Quick Amphipolis Update: Significant Fragments

Quickly reading (or more properly, google translating) some of the Greek press this a.m., it appears some significant finds were made yesterday as they cleared the door. The skinny: the sphinxes are made of marble from Thassos, archaeologists found the detached  wing of one of them, and perhaps even more important, a bit of the back of the Lion of Amphipolis were also found. Here’s the brief bit from News247 which mentions all this:

Η πλήρης αποκάλυψη των μαρμάρινων Σφιγγών που βρέθηκαν στον Τύμβο Καστά στην Αμφίπολη, η εύρεση τμήματος από τη ράχη του Λέοντος, καθώς και μικρού τμήματος της ανωδομής του μνημείου, είναι τα νέα δεδομένα από τις ανασκαφές που διεξάγει η ΚΗ΄ Εφορεία Προϊστορικών και Κλασικών Αρχαιοτήτων στην περιοχή, σύμφωνα με ανακοίνωση του υπουργείου Πολιτισμού και Αθλητισμού.

… and here’s the sphinxes … Ministry of Culture photo:

Ministry of Culture photo via in.gr

Ministry of Culture photo via in.gr

Photo via: Αμφίπολη: Εντυπωσιάζουν οι Σφίγγες στην είσοδο του αρχαίου τάφου (in.gr)

 

UPDATE (a few hours later): an excerpt from eKathimerini’s coverage:

[…]

The two sphinxes, which apart from being headless also have broken wings, are believed to have been crafted “by the same hands” as those which made a 16-foot-tall marble lion which is thought to have sat atop the burial site, archaeologists working on the dig told Kathimerini.

The sphinxes, each weighing around 1.5 tons and with traces of red coloring on their feet, will not be removed from the entrance to the tomb as archaeologists clear away stones and earth to gain access.

The sphinxes are 1.45 meters high and would have been 2 meters high with their heads, the Culture Ministry said in a statement.

Pieces of the sphinxes’ wings were found on the site, as was a large section of the back of the lion sculpture, archaeologists said.

Experts working on the excavation were also examining a section of the tomb wall which bears traces of red and blue coloring, in two shades. A mosaic displaying black and white rhombus shapes has also been discovered on the site.

A mosaic displaying black and white rhombus shapes has also been discovered on the site.

Technical work began on Monday at the tomb to avert any structural damage as archaeologists attempt to enter the tomb and discover what lies inside.

Some experts believe the site has been raided in the past but archaeologists cannot yet confirm this. […]

… I wonder if the mosaic is a pebble mosaic or proper tesserae …

Augustan Stables to be Reburied?

From the Telegraph … skipping a bit:

Now, to mark the two millennia since his death in 14AD, a successful exhibition has been staged in Rome and Paris, while on Rome’s Palatine Hill newly restored rooms at Augustus’ house and elaborate frescoes in a dining area will go on display for the first time.

But at a large excavated site off Via Giulia, in the heart of the city, workers will start covering the remains of Augustus’s marbled stables with waterproof cloths, ready for reburial, left for future generations to rediscover.

Described as “extremely important” by Rome’s archaeological authority when they were first found in 2009 by a firm excavating to build an underground car park, the buildings gave a unique glimpse of how imperial stables were built, adding to shreds of information provided by digs at Roman military camps and mosaics found in North Africa.

Graffiti on the walls boasting of victories in races at the Circus Maximus provided a fascinating insight into the four racing teams that shared the stables and divided the fierce loyalties of Roman race fans.

In 2011, archaeologists celebrated when it was announced the stables would be preserved and open to visits, only for city officials to cancel the plans this year due to budget cuts.

Cataloguing discoveries before burying them is standard practice “when there are no funds to guarantee the work needed to safeguard the finds,” said Federica Galloni, a culture minister official.

Experts believe that once reburied, artefacts and remains do not risk erosion by the elements or the thefts they might endure if left exposed and unprotected, and can be re-excavated when funding permits.

The fate of the stables and Augustus’s mausoleum contrasts with other monuments in the city which have benefited from a new trend for restoration work paid for by Italian fashion companies. Shoe maker Tod’s is sponsoring a clean-up of the Colosseum while Fendi is funding repairs to the Trevi Fountain.

Officials have said the city of Rome did seek a sponsor to help restore Augustus’ mausoleum in time for the 2014 celebrations, but found no takers.

With just two million of a required four million euros available, work will now be finished in 2016.

Meanwhile, yards from the mausoleum, Augustus’s excavated and restored Ara Pacis – or “temple to peace” – is in much better shape and now hosting an exhibition devoted to the emperor. After it was discovered buried beneath a cinema in central Rome, fascist dictator Benito Mussolini decided in 1937 to excavate the temple at all costs in time to celebrate Augustus’ 2000th birthday.

Sparing no expense, experts dug down to retrieve the monument using innovative techniques to freeze the foundations beneath the cinema to ensure the modern building did not collapse.

History unearthed – and reburied

Reinterring ancient sites to protect them from the elements and thieves rather than leaving them exposed is becoming more frequent as funds for archaeology become a luxury in cash strapped economies like Italy and Greece.

An important thermal bath dating to the first century AD reign of the Roman emperor Titus, discovered close to the Colosseum in Rome in the 1990s, has been reburied until money is found for its preservation.

On the outskirts of Rome, experts are campaigning for cash to save from reinterring the stunning tomb of Marcus Nonius Macinus, the Roman general whose 2nd century AD campaigning helped inspire Russell Crowe’s Gladiator.

In Greece, an early Christian basilica, discovered in 2010 during the construction of an underground railway in Thessaloniki was reportedly reburied.

Not sure how I missed this discovery back in 2009. Back in 2008 we read of an impending restoration of the Circus (Circus to be Restored!), and shortly thereafter, about some entrepreneur’s plans to bring chariot racing back to the venue (Chariot Racing in Rome Redux), but then all we heard were tales of a beach soccer tournament therein (Beach Soccer in the Circus Maximus?).

The so-called ‘Gladiator Tomb’ has been its own saga … ecce:

… so apparently the campaign on that score is continuing. Hopefully publicity will bring a sponsor out of the woodwork …

 

Brace Yourselves: News From Amphipolis is Coming …

There has been quite the buzz about ‘that tomb’ at Amphipolis over the past couple of days and what has made it to the press — both on the English side and the Greek — is somewhat confusing. To a very large extent, the coverage is much like that of last year’s (  Alexander the Great Tomb in Amphipolis? Yeah … about that), which I encourage everyone to read to get the full back story of this. The skinny, however, is that the tomb was found originally a year and a half ago and ongoing speculation (in the media, not from the archaeologists involved, it appeared) was tying the tomb possibly to Roxane and/or Alexander IV, and even Alexander the Great was mentioned. Yesterday, there were a flurry of reports, none of which added anything new (with one exception, which we will get to) but suggested ‘something’ was happening. Today, according to assorted news reports, Greek Prime Minister Samaras visited the site and was given a tour, but again, we don’t really hear much of use to us. Here are Samaras’ comments according to eKathimerini:

Archaeologists digging at Ancient Amphipolis in Central Macedonia, northern Greece, are poised to make an “exceptionally important find,” according to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who visited the site on Tuesday.

“It is certain that we are looking at an exceptionally important find,” he said after being guided around the Kasta Hill by archaeologist Katerina Peristeri.

“The land of Macedonia continues to move and surprise us, revealing from deep within its unique treasures, which combine to form the unique mosaic of Greek history of which all Greeks are very proud,” he added. […]

“The main question the excavation will answer is regarding the identity of who has been buried here,” said Samaras.[…]

Outside of that, nothing new. The AP coverage (via the Washington Post), however, includes this indirect statement:

Samaras said a broad road led to the tomb, while the entrance was flanked by two carved sphinxes — mythical creatures that blend human, bird and lion characteristics. It was unclear how far archaeologists have reached.

Not sure how the archaeologists feel about the Prime Minister announcing their find, if it was indeed found as stated. Whatever the case, it was this claim of an entrance with sphinxes which was giving me hesitations about the coverage and the indirect statement above doesn’t really help. That said, to its credit, Greek Reporter includes a Youtube video which is basically a slideshow that appears to show that an entrance has indeed been found:

If it is the entrance, it’s covered with tarps and we really can’t see any sphinxes (sphinges?).

Turning to the Greek (in Greek) coverage, the hints were there yesterday that there is a major find here. Newsbomb.gr was one of the outlets which said that police/the army had been brought in to guard the site: Σπουδαία αρχαιολογική ανακάλυψη στην Αρχαία Αμφίπολη Σερρών … I wonder if they stayed after Samaras left.

In any event, I found it somewhat unusual that the Greek press was really being silent on this one (none were mentioning the sphinxes) and was suspicious, of course. Here’s a smattering of the coverage, most of which just repeats the same stuff as is found in Kathimerini‘s Greek (and English) coverage.

Then, in a very timely manner, @Tzzz21 on twitter (who gets many tips o’ the pileus for feeding me much of the coverage) just sent a link to an item in News 247 which included this picture (as well as the slideshow mentioned above):

via News 247

To which I can only say: WOW! We now anxiously await to hear from the archaeologists.

 

UPDATE (literally seconds later): @Tzzz21 sent in a link with a pile more photos:

… to which we can several more wows … we’ll obviously be monitoring this one

 

UPDATE II (a few hours later): definitely read Dorothy King’s post on this for additional details (including answers to some questions I had about the sphinxes!): Let’s Talk About Amphipolis …(Dorothy King’s PhDiva)

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: