‘Myrtis’ on Tour

Remember that reconstructed Athenian plague victim (I think we only had Greek coverage at the time) … she’s on tour! From the ANA:

The girl that put a face to distant antiquity, the reconstructed 11-year-old ‘Myrtis’ of ancient Athens, has moved to a new ‘home’ at the Museum in the city of Podgorica in Montenegro. The nameless young girl that died and was buried in a mass grave during the plague that struck Athens in 430 B.C. will be on display there until April 22. Following her ‘resurrection’ nearly 2,500 years after she died of typhoid fever – the plague that also struck down the statesman Pericles and one third of all Athenians

The name ‘Myrtis’ is borrowed, given to her by scientists that worked on the reconstruction of her features. Following her ‘resurrection’ nearly 2,500 years after she died of typhoid fever – the plague that also struck down the statesman Pericles and one third of all Athenians at that time – she has also been made a “Millennium Friend” and her picture posted on a website supporting the UN Millennium Goals as a message to the world about disease prevention.

“My death was inevitable. In the 5th century BC we had neither the knowledge nor the means to fight deadly illnesses. However, you, the people of the 21st century, have no excuse. You possess all the necessary means and resources to save the lives of millions of people. To save the lives of millions of children like me who are dying of preventable and curable diseases.

2,500 years after my death, I hope that my message will engage and inspire more people to work and make the Millennium Development Goals a reality,” a letter posted next to her picture says.

Orthodontics professor Manolis Papagrigorakis, the man who first conceived the project of reconstructing Myrtis, said his team has already begun working on reconstructions of the faces of a man and woman found in the same mass grave in Kerameikos.

The exhibition “Myrtis: Face to face with the past” is centred on the facial reconstruction by scientists of an 11-year-old Athenian girl that lived and died in ancient Athens during the 5th century BC.

Her bones were discovered in 1994-1995, in a mass grave with another 150 bodies, during work to build the metro station in Kerameikos. Her skull was in an unusually good condition and this inspired Professor Papagrigorakis to enlist the help of specialist scientists from Sweden to recreate her features, using the ‘Manchester’ facial reconstruction technique.

The final result, wearing a linen dress made especially for the purpose by Greek fashion designer Sophia Kokosalaki based on images of clothing styles of that time, forms the backbone of an exhibition that explores both the various stages of a facial reconstruction. It also exhibits the finds uncovered by archaeologists at Kerameikos, which date around 430-426 B.C. and are linked with the plague that contributed to Athens’ defeat from Sparta during the Peloponnesian Wars.

Scientists decided to give ‘Myrtis’ brown eyes and brown hair, arranged in a Classical era style, like the majority of Athenians at that time but stressed that her true colors could only be discovered by expensive DNA analysis that has not yet been carried out.

DNA analysis techniques have, however, found that Myrtis and two other bodies in the mass grave had died of typhoid fever, confirming theories about the historic plague.

‘Myrtis’ in Montenegro | ANA.

What Mark Usher is Up To (in Africa!)

Interesting item from the University of Vermont:

What business does a classics professor from the U.S. have conducting research in Malawi? That’s the question Mark Usher poses to himself in the first post of a blog he’s kept for the Center for Hellenic Studies, the Harvard-funded institute that helped support his recent trip to the small, African nation this February.

It may not be immediately clear what ties connect Athens with Africa, but Usher, associate professor and chair of classics at UVM, isn’t the first to explore them. He’s following in the footsteps of Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, who in 1970 traveled to central and eastern Africa to create “Notes for an African Oresteia,” a set of visual notes for a filmic version of Aeshcylus’ Oresteia, a trilogy of Greek tragedies concerning Agamemnon, his wife Clytemnestra and his son Orestes. The trilogy grapples with murder and matricide, revenge and justice, and marks a historical shift, says Usher, from “the summary justice of blood-feud to the rule of law in a democratic city-state.”

“In a nutshell, Pasolini’s argument was that societies go through growing pains,” Usher explains. “One of the central themes of the Oresteia is that we achieve wisdom through suffering. Pasolini saw Africa in 1970 as a case study for that. African nations faced significant challenges after independence.”

Usher’s hope for the trip, which will be the subject of a scholarly essay, was to “take the pulse of Pasolini’s Aeschylean vision for Africa one generation later.” To help accomplish this, he taught a seminar on the Oresteia to students at Chancellor College in Zomba, Malawi. They read the trilogy, watched the Pasolini film, and discussed the relevance of Aeschylus and the study of classics in Africa today.

What Usher didn’t know is that his trip would coincide with revolution in Egypt and political unrest throughout the continent, an energy he says that was felt on the Chancellor College campus when students rioted over delayed payment of a stipend from the government and the academic staff union held a sit-in in support of academic freedom.

In other words, the environment was ripe for talking about a Greek drama that deals with the birth of democracy and the reorganization of society. Listen to the above interview to hear Usher discuss the Oresteia, its relevance to Africa and his students’ reactions to the texts.

The original article also has an audio interviewish sort of thing that’s worth a listen …

CFP: Digital Resources for Palaeography

Seen on the Digital Classicist list:

Call for Papers:

‘Digital Resources for Palaeography’ One-Day Symposium
5th September 2011, King’s College London

The ‘Digital Resource and Database of Palaeography, Manuscripts and Diplomatic’ (DigiPal) at the Centre for Computing in Humanities at King’s College London is pleased to announce a one-day symposium on digital resources for palaeography.

In recent years, scholars have begun to develop and employ new technologies and computer-based methods for palaeographic research. The aim of the symposium is to present developments in the field, explore the limits of digital and computational-based approaches, and share methodologies across projects which overlap or complement each other.

Papers of 20 minutes in length are invited on any relevant aspect of digital methods and resources for palaeography and manuscript studies. Possible topics could include:

• Project reports and/or demonstrations
• Palaeographical method; ‘Digital’ and ‘Analogue’ palaeography
• Quantitative and qualitative approaches
• ‘Scientific’ methods, ‘objectivity’ and the role of evidence in manuscript studies
• Visualisation of manuscript evidence and data
• Interface design and querying of palaeographical material

To propose a paper, please send a brief abstract (250 words max) to digipal AT kcl.ac.uk. The deadline for receipt of submissions is 8th May 2011. Notice of acceptance will be sent by 20th May 2011.