Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mycenaean tombs were found near Olympia

Source: IOL

Athens - Greek archaeologists have uncovered four intact tombs about 30 centuries old and Roman baths from a later period in the south-west of the country, the local media reported on Monday.

The four tombs date from the Mycenaean period (1450 BC to 1050 BC) and are reported to contain many objects such as toys, ceramics and figurines.

The find was made near Olympia in the Peloponnese region in an area which had been excavated in the 1960s and the end of the 1990s.

One of the tombs found by a team headed by archaeologist Olympia Bikatou was apparently that of a child and held toys, images of protecting deities and an effigy of the mother, a woman clasping a child.

One of the objects was a flask showing Cypriot influence
Bikatou told a seminar at Olympia that her team had found ceramics in the form of boxes, alabaster pots and amphoras, some of which had four handles, "which give a complete picture of a Mycenaean ceramics workshop".

One piece of an amphora has a design showing a body displayed on a stretcher carried by four men which, according to Bikatou, "is the only scene of this type in Mycenaean iconography".

The tombs also held intaglio work in the form of engraved stones and seals in steatite and jewelry such as necklaces and pearls.

Giorgia Hatzi, head of the regional archaeological department, said Roman baths covering an area of 1 000 square metres had been found in the region.

They operated from the first to the fourth century AD and consisted of 16 rooms around a central marble-clad colonnade. The cloisters were covered with mosaics.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Tribute to Praxiteles at National Archaeological Museum in July

Visitors will see the works in order, from the most to the least certain attributions

Eighty works from museums in Greece (such as the head of the Artemis of Brauron) and abroad will be on display in the exhibition dedicated to the great sculptor Praxiteles at the capital’s National Archaeological Museum from July 25 through October 31.

Source: ekathimerini IOTA SYKKA

A recent exhibition dedicated to the great sculptor Praxiteles at the Louvre Museum in Paris offered a useful insight to organizers of a Greek exhibition about what to do and what pitfalls to avoid.

It may help the upcoming tribute to Praxiteles at the National Archaeological Museum of Greece (July 25 to October 31) to prevent any overcrowding, repetition and exaggeration.

The Athens exhibition will have some advantages, one being the famous Marathon Boy, the bronze masterwork that was not the centerpiece to the Louvre exhibition, and which gave rise to a major misunderstanding on both sides.

The extremely fragile statue will be moved, with its base, to the temporary exhibition hall, where it will be the central exhibit, together with a surprise that the museum’s director, Nikos Kaltsas, has planned.

Eros of Thespies

Another impressive exhibit is the small marble Eros of Thespies that was “discovered” a couple of years ago among the many treasures that fill the museum’s storerooms.

Another masterpiece in the exhibition is the ivory figurine of Apollo that the First Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities lent with some reluctance as the figurine is exceedingly fragile, having been reconstructed from 240 tiny fragments.

There will be 80 exhibits on display, 27 of them from museums abroad, as many again from Greek museums (such as the Iraklion Archaeological Museum, the Numismatic Museum and the Brauron Museum), and a further 26 from the National Archaeological Museum’s own collection.

One innovation is that all the works on display will be either from the time of Praxiteles or Roman copies, but no later.

Some experts objected to the Louvre exhibition’s inclusion of later works in order to show the influence of Praxiteles, not only on the Hellenistic and Roman periods, but also on the Renaissance and more recent times.

The organizers did not want to use any casts in the exhibition, apart from that of Hermes from Olympia.

In Athens, the works will be presented in order from the most certain to the least certain attributions.

Sculptor’s workshop

The workshop of Praxiteles, who was born around 395 BC, operated for around a century.

It began with his father, Cephisodotus the Elder, the best-known Athenian bronze-caster of the period 390-370 BC, from whom Praxiteles learnt his trade, and was continued by his sons, Cephisodotus and Timodotus.

Among the highlights of the exhibition will be the works that travelled from Athens to Paris for the Louvre tribute, as well as two inscribed plinths which bear the signature of Praxiteles from the Ancient Agora Museum, the head of Artemis of Brauron from the old Acropolis Museum, the torso of an Arles-type Aphrodite, a grave stele with a relief and the Mantineia Base.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ancient Egyptian City Spotted From Space

Source: LiveScience.com via AOL News

By Heather Whipps

(June 6) - Satellites hovering above Egypt have zoomed in on a 1,600-year-old metropolis, archaeologists say.

Images captured from space pinpoint telltale signs of previous habitation in the swatch of land 200 miles south of Cairo, which digging recently confirmed as an ancient settlement dating from about 400 A.D.

The find is part of a larger project aiming to map as much of ancient Egypt's archaeological sites, or "tells," as possible before they are destroyed or covered by modern development.

"It is the biggest site discovered so far," said project leader Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "Based on the coins and pottery we found, it appears to be a massive regional center that traded with Greece, Turkey and Libya."

Another large city dating to 600 B.C. and a monastery from 400 A.D. are some of the four hundred or so sites that Parcak has located during her work with the satellites. The oldest dates back over 5,000 years.

Egypt contains a wealth of already identified archaeological tells like these, but even they represent only about 0.01 percent of what is out there still uncovered, Parcak said.

Most of the ancient settlements still buried are at risk of being lost to looting and urban sprawl. Residential sites, where the Egyptian empire's millions of citizens lived during its heyday, are especially vulnerable, archaeologists say.

"There are thousands of settlements that Egyptians don't even know are there," Parcak told LiveScience. "Nothing will ever destroy the Pyramids or the Temple of Luxor, but these huge settlement sites where we get a lot of information are being threatened. And that's how we find out how people lived."

The satellite technology lets archaeologists such as Parcak—the first to use space imagery in Egypt—identify points of interest on a large scale.

"Basically, I'm trying to distinguish the ancient remains from the modern landscape," she said. "A site is going to appear very differently from space." Archaeological sites absorb moisture in a different way, she explained, and tend to be covered with specific types of soil and vegetation.

The subtle differences would take much longer to identify on the ground, said Parcak, so Egypt's government uses her catalog to identify sites and excavate there before development takes over and destroys the site for good.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Subway Dig Unearths Rome's Ancient Past

Source: NPR

By Sylvia Poggioli

It's been centuries since archaeologists excavated Rome's central Piazza Venezia, but just a few hundred yards from the Roman Forum, skeletons of the city's past are surfacing.

In a hole 18 feet below the piazza, construction workers and archaeologists digging Rome's new subway line are carefully uncovering Rome's layered history.

Closest to the surface are building remnants from renaissance Rome that were torn down in the late 19th century. The next layer exposes the remains of Via Flamina, a medieval road that once cut through the city. Below that, herringbone pavement from around A.D. 700 peeks through.

Unlike Paris or New York, whose intricate subway lines connect, Rome has historic subterreanean layers that have prevented its subway system from uniting. Giovanni Simonacci, the technical director of the new subway line, says that in Rome, archaeological remnants can be found up to 30 feet below the surface. At 90 feet down, the subway's tunnels won't displace antique artifacts, but the upper stations and air vents will.

Archaeologists decide whether artifacts are historically important enough to be maintained, or whether they can be destroyed. They deemed a Roman tavern from the Middle Ages acceptable for destruction, but they scrapped an entire subway stop near the Pantheon after workers found the base of an imperial Roman public building. Tourists will walk an extra 200 yards from Piazza Venezia to reach the relocated stop.

Elsewhere at the excavation, workers have found what archaeologists call a "looter's hole." During the Middle Ages, builders tied to a rope would drop down the well-like shaft and roam the lower layers in search of bricks, blocks of rock or slabs of marble from earlier centuries to be used for new construction.

Simonacci says the Piazza Venezia dig shows just a fragment of the rich Roman heritage below ground.

"There isn't an inch of Rome that doesn't have some artifacts below the street," he says. "In 300 A.D., Rome already had one-and-a-half million inhabitants. If we were to bring to light everything they and subsequent generations built, we would have to eliminate all of the streets of Rome."

How did fish reach Jerusalem?

Source: Haaretz

By Ran Shapira

Jerusalem's ancient water system, which excavations over the past decade are gradually uncovering, included a large pool hewn into rock. The pool, next to the Gihon Spring in the City of David, ceased to be used and dried up in the late eighth century B.C.E., after King Hezekiah of Judah built a new water project in the city, the Siloam tunnel. But according to Prof. Roni Reich, of the University of Haifa's Archaeology Department, and Eli Shukrun of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who are overseeing the excavations at the site, the pool hewn into the rock did not remain desolate for long: Toward the end of the eighth century B.C.E., a Jerusalem resident decided to build himself a house inside it, thus sparing himself a lot of work, since the pool's four hewn walls served as a base for the external walls of his home.

Apparently, the new homeowners did not want to live in the depths of the pool and preferred to raise the lower level of their home by about three meters. In order to bring the house to the desired level, they poured stones and earth into the bottom of the pool, and its upper reaches abutted the floor of the house.

The excavation, being managed by the IAA with the assistance of the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority (INNPPA), the Elad Association and the Gihon Company, has uncovered in the attached earthen floor of the house clay vessels dating to the end of the eighth century B.C.E., but the more surprising findings were in the stratum beneath. Reich and Shukrun decided to sift through all of it in the hope of uncovering artifacts that would help date the structure.