Ozzy’s Classical DNA

Ozzy Osbourne in 2010.
Image via Wikipedia

This is typical … of the myriad versions of this story — about Ozzy Osbourne’s DNA revealing links to Neanderthals and assorted others, the one I happened to actually read (and post on Facebook) missed out on a Classical connection. Of course the Daily Mail had the part I missed, inter alia:

The researchers discovered that the star shares some DNA with the ancient Romans who were killed in Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD

Osbourne said: ‘That means I’m also probably related to some of the survivors, which makes a lot of sense.

‘If any of the Roman Osbournes drank nearly as much as I used to, they wouldn’t have even felt the lava. They could have just walked it off.’

We won’t comment on the lava reference … it is Ozzy after all.

More Decapitated Roman Remains

… but this time, from Scotland, and without any of the usual attendant sensationalism. Indeed … the decapitation is mentioned only in passing. From the Scotsman:

IT IS a major public sector building project which has been delayed, causing headaches for bosses and the public.

But it is decapitated skeletons and 2000-year-old forts rather than red tape and swelling costs that have caused the hold-up for the new health centre in Musselburgh.

Progress on the site has been delayed by at least six months after significant Roman remains were discovered.

Now architects have revealed the extent of their discoveries, which include human remains, the bones of horses and weapons and culinary tools.

Archeologists there said the “unique” finds, among the most impressive ever discovered in Scotland from that period, will help build a picture not only of Roman activity in Musselburgh from 140AD, but improve the wider understanding of life at that time.

As well as the skeletons, some of which have been superbly preserved, there are impressive sections of rampart, thought to be part of a defensive wall for a fortlet.

Site director for CFA Archaeology, which is working on the site, Magnus Kirby said that some of the findings predated the Roman era, with items such as flints possibly dating back up to 5000 years.

“The number of Roman skeletons we have found doesn’t point to this being a cemetery,” he said. “But it is still fascinating. The Roman remains have been very well preserved.

“Of the older human remains that predate that, in some cases there has been nothing but a set of teeth.”

It was known before the excavation began that Romans had existed in that area but the number of discoveries since work began three months ago has surprised archaeologists.

It is thought the Votadini tribe inhabited the Lothians during the late Iron Age period, around the time of the birth of Christ. They built hill fort defences which are still visible on Arthur’s Seat, at Dunsapie Hill and above Samson’s Ribs.

Historians believe they also occupied Traprain Law in East Lothian.

The Roman occupation of the Lothians soon after the turn of the millennium is said to have left both physical landmarks and governance legacies.

As well as forts, artefacts found across the Lothians point to an active trading set-up with locals and experts believe the Roman’s stay in the Lothians helped convert Scotland to Christianity, and establish the early roots of our legal system.
“The quality of the structures such as the rampart are fantastic,” Mr Kirby added.

“You do treat the human remains differently, because of what they are, but it is the structures you find that tell you more about life at that point.”

Although the finds are interesting, the Roman revelations have actually proved a significant inconvenience for NHS Lothian, which wants to crack on with the Musselburgh Primary Care Centre.

The £20 million facility, which was first mooted 15 years ago, is now due to open in the spring of 2012.

via: Skeletons halt work on clinic | Scotsman

For an example of the more ‘traditional’ reporting of decapitated Roman remains, see, e.g. here or here or here (etc.) …

Bits of the ‘Lava Treasure’ Recovered by French Police

From Reuters:

French police said on Wednesday they had seized a significant portion of an ancient Roman treasure that was discovered more than two decades ago by Corsican divers who became rich by secretly selling it off.

The seizure is the latest chapter in the exploits of a then young Corsican and two friends who spotted gold in shallow waters 25 years ago while diving for sea urchins off the coast of the Mediterranean island.

The three friends enriched themselves by selling the coins and medallions on the black market and later claimed that they had inherited them when the source of their newfound wealth was discovered by the local authorities.

Police did not say on Wednesday from whom they had recovered the latest portion of the treasure, which likely came from an ancient shipwreck. Specialists consider the find to be one of the most important related to ancient coins, dating from the 3rd century AD.

“This submerged treasure, identified as a maritime cultural asset, belongs to the state,” France’s national police said in a statement, after a long investigation into national and international black markets for antiquities.

One of the original three Corsican friends, Felix Biancamaria, told French daily Liberation in 2005 how the discovery of what he quickly suspected were Roman coins brought him and his fellow divers untold wealth and thrills until the party soured when local police caught wind of their exploits.

Rather than turn the treasure over to authorities as state property, the divers claimed they had inherited it and began selling it to dealers. However the flood of rare Roman coins on the market eventually raised questions among collectors.

“People thought we were part of a gang of armed robbers,” Biancamaria said, describing how the three friends would dive all day for treasure and spend their evenings quaffing champagne in nightclubs.

The three men were among eight people tried in 1994 in connection with the case. They were handed prison sentences of between six and 18 months and made to pay fines.

One of the divers, Marc Cotoni, was killed in a shooting in 2004, according to French media.

Five other people were arrested last week in Paris in connection with the case, a judicial source said.

The recently seized coins, together with a prized golden plate, are estimated to have a value of between 1 million and 2 million euros ($1.38 million to $2.76 million), police said.

An investigation is still underway to track down other items from the treasure that remain missing.

Other coverage:


Callimachus Nike Monument ‘Restored’

From the ANA:

The Nike Monument erected in honour of the ancient military commander Callimachus after the Battle of Marathon, its various surviving shards reassembled for the first time to resemble the form they would have had in antiquity, was unveiled in the new Acropolis Museum on Tuesday by Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos.

In statements at the unveiling, Geroulanos emphasised the importance of the monument 2,500 years after the historic battle, an event broadly regarded as a pivotal moment in the history of European culture.

In 490 B.C. when the Battle of Marathon took place Callimachus was then a ‘polemarch’ or supreme military commander of Athens. With the 10 Athenian generals evenly divided over whether to do battle or surrender to the Persian invasion force, it was he that cast the deciding vote that sent the Athenians into battle and on to their final victory over the Persian Empire.

“Everything now rests of you,” Geroulanos said, quoting directly from the description given by the ancient historian Herodotus of a hypothetical conversation between Callimachus and Miltiades – the general that led the battle and earned Greeks their victory – just before the polemarch cast his vote.

“Today we are not unveiling the monument of just another general but a monument to a democratic process that changed the course of history,” the minister stressed.

Callimachus took part in the battle himself, leading the right wing of the Greek army, but was killed during the fighting. His statue was erected atop of the Athens Acropolis.

According to Prof. Dimitris Pantermalis, the curator of the new Acropolis Museum, the monument has been reconstructed in a modern fashion, using only the original shards in their correct positions, so that a visitor might be able to see the authentic version.

The remnants of the 4.68-metre monument have been affixed to a metal column that holds the various parts in place and is built so that additional fragments might be attached if they are found. It is on display in the museum’s Archaic Monuments’ section.

A short distance from the original there also stands a copy showing archaeologists’ best estimate of what the monument might have looked like when it was whole.

The unveiling of the Nike monument was among a series of events scheduled by the culture and tourism ministry to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary since the Battle of Marathon, which will culminate in the holding of the 28th Classic Athens Marathon on Sunday, in which more than 20,000 athletes from all over the world will take part.

Somewhat strangely, the Xinhua coverage seems to have the best photo:

From Xinhua

Spears and Lohan as Iphigenia?

This is kind of interesting, and I might have to track this book down … from an interview in Newsweek with Tom Payne about his book Fame, inter alia:

You bring up the theme of sacrifice—for example, you link Britney Spears’s meltdown with the ritual killing of Iphigenia, who, legend has it, was sacrificed so that Greek ships could sail to Troy, and who became famous because of it. Do we tear down or sacrifice celebrities to satisfy a very primal human need?

One of the most harrowing things I’ve found is the idea that when we make a sacrifice, or when the ancients made sacrifices, it was very important to them that the offering was seen to be willing. And I think it’s very helpful for us, when we think about celebrities, that while they may be going through a horrible time, they also seem to have chosen that life.

and later:

Although you do talk about how there’s a gender difference in the fame game. Lindsay Lohan—she’s basically living this Rolling Stones–type life, but yet we think of Mick Jagger as a rock god, and we think of her as someone on the verge of a meltdown.

Yeah. I’d like to come to a different conclusion, but there does seem to be something very ancient about that as well. It does seem, when you go back to tragedies, when you look at Iphigenia, or you look at other sacrifices, it does seem to be that there’s something particular about the sacrifice of a young woman.