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 …