Patti Smith as Classics Prof?

She’s guest-starring on Law & Order: Criminal Intent as a professor of mythology … she explains the story of Icarus (sort of) … TV Guide has an “exclusive look” at the scene:

… not really sure why the guy had to ask the prof; he seemed to know the story.

Classics Dream Job Followup

Alas … turns out it was a hoax. According to E! (excerpts):


But anyway, the A-lister has had enough with all these false reports going around!

Which reports, you ask? Well currently, her finger is pointing at The Sun, who claims the actress and her Coldplay hubby, Chris Martin, put out a personal ad looking for a tutor that would teach ancient Greek, Latin, French and Spanish to their kids Moses, 5, and sister Apple, 7.

The qualifications on the ad were a bit intense…

This faux ad states that the potential tutor must be fluent in all those languages, passionate about sailing and tennis, play instruments and will “probably” be an Oxbridge graduate.

We’d roll our eyes too, if it were true!

Extra caught up with Paltrow and asked her about this report. All she had to say was, “It’s such bulls–t. Honestly, at this point, I almost never read anything true about myself. It’s insane!”

FWIW, the E! piece leaves out the Classical qualifications, for some reason. If you missed the original coverage, ecce: Possible Classics Dream Job?

Finds from Nea Paphos

From the Cyprus Mail:

ARCHAEOLOGICAL investigations at the edges and to the south of the Hellenistic-Roman theatre of Nea Paphos have identified significant structures of the ancient city, according to an official announcement by the Department of Antiquities yesterday.

The investigations were carried out October 6 to November 17 of last year by the University of Sydney, under the direction of Emeritus Professor Richard Green, Dr Craig Barker and Dr Smadar Gabrieli.

The announcement said the work had aimed at exploring the relationship between the theatre and the ancient city’s infrastructure.

To this end, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey had been carried out to record a large area to the south of the theatre.

The announcement added that a number of important structures had been identified, but that earthquake damage had made it difficult to delineate the precise outline of the city.

Additionally, excavations had continued to the south-east of the theatre, near the site of a long, narrow building, deemed to be a Roman fountain house or ‘nymphaeum’.

The announcement noted that a limestone-paved Roman road, cleared by the team and running from the southern edge of the nymphaeum, would have been one of the city’s major thoroughfares – particularly for pedestrians travelling to the theatre. Two wheel ruts were also found along a section of the road.

Excavations in the western entranceway of the theatre, or ‘parodos’, had exposed the edge of a deep bedrock quarry that had probably provided stone for the original phases of the theatre, as well as barrier walls meant to anchor the soil built up to provide support for theatre seating.

The announcement added that the team had also excavated a geometric mosaic probably dating back to the 5th century AD, which, if accurate, may provide insight into post-theatre activity on the site.

Finally, the announcement said that cataloguing of medieval finds from a well on the site had also been carried out.

Further excavations for the area south of the theatre are in the pipeline

… I don’t think we ever had news coverage of this particular dig before …

Mystery Huts at Vindolanda?

From the BBC:

Archaeologists at the Roman Vindolanda Fort & Museum have unearthed dozens of circular huts which they believe could have been used as temporary refuges.

The excavation at the site in Hexham, Northumberland, has unearthed various finds from Roman Britain including letters, murder victims and shoes.

It is thought the huts were built during the invasion of Scotland under Emperor Septimius Severus (AD 208-211).

Dr Andrew Birley described them as “remarkable structures”.

An earlier fort at Vindolanda was completely levelled for the construction of the buildings, which could number into the hundreds.

The find has intrigued archaeologists at the site as Roman soldiers did not build round houses.

They are interested as to why the Roman army would go to such lengths to accommodate the unusual structures.

Dr Birley, who is director of excavations, said: “These are remarkable structures to be found inside a Roman fort, unique in fact.

“They are the sort of building you might expect to find north of Hadrian’s Wall in this period, used by small farming communities.

“It is quite possible that what we have here is the Roman army providing for these farmers – creating a temporary refuge for the most vulnerable people from north of the wall.

“Those people may have helped to feed the army and traded with the soldiers, and would have been regarded as being traitors and collaborators in the eyes of the rebellious tribes to the north.

“It would make a certain sense to bring them behind the curtain of Hadrian’s Wall and protect them while the fighting continued, as they would have had real value to the Romans and they certainly tried to protect what they valued.”

This one’s kind of curious … are they referring to the sorts of thing that are seen in this photo? If so, these aren’t a new find (as the article seems to imply). Or have Birley and crew suddenly come upon a lot more of them? Have they found anything *in* the huts? Whatever is being reported here is just a bit too vague …


Hadrianic Alignment

A very interesting item from Nature:

Hadrian’s villa 30 kilometres east of Rome was a place where the Roman Emperor could relax in marble baths and forget about the burdens of power. But he could never completely lose track of time, says Marina De Franceschini, an Italian archaeologist who believes that some of the villa’s buildings are aligned so as to produce sunlight effects for the seasons.

For centuries, scholars have thought that the more than 30 buildings at Hadrian’s palatial country estate were oriented more or less randomly. But De Franceschini says that during the summer solstice, blades of light pierce two of the villa’s buildings.

In one, the Roccabruna, light from the summer solstice enters through a wedge-shaped slot above the door and illuminates a niche on the opposite side of the interior (see image). And in a temple of the Accademia building, De Franceschini has found that sunlight passes through a series of doors during both the winter and summer solstices.

“The alignments gave me a new key of interpretation,” says De Franceschini, who says that the two buildings are connected by an esplanade that was a sacred avenue during the solstices. Based on ancient texts describing religious rituals and study of recovered sculptures, she thinks the light effects were linked to religious ceremonies associated with the Egyptian goddess Isis, who was adopted by the Romans.

De Franceschini, who works with the University of Trento in Italy, will publish a book1 this summer describing the archaeoastronomical work. She credits two architects, Robert Mangurian and Mary-Ann Ray, for initially noticing the light effect in Roccabruna.

Astronomical alignment

Robert Hannah, a classicist from the University of Otago in New Zealand, says that De Franceschini’s ideas are plausible. “They’re certainly ripe for further investigation,” he says.

Hannah, who is currently seeking to pin down alignments associated with star rises in Greek temples in Cyprus, believes that the Pantheon, a large temple in Rome with a circular window at the top of its dome, also acts as a giant calendrical sundial2, with sunlight illuminating key interior surfaces at the equinoxes and on 21 April, the city’s birthday.

Few classical buildings have been investigated for astronomical alignment, says Hannah, partly because it is much easier to check for alignments in prehistoric structures such as Stonehenge, which do not have potentially contradictory artefacts.

Jarita Holbrook, a cultural astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson, is also not surprised by the solar alignments at Hadrian’s villa. They are “a common part of most cultures”, she says. But, she adds, it’s also easy for buildings to be coincidentally aligned with astronomical features.

De Franceschini plans to spend next week’s summer solstice at Hadrian’s villa, in the hope of documenting the light effects at Apollo’s temple more carefully. Last year’s summer solstice was rainy, she says. “I hope that this year we will get better pictures.”

Marina De Franceschini (probably not coincidentally) has a very impressive flickr photoset of Hadrian’s Villa and environs: Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adrianna). For some comparanda, last fall we mentioned Alun Salt’s paper: The Astronomical Orientation of Ancient Greek Temples (I’m sure Alan will have some commentary on the hadrianic findings soon, if he doesn’t already).