Pavlopetri Followup

Back in May we first were deluged with news coverage about plans to poke around the submerged Mycenean remains of Pavlopetri. Now we’re getting coverage of what they actually found this past summer … an excerpt from the Science Daily coverage:

This summer the team carried out a detailed digital underwater survey and study of the structural remains, which until this year were thought to belong to the Mycenaean period — around 1600 to 1000 BC. The survey surpassed all their expectations. Their investigations revealed another 150 square metres of new buildings as well as ceramics that suggest the site was occupied throughout the Bronze Age — from at least 2800 BC to 1100 BC.

The work is being carried out by a multidisciplinary team led by Mr Elias Spondylis, Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture in Greece and Dr Jon Henderson, an underwater archaeologist from the Department of Archaeology at The University of Nottingham.

Dr Jon Henderson said: “This site is unique in that we have almost the complete town plan, the main streets and domestic buildings, courtyards, rock-cut tombs and what appear to be religious buildings, clearly visible on the seabed. Equally as a harbour settlement, the study of the archaeological material we have recovered will be extremely important in terms of revealing how maritime trade was conducted and managed in the Bronze Age.”

Possibly one of the most important discoveries has been the identification of what could be a megaron — a large rectangular great hall — from the Early Bronze Age period. They have also found over 150 metres of new buildings including what could be the first example of a pillar crypt ever discovered on the Greek mainland. Two new stone built cist graves were also discovered alongside what appears to be a Middle Bronze Age pithos burial.

Apart from the inevitable links to theories about Atlantis which some of the press seems to be fond of, the coverage is rather good. Noteworthy are  a couple of YouTube videos put out by the University of Nottingham (the second one is better for our purposes):

Matters Propylaean

Interesting bit of synchronicity here (caused more by my backlog, than anything) … first, Harrison Eiteljorg has announced that the CSA’s Propylaea Project has come to a close, which means — if you weren’t already aware of it — that there is a wealth of information (including photos, papers, and the like) at the CSA Propylaea Project webpage … definitely worth a look for the ancient architecture buffs out there …

And as that project winds down, percolating in the back pages of several UK newspapers for the past couple of months is news of plans to rebuild the Euston Arch — which was inspired/partly-modelled-on the Athenian Propylaea — half a century after its destruction. The campaign to rebuild it has a very nice website which is definitely worth a look and Michael Palin is one of the celebrity types behind the effort. Here’s some of the press coverage (much more at the aforementioned website):

Statue of Nero Identified

One of the benefits — if there are any — of falling behind in one’s usual blogging schedule is that one tends to get a lot more coverage and the followups of stories ‘all at once’, as it were. A case in point is this story from a couple of weeks ago about a smashed statue head found quite a while ago at Fishbourne Palace which was to undergo tests to confirm or refute suggestions that the original image was of a young Nero:

Telegraph photo
Telegraph photo

The coverage from the Telegraph claims the only two statues of Nero known to exist are currently in the Italian National Museum of Antiquities in Parma and the Louvre (not sure if that photo is Nero). The Science Daily coverage seems more accurate:

Two of the best-known examples of the teenage Nero are preserved in the Museo Nazionale d’Antichita in Parma and the Musee du Louvre in Paris. Both representations are thought to have been created as part of the official recognition that Nero was on his way to becoming chief heir of Claudius.

The example from Parma seems a good one for comparison to the fragment. Other than that, here’s a bit from the early Telegraph coverage:

The latest find was actually discovered in 1964 but until recently it was always believed to be that of a king called Togidubnes or a member of his family.

Now similarities have been found between the Fishbourne statue and the only others in Italy and France.

The rounded cheeks, full, curving lips, rounded lower face, slightly protruding ears, curling locks of hair and almond-shaped eyes are all very similar.

As a man, the Roman historian Suetonius described Nero as “about the average height, his body marked with spots and malodorous, his hair light blond, his features regular rather than attractive, his eyes blue and somewhat weak, his neck over thick, his belly prominent, and his legs very slender”.

Although this would only be the third statue of him, busts and coins bearing his image are more common.

Dr Rob Symmons, curator of archaeology at Fishbourne, will work with Bournemouth University lecturers Dr Miles Russell and Harry Manley to produce 3D scans of the head.

I’ll admit having my usual knee-jerk skepticism about this one — I really didn’t think there was enough there to establish anything. We should also note that this wasn’t a ‘new’ theory … it has been around for quite a while and was the focus of an article in British Archaeology a couple of years ago (which seems to be the background info for much of the press coverage). Whatever the case, the results of the laser scans are done and the BBC seems to be the first off the mark with the coverage (excerpts):

Experts say they have proved a statue fragment found in West Sussex depicts the Roman emperor Nero as a young man.

Scientists from Bournemouth University have spent the day at Fishbourne Roman Palace using a 3D laser scanner to make a full head image from the fragment.


Dr Miles Russell, from Bournemouth University, said: “It is a very well executed piece, it is extremely lifelike and made out of Italian marble which had been imported here.

“It is a very expensive artefact, which has been smashed into pieces before being buried in foundation rubble.”

The digital image produced by the scanner was compared with the known depictions of Nero in Parma and Paris.

Dr Russell said he was 100% confident they matched.

“He has that very distinctive hair over his ears and very distinctive almond eyes,” he said.

The BBC item also has a short video report (which includes the important detail that the fragment is Italian marble):

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more about “BBC NEWS | UK | England | Sussex | St…“, posted with vodpod

It seems to be a reasonable conclusion, but after seeing the process — which does not seem to have involved scanning the comparative pieces in Parma or Paris — I can’t help but wonder what the point of the scanning actually was. The bottom line seems to be the distinctive hair and eyes, which was something apparent prior to the scanning, no? And if it’s just hair and (fragmentary) eyes, can we be sure it isn’t Britannicus?

Earlier coverage:

Post-test coverage: