Friday, October 26, 2012

Roman Art Find in Britain

Roman Art Find in Britain
Little bust of a boy, possibly Antinous. Cute dolphin sculpture. Knife handle with sculpture of couple having sex. Ivory phallus with wings. All pretty decent-quality stuff, and headline-grabbing, given its subject matter. Those enterprising Brits, looking beneath the surface.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Archaeology: Technical Advances since Indiana Jones
Not a new article, but since 2011 marked the 30th anniversary of the original Indy pic, the TechNews people take the opportunity to examine technology common in archaeology today that Indiana Jones definitely did NOT use. Bullwhips are out, for example.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ancient Egyptian Prosthetic Toes
Yes, toes. The people studying them got some modern folks who are missing toes to try on the ancient prostheses, and one fake toe worked quite well. The other, not so much.
At the end of the article, there is a reference to another ancient prosthesis, a Roman leg, which was unfortunately destroyed in WWII!
Those Egyptians get more awesome all the time.

Cumae in Smithsonian Magazine!
I need to go here. Now. As the Sibyl says, "Hell's open 24/7. It's getting out that's the trick."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pottery-making in the Ice Age, even more

Weapon-making by hominids 300,000 years ago
A crazy site in Germany that preserves spearheads that may be the world's oldest weapons.

Where to (re)bury Richard III?
Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York.
I never get tired of that line. It's even easy to type, on top of being easy to say.
Now that everyone thinks they've found Richard's body--curved spine, traumatic head injury, lying under an old church--the debate begins about where to re-bury him. Can't put him back where they got him, because it's now under a "car park."
Mind you, the DNA report is not in yet, but everybody seems quite convinced that it's Richard.
Here's what I take from this article: 1) There are still people around in England who are blood descendants of Richard III. 2) Only in England could you get 4 experts to comment on the issue of where someone who died in 1485 should be re-buried. And comment very passionately: York Minster! No! Leicester! No! Westminster Abbey!
One expert comes up with a solution: Ask the Queen. "The final decision sits with the Royal Household."
The British: people different from us.

The Battle of Bannockburn
1314: Robert THE Bruce, Edward Longshanks, and a medieval army marching on a road built by the Romans! It doesn't get much better. And Stirling Castle...where I definitely MUST go one day.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Roman Curse Tablet Discovered in Britain
Rolled-up lead tablet, just as it should be. Unfortunately, this one isn't very legible. They have deciphered some names on it, but nothing else. Nice pictures, though.

Stone Age figures found near Jerusalem
Two small animal figurines (a ram and a ???) were found near Jerusalem. Date estimated around 9000 BCE. The ram is really cute.

Friday, August 24, 2012

NY Times article on Evolution of I-E languages
This article reports on another article (in "Science") about a study on the origins of Indo-European languages. Using "evolutionary linguistics" to determine the rate at which language changes and spreads, the study concludes that Indo-European origins must be placed in Anatolia (southern/central Turkey) between 9500 and 8000 years ago. (Or 8000-9500. As a classicist, I think backwards.) This is a purely computer-modeled conclusion. It is not based on archaeology or culture. The rival theory is really different: 4000 years ago, from southern Russia. A nice slice of the nasty back-and-forth argument between the rival camps is illustrated in the article.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hotel + Dig Site

A Turkish architect has drawn up a plan to incorporate the archaeological site at Antakya underneath a new hotel. The dig area would be visible through the floor of the lobby. Kind of creative.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More updates on the political messes surrounding Babylon
A very wide-ranging article about the political struggles between UNESCO, various branches of the Iraqi government, the US military, and assorted scholars. Meanwhile, the oil pipeline continues to cross the site, groudwater is rising, ancient Jewish manuscripts have been removed from the country, and UNESCO refuses to certify the place as a World Heritage Site. Everybody is mad. The Iraqi antiquities department is suing the Iraqi energy department over the pipeline. A government official quoted at the end of the article says they don't need UNESCO; "Babylon will survive." Maybe not.

New mosaics found in Israel at Huqoq
This story made several news outlets; this one comes from the website of Prof. Jodi Magness of UNC, who participated in the dig. Several nice mosaics were found in a synagogue dated 4th-6th c. CE in the area of Galilee. Synagogues of this period are rare, as are large high-quality mosaics like these, which depict the biblical figure Samson.

Mohenjo-Daro site in danger of destruction through neglect
I realize the government of Pakistan has some other items on its agenda, but Mohenjo-Daro is an incredibly early and important site, a large honest-to-god city from 2500 BCE. It is literally falling down due to neglect and bad, amateurish conservation attempts. This is a major site in the history of civilization, and people everywhere should contribute to its survival.
On the bright side, this depressing news report contains a great piece of video that shows you around the site!

Prominent Coin Collector Pleads Guilty to Selling Forgeries
This man, a bigwig in the world of numismatics (coin study), put a 4th century BCE Greek silver tetradrachm up for auction at a big sale at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in NYC. Investigators taped him admitting to someone that the coins had been illegally removed from Italy--bad enough to get you into some deep trouble. But he was lying. They hadn't been removed illegally--they had been totally forged, "fefaked" (to quote the Praenestine fibula, which should know about these things). He was sentenced to 1) turn over a bunch of coins in his possession, 2) perform community service, and 3) write/publish an essay about Why Coin Smuggling and Faking is Wrong. Note the cameo appearance by our hero Colonel/Manhattan Assistant DA Matthew Bogdanos (lawyer and classicist, who investigated the looting of the Baghdad Museum while in Iraq with the US Marines).

Gandharan art intercepted from smugglers in Pakistan
People are "excavating" Gandharan artifacts in Taliban-controlled areas of Pakistan and planning to truck it overland through Central Asia to Europe. The Pakistani police caught some of it...but broke several pieces trying to get them off the truck. Good news, bad news. The article includes a nice picture of part of the haul. Police claim they are now trying to be more careful handling the stuff.

More on early migrations to North America
This is a more scientific article about the new evidence for early migrations to America. Evidence is based on DNA analysis and on (one of my favorite words) coprolites--fossilized feces (because this is a British publication, they use the spelling "faeces," which looks very Latin!).

Heat Wave in Athens
OMG. Temperatures on Acropolis reached 107F, so the place closed down early (Monday, July 16). Another reason I'm glad I didn't go to Greece this summer. I would have baked AND gotten mad at being thrown out! (By the way, this story refers to the "Acropolis Hill"--a silly term. The Acropolis, by definition, is a hill.)

Composite mummies in Scotland
Pay no attention to the stupid "Frankenstein" reference in the headline. It just refers to the fact that these skeletons, found in a very ancient house in the Hebrides, seem to be made up of pieces of bone from several different people, reassembled into two full skeltons. Weird. Also weird is the fact that the bodies seem to have been wrapped up and preserved in a mummy-like process. This area, too, seem to be the subject of a lot of new finds that are causing theories about early inhabitants of the British Isles to be revised.

When did people first arrive in North America?
It seems like this picture is changing very quickly. Lot of new theories.

New Australopithecus Find
A very extensive set of Australopithecus bones found in South Africa.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

More Violence in Mali/Timbuktu
This article is actually long enough to give me some context about the situation in Mali. "Islamists" (whatever that means) "linked to" Al-Quaeda are destroying sites such as this 15th century mosque--sites which are linked to Sufi worship as well as to the ruling government, which isn't doing too well. Some other tombs were destroyed the other day. Apparently, there's one fight: rebels vs. government, which has been hijacked by Islamists vs. Sufis. I am always appalled by Muslim-on-Muslim violence, until I remind myself of the long history of Christian-on-Christian violence. But this article illustrates the danger of writing this off as an internal Muslim squabble, or as just the destruction of old stuff: the Islamists now control an area of Mali the size of France, and this area may become a haven for their guys who have to bug out of their current hiding places. So pay attention to fights that destroy cultural monuments! They may turn into fights that threaten security!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Please breath slowly and relax. The world is not ending.
Deep breath. Accelerator mass spectrometry and radiocarbon testing reveal that the Capitoline She-Wolf, Lupa Herself, was cast in bronze in the 11th or 12th century. A.D. or C.E., whatever your preference. Yep. (Who knew that bronze casting left organic residue that could be radiocarbon dated? Wait a minute: what's the deal with that? Does residue date the entire object?)
Compromise theory: medieval copy of Etruscan original. Sure. Whatever.
Hey, why'd we ever think it was Etruscan to begin with? Winckelmann said it was, based on (you guessed it) stylistic analysis.
Can we stop listening to him now?

Oldest Pottery found in China: Pre-dates agriculture
Damn. Must revise Humanities lecture again. Pottery seems to have existed among hunter-gatherers some 20,000 years ago. This defies conventional wisdom that said pottery was only invented after agriculture came along, i.e., after we settled down and needed to store up lots of stuff in durable containers. Hunter-gatherers, we were told, couldn't be bothered with heavy pots. Apparently, maybe they could. Warning: conclusions based on fragment of one pot.

Threats to Cultural Monuments in Mali

Monuments destroyed in Mali
Sorry I can't help explain this much, since I have failed to follow the situation in Mali. There was a previous article on about violence in Timbuktu, which I will also post.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

New digital tool for ancient geography
This is a blog review of a digital project from Stanford called "Orbis." It is billed as "Google Maps for the Roman Empire." How long would it take Vespasian to march from Judaea to Rome? How long would it take Agricola to travel from Londinium to Mediolanum? How long would it take Domitian's messenger to do the trip in reverse, avoiding the highways, so as not to intercept Agricola?
Anyway, this sounds like a cool development.

Drill, Babylon, Drill
God help us all. How about an oil pipeline through the site of ancient Babylon? Here's another stunner: Babylon is NOT listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Why? Because the site was badly protected/managed under Sadam Hussein (true--he rebuilt parts of it, using bricks stamped S.H.) and the site continues to be badly protected/managed under the present government. Like when the US Army used it for their own purposes. I gotta go get a glass of wine after reading this one.

Lead Curse Tablets Translated
Two previously untranslated Roman curse tablets from the museum in Bologna both show a deity (Hecate?) with snakes for hair. One curses a veterinarian and one a senator. Both wish for very nasty things to happen to the target, and one shows the target person bound like a mummy. Very weird mix of Greek and Latin in the text, too.
Be sure to scroll down in the article to the link that says "See images of the curse tablets." There are 7 pictures.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Smithsonian article on Bernini
Hello. I am starting to collect articles that might concern the traveller to Rome. I hope some of my students will follow the blog.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Statue Tentatively Identified as Gladiatrix
A small Roman-era bronze statue in a museum in Germany has been identified by one scholar as a female gladiator brandishing a sica (curved sword). Not everybody is convinced, but some are. One problem is that she is wearing no armor whatsoever. The article has more information than usual about the possibility of female gladiators. Click on the picture of the statue to see the full-length thing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Should Nefertiti go home to Egypt?
Article on the long history of the negotiations between Egypt and Germany over the residence of Queen Nefertiti. Very dramatic.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Turkey Goes After Illegal Antiquities in US Museums
Since 1906, it has been illegal to remove antiquities from Turkey, and yet...So now the Turkish government is stepping up efforts to pressure US museums, including the Getty and the Met, to return disputed objects. The article is slightly unclear about which specific items are in question.

Ancient Mali and Timbuktu Threatened
War, once AGAIN, is bad for cultural heritage. Get the memo, people! Even UNESCO has taken notice of this one.

More Bad News about Greek Archaeological & Museum Funding
Sort of a summary of bad news about funding for Greek antiquities, museums, and restoration (down 35% this year, 10% of employees laid off, sites closing early for lack of staff...)

Looting of Antiquities in Syria
As usual, revolution/unrest is not good for the antiquities of a country. Libya, Egypt, and now Syria have seen security lapses at archaeological sites, and items are starting to appear on the black market. And Syria's a big place, with lots of sites. Another reason that everybody's wait-and-see attitude isn't working out.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Archaeology as Rehabilitation
A project in Wales is giving injured soldiers the chance to participate in archaeological projects, such as a Roman building. One soldier notes that the same soil-observation skills which he developed to detect IEDs in Afghanistan can be used in archaeology to notice changes in the ground and likely sites. Some soldiers are considering studying history and archaeology in school after their recovery/discharge.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Childbirth and C-sections in antiquity
A blogger asks why so few ancient burials are found for pregnant women with fetus still inside them. Very nice and scientific/historical article.

Greek Archaeologists Protest Budget Cuts
Big news conference by Greek professional archaeologists, who argue that the country is shooting itself in the foot by cutting museum, security, and preservation budgets.

Displaced Iraqis living on top of archaeological sites
This is especially a problem in southern Iraq, where the ancient remains are thick on the groups AND lots of people were driven from their homes by war. The minor issue of law enforcement also plays a part.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Canadian archeologists unearth rare wooden statue of pharaoh

Canadian archeologists unearth rare wooden statue of pharaoh
Found in Egypt during the recent political upheavals, the wooden statue MAY represent Hatshepsut. Statues of her were rare because of a campaign of Egyptian damnatio memoriae by her successor.

Oded Golan found not guilty of forgery in the "James Ossuary" case
Even though most experts, including the Israeli Antiquities Authority, now agree that the box may be ancient but its inscription ("James son of Joseph, brother of Jesus") is a fake, the Israeli court was unable to convict Mr. Golan of anything. It may have been a sort of "show trial," because the IAA claims this trial itself, regardless of verdict, has intimidated would-be antiquities thieves.

T. Rex Bite Strongest Ever on Land—Ten Times Greater Than Gator's

T. Rex Bite Strongest Ever on Land—Ten Times Greater Than Gator's
Wondering who would win a showdown between T. Rex and Crocodile?
But Megalodon, a prehistoric giant-toothed shark creature, beats them all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lost Leonardo da Vinci Mural Behind False Wall?

Lost Leonardo da Vinci Mural Behind False Wall?
Perhaps Vasari didn't paint over Leonardo's "Battle of Anghari"; perhaps he only erected another wall in front of it, and the Leonardo is still back there behind it. Shall we drill holes in the Vasari to find out?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lost Technologies, Including Greek Fire
Fun article about "lost" technologies, such as the Byzantine napalm known as "Greek fire," and Damascus steel. Brings the concept all the way forward to modern times, when things can be "lost" by being stored on obsolete computer systems. (The digital version of my dissertation has suffered such a fate.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When did the Guinea Pig become a popular pet in Europe?
Along with chocolate and some diseases, the Spanish explorers seem to have brought guinea pigs back to Europe from the New World, Peru in the case of the GP, which is also known as a "cavy." Thus endeth the vocabulary lesson for today. (Article is about a dig in Belguim where it is found that 16th-century people were keeping GPs in their house.)

No Viking Axe in Gloucestershire
The alleged Viking axe found in a garden in Gloucestershire now seems not to be. Not Viking, that is. What it is, no one agrees. Perhaps a woodworking tool from the 18th century. Kind of a different thing.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mary Beard Discovers Cicero in Hungary
This is Mary Beard's blog, "A Don's Life," where today she observes that Cicero's indignant opening words of the First Catilinarian continue to be used in political situations around the world. She has found a recent example from Hungary, where a protester is shown on the news holding up a banner reading "Quousque tandem." How long, indeed?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

"Aphrodite knot"

You should look at the YouTube channel of this woman, Janet Stephens, who is a professional hairstylist. She has researched how Greek and Roman women got that amazing hairstyles. She has several other videos, including a recreation of a hairstyle of Cleopatra and TWO on the amazing hair of Julia Domna. You can read an article she published in Journal of Roman Archaeology 2008. I also hear that she presented at AIA this year to great enthusiasm. Too cool.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Viking Axe head found in Gloucestershire
A man in Gloucestershire with the real name of Ian Hunter Darling has found an iron axe head "under a hedge in the garden." The axe seems to have dropped by invading Vikings in 894, when they sailed up the Severn and fought the Anglo-Saxons. Mr. Hunter Darling was quite surprised to learn what was lurking under his hedge.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Robots used in underwater archaeology, searching for Minoan shipwrecks
Long story on the use of robots in underwater archaeology in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greek priest arrested for illegal digging in church
Hint: If you're going to dig illegally for antiquities, don't use a pneumatic drill that will wake up the whole neighborhood and make people ask what's going on. Apparently, the financial situation in Greece is driving more people into the do-it-yourself archaeology business.

Ancient Akkadian Riddles
Someone has translated some Akkadian tablets that contain riddles. To no one's surprise, we don't really get them.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thinking like a Neandertal
The author of a book titled "How to Think Like a Neandertal" explains what he hypothesizes about Neandertals' personality traits, sense of humor, life span, social organization, etc. Bottom line: if they did know humor, it was probably of the Three Stooges variety.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

State of Libyan sites
NATO reports that the "no-strike" list compiled for them by some archaeologists seems to have kept them from blowing up any ancient sites.

Trash in the gravesites at Pompeii
Why are tombs at Pompeii mixed in with garbage dumps? A grad student from Cincinnati presents a paper at AIA on this question. It seems Pompeii did not have a centrally organized plan for disposing of waste.

Pompeii in Danger: UNESCO report
A report on the dangers to Pompeii includes the fact that once you get a job working at Pompeii, you keep it for life and you don't have to do much. Visitors to Pompeii can testify to this. Also, getting competent people--as opposed to someone's nephew--hired seems to be a problem. The report also documents the declining number of houses that are open to visitors: only 15 are open at all, and only 5 are always open. (It used to be 60.) Ironically, the most damage occurs to houses that are closed.

Mystery Solved (partially): Stonehenge bluestones
The "bluestones" at Stonehenge didn't come from anywhere nearby the henge itself. Now someone has found an outcropping of rock in Wales that exactly matches the bluestones.
All that remains is to figure out how the heck someone or something got them to Stonehenge.

Roman Ruins in Tunisia
I do not know these sites. The article says they have been neglected for many years, but now UNESCO is kicking in some money to preserve them. They are on the edge of the desert in Tunisia.

No, Russian tycoon, you may not buy a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The mayor of Agrigento has informed a certain Russian mining mogul that his offer to buy the temples in the Sicilian Valley of the Temples has been rejected. Sicilians cannot be bought.

Roman Helmet

Restored Roman Helmet Unveiled by British Museum
News from the BBC about a Roman helmet, perhaps dating from very close to the invasion of 43 AD, newly restored and displayed at the British Museum. It seems to be a very fancy cavalry helmet.