A bit vague … from Greek Reporter:
A series of important archaeological findings has gradually been unearthed by the sunken submarine research in the Heraklion port located in ancient Egypt, the last years, according to announcements made at an international scientific conference at the University of Oxford.
The coastal city on the delta of the Nile, called Heraklion by Greeks, and Thomis by Egyptians, was an important gateway to Egypt during the first millennium BC, while now having sunk, it is located approximately 6.5 km from the coast. According to the latest evidence, before the founding of Alexandria, it was one of the greatest commercial hubs in the Mediterranean.
Researchers of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA), in collaboration with the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) and the Department of Antiquities of Egypt have been conducting underwater researches in the region since 2000, and every year new data comes to light.
‘Surveys have revealed a huge submerged landscape with remains of at least two major ancient settlements in a part of the Nile, where natural and artificial navigable channels intersected’ Dr. Damien Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology said.
Excavations in the Heraklion area have brought to light many findings including, as stated by the researcher of Oxford, Elizabeth van der Vilt, weights from ancient Athens.
Another Oxford researcher, Sandra Heids, has examined more than 300 statues and amulets, dating from the Late and Ptolemaic period depicting Egyptian and Greek figures. Like the ships, these findings have also been maintained in excellent condition and most of them depict deities such as Osiris, Isis and Horus.
According to the researchers, such statuettes and amulets were massively produced, mostly for Egyptians, though several of them were purchased by foreign visitors as well (traders, etc), who used to devote them to several churches in their countries.
- via: Key Finds at Egypt’s Heraklion (Greek Reporter)
… the conference was a week or so ago; perhaps we’ll be hearing more …
From the Echo:
ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe there could be an undiscovered Roman temple and villa in the grounds of Sudeley Castle.
A Roman column which was found propping open a door inside the castle has sparked hopes there are historic ruins beneath the grounds.
Professor Martin Henig believes the column, which would have been around 40cm high, would most likely have stood on the dwarf wall of a portico in a temple or private house.
He said the small columns were unusual in this region, and indicated the existence of a building of unusual sophistication in or around Sudeley.
Archaeologists are now calling for a full-scale investigation at Stancombe Wood in Winchcombe.
It follows the find of a stone relief of a Cotswolds Roman god, called Cunomaglos or the Hound Prince.
The sculpture was first discovered at Stancombe Wood in 1875 and was catalogued by Sudeley chatelaine Emma Dent in her book The Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley.
But all trace of the sculpture was lost until it was rediscovered last month.
It was rediscovered by Sudeley archivist Jean Bray in the bottom of a cupboard at the castle, but its identity remained unknown until archaeologist Dr Patricia Witts solved the mystery.
Prof Henig, an expert on the Romans in the Cotswolds, believes that the statue, which dates from 150AD to 300AD, points to a further undiscovered temple at Stancombe Wood.
“It is the sort of relief that one would expect to find in a temple, probably dedicated by a worshipper there,” he said.
“We are finding that villas quite often included temples on the estate and our Apollo Cunomaglos suggests that there may be more to be discovered at Stancombe.”
Dr Witts says there is evidence that when an oil pipeline was installed in the area in 1985 it cut through two Roman buildings. The site would lie between Stancombe Wood and Spoonley Wood.
“We can imagine the area around what is now Sudeley Castle dotted with prestigious Roman dwellings,” she said.
“It is exciting to think what might be found.
“The famous Chedworth Roman villa lies only a few miles to the south of Sudeley and it is known that there was a temple nearby, as well as other villas in the vicinity. Perhaps Sudeley was similar.”
This story actually broke a couple of weeks ago on the BBC (when I had limited internet access, alas): Roman artefact discovered in Sudeley Castle cupboard … there’s a brief discussion of the Apollo Cunomaglos name at one of the entries in the Curse Tablets of Roman Britain site …
This one is out there in various forms … here’s the Eurekalert version:
Built under a sheer cliff, with a commanding view of the forum and castle in the ancient city of Pinara in Turkey, a Roman mausoleum has been knocked off-kilter, its massive building blocks shifted and part of its pediment collapsed. The likely cause is an earthquake, according to a new detailed model by Klaus-G. Hinzen and colleagues at the University of Cologne. They conclude that a 6.3 magnitude earthquake could have caused the damage, and their new finding gives seismologists a new data point to consider when they calculate the likely earthquake hazards for this southwestern region of Turkey.
Researchers have seen other signs of strong seismic activity in Pinara, most notably a raised edge to the ancient town’s Roman theater that appears to be due to activity along a fault. But archaeologists and seismologists were not certain how the mausoleum sustained its damage. An earthquake seemed likely, but the mausoleum is also built under a cliff honeycombed with numerous other tombs, and damage from a rockfall seemed possible.
Hinzen and colleagues mapped the position of each part of the mausoleum using laser scans, and transferred 90 million data points collected from the scans into a 3-D computer model of the tomb. They then ran several damage simulations on the 3-D model, concluding that rockfall was not a likely cause of damage, but that an earthquake with magnitude 6.3 would be sufficient to produce the observed damage pattern to the mausoleum’s heavy stone blocks.
- via: Roman mausoleum tested for ancient earthquake damage (Eurekalert)
For those with access, the whole article is available at: Quantitative Archaeoseismological Study of a Roman Mausoleum in Pınara (Turkey)—Testing Seismogenic and Rockfall Damage Scenarios (BSSA)
… if you don’t have access, Past Horizons seems to have the most readable version with a bit more detail with all sorts of photos too: Roman tomb offers clues to ancient earthquakes
A part of a street similar to the Arcadian street in the ancient city of Ephesus in İzmir has been uncovered during excavations at a nearby historical agora.
The excavations in the area are being carried out under the leadership of Professor Akın Ersoy and his team. He said the main street, which begins from the Faustina gate and continues to the port, had been found to the researchers’ surprise. “We have also found a fountain on this street. The fountain has a statement that praises a benefactor for his support for the ancient city of Smyrna.”
Ersoy said they had also located a multi-echelon staircase on the street. “The continuation of this staircase goes to an area covered with mosaics. This ancient street is 80 meters long, but it reached the sea. This is the most important street in the agora for the entrance of goods. Just like in Ephesus, the street blocks water and has a very good sewer system. Visitors are prohibited from entering the area at the moment. When the work is done, tourists will be able to walk on this street just like in Ephesus.
The agora of Smyrna was built during the Hellenistic era at the base of Pagos Hill. It was the commercial, judicial and political nucleus of the ancient city. After a destructive earthquake in 178 AD, Smyrna was rebuilt in the Roman period and used until the Byzantine period.
One of the historical structures that had been long been neglected in the agora has recently been restored by the municipality as Agora Excavation House with support of the İzmir Development Agency.
Interesting item from the BBC:
A restored Roman cockerel figurine is the best result from a Cirencester dig in decades, archaeologists have said.
The enamelled object, which dates back as far as AD100, was unearthed during a dig in 2011 at a Roman burial site in the town.
It has now returned from conservation work and finders Cotswold Archaeology said it “looks absolutely fantastic”.
The 12.5cm bronze figure was discovered inside a child’s grave and is thought to have been a message to the gods.
It is believed that the Romans gave religious significance to the cockerel which was known to be connected with Mercury.
Experts say it was Mercury, a messenger to the gods, that was also responsible for conducting newly-deceased souls to the afterlife.
The figurine had to be sent away for conservation work to be carried out which has taken four months to complete.
Archaeologist Neil Holbrook, from Cotswold Archaeology, said the work had “exceeded expectations”, particularly for highlighting its fine enamel detail.
“It reinforces what a fantastic article this is and how highly prized and expensive it must have been,” he said.
“This must have cost, in current money, thousands of pounds to buy and countless hours to make, and so to actually put this into the grave of a two or three-year-old child is not something that you would do lightly.
“It really shows that this was a very wealthy, important family, and signifies the love that the parents had for the dead child.”
The cockerel was found during excavation work at the former Bridges Garage site on Tetbury Road in Cirencester – once the second largest town in Roman Britain.
A burial site was unearthed at the site including more than 40 burials and four cremations; something experts said was the largest archaeological find in the town since the 1970s.
This particular figurine is one of only four ever found in Britain, with a total of eight known from the whole of the Roman Empire.
Mr Holbrook added: “Without a doubt this is the best Roman cockerel ever found in Britain. [...]
If you want to see the coverage from back when it was found: Cirencester Cockerel Find
The focus of this seems to be Gobekli Tepe, a Neolithic site in Turkey which is frequently in the news, and which is a bit outside of the purview of this blog, but the issues aren’t … from Hurriyet:
Some of the archaeologists currently working at excavation sites around Turkey are not taking their job seriously enough, Tourism and Culture Minister Ömer Çelik has said, according to daily Hürriyet.
Çelik made the comments in an interview with Der Spiegel Magazine at the Berlin International Tourism Bourse, a well-known travel trade fair.
German archeologists have been overseeing excavations at Göbekli Tepe, he said, adding that a total of 11,000 sculptures went missing from the site in 2010. “I am not accusing them of stealing, however, this is evidence that they are not giving sufficient importance to security issues.”
Noting that the archaeologists were also responsible for the security of the excavation site, Çelik said, “Germany will have to pay an insurance fine for the stolen sculptures.”
Çelik also criticized the work and the reactions of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and of its director, Herman Parzinger. Turkey has been criticized by Parzinger and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation on the grounds of its allegedly aggressive campaign to reclaim cultural antiquities for the nation.
Çelik said Parzinger had accused Turkey of being chauvinist. “I expect to hear an apology from Mr. Parzinger, for he has said Turkey is chauvinist. I do know what this means but I am against the use of this wording.”
Çelik also said Turkey was demanding the return of five historical artifacts which are currently in Berlin. These include the coffin of Hacı İbrahim Veli’s tomb, the Balıkçı Sculpture (Fisherman sculpture), the mihrab (prayer niche) of Konya’s Beyhekim Mosque, and İznik tiles stolen from the Piyale Mosque.
- via: Turkish minister criticizes archaeology excavations (Hurriyet)
Eleven THOUSAND sculptures? Surely that’s a misprint … I can’t figure out the German online version of Spiegel to check …
A few years ago, we were alerted to the installation at the Naples museum of a panel depicting a “Dionysiac Scene” and I note that this panel gets some coverage in the Guardian in regards to the Pompeii and Herculaneum show at the British Museum … some excerpts:
Shimmering as if still lit by the Mediterranean sun, two spectacular Roman marble panels have been reunited at the British Museum for the first time in almost 2,000 years.
Both come from a seaside mansion in Herculaneum, the town overwhelmed by a torrent of boiling mud from Vesuvius, when the wind changed direction 12 hours after Pompeii had already choked to death. They will be seen in the most eagerly awaited archaeological exhibition in decades, on life and death in the Roman towns when it opens at the museum later this month.
The remains of the owner of the palatial villa may still lie on the ancient shoreline, now half a mile inland. In AD79 the sea was the beautiful view that his sumptuously decorated room looked out on, with its fourth wall open to the sea.
“The last person to see these pieces together like this was the master of the house, in AD79 – it’s an awesome and slightly eerie thought,” said Paul Roberts, curator of the exhibition.
Treasures are being unpacked in Bloomsbury every day. Last week an entire garden arrived, with fountains, statues, singing birds in flowering bushes, all painted on huge panels of plaster. The giant packing crates fitted through the museum doors with inches to spare. It was one of the most beautiful room interiors found in Pompeii, surely the setting for a happy life – except the exhibition will also display the pathetic casts of the bodies of its last owners, man, woman, tiny children, found huddled together under the stairs.
The first of the marble reliefs, an ecstatic and tipsy celebration of the god Bacchus, was found at Herculaneum in a controversial excavation 30 years ago. The excavation was launched to find more of the House of the Papyri, an extraordinary complex the size of a small village, most of which is still buried under the modern town. When it was discovered in the 18th century almost 2,000 papyrus scrolls, a princely library, were recovered along with wonderful sculptures some of which are coming to the exhibition.
Roberts suspects there must have been a third panel, on a wall that was swept into the bay below in the eruption that ended the life of the town and ensured its place in history. “Like so much of the town and its people, the third panel must have been crushed to atoms – we’re so astonishingly lucky in what has been left to us to bear witness to what has been lost.”
… so like I said, we mentioned this four years ago (New From Herculaneum – A Depiction of the Oschophoria?) and I suggested it was more specific than just ‘Dionysiac’, but actually was a depiction of the Oschophoria, based on the cross-dressing males in the scene. That suggestion doesn’t seem to have gone down well, but it did make it into the letters column of Archaeology magazine at the time (much edited, with my grumblings about bloggers not being taken seriously edited out). So … what I’d really like to know, if someone happens to go to this exhibition that we all want to, is whether they have bought into the Oschophoria identification yet …
From the Daily Post:
A BUILDER has been praised by archaeologists for helping save historic Roman finds in Flintshire.
Anwyl Construction recently halted work on their major Croes Atti housing development at Oakenholt, near Flint, after uncovering evidence of a Roman era industrial site.
The area was cordoned off for three weeks while archaeologists from Earthworks Archaeology, backed by Rhyl-based Anwyl Construction as well as by the Welsh historic buildings organisation Cadw and the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, carried out a survey.
They found a Roman road and buildings where lead mined on nearby Halkyn Mountain was smelted before being shipped, probably by barge down the river Dee to Chester.
Will Davies, Cadw officer for Clwyd and Powys, said: “This resolved what could have been a really bad situation because there was no obligation on Anwyl’s part to allow this archaeological work to take place and they were even willing to step in with funding. In the past similar finds have simply disappeared because we’ve had less willing developers to deal with. This site could easily have been flattened.”
The work carried out on the site has unearthed evidence of a thriving metalworking industry on the banks of the River Dee which probably lasted for over 200 years.
Among the finds were exquisite fragments of high quality Samianware pottery, probably made in what is now southern France, a silver denarius from the reign of the Emperor Domitian, 81-96AD, a hob-nailed boot found in an old well and remains of amphorae, pottery vessels which held wine.
Will Walker, of Earthworks Archaeology, said: “We’ve made a detailed record, including scaled drawings, photographs etc., and the results will be used to produce a report on the findings.
“Anwyls have been excellent and we have worked very well together. It would have been most unfair on them for the work to have been stopped for any longer.
“We’re thrilled with the find and with the way everyone has worked so well together.”
More coverage of Anthony Tuck’s work, this time by his home university:
More than 2,500 years after tiny infant bones were scattered, perhaps offhandedly, amid animal remains on the floor of an Etruscan workshop, recently-discovered fragments of those bones are causing a stir far beyond Italy’s Poggio Civitate Archaeological Project.
University of Massachusetts Amherst archaeologist Anthony Tuck recently told an Archaeological Institute America annual meeting in Seattle that the bones discovered in the ancient Etruscan town of Poggio Civitate were “simply either left on the floor of the workshop or ended up in an area with a heavy concentration of other discarded remains of butchered animals.”
It is an image that has, in ensuing weeks, resonated powerfully, if not always accurately, in the international press as everyone from religious fundamentalists to luridly invasive tabloids has scrambled to assemble narratives for the baby bones that might be either more or less appalling to modern sensibilities – narratives, notes Tuck, that tell us more about ourselves than they do about perinatal death in ancient Italy.
“Romans may have dumped remains of dead kids with their rubbish,” screamed an Asian News International headline; “Grisly discoveries reveal unsympathetic attitudes,” wrote a Daily Mail reporter. Other news outlets placed the excavated site on a timeline that might have associated it either with BCE cave dwellers or alternatively in the path of seventh century CE invaders.
In fact, Poggio Civitate, notes Tuck, was located about 10 miles south of the Tuscan city of Siena, and was neither Roman nor primitive. It was inhabited from approximately 900 – 550 BCE, and is characterized by the remains of lavish aristocratic dwellings and highly stylized fine ceramics and carvings. Particularly significant, was the discovery of a workshop pavilion built in mid-seventh century BCE and measuring over 150 feet in length – “considerably longer,” says Tuck, “than anything known in the contemporary Greek world” and decorated with opulent terracotta. While no kiln has been discovered, ceramics appear to have been produced there, along with other manufactured goods.
And then, beginning about two years ago came the discovery of human bones among the detritus, the arm bones and ilium of what appears to be several newborn or perinatal infants.
“The fact is simply this,” says Tuck. “We found elements of neo-natal human skeletons in refuse areas.”
“One element of a human pelvis comes from an area with an exceptionally high concentration of butchered animal remains, suggesting that an infant corpse was thrown into an area already filled with discarded, decaying animal parts. Other portions of a skeleton were found resting directly on the floor of a workshop area and elements of a third child were found pushed or swept up against the interior wall of an aristocratic residence.”
This is where Tuck and his team started to encounter pushback following January’s AIA presentation in Seattle. How could Tuck so casually treat infant mortality, or, even worse, infanticide, asked some evangelicals? Why not just describe the bones and leave it at that, asked some paleoanthropologists? Couldn’t the bones have been placed at the site as a result of some later catastrophe or disruption, asked a biological anthropologist? Wasn’t this just another example of how nasty, brutish and short life was in the savage past, declared the tabloids? Let’s not go blaming the Romans, demanded Roman archaeologists.
The bones themselves, says Tuck, limit the possible narratives. It remains highly likely that the bodies “were simply discarded within the debris associated with other bone and unused animal material.” As in much of the ancient world, infants in Poggio Civitate – and especially the infants of slaves and workers – were not accorded the death rituals accorded to adults, and do not generally appear in cemetery plots.
“Troubling though it may be to modern sensibilities, it seems probable that a rigidly hierarchical social system at Poggio Civitate is reflected in the discarding of this infant’s remains,” Tuck told the Seattle gathering. “If workers there were slaves or even a free population drawn from elements of the community’s lowest social orders, it is entirely possible that an infant born to a woman within that class group would not have merited even the limited ritual treatment reserved for perinatal deaths.”
The only narrative that Tuck rejects categorically is the one that dismissively ascribes superiority to modern societies. We may be more like the Etruscans than we like to believe to disparate value to we attach to the lives of children.
“Any modern discomfort at treatment of these infants at Poggio Civitate is a little misplaced,” Tuck says. “What we should find more offensive to our modern sensibilities is really the profound manner in which societies maintain systems of caste and ranking that allow one group to effectively dehumanize another. This is exactly what happens when an infant’s corpse is discarded in the trash – the child is treated in a manner that reflects the communities’ perception of it as something other or less than fully a person.
“It’s hard to argue that we don’t place different cultural values on children’s lives and assign greater or lesser value upon their deaths – for any number of subtle, nuanced and culturally complex reasons. We just don’t like to admit it.”
- via: The Discarded Infants of Ancient Poggio Civitate Horrify, Provoke and Fascinate 2,500 Years Later (UMass)
… we first mentioned this back in the wake of the AIA/APA shindig (Discarding Babies at Poggio Civitate?) … see there for a link to Kristinia Kilgrove’s response to that paper. At least no one is tossing around a ‘there must be a brothel’ here theory …
Nice to see fellow blogger Kristina Killgrove’s work getting some attention at LiveScience … some excerpts from Stephanie Pappas’ piece:
But ancient Roman writers have less to say about the poor, other than directions for landowners on the appropriate amount to feed slaves, who made up about 30 percent of the city’s population. Killgrove wanted to know more about lower-class individuals and what they ate.
To find out, she and her colleagues analyzed portions of bones from the femurs of 36 individuals from two Roman cemeteries. One cemetery, Casal Bertone, was located right outside the city walls. The other, Castellaccio Europarco, was farther out, in a more suburban area.
The skeletons date to the Imperial Period, which ran from the first to the third century A.D., during the height of the Roman Empire. At the time, Killgrove told LiveScience, between 1 million and 2 million people lived in Rome and its suburbs.
To determine diets from the Roman skeletons, the researchers analyzed the bones for isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. Isotopes are atoms of an element with different numbers of neutrons, and are incorporated into the body from food. Such isotopes of carbon can tell researchers which types of plants people consumed. Grasses such as wheat and barley are called C3 plants; they photosynthesize differently than mostly fibrous C4 plants, such as millet and sorghum. The differences in photosynthesis create different ratios of carbon isotopes preserved in the bones of the people who ate the plants.
There were also differences among people living within Rome. Individuals buried in the mausoleum at Casa Bertone (a relatively high-class spot, at least for commoners), ate less millet than those buried in the simple cemetery surrounding Casa Bertone’s mausoleum. Meanwhile, those buried in the farther-flung Castellaccio Europarco cemetery ate more millet than anyone at Casa Bertone, suggesting they were less well-off than those living closer to or within the city walls.
Historical texts dismiss millet as animal feed or a famine food, Killgrove said, but the researcher’s findings suggest that plenty of ordinary Romans depended on the easy-to-grow grain. One man, whose isotope ratios showed him to be a major millet consumer, was likely an immigrant, later research revealed. He may have been a recent arrival to Rome when he died, carrying the signs of his country diet with him. Or perhaps he kept eating the food he was used to, even after arriving in the city. [...]
- via: Most Ancient Romans Ate Like Animals (Live Science)
Interesting item from the Independent hyping something in Current Archaeology … here’s the end bit:
[...] For decades, archaeologists struggled to date the indigenous communities around the wall because the site yielded very few artefacts. The only way of dating these Roman and pre-Roman Iron Age settlements was to excavate what little there was. Since the 1970s, when serious excavation began, experts believed the local population living in the shadow of the wall had actually flourished under the Roman invaders. But the new evidence suggests the Roman legions actually cleared a 10-mile stretch in front of the wall by force.
By using carbon-dating techniques archaeologists have been able to pinpoint the chronology of the local settlements far more accurately than in the past. More than 60 radiocarbon dating tests were undertaken on Iron Age settlements between 2002 and 2008 around the Newcastle area, giving the most complete sample ever of Iron Age settlements north of the wall.
Data from the investigation, led by Nick Hodgson at TWM Archaeology, is to be published in Current Archaeology next week and is said to be one of the biggest discoveries about the way in which Hadrian’s Wall shaped the country.
Dr Matthew Symonds, an expert on the wall and editor of Current Archaeology, said: “These new excavations suggest these settled farming communities… survived the first Roman appearance in the area. But it’s only when Hadrian’s Wall is built that they suddenly seem to go out of use.”
I’m not sure there’s a problem here, if I understand “shadow of the wall” and “front of the wall” correctly. Wouldn’t we expect the folks on the “Roman side” to flourish and the other side to have to clear out? Or am I missing something? (which is quite possible)
School is just starting so here’s the quickie, unchecked/unresearched version (you always have to double check with Carandini, I think) … from the Gazzetta del Sud:
The temple built by Romulus to celebrate the hand of Jupiter giving Roman troops their unstoppable force has been found at the foot of the Palatine Hill, Italian archaeologists say. The ruins of the shrine to Jupiter Stator Jupiter the Stayer, believed to date to 750 BC, were found by a Rome University team led by Andrea Carandini. “We believe this is the temple that legend says Romulus erected to the king of the gods after the Romans held their ground against the furious Sabines fighting to get their women back after the famous Rape abduction,” Carandini said in the Archeologia Viva Living Archaeology journal. According to myth, Romulus founded Rome in 753 BC and the wifeless first generation of Roman men raided nearby Sabine tribes for their womenfolk, an event that has been illustrated in art down the centuries. Carandini added: “It is also noteworthy that the temple appears to be shoring up the Palatine, as if in defence”. Rome’s great and good including imperial families lived on the Palatine, overlooking the Forum. Long after its legendary institution by Romulus, the cult of Jupiter the Stayer fuelled Roman troops in battle, forging the irresistible military might that conquered most of the ancient known world. In the article in Archeologia Viva, Carandini’s team said they might also have discovered the ruins of the last Palatine house Julius Caesar lived in – the one he left on the Ides of March, 44BC, on his way to death in the Senate.
Looks like the AIA is getting into some serious self-promotion:
Not sure how much I want to believe the latest coverage from Greece. Back in May of 2009, we were told that the site of the Lyceum was to be covered (Covering the Lyceum). A couple of months later, we were told it would be ‘soon’ opening to the public (Lyceum Opening Next Month). Roughly a year later, we heard that the site wasn’t really being kept up … not sure if we posted this, so here’s an excerpt from the Kathimerini coverage at the time:
[...] Archaeologists seeking the location of Plato’s Academy, with excavations sponsored by the Academy of Athens (1929-40) and the Greek Archaeological Society (1955-70s), have made many important discoveries, including sections of a wall and an inscribed boundary stone distinguishing the core area of the Academy district; a square, 4th-century BC peristyle building of unknown function; a large, late-Hellenistic, early-Roman gymnasium equipped with possible tables for students; and hundreds of slate writing tablets. Today, the peristyle building, which dates to Plato’s era, lies hidden beneath a paved, neighborhood square in which stands a marble bust of the philosopher.
The foundations of the subsequent gymnasium, on the other hand, which had no direct connection with Plato, can still be seen – within a pleasant, shady park reminiscent of the ancient precinct’s original wooded environment. Pausanias, the 2nd-century AD Roman traveler, also saw a gymnasium in this area (although perhaps a different one from that exposed today) and “not far from the Academy… the monument of Plato.”
Plato’s property – the actual site of his school – lay apart from the walled Academy precinct, somewhere between the currently visible gymnasium and the low hill to the northeast, Hippios Kolonos. Maps drawn as early as the late 18th century record this understanding of the area’s ancient topography. Today, however, some confusion can arise for visitors, who will find misleading, decades-old signs posted by the Culture Ministry that identify late Hellenistic and early Roman foundations as belonging to “Plato’s Academy.”
In addition, these archaeological remains, some of the most important for Athens’ heritage as the birthplace of Western learning, now lie completely neglected except by the occasional gardener. Eroding walls, rusty fences, haphazard collections of ancient stones, and a lack of explanatory signboards characterize a place that should be a world heritage site.
The late-Hellenistic, early-Roman gymnasium visible today may have been the site of the Platonic Academy in its final form – destroyed by Sulla when he ravaged the district and felled its trees in 86 BC – but it was never the base of Plato’s own Academy nearly three centuries earlier. The exact place where Plato resided and met with his students represents one of the great archaeological puzzles waiting to be solved. In the meantime, the Academy area and the site of Aristotle’s Lyceum deserve more informative, conscientious curatorship that ultimately will benefit both local communities and foreign visitors inspired by ancient Greece.
- via: Plato’s Academy in sad state of neglect (Kathimerini)
Now we’re hearing (once again) that the site is opening to the public … here’s the incipit:
A walk down Rigillis Street near central Athens, between Vassilissis Sofias and Vassileos Constantinou avenues, reveals glimpses into the significant progress that has been made in the excavations at the archaeological site behind the Byzantine and Christian Museum, the location of the Lyceum, Aristotle’s school of philosophy. On the banks of the Ilissos River, most of which today runs underground, the Lyceum was a part of a large complex which also housed a gymnasium where the city’s hoplites and riders were trained in the art of war.
The discovery of the Lyceum and the adjacent Palaistra, or wrestling school, was made by archaeologists in 1996 and was hailed as the “discovery of the century” by international media, not just because it is where Aristotle taught some 2,500 years ago, but also because it contained valuable information regarding the topography of ancient Athens.
For the past 15 years, archaeologists have been excavating and studying the site, which is expected to be opened up to the general public this summer to coincide with the 23rd World Congress of Philosophy, scheduled to take place in Athens from August 4-10. The congress is organized by the International Federation of Philosophical Societies in collaboration with the University of Athens.
The entrance to the site is located behind the elegant building of the Officers’ Club on the corner of Vassilissis Sofias and Mourouzi Street, where the visitor information booth will be located. The 1.1-hectare site contains the remains of the Lyceum and the Palaistra, which are also visible from the small Church of Aghios Nikolaos and the Athens Conservatory on the Vassileos Constantinou Avenue side of the site.
The perimeter of the site has been planted with herbs such as lavender, mint, sage, thyme and oregano, with indigenous trees – pomegranates, olives, laurel, cypress and acacias – here and there, giving visitors a picture of what the landscape would have looked like during antiquity.
Eleni Banou, the head of the Third Ephorate of Classical Antiquity, which oversaw the excavation and the design of the site, spoke to Kathimerini about its significance during a tour of the area, accompanied by architect and site supervisor Niki Sakka.
“The three gymnasium’s – Plato’s, Aristotle’s and Cynosarges – were complexes where the city’s youth and men would receive physical and mental training, as well as intellectual stimulation,” explained Banou.
“The Lyceum was set in a very green suburb of Ancient Athens that was named after the Sanctuary of Lycian Apollo. The Lyceum is best known for its connection to Aristotle, who had rented the facilities and in 335 BC founded his school there, known as the Peripatetic School,” Banou added.
The gymnasium, located near the banks of the Ilissos, takes up a quarter of a hectare. It consists of a large internal courtyard of 23 by 26 meters surrounded by a colonnade. Symmetrically arranged around the courtyard were the ephebeion, where young men would train to become citizens, sparring rings, dressing rooms, baths and other facilities. The building was abandoned in the 4th century AD and was used only occasionally up until the early Byzantine years.
Much of the site has been planted with grass to give it a more relaxing feel.
“We want the public to be able to sit on the grass, to lounge around, take a stroll. We want people to feel free to touch things and wander about,” said Banou.
Architect Dimitris Koutsoyiannis, who is responsible for landscaping the site together with Dimitris Koukoulas, explained how the temporary shelters over the antiquities will be removed and glass casings will cover water features representing the river and the two hot baths.
The area will also have walkways, plenty of seating areas and a pavilion.
The budget for the site’s revamp is 1.2 million euros, but Banou stresses that they have been very frugal with its use and there is money left over, which should strengthen her case for allowing the public free admission for the first year after the site opens. [...]
- via: Aristotle’s Lyceum to open this summer(Kathimerini)
Interesting item from Hurriyet:
A mosaic featuring an Eros figure fishing on horse has been found in the southern province of Adana’s Yumurtalık district. The half fish-half horse Eros, which is called Hippocampus in Greek mythology, is claimed to be the one and only such mosaic in the world.
Made up of marble, glass and stone, the mosaic is estimated to date back to the late Roman or early Byzantine era.
The Adana Museum Directorate has initiated archaeological excavations in the region where the mosaic was discovered. One week ago the existence of a villa was determined in the area. The villa was thought to be owned by a top state official and the Eros mosaic was revealed when a part of the villa was excavated.
Yumurtalık Deputy Mayor Erdol Erden said the Eros mosaic was found during a one-week excavation. “We found young and adult Eros figures in the villa. Experts say that these figures were the first and only such figures in the world,” Erden said.
… as often, the original article is accompanied by a photo of the piece which is really interesting … there are a pair of Erotes fishing from the backs of hippocampi … the Erotes also look rather more mature than we’re used to (not the pudgy little kids); the one actually looks like one of the BeeGees …
Brief item from Hurriyet:
During works carried out in the Central Anatolian province of Konya, three glass bracelets from the early Roman era have been unearthed.
The excavations are being conducted in the Meram and Selçuklu districts of Konya, as well as in the Gökyurt village and the Kızılören neighborhood within the borders of the city. A number of Roman and Byzantine architectural works have been found in the excavations so far, as well as the three glass bracelets, according to officials.
The head of the excavations, Professor Ali Boran said they had found the bracelets inside a mound in Gökyurt. He said the bracelets were made of black opaque glass material and that similar examples showed that they were from 5th and 7th centuries. The bracelets have been delivered to the Konya Archaeology Museum.
- via: Roman bracelets found in Central Anatolia (Hurriyet)
… a photo of the bracelets accompanies the original article, but surely there must have been other things found?
LiveScience’s Owen Jarus reports on an interesting find from the Caucasus … it’s on the periphery of our purview … here’s the incipit:
Hidden in a necropolis situated high in the mountains of the Caucasus in Russia, researchers have discovered the grave of a male warrior laid to rest with gold jewelry, iron chain mail and numerous weapons, including a 36-inch (91 centimeters) iron sword set between his legs.
That is just one amazing find among a wealth of ancient treasures dating back more than 2,000 years that scientists have uncovered there.
Among their finds are two bronze helmets, discovered on the surface of the necropolis. One helmet (found in fragments and restored) has relief carvings of curled sheep horns while the other has ridges, zigzags and other odd shapes.
Although looters had been through the necropolis before, the warrior’s grave appears to have been untouched. The tip of the sword he was buried with points toward his pelvis, and researchers found “a round gold plaque with a polychrome inlay” near the tip, they write in a paper published in the most recent edition of the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia. [...]
… there is a slide show of the finds (Image Gallery: Ancient Treasure Trove Discovered in Russia ) which includes a couple of very interesting helmets:
So we’re talking 2000 years b.p. or so … dare we say these helmets have Roman influence? Probably not, but there’s some interesting comparanda here to both Greek and Roman worlds, I suspect (and this culture is probably one of many lacunae in my repertoire) … also worth checking out is the chain mail that was found.
Even though I’ve been wandering along the internet superhighway for a couple of decades, I still marvel at the communication opportunities it offers which would have boggled the minds of folks even three decades ago. Outside of several instances of me watching assorted international sporting events from my comfy chair in Southern Ontario while chatting about same with fellow-Classicist Terrence Lockyer in South Africa, yesterday’s events are a prime example. As folks know, I had mentioned the looting of 18 mosaics depicting scenes from the Odyssey in my Explorator newsletter and here at rogueclassicism (Odyssey Mosaics Stolen!!!) . In the latter format, I noted how it was rather strange that none of the reports (and the AFP item spawned quite a bit of coverage) mention where or when these things were looted. So after posting all that, I went out to run some errands prior to visiting my mother in hospital (she’s fine) and was sitting down for a hamburger lunch and was reading through my twitter feed. Our friend Dorothy King (of PhDiva and Lootbusters fame) is currently sojourning in Istanbul and mentioned that the stories of looting at Hamas were less-than-accurate. And so began a twitter/email conversation between two Classics/Archaeologist bloggers, neither of whom were in their ‘home port’ about some mosaics in Syria.
As Dr King mentioned, these mosaics don’t seem to have been recently stolen. They are already in Interpol’s database and were taken from the Hama museum in Apamea last year, it seems (if I’m reading Interpol’s news release from May of 2012 correctly). There are several pages of photos at the Lootbusters site …
An article in Time magazine last September was one of many news reports suggesting antiquities were being sold to fund the rebels (Syria’s Looted Past: How Ancient Artifacts Are Being Traded for Guns). That said, however, the clearly deliberate vagaries of the most recent announcement suggest that Syria’s ‘official’ channels are clearly playing up the looting aspect to gain political points in the Western media and as such, cause me to genuinely wonder who is doing the looting, the extent of it, and for what purposes. Indeed, in yesterday’s post we mentioned that many of the articles about this ‘Odyssey’ incident were accompanied by a photo of rebels sitting under a Roman mosaic … here’s the photo:
… what is being implied? The France24 coverage also includes this one:
Some poking around suggests these photos come from the Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man, which appears to have been shelled, like many museums in Syria. There’s a very interesting facebook page: Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger which has a number of other photos of this particular museum, e.g., this page from three months ago: Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man … and this one: Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man, which includes a photo of the museum six months ago prior to the shelling (and it includes a photo of the mosaic the rebels are sitting beneath). The photos are also at the facebook page of the Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man. Some photos from ‘more peaceful times’ are available here. Clearly, this museum is full of mosaics. Has it been looted? Or have the rebels been actually protecting it? I really don’t want to venture an opinion on this, but we’re clearly not getting the full story and judgement must be suspended on what’s being pillaged, when, and by whom.
UPDATE (a few hours later): here’s Dorothy King’s views: Syria … Looting?
This just in from Novinite:
A Bulgarian team of archaeologists have discovered well-preserved remains of a Roman bath in the ancient Bulgarian town of Sozopol.
The news was revealed by National Museum of History director Bozhidar Dimitrov.
“The team, led by Sozopol Archaeology Museum director Dimitar Nedev has made the discovery as part of its digs in the area in front of Sozopol’s fortress walls,” said the historian.
According to Dimitrov, the thermae building is 18 meters long and features an intricate water supply systems as well as numerous pools of various sizes.
“Except for Roman baths in Hissarya and Varna, this is the best-preserved Roman bath in Bulgarian lands,” added he.
Dimitrov expressed satisfaction at the string of discoveries made in Sozopol, which he said will make an attractive open-air exhibit once archaeological works are completed.
Sozopol, founded by Greek colonists in the 5th century BC on what is now Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast, is now a popular resort town.
- via: Bulgarian Archaeologists Uncover Major Roman Thermae (Novinite)
… the article is accompanied by a photo of what is clearly a hypocaust system of some sort …
… all empty, alas … Here’s the story from Al Ahram:
During routine archaeological survey at an area known as the “27 Bridge” in Al-Qabari district, one of Alexandria’s most densely populated slum areas, archaeologists stumbled upon a collection of Graeco-Roman tombs.
Each tomb is a two-storey building with a burial chamber on its first floor. The tombs are semi-immersed in subterranean water but are well preserved and still bear engravings.
Mohamed Abdel Meguid, head of Alexandria’s Antiquities Department, explained that the tombs are part of a larger cemetery known as the “Necropolis” (or City of the Dead) as described by Greek historian Strabo when he visited Egypt in 30BC. According to Strabo, the cemetery included a network of tombs containing more than 80 inscriptions, while each tomb yielded information about burial rituals of the Hellenic period.
The newly discovered collection of tombs, Abdel Meguid pointed out, is a part of the western side of the cemetery that was dedicated to the public and not to royals or nobles. The tombs are empty of funerary collections or mummies, corpses, skeletons or even pottery.
“This is a very important discovery that adds more to the archaeological map of Alexandria,” Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said, adding that the discovery would allow scientists to decipher more about the history of ancient Alexandria and would also add another tourist destination to the city.
Ibrahim said that this and similar excavations were conducted as part of archaeological inspections routinely carried out at the request of constructors who purchased the land. According to Egyptian law, every piece of land should be subject to archaeological inspection before it can be claimed as a free zone for construction.
The area was previously subject to archaeological survey in 1998 when Alexandria governorate decided to build Al-Qabari Bridge over Abdel-Qader Hamza Street in the district.
Excavation at the time uncovered more than 37 tombs, among which a very distinguished tomb bearing a coffin in the shape of a bed, commonly known as the wedding bed. On top of it was a red sheet and two pillows.
- via: Collection of Graeco-Roman tombs uncovered in Alexandria (Al Ahram)
… a photo of the tombs (such as they are) accompanies the original article. I can’t help but mention here the minister of state’s comments when some Byzantine-era tombs were found in Alexandria back in April:
“It is a very important discovery that adds more detail to the archaeological map of Alexandria,” Ibrahim told Ahram Online.
… I guess even archaeological discoveries have their predigested soundbite variations …
I seem to have missed this UPenn video last week:
Was there a Trojan War? Assessing the Evidence from Recent Excavations at Troy
In the course of the latest campaign of excavations at Troy, in northwestern Turkey, archaeologists have uncovered a wealth of evidence that enables us to situate the site within the political and military history of the late Bronze Age (14th/13th centuries BCE). Dr. C. Brian Rose, Curator, Mediterranean Section, Penn Museum, speaks at this “Great Battles: Moments in Time that Changed History” series lecture program.
The incipit of a piece from ANSA:
An ancient road on which glass-making workshops of artisans renowned for their skill in the first century A.D. of the Roman Empire has been found near Naples. The road, Clivius Vitrarius, recently surfaced in Pozzuoli during excavations for maintenance work on a modern road. The unexpected discovery occurred when the road sunk after heavy rain. In repairing it, workers came across archaeological finds and called the experts in from the Naples superintendent’s office, who in turn brought to light ancient structures near the area which housed Roman baths, as reported by the newspaper Corriere del Mezzogiorno. The latest excavations have added interesting historical information on Clivius Vitrarious, the road of the glass-making artisans famous throughout the Roman Empire, alongside their artisan counterparts north of modern-day Milan. [...]
… the article goes on to talk about Pompeii and the upcoming ‘restoration’ for some reason …
From the Leader:
WORK at a major building development has unearthed evidence of a Roman settlement.
The discovery at Anwyl Construction’s Croes Atti project at Oakenholt, near Flint, includes a well-preserved section of Roman road, pottery, buildings and evidence of an industrial complex processing lead and silver mined at nearby Halkyn Mountain.
Andy Davies, Anwyl Construction technical director, said: “We have experience of finding Roman remains in the past and we had a watching brief on the site.
“We uncovered the Roman remains quite early in the work. We stripped the top soil away and found something straight away and since then we have been working with local archaeologists.
“They believed there were Roman settlements in the area and archaeological work had been done here before but nothing had been found.”
Anwyl, which plans to build more than 180 houses on the first phase of the Croes Atti development, is now helping fund the three-week exploration of the site, along with Cadw.
Will Walker, of Earthworks Archaeology, said: “It’s a fabulous find and it’s on our doorstep.
“We have a remarkably well-preserved Roman road in good condition and the site is throwing up all manner of interesting things including a lot of lead which suggests it was connected with the lead workings on Halkyn Mountain.
“The lead – and silver – would have been processed at this site, converted into lead ingots, known as pigs, and probably transported to Chester by barge and would have been used in the building trade for pipes and roofing.”
Metal detectors have uncovered large quantities of lead and the probable corner of a building has also been found.
Leigh Dodds, principal archaeologist with Earthworks Archaeology, said: “A large building was excavated further down the road back in the 1970s and that may have been the home of the procurator, the Roman official in charge of this settlement.
“But nothing had been found in this area but there is clear evidence of a settlement with buildings either side of the Roman road.
“There has also been high class Samian-ware pottery, probably made in what is now central France but was then the Roman province of Gaul, and even pieces of stone, basically furnace slag with traces of lead which show this was an industrial site processing lead ore.”
Steve Suddick, development engineer for Anwyl, said: “We started work on the site last week, carrying out groundworks and we started uncovering Roman remains within a day or two.
“We are able to carry on with work on another part of the site so the archaeological investigation can go on here as well so we are working well with them.”
- via: Oakenholt Roman settlement uncovered by builders (Leader)
- see also: 2,000-year-old road uncovered at Croes Atti development site in Oakenholt, Flint (Flintshire Chronicle)
According to this page, in the past, brick/tilestamps of the Legio XX Valeria Victrix have been found in the area, although there’s not evidence of a fort …
The İzmir Metropolitan Municipality has started demolitions on appropriated land in order to unearth a Roman theater under shanty houses in the city’s Kadifekale district. The municipality has so far paid 8 million Turkish Liras for the confiscation of the nearly 13,000-square-meter area.
Eight of the 52 houses to be demolished in the first stage have been torn down and archaeologists have already unearthed the walls of the theater, which has a capacity of 16,000 people.
The most detailed information about the ancient theater in Kadifekale is in the research of Austrian architect Otto Berg and archaeologist Otto Walter, who examined the area in 1917 and 1918, though many researchers have concluded that the remains of the theater have features of the Roman period.
When the municipality revives the theater, it can be seen by those visiting the Konak, Akllsancak, Karşıyaka and Bornova neighborhoods of the city. Similar to the excavated Ephesus Ancient Theater, concerts and shows will be organized in the theater as well.
A book on the theater
Writer İlhan Pınar said that after the translation of Berg and Walter’s work, a book about the ancient theater will be published within a month. “The only source [of information on] this theater is their research. Their goal was to excavate the area after the war in 1917. They wanted to show that İzmir was very rich in history and this historical richness should be protected after being revealed,” he said.
- via: Ancient theater being unearthed (Hurriyet)
From ANSA comes news of another site which we probably should start being concerned about:
The mayor of Cassano allo Jonio in the southern region of Calabria on Monday appealed to President Giorgio Napolitano for help in tackling the emergency at the local Sybaris archaeological site due to recent flooding.
The ancient remains were overrun by 200,000 cubic metres of water on January 18 after the nearby river Crati burst its banks following heavy rainfall.
Since then the fire and civil protection departments have been working to pump the water out of the site but there is concern over the remaining mud, which could become difficult to remove. Meanwhile numerous individuals and associations have offered to help with clean-up operations and Italy’s academic community has also rallied in support of the site, whose remains testify to the three successive settlements, the Greek colonies of Sybaris and Thurii and the Roman city of Copia, that once stood there. There is concern particularly for the Roman remains (2nd century BC-7th century AD), which lie closest to the surface and are rich in frescoes and mosaics. Here “the force of the water, which covered five hectares in the Parco del Cavallo area, even caused walls to crumble,” site director Silvana Lupino said. The priority now is to quantify the damage, with the cost of restoration possibly running to hundreds of thousands of euros. Lupino said it would “take months” to remove the mud with the help of “specialised teams” in support of the site’s technical staff. The excavations have been temporarily closed to the public although the management hopes they will reopen in time for the summer tourist season.