Marble Head of a Boxer (Maybe) Found in Israel

Rather amazing how much press coverage there is for this already. A small figurine, dating from the second or third century, depicting what is believed to be a boxer or at least an athlete, has been found during the course of a dig in the City of David.

Dixit Dr. Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets (on behalf of the IAA):
“To the best of our knowledge, to date no similar artifact made of marble (or any other kind of stone) bearing the same image that was just found has been discovered in excavations elsewhere in the country… It seems that what we have here is a unique find.”

“The high level of finish on the figurine is extraordinary, while meticulously adhering to the tiniest of details. Its short curly beard, as well as the position of its head which is slightly inclined to the right, are indicative of an obviously Greek influence and show that it should be dated to the time of the emperor Hadrian or shortly thereafter (second-third centuries CE). This is one of the periods when the art of Roman sculpture reached its zenith. The pale yellow shade of the marble alludes to the eastern origin of the raw material from which the image was carved, probably from Asia Minor, although this matter still needs to be checked”.

While they’re probably right that it’s an image of an athlete of some sort, when I first saw it, the ‘droopy’ eyelids and hairline reminded me of Philip the Arab, perhaps rather less-than-idealized. The object is a weight, however, designed to be used with hanging scales and, we are told, images of athlete-types were popular in this role.

Zeus on Mount Lykaion Redux

Not sure why this is in the news again; we heard about it last September and even back in January, to some extent.

Dixit David Romano:

“What’s new is this mountaintop altar had cult activity that’s continuous from the Mycenaean to the Hellenistic periods.”

… which is what we were told a year ago. Some details about the altar found there might be new … an excerpt from the article:

Although the excavation is ongoing, a paper on the first three years of the project is in the works for Hesperia, the journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

The bronze male hand holding the silver lightning bolt likely represents Zeus, according to the archaeologists. It was found near a sample of glass-like fulgurite, otherwise known as petrified lightning, which is formed when lightning strikes sandy soil. It is not clear if the fulgurite was formed on the mountain or elsewhere.

“The altar would have been situated on top of the hill and may have been represented by a ring of stones,” Romano said, adding that it was flanked by a nearby sacred area known as a temenos, which appeared to have no temple or other structure.

Folks might want to check out the website: Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project

Another Auction

Yesterday I was wading through a pile of Roman glass etc. (none of which was very interesting) and decided I wasn’t going to cover auctions any more. Then, of course, something interesting came up from the Ventura County Collection again, via Bonham’s. Here’s an item at Live Auctioneers officially described as Roman, c. 100-300AD., a life size marble carving of a clinched right hand and it’s clutching something. Any guesses as to what’s in the hand?

This Day in Ancient History

ante diem vii kalendas februarias

  • Sementivae or Paganalia (day ?) — Sementivae was a festival of sowing which was actually a moveable feast (although I’m not sure of the moveability criteria; I’m guessing that the first day falls between January 24 and 26). By Ovid’s time it appears to have been coincident with Paganalia, which also obviously has some rural aspect to it. It appears to have been a two-day festival with an interval of seven days between (corrections on this welcome … my sources seem muddled on this one)
  • 66 A.D. — perihelion of what would eventually be called Halley’s comet (possibly mentioned in Josephus; less possibly mentioned in Suetonius)