Friday, January 25, 2008

Wine-carrying ship dates back 2,300 years

Source: AP via msnbc

Vessel discovered on seabed off Cyprus is one of only a few such ships

NICOSIA, Cyprus - Marine archaeologists will begin work in June to uncover the sand-buried hull of a 2,300 year-old cargo ship thought to have been ferrying wine from the Aegean island of Chios before it sank off Cyprus' southern coast, researchers said Thursday.

The vessel, dating from the late Classical period (mid-fourth century B.C.) is one of only a few such ships to have been found so well-preserved, said University of Cyprus visiting marine archaeologist Stella Demesticha.

"The shipwreck looks very promising about shedding light on the nautical and economic history of the period in the east Mediterranean," Demesticha told the Associated Press on Thursday.

The wreck rests on the seabed at a depth of 144 feet some 1 1/2 miles off the island's southern coast.

Demesticha said the wreck was also unique because it lies at a depth that divers can easily reach, unlike similar discoveries found in deeper waters.

Unreleased underwater photographs that researchers took of the vessel on initial surveying dives in November show a jumble of dozens of amphorae — clay urns used in antiquity to carry liquids and solid foodstuffs — lying on the seabed in the shape of the ship.

Demesticha said researchers believe the ship's hull to be buried under tons of sand. The amphorae closely resemble others found to contain Chios wine, but may have been used to transport other goods in ancient sea trade.

The discovery could also provide more clues into Cyprus's role in maritime trade during the last phases of the Cypriot city-kingdoms, researchers said.

Worship Site Predates Zeus

Source: LiveScience

By Tuan C. Nguyen, LiveScience Staff Writer

Ancient pottery found at an altar used by ancient Greeks to worship Zeus was actually in use at least a millennium earlier, new archeological data suggest.

The pottery shards were discovered during an excavation last summer near the top of Mt. Lykaion in southern Greece.

The finding, which dates back to 3000 B.C., indicates that the tradition of divinity worship on the site is very ancient and may even pre-date the introduction of Zeus into the Greek world, said David Gilman Romano, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and co-director of the excavation project.

"We don’t yet know how the altar was first used, and whether it was used in connection with natural phenomena such as wind, rain, light or earthquakes, possibly to worship some kind of divinity male or female or a personification representing forces of nature,” Romano said.

A rock crystal seal bearing an image of a bull, of probable Late Minoan times (1500 - 1400 B.C.), also was found on the altar, suggesting an early connection between the Minoan isle of Crete and Arcadia.

Early analysis on various bones recovered from the site has shown they belonged to animals, not humans. Ancient texts had mentioned human sacrifice being practiced at the altar of Zeus, but so far, no evidence of this has been found.

The mountaintop altar is known as one of the mythological birthplaces of Zeus. A meadow below the mountain featured a racetrack, stadium and buildings once used to host an athletic festival that rivaled the original Olympic games, held at nearby Olympia.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Euphronios krater returning

Source: ekathimerini

Famous Greek vase spending its last days at NYC’s Metropolitan Museum

NEW YORK (AP) – An ancient Greek vase that has long been a highlight of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection will be displayed there for the last time tomorrow before being returned to Italy, which maintains it was stolen from a site near Rome.

The museum and Italian authorities agreed nearly two years ago that the Euphronios krater would be back in Italy by January 15, 2008. In exchange, the Italian government is lending the Met other ancient treasures, including three ceramic pieces that are to go on view Wednesday.

“We expected one object, but got three very beautiful objects,” Met director Philippe de Montebello told The New York Times in an interview Thursday, as the museum announced the Euphronios krater’s final day on exhibit. It shows on what a firm footing our future collaborations with Italy will be.”

Dating to the 6th century BC, the Euphronios krater is a bowl for mixing wine and water, according to the museum. Painted with scenes related to Homer’s epic poems “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” it is regarded as one of the finest examples of its kind.

The museum bought the vessel for $1 million in 1972 from American art dealer Robert Hecht, on trial in Italy on charges of knowingly acquiring allegedly looted ancient artifacts. He denies wrongdoing. The Euphronios krater is to join an exhibition of masterpieces recovered through Italy’s campaign against illegal trafficking in antiquities. The show opened last month at Rome’s Quirinal Palace.