The Roundup #83

A day late but hopefully not a dollar short. As a result of some impromptu travelling this weekend, here is your Monday roundup! Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

A feature on the Jebel Qumra area of northeastern Jordan that is almost uninhabitable today, but shows evidence of human settlement dating back to at least the Early Bronze Age.

A mosaic from the Byzantine period found in Israel is the earliest example of the Georgian calendar in the region.

An extremely rare site in Denmark – a stone settlement – has been unearthed by archaeologists from the National Museum of Denmark.

A basalt relief of a lion dating to the 6th century AD/CE has been unearthed in the Galilee.

Three Roman shipwrecks and the wreck of an Egyptian barque have been identified in Alexandria’s eastern harbour.

Egyptian artifacts, originally thought to have been smuggled to Cyprus in the 1980s, are being repatriated with the help of the the Egyptian Embassy in Cyprus.

Two 800 year old tombs from the Song dynasty have been discovered at a construction site in Zhejiang Province, China.

From the Smithsonian:

More than 100 items once belonging to John Lennon and stolen from Yoko Ono in 2006 have been recovered in Germany.

From the University of Toronto:

Archaeologists have discovered rock-cut churches in Ethiopia.

From the Guardian:

A painting by Bartholome Esteban Murillo – long thought lost – has been rediscovered after an expert in Spanish portrait painters visited a castle in Wales.

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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.

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 #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 #76

Discoveries, discoveries, and more discoveries! From the Antikythera wreck, no less!

Here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has announced the discovery of pre-dynastic rock carvings that are approximately 15,000 years old.

An antebellum flour mill has been identified in Alexandria, Virginia.

Melting snow has revealed further artifacts from a cache of Bronze Age items in Switzerland.

The remains of an Old Kingdom obelisk have been found in Saqqara, Egypt.

Some unusual Bronze Age stone objects have been discovered in northern Wales.

From the Smithsonian:

The Lion of al-Lat, damaged when Daesh took Palmyra in 2015, has been restored and put on display at the National Museum of Damascus.

The oldest known flower, some 130 million years old, has been identified by paleobotanist Bernard Gomez.

From the Guardian:

The tomb of Saint Nicholas appears to have been identified in Turkey.

A bronze arm recently retrieved from the Antikythera shipwreck site suggests that further discoveries may be buried in the sand under the wreck itself.

The Roundup #75

An eclectic selection from this week. Wolves, pharaohs, and toilets. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

Pieces of a colossal statue of Pharaoh Psammetich I have been discovered in Cairo, specifically two toes and the pedestal.

Amateur archaeologists have discovered a remarkable hoard in southwest England, including an intact bronze statue of a dog.

A petroglyph of a ship that’s nearly 10,000 years old has been discovered in Norway.

A rather beautiful Viking weaving sword has been discovered in Ireland.

Decapitated toads have been unearthed during excavations at a Canaanite burial in Jerusalem.

Early surveys suggest that a lost city in Iraq attributed to Alexander the Great may have been discovered this season.

The Smithsonian:

Wolves have been spotted outside of Rome for the first time in a century.

Excavations have begun on Paul Revere’s privy, because of course they have.

Possibly the oldest traces of life have been identified from samples taken in Labrador, Canada.

 

The Roundup #64

In this week’s roundup, there’s a lot outside my usual fare – more New World than Old. But I’m glad to see that archaeological work carries on in the face of the Trump-Russia-GOP-HealthcareBill stressors. Enjoy!

From the CBC and Le Devoir:

A live cannon ball has been discovered in Quebec City during routine construction work. Neither the construction workers nor the archaeologist called in to remove it realized it still had a charge right away, and then munitions experts from CFB Valcartier were called in to safe it.

From the CBC:

Unmanned submersibles will be sent into Lake Ontario to find the models of the Avro CF-105, the “Arrow”, that were shot into the late in the 1950s following the closure of the Avro interceptor program. Not the prototypes, mind, but models of them.

From Archaeology News Network:

Ahh, the joys of pre-industrial recycling programs! Some of the writings of Hippocrates have been discovered in a palimpsest manuscript with Biblical text in a monastery in Egypt.

From the Smithsonian:

Hiding in plain sight, figures supposedly painted by Raphael shortly before his death in 1520 have been identified in the frescoes in the Hall of Constantine in the Vatican.

From Archaeology.org:

Excavations continue at Tintagel in Cornwall as archaeologists learn more about the locals who lived around the castle.

A Neolithic burial mound has been identified in England between Avesbury and Stonehenge.

A Roman mosaic floor – with a unique herringbone design, also called opus spicatum – has been discovered in a residential part of Alexandria.

Researchers from the Kumamoto University have announced a new theory about moveable set design in Greek theatres.

More evidence of Denisovan culture existing longer than previously thought as a well-worn baby tooth has been discovered that is 50,000 to 100,000 years older than previously identified fossils.

And the ritual sacrifice and burial of a wolf has been identified in Mexico, part of ongoing work into the Aztec culture that existed there before the arrival of the Spanish.