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)

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:

Thera and Iasos

A rather confusing item from Hurriyet:

Archaeologists working on Iasos on Turkey’s Aegean coast have recently discovered that the ancient city was buried under a mountain of ash caused by the explosion of Mt. Thera on Santorini 3,600 years ago.

Excavation works have also revealed a sewage system that was in place in the 4,000-year-old city and tunnels to the city’s theater.

Excavations are being carried out by the world-famous Italian archaeology team of Studi Delle Tuscia University. The head of the excavations, Professor Marcello Spanu, is working with assistant archaeologists Emanuele Borgia and Şevki Bardakçı, Culture and Tourism Ministry official Selvet Karamahmut, 28 other Italian archaeologists, as well as university students who have recently unearthed new historic sites within the ancient city.

Spanu said columns that were found one meter underground provided vital information about the history of the city. “Following the explosion of the volcano Thera, which also caused the destruction of the Minoan civilization on the islands of Crete and Santorini, the ancient city was covered with ash and remained so for a while.

This is why its sewage system and tunnels to the ancient theater did not change. At the end of the excavation and restoration works, for which we spend nearly 100,000 Turkish Liras annually, I am sure that this place will be Turkey’s largest, as well as one of its most important, archeoparks,” Spanu said.

Plans to attract more tourists

But Bardakçı, the deputy head of the excavations and an official from the Mediterranean Civilizations Research Institute, lamented the poor state of the promotion of Iasos, as well as the historic and cultural heritage of the surrounding Kıyıkışlacık village, while noting that they would undertake new endeavors to draw in more visitors.

He said the excavation and restoration works had shed light on historic artifacts across a vast area and succeeded in providing key data about the region’s past.

“As a result of works that will be carried out in the agora, the Artemis and Astias holy area, the Zeus Mefistos area, the mosaic house, the acropolis, the western port castle and the port, which was constructed between 1481 and 1522, the region will become one of the richest ancient cities in terms of cultural heritage. We have prepared the exact location and a digital map of the ancient city with satellite photos. When the project is done, we expect that tourists will rush to the area. As of next year, we will be in negotiations with travel agencies and tour operators to promote Iasos by way of daily boat tours and jeep safaris,” Bardakçı said.

This is why its sewage system and tunnels to the ancient theater did not change. Are they suggesting there was a sewage system and theater at Iasos prior to the eruption of Thera? Or are they trying to suggest the destruction layer of the volcano helps to show that the archaeological remains didn’t ‘change much’?

Sourcing Trireme Lumber

From Greek Reporter:

Scientists from Greece and the US believe they are close to tracing the wood from which ancient triremes were made.  The scientists are searching in Pieria (one of the regional units of Greece, located in the southern part of Macedonia, in the Region of Central Macedonia) for the Macedonian fir and the pine tree of Olympus and Pieria, locally known as “liacha.”

According to Aristotle’s successor Theophrastus, this tree was used for the laborious process of constructing paddles and ships. Prints on the earth of this particular kind of wood, which has no knots but great resistance to salt water, were discovered during the archaeological excavations that started in 2003 in Methoni of Pieria.

This fact, after the announcement of the results of the findings at a scientific conference that took place in Thessaloniki in 2011, mobilized scientists from different sectors in Greece, Los Angeles in the USA, Britain and Ireland, who have ever since been working together to discover pure pieces of wood from the 8th century at the excavation site in Methoni that will continue its work in 2014.

“At this moment a big cooperation is in process, which started at the end of 2011 between the 27th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classic Antiquities, which is based in the capital of Pieria, Katerini, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) and the Archaeology Department of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA),” the President of the Philology Department of AUTH, Ioannis Tzifopoulos, explained.

He also explained that on the American side, the Greek-American professor John Papadopoulos, who for many years has led excavations in Toroni of Chalkidiki, in Epirus, as well as in Albania, shows particular interest in the object of the excavations in Methoni of Pieria.

Back to Zagora

From the Australian:

BEFORE the first ancient Olympics, as Homer was writing his Iliad, there was a bustling early Iron Age city in Greece. And then it all but disappeared.

Australian archaeologists will try to solve the ancient mystery of why the city was abandoned and whether a lack of fresh water was the cause.

They’re off to Zagora, a city that was thriving with farming and industry on the island of Andros in the 9th century BC before it was inexplicably abandoned.

That was about the time of Homer and before Sparta and the Athenian democracy.

Australia’s first archaeological dig in Greece was at Zagora in the 1960s and 1970s and they managed to excavate about 10 per cent of the 6.5 hectare site but did not solve the riddle.

Now 50 Australians will begin working there again next week, hoping to finally explain why an entire population would leave a city at the heart of a major sea trading route.

Some things haven’t changed.

They’ll have to hike in and out to the isolated site each day and use pack mules to carry heavy equipment.

But some things are different.

Ground penetrating radar, satellite imaging analysis and multi-spectral treatment of those images might help, says one of the dig’s co-directors, Lesley Beaumont from Sydney University’s Department of Archaeology.

“What we are able to do now, which couldn’t even have been dreamed of back then, is to use subsurface testing methods … to look underneath the surface of the ground before even putting a spade into it,” she told AAP.

They are curious about whether hydrology might have something to do with the abandonment of the settlement that had been growing at an extraordinary rate.

“One of the ideas we are investigating is whether there has been an earthquake because the ground rock is layers of schist and marble, and marble can be permeated by water but schist can’t.

“If there was a shifting of the layers because of earthquake the water courses could have been altered and the site that was once able to have water may suddenly run dry.”

With three years of funding they began last year with big picture analysis and geophysical survey with help from a geologist. This year includes satellite imagery work, aerial photography and a full excavation season from September 23 until November 4.

“We have found a lot of metal-working evidence on the site, lots of houses had huge storage capacities so they were clearly farming very widely and storing their goods for surplus against hard times or for trade,” she said.

Another dig co-director, Margaret Miller, says Zagora is similar to Pompeii – a snapshot in time to a period we know close to nothing about.

“Archaeology so often only deals with royalty and the rich. Here we’re learning about ordinary folk, people like us, and how they lived,” Dr Miller said in a statement.

She said the site challenges stereotypes of what a city must be like.

There are no kitchens in houses, industry isn’t confined to one area, a question-mark hangs over religion and the most important aspect of the settlement appears to be the fort wall.

The dig overlooking the Aegean is sponsored by the Australian Archaeological Institute in Athens (AAIA), the University of Sydney and the Australian Research Council. It is also partly funded by private donations.

Next year’s dig will be directed by what they find this year.

We’ll add the Zagora Archaeological Project’s blog to our list …

Mycenean Palace found Near Sparta

From Greek Reporter:

A new excavation in the Xirokambi area of Aghios Vassilios west of Sparta, in the Peloponnese, Greece, has revealed a richness of Mycenean artefacts in the area, including the remains of a palace, Linear B tablets, fragments of wall paintings, and several bronze swords.
The excavation, led by emeritus ephor of antiquities Adamantia Vassilogrambrou, was presented publicly at the biennial Shanghai Archaeology Forum at the end of August as one of 11 sites showcased from different parts of the world.

The Aghios Vassilios excavation began in 2010, after Linear B tablets were found in the area in 2008, pointing to the existence of a powerful central authority and distribution system. The deciphered texts were devoted to perfume and cloth production, the trade of which was controlled by a palace administration in the Mycenean era.

Evidence of a central palace administration was confirmed also by the architecture, which is dated to the 14th century BC, while contact with Crete was confirmed by the finding of a double axe, a feature of the island’s palace culture.

Artefacts found include seals, a multitude of ceramic and bronze vessels, and 21 bronze swords. According to the evidence, a sudden fire that broke out either at the end of the 14th century or the beginning of the 13th destroyed the three buildings on the site which were never rebuilt at the same location.

All the press coverage seems to have the same overhead shot of foundations … ANAMPA has a photo, however, of what is presumably a cup from the site (Mycenean palace and Linear B tablets discovered in Sparta area)

Excavations at Pella Get Funding

From ANA:

Excavations at the ancient agora of Pella, capital city of Alexander the
Great’s and his father Philip’s kingdom, have been renewed for another
five years under University of Thessaloniki professor of classical
archaeology Ioannis Akamatis, following the Central Archaeological
Council’s approval.

Field work will focus on the area south of the agora, the northern stoa,
the central square and the eastern wing, to look for structures earlier
than the hellenistic metropolis’ remains of the mid-4th century BC to
the 2nd century BC.

The compound of the ancient agora covers 70,000 square metres and
contained multiple buildings and workshops attesting to the city’s
economic strength – from ceramic and sculpture studios, to metal
processing, food and perfume manufacturing, administrative offices and
the city’s archive, containing the clay stamps of papyrus records.

Excavations last year revealed a temple-like rectangular structure
that will be researched further, several coins, ceramic storage vessels
stamped with identifiable data and statuettes.

 

Roxane’s Tomb Redux

In case you missed the Blogosphere post, there have been developments in the possible identification of Roxane’s tomb. Long time readers of rogueclassicism will recall that we first heard of this claim back in October (Roxane’s Tomb?) and a recent announcement is currently working its way through the various Greek newspapers — most seem based on/derive from an item in Proto Thema (Μέρος του τάφου της Ρωξάνης και του Αλέξανδρου Δ’ ο Λέων της Αμφίπολης ;) and several also include a video from back in November:

On this side of the continent, Dorothy King has broken the story very capably (The Tomb of Roxane, Amphipolis) and I urge folks to go read it and the associated clippings and photos from the City Paper). The skinny is that the famous Lion of Amphipolis once stood on a large mound marking the tomb of some female (since the lion is actually female) and the suggestion continues that this was Roxane’s tomb. An inscription referencing Deinocrates (an architect associated with Alexander the Great) lends some weight to this suggestion.

For my part, the current claim raises some more questions … the monument was trashed, apparently, in the second century A.D. and I’m continuing to search for some reason for this (perhaps we’ll be hearing more in the future on that score). The other issue I have is that the murder of Roxane and Alexander IV (according to Diodorus … quoted in DK’s post) resulted in the ‘concealment’ of the bodies … it doesn’t sound like they were given a royal burial at all and I can’t recall any mention of such in any other ancient source. On the other hand, if it *is* associated with Roxane, is it just hers or for both of them, and if the latter, the single lion seems somewhat incongruous. If not, there should be a similarly-large tomb nearby for Alexander IV, no? Dr King informs us that there will be more announcements in the coming months, and hopefully some of these questions will be cleared up.

UPDATE (a day or so later): See Dorothy King’s latest update; note that the inscriptional reference to Dinocrates apparently isn’t there ~ Roxanne Tomb, Amphipolis – more details

Repurposing a Theatre at Corinth?

Wow … the AIA shindig is getting some good press coverage (primarily by Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience) … the latest coverage relates to the work of Michael MacKinnon (UWinnipeg) who has excavated a pile of cattle bones — a bit out of our period — from a theatre in Corinth. Here’s the incipit:

A metric ton of cattle bones found in an abandoned theater in the ancient city of Corinth may mark years of lavish feasting, a new study finds.

The huge amount of bones — more than 1,000 kilograms (2,205 pounds) — likely represent only a tenth of those tossed out at the site in Peloponnese, Greece, said study researcher Michael MacKinnon, an archaeologist at the University of Winnipeg.

“What I think that they’re related to are episodes of big feasting in which the theater was reused to process carcasses of hundreds of cattle,” MacKinnon told LiveScience. He presented his research Friday (Jan. 4) at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Seattle.

From theater to butcher shop

A theater may seem an odd place for a butchery operation, MacKinnon said, but this particular structure fell into disuse between A.D. 300 A.D. and A.D. 400. Once the theater was no longer being used for shows, it was a large empty space that could have been easily repurposed, he said.

The cattle bones were unearthed in an excavation directed by Charles Williams of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. They’d been discarded in that spot and rested there until they were found, rather than being dragged to the theater later with other trash, MacKinnon said.

“Some of the skeletal materials were even partially articulated [connected], suggesting bulk processing and discard,” MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon and his colleagues analyzed and catalogued more than 100,000 individual bones, most cattle with some goat and sheep. The bones of at least 516 individual cows were pulled from the theater. Most were adults, and maturity patterns in the bones and wear patterns on the teeth showed them all to have been culled in the fall or early winter.

“These do not appear to be tired old work cattle, but quality prime stock,” MacKinnon said. [...]

Plenty of Neolithic Figures from Koutroulou Magoula

From a University of Southampton press release:

Archaeologists from the University of Southampton studying a Neolithic archaeological site in central Greece have helped unearth over 300 clay figurines, one of the highest density for such finds in south-eastern Europe.

The Southampton team, working in collaboration with the Greek Archaeological Service and the British School at Athens, is studying the site of Koutroulou Magoula near the Greek village of Neo Monastiri, around 160 miles from Athens.

Koutroulou Magoula was occupied during the Middle Neolithic period (c. 5800 – 5300 BC) by a community of a few hundred people who made architecturally sophisticated houses from stone and mud-bricks. The figurines were found all over the site, with some located on wall foundations. It’s believed the purpose of figurines was not only as aesthetic art, but also to convey and reflect ideas about a community’s culture, society and identity.

“Figurines were thought to typically depict the female form, but our find is not only extraordinary in terms of quantity, but also quite diverse – male, female and non-gender specific ones have been found and several depict a hybrid human-bird figure,” says Professor Yannis Hamilakis, Co-Director of the Koutroulou Magoula Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography project.

He continues, “We still have a lot of work to do studying the figurines, but they should be able to give us an enormous amount of information about how Neolithic people interpreted the human body, their own gender and social identity and experience.”

Excavations at Koutroulou Magoula were started in 2001 by Dr Nina Kyparissi (formerly Greek Archaeological Service) and this latest project began in 2010. The site is roughly four times the area of a football pitch and consists of a mound up to 18 feet high featuring at least three terraces surrounded by ditches. The people who lived in the settlement appear to have rebuilt their homes on the same building footprint generation after generation, and there is also evidence that some of the houses were unusual in their construction.

Professor Hamilakis comments, “This type of home would normally have stone foundations with mud-bricks on top, but our investigations at Koutroulou Magoula have found some preserved with stone walls up to a metre in height, suggesting that the walls may have been built entirely of stone, something not typical of the period.

“The people would have been farmers who kept domestic animals, used flint or obsidian1 tools and had connections with settlements in the nearby area. The construction of parts of the settlement suggests they worked communally, for example, to construct the concentric ditches surrounding their homes.

“There is no evidence of a central authority to date, yet large numbers of people were able to come together and carry out large communal and possibly socially beneficial projects.”

In later centuries, the settlement mount became an important memory place. For example, at the end of the Bronze Age, a ‘tholos’ or beehive-shaped tomb was constructed at the top and in Medieval times (12-13th c. AD) at least one person (a young woman) was buried amongst the Neolithic houses.

In addition to excavation, the project has conducted ethnography amongst the local communities, exploring their customs and culture and their relationship to the site. It has engaged in a series of community and public archaeology events, including the production and staging of site-specific theatrical performances, which turn into communal celebrations with food, drink and dance. In part, this aims to examine the importance of Koutroulou Magoula to contemporary communities and make the site an important feature in the social and cultural life of the area.

The project team will carry out two study seasons in 2013 and 2014.

Studying Philip II’s Remains

Ages ago when I first started gathering news items and the like to share in various fora, I subscribed to the Athens News Agency feeds … as they were subscribed via a very old email address (which is basically a spamtrap now) I didn’t pay much attention to them any more but out of curiosity last week I was browsing through them and found this item, which does not seem to have made it into an English newspaper source:

A small portion of the skeleton of the ancient king Philip II of Macedon,
the father of Alexander the Great, is to be taken for testing to the
Demokritos National Centre for Scientific Research, Thessaloniki’s
Archaeological Museum announced on Wednesday.

The ancient king’s remains were found inside a golden larnax, or casket,
considered one of the most valuable objects of the ancient world, found
inside the main chamber of grave II at the Vergina archaeological site
in northern Greece.

The aim of the transfer is the microscopic examination, analysis and
photography of an unknown substance covering the bones, which has
also been found in other Macedonian tombs. This is the first time
this substance will be analysed to discover its chemical and mineral
composition, with the results are expected to yield valuable information
concerning the larnax corrosion processes and the ritual materials used
in that period.

A request for the transfer of the shards of bonds from the head of
the Vergina digs was approved by the Central Archaeological Council
on Tuesday.

… I guess I’ll have to monitor this source a bit more closely …

A Nice Mosaic is Emerging …

from the earth near Didymoteicho  … Greek Reporter has the details:

A series of well-preserved archaeological finds have been discovered during this year’s excavations at what has been identified as the ancient Plotinopolis, situated in the outskirts of modern-day Didymoteicho, northeastern Greece. Plotinopolis was a Roman city founded by the Roman Emperor Traianus, who named it after his wife Plotini.

The hill of Aghia Petra, just outside Didymoteicho, has been the focus of archaeological interest since before World War II, while in 1965 a golden forged bust of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus was found there. From 1965 onward, the 19th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities has been conducting systematic excavations in the area.

The mosaics unearthed, form part of the floor of a typical Roman triclinium, the formal dining room in Roman houses. Monstrous ichtyocentaurs and Nereids are depicted in the mosaic unearthed, along with portrayals of the God of Eurus River and Plotini.

The leader of the excavations, archaeologist Matthaios Koutsoumanis, describes the findings as: “both (creatures) are seated on a dolphin, and one of them is holding a scarf over the head like a ‘peplos’. It is certain by now that the scene with the Eurus River and Plotini is not the only one, as a second panel is coming to light. (…) Next year’s excavation has a lot of surprises in store for us.” That could make Plotinopolis one of the biggest excavations in the region of Thrace.

… a small photo accompanies the original article. There appear to be more photos here (I’m inferring) but the source isn’t clear …

Back in 2005, there was a brief overviewish piece on the finds (up till then, of course) in Plotinopolis:

Roxane’s Tomb?

From Greek Reporter:

Αrchaeologists from the 28th Ephorate of Antiquities unearthed a tomb in the city of Amphipolis, near Serres, northern Greece, which they believe could belong to the wife and son of Alexander the Great, Roxane and Alexander IV.

The circular precinct is three meters, or nearly 10 feet high and its perimeter is about 500 metes, or 1,640 feet surrounding the tomb located in an urban area close to the small city of Amphipolis. The head of the team, Katerina Peristeri noted that it is too soon to talk with certainty about the identities of the discovery.

“Of course this precinct is one we have never seen before, neither in Vergina nor anywhere else in Greece. There is no doubt about this. However, any further associations with historic figures or presumptions cannot be yet made because of the severe lack of evidence and finances that will not allow to continue the excavations at least for the time being,” she added.

The area has since 1965 been known as Kasta Tom, but these are the first excavations to take place there. The project began without any secured funds, which resulted in only parts of the impressive site coming to light. Analysts suggested that conclusions about the owners of the tomb cannot be drawn without first unearthing the tombs and discovering evidence about their identities.

Nevertheless, local authorities and media rushed into claiming and believing that the tomb belongs to Alexander’s wife and son, who, according to legend, had been ostracized to Macedonia after Alexander’s death. There the 12-year-old Alexander the IV and his mother Roxane were murdered. Tradition has it that the two victims were buried in Amphipolis but no evidence so far has proved this.

Nice to see some skepticism from the folks at Greek Reporter … at this point, we probably have as much evidence that this is the tomb of Roxane as it is the tomb of Xena …

UPDATE (a few minutes later): further adding to the suspicion, it is clear that this excavation started back in 2010 with the express purpose of finding the tomb of Roxane … see the post at Challenging the Past (Looking for the tomb of Roxane) and follow the link to the Greek news item: Ανασκαφές στην Αμφίπολη)

Meteorite Worship in the Greco-Roman World

My Explorator email box is slowly filling up with a much-publicized story about the recovery of a Tibetan statue made of meteoric iron which was discovered by the Nazis and is quite interesting (see, e.g., PhysOrg’s coverage: Buddhist statue, discovered by Nazi expedition, is made of meteorite, new study reveals)  … of course, plenty of Classics/Art History types were immediately reminded of the Magna Mater (as were Terrence Lockyer and Hasan Niyazi on Twitter), and so I piped up with mention of this very interesting article:

From the Italian Press: Mycenean Necropolis Found Near Corinth

From Adnkronos comes this item on the discovery of a Mycenean necropolis with a pile of pottery and bronze items near a sixth century temple at the ancient site of Rhypes:

Una necropoli micenea utilizzata a partire dal XV secolo a.C. circa e’ stata scoperta da un gruppo di archeologi dell’Universita’ di Udine nei pressi della citta’ greca di Eghion, nella regione dell’Acaia, nel Peloponneso nord-occidentale. Il ritrovamento e’ avvenuto durante la terza campagna di scavi che l’equipe, guidata dalla professoressa Elisabetta Borgna, ha condotto nell’ambito di una missione archeologica internazionale nella localita’ di Trapeza, un’area collinare vicino a Eghion e poco distante dalla costa sul Mar di Corinto.

Finora sono state portate alla luce due sepolture del tipo ”a camera” del XII-XI secolo a.C., molto diffuse in ambito miceneo. Queste tombe, scavate nei pendii di colline, sono costituite da un corridoio di accesso e da una camera funeraria scavata nella roccia. La scoperta della necropoli ha consentito inoltre di recuperare un prezioso corredo di vasi in ceramica, finemente decorati e conservati, pressoche’ integri, nella posizione in cui erano stati deposti.

Alla missione internazionale, coordinata dall’archeologo Andreas Vordos per concessione del Ministero greco della Cultura, collabora anche un team di ricercatori dell’Istituto archeologico germanico di Atene. L’intero progetto e’ sostenuto dall’Institute for Aegean Prehistory di Philadelphia (Stati Uniti) e dall’Istituto Italiano di Preistoria e Protostoria di Firenze.

Le ricerche compiute dagli archeologi dell’Ateneo friulano hanno permesso di trovare non solo la necropoli micenea, ma anche di comprendere l’origine del culto celebrato sulla sommita’ dell’altura della Trapeza, un pianoro piatto e regolare da cui il toponimo ”tavola”. In cima alla collina infatti si trovano i resti monumentali di un grande tempio del 500 a.C. circa da cui proviene un prezioso patrimonio di sculture riferibile alla citta’ achea di Rhypes (nominata da Pausania, scrittore e viaggiatore del II secolo d.C. e preziosa fonte di notizie su arte, topografia e miti dell’antica Grecia).

Nella zona adiacente al tempio i sondaggi stratigrafici compiuti dai ricercatori udinesi hanno documentato una lunga frequentazione dell’altura, a partire dall’occupazione del Neolitico Finale (fine del IV millennio a. C.) e in particolare durante i secoli che segnano la transizione tra eta’ del bronzo ed eta’ storica (Submiceneo-Protogeometrico, XI-IX secolo a C.). Inoltre, il ritrovamento di ceramiche e manufatti in bronzo, oggetto di offerta votiva, ha dimostrato l’esistenza di un luogo di culto di eta’ geometrica (VIII sec. a.C. circa) che precedette il tempio monumentale.

”Sapevamo dell’esistenza della necropoli micenea- spiega Borgna, docente di Archeologia egea – da una serie di corredi funerari frutto di precedenti scoperte casuali e da alcune segnalazioni presenti nella bibliografia archeologica”. Le ceramiche ritrovate nella necropoli testimoniano la presenza nell’area di un ceto sociale di livello elevato alla fine del periodo miceneo, databile al XII-XI sec. a.C. circa.

”Il corredo di vasi – sottolinea la professoressa – apparteneva a gruppi elitari che disponevano di un artigianato specializzato nella produzione di ceramica decorata in maniera molto elaborata. Un’elite protagonista di importanti scambi che legarono i centri tardo micenei alle comunita’ italiane che importarono e imitarono largamente la ceramica micenea fatta al tornio e dipinta, frutto di una tecnica artigianale ancora ignota in Italia”.

L’equipe impegnata nella missione archeologica in Grecia e’ formata da dottorandi, laureati e studenti del dipartimento Storia e tutela dei beni culturali all’Ateneo friulano e della Scuola interateneo di specializzazione in Archeologia delle universita’ di Udine, Trieste e Venezia.

Archeologia, l’Università di Udine scopre una necropoli micenea di 3.500 anni fa (Adnkronos)

Parthenon Marbles Discussion Progress?

This just-emerging story seems to be making the rounds of assorted European papers … the only English version, however, is in the Hong Kong Standard:

Greece is holding talks with the British Museum on the return of fragments from the Parthenon Marbles, the director of the Acropolis Museum in Athens said today.
Demetrios Pantermalis said he had made a proposal on the issue at a UNESCO meeting in June and that talks would be held in Athens in the coming weeks, AFP reports.
“I proposed an arrangement to colleagues from the British Museum, involving pieces — hands, heads, legs — that belong to bodies from the Parthenon sculptures and can be reattached,” Pantermalis told Skai Radio. “The proposal has been accepted in principle, we will have a discussion in the autumn.”
Greece has long campaigned for the return of the priceless friezes, removed in 1806 by Lord Elgin when Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Empire and later sold to the British Museum.
The British Museum has turned down successive Greek calls for their return, arguing that the sculptures are part of world heritage and are more accessible to visitors in London.
Inaugurated in June 2009, the new Acropolis Museum includes a section reserved for the disputed collection.
Pantermalis said the Marbles issue remained “taboo” and that the new proposal involving smaller pieces could be a way to “unravel the thread”.
As culture minister in 2009, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had turned down a British Museum loan offer for the Marbles, arguing that acceptance would “legalise their snatching” by the 19th century British diplomat.
“The government, as any other Greek government would have done in its place, is obliged to turn down the offer,” Samaras had said at the time.
“This is because accepting it would legalise the snatching of the Marbles and the monument’s carve-up,” Samaras said.
British Museum spokeswoman Hannah Boulton had then told Skai Radio that her museum could consider loaning the Marbles to Greece for three months on condition that Athens recognise the museum’s ownership rights to the sculptures.

Skai Radio is a Greek station (if you were wondering) … I’m kind of confused, though … is the idea the BC would lend body parts or that Greece would provide missing parts? Or both? Stay tuned …

Podcast: Josiah Ober on the Ancient Greek Economy

From the blurb at the Library of Economics and Liberty:

Josiah Ober of Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the economy of ancient Greece, particularly Athens. Ober notes that the standard view of ancient Greece is that it was very poor. Drawing on various kinds of evidence, Ober argues that Greece was actually quite successful, and that the average citizen of ancient Athens lived quite well by ancient standards. He suggests two possible explanations for Greece’s economic success–an openness of the political process that reduced transaction costs and encouraged human capital investment or innovation and cross-fertilization across Greek states. The conversation also explores the nature of evidence for understanding antiquity and the prospect for future discoveries pertaining to ancient Greece.

Roman Road in Thessaloniki

Latest discovery coming as a result of metro construction in Thessaloniki is a Roman road on top of the original Greek one … here’s the salient bits from AP via NPR:

Archaeologists in Greece’s second-largest city have uncovered a 70-meter (230-foot) section of an ancient road built by the Romans that was city’s main travel artery nearly 2,000 years ago.[...]

The excavation site was shown to the public on Monday, when details of the permanent display project were also announced. Several of the large marble paving stones were etched with children’s board games, while others were marked by horse-drawn cart wheels.

Also discovered at the site were remains of tools and lamps, as well as the bases of marble columns.

Viki Tzanakouli, an archaeologist working on the project, told The Associated Press the Roman road was about 1,800 years old, while remains of an older road built by the ancient Greeks 500 years earlier were found underneath it.

“We have found roads on top of each other, revealing the city’s history over the centuries,” Tzanakouli said. “The ancient road, and side roads perpendicular to it appear to closely follow modern roads in the city today.”[...]

Classics and the Greek Debt Crisis

There have been plenty of non-Classicist commentators dropping the word ‘tragedy’ and making all sorts of facile comparisons to the ancient world in regards to the ongoing debt crisis in Greece … finally, a Classicist — Oxford’s Armand D’Angour — wades in with some useful comparanda. From the BBC:

What advice would the ancient Greeks provide to help modern Greeks with their current financial worries?

1. Debt, division and revolt. Here’s the 6th Century BC news from Athens.

In the early 6th Century BC, the people of Athens were burdened with debt, social division and inequality, with poor farmers prepared to sell themselves into slavery just to feed their families.

Revolution was imminent, but the aristocrat Solon emerged as a just mediator between the interests of rich and poor. He abolished debt bondage, limited land ownership, and divided the citizen body into classes with different levels of wealth and corresponding financial obligations.

His measures, although attacked on all sides, were adopted and paved the way for the eventual creation of democracy.

Solon’s success demonstrates that great statesmen must have the courage to implement unpopular compromises for the sake of justice and stability.

2. What happens next? The Delphic oracle

Ancient Delphi was the site of Apollo’s oracle, believed to be inspired by the god to utter truths. Her utterances, however, were unintelligible and needed to be interpreted by priests, who generally turned them into ambiguous prophecies.

In response to, say, “Should Greece leave the euro?” the oracle might have responded: “Greece should abandon the euro if the euro has abandoned Greece,” leaving proponents and opponents of “Grexit” to squabble over what exactly that meant. It must have been something like listening to modern economists. At least the oracle had the excuse of inhaling the smoke of laurel leaves.

Wiser advice was to be found in the mottos inscribed on the face of Apollo’s temple at Delphi, advocating moderation and self-knowledge: “Know yourself. Nothing in excess.”

3. Nothing new under the sun: The sage Pythagoras

If modern Greeks feel overwhelmed by today’s financial problems, they might take some comfort from remembering the world-weary advice from their ancestor Pythagoras that “everything comes round again, so nothing is completely new”.

Pythagoras of Samos was a 6th Century BC mystic sage who believed that numbers are behind everything in the universe – and that cosmic events recur identically over a cycle of 10,800 years.

His doctrine was picked up by the biblical author of Ecclesiastes in the 3rd Century BC, whose phrase “There is nothing new under the sun” is repeated more than 20 times.

If you look at the picture at top of the story, the young man with a laptop on a Greek vase from 470 BC (in fact, a writing-tablet) seems to prove the proposition.

4. Mind you, it could be worse… Odysseus and endurance

“Hold fast, my heart, you have endured worse suffering,” Odysseus exhorts himself in Homer’s Odyssey, from the 8th Century BC.

Having battled hostile elements and frightful monsters on his return home across the sea from Troy to his beloved Ithaka and wife Penelope, Odysseus here prevents himself from jeopardising a successful finale as a result of impatience.

The stirring message is that whatever the circumstances, one should recognise that things could be, and have been, even worse. Harder challenges have been faced and – with due intelligence and fortitude – overcome.

5. Are you sure that’s right? Socrates and tireless inquiry

“The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being,” said Socrates.

By cross-examining ordinary people, the philosopher aimed to get to the heart of complex questions such as “What is justice?” and “How should we live?” Often no clear answer emerged, but Socrates insisted that we keep on asking the questions.

Fellow Athenians were so offended by his scrutiny of their political and moral convictions that they voted to execute him in 399 BC, and thereby made him an eternal martyr to free thought and moral inquiry.

Socrates bequeathed to humanity a duty to keep on thinking with tireless integrity, even when – or particularly when – definite answers are unlikely to be found.

6. How did those jokers end up in charge? Aristophanes the comedian

The most brilliantly inventive of comic playwrights, Aristophanes was happy to mock contemporary Athenian politicians of every stripe. He was also the first to coin a word for “innovation”.

His comedy Frogs of 405 BC, which featured the first representation of aerial warfare, contained heartfelt and unambiguous advice for his politically fickle fellow citizens: choose good leaders, or you will be stuck with bad ones.

7. Should we do the same as last time? Heraclitus the thinker

“You can’t step into the same river twice” is one of the statements of Heraclitus, in the early 5th Century BC – his point being that the ceaseless flow of the water makes for a different river each time you step into it.

A sharp pupil pointed out “in that case you can’t step into the same river once”, since if everything is constantly in flux, so is the identity of the individual stepping into the water.

While change is constant, different things change at different rates. In an environment of ceaseless flux, it is important to identify stable markers and to hold fast to them.

Bond markets, debt and bail-outs must feel like a similar challenge.

8. Tell me the worst, doctor. Hippocrates faces the facts

Western medicine goes back to Hippocrates, late 5th Century BC, and doctors still take the “Hippocratic oath”. An extensive set of ancient medical observations details how patients fared when they were treated by means such as diet and exercise.

What is exceptional in ancient thinking about health and disease is the clear-sighted recognition that doctors must observe accurately and record truthfully – even when patients die in the process.

Magical or wishful thinking cannot bring a cure. Only honest, exhaustive, empirical observation can hope to reveal what works and what does not.

9. Seizing the opportunity: Cleisthenes and democracy

The ancient Greeks were strongly aware of the power of opportunity – in Greek, kairos. Seizing the moment – in oratory, athletics, or battle – was admired and viewed as an indication of skill.

In many cases, such temporary innovation, born of the moment, will be more enduring, especially if successive innovators build on its principles.

When the tyrants of Athens were deposed at the end of the 6th Century, the leading citizen Cleisthenes needed to think up a constitution that would cut across existing structures of power and allegiance.

He devised with amazing rapidity a system of elective government in which all the citizens (the Greek word “demos” means “the people”) had a single vote – the world’s first democracy.

10. Big problem, long bath: Archimedes the inventor

Asked to measure whether a crown was made of pure gold, the Sicilian Greek Archimedes (3rd Century BC) puzzled over a solution.

The story goes that when he eventually took a bath and saw the water rising as he stepped in, it struck him that an object’s volume could be measured by the water it displaced – and when weighed, their relative density could be calculated.

He was so excited by his discovery that he jumped out of the bath and ran naked through Syracuse shouting “Eureka!” – Greek for “I’ve got it!”

Finding the solution to a knotty problem requires hard thinking, but the answer often comes only when you switch off – and take a bath.

Getty Gets Some Relief

From a Getty Press Release:

THe J Paul Getty Museum Logo taken from a carv...

THe J Paul Getty Museum Logo taken from a carving at the museum. Photo taken on November 24, 2006 by Brian Davis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The J. Paul Getty Museum today placed on view a Decree Relief with Antiochos and Herakles, the first Greek loan to arise from a 2011 framework for cultural cooperation between the Getty and the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture.

On loan from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the marble relief bears a historical decree, dated to 330 B.C., which honors Prokleides, a military officer (taxiarch) in the Athenian army. The relief will be on view at the Getty Villa for three years in a second-floor gallery devoted to Religious Offerings.

The relief takes the form of a stele, a stone slab decorated with images and text, crowned with the figures of Herakles and his son Antiochos, who was the mythical hero of the tribe Antiochis. Herakles is depicted as an athletic nude, holding a club and the pelt of the Nemean Lion he vanquished, referring to the first of the twelve labors he had to perform. Seemingly the elder, Antiochos wears a dignified mantle and holds a staff (no longer visible, but probably added in pigment). Both father and son heroes were the subject of cult worship, and are shown standing within a small temple framed by columns and a pediment.

Written in ancient Greek below the figures, an inscription describes the honors bestowed upon Prokleides by his soldiers and comrades, all members of an elite infantry corps known as the epilektoi. This is the earliest known inscription referencing the epilektoi, a group of men bound together by their military service, participation in sacrifices and theatrical performances, and membership in the Athenian Council. According to the decree, Kephisokles of the village of Alopeke proposed the resolution to praise Prokleides, who “has well and with distinction taken care of security,” and crown him with a gold diadem worth at least 1,000 drachmas (an enormous sum, considering the average worker in classical Athens could support a family of four on one drachma a day).

Soon after arriving at the Getty, the stele was photographed using a technique that captures the object numerous times with varying degrees of raking light. The resulting composed image reveals the shallow lettering with unprecedented depth and clarity and enables a more accurate reading of the inscription. A transcription of the ancient Greek text, translation, and detail photography of the historical inscription accompanies the installation.

“The Antiochos relief commemorates the affection and respect of troops for their commanding officer,” explains Claire Lyons, acting senior curator of antiquities at the Getty Villa. “We are delighted that it will be on view at the Getty Villa in time for Memorial Day, when we honor the contributions of fallen soldiers to their communities and country.”

This long-term loan results from the Framework for Cultural Cooperation signed in September 2011, which provides for joint scholarship, research projects, loans, and exhibitions between the Getty and the Hellenic Republic. “As part of this framework of cooperation between the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture and the Getty Museum, we are pleased to have the Antiochos relief on display at the Getty Villa,” said Maria Vlazaki-Andreadaki, director general of archaeology in Athens. “We believe that this collaboration will promote classical studies in the United States and will spread the values and the spirit of ancient Greek civilization.”

Historical Background

The relief was discovered in 1922 in the foundations of a house in the Athenian neighborhood of Dourgouti. In antiquity, the area was known as Kynosarges and was the site of a public gymnasium and a sanctuary of Herakles, the greatest of the Greek heroes. Believed to have stood in this sanctuary, where several other inscriptions mentioning the tribe Antiochis were found, the relief was a votive dedication erected in a prominent public location befitting a successful military leader.

The Antiochos relief is a primary document of democracy, and the language of its inscription shows that voting and public speech were deeply ingrained in civic life two centuries after the foundation of democratic political institutions in Athens.

The creation of the Attic tribes was the most important feature of the revolutionary reorganization of Athenian politics that followed the overthrow of the tyrants in 508 B.C. In this system, ten tribes composed of approximately 3,000 citizens and their families were created. Each tribe was assigned the name of a mythical Athenian hero: Antiochos was the eponymous hero of the tribe Antiochis.

Drawn from villages in three distinct zones of the Athenian territory—the coast, the inland farming region, and the urban/suburban zone—the tribes represented the entire citizenry of Athens. Josiah Ober, Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University, observes: “Imagine a reorganization of the United States that would require citizens from Maine, Texas, and California to work, fight, and feast together on a regular basis. The communities constituting the tribe of Antiochis included Alopeke, the philosopher Socrates’ home village—so we might even imagine that a descendant of Socrates as among the signatories to the decree.” [...]

… the original press release has a smallish image of the relief (the images link doesn’t work!). Art Daily has one that’s rather better:

… which made me think of this, for some reason:

Elgin! Elgin! Elgin! Oy! Oy! Oy!

With all the crises going on in Greece, it’s probably not surprising we haven’t heard much about the campaign to get the Elgin/Parthenon Marbles back for quite a while, but interestingly, over the past few weeks there’s doings afoot in Australia, of all places. First I read of an impending legal challenge in an article in the Australian Greek Reporter:

For years political and populist attempts to induce the British Museum and the British government to return the Parthenon marbles to Greece have been rebuffed and rudely ignored. The British may rely on a threadbare claim of legality because of a supposed sale or contractual transaction but with whom? The Ottoman bey of Athens at the time? Certainly there was no Greek national representative as there was no Greek nation to protest the ravishment of porticos and frescoes from the outer decorations of this, the most revered building in Western civilization. For too long, supporters of the return of the Parthenon marbles have seen a legal challenge in the English High Court to be too daunting and unlikely to achieve the desired result. But a new initiative coming from the AHEPA organization in Sydney Australia may be able to construct a respectable argument to put before the English courts in such a claim – to release the marbles to the representatives of the Greek government for a return to their home and origin Athens. The two Decisions one legal the other administrative are of Interest Mabo Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (commonly known a Mabo) was a landmark Australian court case which was decided by the High Court of Australia on June 3, 1992. The effective result of the judgement was to make irrelevant the declaration of terra nullius, or “land belonging to no-one” which had been taken to occur from the commencement British colonisation in 1788, and to recognise a form of native title. It is argued by some historians[who?] that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 was seen to apply to Australia at the time of settlement, and therefore governed unceded territories. Although Mabo was litigated within the legal context of property law, the decisions clearly had much wider implications which have still to be determined.

Thus in 1992 the Australian High Court made a historical determination to release land back to the “original owners” Aborigines of the northern Australian islands, As with all Australia the first English colonists had claimed land in the name of the King of England by ignoring the fact that people were already living there by declaring it as “terra nullius” – i.e. nobody’s land. Eddie Mabo took on the state of Queensland and with help from support groups won the day overturning what had been established custom and law. The result was that the Australian government was forced to admit that his island and large swags of the Northern Territory and Queensland came under the same heading and should be returned to their original owners. It was conditional that the original owners had never left which in most cases it applied to was true. Land that had passed into private hands as settled property affecting the lives of white Australians and in the cities was excluded from the court’s ruling. The historical decision is simply known as “Mabo” Mabo dealt with land rights but a later development has occurred which sets a precedent which could be even more relevant. Bringing Them Home Then some years ago indigenous people of Australia again made a claim this time supported by the Australian government for the return of human remains such as bones, skulls and teeth. Tasmanian aborigines who demanded the return of bones, skulls and body remains of their ancestors which had been taken away to England during the 19th. and early 20th century for anthropological investigation. The claims were based on religious and cultural grounds and that the taking was unauthorised by the descendants of the deceased whose body parts were scattered in universities and museums in England. In 1996 and again 1999 the British government conceded the claim and the desired items were returned to the lineal descendants of the long dead aborigines. These two significant circumstances could well give rise to the thread of an argument for a claim to be brought in an English court of law by applying Mabo as a persuasive precedent from the highest Australian court and the human remains ruling of the British government. The Parthenon Marbles The marbles were extracted crudely and wantonly between 1801 to 1812 from the Parthenon and sustained significant damage in the process. Whatever claim to some purchase or contract that could be relied on by supporters of Elgin, the fact remains that the Greek peoples were a conquered race, there was no nation, the Ottomans ruled as part of their empire then but in the way of history and other empires only held sway in Athens for a few years after the looting. The marbles were not removed either to protect them or to glorify them in England. Elgin simply had them installed in his private gardens along with the garden gnomes. The British Museum later acquired them by purchase from Elgin or his representatives to meet his debts. Were they “stolen” in the sense of English law or not is one question that would rise in any claim. If found to be stolen no title passes to a third party and that what would be part of the claim. No Greek Representative or authority or even lay person sanctioned the original looting of the marbles. They were certainly not Ottoman Turkish property other than being part of the captured territory. That they have deep cultural significance and meaning to the Greek peoples cannot be denied. They are integral to the linings of the most famous building in Europe when Greek learning and art laid the basis for western civilization and set standards of beauty and grace apparent to this day in the great museums of Europe and America. Other magnificent remnants of that time, Niki of Samothrace and Venus de Milo in the Louvre are stand alone statues. But the Parthenon marbles are integral adornments to an existing building and belong if not in position at least in the dignity of the new Athens Acropolis Museum in the hands of the people who are the lineal descendants of the age of Pericles, Phideas, Iktinos and Kallikratis and like the ruling in re Mabo as to continuity of residence, never left the site of Athens. Contacts have been made with other concerned people such as George Bizos a senior counsel in South Africa and other organizations and it is important that the best brains get together to coalesce money and intellectual input and to bring the arguments to a sharp point using the best legal people for the actual hearing. The Australian branch of the world wide Ahepa organization though its Marbles representative Manuel Comino OA and legal advisor Victor Bizannes believe that the time has come for an international fund to be set up to finance an action in the English High Court using these two significant cases as part of the argument for the return of Hellenic property to its original owners- the Hellenic peoples. (Victor Bizannes Sydney – June 2010)

Interesting argument; I’m really not sure it applies … if one were to use DNA to prove ‘lineal descendants’, I’m sure most of Western Europe and a good chunk of North America might qualify. I also don’t think there are religious and/or anthropological reasons that can be seriously attached to the marbles at this point in their history; any repatriation would clearly be for financial reasons. We’ll see if this goes anywhere. In any event, a few weeks later we read (in the same source) of a parliamentarian getting in on the action:

The State Minister for Culture Mrs. Virginia Jung (photo) supported to the state parliament of New South Wales that “according to the Code of ethics for museums by the International Council of Museums, the possession of cultural objects because of agreements with occupational forces is illegal and immoral”.

Among others, the Ministry underlined also the following:
«I have known the case of Parthenon Marbles for a lot of years and I was obliged to meet not only my political and cultural beliefs but also the cultural worries and sensitivities of the whole Greek-Australian community. A lot of members of this community told me to mention this issue as they felt that there is little mobility in a political level for the marbles return.” she said.

Among the audience of the parliament was also Mr. David Hill, President of the International Committee for the Parthenon Marbles return who stated that was impressed by the speech of the Minister.

“The speech of the Minister was impressive and completely different from other speeches as apart from the usual arguments, she asked the British Museum to remember “what a museum is” and which the responsibilities of a museum towards the people are”.

When the Minister ended her speech, Mr. Hill congratulated her and asked her permission in order to use her speech.

The Australian Minister also added: “Parthenon, one of the most important pieces of architecture, was built in order for the Goddess Athena to be honoured by the people of a city that even 2500 years later still retains her name. This is a historical continuity that few people in the world can evoke. Lord Elgin sold the sculptures to the British museum when he lost his money. The sale was illegal and invalid as he never took permission from the Greek people to remove them. The only permission he took was from the Turkish that were the occupational power! So, if we agree with the Code of Ethics for museums by the International Council of museums, then the possession of cultural objects because of agreements with occupational forces is illegal and immoral!

So, I am asking the British Museum to act as a museum and return back to Greece half of the Parthenon to complete the other half. Otherwise, it is something like having Mona Lisa in the Louvre of Paris and her smile to the National Portrait Gallery of London”.

The Minister also recited a poem of Lord Byron which reflects the cruelty of Elgin.

Finally, we read of the same sort of thing in the Australian Daily Telegraph, which includes some name variations (and gives you an indication why I’ve never cited the Greek Reporter before):

Arts Minister Virginia Judge and Local Government Minister Barbara Perry have decided to dabble in foreign affairs by demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles.

The marbles are sculptures and panels that were removed from the ancient Parthenon, in Athens, by Thomas Bruce, the seventh earl of Elgin, in 1801.

Bruce sold them to the British government and Greece has long demanded that the “Parthenon Marbles” – as it prefers to call them – be returned from the British Museum in London, where they now reside.

Ms Judge accused the museum of acting like “some colonial power” and called on Britain to return the sculptures.

Ms Perry also waded in and said: “I hope the message from this Parliament will be heard in Britain.”

But in the two weeks since they spoke in Parliament, Britain appears not to have heard their plea.

An international campaign to have Britain return the marbles has been waged for years and both ministers said they had raised the issue on behalf of their thousands of Greek constituents.

“I do not ask the British Museum to return a vase or some statue with a missing limb. I ask it to return half the Parthenon, return it to Greece so it may be reunited with the rest of itself,” Ms Judge told parliament.

“It would be like having the Mona Lisa displayed in the Louvre, in Paris, while her smile is displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in London.”

Ms Judge’s office said support for the return of the sculptures had also been raised in Federal Parliament by a Liberal MP.

A spokeswoman said 3000 Greeks lived in Ms Judge’s electorate of Strathfield and many had asked her to raise their plight in parliament.

“The president of the International Committee for the Parthenon Marbles, David Hills, also asked the Minister to raise the issue and was in Parliament when she made her speech,” she said.

Ms Perry added: “NSW has a very large Greek-Australian population, a lot of whom live in my electorate of Auburn. Many in the local Greek population are rightly concerned about this ongoing international issue. I simply put forward their views.”

So something seems to be going on down under/up over (depending on where you live) … we’ll see if it goes beyond Australia’s shores …

The Oracle at Rantidi!

I always like when really ‘obscure’ stuff shows up in the news … here’s the incipit of an item in the Pacific Northwest Inlander:

There’s a rock off the southwestern tip of Cyprus that juts out of the sea. You can get there on the B6, a windy coastal road hewn out of rock in the age of dynamite and tourism.

Before the B6, though, at the dawn of myth — back when the gods of the Greek pantheon had just barely started sleeping together and stabbing each other in the back — the goddess whom Greeks would call Aphrodite was birthed out of the sea at that rock.

It’s the scene you see in Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” (another of Aphrodite’s many names): the Paltrow-esque beauty, nude, rising from a clamshell.

Just a few kilometers north — back across the road, past Aphrodite Hills (a mega-resort named “Best Spa in Europe” in 2008) and up the rocky, asp-infested tumble of Rantidi Forest — sits the oracular sanctuary of Aphrodite’s young lover, Adonis.

Ancient accounts of the Oracle at Rantidi put its importance on a par with the Oracle at Delphi — the oracle that predicted the destruction of Lydia and sent Socrates on his quest for knowledge.

Rantidi was a big deal to the ancients, but it was lost to the modern world until 1910, when it was discovered and partially excavated, then lost again.

The next person to find it was EWU’s Georgia Bonnie Bazemore.

via The Oracle at Cheney.

The item goes on to talk about the talk, which focussed more on efforts by EWU to establish a campus in Cyprus. Whatever the case, the oracle at Rantidi is probably unknown to a lot of the learned readers of this blog, so I decided to see what I could find on the Interwebs and I was plenty surprised to find a link to a pdf from the New York Times of February 12, 1911 reporting on “The God’s Clubhouse Has Been Found in Cyprus” (if that link doesn’t work, try starting from here), which tells of the various shrines which had been found there at the beginning of the previous century. Other than that, though, I wasn’t too surprised to find that most of what’s on the web (that seems reliable) about Rantidi comes from the efforts of the aforementioned Professor Bazemore at the Rantidi Forest page of the Ancient Cyprus Web, which links to other pages documenting EWU’s efforts there.