Maia Atlantis: Ancient World Blogs

Tom Elliott (

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March 06, 2015

Archaeology Magazine

Researchers Open Intact Beer Bottle From 1840s

ESPOO, FINLAND—Bottles of beer recovered from a nineteenth-century shipwreck in the Baltic Sea have been opened by researchers from the VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland and the University of Munich. “These bacteria were still alive,” said Brian Gibson of the VTT Technical Research Centre. “We have a reasonably good idea about what kind of hops were used, different ones than today. These hops would have been harsher, these days they are quite mild. The one surprising thing is the beers were quite mild. The original alcohol level was 4.5 percent, nothing extreme,” he told Discovery News. Seawater had seeped through the bottle’s cork, however, replacing about thirty percent of the bottle’s original contents. Chemical analysis suggests that the beer, which was brewed in the 1840s, was similar to a modern amber or lambic ale. “We looked at esters, which give beer a fruity or flowery taste. Most of the compounds that we would expect were there,” Gibson said. 

25th Dynasty Artifacts Found at the Karnak Temple Complex

PARIS, FRANCE—A pit, or favissa, near the temple of the god Ptah at Karnak has yielded 38 religious artifacts that had been placed around a seated statue of the god Ptah. The items date from the eighth to seventh centuries B.C. and include 14 statues and figurines of Osiris; three statuettes of baboons; two statuettes of the goddess Mut; one head and fragments of a statue of Bastet, the cat goddess; two unidentified statuette bases; a small plaque and part of a small stele marked with the name of the god Ptah; and several inlays—an iris, cornea, beards, and headdresses. A sphinx statue and a small statue head, possibly of the god Imhotep, were found in the upper part of the pit. The removal of the objects from the pit was recorded by a topographer specialized in archaeology, who complied hundreds of photographs taken during the fieldwork to make a virtual 3-D reconstruction of each step of the excavation. This allowed the scientists from the Centre franco-égyptien d’étude des temples de Karnak (CNRS/Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities) to excavate the site quickly, in order to protect the valuable artifacts, and preserve all the data. To read more about excavations at Karnak, see "Tomb of the Chantress."

Oregon’s “Tantalizing” Evidence of Human Occupation

PORTLAND, OREGON—Near the Rimrock Draw Rockshelter, beneath a layer of ash from an eruption of Mt. St. Helens some 15,800 years ago, archaeologists have found a tool made of orange agate thought to have been used for scraping animal hides, butchering, and possibly even carving wood. “The discovery of this tool below a layer of undisturbed ash that dates to 15,800 years old means that this tool is likely more than 15,800 years old, which would suggest the oldest human occupation west of the Rockies,” said Scott Thomas, Bureau of Land Management Burns District archaeologist. A blood residue analysis of the tool revealed animal proteins consistent with the ancestor of the modern buffalo. The director of the excavation, Patrick O’Grady of the University of Oregon, adds that the excavation will be expanded to look for more artifacts underneath the ash layer. “We want to assemble indisputable evidence because these claims will be scrutinized by researchers. That said, the early discoveries are tantalizing,” commented Stan McDonald, BLM Oregon/Washington lead archaeologist. To read more about the earliest people to live in the New World, see "America, in the Beginning."

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Awards success for Happisburgh footprints project

The historically important Happisburgh footprints project on the north Norfolk coast has scooped a...

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Survey: Use of Open Data in Higher Education - Uso de datos abiertos en la Educación Universitaria

Have you taken the AWOL User Survey?

Use of Open Data in Higher Education - Uso de datos abiertos en la Educación Universitaria
Are you an academic? Have you used open data for your teaching? Can you please share your experience?
We are conducting a mini survey to understand which portals, tools or repositories academics use to retrieve open datasets and how this information is being used in teaching and learning in Higher Education.
If you have any questions, please contact @jatenas. The results of this survey will be published and shared as soon as possible.

¿Eres académico/a? ¿Has utilizado datos abiertos en tu docencia? ¿Puedes por favor compartir tu experiencia?
Estamos realizando un mini "investigación" para entender que portales, herramientas o repositorios se utilizan en la educación universitaria para recuperar conjuntos de datos abiertos y cómo esta información es utilizada por docentes universitarios

Si tienes alguna pregunta, por favor contáctate conmigo en Twitter (jatenas), publicaré los resultados de esta encuesta como una entrada en el blog tan pronto como sea posible.
Javiera Atenas

Leo Havemann (@leohavemann)
Birkbeck, University of London

Ernesto Priego (@ErnestoPrie


Il Paleosuolo di Isernia all’EXPO 2015…il dibattito continua

L’assessore alla cultura del Comune di Isernia, Cosmo Galasso, e il presi­dente della competente commissione consiliare, Bice Antonelli, replicano al consigliere del centrodestra Raimondo Fabrizio, in merito ad una presunta mancata richiesta di candidatura all’Expo 2015 da parte di Isernia e del suo Museo del Paleolitico.


«Il Comune di Isernia ha inoltrato istanza, in sinergia col Comune di Longano, per uno dei progetti di gemellaggio denominati ‘Comuni italiani e Paesi partecipanti ad Expo Milano 2015’. Tali progetti – hanno continuato Galasso e Antonelli – prevedono veri e propri gemellaggi temporanei tra le città proponenti e le nazioni partecipanti all’Expo, ed hanno come obiettivo la reciproca promozione attraverso l’organizzazione di molteplici ini­ziative. Nello specifico, Isernia ha proposto la sua risorsa culturale più im­portante e nota a livello mondiale, che è appunto il Museo del Paleolitico, es­sendo interessata ad un gemellaggio con la Spagna, dove c’è un paleosuolo analogo e ancor più antico del nostro. Ove la domanda venisse accolta – hanno continuato i due espo­nenti della maggioranza –, Isernia avrà la possibilità di proporre l’organizzazione di eventi all’interno del padiglione spagnolo, en­trando così a far parte del calendario di iniziative di tale Paese, con la cer­tezza d’accedere ad una importantissima vetrina di promozione internazio­nale. Per contraccambiare, Isernia ospiterà sul proprio territorio manifestazioni curate dal ‘gemello’ spagnolo, nel quadro degli scambi culturali internazionali verso cui tendono i progetti a cui abbiamo fatto riferi­mento».


Archaeological News on Tumblr

Karnak Excavation Yields 38 Artifacts

The CNRS/Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities has just completed the excavation of a favissa,...

Ancient Peoples

Small travertine figurine of a hippopotamus Only 5.5cm high and...

Small travertine figurine of a hippopotamus 

Only 5.5cm high and 8.8cm long. Travertine is Egyptian alabaster and is known for it pale colour. 

Egyptian, Early Dynastic Period, 3100 - 2650 BC. 

Found in the Osiris temple, in Abydos in Northern Egypt. 

Source: Metropolitan Museum

Robert Consoli (Squinches)

The Boeotian Cephissos and its sources

I have placed a .kmz and a .kml of the course of the Boeotian Cephissos on Google Drive here.

The Cephissos river is the largest stream in eastern central Greece.  It originates in the mountains which surround the plain of Doris; it drains the Range of the Parnassos Mountains to the south and south-east and the Knemis to the north.   

Moustakas [2012] divides the Cephissos into three zones[1].  The first (marked I in figure 1) consists of the high plain of Doris up to the Lilaia train station.  The second (II on figure 1) is the main  river channel to Romaiko.  The third zone (III on figure 1) consists of the northern branch which flows past Orchomenos (another post) and the southern branch which flows past Hagios Andreas and Hagios Spiridon on their east (blue line at lower right in figure 1) and then into Lake Copais itself.[1a]

The Boeotian Cephissos and its three zones.

Several principal tributaries contribute to its flow.  In fig. 2 have numbered them from one to five; they run counter-clockwise.[2]  The Knemis mountains contribute to tributary 1 which originates north of Tithroni.  The second tributary originates near Mpralos.  The third, a major tributary, arises near Kastelli.  The fourth at Gravia and the fifth, a beautiful spring, just to the south of Polidrosos.  I have identified what I consider to be the pricipal contributing flows.  In fact the high plain of Doris is drained by a large number of  rivulets and streams; the user can easily see them by looking closely at figure two.

Figure 2.  Watershed of the Cephissos.  The high plain of Doris is drained by at least five major streams.

Figure 3.  Mpralos.  A number of streams come together here as the user can see by closer inspection.
Figure 3 illustrates the fact that a number of streams come together near Mpralos; they drain the mountains of western Doris.

Figure 4.  Springs from a source inside the Parnassos mountains come together here south of Polidrosos and then flow north.
Figure 4 shows the major springs in the region of Polidrosos.  These flow from inside the Parnassos mountains.

Figure 5.  Monthly contribution of the Cephissos River in cubic hectometers.  This diagram taken from Moustakas (2012)

The length of the river from the  Polidrosso Springs to the town of Orchomenos is approximately 63 km.  The Cephissos makes the major contribution to the Copaic Basin.  In figure 5 (Moustakas [2012]) the monthly flow of the river is depicted.[3]  The values sum up to about 180 cubic hm per year.  This is a contribution more than 1/3 greater than that of the Melas river, although the flow of the Cephissos is much more variable than that of the Melas peaking during the rainy months of December through March.


[1] Moustakas [2012].  Section 3.4.1, p. 31.  He is following Kyriacou et al. [2009].

[1a] For zone III and the course of the Cephissos past Hagios Andreas and Hagios Spiridon I'm following Kalcyk, et al. (1989) fig. 4-1, p. 57.  I can see no remaining traces on the ground by examining the Google Earth image and so my tracing of the course of the Cephissos at that place is notional only.

[2] Geographers naturally differ over which contributing streams should be considered as principal sources of the Cephissos.  In Moustakas [2012]:  "The Theban Cephissos has two main sources.  It flows from Giona, near the village of Kastelli and from Parnassus, between the villages Polydrosso and Lilea"  (My translation.)  Giona, near Kastelli is number 3 in fig. 2; the Polydrosso source is number 5 in fig. 2 and is shown in close-up in fig. 4.

[3] Moustakas [2012] Fig 5.3 in 5.1.1, p. 45.


Kalcyk, et al. (1989): Kalcyk, H. and B. Heinrich, "The Munich Kopais Project", Boeotia Antiqua I. Papers on Recent Work in Boiotian Archaeology and History. J. M. Fossey, ed. Amsterdam: Gieben, 1989, pp. 55-71. 

Kyriacou et al. [2009].  Kyriacou, C., Nicholas A., Chryssafopoulos, E., "Interventions for the Qualitative and Quantitative Management of Aquatic Resources of the Basin of the Kifissos river", Technical Chamber of Greece, Department of East Central, Lamia.  July 2009.

Moustakas [2012] Sotiris, Moustakas. “Reconstruction Operation in Ancient Hydraulic Works: Area of Kopais”.  National Technical University School of Civil Engineering.  Department of Water Resources and Environment.  Athens, 2012.   In modern Greek. Online here.

James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

CIC Information Fluency Workshop

I am currently in Baltimore with some colleagues, at a workshop focused on information fluency in the disciplines of religion, philosophy, and the history of ideas. It started yesterday, and has already offered a lot of fascinating perspectives from faculty and librarians, including practical examples and specific online tools that can be used for teaching and collaborative learning. The workshop is supported by the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the American Philosophical Association.

If you are not familiar with the term, the aim of information fluency is to get beyond literacy to fluency in the domain of one’s ability to identify and utilize reliable sources of information. (See the recently-released ACRL framework for information literacy for more on this subject.)

One subject that has come up in conversation more than once is this: how do we get students to use the best, most detailed and deepest scholarly sources, when journalistic ones, blogs, and other such web pages are easier to read and understand

Julie Wroblewski of Benedictine University spoke about opportunities and challenges in integrating information fluency in teaching. What do the principles and the mapping of goals that we articulate in the abstract look like in practice in the classroom? Wroblewski talked about discovering that students were not using resources even when they were made available and emphasized. Often we have offered an information dump rather than something well-curated. Making LibGuides is not a solution to our problems if students are not using them. She discussed the need to also have librarians present in classes. What works well? Embedded librarians, working through the assignments and resources in class with the students. She also shared about having students work with library archive resources, leading to an online student-driven curation exhibit. Digital portfolios create opportunities to talk about information-related issues such as copyright. And getting students involved in scanning helps them understand why not everything is on the internet! Making students content-creators leads to them thinking about who produced other sources they encounter.

Benedictine University is a Catholic school with a large Muslim population, providing great opportunities for interfaith courses and projects. And so another topic that came up more than once is the need to find one’s niche (including the challenges of finding a niche in an online setting).

An analogy was made with kung fu and the turning of a weakness into a strength. Small programs face challenges, but the small are also often nimble compared to the large, and so applying the analogy to the university, small departments and programs can potentially change more easily than large ones.

Wroblewski also spoke about how gaming is somethng that is taken for granted. As a result they have learned a particular approach to challenges: they typically desire to experiment and to have freedom to fail and try again.

Kevin Miles from Earlham College talked about a collaborative project with Earlham, Antioch, and Wabash Colleges, the Ancient Greek Philosophy Initiative. It is like a small undergraduate conference – a day-long conversation about his students’ research in philosophy and that of others. Miles talked about information overload, even if you are working on ancient Greek literature. More has been written than even a scholar has time to read. There is an unmanageabl amount one could potentially read, not just considering what is being written now, but that which is dead and gone, written in the past. He encouraged us to avoid the dumptruck effect: If you have more on your mind than students can process and overwhelm them with it. Students have to embrace the fact that they will leave more food on the table than they are able to eat. Decisions must be made. One way to do that is to pursue a guiding question. This is educational in and of itself: students’ realization that the field is bigger than their ability to cover it.

The Earlham College mission statement talks about awakening the teacher within the student. Miles challenges students to teach him something as the professor. And he emphasized thay what is catching students’ attention in his approach is not just the content, but becoming part of a community of scholars. I found myself wondering what it would look like if all students in some classes were expected to submit a proposal to an undergraduate conference or journal.

Jane Pinzino talked about scholarship being a conversation, and conversation meaning collaboration. She mentioned Voyant tools, which will offer digital analysis of online texts that visual learners will find helpful, and which can provide macro-analysis that hopefully all students can benefit from. And so if one inserts the URL of an online text version of Plato’s Republic, and then eliminate stock words, one will get a world cloud that successfully highlights key ideas. Clicking on justice, for instance, will then provide a graph of how frequently the term appears, and where.

There were some very interesting discussion points in the Q&A time after that first panel. Someone mentioned that students experience frustration when their university work seems like it is merely a means to an end. Connection of the course to a greater purpose changes their outlook. Enthusiasm requires joy in relation to the process and not just the product.

Students need to become aware of how overwhelming the task of information acquisition is. Is the notion of mastery of a field no longer usable, even in relation to those who persue a PhD? On the more positive side, students can be encouraged to view themselves not as becoming “masters,” but adventurers, explorers in the world of possibilities. Pursue the conversation.

There was a lot of emphasis on Open Access. I especially appreciated this call: we need to take back control of our intellectual property!

Those are some particularly memorable points from the first day of the workshop. On the morning of the second day, we started with informal conversations over breakfast, seated grouped as faculty, librarians, and administrators. The first panel included Tom Wartenberg talking about teaching a course “Philosophy for Children” which gets college students teaching philosophy to second graders. It also included David Nienhuis, who talked about the challenges teaching the generation of students shaped by non-denominationalism, in which students adore the Bible but have not read it. He talked about trying to get students to think not primarily in terms of experts and non-experts, but participantes in a conversation that includes people now dead who dedicated their life to studying, and themselves still learning, and many others at a variety of stages. He also talked about trying to find ways of keeping atudents from just running in panic to commentaries looking for someone else to provide “the answer” for them.

In the question time afterwards, Nienhuis added that, when students ask about questions of historicity, he points out that you can ask the text such questions as much as one wants, but the text itself will never answer you.

These are some highlghts from the first day and a half of the workshop. I may share more later today or tomorrow, but much of the remainder of the workshop will focus on developing a plan for integrating information fluency in our disciplines at our various institutions.

Is the term “information fluency” meaningful to most blog readers? If not, how would you articulate the wise use of resources to gather, digest, and do things with sources of information? How do you seek to model good practices when it comes to informing yourself about anything?



Brice C. Jones

Emperor Claudius' Letter to the Alexandrian Embassy

PictureP.Lond. 6.1912, col. 5 (Claudius' Letter)
In 1924, H. Idris Bell published a papyrus roll that was discovered in Philadelphia, on the northeast side of the Fayum in ancient Egypt. Now known by its publication number P.Lond. 6.1912, it was soon recognized that this papyrus was a copy of a letter from the Roman emperor Claudius (41-54) to the Greek embassy in Alexandria. The contents of this letter have contributed to its massive popularity among papyrologists and historians alike, because it gives us a glimpse of imperial policy and regional disputes in Egypt. In fact, it has received more studies than almost any other papyrus discovered in Egypt.

In his letter, emperor Claudius was responding to a letter sent from the Alexandrians in 41 CE who wrote for three main reasons: 1) to congratulate Claudius on his accession to the imperial seat, 2) to ask for certain favors, and 3) to have him settle a dispute between the Alexandrians and the Jews of the city. In the first part of the letter, the emperor addresses the various honors the Alexandrians had offered to him, such as the erection of statues. One of the interesting facets of this part of the letter is Claudius’ description of himself as “not wanting to be arrogant to men of my own day, for sacred things and the like are granted by every age to the gods along as special honors, in my opinion” (ll. 47-50). However, scholars have questioned whether we can take this description of Claudius' character at face value, since it may well have been politically motivated. 

The section of the letter that has received the most attention comes at the end of the papyrus, in columns four and five: Claudius’ response to the feud between the Greeks and Jews. The Alexandrians’ question on this matter is often referred to as “the Jewish question.” Basically, Claudius sternly warns the Alexandrians that if they do not stop fighting with each other, he will be forced to intervene: “I shall be forced to show what a benevolent leader is when turned toward righteous rage” (ll. 80-81). He orders the Alexandrians to leave the Jews alone, because they have been inhabitants of the city “from a long time ago.” Additionally, they are to respect Jewish customs. As for the Jews, they are not to agitate, intrude in the contests, or “bring in Judeans from Syria or sailing down from Egypt.” Claudius was exercising good public policy, holding to a “perfectly judicial attitude” (Bell, 22). We learn from the prefect’s edict at the very beginning of the papyrus that not everyone in Alexandria was present to hear Claudius’ letter read out publicly. So, the prefect ordered that the letter be publicly posted in Alexandria, “so that man by man each understanding the letter you may wonder at the majesty of our god Caesar and for his goodwill toward the city be grateful” (ll. 7-11).

While the papyrus itself is not dated (almost certainly the original letter would have been), the edict is dated to 10 November 41, which offers a terminus ante quem, that is, a latest possible date for the papyrus. Our copy of Claudius’ letter is written on the verso of a long roll, whose recto bears the text of a tax register. There is a question as to why this letter turned up in Philadelphia in the Fayum in a first century tax archive of an official named Nemesion, son of Zoilos. Bell was of the opinion that the contents of the letter may have been of interest to the officials in Philadelphia, who could refer to it on matters related to Alexandrian citizenship.

What follows is an English translation of the section dealing with the “Jewish question.” For a complete English translation, see here; for the Greek text of the papyrus, see here. For further reading, see the following two works:
  • Bell, H. Idris. Jews and Christians in Egypt: The Jewish Troubles in Alexandria and the Athanasian Controversy. London, 1924.
  • Tcherikover, Victor A. and Alexander Fuks. Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum. Vol. 2. Cambridge, 1960, No. 153.

"But for the riot and uprising against the Judaeans (=Ioudaioi),  rather, if the truth be told, the war, which of the two sides was responsible, even though (75) your envoys strove for great honour from the confrontation, and especially Dionysios son of The[o]n, still I did not want to have a strict investigation, while storing up in  me unrepentant rage against the ones starting again. But I announce frankly that, unless you put a stop to this (80) destructive, relentless rage against each other, I shall be forced to show what a benevolent leader is when turned toward righteous rage. For this I yet again still bear witness that  Alexandrines, on the one hand, behave gently and kindly with the Judeans, the inhabitants of the same city from a long time ago, (85) and not be disrespectful of the customs used in the ritual of their god,  but let them use their customs as in the time of the god Sebastos even as I myself, after hearing both sides, have confirmed; to the Judeans I give strict orders not to agitate for more than (90) they had before, nor as though dwelling in two cities to send in future two delegations, which had not ever been  done before; nor intrude in the gymnasiarchic or kosmetic contests reaping the fruits of their households while enjoying (95) the abundance of benefits without envy in a foreign polis; nor to introduce or bring in Judeans from Syria or sailing down from Egypt, from which I shall be forced to have serious suspicions; or else I shall take vengeance on them in every way as though (100) rousing up some common plague on the world. If after you stand aside from these things you both should wish to live together with gentleness and kindness towards each other, I shall send forth to the highest degree providence for the city as belonging to our household  from bygone times. (105) I bear witness to my companion Barbillus always showing regar[d] for us (you?) before me, and who just now with complete zeal for honour has consult[ed] about the contest about you, and to Tiberius Claudius Archibios my compan[ion.]            Farewell."

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Open Access Monograph Series: Les dossiers de l'Institut Français d'Études Anatoliennes: série: patrimoines au présent

 Have you taken the AWOL User Survey?

Les dossiers de l'IFEA: série: patrimoines au présent
Sous la direction de Jean-François Pérouse

Précédents directeurs de publication :
Pierre Chuvin, 2004-2006
Paul Dumont, 1999-2003

La collection « Patrimoines au présent » présente des synthèses courtes et actuelles sur les problématiques liées aux questions de préservation du patrimoine en lien avec les dynamiques propres à la société turque contemporaine. Tous comme leur série sœur « La Turquie aujourd'hui », ces dossiers alliant la rigueur du travail de fond à l'enquête de terrain sont le fruit des recherches de chercheurs turcs et français dans une perspective pluridisciplinaire.

Shawn Graham (Electric Archaeology)

Somewhere in the desert…

A lost village

At the upcoming SAA in San Fracisco, Andrew Rheinhard and I are participating in a forum on digital public archaeology. Our piece, ‘Playing Pedagogy: Videogaming as site and vehicle for digital public archaeology’ is still in a process of becoming. Our original abstract:

While there is an extensive literature on the pedagogical uses of video games in STEM education, and a comparitvely smaller literature for langagues, literature, and history, there is a serious dearth of scholarship surrounding videogames in their role as vectors for public archaeology. Moreover, video games work as ‘digital public archaeology’ in the ways their imagined pasts within the games deal with monuments, monumentality, and their own ‘lore’. In this presentation, we play the past to illustrate twin poles of ‘public’ archaeology, as both worlds in which archaeology is constructed and worlds wherin archaeological knowledge may be communicated.

We had initially thought to write a game to explore these ideas, and so our entire presentation would involve the session participants playing it. But writing games is tough. In fact, it would be hard for one to top the game made by Tara Copplestone for the 2014 Heritage Jam, ‘Buried’. However, another venue presents itself. Andrew recently proposed to the makers of No Man’s Sky that he be allowed to lead an archaeological expedition therein.

“What!” I hear you exclaim. Well, think of it like this. We’re used to the idea of reception studies, of how the past is portrayed in games, movies, novels. We’re also used to the idea of games as being the locus for pedagogy, or for persuading, or making arguments. What happens then, in a game like No Man’s Sky, where the entire world is generated algorithmically from a seed? That is, no human designs it: it emerges. Rather like our own universe, eh? Such procedural games are quite common, though none perhaps are as complex in their world building as Dwarf Fortress (which evolves not just the world, but also culture & individual family/clan/culture lineages!)

What then does such  xenoarchaeology look like? How does that intersect with digital public archaeology? Well, if archaeological method has any truth to it, then in these worlds we might be faced with something profoundly alter, something profoundly different (which also accounts for why the writers of Star Trek placed such stock on archaeology)

We’ve got a month to sort these thoughts out. But it was in this frame of mind that I started thinking what archaeology in Minecraft would look like, could look like, and what it might find. Not in Minecraft worlds that have been lovingly built from scratch by a human. No, I mean the ones grown from seeds. It’s quite interesting – since no computational process is actually truly random, if you know the seed from which all calculations and algorithms are run, you can recreate the exact sequence that gives rise to a particular world (in this, and indeed in all, computational simulations). There is quite a thriving subculture in Minecraft it turns out that share interesting seeds. And so, as I searched for seeds that might prove fertile for our talk, I came across ‘Double Village’ for Minecraft 1.64. (See method 5 for spawing worlds from seeds). If you’ve got Minecraft 1.64 you too can join me on my expedition to a strange –desert land….


The texts all say the same thing. Set the portal to ‘Double Village’ and soon you’ll find the exotic and lost desert villages. I put on the archaeotrancerebretron, grabbed my kit bag, and gritted my teeth. My companions all had theirs on too. We stepped into the charmed circle…

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Live Stream: Hugoye Symposium IV: Syriac and the Digital Humanities

Have you taken the AWOL User Survey?

Live Stream: Hugoye Symposium IV: Syriac and the Digital Humanities

March 6, 2015
Hosted by:

Beth Mardutho Research Library, Piscataway, N.J.
Rutgers University Libraries
Rutgers Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literature
Rutgers Center for Middle Eastern Studies The Syriac Reference Portal, Vanderbilt University

Alexander Library, Scholarly Communication Center (4th Floor)

 This event will be live streamed for free, thanks to the support of Rutgers Libraries. Live stream can be accessed at the link here:

Friday, March 6: Public Symposium

10:00 AM      Symposium Opening
                    Welcome address by Charles Häberl, (AMESALL Department Chair)
                    RUL welcome address by Lila Fredenburg, Executive Director of Administrative Services
                    DH at RU Library by Francesca Giannetti (Digital Humanities Librarian)
                    Beth Mardutho Address (George A. Kiraz)

First Mawtbā / Dīwān: Syriac Digital Libraries I
Chair: Ute Possekel, Harvard University
10:30 AM      The Syriac Corpus, Kristian Heal (Brigham Young University)
11:00 AM      eBethArké, Grace Agnew & Isaiah Beard (Rutgers University)
11:30 AM      Electronic Critical Editions of Syriac Texts, James Walters (Princeton Theological Seminary)

12:00 PM      Lunch
Second Mawtbā / Dīwān: Syriac Digital Libraries II
Chair: Francesca Gianetti, Rutgers University
1:00 PM      Comprehensive Bibliography on Syriac Christianity, Daniel Salem (The Hebrew University) & Sergey Minov (University of Oxford)
1:30 PM      eKtobe, A Portal for Syriac Manuscripts, Andre Binggeli (CNRS, France)
2:00 PM      vHMML, OLIVER, & Reading Room, Columba Stewart (Hill Museum & Manuscript Library)
2:30 PM Linking Data from the Syriac Heritage, David Michelson (Vanderbilt University) 

3:00 PM      Coffee Break
Third Mawtbā / Dīwān: Digital Tools for Historical Research
Chair: Maria Doerfler, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
3:15 PM      The Cult of the Saints, Sergey Minov (University of Oxford)
3:45 PM      Gateway to the Syriac Saints, Jean-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent (Marquette University)
4:15 PM      SPEAR: Syriac Persons Events and Relations, Daniel Schwartz (Texas A&M University)

4:45 PM      Coffee Break
Fourth Mawtbā / Dīwān: Tools for Syriac Digital Philology
Chair: Charles Häberl, Rutgers University
5:00 PM      What can we learn from Image Pixels? Image Processing of Dictionaries (for SEDRA) and Text Editions (for OCR),                          George Kiraz (Beth Mardutho)
5:30 PM      The SEDRA 4 Database, A Syriac Lexical Resource, James Bennett (Beth Mardutho)
6:00 PM      Prospects for Syriac OCR, James Prather (Abilene Christian University)

6:30 PM      Adjourn

Open Access Monograph Series: Bibliothèque archéologique et historique

 Have you taken the AWOL User Survey?

Bibliothèque archéologique et historique
ISSN (Édition imprimée) : 0768-2506
Sous la direction de Marc Griesheimer 
Née en 1921, la Bibliothèque archéologique et historique (BAH) comprend quelque 200 titres consacrés au Proche-Orient sémitique, dont la préhistoire et le moyen-âge constituent les bornes chronologiques.

La variété des contributions témoigne du dynamisme de la recherche et de l'évolution des disciplines qui interrogent le passé : monographies archéologiques de sites ou de monuments, corpus épigraphiques, éditions de sources, recueils d'articles, mélanges, actes de colloques et rapports de fouilles.

James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

LOST Rewatch: The Economist

The episode opens with Sayid praying. In flashes forward, we see Sayid working as a hitman for someone we will later learn is Ben Linus. That is interesting, because in another scene in this episode, earlier on the island, Sayid says that the day he starts trusting Ben is the day he sells his soul. In another flash forward, Sayid arranges to meet a woman named Elsa, and has a relationship with her. He is trying to get to her employer, who claims to be but is not an economist. They eventually shoot each other, and Elsa dies. Sayid goes to get his bullet wound treated, and that is when we learn that he is working for Ben. Ben emphasizes that the people he is having Sayid kill do not deserve his sympathy, and that doing this protects his friends.

Locke reaches the ash circle where the cabin was, but the cabin itself is not there. When they get to the barracks, they pretend to leave Hurley gagged and tied up in the closet. Sayid, Kate, and Miles find him. In Ben’s house, Sayid notices a copy of the Holy Qur’an on a shelf, then finds a secret room behind the bookshelf. It has lots of clothing, luggage, many different types of currency, and different nationality passports for Ben with various names. Then Locke and the others come out of hiding and take them prisoner. Sawyer tells Kate that he isn’t looking to leave the island, as there is nothing back there for him.

Dan does an experiment in which Regina on the freighter sends a payload to his signal beacon. She detects it reaching him, but it doesn’t until later, indicating a temporal anomaly. Dan emphasizes to Frank Lapidus the importance of staying on the exact bearing they came in on. Frank flies Sayid, Desmond, and Naomi’s body to the freighter.

I wonder why the Qur’an was used in this episode. Was it to hint at the possibility that Sayid, a Muslim, is being guided by God to make the discovery that he does? The most interesting substantive element is not such a religious object, but the struggles Sayid faces as he is supposedly caught between caring for his friends and caring for Elsa, between being religious and killing for what may or may not be justifiable reasons. These kinds of choices are necessitated not by human existence itself, but by the conflicts we create as we seek our own self-interest. Sayid is no less a pawn of others on LOST than John Locke is. And if pawns ever do come to take on a more important role, they tend to replicate the approach of those who previously used them.

LOST Economist



Aboriginal activist gives lecture on return of Parthenon Marbles

Australian Aboriginal activist, Dr Gary Edward Foley gave a talk about the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles yesterday, comparing the restitution of Aboriginal cultural artefacts to the ongoing campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Greek Reporter

Aboriginal Activist to Give Lecture on Parthenon Marbles’ Return
by Ioanna Zikakou
Mar 4, 2015

Starting this Thursday, the 2015 Greek History and Culture Seminar series, organized by the Greek Community of Melbourne for the fifth consecutive year, will take place in the community’s new building. The seminars’ inaugural lecture is on March 5 with Aboriginal activist Dr Gary Edward Foley and Greek-Australian University of Melbourne professor Nikos Papastergiadis.

During his speech, Foley will focus on the recovery of cultural heritage and the return of Aboriginal antiquities, alongside the Parthenon Marbles case. This will be the first time that an Aboriginal will present his speech before the Greek Community of Melbourne.

Foley is an associate professor at Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit. He was born in Grafton, New South Wales, and he belongs to the Gumbainggir tribe. He was expelled from school at the age of 15 and then moved to Sydney. He has been in the center of several major political activities in Australia, including several demonstrations for Aboriginal’s rights, as well as the establishing of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra.

Papastergiadis, who will introduce Foley, is a professor at the University of Melbourne School of Culture and Communication.

The seminars are free and open to the public, and this year will take place in the new building of the Greek Community of Melbourne.

The post Aboriginal activist gives lecture on return of Parthenon Marbles appeared first on Elginism.

ASOR Blog (American Schools of Oriental Research)

Presenting a Textbook of Aramaic Ostraca from Idumea (TAO)

2014-AM-Blog-Banner1 During the Ancient Inscriptions Diamond 2 session at the 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting Bazalel Porten presented his paper, “Presenting a … Read more

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Meet the "Monuments Men" Risking Everything to Save Syria's Ancient Treasures From ISIS

ON FEBRUARY 26, ISIS released a video of its militants smashing ancient Assyrian artifacts in the...

Bill Caraher (The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World)

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

It feels like a month since I offered some Friday Varia and Quick Hits! I’m heading out to the Bakken in a couple hours, but before I hit the road with a few CDs, my notebook, camera, and my truck, I felt the inexorable draw of my laptop and the blog.

If you happen to be in Western North Dakota this weekend, be sure to check out the Man Camp Dialogue event in Killdeer, Dunn County, North Dakota on Sunday from 1-3pm. Richard Rothaus (NDUS and Caraheard podcast), Emily Guerin (Inside Energy), Aaron Barth (NDSU/Ft. Lincoln Foundation), and Tom Isern (NDSU) will open a dialogue with the folks of Dunn County regarding our research into workforce housing. Here’s the link to more information.

For anyone not able to make it to Killdeer, but itching for more Richard and Bill, check out our podcasts which are now live on the iTunes, on the Soundcloud, and include show notes posted here and here.

IMG 2947Susie told me that I’m part wolf. Why are you saying otherwise?

James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

Get a Life

Great Excitement (Get a Life)

A friend shared this picture of a comment someone had written in an academic book. I am surprised I don’t get similar comments on some of my blog posts…

ArcheoNet BE

Kruiwagen XXV op 25 maart

Op woensdag 25 maart vindt in Gent de 25ste editie van de lezingenreeks ‘Kruiwagen’ plaats. Het wordt een feesteditie, waarbij de Zandberg het centrale aandachtpunt is voor toelichtingen over stad, archeologie, landschap en monument.

1. De Zandberg in de stadsgeschiedenis (Marie Christine Laleman)

Tal van historici hebben sinds de late 19de eeuw proberen te achterhalen hoe de middeleeuwse stad is ontstaan. Dit gebeurde voornamelijk aan de hand van fragmentarische geschreven bronnen, soms ondersteund door resultaten van archeologisch onderzoek. In het eerste luik van de speciale Kruiwagen XXV wordt nagegaan welke plek de Zandberg en zijn omgeving in die stadsgeschiedenis innemen. Het meest expliciet is de hypothese van toponymist Maurits Gysseling (1953-1954), die op die plaats een vroegmiddeleeuwse dorp lokaliseerde. Maar ook in alle andere scenario’s vervult de Zandberg een belangrijke rol. Sinds de 14de eeuw immers wordt de Stad Gent bestuurd vanop de top van de Zandberg.

2. De betekenis van de Zandberg(en) voor Gent (Frank Gelaude)
De Zandberg is gekend als het goed verstopt pleintje met waterpomp en adelaar, maar voor de fietsers als de korte, nijdige helling met slechte kasseien. Deze helling is slechts een deel van een grote dekzandrug die het stadscentrum van Gent beheerst. Dankzij nieuw onderzoek en recente resultaten kunnen deze zanden gedateerd worden en blijken ze alom tegenwoordig in en rond de oude portus. Het voorkomen van deze dekzanden en rivierduinen, deels in de winterbeddingen van Leie en Schelde, zijn bepalend geweest voor het ontstaan van de portus, de lokalisatie van de Sint-Baafsabdij en de verdere ontwikkeling van de stad.

3. Te Koop: Open bebouwing op de Zandberg (Geert Vermeiren & Marie-Anne Bru)

De Zandberg: een hoger gelegen top in het landschap rondom de samenvloeiing van Leie en Schelde. Of is het toch beter om het met de woorden, uit 1954, van toponymspecialist Maurits Gysseling te zeggen: De ontstaansplek van Gent, het gebied waar zich de eerste nederzetting bevond, de eerste landbouwnederzetting met zijn akkers op de hoge kouter of de zandrug. Bij jonger onderzoek naar het ontstaan van Gent verdween deze ‘theorie’ naar de achtergrond in het voordeel van de ontwikkeling van de ‘Portus’ rond de Sint-Janskerk en de site van het ‘Geraard de Duivelsteen’. Maar stel dat het een samengaan is van beide theorieën, een stad die zich ontwikkelde op de zuidwestelijke flank van deze Zandberg, enerzijds gebruik makend van de hoogte, anderzijds van de nabijheid van water. Een stad die zich tussen twee belangrijke assen ontwikkelde, enerzijds één aan de voet van de Zandberg (Sint-Jansstraat/Korte Ridderstraat), anderzijds één op de top van de Zandberg (Nederpolder/Hoogpoort). De plek van waaruit de flanken overschreden worden, de rivieren opgezocht worden en er in de middeleeuwen de grootste stad ten noorden van de Alpen ontstond.

4. Het hotel Vanden Meersche: een 18de-eeuws Zand(berg)kasteel? (Guido Everaert)

Het gebouw is nu een grote constructie met drie trapgevels aan de Zandberg en een lange gevel die zich over een groot deel van de Nederpolder uitstrekt. Het huidig uitzicht is een product van de ‘restauratie’ uit 1950. De 18de-eeuwse bepleisterde gevels ruimden toen de baan voor nieuwe exemplaren van baksteen en natuursteen met een vormgeving die ze gedeeltelijk nooit hebben gehad. Minder bekend zijn de mooie 18de-eeuwse gevels aan de binnenplaats en het rijk versierde tuinscherm. Veel Gentenaars kennen de mooie trapzaal met zijn kunstig beschilderde wanden en prachtige houten trap alleen maar van afbeeldingen. Momenteel zijn archeologen aan de slag in het gebouw. Iedereen kijkt reikhalzend uit of en hoeveel Stenen er zullen worden ontdekt. Wie was voor al dat 18de-eeuwse moois verantwoordelijk? Was het gebouw volgens de Franse architectuurvoorschriften opgevat? Hoe waren de interieurs toen aangekleed? En is de tuin nog 18de-eeuws? Veel vragen waarop onlangs gedeeltelijk al een antwoord kwam met het materieel en archivalisch onderzoek van het gebouw.

Praktisch: Kruiwagen XXV, op woensdag 25 maart om 20 uur, in de Panoramische Zaal Middenstandshuis, Lange Kruisstraat 7, Gent (Bij Sint-Baafsplein en Sint-Baafskathedraal). Toegang: 5 euro. Organisatie: Stad Gent, De Zwarte Doos, Dienst Stadsarcheologie en V.Z.W. Gentse Vereniging voor Stad, Archeologie, Landschap en Monument.

American School of Classical Studies in Athens: Events

«Cycladica» από το Ηραίο και τη Μίλητο

December 15, 2015 - 12:53 PM - Cycladic Seminar Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier & Ουρανία Κουκά

A comparative Mediterranean perspective on the Early Bronze Age Cyclades

November 10, 2015 - 12:47 PM - CYCLADIC SEMINAR Cyprian Broodbank

Jim Davila (

Smithsonian: Siege of Masada

DOCUMENTARY: Smithsonian Tells Real Story Inspiring CBS' The Dovekeepers in SIEGE OF MASADA, 3/27 ( More on The Dovekeepers is here and links. And some past posts on the historicity of Josephus' Masada narrative are collected here.

Jim Davila (

Der Golem centenary

GOLEM WATCH: How the Golem Got His Groove Back. Gustav Meyrink Made Jewish Frankenstein a Household Name (Benjamin Ivry, The Forward).
This year marks the centenary of the book publication of Gustav Meyrink’s serialized novel “Der Golem.” Until a 2006 episode of TV’s “The Simpsons,” where Bart Simpson stole a golem from Krusty the Clown, Meyrink’s was probably the most famous adaptation of the ancient Jewish legend in which a man of clay is brought to life by magic as a “sort of friendly Jewish Frankenstein,” as Germanist Cathy Gelbin stated in “The Golem Returns.” ...
Gershom Scholem weighed in on the book too:
And Gershom Scholem, then a brilliant young student of Jewish mysticism, complains in “On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism”: “By taking up a figure of Kabbalistic legend and transforming it in a very peculiar way, Meyrink tried to draw a kind of symbolic picture of the way to redemption. Such literary adaptations and transformations of the golem legend have been frequent… Meyrink’s work, however, far outdoes the rest. In it everything is fantastic to the point of grotesque… Behind the facade of an exotic and futuristic Prague ghetto, Indian rather than Jewish ideas of redemption are expounded. The alleged Kabbalah that pervades the book suffers from an overdose of Madame Blavatsky’s turbid theosophy.” ... Scholem concluded: “I visited Meyrink on one or two other occasions, and he never failed to astonish me.”
The Golem is a very popular figure in modern popular culture and you can find many PaleoJudaica posts on him here and links.

Archeomatica: Tecnologie per i Beni Culturali

Rivelato il meccanismo di degrado dei rossi di Van Gogh

Non è la prima volta che vengono diffusi i risultati di ricerche scientifiche sui colori impiegati da Van Gogh e sul loro degrado e scolorimento nel tempo.
Uno studio sui pigmenti rossi è stato recentemente pubblicato nella rivista Angewandte Chemie dal titolo "Plumbonacrite Identified by X-ray Powder Diffraction Tomography as a Missing Link during Degradation of Red Lead in a Van Gogh Painting" realizzato da Frederik Vanmeert, Geert Van der Snickt e Koen Janssens del Dipartimento "Antwerp X-ray Analysis, Electrochemistry and Speciation" dell'Università di Antwerp in Belgio.

Jim Davila (

Authorship of Esther

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS (BELATED PURIM EDITION): Who wrote the Book of Esther? Tradition says Mordechai wrote the Book of Esther, but surely he wouldn't have gotten the timing of his own expulsion a century wrong? (Elon Gilad, Haaretz). Excerpt:
There is a problem with the timing, too, which could also be an artifact of the book having been redacted long years after the event.

The Book of Esther says Mordechai was exiled from Judah with King Jeconiah: "Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordechai… Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away" (Esther 2:5-6).

But King Jeconiah was expelled from Judah by Nebuchadnezzar 130 years before Xerxes ascended the throne. Surely a contemporary writer like Mordechai would have known that.

And then there’s the language of the book. On the one hand, the fact that no Greek influence made it into Esther is strong evidence that the book was written before the Achaemenid Dynasty was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.E., marking the start of the Hellenistic period.

On the other hand, the form of the Hebrew of the book, and, even more so, the form of the many Persian loanwords embedded in it, both indicate that the book was likely written toward the end of the Achaemenid Dynasty.

Taken together, the evidence of the vagueness about the king and the timeline problems, and the language, indicate that the redaction was by a Jewish scribe writing in Shushan in the middle of the 4th century B.C.E., about events that apparently happened more than a century before.
That about sums up the historical and philological issues. The only thing I would add is that the lack of Greek language or other Greek influence in the book may be more a cultural than a chronological feature. Most of the Hebrew sectarian texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls are similarly devoid of Greek influence even though they were written well into the Hellenistic period. They just didn't like Greek culture. Esther too may have been written in the Hellenistic period by a writer with a similar aversion.

The rest of the article summarizes various interesting scholarly speculations about the book and is worth a read.

Archaeology of Portus: Exploring the Lost Harbour of Ancient Rome

Week Five – Your Questions Answered

Santa Sabina (Flickr)Santa Sabina (Flickr)

Video addressing questions relating to Week five.

ArcheoNet BE

Onderzoek onder Antwerpse Scheldekaaien

In maart en april worden links en rechts van het Steenplein in Antwerpen proefsleuven gegraven in het kader van een archeologisch vooronderzoek. De Antwerpse stadsarcheologen gaan onder de Scheldekaaien op zoek naar de archeologische resten van 2000 jaar stadsgeschiedenis.

De Scheldekaaien vormen het gezicht van de Antwerpse rede. Ze kennen al sinds het ontstaan van de stad een boeiende geschiedenis. Ooit vormde deze plaats waar de schepen voor anker gingen, een imposante façade van stadsmuren, torens, vlieten, waterpoorten en bastions. Bij de rechttrekking van de kaaien in de 19de eeuw volgde een kaalslag van de burchtzone en werden de historische kaaien ingesloten achter de huidige kaaimuur. Er kwam een nieuw kadeplateau waar schepen efficiënt konden laden en lossen.

Historische kaarten schetsen het verloop van de oude kaailijnen. Op basis hiervan hebben de stadsarcheologen een idee van welke restanten er te verwachten zijn, maar om te weten te komen waar de archeologische resten zich exact bevinden, en wat hun bewaringstoestand is, wordt een archeologisch vooronderzoek uitgevoerd. Dit gebeurt door middel van proefsleuven. Die sleuven worden strategisch aangelegd om een aantal specifieke bouwstructuren en -restanten te kunnen lokaliseren, zoals de middeleeuwse en 16de-eeuwse kaaimuren, de historische bewoning, de napoleontische kaaimuur, de vlieten en de werven.

Ancient World Bloggers Group


(Via Lt-Antiq list)
Dear Colleagues,

Friday, March 6, beginning at 10 AM Eastern US time please join us for the online streaming of Hugoye Symposium IV: Syriac and the Digital Humanities.

Project presentations include tools for digital philology, manuscript studies, Linked Open Data, hagiography, OCR for middle eastern languages, and prosopography.

Full schedule and details of the stream are at| |

David A. Michelson

Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity
Vanderbilt University 

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American School of Classical Studies in Athens: Events

Ποιος και πώς ορίζει την ιστορική μνήμη;

April 27, 2015 - 9:18 AM - Κοινωνία και παρελθόν:προσλήψεις της αρχαιότητας στη σύγχρονη Ελλάδα (Σειρά δημόσιων συζητήσεων και διαλέξεων) Αντώνης Λιάκος, Χριστίνα Κουλούρη,Νίκος Μπελαβίλας

Τάκης Ζενέτος - Μαργαρίτης Απoστολίδης/Μια αρχιτεκτονική τομή στην ιστορία του κτιρίου FIX

March 19, 2015 - 9:14 AM - LECTURE Ντόρα Θεοδωροπούλου, Αρχιτέκτων Υπ. διδάκτωρ ΕΜΠ

«What on earth became of them all?Thoughts on the fate of the Macedonians after the battle of Pydna

March 19, 2015 - 9:08 AM - Roman Seminar Frank Daubner (University of Stuttgart, Historisches Institut)

Antiquitas (Sciences de l'Antiquité à l'Université de Lorraine)

Hervé Huntzinger : « Justifier ou restreindre la violence de la guerre : arguments juridiques et arguments moraux dans l’Antiquité tardive »

Lors des journées d’études « Argumenter en guerre » (15 et 16 avril 2015 à Lille et à Paris), Hervé Huntzinger présentera une communication intitulée : « Justifier ou restreindre la violence de la guerre : arguments juridiques et arguments moraux dans l’Antiquité tardive ».

Lorsqu’il reçut, en 494, l’évêque Épiphane de Pavie, venu demander la libération de 6 000 captifs italiens, le roi burgonde Gondebaud fit la réponse suivante : « Les combattants ont des lois pour autoriser ce qui n’est pas autorisé » (Ennod. V. Epif. 165). Cette phrase révèle une interprétation particulière du « droit de la guerre » comme légitimation de la violence guerrière par le droit. Une telle interprétation est, de fait, fort commune à la fin de l’Antiquité et on en voit une conscience aiguë chez Attila, qui n’hésite pas à s’en réclamer pour appuyer ses revendications (Affaire des vases de Constantius, 441 : Priscus fr. 11, 2) ou accepter, de façon fort surprenante, celles de frontaliers romains (Affaire d’Anasamos, 443 : Priscus fr. 9, 3, 39-80).

À rebours de cette conception du droit qui légitime la violence de la guerre, existe aussi l’idée du droit qui modère celle-ci. De fait, Virgilio Ilari (« Ius belli – Tou polemou nomos. Étude sémantique de la terminologie du droit de la guerre », BIDR, 88, 1985, p. 159-179) associe à la période républicaine l’idée d’un ius in bello, un droit qui limite la violence dans le cas des guerres justes et légitimes, et à la période impériale l’idée d’un ius belli, qui justifie la violence de la guerre. Qu’en est-il dans l’Antiquité tardive ? Il apparaît que la limitation des pratiques de la guerre, puisqu’elle ne peut pas réellement s’appuyer sur des arguments juridiques, s’appuie désormais sur des arguments moraux fondés par l’éthique religieuse. Ainsi Augustin, dans le chapitre d’ouverture de la Cité de Dieu (1, 1), indique que les troupes d’Alaric ont fait preuve de modération lors du sac de Rome en 410 « contre toutes les lois de la guerre » mais « à cause du nom du Christ », indiquant par là son opinion que la religion d’Alaric (le christianisme arien) aurait posé des limites à la violence de ses troupes.

Peu avant de rappeler à Épiphane les lois des combattants, Gondebaud avait reconnu sa différence de point de vue : « Étant un avocat de la paix, tu ignores les lois de la guerre et, favorable à la concorde, tu réduis à néant le jugement de l’épée. » De la sorte, il reconnaît l’existence de deux catégories d’arguments, les uns juridiques et fondés sur la violence de la guerre, les autres moraux et fondés sur l’éthique religieuse. La synthèse de ces deux ordres argumentaires est réalisée vers 533 dans les Institutiones de Justinien (1, 2, 2) par l’articulation entre le droit naturel, qui ne reconnaît pas la violence de la guerre, et le droit des peuples, apparu suite à la violence de la guerre pour normaliser les conséquences de celle-ci.

Illustration : Karl Brioullov, Genséric et l’invasion de Rome (1833-1836, Gallerie Nationale Tretiakov, Moscou, ©Wikimedia).

American School of Classical Studies in Athens: Events

The securitization of Islam in Europe (France, the Netherlands and Greece)

March 10, 2015 - 9:04 AM - LECTURE Elisavet Paraskeva-Gkizi, PhD, Panteion University - Research associate at CEMMIS

Αμαρτωλός πατήρ, μετανοών υιός: νόμισμα και ιδεολογία στην πρώιμη παλαιολόγεια περίοδο.

March 23, 2015 - 9:01 AM - Νομισματικές συναντήσεις Π. Παπαδοπούλου - Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θεσσαλονίκης

Dienekes' Anthropology Blog

Craniofacial plasticity in ancient Peru

Anthropologischer Anzeiger doi:10.1127/anthranz/2015/0458

Craniofacial plasticity in ancient Peru

Jessica H. Stone; Kristen Chew; Ann H. Ross; John W. Verano

Numerous studies have utilized craniometric data to explore the roles of genetic diversity and environment in human cranial shape variation. Peru is a particularly interesting region to examine cranial variation due to the wide variety of high and low altitude ecological zones, which in combination with rugged terrain have created isolated populations with vastly different physiological adaptations. This study examines seven samples from throughout Peru in an effort to understand the contributions of environmental adaptation and genetic relatedness to craniofacial variation at a regional scale. Morphological variation was investigated using a canonical discriminant analysis and Mahalanobis D2 analysis. Results indicate that all groups are significantly different from one another with the closest relationship between Yauyos and Jahuay, two sites that are located geographically close in central Peru but in very different ecozones. The relationship between latitude/longitude and face shape was also examined with a spatial autocorrelation analysis (Moran’s I) using ArcMap and show that there is significant spatial patterning for facial measures and geographic location suggesting that there is an association between biological variation and geographic location.


American School of Classical Studies in Athens: Events

Hierarchie und Sukzession in der Spätantike.Nachfolgekrisen unter der Theodosianischen Dynastie

March 23, 2015 - 8:57 AM - LECTURE Dr. Henning Börm (Konstanz)

Iconography and politics in Greek and Roman wall painting:hidden and open agendas?

March 18, 2015 - 8:54 AM - Greek Iconographies Eric M. Moormann (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen)

Hégémonie romaine en Grèce du Nord - IIΙ

March 13, 2015 - 8:43 AM - JOURNÉ D’ÉTUDES

Laura Gibbs (Bestiaria Latina Blog)

Latin Proverbs and Fables Round-Up: March 6

Yes, folks, I'm back, and here is a round-up of today's proverbs and fables - and for previous posts, check out the Bestiaria Latina Blog archives. You can keep up with the latest posts by using the RSS feed, or you might prefer to subscribe by email.

HODIE (Roman Calendar): pridie Nonas Martias, the day before the Nones of March.

MYTHS and LEGENDS: The art image for today's legend shows The Sword of Damocles; you can also see the legends for the current week listed together here.


TINY MOTTOES: Today's tiny motto is: Perculsus elevor (English: Though struck, I lift myself up).

3-WORD PROVERBS: Today's 3-word verb-less proverb is Nihil annis velocius (English: Nothing is more swift than the years)

AUDIO PROVERBS: Today's audio Latin proverb is Nemo sine sapientia beatus est (English: Without wisdom, no man is happy). To read a brief essay about this proverb and to listen to the audio, visit the Latin Via Proverbs blog.

PUBLILIUS SYRUS: Today's proverb from Publilius Syrus is: Malum ne alienum feceris tuum gaudium (English: Don't find your joy in another's misfortune).

ERASMUS' ANIMALS: Today's animal proverb from Erasmus is Duos insequens lepores, neutrum capit (English: By chasing two rabbits, he catches neither; from Adagia 3.3.36).

BREVISSIMA: The distich poster for today is Summa Voluptas. Click here for a full-sized view.

And here are today's proverbial LOLcats:

Quantum potes, tantum aude.
Dare to do as much as you can do.

Non omnibus, quod libet, licet.
Not everyone can do as they please.


FABULAE FACILES: The fable from the Fabulae Faciles widget is Milvus Aegrotans, the story of a kite who repents too late (this fable has a vocabulary list).

MILLE FABULAE: The fable from the Mille Fabulae et Una widget is Camelus et Iuppiter, the story of a camel who wanted horns... and lost his ears instead.

Camelus et Iuppiter - Osius

Latin Fables Read by Justin Slocum Bailey. Here is today's audio fable: Vulpes Pacem Annuntians, with links to the audio and to the blog post.

Vulpes Pacem Annuntians

Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues)

ISIL Now Turns Attention to Nimrud

A sprawling 3,000-year-old ancient site lies on the river Tigris near the modern-day Assyrian village of Noomanea in Nineveh Province in northern Iraq. This was the ancient Assyrian city of Kalhu [known as Calah (Kalakh) in the Bible], named Nimrud by archeologists (after the Biblical Nimrod, a legendary hunting hero). Sadly, ISIL have now begun attacking this site using bulldozers, Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities reports in a statement posted on its website on Thursday.
"The terrorist group has “assaulted the historic city of Nimrud and razed it with heavy vehicles”, the ministry says. According to the AFP, an Iraqi antiquities official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the attack started after noon prayers and that some of the trucks may also have been used to haul away artefacts, but the extent of the damage could not yet be assessed. An official speaking to Al-Jezeera said that the winged-bull lamassu statues at the gates of the palace of Ashurnasirpal II had been smashed. 
(source: Helen Stoilas, 'Islamic State extremists hit 3,000-year-old city of Nimrud with bulldozers' The Art Newspaper 05 March 2015). This follows the attacks on museum objects and antiquities in Mosul and Nineveh thirty kilometres to the northwest last week, and the demolition of Tal Afar to the west in January (here and here). These sites are all in the NE cusp of ISIL-held territory in Nineveh (Mosul) province where a lot of the recent monument destruction has been going on. “The terrorist gangs of ISIS are continuing to defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity after they committed a new crime that belongs to its idiotic series,” the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page. “Leaving these gangs without punishment will encourage them to eliminate human civilization entirely, especially the Mesopotamian civilization, which cannot be compensated,” the ministry added in its statement.    It called on the United Nations Security Council to come to Iraq’s aid. Quite clearly, ISIL is determined to eradicate the cultural ties to the multi-cultural past  of the area, as a UNESCO put it, “These extremists are trying to destroy the entire cultural heritage of the region in an attempt to wipe the slate clean and rewrite history in their own brutal image”.

The extent of the damage is not yet known. The main tell of the site is 700m x 400m but the lower city is much more extensive. Perhaps the destroyers are targeting the upstanding monuments such as the palaces of Ashurnasirpal II, Shalmaneser III, and Tiglath-Pileser III and their reliefs and lamassu figures. 
The Nimrud site itself has suffered since the United States-led invasion in 2003, when it was virtually abandoned as Iraqi state structures collapsed. Looters stole and damaged many sculptures. However, [...] the site was partly safeguarded by its remote location, and until now, its major structures were in good condition. [...]  The destruction also comes on the heels of several years of wholesale ransacking of Syria’s ancient sites by many parties in the country’s chaotic conflict. Mohammad Rabia Chaar, a Syrian writer and journalist now living in Belgium, said he had returned to Syria to support the uprising against Bashar al-Assad but became disillusioned in part because of the looting and destruction, and was eventually driven out by threats from Islamic State militants, before they in turn were largely driven from that province last year. ”Go and see Idlib, how all the ancient hills have been destroyed and looted, how bulldozers are digging.” he said. “The feeling of sickness is growing more and more, day after day, against these imperialist Muslims. Daesh wants people with no memory, with no history, with no culture, no past, no future.” He said that while human lives were worth more than statues, erasing history and civilization was “killing them not physically but because of their thoughts.” 
Anne Barnard, 'ISIS Attacks a Major Archaeological Site in Iraq'. New York Times March 5, 2015.

Samuel Hardy (Conflict Antiquities)

Islamic State’s reportedly started to bulldoze Nimrud. If it hasn’t yet, it is ‘just a matter of time’.

As far as I know, no material evidence has been published. Certainly, I haven’t seen any, beyond quotes and paraphrases of an official statement by Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. According to an anonymous antiquities official, ‘destruction began after noon prayers’. Nevertheless, if it hasn’t yet, as Abdulamir Hamdani observed, ‘it [is] just a […]

March 05, 2015

Archaeological News on Tumblr

IS group ‘bulldozes’ ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud

The Islamic State (IS) group on Thursday deployed heavy vehicles and bulldozed the ancient Assyrian...

Ancient Art

Section from the rear wall of the temple of Hathor at Dendara....

Section from the rear wall of the temple of Hathor at Dendara. Here we can see Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XV Caesarion (the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar) offering to the deities of Dendara.

Caesarion (as he was nicknamed) was placed on the Egyptian throne as Cleopatra’s co-ruler following his father’s assassination in 44 BC. He proved to be a central figure in the political conflicts following Caesar’s death, as Cleopatra claimed that he was Caesar’s only legal heir. However, any power Caesarion managed to gain was brief: Octavian (or as he will later be known, Augustus Caesar), the adopted son of Julius Caesar, won the battle of Actium in 31. Following his mother’s suicide, Caesarion was murdered on the orders of Octavian. Octavian became the first emperor of the Roman Empire, ushering in Rome’s ‘golden age’.

Photo take by kairoinfo4u (cropped).

Compitum - publications

De l’argile au nuage. Une archéologie des catalogues (IIe millénaire av. J.-C.-XXIe siècle)


De l'argile au nuage. Une archéologie des catalogues (IIe millénaire av. J.-C.-XXIe siècle), Paris, 2015.

Éditeur : Bibliothèque Mazarine, Bibliothèque de Genève, Édition des Cendres
429 pages
ISBN : 979 10 90853 05 8 / 978 2 86742 230 0

Ouvrage réalisé à l'occasion des expositions organisée par la Bibliothèque Mazarine et la Bibliothèque de Genève.
Paris, 13 mars-13 mai 2015. Genève, 18 septembre-21 novembre 2015.
Commissariat: Frédéric Barbier, Thierry Dubois, Yann Sordet
Ouvrage publié avec le soutien du Labex TransferS

Lire la suite...

Archaeology Magazine

“Significant Variation” Found in Skulls From Pre-Contact Peru

Peru-Skull-StudyRALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA—It had long been thought that there was very little skeletal variation among the pre-Columbian peoples in the New World, based upon a sample of individuals from the Yauyos people of the central Peruvian highlands. But anthropologists from North Carolina State University, the University of Oregon, and Tulane University evaluated the facial features of 507 skulls from seven pre-Columbian peoples from Peru, and found significant differences between all of them. “And our work shows that the Yauyos had facial features that were very different even from other peoples in the same region. This raises questions about any hypothesis that rests in part on the use of the Yauyos sample as being representative of all South America,” Ann Ross of North Carolina State University told Eureka Alert. The scientists found that the farther apart the groups lived from each other, the less they looked alike. “Next we want to compare variation across Latin America, to see if we can identify patterns that suggest biological relationships, which could be indicative of migration patterns,” Ross said. To read about more skeletons found in the region, see "Unusual Sacrifices Unearthed in Peru."

Compitum - événements (tous types)

Que faire avec… un vers ?

Titre: Que faire avec… un vers ?
Lieu: Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée / Lyon
Catégorie: Séminaires, conférences
Date: 09.03.2015
Heure: 13.00 h - 14.00 h

Information signalée par Marie-Karine Lhommé


Que faire avec… un vers ?


Nous avons le plaisir de vous convier à la prochaine séance du séminaire AMASA, qui sera une séance à deux voix : 

le lundi 9 mars 2015
de 13h à 14h
à la MOM, salle Reinach
(RDV à 12h50 autour d'un café !)

avec l'intervention de
Nadine Le Meur et Bénédicte Delignon
« Que faire avec… un vers ? »

Un vers grec ou latin est un ensemble de mots formant une unité rythmique fondée sur la quantité (et parfois le nombre) des syllabes. La première chose à faire avec un vers est donc de le scander, pour l'identifier et tenter de restituer ses coupes, ses accents, ses élisions, ses éventuels hiatus, en un mot sa « musique ». Le vers constitue par ailleurs une aide précieuse pour le chercheur qui tente de reconstituer des fragments issus de poèmes perdus. Enfin le vers n'est pas seulement un rythme contraint auquel le poète devrait plier la langue grecque ou la langue latine. Il donne également lieu à des jeux de reprise subtils et producteurs de sens à l'intérieur du texte – jeux qui ne sont pas si éloignés de ceux de l'intertextualité.

Pour plus d'informations (programme, affiches, compte-rendu des séances précédentes), rendez-vous sur la page d'AMASA - Que faire avec… ? sur le site web d'HiSoMA.

Source : Hisoma

Kristina Killgrove (Powered by Osteons)

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival LXIX

February brought a ridiculously huge number of announcements about new bioarchaeological finds.  For all the stories, you should follow Powered by Osteons on Facebook.  Here I have collected last month's Roman and Roman-adjacent finds:

Roman Provinces
The "oldest brain's"
original home (York Archaeo)
  • 21 January - Britain's oldest brain (York Archaeology). While not exactly Roman in date, this preserved brain goes back to the 6th century AD, which is all kinds of cool.  Can't wait to read about what they find out from this organ!
  • 31 January - About the funerary ritual of Sanisera's necropolis (Sanisera Blog).  Sanisera is a Roman port city on Minorca, and excavations have been underway for a number of years on its necropolis.  This blog post does not have much information but highlights the re-use of tombs, likely by family members, over time.
  • 3 February - New mummies discovered floating in sewage in Upper Egypt (Daily News Egypt). It seems that two mummies of women from the Roman era were found, along with their sarcophagi, floating in sewage near a small village.  Officials think some unauthorized digging caused the discovery and destruction of the mummies.
Student excavating at Ipplepen (BAJR)
  • 10 February - Skeletons uncovered at Ipplepen reveal major Roman cemetery (British Archaeology News Resource). Around a dozen skeletons were found at this settlement in Devon. Notably, there are some skeletons that date to the post-Roman period, suggesting continuity even after Roman rule was over.
  • 12 February - The GPAT neighborhood with Megan Perry (GPAT).  Bioarchaeologist Megan Perry has an interview with a local TV program on her work at Petra in Jordan that is well worth listening to!
  • 25 February - 'Unique' Roman tombstone found in Cirencester (BBC). Not sure why 'unique' is in scare quotes because it is -- this tombstone was found with the skeleton to whom it referred, a woman named Bodica who died at age 27, which makes it really, really unusual if not completely unique.  I wish we had more tombstone-skeleton combinations because there's a whole bunch of historical-bioarchaeological stuff that could be done (that I can't do with just skeletons).
    Skull of Bodica, whose tombstone was found
    in Roman Britain (BBC)

Italy and the Roman World Writ Large

Archaeology Magazine

Neolithic Town Unearthed at Greece’s Alepotrypa Cave

Greece-Cave-CemeteryCHIGAGO, ILLINOIS—The Diros Project has uncovered the remains of Ksagounaki, an ancient town and burial complex, located outside the entrance to Alepotrypa Cave in southern Greece. The large underground cave may have been seen as the entrance to the mythic Greek underworld, and the ancient town is thought to have been an important ritual and settlement complex during the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. (The recently discovered grave of a man and woman who had been buried together in an embracing position some 6,000 years ago was found at Diros.) However, William Parkinson of The Field Museum said that some 2,000 years after the settlement at Ksagounaki was abandoned, the Mycenaeans built a structure there and filled it with the bones of dozens of individuals, Late Bronze Age pottery, stone beads, ivory, and a bronze Mycenaean dagger. Perhaps the Neolithic buildings had drawn the attention of the Mycenaeans to this natural wonder. For more about Alepotrypa Cave, see "Portals to the Underworld."

Archaeological News on Tumblr

170-Year-Old Shipwreck Beer Smells Gross

When you’re picking out a beer, what flavors do you look for? If hints of soured milk and...

Thibaut Castelli (Spartokos a Lu)

Akra. Exploring the Early Byzantine fortress on St. Nikola Peninsula near the town of Chernomorets.

Khristov, I., éd. (2013) : АКРА – Проучване на ранновизантийска крепост на полуостров Св. Никола при гр. Черноморец, том 1/ Akra. Exploring the Early Byzantine fortress on St. Nikola Peninsula near the town of Chernomorets. Volume І, Sofia.

Cet ouvrage de 250 pages présente les fouilles de la forteresse proto-byzantine qui ont eu lieu sur cette péninsule, située quelques kilomètres à l’ouest d’Apollonia. La forteresse est bâtie dans la seconde moitié du Ve s. et abandonnée à la fin du VIe s. Après avoir replacé dans le système défensif du littoral ce site, est présenté le catalogue des trouvailles par grandes catégories (objets en métal, monnaies, amphores, lampes…).

Texte bilingue bulgare anglais. Nombreuses illustrations.


Le sommaire

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Open Access Australasian Society for Classical Studies Proceedings

 [First posted in AWOL 28 July 2010, updated (addition of the 30 papers from ASCS 32) 5 March 2015]

Have you taken the AWOL User Survey?

Australasian Society for Classical Studies (ASCS) Conference Proceedings
Following the ASCS tradition to publish a limited number of papers presented at the annual conference on the society’s website, we are pleased to announce that the papers from ASCS 33 (2012) are now available, edited by Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides.
The link below will take you to the abstracts of papers presented at the ASCS 33 conference in Melbourne in 2012:

These Selected Proceedings consist of 30 papers originally presented at the University of Auckland, 24-27 January 2011, edited by Assoc. Prof. Anne Mackay.
Editor's preface
These Selected Proceedings consist of papers originally presented at the 32nd Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies (ASCS), convened by my colleague, Dr Jeremy Armstrong, and myself, and held in New Zealand at the University of Auckland, 24th-27th January 2011. ASCS is the professional body in Australasia for those engaged in study of the classical world, and its conference is the largest annual meeting in the region for the dissemination of new research in the many subsidiary fields.
ASCS 32 was exceptionally large, with over 180 registrants drawn from both hemispheres variously attending five parallel sessions in which were presented some 150 papers. A wider range of research areas than usual was represented: in addition to Greek and Roman history, philosophy and literature, there were several sessions on archaeology and material evidence, including Egyptology; there were particularly strong contingents of those involved in the fields of ancient philosophy and late antiquity, and also the classical  tradition. This broader representation of research expertise enabled a valuable measure of interdisciplinarity in many post-paper discussions. The Conference’s range of sub-disciplines is, as it has turned out (and not by design), well represented in these Selected Proceedings.
ASCS 32 confirmed the decision taken at ASCS 31 (Perth, Australia) to publish the selected proceedings of the conference on line. Speakers were accordingly invited to submit manuscripts, which were then subjected to independent and expert anonymous peer review: the papers presented here have all been selected as a result of this review process. I should like to acknowledge my sincere gratitude to those necessarily anonymous colleagues in several countries who have supported the endeavour by generously agreeing to serve as referee-readers.
Access to these refereed papers is free, but the copyright of all material remains with the individual authors unless otherwise indicated. While each paper is individually paginated and accompanied by its own list of references, it has been the editor’s intention to impose on the collection a homogeneity of presentation sufficient to warrant its being regarded as a single publication. Abbreviations are standard, where possible following the OCD3.
Papers should be cited as follows:
Author (2011). ‘Title’, in ASCS 32 Selected Proceedings, ed. Anne Mackay (
Anne Mackay
University of Auckland
New Zealand
June 2011


D.A. Alexander Marc Antony’s Assault of Publius Clodius: Fact or Ciceronian Fiction? abstract full text
J. Armstrong Power and Politics in Fifth Century BC Rome. The Censorship and Consular Tribunate in Context abstract full text
J. Barsby Classics At Otago 3: The Manton Period (1949-65) abstract full text
M. Bissett Visualising Festivals: Black-figure Depictions of the Delia abstract full text
D. Burton Hades: Cornucopiae, Fertility And Death abstract full text
M.W. Champion Aeneas of Gaza on the Soul abstract full text
R. Covino The Fifth Century, the Decemvirate, and the Quaestorship abstract full text
M. Davies Senecan Philosophy as Counter-ideology (Epistle 31) abstract full text
A. Dawson Seeing Dead People: A Study of the Cypselids abstract full text
R. Evans Learning to be Decadent: Roman Identity and the Luxuries of Others abstract full text
V. Gray Work in Progress on Xenophon’s Language abstract full text
L. Grech From Popery to Paganism: Oscar Wilde in Greece abstract full text
C.R. Hamilton ‘I Judge between two brothers, to their satisfaction’ – Biographies and the Legal System in the Old Kingdom abstract full text
P. Hannah Soldier and Sceptre-Bearer: a Question of Identification in Attic Vase Painting abstract full text
J. Hellum Pepi I: a Case Study of Royal Religious Devotion in the Old Kingdom abstract full text
V. Howan Three Fleets or Two? abstract full text
I. Kehrberg Roman Gerasa Seen From Below. An Alternative Study of Urban Landscape abstract full text
M. Leenen The Evolution of Roman Diplomatic Interaction with the Achaean League, 200-146 B.C.E abstract full text
B. Marshall ‘Where Have All the Leaders Gone?’ A Possible Reason for the Failure of the Sullan Senate. abstract full text
M. Masterson The Visibility of ‘Queer’ Desire in Eunapius’ Lives of the Philosophers abstract full text
P. Mountford Aeneas: An Etruscan Foundation Legend abstract full text
J. O’Maley Paradigm Introductions and Mytho-Historical Authority in the Iliad abstract full text
L. O’Sullivan Tyrannicides, Symposium and History: A Consideration of the Tyrannicide Law in Hyperides 2.3 abstract full text
S.R. Perris What Maketh the Messenger? Reportage in Greek Tragedy abstract full text
J. Ratcliffe Cornelius Celsus and the Treatment of Fistula in Ano: a Surprise and a Conundrum abstract full text
G. Salapata The More the Better? Votive Offerings in Sets abstract full text
K. Slaska-Sapala Paradise Lost and the Language of Epic Rebellion abstract full text
J. Stove ‘Gut-madness’: Gastrimargia in Plato and Beyond abstract full text
H. Tarrant A Six-Book Version of Plato’s Republic: Same Text Divided Differently, or Early Version? abstract full text
L. Wadeson Nabataean Tomb Complexes at Petra: New Insights in the Light of Recent Fieldwork abstract full text
All abstracts (PDF)

The Proceedings of the Conference, containing 29 of the papers delivered, were edited, after a refereeing process, and produced in electronic format by Dr Neil O'Sullivan. They are available online at

Editor's preface

These papers were originally presented at the 31st conference of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies, convened by my colleague, Dr Lara O'Sullivan, and held in Perth at the University of Western Australia, 2-5 February 2010. ASCS is the peak body in Australasia for the professional study of the classical world, and its conference is the largest annual meeting in the region for the dissemination of new research in this very international field. The Discipline Group of Classics and Ancient History at UWA wishes to acknowledge the generous contribution of the UWA Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Robson, in support of this event.
As the programme shows, ASCS 31 featured some 80 papers, with speakers drawn from four continents. This year, for the first time, a plan was formulated to publish the papers of the conference and so make their findings available to a much wider audience. Speakers were invited to submit their work, which was then subjected to independent and expert anonymous peer review. The papers presented here have all passed this review process and been recommended for publication. I take this opportunity to thank once more the referees for the generous donation of their time and expertise.

Access to these refereed papers is free, but the copyright of all material remains with the individual authors unless otherwise indicated.

Please cite papers in the following way:

Author, 'Title', in ASCS 31 [2010] Proceedings:

Each paper is individually paginated.

Neil O'Sullivan
University of Western Australia
July 2010


M. Beasley A philosophical Gigantomachy in the Metamorphoses abstract full text
F. Billot Hannibal, elephants and turrets abstract full text
D. Blyth Philosophy in the late Latin West abstract full text
D. Burton The role of Zeus Meilichios in Argos abstract full text
M.W. Champion Creation from Gaza abstract full text
J. Davidson Prometheus Bound in Christchurch 2009 abstract full text
S. Ford Spatial context of Odyssey 5.452 to 6.317 abstract full text
S. Gador-Whyte Emotional preaching: ekphrasis in the Kontakia of Romanos abstract full text
P. Garrett Character inheritance in Suetonius' Caligula and Nero abstract full text
M. Gillett The 'Etruscan League' reconsidered abstract full text
K.M. Heineman The chasm at Delphi: a modern perspective abstract full text
D. James Art of gold: precious metals and Chariton's Callirhoe abstract full text
P. Jarvis The politics of fraud: a Seruilius Casca in Livy abstract full text
P. Johnson Fabius, Marcellus and Otacilius - the alliance that never was abstract full text
D. Keenan-Jones The Aqua Augusta and control of water resources in the Bay of Naples abstract full text
B. Leadbetter Galerius, Gamzigrad and the politics of abdication abstract full text
J. Maitland Homer and the Aiakid cousins: kinship celebrated or overlooked in the Iliad abstract full text
B. Marshall 'With friends like this, who needs enemies?' Pompeius' abandonment of his friends and supporters abstract full text
S. Midford From Achilles to Anzac: Heroism in the Dardanelles from antiquity to the Great War abstract full text
G. Miles 'I, Porphyry': narrator and reader in the Vita Plotini abstract full text
P. O'Sullivan Use your illusion: 'Critias' on religion reconsidered abstract full text
K.J. O'Toole The Demosthenic basileus: a phantom in the Ath. Pol.? abstract full text
D.J. Phillips Thucydides 1.99: tribute and revolts in the Athenian empire abstract full text
D. Pritchard War, democracy and culture in classical Athens abstract full text
R. Sing Jury pay and Aristophanes abstract full text
H. Tarrant The Theaetetus as a narrative dialogue? abstract full text
W.J. Tatum Tyche in Plutarch's Aemilius Paulus - Timoleon abstract full text
J. Wallis (Un)Elegiac characterisation in Propertius 3.12 abstract full text
K. Welch Pietas, Pompeiani and Cicero's Thirteenth Philippic abstract full text


Archaeology Magazine

Celtic Tomb Sheds Light on Iron Age Trade

France-Celtic-CauldronLAVAU, FRANCE—A tomb dating to the fifth century B.C. has been discovered in eastern France. “It is probably a local Celtic prince,” Dominique Garcia, president of France’s National Archaeological Research Institute (INRAP), told The Connexion. Within the burial mound, his team has found a large cauldron decorated with the head of the horned Greek river god Acheleos that may have been made by Etruscan or Greek craftsmen. A Greek wine pitcher trimmed with gold depicts Dionysos, the god of wine, with a woman. Garcia says that the artifacts “are evidence of the exchanges that happened between the Mediterranean and the Celts.” At the time, the Mediterranean city of Marseille, in southern France, was a Greek settlement. The burial chamber, which also holds the remains of the deceased and his chariot, is one of the largest recorded for the period. To read about Iron Age Celtic rituals, see "Celtic Sacrifice."

Ancient Peoples

Terracotta figurine of sitting mother goddessFrom Pakistan,...

Terracotta figurine of sitting mother goddess

From Pakistan, Indus civilization, Mehrgarh period, 3000 - 2500 BC. 13cm high and 4cm wide ( 5 1/4 i x 1 5/8 inch.) 

Source: Metropolitan Museum

Végh Zsuzsanna and Simon Zsolt (Agyagtábla, papirusz)

Gilgames, dalban elbeszélve

Annyira elmerültem az új (és felettébb érdekfeszítő) munkámban, hogy teljesen kiment a fejemből, hogy a blogot is frissítenem kellene. Pedig vannak ám érdekes dolgok, mindjárt például volt itt vasárnap egy hangverseny, nem kevés ókori keleti vonatkozással.

Élt ugyanis egy cseh zeneszerző, Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959), aki modern klasszikus zenét szerzett és (talán) leghíresebb munkája az 1954-1955-ből származó Gilgames-oratórium (ez került bemutatásra itt). A szöveget az eposz angol fordításából készítette, szabadon és meglehetősen szelektíven (The Epic of Gilgamesh). Mindazonáltal az ősbemutatón németül hangzott el a darab. S bár csehül akarta megírni, túl későn értesült  Lubor Matouš fordításáról, de később mégiscsak megszületett utóbbiból a cseh nyelvű változat is. Akit érdekel a zene, ezen a videón végighallgathatja az egészet, csehül:

A koncertre végül nem mentem el - meghallgattam először ugyanis a fentebbi felvételt a YouTube-on és szerintem szörnyű. De ízlésbeli kérdésekről nem érdemes vitát nyitni.

Archaeological News on Tumblr

New Archaeological Findings in Vergina, Northern Greece

Clay figurines and other important findings were unearthed by archaeologists in the Tsakiridis...

Roger Pearse (Thoughts on Antiquity, Patristics, putting things online, and more)

Some stories from the Apophthegmata Patrum

I suppose that only a few will download the PDFs of Anthony Alcock’s new translation from Coptic of the Sayings of the Fathers.  But it contains many stories that the monks told each other.  Here are one or two samples.  I have over-paragraphed them for readability.

226. It was said of Apa Macarius that one day as he was walking in the desert, he found a skull. He moved it with his staff and it spoke.

The elder said to it: ‘Who are you ?’ It said: ‘I am the high priest of the pagans who were in this place. And you are Macarius the spirit-bearer at all times. If you are merciful to those in punishment, they will have a little rest.’

Apa Macarius said: ‘ What is rest ?’ He said: ‘As the heaven is far from the earth, so is the fire below us and above us as we stand in the middle of the fire. It is impossible for anyone to see the face of his neighbour, but back is turned to back. When you pray for us, each one for a moment sees the face of his neighbour.’

The elder heard this and said: ‘Woe to the day when the man was born if this is rest from punishment.’

The elder said to him: ‘Is there torture worse than this ?’

The skull said to him: ‘The great tortures below us.’

The elder said: ‘We who did not know God are given a little mercy. Those who knew God and denied Him and did not do His will, they are below us.’

The elder then took the skull, dug a hole in the ground, put it there and left.

It looks as if there is a mistake in the text: surely it must be the skull that describes “those below us”, rather than Macarius?

Here’s another:

231. At the time of Julian the Impious, when he went to Persia, he sent a demon to the west to bring news to him in haste. When the demon reached places where a monk lived, he stayed there for ten days. He did not move. He was unable to walk because the monk did not stop praying day or night.

The demon returned to the one who had sent him without having done anything. He said to him: ‘Why did you take so long ?’

The demon replied: ‘I took so long and did nothing because I spent ten days waiting for Apa Publius to stop praying when I might leave, but he did not stop. I was prevented from leaving and I returned, having wasted my time.’

The impious Julian then became angry, saying: ‘I will deal with him when I get back.’

Within a few days he was struck and died through the providence of God. One of the eparchs with him went and sold everything he had and gave the money to the poor. He came to the elder and became a monk with him.

Anthony Alcock, Fourth part of Coptic Sayings of the Fathers now online

Anthony Alcock continues his translation of the Apophthegmata Patrum – The Sayings of the Fathers with a translation of the fourth and final part.  The complete set are all here.

ArcheoNet BE

Digital Museum Expo in Brussel

Het Europese netwerk V-MUST organiseert op 12 en 13 maart een ‘Digital Museum Expo’ in het Jubelparkmuseum in Brussel. Op de eerste dag staat een internationaal colloquium over het gebruik van 3D in erfgoed op het programma. Aansluitend zijn er ook workshops en hands-on demonstraties van vernieuwende 3D-technologieën die klaar zijn voor gebruik in musea, monumenten en sites. Het programma van deze ‘Digital Museum Expo’ en een registratieformulier vind je op

Benjamin Girard-Millereau et al. (PRISME: pratiques rituelles et symboliques en Méditerranée nord-occidentale protohistorique)

Exposition « Rites gaulois et romains entre Rhône et Alpes » (20/03/2015, Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux)

Inauguration de l’exposition « Rites gaulois et romains entre Rhône et Alpes ».

Date : vendredi 20 mars 2015

Heure : 18h

Lieu : Musée d’Archéologie Tricastine – Salle de l’archidiacre – Place Castellane – 26130 Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux

Expo Rites gaulois et romains 2015

Source : Newsletter du Musée d’Archéologie Tricastine :

Ancient Peoples

Ceramics double headed figurine Found in Ecuador’s Santa...

Ceramics double headed figurine 

Found in Ecuador’s Santa Elena Peninsula, from the Valdivia people. 8.9 cm high and 3.8 cm wide (3 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch.) 

Valdivia culture, Ecuador, ca. 2300 - 2200 BC. 

Source: Metropolitan Museum

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Study finds significant facial variation in pre-Columbian South America

A team of anthropology researchers has found significant differences in facial features between...

The Archaeology News Network

'Exceptional tomb of Celtic prince' found in France

An "exceptional" tomb from the 5th Century BC likely to be that of a Celtic prince has been unearthed on the outskirts of Lavau in France's Champagne region. Handle of a bronze cauldron representating the Greek God Achelous [Credit: © Denis Gliksman/Inrap]The grave containing Greek and possibly Etruscan artefacts was discovered in a business zone, the National Archaeological Research Institute (Inrap) said. Researchers believe it...

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AMIR: Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources

Open Access Journal: Türkiyat Araştırmaları Dergisi (HÜTAD)

Türkiyat Araştırmaları Dergisi (HÜTAD)
ISSN: 1305-5992
Hacettepe Üniversitesi Türkiyat Araştırmaları Dergisi 2004 Güz döneminden itibaren yayımlanan, Hacettepe Üniversitesi Türkiyat Araştırmaları Enstitüsünün yayın organıdır. Dergi hakemli, süreli ve yerel nitelikte olup, disiplinler arası bir yaklaşımla Türklük bilimi alanı ile bağlantılı sosyal, kültürel, ekonomik, politik vb. içerikli, tarihsel veya çağdaş konularda özgün nitelikte, kuramsal ve/veya uygulamalı araştırma ve incelemelere yer verir.  Kısaltılmış adı HÜTAD olan dergi, Bahar ve Güz sayıları olmak üzere yılda iki kez yayımlanır.

David Gill (Looting Matters)

National Gallery of Australia to return statue to India

The National Gallery of Australia will be returning one of its statues to Australia. This seems to be another instance of unauthenticated documentation.

The full story can be found on Chasing Aphrodite. There is an interesting comment on how new ethical standards are likely to be applied retrospectively ... and making those adopted in the US (by AAMD) look very dated.

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AMIR: Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources

The Digital Orentalist: Full-Text Online Arabic Sources: A Preliminary List

The Digital Orentalist: Full-Text Online Arabic Sources: A Preliminary List
A truly epic amount of Arabic books, both classical and modern, have been scanned already. But what is the status of digitized texts, that is, where one does not look at an image of a page, but where the text of that page has been faithfully typed out? I am not aware of a list of online resources available, let alone a comprehensive analysis of them. If you do know of such or if you are able to contribute other sources or if you can give detailed information on one of these sources, please do contact me!
I here present my first findings of my inquiry. The restrictions I applied are:
  • Arabic texts
  • Exceptions only for those texts clearly pertaining to the Islamic civilization or modern Muslim world.
  • Online
  • Large quantity
  • True text (not images)
  • Free access
So far I found 27 websites that agree to these restrictions. I suspect that many of them contain the same sources. This in itself is not bad, it will help with assuring the continued existence of these digital resources. I only have cursory first-hand knowledge of a couple of them. I would really like it if people with experience with these websites could share their insights!
Here is the list. I hope to continue my investigation in this important topic.
    1. Works with Shamela.
    1. Works nicely, except for print function. Some overlap with noorlib.
    • Excellent resource. Account required (free).
    1. Search function is flaky but the interface for books is nice.
    • Copy of
    • Copy of
    1. Partly Shamela. Some magazines. Search function flaky.
    • Different languages, including English and French!
    • Restricted to tafāsir.
    • Very slow.
    1. Claims to be a crowd-sourced project currently containing about 12.000 titles.
    1. I find this to be a rather exciting website: it features Arabic books on European culture and translations of books in European languages.

David Gill (Looting Matters)

A Manifesto for Heritage in the UK

The Heritage Alliance has produced a manifesto in case some of the political parties need some ideas relating to heritage.

The text can be found here.

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Colleen Morgan (Middle Savagery)

Navigating Brutalism at the 100 Minories Archaeology Project

Back in 2012, Dan and I worked at the fantastic 100 Minories project with L-P Archaeology. They’re some of my favorite people, so I was sad that I was not able to work with them on the excavation phase of the project, which is currently in full swing. I have two blog posts about the evaluation stage, wherein archaeologists dug to 7m deep, punching test pits through the thick London stratigraphy:

100 Minories Project
Diggin’ Deep at 100 Minories

They have their own, very nice project website now, take a gander: 

And they’ve featured some of the building recording photography that Dan and I did inside the old Navigation School, a 1960s Brutalist structure:

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 3.45.33 PM

Check out a few of the rest of the images HERE. I swear we used a scale in most of them, they just picked the ones without!

David Gill (Looting Matters)

Heritage on the Agenda for the Election

It is important to remember that three political parties (Conservative, LibDem, Labour) were represented on the pre-election 'hustings' at the December 2014 AGM for the Heritage Alliance. There were some searching questions and a heated debate during the length of the session.

The politicians were reminded of the economic contribution of heritage to UK PLC and some of the changes that needed to be made.

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Richard Rothaus (Whitewashed Tomb)

Your Enthusiasm for Protecting Antiquities Cost Army Pfc. Edward J. Herrgott His Life

Your Enthusiasm for Protecting Antiquities Cost Army Pfc. Edward J. Herrgott His Life  [Listen to us discuss this and similar issues on the Caraheard Podcast] The full tale of Pfc. Herrgott, the first Minnesotan to die in the Iraq war … Continue reading

James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

Richard Carrier at SBL

Richard Carrier posted the following on his blog:

The big news is that I’ve been asked by the Society of Biblical Literature (the largest academic society representing the field, of which I am a member) to present and defend the thesis of On the Historicity of Jesus at their Western Regional Conference at Azusa Pacific University next Monday (program here). Notably, Dennis McDonald’s fascinating Homeric emulation thesis will get the same treatment the morning of Monday March 9, and then mine that afternoon.

Probably only members of the SBL can attend (only door registration is possible now anyway). And I doubt it will be recorded. But it will be an important milestone in the saga of mythicism. Even though I expect a hostile reception (they elected a Baptist minister to rebut–although someone thoroughly qualified, so it could be a measured response, or it could be not), the exposure will do good. More experts in the field will be confronted with the debate and made aware of the new stages in its development, and hear things they hadn’t heard before.

I have no objection to Carrier's proposal getting academic discussion – it should. But when I see him doing precisely what I have seen proponents of Intelligent Design do, I am not surprised. Carrier has received an invitation from whoever oversees one particular section of a particular regional meeting, and is presenting it as though the entire organization has somehow done this, and seems moreover to be trying to spin this as though it were somehow acknowledging that his ideas are valid. Once again, that is not how scholarship works. We present ideas at conferences to try to persuade our peers, not in order to use that as publicity for ideas that we hope to persuade the public to accept even if our peers do not.


Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues)

Museum Gets Cash Back from NY Dealer

In a move that might well give antiquities dealers pause for thought before selling dugup artefacts without the full documentation of licit collecting and handling history (Michaela Boland, 'National Gallery of Australia gets refund as Buddha goes home', The Australian March 06, 201):
In a landmark deal for an Australian museum that has inter­national ramifications, the National Gallery of Australia has successfully negotiated a dealer’s refund of $US1.08 million ($1.38m), the sum it paid for the Buddha eight years ago. New guidelines released last year by the Attorney-General’s Department in the wake of the scandal involving a Dancing Shiva acquired from disgraced India­n dealer Subhash Kap­oor require an export certificate from the Indian government to accompany artworks, which the Kushan Buddha did not have. NGA director Gerard Vaughan said the statue had been deaccessioned and owner­ship would revert to the dealer, pending a handover to India. “It is not unusual that a purchasing institution might receive a warranty guaranteeing authenticity and clear, uninhibited title,” he said. “I am not aware of any precedence of calling in the warranty in this country, but I am sure it has happened from time to time overseas.”
I am not sure that it has in such circumstances, but this case certainly sets a good precedent for the correct way for a responsible antiquities trade to go about things (see: 'Buyer, Check those Docs: Documentation Verification Fail = Kushan Buddha Problems', PACHI Sunday, 1 February 2015 and 'Australia: NGA to Return Kushan Sculpture to India' PACHI Saturday, 3 January 2015).

There is a good piece on this on the Chasing Aphrodite blog, with a picture of the dealer's warranty.

UK Heritage and General Election

UK: "62 days until the General Election and still no clear policies on the historic environment from any party". Have archaeologists in the UK done enough to highlight the problems and through activism and outreach get these issues in the forefront of the public consciousness and grab the attention of the policymakers?

"We All Want a Reward"

Body in the woods, only reported if there is a reward?
Over on a metal detecting forum near you, in a thread called "Treasure Act", perhaps in some way connected with Mr Lucking and the fantasy that there is a "new bred orf archaeologist about". Member "Owain 1405" Rhuddlan, Denbighshire perhaps knows some metal detectorist who have been taking part with their metal detectors working alongside archaeologists (Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:59 am) writes:
According to PAS, Archaeologists or volunteers working on digs cannot claim rewards on any treasure found? Had a look at the Treasure Act and I cant find anywhere in which it says that this is the case, can anyone confirm this. The only reason I ask is because to me, if true, it seems a little unfair [emoticon]
Fellow detectorist "jcmaloney" (Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:32 pm) agrees:
A myth perpetuated by the PAS website..... I would love to see where it says (in the legal act) that archaeologists aren`t entitled to reward. Its holding up an article I`m scribbling!! [emoticon]
Well, indeed the Portable Antiquities Scheme gets it wrong when it says explicitly, but falsely, on its website....
With regards to the payment of rewards the Treasure Act says states [sic] that: "rewards will not be payable when the find is made by an archaeologist or anyone engaged on an archaeological excavation or investigation". This then applies to all archaeologists and volunteers working on any project.
The Treasure Act says no such thing, it is the associated Code of Practice which says that (para 81), you'd think the PAS could get that right when addressing archaeologists - but then, many of them don't bother reading the stuff PAS put on their website anyway. This (undated) text has been up quite a while with nobody noticing.

As for whether archaeologists are entitled to a reward, the truth is, as an ex gratia payment - watch the lips, chaps - nobody is entitled to anything. The law is the law, you are to report it and that is that. If you find a dead body in the woods, you are supposed to report that too, and not ask for a reward for doing your duty.

Vignette: Photomontage

The Archaeology News Network

New discoveries at Aigai necropolis presented

Clay figurines and other important findings were unearthed by archaeologists in the Tsakiridis section in the center of the ancient Greek city Aigai in Vergina, northern Greece. The artefacts were presented as part of the Archaeological Conference on the 2014 excavations in Macedonia and Thrace, which takes place at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Clay relief of Eros [Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]According to the...

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ArcheoNet BE

Viergodensteen gevonden in de Vermeulenstraat te Tongeren

Tijdens de laatste weken van de opgraving in de Vermeulenstraat, uitgevoerd door ARON bvba, werd nog een prachtige vondst gedaan. In de vulling van een waterput werd een ‘viergodensteen’ aangetroffen.

Deze stenen vormden de sokkel van zogenaamde ‘Jupiterzuilen’. Jupiterzuilen waren in de Romeinse periode populair in de noordelijke provincies van het Romeinse Rijk. Ze waren ettelijke meters hoog en waren opgebouwd uit een sokkel die soms versierd was met de voorstellingen van goden, eventueel een tussensokkel, waarop dan een zuil of pijler stond, die versierd was met bladeren (schubben), reliëfvoorstellingen van goden of een combinatie van beide. Bovenop deze monumenten stond dan een voorstelling van Jupiter, vaak zittend op een troon, soms rechtstaand, of als ruiter terwijl hij één of meerdere giganten (reuzen met benen die overgaan in slangenlichamen) onder zijn paard verplettert.

Dergelijke zuilen, of meestal fragmenten ervan, worden zowel gevonden in steden en kleinere nederzettingen, als op villadomeinen op het platteland. Ze zouden bedoeld zijn om voorspoed en een rooskleurige toekomst van de goden af te smeken.

In Tongeren werden al eerder fragmenten van Jupiterzuilen ontdekt. Op de tempelsite aan de Keverstraat werd in de jaren ’60 een prachtig voorbeeld van een Jupitergigantengroep ontdekt. In de Hasseltsestraat werd een gigant gevonden tijdens rioleringswerken 75 jaar geleden. In de Basiliek werd in 1912 een zuiltrommel met schubben ontdekt, en tijdens de opgravingen in de voorbije jaren werd daar ook een fragment van een viergodensteen aangetroffen. Bij de opgravingen aan de Kielenstraat door het IAP werd een gedeeltelijk bewaarde zeshoekige tussensokkel gevonden waarop zes goden staan afgebeeld en een fragment van een geschubde zuil. In 2010 zijn door Aron bvba op het Vrijthof twee zuiltrommels opgegraven die ook deel hebben uitgemaakt van een Jupiterzuil, met voorstellingen van de goden Juno en Sol. De meeste van deze vondsten zijn te bezichtigen in het Gallo-Romeins Museum.

In de middeleeuwen werden onderdelen van Romeinse bouwwerken en dus ook van Jupiterzuilen vaak hergebruikt in nieuwe gebouwen: in 1869 heeft men bij restauraties in de Sint-Martinuskerk van Berg een viergodensteen ontdekt die ingemetst zat in het hoofdaltaar. In Heers werd in 1930 bij sloopwerken een viergodensteen gevonden die was herbruikt in de kerkhofmuur rond de Sint-Martinuskerk.

Zo’n mooi en goed bewaard exemplaar als dat van de Vermeulenstraat werd echter nog nergens in of rond Tongeren gevonden. De steen is zo’n 60 cm hoog en 40 cm breed. Op de steen staan de voorstellingen van vier verschillende goden: De eerste is de godin Fortuna, de godin van het lot, die de hoorn des overvloeds in haar linkerhand heeft en het rad van fortuin aan haar voeten heeft staan. De tweede is Mercurius, de beschermer van handelaars en reizigers, met vleugels aan zijn sandalen en zijn helm en met een staf waarrond twee slagen kronkelen. In zijn rechterhand houdt hij een geldbuidel vast.










De derde afbeelding stelt de god Silvanus voor, beschermer van de bossen, de akkers en het vee. In zijn ene hand houdt hij een snoeimes, in de andere hand de vruchten of gewassen die hij heeft geoogst, vermoedelijk een druiventros. De vierde afbeelding stelt een gesluierde vrouwenfiguur voor. Haar rechterhand rust op haar linkerschouder. Omdat hier geen attributen zijn bewaard, blijft de identificatie van deze godin moeilijk. Vermoedelijk gaat het om Juno, de echtgenote van Jupiter, die vaak met een sluier wordt afgebeeld en wiens beeltenis vaak terugkeert op viergodenstenen.










Ondertussen is de opgraving afgerond en gaat de aannemer verder met de werkzaamheden. De archeologen zijn momenteel bezig met het wassen en registreren van alle vondsten, het digitaliseren van alle verzamelde gegevens en het schrijven van een uitgebreid rapport over de opgraving.

Een  korte voorstelling van de voorlopige  opgravingsresultaten zal gepresenteerd worden tijdens de laatste Spraakwater lezing: Archeologie in Limburg 2014, op 19 maart in het auditorium van het Gallo-Romeins Museum.

Foto’s: ARON bvba

Ben Blackwell (Dunelm Road)

Charles Cranfield (1915-2015)

One of the great things about my experience of Durham was learning about all the excellent scholars that had shaped the university’s past. In fact, I knew of many of the names of the scholars there, but never associated them with Durham before I arrived. Of course, one the influential NT scholars there of the past generation was Charles Cranfield, whose passing we were just notified about. I had the pleasure of having coffee with him, and following in my friend Nijay’s steps, I’m posting the summary of my time with him here.

Coffee with Charles Cranfield (23 June 2008)

At CK Barrett’s 90th birthday last year, someone mentioned that they were sad that Charles (aka C.E.B.) Cranfield wasn’t able to make it.  He’s just a year or so older than Kingsley, but can’t make it around as well.  John Barclay mentioned that Professor Cranfield does like to have students over, so I finally got around to asking for his info to have coffee.  He was kind enough to invite me over, and we had a nice chat about my studies and his thoughts on theology, plus I asked a few questions offered up by readers here.  He is quite candid about his opinions both theological and political, especially on points of disagreement.

As to his background, he mentioned that he originally studied classics and later did theology at Cambridge.  (His language ability is hard to believe…from memory he quoted John Chrysostom in Greek and later Aquinas in Latin.)  He spent the summer of 1939 in Basel, Switzerland but had to leave because of the beginning of WW2.  He was later an army chaplain and worked with the German Confessing movement after the war as well as with the World Council of Churches.  He came to Durham in 1950.  He was raised Methodist but noted switching to the reformed church because, among other things, of their reading of Rom 7 as applying to a Christian, which is no surprise if you’ve read his commentary.

For being 92 (almost 93–so that puts his birthday in 1915, Mike) and failing eyesight, he’s quite sharp and still well read, for instance he mentioned going through Watson’s Hermeneutics of Faith and Jewett’s Romans commentary.  Speaking of Romans commentaries, he noted several recent ones but seemed to have a critique for each one in some way or other.  I think Käsemann’s came off the highest.  He commented in particular that he wasn’t a fan of the New Perspective, so he thought Dunn’s commentary was off target in those areas.  He didn’t go into it in any detail but it didn’t seem like he thought there was a need to find a way forward.  (Regarding his own commentary, he mentioned that he would have made some changes but unfortunately didn’t elaborate further.  Though, on the ‘too reformed’ aspect in the questions, he noted he’s a good Calvinist, but with the ‘necessary’ revision of election offered by Barth.)  He noted particularly the commentaries of John Chrysostom and Aquinas as excellent but often overlooked, and that Pelagius’ commentary is quite helpful at times.

I asked him what 5 books or so a theologian would need to read in order to not be ‘uneducated’.  He offered these: 1) Barth’s original commentary on Romans because of its historical importance,  2) Shakespeare and John Milton, and 3) Greek writers: Homer, Sophocles, Thucydides, Aeschylus, and Euripides, and 4) the commentaries of Calvin and Luther.

Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues)

Cabinet Reshuffle in Egypt, Interior and Culture

In the first Cabinet reshuffle since Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi el-Sissi took office in June, the Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim (who is in charge of police), was replaced by another police general, Magdy Abdel-Ghafar, formerly a leading figure in the National Security Apparatus. Egypt has been witnessing an acute security situation since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in summer 2013. Under Mohamed Ibrahim, police exercised an unmatched level of brutality that might have stifled protests, but did nothing to quell terrorism. He is reported to have been appointed security advisor to the PM.

Also changed were the Ministers of culture (now Abdel Wahed al-Nabawy, formerly head of the National Archive), Tourism, Agriculture and Land Cultivation, Communication and Information Technology, Education, Housing, Technical education and Training. The eight new ministers were sworn in earlier on Thursday. Perhaps activists can get more protection for archaeological areas and sites from the new guys.  A few days ago damage to antiquities was added to terrorist offences in Law No. 8 on “the organization of terrorist entities.”


American Philological Association

Summer School in Ancient Languages

The Department of History and Classics at Swansea University (UK) is pleased to announce that its first Summer School in Ancient Languages will take place from 19 July till 1 August 2015.

One- and two-week intensive courses are available in Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced Latin and Greek, Beginners Hieroglyphs, Greek epigraphy, Medieval Latin, and the Intermediate Latin course is also available through the medium of Welsh.  A two-week course is the equivalent of one full academic term of language tuition.

More information and the online payment form can be found on our website:  For more information, please contact Dr Evelien Bracke (Director of the Summer School) at

G.W. Schwendner (What's New in Papyrology)

Quaderni di Historia 81 (2015)

Edizioni Dedalo
Numero 81 - gennaio/giugno 2015 Semestrale - ISBN 9788822025814
EDITORIALE di Luciano Canfora
Miracolo a Milano
MARCO CARATOZZOLO, Lo sguardo russo sul Principe di Machiavelli
GERSON SCHADE, Homer’s Grand Narrative and the Heroic Society’s Social Memory
NICOLA CUCUZZA, Intorno alla autenticità del “Disco di Festós”
LUCIANO BOSSINA, Girolamo Vitelli: lode di Pascoli e biasimo di D’Annunzio

LAURENT CALVIÉ, Documents inédits, méconnus ou oubliés sur le voyage à Venise de J.-B.-G. D’Ansse de Villoison et la découverte du Venetus A de l’Iliade
FRANCESCA DE ROBERTIS, Storici greci di età romana su papiro: il caso di Appiano
CLARA TALAMO, I capitoli erodotei su «gli Ioni della Dodeca poli»
GIOVANNA BRUNO SUNSERI, La Sicilia crocevia diplomatico nella Biblioteca diodorea
MANFRED LOSSAU, Zwangsheirat Aigyptisch
SERGIO BRILLANTE, Le orazioni platoniche di Elio Aristide nella Biblioteca di Fozio

ALICE CRISANTI, Il Memoriale di Giuseppe Tucci
NUNZIO BIANCHI, Sulla fortuna settecentesca di Caritone: un altro appunto inedito di Giovanni Lami

LUCIANO MECACCI, La Ghirlanda fiorentina e la morte di Giovanni Gentile (Massimo Mastrogregori)
FRANCESCO BENIGNO, Parole nel tempo. Un lessico per pensare la storia (Manfredi Mannato)
GIOVANNI SALANITRO, Scritti di filologia greca e latina (Valentina Sineri)

Rassegna bibliografica

ANDREA ESPOSITO, I dipinti di Manuel Panselinos e i disegni sul recto del ‘Papiro di Artemidoro’

Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues)

No to Treasure Hunters: MoD Withdraw Victory 1744 Permit

After three years of supporting the commercial contract between Odyssey Marine Exploration and the Maritime Heritage Foundation [...], to work on the wreck site of HMS Victory 1744, the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon MP has rescinded the permission granted to recover “at risk” artifacts from the site which was granted in October 2014.
More at 'Breaking News - MOD Withdraw Victory 1744 Permission' Pipeline March 5 2015

'Odyssey Marine Exploration Seizes on National Icon: How will Britain React?' PACHI Monday, 2 February 2009;

'HMS Victory 1744 Project'.  PACHI  Monday, 2 February 2015

The Archaeology News Network

UNESCO extends Pompeii restoration deadline

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini on Thursday hailed UNESCO's decision to extend until 2016 the deadline for completion of restoration at the world-famous archaeological site of Pompeii. The so-called Great Pompeii Project was originally scheduled for completion this year. UNESCO has decided to extend the deadline for completion of restoration  at Pompeii until 2016 [Credit: EPA]"The UNESCO inspectors' words are the rightful...

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The British East India company – putting looting into the lexicon

A lot of the stories of artefact repatriations focus on state sponsored looting, such as the massacres in Benin or Beijing’s Summer Palace. A second category is that of private individuals such as the Seventh Earl of Elgin who were also involved in the pillaging of ancient relics, although not normally on such a large scale as it is hard for a single person to have the same impact as an army.

There is a third category though, one which brought us the word Looting – a Hindustani slang phrase for plundering. The word rapidly entered the English vocabulary via the British East India Company, one of the world’s first multinational corporations. While the British East India Company & their unprecedented levels of looting have thankfully now gone, the problem still exists, although it manifests itself in different forms, such as terrorist groups & warlords who like the EIC maintain their own private armies & relatively unencumbered by laws will happy loot ancient sites for personal gain, or merely to deprive others of the ability to see the relics that were once there.

Mughal emperor Shah Alam hands a scroll to Robert Clive, transferring tax collecting rights to the East India Company.

Mughal emperor Shah Alam hands a scroll to Robert Clive, transferring tax collecting rights to the East India Company.


The East India Company: The original corporate raiders
William Dalrymple
Wednesday 4 March 2015 05.59 GMT

One of the very first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: “loot”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word was rarely heard outside the plains of north India until the late 18th century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain. To understand how and why it took root and flourished in so distant a landscape, one need only visit Powis Castle.

The last hereditary Welsh prince, Owain Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, built Powis castle as a craggy fort in the 13th century; the estate was his reward for abandoning Wales to the rule of the English monarchy. But its most spectacular treasures date from a much later period of English conquest and appropriation: Powis is simply awash with loot from India, room after room of imperial plunder, extracted by the East India Company in the 18th century.

There are more Mughal artefacts stacked in this private house in the Welsh countryside than are on display at any one place in India – even the National Museum in Delhi. The riches include hookahs of burnished gold inlaid with empurpled ebony; superbly inscribed spinels and jewelled daggers; gleaming rubies the colour of pigeon’s blood and scatterings of lizard-green emeralds. There are talwars set with yellow topaz, ornaments of jade and ivory; silken hangings, statues of Hindu gods and coats of elephant armour.

Such is the dazzle of these treasures that, as a visitor last summer, I nearly missed the huge framed canvas that explains how they came to be here. The picture hangs in the shadows at the top of a dark, oak-panelled staircase. It is not a masterpiece, but it does repay close study. An effete Indian prince, wearing cloth of gold, sits high on his throne under a silken canopy. On his left stand scimitar and spear carrying officers from his own army; to his right, a group of powdered and periwigged Georgian gentlemen. The prince is eagerly thrusting a scroll into the hands of a statesmanlike, slightly overweight Englishman in a red frock coat.

The painting shows a scene from August 1765, when the young Mughal emperor Shah Alam, exiled from Delhi and defeated by East India Company troops, was forced into what we would now call an act of involuntary privatisation. The scroll is an order to dismiss his own Mughal revenue officials in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and replace them with a set of English traders appointed by Robert Clive – the new governor of Bengal – and the directors of the EIC, who the document describes as “the high and mighty, the noblest of exalted nobles, the chief of illustrious warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well-wishers, worthy of our royal favours, the English Company”. The collecting of Mughal taxes was henceforth subcontracted to a powerful multinational corporation – whose revenue-collecting operations were protected by its own private army.

It was at this moment that the East India Company (EIC) ceased to be a conventional corporation, trading and silks and spices, and became something much more unusual. Within a few years, 250 company clerks backed by the military force of 20,000 locally recruited Indian soldiers had become the effective rulers of Bengal. An international corporation was transforming itself into an aggressive colonial power.

Using its rapidly growing security force – its army had grown to 260,000 men by 1803 – it swiftly subdued and seized an entire subcontinent. Astonishingly, this took less than half a century. The first serious territorial conquests began in Bengal in 1756; 47 years later, the company’s reach extended as far north as the Mughal capital of Delhi, and almost all of India south of that city was by then effectively ruled from a boardroom in the City of London. “What honour is left to us?” asked a Mughal official named Narayan Singh, shortly after 1765, “when we have to take orders from a handful of traders who have not yet learned to wash their bottoms?”

We still talk about the British conquering India, but that phrase disguises a more sinister reality. It was not the British government that seized India at the end of the 18th century, but a dangerously unregulated private company headquartered in one small office, five windows wide, in London, and managed in India by an unstable sociopath – Clive.

In many ways the EIC was a model of corporate efficiency: 100 years into its history, it had only 35 permanent employees in its head office. Nevertheless, that skeleton staff executed a corporate coup unparalleled in history: the military conquest, subjugation and plunder of vast tracts of southern Asia. It almost certainly remains the supreme act of corporate violence in world history. For all the power wielded today by the world’s largest corporations – whether ExxonMobil, Walmart or Google – they are tame beasts compared with the ravaging territorial appetites of the militarised East India Company. Yet if history shows anything, it is that in the intimate dance between the power of the state and that of the corporation, while the latter can be regulated, it will use all the resources in its power to resist.

When it suited, the EIC made much of its legal separation from the government. It argued forcefully, and successfully, that the document signed by Shah Alam – known as the Diwani – was the legal property of the company, not the Crown, even though the government had spent a massive sum on naval and military operations protecting the EIC’s Indian acquisitions. But the MPs who voted to uphold this legal distinction were not exactly neutral: nearly a quarter of them held company stock, which would have plummeted in value had the Crown taken over. For the same reason, the need to protect the company from foreign competition became a major aim of British foreign policy.

The transaction depicted in the painting was to have catastrophic consequences. As with all such corporations, then as now, the EIC was answerable only to its shareholders. With no stake in the just governance of the region, or its long-term wellbeing, the company’s rule quickly turned into the straightforward pillage of Bengal, and the rapid transfer westwards of its wealth.

Before long the province, already devastated by war, was struck down by the famine of 1769, then further ruined by high taxation. Company tax collectors were guilty of what today would be described as human rights violations. A senior official of the old Mughal regime in Bengal wrote in his diaries: “Indians were tortured to disclose their treasure; cities, towns and villages ransacked; jaghires and provinces purloined: these were the ‘delights’ and ‘religions’ of the directors and their servants.”

Bengal’s wealth rapidly drained into Britain, while its prosperous weavers and artisans were coerced “like so many slaves” by their new masters, and its markets flooded with British products. A proportion of the loot of Bengal went directly into Clive’s pocket. He returned to Britain with a personal fortune – then valued at £234,000 – that made him the richest self-made man in Europe. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, a victory that owed more to treachery, forged contracts, bankers and bribes than military prowess, he transferred to the EIC treasury no less than £2.5m seized from the defeated rulers of Bengal – in today’s currency, around £23m for Clive and £250m for the company.

No great sophistication was required. The entire contents of the Bengal treasury were simply loaded into 100 boats and punted down the Ganges from the Nawab of Bengal’s palace to Fort William, the company’s Calcutta headquarters. A portion of the proceeds was later spent rebuilding Powis.

The painting at Powis that shows the granting of the Diwani is suitably deceptive: the painter, Benjamin West, had never been to India. Even at the time, a reviewer noted that the mosque in the background bore a suspiciously strong resemblance “to our venerable dome of St Paul”. In reality, there had been no grand public ceremony. The transfer took place privately, inside Clive’s tent, which had just been erected on the parade ground of the newly seized Mughal fort at Allahabad. As for Shah Alam’s silken throne, it was in fact Clive’s armchair, which for the occasion had been hoisted on to his dining room table and covered with a chintz bedspread.

Later, the British dignified the document by calling it the Treaty of Allahabad, though Clive had dictated the terms and a terrified Shah Alam had simply waved them through. As the contemporary Mughal historian Sayyid Ghulam Husain Khan put it: “A business of such magnitude, as left neither pretence nor subterfuge, and which at any other time would have required the sending of wise ambassadors and able negotiators, as well as much parley and conference with the East India Company and the King of England, and much negotiation and contention with the ministers, was done and finished in less time than would usually have been taken up for the sale of a jack-ass, or a beast of burden, or a head of cattle.”

By the time the original painting was shown at the Royal Academy in 1795, however, no Englishman who had witnessed the scene was alive to point this out. Clive, hounded by envious parliamentary colleagues and widely reviled for corruption, committed suicide in 1774 by slitting his own throat with a paperknife some months before the canvas was completed. He was buried in secret, on a frosty November night, in an unmarked vault in the Shropshire village of Morton Say. Many years ago, workmen digging up the parquet floor came across Clive’s bones, and after some discussion it was decided to quietly put them to rest again where they lay. Here they remain, marked today by a small, discreet wall plaque inscribed: “PRIMUS IN INDIS.”

Today, as the company’s most articulate recent critic, Nick Robins, has pointed out, the site of the company’s headquarters in Leadenhall Street lies underneath Richard Rogers’s glass and metal Lloyd’s building. Unlike Clive’s burial place, no blue plaque marks the site of what Macaulay called “the greatest corporation in the world”, and certainly the only one to equal the Mughals by seizing political power across wide swaths of south Asia. But anyone seeking a monument to the company’s legacy need only look around. No contemporary corporation could duplicate its brutality, but many have attempted to match its success at bending state power to their own ends.

The people of Allahabad have also chosen to forget this episode in their history. The red sandstone Mughal fort where the treaty was extracted from Shah Alam – a much larger fort than those visited by tourists in Lahore, Agra or Delhi – is still a closed-off military zone and, when I visited it late last year, neither the guards at the gate nor their officers knew anything of the events that had taken place there; none of the sentries had even heard of the company whose cannons still dot the parade ground where Clive’s tent was erected.

Instead, all their conversation was focused firmly on the future, and the reception India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, had just received on his trip to America. One of the guards proudly showed me the headlines in the local edition of the Times of India, announcing that Allahabad had been among the subjects discussed in the White House by Modi and President Obama. The sentries were optimistic. India was finally coming back into its own, they said, “after 800 years of slavery”. The Mughals, the EIC and the Raj had all receded into memory and Allahabad was now going to be part of India’s resurrection. “Soon we will be a great country,” said one of the sentries, “and our Allahabad also will be a great city.”


At the height of the Victorian period there was a strong sense of embarrassment about the shady mercantile way the British had founded the Raj. The Victorians thought the real stuff of history was the politics of the nation state. This, not the economics of corrupt corporations, they believed was the fundamental unit of analysis and the major driver of change in human affairs. Moreover, they liked to think of the empire as a mission civilisatrice: a benign national transfer of knowledge, railways and the arts of civilisation from west to east, and there was a calculated and deliberate amnesia about the corporate looting that opened British rule in India.

A second picture, this one commissioned to hang in the House of Commons, shows how the official memory of this process was spun and subtly reworked. It hangs now in St Stephen’s Hall, the echoing reception area of parliament. I came across it by chance late this summer, while waiting there to see an MP.

The painting was part of a series of murals entitled the Building of Britain. It features what the hanging committee at the time regarded as the highlights and turning points of British history: King Alfred defeating the Danes in 877, the parliamentary union of England and Scotland in 1707, and so on. The image in this series which deals with India does not, however, show the handing over of the Diwani but an earlier scene, where again a Mughal prince is sitting on a raised dais, under a canopy. Again, we are in a court setting, with bowing attendants on all sides and trumpets blowing, and again an Englishman is standing in front of the Mughal. But this time the balance of power is very different.

Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador sent by James I to the Mughal court, is shown appearing before the Emperor Jahangir in 1614 – at a time when the Mughal empire was still at its richest and most powerful. Jahangir inherited from his father Akbar one of the two wealthiest polities in the world, rivalled only by Ming China. His lands stretched through most of India, all of what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh, and most of Afghanistan. He ruled over five times the population commanded by the Ottomans – roughly 100 million people. His capitals were the megacities of their day.

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the great Mughal cities of Jahangir’s India are shown to Adam as future marvels of divine design. This was no understatement: Agra, with a population approaching 700,000, dwarfed all of the cities of Europe, while Lahore was larger than London, Paris, Lisbon, Madrid and Rome combined. This was a time when India accounted for around a quarter of all global manufacturing. In contrast, Britain then contributed less than 2% to global GDP, and the East India Company was so small that it was still operating from the home of its governor, Sir Thomas Smythe, with a permanent staff of only six. It did, however, already possess 30 tall ships and own its own dockyard at Deptford on the Thames.

Jahangir’s father Akbar had flirted with a project to civilise India’s European immigrants, whom he described as “an assemblage of savages”, but later dropped the plan as unworkable. Jahangir, who had a taste for exotica and wild beasts, welcomed Sir Thomas Roe with the same enthusiasm he had shown for the arrival of the first turkey in India, and questioned Roe closely on the distant, foggy island he came from, and the strange things that went on there.

For the committee who planned the House of Commons paintings, this marked the beginning of British engagement with India: two nation states coming into direct contact for the first time. Yet, in reality, British relations with India began not with diplomacy and the meeting of envoys, but with trade. On 24 September, 1599, 80 merchants and adventurers met at the Founders Hall in the City of London and agreed to petition Queen Elizabeth I to start up a company. A year later, the Governor and Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies, a group of 218 men, received a royal charter, giving them a monopoly for 15 years over “trade to the East”.

The charter authorised the setting up of what was then a radical new type of business: not a family partnership – until then the norm over most of the globe – but a joint-stock company that could issue tradeable shares on the open market to any number of investors, a mechanism capable of realising much larger amounts of capital. The first chartered joint-stock company was the Muscovy Company, which received its charter in 1555. The East India Company was founded 44 years later. No mention was made in the charter of the EIC holding overseas territory, but it did give the company the right “to wage war” where necessary.

Six years before Roe’s expedition, on 28 August 1608, William Hawkins had landed at Surat, the first commander of a company vessel to set foot on Indian soil. Hawkins, a bibulous sea dog, made his way to Agra, where he accepted a wife offered to him by the emperor, and brought her back to England. This was a version of history the House of Commons hanging committee chose to forget.

The rapid rise of the East India Company was made possible by the catastrophically rapid decline of the Mughals during the 18th century. As late as 1739, when Clive was only 14 years old, the Mughals still ruled a vast empire that stretched from Kabul to Madras. But in that year, the Persian adventurer Nadir Shah descended the Khyber Pass with 150,000 of his cavalry and defeated a Mughal army of 1.5 million men. Three months later, Nadir Shah returned to Persia carrying the pick of the treasures the Mughal empire had amassed in its 200 years of conquest: a caravan of riches that included Shah Jahan’s magnificent peacock throne, the Koh-i-Noor, the largest diamond in the world, as well as its “sister”, the Darya Nur, and “700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses carrying wagons all laden with gold, silver and precious stones”, worth an estimated £87.5m in the currency of the time. This haul was many times more valuable than that later extracted by Clive from the peripheral province of Bengal.

The destruction of Mughal power by Nadir Shah, and his removal of the funds that had financed it, quickly led to the disintegration of the empire. That same year, the French Compagnie des Indes began minting its own coins, and soon, without anyone to stop them, both the French and the English were drilling their own sepoys and militarising their operations. Before long the EIC was straddling the globe. Almost single-handedly, it reversed the balance of trade, which from Roman times on had led to a continual drain of western bullion eastwards. The EIC ferried opium to China, and in due course fought the opium wars in order to seize an offshore base at Hong Kong and safeguard its profitable monopoly in narcotics. To the west it shipped Chinese tea to Massachusetts, where its dumping in Boston harbour triggered the American war of independence.

By 1803, when the EIC captured the Mughal capital of Delhi, it had trained up a private security force of around 260,000- twice the size of the British army – and marshalled more firepower than any nation state in Asia. It was “an empire within an empire”, as one of its directors admitted. It had also by this stage created a vast and sophisticated administration and civil service, built much of London’s docklands and come close to generating nearly half of Britain’s trade. No wonder that the EIC now referred to itself as “the grandest society of merchants in the Universe”.

Yet, like more recent mega-corporations, the EIC proved at once hugely powerful and oddly vulnerable to economic uncertainty. Only seven years after the granting of the Diwani, when the company’s share price had doubled overnight after it acquired the wealth of the treasury of Bengal, the East India bubble burst after plunder and famine in Bengal led to massive shortfalls in expected land revenues. The EIC was left with debts of £1.5m and a bill of £1m unpaid tax owed to the Crown. When knowledge of this became public, 30 banks collapsed like dominoes across Europe, bringing trade to a standstill.

In a scene that seems horribly familiar to us today, this hyper-aggressive corporation had to come clean and ask for a massive government bailout. On 15 July 1772, the directors of the East India Company applied to the Bank of England for a loan of £400,000. A fortnight later, they returned, asking for an additional £300,000. The bank raised only £200,000. By August, the directors were whispering to the government that they would actually need an unprecedented sum of a further £1m. The official report the following year, written by Edmund Burke, foresaw that the EIC’s financial problems could potentially “like a mill-stone, drag [the government] down into an unfathomable abyss … This cursed Company would, at last, like a viper, be the destruction of the country which fostered it at its bosom.”

But unlike Lehman Brothers, the East India Company really was too big to fail. So it was that in 1773, the world’s first aggressive multinational corporation was saved by history’s first mega-bailout – the first example of a nation state extracting, as its price for saving a failing corporation, the right to regulate and severely rein it in.


In Allahabad, I hired a small dinghy from beneath the fort’s walls and asked the boatman to row me upstream. It was that beautiful moment, an hour before sunset, that north Indians call godhulibela – cow-dust time – and the Yamuna glittered in the evening light as brightly as any of the gems of Powis. Egrets picked their way along the banks, past pilgrims taking a dip near the auspicious point of confluence, where the Yamuna meets the Ganges. Ranks of little boys with fishing lines stood among the holy men and the pilgrims, engaged in the less mystical task of trying to hook catfish. Parakeets swooped out of cavities in the battlements, mynahs called to roost.

For 40 minutes we drifted slowly, the water gently lapping against the sides of the boat, past the mile-long succession of mighty towers and projecting bastions of the fort, each decorated with superb Mughal kiosks, lattices and finials. It seemed impossible that a single London corporation, however ruthless and aggressive, could have conquered an empire that was so magnificently strong, so confident in its own strength and brilliance and effortless sense of beauty.

Historians propose many reasons: the fracturing of Mughal India into tiny, competing states; the military edge that the industrial revolution had given the European powers. But perhaps most crucial was the support that the East India Company enjoyed from the British parliament. The relationship between them grew steadily more symbiotic throughout the 18th century. Returned nabobs like Clive used their wealth to buy both MPs and parliamentary seats – the famous Rotten Boroughs. In turn, parliament backed the company with state power: the ships and soldiers that were needed when the French and British East India Companies trained their guns on each other.

As I drifted on past the fort walls, I thought about the nexus between corporations and politicians in India today – which has delivered individual fortunes to rival those amassed by Clive and his fellow company directors. The country today has 6.9% of the world’s thousand or so billionaires, though its gross domestic product is only 2.1% of world GDP. The total wealth of India’s billionaires is equivalent to around 10% of the nation’s GDP – while the comparable ratio for China’s billionaires is less than 3%. More importantly, many of these fortunes have been created by manipulating state power – using political influence to secure rights to land and minerals, “flexibility” in regulation, and protection from foreign competition.

Multinationals still have villainous reputations in India, and with good reason; the many thousands of dead and injured in the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984 cannot be easily forgotten; the gas plant’s owner, the American multinational, Union Carbide, has managed to avoid prosecution or the payment of any meaningful compensation in the 30 years since. But the biggest Indian corporations, such as Reliance, Tata, DLF and Adani have shown themselves far more skilled than their foreign competitors in influencing Indian policymakers and the media. Reliance is now India’s biggest media company, as well as its biggest conglomerate; its owner, Mukesh Ambani, has unprecedented political access and power.

The last five years of India’s Congress party government were marked by a succession of corruption scandals that ranged from land and mineral giveaways to the corrupt sale of mobile phone spectrum at a fraction of its value. The consequent public disgust was the principal reason for the Congress party’s catastrophic defeat in the general election last May, though the country’s crony capitalists are unlikely to suffer as a result.

Estimated to have cost $4.9bn – perhaps the second most expensive ballot in democratic history after the US presidential election in 2012 – it brought Narendra Modi to power on a tidal wave of corporate donations. Exact figures are hard to come by, but Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), is estimated to have spent at least $1bn on print and broadcast advertising alone. Of these donations, around 90% comes from unlisted corporate sources, given in return for who knows what undeclared promises of access and favours. The sheer strength of Modi’s new government means that those corporate backers may not be able to extract all they had hoped for, but there will certainly be rewards for the money donated.

In September, the governor of India’s central bank, Raghuram Rajan, made a speech in Mumbai expressing his anxieties about corporate money eroding the integrity of parliament: “Even as our democracy and our economy have become more vibrant,” he said, “an important issue in the recent election was whether we had substituted the crony socialism of the past with crony capitalism, where the rich and the influential are alleged to have received land, natural resources and spectrum in return for payoffs to venal politicians. By killing transparency and competition, crony capitalism is harmful to free enterprise, and economic growth. And by substituting special interests for the public interest, it is harmful to democratic expression.”

His anxieties were remarkably like those expressed in Britain more than 200 years earlier, when the East India Company had become synonymous with ostentatious wealth and political corruption: “What is England now?” fumed the Whig litterateur Horace Walpole, “A sink of Indian wealth.” In 1767 the company bought off parliamentary opposition by donating £400,000 to the Crown in return for its continued right to govern Bengal. But the anger against it finally reached ignition point on 13 February 1788, at the impeachment, for looting and corruption, of Clive’s successor as governor of Bengal, Warren Hastings. It was the nearest the British ever got to putting the EIC on trial, and they did so with one of their greatest orators at the helm – Edmund Burke.

Burke, leading the prosecution, railed against the way the returned company “nabobs” (or “nobs”, both corruptions of the Urdu word “Nawab”) were buying parliamentary influence, not just by bribing MPs to vote for their interests, but by corruptly using their Indian plunder to bribe their way into parliamentary office: “To-day the Commons of Great Britain prosecutes the delinquents of India,” thundered Burke, referring to the returned nabobs. “Tomorrow these delinquents of India may be the Commons of Great Britain.”

Burke thus correctly identified what remains today one of the great anxieties of modern liberal democracies: the ability of a ruthless corporation corruptly to buy a legislature. And just as corporations now recruit retired politicians in order to exploit their establishment contacts and use their influence, so did the East India Company. So it was, for example, that Lord Cornwallis, the man who oversaw the loss of the American colonies to Washington, was recruited by the EIC to oversee its Indian territories. As one observer wrote: “Of all human conditions, perhaps the most brilliant and at the same time the most anomalous, is that of the Governor General of British India. A private English gentleman, and the servant of a joint-stock company, during the brief period of his government he is the deputed sovereign of the greatest empire in the world; the ruler of a hundred million men; while dependant kings and princes bow down to him with a deferential awe and submission. There is nothing in history analogous to this position …”

Hastings survived his impeachment, but parliament did finally remove the EIC from power following the great Indian Uprising of 1857, some 90 years after the granting of the Diwani and 60 years after Hastings’s own trial. On 10 May 1857, the EIC’s own security forces rose up against their employer and on successfully crushing the insurgency, after nine uncertain months, the company distinguished itself for a final time by hanging and murdering tens of thousands of suspected rebels in the bazaar towns that lined the Ganges – probably the most bloody episode in the entire history of British colonialism.

Enough was enough. The same parliament that had done so much to enable the EIC to rise to unprecedented power, finally gobbled up its own baby. The British state, alerted to the dangers posed by corporate greed and incompetence, successfully tamed history’s most voracious corporation. In 1859, it was again within the walls of Allahabad Fort that the governor general, Lord Canning, formally announced that the company’s Indian possessions would be nationalised and pass into the control of the British Crown. Queen Victoria, rather than the directors of the EIC would henceforth be ruler of India.

The East India Company limped on in its amputated form for another 15 years, finally shutting down in 1874. Its brand name is now owned by a Gujarati businessman who uses it to sell “condiments and fine foods” from a showroom in London’s West End. Meanwhile, in a nice piece of historical and karmic symmetry, the current occupant of Powis Castle is married to a Bengali woman and photographs of a very Indian wedding were proudly on show in the Powis tearoom. This means that Clive’s descendants and inheritors will be half-Indian.

Today we are back to a world that would be familiar to Sir Thomas Roe, where the wealth of the west has begun again to drain eastwards, in the way it did from Roman times until the birth of the East India Company. When a British prime minister (or French president) visits India, he no longer comes as Clive did, to dictate terms. In fact, negotiation of any kind has passed from the agenda. Like Roe, he comes as a supplicant begging for business, and with him come the CEOs of his country’s biggest corporations.

For the corporation – a revolutionary European invention contemporaneous with the beginnings of European colonialism, and which helped give Europe its competitive edge – has continued to thrive long after the collapse of European imperialism. When historians discuss the legacy of British colonialism in India, they usually mention democracy, the rule of law, railways, tea and cricket. Yet the idea of the joint-stock company is arguably one of Britain’s most important exports to India, and the one that has for better or worse changed South Asia as much any other European idea. Its influence certainly outweighs that of communism and Protestant Christianity, and possibly even that of democracy.

Companies and corporations now occupy the time and energy of more Indians than any institution other than the family. This should come as no surprise: as Ira Jackson, the former director of Harvard’s Centre for Business and Government, recently noted, corporations and their leaders have today “displaced politics and politicians as … the new high priests and oligarchs of our system”. Covertly, companies still govern the lives of a significant proportion of the human race.

The 300-year-old question of how to cope with the power and perils of large multinational corporations remains today without a clear answer: it is not clear how a nation state can adequately protect itself and its citizens from corporate excess. As the international subprime bubble and bank collapses of 2007-2009 have so recently demonstrated, just as corporations can shape the destiny of nations, they can also drag down their economies. In all, US and European banks lost more than $1tn on toxic assets from January 2007 to September 2009. What Burke feared the East India Company would do to England in 1772 actually happened to Iceland in 2008-11, when the systemic collapse of all three of the country’s major privately owned commercial banks brought the country to the brink of complete bankruptcy. A powerful corporation can still overwhelm or subvert a state every bit as effectively as the East India Company did in Bengal in 1765.

Corporate influence, with its fatal mix of power, money and unaccountability, is particularly potent and dangerous in frail states where corporations are insufficiently or ineffectually regulated, and where the purchasing power of a large company can outbid or overwhelm an underfunded government. This would seem to have been the case under the Congress government that ruled India until last year. Yet as we have seen in London, media organisations can still bend under the influence of corporations such as HSBC – while Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s boast about opening British embassies for the benefit of Chinese firms shows that the nexus between business and politics is as tight as it has ever been.

The East India Company no longer exists, and it has, thankfully, no exact modern equivalent. Walmart, which is the world’s largest corporation in revenue terms, does not number among its assets a fleet of nuclear submarines; neither Facebook nor Shell possesses regiments of infantry. Yet the East India Company – the first great multinational corporation, and the first to run amok – was the ultimate model for many of today’s joint-stock corporations. The most powerful among them do not need their own armies: they can rely on governments to protect their interests and bail them out. The East India Company remains history’s most terrifying warning about the potential for the abuse of corporate power – and the insidious means by which the interests of shareholders become those of the state. Three hundred and fifteen years after its founding, its story has never been more current.

William Dalrymple’s new book, The Anarchy: How a Corporation Replaced the Mughal Empire, 1756-1803, will be published next year by Bloomsbury & Knopf

The post The British East India company – putting looting into the lexicon appeared first on Elginism.

James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

LOST Rewatch: Confirmed Dead

The episode stars with the salvage vessel Christiane I finding the remains of Oceanic 815 in the ocean. Daniel Faraday, a physicist, is watching and saddened by what he sees, although he isn’t sure why. Then in the present day we see him parachute onto the island. He tells Jack he is there to rescue them, but then admits that that is not their primary objective. Then they try to track down other people from his chopper. They find Miles. He pulls a gun and accuses Kate of having killed Naomi. We see a flashback of Miles Strom, and learn that he is someone with the ability to communicate with the dead. Miles asks to be taken to Naomi’s body, saying that he can know what happened to her.

Locke says that he got his orders from Walt. He also mentions Ben shooting him, adding that he’d probably be dead if he still had a kidney there.

In introducing Charlotte, we see her in Tunisia, around the time Oceanic 815 was discovered. She visits an archaeological dig, where a polar bear has been found. Charlotte digs nearby and finds its collar, with the logo of the Dharma Hydra Station on it. Then we see her having arrived on the island – she is clearly delighted. Locke’s group finds her. She wants them to stay put so her team can find them, but Locke says they don’t want to be found. They put her GPS tracker on Vincent and sent him running.

When the news reports the discovery of the plane on the bottom of the ocean, Frank Lapidus sees the images supposedly of Seth Norris, the pilot. He calls Oceanic, saying that there is no way that could be him because he never took off his wedding ring. Later we see him as the pilot of the helicopter.

Ben shoots Charlotte, but she is wearing a bullet-proof vest. Daniel and Miles find Frank. He landed the helicopter safely even though it had been struck by lightning.

In another flashback, Matthew Abbadon is hiring Naomi, and assembled the team. They are all selected for a specific purpose.

When Frank realizes that Juliette Burke was not on the plane and is a native, Miles confronts her, and says they are there to apprehend Benjamin Linus.

Meanwhile, Ben tells Locke that that is why Charlotte and the others in her team are there. When Locke asks how Ben knows that, he says it is because he has a man on their boat.

Confirmed Dead

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Iraqi Open Access Journals

 [First posted in AWOL 7 December 2012, updated 5 March 2015]

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Iraqi Academic Scientific Journals -  نبذة حول المشروع
The Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research of Iraq is pleased to announce the launch of the new service "Iraqi Academic Scientific Journals" (IASJ). 

IASJ is one platform where all scholarly journals published by the Iraqi universities and research institutions are indexed and discovered. All journals in IASJ are peer-reviewed and open access. 

The main aim of IASJ is to improve the online discoverability and visibility of and access to the published scholarly research of iraqi academics. IASJ will help Iraqi authors to disseminate their research globally. 

At the moment IASJ is launched in a Beta version with only 71 journals published by 18 institutions. The service will be further developed and will cover all journals, more than 200 journals publisher by 40 academic institutions in Iraq. 

IASJ is developed and hosted by SemperTool, a company specialized in building digital library products. All content of IASJ will be included in the Iraqi Virtual Library System IVSL and it's discovery system LibHub provided by SemperTool. 

نبذة حول المشروع
يعتبر المشروع من اهم المشاريع الاستراتيجية الكبرى التي تبنتها وزارة التعليم العالي والبحث العلمي العراقية بنشر وفهرسة المجلات العراقية الصادرة من الجامعات والهيئات العراقية كافة حيث ان جميع المجلات المتوفرة على هذا الموقع هي مجلات محكمة و ستكون الاعداد متوفرة منذ عام 2005 ولغاية الان وتتحدث دوريا وسيتم تطبيق نظام استكشاف وفهرسة متطور من شركة SemperTool الدنماركية ويمتاز بالعديد من المواصفات الشبيهة بنظام المستخدم لادارة المكتبة الافتراضية العراقية

The following journals are listed under the subject Archaeology

مجلة مركز دراسات الكوفة

واسط للعلوم الانسانية
ISSN: 1812512
Publisher: Wassit University
Subject: Historical archaeology --- Education (General)

مجلة كلية التربية للبنات للعلوم الانسانية
ISSN: 19935242
Publisher: Kufa University
Subject: Historical archaeology

Archeomatica: Tecnologie per i Beni Culturali

A Tirana seminario Università di Macerata sulle attività di rilievo con droni ad Hadrianopolis

Venerdì 13 marzo 2015 dalle ore 9.30 alle ore 12.30 presso il Museo Storico Nazionale di Tirana si terrà il Workshop dal titolo "Il rilievo Aerofotogrammetrico con droni. Esempi in ambito archeologico per la Valle del Drino: Hadrianapolis, Jergucat, Frashtan e Antigonea nel distretto di Gjirokastra".

Dal 2005 è attiva presso il sito di Hadrianopolis (Sofratikë), nel sud dell’Albania, la missione archeologica italo-albanese diretta dai professori Roberto Perna e Dimiter Çondi, rispettivamente dell’Università di Macerata e dell’Istituto di Archeologia Albanese. Durante l’ultima campagna di scavi condotta nell’estate 2014, grazie al progetto “Adriatico” finanziato dalla Regione Marche, sono stati effettuati voli e riprese dall’alto con droni radiocomandati sui siti di Hadrianopolis, Antigonea, Jercuzat, Frashtan e sul Castello di Argirocastro. Gli scatti e le riprese elaborate per ciascun sito hanno consentito di creare sia modelli 3d dei siti sia ortofoto che saranno utilizzate per lo studio e la gestione della Carta archeologica della Valle del Drino e per la realizzazione del Piano di Protezione Civile dei Beni Culturali della Valle. Questi dati permetteranno inoltre l’elaborazione della nuova cartografia delle aree, di aggiornate planimetrie archeologiche e del piano generale di gestione del Parco di Antigonea – Hadrianopolis.

Bill Caraher (The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World)

Adventures in Podcasting 4: ISIS, Iconoclasm, and the Humanizing of Objects

Richard Rothaus and I once again ventured into the uncertain waters of podcasting. Content enough with our efforts to discuss academia, our research, and our shared history, we decided to turn our banter to more controversial topics.

So, this week, we discuss ISIS’s highly-publicized video showing their destruction of objects in the Mosul museum. There has been some debate concerning the authenticity of these events and the extent of the destruction, but they have nevertheless captured the attention of archaeologists and antiquity lovers the world over.


Of particular interest to us was how these videos pushed archaeologists to break out of our scientistical mode of inquiry and actually express genuine emotional concern for these objects. The ISIS destruction of these statues suggests that they saw these objects as potentially competing source for authority, and this understanding of statues extends back at least to Late Antiquity where more fanatical members of Christian communities defaced pagan statues (see below). Modern archaeology, however, has tended to privilege a more dispassionate attitude toward objects. In fact, it is only with the discovery and destruction of objects that archaeologists “allowed” to express genuine compassion for the material evidence for the past. Outside of these circumstances, we typically accept that even the most spectacular find is merely an arbitrary sample of an unknown total number of objects, monuments, and sites. The ritualized destruction of objects by ISIS evoked emotion (both the triumphant celebration of the destroyers and the anguished cries of the western world) that trumped the scientific rituals associated with archaeological practice which work to suppress emotional commitments to destructive practices of archaeology in much the same way that the ritualized interaction between doctor and patient reinforces a kind of scientific objectivity.

 What’s interesting to me (and not to speak for Richard here) is that recent work in archaeological theory has made efforts to consider more critically the role of artifacts in the archaeological process. Some scholars have advanced complex arguments arguing that objects have agency, require ethical treatment, and provide the foundation for a more symmetrical archaeology. Witnessing ISIS destruction of antiquities has provided an opportunity for even more conservative members of the profession to humanize their objects of study as they abandoned their staunchly defended place among the post-Enlightenment sciences and indulge in Romantic sentimentality. At the end of the podcast Richard pushed me to consider the ultimate implications of an emotional investment in these objects as he recounts the story of a young soldier from Minnesota who lost his life guarding a museum in Iraq and the podcast concludes with Richard’s rather abrupt assessment of this. For him, the agency of objects and their ethical treatment has very clear limits. Our hope is that our discussion offers an provocative perspective to critically engage recent events!

Here’s a link to the impressive joint statement by the AIA/ASOR/AAA/SAA/AAMD on ISIS and here’s a link to Wayne Sayles blog (for the post he took down, I can only provide a dramatic reading).

I won’t link to the video of ISIS destroying antiquities. 

Here’s a link to the Life of Porphyry of Gaza and Marinos’s Life of Proclus.

Here’s a link to the Atlantic Monthly story: “What ISIS Wants”, and here’s a thoughtful response.

Here’s a link to the The Egyptian martyrs of Libya added to the Coptic Synaxarium.

Here are some images from Richard’s book Corinth: First City of Greece (Brill 2000) which you can purchase for the low, low price of $177.72.


Here are some resources regarding Pfc. Edward Herrgot.

Your Enthusiasm for Protecting Antiquities Cost Army Pfc. Edward J. Herrgott His Life


The full tale of Pfc. Herrgott, the first Minnesotan to die in the Iraq war (3 July 2003), is little known. The news reports all read “Herrgott, 20, of Shakopee, Minn., died July 3 when a sniper shot him in the neck outside the National Museum in Baghdad.” But here is a fuller account from our fellow The Ohio State University Alum, Colonel Peter Mansoor:

“Two days into my command, the Ready First Combat Team lost its third soldier since its arrival in Baghdad and the first of my tenure. Private First Class Edward J. Herrgott was guarding the Baghdad Museum when he was shot and killed by armed gunmen. I visited the location shortly after his death and was shocked by what I discovered. The museum was not the one that contained the ancient treasures of Iraq but was rather more akin to a wax museum for the enjoyment of locals and tourists. The curator had removed all of the exhibits to a safe location to prevent their theft in the aftermath of the war, but nevertheless CJTF-7 had ordered us to guard the place. The media frenzy over the looting of the National Museum of Antiquities had provoked a knee-jerk reaction to guard every place that could possibly be construed to have cultural value. The end result was that we were guarding an empty structure, one made indefensible by the cavernous buildings that engulfed it on both sides and parking garage several stories high across the street. The gunmen who killed Herrgott had sneaked up a side alley and engaged him from the flank as he manned his position in the hatch of a Bradley fighting vehicle.

I was determined to get my soldiers out of that death trap. . . . “

Peter Mansoor, Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander’s War in Iraq. Yale University Press, 2008.


Note 1: Herrgott’s Aunt is worth quoting: “President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said, ‘bring it on.’ They brought it on and now my nephew is dead.

Note 2: I didn’t meet Col. Mansoor when we overlapped at the massive OSU. I met him while working on a battlefield study of New Ulm, MN, his home town. If you don’t think the world is ruled by serendipity and The Ohio State University, you are mistaken. And we are fine with that.

Note 3: It looks like the Washington Post ran the Wax Museum Story on 8 July 2003, but I’m not 100% sure.


Martin Rundkvist (Aardvarchaeology)

How I Select The Sites I Dig

Having read yesterday’s entry about what I need to get hold of before I can dig a site, Apel Mjausson asked me on Facebook, “How do you decide where to dig? Sweden is lousy with unexplored sites. Are you following a specific story, looking at place names, take nominations…?”

Disregarding sites I’ve been paid to dig and sites I’ve only metal-detected,* my motivations have been as follows. To begin with, I only ever dig sites that I judge likely to produce something publishable and exciting. (And sometimes I lose on that gamble).

  • At Barshalder in 1997 I dug two graves because at my advisor’s suggestion I was writing my thesis on a huge cemetery, and there were a few sections of it that nobody knew anything about.
  • At Skamby in 2005 Howard Williams and I dug a boat grave because our friend local historian Arne Danielsson suggested it, because boat inhumations are famously rich in well-preserved artefacts, and because nobody had dug a boat grave in Götaland before.
  • At Stora Tollstad in 2006 Howard and I trial-trenched a major barrow in order to date it and find out if it was relevant to my on-going work with the late 1st millennium. (It was.)
  • At Sättuna in 2008 Petter Nyberg and I stripped 1047 sqm in a field because metal detector finds suggested that the postholes of a Vendel Period elite manor were sitting under it. I had metal-detected the site because it has another huge barrow and a name ending in -tuna, which signals the presence of power in the 1st millennium. Sadly the landowner wouldn’t let us at the most promising field because of a crop, so we dug in the second-best one next to it and found nothing to write home about.
  • At Pukeberget in 2011 Margareta Backe and I dug a few test pits in a cave because a Bronze Age spearhead had been found inside, I was writing a book on Bronze Age deposition sites and I wanted to know if there was more evidence of ancient activity in the cave. We found only recent cub scout stuff.
  • At Stensö and Landsjö in 2014 I dug a number of trenches in two castle ruins because I hadn’t worked with the High Middle Ages before, I wanted to study castles and Christian Lovén suggested these two sites. They are the only castles in Östergötland that have perimeter walls despite being owned by the nobility rather than by the Crown or Church. Neither had seen documented excavations before.

* For some reasoning around 1st millennium AD candidate sites for metal detecting, see pp. 16-17 in my 2011 book Mead-halls.

The Archaeology News Network

Study finds significant facial variation in pre-Columbian South America

A team of anthropology researchers has found significant differences in facial features between seven different pre-Columbian peoples they evaluated from what is now Peru – disproving a longstanding perception that these groups were physically homogenous. The finding may lead scholars to revisit any hypotheses about human migration patterns that rested on the idea that there was little skeletal variation in pre-Columbian South...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

Archaeological News on Tumblr

UNESCO extends Pompeii deadline

Rome, March 5 - Culture Minister Dario Franceschini on Thursday hailed UNESCO’s decision to...

Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues)

Saxon Gold Find by Student

Archaeology, or what?
A first year student Tom Lucking, 23, who has been an artefact hunter since he was 11, has found  seventh century coins and jewellery next to a female skeleton in a field near Diss, Norfolk . He is referred to in the media coverage as an "archaeology student' (Kate Pickles, 'Archaeology student discovers 'outstanding' Anglo-Saxon pendant worth £50,000 in first-year dig - and he gets to keep the profits'' Daily Mail, 28 February 2015), which might raise some eyebrows and has got metal detectorists chattering and spluttering away. This seems to be based on the fact that "he enrolled on a landscape history course at the University of East Anglia in September, making the incredible discovery just months later". This seems to be the course concerned(the outline does not appear to be very 'archaeological' at all, indeed the UEA does not have an archaeology department). By what means was this site chosen? This makes it sound like another case of a metal detectorist targeting a known site:
'We knew there was something in that area of the grave, but no-one was expecting anything so significant,' said Tom, from Felixstowe, Suffolk. 
The grave is below plough level. According to the Mail's journalist (PAS have a lot to answer for), apparently now in Great Britain, archaeologists are called "Treasure experts" ("The three-inch jewel encrusted pendant is thought to be the most valuable of the lot with treasure experts describing it as an 'outstanding' piece") and an excavation of an Anglo-Saxon grave is now called "Treasure hunting". Anyway, the article suggests Mr Lucking will be sharing any Treasure reward for the grave goods "the pendant will be subject to a treasure inquest before proceeds of any sale can be split between Tom, the landowner and others on the above dig". Then, perhaps they will use that to finance the analysis of the field documentation and recovered artefacts, placing the grave in context and then publication of their report.

UPDATE 1st March 2015
Within a few hours, Mr Lucking contacted me to explain that the journalist was mistaken in portraying him as an archaeology student - see the comments down below this post for the full text. Note the role of close recording in defining the site.

UPDATE 1st March 2015
Somebody else beat Mr Lucking to clarifying a detectorist's story referring to the Daily Mail article, an "Anonymous" wrote (1 March 2015 at 19:42) adding another layer of mystery to an already clouded story:
Tom is on the first year of an UEA Landscape History course, not an archaeology course. He gives some of his hobby time to provide expert metal detection support for the community archaeology group that he and I are both members of but that doesn't make him (or myself) an archaeologist. He and his colleague have put a lot of work into covering the site and recording finds as part of a detection agreement with the landowner. The rescue dig and accompanying geophysics that followed his discovery and reporting of in situ grave goods (the top of a copper alloy bowl that he promptly covered back over) was the first archaeological work on a previously unknown site.
This "community archaeology group" turns out to be the Suffolk Archaeological Field Group, and the bowl was found "just before Christmas" and the excavation was carried out by Norfolk County Council’s Heritage Environment Service (Dr Andrew Rogerson and Steven Ashley) "over two cold days in January". The grave contained the (Frankish?) bowl at the foot, a ‘chatelaine’, jewellery, apart from the pendant there were two other pendants with reused coins including one of the Frankish king Sigebert III and a" wheel-thrown pot which Dr Rogerson has identified as a definite import, plus a tiny knife and iron buckle". If Mr Lucking was taking part in the survey of the site as part of the Suffolk Archaeological Field Group, I do not see why he should get any kind of Treasure ransom. This exists only because hoiker might not report finds, anything found as part of an excavation automatically becomes part of the record and is covered by any standard practice transfer of title documentation signed as part of the preparation for the excavation.

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Ice divers, underwater archeologists to study Franklin ship in Arctic

TORONTO - Ice divers and underwater archaeologists will plunge deep into Arctic waters starting next...

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Silver coins of British era dug up

Eighteen silver coins, issued more than 170 years ago in the name of Queen Victoria, were found on...

Jim Davila (

Golb gets jail time

RAPHAEL GOLB: Panel Affirms Sentence in Dead Sea Scrolls Case
(Joel Stashenko, New York Law Journal).
An appeals court has affirmed a two-month jail sentence for a blogger whose case prompted the state Court of Appeals to rule that the state's second-degree aggravated harassment statute was unconstitutional.

A unanimous panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, upheld Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Laura Ward's sentence, which included three years of probation, for Raphael Golb in People v. Golb, 13595.

HT Stephen Goranson.

If I understand the situation correctly, Mr. Golb is now out of appeals and must serve his sentence. Reuters also has an article that notes the following:
Golb, who has remained free during the appeals process, is scheduled to begin his sentence on July 22, the district attorney's office said.
Background on the Golb Dead-Sea-Scrolls internet-impersonation case is here and follow the many links.

Current Epigraphy

Instrumenta inscripta VI. Le iscrizioni con funzione didascalico-esplicativa. Committente, destinatario, contenuto e descrizione dell’oggetto nell’instrumentum inscriptum (Aquileia, 26-28 March 2015)

For details see attached programme:


Aquileia 26-28 marzo 2015
La Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Friuli Venezia Giulia, il Dipartimento di Storia e Tutela dei Beni Culturali dell’Università degli Studi di Udine e la Società Friulana di Archeologia organizzano nei giorni dal 26 al 28 marzo 2015, presso il Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Aquileia, il VI incontro della serie dedicata agli Instrumenta inscripta.
L’incontro avrà come tema principale: Le iscrizioni con funzione didascalico-esplicativa. Committente, destinatario, contenuto e descrizione dell’oggetto nell‘instrumentum inscriptum.
Si prevede di articolare l’incontro nel seguente modo:
– Giovedì 26 marzo, ore 15.00-18.00: I sessione: iscrizioni didascaliche ed esplicative – il rapporto tra committente e destinatario;
– Venerdì 27 marzo, ore 9.30-13.00: II sessione: iscrizioni didascaliche ed esplicative – il testo descrittivo: contenuto e descrizione;
 – Venerdì 27 marzo, ore 15.00-18.00: III sessione: iscrizioni didascaliche ed esplicative – indicazioni di peso, dimensioni e valore;
 – Sabato 28 marzo, ore 9.30-13.00: IV sessione: variae.
La partecipazione al convegno prevede una quota d’iscrizione di 80 €, comprensiva di pranzi e cene e di una riduzione sul costo dei pernottamenti. Una lista degli alberghi convenzionati sarà distribuita successivamente ai relatori, unitamente alle modalità d’iscrizione.
Nel corso del convegno saranno organizzate visite al Museo Archeologico Nazionale e al Museo Paleocristiano di Aquileia.

BES Spring Meeting – 9 May 2015

The BES Spring Meeting 2015 is scheduled to take place in Dresden on 9 May 2015

Confirmed speakers:

S. Orlandi (Rome): A “new” actor from an “old” inscription.
W. Eck (Köln): Geschriebene Kommunikation: 200 Jahre kaiserliche Politik im Spiegel der Bürgerrechtskonstitutionen.
J.K. Davies (Liverpool): Proxy epigraphy: reaching the private economic places that inscriptions cannot normally reach
K. Hallof (Berlin): Romani intra portas. The Roman community im frühaugusteischen Kos.
M.H. Crawford (UCL): The epigraphy of Latin colonisation.

The meeting will take place in the Hans-Nadler-Saal in the Residenzschloss of the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD).

Call for short reports and posters:

Anyone interested in offering a short report (c. 5-10 minutes) on new finds from the last season, or to present a poster on their doctoral or postdoctoral project, should contact the meeting organiser, Dr Christoph Lundgreen, at their earliest convenience:

The full programme will become available once the short reports and posters have been confirmed.

The meeting is generously supported by: Mommsengesellschaft e.V.; Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden; Gesellschaft der Freunde und Förderer der Technischen Universität Dresden e.V.


The meeting is free of charge, but anyone interested in participating is asked to register their attendance by 30 April 2015 using the BES registration form.

For information on accommodation in Dresden click here. And for travel tips on how to get to Dresden, click here.

And to find out what’s on at the Opera (and to buy tickets), see the Spielplan of the Semperoper!

Blogging Pompeii

News; Chi blocca la rinascita di Pompei

From L'Espresso:
Chi blocca la rinascita di Pompei
Se non si completano i lavori entro l’anno, si perdono i futuri finanziamenti europei. E su 47 cantieri previsti, 35 non sono stati neppure aperti. Mentre un’indagine della procura incombe sugli appalti.
di Paolo Fantauzzi e Francesca Sironi
Unfortunately, you will need a subscription to read the rest of this article.



The Latin indicative

L.R. Palmer,  The Latin Language, 1954, p. 275:
(1) *-is-ont >-ĕrunt;
(2) stative -ē- + -ri > -ēre
(3) a contamination of the two types > -ērunt.

(1) matri longa decem tulĕrunt fastidia menses. Virgil, Eclogue IV.61.

(2) urbem Romam a principio reges habuēre. Tacitus, Annales I.1.1

(3) Postquam te fata tulērunt,
ipsa Pales agros atque ipse reliquit Apollo
. Virgil, Eclogue V.34-5.

Antiquity Now

The Ancient Roots of Modern Hygiene Part 1

If you’re worried that modern society makes us all vain, have no fear. Truth is, we’ve been primping, prepping and peacocking for centuries. Case in point: one particularly fussy Iron Age man found preserved in a peat bog. After all … Continue reading

Jim Davila (

The Textual History of the Ethiopic Old Testament Project

"THE TEXTUAL HISTORY OF THE ETHIOPIC OLD TESTAMENT PROJECT (THEOT) is an international effort to identify and to trace textual trajectories found in Ethiopian manuscripts that contain books included in the canon of the Hebrew Bible." It does not seem to have its own dedicated website, but this post on the Juxta website (the source of the quotation) gives some information on it, as do the 2011 and 2014 calls for papers of the SBL Ethiopic Bible and Literature Consultation. And this Marylhurst University press release (from which I found out about the project) briefly discusses the work of Dr. Garry Jost on the Ethiopic text of Obadiah.

Archaeology of Portus: Exploring the Lost Harbour of Ancient Rome

Week Four – Your Questions Answered

Render of interior of Terraza di Traiano (Grant Cox, ArtasMedia and Portus Project)Render of interior of Terraza di Traiano (Grant Cox, ArtasMedia and Portus Project)

Here is the video addressing some of the questions from Week Four.

Jim Davila (

Isbel on From Yahwism to Judahism

From Yahwism to Judahism

Some scholars have argued that there were multiple factors involved in the reasons why the exiled Judahites did not abandon Yahweh for Marduk, but the scaffolding for the multiplicity as it is normally defined is of such a patchwork character as to be unwieldy.

By Charles David Isbell
Director of Jewish Studies
Louisiana State University
December 2008

Review of Drake, Slandering the Jew

Susanna Drake. Slandering the Jew: Sexuality and Difference in Early Christian Texts. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013. 184 pp. $55.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8122-4520-2.

Reviewed by Gail Labovitz (American Jewish University 15)
Published on H-Judaic (February, 2015)
Commissioned by Matthew A. Kraus

According to the Flesh: Sexual Slander as a Tool of Early Christian Anti-Jewish Rhetoric

Two decades ago, Daniel Boyarin took the title of his book Carnal Israel from Augustine’s Tractate Against the Jews, where in the course of interpreting 1 Corinthians 10:18 (“Behold Israel according to the flesh”), Augustine describes the Jewish people as “indisputably carnal.” Stating at the outset that “Augustine knew what he was talking about,” Boyarin therefore announced his intent to “assert the essential descriptive accuracy of the recurring Patristic notion that what divides Christians from rabbinic Jews is the discourse of the body, and especially sexuality.”[1] In this new book, however, Susanna Drake returns to the rhetoric itself. Although she cites Augustine, and Boyarin’s interpretation of his words, as “the initial provocation for the present study” (p. 112, n. 8), her concerns are not the accuracy, but the intent and implications of such accusations made by Christian writers against Jews in late antiquity: what did it mean not only for Augustine, but for a number of early Christian writers--and those for whom they wrote--to accuse Jews of carnality? Her questions are: How did the figure of the “carnal Jew” come to function as a topos of early Christian literature? When did this topos first appear, and what purposes did it serve? How did the stereotype of the carnal Jew serve Christian leaders as they forged the boundaries between orthodoxy and heresy, Christianity and Judaism? And what can the development of this topos tell us about ancient understandings of gender and sexuality (p. 2)? To this end, she examines “the sexualized representations of Jews in writings by Greek church fathers from the first through fifth centuries CE” (p. 2); the authors she focuses on are the unknown author of the Epistle of Barnabas, Justin Martyr, Origen, Hippolytus, and John Chrysostom.


Review of Tabory and Atzmon, Midrash Esther Rabbah

THE TALMUD BLOG: Review of Tabory and Atzmon, ‘Midrash Esther Rabbah’ (Shai Secunda).
Overall, this new edition is a great pleasure to work with – and to learn from, beginning to end. No doubt it will be the fountainhead from where all future research on the literary history of Esther midrashim begin. When read on its own, this midrash will ever-beguile you with its playful hermeneutics (another valuable introductory chapter outlines Esther Rabbah’s many different interpretive strategies) and surprising traditions.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

2015.03.09: The Hellenistic West: Rethinking the Ancient Mediterranean

Review of Jonathan R. W. Prag, Josephine Crawley Quinn, The Hellenistic West: Rethinking the Ancient Mediterranean. Cambridge; New York: 2013. Pp. xxi, 271; 8 p. of plates. $120.00. ISBN 9781107032422.

2015.03.08: Understanding Standardization and Variation in Mediterranean Ceramics: Mid 2nd to late 1st millennium BC. Babesch supplements, 25

Review of Antonis Kotsonas, Understanding Standardization and Variation in Mediterranean Ceramics: Mid 2nd to late 1st millennium BC. Babesch supplements, 25. Leuven; Paris; Walpole, MA: 2014. Pp. vii, 196. €87.00 (pb). ISBN 9789042930919.

2015.03.07: Euripide, Racine, Goethe, Ritsos. Ifigenia: variazioni sul mito. Grandi classici tascabili Marsilio, 363

Review of Caterina Barone, Euripide, Racine, Goethe, Ritsos. Ifigenia: variazioni sul mito. Grandi classici tascabili Marsilio, 363. Venezia: 2014. Pp. 338. €10.00 (pb). ISBN 9788831717359.

ArcheoNet BE

Studiebureau Archeologie werft aan

Studiebureau Archeologie is op zoek naar een ervaren archeoloog (2-5 jaar) voor de versterking van zijn ploeg. Het werkgebied valt grotendeels samen met de provincies Antwerpen, Limburg en Vlaams-Brabant. Over een eigen wagen beschikken is een absolute noodzaak. Kandidaten hebben minstens 1 jaar relevante ervaring in de Vlaamse archeologie. Na een korte inloopperiode is het de bedoeling zelfstandig onderzoeken (bureaustudies, boringen, vooronderzoeken, opgravingen) uit te voeren en te rapporteren. Je kan dan ook zowel zelfstandig werken, deadlines halen, als in groep werken. Je bent stressbestendig.

Solliciteren kan door je CV en motivatiebrief voor vrijdag 20 maart 2015 op te sturen naar Sollicitatiegesprekken zijn gepland voor donderdag 26 maart 2015.

Archeomatica: Tecnologie per i Beni Culturali

Presto in 3D la casa di Ludovico Ariosto

La società GEIS - Geomatics Engineering di Modena ha comunicato la sperimentazione di un nuovo nuovo modello di laser scanner 3D presso la casa natale di Ludovico Ariosto nel Parco del Mauriziano a Reggio Emilia. 

Mary Beard (A Don's Life)

The culture of entrapment


I am rather late to the party on this one, but I have been thinking about the "Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw scandal" quite a lot since I watched the Channel 4 Dispatches programme last week, and there was a good article on it by John Naughton in the Observer this week.

I guess I should confess that I was pretty gripped by the programme, and no doubt like most of the watchers took a terrible (and not wholly worthy) pleasure in seeing the fat cats caught out. It was gripping viewing, watching how these guys were going to step in the shit next.

But there was also something a bit dirty and polluting about it.

I know that you might say that this was a great example of the fourth estate holding those in power to account. If these guys can't behave properly or be policed by Westminster itself, then may be we should let some clever investigative journalists do the job instead.

But I still can't help feeling that I want the electorate to oust elected politicians not a joint sting operation by a tv company and a newspaper.

And then there is the nature of the sting operation itself.

The point surely is that this was not an operation to hire an MP or ex-MP to be a consultant for a Chinese company. It was presumably an exercise in entrapment with the aim of getting these guys to say roughly what they did. It was a bit like a phone call scam -- when their aim in NOT to mend your computer which has a puzzling but as yet undiagnosed fault, but to get you to part with your bank card details.

So the point is for me, what happened in the bits of the encounters that we did not see? I haven't been able to find any information on that. For example, both guys seemed very anxious to boast about the influence they had (whether in the EU or among ambassadors or whatever). Maybe they are just natural braggers. But I couldn't help wondering if they had been set up for that in the sections of the encounter not broadcast. Were they, for example, set up to be competitive? Was the influence of other people, who had supposedly already been talked to, trailed for them to outbid ("we have spoken to someone who could help us with the heads of all the trade missions..".."oh well I could get you in with every ambassador.."). It doesn't excuse it, far from it, but it does rather differently contextualise it.

I guess that I have always taught students that fragmentary sources and excerptions make dangerously difficult evidence. It would be nice to see the out-takes.

Antiquitas (Sciences de l'Antiquité à l'Université de Lorraine)

Christoph Schäfer : « Les Ostrogoths en Italie. L’histoire d’un succès ? »

Christoph SchäferLe Séminaire d’Histoire Ancienne a la joie d’accueillir Christoph Schäfer, professeur d’histoire ancienne à l’Université de Trêves, pour une conférence intitulée : « Les Ostrogoths en Italie. L’histoire d’un succès ? » (Die Ostgoten in Italien – eine Erfolgsgeschichte?). La conférence se déroulera le jeudi 26 mars 2015 à 18h. en salle A329b (CLSH, place Godefroy de Bouillon).

Par la prise de l’Italie et l’élimination d’Odoacre, Théodoric le Grand conquiert le cœur de l’Empire romain d’Occident. Dans le royaume ostrogothique qu’il a fondé les Romains et les Goths vécurent plusieurs décennies en coexistence pacifique. Le roi ostrogoth adopta globalement le rôle de l’empereur romain, le Sénat était toujours associé à l’administration de l’Empire, tandis que l’armée était essentiellement dominée par les Goths. La politique de tolérance de Théodoric sur les questions de foi a largement contribué à la coexistence pacifique des différents groupes de population. Si l’on veut porter un jugement sur la stabilité des fondements du royaume ostrogothique, il est nécessaire de considérer les conséquences de cette politique.

Théodoric le Grand (monnaie du Palazzo Massimo, Rome, ©Wikimedia)Théodoric le Grand (monnaie du Palazzo Massimo, Rome, ©Wikimedia)

Mit der Eroberung Italiens und der Beseitigung des Odoaker übernahm der Ostgote Theoderich d. Gr. die Kerngebiete des weströmischen Reiches. In dem von ihm etablierten Ostgotenreich lebten Römer und Goten über Jahrzehnte in friedlicher Koexistenz. Der ostgotische König adaptierte weitgehend die Rolle des römischen Kaisers, der Senat war weiterhin in die Reichsverwaltung eingebunden, während das Militär weitgehend von Goten dominiert wurde. Die Toleranzpolitik Theoderichs in Glaubensfragen trug zum weitgehend friedlichen Zusammenleben der verschiedenen Bevölkerungsgruppen bei. Die Auswirkungen dieser Politik gilt es zu prüfen, wenn man ein Urteil über die Stabilität der ostgotischen Reichsgründung fällen möchte.


Les autres dates de la saison 2014/2015 :

2 octobre 2014 - François Kirbihler (Université de Lorraine) : « Les Italiens à Éphèse : de l’exploitation des Grecs à l’intégration dans la cité (133 a.C. – 48 p. C.) »

20 novembre 2014 - Laurent Guichard (Université de Savoie) : « L’initiation chrétienne et la fonction impériale de Constantin à Théodose II »

29 janvier 2015 - Audrey Becker (Université de Lorraine) : « Les Ostrogoths et les Burgondes sont-ils Romains ? Réflexions critiques sur l’ethnogenèse et les théories de l’ethnicité dans l’Antiquité tardive »

5 mars 2015 - Martin Steskal (Université de Vienne) : « Leben und Sterben in Ephesos. Archäologie des Todes in einer römischen Metropole »

23 mars 2015 - Christoph Schäfer (Université de Trêves) : « Leben und Sterben in Ephesos. Archäologie des Todes in einer römischen Metropole »

30 avril 2015 – Patrice Schlosser (Lycée Poincarré, Nancy) : « Périnthe et la Thrace propontique antique : une zone de contact méconnue du monde grec »

Documentaire fiction : Le destin de Rome

Christian-Georges Schwentzel, Pierre Cosme, Giovanni Brizzi et Paul-Marius Martin sur ARTE, les 4, 16, 20, 23 et 24 mars, à 16h25, dans le documentaire-fiction Le destin de Rome.

Destin de Rome-complete

Le documentaire-fiction Le destin de Rome, réalisé en collaboration et avec la participation des historiens Christian-Georges Schwentzel, Pierre Cosme, Giovanni Brizzi et Paul-Marius Martin sera diffusé sur Arte, les 4, 16, 20, 23 et 24 mars, à 16h25. La première partie (Venger César, 52 minutes) retrace les événements de la guerre civile, depuis les Ides de Mars jusqu’à la bataille de Philippes (42 av. J.-C.). Le second volet (Rêves d’Empire, 52 minutes) est consacré au conflit qui opposa Octavien à Cléopâtre et Antoine jusqu’à la bataille d’Actium (2 septembre 31 av. J.-C.).

Voir sur le site d’Arte.

Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues)

Mosul Museum: Three Men Identified

Al Arabiya News is claiming 'ISIS museum vandals in Iraq video identified' (1 March 2015). Mosul's governor Atheel al-Nujaifi said on Sunday that three men visible in the videos of detruction in the Mosul Museum have been identified and if apprehended would face prosecution they are all citizens of Mosul. And as expected:
The governor also said that in addition to destroying statues, the ISIS "criminals" stole portable artifacts.
not stating however the manner in which the latter act has been ascertained.

Vignette: ISIL plans Cultural desert in Syria

Friday Retrospect: The Cold Brayfield Affair

The winding road to the debate on
UK policy on artefact hunting
A few weeks ago, the Buckinghamshire FLO was moaning to her colleagues "[I] prefer not to have any dealings with PB. I wasted ages explaining myself over the Cold Brayfield Hoard and was ignored and misunderstood!". I am at a loss to know to what she is referring and, quite frankly resent that - if she cannot explain a hole in the ground to a fellow archaeologist, what hope is there that she can explain best practice to artefact hoikers? There was some coverage of this rather disturbing incident on my blog, and just to put Ms Tyrrell's allegations in some sort of context I give here the links to all the posts I made so readers can see just how much time Ros Tyrrell devoted on this blog to "explaining"  this situation to my readers. If you look through the posts, you will find the comment (in the post 'Cold Brayfield Questions that will not go away', 6 November 2008):
I recently addressed these questions to the two FLOs involved (twice). All I received in reply was some generally dismissive statement of "the sort of whispers that accompanies this sort of find".
The inability of the PAS to interact properly with criticism of what is going on in the interstices between policy and practice, hope and reality, has a long history. Now, I do not have anywhere to hand those emails any more (maybe we should do an FOI request for them too to get at what Ms Tyrrell really said to me?) but it does not look to me that even offline she made much of an effort to "explain" anything to me  [She may resend them as a comment here if she contests that]. I think her evoking Cold Brayfield as an excuse not to address the very real issues raised about the Lenborought affair, is just that - an excuse.

It is therefore worth returning to Cold Brayfield as it is quite a symptomatic case, raising a number of issues which are still unresolved today, seven years later. One of the reasons for that is the failure - indeed refusal - of the PAS to discuss these issues openly, as we have seen in the case of Lenborough. I think many of the things I said with regard to Cold Brayfield six and seven years ago can be said today. So what change has the Portable Antiquities Scheme actually achieved on the ground for all those millions of quid of public outreach? Is this why they do not want to engage with the issues that are raised?
'English Detectorists Say They Dug a Metre into Roman Site in the Dark'
Wednesday, 29 October 2008

'The Washington Lawyer and the Metal Detectorists' Thursday, 30 October 2008

'What would the PAS say?' Thursday, 30 October 2008

'Treasure Annual Reports: just "inconvenient"?', Sunday, 2 November 2008 (note comments about a separate Treasure archive - later abandoned, they were added to the PAS database alongside a totally different category of material)

'Cold Brayfield Questions that will not go away', Thursday, 6 November 2008

'Having a Chat with Central Searchers?' Thursday, 6 November 2008 (Secretive metal detectorists - instant ban for Marcus)

Incidental mention here: 'Some Thoughts on Illegal Artefact Hunting in England', Saturday, 8 November 2008

This Coroner is helpful: 'Cold Brayfield Inquest' Wednesday, 12 November 2008

More questions raised, 'The New Treasure Report' Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Incidental mention, 'Welsh Treasure System Failure' Thursday, 8 January 2009

Incidental mention, 'Central Searchers Dislikes Breeches and Will Avoid Them in Future', Wednesday, 9 June 2010.

What is it that Ros Tyrrell, the PAS FLO for the county concerned, wanted to 'explain' to me back in 2008? Did she want to explain something, or explain away something on behalf of the BM's metal-detecting "partners"? Because that, I admit, I would be incapable of "understanding", coming as it would be, from a publicly funded archaeological outreach scheme.

ISIL Antiquities Supply and Demand Across International frontiers

Smuggling the cultural heritage of Syria is considered an important source of funding for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the wide-ranging smuggling networks use Turkey as a transit country. Now much of ISIL's oil infrastructure has been destroyed, this has resulted in ISIL turning to alternative means of financing: antiquity smuggling and hostage taking. Syrian middlemen based in Turkey sell historical items to local dealers who then sell them to dealers in Western Europe
Turkey's 565-mile border with Syria has become dangerously porous, not only for the transit of foreign fighters back and forth over the border, but also for smuggling artefacts. Merve Tahiroglu, a Turkey analyst at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, said Turkey's border with Syria has historically been a route for smuggling, largely due to poor economic conditions, while this activity has intensified since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. "The border provinces experiencing the most smuggling today are among Turkey's poorest -- Hatay is the 46th-most-developed, followed by Kilis (63rd), Sanliurfa (73rd), Mardin (74th) and Sirnak (78th) -- and smuggling has become an integral part of local economies. Middlemen who facilitate this illicit trade make considerable profits," Tahiroglu told SES Türkiye. According to Tahiroglu, Turkey's open-door policy with Syria has allowed for infiltrators of all stripes, including jihadists and smugglers, to easily cross from one side to the other, while many Syrian refugees who have settled in border towns take part in this activity as well. "Ankara has taken measures to secure the border by building a wall in Hatay, and it began cracking down on smugglers in the southeast since news reports revealed the scope of ISIL's illicit oil trade," Tahiroglu said. "It is hard to imagine that Turkey could successfully halt this activity altogether, considering the length of the border and the wide range of actors involved, but it is clear that more needs to be done," she added.
Tugba Tanyeri Erdemir, an architectural historian at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, points out that in conflict zones marked by state failure, instability and violence, there is always a significant increase in illicit excavations and raiding of treasures of cultural heritage from sacred sites, art institutions, libraries and museums.
According to Tanyeri-Erdemir, governments and institutions in Turkey should actively be seeking and identifying agents of this wide-ranging network; and they should be taking the necessary legal steps to stop them from functioning. Tanyeri-Erdemir noted that illicit trade in antiquities functions in a long chain of agents, ranging from the person who procures the artefact, a number of middle-men facilitating transportation of the artefact in transit countries, dealers who put these items for sale in the art market, and collectors who purchase them. "By breaking the agents in the chain of illicit trade, governments can weaken one of major the financial sources of ISIL," Tanyeri-Erdemir told SES Türkiye. "Like any other trade, trade in illicit antiquities is susceptible to the most basic market principle: that there will be supply as long as there is demand."
Collectors and dealers at one end of the chain suggest that it is only at the other that action needs to be taken. It is clear however to the rest of us that action needs to be taken all along the chain of passage of illicit antiquities onto the market. We need investigations of the market end of the transactions too, to meet up with those combating the 'supply' end of the chain.

Syria has borders with Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, as well as Turkey, and sea ports in the eastern Mediterranean.

ISIL smuggles Syrian antiquities through Turkey Turkish Weekly, 4 March 2015

All Mesopotamia

kvetchlandia: Gilgamesh Taming a Lion, Palace of Khorsabad,...


Gilgamesh Taming a Lion, Palace of Khorsabad, Iraq, c.700 BCE, Currently in the Louvre

O Mighty King, remember now that only gods stay in eternal watch.

Humans come then go, that is the way fate decreed on the Tablets of Destiny.

So someday you will depart, but till that distant day sing, and dance. 

Eat your fill of warm cooked food and cool jugs of beer.

Cherish the children your love gave life.

Bathe away life’s dirt in warm drawn waters.

Pass the time in joy with your chosen wife.

On the Tablets of Destiny it is decreed 

For you to enjoy short pleasures for your short days.

-Siduri to Gilgamesh, from the “Epic of Gilgamesh” tablets, complied roughly 700 BCE from stories and writings going back to c. 3000 BCE.

Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues)

Minelab Develop new Beginner's Detector

US Detectorists wearing hats indoors discuss Minelab's new "go-find" series, just launched.

This one is priced in order to profit from the market caused by the rise in public interest every time the Daily Mail publishes another breathless account based on a PAS press release of a Treasure find worth hundreds of thousands of pounds just lying in a field somewhere. But this one appeals to other markets too, it folds up to about 60 cm so you can hide it easily and has backlighting so you can use it in, er "poor visibility". Just right, as one tekkie put it, for keeping in the car boot for some "opportunistic tekking".

Support STOP Taking our Past: ISIS Cultural Destruction

In the US, there will be a White House March to 'stop ISIS from destroying what remains of Mesopotamian Civilization', Friday, March 6, 2015. It is being organized by Jabbar J Al Shuwaili and Abdul Amir Al Hamdani: The goals are :
to urge and pressure the policy and decision makers to take immediate action against the terrorist group ISIS.
to familiarize the general population in the United States with the savage and uncivilized acts of ISIS that have been performed against the people of Iraq and their civilization.
to inform the international community that Iraqis are civilized people who love their heritage and are determined to exert every effort to preserve their civilization. And, to make known that what is rumored by ISIS — that the statutes and relics of the old civilizations are forbidden by Islam — is absolutely untrue according to senior moderate Islam clerics.
Friday, March 6, 2015 at 12:00 noon. No such march will be staged in the UK, after all, where would it meet, outside the offices of the Portable Antiquities Scheme?

Blogging Pompeii

Nine questioned in inquiry

A surprising article today in the Italian papers discussing, and naming, nine individuals questioned in connection to the reconstruction of the Large Theater in Pompeii. See the first link, here:

The genus Homo is older than thought…

Another close-up view of the Homo mandible, shown just steps from where Arizona State University graduate student Chalachew Seyoum from Ethiopia spotted it. The scientists involved in the discovery aren't sure if the fossil belongs to a new species or to a known, extinct human species, such as Homo habilis. They plan to learn more about the fossil before making that decision and giving it a name. (Photo credit: Kaye Reed)

Another close-up view of the Homo mandible, LD350-1, shown just steps from where Arizona State University graduate student Chalachew Seyoum from Ethiopia spotted it. The scientists involved in the discovery aren’t sure if the fossil belongs to a new species or to a known, extinct human species, such as Homo habilis. They plan to learn more about the fossil before making that decision and giving it a name. (Photo credit: Kaye Reed)

A 2.8-million-year-old mandible with five teeth discovered atop a hill in Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia was published today in the journal Science. The mandible fossil is very much transitional… It displays traits from both Australopithecus and Homo, and indicates the genus Homo is half million years older than thought. The geological analysis has also been published in Science.

Scientists sieve through sand at the Ledi-Geraru site at the Afar Regional State in Ethiopia, where they discovered the Homo mandible, known as LD 350-1. (Photo credit: Brian Villmoare)

Scientists sieve through sand at the Ledi-Geraru site at the Afar Regional State in Ethiopia, where they discovered the Homo mandible, known as LD 350-1. (Photo credit: Brian Villmoare)

Chris Campisano, of Arizona State University, samples a tuff in the Ledi-Geraru project area in Ethiopia with support from Sabudo Boraru. (Photo credit: J Ramón Arrowsmith)

Chris Campisano, of Arizona State University, samples a tuff in the Ledi-Geraru project area in Ethiopia with support from Sabudo Boraru. (Photo credit: J Ramón Arrowsmith)

The mandible of a hippo was also discovered at the Ledi-Geraru site. The mandible is still in the ground there, said study researcher Brian Villmoare of the University of Nevada Las Vegas. (Photo credit: Brian Villmoare)

The mandible of a hippo was also discovered at the Ledi-Geraru site. The mandible is still in the ground there, said study researcher Brian Villmoare of the University of Nevada Las Vegas. (Photo credit: Brian Villmoare)

Another view of a camel caravan as the animals move across the so-called Lee Adoyta region in the Ledi-Geraru research site near where researchers discovered the early Homo mandible. The hills behind the camels reveal sediments that are younger than 2.67 million year old, providing a minimum age for the partial mandible dubbed LD 350-1, say the scientists. (Photo credit: Erin DiMaggio, Penn State)

Another view of a camel caravan as the animals move across the so-called Lee Adoyta region in the Ledi-Geraru research site near where researchers discovered the early Homo mandible. The hills behind the camels reveal sediments that are younger than 2.67 million year old, providing a minimum age for the partial mandible dubbed LD 350-1, say the scientists. (Photo credit: Erin DiMaggio, Penn State)

Geologists work in the field at the Ledi-Geraru site in Ethiopia, where they discovered a partial mandible, with five of its teeth intact, belonging to an individual in the genus Homo. (Photo credit: Brian Villmoare)

Geologists work in the field at the Ledi-Geraru site in Ethiopia, where they discovered a partial mandible, with five of its teeth intact, belonging to an individual in the genus Homo. (Photo credit: Brian Villmoare)

A camel caravan walks through the excavation site in the Afar region where researchers dug up a partial mandible from a potentially new Homo species. The researchers dated the fossil by looking at the ages of the layers of volcanic ash above and below it. (Photo credit: Brian Villmoare)

A camel caravan walks through the excavation site in the Afar region where researchers dug up a partial mandible from a potentially new Homo species. The researchers dated the fossil by looking at the ages of the layers of volcanic ash above and below it. (Photo credit: Brian Villmoare)

Filed under: Blog, Physical Anthropology Tagged: australopithecus, ethiopia, fossil, hominid, homo, human evolution, LD 350-1, ledi-geraru, paleoanthropology, Physical Anthropology

Noel Tan (The Southeast Asian Archaeology Newsblog)

Video: The Jar Burials of the Cardamom Mountains

My colleague Nancy Beavan as been working for some time now at the Cardamom Mountains in western Cambodia, investigating a series of jar burial sites associated with a little-known culture who were living contemporaneously with Angkor. This news video from VOA Khmer is an overview of the project and the latest finds.

Ancient Cambodians Used Jars to Keep the Remains of the Dead
VOA Khmer, 02 March 2015
Video is in Khmer, but you can still understand what’s going on without knowing the language.

WWII Musashi wreck found in Philippines

One of the most famous World War II warships, the Musashi, has been discovered in Philippine waters. The person who announced the discovery is quite notable too – Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.

Remains of the catapult ramp from the Musashi. Source: Sydney Morning Herald 20150403

Remains of the catapult ramp from the Musashi. Source: Sydney Morning Herald 20150403

WWII Japanese ship Musashi said to be found in Philippines
Sydney Morning Herald, 04 March 2015

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen says he has found one of Japan’s biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II.

Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the American billionaire for his high-tech mission that apparently succeeded after so many failed search attempts by others.

Mr Allen posted photos and video online of parts of what he said was the battleship Musashi, found by his M/Y Octopus exploration vessel one kilometre deep on the floor of the Sibuyan Sea.

Full story here.

March 04, 2015

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Open Access Journal: Art & Cultural Heritage Law Newsletter

[First posted in AWOL  31 October 2009. Updated 4 March 2015]

Have you taken the AWOL User Survey?

Art & Cultural Heritage Law Newsletter: A Publication of the Art & Cultural Heritage Law Committee
This committee is composed of attorneys with an interest in the field of art, cultural heritage, and cultural property law and who work in a variety of settings, including private practice, museums, government, and academia. This area of law is concerned with both movable and immovable property of artistic, cultural, religious and historic interest. Topics recently considered by the committee include the 1970 UNESCO Convention and international trade in antiquities, underwater cultural heritage, art works stolen during the Holocaust, ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and the impact of war on the cultural heritage of Iraq. Within a diverse field with often sharply differing opinions, the committee endeavors to represent a variety of perspectives and welcomes all with an interest in this timely and fascinating subject.
A&CH Law Committee Spring 2014 Newsletter
A&CH Law Committee Year in Review (2013)
Newsletters and Year in Review Archive
Call for Articles!

Ancient Art

The rock art of Tassili n’Ajjer, the Sahara...

The rock art of Tassili n’Ajjer, the Sahara Desert, Algeria.

Tassili is a stunning mountainous region located in the central Sahara, and is the home to over 15,000 engravings and paintings which are thought to date from about 10,000 BC to the first centuries of the present era. Tassili would have been more climatically suitable for human occupation during prehistoric times, and the remains of burial mounds, lithics, and habitations have also been found.

Having grasped international attention since 1933, these stunning paintings stand as a testament to, and provide a record to the lives of, the inhabitants of Tassili who lived in this landscape for thousands of years. They provide us with a kind of ‘history book’, documenting climate change, the evolution of human life, animal migrations, extinct species, and the like.

The rock art has been divided into 5 different periods. The first has been termed the ‘naturalistic period’, which features depictions of the savannah and fauna, followed by the ‘archaic period’. Up next is the ‘Bovidian period’ (about 4000-1500 BC), which is when the majority of the rock art dates to. A renewed naturalistic aesthetic becomes apparent in the art, with significant examples of scenes of daily life and representations of bovine herds (note image #4 of this post in particular). The 4th period is the ‘Equidian period’, which is notable for coinciding with the area’s progressive desiccation (extreme drying), and the disappearance of the many species it caused. Finally, during the early Christian era, we have the ‘Cameline period’, where we see the appearance of dromedary (also known as the Arabian camel). As the appearance of dromedary suggests, Tassili’s climate was now hyper-arid.

Photos courtesy of & taken by Patrick Gruban. UNESCO’s write up on the site was of use when writing up this article.

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Excavation reveals ancient town and burial complex in Diros Bay, Greece

Recent research by The Diros Project, a five-year excavation program in Diros Bay, Greece, has...

American Philological Association

Award to SCS Member

SCS Member Pramit Chaudhuri, Associate Professor of Classics at Dartmouth College, is one of seven scholars to receive a Digital Innovation grant this year from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).  The title of Prof. Chaudhuri’s project is Computational Analysis of Intertextuality in Classical Literature.  Information about all of the recipients is available at the ACLS web site.

Heckman Research Stipends at The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML)

Heckman Stipends, made possible by the A.A. Heckman Endowed Fund, are awarded semi-annually. Up to 10 stipends in amounts up to $2,000 are available each year. Funds may be applied toward travel to and from St. John's College in Collegeville, MN; housing and meals at the University; and costs related to duplication of the Library's microfilm or digital resources. The Stipend may be supplemented by other sources of funding but may not be held simultaneously with another HMML Stipend or Fellowship. Holders of the Stipend must wait at least two years before applying again.  The program is specifically intended to help scholars who have not yet established themselves professionally and whose research cannot progress satisfactorily without consulting materials to be found in the collections of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library.

Applications must be submitted by April 15 for residencies between July and December of the same year, or by November 15 for residencies between January and June of the following year. 
Applicants are asked to provide:

Archaeology Magazine

Dates Obtained for Earliest-Known Homo Fossil


STATE COLLEGE, PENNSYLVANIA—The earliest-known fossil of a human ancestor, discovered in the Afar region of Ethiopia, has been dated to between 2.8 and 2.75 million years ago by an international team of scientists. Known as LD 350-1, the team dated the layers of volcanic ash above and below the Ledi-Geraru fossil mandible. “We are confident in the age of LD350-1. We used multiple dating methods including radiometric analysis of volcanic ash layers, and all show that the hominin fossil is 2.8 to 2.75 million years old,” Erin N. DiMaggio of Penn State University said in a press release posted on Eureka Alert. Other fossils in the area include prehistoric antelope, elephants, a type of hippopotamus, crocodiles, and fish. These types of animals suggest that the habitat at the time was made up of mixed grasslands and shrub lands with trees lining rivers or wetlands. “We can see the 2.8 million-year-old aridity signal in the Ledi-Geraru faunal community. But it’s still too soon to say that this means climate change is responsible for the origin of Homo. We need a larger sample of hominin fossils and that’s why we continue to come to the Ledi-Geraru area to search,” added Kaye E. Reed of Arizona State University. To read more about human origins, see "Our Tangled Ancestry."

American Philological Association

Phoenix Call for Submissions

Phoenix, a journal of the Classical Association of Canada, welcomes submissions of original, high quality scholarly research in all areas of Classical Studies, including:  Greek and Latin literature, language, history, philosophy, religion, mythology, and material culture. For further information, please consult our website, which contains links to our ‘Notes for Contributors’ and a ToC of our most recent issue:


Ave Maria University Summer Intensive Immersion Courses in Latin and Greek

Ave Maria University and the Polis Institute are offering Summer Intensive Immersion Courses in Latin and Greek. These three- to six-week courses (June 1st-June 19th, first level, and June 22-July 10, second level) are designed to bring students to an active proficiency in Classical Latin or Koine Greek through immersion and dedicated study. Students will learn to think, read, write and speak Latin and Greek. For more information: visit or email

Humboldt University Summer School: Globalized Classics

Doctoral students and early career scholars are invited to apply for summer school on Globalized Classics, held at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in August and September 2015. The summer university is devoted to the study of the Ancient World from comparative and interdisciplinary points of view. It will examine the impact of globalization and non-Western perspectives on the study of the Graeco-Roman Classics. It will also reflect on the principles and the history of classical scholarship, and compare these with non-Western learned practices of dealing with canonical texts and artefacts. The Summer University will be taught by teams of leading scholars from universities across the world. For full details about the programme, please visit the website: or contact Martin Stöckinger (

CFP: Hegel and Ancient Philosophy

The Hegel Society of America is requesting submissions of papers for its 2016 Biennial Meeting “Hegel and Ancient Philosophy” (date and location to be determined). The meeting will examine the relation of Hegel’s thought to ancient philosophy, including Late Antiquity and non-Western philosophies of the ancient world. Papers may address the topic in a variety of ways. They may take a historical approach covering, for example, Hegel’s treatment of ancient philosophy (in the Lectures on the History of Philosophy, and elsewhere), or the influence of ancient philosophy on Hegel. Papers may also approach the topic systematically, dealing with aspects of Hegelian philosophy in relation to ancient thought, or vice versa. Papers may also treat current or perennial debates concerning Hegel’s relation to ancient philosophy. Submissions are limited to 6,000 words. Later adjustments must remain within this limit. Submissions must be formatted for blind review and accompanied by an abstract of no more than 300 words. They must be complete essays; draft proposals are not acceptable. All papers should be in English.

CFP: International Conference: Colloquia Orphica VII

The Department of Greek Studies and the Institute of Classical studies at the John Paul II Catholic University are hosting the international conference “Colloquia Orphica VII” on November 7-10, 2015 in Nieborów, Poland. This symposium is devoted to the problems related to Orphic religion, along with the aspects and manifestations of Orphism in many areas of ancient culture, especially in light of the recent findings in the field of papyrology. Papers concerning every aspect of Orphism are welcome. The conference fee is 650 PLN (180 €) and should be paid during the conference. The fee includes full accommodation in the area of the Palace complex in Nieborow. Please send your applications and papers to Dr. Katarzyna Kolakowska ( by June 15, 2015.

CFP: Archaeoacoustics II: Conference on the Archaeology of Sound

The Second International Multidisciplinary Conference on the Archaeology of Sound will be held in Istanbul, Turkey on October 30 - November 1, 2015. Archaeoacoustics II focuses on the ancient use of sound in sacred and contemplative spaces, and a timeless continuity of human behavior that includes vocalization and acute aural sensitivity. The conference welcomes contributions from researchers, scholars and technologists working across diverse disciplines, sites and practices. 250-300 word abstracts of papers, presentations and posters should be submitted in English, in either Text, Word or PDF formats. The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2015. Submitters will be informed by mid May 2015. Email to:

CADMO - Revista de História Antiga

As a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, CADMO publishes original studies, findings and relevant "state of the art" essays on Ancient History and the study of Ancient cultures. It welcomes contributions related to the Ancient Near-Eastern World (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Syro-Palestinian area and Anatolia) and to the Classical World (Greece, Rome and the Ancient Mediterranean, including Late Antiquity). Studies on the reception of Antiquity and its cultural productions as well as submissions focusing on other Ancient societies (such as the Indian, Asian or Mesoamerican cultures) are also considered. Critical reviews of recently published works and relevant notes and news on the aforementioned subjects are accepted. The annual deadline for submissions is September 30, 2015. Submissions should be sent by email to For more information and author guidelines:

Archaeological News on Tumblr

French tomb sheds light on Iron Age European trade

A tomb from the fifth century BC, likely that of a Celtic prince, has been unearthed in a small...

Archaeology Magazine

13th-Century Fortress May Have Belonged to Genghis Khan

MORIGUCHI, JAPAN—Japanese and Mongolian archaeologists have investigated a structure they say was commissioned for Genghis Khan by a close aide in 1212. The site, located in southwestern Mongolia, was first photographed from the air and surveyed in 2001 because its geographical features were similar to the landscape depicted in a medieval travel book. Surrounded by an earthen wall, the castle may have served as a military base when Genghis Khan was invading central Asia. Thirteenth-century Chinese ceramics were also recovered at the site. “We hope the discovery will be useful in ascertaining the history of the Mongolian Plateau between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,” team leader Koichi Matsuda of Osaka International University told The Asahi Shimbun. To read about the search for great khan's tomb, see "Genghis Khan: Founder of the Mongol Empire."

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Coring in Ethiopia to create a half million year sedimentary record

How was human evolution and migration influenced by past changes in climate? This question has led...

Archaeology Magazine

Was Rome Really a “City of Marble?”


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA—Architectural historian Diane Favro of the University of California, Los Angeles, has employed advanced modeling software to reconstruct the city of Rome in its entirety over the period of the rule of Augustus Caesar, from 44 B.C. to A.D. 14. According to legend, Augustus boasted, “I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.” Favro’s model uses a technique called procedural modeling that automatically regenerates as new information is added. The buildings are represented by massing models that are color-coded: marble buildings are pink, brick buildings are gray, and buildings under construction are yellow. She found that only a small proportion of the buildings in Augustan Rome were converted from brick to marble, and that they would have been difficult to see from ground level. “Given the literary descriptions and artwork, I thought these glittering marble temples on high would be very visible, but they were not,” she explained. She thinks that the movement of Carrara marble blocks from the northwest coast of Italy through the city probably caused congestion on the streets and created the illusion of a city of marble. “Because they saw construction taking place constantly, I believe people really did think that Rome had been transformed into marble. But in reality, the city did not greatly transform.” To read about how the construction of Rome's port fueled the empire's rise, see "Rome's Imperial Port."

James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

Proof of Heaven?

I am delighted to be part of the Patheos book club about Eben Alexander’s book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. It is an account of the author’s experience while in a coma. It may be appropriate to call it a “near death experience.” But that very term may introduce assumptions that deserve investigation. Mystics who were not in comas have claimed to have similar experiences. And so ought the experience be treated primarily in terms of how close to death or otherwise the one having the experience happens to have been?

The book has already been the subject of a great deal of publicity, which has brought skeptical claims and counter-claims into the discussion. I have no reason to doubt that Dr. Alexander’s description of his experience is true. And I, like everyone other than him, cannot verify his claims about his experience.

And so the interesting thing to discuss is the interpretation of his experiences.

I remember how adamantly I rejected the suggestion that my own “born again” experience might be “psychological.” Both the offering of that suggestion as a supposed criticism, and my rejection of it, reflect the mind-body dualism that many presuppose. And I think that Alexander presupposes it, when he speaks of his soul having journeyed elsewhere apart from his body. But it seems to me that his experience – which at times he expresses using terminology derived from Hinduism, such as Om – is every bit as compatible with other views, such as that reality itself is fundamentally consciousness. If everything is ultimately one – as many mystics as well as physicists claim – then that is also true of body, mind, and consciousness.

“Near death experiences” are unlikely to ever provide what skeptics will consider adequate proof of life after death. But for me the interesting thing is the experience. We exist in a universe in which people have such experiences, and that in itself is remarkable, more so than any particular account of the mechanisms at work or the layers of reality that might be fathomed. If Alexander’s experience had nothing to do with the function of his brain, then our current understanding of the relationship between brain and memory must be completely wrong. But this is why I have stopped bristling at the use of the term “psychological.” All experience is psychological. And so for me, even if the experience did not involve an immaterial soul leaving a material body, that doesn’t make it less striking or less worth considering. The intuition that, at its deepest level, reality is not matter but love is one that may sound like New Age nonsense. But does it sound that way because it genuinely makes no sense, or because we have become accustomed to try to reduce love to chemistry? If love is about relationship, then there are views of reality which are taken very seriously by philosophers and physicists, and which view relationships and events rather than “things” as the most fundamental.

A recent post on the blog Only A Game discussed the relationship of Process Thought to the “hard problem” of consciousness.  (See also my review of Keith Ward’s book More Than Matter.) Alexander’s book also discusses this “hard problem” which stems from taking the one thing that we can be sure of – consciousness – and making it a problem on the basis of an approach to the universe as “matter” which has proven very useful in describing and studying certain aspects of what exists, but does not necessarily get at the fundamental underlying nature of things.

In the end, I am not sure how to best interpret Dr. Alexander’s experience. I am definitely committed to being extremely cautious, since, if science may not have all the answers, that is not a justification for embracing “alternatives” uncritically. But I do think he is right to emphasize that it is a misguided approach to reality which regards human experience, including mystical experiences and including love, as things to be reduced to physical processes, rather than as clues to the meaning and nature of reality itself.

Alexander has created a website about his experiences and those of others who’ve had NDEs, which may be of interest.

Have blog readers had these kinds of experiences? I know that even skeptics and atheists have had experiences of things that are normally considered paranormal, and interpret them in different ways. To use a phrase from the book (p.146), do you give yourself permission to believe your own eyes and your own experiences? Or do you rule out the possibility that some experiences reflect reality, because of a worldview that you adhere to which rules out the possibility that such experiences are veridical? If the latter, does that stance make sense to you, given that the experience, and the deduction about the nature of the world, are all products of and then funneled through human consciousness? Do you believe that we should we trust some of our reasoning and experiences, but not others? If so, why?

I hope that readers interested in this topic will take a look at Alexander’s book, but that even those who’ve never read it will take this opportunity to discuss the broader topic of the nature of existence, experience, and knowledge.

The Archaeology News Network

Earliest known fossil of the genus Homo dates to 2.8 to 2.75 million years ago

The earliest known record of the genus Homo -- the human genus -- represented by a lower jaw with teeth, recently found in the Afar region of Ethiopia, dates to between 2.8 and 2.75 million years ago, according to an international team of geoscientists and anthropologists. They also dated other fossils to between 2.84 and 2.58 million years ago, which helped reconstruct the environment in which the individual lived. Close up images of...

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