The Roundup #82

Feet (well, shoes) and wine headline this week’s roundup; two things I’m rather interested in because a) I like wine, and b) I walk like a mutant (and not the yellow spandex kind).

Enjoy!

From the CBC:

The previous holder of the oldest confirmed evidence of wine, the Zagros Mountains, has been unseated by Gadachrili Gora in Georgia, where pots from neolithic times have tested positive for the acid found only in grapes in the region. Archaeology.org reports on it here.

From the Smithsonian:

A “Pictish” rock carving discovered in Perth, Scotland shows a man with a large nose (I put Pictish in quotations because it’s a somewhat derogatory descriptive used by the Romans rather than any name these people in Scotland called themselves).

A realistic portrait of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson painted in 1799 (during his lifetime) is on display at Philip Mould & Company and for sale at an undisclosed price.

From Archaeology.org:

In a somewhat less than surprising research report, studies on the skeletons of Dutch farmers who wore the iconic wooden shoes were found to have bone malformations as a result.

A loom dating to the 5th or 6th century AD/CE has been discovered during recent excavations in Iraq.

During excavations of Norse longhouses in northern England, volunteers have discovered a Bronze Age settlement dating to 1300 BC/BCE.

Initial surveys of a hill in Turkey suggest that another Bronze Age site is waiting beneath layers upon layers of human habitation.

Sound engineers have looked at rumours about acoustics in Greek theatres, studying whether or not a whisper really could be heard from the last row of seats.

A mummy has been discovered in the Fayum in Egypt, complete with wrappings and votive objects from the Greco-Roman period.

Fire has irreparably damaged a unique pre-Inca site in Peru after a cane field blazed out of control.

A 1,000 year old ceramic box said to contain the ashes of the Buddha has been discovered at a monastery in China.

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The Roundup #81

I may be a day late with my usual #roundup post, but there was a lot going on yesterday, I swear.

The single most remarkable update is news of a startlingly beautiful sealstone revealed from the Griffin Warrior tomb at Pylos in Greece. I was recently at a lecture at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto given by the lead archaeologists on this project from the University of Cincinnati, and it was enthralling. The Smithsonian reports here, and the New York Times dove in with their take on it here.

And so, without further ado, here is this week’s archaeology #roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

A mass grave from the medieval period with the remains of approximately 1,500 people has been discovered in Kunta Hora, Czech Republic.

Another mass grave, this time a Jewish site from the 1500s, has been identified in Bologna, Italy.

Highlighting the importance of cleaning out your closets once in a while, a box of Roman coins (including at least one fake) has been pulled out of the dust in a castle in Kent, England. The Guardian reports on it in detail here.

Ongoing excavations at the site of Greenwich Palace, Henry VIII’s favourite residence, have revealed a lead-glazed floor (likely for an armoury) and a room where beehives were kept warm in winter. This was initially reported back in August by Archaeology.org and The Independent.

A Greek gymnasion has been discovered in the Fayum in Egypt.

Some of the oldest baths ever found in China have been discovered in Shaanxi Province.

A rather lovely looking fragment of a sundial has been found in central Italy. What’s even more interesting is that it’s from the site of a Roman theatre that somehow managed to survive the ravages of the Allied bombardment of Monte Cassino during the Second World War.

The remains of several people from the 8th century have been unearthed under Hereford Cathedral in Kent, England.

Work is ongoing at the site of the White Shaman rock shelter petroglyphs in Texas.

From Biblical Archaeology:

At the ancient site of Jezreel, archaeologists believe they have identified an Iron Age site that could be the famous vineyard of Naboth described in the Book of Kings.

The Roundup #80

This has been a quiet week in terms of archaeological news. But even archaeologists need a break once in a while.

This week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From the Smithsonian:

The remains of 24 individuals have been repatriated to the Yupik people of Iguigig in northern Russia.

A series of items have been repatriated to Italy, including a mosaic used as a coffee table that is said to have once adorned a pleasure ship of the Emperor Caligula.

From Archaeology.org:

A large number of horse skeletons have been discovered in an as-yet unidentified tomb from the Spring and Autumn Period in China.

A wooden hut on Iona in Scotland, long associated with Saint Columba, has been dated to his lifetime.

Petroglyphs have been identified in caves on the island of Mona in the Caribbean.

Dead Links Five: The Makeup Manual of Pharaoh Cleopatra VII

As it so often happens, when I start researching these #deadlinks articles, I inevitably end up writing something other than I had intended to. So too in this case.

Pharaoh Cleopatra the VII – the “infamous” Cleopatra, if you will – ruled Egypt right at the end of its time as a Hellenistic kingdom. She was there when Julius Caesar came to Alexandria, and there again when Marc Antony made his appearance as the East’s conquering hero after killing the tyrannicides, Brutus and Cassius, at Philippi. And she was there when Antony, defeated and broken, took his own life in advance of the arrival of Octavian, the newly minted First Man of Rome.

Cleopatra is famous for entrapping famous men, seducing them with her beauty while her intentions were really self-serving. She is famous for being power-hungry, overly sexual, voracious, unwomanly, and (perhaps worst of all to the Romans) foreign.

Oh how truth turns on a spin of history!

What we know about Cleopatra is confined almost exclusively to these four sources:

  1. A passing reference to her in Caesar’s dispatches on the Civil War (Commentarii de Bello Civili 3.103 and 3.107)
  2. Her role in the morality play that Antony exemplified according to Plutarch (Parallel Lives, Antony)
  3. Her role in the lives of Julius Caesar and Augustus according to Suetonius (he’s a quick read – enjoy!)
  4. References in Cassius Dio (Book 42.3.1 and 4, 9.1, 34.2-3, 35.4, 36.3, 37.2, 42.4, 44.1-3; Book 49.31.4, 32.4, 34.1, 40.3, 41.1-3; and Book 51, various) (1)
  5. Various references in Appian (you can look these up yourselves)

It is absolutely vital to look at these sources carefully and to understand WHY they were written rather than what they were written about. Cleopatra isn’t the focus here; Caesar or Antony are. And as such, she is relegated to a foil for them both, a way for ancient writers to showcase the tragedy of these great men of history. And from these accounts, we must extrapolate what we can to create an idea of a woman who changed the history of the world.

According to Plutarch, she was multi-lingual: “…she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased, so that in her interviews with Barbarians she very seldom had need of an interpreter, but made her replies to most of them herself and unassisted, whether they were Ethiopians, Troglodytes, Hebrews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes or Parthians. Nay, it is said that she knew the speech of many other peoples also, although the kings of Egypt before her had not even made an effort to learn the native language, and some actually gave up their Macedonian dialect.” (2)

When you take another look at the comments in Suetonius and Plutarch, there are numerous subtle references to Cleopatra’s ability to politic, her skill in conversation – suggesting both a wide range of interests and a formidable intellect – and her ability to put others at ease and enjoy her company. These may seem like the passive elements of a traditionally feminine mystique, but they belie a remarkably educated and intellectually formidable woman. Cleopatra spoke, arguably, nine languages. Fluently. More importantly, she is said to have written a variety of scholarly texts on medicine, charms, and cosmetics. None of which are extant.

And here’s the bit that I wasn’t expecting, but am so glad I found. The main reference to Cleopatra’s academic writings is found in a history of the world written by the Arab scholar Al-Mas’udi.

The mighty pivot on which the history and knowledge of the European and Eurasian continents turn is the translation of ancient texts by Arabian scholars in the Late Antique and Medieval periods. As the western Roman Empire was falling, societies of the East were rising and it was these societies that saved the knowledge of the Ancient World for students of history today.  Al-Mas’udi was a geographer and scholar in the 10th century CE who compiled a history of the world that has been translated into French and partially into English (3).

So, the joyous nature of this particular research exploration led me to the fact that the truth about Cleopatra cannot be articulated by extant literature from the West, but that it is instead reinforced by literature from the East. She has truly become a woman of two worlds, an international phenome who changed history.

 

REFERENCES:

(1) Cassius Dio Book 42 references found here – accessed 31 Oct 2017, 19:29pm ES; Cassius Dio Book 49 references found here – accessed 31 Oct 2017, 19:29pm EST; Cassius Dio Book 51 references found here – accessed 31 Oct 2017, 19:29pm EST

(2) Plutarch, Life of Antony 27.3.4 accessed here 31 Oct 2017, 19:58pm EST

(3) Translations into French by Charles Pellat, and into English by Aloys Sprenger.

The Roundup #79

Of course the major news of this past week was the release of previously classified documents regarding the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. People are going to be sifting through that material for years to come, but I did enjoy the Guardian live-blogging the release.

But lots of other things have been announced this week as well. So here’s your roundup for this go around. Enjoy!

From the Smithsonian:

A nearly complete fossilized skeleton of an ichthyosaur has been discovered in Gujarat.

A 450 year old text of samurai sayings has recently been published in English as The Hundred Rules of War.

The remains of unusual structures in the Arabian desert have been identified by amateurs using Google Earth.

Cuneiform tablets have been unearthed in a destroyed building in Kurdistan.

From Haaretz:

Biologists have identified a succession of bacteria that destroy ancient parchments by first turning them purple before they begin to more obviously decompose.

From Archaeology.org:

Excavations are ongoing at Thouria in Greece where a theatre orchestra section with potentially moveable sections has been discovered.

A Coptic tombstone has been unearthed near the Avenue of the Sphinxes in Luxor.

An unusual figurine with what appears to be a feathered headdress has been discovered near the Ob River in western Siberia.

The mythological founding of Singapore may not be so mythological after all, as the island’s largest archaeological dig near Empress Place has revealed.

A shipwreck has been discovered in eastern China, likely from the Yuan Dynasty nearly 700 years ago.

And a Bronze Age battlefield has been identified in Germany.

From the CBC:

The HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, Royal Navy ships that Franklin took on his fateful Arctic expedition, are to be formally handed over to Canada and the Inuit people by the British government.

The Roundup #78

Theatres and temples are on the uptick in Israel and Egypt respectively. And a surprise from New Jersey, to round out the week. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

5,000 year old toys have been discovered in a necropolis in the ancient religious centre of Sogmatar in Turkey.

A late Roman “theatre-like” structure has been identified during excavations around the Western Wall Tunnels in Israel.

A temple dedicated to Rameses II has been discovered in the Abusir necropolis outside Cairo in Egypt. The Smithsonian reports on it here.

An extremely well preserved gilt bronze statue has been discovered at Jinjeon Temple in South Korea.

Bronze Age stone structures have been identified on Thirassia, one of the Santorini Islands in Greece.

Marble from the Nemi Ships is being repatriated to Italy after being in private hands in New York for the better part of a century.

From the Smithsonian:

A bust of Napoleon in New Jersey has recently been revealed to be a sculpture by Auguste Rodin.

The Roundup #77

While certain US Presidents carry on trying to take us back to the Stone Age in the derogatory sense, it’s good to know there are finds being unearthed around the world to reinforce the complexity of human civilization and our relationship to it. Here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

Genetic testing on five individuals from Rapa Nui (also known as Easter Island) suggest that the islanders had contact with native peoples from South America earlier than previously believed.

Sweden’s violent history is growing more intriguing with the discovery of gold coins minted during the reign of Roman Emperor Valentinian III on an island off the country’s south coast.

Textiles from another site in Sweden suggest that the Vikings’ burial practices were influenced by interactions with the Arab world.

If you’ve never heard of Luwian, go look it up. This translation, and its accompanying reference to the Sea Peoples, could be game-changing.

More DNA evidence points to a strange conclusion; that the Beothuk peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador were not related to any of the other First Nations in the area. The full article in The Globe and Mail can be found here.

From the Smithsonian:

Painting over history is nothing new, as this restored painting from the 17th century shows.

The canoe dredged up during the catastrophic hurricane season this year dates to between 1640 and 1680, according to recent tests.

From the CBC:

As the water levels of the Thompson River in BC continue to drop, pre-contact artifacts are being discovered all along its banks.

Critically rare Ojibway ponies are preparing for the auction block in Manitoba.

From the University of Victoria:

A legendary settlement on the coast of BC has likely been identified by archaeologists from the Hakai Institute and the University of Victoria.

From Archaeology UK:

Well preserved evidence from a broch in Scotland may shed light on an Iron Age destruction event.