Thursday, August 30, 2007

Greek know-how for new museum

Jordan collaborates with Greek Society of Middle Eastern Studies on Dead Sea discoveries

By Iota Sykka - Kathimerini

A new museum, a joint Jordanian-Greek project, is currently being constructed on the new 400-kilometer highway linking the capital of Amman with Aqaba, just three kilometers outside the town of Safi.

The shell-shaped edifice enjoys a view of the Dead Sea on one side and a huge, bare mountain on the other.

The program for the construction of the building is already under way, while the museological study and lay-out of exhibits, the organization of exhibitions and educational programs, as well as the website design and development is being undertaken by a team of Greek experts. The museum is scheduled for inauguration in 2008.

Launched in 2002, the project was assigned by the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to the Greek Society of Middle Eastern Studies (EEMES), under the supervision of Dr Constantinos Politis, who spearheaded the program.

The professor has a profound knowledge of the region after conducting excavations and research there for over 23 years as a special envoy of the British Museum.

“Thanks to the finds yielded by those excavations, and especially the discovery of the Monastery of Saint Lot and the remnants of an Early Christian basilica containing mosaics with Greek inscriptions, the area was designated a holy site by the late King Hussein of Jordan,” explains archaeologist and museologist Giorgos Papaioannou, general secretary of EEMES and professor at the University of Ioannina, who is in charge of the museological study.

Bronze Age relics

“Bronze Age cemeteries containing literally hundreds of thousands of graves that are of great architectural interest have been excavated by experts as well as illegal excavators. The Israelites, Egyptians, Nabataeans, Greeks and, after Alexander the Great, the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans, all passed through the region, influencing the indigenous Arab communities,” explains the archaeologist.

Each has left its mark in the area, he says, be it in the form of architectural structures, ceramics, weaponry, grave sites, mosaics, inscriptions, jewelry or clothes.

“Monasticism developed in the early Byzantine years, as attested by the Monastery of Saint Lot, which dates to the 5th to 7th century and was excavated by Dr Constantinos Politis, as well as by the large number of places of retreat that have been found, most of which were carved into the rock of the wadis that can be found in the area. The site is mentioned in the Bible and in the Koran. It is said to be the site of Sodom and Gomorrah and a place visited by Moses, the prophets, Jesus, Mohammed and even Lawrence of Arabia,” says Papaioannou.

All this and more was what prompted the Jordanian government to promote and develop the area, which is, moreover, of special geological and geographical interest.

Invaluable displays

The material that will comprise the new museum’s displays is rich and varied.

“Some of the artifacts are of equal value to the Dead Sea Scrolls,” says the Ioannina University professor.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wildfires in Greece: Donations

A special fund has been set up so individuals could make donations. Anyone wanting to donate money can do so by visiting the branch of any commercial bank and making a deposit in Account No 2341103053 of the Bank of Greece.

The following info might also be required:

Bank of Greece
21 E. Venizelos Ave., GR-102 50 Athens
IBAN GR 9801000230000002341103053

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

McSweeney's Suggested Edits to the Movie 300 for the DVD release of 300: The Definitive, Historically Accurate Cut.


Edit One


PERSIAN OFFICER: Spartans! Lay down your weapons!



PERSIAN OFFICER: Spartans! Lay down your weapons!

KING LEONIDAS: PERSIANS! First, I note that your speaking these words to me face to face strikes me as odd, given how such deliberations concerning détente would generally be handled by way of written correspondence between commanders, as opposed to direct discussions among field officers! Second, I say to you that, though our battle uniforms have been pared down to an unthinkably inefficient yet symbolically selfless and heroic combination of helmet, cape, sandals, and leather skirt, we still menacingly hold forth our metal swords and spears and say to you: COME AND GET THEM!!

Edit Two


PERSIAN EMISSARY: A thousand nations of the Persian Empire will descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun.

STELIOS: (Laconically.) Then we will fight in the shade.


PERSIAN EMISSARY: A thousand nations, hyperbolically speaking, of the Persian Empire will descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun.

STELIOS: (Laconically.) Then we will fight in the shade.

PERSIAN EMISSARY: You filthy Spartan! That sounds exactly like something you might say, seeing as how you are noted, here in antiquity, for your pithily off-the-cuff laconic speech patterns!

STELIOS: (Laconically.) That is correct.

Edit Three


KING LEONIDAS: Spartans! Enjoy your breakfast and eat hearty, for tonight we dine in HELL!


KING LEONIDAS: Spartans! Enjoy your breakfast of wheat bread, olive oil, and various legumes, for tonight we dine in HELL! For, you see, I am a sharp and seasoned military mind and I understand that this is merely a delaying action, that we have no hope for victory, and that we shall surely lose our lives! Probably today! And when I refer to "hell" I of course mean "Hades," our conception of the abode of all dead and not necessarily a place of eternal pain and torment! And that is where, tonight, we dine!

Edit Four


KING LEONIDAS: This is where we fight! This is where they die!


KING LEONIDAS: Though heavy silt deposits over the coming centuries will probably cause the coastline to recede from the cliffs, this narrow stretch of beach is presently only a matter of yards from the slopes of Mount Kallidromos, and it is where we fight! Likewise, this conveniently narrow chokepoint is where they die! Although, as I previously mentioned, we ourselves are not likely to survive the day's battle, either!

Edit Five


SPARTAN ARMY: (Heading off for battle from Sparta to Thermopylae.) HOO-AH! HOO-AH! HOO-AH!


SPARTAN ARMY: (Heading off for battle from Sparta to Thermopylae.) HOO-AH! HOO—

ASTINOS: Leonidas, my king. It appears we are marching southward. If I may be so bold, I am certain Thermopylae is north of Sparta.

KING LEONIDAS: Aww, son of a bitch! Spartans! Turn around, boys, before we end up in fuckin' Crete!

Edit Six


(No dialogue. Elephant-mounted Persians charge the Spartans along the cliffs of Mount Kallidromos.)


DAXOS: (To Ephialtes, as elephant-mounted Persians charge the Spartans along the cliffs of Mount Kallidromos.) Elephants? All the way across the Hellespont? Seriously?

EPHIALTES: They must have brought them by ship.

DAXOS: Right. Fifty, sixty elephants by ship for hundreds upon hundreds of nautical miles. You sure?

EPHIALTES: Who are you—Zoology Joe? Just try to kill the damn things, will you?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Praxiteles between history and myth

Source: Athens News

Following its Louvre debut, the 4th century BC sculptor's exhibitionreaches the National Archaeological Museum in its more compressed version


THE GREATEST sculptor of 4th century BC Attica, Praxiteles was the first to capture the female figure in the nude: a full-scale representation of Aphrodite (the so-called Cnidian statue type) modelled after Thespian courtesan Phryne. Another of his breakthroughs was that he liberated Greek sculpture from the grandiose and imposing touch of Pheidias by humanising his subjects - mostly of divine descent - in order to reflect his fascination with life and by working the fine Parian marble to a smooth, silky effect even when it came to the depiction of demonic figures such as satyrs.

A grand exhibition at the Louvre Museum in March traced Praxiteles' myth and history through the display of mainly Roman copies given that a very small number of sculptures have been identified by researchers as Praxiteles' own or as the originals of his workshop.

Though more compressed due to practical reasons, the Greek version of the Louvre show - running at the National Archaeological Museum through to October 31 - features 79 works from prestigious museums abroad, such as the Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London, the Vatican and Capitolium museums in Rome, as well as the archaeological museums of Ancient Agora, Corinth, Vravrona, Thebes, Rhodes and Corfu.

"The main difference is that Praxiteles [the Greek version] does not feature certain works which were shown in the Louvre but has been enriched with some more exhibits," National Archaeological Museum director Nikolaos Kaltsas told the Athens News.

In addition, the Athens show has been designed to include Praxiteles' family: his father Cephisodotus the Elder and his two sons Cephisodotus the Younger and Timarchus. This dynasty of sculptors "remained active in Athens and around Greece for a period of 130 years from the end of the 5th century BC to the first quarter of the 3rd century BC", said Kaltsas.

Items on display have been arranged at the museum's four temporary exhibition halls to facilitate the viewer's transition from works which are most certainly associated to Praxiteles to the lesser, and eventually the least, certain ones.

Original works on display

Numismatic evidence - examples of which are displayed first - points to Praxiteles' practice of attributing human features to the Olympian gods. Aphrodite, Eros and Dionysus, in particular, were treated by the sculptor as symbols of the joy of life, with Aphrodite shedding her garments and Dionysus assuming the expression of a carefree, smiling youth.

A silver tetradrachm from Athens shows an owl on an amphora next to a bow-holding Apollo Lykeios. Apparently, a large number of statues made in Praxiteles' workshop were depicted on the reverse side of coins, which were issued by many Greek cities.

"Among the original works on display," said Kaltsas," are the statue bases that bear the signature of Praxiteles [Praxiteles made] and those of his father and sons, as well as three marble relief slabs [one depicting the music contest between Apollo and the satyr Marsyas, the rest representing the Three Muses] found in Mantineia, Arcadia."

Based on the writings of travel-writer Pausanias, who visited Mantineia in the 2nd century AD, most scholars agree that the three slabs together with a fourth one, which is now lost, formed the revetment of a base for the statues of Leto, Apollo and Artemis in the temple of Leto. One of the signed statue bases was discovered during excavation work for the Athens Metro and is the most recent piece associated to Praxiteles.

Among the few highlights which have been attributed to Praxiteles' circle, the much-publicised bronze statue of the Marathon Boy (found by a fisherman in the Marathon Sea) never made it to the Louvre, despite high demand as it had been characterised as 'immovable'. Affixed to its base, the statue, whose feet have partly been restored, has not ventured out of the National Archaeological Museum for decades now.

"Had it been in another museum, the Marathon Boy would not have joined the Athens show," said Kaltsas. "We were very cautious as we transferred it together with its base from one museum hall to another."

An ivory statuette of Apollo Lykeios from the Ancient Agora consisting of over 200 fragments was another risky transfer, Kaltsas noted. "It was not possible for the piece to be packaged, even more so to travel. We carried it by hand a day before the show's opening."

The Marathon Boy was not the only point of controversy between the National Archaeological Museum and the Louvre. An original bronze sculpture of Apollo Sauroktonos (translates to "The Lizard Slayer"), owned by the Cleveland Museum of Art in the US, never made it to the Louvre - or Athens - following Greece's demand to have it excluded from the show as the work's provenance and legal ownership were strongly disputed.

The Cleveland Museum of Art claims that it legally acquired the sculpture - since 1935 in the possession of German collector Ernst-Ulrich Walter - from the private collection of Lebanese brothers Hicham and Ali Aboutaam. But Italian authorities combating the looting of antiquities advocate that Polaroid pictures prove that the work was retrieved by fishermen from the Ionian Sea in the early 1990s.

If not for the world-famous marble group of Hermes with the Infant Dionysus - discovered in ancient Olympia in 1877, permanently exhibited at the Olympia Archaeological Museum and represented at Praxiteles' Athens show by a plaster cast (the only modern copy on display) - just one more sculpture, the marble head of Artemis Brauronia, is beyond any doubt attributed to Praxiteles.

The head together with one marble slab from Mantineia, two statue bases bearing Praxiteles' signature, the base of a triangular marble tripod in relief and an Aphrodite head were among the works that travelled to the Louvre prior to their Athens display.

Roman copies and statue types

At the National Archaeological Museum exhibition, originals give way to a large section of Roman copies. "In the Roman times, there was a tendency to copy classical masterpieces - not only by Praxiteles but also by Pheidias and Polykleitos - which would then serve as decoration in Roman villas," Kaltsas pointed out.

This copying fever is best illustrated through the Cnidian Aphrodite, among Praxiteles' best-known sculptures, which was painted by Praxiteles' favourite painter Nicias. "Some 300 copies of the original exist. Not all the copies follow the original's dimensions as some of them are a product of microsculpture," said Kaltsas.

For educational purposes copies have been arranged according to statue type. Apart from the Cnidian Aphrodite and the Aphrodite of Arles (one of the Arles heads bears a cross on its forehead as a result of the spread of Christianity), which have been named after their place of origin, there are copies of Centocelle Eros with the nude god holding a bow and arrow; Apollo the Lizard Slayer, the god getting ready to strike a lizard against the trunk of a tree; a variation of the Artemis of Braurona under the name Dresden Artemis; Apollo Lykeios, a statue type that was very popular in Hellenistic and Roman times; the Wine-Pouring Satyr depicted with pointed ears and an ivy wreath; and Dionysus Sardanapalus, the Greek transcription of the name of the legendary king of Assyria.

Though scientific discourse regarding the statue types varies, some common ground has been reached. "The Cnidian Aphrodite and Apollo Sauroktonos are clearly attributed to Praxiteles. It is the ancient sources that point to this identification," said Kaltsas. "Very few doubts have been raised with regard to the Aphrodite of Arles, Eros Centocelle and the Reclining and Wine-Pouring Satyrs, and these are feeble. Some researchers have noted Praxitelean influences in the Artemis of Dresden and the Apollo Lykeios. The association becomes weaker when it comes to the Dionysus Sardanapalus and the Large and Small Herakleion Women."

A comparative study of the statue types on display at the National Archaeological Museum allows the viewer to draw some conclusions regarding what are considered to be the hallmarks of Praxiteles' art and - for the most inquisitive - 4th century BC sculpture: youthful, life-asserting subjects of perfect proportions, the loose S-shaped outline of the body, the use of a tree, stelae or drapery for supporting purposes.

The colossal head of Artemis Brauronia - much like the Aberdeen Head believed to represent Hermes, Heracles or another hero and not considered by scholars as an original of Praxiteles - does not follow the sculptor's style. Artemis Brauronia, the goddess of bulls, was among the earliest finds from the Acropolis excavations discovered in 1839 in the area of the sanctuary of Athena Hygeia.

"When it came to sculpting a cult work, Praxiteles would often modify his style," said Kaltsas. "Unlike the youthful depiction of Aphrodite, the goddess of bulls had to be rendered in an austere fashion."

Originally thought to depict Dionysus, the work was identified as Praxiteles' own by professor of archaeology Georgios Despinis in 1994.

* The Praxiteles exhibition is on at the National Archaeological Museum (44 Patission St, tel 210-821-7717) through to October 31. Open: Monday 1-8.30pm; Tuesday-Sunday 8am-7.30pm; national holidays 8.30am-3pm. Admission at 7 euros (students 3 euros)

* The exhibition's accompanying catalogue (in Greek only) is available at the museum at 45 euros

Thursday, August 23, 2007

German returns "cursed" stolen Pharaonic carving

Source: Yahoo! News

CAIRO (Reuters) - A German has handed in a package containing part of a Pharaonic carving to Egypt's embassy in Berlin, with a note saying his stepfather had suffered a "curse of the Pharaohs" for stealing it, Egypt said on Wednesday.

The note said the man felt obliged to return the carving to make amends for his late stepfather and enable his soul to rest in peace, Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities said.

The stepfather had stolen the piece while on a visit to Egypt in 2004 and on his return to Germany suffered paralysis, nausea, unexplained fevers and cancer before dying recently, the anonymous man said in the note.

The Egyptian embassy in Berlin had sent the fragment back to Egypt by diplomatic pouch and it had been handed over to the Supreme Council for Antiquities, where a committee of experts was trying to ascertain its authenticity, the statement said.

The belief in a curse that strikes down anyone who disturbs the tombs or mummies of ancient Egypt's Pharaohs has been around since the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 and the subsequent death of the excavation's financier Lord Carnarvon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bronze Age excavations in Cyprus open new chapter

Source: Financial Mirror

Archaeological investigations in the past summer featured renewed excavations at the Bronze Age community of Politiko-Troullia, about 25 km southwest of Nicosia in the copper-bearing foothills of the Troodos Mountains, and brought to light a series of households that produced evidence of intensive animal husbandry and crop processing, copper or bronze metallurgy and sophisticated ceramic technology.

According to the excavations, this took place during the Middle Bronze Age, just prior to the advent of cities on Late Bronze Age Cyprus.

The results from Politiko-Troullia open a new archaeological chapter on the communities that provided the foundation for urbanized civilization on Cyprus.

Under the direction of Dr. Steven Falconer and Dr. Patricia Fall of Arizona State University, this fieldwork revealed extensive evidence of the Bronze Age community (ca. 2000 B.C.) that was the predecessor of ancient Tamassos, the seat of a centrally important kingdom during the subsequent Iron Age.

The excavations involved graduate and undergraduate students from Cyprus, Canada, Australia and the United States.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ancient hide-out uncovered in Albania

Source: USA Today

By Dan Vergano

Looking to get it away from it all? Consider Albania. An archaeology team reports that the mountains of northern Albania, perhaps the most remote place left in Europe, have been a hide-out for a surprisingly long time.

A leader of the expedition, archaeologist Michael Galaty of Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., reports on this summer's expedition now that he's back from to the Shala Valley in northern Northern Albania's mountains, the tail end of the Alps.

"Some five hundred years ago, people came here fleeing the Ottoman empire. We expected to find what they left behind," Galaty says. Perched on a promontory near the village of Grunas (Groo-NAS) are the remains of walls, which the team initially assumed were from a hideout left over from the 1500's, a time when exiles repopulated the region, on the lam from the new empire.

However, a little digging on a 2006 expedition revealed something wrong with the walls. They were too old and some were made of "cyclopean" stone, boulders roughly fitted together without any mortar, a style associated with the Bronze-Age Greek Kingdom of Mycenae. Instead of a medieval hidey-hole, the team had unearthed the remains of a fortress from the Bronze Age, some time around 800 B.C., as indicated by a radiocarbon date and the pottery and stone tools left behind there.

"For whatever reason, it turns out people have been fleeing to this valley for about 3,000 years," Galaty says. The find is particularly interesting for a few reasons, he adds. Around 800 B.C., the shift from Bronze Age to Iron Age had started in the region of Europe north of Greece. The ancient Greeks were emerging from a long Dark Age that had lasted for several centuries and were tangling with Illyrian kingdoms on the Adriatic coast, just downhill from mountainous northern Albania.

The Illyrians were one of the classic pains-in-the-necks of in the classical world. Their pirates were denounced by the Romans, who routed them on the way to conquering the Mediterranean around, in a long-running fight that concluded around 160 B.C. Was the fortress of Grunas some sort of redoubt against these ruffians of the high seas in the ancient world, or part of their kingdom, Galaty and his colleagues wondered.

This summer, with help from the National Science Foundation and others, Galaty's team went back to uncover the story of who owned the fortress of Grunas. To their surprise, they uncovered at least five buildings (two of them stone), mud-plastered houses for a more than a dozen people, the foundations of a pair of look-out towers, a gate and huge terraces. Galaty believes a few hundred people likely lived in the fortress, whose age was confirmed by chemical analysis of the pottery shards found in the foundations. "Somebody put in a lot of time and effort to build walls up there," he says, noting the terrace walls were several feet thick and reached more than 15 feet high in places.

Drilling about 2,000 auger holes in the terraces atop the hilltop, the team determined that people have been leaving behind waste at the site since at least about 1,000 BC. And they found the terraces were carefully engineered in place, a common practice in the classic Greek world, but unknown in northern Albanian sites.

Although the team members, who included Ols Lafe of the Albanian Institute of Archaeology and Zamir Tafilica of Albania's Shkodër Historical Museum, are still deciphening who lived in Grunas, much of the pottery they have uncovered appears to originate from farther further south of Albania in the early Iron Age, towards the Illyrian coast. The Shala Valley may have held folks trading with the Illyrians, if not hiding from them, Galaty suggests. "History repeats itself, after all."

The next invasion might not be pirates or empire-builders, he adds, but skiers, attracted by snows that regularly leave people snowed in during the height of winter and a slowing of hostilities in Kosovo. "If they put in a paved road to the valley, it will be all over," says Galaty. "It's just too beautiful a place to be hidden forever."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ancient Byzantine Church Discovered In Tiberias

Source: Scoop

Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority

Impressive Byzantine church discovered in excavations in Tiberias

In excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Tiberias impressive and unique finds were uncovered that shed light on the history of the ancient city.

The excavations were conducted over the course of the last three months at the request of Mekorot, as part of a project that involves the installation of a sewage pipeline and the transfer of the waste water treatment facility from Tiberias to the southern part of the Sea of Galilee.

The finds that were exposed date from the founding of Tiberias in the first century CE until the eleventh century, when the city was abandoned due to an earthquake, wars and dire economic and security conditions. In the lower part of the city, a Byzantine church (from the fourth-fifth centuries CE) was exposed that is paved with magnificent polychrome mosaics decorated with geometric patterns and crosses.

Three dedicatory inscriptions written in ancient Greek are incorporated in the mosaics. In one of the inscriptions, which were deciphered by Dr. Leah Di Signi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the line: "Our Lord, protect the soul of your servant..." [Our Lord=Jesus]

One of the mosaics is adorned with a medallion in which there is a large cross flanked by the letters alpha and omega, which are one of the monograms for Jesus (alpha to omega meaning from A to Z in Greek).

The church's remains were discovered adjacent to ancient public buildings among them a basilica, bathhouse, streets and shops that were exposed at the site in the past. Dr. Moshe Hartal and Edna Amos, the directors of the excavation on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, stated that this is the most ancient church to be uncovered in Tiberias and the only one that has been found in the center of the city.

According to Dr. Hartal, from the year 427 CE the Church issued a decree prohibiting the placement of crosses in mosaic floors in order to prevent them from being stepped on. "The presence of so many crosses in the floors of the church that was exposed here thus confirms the church dates to the period prior to the ban," he said.

In addition, the remains of a Jewish neighborhood that dates to the tenth-eleventh centuries were discovered in the excavations. These remains extend up to the foot of the cliff in the high part of the city, in an area that was probably residential in nature.

"The discovery of the remains of the church in the middle of the ancient city, like that of the Jewish neighborhood and the magnificent city that existed in Tiberias more than one thousand years ago, greatly contributes to our understanding of the town planning, its scope and it structures," archaeologists on behalf of the Antiquities Authority said.

The discovery of the church in the heart of the Jewish quarter disproves the theory that the Jews prevented the Christians from establishing prayer halls in the middle of the city," they added.

In the Holiday Inn hotel's parking lot, in the southern part of the excavation, buildings were uncovered that were replete with a wealth of impressive ceramic vessels that date to the Early Islamic period (8th-11th centuries CE) and installations for the manufacture of glass and pottery vessels.

These finds show that in this period the settlement of Hammat was included within the domain of the city of Tiberias, which had grown and expanded beyond the Byzantine city walls that had previously separated it from Hammat.

In addition a settlement was discovered that dates to the Early Bronze Age (from 5,000 years ago) thereby attesting to the fact that the region of Tiberias was inhabited in periods earlier than those mentioned in the historical sources.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Queen Nefertiti: More than a pretty face

Source: Expatica

German scientists have discovered that the world's most beautiful woman allowed herself to be sculpted with wrinkles to appear more beautiful.

Maybe wrinkles are not so bad, after all, some German scientists have discovered.

In ancient times, such laugh lines and wrinkles around the mouth improved the face of Nefertiti, the Egyptian queen acclaimed as the world's most beautiful woman.

X-ray pictures of the bust by a computer tomography machine at the nearby Charite Hospital in Berlin revealed that the sculpture is a piece of limestone with details added using four outer layers of plaster of Paris.

"We have discovered that the sculptor later added gentle wrinkles to her face, especially around the eyes," said Dietrich Wildung, director of the Museum of Egyptology housed in the upper storey of the Altes Museum.

"The wrinkles make the image more individual and expressive."

The scientists speculate that Nefertiti, who would have sat for the sculptor, herself approved the older look.

Scientific motivation

The 3,000-year-old bust of Nefertiti is the greatest treasure at Berlin's Altes Museum.
Wildung said he received the revelation a year ago that the serene face, which today lacks one eye, was not quite as smooth as it looked.

Museum officials, who say Nefertiti is too fragile to visit Egypt, even worried about sending her to the hospital.

The scan of the artwork, which is 50 centimeters tall including the hat, was arranged in cooperation with film teams from the US National Geographic Society and German public broadcaster ZDF. Their documentary was aired last month in Germany.

"The prime motivation was scientific," stressed Wildung, an Egyptologist who said he had always presumed that some plaster "make-up" had been applied as a finish to the solid limestone before it was painted.

The results prove once and for all that the artist re-adjusted the image four times.

"The purpose was not to idealize her at all, but to make the image more realistic," Wildung explained, suggesting that hints of age were probably not taboo in Nefertiti-era art, but a source of prestige.

Sign of esteem

It may surprise modern women who go to the cosmetic surgeon to recover that smooth teenage complexion, but wrinkles have always been esteemed as a subtle badge of wisdom.

The museum is to alter the lighting in the Nefertiti room after the discovery.

"The lighting will now emphasize the eye area and show these hints that she has a past and is not ageless," said Wildung.

Nefertiti was the chief wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten who ruled about 1350 BC.

"There are still quite a few mysteries about her," said Wildung. "We don't know if she was a native Egyptian or came from the Middle East. Nor do we know how old she was when she married or if she survived her husband."

Call for return

It will always be a matter of speculation exactly how old she was when the royal sculptor Thutmosis preserved her appearance for immortality.

The sculpture was re-discovered in 1912 by a German archaeologist, Ludwig Borchhardt, during an excavation in Egypt. It was awarded to the German excavation team under the legal arrangements for the dig and duly exported.

James Simon, the German merchant and patron of the arts who funded the expedition, kept the bust in his Berlin home for a time, then donated it in 1920 to the government of Prussia, which was a part of Germany.

Nefertiti went on public display in 1924 and has graced various museums since, accompanied by longing calls from Egypt for her return. The Germans say their legal ownership of the bust is beyond question.

She is set to obtain a new home in 2009 when the collection moves to the nearby Neues Museum after its renovation.

Museum chief Wildung says he often observes museum visitors from his nearby office as they stand in awe before the Egyptian beauty, who now lacks one eye.

"She is more than just a pretty face," he said. "The people go silent in wonderment at her."

Archaeologists to go to Failaka in November

Source: ekathimerini

One of Alexander the Great’s fleet commanders, Nearchus, founded the city of Icarus on Kuwait’s Failaka Island. The 4th century BC Hellenistic city, situated on the 24-square-kilometer island uninhabited since the Gulf War, is about to come to light.

In November, Greek archaeologists will travel to Icarus to carry out excavations and oversee the preservation of the finds. On July 25, the Culture Ministry’s general secretary, Christos Zachopoulos, and Kuwait’s general secretary for culture, the arts and letters signed an agreement for the protection and promotion of the antiquities.

Previous excavations on the island have already disclosed part of the Hellenistic town and the temple of Artemis. Finds include coins, inscriptions, statuettes and vases but also the so-called Icarus Inscription which helped identify the island with the city mentioned by the ancient writers Strabo and Arrian. So far, archaeologists from Denmark, the USA, Italy, France and Kuwait have undertaken work on the island. Zachopoulos pointed out that the agreement is part of a more generalized program of collaboration between the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Arab world, which has already seen archaeological activity in Jordan, Oman and Syria.

The Greek mission will be headed by Angeliki Kottaridi, who works at the ancient site in Vergina as well as Deputy Director of Delos Panayiotis Hadjidakis.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Major Find at Sagalassos

Source: Archaeology

Colossal statue of the emperor Hadrian discovered

A huge, exquisitely carved marble statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian is the latest find from Sagalassos, an ancient Greco-Roman city in south-central Turkey. Archaeologists estimate that the figure was originally between 13 and 16 feet in height (four to five meters). It is, says excavation director Marc Waelkens, one of the most beautiful portraits of Hadrian ever found.

The discovery was made by archaeologists from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), who, under Waelkens' direction, have been investigating the site since 1990. Last month a new excavation campaign started, and the Belgians resumed work at the Roman Bath, focusing on the southeastern corner of the complex.

On Sunday the first fragments of a over life-size statue, a foot and part of a leg, were unearthed. The foot is 31.5 inches (0.80 meters) long; the leg, from just above the knee to the ankle, is nearly five feet (1.5 meters). The elaborate sandal depicted on the footed indicated to the archaeologists that the fragments were from the statue of an emperor. On Monday, the almost intact head of the statue was discovered, revealing that the statue was of Hadrian, who ruled from A.D. 117 to 138. The head measures more than 27 inches (0.70 meters).

Construction of the bath complex in Sagalassos was started during Hadrian's reign, though the building was finished only several decades later. The bath complex is one of several major building projects at Sagalassos that can be dated to the time of Hadrian and the city had a sanctuary of the imperial cult dedicated to Hadrian and his successor Antoninus Pius.

The statue probably dates from the beginning of Hadrian's rule. For updates on the current excavation campaign, including any additional finds related to the Hadrian statue, see the Interactive Dig, City in the Clouds.

More on the colony of Icaros

Hellenistic city on island in Persian Gulf

Greek archaeologists begin work

Corner of the temple to Artemis at Failaka.

OLGA SELLA - ekathimerini

On his way back west from India, Alexander the Great’s Admiral Nearchos reached the island of Failaka, about 20 kilometers from what is now Kuwait City, and founded a town there called Icaros. Twenty-five centuries later, that Hellenistic city is slowly coming to light again on the 24-square-kilometer island that was depopulated during the Gulf War of 1991.

This coming November, Greek archaeologists are to go to the island to continue the excavations, organize the site, and restore the finds from that ancient Greek colony in the heart of the East.

An accord to that effect was signed on July 25 by Culture Ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos and the Kuwait National Council Secretary-General for Culture, the Arts and Letters Bader Abdulwahab Al-Rifae.

The island, which reflects “many periods of archaeological interest,” said Zachopoulos, has been previously excavated and has revealed part of a Hellenistic town and a temple to Artemis, the ancient Greek goddess of hunting.

Many Greek coins and inscriptions have been found, along with figurines and ceramic vessels. The most important artifact found so far is the Icaros inscription, consisting of 42 verses in Greek, a find that was decisive in identifying the island with the city of Icaros referred to by ancient historians Strabo and Arrian. Previous excavations were carried out by teams of archaeologists from Denmark, the USA, Italy, France and Kuwait.

Zachopoulos highlighted that the agreement signed is part of a broader cooperation program between the Culture Ministry and the Arab world that includes archaeological missions to Jordan, Oman and Syria.

The Greek team is headed by archaeologist Angeliki Kottaridou, who has worked at the site in Vergina, and her deputy Panayiotis Hadzidakis, head of the Delos site.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

On Failaka Island off Kuwait...

Source: ekathimerini

Greek archaeologists are planning to excavate the ancient colony (seen above) founded by Alexander the Great on Failaka Island off Kuwait in the 4th century BC, the Culture Ministry said yesterday. The town was built by Greeks on Alexander’s expeditionary force.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Getty, Italy reopen talks on antiquities

Negotiations resume on 46 disputed artifacts as a deadline for a cultural embargo looms.

By Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino, LA Times
July 31, 2007

Days before a threatened cultural embargo was scheduled to take effect, the J. Paul Getty Museum has resumed negotiations with the Italian government over 46 of the museum's disputed antiquities — opening the door to a possible agreement.

In an exchange described by a Getty official as "intense" and "useful," the museum has exchanged letters with Italy's minister of culture, exploring possible settlements of the dispute, authorities from both sides confirmed Monday.

Neither side would provide details of the negotiations, but Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig said Monday that museum officials were "hopeful this will lead to a resolution…. We believe both sides are committed to resolving the issues that separate us."

The apparent breakthrough comes after an eight-month deadlock and was made possible when Italy took off the table what had been a key sticking point in the talks: the fate of the so-called Getty Bronze, a 4th century BC statue of a young athlete found by Italian fishermen in the 1960s.

The statue is considered a signature piece in the Getty's antiquities collection, occupying a climate-controlled room built specially for it at the Getty Villa, near Malibu.

A senior Italian official said the culture ministry decided that the fate of the statue should not be negotiated until a new criminal investigation into the statue's discovery and export from Italy is complete. The official asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the record while negotiations were ongoing.

The new investigation, being conducted by a regional magistrate, was requested several months ago by a local citizens group in Fano, hometown of the fishermen who found the statue, brought it ashore and hid it in a cabbage field before selling it to a local dealer.

But even its citizen sponsors admit the investigation is unlikely to uncover the full story of the artifact's discovery and export from Italy. Nearly four decades have passed since the bronze athlete left Italy under mysterious circumstances, and many of the people involved have since died.

Even with the impasse broken, the Getty and Italy have tough negotiations ahead, including the fate of the museum's prized statue of Aphrodite and several other of the collection's masterpieces.

Italy first formally demanded the return of the bronze and 45 other antiquities in January 2006, saying the they had been illicitly excavated and smuggled out of Italy before being purchased by the Getty Museum.

Several of the artifacts have been used as evidence in the Italian government's criminal case against Marion True, the Getty's former antiquities curator who is facing charges in Rome of trafficking in looted art.

In November, the museum offered to return 26 disputed objects, but talks broke down over the bronze, which was not among the offered pieces. Italian authorities turned down the deal, saying they would only agree if all 46 objects were returned.

Earlier this month, Francesco Rutelli, Italy's minister of culture, visited Fano.

In a speech there, he threatened to cut off all ties between Italy and the Getty if there was not an agreement by August 1st. The threatened embargo would be an unprecedented move by Italy, ending mutually beneficial collaboration in the areas of conservation, research and exhibition of art.

Cutting cultural ties could hurt Italy as much as the Getty. Museum officials say that since 1990, the museum has lent more than twice as many artworks to Italian institutions as it has borrowed from the country. They say they have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to individuals and institutions for study and conservation, including more than $400,000 to Save Venice Inc.

Both sides have since issued statements saying they hoped to avoid breaking ties, but the bronze had stood in the way of further talks.

Of the 46 disputed objects, the bronze is a unique case. It was found in international waters before being brought into Italian territory, according to one of the fisherman who discovered the statue. That fact has muddied the legal waters and made the arguments over its ownership more contentious.

Italy maintains that the statue was later smuggled out of the country without an export license required by Italian law, and that it should therefore be returned. The Getty insists that illegal export alone, even if it were proven, would not constitute grounds for returning the bronze, which was originally made in ancient Greece and most likely looted by Roman soldiers.

Before his death, museum founder J. Paul Getty had qualms about both the $4 million asking price for the statue and about its legal status. He had concluded that the museum should only acquire the bronze if it received explicit permission from the Italian government to do so.

But in the months after his death in 1976, the museum bought the statue for just under $4 million without permission from Italy. Museum officials dubbed it the Getty Bronze in honor of the oilman.

The statue was the subject of a lengthy criminal trial in Italy in the late 1960s and '70s. Two dealers and a priest were charged with trafficking in looted antiquities and convicted by a court. That sentence was overturned on appeal, however, when Italy's highest court ruled that, since there was no proof the bronze was found in Italian waters, there was insufficient evidence for Italy to claim it as stolen property.

But the question of how the statue left Italy was never resolved in the legal dispute, and for years Italy has called for the statue's return.

"We think it should be called the Athlete of Fano, not the Getty Bronze," said Tullio Tonnini, an attorney in Fano and member of the local cultural group Cento Citta which filed the request for a new investigation in April.

Excavations uncover new data on ancient kingdom of Paphos

Source: Financial Mirror

New data on the history of the ancient kingdom of Paphos are forthcoming as a result of the archaeological field project conducted by the Archaeological Research Unit of the University of Cyprus at Kouklia-Palaepaphos since last year.

According to the Department of Antiquities of the Ministry of Communications and Works, the project’s main target is to reconstruct the urban topography of Palaepaphos through the identification of the ancient settlement’s main components.

In the Late Bronze Age, ancient Paphos was the administrative and economic centre responsible for the construction of the megalithic sanctuary of the Cypriote Aphrodite at the end of the 13th century BC. In the Iron Age, the kings of Paphos retained responsibility for the upkeep and function of the sanctuary, and thus had the unusual privilege of being the goddess’s priests, until the very end of the 4th century BC when the institution of Cypriot kingship was finally abolished by Ptolemy I.

The University of Cyprus team has been working on the northern side of the Palaepaphos-Marchello plateau since last year. The 2007 excavation team exposed 40 metres of the stone foundation of a monumental Iron Age defensive system, 3.5 m in thickness. They have also uncovered a gate, so far one side of it only, impressively constructed of finely dressed ashlar blocks, which is protected by a bastion.

A general survey of the plateau as well as various construction details, the position of casemates on the inner side of the wall and that of buttresses on the external facade, suggest that the defence scheme was designed to follow and strengthen the natural contours of the hilltop in the manner of a citadel wall.

Analysis of the ceramic material recovered during the 2006 and 2007 seasons indicates that the site was originally used for the construction of Late Bronze Age chamber tombs. Sometime in the 11th century, when burial sites throughout Cyprus begin to be strictly separated from habitation sites, Marchello ceased to be a burial ground and it was gradually incorporated into the Iron Age urban fabric of Palaepaphos. On the evidence of pottery, this new cultural horizon lasted from the Geometric to the end of the Classical period.

By virtue of the fact that it commands the highest elevation in the landscape of Palaepaphos, it is more than likely that the hill of Marchello was chosen to fulfill a special function. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that, back in the 1950s, a large deposit of Greek syllabic inscriptions, some of them bearing the names of Paphian kings, and statues, some of them undoubtedly of royal individuals, were found buried on the north side of a monumental and well preserved stretch of wall with a gate, which were then excavated in the 1960s. The recently exposed stretch of wall with a gate has now been shown to be part of the same system of defence.

A geophysical survey and another excavation season in May 2008 are expected to provide definitive evidence in favour, or against, the identification of Marchello as a walled royal citadel of the Archaic and Classical kingdom of Paphos.

The excavations were designed and directed by Maria Iacovou, Associate Professor of Archaeology in the University of Cyprus. The 2007 excavation team comprised fifteen Cypriot graduate and undergraduate students of archaeology, a student from the Erasmus exchange programme, plus two British volunteers.