Monday, December 25, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Discovered Stone Slab Proved to be Gate of Cambyses' Tomb

Source: Payvand's Iran News

By Maryam Tabeshian

A huge stone slab discovered accidentally last year was proved to have once been the entrance gate to the mausoleum of Cambyses II, son and successor of Cyrus the Great.

Tehran, 13 December 2006 (CHN) -- Agricultural activities by local farmers near the world heritage site of Pasargadae last year resulted in the accidental discovery of a big stone slab bearing some carvings typical of Pasargadae monuments. The discovered slab was recently proved by archeologists to have been the entrance gate to the mausoleum of Cambyses II, son and successor of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achameneid Empire (550-330 BC).

"A huge stone slab measuring 1.60 meters in height comprised of 5 broken pieces was discovered last March by farmers at a distance of 100 meters from Tall-e Takht and was immediately transferred to Parse-Pasargadae Research Center to be studied by archeologists," said Afshin Yazdani, archeologist of Parse-Pasargadae Research Center.

Tall-e Takht or 'throne hill' is a citadel located at the heart of Pasargadae historical complex, the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great, in Fars province. Remains of an unfinished tomb denoted to Achaemenid King Cambyses II can be seen close to Tall-e Takht, from which only a wall has survived the ravage of time.

Based on studies by British archeologist David Stronach, the Tomb, also known as Zendan-e Soleiman/Eskandar (Solomon/Alexander Prison), originally consisted of an almost square, 4-meter-high tower in which a solitary, raised room was approached by a projecting monumental stone staircase. It resembles the Achaemenid era monument of Zoroaster's Kaba in Naqsh-e Rostam historical site

According to Yazdani, the stones used in the gate of Cambyses' tomb are very similar to a stone slab discovered 50 years ago by archeologists. At the time, Stronach proposed a theory that the stone belonged to the mausoleum of Cambyses and drew a sketch of the original gate which he believed to have had two leaves, each comprising of 6 rectangular frames. He also drew 3 flowers each having 12 petals on the top and bottom of each frame.

"As Stronach himself was uncertain about his own drawing of the gate, recent discovery of the gate proves his theory wrong. Based on the new studies, it became known that the entrance gate of what is called Tomb of Cambyses was made of two stone leaves each having a 35 by 59 cm frame with three 12-petaled flowers on the top and bottom," explained Yazdani, adding that the height of each door leaf was found to be 1.75 meters - that is 8 centimeters shorter than the height of the wall. Archeologists believe that the gate was made shorter on purpose to allow circulation of air in and out of the mausoleum.

According to the inscriptions of Bisotun historic site, the mausoleum of Cambyses was destroyed by the Mongol invader Geomat who disguised himself as Bardia, King Cambyses' brother and came to power shortly after Cambyses' assassination and razed down Achaemenid temples. Achaemenid King Darius the Great clearly accounts in Bisotun inscription that he restored the Achaemenid temples after murdering Geomat. "Evidence left on the stone gate very well confirms that it was restored during the early days of Darius the Great's reign," added Yazdani.

According to Yazdani, the new findings together with the fact that a similar structure to the mausoleum of Cambyses, Zoroaster's Kaba, was built also by Darius the Great at Naqsh-e Rostam, proved that it was a temple whereas it had previously been variously regarded as either a tomb, or a fire temple, or a depository.

Cambyses was the son and successor of Cyrus the Great who ruled the Persian Empire from the death of his father in 530 BC to his own death in Ecbatane (Syria) eight years later.

During his reign, Cambyses continued the politic of expansion started by his father. First, he took part with his father to the conquest of Babylonia and was named King of Babylon after he captured the city in 539. After rising to the throne, he invaded Egypt in 525 BC, putting an end to the 26th Dynasty of the Pharaohs and beginning a period of Persian rule that covered much of the next two centuries.

Cambyses later personally led a force up the Nile to conquer Ethiopia, but after annexing the north of the country, he ran short of supplies and had to return.

While on his way back from Egypt with his army in 522 BC, Cambyses was assassinated upon order of one of his brothers, Smerdis, which he himself tried to have assassinated. At his death, after a short period during which Smerdis assumed the leadership, more palace struggles led to the rise to the throne of Darius the Great, whose task was to organize such a vast empire.

The mausoleum of the son and successor of Cyrus the Great, Persian King Cambyses II, was also registered with other ancient monuments of Pasargadae historic complex in UNESCO's list or World Heritage List in 1979.

Pope asked to return Greek artifact

Source: IOL

Vatican City - Greece's top religious leader asked Pope Benedict on Thursday to return a piece of the Parthenon in the Vatican Museums, Greek officials said.

Christodoulos, Orthodox archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, made the request during a visit when he and the Pope signed a joint declaration on issues of common concern, such as the defence of life.

According to spokespersons for Christodoulos, the Pope was a bit perplexed by the request, perhaps not knowing that the vast museums he technically owns as sovereign of Vatican City have a fragment of the 5th century BC structure.

He said he would consider the request, they said.

Greece has been campaigning for decades to get back all pieces of the Parthenon held in museums and private collections around the world. The
2 500-year-old Acropolis monument is seen as the epitome of the Golden Age of Athens.

Much of a procession frieze from the Parthenon is in the British Museum as part of a collection known as the Elgin Marbles, after the British ambassador who took them from the Acropolis and transported them to Britain in 1802.

The British Museum has repeatedly turned down requests to return them, saying the marbles are in better care in London, safe from the Athens pollution that damaged those left behind.

Greece hopes a museum being built at the foot of the Acropolis, especially to house the marbles, will be ready in 2007.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Getty Museum to return another two artifacts



Source: ekathimerini


A golden funerary wreath from Macedonia, dating to the 4th century BC, is one of two artifacts that the Los Angeles Getty Museum yesterday agreed to return to Greece. The date of their return was not specified.


The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has agreed to give back two ancient artifacts whose return Greece has sought for more than a decade, Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said yesterday.

The pieces – a gold wreath dating to the 4th century BC and a marble statue of a young woman dating to the 6th century BC – are the final two in a list of four objects owned by the Getty which, Greece has long claimed, had been smuggled out of the country before the museum acquired them.

“We have agreed in principle on the return of two ancient objects from the Getty Museum’s collection... that the Greek Culture Ministry has been seeking,” said a joint declaration from the ministry and the LA museum.

The official agreement, to be signed soon, will give details about the date of the handover and include plans for future cooperation between the ministry and the museum, the statement said.

The announcement added that a “collaborative, analytical approach” had also led to the return of two other antiquities from the Getty over the summer and was “the appropriate way to resolve complex ownership claims involving ancient works of art.”

The other two pieces sought by Greece – a 4th-century-BC funeral stele and a 5th-century-BC engraved sculpture – were returned by the Getty in August.

“The way we got the objects back from the Getty is a very good example of how we can reclaim such artifacts,” Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis told a press conference yesterday.

“Athens will now seek to cooperate with the museum in the form of long-term leases of artifacts or joint exhibitions,” Voulgarakis said. “We are not interested in raiding museums but do not want to have antiquities leaving Greece illegally,” he said.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Turkish mayor demands cancellation of Ilisu dam project

Source: AP via International Herald Tribune

VIENNA, Austria: A Turkish official appealed Thursday for the cancellation of a dam project in his country, saying it would destroy cultural heritage and do little to boost economic development.

"Of course we want economic and social development ... but development should not disregard people, nature and history," said Osman Baydemir, president of the Union of South Eastern Anatolia Municipalities and mayor of Diyarbakir.

The Ilisu dam, on the Tigris River 47 kilometers (30 miles) north of the Syrian border, will be one of the largest dams in Turkey and is scheduled to be completed by 2013. A ground breaking ceremony took place in August.

Opponents of the project say it will flood dozens of towns and destroy archaeological treasures including the medieval fortress city of Hasankeyf, which overlooks the Tigris.

"The cultural and historic heritage of Hasankeyf is indescribable. It is not comparable with other places and we have a large responsibility," Baydemir, speaking through a translator, said at a news conference organized by WWF.

Baydemir was in Vienna to lobby against project participation by an Austrian company, Andritz Va Tech Hydro. The company, whose financial involvement totals some €240 million (US$319 million), still needs an export guarantee from the Republic of Austria.

Baydemir argued that funding for the roughly €1.2 billion project should be invested in the region's cities, the construction of an international airport, restoration of cultural heritage sites and tourism.

In prepared English remarks provided later, Baydemir added that 40,000 hectares (98,840 acres) will be affected and that people would be evacuated "without a proper and effective resettlement plan".

Those in favor of the dam say it will create jobs and improve thousands of lives.

Some 40,000 people would benefit from it directly, said Yunus Bayraktar, Turkish project coordinator at a separate news conference at the Turkish Embassy.

Nihat Eri, a Turkish parliamentarian, said Turkey has no choice but to exploit its water resources.

"We have no oil, we have no gas ... the only thing we have is water," Eri said, noting that hydroelectric power was "clean energy".

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fact or Fiction?: Archimedes Coined the Term "Eureka!" in the Bath

Source: Scientific American

The famed mathematician made many important scientific contributions. Was this exclamation really one of them?


By David Biello

Let's begin with the story: the local tyrant contracts the ancient Greek polymath Archimedes to detect fraud in the manufacture of a golden crown. Said tyrant, name of Hiero, suspects his goldsmith of leaving out some measure of gold and replacing it with silver in a wreath dedicated to the gods. Archimedes accepts the challenge and, during a subsequent trip to the public baths, realizes that the more his body sinks into the water, the more water is displaced--making the displaced water an exact measure of his volume. Because gold weighs more than silver, he reasons that a crown mixed with silver would have to be bulkier to reach the same weight as one composed only of gold; therefore it would displace more water than its pure gold counterpart. Realizing he has hit upon a solution, the young Greek math whiz leaps out of the bath and rushes home naked crying "Eureka! Eureka!" Or, translated: "I've found it! I've found it!"

Several millennia later, the scientific world is replete with the exclamation, and many people have received inspiration in the shower. The mathematical conjectures of Henri Poincar╬╣, Einstein's theory of relativity, Newton getting dinged on the head with an apple and discovering gravity--all have been described as eureka moments. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a prose poem to science by that title and the prospectors of California's gold rush were so fond of the phrase that it crept into that state's motto. Even the American Association for the Advancement of Science calls its breaking scientific news site EurekAlert.

Too bad, then, that Archimedes probably never uttered the phrase in that way.

First and foremost, Archimedes himself never wrote about this episode, although he spent plenty of time detailing the laws of buoyancy and the lever (prompting him to reputedly pronounce: "Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth"), calculating the ratio of circles we know as pi, and starting along the path to the integral calculus that would not be invented for another 2,000 years, among other mathematical, engineering and physical feats.

The oldest authority for the naked-Archimedes eureka story is Vitruvius, a Roman writer, who included the tale in his introduction to his ninth book of architecture some time in the first century B.C. Because this was nearly 200 years after the event is presumed to have taken place, the story may have been improved in the telling. "Vitruvius may have gotten it wrong," says Chris Rorres, a mathematician at the University of Pennsylvania and a self-described Archimedes "groupie." "The volumetric method works in theory so it sounds right but when you actually try it you find that the real world gets in the way."

In fact, Rorres is one of a long line of scientists, including Galileo, who have read the account and thought "That can't be right." As Galileo showed in his tract La Bilancetta, or "The Little Balance," a scientist of Archimedes' stature could have achieved a far more precise result using his own law of buoyancy and an accurate scale, something far more common in the ancient world than a very precise pycnometer, which is used to measure displacement. (The surface tension of water can render the volume of a light object like a wreath unmeasurable.) "There may be some truth to it," Rorres adds. "Archimedes did measure the volume of things but the eureka moment was maybe due to his original discovery [concerning buoyance], not to sitting in the bathtub and then running through the streets of Syracuse naked."

Much like Newton's apple, the exclamation persists because of the enduring power of the story: a golden crown, a life in the balance, a naked mathematician. Archimedes was a font of both mathematical insight and smart quotes as well as the hero of some really great stories. (One credits him with the invention of the death ray--actually an array of mirrors to focus sunlight--to set fire to an invading Roman fleet.) The suspect foundations of the eureka moment take nothing away from the word's ability to uniquely and concisely convey the flash of inspiration.

A new picture of ancient ethnic diversity

Source: The State.com

By Tom Avril

The Philadelphia Inquirer

(MCT)

PHILADELPHIA - Scholars have long believed that ancient Egypt was a genetic stew of ethnicity, as the fabled kingdom was both a center of international trade and often the victim of foreign invasions.

Now, new evidence suggests that may have been true even in the upper echelons of society, according to researchers who have used a blend of art and science to re-create what the ancients looked like in real life.

They have used CAT scans to model the skulls of seven mummies from various museums, including one unveiled last month at Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences, revealing physical features that range from Mediterranean to African.

All seven were buried with the trappings of a high status in society, including two clearly connected to the priesthood, said project leader Jonathan Elias, director of the Harrisburg, Pa.-based Akhmim Mummy Research Consortium.

He cautioned against drawing firm conclusions from such a small sample, and he stressed that ethnic traits were a small part of his research. But he said the findings suggested a society where race had little to do with class.

"They all identified themselves as Egyptians," Elias said. "These are people. You can't slice them up like they're chocolate cake or vanilla cake."

Philadelphia sculptor Frank Bender has created plaster busts from five of the seven skull models, including one of the anonymous young woman - dubbed Annie - whose 2,200-year-old remains are on display at the Philadelphia academy.

Bender sculpted her with a nose and cheekbones that Elias described as "northern Mediterranean" - the location of modern-day Greece and Turkey. Another one of the five has what Elias called "Sudanese" features: full lips and a "prognathous" profile - meaning the jaw protrudes farther than the nose. The others have a blend of ethnic facial characteristics.

Anthropologists who have heard Elias speak about the work have been impressed.

"In the past, Egyptology has been very much based on architecture and artifacts and text," said Robert Yohe, an anthropologist at California State University, Bakersfield. "You got reconstructions of culture based on things and people's impressions of things."
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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Egypt finds 4,000-year-old doctor's mummy

Source: Reuters via Yahoo! News

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian archaeologists have discovered the funerary remains of a doctor who lived more than 4,000 years ago, including his mummy, sarcophagus and bronze surgical instruments.

The upper part of the tomb was discovered in 2000 at Saqqara, 20 km (12 miles) south of Cairo, and the sarcophagus came to light in the burial pit during cleaning work, state news agency MENA said on Tuesday, quoting Egyptian government antiquities chief Zahi Hawass.

The doctor, whose name was Qar, lived under the 6th dynasty and built his tomb near Egypt's first pyramid. The 6th dynasty ruled from about 2350 to 2180 BC.

Hawass said the lid of the wooden sarcophagus had excellent and well-preserved decoration and the mummy itself was in ideal condition. "The linen wrappings and the funerary drawings on the mummy are still as they were," he said.

"The mask which covers the face of the mummy is in an amazing state of preservation in spite of slight damage in the area of the mouth."

The tomb also had earthenware containers bearing the doctor's name, a round limestone offering table and 22 bronze statues of gods.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Emperor Maxentius Insignia Found in Rome

Source: AP via Yahoo! Asia News

Archaeologists have unearthed what they say are the only existing imperial insignia belonging to Emperor Maxentius _ precious objects that were buried to preserve them and keep them from enemies when he was defeated by his rival Constantine.

Excavation under Rome's Palatine Hill near the Colosseum turned up items including three lances and four javelins that experts said are striking for their completeness _ digs usually turn up only fragments _ and the fact that they are the only known artifacts of their kind.

Clementina Panella, the archaeologist who made the discovery, said the insignia were likely hidden by Maxentius' people in an attempt to preserve the emperor's memory after he was defeated by Constantine I in the 321 A.D. battle of the Milvian Bridge _ a turning point for the history of the Roman empire which saw Constantine become the unchallenged ruler of the West.

"Once he's lost, his objects could not continue to exist and, at the same time, could not fall in the hands of the enemy," she said Friday.

Some of the objects, which accompanied the emperor during his public appearances, are believed to be the base for the emperor's standards _ rectangular or triangular flags, officials said.

An imperial scepter with a carved flower and a globe, and a number of glass spheres, believed to be a symbolic representation of the earth, also were discovered.

The discovery was announced Wednesday by Italy's Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli during a visit to New York.

The items, inside wooden boxes and wrapped in linen and silk, were found buried at a sanctuary last year and have since been restored and analyzed. The depth of the burial allows experts to date them to the early 4th century A.D., ministry officials said.

"These artifacts clearly belonged to the emperor, especially the scepter, which is very elaborated, it's not an item you would let someone else have," Panella said.

"As far as we know, there are no similar findings," said Angelo Bottini, the state's top official for archaeology in Rome. "Similar representations are only on coins and paintings, but we never saw them for real," he said. Bottini added that the artifacts will be shown to the public in February.

Darius A. Arya, an archaeologist and professor at the American Institute for Roman Culture, said the discovery was highly unusual.

"Here's something precious that represents the greatness of Maxentius, buried by his loyal people to save something that belonged to him," said Arya, who was not involved in the excavation. "All together, they represented the power of this particular emperor and you wouldn't want the enemy or the usurper to get a hold of it."

Excavations on the Palatine in recent decades have turned up wonders such as the house of Rome's first emperor, Augustus. Experts said that much has yet to be uncovered, hidden in underground passageways.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Robot to penetrate deep inside Cheops pyramid

Source: Yahoo! News

CAIRO (AFP) - A robot archaeologist is to be sent deep inside Egypt's largest pyramid in a bid to solve secrets revealed by a first foray more than four years ago, antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass said.

"The new robot will be sent down very narrow passages in the so-called Queen's Chamber, where the first robot was sent in 2002," said Hawass, who heads Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Teams from Egypt and Singapore and a joint group from Britain and Hong Kong plan to insert the robot in February inside the Pyramid of Cheops at Giza, near to Cairo.

Equipped with tiny cameras, the robot will be sent down the chamber's north and south passages in the hope of discovering what lies behind two inner walls -- or doors -- revealed during the first robotic expedition in September 2002.

At the time, the robot was sent into a northern shaft leading from the Queen's Chamber, only to be blocked about 65 metres (yards) from the chamber by "a stone wall or door" with copper handles.

It also revealed the existence of a similar obstruction the same distance down the south passage.

The robot drilled a tiny hole through this blockage that was large enough to insert a micro camera which showed a cavity filled with stones -- itself closed on the far side by another wall or door.

Archaeologists have always hoped to find clues that might lead them to discover the tomb of Cheops himself. The pharaoh reigned more than 2,500 years before Christ, and it he was he who had the largest pyramid in Egypt built.

Artifacts found in Luxor (Bani-mesu's sarcophagus)

Source: Egypt State Information Service

An Egyptian-Polish archaeological mission discovered a large collection of pottery fragments, pieces of car tonnage and parts of the priest Bani-mesu's sarcophagus while excavating at Queen Hatshepsut's temple at Deir el-Bahari on Luxor's west bank.

Numerous pieces of ostraca, pottery, ushabti figurines, papyri written in Coptic and fragments of a nemes headdress of king Thutmose III have also been unearthed.

The te?m also continued its programme of restoring, documenting, and drawing of the New Kingdom shrines on the third terrace of Deir el-Bahari, including those of Thutmose III, Queen Hatshepsut, and the northern and southern shrines of Amun-Re.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

France Detains Man Selling Mummy Hair

Source: Associated Press

By THIERRY BOINET
Associated Press Writer

GRENOBLE, France (AP) -- Police detained a French postman behind an Internet operation selling strands of hair and tiny pieces of cloth allegedly taken from the mummy of Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II. If authenticated, Egypt wants the hair back.

The suspect, identified as Jean-Michel Diebolt, allegedly obtained the items from his late father, a French researcher who analyzed the 3,200-year-old mummy in the 1970s, judicial officials said on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.


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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Boy king may have died in riding accident

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Tuesday November 28, 2006
The Guardian

The world's most celebrated boy king, Tutankhamun, may have died after badly breaking a leg while playing sport.

A detailed scan of the mummy, which was uncovered in the Valley of Kings in 1922, has revealed the high-impact fracture as the most likely cause of death.

Speculation over the death of Tutankhamun has raged since the mummy was first inspected in 1925, three years after his tomb was excavated by Howard Carter and his patron Lord Carnarvon. The first x-ray scans conducted in 1968 found signs of damage to the skull, prompting suggestions that he had been killed by a blow to the head.

Researchers led by Ashraf Selim, a radiologist at Kasr Eleini Teaching Hospital at Cairo University, used a mobile CT scanner to build up a 3D image of the 3,300-year-old body from 1,900 separate images. The reconstruction showed him to be 5ft 11in tall and probably 19 years old when he died.

But precision scans of the king's left thigh revealed extensive details of a high-impact fracture above the left knee. The kneecap was badly twisted to the outside of the leg, and the wound was open to the outside world, where it was vulnerable to infection. What is believed to be the remnants of embalming fluid had deeply penetrated the fracture, suggesting the injury was sustained in the king's lifetime and not inflicted during the original excavation.

"In my view this is a deadly fracture. It is a major bone - the injury probably involved the rupture of a major blood vessel, and it is open to outside air, meaning it was likely to become infected. It's a common injury among horse riders and, without antibiotics or surgery, he may have been dead from blood infection within a few days," said Frank Ruhli, a paleoanthropologist on the project at the University of Zurich's Institute of Anatomy.

How the injury was sustained is still uncertain, but the type of fracture matches a common breakage suffered by jockeys and other horse riders. A member of the team, Eduard Egarter Vigl, chief conservator at Bolzano hospital in Italy, said: "We think it's possible it was a sporting accident."

The research was presented at a conference of the Radiology Society of North America in Chicago yesterday.

Monday, November 27, 2006

New clues about Ptolemaic past

Source: Cyprus Mail

By Tatiana Yalamova

AN inscription has been found by archeologists conducting excavations in the Lower City of Amathus that provides new information about Cypriot society in the Ptolemaic period, a statement from the Antiquities Department said yesterday.
The inscription was found on the floor of the interior doorway connecting two rooms and is as old as 3rd century BC. Although it is quite worn, it consists of 12 verses and is one of the longest texts from the Hellenistic period discovered in Cyprus. This inscription with arithmetic in Greek may refer to land portions given by the Ptolemaic General. It appears that it was laid in the floor in secondary use. Once the inscription is studied further, it is expected to provide more information about that period.

Another noteworthy find was a large gold cross that must have belonged to a high ranking official of the early Byzantine period (7th century AD). It was discovered in the complex of rooms with few fragments of paintings on the walls, and a lot of coins were found on the floor in the same room with the cross. The official may have resided in the room or in the entire complex.

Apart from the above, the movable finds also consisted of plaster interior architectural fragments with plant and geometrical motifs, vessels, lamps, copper objects, Hathoric capital and a pithos jar found in the southeastern corner of a room on the main avenue leading from the Amathus West Gate to the Agora. Also an almost life-size head depicting Alexander the Great was found in the room with inner arch, but its features were almost worn away.
The dig lasted six weeks and this was the last season of the second series of excavations carried out by the Department of Antiquities in the Lower City of Amathus. Overall conclusions will be published in separate volumes in the near future. Following the necessary conservation work, the excavated remains will be open to the public.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Challenging antiquity’s stereotypes


Source: ekathimerini

An Athenian tetradrachm from the Numismatic Museum.

KATERINA VOUSSOURA

How much do we know about the ancient Greek city-states Athens and Sparta, other than the stereotypes of Athens as the founder of democracy and the militarily-governed Sparta? An exhibition organized by the Onassis Cultural Center (the New York-based affiliate of the Onassis Foundation), which will open in New York on December 6, aims at looking beyond and challenging the preconceived notions about the two cities as well as putting their respective development into its broader historical context.

«Athens-Sparta: From the 8th to the 5th Centuries BC,» which will be showing at the Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue until May 12, 2007, is organized in collaboration with the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. It will feature 289 exhibits, ranging from sculptures to pottery, inscriptions, coins and more, some of which have never traveled outside Greece. The Acropolis Museum, the archaeological museums of Sparta, Rhodes and Olympia and the Kerameikos Museum are only some of the institutes (other than the National) that have volunteered items from their permanent collections for inclusion in the forthcoming exhibition.

«The exhibition compares the development of the two cities, how they began and how they evolved,» said Antonis Papadimitriou, the president of the Onassis Foundation, at yesterday's press conference. «It was a period of great historical and political significance and many people draw parallels between these two cities and current events.»

«With their different forms of government and artistic expression, both Athens and Sparta played a decisive role from the geometric to the Roman eras,» added the president of the National Archaeological Museum, Nikos Kaltsas. «Greek history would be different if either of the two had not existed; they shaped what we call classical Greek civilization.»

Among other things, the exhibition will demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, Sparta can boast more than military achievements, especially in the Archaic period, although subsequent events turned Athens into a leading artistic force. «This will be the first time that so many Laconian works will go on display alongside Attic artifacts of the same period,» said Kaltsas. (Laconia and Attica are the greater areas in which Sparta and Athens lie respectively.) He explained that because the subject is so vast, the display will not follow the evolution of the two cities in detail but will, nonetheless, give a satisfactory account.

The exhibition has three sections. The first one examines the two cities' formation and follows their cultural development from the Late Geometric to the end of the Archaic period (8th to the early 5th century BC). The other two sections focus on the artistic evolution during the 5th century and the changing relationship between Athens and Sparta, as it was tainted by the two great events at the time: the Persian Wars, in which the Greek cities joined forces against the Persians and then the Peloponnesian War (431 to 404 BC), the destructive war between Athens and Sparta and their respective allies, which was the culmination of a gradual process of polarization of the Greek world into two camps.

«The exhibition ends with the end of the Peloponnesian War. Athens (which lost to Sparta) came out exhausted but remained an intellectual center and Sparta still featured prominently in various disputes, but in essence the war signaled the beginning of the dissolution of the city-state and paved the way for King Philip of Macedon,» said Kaltsas.

The exhibition will be enriched by a variety of parallel activities, namely an international conference, a program of lectures in New York and a series of dramatic readings of Thucydides' «History of the Peloponnesian War» and Aeschylus' tragedy «The Persians.» A rich 300-page catalog will also complement the exhibition, with contributions by distinguished scholars, such as professors Donald Kagan and Paul Cartledge, as well as acclaimed Greek historians and archaeologists. «The parallel events are very important. Catalogs from past exhibitions have always been very successful and have been requested by universities and libraries. The readings have also proved a success and various universities have asked us to send them this program in the past,» explained Papadimitriou.

Highlights among the exhibits include the late 5th century marble statue of a Spartan warrior titled «Leonidas,» arrowheads and spearheads from the legendary battle of Thermopylae, a 5th century marble statue of an Athenian kore (young woman), Archaic bronze figurines of warriors from Sparta and much more.

«This will be our 15th exhibition in New York since 2000,» said Papadimitriou. «We are interested in targeting the wider American audiences, the average American, not Greeks of the diaspora. We want our exhibitions to be Greek-related, but do not want to repeat ourselves.»

Last season's exhibition of post-Byzantine Greek art, titled «From Byzantium to Modern Greece: Greek Art under Difficult Circumstances, 1453-1830,» had very good attendance, despite its rather specialized focus, and Papadimitriou said the foundation is hoping for even greater interest this time round.

«Athens-Sparta» will be on display at the Onassis Cultural Center, Olympic Tower, 645 Fifth Ave, New York, to May 12.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Rome's She-Wolf Younger Than Its City

Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

Nov. 22, 2006 — The icon of Rome's foundation, the Capitoline she-wolf, was crafted in the Middle Ages, not the Antiquities, according to a research into the statue’s bronze-casting technique.

The discovery quashes the long-prevailing belief that the she-wolf was adopted as an icon by the earliest Romans as a symbol for their city.

Recalling the story of a she-wolf which fed Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, and his twin brother, Remus, after they had been thrown in a basket into the Tiber River, the statue has been always linked to the ancient world.

t was thought to be either the product of an Etruscan workshop in the 5th century B.C. or the masterpiece of the 6th century B.C. Etruscan sculptor Vulca of Veii.

It was believed that the Romans later adopted the wolf since her defiant stance and raised eyebrows seemed to reflect Rome’s liberation from the Etruscan rule.

On the contrary, scholars have long established that the bronze figures of Romulus and Remus were added in the Renaissance, in accordance to the legend of Rome’s foundation.

"Now incontestable proofs tell us that also the she-wolf is not a product of the Antiquities," Adriano La Regina, former Rome’s archaeological superintendent and professor of Etruscology at Rome's La Sapienza University, wrote in Italy’s daily "La Repubblica."

According to La Regina, analysis carried out by restorer Anna Maria Carruba during the 1997 restoration of the bronze statue showed that the she-wolf was cast as a single unit. This technique was typically used in the Middle Ages.

"Ancient bronzes differentiate from those made in the Middle Ages because they were cast in separate parts, and then brazed together," La Regina said

First used by the Greeks and then adopted by Etruscan and Roman artists, the technique basically consisted of brazing the separate joints using bronze as welding material.

The new dating of the Capitoline she-wolf was not revealed at the presentation of the restored statue in 2000. The Capitoline Museum, where the bronze is displayed, claims the artwork traces back to 480-470 B.C.

"Analysis and findings from the restoration were ignored," wrote La Regina.

Indeed, it might have not been easy for the Romans to accept that the archetypal symbol of Rome was cast in the relatively recent Middle Ages.

The she-wolf was one of the favored images of Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator, who considered himself the founder of the New Rome. He sent various copies of the bronze to American cities.

The Capitoline she-wolf was also used in the poster of the 1960 Rome Olympics and is one of the most popular items among souvenir sellers in Rome.

Gregory Warden, a professor of art history at Southern Methodist University who specializes in Etruscan bronzes, found the suggestion that the she-wolf may be medieval "intriguing." But, he does not consider the matter closed.

"While the statue is singular, and thus difficult to compare to other Etruscan statuary, I do not think that the technical argument is fully persuasive, since we have so little comparative evidence for large-scale bronze casting in the Etruscan world," he said. "We certainly cannot assume that Etruscan bronze-casting techniques would always have been identical to those of the Greeks."

Bones of Cyprus missing unearthed

Source: BBC News

By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Nicosia

On the south side of the line that cuts through the divided capital of Cyprus there is a small exhibition.

It is a collection of photographs in memory of the Greek Cypriots still missing since 1974, when Turkey sent troops onto the island following an attempted coup backed by Athens.

"That's my mother at a demonstration of the relatives," says Marios Kouloumas, pointing out a woman holding up a photograph of her husband.

"I was there too. We are demanding to know what happened to our relatives."

Some 1,500 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots are officially registered as missing on Cyprus, never seen since fighting broke out between the two communities in the 1960s.

Marios was 10 years old when his own father disappeared. He still remembers very clearly how Turkish troops entered his village in August 1974 and separated the men from the women and children. Nikos Kouloumas was taken away and never returned.

"If we don't find a solution to this problem we can never live together as before," Marios believes.

"We always ask about the fate of our people and we will never stop. If the United Nations wants a solution on Cyprus, they have to find solution to this matter first. They have to close the wound."

The UN established a Committee on Missing Persons in 1981 to investigate the fate of the disappeared. In 25 years no family has received an explanation.

Slowly all that is changing.

Partial skeletons

In a prefabricated laboratory built in the buffer zone that still divides the two communities, a team of scientists is finally searching for answers.

They have begun excavating mass graves all over Cyprus, led there by those who actually saw what happened.

Some of the first bones to be recovered have been reassembled into partial skeletons, laid out on white tables in the laboratory.

"We are trying to gather as much information as possible to help identify the remains," explains scientist Oran Finnegan. "That is more complicated at some sites where bodies were thrown on top of one another.

"First we have to piece the bones together, like a jigsaw. Then if we have any information about an old fracture, or dental work - we can narrow down the work of the DNA lab."

Samples will soon be sent to a separate lab for DNA testing - the final stage of identification. But first any evidence that can be gleaned from the skeletons or the grave is cross-checked against data provided by relatives.

Some files are incredibly detailed, down to the brand of a watch or the colour of someone's socks.

Frozen conflict

The team carrying out this delicate task is a combination of Greek and Turkish Cypriot scientists, working alongside international experts. It is the only official joint project on the divided island that is actually working.

"I think this project will eventually help ease things," says Anthe, a Greek Cypriot archaeologist.

"What happened on the island is not a secret so at least we are facing it now, and we are facing it together."

The exhumations are laying bare evidence of terrible violence committed by and against both communities on this island. It is a process that has been undertaken elsewhere - but the conflict on Cyprus is frozen, not resolved.

So is there a danger the scientists are unearthing fresh trouble, along with the remains?

"I think we are unearthing answers to families. Now what that can trigger, either in the legal or political arena, is rather terra incognita," admits Christophe Girod, the UN member on the Committee for Missing Persons.

Mr Girod says the scientists record all the information the bodies provide - including evidence of any injury. That data will ultimately be handed to the relatives. But his committee is not mandated to investigate the cause of death.

"We hope the bi-communalism of this project will set an example, that it triggers positive steps. But the need for justice is something usual and legitimate and that will have to be addressed here on the island as well," he explains.

DNA samples

Across the Green Line in the north of Nicosia, Emine Degirmencioglu only has one photograph of her husband Munir - a portrait of the young couple on their wedding day.

Emine was in her early 20s when their village came under attack by Greek Cypriot fighters in December 1963. The family fled in panic.

A couple of days later Munir returned to their home to collect clothes and food for his children, and disappeared without trace.

The UN-led committee has just unearthed human remains at a site close to their village.

Emine's family has given DNA samples. Now, just like Marios in the south, Emine hopes her long wait for answers is almost over.

"I already feel a sense of relief," she says. "At least we'll be able to bring him back onto the Turkish side; to bury his bones in a proper grave, and visit and pray for him as our religion requires."

"What more can we do - now we know he is definitely not coming back alive?"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Greece’s rich culture fails as vigorous economic product

Almost 100,000 work in sector, but value of cultural product is low

By C. Kallergis - Kathimerini

BRUSSELS – Greece produces remarkably little in a field where it has a lot to offer – culture.

Apart from being a somewhat abstract notion, culture is also an economic activity that benefits large countries with advanced economies and is vital to a small country like Greece with a dearth of exportable resources and an abundance of cultural treasures.

An extensive report by the European Commission has measured and evaluated how much each EU member state has converted its cultural resources into an economically active product. The result for Greece is disappointing, with the country coming close to last on the list.

The added value of the Greek cultural product is just 1 percent of its GDP, the third lowest in Europe, and less than much smaller countries such as Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta. At the other extreme, France draws 3.4 percent of its GDP from culture, which corresponds to more than 80 million euros, or more than 10 times the amount for Greece.

The Commission employed a fairly broad definition of culture that includes, along with museum and archaeological sites, activities such as cultural tourism, the sale of cultural products, theater and dance, publications, audiovisual material, and even architecture.

Using that broad definition, the report estimates that Greece employs almost 100,000 people in the culture sector, a relatively high number by European standards. But the economic output is way out of proportion. What is not lacking is the cultural heritage, which in Greece absorbs 50 percent of total state funding for culture, a proportion similar to that in France and Italy. State funds, useful though they are, do not bring about the same results in all countries.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stealing Zeus’s Thunder

Here's the original article by Frank L. Holt mentioned in our previous post.



Stealing Zeus’s Thunder, Saudi Aramco World 56.3, 2005.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ptolemy's Alexandrian Postscript



In an article entitled "Stealing Zeus’s Thunder," published in the May/June 2005 issue of Saudi Aramco World, historian Frank L. Holt reported that a new discovery could add a new chapter to the story of Alexander the Great and his elephant medallions — and indeed, it has. Here is his account of the new evidence: Ptolemy's Alexandrian Postscript

Getty risks 'embargo,' Italy warns

Source: LA Times

Officials in Rome threaten to suspend "all cultural cooperation" with the museum as talks on the return of antiquities stall.


By Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino, Times Staff Writers
November 11, 2006

ROME — Frustrated by the J. Paul Getty Trust's refusal to return a prized statue of Aphrodite and a score of other antiquities, Italian officials are threatening to impose an unprecedented "cultural embargo" on the Los Angeles museum that would prevent its borrowing any artwork from or conducting research in their country.

The impasse in talks came as new evidence was submitted Friday in the criminal trial of the Getty's former antiquities curator that the museum chose not to pursue information about the Aphrodite statue's origins when presented with an opportunity a decade ago.

Marion True told prosecutors in a statement entered into evidence that in 1996 the statue's former owner provided the Getty with photos of the 7 1/2 -foot depiction of the goddess and offered several fragments still in his possession.

But True said she was "highly skeptical" of the man's motives and decided it was "inappropriate" to accept his invitation to meet in Switzerland, according to a copy of the statement obtained by The Times.

That decision looms large today for both True and the Getty, because the marble and limestone figure has come to play the starring role in the dispute between Italy and the trust.

To Italian authorities, the statue symbolizes what they see as the museum's brazen exploitation of the illicit trade in ancient art. Getty officials say there is insufficient evidence to determine exactly where the statue comes from, and they have so far refused to return it.

Four months ago both sides announced an agreement in principle for the museum to return "a number of very significant" artworks in exchange for loans from Italy.

Since then, the Getty has quietly offered 26 objects, including masterpieces such as a marble statue of Apollo and a sculpture of mythical griffins devouring a fallen deer. Italy, in turn, agreed to withdraw its claim for six objects that it conceded may have been found outside its borders.

But deciding the fate of the 21 remaining disputed objects, dominated by the Aphrodite and a bronze statue of a young athlete, has proved difficult.

"Basta!" said Giuseppe Proietti, a senior cultural official, in a recent interview, using the Italian word for "enough."

"The negotiations haven't made a single step forward," he said. "We will not accept partial solutions. I will suggest the Italian government take cultural sanctions against the Getty, suspending all cultural cooperation."

Francesco Rutelli, Italy's minister of culture and vice president, was awaiting the latest response from the Getty before deciding whether to go ahead with an embargo, but he warned Friday that time was running out.

"I tried to explain it amicably to the people responsible for the Getty for the last six months," Rutelli said in a statement to The Times. "If they still haven't understood it, I'm afraid the process of conciliation will end and a serious conflict will begin." READ FULL STORY

Monuments in danger

Source: ekathimerini




Climate change poses a serious threat to world heritage sites

Researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute say the greenhouse effect is damaging monuments around the world, including the Parthenon.


LINA GIANNAROU

Governments must realize that the greenhouse effect is damaging world heritage monuments such as the Parthenon, climatology experts said at the International Conference on Climate currently under way in Nairobi.

Climate change is a grave threat to some of the greatest world heritage monuments, from Darwin’s favorite coral reef in Belize to the archaeological treasures of Scotland.

Scientists have warned of the serious consequences of climate change, such as extreme weather conditions, mass population movements due to floods and droughts. But they have not managed to galvanize world governments into taking effective measures to curb activities that waste energy and cause pollution.

In just a few decades, natural and man-made monuments may suffer partial or total destruction, say researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute in their report titled “The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the Greatest Challenge to Humanity.”

In many cases the effect of climate change will be immediate, with destruction caused by a rise in sea levels, floods and massive storms.

For other monuments, mainly cathedrals and mosques, the threat comes from drastic changes in local climate. Even minor changes in humidity can have dramatic consequences, either by directly altering the structures themselves, or by affecting the chemistry and the stability of their foundations.

It may seem a distant threat, yet such destruction has already begun, the researchers note.

In 2002, for instance, floods that hit the Czech Republic caused serious damage to historic buildings such as theaters, museums and libraries, while an estimated 500,000 books and archived documents were destroyed.

Apart from the Czech Republic, which the report lists among the states vulnerable to climate change, Thailand has already lost part of its cultural heritage to the effects of climate change, when floods swept away 14th century ruins in the cities of Sukothai and Ayutthaya in northeastern Thailand.

Egypt is also at risk. Coastal erosion and flooding in the Nile Delta pose a risk to the monuments of Alexandria, such as the Acropolis of Qaitbey and some 12,000 archaeological sites, ranging from Viking-era ruins to medieval monuments.

Many natural ecosystems that support local economies will not be able to withstand climate change. One of these is the coral reef of Belize, which Darwin referred to in 1842 as “the most marvelous reef in the West Indies.”

The reef has already started to lose its color due to the rising temperature of the surface water, a process which is expected to intensify.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dazzling discovery in waters off Spain: 1st-century vessel

Source: eitb 24

The remains were discovered by accident in 2000 and after years of arranging financing and assembling crews, exploration of the site off Alicante in southeast Spain began in July.

Marine archeologists said Monday they have made a dazzling discovery in waters off Spain _ the shipwreck of a first century vessel that was taking delicacies to the wealthiest citizens of the Roman Empire.

The remains were discovered by accident in 2000 and after years of arranging financing and assembling crews, exploration of the site off Alicante in southeast Spain began in July, said Carles de Juan, a co-director of the project who works for the Valencia regional government.

The ship is estimated to have been 30 meters (100 feet) long with capacity for around 400 tonnes of cargo, making it much larger than other Roman shipwrecks found in the Mediterranean, de Juan said in an interview.

The ship probably sank in a storm while sailing from Cadiz in the south of what is now Spain back to Rome.

Besides the size of the ship and good condition of its cargo, the site is also unique because it is so accessible _ in just 25 meters (80 feet) of water about 1.5 kilometers (one mile) from the coast.

"I am not going to say it was on the beach but almost," said de Juan, who was among the first divers to examine the shipwreck in 2000. "We knew it was an important find but had no real idea until now," de Juan said. "It is an exceptional find."

De Carles and the other co-director of the project, Franca Ciberchinni of the University of Pisa in Italy, presented their first academic report on the site at a marine archaeology conference last week in the town of Gandia near Valencia.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Herakleio Museum Closed

rogueclassicism reports:

The archaeological museum of Iraklio on Crete will close for repairs on Nov. 13, the culture ministry said Wednesday.

The museum, which contains the world's richest collection of artifacts from the island's Minoan culture (3000-1100 B.C.) attracts around 250,000 visitors annually.

The minister did not say when the museum would reopen.


I visited the museum two weeks ago and I asked when it's going to open again. They told me that the works will last for at least TWO years.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Getty Ex-Curator Says Antiquities Trade 'Corrupt' Art Smuggled

Source: Bloomberg

By Vernon Silver

Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The J. Paul Getty Museum's former antiquities chief said the market for ancient art is probably the ``most corrupt'' of art markets, with unscrupulous dealers peddling smuggled goods, according to a written statement made to a Rome court where she's on trial for buying loot for the Getty.

Marion True, the former antiquities curator of the Los Angeles-based Getty, the world's wealthiest art institution, said she fought the illicit trade by tightening the Getty's acquisition standards, and by purchasing and documenting objects of unknown origin so they wouldn't be lost to the private trade.

``The museum had to accept the premise that the majority of antiquities available on the market had, in all probability, been exported from the countries of origin illegally,'' True, 58, wrote, explaining why the Getty adopted policies that restricted artifacts it could buy.

True's lawyers submitted her statement today to the Rome Tribunal as evidence in her trial, in which she's charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen antiquities for the Getty's collection. True denies the charges.

Among the steps she took to battle the illicit trade was a ban on buying objects that hadn't been part of a known collection or been documented in a publication before 1995. Last month the Getty further limited its antiquities purchases in most cases to those documented before 1970.

``I knew, in fact, that the antiquities market was filled with risks for those who wished to purchase objects, as it included many unscrupulous dealers, who had no qualms about selling fakes or objects that had been stolen or exported illegally from their country of origin,'' True wrote in the 19- page memo, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.

Negotiations

She wrote the statement to clarify and add to comments she made in earlier questioning by prosecutors, one of her lawyers, Francesca Coppi, said.

Judges in the case will base their ruling both on written evidence submitted to the court and verbal testimony of witnesses. A transcript of her earlier questioning, conducted in Los Angeles, is already in evidence.

True hasn't testified in the Rome court and isn't required to be present at the trial, which started a year ago and which she has attended once.

Her statement, which casts True and the Getty as reformers in a corrupt market, comes as the Getty negotiates with Italy over government demands that the museum return some of the 52 disputed antiquities in its collection.

True, who was antiquities curator from 1986 through 2005, said in her statement that when she took the job she helped draft a memo to the Getty board to explore whether it was possible to continue to collect antiquities in a tainted market.

``The memorandum pointed out that the antiquities market was probably the most corrupt of the art markets,'' she wrote in her statement to the Rome Tribunal.

Sweden returned Erechtheion fragmnet to Greece



And here it is!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sweden to return Acropolis frieze to Greece

Source: Middle East Times

STOCKHOLM -- A marble frieze from the Acropolis in Athens that was taken to Sweden by a naval officer 110 years ago and remained in his family's possession until last year is to be officially returned to Greece this week, a Stockholm museum announced Monday.

The marble fragment comes from the Erechtheion temple, built around 420 BCE and known for its ornamental decoration and pillars in the form of statues of women known as Karyatides, the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities said.

Birgit Wiger-Angner, a retired gym teacher, turned the piece over to the museum after reading an article about Greece's desire to recover friezes from the main temple of the Parthenon, which were taken by Britain's Lord Elgin in the nineteenth century and that London refuses to return.

Wiger-Angner inherited the piece - measuring 20 centimeters (7.8 inches) wide and eight centimeters high - from her father, whose brother Henning Lund acquired it from the Acropolis around 1895-96 and took it to Sweden.

Until February 2005, the frieze served as a decoration in Wiger-Angner's home.

Wiger-Angner is due to hand over the piece to Greek culture minister Georgios Voulgarakis at a ceremony to be held at the Acropolis Friday, the museum said.

Suzanne Unge-Soerling, assistant head of the museum in Stockholm, said that it was of great historical interest.

"Today the Erechtheion temple is a long way from being complete ... the frieze is a piece of a puzzle ... and the small number of similar pieces that have emerged ... are mostly held by museums, for example the Metropolitan in New York," Unge-Soerling said.

The fact that the frieze was not left in the open has helped preserve the piece from the effects of pollution.

Paint that once adorned the temple has disappeared due to the twin ravages of time and pollution, whereas some traces of paint remain on the piece to be returned Friday, Unge-Soerling added.

The museum displayed the frieze since Wiger-Angner turned it over to the institution in February 2005.

After its return to Greece the piece will feature in a new Acropolis museum currently under construction in Athens.

Roman grave stele discovered in the village of Zabeni, Bitola region

Source: MPT

The grave stele of the Roman period has been discovered by the citizens of the village of Zabeni, Bitola region while they conducted construction works.

- It is fragmented marble segment of monument, which with additional analysis will give an answer to the question whether there is new archaeological locality in the village of Zabeni or it belongs to already discovered one from the Neolithic period, Anica Gjorgjievska, the archaeologist of Bitola museum, said.

Gjorgjievska said that it was possible underground waters to throw out the grave stele.

This discovery starting Tuesday is under the authority of the Bureau for Protection of the Cultural Heritage.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tourism damaging Egyptian heritage

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Booming tourism, a key part of Egypt's economy, is having a catastrophic effect on the country's unique cultural heritage, experts said on Wednesday.

So large were the numbers of people now visiting Egypt's famed ancient sites like the Valley of the Kings that they were causing serious damage in a way that even centuries of weather had failed to do, they said at a meeting in London.

"Tourists are scuffing walls with bags and bodies, wearing away paintings and colour," Michael Jones, of the American Research Centre in Egypt, said during the meeting of the British Egyptian Society and the London Middle East Institute.

"The humidity caused by the crowds' breathing and perspiration is also taking a terrible toll on the fabric," he added.

After tailing off sharply following a string of attacks by militant Islamists in the 1990s, tourist numbers in Egypt climbed to eight million in 2004 and up again to 8.6 million last year.

Figures from the Egyptian Tourism Authority show that in the first six months of this year tourist numbers were 12 percent up on the same period the previous year, and there are plans to boost numbers to 16 million by 2014.

Jones, a speaker at the Anglo-Egyptian conference to mark 50 years since the diplomatic crisis caused by Britain's invasion of the Suez canal, was not alone in his concerns.

"The time has now come...to initiate a detailed study of the damage being caused to all Egypt's sites," said Egyptologist Gaballa Ali Gaballa, a former head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

"Above all we must work with the tourism industry on this to raise awareness and seek solutions. We all gain from tourism but seeing the damage it is causing makes you feel very sorry indeed," he added.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Dendra Cuirass: Part II



Unique Mycenaean suit of armor due for conservation
Found 46 years ago, this rare relic of the Bronze Age needs repair


The Mycenean suit of armor found at Dendra in the Argolid.


IOTA SYKKA - ekathimerini

The only complete example of a Mycenaean suit of armor ever found is to be sent for conservation work, 46 years since its discovery at Dendra in the Argolid, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) has decided.

Dating from the 15th century BC, it is made up of four pieces: a neckpiece, two epaulettes, a breastplate and an articulated section with three straps to protect the rest of the warrior’s torso.

Broad strips of metal were fastened to a leather lining which appears to have covered the body from neck to knee. At 15 kilos, its weight must have made it hard to move in and it is believed that it was not worn on the battlefield but in circumstances where a show of prestige was in order.

Until recently, the armor was on display at the Archaeological Museum of Nafplion among other objects found in May 1960 by Nikos Verdelis, then head of the Fourth Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, and Paul Astrom, director of the Swedish Archaeological School.

At that time they were investigating one of the graves in the cemetery at Dendra, which had been the subject of an attempted raid. They found a large number of impressive objects, of which the suit of armor was an exceptional example of Mycenaean art, the only one known to have been found that predates the Geometric era.

The Ancient and Modern Monuments Conservation Directorate, which studied the suit of armor, reported that it needed treatment, not only because it was 46 years since the original preservation work, but because modern methods can reveal more detail.

So far, examination has shown that the armor is fragile, has severe cracks and is broken in places.

The study proposes construction of a new display case from Japan with anti-seismic features and made of glass so that the armor is visible from all angles, as well as a firmer means of support.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No future for Kerameikos

No progress on ancient cemetery

Source: ekathimerini

Only a small part of the Dimosio Sima ancient cemetery has been excavated. The entire area, measuring 1,100x40 meters, contains the graves of such notable figures as Thrasybulus, Cleisthenes, Lycurgus and Solon.

The first digs and expropriations took place in the 1870. Another part of the cemetery was discovered in February 1997 at 35 Salaminas, during construction work for a new theater. Four mass graves were found containing bones and grave ornaments (red-figure vases and white lekythoi) dating to the time of the Peloponnesian War. The Culture Ministry announced the expropriation of the adjacent plots of land so that the monuments could be uncovered in their entirety, with the prospect of linking them to the Dipylon site and including them in the unification of archaeological sites, then being planned.

Now no excavations are in progress, and the much-discussed expropriations seem to have been frozen “due to unclear ownership status.”

A metal structure blocks the grave monument from the view of passers-by, and a small, rusty notice board at the top of the structure notes that “work was done here to highlight the Dimosio Sima.”

“Those of us who still live in Kerameikos feel that nobody cares about discovering the graves of renowned Athenians,” notes Bouzanis, “Kerameikos is a neighborhood with many ruined houses. You’d expect the expropriations to go ahead on Salaminas Street and on the shacks nearby which have become garbage dumps.” He believes that as long as the authorities are too timid to take action, “then not only will the Dimosio Sima cemetery not be unearthed or the area enhanced, but we will end up living here with the trash, the no-hopers, the nightlife types and whatever else flourishes under such circumstances.”

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Dendra cuirass moves to Corinth



The famous Mycenaean cuirass from Dendra is to be moved to the Archaeological Museum of Corinth.

The armour has been recently chemically re-analysed in order to establish the best restoration procedure.

The armour, which weights 15kg will be exhibited along with other artifacts recovered from the chamber tomb that it was found in 1960.

For more information on the cuirass (and the remains of the boar-tusk helmet found with it) take a look at:

Taracha, Piotr. 1999. Reconstructing the Dendra Panoply. ArchaeologiaWar 50. p. 7-12.

Wardle, Diana E.H. 1988. Does Reconstruction Help? A Mycenaean Dress and the Dendra Suit of Armour. French, E.B. and K.A. Wardle, eds. Problems in Greek Prehistory. Papers Presented at the Centenary Conference of the British School of Archaeology at Athens, Manchester, April 1986. Bristol Classical Press, Bristol. p. 469-476.

?str?m, Paul. 1983. The Cuirass Tomb and Other Finds at Dendra, Part 2: Excavations in the Cemeteries, the Lower Town, and the Citadel.. SIMA 4.Paul ?str?ms F?rlag, G?teborg.

Greenhalgh, Peter. 1980. The Dendra Charioteer. Antiquity 54:212. p. 201-205.

?str?m, Paul. 1977. The Cuirass Tomb and Other Finds at Dendra: Part 1, the Chamber Tombs. SIMA 4, Part 1.Paul ?str?ms F?rlag, G?teborg.

Protonotariou-De?laki, E. 1970. Mikina?kon kranos ek Dendron (Casque myc?nien de Dendra). AAA 3:1. p. 106-108.

Once upon a time in the bithplace of Democracy


Greek blogger arrest infuriates world

Source: The Register

By Kieren McCarthy in Athens
Published Monday 30th October 2006 06:46 GMT

The arrest of a blogger by Greek police just days before Athens hosts the inaugural meeting of the Internet Governance Forum has left the blogosphere in uproar and the authorities with egg on their face.

Antonis Tsipropoulos was arrested at home on Tuesday by the Greek police following a complaint from a controversial Greek televangelist that Mr Tsipropoulos's blog aggregation site, blogme.gr, linked to slanderous material.

The content in question is hosted at the FunEL blog, and mocks the colourful Dimosthenis Liakopoulos for producing trash TV and being anti-Semitic. However, since the blog is hosted in the US, the Greek authorities swooped on the popular blogme.gr site, arresting its owner, ordering him to appear in court in a few days to face charges and shutting down the service.

Mr Tsipropoulos originally posted a concise account of his arrest, complaining that he was not in any way able to control the content he had linked to, but later removed it, reportedly following legal advice.

The response from the blogging community worldwide has been swift and furious, with many Greek bloggers planning to organise a protest outside at the IGF meeting today when their prime minister formally opens the event at 10am at the Divani Apollon hotel south of Athens.

The arrest couldn't come at a worse time, following a high-profile campaign launched earlier this week by Amnesty International drawing attention to the bloggers worldwide who have been detained for posting information online. Many Greeks will be surprised to learn they appear to have joined the ranks of Iran, China and Vietnam.

What makes the matter all the more timely is that the arrest highlights an endemic misunderstanding of internet technology and policy, where authorities try to enforce laws over the net by charging whoever they can in their own country, who are nearest to the problem.

The main aim of the IGF meeting is for governments, business, international organisations and civil society to meet up and discuss the best methods of working with the internet and one another. If only the Greeks had been approached by Liakopoulos next week, the incident would most likely never have happened.


Also: UNPRECEDENTED CASE OF CENSORSHIP IN GREECE

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Team helps save Egypt tomb mural



Source: The Japan Times Online

OSAKA (Kyodo) A Japanese research team has successfully removed a mural in an ancient Egyptian tomb at the World Heritage site of Saqqara, using a technique used on Japanese murals, so that preservation work can be done on it, team members said Friday.

News photo
A Japanese researcher prepares to remove part of a mural from the underground tomb of Princess Idut at the World Heritage site of Saqqara, Egypt. KYODO PHOTO


The Kansai University team removed the plaster mural from the underground tomb of Princess Idut, which dates back to around 2360 B.C. The mural depicts birds, food and beer in color and has hieroglyphs engraved in it.

In the rare removal of a fragile plaster mural, the team glued rayon paper with resin over parts of the mural to be removed, using a type of seaweed paste to protect them, and carefully separated the plaster from the rock wall with knives.

The technique was used in removing a mural at the Kitora tomb in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, which dates from the late seventh century to the early eighth century, but the Idut mural is the first case of such removal abroad, according to experts.

"There are many murals waiting to be restored, and we want to apply (the technique) to others," said Hiroshi Suita, professor of Egyptology at the university in Osaka Prefecture.

The team will report its accomplishments at a conference of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan at Waseda University in Tokyo.

Mural preservation in Egypt is usually done by applying synthetic resin to strengthen them, but the Saqqara mural has suffered great damage, requiring different steps for restoration.

Restoration teams had tried to use techniques used in Europe, but as the procedure required the use of an organic solvent that produces hazardous gas, it was unsuited for underground use. Egyptian authorities then chose to use the Japanese restoration technique for the first time.

There are still some parts of the mural that cannot be removed as they are solidly stuck on the clay layer of the wall, but the team said they will remove them, possibly this winter, by softening the wall with water.

All the pieces of the mural will be cleaned and the back of the pieces strengthened with mortar.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Erotic frescoes put Pompeii brothel on the tourist map

Source: Times Online

From Richard Owen in Rome

A LUXURIOUS brothel that once entertained wealthy clients in Pompeii has been opened as a visitor attraction after painstaking restoration.

The two-storey structure, which features erotic frescoes that leave little to the imagination, is expected to become one of the ancient city’s top draws. Officials who unveiled it yesterday emphasised that the year-long restoration had been carried out in the interests of archaeology — and to save the frescoes — rather than prurience. The brothel was named the Lupanare — from lupa (she-wolf), the colloquial Latin term for a prostitute. Prices were posted outside the building, which had three entrances, and the frescoes depict the sexual services on offer.

The Lupanare boasted ten rooms, five on each floor, with the upper floor (which had a balcony) reserved for more important and wealthier clients. Sexual activity took place on stone beds, which would have been covered by mattresses.

Like other parts of pleasure-loving Pompeii, the brothel was overwhelmed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which buried the city in a 6m (19½ft) layer of volcanish ash in AD79. The ash preserved the city as a time capsule until the 18th century, when the first excavations began to bring to light well- preserved houses, shops, frescoes and skeletons of people caught as they tried to flee.

Scholars say that Pompeii had many brothels, but most consisted only of a single room, often above a shop or wine bar. The prostitutes were slaves and were usually of Greek or Oriental origin. Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, superintendent of Pompeii, said that ancient Roman attitudes to sex and obscenity were more relaxed than those of later civilisations.

Erotic objects found during the 18th and 19th-century excavations were considered so salacious they were kept in a “secret cabinet” at the National Archeological Museum in Naples, to which only those deemed to be of “mature age and respected morals” were admitted. The objects include a statuette of the god Pan copulating with a goat, and numerous phallic symbols, considered by the Romans to be good luck or fertility charms.

The stone beds were placed in discreet alcoves. Scholars said that one prostitute, named Myrtis, had a sign outside her room explaining that her speciality was oral sex. Other girls working at the brothel — according to Roman-era graffiti on the walls — were Callidrome, Cressa, Drauca, Fabia, Faustilla, Felicia, Fortunata, Helpis, Mula, Nica, Restituta, Rusatia and Ianuaria.

Luciana Iacobelli, lecturer in Pompeiian antiquities at Bicocca University in Milan, said that not all the prostitutes were slaves. There was even some evidence that Roman women frequented brothels for sex with male prostitutes.

“Sex, like death, is always of consuming human interest and has been over the centuries,” she said.

Two Hellenistic-era mausoleums unearthed in western Turkey

Source: Xinhua through the People's Daily Online

Archeologists have unearthed two mausoleums dating as far back as the Hellenistic-era at the ancient city of Antandros in Turkey's Aegean province of Balikesir, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported on Thursday.

During the excavations carried out in the necropolis near Altinoluk village of Balikesir, traces signing that the area was used as a residential place in the late Roman period were found, assistant professor Gurcan Polat, head of the excavation team, was quoted as saying.

"The mausoleums were built with rubble and plastered by lime having a facet of marble in the ancient period," said Polat.

Indicating that a private bath was unearthed in the Roman villa, the second working field of excavations, Polat said they also revealed approximately 100 unfunctional miniature cans (hydrias), which were the signs of a holy place in a layer dating back to the third century B.C.

The ancient city of Antandros, known for its historical riches, is qualified as the "Ephesus of the Future" with its mural paintings.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Out of town

From October 24 to October 27 I'll be at Knossos, Crete for research....which means no posts. See ya all on Friday!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Delphic Oracle mystery


New research traces presence of gases beneath Apollo’s temple

The site of the Delphic Oracle is likely to have been chosen by the ancients because of the geological fault lying underneath it. The Oracle of Delphi was the most important in the ancient world. Its prophecies have gone down in history and mythology.


By Yiannis Elafros - Kathimerini

The Pythia, the priestess of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi during antiquity, is said to have delivered her oracles in a trance-like state, the possible causes of which have been the subject of much speculation over the centuries and, more lately, of scientific research. The latest work in this direction has been an investigation of the hypothesis that gases emanating from beneath the Adyton, a chamber beneath the temple where the priestess gave her prophecies, could have been largely responsible for her altered state.

«A close relationship has been found between the Oracle and the geological formation of the site,» said Giorgos Papatheodorou, an associate professor of geology at Patras University.

The Oracle of Delphi was the most important in the ancient world. Its prophecies, which have gone down in history and mythology, were based on the utterings of the Pythia as interpreted by the oracle priests, who reshaped her utterances into verse.

Ancient texts relate that the Pythia, sitting on a three-legged stool, chewed laurel leaves while inhaling the vapors that rose from burning herbs.

According to modern research, the Pythia's state was affected by gases rising through the fissures in the ground of the tiny subterranean Adyton.

«We have traced methane, ethylene and carbon dioxide in the area where the Adyton is thought to have been situated. The presence of these gases reduces the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, causing a slight hypnotic state that could result in a frenzied or ecstatic state,» said Papatheodorou.

The research was carried out by an Italian-Greek team of of scientists over the summers of 2004 and 2005 and included Giuseppe Etiope and Paolo Favali of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology, as well as Papatheodorou and his colleagues at Patras University. The results were published in Geology magazine and reproduced on many science websites.

Debate over the link between the Pythia's state and the emission of gases was given fresh impetus in 2000 when a distinguished American geologist, Jelle Zeilinga De Boer, put forward the view that the temple was built over the intersection of two fault lines from which ethylene gases emanated. Ethylene, a sweet-smelling gas, has a toxic effect on the body's nervous system and could have caused the Pythia's altered state. Plutarch himself (who served as a priest at the temple in Delphi), referred to a sweet smell pervading the site during the prophecies.

«Our research did not confirm the ethylene hypothesis. We found no trace of ethylene in our measurements around the Temple of Apollo. Moreover, ethylene is mainly produced from bacteria, which is unlikely to have emanated from the limestone layers underneath the oracle site,» he said.

But as geological changes could have occurred since antiquity, Papatheodorou said that nothing could be ruled out.

«We made a scientific hypothesis that is a satisfactory scenario and should be judged as such. What is important is that the site of the oracle, particularly the Adyton, were chosen due to their geological substructure. The Oracle of Delphi is situated above a geological fault from which the gases could have emanated. The next step is to test for the presence of aromatic hydrocarbons which could account for the sweet smell referred to by Plutarch,» he added. It appears that the most famous oracle in the world still has a few hidden secrets.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Derveni Papyrus finally published

Invaluable papyrus published at last
The first official edition of the Derveni text, with an extensive commentary, is launched in Thessaloniki following 26 years of research



Photo: The Derveni Papyrus, the oldest Greek papyrus, dates to around 340 BC and was probably written quite some time earlier, perhaps in the late fifth, or early fourth century. It is of tremendous importance for the study of both papyrology and archaeology. Scholars who have studied it describe it as ‘the most significant new evidence about ancient Greek philosophy and religion since the Renaissance.’


By Iota Myrtsioti - Kathimerini

Scholars turned out in force on Thursday night for the launch of the first full edition of the Derveni Papyrus at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.

The oldest book in Europe, the Derveni Papyrus is an Orphic, eschatological text that discusses the fate of the soul and the role of the Furies. A mystic, often allegorical text, it was written in the last quarter of the fourth century BC. Scholars who have studied it describe it as «the most significant new evidence about ancient Greek philosophy and religion since the Renaissance.»

The book was found in 1962 in a grave at Derveni, in Thessaloniki. Some scholars object to the fact that the book has not been made accessible to other researchers. The Institute of Philosophical Research, directed by Apostolos Pierris, decried what it called «a major scandal in scientific chronicles.» It also accuses the team of scholars, professors Kyriakos Tsantsanoglou, Theokritos Kouremenos and Georgios Prasaoglou of Thessaloniki University, of hiding the papyrus for decades, delaying its scholarly and critical publication and thereby depriving «the international community of scholars of any access to such a significant text.»

Why was there no scholarly Greek publication for 26 years, despite the fact that, by 1982, the researchers had read 80 percent of the text?

«Because we had to complete it, which included interpreting all of the legible surviving text on 26 scrolls,» Tsantsanoglou told Kathimerini. «It was a difficult task, since we had to assemble that gigantic puzzle which would lead to its integrated form. The first, unauthorized publication in 1982, in a foreign scholarly journal, set us back, as it formed the basis of numerous studies on the Derveni Papyrus.»

As time passed, the papyrus became common property: «In Europe and America,» said the professor, «there were 100 papers and three publications on it. But we went ahead with our research. In 1993 we added another seven columns, which were presented at an international conference.» The Greek researchers followed up with more publications, but there was no official publication.

Besides, the religious and philosophical interpretation was not easy. «Gaps made the task difficult to understand what was allegorical and what was literal in the approach used by the author of the text,» he added.

The dispute flared up in June, when the Greek Culture Ministry announced that the Patras Institute of Philosophical Research and Oxford University were to collaborate on a new study of the papyrus.

At a press conference in the presence of Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Petros Doukas, Pierris and lecturer Dirk Obbink of Oxford announced that they had begun taking photographs for the philosophical analysis of the text, describing those who had studied it so far as «not equal to the stature of the find.»

Following approval by the Central Archaeological Council, the new research team undertook to decipher the text by electronic means. More than 200 charred chunks of papyrus went under the microscope again for a new deciphering and reading, this time with the use of micro-phase photography.

Meanwhile, the researchers at Thessaloniki University completed the first full edition of the papyrus. «The Derveni Papyrus» is in English with a Greek translation and commentary by Tsantsanoglou, Kouremenos - who is professor of papyrology - and Georgios Prasaoglou, who is associate professor of classics.

Other speakers at the presentation were professors Richard Hunter of Cambridge University, Franco Montanari of Genoa University and Gregory Nagy of the Harvard Center of Greek Studies.


Further Reading

Invaluable papyrus published at last

Discoveries that have led to the reexamination of received ideas

Five reasons why the papyrus is unique

Fate of the soul, role of Furies

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hercules Sanctuary at Thebes: Part II


From today's ekathimerini

Among the many archaeological objects found on the plot of land in Thebes was a statue of the mythical hero Hercules and a lion.

IOTA SYKKA

Two years ago exciting finds related to the cult of Hercules came to light on a plot of land in Thebes, sparking international interest and prompting the Greek Culture Ministry to plan an archaeological site in downtown Thebes.

On Tuesday, the Central Archaeological Council decided to appropriate a 343.76-square-meter plot at 13 Polyneiki Street, in order to protect and showcase the archaeological remains related to the cult.

That site held a wealth of finds (including more than 300 groups of ceramics) that will help researchers further examine the area's history.

Among the finds were architectural remains from the Bronze Age, sections of flooring (some of them from the Christian era), Mycenean potsherds, finds which indicate the existence of a temple, and inscriptions that refer to the cult of Hercules and one that is dedicated to Megara.

Also found was a sculpture of Hercules with the lion, a bronze tripod, a pit of votive objects, sacrificial knives and colored potsherds depicting the feats of the mythical hero, Dedalic statues, a 7th century AD kore, and other 5th century BC sculptures.

All the objects found on Polyneiki Street indicate that the site was in use from the late 8th century BC to 480 BC.

The site to be expropriated is on the southwest side of the Acropolis of Cadmeia, about 200 meters south of the gates of Electra. The Thebes tax authority valued the land at 62,000 euros.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hercules Sanctuary at Thebes

Source: Eleutherotypia (in Greek)

Last year, archaeologists unearthed parts of a sanctuary dedicated to Hercules in a small plot at Polynikous Street at Thebes.

The Central Archaeological Council (KAS) has recently decided to declare the area as an organised archaeological site, open to the public.

According to the Ephor of Antiquities, Dr. V. Aravantinos, towards the end of the Geometric period (8th century BC) an heroon was established at an area where Mycenaean remains where still visible (including buildings and graves). The heroon was furnished with an altar where large quantities of ashes and burnt animal bones were found. Nearby this altar, a temple was erected in the 6th century BC. Amongst the finds were hundreds of vases (some of them bearing inscriptions), fragments of daedalic statues and a bronze statue depicting Hercules fighting a lion.