The Roundup #91

Two big pieces of news this week. First, researchers think they have discovered the disease that killed massive numbers of Aztecs – some estimate 80% of the population – in 1545. And second, a man-made pyramidal structure on one of the Greek islands has also been found to include other remarkable finds, including the beginnings of urban enterprise nearly 4,000 years ago.

Beyond that, here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From the CBC:

The 2016 discovery of a beautifully preserved antler arrow and bronze arrowhead found in the Yukon has been announced.

From Archaeology:

Further reporting on the disease – called “cocolitzli” in primary sources – that killed so many Aztecs in the 16th century.

Further reporting also on the pyramidal site at Dhaskalio in Greece.

Evidence of beer brewing has been identified in Greece dating to the Bronze Age. I’m not sure if this pushes the date back for brewing beer in Greece, so if anyone has any follow up to this, let me know.

From the Smithsonian:

Excavations – led by former Minister of Antiquities in Egypt, Zahi Hawass – have begun on what could possibly be the tomb of Ankhesenamun, the sister-queen of King Tut.

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The Roundup #89

Welcome to 2018, everyone! Even though Toronto has been in a deep freeze for the last two days, the rest of the world seems to be chugging along as per usual, and you know what that means? News from the archaeological world!

The highlight so far this year has to be the news that, after DNA sequencing was completed on two infant burials in Alaska, we’re being introduced to the Beringians. It’s been reported in the New York Times, the Guardian, and in Archaeology (that I’ve seen thus far), but I’m certain it’s going to be making the rounds for some time to come. And that’s lovely to see, since it’s not a straightforward idea being put forward with this news, and the general public is still interested. Knowledge may yet be catching on!

So without further ado, here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From The Toronto Star:

Possibly the oldest artifact yet discovered in Toronto – a small arrowhead – has been returned after it was lifted from Fort York on a school trip in 1935.

From the Smithsonian:

More overly dramatic video, but information gleaned from the teeth of gladiators exhumed at York suggest that poor youth were selected as gladiators and then beefed up (perhaps quite literally) to be the muscular machines of arena spectacle.

From Archaeology.org:

A wood henge has been discovered near the North Sea coast in Yorkshire, England, along with several other sites that suggest ritual activities went on here.

The site of Tel Al-Pharaeen is yielding a large variety of artifacts from Egypt’s Late Period.

A seal dating to the First Temple Period in Jerusalem has been discovered under the Western Wall plaza.

From the Tongtiandong Cave in northern China, layers of artifacts going back 45,000 years have been discovered.

Similar to last year’s news that a ritual bath had been discovered in Jerusalem following private renovations, a Song Dynasty tomb has been discovered under a house in China.

Archaeologists may have identified a ritual shrine of the Aztecs near an extinct volcano in Mexico.

A naturally mummified body of a child from Italy has been shown to have likely suffered from Hepatitis B, causing scarring and eventually death.

The Roundup #88

I hope you enjoy my last weekly roundup of 2017. As suggested by a rather astute friend, I will also be doing a Best of 2017 post before the year is out, so stay tuned!

From the Smithsonian:

The principia of the fabled Sixth Legion has been identified in Israel near Tel Megiddo (apparently also known as Armageddon). An earlier post by Archaeology.org can be found here.

Have you cleaned out your attic recently? Westminster Abbey is doing so and, in the process, have found thousands of pieces of stained glass as well as (for all Monty Python fans out there) the oldest known stuffed parrot. Archaeology.org also reports on it here.

I’m not a fan of the melodrama in this video, but evidence of gladiator burials in England is causing a stir for its similarity to burials at the other end of the empire.

From Archaeology.org:

A fortress in the Nile Delta near Wadi Tumilat has been identified. I had the pleasure of working on a Wadi Tumilat project, albeit tangentially, so this kind of news always interests me.

Childrens’ toys from the Bronze Age have been discovered at a gravesite in Russia.

A blockhouse from the Tudor period has been identified at Hull in the UK (I had to look up what a blockhouse was, but as soon as I saw the images in this Wikipedia article, I remembered).

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.

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.