare zone ancora inesplorate”, ha concluso Di Mauro.

The Google Translate version of this is reasonable, but the skinny is we have a major settlement dating to the 4th or 5th century B.C. at Mozia. There is not only an urban quarter, but a Tophet as well; further evidence that the place wasn’t destroyed by the Greeks, as Diodorus claimed.

Outside of that, we really haven’t heard much about this one in the past … the only thing we’ve mentioned comes from 2006: Motya Not Destroyed. See also Dorothy King’s post from that time: Phoenician Aeolic Capital at Motya. The Motya entry in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites at Perseus, although obviously out-of-date, provides good background on the belief that Motya had been destroyed by the Greeks.

Bust of Alexander from Cyprus

From ANSA:

Archaeologists in Cyprus found a marble bust of Alexander the Great – considered one of history’s most successful commanders – in a second three-aisled basilica that was brought to light on the site of Katalymmata ton Plakoton, of the Akrotiri peninsula, as Greek Reporter website writes. Excavations by the Cyprus Antiquities Department in the area have been in progress since 2007 when the first basilica was revealed. It is believed that the two basilicas are part of a monumental ecclesiastical complex which according to Eleni Procopiou, an area officer for the Antiquities Department, is related to St John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria, the patron saint of Limassol. The first basilica is a burial monument 36 meters in width and 29 meters in length. Procopiou stated that the second basilica is also a burial monument 20 meters in width and 47 meters in length. It is estimated that the findings date back to the second decade of the 7th century, between 616-617 A.D.

via: Archaeology: bust of Alexander the Great found in Cyprus (ANSA)

I haven’t been able to find a photo of the bust and I don’t think we’ve mentioned this dig before …

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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 …

The “Apollo” of Gaza ~ Part II: Questions of Condition and Authenticity

In case you missed our previous installments:

In our previous installment(s) on the so-called “Apollo” of Gaza, we primarily questioned the apparently ever-developing story of the find as told by the fisherman of many names as reported by various news outlets. Now it is time to look at the statue itself and see if it’s possible, from the information we have been given, to discern whether this thing is a genuine antiquity or a fake.

At the outset, though, we should deal with another question related to provenance, specifically whether it was actually found in the sea or not. Despite the engaging story told by the fisherman, opinions on this seem to be divided. Our first opinion comes from the oft-quoted Jean-Michel de Tarragon of the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, who seems to be one of the few academics consulted on the issue by the press:

The apparently pristine condition of the god suggested it was uncovered on land and not in the sea, he said, speculating that the true location of where it was unearthed was not revealed to avoid arguments over ownership.

“This wasn’t found on the seashore or in the sea … it is very clean. No, it was [found] inland and dry,” he said, adding that there were no signs of metal disfigurement or barnacles that one normally sees on items plucked from water.

An archaeologist from Gaza, Fadel al-Utol, agrees:

Young Gaza archeologist Fadel al-Utol said the statue, with its green patina, was unlikely to have come from beneath the waves.

“It is 90 percent intact and was probably found on land,” he told AFP. “If it had spent time underwater, the bronze would be blackened.”

“It’s more likely that the statue was found in an ancient temple in the Gaza area. We need to search and find out,” he said.

Utol said statues of such a size are rare, although a smaller example is held by the Louvre in Paris.

The Tourism Ministry folks are totally buying into the found-in-the-sea story (which can be spun in numerous ways, depending on how conspiracy-minded one is):

“We are not denying that the statue was found in the sea — as a matter of fact, that is a very authentic and real story,” Al-Burch said.

Jawdat Khoudary, who was one of the first ‘knowledgeable’ folks to observe the statue provides an interesting argument for it being found in the sea:

There’s no doubt the statue came from the sea, Khoudary says. Sitting in the lobby of his hotel on a December evening, he wraps his portly frame in a wool robe and warms his neck with a black-and-white keffiyeh, the emblem of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In his left hand he works a silver coin purchased minutes earlier from two beachcombing treasure hunters. One side of the coin, encrusted with black sand, bears the outline of a face. Khoudary says it’s Alexander the Great, who conquered Gaza in 332 B.C. en route to taking Egypt.

Khoudary lays out his grim reasoning as the lights go off and on, a result of Gaza’s fuel shortage. “I know how they excavate in Gaza, it’s by shoveling,” he says, making the motions of a mechanical backhoe with his hand. In his collection’s catalog, an entry for clay wine jars even lists “bulldozer trenches” as the method of discovery. Clandestine hunters usually dig until they hit something, a process that’s speedy but damages the finds. In the case of the bronze, however, “It’s not damaged,” he says. “It’s 100 percent from the sea.”

Not sure if we need to (cynically?) point out that the same logic could be used to suggest that the statue was never underground in the first place (i.e. It’s a fake).

The second ‘knowledgeable’ observer Bauzou disagreed, however (I’m still not sure of Bauzou’s first name):

Neither Humbert nor Bauzou believes Ghurab discovered the bronze underwater. “It does not come from the sea. It’s obvious,” Bauzou says. The giveaway, they say, is the lack of any sea encrustation or damage from hundreds of years underwater. Instead, they suspect the bronze came from a clandestine excavation somewhere on land. “This story has been fabricated to hide the real place where the statue was found so they can continue digging.”

To its credit, the lengthy Businessweek article (referenced above, of course) does try to weigh the apparent evidence for it not being found in the sea somewhat objectively:

It’s possible the fisherman’s story is an elaborate hoax. It is true the Apollo isn’t encrusted with barnacles, but not all submerged bronzes get crusty. Photos of the 1996 Croatian find and the 1964 Getty bronze show thick layers of sea growth, but the Riace bronzes from 1972 appear to have come ashore with skin as smooth as that of the Gaza bronze. It might be no coincidence they were found under similar conditions: in shallow water, partly buried in sand, by a swimmer.

With that in mind, it is useful to compare (as others have done, most notably Sam Hardy: the Apollo of Gaza: less innocent origins, equally problematic destinations) the find condition of those other statues which were plucked from the sea to get an idea of what we might expect to observe.

Here’s the Croatian Athlete at the time of discovery(I have another post mentioning this one in another context … stay tuned; Sam Hardy’s article above has a different photo):

Department of Underwater Archaeology of Croatia, via UNESCO

Department of Underwater Archaeology of Croatia, via UNESCO

… Here’s the Getty’s ‘Victorious Youth”

via the Getty

… Finally, one of the famous photos of one of the Riace Bronzes:

This one was all over the internet a short while ago; this copy comes from oldhistoricalphotos.com

This one was all over the internet a short while ago; this copy comes from oldhistoricalphotos.com

This is possibly an important detail … if the “Apollo” of Gaza did actually come from the sea and came out looking, patina-wise, like the Riace Bronzes, then the frequently-mentioned concerns about its current condition probably are  even more concerning now (given that we haven’t had any news reports of any conservation help actually being given). The CNN coverage of February 15 mysteriously downplayed the deterioration:

A green spot — a sign of decay — has formed on the leg of the statue, which is exposed to the air.

A (single?) green spot? Anyone who has seen any of the photos has seen a statue that seems to be suffering from the early states of ‘bronze disease’ (or something similar), which can be the result of emerging from the sea and being exposed to air, or it can be the result of highly humid conditions (which does appear to be the case in Gaza … check the weather network for today’s humidity there). It’s difficult to tell whether there has been any change as seen from the two previously-mentioned photos (taken perhaps two weeks apart):

A picture taken in Gaza on Sept. 19, 2013 shows a 2,500-year-old bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo discovered by Palestinian fishermen in August (Gaza's Ministry of Tourism/AFP)

A picture taken in Gaza on Sept. 19, 2013 shows a 2,500-year-old bronze
statue of the Greek god Apollo discovered by Palestinian fishermen
in August (Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism/AFP)

ppna

… but it seems noteworthy that the more recent one seems to come from a place which is likely air-conditioned, which would, in theory, slow down the progress of deterioration. Then again, the Businessweek article concluded thusly:

The Apollo is in a Hamas Interior Ministry office, somewhere in Gaza, being kept away from sources of humidity, he says. It is propped up in a corner.

In regards to condition, we should also draw attention to another photo that was making the rounds from the ‘Smurf blanket’ phase:

Rear view of the statue, via the BBC

Rear view of the statue, via the BBC

What’s interesting in this photo is that the back of the statue (including the head)— which was, of course, in contact with the blanket/mattress and not really exposed to air — is largely free from any signs of the green patina. Does this give us an indication of the original condition? Or did moving it on and off the mattress do something to the patina (unlikely).  If it does indicate the original condition,  according to our timeline, all that green patina would have accumulated in less than a month and we can only hope that something more than ‘propping it up in a corner of an office’ is being done about it.

Outside of conservation issues, the statue itself raises a number of questions. A photo from the Palestinian Tourism folks which accompanied the Businessweek article (and appeared elsewhere) seems to touch on many of them:

Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquitiesvia Businessweek, but it is also available elsewhere

Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities via Businessweek, but it is also available elsewhere

A major item that has been bugging me from the outset is the reported weight of this thing: 450 kg/1000 pounds. Why does it weigh so much? Although it is roughly the same size (possibly a bit smaller), it is almost double what each of the Riace Bronzes weighs, and if it is the actual weight, it probably suggests a rather massive core, which certainly wouldn’t be in line with traditional statue construction methods of the time (as far as I’m aware).

The graphic marvels that the feet are intact, but what seems to be more interesting is that they are not only intact, but are attached to their original base. I’m sure someone can correct me on this, but finding bronzes of this size still attached to their base is pretty rare. I’d be very interested to know whether the base was cast with the feet or whether it was later attached.

Two other items on the graphic raise other questions. We are told that three fingers are missing — we know the fisherman had one, his “cousin” (or jeweller) had one too. How did the third go missing? And what happened to the thumb? We also wonder about the eye and are unsure whether it was always missing or was gouged out/fell out later (more on the surviving eye in a bit). In one of the news reports, it “sounds” like it was something that happened later, but that might be just one of those things that comes during the translation of an interview:

Ahmed Elburch, an official at the Hamas-run Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Gaza, says he last saw the statue in October. He was concerned about its condition, he says, as the colour appeared to be changing, and one of the eyes had been cut out.

That said, over the past few weeks a number of us (namely, Sam Hardy, Vernon Silver, Justin Walsh, and myself) have engaged in an on-again, off-again discussion of the statue on Twitter and much of what follows is the result of those discussions. Stylistically, as several, including Sam Hardy have noted the head of the statue seems to have great affinities with a head from Herculaneum, which includes the very interesting ‘dreadlocks’ hair treatment, although they seem a bit more ‘orderly’ along the brow (the photo, by the way, comes from an article by Carol Mattusch on early bronze statuary which is definitely an appropriate read for this: Changing Approaches to Classical Bronze Statuary)

via INAH ... in the above-referenced article

via INAH … in the above-referenced article

The twisty curls also appear in another head from Herculaneum, albeit flatter and in a clearly non-Apolline context (as Vernon Silver reminded me). Here’s Ptolemy Apion in the Naples Museum:

via Wikimedia Commons

via Wikimedia Commons

In passing, we should note that the condition of the ‘free’ curls on the Gaza example is probably one of the best bits of evidence that the fisherman’s story of the recovery of the statue (by the ‘cartwheel technique’) is less-than-truthful. I have a very difficult time believing that those curls would have survived recovery according to his description.

As long as we’re looking at the head, I’m wondering if I’m the only one who finds the face of the statue to be somewhat strange. In some of the photos, depending on the angle, it does seem to be a reasonable ‘Greek’ visage, but in others (especially straight on) it does not and is certainly not the ‘idealizing’ sort of thing one might expect. The aforementioned ‘bronze disease’ also has almost ‘outlined’ a certain part of the face, which makes it look like it was somehow attached to a faceless head. I’m honestly not sure if that is the case or if that’s just an illusion caused by the deterioration, but clearly it would be an oddity. Indeed, when I first saw the outline, it struck me that this looked more like the face of a Roman cavalry mask than anything else. Here are the “headshots” from the BBC:

via the BBC Magazine

via the BBC Magazine

Also worth noting about the head is that it really isn’t unusual that a bronze might have lost its inlaid eyes (which were usually made from glass paste or other materials). What is interesting here, however, is the one eye that remains in the head is apparently blue and made from some sort of stone (maybe; not sure if a trained ‘eye’ determined that or not).

The pose of the statue is one which comes close to many statue styled an “Apollo” or “Kouros” or “Ephebe” but the closest analog seems to be the so-called ephebe of Selinunte, now in the Palermo Museum (tip of the pileus to Justin Walsh and Adrian Murdoch for helping me track this one down, there’s a huge version of the photo if you click on it):

via trapani tourism

via trapani tourism

The Ephebe from the ‘House of the Ephebe” in Pompeii also seems to have affinities both in terms of height and pose, sort of (and we might wonder if the Gaza statue carried something in its now largely broken left hand, but seems to be the product of a more-talented artist:

via the Getty

via the Getty

Another stylistic analog, but again the product of a better artist, would be the somewhat smaller (1.15 m) Piombino Kouros, originally from Etruria but now in the Louvre (this is a cast from Cambridge’s archive):

from the Cambridge Casts Archive

Perhaps related to this notion that the Gaza “Apollo” is the product of a less-talented artist is an observation which came up just last week: a photo which clearly shows a square hole on the back of one of the legs or upper arms (Sam Hardy has recently dealt with the confusion many of us had trying to figure out where this ‘hole’ is: Is it an arm? Is it a leg? What the hell is that hole?). Similar squares on other ancient bronzes usually indicate the site of a repair done in ancient times. Depending on where it is, however, it might also indicate where a statue attached to something else for stability purposes. If it is on the upper arm, it seems to be a patch. If it’s on a leg, it could be a patch or an attachment spot. Until some genuine conservationist/art historian gets an in-person look at the statue, I doubt we’ll know for sure.

I’m also not sure how much should/can be read into the above observations (I can’t really call them evidence) that all of the analogs for the Gaza “Apollo” seem to come from southern Italy/Sicily. As far as I’m aware, most of the bronzes which have survived to this point come from that part of the world. At the same time, Herculaneum for a long time was the site of numerous thefts, including a spectacular break in in the early 1990s, although no large scale statuary seems to have gone missing in that one (tip o’ the pileus to Dorothy King for help with that reference). Whatever the case, it’s obviously highly improbable that a statue might have been taken from southern Italy to Gaza to create a provenance, and then suddenly be subject to deterioration.

Which brings us to the bigger question: is the Gaza “Apollo” genuine or is it a clever fake? It’s interesting, I think, to note that the head from Herculaneum and the Piombino Kouros are considered in the category of ‘ancient fakes’ (I.e. Fakes/replicas made in antiquity to appeal to a contemporary market). Even so, I keep hemming and hawing on this issue and I still can’t come down firmly on one side or the other. The provenance strikes me (and most critical observers, it appears) as obviously manufactured. The weight, the face, and the survival of the base of the statue also combine to lead me to think there’s something very much amiss with this one. I’m still not too sure about the hair treatment either. Why Hamas (or whoever is in possession of it) is not giving scholars access to it to do some basic conservation and examination is puzzling and doesn’t lend any confidence to claims of authenticity. Despite all those considerations, it still seems possible that it is genuine and perhaps an archaizing sort of thing like the head from Herculaneum or possibly simply the product of a crappy artist. The whole situation is clearly being mishandled and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t hear anything more about this one for a year or two, if at all.

Recent Finds from Sardis

From a UWisconsin-Madison press release:

A ritual deposit, found intact beneath a first century Roman house in Sardis. The deposit, found inside two bowls, includes a number of small implements, a unique coin and an egg. The hole in the egg was made in antiquity.

By any measure, the ancient city of Sardis — home of the fabled King Croesus, a name synonymous with gold and vast wealth, and the city where coinage was invented — is an archaeological wonder.

The ruins of Sardis, in what is now Turkey, have been a rich source of knowledge about classical antiquity from the 7th century B.C., when the city was the capital of Lydia, through later Greek and Roman occupations.

Scholars digging at Sardis, the capital of ancient Lydia later occupied by Greeks and Romans. Sardis, in modern Turkey, was the fabled home of King Croesus, the richest man of his day, according to lore.

Now, however, Sardis has given up another treasure in the form of two enigmatic ritual deposits, which are proving more difficult to fathom than the coins for which the city was famous.

“The two deposits each consist of a small pot with a lid, a coin, a group of sharp metal implements and an egg, one of which is intact except for a hole carefully punched in it in antiquity,” explains Will Bruce, a classics graduate student a the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has been digging at Sardis for the past six years. Bruce made the finds last summer.

The dig at Sardis is overseen by Nicholas Cahill , a UW-Madison professor of art history . Cahill has directed field research at Sardis for decades. Both ritual deposits, says Cahill, date from the Roman era of Sardis, about A.D. 70 or 80.

An inverted bowl, covering another bowl with a ritual deposit, emerges from the earth. The bowls contained a ritual deposit of a coin, small metal implements and an egg.

Bruce and his team were excavating below the floor of a first century room, built over the ruins of an earlier building, which had probably been destroyed in a massive earthquake in A.D. 17.

Digging beneath the floor, Bruce and his colleagues first uncovered a thin-walled, nearly intact jug and, nearby, an assemblage of mostly unbroken pottery. “It looked like we were reaching a more intact deposit instead of fill,” says Bruce.

Within that assemblage, Bruce began to carefully uncover an inverted bowl, which turned out to be sitting on top of another bowl. The bowls, still filled with dirt, were carefully removed and immediately turned over to conservators who cleaned and dissembled them to find a set of small pointed instruments, a coin with a lion and portrait of Nero, and the intact egg.

Graduate student Will Bruce excavates a coin horde at Sardis, which was the home of King Croesus, a name synonymous in myth and history with gold and wealth.

“The ritual offerings were dug into pits in the floor, after the room was constructed,” says Cahill. “We know they were renovating the room periodically, because in another part of the space there was a dump of painted wall plaster buried under the floor, presumably in a renovation.”

“The meaning of these deposits is still quite open to interpretation,” notes Cahill, “but burying votive deposits below ground or in a wall was a fairly common practice,” perhaps as a ritual offering to protect the house. Roman literary sources suggest eggs were used in particular rituals.

For the archaeologists, part of the intrigue is that similar groups of bowls, needles, coins and eggs were discovered at Sardis more than 100 years ago when the temple of Artemis was excavated by Princeton University archaeologists. “It is an exact parallel to what they found in the early 20th century,” according to Cahill.

A gold coin found at Sardis. Another coin, bearing the likeness of Emporer Nero, was also found.

The coin was also unique. Sardis is famous as the place where coinage was invented in the Western world, first using electrum, an alloy of silver and gold, and later of pure gold and silver. Nearby sources of gold made ancient Lydia, and King Croesus, fabulously wealthy. While these Lydian coins are very rare, coins and coin hoards from later Greek and Roman occupiers of Sardis are routinely found.

But the coin found with the egg, says Cahill, seems to be special.

“The coin has a portrait of Nero on the front. The original reverse was hammered flat, and the image of a lion engraved in its place, which is very odd.” Expert numismatists have never seen anything like it. “The image of the lion is important because it is emblematic of the Lydian kings and of their native mother goddess Cybele,” Cahill says.

The discovery is unusual, Cahill notes, because finding ritualistic objects intact and in place after thousands of years is no everyday discovery, even in a rich archaeological context such as Sardis. “Ancient ritual was important to people. It is most unusual to find such fragile things so perfectly preserved.”

… the original article has several good photos.

(More) Evidence of Human Sacrifice from Crete?

Another one from ANSA:

A new discovery made during archaeological digs on the Greek island of Crete confirms the hypothesis, already advanced in the past, that over 3,000 years ago human beings, and not only animals, were sacrificed to local gods.

The site in which the artefacts were discovered is on the hill of Castelli near Splazia, in the area of the city of Chania, the second city of Crete on the north-western part of the island, built in 1252 at the order of the 44th Doge of Venice Marino Morosini over the ancient city of Cydonia.

The excavations led to the discovery of many tombs and ceramic vases from the Mycenaean period, buildings similar to Mycenaean palaces, frescoes from the Minoan era, fragments of a vase with linear B writing used in Mycenaean language, Roman statues, fragments of mosaics from Hellenic and Christian eras and animal and human bones including the skull of a young woman allegedly dating back to 1280 BC which would prove that humans were also sacrificed 3,000 years ago during religious rites, and not just animals.

The bones were discovered in the corner of a court outside which, according to the evidence found, was beside the royal palace of the city of Cydonia built like buildings from the Mycenaean period between 1375 and 1200 BC.

‘Under the stones placed in an ordered way we found what we expected: the skull of a young woman, not in one piece, amid animal skulls. It was broken, just like the others, with a strong blow to the forehead’, said archaeologist Maria Andreadakis-Vlazakis, director of antiquities and cultural heritage at the Greek culture ministry, who directs excavation work.

The artifacts show that an important settlement that would gradually become the city of Cydonia was already in the area in the Neolithic period, the researcher said at a conference on ‘Chania’ in the Minoan era’ held at the headquarters of Greece’s Association of archaeologists.

‘We believe the woman was killed during a human sacrifice and not of animals’, said Andreadakis, referring to the skull found. ‘We have not yet drawn the final conclusions, we need to study the bones much more closely. By the month of October however we will be ready to present the results at the international archaeology congress in Milan on the theme of human sacrifices in ancient history. The findings from excavations in Chania’ will be the main topic of the congress’.

Excavation work, involving the 25th Superintendency of classic antiquities in cooperation with the Swedish and Danish archeological institutes, have been ongoing since 2005 and the most important artifacts were discovered in 2012.

‘The presence of the human skull must not surprise us as Greek mythology is full of stories of sacrifices of virgins in an attempt made by society to ingratiate gods and confront great disasters’, said Andreadakis.

Now despite tales of the Minotaur, and the like, scholars of our generation(s) have tended to be skeptical of claims of human sacrifice among the Greeks, especially the folks on Crete. I don’t think we have a scholarly consensus yet, but folks might want to peruse news reports from the past which mention other finds which might make you go hmmmmm:

From 1979 from Heraklion (this is the work/find of Ioannis Sakellerakis)

From back in 1980 near Heraklion (clearly the same site; more details):

And on the mainland, we’ve heard of possible human sacrifice at Mt Lykaion:

Roman Necropolis Near Venice

I’ll keep my eye open for some more details on this one … from ANSA:

The largest, best-preserved ancient Roman funerary complex found in Italy since the 19th century has been discovered at an archeological dig 70 km northeast of Venice, researchers announced Friday.

An imposing monument from the third century AD was located outside the ancient walls of what was once the Roman colony of Iulia Concordia, now in the town of Concordia Sagittaria.

The site was likened to a “little, flood-plain Pompeii” in a guided tour at the restoration site in Gruaro, Veneto. Just as Pompeii was buried by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, a natural disaster wiped out and preserved sarcophagi in Iulia Concordia.

Floods swept detritus and sediment across the area in the fifth century AD, rendering the ancient structures inaccessible and invisible for 1500 years.

The complex includes a podium nearly two metres tall and six metres long with the remains of two elegant sarcophagi on top, two others nearby, and the base of a third.

The remains of a necropolis from the the late first century B.C. was also found.

The excavation is financed by the Region of Veneto with European Union funds under the direction of the Veneto Superintendency for Archeological Heritage.

via: ‘Little Pompeii’ found 70 km northeast of Venice

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A New Sapphic Poem ~ Wading into the Morass

In case you haven’t heard, Dirk Obbink has recently announced the discovery/publication of two ‘new’ poems by Sappho and they’re causing quite the flurry of activity on blogospheres (as you may have already seen), twitterspheres (ditto), and no doubt, in private emails and departmental coffee lounges around the world. But first, a taste of the media coverage, from Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian:

Sappho is one of the most elusive and mysterious – as well as best-loved – of ancient Greek poets. Only one of her poems, out of a reputed total of nine volumes’ worth, survives absolutely intact. Otherwise, she is known by fragments and shards of lines – and still adored for her delicate outpourings of love, longing and desire.

But now, two hitherto unknown works by the seventh-century lyricist of Lesbos have been discovered. One is a substantially complete work about her brothers; another, an extremely fragmentary piece apparently about unrequited love.

The poems came to light when an anonymous private collector in London showed a piece of papyrus fragment to Dr Dirk Obbink, a papyrologist at Oxford University.

According to Obbink, in an article to be published this spring, the poems, preserved on what is probably third-century AD papyrus, are “indubitably” by Sappho.

Not only do elements of the longer poem link up with fragments already known to be by her, but the metre and dialect in which the poems are written point to Sappho.

The clincher is a reference to her brother, Charaxos – whose very existence has long been doubted, since he is mentioned nowhere in previously discovered fragments of Sappho.

However, Herodotus, the fifth-century BC historian, named the brother when describing a poem by Sappho that recounts the tale of a love affair between Charaxos and a slave in Egypt.

In this poem – though it is not the precise one that Herodotus mentions – the writer addresses her audience, seeming to berate them for taking Charaxos’s return by ship from a trading trip for granted.

Pray to Hera, says the narrator, “so that Charaxos may return here, with his ship intact; for the rest let us leave it all to the gods, for often calm quickly follows a great storm”.

The poem goes on to say that those whom Zeus chooses to save from great storms are truly blessed and “lucky without compare”. The poem ends with the hope that another brother, Larichos, might become a man – “freeing us from much anxiety”.

According to Tim Whitmarsh, a professor of ancient literature at Oxford University, the poem could be read as a play on Homer’s Odyssey, and the idea of Penelope waiting patiently at home for the return of Odysseus. Sappho frequently reworked Homeric themes in her poems.

Sappho, who was born in about 630BC, is known for her lyric verse of longing, often directed at women and girls – the bittersweet feeling of love, impossible-to-fulfil desire and the sensation of jealousy when you see the object of your obsession across the room, talking intimately with someone else.

She was admired in antiquity for her delicate, passionate verses. The only evidence for her biography comes from within her poems – and the naming of her brothers, Charaxos and Larichos, adds substantially to a sketchy knowledge of the poet’s life.

Sappho’s poems, which were lost from the manuscript tradition and were not collated and copied by medieval monks as were so many surviving ancient texts, have been preserved by two main means: either through quotation by other authors (often as examples of particular syntactical points by ancient grammarians) or through the discovery of fragments written on ancient papyrus. There is hope yet for more poems to come to light, preserved in the Egyptian sands.

Obbink’s article, with a transcription of the original poems, is to be published in the journal Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik.

The Guardian also links to a translation of one of the poems by Tim Whitmarsh: Read Sappho’s ‘new’ poem

Slate offers translations of both poems by Thomas H. Buck: Read Two Newly Discovered Sappho Poems in English for the First Time

Tom Payne offers a verse translation in the Telegraph:A new Sappho poem is more exciting than a new David Bowie album

There is no doubt that the discovery is significant, and assorted Classicists are quoted in the media saying as much. E.g., Harvard’s Albert Heinrichs in the Daily Beast:

[...]“The new Sappho is absolutely breath-taking,” said Albert Henrichs, a Harvard classics professor who examined the papyrus with Dr. Obbink. “It is the best preserved Sappho papyrus in existence, with just a few letters that had to be restored in the first poem, and not a single word that is in doubt. Its content is equally exciting.” One of the two recovered poems, Prof. Henrichs notes, speaks of a “Charaxos” and a “Larichos,” the names assigned by ancient sources to two of Sappho’s brothers but never before found in Sappho’s own writings. It has as a result been labeled the Brothers poem by Prof. Obbink.

“There will be endless discussion about Charaxos and Larichos, who may or may not be Sappho’s brothers,” Prof. Henrichs commented. One important point in that debate will be the Brothers poem’s clear implication that Charaxos was a sea-going trader. The historian Herodotus, writing about two centuries after Sappho, also describes Charaxos as a wayfarer—a man who traveled to Egypt, where he spent a fortune to buy the freedom of Rhodopis, a beautiful slave he had fallen in love with. Upon his return home, Herodotus relates, Sappho brutally mocked her brother’s lovestruck folly in one of her poems.[...]

Darmouth’s Margaret Williamson told NPR:

[...]In an email to NPR, Margaret Williamson, a classics expert at Dartmouth College and the author of Sappho’s Immortal Daughters, agreed: “I don’t see much room for doubt that these are fragments of Sappho poems. They certainly sound very like her: they’re in the right meter and the right dialect, and they are prayer-hymns of a kind she often wrote, addressed to Hera and Aphrodite, goddesses worshipped on Lesbos whom she appeals to in other poems.”

Williamson added that the first poem, which mentions Sappho’s brothers, is especially remarkable. “It’s very exciting to have a new Sappho poem that isn’t about erotic love or beauty,” she writes. “Here, for a change, is a poem that seems to refer to other relationships. … We’ve had far fewer poems of this type up till now, and as a result it’s been too easy to interpret her poems as the lone cry of a woman in love, rather than looking at the cultural context these quite sophisticated poems grew out of.” [...]

That said, and in light of what we’ll be presenting below, it’s useful to compare a similar discovery a decade ago which we dutifully reported on: New Sappho!. In that article (the TLS links are now dead, alas), one has a nice description of how another fragment was found in an existing collection:

[...] A recent find enables us to raise this number to four. In 2004, Michael Gronewald and
Robert Daniel announced the identification of a papyrus in the University of Cologne as part of a roll containing poems of Sappho. This text, recovered from Egyptian mummy cartonnage, is the earliest manuscript of her work so far known. It was copied early in the third century bc, not much more than 300 years after she wrote.[...]

We should also note that Issue 4 of the online Classics@ was devoted to all sorts of papers relating to that 2004 discovery and is probably also worth (re)visiting.

As mentioned in the Guardian piece above, Dr Obbink will be officially publishing the find in a forthcoming issue of ZPE, but it should be noted that in the initial days of the announcement, a draft version of the article was available on the web. It was taken down somewhat quickly — which possibly/probably led to some scholarly suspicion. I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned it did show up at Scribd subsequently (I can’t vouch for the veracity of that link; it is blocked at my school).

That pretty much wraps up what the world ‘outside the Classics community’ is reading. Inside Classics circles, there is a growing drumbeat in regards to the provenance of the fragments and it’s not unfounded. While most of the media coverage just mentions ‘a private collection’, Bettany Hughes in the Times opened her version thusly:

It is the bolt from the blue that every historian dreams of. Professor Dirk Obbink was minding his own business recently in Oxford when he took an anonymous phone call. The elderly gentleman on the end of the line had material from an ancient Egyptian burial in his possession. He’d noticed that scraps of the cartonnage (the Egyptian equivalent of papier-mâché, made of recycled papyrus) bore the ghostly imprint of writing. Might these words, the stranger wondered, be of any interest?

Professor Obbink, one of the world’s leading papyrologists, thought they might. Prising the layers of shredded papyrus apart, he had to hold his breath. Because here — pretty much instantly recognisable — were delicate, fragmentary lines of the elusive ancient Greek poet Sappho. [...]

I should mention that I’ve only read the first couple paragraphs of that piece because, of course, the Times put up a paywall a few years ago. Despite that, many Classics types have — perhaps riffing on the 2004 find — been suggesting a possible Oxyrhynchus origin, but Hughes’ rather prosaic intro does reflect, it seems, what is probably one aspect of the origin. In Obbink’s paper, the official description mentioned:

Occasionally, in places, ink-traces are obscured by spots of adherent material that appears to be light-brown gesso or silt, specs [sic] of which are also to be seen on the back.

… the gesso — if it is there — would strongly suggest we’re dealing with mummy cartonnage. Even so, we don’t get any other clues where this elderly gentleman may have come across this fragment.

That said, I don’t think the sketchy provenance here is on the same level as the sketchy provenance of other recently-found papyri, especially the Gospel of Jesus’ wife (see, e.g., Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Latest) where the provenance story itself is fishy and serves to exacerbate the issues of authenticity. For the record, I am not at all questioning the authenticity of this find; I have major doubts that someone in this day and age is capable of faking a poem, with the proper metre, era-authentic handwriting, etc., that would pass for a bit of Sappho. I do, however, find the lack of details regarding whence it did come rather disturbing beyond the usual reasons one gets when provenance is brought up and sadly, they all reflect badly on Dr Obbink. All we know is that he was approached by some private collector and even the circumstances about that are sketchy. To wit:

  • Under what circumstances was Dr Obbink approached? Why did the anonymous collector ‘choose’ him? Was he looking for a buyer?
  • Given Dr Obbink’s previous work with the Sappho fragment from 2004, was he specifically chosen for some reason? Did the collector know/suspect he had a fragment of Sappho?
  • How were the fragments presented to Dr Obbink? Were they glass mounted in a way that might suggest they came from an old collection? Were they presented in some other way?
  • How did the ‘mummy cartonnage’ idea come up? Was it just from physical examination or did the collector suggest that was the origin?
  • Did the collector give any further details where he had acquired the fragment?
  • If it does come from mummy cartonnage, does the collector have just these fragments or are there a lot more to come? Is Dr Obbink sitting on a number of other fragments? Can we expect semi-regular publications of ‘new’ Sappho chunks in the near future?
  • Where are the fragments now? Does Dr Obbink have them or were they returned to the collector? Are they in a museum or should we expect to see them showing up at Sotheby’s or Christie’s in the near future?

I could probably come up with a pile of more questions, but you can see how just the provenance question is a major issue and reflects badly on how Dr Obbink brought this to the public. For more scholarly reactions in this vein, see the contributions of various other bloggers which I list at the end of this piece.

Even more annoying, perhaps,  in this ongoing issue is the lack of a decent photograph. The Daily Mail and Greek Reporter both include a pinkish/reddish photo, which is identified as one of the fragments in question, but I can’t really match it up to the transcription in Obbink’s draft article. Another photo that’s making the rounds ‘looks’ more reasonable, but is actually from 1922 according to the Daily Mail. (Last photo on the page). [apologies for not including the photos themselves; I seem to be having issues in that regard]. Of course, the fact that the draft article does not include any photos doesn’t help these matters either.

With the foregoing in mind, I think the MAJOR lesson that needs to be be taken from all this at this point is that this Sappho discovery is a great example of how not to use the media to present a major discovery, even if some of that media has Classical training. It is noteworthy, e.g., that there does not seem to have been an official university press release on this one (indeed, the only think I found at Oxford was a link to the Daily Beast coverage). Even the Gospel of Jesus’ wife cadre recognized the importance of this aspect of promulgation. Without an official source ‘close’ to the ‘star’, it is far more likely that subsequent and/or derivative (or derivative of derivative) coverage will only further cloud the issue rather than reveal it. If an official university version is put out, it will inevitably be picked up by some of the ‘big’ press release places (Science Daily, Eurekalert, PhysOrg) which will lead to the item being seen by an even wider audience than the somewhat parochial Classics community which seems to be dealing with it now. Similarly, adequate support material should be made readily available, including the draft of the publication (and not taken down quickly) and adequate photos with transcriptions. The Gospel of Jesus Wife folks actually did all this very well and generated a great deal of discussion about the content of the document, which should, of course, be the focus. They did make some errors in judgement, but the ‘plan’ was carried out well. In the case of the Sappho fragments we have analogous provenance issues, but the lack of other substantive material appears to be preventing any substantial discussion taking place on anything except the provenance. That’s a crying shame for such an obviously important find …

Speaking again of provenance, here’s a smattering of the blogposts worth checking out …

Adrian Murdoch:

Paul Barford:

David Gill:

Judith Weingarten:

Also worth noting is Francesca Tronchin’s ‘Storification’ of the discussion in the Twittersphere:

… and her post:

… I’ll be adding to this list over the next couple of days (I know I’ve left some folks out)

UPDATE (a few hours later): I just realized Dr Tronchin (and others) mention a blog that has been set up to discuss the find. The discussion began with some grammatical and restoration matters, but now has devolved into a discussion of provenance issues … Discussing the New Sappho poems

Temple of Minerva beneath Milan Cathedral?

A brief item from ANSA:

The remains of a pagan temple believed to have been devoted to the goddess Minerva have been found under the Milan Cathedral.

The announcement was made Wednesday during the presentation of other archaeological finds, the remains of the ancient Mediolanum Forum discovered recently under the basement of the building housing the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana and the Biblioteca Ambrosiana.

Archaeological excavations to unearth the remains of the large city that, beginning in 292 A.D., was the capital of the Western Roman Empire for over a century continue despite funding difficulties. So far, part of the floor made out of what is known as ‘Verona stone’ has been found. The base of a section of an arcade can also be seen. The entire forum occupied an estimated surface area of 166 by 55 square meters. While waiting to be able to extend the excavations, the zone has been fitted with a special entrance on the side of the building, walkways, and illustrative signs to make visits by the public possible. The works were conducted with funding from the Cariplo foundation and the Lombardy regional government and are part of the project for a ‘Milan Archaeology’ route being readied for the 2015 Milano Expo, said regional culture councillor Cristina Cappellini.

Il Giorno gives, inter alia, some background to the discovery:

[...] Il Foro di Milano rappresentava la piazza principale della civitas romana, dove si svolgevano le maggiori attivita’ civili e religiose. Sorge alle fondamenta della Pinacoteca milanese, nell’area urbana attualmente compresa tra piazza Pio XI, piazza San Sepolcro e via della Zecca, che ospitava la platea forensis, la sede dei principali edifici pubblici: la Curia (luogo di riunione del Senato locale), la Basilica (in cui era amministrata la giustizia), il Capitolium (il tempio dedicato alla “Triade Capitolina”: Giove, Giunone e Minerva), le tabernae (negozi, botteghe artigiane, luoghi di ristorazione).

La scoperta e’ stata del tutto casuale: i reperti sono venuti alla luce durante i lavori di restauro della Biblioteca Ambrosiana, tra il 1990 e il 1992, rivelando una piccola parte della piazza del Foro. Il nuovo allestimento e’ ora in grado di mostrare una parte della pavimentazione, costituita da lastre di pietra bianca, detta ‘di Verona’ usata a partire dal 1* secolo dopo Cristo. Inoltre, lungo un lato del lastricato si notano un piccolo canale dove scorrevano le acque piovane e i gradini che conducevano alle botteghe e alle osterie. Si vede inoltre la base di un tratto del porticato che lo delimitava sul lato occidentale e dietro al quale si trovavano le ‘tabernae’ (botteghe).[...]

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Head Hunting Romans?

Maev Kennedy writes a very interesting piece in the Guardian which is just beginning to be picked up by other outlets:

Scores of skulls excavated in the heart of London have provided the first gruesome evidence of Roman head hunters operating in Britain, gathering up the heads of executed enemies or fallen gladiators from the nearby amphitheatre, and exposing them for years in open pits.

“It is not a pretty picture,” Rebecca Redfern, from the centre for human bioarchaeology at the museum of London, said. “At least one of the skulls shows evidence of being chewed at by dogs, so it was still fleshed when it was lying in the open.”

“They come from a peculiar area by the Walbrook stream, which was a site for burials and a centre of ritual activity – but also very much in use for more mundane pursuits. We have evidence of lots of shoe making, so you have to think of the cobbler working yards from these open pits, with the dog chewing away – really not nice.”

“We believe that some of the heads may be people who were killed in the amphitheatre. Decapitation was a way of finishing off gladiators, but not everyone who died in the Roman amphitheatre was a gladiator, it was where common criminals were executed, or sometimes for entertainment you’d give two of them swords and have them kill one another. Other heads may have been brought back by soldiers from skirmishes, probably on the Hadrian or Antonine walls – again, it would have taken weeks to bring them back, so not a nice process.”

The 39 skulls were excavated at London Wall almost within sight of the Museum of London in 1988, and deposited at the museum, but the scientists have only recently applied improved forensic techniques to them. Redfern and her colleague Heather Bonney, from the Earth Sciences Department of the Natural History Museum, publish their results for the first time this week in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The tests revealed that almost all the skulls are of adult males – some could not be identified – and most bear scars and slash marks of many wounds inflicted around the time of death. Many also have multiple healed wounds, one with the shattered cheek bone typical of a violent punch in the face, showing their lives were not tranquil. On some there is clear evidence of decapitation with a sword: possibly all were killed in that way, but if the fatal blow was through the neck the proof has vanished with the rest of their bodies.

“Whether they died in the amphitheatre or in battle, decapitation with a sword is a very efficient way of ending a life – somebody very much wanted these people dead,” Redfern said.

The evidence suggests that they were left for years decomposing in the open pits.

“There is none of the fracturing you’d expect if they’d been put on spikes, so it looks as if they were just set down and left – though of course you could have had a nice shelf to display them on.”

There is evidence of head taking from across the Roman empire, including Trajan’s column in Rome which shows clean shaven Roman soldiers presenting bearded barbarian heads as trophies to the emperor. Heads are also shown being held up in triumph on tomb stones of cavalry officers in Britain and elsewhere. Although pits of body parts have been found in Britain, the London skulls, deposited over several decades, are an unprecedented find from the Roman capital.

Hundreds of skulls have been found for centuries along the course of the long vanished Walbrook – most recently by the team working on the new Crossrail station just outside Liverpool Street station.

They have often been interpreted either as washed out of Roman cemeteries, or as victims of Boudicca’s revolution, when the East Anglican leader of the Icenii tribe swept south to London in AD60, torching Roman settlements and towns.

However the work of Redfern and Bonney may force archaeologists to have another look at the skull finds.

The London Wall skulls are far too late for Boudicca: they have been dated to the 2nd century AD, a time of peace, prosperity and expansion for the Roman city.

“These were all young men, very untypical of what we usually find in Roman burials, where we tend to get the very young and the old,” Redfern said.

“Most people in second century London lived peaceful quiet lives – but as we now know, not everyone. This is a glimpse into the very dark side of Roman life.”

Folks who have 35 bucks burning a hole in their pocker might want to check out the original article: Headhunting and amphitheatre combat in Roman London, England: new evidence from the Walbrook Valley (JAS), although most of us will have to be satisfied with the abstract, I’d imagine:

In 1988, the disarticulated human remains of forty Roman individuals were discovered at 52-63 London Wall, London. Examination of the sample using techniques employed by forensic anthropology and entomology found that some of the material had been deposited in open waterlogged pits. The majority of the sample was adult males who had evidence for multiple peri-mortem blunt- and sharp- force injuries; many also had healed injuries, suggesting that violence was a common feature of their life. Despite the fact that this material was recovered from an industrial area in the upper Walbrook valley of London, the evidence for trauma, their context and associated archaeological and environmental evidence reveals that these deposits are markedly different from other published examples of human remains from the Walbrook stream and River Thames, and may represent the remains of headhunting by the Roman army and/or defeated gladiators.

… which makes me wonder if we are actually dealing solely with skulls. Whatever the case, we should probably also mention for comparanda purposes that pile of skulls found during the Crossrails project last October: Possible Pile of Roman Skulls See also the followup bringing up the Boudicca thing again: (Crossrail Roman Skulls Followup.

That said,  my memory also seems to recall an article in either a journal or a festschrift sort of thing (possibly non-Classics specific) called “Romans as Headhunters” vel simm. but I can’t seem to locate it …

UPDATE (an hour or so later): tip o’ the pileus to Peter Kruschwitz on twitter who tweaked my memory of this article which is worth tracking down if you’re interested in Roman ‘headhunting': Voisin, J-L., “Les Romains chasseurs de têtes” , Du châtiment dans la cité EFR n° 79, 1984

Tantalizing Tunnels From Niksar

Another rather annoying item from Hurriyet:

Two secret tunnels have been discovered under Turkey’s second largest castle, in the northern province of Tokat’s Niksar district. The tunnels date back to the Roman period, and it has been claimed that one of the tunnels was used by a Roman king’s daughters in order to go to the bath in the Çanakçi stream area.

The excavations are being carried out by the municipality in the 6.2 kilometer-wide Niksar Castle, which is Turkey’s second largest castle after Diyarbakır Castle. The tunnels are located in the southern and northern facades of the castle and are approximately 100 meters long.

The earth masses in the tunnels have been removed, but work was subsequently halted as permission for the excavations expired and the number of staff was insufficient.

The 100 meter tunnel in the northern façade is said to have been used by the king’s daughters to reach the Roman bath near the castle. Niksar Mayor Duran Yadigar, who has inspected both tunnels, said works in the castle unearthed the entrance of the tunnels. “One tunnel goes to the stream below the castle. We have also excavated a parallel tunnel used by the king’s daughters. When the works are completed, the two tunnels in the south and north of the Niksar Castle will be completely unearthed. The artistic features of the castle will be revealed,” Yadigar said.

Yadigar added that once these structures are completely revealed, the castle will make a great contribution to cultural tourism in the region. “We expect the Culture and Tourism Ministry to be interested in the Niksar Castle.

A quarter of the castle’s western section has been restored. Once it is completely restored, this place could be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and we could present the value of the Black Sea region to the world. I ask the relevant officials to show an interest in these tunnels,” Yadigar said.
Halis Şahin of the Tokat Museum, who provided information about the excavations, said works to reveal the Roman era tunnels would continue throughout the year.

Of course, the “Roman king’s daughters” thing is a bunch of hooey … in Roman times, Niksar was called Neocaesarea and it’s one of those cities that changed ownership several times over several millennia. I’m not sure if the photo accompanying the original article is of one or the other of the tunnels in question, but I see nothing that identifies it as Roman. Curious to know why this is identified as Roman, other than the story makes for good tourist fodder …

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Latest in the Riace Bronzes Saga

Okey dokey … this past week Gazzetta del Sud was telling us:

One of Italy’s best-loved cultural icons, a pair of ancient Greek statues called the Riace Bronzes, is back home in a Calabrian museum after four years lying on their backs in the seat of the regional government. “We are keeping a promise to give all the citizens of the world back one of its greatest treasures,” said Culture Minister Massimo Bray. He said the statues would be back on display in two weeks and that, given their “delicate” condition, the government would probably not try to have them moved to Milan in 2015 for the Expo world’s fair in the northern Italian city that year. Bray vowed to give the Bronzes “all the loving attention they need” to restore them to their full glory after the toll of undignified neglect in a store-room of the government offices in Reggio Calabria, on the other side of the southern Italian city. “Thanks to Bray, the bronzes will soon be back gloriously on display,” said Calabria Archaeological Superintendent Simonetta Bonomi. She hailed the news that the public can start flocking back to admire two of the most stunning works ever recovered from the cultural hotbed created by the ancient Greek civilisation in southern Italy called Magna Graecia (Greater Greece). A bigger, renovated showcase for the glorious warrior figures in Reggio Calabria’s Museum of Magna Graecia is expected to be unveiled early next year. Calabria’s culture chief, Mario Caligiuri, said the opening of the revamped site “could represent our Expo,” referring to the world’s fair in Milan which is expected to give the Italian business capital a significant economic and cultural boost. The statues were moved from the museum at the end of 2009 because the cultural institute badly needed restoration. But the work at the museum became a victim of budget cuts and red tape, leaving the statues out in the cold and spurring a national and international outcry. Leading Italian arts figures got a petition together and United Nations cultural organisation UNESCO branded the affair “a disgrace” in July. This prompted a renewed pledge from local officials this summer. “The situation is finally unblocked and will be remedied” said the managing director of Calabria’s department of cultural heritage, Francesco Prosperetti. “The Region of Calabria has given its fundamental contribution of five million euros, which will be used for building museum displays and completing installation work in the building, which should once more host the Riace Bronzes,” Prosperetti said. “If, as we hope, there aren’t snags or legal hold-ups… inauguration and opening to the public is conceivable…in the first months of next year”, Prosperetti said. Politicians had pressed Bray, since his appointment in April, to take fast action to protect the historically significant and priceless statues. He responded by saying moves would be hastened to get them back in their rightful place “by the first quarter of 2014″. On Friday he said “it turned out that this forecast was actually pessimistic and I am proud to say that these two old friends of ours are now back where they belong even sooner than we hoped”. Calabria takes the Bronzes so seriously that it has repeatedly refused permission for copies of the statues to be made and rejected pleas for Italian promotional events worldwide and for the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa. In a citywide vote in 2003, the people of Reggio Calabria came out overwhelmingly against the “cloning” of the statues, which have been the Calabrian capital’s biggest tourist draw since they were discovered. The bronzes were discovered in 1972 by a Roman holiday-maker scuba diving off the Calabrian coast and turned out to be one of Italy’s most important archaeological finds in the last 100 years. Their’ trip across town to the council site was supposed to be a brief one. When they left the archaeological museum on December 22, 2009, superintendent Bonomi said it was “just for a six-month restoration”. The move was the first time in 28 years that the priceless 2,500-year-old bronzes had left the Museo Nazionale di Reggio Calabria. The only previous occasion they were let out was in 1981, for a triumphant round-Italy tour, which sold out venues in Rome, Florence and Milan The statues are of two virile men, presumably warriors or gods, who possibly held lances and shields at one time. At around two metres, they are larger than life. The ‘older’ man, known as Riace B, wears a helmet, while the ‘younger’ Riace A has nothing covering his rippling hair. Both are naked. Although the statues are cast in bronze, they feature silver lashes and teeth, copper red lips and nipples, and eyes made of ivory, limestone and a glass and amber paste. Italy has the world’s biggest trove of archeological treasures but the Riace Bronzes attracted particular attention. This was partly due to their exceptionally realistic rendering and partly to the general rarity of ancient bronze statues, which tended to be melted down and recycled. Stefano Mariottini, the scuba diver who first spotted one of the statues some 300 meters off the coast and eight metres underwater, said the bronze was so realistic that he initially thought he’d found the remains of a corpse. A million people came to see them at various venues around Italy in 1981 and the pair were featured on a commemorative postage stamp that year. The statues pulled in an average 130,000 visitors a year during their time at the Reggio Calabria museum.

Please forgive my skepto-cynicism on this one, but we’ve been hearing about the impending ‘reappearance’ of this pair for years. You can catch up on the saga from our post from this past July: The Riace Bronzes Saga Continues … I’m also curious whether this work done a couple of years ago will be put into effect: Protecting the Riace Bronzes from Earthquakes

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‘Service Corridors’ from Metropolis

From Hurriyet:

Archaeological excavations in the ancient city of Metropolis, situated in İzmir, revealed a 40-meter corridor, giving clues about life 2,000 years ago.

According to a statement by Sabancı Foundation, which supports the project together with Torbalı Municipality and the Association of Metropolis Lovers (MESEDER), a 40-meter corridor was unearthed during the excavations that have been continuing in the bathing and sports sections of the site.

The brick-vaulted corridors, which had been built parallel to the northern, western and southern walls, were discovered in a well-preserved state, revealing aspects of social life 2,000 years ago.

Archaeologists believe that these kinds of structures were used as service corridors by servants working in Roman baths. Excavations also revealed furnaces built in the same parallel with the pools of the bath.

Associate Professor Serdar Aybek, head of the excavations and the archaeology department of Celal Bayar University, said the finding unearthed from the 6,000 square-meter excavation area was a “surprise.” “It is very exciting that the structures survived to this day in such good condition,” he said.

He said it would be possible to understand all architectural structures of this structure in future excavations, adding they encountered the footprints of a man and a goat in the same excavation area. “When we saw these footprints, we imagined the days when the bath was built or restored. We think the footprints belong to a goat that entered the areas before the structure’s soil mixture dried, and a man ran after it.”

‘Value for Turkey’

The Sabancı Foundation General Director Zerrin Koyunsağan said the historic richness in Metropolis was a significant value for Turkey. She said that every year, they have been surprised with new findings and discoveries in the ancient city of Metropolis, and every finding gave answers about social life 2,000 years ago.

In the meantime, the Metropolis site efforts, which started in 2012, are continuing in parallel with the excavations. A 16,000 square-meter area was surrounded by a fence and the projects for visitor welcome center, view terraces, walking routes and the environmental reorganizations have been finished.

The ancient city of Metropolis is located 40 kilometers away from İzmir and 45 kilometers away from the world-renowned ancient city of Ephesus. The site, which bears traces of the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods, has been under excavation for 23 years as a part of a project jointly carried out by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

… similar corridors found at Hadrian’s villa were in the news this past summer: Hadrian’s Tunnels at Tivoli

Sveshtari Tomb 2013

The incipit of a brief item from Novinite:

Over the year, Bulgarian archaeologists have made important new discoveries about the Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari, announced archaeologist Prof. Diana Gergova.

Among the most amazing discoveries was the fact that a golden casket discovered last year was placed on a powerful living tree in one of the tombs.

In ancient pagan Europe, strong trees were symbols of life and growth, and links between the terrestrial realm and the realm of gods.

“This mound is really unique compared to the other mounds in the site. Within it, we found new data for animal sacrifices, too,” said Gergova, as quoted by the Focus Radio.

Gergova argued that the important findings in the area mandate the creation of a museum at the site to display some of the items and tell their story. [...]

I believe the casket that is mentioned is the one mentioned in last year’s coverage (which also notes a bit of a media fury):Thracian Gold

Latest from Zeugma

From Hurriyet … as often, lacking some detail:

Researchers working on the ancient city of Zeugma in the southeastern province of Gaziantep have discovered new Roman-era houses, the head of the excavations has said on the occasion of the end of this year’s digging season.

“We see an architectural layer between sixth century B.C. and the second century A.D. We have reached new data about the architecture of the late ancient period,” said Hüseyin Yaman.

Yaman said works started on July 2 this year with a team of 40 people from various universities. “This year we particularly focused on conservation and restoration works,” he added.

Yaman said that Zeugma was very important to Turkey for its rich mosaic findings and that archaeological excavations also contributed to tourism, as well as scientific research.

“Zeugma contributes to tourism thanks to the findings there. Mosaics found here are being displayed at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum [in the center of Gaziantep] and have drawn a significant number of tourists. Also, the mosaics and frescoes in the excavation area are very important for boosting tourism,” he said.

Excavations on the site began in 1987.

via: Digging season ends at Zeugma (Hurriyet)

Roman Child Burial from Hinckley

Definitely an interesting one from the Hinckley Times:

A child’s coffin, believed to date from Roman times, has been unearthed at a field in Witherley.

The lead box, less than 1m long, was found by amateur treasure hunters using metal detectors on Sunday.

Archaeologists exhumed the coffin yesterday (Thursday) and transported it to Warwick for detailed analysis.

It’s the first find of its kind from the Leicestershire-Warwickshire border area – a stretch bordering the A5 known to have been of military significance during the Roman era.

Stuart Palmer, business manager for the appointed experts, Archaeology Warwickshire, said: “Everything points to the coffin being from the Roman era and it is the first lead coffin to be recovered from the area.

“It might be one of the few Roman burials recovered from the Witherley-Mancetter cross border region.

“We know quite a lot about the Roman military activity in that part of Leicestershire and Warwickshire but not a great deal about the indigenous population.

“This coffin might provide us with one of a very few opportunities to examine how those people lived.”

The artefact will undergo months of analysis and a report will highlight findings and recommend what should happen to it next.

Mr Palmer said it would be some time before the coffin was opened and only then in the presence of appropriate experts and in the right environment.

The coffin was found along with Roman and medieval coins by members of Digging Up the Past metal detector group.

Realising the importance of the artefact they alerted the police and kept nightly vigils at the site for fear of looters.

Club spokesman, David Hutchings, said: “As the coffin was found in a ploughed field it was probably only a matter of time before it was accidentally damaged by farm machinery, so it’s almost with a collective sigh of relief that such a significant discovery was made before this could happen and the coffin was lost forever.”

There’s some nice photos of the little lead (?) box in the original article. I’m sure we’ll be reading some followups to this when they open it up …

More coverage from the BBC: ‘Roman child’s coffin’ found in Leicestershire