Friday, November 30, 2007

Elusive biblical Jerusalem wall finally found, Israeli archaeologist says

Source: International Herald Tribune

JERUSALEM: A biblical wall that has eluded archaeologists for years has finally been found, according to an Israeli scholar.

A team of archaeologists in Jerusalem has uncovered what they believe to be part of a wall mentioned in the Bible's Book of Nehemiah.

The discovery, made in Jerusalem's ancient City of David, came as a result of a rescue attempt on a tower which was in danger of collapse, said Eilat Mazar, head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based research and educational institute, and leader of the dig.

Artifacts including pottery shards and arrowheads found under the tower suggested that both the tower and the nearby wall are from the 5th century B.C., the time of Nehemiah, according to Mazar. Scholars previously thought the wall dated to the Hasmonean period (142-37 B.C.).

The findings suggest that the wall is actually part of the same city wall the Bible says Nehemiah rebuilt, Mazar said. The Book of Nehemiah (chapters 3-6) gives a detailed description of construction of the walls, destroyed earlier by the Babylonians.

"We were amazed," she said, noting that the discovery was made at a time when many scholars argued that the wall did not exist.

"This was a great surprise. It was something we didn't plan," Mazar said.

However, another scholar doubted whether the wall was biblical.

The first phase of the dig, completed in 2005, uncovered what Mazar believes to be the remains of King David's palace, built by King Hiram of Tyre and also mentioned in the Bible.

Ephraim Stern, professor emeritus of archaeology at Hebrew University and chairman of the state of Israel archaeological council, corroborated Mazar's claim. "The material she showed me is from the Persian period," the period of Nehemiah, he said. "I can sign on the date of the material she found."

Another scholar disputed the significance of the discovery.

Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, called the discovery "an interesting find," but said the pottery and other remains do not indicate that the wall was built in the time of Nehemiah. Because the debris was not connected to a floor or other structural part of the wall, the wall could have been built later, Finkelstein said.

"The wall could have been built, theoretically, in the Ottoman period," he said. "It's not later than the pottery — that's all we know."

Bill aims to protect artifacts

Source: ekathimerini

Culture Minister Michalis Liapis yesterday unveiled a draft law which aims to curb a growing illegal trade in antiquities by intensifying patrols of archaeological sites and appointing a special prosecutor to handle certain cases.

The bill, to be submitted in Parliament next month, foresees the creation of a database of antiquities and the application of Greek law in cases of alleged trafficking of domestic artifacts abroad.

Liapis said the proposed crackdown «is a top priority,» noting that the illegal antiquities trade had grown «enormously» in recent years and is now the third most lucrative illicit trade after arms and drug trafficking.

The legislation had been prepared by Liapis's predecessor Giorgos Voulgarakis but its tabling in Parliament had been delayed due to September's general elections.

Liapis's announcement yesterday came two days after an Athens court acquitted a former curator of the Los Angeles J. Paul Getty Museum of illegally acquiring an ancient Greek golden wreath, which has since been returned.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Η ανέγερση νέου μουσείου στην Βεργίνα στις προθέσεις του Μ.Λιάπη


Το πρόγραμμα ανάπτυξης για την ενοποίηση του αρχαιολογικού χώρου και τη σύνδεση του με το σύγχρονο οικισμό βρίσκεται σε πλήρη εξέλιξη τόνισε ο υπουργός Πολιτισμού Μιχάλης Λιάπης κατά την επίσκεψή του στους αρχαιολογικούς χώρους της Πέλλας και της Βεργίνας το πρωί του Σαββάτου.

Παράλληλα, ο κ. Λιάπης συμπλήρωσε ότι η ανέγερση του νέου μουσείου στην περιοχή θα ολοκληρωθεί μέσα στο ερχόμενο έτος και το μουσείο θα είναι έτοιμο να υποδεχθεί τους πρώτους επισκέπτες του στα μέσα του 2009.

Τον ίδιο χρόνο θα έχουν ολοκληρωθεί και τα υπόλοιπα έργα στην περιοχή όπως και ο δρόμος που συνδέει τον αρχαιολογικό χώρο με τον σύγχρονο οικισμό.

Επιπρόσθετα, ως έναν από τους πέντε δημοφιλέστερους αρχαιολογικούς χώρους ολόκληρης της χώρας χαρακτήρισε ο υπουργός Πολιτισμού τη Βεργίνα, επικαλούμενος την επισκεψιμότητα και του ενδιαφέροντος των πολιτών.

«Υπάρχει ένα τεράστιο αρχαιολογικό έργο στην ευρύτερη περιοχή της Μακεδονίας (Δίον, Πέλλα, Βεργίνα, αρχαία Μίεζα κα) . Ο ευρύτερος αρχαιολογικός χώρος των Αιγών αποτελεί σημείο αναφοράς για ολόκληρο τον Μακεδονικό χώρο υπερτόνισε ο κ. Λιάπης ο οποίος δεν παρέλειψε να αναφέρει πως πρόκειται για μία αρχαιολογική περιοχή «τεράστιας αξίας».

Χρέος αποτελεί η ανάδειξη της Μακεδονία της πολιτιστικής κληρονομιά δήλωσε ο κ. Λιάπης συμπληρώνοντας πως ως το τέλος του 2008 θα έχει ολοκληρωθεί η ανάπλαση ανακτόρου των Αιγών, ενώ επίκειται η κατασκευή του μουσείου της ευρύτερης περιοχής Βεργίνας .
Ο κ. Λιάπης ο οποίος πραγματοποιεί από την Παρασκευή, επίσκεψη στη Θεσσαλονίκη και την ευρύτερη περιοχή της Μακεδονίας θα συναντηθεί το απόγευμα του Σαββάτου με εκπροσώπους φορέων από το χώρο του κινηματογράφου και το βράδυ θα παραστεί στην τιμητική εκδήλωση που πραγματοποιεί το 48ο Φεστιβάλ Κινηματογράφου Θεσσαλονίκης.

Ancient Olympia...

Source: ekathimerini


A newly planted olive tree stands in front of a group of Greek and international scientists at Ancient Olympia on Saturday. The scientists visited the site to deliver funds for the reconstruction of the area, which was hit by a wildfire in August. Meanwhile, hundreds of volunteers took part in a replanting drive in Kalyvia, east of Athens, yesterday. The aim of the project, supported by SKAI TV and Radio, was to plant some 15,000 trees to replace the ones that were burned this summer. About 400 volunteers also took part in a replanting scheme in Thessaloniki’s Seikh-Sou Forest.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Στο Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο Θεσσαλονίκης επέστρεψε το χρυσό μακεδονίτικο στεφάνι


Στο Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο της Θεσσαλονίκης εκτίθεται από την Παρασκευή το χρυσό μακεδονίτικο στεφάνι, το οποίο επεστράφη στην Ελλάδα από το Μουσείο Γκετί. Ο υπουργός Πολιτισμού Μ.Λιάπης λέει ότι το ΥΠΠΟ θα συνεχίσει να διεκδικεί από ξένα Μουσεία. Αντιδρά ο νομάρχης Σερρών για την παραχώρηση του στεφανιού στο Μουσείο Θεσσαλονίκης.

«Το μήνυμα που στέλνουμε σήμερα από εδώ είναι σαφές. Όταν τα αρχαία αντικείμενα αποκόπτονται από το ιστορικό και φυσικό τους περιβάλλον καθίστανται αντικείμενα διακοσμητικά, αποστειρωμένα» δήλωσε ο Μιχάλης Λιάπης κατά τη διάρκεια ομιλίας του.

«Στόχος είναι να εκτίθενται εκεί που ανήκουν ιστορικά, έτσι ώστε να δηλώνεται ξεκάθαρα η προέλευση, η ταυτότητα και η διαχρονική τους αξία.

» Η διεκδίκηση από ξένα Μουσεία και συλλέκτες κάθε ελληνικού αρχαίου αντικείμενου, για το οποίο διαθέτουμε στοιχεία ότι αποτελεί προϊόν αρχαιοκαπηλίας, λαθρανασκαφής ή παράνομης διακίνησης, βρίσκεται στην πρώτη γραμμή της πολιτικής μας στο Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού» εξήγησε ο υπουργός.

Ο υπουργός τόνισε ότι τις επόμενες ημέρες κατατίθεται στη Βουλή το νομοσχέδιο για την προστασία των πολιτιστικών θησαυρών.

Επιστολή διαμαρτυρίας έστειλε στον υπουργό Πολιτισμού ο νομάρχης Σερρών Στέφανος Φωτιάδης, όπου εξέφρασε τη δυσαρέσκεια των Σερραίων πολιτών για την παραχώρηση του στεφανιού στο Μουσείο Θεσσαλονίκης και όχι σε εκείνο της Αμφίπολης, παρ' ότι δεν έχει αποσαφηνιστεί που ακριβώς βρέθηκε το χρυσό στεφάνι -πιθανό θεωρείται να βρέθηκε στην ευρύτερη περιοχή των Σερρών.

Σε συνέντευξη Τύπου που παραχώρησε, ο νομάρχης Θεσσαλονίκης δήλωσε ότι η Νομαρχιακή Αυτοδιοίκηση Σερρών κατανοεί τον ρόλο του Αρχαιολογικού Μουσείου Θεσσαλονίκης στην ανάδειξη των ευρημάτων της κλασικής εποχής.

«Δεν μπορούμε, όμως, να κατανοήσουμε τη διεθνή διεκδίκηση για την επιστροφή των αρχαιολογικών ευρημάτων στον τόπο τους και ταυτόχρονα τη χωροθέτησή τους στο εσωτερικό της χώρας, με αυθαίρετο τρόπο» πρόσθεσε.

Ο νομάρχης δήλωσε ότι οι Σερραίοι θα επιδιώξουν την υποστήριξη του Προέδρου της Δημοκρατίας Κάρολου Παπούλια και του πρωθυπουργού Κώστα Καραμανλή.

*Επίσης ο υπουργός Πολιτισμού Μιχάλης Λιάπης συναντήθηκε με το ΔΣ του Κρατικού Θεάτρου Βορείου Ελλάδος. Ο κ. Λιάπης τη χορήγηση έκτακτης οικονομικής ενίσχυσης 700 χιλιάδων ευρώ στο ΚΘΒΕ και 300 χιλιάδων ευρώ στην Όπερα, προκειμένου να αντιμετωπιστούν τα τρέχοντα προβλήματα.

Ex-Getty Curator Is Now on Trial in Greece

Source: New York Times

A former antiquities curator for the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles went on trial yesterday in Athens on charges of conspiring to acquire an ancient gold funerary wreath that Greek officials say was illegally removed from Greek soil about 15 years ago.

The former curator, Marion True, did not attend the hearing. Her lawyer, Yannis Yannides, submitted a motion for dismissal, citing a California state law that sets a three-year statute of limitations for prosecution once a stolen artifact’s whereabouts have been made known. (The Getty acquired the wreath in 1993 and agreed to return it nearly a year ago, citing concerns about its provenance.) Greek investigators assert that the gold wreath was illegally excavated from an archaeological site in the northern province of Macedonia. Ms. True is also on trial in Italy on charges of trafficking in stolen antiquities acquired for the Getty. She has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

In a related development The Associated Press reported that a judge in Pesaro, Italy, yesterday dismissed a local prosecutor’s legal claim to a bronze statue of a youth that is in the Getty’s collection. (The statue has also been claimed by Italy’s national government.) After long negotiations, the museum agreed in August to return 40 other artifacts to Italy. Italy said it would consider whether to press its case on the bronze after the case in Pesaro was resolved.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Digging biblical history, or the end of the world

Source: EurekAlert!

Some come to dig the Tel Aviv University-directed archeological site at Tel Megiddo because they are enchanted by ancient stories of King Solomon. Others come because they believe in a New Testament prophecy that the mound of dirt will be the location of a future Judgment Day apocalyptic battle. Hence the second, rather more chilling name for the site: "Armageddon."

Tel Megiddo has been the subject of a number of decisive battles in ancient times (among the Egyptian, Hebrew and Assyrian peoples) and today it holds a venerated place in archaeology, explains site co-director and world-renowned archeologist Prof. Israel Finkelstein.

Says Prof. Finkelstein, from the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University, "Megiddo is one of the most interesting sites in the world for the excavation of biblical remains. Now volunteers and students from around the world can participate in the dig which lets them uncover 3,000 years worth of history -- from the late 4th millennium B.C.E. to the middle of the first millennium C.E."

Prof. Finkelstein, who belongs to the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, has been co-directing the site with Prof. David Ussishkin, also of Tel Aviv University, since 1994.

Prof. Finkelstein has co-authored a best-selling book on archaeology and biblical history (The Bible Unearthed, 2001). Earlier this month he released a book (written with A. Mazar) that contains surprising commentary on biblical archaeology and history, The Quest for Biblical Archeology, published by the Society of Biblical Literature in the United States. He is also the recipient of the prestigious international Dan David Prize in the category of Past Dimension (2005).

Likened to a "lightening rod" by the journal Science (2007), Prof. Finkelstein is famous for his unconventional way of interpreting biblical history: he puts emphasis on the days of the biblical authors in the 7th century B.C.E. and theorizes that ancient rulers such as David and Solomon, who lived centuries earlier, were "tribal chieftains ruling from a small hill town, with a modest palace and royal shrine."

Yet, "new archaeological discoveries should not erode one's sense of tradition and identity," he states.

Prof. Ze’ev Herzog, who heads the archaeology institute at Tel Aviv University, says, "There has been an important revolution in biblical history in the last decades. We are now uncovering the difference between myth and history, and between reality and ideology of the ancient authors. This is the role of our generation of archaeologists -- to unearth the real historical reality to find out why and how the biblical records were written."

The archeologists aren't the only ones looking for answers. More than one hundred volunteers come from all corners of the world to dig Megiddo alongside Prof. Finkelstein every year. They are teachers, journalists, actors, construction workers, professors and housewives, as well as archaeology, history and divinity students who dig for credit.

The Megiddo dig is offered as a three-week, four-week or seven-week program. As part of the experience, volunteers live in a nearby kibbutz and are exposed to lectures and debates about their findings. The dig is partnered with the George Washington University, represented by Prof. Eric Cline, the American associate director of the dig. This makes it an ideal stomping ground for Americans who want a hands-on education in archaeology.

"Team and staff members come from all around the world for many reasons: the adventure of foreign travel in a safe yet educational environment, intellectual stimulation, and -- yes -- even a love of digging in the dirt,” notes Prof. Finkelstein.

And those with no prior knowledge or degrees are welcome, he stresses. "We cater to all of the volunteers' backgrounds and teach them field methods, archeological techniques as well as the history of biblical archeology. It is truly a wonderful experience."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Turkish archaeologists harshly criticised Israeli excavation: report

Source: AFP via Yahoo! News

ANKARA (AFP) - A team of Turkish experts harshly criticised a controversial archaeological dig in Jerusalem undertaken by Israel, according to a report published Friday in the Turkish daily Today's Zaman.

Turkish experts visited the site because the Ayyubid, Mameluke and Ottoman dynasties ruled in the area successively between the 12th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

According to the Turkish team, "the ongoing activities give the impression that they are a planned and systematically implemented effort which aims to destroy the values associated with cultural assets and the sources of information of these cultures," the English-language daily said, citing the actual report.

In February, Israel began excavation work on a pathway leading from the Western (Wailing) Wall to the compound of the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, eliciting outrage in the Muslim world and prompting UNESCO to call for an immediate halt to the work.

Published in July but kept secret by Turkish authorities in order not to irritate Israel, according to Today's Zaman, the document was written by the team of architects and archaeologists who visited the site last March.

"It is clearly seen that if appropriate measures are not taken in the excavations performed by the Israeli authorities, no data or remains (from the Ayyubid, Mameluke and Ottoman periods) will survive," according to the report.

The Jerusalem mayor's office decided to suspend work on the project on February 12, but failed to appease Muslim authorities, which asserted that the dig, while not under the Al-Aqsa mosque itself, could harm its foundation.

Israel put off resumption of the dig again last month.

The site of Al-Aqsa mosque is also revered by Jews as the location of their ancient temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Από τις αποθήκες... στις αίθουσες του ΕΑΜ σπουδαίες αιγυπτιακές αρχαιότητες


Οι μούμιες που βρίσκονται στο Εθνικό Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο βρίσκουν επιτέλους τη θέση που τους αξίζει. Μέσα σε ένα χρόνο θα έχει ολοκληρωθεί η ανακαίνιση αιθουσών του μουσείου, οι οποίες θα φιλοξενήσουν μόνιμη έκθεση αιγυπτιακών και ανατολικών αρχαιοτήτων.

Σύμφωνα με την εφημερίδα Το Βήμα, η Ελλάδα διαθέτει μία από τις εντυπωσιακότερες συλλογές αιγυπτιακών και ανατολικών αρχαιοτήτων, μιας και τα έργα τέχνης που την αποτελούν προέρχονται από δύο ιδιωτικές συλλογές που δωρίθηκαν στο Μουσείο.

Πρόκειται για τις συλλογές δύο ομογενών, του Ιωάννη Δημητρίου, ο οποίος διέμενε στην Αλεξάνδρεια, και του Αλέξανδρου Ρόστοβιτς που διέμενε στο Κάιρο και το 1904 δώρησε στο ΕΑΜ 2.237 αντικείμενα.

Η ελληνική συλλογή από αιγυπτιακές αρχαιότητες αποτελεί την τέταρτη στην Ευρώπη, αυτή τη στιγμή όμως βρίσκεται σχεδόν στο σύνολό της στις αποθήκες του Μουσείου.

Σύντομα όμως έργα που απεικονίζουν τη μικρή πριγκίπισσα Τακουσίτ, τον θεό Όσιρι και τη θεά Ίσι, καθώς και τον φαραώ Ψαμμήτιχος Α' θα βρεθούν στις αίθουσες του ΕΑΜ, μιας και οι αίθουσες του μουσείου ανακαινίζονται.

Προς το παρόν η Τακουσίτ βρίσκεται στο Μητροπολιτικό Μουσείο της Νέας Υόρκης για τις ανάγκες της έκθεσης «Δώρα για τους θεούς. Εικόνες από τους αιγυπτιακούς ναούς», η οποία θα διαρκέσει μέχρι τον Φεβρουάριο του 2008.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rome adds a 'final jewel' to its archaeological crown


London - In Rome, you never know what you find underneath your home once you start digging. For Enrico Gasbarra, President of the Provincial Administration of Rome, his curiosity to find what Roman treasures might be hiding in underground spaces below his office headquarters, the Valentini Palace, has resulted in one of the most exciting finds of recent years in the ancient city.

Presenting the result of two years of excavations at the World Travel Market (WTM) fair in London Wednesday, Gasbarra described the discovery of a splendid and affluent Roman home (domus) directly underneath his offices as the "final jewel" in the array of historical treasures his administration has to offer.

More than 187 lorry loads of waste and rubble, including office debris and old photocopying machines, had to be removed from the "trash dump" in the courtyard of the Valentini Palace to reveal a new archaeological site consisting of splendid rooms, marbled baths and exquisite mosaics.

"Of course, in a city like Rome it is not unusual to make such discoveries, but this find is of extreme historical significance," Gasbarra said in London.

"It shows that, at the time of the Roman Republic, this area was the political centre, as it is today, where senators and judges lived who worked nearby," he added.

"It was a bit like the Washington of its day," Gasbarra said about the find, which is 300 metres away from the Roman Forum.

With the expert assistance of Piero Angela, Italy's foremost writer and commentator on archaeology, and the help of engineers, historians, archaeologists and computer experts, a museum space of 1,200 square metres has been created underground, linked by a pathway to the Roman Forum into which visitors will be discharged at the end of their tour.

"It is the magic of the cave, of darkness and light that makes this site a special experience," Angela said in London.

With the help of graphical reconstruction and advanced computer technology the visitor will be taken on a virtual reality tour, marvelling at the ancient finds below through a glass floor while reconstructions of the original rooms are being projected onto the walls of the museum.

Film projectors and cameras have been "hidden" throughout the structure to reflect images of what the villa would have looked like in Roman times.

"Visitors will walk over the recovered remains as the ancient domus comes back to life before their eyes," Angela said.

"You enter a virtual reality atmosphere where the smells and sounds of the time, and the virtual structures, will be recreated to give you an extremely exact idea of what it was like," he added.

Only small groups of visitors will be allowed into the museum at any given time after it opens on December 20.

For Gasbarra, the new finds and their reunification with the ancient urban spaces simply are a "new reason to visit Rome at Christmas."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Archaeologists discover ancient cemetery in Syria

Source: Pravda

2,000-year-old cemetery was discovered in the ancient city of Palmyra that used to be the center of Middle East trade routes.

The National Archaeological Expedition discovered an underground cemetery that dates back to the 2nd century, al-Baath newspaper said, quoting Khalil al-Hariri, the head of the expedition.

He said archaeologists found a stone door and two engraved statues of a family. The limestone sculptures depict them as wearing clerical hats, the ancient traditional clothes in Palmyra, al-Hariri said.

Palmyra, which is located in central Syria and is said to have been founded by King Solomon, was a trade center that boomed with the decline of ancient Petra in modern-day Jordan.

The city, 240 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of Damascus, emerged to become a powerful state after the Romans took control of it, serving as a link between the ancient Orient and Mediterranean countries.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mummy's curse unwrapped

Source: The Scotsman


ON 26 November 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter broke through the sealed wall of a miraculously undisturbed pharaonic tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings and was struck dumb for several minutes by the riches within.

"Can you see anything?" Carter's sponsor, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, eventually blurted, unable to bear the suspense. "Yes," Carter whispered. "Wonderful things."

In fact, the gilded couches and animal sculptures glinting in the antechamber represented a mere fraction of the riches buried with the boy king Tutankhamun, whose mummified body, complete with the dazzling gold and lapis-lazuli death mask, was finally revealed two years later. By then Lord Carnarvon, two of his relatives, and several others involved in the dig were dead, giving rise to rumours of a mummy's curse on the families of those who had opened the tomb.

As archaeologists in Luxor this weekend revealed the face behind the golden death mask and London prepares for new exhibition of Tutankhamun artefacts, I have come the library of the Carnarvon family seat, Highclere Castle in Berkshire, to talk to the eighth earl, Geordie Herbert, about his ancestor's discovery.

Νέο εύρημα «βλέπει το φως» 30 χρόνια μετά την ανακάλυψη των τάφων της Βεργίνας


Νέα στοιχεία για τον βασιλιά Φίλιππο φέρνει στο φως η αποκάλυψη ήδη γνωστού ψηφιδωτού δαπέδου στο ανάκτορο των Αιγών, η οποία ανακοινώθηκε κατά τη διάρκεια εκδήλωσης για τα 30 χρόνια από την ανακάλυψη των βασιλικών τάφων στη Βεργίνα από τον καθηγητή Μανόλη Ανδρόνικο.

Σύμφωνα με την αρχαιολόγο της ΙΖ' Εφορείας Κλασσικών και Προϊστορικών Αρχαιοτήτων Αγγελική Κοτταρίδου, το ψηφιδωτό δάπεδο βρίσκεται σε συμποσιακό δωμάτιο στο ανάκτορο των Αιγών και αναπαριστά την αρπαγή της Ευρώπης.

Το φόντο του απεικονίζει θάλασσα, στις τέσσερις γωνίες του υπάρχουν θαλάσσια τέρατα και μικροί έρωτες ενώ στο κέντρο του απεικονίζονται ίχνη ψηφίδων στα πόδια του ταύρου που αρπάζει την Ευρώπη.

Σύμφωνα με την κ. Κοτταρίδου η αποκάλυψη του ψηφιδωτού σε συνδυασμό με άλλες ιστορικές και μυθολογικές πηγές οδηγεί στο συμπέρασμα ότι ο βασιλιάς των Μακεδόνων Φίλιππος ο Β' θεωρούσε τον εαυτό του ως «εν δυνάμει Ευρωπαίο ηγέτη».

Η εκδήλωση για τα 30 χρόνια από την ανακάλυψη των βασιλικών τάφων της Βεργίνας έγινε στην αίθουσα δοκιμών της Κρατικής Ορχήστρας Θεσσαλονίκης, παρουσία του γενικού γραμματέα του υπουργείου Πολιτισμού Χρήστου Ζαχόπουλου, με ομιλητές καθηγήτριες που συνεργάζονταν με τον Μανόλη Ανδρόνικο και αρχαιολόγους.

Την Παρασκευή θα δοθεί συναυλία στο Μέγαρο Μουσικής Θεσσαλονίκης, αφιερωμένη στην επέτειο της ανακάλυψης του βασιλικού τάφου, με έργα Ντβόρακ και Τσαϊκόφσκι που θα ερμηνεύσει η Ρωσίδα βιολοντσελίστρια Νατάλια Γκούτμαν. Διευθυντής της ορχήστρας θα είναι ο Ρούντολφ Μπαρσάι.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Combat Archaeology Research Project

The Combat Archaeology Research Project (CARP)

The primary objectives of this project are to elucidate ancient and medieval martial arts (and their social functions), the technological evolution of weaponry, and the experience of the individual warrior or soldier from the perspective of the human body and mind in a combat environment.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bad Science II

In an earlier post (Bad Science!!!!), I mentioned the "new" decipherment of the middle section (i.e. the one written in Demotic) of the Rosetta Stone. The study, which was undertaken by Professors Boshevski and Tentov from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), has tried to prove that the text was actually written in "Macedonian", the language of the then rulers of Egypt (i.e. the Ptolemies).

Although I don't wish to go into detail about the numerous shortcomings and flaws of the methods and techniques used in the so-called decipherment, I would like to make a simple point which immediately debunks their argument. The two aforementioned scholars seem to not know that the Demotic script was in use from ca. 650 BCE down to the third century AD, something that clearly shows that it wasn't used exclusively by the Ptolemies.

Of course, no mainstream archaeologists or ancient historians have taken the new decipherment seriously. The whole endeavour is just another attempt by FYROM scholars and politicians to construct a new national identity, an identity connected to Alexander the Great and his legacy.

In a similar tone, another study has recently claimed that mythical Orpheus was also "Macedonian"! For more info on that, take a look at Focus-Fen.

I wonder what's next...

Excavations to continue in Bitlis

Source: Turkish Daily News

Significant archaeological findings have been unearthed during this year's excavations in the eastern Anatolian province of Bitlis.

Head of excavations, Kadir Pektaş, from Denizli-based Pamukkale University said a number of coins, ceramic pieces and tobacco ringlets were found during excavations which focused on the bath, city walls in the East of the city and İç Kale (palace) region, speaking to the Anatolia news agency.

This year we conducted the digs at three points in the region. We unearthed the rectangular shaped structures belonging to the 18th and 19th century in the bath area. The tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven, as well as some other findings here indicate that these structures used to be houses, he said.

Noting that during excavations near the city walls in the eastern part of the city an irregular structure was uncovered, and the millstones and kitchen pots found there also showed that the structures served as houses in ancient times.

He said they came across similar structures in the İç Kale region. However, lower parts of the walls feature a different technique. We assume that these particular structures were built in the 15th century, he said.

Ceramic pieces and tobacco ringlets and coins belonging to the Roman, Byzantium and Ottoman period were also among the findings excavated in the area, according to him. All findings were handed over to the Bitlis Ethnography Museum after they are cleaned, restored and listed.

Pektaş said they planned to excavate in the same areas next year. We will try to obtain more evidence about the structures and settlement with further excavations to be held in 2008, he said.

The Culture and Tourism Ministry, Bitlis Governorship and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBİTAK) jointly financed the excavations.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Rice University professor debunks National Geographic translation of Gospel of Judas

Source: EurekAlert!

A new book by Rice University professor April DeConick debunks a stunning claim by National Geographic's translation of the Gospel of Judas. According to that translation, Judas was a hero, not a villain, who acted on Jesus' request to betray him. DeConick disagrees.

Before releasing her book "The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says," DeConick was intrigued by the original release of the Coptic Gospel of Judas and as a scholar wanted to read it for herself. While researching and translating it, she discovered that National Geographic's translators had made some serious errors.

"Once I started translating the Gospel of Judas and began to see the types of translation choices that the National Geographic team had made I was startled and concerned," DeConick said. "The text very clearly called Judas a 'demon.'"

DeConick contends that the Gospel of Judas is not about a "good" Judas or even a "poor old" Judas. It is a gospel parody about a "demon" Judas written by a particular group of Gnostic Christians who lived in the second century.

"The finding of this gospel has been called one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the past 60 years," DeConick said. "It's important that we get this right."

DeConick said many scholars and writers have been inspired by the National Geographic version.

"It appears to have something to do with our collective guilt about anti-Semitism and our need to reform the relationship between Jews and Christians following World War II," she said. "Judas is a frightening character. For Christians, he is the one who had it all, and yet betrayed God to his death for a few dollars. For Jews, he is terrifying, the man whom Christians associated the Jewish people, whose story was used against them for centuries."


DeConick is the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University in Houston. To read more about her teachings, visit,c,38,1

"The Thirteenth Apostle" (Continuum International Publishing Group) is available to purchase on

April DeConick is available nationwide for media interviews. To book an interview, contact David Ruth at 713-348-6327 or

Exhibition on antiquities theft by Hellenic Culture Foundation in Trieste

Source: ekathimerini

‘History Lost’ currently on display at the Castello San Giusto in Trieste, Italy.

The Hellenic Foundation for Culture recently unveiled a major exhibition in Trieste, titled «History Lost: The Illicit Antiquities Trade and its Impact on Civilization,» held at the city's historical Castello San Giusto.

Jointly organized with the City of Trieste, the exhibition presents the effects of the illicit trade of antiquities on our culture and civilization. It features copies of archaeological finds that have been returned to Greece over the past few years, after ongoing claims. These include a golden wreath from Macedonia and a marble head of the god Dionysus from Corinth, among others.

The display takes travelers on a journey from the looting of Baghdad's archaeological museum and the destruction of statues in Cambodian temples to the sale of ancient artifacts from various Mediterranean countries to auction houses in the United States.

Its aim is to demonstrate that ancient finds are absolutely useless as knowledge of the past when they are cut off from the information on their homeland. The foundation's president, Professor Georgios Babiniotis, noted that the display is a contribution to the international society of culture, as illicit trade is worldwide and the loss of historical knowledge affects all of humanity.

The Hellenic Foundation for Culture has undertaken the initiative to present the exhibition in different cities abroad, namely in Lisbon, Paris, London and Berlin, among others.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The volcano that buried a library

Source: Athens News


Archaeologists have resumed their search for a library of Greek and Latin masterpieces that is thought to lie under volcanic rock at the ancient Roman site of Herculaneum.

The scrolls, which have been called the Holy Grail of classical literature, are thought to have been lost when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79, burying the wealthy Roman city of Herculaneum and neighbouring Pompeii.

Previous digs have unearthed classical works at a building now known as the Villa of the Papyri, thought to have belonged to Julius Caesar's father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso, who was known to be a lover of poetry.

The villa was found by chance in the 18th century by engineers digging a well shaft. Tunnels bored into the rock brought to light stunning ancient sculptures - now in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples - and 1,800 carbonised papyrus scrolls. The writings were mainly works by the Epicurean Greek philosopher Philodemus, who was part of Piso's entourage.

Ten years ago two floors of the villa were discovered, as well as the remains of nearby gardens, ornamental ponds, a bathhouse and a collapsed seaside pavilion. The excavation was halted in 1998 as funds ran out and archaeologists protested at the use of mechanical diggers by a private builder to smash through the rock.

The site was opened to the public four years ago, but has now been closed again so that archaeologists using picks and trowels can dig out the frescoed corridor or cryptoportico on the lower ground floor. They are also conserving mosaics and frescoes already found on the top floor to protect them from damp and erosion.

"Work can resume because we are combining archaeology with responsible conservation, which was not the case in the 1990s," said Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, the director of the British School at Rome and head of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, which is funded by the Packard Humanities Institute to the tune of 3 million dollars a year.

Maria Paola Guidobaldi, the director of excavations at Herculaneum, said that the new Villa of the Papyri dig was backed by a further 3 million euros from the EU and the Campania region, and would last a year and a half. "We will proceed cautiously - and if we find more papyri or statues, we will be delighted," she said.

Some historians believe that the papyri, which may have included lost masterpieces by Aristotle, Euripides or Sophocles, were being packed to be taken to safety when the eruption occurred. The scrolls would have been scattered throughout the 2,800sqm of the villa by the violent force of the 160kmh "pyroclastic flow" of ash, gas and mud.

Professor Wallace-Hadrill said that next year work would also begin on excavating the basilica, the great hall housing Herculaneum's legal and administrative centre. It lies beneath a rubbish-strewn wasteland that was covered until recently by dilapidated modern housing, some of it built illegally with the connivance of the Camorra - the Naples Mafia. The local authorities have bought and demolished some of the buildings.

In the past some scholars have insisted that the priority at Herculaneum should be conservation rather than excavation. But campaigners led by Robert Fowler, Professor of Greek at Bristol University, and the novelist Robert Harris have argued passionately that the search for the "lost library" must go on.

The villa captured the imagination of the American billionaire J Paul Getty, whose museum at Malibu, California, the Getty Villa, is a replica. The carbonised scrolls recovered so far were deciphered by computer-enhanced multispectral imaging.

DNA shows ancient ship carried olive oil, oregano

Source: Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - DNA scraped from inside clay vessels show that a ship that sank off the coast of Greece 2,400 years ago was carrying a cargo of olive oil, oregano, and probably wine, researchers reported on Friday.

The new research may offer a way to analyze the long-gone contents of hundreds of containers, said Brendan Foley of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Writing in the Journal of Archeological Science, Foley and colleagues at Lund University in Sweden said they were able to get DNA sequences from the insides of two amphoras recovered in 230 feet of water in 2005.

The clay containers appeared empty, but the researchers decided to try testing for DNA anyhow. To their surprise, they got some -- and not the DNA they were expecting.

The island of Chios where the shipwreck was found was well-known in the ancient world as a major exporter of highly prized wines. But the two amphora in fact carried DNA from olives and oregano.

They also found evidence of wine and perhaps pistachios, they said.

Foley hopes to use the technique to find out more details about the ancient shipping trade.

"Imagine if you were asked to analyze the American economy just by looking at the empty shells of 40-foot (12-metre) shipping containers," he said in a statement.

"You could say something, but not much."

Friday, November 02, 2007

A New Blog:

Joint Library of the Hellenic & Roman Societies / Institute of Classical Studies Library

The Library is maintained jointly with the Societies for the Promotion of Hellenic and Roman Studies and in association with the Institute of Classical Studies (University of London). It contains over 100,000 volumes, 18,250 bound volumes of periodicals and has an international reputation as one of the world’s foremost Classics libraries.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Stanford acquires a ‘world-class’ Egyptology library

Source: Stanford News Service


Stanford has acquired the library of one of the foremost Egyptologists of the 20th century.

The collection of Wolja Erichsen (1890-1966), now at Stanford's Green Library, documents more than 1,500 years of Egyptian history, ranging from about 650 B.C. to about A.D. 1000. It includes Egypt's important transition from paganism to Christianity.

"The Erichsen library is one of the most significant and perhaps the last great Egyptology library in private hands," said Joe Manning, associate professor of classics. "It is difficult to overestimate the importance of acquiring this collection. Stanford's acquisition adds great momentum to our research and strengthens our profile as one of the very best places in the world to study ancient Mediterranean civilizations."

Manning, speaking at an Oct. 15 reception to celebrate the acquisition, emphasized that this contribution from the "heroic age" of Egyptology, which peaked between 1880 and 1920 and was centered in Berlin, is "a huge deal."

"The gift of a library is not the sexiest thing in the world—people prefer to build buildings—but this is much more important," he said, to laughter and scattered applause.

Erichsen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, was a specialist in demotic Egyptian, the script and language of Egypt from 650 B.C. to A.D. 200, and Coptic, the last stage of the ancient Egyptian language that has particular importance for the study of early Christianity, especially since Egypt was the location of the earliest organized church.

Erichsen, for many years based in Berlin, is perhaps most famous for his important dictionary of demotic, Demotisches Glossar (1954), which is still fundamental in the field, and his Demotische Lesestücke (1937-39), a collection of demotic Egyptian texts used for teaching the language even today.

After Erichsen's death, heirs were divided about where the library should go. At one point it was considered by the universities of Würzberg and Chicago, but the collection stayed in Copenhagen until Stanford acquired it.

"The breadth of text editions and studies of demotic and Coptic text editions represented in this library is unmatched," Manning said. Many of the volumes are extremely rare text editions published in Germany before 1940. These editions often have large folio photographic plate volumes. "They are often better than working with digital photos, and simpler and easier to use," Manning added. "They are the next best thing to being there."

In many cases, they provide high-quality 16-by-20-inch photographs of texts that no longer exist because the original papyri were lost or destroyed during World War II.

The collection also contains "beautiful volumes of Egypt and Nubian temples and site plans, a lot of them now gone," Manning said. War wasn't the only enemy: The Aswan Dam flooded some historic sites, other temples were removed from original sites and reestablished in museums, and still other sites have been rifled since books about them were written in the 18th and 19th centuries.

"Arabs were not exactly keen on the ancient monuments—nor were the early Christians," Manning said. "They saw them as potential quarried stone." Hence, old stone from ancient sites was reassembled into new buildings, obliterating ancient history.

It's commonly believed that modern technology and techniques have antiquated the research of an earlier area, but the assumption does not necessarily hold in late Egyptology, a history that is very much a work-in-progress, according to Manning.

"There's a dialogue between the new and old material," he said. "Half of the known demotic texts are not even published. There are still papyri coming up out of the ground." Manning noted that, for instance, 8,000 new papyri of Greek and demotic texts were discovered in the last few seasons at a single site in Egypt. It shows that the available knowledge of the era is far from complete, and scholars are still playing catch-up. Much of the older work has not been revised or updated.

The new acquisition will be the "basis of history-building about this period. It gives great momentum to our work," Manning said. "With this gift, Stanford Libraries have gone from having an average holding of Egyptology to world class."

He said that Egyptology is "a small field, but an important field in human history." Some of its importance, however, may be lost on the uneducated eye.

For example, Coptic, a language that never truly died and is still preserved in the liturgies of the Coptic churches, is a critical language for decoding ancient Egyptian. In fact, Coptic is the last stage of ancient Egyptian, using a Greek alphabet, with an important difference: Ancient written languages don't use vowels, but Coptic does. Hence, it has provided clues to how the ancient Egyptian language was pronounced, and also indicates the dialects of ancient Egyptian, corresponding to Coptic dialect up and down Egypt.

The story behind Stanford's acquisition of Erichsen's library is an appealing one: Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922, the same year that young Edna Kumpe (later Upton) graduated from college. Carter's discovery inaugurated her lifelong interest in Egypt and the Bible, rooted in early Coptic translations of biblical texts.

Upton's granddaughter, Stanford alumna Chele Chiavacci, made a donation in the name of her late grandmother. Chiavacci is managing director of Mistral Capital International and also on the advisory board of the Stanford Archaeology Center.

The donation, augmented with a contribution from the Classics Department and matching funds from the Provost's Office, was used to purchase the Erichsen collection.

The Edna Kumpe Upton Memorial Erichsen Library will be housed and available for study partly in the Department of Special Collections and partly in the Green Library general collection stacks.