Maia Atlantis: Ancient World Blogs

Tom Elliott (

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July 26, 2016

Archaeology Magazine

Palenque water tunnelMEXICO CITY, MEXICO—Underground anomalies detected in front of the steps at the Temple of Inscriptions at the Maya site of Palenque have led to the discovery of a water tunnel with a fitted stone cover. Archaeologist Arnoldo Gonzalez told the Associated Press that the same type of stone covering has been found inside the temple, in the floor of the tomb of K’inich Janaab Pakal, ruler of Palenque between A.D. 615 and 683. Researchers used a robot fitted with a camera to examine the small shaft, but no link to the tomb has been found so far. Researchers think the tomb and pyramid may have been built over a spring whose water, channeled through the tunnels, may have been intended to offer a path to the underworld for Pakal’s spirit. This idea is based upon an inscription found on a pair of stone ear plugs from in the grave. A similar water tunnel has been found at Teotihuacán. In both cases there was a water current present. There is this allegorical meaning for water…where the cycle of life begins and ends,” said Pedro Sanchez Nava, director of archaeology for the National Institute of Anthropology and History. To read in-depth about a Maya king, go to "Tomb of the Vulture Lord."


COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA—Chester DePratter of the University of South Carolina and Victor Thompson of the University of Georgia used ground-penetrating radar and magnetometers to look for the outlines of Fort San Marcos, constructed in 1577 by Pedro Menedez Marquez, the governor of La Florida. He built the fort on Parris Island at the site of the town of Santa Elena, which had been abandoned a year earlier due to an attack by Native Americans, with wood posts and planking carried to the island with warships. This first fort at the site was eventually replaced when the wood rotted, but the Spanish abandoned the site for Fort Augustine in 1587 due to threats from the English. “This work will allow us to tell the story of the land that would eventually become the United States. Santa Elena is an important part of this history that lends insight into how colonial powers in Europe vied for control over this corner of the New World,” Thompson told The Post and Courier. To read more about the Spanish colonial period in the Southeast, go to "Off the Grid: Mission San Luis."

Belgium Albert ILEUVEN, BELGIUM—Live Science reports that leaves collected at the death site of Belgium’s King Albert I more than 80 years ago are stained with his blood. The 58-year-old king reportedly died on February 17, 1934, while mountain climbing alone near the village of Marche-les-Dames. His body was found at the foot of a cliff that was soon visited by thousands of mourners, some of whom collected souvenirs. Conspiracy theorists claimed that the king had been murdered, and his body placed at the foot of the cliff after he was killed by a blow to the head. Scientists from the University of Leuven analyzed the blood on leaves supposedly collected at the site at the time, and compared the DNA with two of the king’s living relatives. “We found that the blood is indeed that of Albert I,” said forensic geneticist Maarten Larmuseau. The scientists say the results support the account that Albert I died in a fall. “The story that the dead body of the king has never been in March-les-Dames or was only placed there at night has now become very improbable,” he said. To read about a similar study, go to "French Revolution Forgeries." 

Peter Tompa (Cultural Property Observer)


Hacked emails have confirmed the suspicions of Senator Bernie Sanders' followers that the powers that be in the Democratic National Committee-- who are supposed to be neutral-- in fact sought to rig the system against him and his campaign.

Collectors, both here and in Germany, already know that feeling.  In the US, the State Department-- which is supposed to be neutral when it comes to deciding whether foreign requests meet the criteria in the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act-- has never rejected one. Even worse, when a last minute effort to engineer import restrictions on Cypriot coins was turned down by the State Department's own Cultural Property Advisory Committee, the State Department's Bureau of Educational Affairs imposed them anyway and then went so far as to mislead the public and Congress about CPAC's true recommendations.  That, of course, gave the State Department bureaucrats license to do the same with other coins from Bulgaria, China, Greece, and Italy, citing the Cyprus decision as "precedent."

The situation is even worse in Germany.  There almost 50,000 collectors and dealers made their valid concerns known about a draconian new law, but CDU Culture Minister Monika Grutters rammed it through anyway, cheered on only by a small group of mostly authoritarian cultural nationalist countries and the German Archaeological Institute, which is part of Germany's Foreign Ministry.  Again, the desires of connected insiders associated with the archaeological lobby and the bureaucracy seemed to take precedence over the concerns of ordinary people and small businesses.

Penn Museum Blog

Sunset over Gordion – Braden Cordivari

My favorite time of day at Gordion is from the late afternoon into the early evening, between 5:30 and 8 pm or so, when the sun is just starting to set and the whole valley begins to cool down. Everything is lit with a soft raking light, and if you’re lucky enough to be out on the mound, or determined enough to walk out, you can look back at the village and dig house illuminated on the ridge, just in line with the tumuli, the elite monumental burials of the former capital city of Phrygia.

Looking east at the dig house and the largest tumulus, MM, at Gordion in the early evening. Photo: Braden Cordivari Looking east at the dig house and the largest tumulus, MM, at Gordion in the early evening. Photo: Braden Cordivari

It’s 6:00 pm, and we’ve come out to look for some walls. This particular trench was dug several times, first in 1900 by the German brothers Alfred and Gustav Koerte—who rediscovered the site and identified it as Gordion (Koerte and Koerte 1904)—then continued in the 1950s by the Penn Museum’s Rodney Young and dug most recently in the mid-1990s by Mary Voigt of the College of William and Mary. It is due west of the two areas being excavated by the project’s current director, C. Brian Rose. The trench is a large area, 30 meters long at least, and at one time it displayed a deep diachronic picture of the mound’s occupation, showcasing levels from the 10th century BC through the 2nd century AD. Now it is mostly backfilled, the walls covered by the sieved dirt of more recent excavations. Each excavator has left behind plans and drawings that we can reference, yet the turn of time, and the dumping of wheelbarrows, has buried most of what was uncovered and our search is almost entirely in vain.


A view over the trench now mostly obscured by backfilled dirt from more recent excavations. Photo: Braden Cordivari

It’s not that disappointing, however, as we didn’t really expect anything else. Personally, I just wanted an excuse to go out to the mound in the evening and ride in the back of the truck, enjoying the view back towards the tumuli without the oppressive heat that comes during the rest of the day. We’ll stay out longer than we need to, exchanging showers in favor of the view and a cold drink, until we catch sight of a stork flying low overhead. They say storks are good luck for travelers, so we take what luck we can and make the drive back to the house.

A late afternoon storm over the mound to the southwest. Photo: Braden CordivariA late afternoon storm over the mound to the southwest. Photo: Braden Cordivari

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Remains of lost Spanish fort found on South Carolina coast

Archaeologists have found the location of a long-sought Spanish fort on the South Carolina coast...

Penn Museum Blog

Indigenous Literacies in Multilingual Times – Aldo Anzures Tapia

Maya is an Indigenous language with relatively high vitality in Mexico. Yet, recent language studies have noted that many native Maya speakers are shifting rapidly to Spanish. The University of Pennsylvania Cultural Heritage Center has established a partnership with the Caste War Museum in Tihosuco (a Maya community in Quintana Roo, Mexico) in order to explore this shift. This partnership, through the Tihosuco Heritage and Preservation Community Project, uses archaeology as a catalyst to foster conversations around tangible and intangible heritage, with language revitalization and maintenance at its core.

During the summer of 2015, in collaboration with the Caste War Museum, we created the first bilingual Maya and Spanish comic book. The aim of the comic book was to show that Yucatec Maya could do more than transmit traditional riddles and ancient tales (important though they are), but that it could also be used in novels, soap operas, rap, and comic books with our own and unique heroes. The book, written and drawn in collaboration between five authors, explored the life of Jacinto Pat, one of the main leaders in the Caste War.

Comic book cover- “Tihosuco and Jacinto Pat: The Amazing Life of the Caste War Leader” Photo Credit: Aldo Anzures Tapia “Tihosuco and Jacinto Pat: The Amazing Life of the Caste War Leader”
Photo Credit: Aldo Anzures Tapia

In 2015, we invited the Tihorappers, a local rap band, to talk with the cultural promoters and children in the museum about the uses of Yucatec Maya in the creation of bilingual songs. Their impact was huge and allowed us to push the project forward during the summer of 2015 and strengthen it for the summer of 2016.

MC Chama singing ki ́imak in wóol /I’m happy/Estoy content Video/Photo Credit: Aldo Anzures Tapia MC Chama singing ki ́imak in wóol /I’m happy/Estoy content
Photo Credit: Aldo Anzures Tapia

This summer, we decided to explore the life of Cecilio Chí, another important leader in the Caste War. Since May, we have written six versions of the comic book, working with the different meanings of words in Maya and Spanish, and trying to respect both languages, as well as the language ideologies behind the choice of words each author stands for. We find that we frequently rely on dictionaries to make decisions about which words make it into the final text, but we also realize that people create dictionaries with their own preferences and ideologies for grammar and spelling.

Norma (sitting besides me) and Bety in the main driving seat (literally) proofreading the second to last version of the comic book.I’m on the left. Norma (sitting beside me) and Bety (to the right) in the main driving seat (literally) proofreading the second-to-last version of the comic book. Photo Credit: Aldo Anzures Tapia

As in 2015, we also invited community members to help us reflect on our comic book and to ensure that it is not just an educational and linguistic tool, but is also academically sound. Mario Collí, a local historian and professor that studies the Caste War, came to the museum to answer some of the questions and concerns we had as we wrote the comic book.

Mario Collí and Bety talking about Cecilio Chí’s life. Photo Credit: Aldo Anzures Tapia Mario Collí and Bety talking about Cecilio Chí’s life.
Photo Credit: Aldo Anzures Tapia

The experience of collaboratively writing a bilingual comic book has been challenging. Finding the time to write and draw it, negotiating the meanings of words, as well as trying to respond to some of the literature about the history of the Caste War are just some of the aspects we discussed everyday. Of course, the blazing temperatures and extreme humidity are the cherries on the top of the project. Fortunately, the product is already in print and we can now share with you a preview of the second comic book, “A Hero to be known: Cecilio Chí, the Castes War Great Leader”. ENJOY!

A preview of the final version of Cecilio Chi’s comic book. Maya version is on the left side and Spanish on the right side. Photo Credit: Aldo Anzures Tapia A preview of the final version of Cecilio Chi’s comic book.
Maya version is on the left side and Spanish on the right side.
Photo Credit: Aldo Anzures Tapia

Contemplating the Void: Peopling the Past in Living History Museums – Lise Puyo

Every year the Penn Museum provides support to Penn undergraduates and graduate students as they deepen their understanding of the human experience outside the Museum’s walls. Follow these blog posts from our intrepid young scholars as they report on the sights and sites that they encounter throughout their travels in the field.

Report from the field by LISE PUYO.

With support from the Penn Museum and the Anthropology Department, I embarked on this season’s field research with the “Wampum Trail” project, pursuing the survey of museums and collections that the team began in 2014.[1] This year on the Wampum Trail, we traveled to several historic sites that are significant to both Indigenous and colonial nations in America. As we perused the displays at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts; the Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan in Victor, New York; the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Ledyard, Connecticut; and the Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center in Liverpool, New York, I was struck by the many strategies deployed to connect visitors with local histories.

Listening to a colonial interpreter in the recreated 17th century English village at Plimoth Plantation. Photo by Margaret Bruchac.Listening to a colonial interpreter in the recreated 17th century English village at the museum called Plimoth Plantation. Photo by Margaret Bruchac.

The Place where History Happened

During our visits, I was curious to see how the early colonial period was interpreted and memorialized in these sites. Coming from France, where many buildings from the 17th century have been preserved, I was expecting to see an emphasis on space, with strong narratives starting with: “this is the place where this event happened.” I soon realized that, due to troubled histories and perishable materials in these specific locales, few buildings or highly visible features of the past had been retained. How to memorialize a space when none of the original architecture remains?

The museums we visited go beyond mere roadside plaques, striving instead for a reconstitution of historically accurate, life-scale models of period buildings. Extensive research on earlier technologies addresses the obvious problem of the buildings’ authenticity. In the practice of historical reconstruction, every single detail necessitates questions and explanations. What tools are appropriate to use? What techniques? What materials? According to the museum and historic site personnel we met along the Wampum Trail, it is no longer enough to vaguely evoke the atmosphere of an era: to be fair to the public that came to learn about the past, each museum bears a responsibility to provide an image that is as close to the original as the current state of historical knowledge permits.

Ganondagan, New York, is the historic site of a Seneca community that was burned to the ground by a French expedition in 1687. Now the site is memorialized through the Seneca Art & Culture Center, comprising two contemporary structures: a museum building and a Seneca bark longhouse. The former reflects contemporary technologies and design, while the latter was erected using traditional Indigenous technologies with reinforcements to stabilize the building, ensuring that it will last for far more than the 15 or so years a longhouse would usually take to decay.

On the left, the sleek and cutting edge museum building at the Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan. On the right, the Seneca bark longhouse. Photo by Stephanie Mach.On the left, the sleek and cutting edge museum building at the Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan. On the right, the Seneca bark longhouse. Photo by Stephanie Mach.

Both structures entangle the past and present: the museum houses archaeological material from the site, displayed behind glass. The longhouse provides a sensory experience of a 17th-century Seneca household. Many objects similar to the ones on display in the museum gallery are reproduced in the longhouse to illustrate how they would have been utilized in context. This space supports the visitor’s imagination to connect all the objects on display in a coherent environment. I perceived this as an attempt to de-fetishize the museum display, where artifacts are methodically separated, classified and labeled in well-lit glass boxes. In the longhouse, these objects are re-inscribed in the context of daily life; all kinds of tools, trade goods, pots, furs, snowshoes, and weapons intermingle, as if they had just been set down by a Seneca family. This reconstructed space does not fixate on the 1687 raid, but rather commemorates the balanced lifestyle that existed before. It allows visitors to reflect upon Native social organization through the senses and affects, after learning about it on a dispassionate level in the museum gallery.

At Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, there seem to be two streams of remembrance running side by side. The Wampanoag program at Hobbamock’s Homesite also features traditional Indigenous architecture. Wampanoag interpreters wearing 17th-century clothing spend their days around the bark and sapling wigwams (wetus) in a small homesite by the Eel River, demonstrating Native horticulture, cooking, and technologies (weaving nets, burning dugout canoes, building homes, etc.).

Native interpreters farming on the Wampanoag side of the Plimoth Plantation. Photo by Margaret Bruchac.Native interpreters tending corn on the Wampanoag side of the Plimoth Plantation. Photo by Margaret Bruchac.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the hill, lies a much larger colonial settler village with wooden plank houses, barns, livestock, and gardens, where similar activities are performed by Euro-American interpreters in 1620s garments. It seems like the strategy here is to recreate a sense of space secluded from contemporary Plymouth, using the same landscape where the encounter between English colonists and Wampanoag people took place to immerse the visitor in a different time. The path to the Wampanoag Homesite meanders through thick vegetation, where large stones provide a place to sit and reflect on this journey through time. The colonial site is marked off both spatially and temporally by a series of fences. To reach this site, one must descend a long, straight path overlooking the village—an approach that is perhaps conceived to build the visitor’s anticipation. Here, the memorial space is treated more like a theatrical stage where perhaps the most educational aspect of the main attraction resides in the interpreters’ performance rather than in the space itself.

Tourists approach the English village site at Plimoth Plantation. Photo by Margaret Bruchac.Tourists approach the English village site at Plimoth Plantation. Photo by Margaret Bruchac.

Hearing Voices

I have always thought of interpretation as the voices of the present speaking about the past. The colonial side of Plimoth Plantation, however, attempts to cultivate the experience of the past reaching out to talk to you. Visitors are expected to learn through an immersive experience in the 1620s, listening to interpreters speaking from the perspective of their characters, as “Pilgrims” living on the plantation. Each individual has a developed and detailed backstory and biography, and the interpreters like to talk about the relationships among the characters on the plantation. The idea is that the 1620s are talking to you in the first person.

To me, this approach felt extremely exotic and unsettling, going against the sort of historical commemorations to which I am accustomed. In France, a suitable portion of original architecture, furniture, and other memorabilia is retained and, in most cases, the stones have seen the people from the past, the stairs have slouched where their feet used to step (see, for example, the photo taken at the royal Château de Chambord at Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, in France). People left behind tangible proof of their bygone presence; it is a powerful feeling to notice these traces and to build on them to reflect on the past. Those people are gone, and in their place, now, there is a deafening silence that you, as a visitor, have to bridge and to contemplate.

Slouched stairs at Chambord. Photo by Jean Puyo.Slouched stairs at Chambord. Photo by Jean Puyo.

This spectacle is profound and grave. This immense void can be filled with what you already know or project onto history. Being able to feel the absence of the people who used to occupy this space suggests that you already know who they were and what they were doing there, as you can see what they left behind, like shells on the shore. This experience entails an intimate, personal construction of the past, and the solemnity of the space encourages proceeding with respect and humility. This silence can be crushing, overwhelming. It is part of what people look for when they visit Versailles or the monumental cathedrals of my home country. Perhaps that reverence towards a silent past is also something that surreptitiously came from religious architecture. In a Catholic mindset, the Holy Ghost is in the cathedral, but you will not connect with it unless you find it within yourself. The monumental architecture, the silence of the churches, the overwhelming beauty and gravitas that surrounds you…all was conceived and constructed to elicit this emotional encounter. This kind of experience is very similar to museum practices and the memorial relationship to historic sites in France. When any interpretation occurs, it is always from a contemporary perspective, a voice talking about the past, sometimes even talking to the past, but only getting silence in return.

This might explain why I felt uneasy on the colonial side of Plimoth Plantation. I felt there was a pretended past that thought it could talk to me and give me unsolicited information about itself. I came to contemplate a space of void and silence; instead I heard forced accents and theatrical stories of tenants working for their landlords or husbands transporting dried flowers because their wives told them to. Interestingly, I heard little to nothing about the Native people whose assistance made the English inhabitation of Plimoth possible.

Curated Voids

At Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center in Liverpool, New York, the installation is interestingly comparable to Ganondagan. It features a contemporary building in design and construction, housing a newly renovated cultural and historical center presenting an Onondaga perspective on the creation of the world, traditional lifestyles, colonization, and residential schools. Through video installations and interactive screens, it tackles concepts such as sovereignty and cultural recovery. The center is located on the lands where the French Jesuits settled the mission of Sainte-Marie de Gannentaha in the 17th century.

In the 20th century, the State of New York built an historical reconstruction of a few buildings evoking the original mission village. When the Skä•noñh Center moved into the site, they decided to keep the reconstructed mission intact. This site is somewhat separated from the rest of the exhibit, but presented—to my mind at least—in a very dramatic way. To reach this life-size reconstruction, the visitor must walk through a corridor displaying texts and documents introducing the history and motivations for this mission. Those labels present the entanglement between the Catholic faith and France’s colonial strategy in North America. The corridor leads to a path outside, leaving the exhibition building to walk towards a palisade enclosing three wooden houses.

The reconstructed mission of Sainte-Marie de Gannentaha at the Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center. Photo by Lise Puyo.The reconstructed mission of Sainte-Marie de Gannentaha at the Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center. Photo by Lise Puyo.

Perhaps it was the fact that my advisor and I were the last visitors, or that it was getting close to sunset, or that the tall wildflowers conveyed a sense of abandonment, but I was struck by the deafening silence around the foreboding cross. The echoes of a complex and painful past were emanating from the vacant church building. Perhaps it moved me because I have read the Jesuit Relations[2] with their countless reports of deaths and cultural misunderstandings; because I know about the “Black Robes” and their obsession with pain and power; because I have listened to moving stories of love, friendship, and conversion in deeply troubled times. It was such a solemn space that my advisor and I felt compelled to whisper although we were the only ones there, surrounded by the austere appearance of a wooden chapel with the ominous IHS[3] engraved on the wide doors behind the tall, stark cross.

It was such a sharp and surprising contrast with the Jesuit architecture I had previously experienced. We were miles away from the extravagant wealth of the Saint Paul church in Paris (an example of what a preserved 17th-century Jesuit church could look like), and this wooden chapel evoked the terrifying determination of the missionaries at the other end of the world. Previous knowledge allowed me to fill the void with all the complexity: the good, the bad, and the ugly of these cultural encounters. The labels and cardboard figures on the mission site felt antiquated, standing in contrast with the rest of the center presenting an Onondaga perspective. The chilling heritage of the relations between missionaries and Indigenous people is not an easy topic to cover, and was largely avoided by those labels. Despite that, the reconstructed Sainte-Marie mission is a very effective device to address this painful memory. The feeling of an abandoned place produced the same sense of void and silence that brings you to contemplate history on a highly emotional level.

Perhaps it was merely accidental that we saw those buildings with no animation or reenactment of any kind, but it left sufficient space and silence to think about history. The Sainte-Marie mission felt like a curated void: a contemplative pause that enables one to reflect upon the past, before focusing on contemporary Onondaga people, their survival, and recovery.

The Politics of Peopling the Past

On the Wampanoag side of Plimoth Plantation, interpreters’ explanations were anchored in the present: they performed in historical garb but not in character. They would talk about their ancestors without acting like visitors from the past. This approach can be an effective means of challenging visitors’ stereotypes. Too often, Native Americans are denied what Johannes Fabian calls “coevalness,” the ability to share a present with Europeans.[4] Speaking from a 17th-century perspective could convey the idea that Indigenous peoples are stuck in the past and cannot exist in modern times.

Yet, at the same time, Indigenous peoples have had to struggle against the exact stereotype that they have no connection to the past: that their cultures were irretrievably lost and that they are no longer distinct from mainstream American society. This assimilationist narrative goes hand in hand with the first one, as both suggest that the “authentic Native” lives in the past. At living history museums, it seems that interpreters must perform a complex dance to address and challenge these troubling and false views.[5]

At the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, we visited a 17th-century encampment featuring reenactors demonstrating crafts and traditional games. For the Indigenous performers, who were speaking from their personal, contemporary point of view, donning the clothes of their ancestors in this venue was a way to demonstrate that traditional technologies had not been lost. Being able to put together such an outfit and paraphernalia reflects a phenomenal knowledge of one’s own culture, history, and technologies. These reenactors educate the public and work to change mainstream representations through their performance and productions, embodying cultural continuity. But they were not stuck in the past; the same individuals who could drill shell with a 17th-century bow drill could make contemporary wampum jewelry using electric drills and metal finishing tools.

Caption: Dioramas inside, and living history outside, at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. Photo by Lise Puyo.Dioramas inside, and living history outside, at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. Photo by Lise Puyo.

Looking at the transition from the sculptures inside the Mashantucket Pequot Museum to the living history camp outside, I came to realize that, once again, the commemorative approach of this site was profoundly different from the way the past is memorialized in French museums and historic sites. In the museum installations, very realistic sculpted bodies, with silky hair, expressive faces, and reconstructed period garb engage in a cordial exchange. In one scene, a woman receives a goose for cooking; in another, men gather to exchange wampum and beaver furs. The clothing, whether worn by reenactors or sculpted models, is inhabited.

When historical garments are exhibited in France, they are usually displayed floating in the void, as empty shells left behind by the person who used to wear them. This is the topic of an entire exhibition at Palais Galliera Museum, displaying significant garments worn by both famous and anonymous individuals. The setting features faceless mannequins and abstract silhouettes. In most French museums, there seems to be almost a disdain for straightforward, explicit attempts to reconstruct or give faces to the people of the past. Period rooms are extremely common, but dioramas remain rare. With this background, the Pequot Museum made me wonder: why insist so much on peopling the past by adding faces where I’ve always thought it was more powerful to show an absence?

The pervasive stereotype of Native American extinction and disappearance perhaps starts to explain why the signs of presence are multiplied throughout the galleries. The Mashantucket Pequot Museum displays are reclaiming a space that was taken away. The exhibitions put the emphasis on a continuous presence to counter narratives of the “vanishing Native.” Those sculptures are a contemporary take on the past, using the faces of contemporary individuals, entangling past and present in complex ways. These dioramas (a long contested form of display) no longer feel like an avatar of human taxidermy, fixing living peoples in stereotypes, but rather like an attempt to take back one’s own representation, proving strong links to the past.

The impressive Caribou hunt scene, for example, features dozens of human and animal figures engaged in a highly collaborative, significant and vital activity. The Pequot Village is such a large installation, with so many activities depicted with minute details, that it would require a whole afternoon (or more) to fully explore it. These monumental sculptures memorialize perhaps idealized notions, but they display cohesive and complex communities, and convey Indigenous rather than colonial ideals. This curatorial choice addresses stereotypes by reclaiming bodies and faces that were previously visible only as colonized. It also prevents visitors from filling the void with inaccurate or harmful preconceived notions. Strategies that felt somewhat forced on the colonial side of Plimoth somehow made more sense in an Indigenous museum, when envisioned as a political gesture—a reminder of the importance of examining who is issuing these representations and why.

Listening to Talia, an interpreter on the Wampanoag side of Plimoth Plantation. Photo by Margaret Bruchac.Listening to an interpreter on the Wampanoag side of Plimoth Plantation. Photo by Margaret Bruchac.

In the process of visiting these museums, I came to understand that my own preference to engage with the past on an emotional level was shaped by a dominating society. “Contemplating the void” is what it feels like, but this void is not truly empty. It is filled with acquired knowledge and inherited pride (or shame) transmitted via a sense of kinship and learned strategies to notice and appreciate the traces of past grandeur. The continuous, unchallenged presence of European peoples in the sites they had long inhabited had enabled me to relish this sense of absence. My initial reluctance towards living history museums came from the idea that they would try to bring me into a fiction that would be less powerful than the one I had created in my mind. I realized that some narratives bear a message that is more potent than my fancy for “contemplating the void.” My experiences in these museums taught me that some voids need to be filled with more accurate, more respectful, and more complex representations, in spaces where Indigenous voices have been removed for too long. Some pasts need a stronger presence than others.


[1] For previous reports from the Wampum Trail team, see “Wampum Research: Notes From the Trail 2014-2015.” Each museum has unique protocols regarding the care of its wampum collections (see Stephanie Mach’s insights), as well as a specific philosophy for displaying Native American history and cultural materials. Also see the Wampum Trail Research Blog and Wampum Trail Facebook page for reports on research discoveries and travels.

[2] The Jesuit Relations are a collection of letters sent from the missions in North America to French ecclesiastical authorities and patrons. They count as one of the most precious collections of ethnographic documents from the 17th and 18th centuries, although the biases they convey can sometimes make them problematic to use at face-value. See Reuben Gold Thwaites, ed. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France 1610—1791. Cleveland, OH: The Burrows Brothers Company.

[3] The letters IHS, as used by the Jesuit missionaries, reflect the first three letters of the name of Jesus spelled in Latin: IHSOUS (or ΙΗΣΟΥΣ in Greek), pronounced iēsous. These letters appeared on Jesuit churches in New France and on copper rings given out to Native American converts to mark their adoption of the Catholic faith (which often required renouncing their Indigenous beliefs).

[4] Fabian, Johannes. 1983. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press.

[5] For more information on these challenges, and the strategies devised for the Wampanoag Indigenous Program at Plimoth Plantation, see the writings of former WIP Associate Director Linda Coombs, “Holistic History: Including the Wampanoag in an Exhibit at Plimoth Plantation,” originally published in Plimoth Life 1(2) 2002:12-15, and recently reprinted in Siobhan Senier, ed. 2014. Dawnland Voices: An Anthology of Indigenous Writing from New England. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Thibaut Castelli (Spartokos a Lu)

Atlas des établissements scythes tardifs des contreforts de la Crimée

Smekalova T.N., Koltuhov S.G., Zajcev Ju.P. (2015) :  Атлас позднескифских городищ Предгорного Крыма / Atlas pozdneskifskikh gorodishch Predgornogo Kryma, Saint-Pétersbourg  [Atlas des établissements scythes tardifs des contreforts de la Crimée] Cet atlas présente une cinquantaine d’établissements fortifiés de du sud-est de la Crimée. … Lire la suite

Penn Museum Blog

Digging Deeper at Gordion

When it comes to the Citadel Mound at Gordion—the primary focus of the Gordion Archaeological Project’s work this year—one thing is quite clear, even to a newcomer such as myself: this is a very large site. As I mentioned before, it measures 450 x 300 meters, which equals roughly the size of 19 American football fields. It’s also 15 meters high, the result of at least nine individual layers of human habitation, one built on top of the next, over a period of nearly 4,000 years. Those numbers came into much clearer focus once I was on the ground, and began to gain a better understanding of the depth and breadth of the various assignments that are underway throughout the Citadel Mound, and even beyond.

A wide view of the Citadel Mound at Gordion, with cars along the road for scale.A wide view of the Citadel Mound at Gordion, with cars along the road for scale.

With some time to myself onsite, I was able to wander around and understand the layout of some of the elements of the site that have been illuminated through excavations in years past. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Gordion Archaeological Project was directed by Dr. Rodney Young, Curator of the Mediterranean Section at the Penn Museum from 1950 until his death in 1974.

Dr. Rodney Young, the original Director of the Gordion Archaeological Project. Photo courtesy of the Gordion Archive.Dr. Rodney Young, the original Director of the Gordion Archaeological Project. Photo courtesy of the Gordion Archive.

During those excavations, he identified two principal Early Phrygian districts on the eastern side of the mound; one district comprised several megarons—rectangular buildings with large, deep halls behind shallow anterooms, which were used by the city’s elite, probably for administration; the other district, to the west, featured terrace buildings in which food preparation and textile production occurred.

The remnants of one of the megaron buildings at Gordion.The remnants of one of the megaron buildings at Gordion.
Foundations from the terrace buildings at the site.Foundations from the terrace buildings at the site.

In speaking with Brian Rose, the current project director, he mentioned an issue that had been raised by Dr. Charles Williams, an archaeologist who excavated here with Rodney Young in the 1950s and 1960s and who is a tremendous benefactor and source of wisdom and guidance to the project today. The issue: Where did the early Phrygian rulers live?

Seeking the answer to this important question, the project is currently excavating a trench on the western side of the mound, which has not yet been extensively investigated, and where the remnants of residences may well be hiding beneath the surface. The trench is eight meters deep, and has exposed artifacts left over from numerous settlements—from the Selcuk period in the 13th/14th centuries CE, back through the Roman period, the Hellenistic period, and into the Late Phrygian or Persian period, from roughly 540 to 333 BCE. As the team digs deeper, they will eventually reach the settlement layer of the Early Phrygian period (900 to 800 BCE)—the remnants of which may confirm or contradict the theory that this could have been a center of residency for those Early Phrygian elites.

A view of the excavation trench on the western side of the Citadel Mound.A view of the excavation trench on the western side of the Citadel Mound.
Sarah Leppard, who is supervising the western trench, gives instructions to Işık Abaci (Istanbul University) and Braden Cordivari (University of Pennsylvania).Sarah Leppard, who is supervising the western trench, gives instructions to Işık Abaci (Istanbul University) and Braden Cordivari (University of Pennsylvania).
A camel jawbone protrudes from the trench wall.A camel jawbone protrudes from the trench wall.

On the southern side of the mound, a separate trench is in its fourth year of excavation, with the intention of exploring another gateway leading into the city, independent of the monumental gateway on the eastern side of the Mound. This had been identified before any digging began in this area, thanks to the modern miracle of remote sensing, a non-intrusive scanning technique that we’ll discuss in greater detail in an upcoming blogpost. The excavation here has exposed the monumental walls of this secondary city gate, which was initially built in the 9th century BCE; it has also revealed a pebbled surface that would have been used as a street leading into this gateway.

On the southern side of the mound, a separate trench is in its fourth year of excavation, with the intention of exploring another gateway leading into the city, independent of the monumental gateway on the eastern side of the Mound. This had been identified before any digging began in this area, thanks to the modern miracle of remote sensing, a non-intrusive scanning technique that we’ll discuss in greater detail in an upcoming blogpost. The excavation here has exposed the monumental walls of this secondary city gate, which was initially built in the 9th century BCE; it has also revealed a pebbled surface that would have been used as a street leading into this gateway.The excavation trench on the southern side of the Citadel Mound.
Local workmen help to clear the trench.Local workmen help to clear the trench.
Simon Greenslade, supervising the trench excavation, gives an update to Project Director Brian Rose and Deputy Director Ayşe Gürzan-Salzmann.Simon Greenslade, supervising the trench excavation, gives an update to Project Director Brian Rose and Deputy Director Ayşe Gürzan-Salzmann.

My travels around the site led me at one point to an area that Rodney Young named the Mosaic Building, where an administrative building with mosaic floors once stood—an administrative building used by the Persians, dating to the 5th century BCE.  Here, Beth Dusinberre (of the University of Colorado—Boulder) was busy with a different kind of work, creating a hand-drawn illustration of a column base associated with the Mosaic House. Being a guy with a camera always in hand, I asked her, what are the advantages of an illustration over a photograph? Her response:

“What you see in a photo depends to some extent on the lighting, and what you’re able to show in a drawing is what you can see looking at something from all angles and with measurements. So you can show the meaningful parts, even if they don’t show up in a photograph, and make sure that they really are the obvious part of any drawing—so that they are visible to the non-expert eye, whereas something in a photograph may be visible only to an expert eye.”

Beth sizes up her subject…Beth sizes up her subject…
…before putting pencil to paper.…before putting pencil to paper.

A site with as rich a history as this deserves to be lauded to the public. Such is the case at Gordion, where the Gordion Museum was established in 1963 and stands at the foot of Tumulus MM, the largest burial mound and the final resting place of a man believed to be King Midas’s father. The galleries feature artifacts created at Gordion during nearly every period of habitation at the site, extending as far back as the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BCE). Their impressive collections include several objects that are currently on loan to the Penn Museum, on display in our special exhibition, The Golden Age of King Midas. I visited the Gordion Museum early in the day and had the place to myself, and naturally, took plenty of photos.

The front gallery of the Gordion Museum.The front gallery of the Gordion Museum.
A model of the tomb chamber inside Tumulus MM, with a cranial reconstruction of the man found inside (which also appears in the Penn Museum’s King Midas exhibition).A model of the tomb chamber inside Tumulus MM, with a cranial reconstruction of the man found inside (which also appears in the Penn Museum’s King Midas exhibition).
Certain objects usually on display here are currently on loan to the Penn Museum.Certain objects usually on display here are currently on loan to the Penn Museum.
Items on display that could have been used in one of the Terrace Buildings.Items on display that could have been used in one of the Terrace Buildings.

Next to the museum, I found a somewhat familiar scene. Under a protective canopy lies a colored mosaic floor, originally discovered in Megaron 2 on the Citadel Mound in 1956. It dates to the 9th century BCE, making it the oldest known colored mosaic pavement in the world. One particular section of the floor was missing, with a scale photograph in its place; this is also on loan to the Penn Museum, on display in our King Midas exhibition—the first time that a portion of the mosaic has ever left Gordion.

A wide view of the Megaron 2 pebble mosaic.A wide view of the Megaron 2 pebble mosaic.
A photo (shown at upper left) takes the place of the section on loan to the Penn Museum.A photo (shown at upper left) takes the place of the section on loan to the Penn Museum.
Signage informs visitors about the ongoing conservation of the mosaic.Signage informs visitors about the ongoing conservation of the mosaic.

Beyond it, the grounds of the Gordion Museum also include a Roman mosaic from the 3rd century CE, discovered in the nearby village of Kayabaşı and brought here in 1999; additionally, visitors can see a Galatian tomb which was plundered in 1954, exposing it to potential destruction, before the Turkish Ministry of Culture intervened and found it a permanent home here in Gordion.

The 3rd-century CE Roman mosaic in the garden at the museum.The 3rd-century CE Roman mosaic in the garden at the museum.
The reconstructed Galatian tomb on the grounds.The reconstructed Galatian tomb on the grounds.

I was back on the grounds the following morning with Naomi Miller, a Consulting Scholar at the Penn Museum and an archaeobotanist who began working on the Gordion project in 1988. Naomi and I were following a nature tour that she developed, focusing on the area near the museum, and a nearby burial mound known as Tumulus P. A rundown of the tour is available here.

On a nature walk with Naomi.On a nature walk with Naomi.
Naomi shows the sign marking the demonstration garden at the museum.Naomi shows the sign marking the demonstration garden at the museum.

I shot a video of our tour, which I hope to have available for public viewing after I return home to a faster wifi connection. For now, look forward to that, and more updates from my time at Gordion, coming soon.

To learn more about the site of Gordion and the Gordion Archaeological Project, visit The Golden Age of King Midas at the Penn Museum, on view through November 27, 2016.

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Archeomatica: Tecnologie per i Beni Culturali

Barberino Val d'Elsa, droni e georadar per riscoprire la città fantasma


Il Comune di Barberino Val d'Elsa annuncia la riapertura, dopo 40 anni, delle indagini sul mito di Semifonte. Gli archeologi descrivono i contenuti del progetto che si avvarrà dell'uso combinato di strumentazioni sofisticate e innovative riunite sotto il nome di "Archeomatica" così come la nostra rivista.
La disciplina dell'applicazione delle tecnologie per la documentazione, conservazione e valorizzazione del patrimonio culturale si diffonde sempre di più.
Si riporta il testo completo del comunicato.

Dalla città invisibile al mito. E dal mito alla rinascita contemporanea, all'avvio di una nuova stagione di studi, valorizzazione, riscoperta e ricerca storica dell'area di Semifonte, uno dei luoghi simbolo della cultura medievale toscana. Sono trascorsi quasi mille anni da quando gli abitanti dell'antica città, situata nel territorio di confine tra Firenze e Siena, declamavano in tono canzonatorio “Firenze fatti in là che Semifon divien città”. Fu la graduale crescita di una potenza commerciale che minacciava di infragilire i giganti della politica feudale a creare un mito, ancora prima di essere devastato, una città che per la sua solidità urbana ed economica non tardò a cadere sotto assedio con un inganno e lasciarsi radere al suolo nel 1202.

Ma se i fiorentini otto secoli fa provarono a cancellarla dalla faccia della terra, nonostante la costruzione nel 1577 della Cupola di Semifonte ad opera di Santi di Tito, oggi quella stessa amata e odiata terra dei vinti proverà a raccontare qualcosa di nuovo della propria segreta storia. E lo farà attraverso l'archeomatica e l'archeologia leggera e territoriale, un'attività non tradizionale né invasiva, che si avvarrà dell'uso combinato di strumentazioni sofisticate e innovative quali piccoli droni e georadar per diagnosticare l'identità di un mito che da tempo attende di essere svelato.

A 40 anni di distanza dall’ultimo studio archeologico, si tornerà ad indagare sulla città di Semifonte. Il progetto è promosso dall’Unione comunale del Chianti Fiorentino, dal Comune di Certaldo, dal Consiglio regionale della Toscana e dall’Università di Firenze ed è stato presentato alla Cupola di San Michele Arcangelo a Semifonte nel corso della conferenza “Semifonte in Valdelsa: Città degli Alberti. Storia Archeologica di un Mito Medievale. Le Terre dei Vinti”. Per il Presidente dell'Unione comunale Giacomo Trentanovi si tratta di un “momento storico per la valorizzazione di un territorio che necessita di una forma estesa di rete e cooperazione con le istituzioni, i soggetti privati e la comunità territoriale, un progetto per il quale si stanno reperendo i fondi necessari e che, una volta acquisite le risorse, potrà partire dal prossimo anno”. A descrivere i contenuti del progetto Guido Vannini, direttore della Scuola di Specializzazione in Archeologia, Andrea Vanni Desideri, Università degli Studi di Firenze e Silvia Leporatti dell'Università di Firenze.

Il progetto è promosso dall’Unione comunale del Chianti Fiorentino, dal Comune di Certaldo, dal Consiglio regionale della Toscana e dall’Università di Firenze


James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

Religion and Tampering with Nature

IO9 just posted a piece about transhumanism and fear of “tampering with nature” in the form of gene editing, brain chips, and other such technologies. What I found most interesting, not surprisingly, was the information about how more devout religious people’s views tend to differ from those of others. Here are the statistics: I suspect [Read More...]

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Israel to display ancient mummy with modern-day afflictions

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

A curious bibliography: Angelo Uggeri and his “Journées pittoresques”, “Ichnografia”, “Icnografia degli Edifizj” etc

The most accessible early account, of the discovery of an ancient house in the grounds of the Villa Negroni in Rome, is by Camillo Massimo in 1836.  But for his source, Massimo refers to a mysterious volume which is online, but nearly impossible to find.

Massimo writes:

Una esatta descrizione di quattro delle suddette Camere, coi colori di tutt’ i loro ornamenti , e cen i menomi lor dettagli minutamente indicati si trova inserita nel 3. Volume dell’ Icnografia degli Edifizi di Roma antica, pag. 55. e aeg. opera dell’ Abb. Uggeri, il quale nelle Tavole XIV . XV , XVl, e XVII, diede pure le incisioni a contorno delle Pitture di quelle quattro Stanze; e nel Volume II. Tav. XXIV. fig, 1, riprodusse in piccolo la pianta dell’ intero Palazzina con le sue dimensioni, e con l‘ indice delle pitture in esso rimanenti, la descrizione delle quali si  trova anche nel citato Manifesto stampato in quell’occasione in un foglietto volante divenuto assai raro, e nella seconda Edizione della Roma antica di Ridolfino Venuti coll’ aggiunte di Stefano Piale Par. 1. cap. V, pag. 125.

Search as you will: you will not locate this volume.  You may think “icnografia” is an odd word, and make it “iconografia” but you will be no further forward.  As I remarked a couple of days ago, Lanciani quotes the title as “Iconografia degli Edifizi di Roma antica“, but this too does not help.

After a great deal of searching into the night, I have finally solved the mystery.

It seems that Angelo Uggeri was, to be frank, a complete idiot.  He self-published his works.  And he decided that giving them title pages was unnecessary.  Yes, that’s right.  You can find a volume online, and look through it, and still have no idea what the thing is titled.  Sometimes he shyly had a page which indicated his authorship – in a cursive, hard-to-read handwriting, not printed.

The volumes that I have found, all of them, belong to a series:

Journées pittoresques des édifices de Rome ancienne / Giornate pittoresche degli edifizi antiche de circondari di Roma

The text in these is in two columns, one French, one Italian.  A search for “Journées pittoresques” will return results.  But Uggeri’s maddening habit of leaving out titles means that you will not be that sure of what you have found.  A search in the French National Library site, Gallica, will return only three titles.

Curiously it was the Europeana portal that saved me.  This search gives a list of 10 volumes, all at the BNF, with no distinction of volume number or title.  They all have the same cover.  Many have the same endpapers.  You actually have to look through them to find out what’s in there.

But, blessedly, pasted onto the endpapers of one, I found this slip:


There are two series, each with volume numbers.  In fact some of the “volumes” are also divided into two, one containing the plates, and the other with the text.  I had to download almost the entire collection to find what I wanted.  For my own sanity, and yours if you pass this way, here are the volumes that you need for the Villa Negroni.  I give the link to the BNF for the volume, and attach a PDF of the relevant pages.

The scans are not very high resolution, it must be said.  The volume 2 floor plan is too small to read the scale, for instance.  Let us hope that a German library like Arachne scan some volumes.

From all this we learn that the actual title of volume 2, insofar as there was one, was “Ichnografia”! But I suggest we always refer to Journées pittoresques and specify the series, Rome.

The other two sources given by Massimo deserve a mention, while we are discussing bibliographical mazes.

The “manifesto” is actually a printed flyer, by Camillo Buti, proposing the publication of the frescoes of the house, and including a couple of samples, and a floor plan.  This is the very earliest account.  It is indeed extremely rare, and, as far as I can tell, not online.  But I learn from an article by H. Joyce[1] that “Copies of the Buti Manifesto are in the British Library, Department of Manuscripts, Add. Ms 35378, fols. 316-17, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Paintings, Tatham Album, p. D. 1479 – ’98. /2”.  Doubtless other copies are around.

The “Roma antica of Ridolfino Venuti with the additions of Stefano Piale” is another vague title.  Volume 2 of the first edition is here at Arachne.  The actual title is “Accurata, e succinta descrizione topografica delle antichità di Roma”, printed in 1763 – too early.  Volume 1 of the third edition (1824) of the Stefano Piale re-edition is at Google Books here; volume 2 here.  The text referred to is in vol.1, chapter 5, p.169 f.  But it contains nothing of special interest.  (Update: 2nd ed., 1803, vol.1, p.125 is here).

One final item is mentioned by Joyce.  It too is not online, and indeed sounds very inaccessible:

The architect Camillo Buti was quickly called in to make a plan of the house. Buti published the plan in 1778, along with a brief description of the rooms, in his Manifesto announcing the publication of the first two in a series of engravings of the house’s paintings.(5) An early annotated version of the plan drawn by someone present in the early stages of the excavation (the excavation is shown and described as incomplete) is now in the Townley collection of “Drawings from Various Antiquities” in the British Museum.(6)

6.  Although the Townley plan is incomplete, it includes information about the house’s decoration not given in any published source. I am grateful to Donald Bailey of the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities for locating this drawing and supplying me with a copy.

The invaluable Joyce article – which I obtained today – makes plain that the Townley plan is of the highest importance.  It alone tells us, for instance, that the entrance door to the villa had a window above the door.  The “blank wall” facing the door in fact had three niches for statues in it – “Ingresso principale nella casa dipinto con Architetture e nichie di relievo dipinte dentro.”  And so on.

Fortunately the Townley papers are in the British Museum, and a Google search shows that the museum has a research project to catalogue them and place them online.  Well done, the British Museum.

UPDATE: The etchings published in 1778 by Camillo Buti are actually online at Aradne here: A. Campanella, Pitture antiche della Villa Negroni, 1778.  The monochrome etchings look far more Roman than the coloured versions.

  1. [1] H. Joyce, “The Ancient Frescoes from the Villa Negroni and Their Influence in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”, The Art Bulletin 65 (1983), 423-440. JSTOR.

I brought this back from Italy, my boy! – paintings from the Villa Negroni

Last weekend I visited Ickworth House in Suffolk, the family home of the Marquess of Bristol.  An earlier Lord Bristol travelled to Italy on the Grand Tour, and brought back with him a taste for Italian architecture: and the curious structure of the house reflects this.  There is a huge central rotunda, with the entrance, family rooms, servants quarters and bedrooms, with two much smaller wings.  One of the latter was never finished, indeed.

Ickworth House. A view of the rotunda from the garden.

Ickworth House. A view of the rotunda from the garden.

The property is now in the hands of the National Trust, and I can recommend the baked potatoes in their café.

But while touring the house, I discovered the “Pompeian room”. This has nothing to do with Pompeii, but rather with a curious discovery in Rome in 1777, in the area where Termini, the train station, now stands.

In 1777 that area was part of a large farm within the walls, running from the Baths of Diocletian for two miles, to the city walls.  The farm was then known as the Villa Negroni, as it was the property of Cardinal Negroni.  Originally the farm was known as the Villa Peretti, or Villa Montalto, after the family names of Pope Sixtus V, who had bought the land while still a cardinal.  Later still it was to be known as the Villa Massimo, after yet another owner, before the railway station was built in the 1860s.  There were two houses on the land, the main one facing the Baths of Diocletian.

In 1777 Lord Bristol was in Rome.  In the summer of that year, there was a remarkable discovery at the Villa Negroni.  The remains of an ancient house were uncovered, dating to the Antonine period, with rich painted wall decorations.  His Lordship went to view them, and was so impressed that he purchased the frescoes from the walls, ordering his agent to ship them to his house in Ireland.

The artwork excited great admiration.  A then famous artist was commissioned to make copies of the paintings, to ensure preservation, and a volume of 8 plates was produced.  Here are a couple of the plates:



Lord Bristol was unfortunate.  The frescoes never arrived.  In fact they were not seen again.  All that he got was a set of engravings, made a year later in 1778.  A century later, at Ickworth, a later Marquess ordered that a room should be created in which they could be displayed; and, in the absence of the originals, that copies should be painted from the printed versions.

It was these, then, that made up the Pompeian room at Ickworth; and a set of the prints, at about A2 size, was visible in a corner.

I had never heard of these paintings, and I doubt that I am alone.  So in the next couple of posts, let’s see what we can discover about this discovery, and the pictures that so impressed contempories.

Persepolis Fortification Archive Project

Persepolis Tablets in the News

Beginning January 1, 2007, the blog will have another page covering Persepolis in the News, but not related to the Persepolis Fortification Archive. The latter will continue to be listed here

Newest articles at the top: 

Ancient Treasures Shouldn't Be Compensation for Terror Victims

A federal appeals court has ruled that terrorism victims can’t seize priceless Iranian artifacts held by the University of Chicago in fulfillment of a judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is a good decision in practical terms, but it was tailor-made to protect the collection and the university. And it creates a conflict with another Court of Appeals, opening the door to potential Supreme Court review.
The case arose as a result of a lawsuit by family members of victims of a 1997 Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem. The victims’ families sued Iran on the theory that it supported Hamas. Iran didn’t appear to defend itself in the suit, and a federal court awarded the families a $71.5 million, which hasn’t been paid.

The families’ lawyers have been looking around the country for assets belonging to the government of Iran that they could attach, seize and sell to get the damages they are owed. Advisedly or not, they decided to go after four collections of antiquities that supposedly belonged to Iran but are held by Chicago-area museums.

The case ended up in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. It first took three of the four collections out of the case, in two instances because it held they didn’t actually belong to Iran, and in the other because the collection was physically returned to Iran by the University of Chicago.
That left the Persepolis collection, one of the great caches of literary artifacts from the ancient world. In 1930, the Shah of Iran lent the collection of tablets to the University of Chicago for study. It remains in the Oriental Institute of the university, where it has garnered significant scholarly attention and helped produce important scholarship on ancient Iran.

In general, a foreign government’s assets can’t be seized in the U.S. in fulfillment of a judgment. That’s a basic principle derived from the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which says that states can’t be dragged into court without their permission.

But sovereign immunity has exceptions -- and the families pointed to two possible exceptions in support of their claim to seize the antiquities.

One exception is for property used in commercial activity. The Seventh Circuit could have simply held that studying ancient tablets in the university setting isn’t commercial activity. (In fact, as someone originally trained in a faculty of Oriental studies, I can’t imagine a less commercial activity on earth.)... [Read the rest]

Seventh Circuit Denies Terror Victims' Claim to Persian Artifacts
Zoe Tillman, The National Law Journal
July 21, 2016

American victims of a 1997 terrorist bombing can't claim ancient Persian artifacts held at the University of Chicago to satisfy a multimillion-dollar judgment against Iran for its role in the attack, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled.
A three-judge panel found on July 19 that there is no "freestanding" exception in state-sponsored terrorism cases to the immunity that shields foreign governments under U.S. law. The Seventh Circuit's decision conflicts with the Ninth Circuit, which held earlier this year that there was such an exception.
The circuit split sets the stage for possible review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Last year, the justices ruled in a state-sponsored terrorism case, finding that victims with judgments against Iran could collect nearly $2 billion in Iranian assets held in a U.S. bank.

At issue in the Seventh Circuit case is a collection of approximately 30,000 clay tablets from the ancient Persian city of Persepolis. Iran in 1937 loaned the Persepolis Collection to the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, where it remains.

The plaintiffs — victims of a 1997 bombing in Jerusalem and their families — won a $71.5 million default judgment in federal court in Washington, D.C. Iran doesn't usually participate in terror litigation in U.S. courts and did not pay the judgment. Iran owes hundreds of billions of dollars in judgments in state-sponsored terrorism cases.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs went to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to claim what they contended were Iranian assets within the court's jurisdiction — the Persian artifacts at the University of Chicago. They claimed other collections at the university and the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago as well, but those are no longer part of the case.

Foreign governments are generally granted immunity against civil claims in U.S. courts, but there are exceptions, including in terrorism cases. The Seventh Circuit panel said the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act did not include a "freestanding" exception in terrorism cases, agreeing with arguments advanced by lawyers for the University of Chicago, Iran and the U.S. government.
Judge Diane Sykes, writing for the panel, said plaintiffs had to meet the criteria of other exceptions under the immunities law. The plaintiffs argued the artifacts fell under a "commercial activity" exception, but the court disagreed, finding that the Iranian government wasn't using the artifacts for commercial purposes in the United States.

Seventh Circuit Judge William Bauer and Chief Judge Michael Reagan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, sitting by special designation, joined the decision.

Asher Perlin of Florida Professional Law Group in Hollywood, Florida, who argued for the plaintiffs, said in an email that they are weighing options for "further review."

"Obviously we are disappointed with the majority's decision," Perlin said.

Baker & McKenzie partner Matthew Allison argued for the University of Chicago. MoloLamken founding partner Jeffrey Lamken argued for Iran. Neither was reached for comment on Wednesday.
A full sitting of the Seventh Circuit won't hear the case. Given the split with the Ninth Circuit and the fact that the court reversed earlier precedent, the case went before all active judges for a vote. But five of the 10 active judges recused — Chief Judge Diane Wood and Judges Richard Posner and Frank Easterbook teach at the University of Chicago; Judges Ilana Rovner and Joel Flaum had other conflicts — so an en banc sitting was not possible.

Judge David Hamilton dissented from the denial of en banc review. He wrote that the immunities law was ambiguous and that the Ninth Circuit reached the right conclusion.

"We must choose one side or the other," Hamilton wrote. "The balance here should weigh in favor of the reading that favors the victims. We should not attribute to Congress an intent to be so solicitous of state sponsors of terrorism, who are also undeserving beneficiaries of the unusual steps taken by the Rubin panel."

By Patricia Manson
Law Bulletin staff writer
July 20, 2016

A federal appeals court Tuesday declined to clear the way for victims of a terrorist attack financed by Iran to use ancient Persian artifacts to help satisfy a $71.5 million judgment against that nation.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held the Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute are not required to turn over the antiquities to the eight victims.
Iran does not own two of the four collections sought by the victims, a panel of the court wrote.
Iran owns a third collection, the panel wrote, but the Oriental Institute returned most of those artifacts in 1970 and the remainder within the last two years at the direction of the U.S. State Department.
The fourth collection includes about 30,000 clay tablets and fragments that Iran loaned to the Oriental Institute in 1937 for research, translation and cataloguing, the panel wrote.
The Persepolis Collection, it wrote, is owned by Iran and is in the possession of the University of Chicago.
But as the property of a foreign state, these artifacts are immune from attachment and execution, the panel held, citing the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
The panel conceded there are exceptions to this general rule.
A litigant seeking to satisfy a judgment against a foreign state may take property “used for a commercial activity in the United States,” Judge Diane S. Sykes wrote for the panel, quoting Section 1610(a) of the FSIA.
However, she wrote, Iran has not used the artifacts in the Persepolis Collection for any commercial purpose.
Citing Bennett v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Nos. 13-15442 and 15-16100, 2016 WL 3257780 (9th Cir. June 14, 2016), the panel also conceded that the 9th Circuit in San Francisco last month held that Section 1610(g) of the FSIA allows victims of state-sponsored terrorism to attach assets even if they are not used for commercial purposes.
It disagrees with the 9th Circuit’s ruling that Section 1610(g) is a freestanding exception to execution immunity, the panel wrote.
The panel noted that the 9th Circuit’s majority cited two 7th Circuit decisions — Gates v. Syrian Arab Republic, 755 F.3d 568 (7th Cir. 2014), and Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic, 800 F.3d 331 (7th Cir. 2015) — to bolster its holding in Bennett.
“To the extent that Gates and Wyatt can be read as holding that Section 1610(g) is a freestanding exception to execution immunity for terrorism-related judgments, they are overruled,” Sykes wrote.
Joining the opinion were Judge William J. Bauer and Chief U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan of the Central District of Illinois, who sat on the 7th Circuit by designation.
Because its opinion overrules 7th Circuit precedent and conflicts with the 9th Circuit’s ruling on the issue, the panel wrote, it circulated its opinion to all the active judges on the court to consider the possibility of a rehearing en banc.
But Chief Judge Diane P. Wood and Judges Richard A. Posner, Joel M. Flaum, Frank H. Easterbrook and Ilana Diamond Rovner did not participate, the panel wrote, and therefore a majority of the active judges did not vote for the entire court to rehear the case.
The panel did not say why the five judges did not participate.
Judge David F. Hamilton did not serve on the panel, but he used a dissent from the denial of en banc review to object to the panel’s holding.
The text of Section 1610(g) is ambiguous and, therefore, both the 7th Circuit’s and the 9th Circuit’s interpretations of that provision are reasonable, Hamilton wrote.
“The courts must choose between two statutory readings: [O]ne that favors state sponsors of terrorism and another that favors the victims of that terrorism,” he wrote.
Congress, he wrote, has extended the remedies for such victims over the years.
“The balance here should weigh in favor of the reading that favors the victims,” he wrote.
The plaintiffs were among the 200 people who were injured when three Hamas suicide bombers blew themselves up in Jerusalem in September 1997. Five other people were killed.
The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeking damages against Iran, which financed Hamas, and several individuals.
In 2003, they were awarded $71.5 million in damages in a default judgment against Iran. The judgment amounted to more than $400 million when the punitive damages the individual defendants were ordered to pay were included.
The plaintiffs have attempted to collect the judgment against Iran by seeking to attach its assets in the United States.
In the lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman held there are no exceptions in either the FSIA or the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 that allow the plaintiffs to attach the museum exhibits.
The 7th Circuit panel agreed with Gettleman.
The insurance act, the panel wrote, allows terrorism victims who obtain a judgment against the offending nation to execute on assets that are “blocked” by executive order under certain international sanction provisions.
But there is no executive order blocking the artifacts sought by the plaintiffs, the panel wrote.
Asher Perlin of Florida Professional Law Group PLLC in Hollywood, Fla., argued the case before the 7th Circuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.
Matthew G. Allison of Baker & McKenzie LLP argued the case on behalf of the museums.
Jeffrey A. Lamken of MoloLamken LLP in Washington, D.C., argued the case on behalf of the Iranian government.
Benjamin M. Schultz of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington argued the case on behalf of the government. The United States took part in the case as amicus curiae supporting the position of Iran and the museums.
Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole A. Navas declined to comment.
Oriental Institute Director Gil J. Stein said he is pleased with the ruling.
“While the university abhors the acts of terrorism that lead to this proceeding, the artifacts at issue here are not subject to attachment under either the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act or the Terrorism Risk and Insurance Act,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The Institute looks forward to continuing its research on the Persepolis Collection, artifacts which provide unparalleled insight into the history and languages of the Persian Empire around 500 B.C.”
The Field Museum and the attorneys either did not have an immediate comment or could not be reached for comment.
The case is Jenny Rubin, et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran; Field Museum of Natural History, et al., Respondents, No. 14-1935.

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hillaire reports on the Gettleman decision

"The Law Cited by Plaintiffs Does Not Offer the Remedy They Seek" - Rubin v. Iran

Thursday, April 3, 2014
"The court recognizes the tragic circumstances that gave rise to the instant action, but finds that the law cited by plaintiffs does not offer the remedy they seek." With these words, Judge Robert Gettleman ended the Northern District of Illinois case of Jenny Rubin, et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al. v. The University of Chicago and The Field Museum of Natural History.

The case involves American victims of a Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem in 1997. A federal judge in Washington, DC in 2003 awarded the plaintiffs a $71.5 million default judgment against Iran, holding that country to be responsible for the attack. One way the plaintiffs have sought to collect the judgment is to acquire ancient Iranian artifacts at prominent American Museums, including Chicago's Oriental Institute (OI) and The Field Museum, through attachment. [Read the rest]

Judge: Persian artifacts can't be used to pay survivors of attack
  Tribune reporter

The University of Chicago and The Field Museum won’t have to turn over ancient Persian artifacts in their possession to help resolve a legal settlement owed to survivors of a terrorist attack, a federal judge has ruled.

In a long-running court battle, nine American victims of the 1997 attack in Jerusalem sued Iran, where the artifacts were excavated, for being a financial supporter of Hamas, the Palestinian extremist group.

The victims won a multimillion-dollar court judgment.

To collect on that, attorneys for the plaintiffs have been trying to gain control of Iranian assets in the United States, including artifacts the Chicago museum has had for decades, according to the ruling.

In Thursday’s decision, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman held that the plaintiffs’ argument was flawed because there was no evidence that Iran has asserted ownership over the collections.

“The court recognizes the tragic circumstances that gave rise to the instant action, but finds the law cited by the plaintiffs does not offer the remedy they seek,” Gettleman said in the decision.

Keepers of the Chicago collections said the pieces were priceless and welcomed the court’s ruling.

“These ancient artifacts...have unique historical and cultural value,” said Gil Stein, director of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute in a statement. The university “will continue our efforts to preserve and protect this cultural heritage,” he said.

David Strachman, an attorney for the victims who brought the lawsuit, said his clients were particularly upset that the U.S. State Department “takes the side of Iran in these cases.”
See the text of the judgement: 

Archive.ology: start with (clay) dinosaur bones, spice with love
By A.J. Cave
Dr. Matthew Stolper

Once upon a time people used something called paper for writing all sorts of things, from love letters to secret sauce formulas to stockholder reports. It was when writing was just word-winding. 

They say some hyper competitive Silicon Valley companies (there was no other known kind) even went as far as hiring detectives to sort through paper trash of their competitors to patch together highly guarded business secrets.

This paper was made of trees that grew wild in the nature-in places people of old used to call forests. There were all sorts of round trees and all kinds of flat paper.
Something called deforestation saw to the end of these green forests and paper became rare and eventually extinct.

People didn’t stop writing, they wrote even more. But instead of real paper, they started to use old software programs that nostalgically looked like pages of white paper on computer screens, but they were really nothing more than zeroes and ones, stored on primitive hard drives.

As everyone knows those clunky computers eventually became obsolete too when we started to use glasses and tablets and watches and other things to record our blinkings and doings and thinkings.

Now and then one of those ancient paper archives called Libraries that have miraculously survived shredders and recyclers are discovered here and there. Page-turning paper-lovers from all over the world immediately converge on the discovery pits to make sure these antiquated archives don’t turn into dust during excavations...


...In 2006 Dr. Matthew Stolper, one of handful of specialists on Elamite language in the world, cleared his plate, assembled a stellar team of scholars from a number of American and European universities, embarked on the never-ending quest for (much) needed grants, and took on the emergency task of digitization of the Achaemenid archive-known as the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project (PFAP).
And here we are. 

Under Matt Stolper’s steadfast watch and with the moral support of his faithful friend, Baxter the Beast, the initial phase of cleaning, conserving and digitizing the archive is finally reaching critical mass and the next phase of making sense of the mass of generated data is kicking in-the old sprinkling of the water of life on dead bones.

In the process, surprising new discoveries have come to light, among them finding the footprint of Udusana (Greek: Atossa), the quintessential Achaemenid royal woman (queen), who, according to the classical writers, was the eldest daughter of Cyrus the Great, the chief wife of Darius the Great, and the powerful mother of Xerxes (Persian: Xsayarsa, or Khshayarsha). Triple Crown of Persian royalty.
These Persian administrative records, roughly 30,000 or so pieces from a single archive, dating from 509 to 493 BCE (from 13th to 28th regnal years of Darius the Great, about 16 years, with some references to the 7th regnal year)-conceptually likened to the bones of a dinosaur-have led to not just an understanding of the routine imperial administrative infrastructure, but all sorts of interesting things like art, language, religion, and society of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, that was unknowable merely from the traditional biblical and classical sources.

The sort of raw data that the large cuneiform archives like the Persepolis Fortification Archive have been yielding is “Big Data”-datasets that are getting too big to process using classical computing techniques. Big Data is now being used in computer technology circles to refer to the latest advances in aggregating massive amounts of data from various sources and enabling researchers to mine and map data in amazing new ways-see what no one has seen before, ask questions no one has answered yet.

On the academic side of the coin, Big Data research will eventually exponentially expand the newly-minted field of Digital Humanities.

While virtualization and visualization of archival data from the Achaemenid royal chancelleries will not give us historical answers-at least not to what we think-it will, however, provide a richer context for understanding and interpreting the Big Data we have accidentally inherited and luckily recovered.

This Big Data is also the playground of writers like me who troll the archival treasure troves for historical backstory to turn boring administrative records into sizzling stories about the adventurous lives and scandalous love affairs of the Persian royal sons and daughters-kings and their queens who once ruled the world-the real royal games of the only throne that really mattered. Masters of Asia.

Achaemenid scholars have been spending years carefully reconstructing a clay dinosaur to restore Persians to the history of the world, and the Persian storytellers thankfully ride this paper-beast to restore the Persians to the story of the world.
Dr. Stolper, now retired as of the end of 2013, is continuing as the head of the PFA Project, crisscrossing the globe on a mission to evangelize the immense impact of the ancient archive on Persian Achaemenid history and heritage.

In recognition of his lifelong achievements and his tireless efforts in preserving and promoting the integration of knowledge from the Achaemenid Administrative Archives into mainstream classical and ancient Near Eastern (ANE) studies, there would be a celebration at the Oriental Institute tentatively scheduled for 28 April 2014.

These types of events are normally planned for the local colleagues, students and patrons of the institute. This one, however, might just turn out to be a greater gathering of the friends of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, die-hard supporters of Persian history and heritage, and the who-is-who of the Persian Achaemenid studies.

Tell Parnakka (probably the paternal uncle of Darius the Great and the first chief of the imperial administrative archives at Parsa) to order more Shiraz wine for the feast. Persians are coming.

Iranian researcher renders inscriptions of Persepolis
4 Nov 2013 14:19
Iran Book News Agency
Abdul Majid Arfaei, a professor of Ancient Near Eastern languages and cultures, has translated ‘The Inscriptions of Persepolis’ in four volumes which have been handed over to the Cultural Heritage Organization for publication. 
IBNA: Abdul Majid Arfaei said he has finished translating 647 tablets, related to the era of Darius the Great, which were read by Richard Treadwell Hallock. The works are included in the first volume of the series.

Richard Treadwell Hallock, Elamologist and Assyriologist, was a professor of Chicago University. The late professor, who read the bulk of the Persepolis Elamite tablets, died in 1980.

The Iranian researcher has also translated 2,586 clay Achaemenid tablets into Persian and English which were rendered by Hallock.

The work is also handed over to Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) for publication.

The three other books of the ‘The Inscriptions of Persepolis’ will be published in Iran gradually.

Arfaei, the renowned expert of Elamite, Avestan and Pahlavi languages, is the founder of the Inscriptions Hall of Iran’s National Museum and has written a number of books on Iranian history.

He is the only Iranian Elamologist who worked under the supervision of Professor Hallock.

Arfaei was the first person who translated the inscription of Cyrus Cylinder.

The Iranian expert has also translated more than 2,500 Persepolis inscriptions, which are housed at Chicago University.

CHTHO Chief in Pursuit of Iran’s Ancient Relics in New York Visit
Fars News Agency
Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:13
TEHRAN (FNA)- Vice-president and head of the Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) Mohammad Ali Najafi vowed to follow up the case with returning Iran’s ancient tablets during his upcoming visit to New York.
“One of my programs during the visit to New York will be meeting with Chancellor of Chicago University to discuss the return of about 30,000 Achaemenid tablets which are now in New York to Iran …,” Najafi said, saying that his name has been included in the list of the delegation which will be accompanying Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in his upcoming visit to New York.

President Rouhani will participate in the 68th annual meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York due to open on 17 September, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced earlier.

In August, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited Iranian President Rouhani to participate in the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly in September.
The tablets were discovered by the University of Chicago archaeologists in 1933 while they were excavating in Persepolis, the site of a major Oriental Institute excavation.

The artifacts bear cuneiform script explaining administrative details of the Achaemenid Empire from about 500 BC. They are among a group of tens of thousands of tablets and tablet fragments that were loaned to the university's Oriental Institute in 1937 for study. A group of 179 complete tablets was returned in 1948, and another group of more than 37,000 tablet fragments was returned in 1951.

In spring 2006, US District Court Judge Blanche Manning ruled that a group of people injured by a 1997 bombing in Israel could seize the 300 clay tablets loaned to the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute and the university cannot protect Iran's ownership rights to the artifacts.

Following Iranian officials' protests against the ruling, the court was slated to reexamine the case on December 21, 2006, but the court session was postponed to January 19, 2007, allegedly due to the fact that Iran had not provided all the documents required by the court.
The court session was held on the above-mentioned date, but no verdict was issued.
Museum of London has voiced its support for the return of the collection of clay tablets to Iran as the owner of the artifacts.

The Oriental Institute holds 8000 to 10,000 intact and about 11,000 fragmented tablets, as estimated by Gil Stein, the director of the university's Oriental Institute.

Based on a bill approved by the Iranian parliament in 1930, foreign research institutes were allowed to conduct excavations at Iranian ancient sites exclusively or during joint projects with the Iranian government.

Foreigners were also given permission to share the artifacts discovered during the excavation projects with Iranian team members and to transfer their share to their country.
By the act, many Iranian artifacts were looted by foreign institutes working on Iranian ancient sites until the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute filed a motion for summary judgment last week seeking to end a case that has pitted victims of a terrorist attack against two Illinois museums and Iran. The Chicago-based institutions argue that the plaintiffs' wish to take museum "property that Iran neither owns nor has ever claimed." And regarding Persian artifacts owned by Iran but on loan to the museums, the museums say that the plaintiffs cannot take title to these objects in order to satisfy a court judgment. American lawyers representing Iran filed their own motion in agreement [Read the rest]

First Circuit Rules in Favor of MFA and Harvard in Rubin v. Iran
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Rick St. Hilaire on his blog
The First Circuit Court of Appeals on February 27, 2013 decided in favor of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) and Harvard’s museums in the case of Rubin v. Iran.

The case involves victims of a 1997 Iranian-backed terrorist bombing who seek to satisfy a multi-million dollar default court judgment awarded to them in 2003. Since 2005 the Rubin plaintiffs have argued that approximately 2000 reliefs, sculptures, and other archaeological objects located at the MFA and Harvard are the property of Iran that can be seized.  The cultural institutions have been contesting that claim, and yesterday the First Circuit agreed.

The appeals court decision extended its sympathies to the the plaintiffs, saying “we are mindful of the incident that gave rise to the judgment here and the difficulty the plaintiffs are having collecting on that judgment ….”  But the justices upheld “the general rule … that foreign sovereign property in the United States is immune from attachment and execution” because of the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA). 28 U.S.C. § 1609.

The appeals court acknowledged that the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (TRIA) “carves out a narrow exception to that rule, applicable only to ‘blocked assets,’” but wrote that “the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that any of the antiquities in the Museums' possession fall within that exception.”

The MFA and Harvard argued in the lower federal district court that Iran does not own the cultural objects. Even if they were owned by Iran, the MFA and Harvard maintained that the FSIA makes the objects immune from attachment...

Federal Court Rejects Bid to Seize Iranian Antiquities at Harvard 
February 28, 2013 - 3:00am
Inside Higher Ed
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled Wednesday that people injured by a terrorist attack financed by Iran cannot make a claim on Iranian antiquities held in a Harvard University museum. Several Americans with claims against Iran have tried to collect money owed by that nation by going after antiquities at various American institutions. But the appeals court ruled -- as other courts have ruled -- that there are very limited circumstances in which artifacts can be seized as assets, and that this is not one of them. The legal challenges to ownership of these antiquities have worried many museum officials who have feared that they would be unable to obtain loans of art from other countries if that art might be seized.
The ruling:
United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit, No. 11-2144
JENNY RUBIN, ET AL., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, ET AL.,Defendants, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, ET AL., Trustees, Appellees.
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. George A. O'Toole, U.S. District Judge] Before Howard, Stahl, and Lipez, Circuit Judges.
February 27, 2013

The meaning of "OF": The First Circuit Hears Oral Arguments in Rubin v. Iran
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at

The First Circuit Court of Appeals today heard arguments about the meaning of the word "of" in the case of Rubin v. Iran.  The Rubin plaintiffs wish to seize "property of Iran" after receiving a multi-million dollar court judgment holding that country responsible for injuries caused by a terrorist attack.  The litigants have been unable to obtain payment; therefore, they seek to execute the judgment by taking ancient Iranian cultural artifacts housed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the Harvard museums.  After losing their case in the lower federal district court, the plaintiffs appealed.

The attorney for the plaintiffs/appellants told the judges today, "We don't really care, frankly, whether or not the property actually belongs to Iran." explaining "All we care about is whether the property is 'of Iran.'"  "What does the word 'of'' mean?," counsel asked.  He answered that "...the word 'of' does not always mean possession."...

Humanities Day 2012: Oriental Institute’s Persian artifacts are subject of ongoing lawsuit

Americans attempting to get redress from the Islamic Republic of Iran want to take possession of the artifacts, currently on loan at the Oriental Institute.

For nearly 10 years, a lawsuit against the state of Iran has turned the Oriental Institute into a battleground over 2,500-year-old Persian artifacts.
This past Saturday, Professor Matthew Stolper, head of the Institute’s Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, gave an update on what he called a “salvage excavation” and revealed the innovative technology that might decide the artifacts’ future.
More than just “pieces of dirt that someone poked with sticks a very long time ago,” the archive is “the largest, the most complex, the best dated source of information from within the Persian Empire at its zenith,” Stolper said.
The tens of thousands of fragments, pieces of old administrative records excavated from Persepolis ruins in the 1930s, have been a treasure chest for understanding Persian language, religion, daily life and politics.  “This loan was an extraordinary thing—an extraordinary act of trust,” Stolper said, since the Institute has been allowed to keep the artifacts on loan from Iran during the pending law suit.
“A completely unique discovery is sent off to an American research institute and it is sent intact—it is sent as if they knew it was all one thing. This is almost without precedent in the annals of cultural study,” Stolper said.
If the plaintiffs, Americans who lost relatives in 1997 terrorist attacks in Israel, win, the tablets may be sold and dispersed. If they lose, then Iran may demand the artifacts’ immediate return, according to Stolper. The plaintiffs were already awarded redress money that Iran refused to pay, so the plaintiffs are seeking this Iranian property in the U.S. as an alternative form of payment.
Stolper took a moment to remind the audience that the plaintiffs had lost their loved ones in a terrorist attack and reacted within the legal channels granted by the judicial system. “There’s a tendency to say [about the lawsuit], ‘What a terrible barbaric thing,”” Stolper said. “The plaintiffs are not greedy barbarians. They are seeking redress.”
The Institute has responded with innovative steps to preserve the artifacts, digitally and on the Internet. By publicly sharing infrared and photo-edited images of the tablets, alongside intensive linguistic analysis, the Institute is pushing archaeological record-keeping into the 21st century. “Sometimes the images are more useful than the original objects,” Stolper said.
Stolper left his audience and future generations, he hopes, with a challenge. “If I can’t convince you it’s something you should be excited about, at least I can convince you it’s something one can be excited about,” he said.

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire comments on the status of Rubin et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rubin v. Iran Update: Illinois District Court Gets Case Back Following Supreme Court's Rejection of Appeal -- U.S. Files Amicus Brief in First Circuit Supporting Museums

The case of Jenny Rubin, et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran has been restarted in federal district court in Illinois (docket 03-cv-9370).  That is because the United States Supreme Court on June 25 declined to hear the Rubin plaintiffs' request to review the Seventh Circuit decision, which ruled against them. Justices Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan did not participate in the decision.

Rubin and the other plaintiffs are trying to recover a court-awarded money judgment against Iran for that nation's sponsorship of a deadly terrorist attack that harmed the parties.  They wish to acquire Persian artifacts located at Chicago's Field Museum and the University of Chicago in order execute the judgment. The case moved from the federal district court in northern Illinois to the circuit court of appeals.  The case was to be sent back to the district court by the appeals court, but the Rubin plaintiffs sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court has now returned the case to the district court, where a status hearing  is scheduled for July 18 at 3:00 p.m.

In a companion case now in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, the same parties seek to acquire Persian artifacts held at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston and at Harvard.  The United States filed an amicus brief (i.e. friend of the court brief) on June 7 in support of the MFA, the Harvard museums, and Iran.

Federal lawyers argue two points in their brief to the First Circuit.  They say that the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) does not authorize the attachment of property not owned by a terrorist state.  Second, the government asserts that Iranian property cannot be “contested” within the meaning of the Iranian Assets Control Regulations because "Iran itself has not articulated any claim to the property in question."

The government writes:
"The United States emphatically condemns the act of terrorism that grievously injured the plaintiffs, and has deep sympathy for their suffering. The United States remains committed to disrupting terrorist financing and to aggressively pursuing those responsible for committing terrorist acts against U.S. nationals. In addition, however, the United States has a strong interest in ensuring that courts properly interpret TRIA’s scope. Normally, unless a person obtains a license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), that person is barred from attaching assets that are blocked under various sanctions programs, such as the Iranian Assets Control Regulations."

The lawyers add:
"The district court found that Iran does not, in fact, own the assets in question. The United States takes no position on the question of ownership. If this Court affirms the district court’s holding, however, that ruling will also preclude attachment of the assets under TRIA. TRIA does not, as plaintiffs contend, permit them to attach the artifacts possessed by the Museums if those assets are not owned by Iran."

The government concludes that the court "should hold that the Museums’ artifacts cannot be attached under TRIA unless the plaintiffs establish that Iran owns the artifacts. Additionally, if the Court reaches the issue, it should hold that an asset is
not “contested” for purposes of [the Iranian Assets Control Regulations] unless Iran itself is claiming an interest in the asset."

 Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire comments on the status of Rubin et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Solicitor General Tells U.S. Supreme Court to Reject Rubin v. Iran Case

Saying that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals got it right, the US Solicitor General told the Supreme Court last week to reject the case of Rubin v. Iran. 
Lawyers for Jenny Rubin and other injured litigants who won a judgment against Iran for its sponsorship of a 1997 terrorist attack have been trying to collect a multi-million dollar court award by attempting to seize ancient Persian artifacts located at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago and the Chicago Field Museum.  The Seventh Circuit on March 29, 2011 sent the case back to the federal district court in Illinois for review. But the Rubin plaintiffs instead sought review by the nation's highest court.  See here for more background

Read the rest here

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire comments on the status of Rubin et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rubin v. Iran: Harvard Art Museums and Boston Museum of Fine Arts File Appellate Briefs in First Circuit

"The order of the district court should be affirmed."  That is the simple conclusion written in the Harvard Art Museums' appellate brief filed yesterday in the case of Rubin et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran v. Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University et al.  The appeal is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Read the rest here

 Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire comments on the status of Rubin et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rubin v. Iran: Harvard Art Museums and Boston Museum of Fine Arts File Appellate Briefs in First Circuit

"The order of the district court should be affirmed."  That is the simple conclusion written in the Harvard Art Museums' appellate brief filed yesterday in the case of Rubin et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran v. Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University et al.  The appeal is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Read the rest here

 Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire comments on the status of Rubin et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rubin v. Iran Cases Move Forward in First Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court

Photo credit: Alborzagros.  CC.

Jenny Rubin and others hurt by a 1997 terrorist attack in Israel filed a 92 page brief yesterday in the First Circuit Court of Appeals.  Rubin et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran v. Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University et al. is a case where the appellants seek to enforce a judgment awarded to them under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (TRIA) by acquiring cultural artifacts claimed to be owned by Iran.  The objects sought are located in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Meanwhile, Rubin et al. have also filed an appeal of their Seventh Circuit court case with the U.S. Supreme Court.  That case involves an attempt to attach objects located at museums in Chicago.

Read the rest here

Archaeology Magazine
Volume 65 Number 1, January/February 2012
by Andrew Lawler
The rush to document thousands of ancient texts before they are sent back to Iran, or sold, reveals the daily workings of the Persian Empire a clay tablet from Persepolis

Tens of thousands of clay tablets and fragments from Persepolis are written in cuneiform to express Elamite, an ancient language of western Iran.
(Courtesy Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, Oriental Institute)

Tensions between Iran and the United States have rarely run higher, with both governments sparring over alleged terror plots, disputing the nature of Iran’s nuclear program, and vying to influence the uprisings across the Arab world. But in Chicago and Boston courtrooms, the two countries have found rare common ground—neither wants ancient tablets from the royal palace of Persepolis in Iran to end up on the auction block. To the relief of scholars, two recent court rulings may give them their joint wish, preserving open access to what is the most significant source of information on the ancient Persian Empire uncovered to date.

In the early 1930s, during excavations of Persepolis, University of Chicago archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld unearthed tens of thousands of fragments of fragile clay tablets dating from about 500 B.C. The fragments were packed into 2,353 cardboard boxes and shipped to the university’s Oriental Institute. The Iranian government of the day allowed the export, with the understanding that the tablets would be translated and then returned. But the task of piecing together and understanding the vast number of fragments has been under way for more than seven decades and the majority of the collection remains in Chicago. Now, fearing loss of the archive, the university has moved into high gear to create thousands of digital images of the tablets, which record the day-to-day accounts of the empire during the reign of Darius the Great (521–486 B.C.) and include records of those traveling on behalf of the king, lists of workers’ rations, and careful notation of offerings made to deities.

Researchers hope to have most of this intensive effort completed within the next two years. To get the job done, the institute has assembled what Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute, calls a “dream team” of textual scholars, archaeologists, and technical experts in digital cataloguing to take images of the tablets and make them available for public use. Translations are also being done, though it will take much longer to complete that daunting task. “Whether they are seized for sale or the government of Iran demands them back, the tablets will be out of the building soon. We all understand how important and urgent this is,” says Stein.

To read more, find ARCHAEOLOGY in your local newsstand or bookstore, or click here to buy a copy of the issue online. And if you'd like to receive ARCHAEOLOGY in your mailbox, click here to subscribe.
Andrew Lawler is a contributing editor at ARCHAEOLOGY.

Massachusetts Court Dismisses Rubin v. Government of Iran v. Boston MFA and Harvard 
Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Massachusetts federal court has ruled that the Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University will not lose their collection of ancient Persian objects to eight plaintiffs injured in a 1997 terrorist bombing. The United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, issued a five page opinion on September 15, 2011 denying the plaintiffs’ efforts to gain control over the artifacts to satisfy their multi-million dollar court judgment against the government of Iran.

Jenny Rubin and several other Americans were injured in Jerusalem after Hamas carried out three bombings. Because the terrorist group received backing from Iran, the eight plaintiffs sued the government of Iran in federal district court in Washington, DC, winning a $71.5 million default award after the Iranian government failed to show up to court. Since then, the plaintiffs have sought to recover that judgment.

The government of Iran would not be expected to pay the court award, so the plaintiffs searched for local Iranian assets to seize. One place they looked was Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts, where museums housed artifacts excavated from ancient Iran. The plaintiffs initiated a court action--known as an attachment--against the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard, the Harvard University Art Museums, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, the Fogg Art Museum, the Sackler Museum, the Semitic Museums, and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. But the judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ case in his recent court order.

Cultural Loot:  Harvard and others should be more open to art repatriation
By The Crimson Staff
Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Last week, Harvard escaped from a bizarre and potentially damaging lawsuit after federal judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. threw out a request from a group representing victims of Iranian terrorist attacks to seize various Persian artifacts from Harvard. Still awaiting unpaid damages that a U.S. court ruled they were owed by the Iranian government, the group—under the leadership of Jenny Rubin—has recently set its sights on certain artifacts they believe to be the property of the Iranian government. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, however, these artifacts are held in various collections such as the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and Harvard’s Peabody Museum, which acquired them long before the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979.
And while Judge O’Toole’s ruling appears in part a straightforward and appropriate rejection of what seems a patently opportunistic attempt to benefit financially from both the tainted reputation of the Iranian regime and a warped view of history, it included a broader stance on the issue surrounding the ownership of formerly stolen artifacts—a controversy in which Harvard’s own position, in our view, warrants a re-evaluation.
“As a general matter,” O’Toole wrote, “establishing that a particular item was unlawfully exported or removed from Iran is not equivalent to showing that it now should be regarded as property of Iran subject to levy and execution.”
Of course, we cannot imagine any other appropriate response to such an attempt. After all, the argument of Rubin et al concerns an alleged—and obviously false—association between the Persian Empire and the belligerent Iranian Islamic “Republic” that currently exists within its former borders. But, even still, we worry that these words may set some sort of dangerous legal precedent that gives Western institutions such as Harvard the right to keep artifacts regardless of the circumstances under which they were acquired. While Harvard has a very good argument for keeping possession of the particular items concerned in the Rubin case, it’s troubling that this case may only lead to Western institutions keeping a tighter stranglehold over the rest of the world's stolen cultural heritage...

Should National Treasures be Subject to the Judicial Auction?: The Implications of Rubin v. Iran
The main question at issue in Rubin v. Iran, a case pending in both the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago and the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, is whether national treasures of cultural heritage should be – or legally can be – subjected to a court-ordered auction to satisfy judgments. In that case, a group of plaintiffs who won a default judgment against Iran have asked the Chicago court to seize collections of Iranian national treasures to be auctioned off – with no guarantee that they will be auctioned off as collections – so that the proceeds can be used to satisfy part or all of the judgment...

Even though the Seventh Circuit has ruled, the core issue still is not resolved. That is, the district court will now have to answer the main question – can the antiquities be seized and sold at judicial auction?

Read the article in the Summer 2011 Newsletter of the American Bar Association Art & Cultural Heritage Law Committee.

Heritage Hunters: Trying to cash in on what Darius and Xerxes left us!?
by Ari Siletz

Heritage Hunters

In 2010 James Dolan, chief executive officer of Cablevision got paid about $13 million, or about 400 time the wages of an ordinary you and me. By comparison the manager of the royal household of the Achaemenid king Darius the Great was paid 700 sheep, 600 loads of flour, and 32000 liters of beer and wine. This is about 100 times the wage of an ordinary Achaemenid postal worker (courier). Never mind how much Darius got paid—the king was a national symbol, and therefore beyond labor pricing--but when it comes to income disparity Achaemenids seem to have the U.S. beaten four to one in terms of social justice. How do we know how much workers and top administrators got paid during the Achaemenids? 

The information comes from deciphering a fraction of the 12000+ clay tablet “file cabinet” found at Persepolis circa 1930, and now stored mostly in the U.S. These are the famous Persepolis tablets now facing death by lawsuit in the U.S. legal system. The U.S. says the IRI is a state sponsor of terrorism and therefore U.S. citizens can sue Iran for injury resulting from IRI sponsored terrorist activity. For example, if Hamas hurts an American citizen during a terrorist attack, the injured person can sue Iran for supporting Hamas’ act. In fact many plaintiffs have already won large damages against Iran; the only problem was how to collect the court awarded money. After some hunting around in law books, they found out that a loophole in the 2002 Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) allows them to auction off the Persepolis tablets housed in U.S. universities. That should raise a few million, they thought. 

But just last week the NIAC news email brought good tidings that some of the tablets have been rescued, apparently through clever use of a legal technicality. Lawyers defending the tablets in Massachusetts successfully argued that the plaintiffs couldn’t prove that the items actually belong to the IRI. To get more detail on the temporarily good news I talked on the phone with NIAC president Trita Parsi. NIAC has been involved in the tablet rescue efforts, leading where it can and assisting where it can. When I asked what would happen to the tablets if they were auctioned, Parsi’s typically measured interview voice became troubled: 

“When you have a lot of artifacts--as we see in this case--the relative market value of each item drops. And as has happened before, the business owners destroy many of the items in order to increase the value of the remaining ones. We have seen this happen with Egyptian artifacts in the past. There’s a significant risk. It may actually happen that there will be a deliberate effort to destroy the stocks to make sure that the remaining 500 out of the 12000 fetch the best price! Then this part of our history and heritage will be destroyed.”
This is simply barbarism, committed in the name of 21st century justice. From a perfectly reasonable angle these tablets are just as important as the Darius Behistun inscriptions or even the Cyrus Cylinder. Why? Because archeological sites and museums are full of self-descriptions by rulers of what kick-ass heroes they were and how justly they ruled. Bein e khodemoon, “Cyrus Cylinder” kings were a dime a dozen. Even today, Kayhan is a daily Cyrus Cylinder made out of paper. To give substance to our past we need more than the words of Cyrus and Darius; we need to audit their receipts. And this is precisely what these tablets are: receipts, invoices, pay stubs, wage tables, reimbursement, how much food and wine the priests of different religions got to offer their gods, etc. sampling several periods of Achaemenid rule. So far the tablets reveal an empire buzzing with a complex economy, an active society and run by an intricately structured administrative system. There’s an astonishing amount of detail about Achaemenid life in these tablets, beyond what we could have reasonably hoped; their discovery is a cultural windfall for Iranians. Ironically if it hadn’t been for another barbaric act—Alexander’s--more than two millennia ago, these tablets may have been scattered centuries ago. The quick collapse of the Persepolis building hid the tablets and made them inaccessible...

PARSA CF Awards $370,000 to Museums and Institutions for Preserving and Advancing Persian Arts

June 2, 2011


The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, which is the recipient of two previous PARSA CF grants, has been awarded a $200,000 grant for their important work on capturing, recording, and distributing the information from the famous tablets of the Persepolis Fortification Archive (PFA). The archive is comprised of some 30,000 clay tablets and fragments found in 1933 by the Oriental Institute archeologists, examining and clearing the ruins of Persepolis palaces of kings Darius and Xerxes and their successors, near Shiraz. The tablets contain close to 20,000 original texts in cuneiform and Elamite language, Aramaic script and language, and seal impressions, and are currently on loan from Iran at the Oriental Institute.
PFA is the largest and most consequential single source of information on the Achaemenid Persian Empire at its zenith. It provides a very important portal into the languages, art, society, administration, history, geography and religion in the heart of the Persian Empire in the time of Darius I, around 500 BC. It has fundamentally transformed every aspect of modern research on Achaemenid history and culture.
The PFA Project at the Oriental Institute is responsible for carefully cleaning these important ancient tablets, taking high resolution digital imagery of the texts on the tablets, exploring various technologies for the best imaging of the tablets such as 3D, laser, and CT scanning),  and recording the texts and impressions. An editorial team within the group reviews and prepares editions of the texts, and all of the tablets, texts and impressions are carefully cataloged for publication and archiving. At this point more than 8000 tablets are completed, resulting in almost 40 Terabytes of data, and the team expects to grow the collection to approximately 11,000 over the next two years.
The tablets have been subject to a long legal battle where plaintiffs suing the Iranian government are asking for the ancient tablets as compensation. With the fate of the archive hanging in balance, the PFA Project has been under pressure to clean, scan, and record as many tablets as possible and as fast as possible. The grant from PARSA CF helped the PFA Project during an urgent time, since the project was in critical need for servers and other resources. An appellate court ruling a while later at the end of March came out with favorable result for the PFA, although the battle still continues.
The PFA project has received support from many other organizations besides PARSA CF, including the Andrew Melon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Iran Heritage Foundation is also working closely with the PFA project, and supports and promotes their work.
"After almost eighty years, the Persepolis Fortification Archive is producing a growing stream of new information, deeper understanding, and surprising discoveries. Making sure that this stream continues to flow repays the trust and hope that Iran's loan of the Archive to the Oriental Institute entailed, magnifies the cultural heritage of which these tablets are the humble vessels, and lays that heritage before its cultural heirs and before the civilized world" said Matthew W. Stolper, Director, Persepolis Fortification Archive Project.

 Ancient Persian Treasures in American Courts


02 May 2011 23:40

Legal dispute over Persepolis tablets threatens international lending of cultural assets.

In 1930, archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld came across 30,000 clay tablets on a dig in the ancient city of Persepolis, near modern-day Shiraz. Now these same Persepolis tablets are embroiled in a legal battle involving the Islamic Republic of Iran, the University of Chicago, and a pedestrian mall bombing in Jerusalem. 

After they were unearthed in the 1930s, the inscribed and sealed tablets have been on loan to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago for study, where many still remain. They have become a treasure trove in revealing the inner administrative workings and social structure of ancient Persia during the reign of Darius I around the time of 500 BCE. 

Among many facts, they hold the records of the different rations apportioned to women and men, receipt and taxation, redistribution to priests and artisans, means of travel and communication, storage of food and livestock. Not least of all, they have proven to be a valuable asset in the study of ancient languages such as Elamite, which died off with the invasion of Alexander the Great, and Old Persian, a language which the tablets show was surprisingly used more often than expected by everyday Persians.
The tablets hold a further value: What is known about this era historically comes from Greek and Arabic sources, and the Aramaic and Hebrew versions of the Old Testament. For the first time, scholars had the day-to-day story of the Persians, by the Persians, and for the world. 

In 2002, the Persepolis Fortification Archive at the Oriental Institute began state-of-the-art 3D imaging of the tablets that had not already been returned to the government of Iran. Though the primary purpose of the Fortification Archive is to store digitally the clay tablets for future scholars who happen to find the daily administrative routine of the Persian Empire titillating reading, there was a more immediate motivation for initiating the process. 

Only one year before the Oriental Institute began the 3D imaging, five American victims of a 1997 Hamas suicide bombing that occurred on Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street sued the government of Iran in a U.S. court for its support of the Palestinian organization...

U.S. court backs Iran in dispute over assets
CHICAGO | Tue Mar 29, 2011 3:58pm EDT
(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday backed Iran in a dispute with Americans who demand that Persian antiquities in two Chicago museums be used to pay damages for victims of a 1997 suicide bombing in Israel.

The decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a lower court ruling allowing the U.S. plaintiffs to search for any and all Iranian assets in the United States to pay a $71.5 million judgment against Iran.

The case grew out of a September 1997 triple suicide bombing at a Jerusalem pedestrian mall that killed five people and injured 200. Two members of the Islamist group Hamas were convicted.
The lawsuit filed by five groups of Americans who were either seriously wounded or relatives of the injured argued Iran bore responsibility because it provided training and support to Hamas for attacks.
Having won their case, the plaintiffs embarked on a search for Iranian assets to pay the judgment. They found three collections of ancient Persian artifacts -- prehistoric pottery, ornaments, and precious tablets with Elamite writing -- owned by or on loan to Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute.

The museums argued the artifacts qualified for immunity under U.S. law and could not be used to pay the judgment. They said seizing the artifacts would set a dangerous precedent for institutions who rely on scholarly interest to trump political and legal disputes.

But the plaintiffs insisted the artifacts were fair game, arguing U.S. legal protections afforded to foreign-owned property do not apply when the property is used for commercial purposes, or when it belongs to an agent linked to a terrorist group.

Iran initially ignored demands that it appear in U.S. courts to assert its sovereign rights. It later hired an American lawyer to represent its interests.

The appeals court did not rule on the fate of the antiquities but it said the lower court wrongly denied Iran its sovereign immunity, which it says is presumed and did not need to be asserted in court by Iran.

The ruling also voided the lower court's order that all Iranian assets in the United States be disclosed, and sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings "consistent with this opinion."

(Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Xavier Briand)

Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute won a victory on Tuesday in their efforts to maintain possession of thousands of ancient Iranian artifacts. In a ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed a lower court's order that might have handed the artifacts over to several American victims of a 1997 terrorist bombing in Jerusalem.
Those victims won a $90-million judgment in 2003 against the government of Iran, which is believed to have financed and trained the terrorists who carried out the Jerusalem bombing. But the victims and their families have struggled to collect any of that judgment from Iran, and their lawyers have sought instead to seize purported Iranian assets in the United States, including antiquities held in American museums. Those legal efforts have been condemned by some scholars as a dangerous politicization of the world's archaeological heritage.

In Tuesday's ruling, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit ruled that the lower court had misinterpreted the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, which generally protects the property of foreign governments in the United States. The plaintiffs have asserted that the antiquities in Chicago are exempt from that immunity because of a provision in the 1976 law that excludes property "used for a commercial activity."

The lower court had ruled that the plaintiff's argument on that point must win by default because Iran had not come forward to assert its immunity under the 1976 law. But the Seventh Circuit, like other appellate courts in similar recent cases, ruled that the 1976 law requires courts to decide for themselves which foreign immunities apply to each case, whether or not a foreign government has explicitly demanded those immunities. (Complicating the case, Iran did eventually come forward to assert its immunity.) ...

Lawsuits by Victims of Terrorism Imperil Archaeological Studies
In claiming $4-billion in damages from Iran, American plaintiffs demand that colleges and museums turn over ancient Persian artifacts
By Peter Schmidt
Chronicle of Higher Education
March 6, 2011
Lawsuits by Victims of Terrorism Imperil International Exchanges of Art and Artifacts 1
U. of Chicago
Matthew Stolper, a professor of Assyriology at the U. of Chicago's Oriental Institute, examines a tablet on loan from the government of Iran.
Their original owners, in what is now Iran, probably saw them as ordinary records of day-to-day transactions, like today's ATM statements or store receipts. More than two millenniums later, however, clay tablets housed at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute have assumed extraordinary significance, as both objects of archaeological study and sources of modern conflict...

Major New Grant Awards Will Help Build the Capacity of Iranian-Americans

NIAC has received three major grant awards totaling $446,000 from the Parsa Community Foundation, the leading philanthropic organization serving the Iranian-American community.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Nobar Elmi
Phone: 202-386-6325
... A third grant will underwrite a comprehensive media and education campaign about the Persepolis artifacts, priceless Persian antiquities currently caught in a legal battle.  The case is ongoing and its outcome could set potentially shattering precedents for the art world, museums and cultural institutions worldwide, as well as have a deep, negative impact on the cultural identity of Americans of Iranian descent.

Professor Studying Embattled Tablets Being Returned to Iran to Speak for Ides of November
Oct. 26, 2010
Illinois Wesleyan News
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Illinois Wesleyan University will welcome Professor of Assyriology Matthew Stolper on Monday, November 15 at 4 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium of The Ames Library (1 Ames Plaza, Bloomington). His talk, titled “Shattered Window on the Persian Empire: Rescuing the Persepolis Fortification Archive,” is sponsored by the Greek & Roman Studies Department, Eta Sigma Phi and the Classics Club, and is part of the Ides Lecture & Performance Series.

The director of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, Stolper studies clay tablets discovered in the ancient ruins of Persepolis in the 1930s by a University of Chicago expedition. Stolper is hoping to make the tens of thousands of the Persepolis clay tablets, which recorded the daily rule of Achemenid Persian kings from 550-330 B.C., available online. American survivors of terrorist bombings are asking Federal courts to award them possession of the Persepolis Fortification tablets to satisfy punitive judgments against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“There is only one Persepolis Fortification Archive,” Stolper said. “It’s the richest, densest, most complex source of information on the languages, society, institutions, and art of the Achaemenid Persian Empire.  Breaking it up or losing it entirely without harvesting all of this information would leave a tragic wound in the history of civilization.”

For additional information about the speaker or the Ides series, contact the Greek and Roman Studies Department at (309) 556-3173.
Contact: Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960

A Battle over Ancient Bits of Clay
02 June 2010
By Jeff Baron
Staff Writer

Washington — The fate of clay tablets that recorded details of everyday government transactions in the Persian Empire 2,500 years ago might depend on maneuverings in the government of the modern United States.
The tablets — more than 10,000 of them from a long-buried Persian government archive at Persepolis — are at the center of a lobbying effort in the U.S. Congress. They were discovered in 1933 and have been in the United States since 1936, on loan from Iran for study. Scholars, research institutions and Iranian-American groups are trying to protect them from being seized and auctioned off for the benefit of people who have legal claims against the current Iranian government over acts of terrorism...

Suicide Bombings and Archaeology: Unpredictable Connections
Monday, May 17th, 2010

In 1933 and 1934, archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld excavated an astonishingly large cache of inscribed tablets at Persepolis, once the monumental capital of the Persian Empire, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

On Sept. 4th, 1997, a Hamas-sponsored suicide attack at the Ben Yehuda mall in Jerusalem took the lives of five people, including three young girls.

Thought these two events would be completely disconnected? So did I, and maybe normally they would be. What they have in common is the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country where the tablets were found, and the country that partially funds Hamas. This connection has linked the tablets and the suicide bombing together in an unpredictable lawsuit that threatens the increasingly fragile nature of international archaeological cooperation...

Iran Gambles with its Cultural Heritage in U.S. Lawsuits
Apr 29, 2010
E. E. Mazier
By ignoring lawsuits against it and failing to take an active role in the post-judgment phase of those cases, Iran is at risk of seeing a major component of its cultural heritage broken up and sold in pieces. That was the underlying message of an April 27, 2010 lecture by Matthew W. Stolper at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia about the Persepolis Fortification Tablets...
Inside Washington: NIAC’s Battle to Save the Persepolis Tablets
Written by NIAC Staff
Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Washington, DC - The campaign to save the Persepolis Tablets is quietly gaining momentum, as NIAC and some of the nation’s top universities work to protect thousands of priceless cultural artifacts at risk of being seized by lawyers and auctioned off to the highest bidder...

...Soon, NIAC will also deploy the Persepolis Center, an online resource that will not only serve as a clearinghouse for background information about the Persepolis Tablets but will also provide a direct connection between NIAC and members with the latest updates on our efforts, new opportunities for members to mobilize, tools for contacting elected representatives, and profiles of endangered collections.If we are successful in our efforts, the Iranian American community can take pride in protecting not only our own cultural artifacts, but all cultural artifacts from the threat of lawsuit in the U.S.
Iran’s Cultural Heritage Under Threat
by Alix McKenna
California Literary Review
March 22nd, 2010 at 12:40 am

...The use of the Iranian antiquities to satisfy the Rubin judgment could also put American cultural property at risk and cause foreign policy complications for the United States. The U.S. Government has filed several statements of interest with the court expressing these concerns. On June 6, 2006 Abbas Salimi-Namin, the former head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization sent a letter to the United Nations that illustrates the potential for problems. The missive demanded the immediate return of the tablets. While the Oriental Institute had previously enjoyed a good relationship with Iran based on a shared interest in gleaning knowledge from the tablets, the letter accused the museum of keeping the objects “on various grounds and pretexts” and ominously suggested that if the antiquities are turned over to the terror victims, American museums with objects in Iran would “face a similar measure from Tehran.”
Should Cultural Heritage Be on the Judicial Auction Block?
By Laina Catherine Wilk Lopez
Volume 75, Number 1
Spring 2010

...Consider the following real life case on which I am currently working. In 1997, several persons, including some Americans, were injured in a suicide bombing in Israel for which Hamas later took credit. In 2003, the U.S. victims of that bombing, in a lawsuit entitled Rubin v. Iran, sued Iran in a U.S. federal court in Washington, D.C. pursuant to a section of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act in effect at the time. That portion of the law, 28 U.S.C. §1605(a)(7), permitted Americans who suffered injury (or death) to sue those nations designated by the United States as “state sponsors of terrorism” for providing “material support” to commit an act of terrorism. At the time of the lawsuit, the nations designated as state sponsors of terrorism were Iran, Cuba, Syria, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Sudan. Today, only Iran, Cuba, Syria and Sudan remain on the list. In the Washington, D.C. case, the Rubin plaintiffs won against Iran a multi-million dollar default judgment, which Iran refused to pay. The plaintiffs, still determined to collect their money, thus registered their judgment in jurisdictions in the United States where the plaintiffs believed Iranian assets were located. They asked the courts in those jurisdictions to permit them to “attach” (a legal term meaning essentially judicial seizure) the various alleged Iranian assets, sell them at judicial auction, and use the proceeds of such sales to satisfy their multi-million dollar judgment.

In one such instance, the plaintiffs registered their judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiffs selected that court because there are three collections of ancient Persian artifacts owned by Iran or alleged to be owned by Iran in Chicago. One of the collections is not a true collection but rather a smattering of artifacts at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History collectively known as the Herzfeld Collection. The artifacts are so named because, according to the plaintiffs, noted archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld surreptitiously took the items from Iran in the early 20th Century and later unlawfully sold the allegedly stolen items to the University of Chicago and the Field Museum. Iran makes no claim to these artifacts and the university and the Field Museum vigorously defend their lawful ownership of the items. The plaintiffs assert that Iran nonetheless owns the Herzfeld items by operation of an Iranian patrimony law which, according to the plaintiffs, provides that any item unearthed in Iran is owned by Iran. Notably, the Rubin plaintiffs also have sued Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts alleging that those museums also have in their possession several items stolen by Herzfeld and hence are Iran owned. Like the museums in Chicago, however, the Boston museums vigorously defend their lawful ownership of the items.

The other two collections involved in the Chicago litigation, the Persepolis Collection and the Chogha Mish Collection, are housed at the Oriental Institute and are, everyone agrees, owned by Iran. These two collections arrived at the Oriental Institute in the 1930s and 1960s, respectively, following archaeological digs. In the 1930s, the Oriental Institute sent a team of its archaeologists – led by Ernst Herzfeld – to Iran, with the Iranian government’s consent, to excavate the ancient Persian city of Persepolis. Persepolis, the capital of the Achaemenid Empire, was built by Darius I in approximately 515 B.C. and destroyed by Alexander the Great in approximately 330 B.C. Though largely destroyed by Alexander, the site was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 due to monumental ruins which were left standing. Following the excavation, Iran agreed to loan to the Institute for study a grouping of rare tablet and tablet fragments found in the fortifications. Some of the tablets are written in an ancient text known as Elamite, a now extinct language understood today by a handful of people. The tablets contain administrative records of daily Achaemenid society, such as the amounts and recipients of food rations...

The Old Persian text in the Persepolis Fortification Archive appears on the cover of the new book

Numerical Notation
A Comparative History

Stephen Chrisomalis
Wayne State University, Michigan
(ISBN-13: 9780521878180)

It is also discussed on p. 256 ff.

Auctioning Ancient Iranian Artifacts: Implications for US Cultural Policy, By Touraj Daryaee, Associate Director, Center for Persian Studies at the University of California, Irvine, The Huffington Post, December 3, 2009 02:35 PM .

... These tablets only make sense if they are studied as a group and not dispersed throughout the world in the hand of dealers and private collectors. It is a rare archive from antiquity, and so it should remain as such to be studied and understood. It would be a shame to have had in the twenty-first century a unique source for understanding the ancient Persians that got arbitrarily partitioned and dispersed, forcing us to remain in the dark for another 2,500 years about the social and cultural history of these people and the region.

As citizens of a society which promotes the understanding and accepting of diversity here and for the world, we must not let this happen. Our people need to be able to go to museums and see these objects to understand the antiquity, beauty, and diversity of the world in which they live in. The auctioning ancient artifacts would be a great mistake. If the current administration allows their sale to private dealers and collectors, the cost, in terms of the destruction of evidence for the study of the history of humanity, as well as with regard to America's reputation, is incalculable.

Technology brings new insights to ancient language, University of Chicago News Office, October 14, 2009

New technologies and academic collaborations are helping scholars at the University of Chicago analyze hundreds of ancient documents in Aramaic, one of the Middle East’s oldest continuously spoken and written languages.

Members of the West Semitic Research Project at the University of Southern California are helping the University’s Oriental Institute make very high-quality electronic images of nearly 700 Aramaic administrative documents. The Aramaic texts were incised in the surfaces of clay tablets with styluses or inked on the tablets with brushes or pens. Some tablets have both incised and inked texts.

Discovered in Iran, these tablets form one of the largest groups of ancient Aramaic records ever found. They are part of the Persepolis Fortification Archive, an immense group of administrative documents written and compiled about 500 B.C. at Persepolis, one of the capitals of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Archaeologists from the Oriental Institute discovered the archive in 1933, and the Iranian government has loaned it to the Oriental Institute since 1936 for preservation, study, analysis and publication.

The Persepolis texts have started to provide scholars with new knowledge about Imperial Aramaic, the dialect used for international communication and record-keeping in many parts of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian empires, including parts of the administration at the imperial court of Persepolis. These texts have even greater value because they are so closely connected with documents written in other ancient languages by the same administration at Persepolis.

“We don’t have many archives of this size. A lot of what’s in these texts is entirely fresh, but this also changes what we already knew,” said Annalisa Azzoni, an assistant professor at the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University. Azzoni is a specialist on ancient Aramaic and is now working with the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project at the Oriental Institute. “There are words I know were used in later dialects, for example, but I didn’t know they were used at this time or this place, Persia in 500 B.C. For an Aramaicist, this is quite an important discovery.”

Clearer images delivered more quickly
Scholars from the West Semitic Research Project at the University of Southern California helped the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project build and install an advanced electronic imaging laboratory at the Oriental Institute. Together, the two projects are making high-quality images of the Aramaic texts and the seal impressions associated with those texts. They are distributing the new images to the international research community through the Internet.

Inked and incised texts pose different problems that call for different imaging solutions. Making high-resolution scans under polarized and filtered light reveals the ink without interference from stains and glare, and sometimes shows faded characters that cannot be seen in ordinary daylight. Using another advanced imaging technique, called Polynomial Texture Mapping, researchers are able to see surface variations under variable lighting, revealing the marks of styluses and even the traces of pens in places where the ink itself has disappeared.

Distributing the results online will give worldwide communities of philologists and epigraphers images that are almost as good as the original objects―and in some cases actually clearer than the originals―to study everything from vocabulary and grammar to the handwriting habits of individual ancient scribes.

Researcher Marilyn Lundberg and her colleagues from the West Semitic Research Project built two Polynomial Texture Mapping devices from scratch at the Oriental Institute. They trained Persepolis Fortification Archive Project workers in using them, and also in using filtered light with a camera equipped with a high-resolution scanning device. Now a stream of raw images is uploaded every day to a dedicated server maintained by Humanities Research Computing at Chicago, then uploaded for post-processing at the University of Southern California. Fully processed imagery is available on InscriptiFact, the online application of the West Semitic Research Project, and in the Online Cultural Heritage Research Environment, the online application of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project.

Seeing the whole picture
The Polynomial Texture Mapping apparatus looks a bit like a small astronomical observatory, with a cylindrical based topped by a hemispherical dome. The camera takes a set of 32 pictures of each side of the tablet, with each shot lit with a different combination of 32 lights set in the dome. After post-processing, the PTM software application knits these images to allow a viewer sitting at a computer to manipulate the apparent direction, angle and intensity of the light on the object, and to introduce various effects to help with visualization of the surface.

“This means that the scholar isn’t completely dependent on the photographer for what he sees anymore,” said Bruce Zuckerman, Director of the West Semitic Research Project and its online presence, InscriptiFact. “The scholar can pull up an image on the screen and relight an object exactly as he wants to see it. He can look at different parts of the image with different lighting, to cast light and shadow across even the faintest, shallowest marks of a stylus or pen on the surface, and across every detail of a seal impression.”

“This is a wonderful way to look at seal impressions,” said Elspeth Dusinberre, another Persepolis Fortification Project collaborator. Dusinberre, an associate professor of classics at the University of Colorado, is studying the imagery and the use of seals impressed on the Aramaic tablets. “Some of the impressions are faint, or incomplete, on curved surfaces or damaged surfaces. Sometimes Aramaic text is written across them. You need to be able to move the light around to highlight every detail, to see the whole picture.”

The Persepolis Fortification Archive also includes about 10,000 to 12,000 other tablets and fragments with cuneiform texts in Elamite―a few hundred of them with short secondary texts in Aramaic. There are also about 4,000 to 5,000 others with impressions of seals, but no texts, and there are a few unique documents in other languages and scripts, including Greek, Old Persian and Phrygian.

“That’s what makes this group of Aramaic texts so extraordinary,” Stolper said. “From one segment of the Persepolis Fortification Archive, the Elamite texts, we know a lot about conditions around Persepolis at about 500 B.C. When we can add a second stream of information, the Aramaic texts, we’ll be able to see things in a whole new light. They add a new dimension of the ancient reality.”

Impacts are far-reaching
The collaboration between the Oriental Institute at Chicago and the West Semitic Research Project at Southern California began with support from a substantial grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2007. To date, the teams have made high-quality images of almost all the monolingual Aramaic Fortification tablets. The next phase of the work, supported by a second Mellon grant that runs through 2010, will make images of the short Aramaic notes written on cuneiform tablets, seal impressions on uninscribed tablets and previously unrecorded Elamite cuneiform texts.

The tablets have been studied since they came to Chicago in 1936, and many of them have been sent back to Iran. Oriental Institute scholar Richard T. Hallock published about 2,100 of the Elamite texts in 1969, and Margaret Cool Root and Persepolis Fortification Archive Project collaborator Mark Garrison are completing a three-volume publication of the impressions made on those documents by about 1,500 distinct seals.

These publications have had far-reaching results. “They have transformed every aspect of modern study of the languages, history, society, institutions, art and religion of the Achaemenid Persian Empire,” Stolper said. “No serious treatment of the empire that Cyrus and Darius built and that Alexander destroyed can ignore the perspectives of the Fortification Archive.”

“If that is the effect of a sample of one component of the archive,” added Garrison, “imagine what will happen when we can have larger samples and other components, and not just the written record, but the imagery, the impressions made by thousands of different seals that administrators and travelers―the men and women who figure in the texts―employed.”

By 2010, the collaborating teams expect to have high-quality images of 5,000 to 6,000 Persepolis tablets and fragments, and to supplement these with conventional digital images of another 7,000 to 8,000 tablets and fragments. The images will be distributed online as they are processed, along with cataloging and editorial information.

“Thanks to electronic media, we don’t have to cut the parts of the archive up and distribute the pieces among academic specialties,” said Stolper. “We can combine the work of specialists in a way that lets us see the archive as it really was, in its original complexity, as one big thing with many distinct parts.”

DOJ Urges 7th Circuit to Shield Iranian Artifacts From Seizure by Terrorism Victims
Arguments focus on foreign sovereign immunity
Lynne Marek
The National Law Journal
November 02, 2009

While the United States and Iran heatedly battle over nuclear disarmament on the world stage, they joined forces last week before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals...
...At oral argument, the 7th Circuit panel seemed to favor the arguments of the United States, Iran and the institutions, questioning the lower court's authority to disregard the artifacts' apparent statutory immunity. The artifacts "enjoy presumptive immunity" under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, said Judge Diane Sykes. "It can hardly be interpreted otherwise -- that's what it says.

Legal Threats to Cultural Exchange of Archaeological Materials, by Sebastian Heath and Glenn M. Schwartz, American Journal of Archaeology, Volume 113 No. 3 • July 2009

Legal action on behalf of victims of terrorism has attempted to force the sale of cultural artifacts on loan to U.S. institutions in order to compensate those victims. Such action jeopardizes the participation of American institutions in international cultural exchanges. The authors maintain that archaeological artifacts should not be sold to satisfy a court judgment, regardless of the actions of a particular regime, and that it should be possible for nations to share their cultural heritage without fear of loss.

Indemniser les victimes d'attentats en vendant de l'art ?, Rue89, Par Marlene Belilos | Journaliste | 24/06/2009 | 15H50.

L'Institut oriental de l'Université de Chicago -celle où Obama a été chargé d'enseignement-, dépositaire d'un ensemble d'environ 20 000 tablettes trouvées à Persépolis en 1933, se trouve au centre d'une bataille judiciaire inédite : des victimes d'un attentat réclament la vente de ces objets originaires d'Iran comme indemnisation.
Tablette trouvée à Persépolis en 1933 (DR).Un tribunal de Washington a condamné l'Etat iranien à verser 412 millions de dollars (323 millions d'euros) aux familles des victimes et survivants d'un attentat perpétré à Jérusalem en 1997.
Les plaignants arguent, en effet, que l'Etat iranien aurait financé et entraîné le Hamas, responsable de l'attentat. Ils s'appuient dans leur action sur une loi de 1970 permettant d'attaquer un Etat. Cette législation a encore été élargie en novembre 2008 par le sénateur du New Jersey, Lautenberger, levant l'immunité d'un Etat souverain...
The Artifacts of Life, By Carl Marziali, USC News Science / Technology, June 23, 2009 11:16 AM.
USC’s first pilgrims to a temple of high-energy physics will be seeking answers to worldly questions about ancient commerce.

Archaeologist Lynn Swartz Dodd of USC College and her students are taking trade artifacts from Egypt to the Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source, home of the most powerful X-rays in the country...

The group hopes to return to Argonne this fall or next spring for a second round of studies, this time to analyze Assyrian and Persian artifacts found in Israel, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, which are on loan from the Oriental Institute of Chicago...

This is not the first time that USC has brought modern technology to bear on ancient problems. Dodd’s colleague Bruce Zuckerman leads a team that has been creating digital images of the ancient writings on the Persepolis Tablets at the Oriental Institute in Chicago.

The project has two goals: to preserve at least digital access to the Iranian government-owned tablets, which may be sold off as part of a lawsuit seeking to punish Iran for its ties to the terrorist group Hamas; and to reduce physical study of the tablets by scholars.

“Looking at a text is probably the most damaging thing you can do to it,” Zuckerman said.
The Big Apple Raises $110,000 to Protect the Persepolis Tablets, NIAC, Thursday, 11 June 2009.
Washington, DC - Iranian-Americans from the New York tri-state area exceeded NIAC’s fundraising goals and helped raise over $110,000 to go towards preserving the Persepolis Artifacts on May 30th at the Asia Society in Manhattan...

Special guest, Professor Matthew Stolper who has dedicated his career to studying these tablets, made the gravity of losing just one of these artifacts crystal clear - If there are too many of these tablets being auctioned, their value will drop. So what do people do to ensure that the price remains high? "They destroy a good number of them," he exclaimed to a shocked audience. He also stressed the importance of keeping these items together, in fact, they are really to be seen as one item. Like a dinosaur fossil - if one bone is missing, we lose a sense of what the animal was. The same goes for these artifacts which tell the story of the Persian empire during the time of Darius the Great.

Thanks to our community in the City that Never Sleeps, NIAC is better positioned to ensure that not a single tablet from Persepolis is confiscated, auctioned or destroyed. NIAC is involved through legal, media and policy avenues to preserve the Persepolis tablets

Victims of terrorist attack in Israel can proceed with claim for US antiquities, The Art Newspaper. From issue 191, May 2008. Published online 1.5.08.
A federal court in Massachusetts affirmed on 31 March that Iranian antiquities at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Harvard University Art Museums might be subject to a claim by the victims of a terrorist bombing allegedly sponsored by Iran...In the latest round of litigation in Massachusetts, the court declined to reconsider its prior ruling that the plaintiffs might be able to claim the antiquities under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002. The case will now go to the federal appeals court.

Farhang Foundation fundraising in support of the Persepolis Tablet Project of Professor Matthew Stolper at the University of Chicago, Farhang Foundation Blog. Posted by Bita Milanian on May 28, 2009 at 2:02pm.
On May 16, 2009, a private gathering hosted by members of the Farhang Foundation’s board of trustees, was attended by a number of enthusiasts in history and culture of ancient Iran, to raise funds to support Prof. Stolper’s efforts to preserve the contents the Persepolis Tablets...

Iranian American Bar Association Panel June 10th to Discuss Persian Antiquities in Peril, © Business Wire 2009, 2009-06-04 19:38:02 - .
In September of 1997, three Hamas suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowded pedestrian mall in Jerusalem, killing five and wounding nearly 200. Several of the American victims sued the government of Iran, accusing it of being complicit in the attack, and won a $412 million default judgment. In seeking to satisfy that judgment, the plaintiffs have gone to court to seize ancient Persian artifacts being held by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, the Chicago Field Museum, several Harvard University museums, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts...

In an effort to raise awareness about these cases and to further explore their cultural and scholarly impact, the Chicago Chapter of the Iranian American Bar Association (IABA) will host a panel discussion on Wednesday, June 10 from 5:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the University Center, 525 S. State Street, Lake Room, Chicago. The panelists include Dr. Gil Stein and Dr. Matthew Stolper of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, Dr. Patty Gerstenblith of the DePaul University College of Law, and Sue Benton, lead counsel for the Chicago Field Museum...

Supreme Court Case can Decide Fate of Persepolis Tablets , Written by Ehsan Tabesh, National Iranian American Council (NIAC), Friday, 29 May 2009.
Washington DC - As the U.S. District Court decides the fate of thousands of historic Persian artifacts, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon determine whether U.S. citizens can sue the newly formed Republic of Iraq for the misdeeds of the former Saddam Hussein regime. The timing of the case is critical to not only future claims filed against sovereign nations including the United States, but also the outcome of two suits that seek to seize and auction off invaluable artifacts from Persepolis with great historical significance to Iranian Americans.

In the Republic of Iraq v. Beaty, the Supreme Court will soon decide whether the Republic of Iraq is immune from a civil suit brought by several U.S. military and media personnel allegedly captured and mistreated by the former Iraqi regime headed by Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Kuwait invasion. This case consolidates several lawsuits filed by over 236 plaintiffs that seek more than $3 billion in damages against the new government in Iraq for the misgivings of the former Hussein regime...
Iran's treasures aren't safe, by Kriston Capps, UTV Media, Wednesday, 13 May 2009.
The Tehran Times reports that Iran's ministry of culture and Islamic guidance rejected a request from the US National Gallery of Art to borrow a painting by Gauguin from the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Speaking to the ministry's decision, office for visual arts director Mahmud Shaluii had heated words: "In response to the National Gallery of Art director, we said that the United States is not legally safe for Iranian artworks."

A curator in a snit hardly ranks among the heavy diplomatic conflicts that mar US–Iran relations. But on this front, Iran is not being churlish. In fact, the curator has it exactly right: Iran would be out of its mind to send a Gaugin – or anything else – to the US, because the US has no intention of returning it. A new judicial ruling on assets and cultural lending threatens to cut off cultural cooperation between the two nations, just as its leaders are taking tentative steps toward finding some middle ground...

Iran rejects U.S. National Gallery of Art’s request for Gauguin painting, Tehran Times Art Desk, Wednesday, April 22, 2009.
The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMCA) recently turned down a request from the National Gallery of Art in Washington for a loan of a Paul Gauguin still life for an exhibition ... it is not possible to loan the painting due to the lack of confidence that the United States will safeguard Iranian artworks,” noted Shaluii, who is also the curator of TMCA.

Iranian Americans Raise $50,000 to Preserve Persepolis Artifacts, Written by NIAC, Wednesday, 25 March 2009.
McLean, Va - The Iranian-American community came together to celebrate the coming of Norooz and support NIAC's continued efforts to protect the Persepolis tablets and support diplomacy, on March 7, 2009 in Mclean VA. The event, which hosted more than 150 members of the Iranian-American community, raised an impressive $50,000. Dr. Paymaun Lotfi and Mrs. Bita Lotfi hosted the event and opened their home in Virginia to the local Iranian-American community...

NIAC's special guest was Professor Matthew Stolper of Chicago University, the caretaker of the prized Persian artifacts in the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project. He spoke extensively on the vast significance of the Persepolis artifacts to ancient Persian history and to the international community.

He expressed great concern for the risk of the artifacts being confiscated and auctioned off, arguing that the window the tablets provide into Iran's ancient history only exists if all of the tablets are kept. They are like bones in a skeleton - with a single tablet missing, the entire skeleton collapses...

Appeal for Protection of Persian Artifacts Reaches New Heights, Written by NIAC, Thursday, 12 March 2009.
Washington, DC - Today, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) -- the largest Iranian-American grassroots organization -- presented a brief Amicus Curiae to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District Illinois Eastern Division in a lawsuit that seeks to seize and auction off thousands of historic Persian artifacts of substantial historical importance currently on display at the University of Chicago.

"NIAC believes these artifacts qualify as cultural property and are part of the cultural heritage of all persons of Iranian descent," said Trita Parsi, President of NIAC. "Our role is to ensure that they are not confiscated and auctioned off to the highest bidder - an act that would not only contradict the principles embodied in numerous laws and treaties, but set a terrible precedent in America and for several similar cases as well as potentially result in retaliation against U.S. properties worldwide."

In presenting its brief, NIAC seeks to act as an amicus curiae or "friend of the Court," and will ask the Court to consider the cultural importance of these artifacts when interpreting the provisions of law that will govern its ruling.

Trial of the Centuries, By Alison Sider. Published: March 5th, 2009, Grey City, Chicago Maroon
Since 2004, the Oriental Institute has found itself at the unlikely nexus of archaeology, law, and terrorism. At stake are millions of dollars, a collection of 2,500-year-old tablets, and possibly the future of archaeological research.

With its stone fireplace and wood paneling, it would be less surprising to see Indiana Jones walk into Gil Stein’s office at the Oriental Institute than the visitor who stopped by five years ago.

“Are you Gil Stein?” the man asked, standing in the doorway to Stein’s office. Stein answered in the affirmative.

“You’ve been served,” the man said, handing over an envelope. And with that, he turned and left.

The envelope revealed a summons from the federal district court of the Northern District of Illinois, demanding that Stein, the Institute’s director, turn over ancient tablets from the Institute’s Persepolis Fortification Archive and Choga Mish collection. They would be sold, according to the summons, in order to compensate victims of a 1997 terrorist attack funded by Iran.

"A Debt that cannot be repaid in full", By A. J. Cave, 03/06/09, Payvand
On March 4th, 1933, a group of American archaeologists from the Chicago University's Oriental Institute, excavating in the ruins of Pârsâ (Persepolis), struck pure gold. They found the largest ancient archive of its size under heaps of ashes and broken stones that had collapsed, preserving its treasure for centuries. That priceless treasure, Achaemenid Administrative Archives, more commonly known as the Persepolis Fortification Archive (PFA), is now caught in the American legal system, as the coveted prize in a federal lawsuit - part of a series of related lawsuits, no longer just to seize commercial assets owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran, but a fight for the seizure of precious Persian antiquities held by western museums, regardless of who owns them...

Obama and the Persian Treasures in Chicago, by Trita Parsi, Posted March 4, 2009 | 02:25 AM (EST), The Huffington Post.
...Under the law, President Obama has the power to issue an executive waiver to stop the seizure of foreign assets if that would further US national security. Considering the importance of the President's efforts to reduce tensions with Iran and solicit its collaboration in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the dire consequences of failure, President Obama should do exactly that. It's not the easiest decision politically, but no one ever said overcoming 30 years of enmity would be easy.

Persepolis Fortification Archive at center of lawsuits, by Will Anderson, March 2, 2009. News from the Division of the Humanities, Posted on February 27th, 2009.
The victims of two different terrorist attacks have filed two separate lawsuits, both of them competing for the right to auction the Persepolis Fortification Archive.

Chicago Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle are two of several news sources that have picked up the story: the Persepolis Fortification Archive, on loan from Iran and under the care of the Oriental Institute since the 1930s, might be seized to help pay for damages awarded to over 800 victims of terrorist attacks. The archive consists of thousands of inscribed clay tablets, all of them 2500 years old, that taken together are scholars’ best aid in understanding the everyday workings of the Persian empire.

Iran: on the Persepolis Tablets Case (A. J. Cave, US; ex-Iran) , World Association of International Studies | PAX, LUX, et VERITAS, Posted on February 27th, 2009.
My friends tease me that I wrote some 700+ pages of romance just to put the Persepolis Fortification Archive in the context of time and place and show the horror that the Persians must have felt at the time watching Persepolis [Parsa] burn by the hands of the bloody invading Macedonians. A grief that still burns the tips of my fingers.

The third chapter of my book: “Axis of Empire” passing through the ruins of Persepolis is available in PDF format, and here is a link.

Les tablettes de Persépolis au centre d'un bras de fer judiciaire aux Etats-Unis, Le Nouvel Observateur, 24.02.2009 | 18:39

FOCUS: Terrorism impacting archaeology, 02-22-09, The Herald News, Posted Feb 20, 2009 @ 05:40 PM
[This is the first appearance of Associated Press article by Sharon Cohen, which also appears (with credit) under the title "Terror victims seeking Persian relics in court" at MSNBC and The Chicago Tribune. No doubt it will appear elsewhere in the next day or two. -CEJ-]
CHICAGO — The professor opens a cardboard box and gingerly picks up a few hunks of dried clay — dust-baked relics that offer a glimpse into the long-lost world of the Persian empire that spanned a continent 2,500 years ago.

Matt Stolper has spent decades studying these palm-sized bits of ancient history. Tens of thousands of them. They’re like a jigsaw puzzle. A single piece offers a tantalizing clue. Together, the big picture is scholarly bliss: a window into Persepolis, the capital of the Persian empire looted and burned by Alexander the Great.

The collection — on loan for decades to the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute — is known as the Persepolis Fortification Archive. These are, to put it simply, bureaucratic records. But in their own way, they tell a story of rank and privilege, of deserters and generals, of life in what was once the largest empire on earth.

For Stolper — temporary caretaker of the tablets — these are priceless treasures.
For others, they may one day be payment for a terrible deed...
[Versions of this article have also appeared in several other sources, incuding Current News Stories, Telegraph Herald - Dubuque, IA, The Pueblo Chieftain, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Southtown Star, Museum Security Network, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Contra Coasta Times, Deseret News, PR-Inside, Charlotte Sun, The Southern, WAND TV, WSLS Roanoke, San Francisco Chronicle]

US urged to return Persepolis tablets, by PRESSTV, Mon, 02 Feb 2009 17:28:37 GMT.
International archeologists have asked US President Barack Obama to help return the Elamite tablets of Persepolis to their home in Iran.

Over 600 archeologists have signed a letter to President Obama asking him to stop the ancient artifacts, which are have been loaned to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, from being confiscated and sold...

Paying with the Past, by Gwenda Blair, Chicago Magazine, December 2008.
In March 1933, an archaeological expedition from the Oriental Institute, a division of the University of Chicago, was working in southwestern Iran among the ruins of Persepolis, the onetime capital of the ancient Persian Empire. While building a road for trucks to bring in drinking water, laborers accidentally uncovered a huge archive of 2,500-year-old clay tablets, inscribed with wedge-shaped cuneiform characters, that had been stored inside a fortification wall.

Five decades later, in October 1983, a terrorist drove a Mercedes truck loaded with explosives into the U.S. marine barracks in Beirut and killed 241 American servicemen. Fourteen years after that, in September 1997, terrorists set off suitcase bombs at Ben Yehuda, a popular pedestrian shopping mall in Jerusalem, killing five people and wounding nearly 200. Claiming that Iran underwrote both bombings, the U.S. survivors and family members of those who were killed sued that country in separate federal lawsuits in Washington, D.C., in 2001. Iran did not make an appearance, and the plaintiffs won a total of more than $3 billion in default judgments.

The tablets, basically an administrative record, chronicle the distribution of food within Persepolis and the surrounding region.

Now these disparate elements are coming together in a Chicago courtroom. The plaintiffs in the bombing cases say that the only way they can collect what is owed to them is to force the sale of the Persepolis tablets, currently at the University of Chicago on loan from Iran, and they have filed lawsuits demanding that the archive go on the auction block.

Iran wants US to repatriate inscriptions, antiquities, Posted: 2008/12/16, Mathaba News Network.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi on Monday appealed to US institutions to repatriate Iranian inscriptions saying that their refusal has led to severance of Iran-US archaeological relations.

On Art! Beyond federal court, In this installment of IntLawGrrls "On Art!" series on artifacts of transnational culture, guest blogger Judith Weingarten, an archaeologist, returns to the blog with an account of legal issues swirling about a new show at a leading U.S. art museum, 25 November 2008.
The latest archaeological blockbuster at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium B.C.

The exhibit, which opened a week ago today, runs through March 15, 2009, and is reviewed here by The New York Times, is the direct sequel to the Met's 2003 Art of the First Cities, which covered the third millennium B.C. But unlike the 2003 show, which took place as American troops invaded the heartland of ancient Mesopotamia, there is a gaping hole in the new show: 55 pieces from Syria — stone sculptures; frescoes; goldwork, including this stupendous bowl from the ancient city of Ugarit (left) – were not sent as promised to New York.

In a wall card near the beginning of the show, the Met thanks the Syrian government for its willingness to lend such important objects, and expresses "deep regret that recent legislation in the United States has made it too difficult and risky for the planned loans to proceed." That legislation, an amendment made in January to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, permits private individuals claiming to be victims of state-sponsored terrorism to file liens against property belonging to that state whenever the property is in the United States. Property loaned to museums may fall within the ambit of this amendment.

This is the almost inevitable sequel to the legal battle over the Persepolis tablets...

Persian Artifacts Case: An Insider’s Perspective, By Babback Sabahi in The Iranian American Bar Association ("IABA") Review, volume 3, Fall 2008.
[Babback Sabahi, who is an associate at Mayer Brown, LLP in Washington, D.C, reviews the status of the case and reports that "Mayer Brown, LLP will file an amicus brief in this case on behalf of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) encouraging the court to uphold the exempt status of the Iranian artifacts under the FSIA. Such ruling would be consistent with contemporary trends in the protection of cultural property as demonstrated by U.S. federal and state laws, and international treaties.]

Persepolis skatter i rättslig tvist, By Ashk Dahlén in Svenska Dagbladet, 1 september 2008.

Battle over Persepolis Fortification Archive: Achaemenid Administrative Archives, By A.J. Cave in Payvand's Iran News ... 09/24/08

Iran seeking more docs for case of Achaemenid tablets, TEHRAN, Sept. 23, 2008 (Mehr News Agency)
["Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) is searching for more documents to enable the country to win the court case against the University of Chicago on the matter of the Achaemenid tablets. CHTHO’s Judicial Office has set up a team of experts to look for the documents at the archives of Iran’s Customs Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and former prime ministerial office -- present Presidential Office, the office director Omid Ghanami told CHN on Monday..."]

Libya deal may be model for others: U.S. looking to press more into paying for role in attacks, By Bay Fang, Chicago Tribune Washington bureau, September 6, 2008
[Persepolis Fortification Archive lawsuit in the context of theis week's Libyan claims settlement agreement]

Should Iran Treasure Be Held for Ransom?, By Chris Sloan in Stones, Bones ‘n Things (a National Geographic Society blog),Posted Aug 18,2008
["...The tension surrounding these tablets reminds me of the current tension between the nations of Iran and the U.S.. There is a lot of old baggage, politics, pain and loss, and blustering. Cultural heritage should not be used as a weapon against nations. It is world heritage we're talking about..."]

Earth still ‘best trustee’ for Achaemenid palace, TEHRAN, Aug. 13 (MNA)
[On the backfilling of the site in Sorvan near Nurabad Mamasani in Fars Province, believed by the excavators to be the location of the place "Liduma" mentioned in the Persepolis Fortification Archive.]

Background on Persepolis Artifact Case, By rash Hadjialiloo , National Iranian American Council, Jun 27, 2008

Hague Tribunal Figures in Terror Case Involving Iran, Chicago Museum, By JOSH GERSTEIN, Staff Reporter of the Sun, July 17, 2008
["...On Monday, Iran's representative wrote to the tribunal's clerks asking for various documents filed in connection with the American-Iranian dispute. "The documents are to be produced to the plaintiffs in a litigation pending before a domestic court," M.H. Zahedin-Labbaf wrote, a court filing in Chicago shows.

Clerks for the tribunal, whose cases often drag on for years, wrote back the same day that they would not provide the documents. "We respectfully inform you that we are unable to comply," the international court's co-registrars, Jessica Hilburn-Holmes and Ali Marossi, wrote, citing tribunal rules which keep such records confidential....]

Terror Case Judge: Iran Must Identify U.S. Assets, By JOSH GERSTEIN, Staff Reporter of the Sun, June 30, 2008
["In an apparently unprecedented move, a federal judge in Chicago is ordering the government of Iran to comply with the requests of terrorism victims that the Islamic nation identify of all of its real estate holdings, financial assets, and other property in America. In issuing the order last week, Judge Blanche Manning effectively rejected the advice of the Bush administration that the court should put limits on what Iran is required to disclose about its American assets...]

Legal Dance on Persepolis Artifacts Continues, By Arash Hadjialiloo, NIAC, 06/23/08, Payvand.

NIAC: Struggle over Persian artifacts continues, June 19, 2008, IRANCOVERAGE.

'They can give us justice': Families of Marines killed in Lebanon join suit seeking Iran funds, May 30, 2008, By Dave Newbart, Sun-Times News Group.
["... While the Marine families wanted to proceed with their own case against Iran, Manning this week consolidated their claim with the one already pending. David Strachman, attorney for the mall victims' families, said that decision amounts to "terrorism victims attacking other victims. ... It's unseemly for lawyers for one gr
US terrorism claimants compete for Iranian assets, By Andrew Stern. Reuters Thu May 29, 2008 6:27pm EDT.
[".. Families of those killed in the Beirut Marine barracks bombing 25 years ago staked their claim on Thursday to ancient Persian clay tablets, on loan to a U.S. museum, to satisfy a $2.7 billion judgment won against Iran..."]

Judge Gives Terror Victims a Victory Over Iran: Rules in Case Involving Artifacts Held by Chicago Museums, By JOSH GERSTEIN, Staff Reporter of the New York Sun, May 28, 2008.
["In a ruling released yesterday, Judge Blanche Manning ordered the Iranian government to produce its records about how tens of thousands of ancient tablets and other antiquities ended up in the university's collections. In a five-page decision, Judge Manning rejected each of Iran's arguments against allowing discovery in the case. The Islamic Republic's claims that such procedures would lead to similar actions against America and other countries were "overblown," she found"]

US takes 3D shots of Iran inscriptions, PressTV, Sun, 13 Apr 2008 22:48:42

Achaemenid inscription names uncle of Darius in Old Persian for first tim, Tehran Times.

Heritage on a store shelf: U.S. federal court threatens Iranian-American heritage, by Arash Hadjialiloo , 16-Mar-2008,

NIAC enlists major law firm to protect Persian Tablets, by Shadee Malaklou, Mar 12, 2008, National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Newsletter.

Federal Court Threatens Iranian-American Heritage, by Arash Hadjialiloo , Mar 12, 2008, National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Newsletter.

Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran: latest reported opinion. Higher Ed Law Prof Blog: A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network.

اقتباس يا ابتكار، ميراثی از كورش يا داريوش خط ميخی فارسی باستان. آخرين به روز رسانی, ۱۳۸۶/۱۱/۲۹ - ۱۱:۵۱.

Iran's Arfaei finds new Elamite words. Press TV, Sun, 27 Jan 2008 22:25:23.

Of Ancient Empires and Modern Litigation. Tableau: The Magazine of the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago, Fall/Winter 2008

Rubin v. The Islamic Republic of Iran - A Struggle for Control of Persian Antiquities in America, James A. Wawrzyniak, Harvard Law School, 2007
["This paper analyzes the multi-jurisdictional attachment and execution proceedings taking place sub nomine Rubin v. The Islamic Republic of Iran. The Rubin litigation raises novel issues in the areas of art law and foreign relations. The first section of the paper evaluates whether third parties have standing to raise a sovereign state’s immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”). The second delves into the particulars of the commercial use exception to the FSIA. The final section considers various provisions of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2001, a new law with little judicial gloss. These three main issues are evaluated within a broader art law framework as historic and valuable Persian antiquities stand at the center of the execution proceedings."]

The Persepolis Tablets: Terror Victims Target Ancient Persian Artifacts, By Alicia M. Hilton. American Bar Association Litigation Update - Hot Topics, April 2007
[n.b.: This is not a new article but it was not seen by me until today, Jan. 16, 2008. Alicia M. Hilton is a Visiting Professor of Law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago where she teaches Cultural Property and Museum Law, Criminal Procedure, and Undercover Operations and Informant Management Law. Prior to practicing law, she was an FBI Special Agent and an art dealer]

Achaemenid tablet translation remains unpublished due to lack of funding, TEHRAN, Jan. 1 (MNA)
[An article on Abdolmajid Arfaei's project to publish the Hallock transliterations of Persepolis Fortification Tablets]

Justice Dept. 'Helps Iran' in Court Case, by Josh Gerstein, Staff Reporter of the New York Sun, November 23, 2007
["...'This court should exercise circumspection in light of the potential foreign policy implications of requiring broad discovery of a foreign sovereign,' a Justice Department lawyer, Rupa Bhattacharyya, wrote in a "Statement of Interest" filed in federal court in Chicago last week. The attorney urged the court to limit the terrorism victims' ability to gather information about the antiquities because Iran is entitled to be treated with "grace and comity" in American legal proceedings..."]

Roads of time converge in Bolaghi Valley Tehran: 19:36 , 2007/09/10,
["...The director of the Parsa-Pasargadae Research Center noted that the University of Chicago has 30,000 ancient Iranian tablets or fragments of tablets bearing cuneiform inscriptions in its possession and has translated 3000 of them, but added that they are gradually being returned to Iran...]

Iran to redeem Persepolis tablets Sunday, September 09, 2007 - ©2005
["An American court is slated to hear on September 25 the case related to Persian tablets loaned by Iran to Chicago University in 1937..."]

Iran to redeem Persepolis tablets Fri, 07 Sep 2007 14:16:41, PressTV
["An American court is slated to investigate the issue of the priceless collection of Persian tablets, loaned to Chicago University."]

American judge orders seizure of Persian artifacts Tehran, July 31, IRNA
[An unhelpful and inaccurate summary of the situation]

Everyday Text Shows That Old Persian Was Probably More Commonly Used Than Previously Thought Science Daily, June 19, 2007

Everyday text shows that Old Persian was probably more commonly used than previously thought
University of Chicago Press Release, June 15, 2007
["For the first time, a text has been found in Old Persian language that shows the written language in use for practical recording and not only for royal display. The text is inscribed on a damaged clay tablet from the Persepolis Fortification Archive, now at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. The tablet is an administrative record of the payout of at least 600 quarts of an as-yet unidentified commodity at five villages near Persepolis in about 500 B.C."]

Discovery of the First Old-Persian-Inscription among the loaned Persepolis’ Fortification-Tablets in the University of Chicago London (CAIS) 31 May 2007
[Researchers at Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago for the first time have identified an Old-Persian (Aryan) inscription among the loaned Achaemenid-clay tablets, announced Abdolmajid Arfaee, an Iranian Archaeologist with ICHT]

See also the blog enty PFT at the AOS. The initial publication of the tablet will appear presently in ARTA at Achemenet]

Confiscation of Iranian tablets to end Press TV, Posted: Wed, 23 May 2007 08:53:13
[An Iranian official has said the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago has assured Iran the confiscation of its tablets will end]

Iran restates rights over ancient tablets Press TV, Posted: Wed, 02 May 2007 17:19:02
[The Judicial Office of Iran's CHTHO has demanded the extradition of Achaemenid tablets, a possession of Iran according to Iran and US law]

Insulting The Magnificent Persians Hamed Vahdati Nasab , Posted: Mar 28, 2007
[One of a large number of stories criticizing the film 300, and citing Persepolis tablets as evidence]

Cultural Barbarians are at the Gate 3/22/07 - Payvand News
[The Persepolis Fortification Archive mentioned in the context of a discussion of current geo-politics]

Tablets will Return to Iran 2007-03-11 - Fars News Agency

Museum GC Oversees King Tut, T. Rex and More: The Field Museum of Natural History general counsel Joseph Brennan March 9, 2007 - The National Law Journal
[With a comment on the claim against objects of Iranian origin in the Field Museum of Natural History]

Iran tablets’ fate remains uncertain Friday, February 2nd, 2007 - Chicago Maroon

University of Chicago not showing goodwill on return of Achaemenid tablets: official January 26, 2007 -
[This article has been repeated in a variety of Iranian news sources in the past few days]

No verdict on Iranian clay tablets Monday, January 22, 2007 - ©2005

Fate of Persian Tablets Still Undetermined Cultural Heritage News Agency, 2007-1-20

Targeting ancient tablets to settle a score Marketplace, American Public Media, 2007-1-18 [Audio story with transscript]

A Heritage Threatened: The Persepolis Tablets Lawsuit and the Oriental Institute, by Gil J. Stein, The Oriental Institute News and Notes, Winter 2007

What are the Persepolis Fortification Tablets?, by Matthew W. Stolper, The Oriental Institute News and Notes, Winter 2007

'Achaemenid tablets will be repatriated soon' IranMania 2006-12-27

US Court Postpones Hearing on Iranian Artifacts Fars News Agency 2006-12-26

Achaemenid tablets will be repatriated sooner or later: official 2006-12-26

Iranian clay tablets to return home Iranian Student News Agency 2006-12-22

Iranian Tablets to Be Examined upon Return from US Fars News Agency 2006-11-26

US Obliged to Indemnify Iran If it Sells Artifacts Fars News Agency 2006-11-21

London Museum Defends Return of Artifacts to Iran Fars News Agency 2006-11-06

National Museum Director Assures Return of Tablets to Iran Fars News Agency 2006-10-28

Art As Anti-Terrorism. Will U.S. Seize Persian Tablets At An American Museum As Compensation For A Suicide Bombing? CBS News Oct. 8, 2006 [with video]

Iran enters legal fight over Oriental Institute relics Chicago Maroon Oct. 6, 2006

Worth millions...or priceless? A lawsuit threatens to take ancient Iranian tablets from the Oriental Institute to compensate Hamas terrorist victims University of Chicago Magazine, October 2006

Embattled Tablets Archaeology News Volume 59 Number 5, September/October 2006

Iran, US Fight to Protect Artifiacts Voice of America, September 19 2006

NIAC and IABA Join Forces to Protect Ancient Persian Article Payvand News, July 27, 2006

Iran UNESCO national commission request support on reclaiming Achaemenian tablets Iranian Students News Agency, July 18, 2006

In a Lawsuit Aimed at Iran, Terror Victims Focus on Ancient Artifacts in a Chicago Museum New York Times, July 18, 2006

Iran, U.S. Allied in Protecting Artifacts. Priceless Tablets Sought as Settlement In Lawsuit Over 1997 Hamas Bombing Washington Post, July 18, 2006

Fight Over Ancient Persian Tablets Goes to U.S. Court NPR Morning Edition, July 17, 2006

Crime against humanity: Auctioning off Iran's ancient artifacts, July 17, 2006

Iran wants disputed clay tablets returned from US Washington Post / Reuters, July 12, 2006

Looting Iran: What the University of Chicago has in its possession is part and parcel of a heritage that belongs to the Iranian people, July 2, 2006

Are U.S. Courts Biased against Iran? Daniel Pipes' Weblog, June 28, 2006

Antiquities and Politics Intersect in a Lawsuit New York Times, March 29, 2006

Victims of terrorist act seek Iranian artifacts Chicago Maroon, January 13, 2006

U. of C.'s ancient tablets in terror dispute Chicago Sun Times, December 13, 2005

Oriental Institute returns ancient tablets that explain an empire’s administrative life University of Chicago Magazine's Web log, May 13, 2004

Going home. First instalment: On University of Chicago's return of ancient tablets to Iran, May 2, 2004

US scholars woo Iran with return of ancient tablets
Guardian Unlimited, April 30, 2004

Oriental Institute will return 300 artifacts to Iran Chicago Maroon, April 30, 2004

Museum keeps its word, after 67 years Chicago Tribune, April 29, 2004

Ancient Persian scratch pads going back to Iran from U. of C. Chicago Sun Times, April 29, 2004

First to dig, first to return University of Chicago Magazine's Web log, April 28, 2004

Experts Back in Modern Iran to Again Study Ancient Persia New York Times, April 28, 2004

Researchers translate clay tablets from Persian Empire ABC7 Chicago, April 28, 2004

University of Chicago returns ancient Persian tablets loaned by Iran University of Chicago Press Release April 28, 2004

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

News from the Corpus of Mesopotamian Anti-witchcraft Rituals Project (CMAwR)

News from the Corpus of Mesopotamian Anti-witchcraft Rituals Project (CMAwR)
This year two volumes of Mesopotamian anti-witchcraft lore have appeared:
- Tzvi Abusch, The Magical Ceremony Maqlû (Ancient Magic and Divination 10), Leiden – Boston: Brill, 2016.
- Tzvi Abusch – Daniel Schwemer – Mikko Luukko – Greta Van Buylaere, Corpus of Mesopotamian Anti-witchcraft Rituals, vol. 2 (Ancient Magic and Divination 8/2), Leiden – Boston: Brill, 2016.

Respecting Brill’s moving wall, all the texts edited in these volumes will eventually be presented online within the framework of Oracc.

At present, CMAwRo ( comprises the texts edited in Tzvi Abusch - Daniel Schwemer, Corpus of Mesopotamian Anti-witchcraft Rituals, vol. 1 (Ancient Magic and Divination 8/1), Leiden - Boston: Brill, 2011. A pdf-file with corrections and additions to this volume can be found at: On this page you can also consult a list of additional manuscripts to previously edited texts. The addenda to texts from vol. 1 are being integrated online at Oracc’s CMAwRo.

In 2017, the texts of vol. 2 and their addenda will become available in the same place. The additional manuscripts to volumes 1 and 2 will be included in the final volume of Anti-witchcraft Rituals (CMAwR 3; AMD 8/3) that we are currently working on. It will be published in 2019.

At the moment, the Critical Catalogue of Mesopotamian Anti-witchcraft Rituals (CCMAwR; encompasses information on the tablets published in CMAwR vol. 1 and 2 and in Tzvi Abusch’s Maqlû. Especially worth noting is the recent online prepublication of Daniel Schwemer’s hand-copies of most of the Maqlû manuscripts as part of the Critical Catalogue.

General information on Mesopotamian witchcraft, including information on the use of CMAwRo and the Bibliography of Mesopotamian Magic, can be found at

CCMAwR, CMAwRo, and CMAwR, vol. 2, were created as part of the DFG-funded project Corpus babylonischer Rituale und Beschwörungen gegen Schadenzauber: Edition, lexikalische Erschließung, historische und literarische Analyse, directed by Daniel Schwemer at the University of Würzburg.

Bill Caraher (The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World)

Thinking about Sources for a Western Civilization Textbook

Last week I talked a bit about putting together a proposal for an un-textbook designed for an active-learning style Western Civilization class. The proposal is probably never going to amount to anything “real,” but it is designed to pull together various notes and ideas from my four semesters of teaching Western Civilization I in a Scale-Up style classroom

The little section below doesn’t really do the larger project justice. The goal of the class has been to get the students involved in writing history from the very first week. To get them going, however, I need to introduce some basic technical vocabulary (primary and secondary sources, chronological systems) and some basic tools (working in groups). I’ll bring these components into my chapters as I go (and maybe later today).


Sources are at the heart of any historical work. Historians divide their sources into two kinds. This division is largely arbitrary but it nevertheless reflects two different ways of thinking about the past.

Primary sources are sources more or less contemporary with the time in which they describe. A newspaper is a primary source. A law code is a primary source. A ancient inscription on stone is a primary source. Tweets and Facebook posts produced during an important public event like the Super Bowl or Presidential election night. As long as the document describes a contemporary event, it is a primary source.

Secondary sources are works that bring together primary sources usually to advance an argument. A history textbook, like the one that you will write in this class, is a secondary source. Articles in Wikipedia or by professional historians are secondary sources as well. These sources use primary sources to advance arguments about events in the past.

While this distinction is obvious is its most simplified form, things get more complicated in practice. For example, an ancient work of literature, like the epic poems of Homer or the history of Tacitus – are primary sources as well for the period in which they were written, but secondary sources for the period that they describe. The same might apply to, say, a history textbook written in the 1930s which described European politics before WWII. It is a primary source for attitudes toward, say, Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany in the 1930s, but a secondary source when it pulls together sources for European political history between WWI and WWII.

Primary and secondary sources should be read in different ways. Primary sources are generally read to understand something about a past culture. They might provide some basic information – like who was in ruling a state – or insights into social situations – like whether women could own a tavern. Some primary sources provide us a kind of “factual” information on the past. For example, census record can give us an idea of how many people lived in a community at a particular time. Reports from a battlefield can tell us what units participated in an campaign. At the same time, primary sources can also provide us with an idea of how people thought about their world in the past. For example, census records can tell us who the state counted and why. Political records can tell us why a political leader acted as he or she did. This kind of information can help us understand what people in the past valued, how they understood political power to function, and what motivated them to behave in certain ways. To extract that information, however, primary sources must be read carefully and critically. Always ask yourself what a document say as well as why is says is.

Secondary sources should also be engaged in a critical way. Works written by professional historians, like your textbooks, draw upon primary sources to make arguments, but this doesn’t mean that the professional historian can’t be wrong. It is always smart to go back to the primary sources to make sure that even the best professional historian has made a convincing argument. To facilitate this, professional historians use footnotes and cite the sources that they use allowing readers to track them down. Become a careful reader of footnotes and always ask yourself how the author of a secondary sources supports his or her arguments.

For secondary sources like Wikipedia, an extra level of scrutiny is necessary. These sources sometimes cite their primary sources or cite other secondary sources, but the authors are often not as careful. This doesn’t mean that Wikipedia is useless resource. For basic information – names, dates, and places – Wikipedia is unparalleled, but for historical arguments and analysis, it should be used with great caution.

That being said, read all secondary and primary sources carefully.

Martin Rundkvist (Aardvarchaeology)

Second Week Of 2016 Excavations At Skällvik Castle

Our second week at Skällvik Castle proved a continued small-finds bonanza, and we also documented some pretty interesting stratigraphy.

  • More of everything in Building IV. In addition to more coins of Magnus Eriksson, dice and stoneware drinking vessels, we also found a lot of points for crossbow bolts. It’s starting to look like the castle guards’ day room! As for why we found crossbow bolts only inside one building and none outdoors in the bailey, I figure that they had been amassed there for re-fletching. The dark indoors find context and the undamaged sharp points show that the bolts did not end up in the floor layer of Building IV because people were shooting there.
  • Building IX has a lovely floor sequence. First a terracing layer with few finds, probably pre-dating the entire building. Then a culture layer. Then a stone cobble floor. Then clay full of magical fairy stones. Then mortar. Then large square unglazed brick tiles, only a few of which survived. Then a demolition layer mixed with household refuse. Such attention paid over time to the floor of a low-ceilinged cellar-like ground-floor room demonstrates the resources available to the castle’s owner.
  • Building X has had a nice ribbed brick portal, as evidenced by broken decorative bricks left by the quarrymen.
  • The gate house is still very rich in bones, as remarked on by the 1902 excavator. And his coffee-loving workmen or their contemporaries left a small midden in it after the end of fieldwork.
  • Two finds in particular document the presence of the social elite, which is hardly surprising at a royal castle where both King Magnus and the Bishop of Linköping dated letters. One is part of a wheel-turned ivory ear scoop, the Q-Tip of the era’s nobility from the NW building. The other is a seal matrix with a simple coat of arms, found near the castle dock. I’m optimistic that specialists will be able to read the inscription and identify the owner.
  • We have enough coins to be able to draw chronological conclusions not only from which types are there, but from which ones are missing. All but one of the coins we have identified so far were struck for Magnus Eriksson, most during his final minting period about 1360. His successor and nephew Albrecht was crowned King of Sweden in February of 1364, and this ruler is represented by only one coin, a frontal crowned-face bracteate.
  • We can see the quarrying of the castle for building material, targeted largely towards bricks, preferentially towards specialised decorative ones and floor bricks. These were in all likelihood taken by boat the two kilometres to Stegeborg Castle when it was re-erected, probably in the 1360s. And when Stegeborg was partly torn down about 1700, the bricks travelled on to the royal castle in my home town Stockholm!
  • It would be great to learn what’s under the rubble that fills the castle keep. But excavating this building would be an enormous undertaking, with regard both to the sheer volume of rubble with large heavy boulders, and to the long-term conservation commitment once you’ve emptied the structure. It is not a job for one precariously employed university lecturer and his students, working for a few weeks on small grants. The organisation that excavates Skällvik Castle’s keep will have to have solid long-term funding. And it must be willing to put a roof on the structure, restore the masonry and return the keep to daily use as a museum space with offices. Any responsible intervention into a ruin must be done with an eye to the far future, not just to the next tourist season.
Skällvik Castle during excavations. Drone photograph by Jan Ainali. The team in front of the keep. Drone photograph by Jan Ainali. Ivory ear scoop. Seal matrix. Seal matrix, side view. A coin of King Albrecht.

Jim Davila (

Orion Newsletter 21 (2015)

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Archaeological News on Tumblr

Mexico finds water tunnels under Pakal tomb in Palenque

Archaeologists at the Mayan ruin site of Palenque said Monday they have discovered an underground...

AIA Fieldnotes

Collaborative and Community Archaeology

Sponsoring Institution/Organization: 
Sponsored by Society for American Archaeology’s 82nd Annual Meeting
Event Type (you may select more than one): 
Start Date: 
Wednesday, March 29, 2017 to Sunday, April 2, 2017

A symposium at the Society for American Archaeology’s 82nd Annual Meeting. "This session addresses archaeology projects involving varied and innovative collaborative efforts that focus on partnerships with local communities."


Howard Higgins
Call for Papers: 
Right Header: 
CFP Deadline: 
September 8, 2016
Right Content: 

American School of Classical Studies in Athens: News

Contemporary Art Project Donated to the Gennadius Library

In June 2016, visual artist Judith Allen-Efstathiou donated to the Gennadius Library the Mapping the Walk archive, which consists of 36 original graphite and gouache drawings.

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Archeologist out to unearth legendry Hadrian Temple

A new round of excavations has begun at the ancient city of Kyzikos in the 2,500-year-old Erdek...

Jim Davila (

Review of Galinsky (ed.), Memory in Ancient Rome and Early Christianity

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Burden of proof in the Talmud

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James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

Fundamentalists aren’t “Biblical”

I thought I would turn something I said in a recent post into an image, in case it helps it circulate more widely. I really do think this is an important point!

Jim Davila (

Review of Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, 3rd ed.

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Restoration of a replica of the Madaba map

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Archeomatica: Tecnologie per i Beni Culturali

ART’17 - Conferenza internazionale sulle indagini non distruttive e la microanalisi per i beni culturali

L'Associazione Italiana Prove non Distruttive (AIPnD) organizza, insieme all'American University of Sharjah (AUS) e l'ICCROM-ATHAR (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property - Architectural and Archaeological Tangible Heritage in the Arab Region), la Conferenza Internazionale ART’17 sulle indagini non distruttive e la microanalisi per la diagnostica e la conservazione del patrimonio culturale e ambientale, che si terrò a Sharjah, negli emirati Arabi Uniti, dal 7 al 9 Marzo 2017.

American School of Classical Studies in Athens: News

Schliemann Returns to Japan

One hundred and fifty years after his first journey to China and Japan, Schliemann's spirit recently returned to Japan on the occasion of two exhibits.

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

The new Chronica Tertullianea et Cyprianea is out

Those interested in the Latin fathers prior to Nicaea will be aware of the annual list of publications, the Chronica Tertullianea et Cyprianea, published each year in the Revue des études Augustiniennes (et Patristiques) by the Institut d’études augustiniennes in Paris.  This invaluable resource has appeared each year since 1974, initially covering just Tertullian, and then broadened to Latin patristics to 325 AD.  Very kindly the editors have sent me a copy for many years.  The issue dedicated to publications in 2014 has now appeared.

Most of the content will be for specialists.  I see that Claudio Moreschini has continued his great work of editing and translating Tertullian into Italian, and the end of the task is now in sight.  Some other items are, for the first time, reviewed in Italian, which is not a language I read easily.

Less welcome is an allusion in the introduction to “la situation difficile que traverse actuellement l’Institut d’études augustiniennes” which is consuming the energies of the contributors.  I do not know what this situation is.  It is certainly the case that the humanities in general are under threat of reduced funding, and probably this is a factor here too.

In this light, one item reviewed will raise eyebrows in the intelligent reader.  It seems that the excellent Markus Vinzent has brought out a book devoted to proving that Marcion wrote the original gospel, and that the canonical gospels are later compositions.  This he does, I understand, by proposing that Marcion invented the literary form of a gospel, and revised it in written or verbal form; that the four gospels were written in response to this, and then Marcion produced a final written form.  Since Tertullian in Adversus Marcionem tells us that Marcion produced his gospel by mutilating the gospel of Luke, at some length, Dr V refers to this; and so this discussion falls within the area of interest of the CTC.

The CTC is a scholarly publication.  Scholarship involves knowing what you know about, and what you do not.  So the reviewer quite properly states that “I cannot take a position on the general thesis of the author”.  He does discuss the discussion of Tertullian, and points out that the interpretation involves misreading Marc. IV, 11:12 by silently omitting a “nec”, and ignoring the consensus of editors that a full-stop should be read after “nova”.

Le lecteur est d’abord étonné par un tel renversement de perspective et se demande s’il n’a jamais rien compris au Contre Marcion. L’impression s’atténue lorsqu’on se reporte aux textes. Pour prouver que Marcion aurait créé la forme de l’évangile, l’argumentation de l’auteur se fonde beaucoup sur Marc IV, 11, 12, où il lit : forma sermonis in Christo nova, cum similitudines obicit, cum quaestiones refutat ; or le texte est ici déformé sur deux points, sans que M. V. en dise rien : la négation nec, en tête de phrase, est omise, et les éditeurs sont unanimes pour placer un point après nova. Tertullien ne dit donc pas que Marcion a introduit une nouvelle forme littéraire, mais que le discours du Christ est comme un écho des paroles de l’Ancien Testament : ce déplacement d’accent, que l’A. semble s’autoriser au nom de son renversement de perspective, nous paraît un vice rédhibitoire de l’étude. En fait, l’analyse part moins des textes qu’elle ne cherche, chez Tertullien, des indices d’une reconstruction préalablement élaborée, méthode qui, à nos yeux, fragilise d’emblée la demonstration.

The reader is first surprised by such a reversal of perspective and wonders if he has never understood anything about the Against Marcion. The impression fades when referring to the texts. To prove that Marcion created the [literary] form of the gospel, the argumentation of the author relies heavily on Marc. IV, 11, 12, where he reads: nova forma sermonis in Christo, cum similitudines obicit, cum quaestiones refutat; but the text is distorted by two points, about which M.V. says nothing: the negation nec, at the head of the phrase, is omitted, and editors are unanimous in placing a full-stop after nova. Tertullian therefore does not say that Marcion introduced a new literary form, but that the speech of Christ is like an echo of the Old Testament words: this shift of emphasis, that the author seems to allow in the name of his reversal of perspective, seems a fatal flaw of the study. In fact, the analysis only looks at the texts she seeks, in Tertullian, for traces of a previously elaborated reconstruction, a method which, in our eyes, immediately weakens the demonstration.[1]

I don’t suppose Dr V.’s career will suffer from this thesis at all, which is doubtless entirely acceptable to the people who control university funding.  These people seem to be all at least mildly anti-Christian, and were very much in favour of EU membership in the recent UK referendum.  Whether this will continue to be so, I do not know.  We live in changing times.  The elite lost that referendum.  The US may well elect a mountebank as president, precisely because he is not one of the elite.  There is a smell of revolution in the air.  But that remains to be seen.

However the only reason why poor taxpayers should fund the study of the humanities is that it serves some useful, scientific, purpose.  If it does not, why fund it?  And it brings the humanities into disrepute, when the facts are turned upside down like this.

Nobody is fooled.  We all know that this kind of claim is tripe.  We’ve met the revisionists many times.  We know the tricks – selection, misrepresentation and omission.

But these  games serve to reinforce the impression – held by most scientists, and not a few of the general public – that those who hold teaching posts in the humanities are not engaged in any kind of scientific or objective activity, but are in reality just well-paid servitors of the political establishment, producing propaganda.  I myself held precisely such a view for many years, after encountering some wretchedly poor “biblical scholarship” while reading for a hard science degree at Oxford.  It’s not the case that the humanities is worthless establishment propaganda.  The vast majority really does contribute to the sum of human knowledge.  And I’m quite sure few academics can be described as “well-paid”!

All the same, it is irresponsible to encourage the impression.  I hope that the difficulties of the Institut are not caused, in any respect, by a belief among politicians that academics are just hacks for hire.

  1. [1] Translation is mine; I’m really not quite certain of the translation of the last sentence, tho.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

2016.07.33: Leonidas of Tarentum: Between Cynical Polemic and Poetic Refinement. Quaderni dei Seminari romani di cultura greca, 19

Review of Michele Solitario, Leonidas of Tarentum: Between Cynical Polemic and Poetic Refinement. Quaderni dei Seminari romani di cultura greca, 19. Roma: 2015. Pp. 110. €31.00. ISBN 9788871406077.

2016.07.32: Pentadius Ovidian Poet: Music, Myth and Love. Anthologiarum Latinarum Parerga, 5

Review of Paola Paolucci, Pentadius Ovidian Poet: Music, Myth and Love. Anthologiarum Latinarum Parerga, 5. Hildesheim: 2016. Pp. xiv, 132. €49.80 (pb). ISBN 9783615004229.

Archeomatica: Tecnologie per i Beni Culturali

Nasce una realtà all'avanguardia in Italia nell’innovazione tecnologica per l'edutainment, i musei e il turismo culturale

ETT S.p.A. annuncia l’acquisizione del 60% di Space S.p.A. A partire da fine luglio ETT S.p.A., Industria Digitale Creativa attiva in Italia e all’estero, diventa socio di maggioranza di Space S.p.A, impresa di innovazione tecnologica e progettuale interamente dedicata al settore dei nuovi servizi per la valorizzazione e la comunicazione del patrimonio culturale con sede principale a Prato e sedi operative a Cagliari, Napoli e Salerno.

Il programma del Forum TECHNOLOGYforALL 2016: innovazione per il territorio e i beni culturali nelle smart city italiane

Pubblicato il programma provvisorio del Forum TECHNOLOGYforALL 2016. Tanti interventi di esperti appartenenti a enti, istituzioni ed aziende. Faremo il punto sulle tecnologie innovative applicate al territorio e al patrimonio culturale, anche nella chiave di lettura delle problematiche legate alle smart city italiana, caratterizzate da un territorio fragile sul quale insiste un patrimonio straordinario.

Archaeology Magazine

Israel Hazor statueJERUSALEM, ISRAEL—A fragment of an Egyptian funerary statue dating to the third millennium B.C. has been unearthed in northern Israel by a team of archaeologists led by Amnon Ben-Tor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. According to a report in i24 News, the limestone fragment includes some of the base of the statue, which had been carved with hieroglyphics. A preliminary translation of the text suggests that it praises an official connected to the ancient city of Memphis, but his name and position are unknown. The fragment also depicts the feet of a crouching figure that may have represented the official. Scholars think the statue may have been originally placed inside his tomb, or in a temple dedicated to the Egyptian god Ptah, who was associated with the city of Memphis. This statue, and another third-millennium statue discovered in the same building at Hazor, are the only two monumental Egyptian statues from this period to have been unearthed in the Levant. The sculptures may have been sent to the ruler of Hazor from Egypt as gifts during the later New Kingdom period. The statues were probably destroyed around 1200 B.C., when the city was conquered. To read more about Egyptian artifacts discovered in Israel, go to "Egyptian Style in Ancient Canaan." 

BiblePlaces Blog

Egyptian Statue Discovered at Hazor

Earlier this morning, Hebrew University sent out this press release with photos:

In a historic find, a large fragment of an Egyptian statue measuring 45 X 40 centimeters, made of lime-stone, was discovered. In the course of the current season of excavations at Tel-Hazor, north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Only the lower part of the statue survived, depicting the crouching feet of a male figure, seated on a square base on which a few lines in the Egyptian hieroglyphic script are inscribed.

The archaeologists estimate that the complete statue would equal the size of a fully-grown man. At present only a preliminary reading of the inscriptions has been attempted, and the title and name of the Egyptian official who originally owned the statue, are not yet entirely clear.

The statue was originally placed either in the official's tomb or in a temple – most probably a temple of the Egyptian god Ptah – and most of the texts inscribed on the statue's base include words of praise to the official who may have served and most probably practiced his duties in the region of Memphis, the primary cult center of the god Ptah. They also include the customary Egyptian funerary formula ensuring eternal supply of offerings for the statue's owner.

The monumental Egyptian statute of a high official from the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, found in the administrative palace at Hazor, north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. (Photo credit: Shlomit Bechar)

The three volunteer excavators who found the statue, from left to right: Valentin Sama-Rojo from Spain, Bryan Kovach from the United States, and Elanji Swart from South Africa. (Photo credit: Shlomit Bechar)

This statue, found this year, together with the sphinx fragment of the Egyptian king Mycerinus (who ruled Egypt in the 25th century B.C.E.) discovered at the site by the research team three years ago, are the only monumental Egyptian statues found so far in second millennium contexts in the entire Levant.

The discovery of these two statues in the same building currently being excavated by the research team, indicates the special importance of the building (probably the administrative palace of the ruler of the city), as well as that of the entire city of Hazor.


In the course of close to 30 years of excavation, fragments of 18 different Egyptian statues, both royal and private, dedicated to Egyptian kings and officials, including two sphinxes, were discovered at Hazor. Most of these statues were found in layers dated to the Late Bronze Age (15th-13th centuries B.C.E.) – corresponding to the New Kingdom in Egypt. This is the largest number of Egyptian statues found so far in any site in the Land of Israel, although there is no indication that Hazor was one of the Egyptian strongholds in Southern Canaan nor of the presence of an Egyptian official at Hazor during the Late Bronze Age.

Interestingly, most Egyptian statues found at Hazor so far date to Egypt's "Middle Kingdom" (19th-18th centuries B.C.E), a time when Hazor did not yet exist. It thus seems that the statues were sent by an Egyptian king in the "New Kingdom" as official gifts to the king of Hazor, or as dedications to a local temple (regardless of their being already "antiques"). This is not surprising considering the special status of the king of Hazor who was the most important king in Southern Canaan at the time. The extraordinary importance of Hazor in the 15th-13th centuries B.C.E. is indicated also by the Biblical reference to Hazor as "the head of all those kingdoms" (Joshua 11:10).

All the statues at the site were found broken to pieces and scattered over a large area. Clear signs of mutilation indicate that most of them were deliberately and violently smashed, most probably in the course of the city's final conquest and destruction sometime in the 13th century B.C.E. The deliberate mutilation of statues of kings and dignitaries accompanying the conquest of towns, is a well-known practice in ancient times (I Samuel 5:1-4; Isaiah 11:9) as well as in our time.

The full press release is here, and the story is being covered by the Jerusalem Post and other outlets.

July 25, 2016

Ancient Peoples

"o quantus tunc illis mentibus ardor concubitus, quae vox saltante libidine, quantus ille meri..."

“o quantus tunc illis mentibus ardor concubitus, quae vox saltante libidine, quantus ille meri Veneris per crura madentia torrens! lenonum ancillas posita Saufeia corona provocat et tollit pendentis praemia coxae, ipsa Medullinae fluctum crisantis adorat.”


“How great is the eagerness for sex in their minds then, what a voice with the desire for dancing, how abundant a torrent of pure lust runs over their moist thighs! Saufeia, with a reward being offered, challenges the brothel-keeper’s slave girls, and she takes the prize for shaking her ass, then she in turn worships the undulating surges of Medullina.”

Juvenal (c.55 - 127 AD) Satire 6.317-322

Juvenal is describing the celebration of Bona Dea (the Good Goddess), which was a female only ceremony.

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Karnak (v 0.1.5): Projet d'index global des inscriptions des temples de Karnak

[First posted in AWOL 9 June 2013, updated 25 July 2016]

Karnak (v 0.1.5)  
Projet d'index global des inscriptions des temples de Karnak

3676 documents accessibles sur 7654 documents uniques dans le projet.
1676 scènes, 14 stèles, 114 éléments statuaires

Télécharger l’Inventaire des monuments, objets, scènes et inscriptions des temples de Karnak.

Lancé en janvier 2013, le projet Karnak (CNRS, USR 3172 - CFEETK / UMR 5140, Équipe ENiM - Programme « Investissement d’Avenir » ANR-11-LABX-0032-01 Labex ARCHIMEDE) a pour ambition d’organiser et de rendre accessible la documentation textuelle issue des temples de Karnak.
Ce travail est fondé sur un dépouillement exhaustif des documents et inscriptions de Karnak collationnées sur l’original. Chaque document reçoit un numéro d’identifiant unique (KIU : Karnak Identifiant Unique) lors de l’intégration à la base de données. Toute la richesse des archives du CFEETK (photographies, fac-similés, etc.) est exploitée par le projet Karnak, directement connecté à la base de données ArchéoGrid Karnak et à la bibliographie en ligne du CFEETK.
Étroitement lié au projet Dictionnaire Permanent de l’Égyptien Ancien (DPEA) développé par l’équipe d’égyptologie de l’UMR 5140 (CNRS-Université Montpellier III-Paul Valéry), le projet Karnak offrira un outil d’accès direct au riche corpus des inscriptions de Karnak (hiéroglyphiques, hiératiques et démotiques). Toutes les informations relatives à un document (KIU) seront accessibles à partir d’une notice unique. Celle-ci comportera l’édition typographique de l’inscription ainsi que sa translittération, l’ensemble des photographies, fac-similés et tout autre document d’archives associé.
Cet outil en ligne, hébergé sur les serveurs de l’IN2P3, autorisera ainsi des recherches directes dans le contenu des notices et dans les inscriptions hiéroglyphiques par le biais de la translittération. Il fournira en outre divers indices permettant des recherches multicritères (noms des divinités, épithètes divines, toponymes, ethniques et lieux de cultes, éléments de titulatures, anthroponymes, éléments prosopographiques et vocabulaire des inscriptions).

James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

Mad Comparison of the Bible and Donald Trump

Hemant Mehta shared a link to a MAD Magazine special issue, which included a two-page feature comparing things that Donald Trump has said with things found in the Bible. One could do this with any candidate, pretty much. But in the case of Trump it seems particularly appropriate because of the way that certain religious [Read More...]

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Open Access Journal: Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics (BAGL)

Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics (BAGL)
Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics (BAGL) is an international journal that exists to further the application of modern linguistics to the study of Ancient and Biblical Greek, with a particular focus on the analysis of texts, including but not restricted to the Greek New Testament.

The journal is hosted by McMaster Divinity College and works in conjunction with its Centre for Biblical Linguistics, Translation and Exegesis, and the organization ( in the hosting of conferences and symposia open to scholars and students working in Greek linguistics who are interested in contributing to advancing the discussion and methods of the field of research. BAGL is a refereed on-line and print journal dedicated to distributing the results of significant research in the area of linguistic theory and application to biblical and ancient Greek, and is open to all scholars, not just those connected to the Centre and the project.
Volume 4 (2015)

Joseph D. Fantin
Dallas Theological Seminary
It is agreed that both context and Greek studies are essential components of the exegetical process. This article explores the function of language itself within society. The focus is not on the typical “meaning” of language as an information carrier but rather on the meaning that the use of particular linguistic elements brings to the communication situation. In other words, I will consider language itself as a social phenomenon. In order to achieve this goal, using Acts 21:27–40 as a test case, I will first consider selective elements of the social and historical context that when understood will contribute to recreating the context of the passage (cognitive environment). Then, with this contextual information activated in the exegetical process, I will consider the social impact of this information on two recorded speech incidents from Acts 21:27–40 resulting in a better understanding of the passage. This will demonstrate that in addition to the informational linguistic meaning, an understanding of the social use of language itself is a valuable tool for understanding the biblical text.
Keywords: Acts 21:27–40, exegesis, sociolinguistics, pragmatics, New Testament backgrounds, New Testament contexts, cognitive environment, Greek, relevance theory
Jonathan M. Watt
Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA, USA
A sociolinguistic approach to Paul’s language usage in the Jerusalem arrest narratives of Acts 21–22 offers inferences with regard to his specific language choices between Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic during his interactions. However, modern language studies show considerable inter-language penetration that, by implication, complicate conclusions one may reach with regard to the NT situation.
Keywords: sociolinguistics, multilingualism, linguistic repertoire, code-switching, cross-linguistic penetration
Hughson T. Ong
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
This article discusses three distinct types of discourse analysis models—Social Identity Theory and Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT), Conversation Analysis (CA), and SFL Register Analysis—and applies them individually to the text in Acts 21:27—22:5 to examine various aspects and elements that comprise the context of situation of the incident of Paul’s arrest in the temple. The main objective is to showcase the relevance and utility of sociolinguistic theories in New Testament exegesis.
Keywords: Acts 21:27—22:5, sociolinguistics, exegesis, discourse analysis, social identity theory, speech or communication accommodation theory, conversation analysis, register analysis
James D. Dvorak
Oklahoma Christian University, Edmond, OK, USA
This article approaches the topic of persuasion from a social perspective rather than rhetorical or socio-rhetorical. This is because, at heart, persuasion—of others or of self—is ultimately a social action in which values are negotiated. Dvorak argues that to analyze the persuasiveness of a discourse requires a sociolinguistic model, and the model that is best suited for the job is Appraisal Theory, which is built upon the theoretical foundation of Systemic Functional Linguistics.
Keywords: persuasion, appraisal, evaluation, 1 Corinthians, values, power, discourse analysis
Volume 3 (2014)

Paul L. Danove
Villanova University, Villanova, PA, USA
Τίθημι and its compounds present the broadest range of licensing properties of any set of verbal compounds in the Septuagint and New Testament. This article resolves the occurrences of τίθημι and its twenty compounds into twenty–six distinct usages. The discussion of each usage “derives” the event that the verbs grammaticalize, specifies the conceptualization of the event associated with each usage, describes the syntactic and semantic requirements for verbs with the usage, identifies the observed lexical realizations of required complements, and illustrates occurrences of the verbs with the usage. The discussion then summarizes the relationships among the usages, proposes a further basis for relating the events, and notes the possibility of polysemous interpretations of verbal occurrences.
Keywords: event, lexical, semantic, syntactic, usage, verb
James D. Dvorak and Ryder Dale Walton
Oklahoma Christian University
Too often, study of the biblical text degenerates into rudimentary word studies, leaving aside larger syntactic and logical connections. This paper proposes that careful study should include considerations of genre, register, prime, subsequent, theme, rheme, topic, and comment. To demonstrate this, it applies a Systemic Functional approach to Mark 2:1–12 and the book of Jude.
Keywords: Exegesis, Systemic Functional Linguistics, Prime, Subsequent, Theme, Rheme, Topic, Comment, Process Chains, Semantic Shift, Cohesion, Coherence, Linearity, Genre, Register
S. M. Kraeger
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC, USA
Ever since the advent of the printing press, the Latin West and its lexicographic inheritors have used the first person singular indicative verb form (e.g., λύω) as the lemma of the Greek verb. There are historical reasons for this. These historical reasons for using the indicative form, however, are not coextensive with those by which modern lexicographers operate. This issue significantly overlaps with pedagogical concerns. The present article seeks to sketch a basic history of Greek verbal treatments toward a reevaluation of lexicographic and pedagogic practice regarding the ancient Greek verb.
Keywords: Lexicography, Pedagogy, Verb, Lemmatization
Stanley E. Porter
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
This paper emphasizes the importance of both methodological and pedagogical dimensions of elementary Greek grammars, and then briefly surveys several different approaches found in current gram- mars. The paper takes what is called the usage-based approach, in which grammar is introduced roughly according to frequency of use so that students are reinforced in learning the grammar that appears most frequently in the Greek New Testament. Porter, Reed, and O’Donnell’s Fundamentals of New Testament Greek is used as the example of such an approach.
Keywords: Greek, grammar, elementary, usage-based approach, morphological approach, descriptivism, progressivism, immersion
Volume 2 (2013)

Paul L. Danove
Villanova University, Villanova, PA, USA
This article develops five features that describe the conceptualizations of the event of transference grammaticalized by New Testament verbs, and uses these features to formulate a model of the possible New Testament usages of transference. The discussion resolves all New Testament occurrences of verbs that designate transference into one of eighteen usages with distinct feature descriptions, and considers the usages of transference predicted by the feature model but not realized in the New Testament.
Keywords: feature, transference, semantic, syntactic, verbal usage

Volume 1 (2012)

Wally V. Cirafesi
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
This article argues that the construction ἔχειν πίστιν in Hellenistic Greek is a nominalized ideational metaphor that is semantically related to the finite verb πιστεύειν. Therefore, when the construction possesses a genitive modifier, the function of the genitive is disambiguated as denoting the object of πίστιν. This understanding of ἔχειν πίστιν + the genitive has significant implications for interpreting the construction in Mark 11:22, Jas 2:1, and Hippolytus‘s De Antichristo 61:26. (Article)
Keywords: πίστιϛ Χριστοῦ, Greek linguistics, nominalization, grammatical metaphor, Mark 11:22, Jas 2:1, Hippolytus
Gregory P. Fewster
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Adapting Michael Hoey‘s lexical priming theory, this article provides a new rubric for the evaluation of intertextuality in the New Testament. This article tests the veracity of the claim that the lexeme ματαιότηϛ functions to invoke the language of Ecclesiastes. Romans 8 mirrors some of the language of Ecclesiastes, while Eph 4:17 has strong ties to Rom 8, creating an intertextual chain via the lexeme ματαιότηϛ. (Article)
Keywords: ματαιότηϛ, intertextuality, priming, Romans 8, 2 Peter 2, Ephesians 3
Hughson Ong
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
This article relates to the criteria of language authenticity in historical Jesus research and inquires into the lingua franca of Je- sus’ social environment. It demonstrates via sociolinguistic principles that Palestine was a multilingual society, establishes that various so- cial groups necessitate the use of language varieties, and addresses the issue of language choice—the occasions and reasons multilingual people use their native tongue over and against their second language. The objective is to show in four “I have come” sayings in the Synop- tics that, with high probability, Jesus’ internal language was Aramaic, and his public language was Greek.
Keywords: Historical Jesus, Greek language, sociolinguistics, Mark 2:17, Mark 10:45, Luke 12:49–51, Matt 5:17
Steven E. Runge
Logos Bible Software | Stellenbosh University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
This study applies the cognitive model of Chafe and Givón, and the information-structure model of Lambrecht as applied by Levinsohn and Runge to the Markan explanation of the Parable of the Sower (4:14–20). The primary objective is to identify and analyze other linguistic devices, besides demonstratives, which might clarify the apparent prominence given to the unfruitful scatterings in Mark’s account. This study provides the necessary framework for comparing Mark’s pragmatic weighting of saliency to that found in Matthew and Luke’s accounts in order to determine whether Mark’s version is con-sistent with or divergent from the other traditions.
Keywords: saliency, information structure, Mark 4:14–20, Matt 13:19–23, Luke 8:11–15, οὗτος, ἐκεῖνος

Archaeology Magazine

TÜBINGEN, GERMANY—Impressions of string haGermany rope toolve been found on fired clay, and string has been depicted in Ice Age artwork, but scholars have thus far known little about how European hunter-gatherers produced rope. Now according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Tübingen and the University of Liège, Paleolithic hunter-gatherers may have used mammoth ivory tools to weave rope out of plant fibers. UPI reports that a team led by Nicholas Conard of the University of Tübingen found a 40,000-year-old tool in Hohle Fels Cave that had been carved with holes lined with spiral incisions. Veerle Rots of the University of Liège used replicas of the device to produce rope from plant fibers available near Hohle Fels. Similar tools have been found at Paleolithic sites in the past, but they were thought to be shaft-straighteners, artwork, or even musical instruments. To read about a Paleolithic masterpiece from the same region in Germany, go to "New Life for Lion Man."

Bonobo bacteria evolutionBERKELEY, CALIFORNIA—Research conducted by a team led by Andrew Moeller of the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that modern humans and the bacteria in their digestive tracts evolved together. The Guardian reports that Moeller and his team collected fecal samples from Tanzanian chimpanzees, Cameroonian gorillas, Congolese bonobos, and humans from Connecticut. They found that when two new species split from a common ancestor, at least two groups of gut bacteria did the same. “When there were no humans or gorillas, just ancestral African apes, they harbored gut bacteria. Then the apes split into different branches, and there was also a parallel divergence of different gut bacteria,” Moeller explained. He added that different strains of human gut bacteria could be used to reconstruct patterns of human migration. To read more, go to "Life (According to Gut Microbes)." 


Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Open Access Journal: CODEX – Revista de Estudos Clássicos

CODEX – Revista de Estudos Clássicos
ISSN 2176-1779
Cabeçalho da página
Codex - Revista de Estudos Clássicos é um espaço para a circulação dos trabalhos que se dediquem aos Estudos Clássicos.
Os leitores poderão acompanhar as pesquisas desenvolvidas por discentes de uma área que prospera largamente no Brasil. Poderão também entrar em contato com seus autores e com seus orientadores, para comentar os textos ou sugerir-lhes o que julgarem conveniente.
Codex - Revista discente de Estudos Clássicos enseja aos interessados um amplo mapeamento das pesquisas da área de Estudos Clássicos a partir do conhecimento mais aprofundado da formação e do desenvolvimento de seus pesquisadores.

A publicação preocupa-se em promover a percepção de que a interdisciplinaridade é intrínseca aos Estudos Clássicos. Assim, a Codex - Revista discente de Estudos Clássicos acolhe inclusive trabalhos de discentes - doutorandos, mestrandos e graduandos em Iniciação Científica - de Filosofia Antiga, Letras Clássicas, História Antiga e Arqueologia.


Ancient Peoples

Clay Bust of a Female Deity (perhaps Yakshi), 9 cm high (3 ½...

Clay Bust of a Female Deity (perhaps Yakshi), 9 cm high (3 ½ in)

India, Mauryan period, 3rd–2nd century B.C.

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Heroic Age

Getting Medieval”: Medievalism in Contemporary Popular Culture
This conference, organized at the Jean-François Champollion National University Institute (“Champollion University”) in the historic episcopal city of Albi, France – site of the thirteenth-century Albigensian Crusades – will take place on 25-26 November 2016.  Please send proposals of 100-250 words for 20-minute papers (in English, French or Spanish) to along with a brief CV before 31 July 2016 for full consideration.

Today’s “pop” culture is rich with allusions to the Middle Ages, not only in literature and visual arts – as it always has been in past centuries (e.g., the pre-Raphaelites or Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, etc.) – but also in graphic novels and comics, on the big screen and the little one, not to mention the computer screens of electronic gamers as well as amusement parks, festivals and fairs. 
But how much of what is presented in a medieval context – either as actual “remakes” of old accounts or simply loosely employing a medieval setting or theme – accurately reflects the Middle Ages, and to what extent do these medieval constructs change or distort the reality of the age? When changed, to what extent is the epoch romanticised as, for example, an idealized Camelot where “the rain may never fall till after sundown?” To what extent is it vilified, making the expression “to get medieval on [somebody]” suggest a horrific vengeance? How do these constructs inform our understanding of the Middle Ages, and how important is it (if at all) to be entirely accurate? Finally, to what extent do such alterations update the texts or tales, keeping them alive and evolving, and why is it a perennial favourite, replayed year after year, decade after decade, indeed, century after century?
This conference hopes to respond to some of these questions by opening a dialogue between various disciplines: literature, history, historical linguistics, visual arts, cinema, theatre, television, etc., in order to study the enduring popularity of medieval themes and the ways in which medieval tales and texts are transmitted, preserved, distorted, renewed and built upon in the creation of new, decidedly modern popular culture in Europe, North America and the world of the 21st century.
This conference hopes to explore ways in which medieval texts, tales and traditions are used (or abused!) and used to fashion entirely new works that ultimately form part of contemporary pop culture in its own right, not only in the modern age, but in ages past. It might also address ways in which authors from the Renaissance until now (e.g., Spenser, Shakespeare, Yeats, etc.) have contributed to our modern conception of the Middle Ages, both myth and reality.
Some aspects to consider might include the importance of accuracy in portrayals purportedly based on actual texts (such as the Vikings series, or various remakes of Beowulf), and to what extent is liberal treatment acceptable, even to be encouraged?  To what extent is received wisdom, often quite dubious, employed in original works with a medieval feeling or theme, though not necessarily a medieval setting like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter?
In addition to the works listed above, the conference is open to any proposition addressing the use of medieval works or themes in any aspect of popular culture in any subsequent age, leading to its entrenched place in the pop culture of today – not only in fiction and art, but in any form of entertainment or representation.  Finally, the value of both medieval literature and culture, as well as popular culture, and the interdependence of both, is to be explored.
The Linnean Society of London, in collaboration with the Transcribe Bentham initiative at University College London (UCL), is hosting a one-day conference on 10 October 2016 to showcase how innovative technology is being applied to the humanities and natural sciences.  The “Digital Toolbox” conference will demonstrate how researchers, curators and enthusiasts can use digital tools to explore historical and scientific material in new ways.

An example is the EU-funded READ project, which seeks to unlock complex handwritten material in archival collections, to automatically index digital images of text, and to teach computers how to transcribe handwritten text. Cutting-edge transcription technology developed as part of the READ project will be demonstrated and discussed.

The conference will be a platform to share ideas on the best means of exploiting complex research data and opening it up to a wider audience. We are delighted to welcome Melissa Terras, Professor of Digital Humanities at UCL as keynote speaker.

More details on the full programme will be available soon. 

There will be a small registration fee of £15 for the event.  This will cover tea/coffee, lunch and a wine reception.  Please find the registration form here:

Dr. Louise Seaward
Research Associate
Bentham Project, Faculty of Laws, University College London, Bidborough House, 38-50 Bidborough Street, London, WC1H 9BT

Tel: 020 3108 8397

Digital Medievalist --
Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Biennial Conference
26 – 28th August, 2016
We are pleased to announce that the 23rd biennial conference of SASMARS will be held at Mont Fleur in Stellenbosch, South Africa on 26 – 28th August 2016.
Texts and Transformations: Medieval and Early Modern Cultures
Medieval and Early Modern societies weathered various socio-cultural transformations, ranging from economic developments to religious conflicts, across a range of different geographies and in urban and rural spaces. How did poetry, theatre, prose, visual art, architecture, and other forms of art respond to such changes? How do we historically understand and assess various kinds of social transitions?
At this year’s SASMARS conference, Professor Carolyn Dinshaw (New York University), an acclaimed medievalist, will be our keynote speaker, and she will deliver the following keynote to the conference attendees:  
Black Skin, Green Masks: Medieval Foliate Heads, Racial Trauma, and Queer Worldmaking
Professor Dinshaw’s profile can be accessed at
The convener for the conference is Dr Derrick Higginbotham ( Any inquiries can be directed to him.
For the latest SASMARS Newsletter and information about previous SASMARS conferences, click on

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Extra Fingers and Toes Were Revered in Ancient Culture

In the great houses of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, having an extra toe was one way to garner a lot of...

Mary Harrsch (Passionate About History)

New clue to the location of the USS Indianapolis

History resource article by Mary Harrsch © 2016 .

Survivors of the USS Indianapolis rescued by the USS Tranquility arrive at Guam
August 8, 1945.  Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy.
In the final days of the war, the U.S.S. Indianapolis completed a top secret mission to deliver components of the atomic bomb used in Hiroshima to U.S. forces in the theater. After dropping those components off at Tinian in the Marianas Islands, Indianapolis headed to Leyte, an island in the Philippines, when it was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine just after midnight on July 30, 1945. Around 800 of the ship’s 1,196 Sailors and Marines survived the sinking, but after four to five harrowing days in the water, suffering exposure, dehydration, drowning, and shark attacks, only 316 survived.
While reviewing the Navy’s holdings and other information related to Indianapolis, NHHC historian Richard Hulver, Ph.D., found a blog post and photo online that recounted the story of a World War II Sailor whose ship passed Indianapolis less than a day before the ship was sunk. This corroborated an account by Indianapolis Captain Charles McVay, III that his ship passed an unspecified LST approximately 11 hours prior to the sinking. Hulver located the Sailor’s service record from the National Personnel Records Center which identified the Sailor as a passenger on tank landing ship USS LST-779 during the period in which Indianapolis sank. That sent Hulver to the National Archives where LST-779’s deck logs confirmed the story.
 The meeting between Indianapolis and LST-779 has been seemingly overlooked in previous studies of Indianapolis.
Hulver continued, “The LST-779 data sheds new light on where Indianapolis was attacked and sunk.” This brings us closer to discovering the final resting place of the ship and many of her crew.
Although the location of Indianapolis is known to be in the Philippine Sea, two previous attempts to find the wreck have failed. In July–August 2001, an expedition sought to find the wreckage through the use of side-scan sonar and underwater cameras mounted on a remotely operated vehicle. Four Indianapolis survivors accompanied the expedition, which was not successful. In June 2005, a second expedition was mounted to find the wreck. National Geographic covered the story and released it in July. Submersibles were launched to find any sign of wreckage. The only objects ever found, which have not been confirmed to have belonged to Indianapolis, were numerous pieces of metal of varying size found in the area of the reported sinking position.
Hulver summarized the historical literature, conducted archival research, and prepared a report incorporating the new information gleaned from LST-779’s brief encounter with Indianapolis. NHHC’s summary was published online as part of a project to consolidate the entirety of NHHC’s holdings on Indianapolis into an easy-to-navigate, online resource ( prepared in advance of the 71st anniversary of the ship’s loss July 30. 
The USS Indianapolis National Memorial  was dedicated on 2 August 1995. It is located on the Canal Walk in Indianapolis. The heavy cruiser is depicted in limestone and granite and sits adjacent to the downtown canal. The crewmembers' names are listed on the monument, with special notations for those who lost their lives. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Archaeological News on Tumblr

DNA analyses reveal genetic identities of world's first farmers

Conducting the first large-scale, genome-wide analyses of ancient human remains from the Near East,...

Bill Caraher (The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World)

Track Changes

Anyone interested in the impact of technology on our work as scholars and writers should read Matthew Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing (2016), and check out some supplemental material here. The book is not only entertaining to read, but it intersects with so many of the key issues facing our engagement with technology today, that it may well spawn hundreds of master’s theses and not a few dissertations. Kirschenbaum surveys the use of word processors in the literary community beginning in the late 1970s and concluding with their ubiquitous presence in the contemporary world. The book is full of room-sized IBMs, boxy Kaypros, glitchy Osbournes, and iconic computers from Wang and Apple which transformed the way that authors (and the rest of us) wrote. (The book evoked a good bit of nostalgia for me as I vividly remember writing in WordStar on a Kaypro II during middle school!). 

The book has so much to offer a careful reader that I can’t imaging writing anything approaching a full review. Unlike many books on media archaeology these days, Kirschenbaum’s book does not hit you in the face with a body of dense theory (although it is clear that the likes of Freidrich Kittler and other media theory darlings are just off stage) and instead tells engaging stories about authors’ engagement with word processors. Kirschenbaum’s stories explore the economy of writing and authors’ hopes for greater efficiency, the changing expectations of publishers, and need to facilitate collaborative writing at distance. He also unpacks the anxieties authors faced with adapting to new technologies from the fear of losing words and pages to the expense and complexity of purchasing (and using) a new machine in the early days of personal computing.

Here are few observation on a book that you should just go and read:

1. The Art of the Rewrite. As someone who generally writes on the screen and then revises on paper, I am a firm believer that writing is revision. One of the strands that runs through Kirschenbaum’s book is the way in which writing “in light on glass” transformed the work of revision from the painstaking task of retyping pages of text to revising words on the screen. I didn’t realize how early the “cut and paste” commands existed in word processing and how fundamental the ability to insert and move text around in a document was to the functioning of work processing programs. It had the potential to make revision process far more dynamic activity and to destabilize the integrity of the text throughout the writing process. I found myself deeply curious about how authors understood their manuscripts at various phases of the revision process.

Did the ease with which even the earliest word processors allowed texts to be reorganize lead writers to think about their texts differently? I was particularly intrigued by the idea that the ease with which fragmentation that was possible with digitally produced texted encouraged more modular writing processes and echoed the “cut-up” practices associated with, say, William Burroughs. I have considered whether the our increasing use of digital tools in archaeology has a similar tendency to fragment the site. 

2. Writing is Work. Kirschenbaum did a remarkable job emphasizing how valuable word processing was to writers who wrote massive quantities of books to make a living. Jerry Pournelle was among the earliest adopters of a word process and credited it with a massive increase in efficiency. Isaac Asimov was a somewhat later adopter of a personal computer and word processor, but he likewise enjoyed improvements in the tidiness of his manuscripts and his ability to put words on the page quickly. 

By emphasizing the needs of this kind of writer, Kirschenbaum shifts the emphasis from the author as artist to author as self-employed worker in words. The word processor goes from a machine that risks compromising delicate creative processes to a boon to the real work of authors for whom word count, deadlines, and efficiency matter. Of course, writers never work in a vacuum. Kirschenbaum considers the secretaries, assistants, typists, spouses, and even publishers who worked alongside authors to make manuscripts into books. There is, for example, a blatantly gendered aspect to the spread of the word processor as it was marketed to administrative assistants, typists, and secretaries who were predominantly hwomen. The word processor, in this context, moves beyond the writerly task of the author and mediates between the various actors involved in the writing as work. As a device, the word processor intersected with the social, economic, and even personal roles of everyone involved in the creative process. 

3. Writing Material. Throughout the book, there is this delicate thread of that emphasizes the materiality of the writing process. The feeling of the keyboard, for example, was a concern for writers who were sometimes transition from the rather unforgiving keys of a manual typewriter. The size and resolution of the screen also shaped how writers engaged their texts with the limited number of lines on the screen even encouraged one author to write in shorter paragraphs.

Some of the early word processors took up entire rooms and others took pride of place on desks, living rooms, and writing rooms. Artifacts from early word processing, including word processors themselves, have filled museums and archives and communicated their materiality as effectively as typewriters and stacks of manuscript pages have represented the output of authors using more analogue tools. Just as well-worn ribbons preserve traces of an author’s writing, so disks of all sizes and shape have come to stand in for the a writer’s work. Kirschenbaum and the authors themselves dwell intermittently on how the metal boxes and magnetic disks and tapes form an intimate part of the writing process.

Any number of these topics – and many more throughout the book – would reward further exploration, research, and narrating, but Kirschenbaum does a nice job of presenting a sufficiently sweeping overview of the history of word processing to open doors. For my interest in the digital tools used in archaeology, his work is decisive in making clear that word processors are not simply tools that writers use dispassionately to perform their tasks, but cogs in a larger literature machine (my term) that extends from the creative idea to the published work. The ambivalence of many authors in adopting new tools was a not a testimony to a kind of luddism, but rather a reasoned skepticism that ranged from concerns about disrupting honed creative processes to the learning curve dealing with new technologies. The adoption of digital tools in both writing and archaeology transformed the social landscape of these practice because these tools mediate between various individuals with various skill sets required to produce a final product. Kirschenbaum’s work offers a kind of history and ethnography of writing practice at the dawn of the digital age. It would be quite valuable for some eager soul to consider the dawn of digital practices in archaeology the same way. 

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

CEFAEL: Collections de l'Ecole française d'Athènes en ligne

[This is an update to the first entry in AWOL (1 April 2008). Updated 25 July 2016]

CEFAEL: Collections de l'Ecole française d'Athènes en ligne
This remarkable collection includes more than 450 volumes. CEFAEL is organized into eighteen series covering the full range of publications of the French School in Athens, including their journal: Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique (BCH) (1877-2000):
  • 1
    La plus ancienne des collections, fondée en partenariat avec l'École française de Rome pour accueillir les thèses et travaux des anciens membres de ces deux institutions. Paraît depuis 1874.
  • 2
    La plus ancienne des collections, fondée en partenariat avec l'École française de Rome pour accueillir les thèses et travaux des anciens membres de ces deux institutions. Paraît depuis 1874.
    69 books
  • 3
    Périodique annuel constitué de deux fascicules semestriels : le premier fascicule contient exclusivement des articles concernant tous les aspects de la civilisation grecque, de la préhistoire à la fin de l'époque byzantine ; le second fascicule regroupe, outre quelques articles, les rapports annuels sur les travaux conduits en Grèce et hors de Grèce par l'EfA et des organismes qui collaborent avec l'EfA, ainsi que la chronique de toutes les fouilles effectuées sur sol grec par l'ensemble des organismes grecs et étrangersParaît depuis 1877 ; il succède au Bulletin de l'École française d'Athènes (1868-1871)
    161 books
  • 4
    Périodique annuel qui recense les chercheurs travaillant sur la Grèce moderne et contemporaine et présente leurs productions scientifiques. Paru entre 1996 et 2002 (6 volumes).
    5 books
  • 5
    Série destinée à accueillir les travaux de la Section des études sur la société grecque moderne et contemporaine. Paraît depuis 2000. Remplacé en 2009 par la collection Mondes méditerranéens et balkaniques.
    3 books
  • 6
    Série consacrée à la publication finale des inscriptions découvertes sur le site de Delphes. Paraît depuis 1977.
    3 books
  • 7
    Série consacrée à la publication finale des fouilles et des recherches menées par l'EfA sur l'île de Chypre, notamment à Amathonte. Paraît depuis 1983.
    10 books
  • 8
    Série consacrée à la publication finale des fouilles et des recherches menées par l'EfA en Crète, essentiellement à Malia. Parait depuis 1928.
    28 books
  • 9
    Collection destinée à regrouper les corpus d'inscriptions ne se rapportant pas directement aux sites traditionnels de l'EfA ou des recueils de choix d'inscriptions. Paraît depuis 1992.
    4 books
  • 10
    Série consacrée à la publication finale des fouilles et des recherches menées par l'EfA dans le Péloponnèse, notamment à Argos et à Gortys d'Arcadie. Paraît depuis 1956.
    11 books
  • 11
    Série consacrée à la publication finale des fouilles et des recherches menées par l'EfA sur l'île de Thasos. Paraît depuis 1944.
    10 books
  • 12
    Série consacrée à la publication finale des fouilles et des recherches menées par l'EfA sur le site de Délos. Paraît depuis 1909.
    32 books
  • 13
    Série consacrée à la publication finale des fouilles et des recherches menées par l'EfA sur le site de Delphes. Paraît depuis 1902.
    33 books
  • 14
    Sont regroupés sous cette appellation une quarantaine d'ouvrages publiés par l'EfA, dans la plupart des cas en co-édition avec d'autres institutions.
    13 books
  • 15
    Publications de travaux et recherches menés en collaboration entre le Service des antiquités grec et l'EfA. Paraît depuis 1990.
    3 books
  • 16
    Inaugurée avec la première édition du Guide de Délos en 1965, la série comprend des guides archéologiques consacrés aux sites explorés par l'EfA, dont certains sont traduits en grec, en anglais et en allemand.
    15 books
  • 17
    Série dans laquelle sont publiés soit des actes de colloques, la plupart organisés sous l'égide de l'EfA, soit des monographies concernant d'autres sites que les sites traditionnels de fouilles de l'EfA. Paraît depuis 1973.
    35 books
  • 18
    Volumes de tables recensant la matière publiée dans les volumes du Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique de 1877 à 1970, selon une table des auteurs, un index des matières et un index épigraphique.
    3 books
  • 19
    Série destinée à accueillir les thèses et travaux des anciens membres étrangers et d'autres chercheurs, remplacée dès 1978 par les Suppléments au Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique. Paraît depuis 1929.
    20 books
See also the Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique at Persée

AMIR: Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources

Field Guide to Jordan
Field Guide to Jordan
 "Field Guide to Jordan, a comprehensive guide with beautiful photographs and concise descriptions of Jordan's diverse wonders. This compact guide is for locals and tourists alike to identify, learn about, and enjoy:

• Jordan's wildlife habitats, parks and reserves, canyons, and deserts;
• a large selection of Jordan's animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and fish;
• a large selection of Jordan's plants, including trees, flowers, and shrubs;
• Jordan's archaeological treasures and touristic sites, including Petra, Jerash, desert castles, and prehistoric sites;
• Jordan's fascinating geological history, including the Great Rift Valley, volcanos, rocks, and much more"

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

École française d'Athènes: Archives manuscrites en ligne

École française d'Athènes: Archives manuscrites en ligne

Le servi
ce des archives met progressivement en ligne les carnets de fouilles et de relevés d'inscriptions qu'il conserve dans les séries géographiques.


Série « Argos »

Journal de fouilles d'Argos (1902-1930).
Auteur : W. Vollgraff. Cote : ARGOS 2-C ARG 124.

Série « Asie Mineure »

Carnet de fouilles de Claros (1950-1952).
Auteur : R. Martin. Cote : AS 2-C 28.
Auteur : R. Martin. Cote : AS 2-C 31.
Carnet de fouilles de Claros (1956-1957).
Auteur : R. Martin. Cote : AS 2-C 33.
Carnet de fouilles de Claros (1958-1959).
Auteur : R. Martin. Cote : AS 2-C 36.
Carnet de fouilles de Claros (1961).
Auteur : R. Martin. Cote : AS 2-C 40.

Série « Délos »

Carnet de fouilles de Délos (1877).
Auteur : Th. Homolle. Cote : DÉLOS 2-C DEL 2.
Carnet de fouilles de Délos (mars-juil. 1877).
Auteur : Th. Homolle. Cote : DÉLOS 2-C DEL 3.
Carnet de fouilles de Délos (mai-juin 1878).
Auteur : Th. Homolle. Cote : DÉLOS 2-C DEL 4.
Carnet de fouilles de Délos (juin-sept. 1878).
Auteur : Th. Homolle. Cote : DÉLOS 2-C DEL 5.
Carnet de fouilles de Délos (1879).
Auteur : Th. Homolle. Cote : DÉLOS 2-C DEL 6.
Carnet de fouilles de Délos (1879).
Auteur : Th. Homolle. Cote : DÉLOS 2-C DEL 7.
Carnet de fouilles de Délos (1880).
Auteur : Th. Homolle. Cote : DÉLOS 2-C DEL 8.
Carnet de fouilles de Délos (1903).
Auteur : A. Jardé. Cote : DÉLOS 2-C DEL 17.
Carnet de fouilles de Délos (1904).
Auteur : A. Jardé. Cote : DÉLOS 2-C DEL 25.

Série « Delphes »

Journal de la grande fouille de Delphes (1892-1901).
Auteurs : L. Couve, É. Bourguet, P. Perdrizet, P. Jouguet, G. Colin, P. Fournier, J. Laurent et D. Brizemur.
Cote : DELPHES 2-C DPH 23.

Série « Philippes »

Carnet de fouilles de Philippes et de Dikili Tash (1920).
Auteur : L. Renaudin. Cote : PHILIPPES 2-C PHI 8 A.
Carnet de fouilles de Philippes (1922).
Auteur : L. Renaudin. Cote : PHILIPPES 2-C PHI 16 A.
Carnet de relevés d’inscriptions et de dessins de blocs effectués à Philippes et à Thasos (1927).
Auteur : P. Collart. Cote : PHILIPPES 2-C PHI 23.
Auteur : P. Collart. Cote : PHILIPPES 2-C PHI 24.
Carnet de fouilles de Philippes (1930).
Auteur : P. Collart. Cote : PHILIPPES 2-C PHI 27.
Auteur : P. Collart. Cote : PHILIPPES 2-C PHI 28.
Carnet de fouilles de Philippes (1933).
Auteur : P. Collart. Cote : PHILIPPES 2-C PHI 30.

Séries « Thasos » et « Thrace »

Voyage dans l’archipel thrace (1910).
Auteurs : Ch. Picard et A.-J. Reinach. Cote : THRACE 2.
Auteur : A.-J. Reinach. Cote : THASOS 2-C THA 2.
Carnet de fouilles de Thasos (1911).
Auteur : Ch. Picard. Cote : THASOS 2-C THA 3.
Carnet de fouilles de Thasos (1911).
Auteur : Ch. Avezou. Cote : THASOS 2-C THA 4.
Carnet de fouilles de Thasos (1911).
Auteur : A.-J. Reinach. Cote : THASOS 2-C THA 5.
Carnet de fouilles de Thasos (1912).
Auteur : Ch. Picard. Cote : THASOS 2-C THA 6.
Carnet de fouilles de Thasos (1912-1913).
Auteur : Ch. Avezou. Cote : THASOS 2-C THA 7-8.
Carnet de fouilles de Thasos (1913).
Auteur : Ch. Picard. Cote : THASOS 2-C THA 9.
Carnet de fouilles de Thasos VI-VII (1913).
Auteur : Ch. Avezou. Cote : THASOS 2-C THA 11.

Carnet de fouilles de Thasos XI (1913).
Auteur : Ch. Avezou. Cote : THASOS 2-C THA 10.


James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

A Novel Approach to Religion and Science Fiction

I’m in the process of finalizing the reading list for my course on Religion and Science Fiction. I found I could not choose from among the many novel options that I considered for the course. In the past I’ve had one novel and the rest of the course short stories and articles. This time I’m just [Read More...]

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Open Access Journal: Old Testament Essays

[First posted in AWOL 10 November 2010. Updated (new URLs) 23 July 2016]

Old Testament Essays
On-line version ISSN: 2312-3621
Print version ISSN: 1010-9919
Old Testament Essays 
Welkom by Old Testament Essays, die amptelike joernaal van die OTWSA. Hierdie webtuiste dien as platform vir die instuur en portuurbeoordeling ("peer reviewing") van artikels. Sedert middel-2014 word dié prosesse volledig aanlyn bedryf. As u nog nie met hierdie stelsel gewerk het nie, laai gerus die gidse hieronder af; dit verduidelik die gebruik van die stelsel in eenvoudige terme. Let wel: weens tegniese beperkings is dié stelsel slegs in Engels beskikbaar.
LET WEL: U kan meer lees oor OTE se redaksionele beleid en riglyne op die "About"-bladsy.
Welcome to Old Testament Essays, the official journal of the OTSSA. This website serves as platform for the submission and peer reviewing of articles. Since mid-2014, these processes are fully handled online. If you are new to this system, please read our guidelines and download our guides below; they explain the use of the system in easy terms.
NOTE: You can read more about OTE's editorial policies and guidelines on the "About" page.

Vol.    Number


The Parthenon Sculptures and the European Court of Human Rights - Although one case may have been deemed inadmissible, this does not mean that Greece should give up legal action to secure return of the Marbles

I posted last week about the rejection of the case for the return of the Parthenon Marbles brought in the European Court of Human Rights by the Athenians’ Association. As I pointed out then, the inadmissibility was down to technical issues with the claim – not any sort of judgement on Greece’s right to ownership of the sculptures.

Since then, George Vardas from Australians for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures has nwritten a much more detailed summary of the legal issues involved behind the inadmissibility.

The European Court of Human Rights Building in Strasbourg

The European Court of Human Rights Building in Strasbourg

George Vardas (by Email)

The Parthenon Sculptures and the European Court of Human Rights
George Vardas

In a recent interview regarding the Parthenon Sculptures, the Director of the Acropolis Museum, Professor Dimitris Pandermalis, stated that “their return is a matter of cultural morality” and stressed that “there are human rights, but great monuments also have their own rights”. He was referring to the fundamental rights of integrity: “you cannot mutilate a great monument”.

So what do we make of the recent dismissal by the European Court of Human Rights of an application brought by an Athenian association alleging that the continued retention of the Elgin collection in the British Museum infringes certain provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights?

To understand the decision of the Court, let me first give a brief overview of the claims made by the Athenians’ Association (Σύλλογος των Αθηναίων) in the broader context of the rights afforded by the Convention.

In essence, the applicant sought to invoke the jurisdiction of the Court as an association representing the citizens of Athens whose rights in relation to the Parthenon sculptures were claimed to have been violated from the time that Lord Elgin’s men removed them from the Acropolis and shipped them to England.

The Association alleged that its members’ rights had been infringed in a number of ways but essentially its core complaint was the infringement of the right of Athenians to enjoy their historic possessions, protected under Article I of the First Protocol of the European Convention. The retention of the Elgin collection in London constituted, it was claimed, an interference with their proprietary right to access to the whole of the monument. The Association also claimed a breach of Article 10 – the right to freedom of expression and to take part in the exchange of cultural, political and social information – which arguably includes the right to seek historical truth in terms of access to original sources for legitimate historical research. Finally, given the British decision to refuse to participate in mediation offered by UNESCO, the Association argued that that refusal amounted to a breach of Article 13 providing for the right to an effective (but not necessarily judicial) remedy in the case of arguable complaints under the Convention.

At the outset, it is important to note that this application was filed by a private association, and not by the Greek State. Most cases that come before the European Court of Human Rights are brought by individuals, usually against their own state, and they have to satisfy often stringent admissibility requirements before the case can actually proceed to be heard on its merits. The Court can declare inadmissible any individual application if it considers that the application is incompatible with the provisions of the Convention or its Protocols, in terms of inadmissibility ratione temporis and inadmissibility ratione materiae.

In terms of ratione temporis, the Convention is not binding on the State in relation to any act or fact which took place before the Convention came into force (1953) unless there is a continuing violation which originated before that date and still persists. Here, Court decided that it lacked temporal jurisdiction because the acts complained of occurred before the ratification of the Convention by the UK although the Court did appear to countenance the possibility of the argument that there is a continuing violation from when Elgin took the sculptures to the present day. Relevantly, the Court has extended jurisdiction in several cases concerning the right of property such as the continuing unlawful occupation by the navy of land belonging to the applicants, without compensation (Papamichalopoulos and Others v. Greece) and the denial of access and interference with the rights to the applicant’s property in occupied Northern Cyprus (Loizidou v. Turkey).

The compatibility ratione materiae with the Convention of an application or complaint derives from the Court’s subject matter jurisdiction; a complaint is inadmissible if it relates to a right not provided by the Convention. in this instance, the Court was not satisfied that the applicant had established a right as an association representing a group of alleged victims to have the sculptures returned to Greece or to require a contracting State (the UK) to participate in mediation.

What the Court left open was the question of whether there is a general right to protection of cultural heritage.

Does this decision mean that the Greeks have lost their marbles, both legally and metaphorically? Although in this writer’s view the answer is no, the decision serves as a timely reminder that the issue of the Parthenon Marbles will never go away. Indeed, as the cultural heritage lawyer, Derek Fincham has written, we need to have a more sophisticated conversation about this issue. When we speak of rights – cultural or otherwise – it is important to reflect that if individuals attempted to do what Elgin did 200 years ago they would find themselves in violation of domestic and international cultural heritage law.

Andre Malraux in Voices of Silence wrote about the way in which objects of the past were stripped of their worlds and resettled chronologically in the land of art (in this case, a so-called universal museum in London). The Parthenon sculptures were conceived and designed and executed as integral parts of the Parthenon temple. They acquired their real conceptual meaning only in their natural and historic environment as a unified whole and, as such, form an indissoluble link with the cultural heritage of Greece. They are the keys to Greece’s heritage.

And yet – as Geoffrey Robertson QC has written – that country’s enjoyment of the monuments is rendered ineffectual, if not severely diminished, by the continued retention of almost half the surviving sculptures in the British Museum. Every country is entitled to possess cultural property which enhances its own identity as well as enable an informed understanding and appreciation for the culture that produced it.

In summary, it is apparent the Athenians Association’s application was dismissed at a preliminary stage of the proceedings and on a clear jurisdictional point arising from the association’s lack of standing in relation to the rights it asserted had been violated under the European Convention. There was no real hearing on the merits and the decision, if anything, reinforces the clarion call for the Greek State to consider instituting legal proceedings against the UK – probably in the International Court of Justice – based on the evolving principles of customary international law in the area of cultural property heritage and cultural identity.

Given that the Acropolis monuments are also included on the World Heritage List of UNESCO, it can be argued that the Greek State has an obligation, as well as a right, to preserve the integrity of these structures. The Parthenon is emblematic of a country whose meaning is often found in its ruins. As one author has astutely observed, “when we contemplate ruins, we contemplate our future”.

That future lies in the reunification of all the known surviving Parthenon sculptures in Athens.

The post The Parthenon Sculptures and the European Court of Human Rights appeared first on Elginism.

Virginia L. Campbell (Pompeian Connections)

F is for Festius

Whilst finishing corrections to the manuscript that became my book, I discovered that one of the funerary inscriptions carved into the city wall in an area of poor burials between the Porta di Nola and the Porta di Sarno had been misread. CIL X 8351 was read as Aulus Fistius, but is in fact, Aulus Festius. The ‘i’ is actually an ‘e’.

Photo 1.JPG

The name ‘Fistius’ doesn’t actually occur anywhere else in the Roman world, whereas Festius does – including in Pompeii. There are a series of dipinti (CIL IV 1182-1184) that record a man named Numerius Festius Ampliatus, who was a lanista, organising gladiatorial games. The most famous of the texts naming Ampliatus was written in charcoal on a tomb at the Porta di Ercolano. As this dipinto was recorded alongside an elaborate stucco decoration of games, gladiators, and wild animals, his games are believed to have been quite the spectacle.


The article that discusses my findings and the evidence for the mis-reading of the name of Festius has been published in the latest volume of Epigraphica. If anyone would like a PDF of the article, please email me here.

Tagged: Alphabet, CIL, Dipinti, Epigraphy, gladiators, Names, Pompeii, Tombs

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Ice Age Hunting Camp, Replete With Bird Bones and Tobacco, Found in Utah Desert

In the dead-flat desert of northwestern Utah, archaeologists have uncovered a scene from a distant,...

Archeomatica: Tecnologie per i Beni Culturali

Al via le iscrizioni a Creathon, la maratona di creatività per la cultura

Una sfida tra 15 team, 24 ore a disposizione e un’idea digitale, per la cultura, da sviluppare. È Creathon®, la maratona di creatività per l’innovazione della cultura giunta quest’anno alla sua terza edizione. Dal 25 luglio sono aperte le iscrizioni!

Ben Blackwell (Dunelm Road)

Participating in the Righteousness of God: Scope

Now that I’ve described the rationale for my in-progress book, Participating in the Righteousness of God: Justification in Pauline Theology, I’m laying out below the goals and scope of my study:

Part 1: Historical Framework
To set the stage for a reevaluation of Paul’s theology of justification, I demonstrate how historical frameworks influence contemporary biblical interpretive models. In particular, I establish how Protestant readings of justification are reactionary against Catholic theology and therefore explicitly frame justification in light of Christology and faith to the exclusion of the Holy Spirit and love. Rather than being overly influenced by post-Enlightenment anthropological conceptions, I also show the need to incorporate more a more robust pre-modern understanding of the porous self, making explicit use of Charles Taylor’s work on the buffered and the porous self.

Part II: Reading Paul
In distinction to post-Reformation readings of justification which place Christ over the Spirit and faith over love, my exegetical analyses demonstrate that Paul intertwines the Spirit and Christ in his employment of justification language in key texts—namely, Galatians 2–4; 2 Corinthians 3–5; Romans 1–8. Thus, my reading of Paul shows the coherence of this doctrine with the transformative participation of believers in the triune God. After establishing the relationship of participation and justification through close readings of specific passages, I then treat a variety of participatory topics that relate to justification—namely, suffering/cruciformity, the community (adoption, covenant), and sanctification/ethics.

Part III: Theological Framework
To conclude the monograph, I explore a participatory reading of justification through the lens of the fifth century patristic theologian Cyril of Alexandria, showing that readers not limited by the later Protestant-Catholic categories offer a similar reading as my own. With this model in mind, I then provide an essay that explores justification in light of theosis, an important and growing topic of study arising from wider ecumenical discussions.

This monograph does not attempt to answer all the opposing positions regarding the topic of justification. Rather, it provides a focused and sustained reading of Paul that demonstrates how justification serves as one primary way that he develops his doctrine of a transformative participation in the triune God.

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Compitum - publications

S. Bell et A. A. Carpino (éd.), A Companion to the Etruscans


Sinclair Bell et Alexandra A. Carpino (éd.), A Companion to the Etruscans, Chichester-Malden [MA], 2016.

Éditeur : Wiley-Blackwell
Collection : Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World
528 pages
ISBN : 978-1-118-35274-8
120 £

Introduction xxii
Alexandra A. Carpino and Sinclair Bell

Part I History 1

1 Beginnings: Protovillanovan and Villanovan Etruria 3
Simon Stoddart

2 Materializing the Etruscans: The Expression and Negotiation of Identity during the Orientalizing, Archaic, and Classical Periods 15
Skylar Neil

3 The Romanization of Etruria 28
Letizia Ceccarelli

Lire la suite...

James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

Neglecting Italian Scholarship

While in Italy, I had a conversation with a scholar from Sicily about the tendency for English-speaking scholars to ignore scholarship in languages such as Italian and Spanish. While I’ve tried to make a point of noticing, reading, and/or buying scholarly books that relate to my field written in Romanian (scholarship in which language is even [Read More...]

Archeomatica: Tecnologie per i Beni Culturali

[VIDEO] Le fasi del restauro dei putti in fasce di Andrea della Robbia

L'Opificio delle Pietre Dure di Firenze ha pubblicato nella propria gallery su Youtube un video che mostra tutte le fasi dell'intervento di restauro dei Putti in fasce di Andrea della Robbia che dal 1487 adornano la facciata del Brunelleschi dell'Istituto degli Innocenti.

Jim Davila (

Theologisches Wörterbuch zu den Qumrantexten. Band 3

<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>

Gnosis, vol. 1 (2016)

<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>

Journal for Semitics

<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>

Yahrzeit of Ha'ARI

<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>

Archeomatica: Tecnologie per i Beni Culturali

Il restauro dell'architettura moderna, corso di aggiornamento professionale

L’Ordine e la Fondazione Architetti Firenze in collaborazione con l’Associazione Assorestauro organizza un corso di aggiornamento professionale sul restauro dell'architettura moderna, un evento di formazione e riflessione su questo specifico aspetto del restauro architettonico.

Jim Davila (

Dating the Sibylline Oracles

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Bryn Mawr Classical Review

2016.07.31: Memory in Ancient Rome and Early Christianity

Review of Karl Galinsky, Memory in Ancient Rome and Early Christianity. Oxford; New York: 2016. Pp. xiv, 406. $135.00. ISBN 9780198744764.

2016.07.30: Law and Ethics in Greek and Roman Declamation. Law &amp; literature, 10

Review of Eugenio Amato, Francesco Citti, Bart Huelsenbeck, Law and Ethics in Greek and Roman Declamation. Law & literature, 10. Berlin; München; Boston: 2015. Pp. vi, 355. €119.95. ISBN 9783110401783.

Zenobia: Empress of the East (Judith Weingarten)


Meet Lady Sattjeni, daughter of Governor Sarenput the younger.

I'd love to be able to tell you what she looked like ... but, really, I can't. Her funerary mask (left) was too badly damaged. Anyway, the mask was never intended to be a true likeness. Portraiture was not the point.

Still, it would have at least shown us how she would have liked to be remembered. 

Even without seeing her face, however, the archaeologists who discovered her tomb earlier this year knew right away that she was a very important and noble woman.

The excavation was led by Prof. Alejandro Jiménez-Serrano from the University of Jaén in Spain.  Work began in 2013, when:
... we discovered the upper part of a chamber, which belonged to a tomb that was probably quarried in the Byzantine period (fifth century A.D.).... [We] thought that the area was disturbed. However, that chamber at the end was not a chamber, but the beginning of a shaft. During this year [2016], we began the excavation of the shaft, and the more that we excavated, the more we got the sensation that a great discovery might appear ... and it appeared! The worker called me, and I went to the bottom of the shaft, where there was a tiny aperture. With a torch, I could have a look inside....

The coffin which he saw through the hole belonged to a woman named Sattjeni, or 'Lady Sattjeni' as she would have been called, for she was of noble birth.

She announced herself (left) to the world of the dead as 

Sattjeni, Daughter of the Governor [of Elephantine]

Happily, this woman was known from other local contexts, which allowed the archaeologists to reconstruct the genealogy of the rulers of Elephantine during the later Twelfth Dynasty -- and to pinpoint Sattjeni's pivotal role in that history.

 So, first, a little background on her family and home.

The lady was buried in the necropolis at Qubbet el-Hawa (above) across the Nile from Elephantine (modern Aswan; Ta-Seti: 'land of the bow' in pharaonic times); which
was the southernmost province of Egypt.*  This is the cemetery where the governors of Elephantine built their tombs. During the 12th Dynasty (ca. 1991-1802 BCE), they constructed huge funerary complexes for themselves and their closest relatives.  Members of their courts (officials and servants) were interred nearby in smaller and less-decorated tombs. 

A Local Dynasty

Governors ranked just below the pharaoh's royal family and, indeed, they often behaved like little kings within their own territory.  Today, we would call them princes -- even though (in theory at least) each and every governor was appointed by the pharaoh and served at his pleasure.  In that sense, the office, with its princely title, wasn't hereditary.  However, the royal Residence at Memphis was far away to the north, and the 'law of political inertia' was strong, so soon, very early in the 12th Dynasty, a local dynasty arose in Elephantine to govern the province.  The office didn't always pass from father to son, but it did stay within the family. 

Elephantine was a boom town at the time, profiting from Egyptian expansion across the southern border into Nubia.  The province was the jumping-off point for military expeditions -- usually aimed against the warlike Nubian kingdom centred on Kerma, south of the third cataract on the Nile. The governors of Elephantine led these expeditions; on their return, some of the booty and tribute was bound to stick locally.  Nubia was also the transit point for African products like gold, ivory, and slaves -- almost all of which were imported into Egypt via Elephantine.  

Who was Who?


The founder of the Elephantine dynasty was Sarenput the elder (left) who built himself a gigantic and gorgeously decorated tomb at Qubbet el-Hawa, one of the largest, most beautiful non-royal tombs found anywhere during the Middle Kingdom.  Sarenput's elevation to high office was due to his family's close ties with the royal court in Memphis. The pharaoh at that time was Senusret I (1971-1926 BCE).  We know, for example, that he gave Sarenput a gift of 300 servants and also sent royal craftsmen to help build the governor's tomb. 

In addition to important religious functions,** Sarenput accumulated political power: he was Chancellor of Lower Egypt (the southern half of Egypt), Governor of the Foreign Lands, and Chief of the Egyptianized Nubians (the subdued populations between the first and second cataract) in the lands then being conquered by Pharaoh Senusret. 

A biographical inscription in Sarenput's tomb shows how he vaunted himself: 

Sarenput I and his wife (?)
I have built my tomb to show my gratitude to the king  [Senusret I]. His majesty made me great in the land. 

I have overturned very ancient rules and it resulted that I reached the sky in an instant....

His Majesty saw to it that I could have a good life. I was full of joy at having succeeded in reaching the sky, my head touched the firmament, I grazed the stars. I appeared like a star. I danced like the planets, my town celebrated and my troops were jubilant.


His grandson, Sarenput the younger, was the next governor.  Sarenput II's mother was Hetepet, a daughter of the elder Sarenput, and his father was a man named Khema. Unfortunately, we know nothing more about Khema; perhaps he died quite young.***

Sarenput II was governor for at least 40 years. In addition to a host of religious functions,** he also served as Chancellor of Lower Egypt and boasted two further military distinctions: "King's confidant [who is in the heart of the King] in marshalling troops to the districts of the South", and Chief of the Army in the south. 

Sarenput I
Sarenput II's tomb has been aptly described as "an architectural jewel".  His titles and functions are displayed on the tomb's rear walls (left, and below left). Strikingly, his second name was Nubkaurenakht ("Strong is Nubkaure"), the same as the throne name of Pharaoh Amenemhat II (1929-1895 BCE). This name appears twice on the wall as a cartouche of the reigning Pharaoh -- an extraordinary demonstration of the power that Sarenput considered himself to hold in his province.  

This painting is in the focal point of the tomb chapel.  It shows the seated governor extending his hand towards a table piled-up with offerings.  His son, Ankhu, stands behind the table and presents his father with an open lotus flower, symbol of rebirth.  Ankhu's small size is conventional: he must have already been of age since, as the painting implies, he was in charge of his father's funeral.  Adulthood is confirmed by the next painting in the rear chapel, on which Ankhu is given the title of  'Governor'.

Sarenput I, Ankhu, and wife (?)
This shows Sarenput holding the reed and sceptre symbols of power as he advances, with Ankhu behind him, towards a woman, presumably his wife (the name is lost; her title is 'priestess in the temple of Satet' [goddess of Elephantine]).  On the opposite wall, the governor's mother, Hetepet, also a 'priestess in the temple of Satet', sits before a full offering table. She is portrayed in a much choicer spot and larger than her presumed daughter-in-law, which suggests an altogether higher status. Very possibly, her distinction reflects her importance as the elder Sarenput's daughter. It might also mean that she was the direct source of her son's rank and office.  In other words, in this case at least, the office may have descended through the female line.  

And therein lies a tale. 

For we now have rare insight into what happened next. 

Heqaib II, son of Sathathor
Ankhu, the son, described as 'Governor' in his father's tomb, disappears from history.  The silence of the sources probably means that he died not long after his father.  Lacking other male heirs, this untimely death provoked a dynastic crisis in the ruling family which was only resolved when a man named Heqaib (II) became Governor.  We know very little about Heqaib II [don't worry about Heqaib I: he lived much earlier, and doesn't enter our story].  His parents are named as Khunes and Sathathor -- neither of whom were part of Sarenput II's immediate family. Thus, Heqaib II became governor not because of any blood ties to the ruling family, but because of his spouse. 

For, in addition to the son who died so young, Sarenput II had two daughters. The elder was Gaut-Anuket (an unusual name inherited from her great-great-great grandmother [grandmother of Sarenput I!]), and it was she who married Heqaib II -- thus raising him to the highest position in the province.  

In effect, he married the boss' daughter.

Their son, Heqaib-Ankh, would become Heqaid II's successor as governor -- but that event was still far in the future.  Now, while Heqaib-Ankh was still a child, Gaut-Anuket suddenly died and the dynasty again faced a crisis.

Perhaps Heqaid II was dynastically weak without his wife. Perhaps the Sarenput clan had another candidate for governor, or one might imagine that other clans of Elephantine were vieing for the highest office. We simply don't know.  But the next move was simply extraordinary: Sarenput II's younger daughter rode to his rescue.  She married her elder sister's widower, thereby restoring his legitimacy and underwriting his power.  

That slightly incestuous younger sister was Sattjeni. 

Yes, that's the Sattjeni we want: Sattjeni V (as she is known to Egyptologists).

 ... daughter of one governor, now wife of another and soon to be mother of two more. 

Lots of blue blood flowed in her veins.  And her bloodline was unusually pure: as a granddaughter of Sarenput II's mother, Hetepet, she was also in the direct female line of descent from the dynasty's founder, Sarenput I.  So, just as Hetepet may have passed the office of governor to her son, and Heqaid II reached the top through marriage to Sarenput II's elder daughter, Gaut-Anuket, just so, his second marriage to Sattjeni kept him in office.  Their son, in turn, survived to become governor, for once a direct male heir.

It certainly looks like power in Elephantine, in the absence of direct male heirs, descended through the female line, just as it did in the royal pharaonic family. 

Who they married would rule.

Sattjeni has now become the pivotal figure in the dynasty.  We'll read more about what she did in 'What Happened Next?', the second part of this post.  Believe me, there's a real surprise at the end.

* Egyptologists call the provinces nomes (after the later Greek name) so their governors are known as nomarchs.

** The governors of Elephantine had, of course, major religious functions and religious offices.  The main local deities whom they served were Khnum, god of the first cataract and the annual flood; his consort Satet, Mistress of Elephantine; and the deified Old Kingdom expedition leader, Heqaib, who was a kind of local 'patron saint'.  It is only to keep this blog post within reasonable bounds -- and not because it is unimportant -- that I omit any discussion of their religious titles, duties, and offerings.

*** Khema possibly served very briefly as governor between the two Sarenputs. One imposing, still unexplored early 12th Dynasty tomb in the Qubbet el-Hawa cemetery (QH 32) might belong to him or to another important yet-to-be-identified figure.


PROYECTO QUBBET EL-HAWA (Universidad de Jaén).  J.C. Sánchez-León & A. Jiménez-Serrano, 'Sattjeni: Daughter, Wife and Mother of the Governors of Elephantine during the End of the
Twelfth Dynasty',  ZÄS 2015, 142, 154–166;  H. Willems, The Coffin of Heqata: A Case Study of Egyptian Funerary Culture of the Early Middle Kingdom (Leuven, 1996); OsirisNet: Tomb of Sarenput I and Sarenput II; D. Raue, The Sanctuary of Heqaib; S. Pappas, 'Who Was Sattjeni? Tomb Reveals Secrets About Ancient Egyptian Elite', Live Science; and the blog, History Things;


Top left: funerary mask of Lady Sattjeni.  Photo credit: Exhuman la momia de Sattjeni, una dama de la dinastía XII

Above centre: cedar inner coffin holding Lady Sattjeni. Photo credit:  Exhuman la momia de Sattjeni, una dama de la dinastía XII

Second centre: Panorama of Qubbet El-Hawa cemetery (with the ruins of a Coptic monastery built into the tombs and on the summit). Photo credit: PROYECTO QUBBET EL-HAWA

2nd and 3rd left: Two reliefs in the tomb chapel of Sarenput I.  Photo credit: OsirisNet: Tomb of Sarenput I

4th and 5th left: Two paintings from the tomb chapel of Sarenput II.  Photo credit: OsirisNet: to of Sarenput II

Bottom left: Black granite statue of Heqaib II, Son of Sathathor. Photo credit: D. Raue, The Sanctuary of Heqaib. UCLA Encyclopaedia of Egyptology, 12-03-2014, Fig. 11.

Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues)

They Create a Desert and call it "Science"

"In der Archäologie geht es nicht darum,
etwas zu finden, sondern darum, etwas herauszufinden".

It is good to see our protest about "citizen archaeology" figured on Rainer Schreg's Archaeologik Wissenschaftsblog (Citizen Science für alle)
Gerade hierin liegt aber die große Schwäche von PAS, dass nämlich diese Sensibilisierung eben nicht in ausreichendem Maße erfolgt und viele der vermeintlichen Erfolge von PAS tatsächlich eher zum Schaden der Wissenschaft sind, indem Befundkontexte zerstört und das Vertrauen in Fundortangaben untergraben werden.
Would that this were true:
Derzeit gibt es einen großen Aufschrei gegen die Deklarierung von PAS als Citizen Science
There is actually a great silence from the British archaeological community (apparently for the most part , limp-wristed, pandering jobsworths who could not give a tinkers about any of this). It is good that there are archaeologists elsewhere keeping their eye on the ball.

Russian Experts at Palmyra

Reuters Staff, 'IS destruction too extensive to restore Temple of Bel in Syria’s Palmyra' Reuters July 23, 2016
Two ancient monuments in the Syrian city of Palmyra were so badly damaged by Islamic State that they can only be rebuilt using substantially new materials [...] Experts from Russia’s Culture Ministry have assessed the damage in Palmyra after the UNESCO world heritage site was recaptured from Islamic State in March [...] One of the symbols of Palmyra, the Greco-Roman Temple of Bel, founded in the first century, “can be hardly restored”, the Russian experts said in a report presented on Thursday. “A recreation of the monument can only be made by its reconstruction using designs and photographs after preliminary clearing of the building’s ground,” the report said. This will require at least 3-4 years and “significant financing”, the experts added, estimating that the rebuilding of another key monument, the Arch of Triumph, would be possible within 9-12 months. “After the re-creation of the monument it will 60-70 percent consist of new materials,” the report said about the arch, whose vaults it said were “fully destroyed” by an explosion. Some original fragments of the nearly 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin could be restored in 2-3 months, they said.
A decision on which works will be rebuilt has not been made yet, Russia called on other countries to take part in discussions on the restoring the ruins in Palmyra, including how such work would be funded.

Seaton Down Coins

The coin hoard from Seaton Devon was reported by an artefact hunter who guarded the find from nocturnal artefact hunters who might be tempted to visit the site (most just hoik away and tip them on a tabletop in the fading afternoon light) 'Seaton Hoard, Dug Methodically by Archaeologists: Finder Slept in his car on Site Protecting it From Other metal Detectorists'. The artefacts are going on display in Exeter after the Treasure reward of £50,000 was paid - now all that is needed is the funds for the conservation, cataloguing and archival storage of the 23000 items, and then the full publication to at least die study level of the hoard and its context.

Laura Gibbs (Bestiaria Latina Blog)

Latin Proverbs and Fables Round-Up: July 24

Here is a round-up of today's proverbs and fables - and for previous posts, check out the Bestiaria Latina Blog archives. If you are looking for free copies of my books, you can find links to all of them here: Fables, Proverbs and Distichs — Free PDFs.

HODIE (Roman Calendar): ante diem nonum Kalendas Augustas.

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


3-WORD MOTTOES: Today's 3-word motto is Ostendo, non ostento (English: I show; I do not boast).

3-WORD PROVERBS: Today's 3-word proverb is Sapientia omnia operatur (English: Wisdom works all things).

RHYMING PROVERBS: Today's proverb with rhyme is: Est piger agnellus, qui non gestat sibi vellus (English: The little lamb who doesn't want to carrry his own wool is lazy).

VULGATE VERSES: Today's verse is Quaerite et invenietis (Matt. 7:7)). For a translation, check out the polyglot Bible, in English, Hebrew, Latin and Greek, at the Sacred Texts Archive online.

ELIZABETHAN PROVERBS: Here is today's proverb commentary, this time by Taverner: Quo semel est imbuta recens servabit odorem testa diu: A vessel will kepe long the savour wherewith it is firste seasoned. For this cause Quintilian counsailet us forth with even from our youth to learne the best thinges, sith nothing sticketh more fastly than that, that is received and taken of pure youth not yet infected, with perverse and croked manners or opinions. For verelie full true is our Englishe Proverbe, That is bread by the bone wil never away.

BREVISSIMA: The distich poster for today is Ad Ponticum. Click here for a full-sized view. I'm sharing these with English translations at Google+ now too.

And here are today's proverbial LOLcats:

Fortis cadere, cedere non potest.
The brave man can fall but not fail.

Cave canem!
Beware of dog!


FABULAE FACILES: The fable from the Fabulae Faciles widget is Canis Vetulus et Magister, the sad story of a dog and his ungrateful master (this fable has a vocabulary list).

MILLE FABULAE: The fable from the Mille Fabulae et Una widget is Struthiocamelus Perfidus, the story of an unreliable ostrich.

Struthiocamelus Perfidus

Words from Mythology. For more about DRACO and the English word DRACONIAN, see this blog post.

Robert Consoli (Squinches)

Mycenaean Hypotheses, Reasonable and Unreasonable, II

Les philosophes qui ont examiné les fondements de la société ont tous
senti la nécessité de remonter jusqu'à l'état de nature, mais aucun d'eux 
n'y est arrivé. ... tous, parlant sans cesse de besoin, d'avidité, d'oppression, 
de désirs, et d'orgueil, ont transporté à l'état de nature des idées qu'ils 
avaient prises dans la société. Ils parlaient de l'homme sauvage, et ils 
peignaient l'homme civil."
Rousseau [1754] 19.

In my last post I sketched the substance of Dr. S. Voutsaki's very useful paper from 2007 in which she gave the following summing up of her careful research into grave findings in the Argolid.   It reads as follows:

"..the main organizational principle in the MH period was kin rather than status; as authority was embedded in kin relations, it did not require ostentatious gestures, impressive houses or rich graves for its legitimation.”[1]

In this post I will try to explain what it is about this summary which in my view is, uh, less than perfectly adequate.

Entrance to a tholos tomb.  Ano Engliano.

First of all, Dr. Voutsaki invites us to believe that kin and status are binary principles; that they exist in opposition and are zero-sum; which is to say that when one gains the other must lose.

This is completely false.  There is no culture in the present or in the historical record, stratified, ranked, unstratified, or tribal, in which status is not a primary concern[2] and in most traditional societies kin structures are the source of that status and  are often deliberately manipulated in order to enhance it.[3]  It is precisely kinship that has been the richest source of status regard in almost all the societies that have ever existed.  This is so important that, when high ranking lineage lines are interrupted through lack of children, birth of children of the wrong gender, deaths in war, or other problems, various subterfuges such as adoptions or simple ‘genealogical adjustments’ are often used to repair the gaps.[4]

We are also to suppose that the primary or only possible definition of statusis 'ostentatious gestures, impressive houses or rich graves' and that these things alone can legitimatestatus. 

This is disastrously wrong.[5]   Status in a traditional society is based on a number of factors and material acquisition is only one of them, and very often the least important.    

Status in traditional societies does not just depend on kinship.  Status ordinarily depends on the following factors in roughly this order:  being well-born (however defined), being first born, being male, possession of personal skill in some art or craft (both artifact crafts as well as priesthoods), skill in planning or in executing warfare, age (seniority), and generosity.  In many traditional societies (whether stratified like the Mycenaeans or not) acquisition ordinarily comes dead last as an indicator of status and even then it often accompanies generosity.[6]

It is impossible to maintain that status concerns in the MH were either nonexistent or less than status concerns in the LH.  So why does Dr. Voutsaki do exactly this?

Because any explanation for the emergence of political institutions in the LH must explain how status regard in the MH was transformed into specific new types of status regard in the LH.

And she cannot provide such an explanation. 

That’s because no one can do this and for obvious reasons: whatever constituted status regard in the MH is now lost to investigators.   Therefore she only takes the concept of status seriously when specific materials start showing up in hoards in the archaeological record. This is fatal because now she has no explanation for why these ‘strategies of acquisition’ resulting in the deposition of these hoards developed in the first place.

This, too, is why she encourages us to ignore the existence of 'ostentatious gestures' in the MH (by denying that they could have existed).   But what about those ‘ostentatious gestures’?

No gestures such as large ceremonies?  Not on the occasions of marriages?  Births?  Deaths?  Adoptions?  No grand feasts?    No ostentatious gestures on those occasions?  No competitive giving?  No sacrifices or ritual division of sacrificial meats?  No large assemblies for dancing, singing, poetic recitals?  No athletic contests accompanied by religious rites?  No secret rites?  No magic?  No witchcraft?  No cursing? 

What did people do in the MH? 

Or are we simply to regard these proto-Mycenaeans as nothing but abstract agricultural producers with a shallow kinship-based leadership layer?

Instead of a believable explanation of the MH-LH transition (or at least acknowledging that one is required whether or not it can be immediately supplied) Dr. Voutsaki has over-emphasized the existence of expensive material goods and tried to show that these alone are the route to status; that only those materials can legitimate status.

Let’s see.  Monopolization of scarce goods, monopolization of the ‘means of social reproduction’; [7] what kind of explanation is this?

What we’re being treated to here is a little Materialist fairy tale.  In this fairy tale society begins among simple static tribal structures in which the concept of kin has made everyone secure and given everyone a legitimate role.  There is no need for ‘ostentatious’ gestures because there is no concept of status (conceived of, apparently, as a kind of supra-kinship baggage) in such a society.  Societal position is effortless.  Then, for unaccountable reasons (our friend Otto’s ‘the middle part’), covetous and acquisitive people seize the means of production, break the kinship system, hoard all the golden goodies for themselves and, by so doing, cause poverty everywhere except the palatial centers. Moreover, through their ‘strategies of acquisition’ they also seize power and political control. 

Am I the only one to notice that this little tale is just a series of non sequiturs?

But if we are to reject Materialist explanations and ‘strategies of acquisition’ as the impetus to a stratified society then what does lead to this outcome?

Put simply, a society becomes more likely to make a transition to stratified classes and political institutions when one segment[7a] of a lineage becomes dominant over the others.  This can (but not always) lead to the crushing of the traditional distributional role of the kinship system.[8]  This can happen in a bewildering variety of ways and is oftentimes stranger than we imagine.[9]

What can we plausibly infer about the MH-LH transition, that modification in social logic which takes us from a (probably) achievement-based tribal organization [9a] to one that appears to be a stratified social structure and one living under political institutions?

I certainly don’t know and we’ll probably never know.  But that doesn’t mean that we can just whisk the problems out of sight or bury them beneath a stale Materialist template about seizing ‘status’ goods along with the means of their production. 

Here is a list of hypotheses of the type that we would have to form in order to investigate this question:

H1.  In the MH Greek-speakers lived in loosely ranked tribes in which status was based both on kinship and, to a significant degree, on individual achievement.  This achievement would have been based either on religious closeness to the deities or to success in war or both or some other combination of factors.[10]

Ranks reached through achievement status would not have been heritable.  Each new generation would have to create its own achievements in order to establish its legitimacy to wield power.

H2. This is succeeded by a phase in which, under the influence or the direct involvement of Minoans living on the mainland[11], achievement status is ultimately converted into inherited Rank (following Minoan models).  (It's almost impossible that these proto-Mycenaeans did this on their own.)

After generations of intermarriage between prominent kinship segments and Minoans the old most prominent Greek kinship segments are transmuted into a dominant new segment; one which now has strong interests and claims both on the mainland and on Crete.    (This might position us to discuss what happened on Crete in the middle of the fifteenth century.)   Conceivably, this hypothesized ‘mixed’ class was exogamous and, perhaps, the other kinship segments endogamous.[12]  If true then such marriage patterns would accelerate the stratification process.

H3. This would lead to the society we see in Mycenae and in Pylos in LH III.  In this society rank is inherited; this new society is fully stratified (If not then it would make rubbish of every learned paper in which the ruler of Pylos is referred to as a ‘King’).  Its institutions have a strong Minoan component.  The people in this society now derive their authority, their occupations, and – to greater or lesser extent – their status from political institutions which, as Dr. Voutsaki rightly intuits about the Argolid, are centered in Mycenae.  I think it’s best to regard the luxury objects so prominent in graves in the LH as what modern anthropologists call ‘materialization’.[13]  I would suggest that it’s not the objects that are ‘coveted’ as Dr. Voutsaki seems to think; they are merely signifiers of high status achieved by other means.  And of these other means we know, and probably can know, nothing.

H4. An accelerator in this transition process would have been the undertaking of massive building projects in several of the Mycenaean statelets.  The process is clearest in Orchomenos where a very large amount of land was gradually reclaimed from Lake Copais.  Such projects require more than a ranked-society to carry out and the resulting new land would have been under the direct control of the paramount in Orchomenos; an open invitation to him to escape from the traditional kinship constraints (but not necessarily replacing kinship itself).  One of the reasons that the heads of stratified societies undertake such projects is to accelerate population growth.  Population growth translates into larger armies, political power, and larger ambitions.[14]  This is, perhaps, a marker for the unfortunate events which occurred between LH IIIB and LH IIIC early.

These are hypotheses only; potential lines of investigation.  These are examples of what I mean when I use the word ‘reasonable’; I mean ethnographically reasonable.  I know quite well that most of these particular hypotheses can be neither supported nor falsified by objective evidence; certainly not by any evidence which archaeology is likely to produce.  But from the ethnographic standpoint they make a lot better starting point than the Materialist [15] straight-jacket of Dr. Voutsaki.

This post is a plea for greater ethnographic sophistication in Mycenology and for Mycenologists to see the Mycenaean people as people like other people – (not just hoards of materials)  - with all the complications and sophisticated analysis that that requires.  Archaeology is a valuable tool but if it is used only to support materialist explanations then I don’t think that anyone will be happy with the results. 


[1]Voutsaki [2007] 92.  Emphasis in the original.  See Voutsaki [1997] 44 for similar ideas and wording: “ … the main organizing principle during this period [e.g., the MH, RHC] was kinship rather than wealth or social status; that authority, being inscribed and embedded in kin relations, did not require legitimation by means of elaborate practices and material distinctions.'

[2]Voutsaki shows examples of this.  In Voutsaki [1997] 37 she describes the Trobrianders’ Kula ring and the status it conveys to those who belong to it.  She calls this increased regard ‘prestige’ but ‘prestige’ is just the concomitant of Status.  Trobriand is a traditional kinship-based society.  At the same place she makes much of status among the ‘Northwest Coast Indians’ relative to the potlatch feasting behavior.   And see Chagnon [2013] 338 ‘There are enormous differences in status among tribal communities.’  He means among the individuals who make up those communities.

[3]In Goldman [1970] throughout.

[4]Adoption in Polynesia, Goldman [1970] 432 ff.   In Pukapuka “Absolute adoptions known as kokoti, ‘to cut’, were negotiated to repair a ‘break’ in a lineage.”  Goldman is citing Ernest and Pearl Beaglehole, ‘Ethnology of Pukapuka.  Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Bulletin 150. 1938.  I do not have access to the Beagleholes’ work.

[5]The ‘Louis Vuitton Theory of Social Transformation’.  This principal probably has much more validity in our own society than it did in ancient Mycenaean societies.  Chagnon describes this mode of reasoning in an anthropology of a certain type: “I concluded that this myth about differential access to resources was so pervasive and unchallenged in anthropological theory because anthropologists come from highly materialistic, industrialized, state societies and tend to project what is ‘natural’ or ‘self-evident’ in this kind of world back into prehistory.  In our world, power, status, and authority usually rest on material wealth.  It follows that fighting over resources is more ‘natural’ and therefore comprehensible to anthropologists than fighting over women.”  Chagnon [2013] 328.

[6]In Goldman [1970].  ‘Principles of Status’, Chapter 1, pp. 4 ff.  Mana defined at 10, Tohunga and Toa on 13, Seniority on 14, Sanctity of Male Line on 15.

[7]Voutsaki [2007] 102, “The  evidence  suggests  that  Mycenae  exerted  control  over  both  the  production  and consumption of prestige items, primarily the most coveted ones such as gold and ivory, and thereby controlled the means for social reproduction.”  The important word here is ‘coveted’ which is a term from the realm of ethics and that converts her theory of social change into an ethical one.  I cannot see how Dr. Voutsaki can know these assertions to be true.

[7a] And by 'segment' I mean either a sub-lineage or a clan conceived of as linear or dual-descent, as cognates or agnates, however the total of the population conceives itself to be divided.

[8] Goldman [1970]

[9]See Harrison [1990], Chapter 6, ‘Treading Elder Brothers Underfoot’, 114 ff. as well as the gloss on this in Flannery and Marcus [2012] 188-191.

[9a] Goldman calls this an 'Open' society.  Goldman [1970] 20.

[10]  Parenthetically I should say that such a kinship scheme would exhibit more instability than Dr. Voutsaki seems to think.  The idea of ‘closeness to the deities’, for example, is subject to proof tests.  The unlucky loser might very well lose his place and status in the event of failure.   So also with military leaders.  Flannery and Marcus [2012] 356, “Unfortunately for Ghuti Mirza, his term of chief had been plagued by drought, and his subjects had ceased to believe that he could control the mountain spirits.”  He is then deposed by his brother, Silim Khan, who “astonished everyone with a dramatic display of weather magic.  He is reputed to have caused a violent snow storm in mid-summer. ‘The snow accumulated on the ground,’ Hunzakut aver, ‘up to the length of an arrow.’  This miracle is said to have convinced many Hunzakut of the legitimacy of Silim’s claim to the throne.  People are said to have rallied around Silim in great numbers, while Mirza was deposed and executed.” in Sidky [1996] 71.   There’s an ‘ostentatious gesture’ for you.

[11] Wright [1992] 70

[12]For the example of Maori in which endogamous and exogamous marriage practices were thought to accelerate the separation between kinship segments see Goldman [1970] 50 ‘..Firth has recorded that ordinary persons married within the hapu, while persons of rank married outside, in order to advance their status interests.  Since the male line carried highest status, the higher ranks in a hapu tended to form themselves around patrilineal descent lines whose maternal links were, however, with other hapu.’  The hapuis a lineage segment.

[13]DeMarrais, et al. [1996].

[14]The importance of increased population in Avatip, Flannery and Marcus [2012] 188-9. And see Sidky for the example of Hunza where increased irrigation and increased irrigated land caused a population increase.  This in turn was used by canny Mirs to convert Hunza from three miserable villages into a conquering power that forced the Chinese in Turkistan to pay tribute in order for their caravans to pass unmolested. Sidky [1996] 69-70.

[15] “When I was a graduate student, my more advanced graduate classes on primitive social organization informed me that differences in status in all human societies were basically determined by ‘differential access to scarce, strategic material resources.’  We were taught that this condition did not obtain in tribal societies because there was no wealth as such, and thus there were no status differences other than sex and age.  …  This was a fundamental message of Marxist social science that dominated most departments of anthropology in the 1960s, especially those departments that were considered to be ‘scientific.’” Chagnon [2013] 53.   Clastres can be devastatingly funny on exactly this topic.  Ostensibly he is attacking Marxism but he's actually attacking the lack of ethnographic sophistication on the part of Marxist anthropologists and why they cannot remedy it"In the logic of the Marxist discourse,  primitive society quite simply cannot exist, it does not have the right to autonomous existence, its being is only determined according to that which will come much later, its necessary future.  For the Marxists, primitive societies are only, they proclaim eruditely, pre-capitalist societies." in Clastres [2010b] 234-5.  Also "..if there are laws of history, they must be as legitimate at the start of history (primitive society) as in the continuation of its course." ibid. 234.


Chagnon [2013]: Chagnon, Napoleon.  Noble SavagesSimon & Schuster.  New York, USA.  2013.  978-0-684-85510-3.

Clastres [2010a]: Clastres, Pierre.  The Archaeology of Violence. Translated by Jeanine Herman.  Semiotext(e). 2010.  978-1584350934.  (Originally published in France by Éditions du Seuil in 1980)

Clastres [2010b]: Clastres, Pierre.  “Marxists and their Anthropology”  In Clastres [2010a] 221-236.

DeMarrais, et al. [1996]: DeMarrais, Elizabeth, Luis Jaime Castillo, Timothy Earle. "Ideology, Materialization, and Power Strategies", Current Anthropology. Vol. 37, No. 1 (Feb., 1996), pp. 15-31. Online here.

Flannery and Marcus [2012]: Flannery, Kent and Joyce Marcus, The Creation of Inequality: How our prehistoric ancestors set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire. Harvard University Press. 2012.  978-0674416772.

Goldman [1970]:  Goldman, Irving.  Ancient Polynesian Society. University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637  1970.  0226301141.

Harrison [1990]: Harrison, Simon J.   Stealing People's Names: History and Politics in a Sepik River Cosmology.  Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology, 71.   Cambridge University Press.  1990.  ISBN 0-521 38504 0.

Kirch [2012]: Kirch, Patrick V.  A Shark Going Inland is my Chief,  University of California Press.  Berkeley, CA, 2012.

Leach [2004]: Leach, Edmund. Political Systems of Highland Burma;  A Study of Kachin Social Structure. London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology.  Berg Publishers. Oxford, UK.  2004. 1845200551.  Originally published in 1957.

Pullen [2007]: Pullen, Daniel J. (Ed.)  Political Economies of the Aegean Bronze Age; Papers from the Langford Conference, Florida State University, Tallahassee, 22-24 February 2007.  Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK.  978-1-84217-392-3.

Rehak [1992]: Rehak, Paul.  The Role of the Ruler in the Prehistoric Aegean; Proceedings of a Panel Discussion presented at the Annual Meeting of the
Archaeological Institute of America.  New Orleans, Louisiana.  28 December 1992.  With Additions.

Rousseau [1754]: Rousseau, Jean-Jacques.  Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes.   Édition électronique réalisée par Jean-Marie Tremblay.  2002.  Online here.

Sidky [1996]: Sidky, H.  Irrigation and State Formation in Hunza; The Anthropology of a Hydraulic Kingdom.  University Press of America, Inc.  Lanham, New York, London.  1996.  978-0761802044.

Voutsaki [1995]: Voutsaki, Sofia.  "Social and political processes in the Mycenaean Argolid: the evidence from the mortuary practices." In Laffineur, R. and Niemeier, W.-D. (eds.) POLITEIA: Society and State in the Aegean Bronze Age. Aegaeum 12, Liège, 55-65. 1994.   Online here.

Voutsaki [1997]: Voutsaki, Sofia.   "The Creation of Value and Prestige in the Aegean Late Bronze Age."  Journal of European Archaeology,  V.2, 1997.   Online here.

Voutsaki [2007]: Voutsaki, Sofia.  "From the Kinship Economy to the Palatial Economy: The Argolid in the Second Millennium BC", in Pullen [2007] 86-111.  Online here.

Wright [1992]: Wright, James G.  "From Chief to King in Mycenaean Greece" in Rehak [1992].  63-80

July 24, 2016

Tom Matrullo (Classics in Sarasota)

Hubristic humor for these times

Courtesy of Sententiae Antiquae and social media.

The Heroic Age

News! O the News!

Some Proto-Indo-European news:    How the Mother Tongue probably sounded.

Such a modern sign: a Viking ship held up by red tape.  If only Charles the Fat had thought of that!

For a brief foray out of Medieval Europe, a 9th century Jain temple:

Poop to the rescue!!  Feces on the Silk Road tell us about spread of disease:

Daisy Wheel Protection Spell in Lincoln Cathedral? Read all about it:

Medieval Water Harnessing Cause Salmon Stock Depletion:

Excavations at Stegeborg, Sweden:

Witch Prison Discovered in Scottish Castle:

Vikings were not kind to their slaves:

Largest Viking Axe Ever found in "power couple's" grave:

Student Archeology yields evidence:

Reuse of Sacred Spaces, or at least one such, by Anglo-Saxons:

Richard III might be innocent?

Jousting as Medieval Sport?  You bet!

Medieval (really much older) war tactics succeed in modern Iraq:

Oldest Anglo-Saxon Buildin in Scotland:

Anglo-Saxon Cemetery in Rothey:

International Congress on Medieval Studies 2017!

As many readers will know, the CFP for 2017 is now up at the Congress website:

Many mini-CFPs for sessions are now forthcoming in many a venue.  I've pasted several here and will continue to do so.  Many others are using my International Congress group and other medieval groups on Facebook:  Feel free to check those as well.

Keep watching this space!
We are pleased to announce the launch of the Beyond Words website, which provides information about dates, venues, public programming, the symposium, and the catalogue of the upcoming exhibit Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections
When the exhibit opens in mid-September, we will launch the object-centered portion of the website: a searchable database of all 260 manuscripts described in the catalogue, with essential metadata and images for each manuscript and, when available, codicological descriptions and full digital facsimiles.
Please visit the website regularly for updates and, if you use Twitter, follow @BeyondWords2016 for sneak-peeks, updates, and announcements. We hope to see you in Boston this fall.
- The Beyond Words Curatorial Team: Jeffrey Hamburger, William P. Stoneman, Anne-Marie Eze, Lisa Fagin Davis, and Nancy Netzer
CFP: Technical Communication in the Middle Ages
International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo, 2017)
Proposals due: September 15, 2016
Submit to Wendy Hennequin (

Scholars have long recognized Chaucer’s “Treatise on the Astrolabe” as an early technical document, yet relatively few medieval texts have been discussed as specimens of technical communication. This session seeks to consider the traditions and conventions of medieval technical communication, as well as the connections between medieval and contemporary technical writing.

Possible texts for consideration might include (but are not limited to) penitential and conduct manuals, monastic rules, business correspondence, medical treatises, scientific and pseudo-scientific manuals (including alchemical and astrological ones), cookery books, law codes, and government and military documents. Papers should consider the texts as technical communication, but may focus on any aspect, including writing, layout, design, etc.

Please submit proposals to Wendy Hennequin ( by September 15, 2016.

Dr. M. Wendy Hennequin
Department of Languages, Literature, and Philosophy
Tennessee State University
3500 John A Merritt Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37209

Those who may be interested in, or who have used the pages before, I would like to alert to the new URL for the Usk site:

Migration of files following my retirement is far from complete -- eventually, I hope to archive my digital books with UF's Smathers Library -- but for now they may be reached, including the Usk, at 

Thank you,
R. Allen Shoaf, Alumni Professor of English Emeritus
University of Florida, P.O. Box 117310, Gainesville, FL 32611-7310
Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities 1982-1983 & 1999-2000
Co-founding Editor, EXEMPLARIA (1987-2008)
FAX 352.392-0860; VOICE 352.371-7149 (Home); 294-2841 (Office); 317-0247 (Cell)
2016 NW 19th Lane, Gainesville, FL 32605-3917
The International Pearl-Poet Society is sponsoring the following two paper sessions at the 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies (May 11-14, 2017) at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI:

I: Death and Rebirth in the Pearl-Poet
II: The Transformative Pearl-Poet: Translation and Adaptation

We invite abstracts from scholars of all levels, dealing with one or all of the Pearl-Poems. Papers should be no more than 20 minutes long. Submissions should include one-page abstracts and the completed Participant Information Form ( Please send these by September 13, 2016 to:

Kara Larson Maloney
Department of English, General Literature & Rhetoric
Binghamton University
PO Box 6000
Binghamton, NY  13902-6000

Kara Larson Maloney
Department of English, General Literature and Rhetoric
Binghamton University
Dear colleagues (with apologies for cross-posting),
On «Ad fontes», an e-learning platform provided by the University of Zurich, all abbreviations from the «Cappelli» have been digitised and are now fully searchable.
In October 2015, the University of Zurich hosted the Cappelli-Hackathon, a very successful crowd sourcing project, during which all 14'357 abbreviations collected in Adriano Cappellis' «Lexicon abbreviaturarum» were digitally registered and systematised through a specifically for the task designed web interface. Since then, the registered abbreviations have been checked and – where necessary – corrected through expert validation. They are as of now freely available, either as part of the Ad fontes platform (Cappelli online) or through the new app, App fontes.
The search interface not only allows to search by the readable letters, with the possiblity to set wildcards for non-identifiable characters, but also to search by visual criteria. Through the use of a 3x3 grid, the abbreviations have been systematised by the placement of abbreviation marks and other visual features; user may now use this grid in the search interface to help them find results.
Thus, the project allows a better and easier way to access the «Cappelli», an invaluable tool for everyone working with handwritten sources. Since «Ad fontes» offers also a link to the digitised original page, it is even possible to cite from the «Lexicon abbreviaturarum» using the project.

P.S.: The data as well as the pictures can be downloaded (

Tobias Hodel, lic. phil.
Universität Zürich
Historisches Seminar
Projekt «Ad fontes»
Culmannstrasse 1
CH-8006 Zürich 
We are happy to publish the program for the XII Syriac Symposium which will begin this August 19 (19-21 August). In the coming days the program for the Arab-Christian Studies Congress (22-24 August) will follow. Both programs are structured according to the major areas of interest with a schedule of morning and afternoon interventions, beginning at 09:00 and ending at 18:30.
We kindly invite all presenters to verify the accuracy of the information, in particular the title of your paper, and to send us word immediately of any changes that should be made, using the following email address:
The Organizing Committee
Dott.ssa Nicoletta BorgiaResponsabile Pubbliche Relazioni & Ufficio Stampa

Pontificio Istituto Orientale
Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore 7 - 00185 Roma
Tel.: +39 | Fax: +39 | | PIO on Facebook 

Carole Raddato (Following Hadrian)

‘Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze’ exhibition in Jerusalem

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem held until the end of June 2016 an exhibition dedicated to Hadrian: ‘Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze’. The exhibition was curated by David Merovah (Curator of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Archaeology) and Rachel Caine Kreinin … Continue reading

Rob Cain (Ancient Rome Refocused)

Poseidon’s knife

Found this knife on Ebay.  I could not resist it.  I really have no use for a knife.  It was as if I was prisoner of a siren’s call.   

The blade

The blade


The handle

The handle

Ancient Peoples

Standing female figure with an offering, 8 cm high (3 in)India,...

Standing female figure with an offering, 8 cm high (3 in)

India, 1st–2nd century AD

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Archaeology Briefs


British and French archaeologists used lasers to scan prehistoric paintings at a site more than 2,000 meters above sea level in Southern France. The Abri Faravel Rock shelter site, about 100 kilometers southeast of Grenoble in the Parc National des Ecrins, is believed to have been used as summer pasture from the Mesolithic to Medieval period, and is still used by shepherds today.

One of the paintings depicts a deer with a spear in its back, fending off a dog - a common motif in cave paintings. Researchers say that while other regions the Alps have examples of engraved rock art, painted rock art at high altitudes is extremely rare and the Abri Faravel paintings are the highest yet found.

In addition to revealing new detail about the ancient artwork, the scans have been used to make a digital model of the site - part of a larger project which the team has been working on since 1998, focusing activities above 2,000 meters in the Alps over the last 2,000 years.

Doctor Kevin Walsh, an archaeologist at University of York and lead researcher on the project, explains that "in the past, maybe 4,000 or 5,000 years ago, people were living and working in these landscapes and that's the kind of thing that our project has demonstrated, that the origins of activity of high altitude go back a very long time."

Researchers working at the site have uncovered a number of artifacts, including flint, pottery, metalwork, and even a Roman brooch.

Edited from Mail Online (25 May 2016)
[10 images, 1 map]


Spanish archaeologists say they have discovered an exceptional set of Paleolithic cave drawings that could rank among the best in a country which already boasts some of the world's most important cave art.

Chief site archaeologist Diego Garate says that an estimated 70 drawings were found on ledges 300 meters underground in the Atxurra cave in the northern Basque region, describing the site as being among the top 10 in Europe. The engravings and paintings feature horses, buffalo, goats, and deer, dating to between 12,500 and 14,500 years ago.

Garate says access to the area is so difficult and dangerous that it is unlikely to be open to the public. The cave was discovered in 1929 and first explored in 1934-35, but it was not until 2014 that Garate and his team resumed their investigations and the drawings were found.

"No one expected a discovery of this magnitude," said Jose Yravedra, a prehistory professor at Madrid's Complutense University. "There a lot of caves with drawings but very few have this much art and this much variety and quality." Garate says one buffalo drawing depicts what must be the most hunting lances of any in Europe. Most have four or five lances but this has almost 20.

Yravedra says that, given the cave's hidden location and the number, variety, and quality of its drawings, the site was being classified as a "sanctuary," or special Paleolithic meeting ritual place, like those at Altamira in Spain, or Lascaux in France. Regional officials hope to set up a 3-D display of the art so that the public can appreciate it.

Edited from (27 May 2016)
[3 images]

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Ancient Numismatics News from NUMISHARE

ANS coins from RIC 6-10 published to OCRE, and other updates
Following the release of volumes 6, 7, 8, and 10 to OCRE, we have republished our coins from these volumes to link them into the newly-published coin type URIs. This represents an addition of more than 17,000 physical specimens of late Roman coinage into OCRE, including photographs for more than 3,000 of these (and photographic gaps from previous volumes of RIC). There are now 36,000 Roman imperial coins from the ANS collection in OCRE, and 60,000 in total from all our partners. Including CRRO and PELLA, there are just under 100,000 physical coins aggregated by's SPARQL endpoint.

In addition to these coins, the Portable Antiquities Scheme provided access to several hundred imperial coins linked to OCRE URIs. The PAS had previously linked its entire collection of Republican coins (nearly 1,000) into CRRO, but the inclusion of imperial material in OCRE is a watershed moment for the study of Roman numismatics. These are the first few hundred of potentially hundreds of thousands of coins published in their database, each with attested findspots. This will have a dramatic effect on geographic analysis of ancient monetary circulation and trade.

The Harvard Art Museums API was also reprocessed. Harvard's coverage of late Roman coinage is quite good, and their contribution to OCRE has more than doubled to 1,300 coins. 

Archaeology Briefs


In Europe, the oldest boat ever discovered is a 10,000 year-old dugout canoe from the Netherlands. The oldest plank-built vessels in the region are Bronze Age boats found at Dover and in Yorkshire, dated to between 3,500 and 4,000 years ago. At Bouldnor Cliff, 11 meters underwater off the northwest shore of the Isle of Wight in the south of England, Garry Momber and the Maritime Archaeology Trust have found something up to twice that age.

In 2005, at the bottom of a 7-metre high underwater cliff, Garry saw something. "Among the branches of an old tree was a collection of colored flints, some of which had been superheated."

Two years later the team had enough money to investigate further. Their 2 by 3 meter excavation revealed charcoal, flint tools, wood chippings, well-crafted functional items, and dozens of pieces of well-preserved timbers. Most of the timbers were oak, still in position where they had fallen over 8,000 years ago. Some had been shaped and trimmed, while others had been charred to make them easier to work.

One piece, just under 1 meter long and about 8,100 years old, had been split - a technique which doesn't appear elsewhere in the British archaeological record for another 2,500 years, when it was used during the Bronze Age to build deeper log boats, by removing 1/4 of the tree and hollowing out the remaining 3/4. When it was felled, the tree would have been a couple of meters wide and several tens of meters high.

The team also found a scalloped out end-piece, timbers that formed the end of the structure, and cord which would have united the various elements. Taken together, these would make Bouldnor Cliff the oldest known boat-building site in the world. "The trouble is we still need more evidence to be 100% certain," says Garry.

Garry and his team will return to the site in June. You can follow their progress at DigVentures on Facebook, and TheDigVenturers on Twitter.

Edited from DigVentures (2 June 2016)
[2 images]


Paintings at Laas Geel in the self-declared state of Somaliland retain their fresh brilliance some 5,000 years or more after Neolithic artists swirled red and white color on the cliffs of northern Somalia, painting antelopes, cattle, giraffes and hunters carrying bows and arrows.

Abdisalam Shabelleh, site manager from Somaliland's Ministry of Tourism, says: "These paintings are unique. This style cannot be found anywhere in Africa." Then he points to a corner, where the paint fades and peels off the rocks. "If nothing is done now, in 20 years it could all have disappeared."

Amazed by the remarkable condition of the paintings as well as their previously unknown style, Xavier Gutherz, the former head of the French archaeology team that discovered the site in 2002, asked for the cave's listing as a UNESCO world heritage site, but that was refused because Somaliland is not recognized as a separate nation. "Only state parties to the World Heritage Convention can nominate sites for World Heritage status," said a UNESCO spokesperson. Requests for funding from donor countries face the same legal and diplomatic headache.

The cave paintings have become one of the main attractions for visitors to Somaliland. Around a thousand visitors each year endure rugged terrain with armed escorts to reach Laas Geel, and numbers are growing. Archaeologists say that Laas Geel may only be one of many treasures awaiting discovery in the vast rocky plains stretching towards the tip of the Horn of Africa.

Edited from Mail Online, News24 (26 June 2016)
[3 images]
[1 image]


In an area of New Brunswick the Canadian Department of Transportation had plans to construct a by-pass of Route 8 around the city of Fredericton, capital of the region.

As part of the investigations which are made for the planning of any major road, not just in Canada, an archaeological team was sent to see if there was anything of interest. What they found was actually so important that there was an immediate cessation of ground works and the by-pass would have to be permanently re-routed.

The find centered on a campsite, dated at 10,000 BCE, which would have been based on the shores of a long lost lake. So far over 600 artifacts have been unearthed, ranging from stone tools to arrow heads and a fire pit.

One of the First Nation tribes of this area of New Brunswick was the Maliseet and several members of the archaeological team were members of that tribe, including Shawna Goodall, who is quoted as saying "These are my ancestors. And just to be able to be the first one to hold things in 13,000 years - I get goose bumps every timer, (from) every single artifact. That never ores away, that feeling".

The other exciting part of the find is that it provides a missing link. Team Leader, Brent Suttie, is quoted as saying "We have a few sites down in the Pennfield area and then we have very famous sites in Debert, Nova Scotia that dates to 11,600 years old. We don't have anything between those two sites. This site just happens to fall within that".

Edited from CBC News, CTV News, Global News (23 June 2016)
[2 images, 2 videos]
[1 image, 1 video]


A 5,000-year-old figurine, discovered in the 1860's was recently rediscovered in the Stromness Museum collections by Dr. David Clark. The figurine was found among artifacts from Skaill House donated to the museum in the 1930's.

The figurine is made of whalebone measuring 9.5 cm in height and 7.5 cm in width, adorned with a mouth, eyes, and a navel with no other decorations. It was originally discovered by William G. Watt while excavating a stone bed in house 3 of the Neolithic village. It was originally seen as an 'idol' or 'fetish' and described as such in the 1867 Skara Brae report written by George Petrie.

The figurine represents the first Neolithic example of a representation of a human form, which are exceptionally rare in Britain. The figurine, nicknamed 'Skara Brae Buddo' is now being displayed for the first time in Stromness Museum alongside other artifacts from Skara Brae.

Edited from The Orcadian (15 June 2016), Live Science (21 June 2016)
[1 image]
[1 image, 1 movie]


A study of 44 people from the Middle East show that two populations invented farming independently, then spreading it to Europe, Africa, and Asia. The results were published on the bioRxiv preprint server, showing that it supports archaeological evidence of farming starting in multiple places.

The evidence is important as it is the first detailed look into the ancestry of individuals from the Neolithic revolution. During this period, some 11,000 years ago, humans living in the Fertile Crescent shifted from a nomadic lifestyle to a sedentary lifestyle, which domesticated crops and transformed sheep, wild boars, and other creatures into domestic animals over thousands of years.

Previously it has been difficult to obtain DNA from this area due to the hot climates. Recent successes in extracting DNA from the petrous let Iosif Lazaridis and David Reich, population geneticists at Harvard Medieval School, analyze these genomes, which were 14,000 to 3,500 years old.

The genomes showed a stark difference between the populations from the southern Levant region and those living across the Zagros Mountains. The Zagros population were found to be closely related to hunter-gatherer populations, supporting the theory that farming was developed independently in the Southern Levant.

Roger Matthews, an Archaeologist from the University of Reading says that: "There has been a school of thought arguing that everything happens first in the southern Levant and everyone learns how to be farmers from this initial dispersal. But the archaeological evidence shows very strong local traditions that are clearly not in communication with each other, persisting for centuries if not millennia."

The farmers from Zagros domesticated goats and cereal such as emmer, while their counterparts in the west had barley and wheat. According to Rogers, Sometime 9,500 years ago, the traditions spread through the Middle East, possible mixing in eastern Turkey while seeking out materials for tools, such as obsidian. Rogers also states that more research is needed to find how farming spread to the east.

LaLueza-Fox sees that the ability to extract DNA from hotter climates as an important step for prehistoric research, "Retrieving genomic data from the ancient Near East is a palaeogenomic dream come true."

Edited from Nature magazine (20 June 2016)
[2 images]


Excavations at Must Farm, 50 kilometers north-west of Cambridge, have unearthed the earliest examples of superfine textiles ever found in Britain - among the most finely-made Bronze Age fabrics ever discovered in Europe. Finds include more than 100 fragments of textile, processed fiber and textile yarn - some of superfine quality, with some threads just 1/10 of a millimeter in diameter and some fabrics with 28 threads per centimeter, fine even by modern standards. Most of the superfine fabrics were made of linen, and hundreds of flax seeds have been found, some of which had been stored in containers. Timber fragments with delicate carpentry may be the remains of looms, and fired clay loom weights have been found.

Some of the textiles had been folded, some in up to 10 layers. These may have been large garments, potentially up to 3 meters square - capes, cloaks, or drapes.

As well as making ultra-fine fabrics, at least some of the inhabitants wore exotic jewellery made of blue, black, yellow and green glass manufactured in the eastern Mediterranean. They lived in well-built 6 to 8 meter diameter houses and had a wide range of tools and other possessions. Around 50 bronze axes, sickles, spears, swords, razors, hammers, tweezers and awls have been found along with some 60 wooden buckets, platters and troughs, as well as around 60 well preserved ceramic bowls, mugs and storage jars - the largest collection of complete bronze, wooden and ceramic artifacts ever found in a British Bronze Age settlement. Dug-out canoes, and two wooden wheels have also been unearthed.

Yet evidence suggests that this settlement was attacked, burnt and destroyed less than a year after it was built. In the five houses excavated so far, people have left all their possessions behind - meals half eaten, salted or dried meat hanging in the rafters, garments neatly folded on or around well-made wooden furniture. Excavation director Mark Knight says: "It's a bit discovering the Marie Celeste. Everything is exactly as it was left. Only the inhabitants are missing."

Paola Arosio and Diego Meozzi (Stone Pages' Archaeonews)

Holding hands for 5,000 years, a couple with jade rings and dagger

The grave of a couple believed to be from the Bronze Age Glazkov culture has been excavated in Siberia. "In the grave we found male and female skeletons, lying on...

Homo erectus walked as we do

Recently discovered multiple assemblages of Homo erectus footprints in northern Kenya provide unique opportunities to understand our ancient ancestors. Using novel analytical techniques, researchers have demonstrated that the footprints preserve...

Digs uncover buildings in Cyprus' 11,000-year-old village

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of more than 20 round buildings between 3 and 6 metres in diameter at the site of Ayios Tychonas-Klimonas in Limassol, the earliest known village...

James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

Should You Be Making Games?

It was interesting to have an article come across my feed, providing guidance about whether one should quit one’s job and create video games instead, at the same time that I became aware that Leigh Grossman has a Kickstarter campaign for an RPG app: Do take a look, and consider either contributing or helping to [Read More...]

Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues)

Treasures from Underground LOSt to Auction

It is really wonderful what treasures lie
beneath our feet in the rich fertile soils of our county.

Going for gold in Matlock
Charles Hanson, 'Lost treasures uncovered from beneath our feet' Matlock Mercury Tuesday 19th July 2016
From merchant lead weights and rumbler bells of the Seventeenth Century, to a medieval key, Roman coins and a Henry VIII gold hammered coin - all treasures found across Derbyshire. When a metal detectorist visited our saleroom in Derbyshire recently this remarkable hoard of treasures tumbled onto a valuation table. It is fascinating to see what can emerge from bags and boxes brought to our saleroom. This vendor had been detecting across many areas of Derbyshire, including Ashbourne, for the past two years and already had amassed this marvellous array of items.
And no doubt would be among those who claims he or she  is in it out of a passionate interest in history and "not in it for the money at all". Anyway, other people "not in it for the money" will be selling their Treasures from beneath our feet (that's the archaeological record to you and I)
On the back of this collection we will be holding an inaugural auction of such metal detectorists’ finds on Tuesday, November 29, at our Etwall saleroom. We are keen to see further entries for this unusual and exciting specialist sale. Entries for the auction will close on November 2 so there’s still time to go treasure hunting! Hansons are delighted to have metal detecting find experts, Lisa and Adam involved. In creating such specialist auctions and being able to be of service to both sellers and buyers we are excited in opening up a new market and specialist department within our auction showrooms
Have these sales got the AlastairWillis seal of approval? Has the local FLO been along there to make sure that the items are responsibly reported and ensure that the finder has shown a valid landowner release document for each of the pocketed items being put up for sale? After all, Heatons would not want to run the risk of dealing with stolen property, would they? Or are they all that bothered, can any old metal detectorist turn up with a carrier bag full of bits including gold coins and tip them on the valuation table to get their finds accepted no questions asked?

I see that Mr Hanson admits to having been a metal detectorist, I suspect it is pointless to ask him therefore whether he thinks it is OK ripping holes in the historical record so people like him can make a profit selling bits of it off while the artefact hunters have decimated the rest. Thank goodness wild bird eggs and rare animal species are now safe from the collectors and auctioneers. Roll on the day when the carefree, random and selfish destruction of the historical record for personal profit goes the same way.

UPDATE24th July 2016
Charles Resized
The auctioneer has updated his site with a twee page on "metal detectives" (sic):
The recent surge of interest in such history created by television programmes such as Time Team, [Britain's Secret Treasures PMB] along The Vikings, The Tudors, and of course the award winning dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, has opened up this market; and the recent discoveries of treasure hoards by amateur metal detectorists have captured the public’s attention [through the PAS press releases on them PMB]. Hansons look to present the finds discovered under our feet, along with the treasured heirlooms passed from generation to generation, encouraging an ever wider audience to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of those who went before us. Specialist Auction Dates Metal Detecting Finds Tuesday 29th November - 10.30am (Closing date 2nd November) Metal Detective Finds are also included in a specialist section of our monthly Antiques and Collectors Auctions and quarterly Fine Art and Antiques Auctions. 
What else has "opened up this market" are TV programmes like "Britain's Secret Treasures" and the coverage of the amount of Treasure found by metal detectorists through the incessant PAS press releases (all except one find, eh Kent FLO?). As far as I know, real detectives do not flog off the evidence they uncover in the course of their investigations. These ones must be some mercenary cowboy ones.

And this brings us to the point, why when Me H. wants to make a profit from flogging off the loot, does he call the persons who bring it to him "amateur metal detectorists"? The moment they walk through his door they become commercial artefact hunters.

PAS outreach officer: qualities needed.

PAS outreach officer: qualities needed.....  Once upon a time they claimed to be British archaeologists biggest archaeological outreach project. No more:
"an interest in British archaeology would be advantageous".
What? They are seriously going to consider employing as outreach officers people who have no interest in archaeology at all if nobody else comes along? So who? Classicists? Mole catchers? Unfrocked catechists? Bus drivers and freemasons? No, the word missing here is "vitally essential". How on earth is anyone going to spread enthusiasm for best practice in an audience in a field for which they have no interest in at all? That's public money thrown in the mud isn't it? But there is more you
"will be sensitive to the needs of local communities".
What does that mean? Is not what is actually being conveyed is that you will suck up to a certain sort of person, nationally, but they don't dare say what distinguishes them. But as long as you are not really interested in what happens to the archaeological record at the hands of these folk, it's worth £28,460 per annum to turn a blind eye.

BiblePlaces Blog

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Forty-five shipwrecks, many dating back to ancient times, have been discovered off a Greek archipelago that is one of the Mediterranean's richest underwater archaeological sites.”

A large and Roman mosaic has been discovered in Larnaca, Cyprus. A short video shows the excavation.

“A large number of expansive rock tombs which could constitute part of the world’s largest necropolis have been discovered during work carried out by the Şanlıurfa Municipality around the historic Urfa Castle in southeastern Turkey.”

“Excavation teams at an ancient site [Side] in the southern province of Antalya are struggling to find sponsors after it emerged that the site contains an ancient brothel.”

The Lion of Babylon is not faring well in part because of the visitors that keep climbing on its back.

The oldest writing found on papyrus is now on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Scholars believe that have identified an ancient security system that protected the pharaoh’s burial chamber in one of the pyramids of Giza.

Philippi is in the latest group of sites to be named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Some British MPs are proposing the return of the Elgin Marbles to smooth Britain’s departure from the EU.

Two Hellenistic marble sculptures from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin will remain on loan for the next two years at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The ancient Mamertine Prison in Rome will soon be open after three years for restoration and excavation.

After a $73 million renovation, Yale will soon be re-opening the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

“Dendrochronological and radiocarbon research by an international team led by Cornell archaeologist Sturt Manning has established an absolute timeline for the archaeological, historical and environmental record in Mesopotamia from the early second millennium B.C.”

Ben Witherington III has more than 20 posts on his recent trip to Turkey. Highlights include visits to the Miletus Museum, the Izmir Museum, and the Zeugma Museum (which has a splendid mosaic).

New book out from Eisenbrauns: “Did I Not Bring Israel Out of Egypt?” Biblical, Archaeological, and Egyptological Perspectives on the Exodus Narratives, edited by James K. Hoffmeier, Alan R. Millard, and Gary A. Rendsburg.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Explorator, Daniel Wright

Byzantine News

A History of Basil II's Reign (958-1025)

A detailed account of Basil's reign by Catherine Holmes:

For Byzantine and modern historians alike the reign of Basil II marks the apogee of the Middle Byzantine Empire. Between 976 and 1025 Byzantine territorial and cultural frontiers expanded considerably. Bulgaria was annexed in 1018. In the east Basil also absorbed the Georgian princedom of Tao and the Armenian state of Vaspurakan. Towards the end of his reign Byzantine forces became more active in southern Italy, consolidating and expanding Byzantine authority in the face of a variety of powers including the Ottonian emperors of Germany. At the time of his death the emperor was planning to invade Muslim Sicily. It was also during Basil's reign that Vladimir, prince of Kiev, converted to Christianity.[[1]] In later centuries Basil the 'Bulgarslayer' came to be compared with the most prestigious and successful emperors of Late Antiquity. Michael Choniates writing in the early thirteenth century bracketed Basil with Heraclius (610-641). Basil's reputation was a powerful propaganda tool for successive imperial dynasties. The Comnenian emperors in the twelfth century consistently sought to associate their images with Basil. Michael VIII Palaeologus translated Basil's relics from their original burial place at the Hebdomon (see below) to his own family monastery near Selymbria.[[2]] Yet, despite this glorious posthumous reputation, Basil experienced many setbacks during his own lifetime. Civil war was endemic in the first thirteen years of his adult reign. His long campaign against the Bulgarians included several heavy defeats. Even after his annexation of Bulgaria, dissent persisted within Byzantium itself. Moreover, within half a century of Basil's death, the empire had disintegrated, torn apart by internal discord and external adversaries. Some historians argue that Byzantium's collapse in the eleventh century should be attributed to Basil's own overweening ambition, arguing that the emperor's campaigns overstretched the capacities of the empire.[[3]] In what follows I will argue rather a different case. Despite his fearsome military image, Basil's approach to government was flexible enough to accommodate his territorial conquests. The decline that occurred after his death was caused by factors outside the emperor's own control.

Click here for more

James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

Fantastic Fan Cultures and the Sacred

John Morehead shared this exciting call for submissions: Call for Submissions for an anthology volume: Fantastic Fan Cultures and the Sacred They ways in which people pursue religion has changed in America and the West. Traditional, institutional religions are in decline, and even among those who claim “None” as their identity, an individualized spirituality of [Read More...]

ASOR Syrian Heritage Initiative

ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives Weekly Report 99–100 (June 22, 2016 – July 5, 2016)


Michael D. Danti, Allison Cuneo, Susan Penacho, Amr Al-Azm, Bijan Rouhani, Marina Gabriel, Kyra Kaercher, Jamie O’Connell

Download Report 99–100

Key points from this report:
  • At least 15 mosques in the city of Fallujah, Anbar Governorate were damaged or occupied by military forces between May 22 (the beginning of the recapture of Fallujah from ISIL militants) and June 28, 2016 (ASOR CHI Incident Report IHI 16-0019).
  • A suicide bomber targeted the Sunni al-Nour Mosque in Abu Ghraib District, Baghdad Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report IHI 16-0020).
  • An ISIL suicide bomber targeted the Shiite Imam Ahmad Shrine in Tuz Kharmutu, Salah ad Din Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report IHI 16-0021).
  • A newly released ISIL propaganda video shows the destruction of Palmyrene artifacts and mummies at the Palmyra Museum (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0043 UPDATE).
  • New DigitalGlobe satellite imagery indicates the Russian military presence within the Northern Necropolis at Palmyra has decreased (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0065 UPDATE).
  • Further analysis of the airstrike damage to the Byzantine site of Qalaat Semaan, Aleppo Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0094 UPDATE).
  • Alleged SARG airstrikes damaged two mosques in al-Bara, Idlib Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0095).
  • Alleged SARG and Russian airstrikes damaged al-Iman Mosque in Quriyah, Deir ez Zor Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0096).
  • Alleged US-led coalition airstrikes damaged a mosque and Sufi tomb in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0097).
  • An alleged SARG airstrike damaged al-Foqani Mosque in Hbit, Idlib Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0098).
  • Alleged SARG and Russian airstrikes damaged five mosques in Aleppo Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0099).
  • Alleged SARG and opposition shelling damaged three mosques in Aleppo, Aleppo Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0100).
  • Alleged opposition shelling damaged St. Demetrius Church in Aleppo, Aleppo Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0101).

* This report is based on research conducted by the “Syria Preservation Initiative: Planning for Safeguarding Heritage Sites in Syria." Weekly reports reflect reporting from a variety of sources and may contain unverified material. As such, they should be treated as preliminary and subject to change.

Join the conversation on Facebook & Twitter:



Jim Davila (

Mugridge, Copying Early Christian Texts

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Review of Stebnicka, Identity of the Diaspora

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The Bible in the Syropalestinian version

<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>

The Davka Talmud

<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>

The Sibylline Oracles

<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>

Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues)

Paperless Antiquities Being Sold by University Collector

Where were these artefacts
housed before the sale?
Edgar Owen has a large private collection for sale on consignment. The first batch comprises 750 antiquities mostly of European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Egyptian origin which he's hoping to shift wholesale. There are few central and eastern Asian objects, none from American of subtropical African cultures: 
The University Collection  is an excellent large and diverse collection of Greek, Roman and Near Eastern antiquities I need to move quickly at wholesale for a consignor. Preferably for sale as an entire collection[...] There are ~750 pieces almost all different and all guaranteed genuine. Excellent provenance. The collection belongs to a retired university Vice President and author of over 100 papers including some on antiquities and ancient technology. Collected over many years up until the 1980's. All purchased from US dealers. 
It seems that a variant form of the "collecting history" is given on a discussion list:
The collection belongs to a retired university Vice President and has excellent provenance. Collected over many years up until about 20 years ago by a University Vice President and author of over 100 papers including some on antiquities and ancient technology. All purchased from US dealers. 
until 20 years ago is not "1980s", and the UNESCO Convention was 1970 anyway. The use of the present tense indicates that this collector is still alive. Former vice president of a university somewhere in the USA (presumably), author of 100 papers including "antiquities" and ancient technology...  Since this would not be all that difficult to work out, one wonders what the seller has to hide by not identifying himself as the authority behind the claims to both legitimacy and authenticity. Such claims ring awfully hollow in the absence of the name. This is offered as "A University Collection" - which university is referred to here as legitimation? Was the university asked to lend its name to this enterprise and refused? Were the artefacts housed on university premises? The university in question should be informed that its reputation is being used in this manner.

Should academics engage in the private purchase and collecting of antiquities? What ethical codes and constraints affect this? For example to buy paperless antiquities loose on the "they-can-touch-you-for-it" market? Or worse, to buy antiquities with papers and then separate the objects from the legitimating documentation (for example discarding it)?

It is interesting to note that this scholar did not bequeath his antiquities collection to the university as was the case with other academics who collected such things such as Professor David Moore Robinson at the University of Mississippi. Why not? Why is this being marketed as "the University Collection" when it has not come from, nor is going to, a university? 

This collection includes many objects of a type that would have needed an export licence to leave the source country before 1996. There are cunies for example (untranscribed), a cylinder seal or two. Yet in none of the descriptions I looked at was there any mention of the export documentation being available for the new owner. Seven hundred and fifty loose paperless objects is no bargain at any price and no matter "who" had bought them in the past. 

One wonders whether the university that appointed this guy knew he was collecting paperless antiquities from all corners of the classical world with the attendant risk that a university official might be buying antiquities of less-than-legal origins. Or did the anonymous collector keep the university in the dark about his activities on the US antiquities market? Full transparency requires Mr Owen to at least name that university.

Artefact Hunting and Blood Sports

Heritage action British Museum playing a supportive role in killing for fun?
the Chilmark and Clifton Foot Beagles are holding another metal detecting rally and PAS are going again [Annual CCFB Rally 4th September 2016]. As we said last year, you can search the world and never find such a crass event where cultural exploiters fill the coffers of wildlife exploiters and officials from a national museum sit at a folding table legitimising it all.
This years site is at Keynsham near Bristol and as tekkies say "the area looks interesting". And the FLO's name is....? Perhaps he or she will drape the finds recording table with entrails to make the hunting set feel more at home as they bring in the disembowelled remains of the region's archaeological record for them to look at.

July 23, 2016

Paola Arosio and Diego Meozzi (Stone Pages' Archaeonews)

Megalithic structures unearthed in northeastern India

Prehistoric megaliths and tools discovered in Meghalaya's Ri-Bhoi district, in the northeastern India state of Assam, indicate that the Khasi tribe, one of the major tribes in the state, had...

Early Pacific islanders may have used obsidian to make tattoos

Skin normally decays, leading to a lack of evidence of tattooing in ancient peoples. Some researchers have looked for the tools which might have been used, yet many are assumed...

Compitum - événements (tous types)

Mystique rhénane et devotio moderna

Titre: Mystique rhénane et devotio moderna
Lieu: Université de Metz / Metz
Catégorie: Colloques, journées d'études
Date: 05.10.2016 - 06.10.2016
Heure: 14.00 h

Information signalée par Jacques Elfassi

Mystique rhénane et devotio moderna

5 et 6 octobre 2016

Colloque international
Institut européen d’écologie - Metz (France)
2 rue des Récollets


Pour la première fois, et dans le cadre du projet MSH DEMO, un colloque international, réunissant des spécialistes de la mystique rhénane (Max Weber Kolleg, Erfurt ; Meister Eckhart Gesellschaft ; ERMR, UL…) et de la Devotio moderna (Université de Nimègue, Titus Brandsma Instituut ; Université de Leuwen ; Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance de Tours…), recherche quelles mutations et quels transferts sont intervenus entre les deux courants et quelles en ont été les conséquences.
Comme nous disposons désormais de l’édition scientifique d’une partie importante de l’oeuvre d’Eckhart et comme de nouvelles découvertes de ses écrits viennent la compléter, il importait de s’attacher à la transmission de cette oeuvre, marquée par l’interdit qui a pesé sur elle. Cette transmission aléatoire s’est faite non seulement par ses disciples : Jean Tauler et Henri Suso, mais aussi par l’intermédiaire du Paradisus animae intelligentis, par la Theologia deutsch, par Jan van Leuwen et par de multiples autres canaux qui en ont retenu tel ou tel point des écrits eckhartiens, en le réinterprétant ou non, ce qui a amené à transformer une oeuvre avec un fort potentiel novateur, essentiellement en une pratique, qui s’est exprimée dans la Devotio moderna, qui a fortement marqué l’Occident.
Aussi ce colloque amènera-t-il à se demander si une réception effective de l’oeuvre d’Eckhart n’aurait pas changé le paysage culturel de l’Occident, non seulement sur le plan spirituel et théologique, mais aussi anthropologique, artistique… Il en aurait été peut-être été d’une véritable mutation culturelle, dont nous retrouvons certains points, en ordre dispersé, aujourd’hui.
Les résultats de ce colloque, qui fait intervenir un grand nombre de spécialistes, apportera un renouveau effectif des recherches dans le domaine. Les conclusions en seront reprises en une monographie sur la question.

9h : Ouverture par Sylvie CAMET (Directrice de la MSH)
9h 30 : Marie-Anne VANNIER (UL, IUF), Les rapports entre la mystique rhénane et la Devotio moderna
10h : Harald SCHWAETZER (Cusanus Hochschule, Bernkastel Kues), Jean Tauler et Jan van Ruysbroeck, artisans du passage de la mystique rhénane à la Devotio moderna
11h :  Kirstin ZEYER (Université de Nimègue, Titus Brandsma Instituut), Histoire, transmission et concept de Devotio moderna
11h 30 : Dietmar MIETH (Max Weber Kolleg Erfurt), L’intériorité en fait de, vision du monde. L’imitation du Christ conduisant au “pays du silence et de la paix” (piétisme) ?

14h 30 : Satoshi KIKUCHI (Université de Leuwen), La pensée de Jan de Leeuwen, comme transition entre la mystique spéculative à la Devotio moderna aux Pays-Bas
15h : Jean-Claude LAGARRIGUE (ERMR, Strasbourg), Le colloque intime chez Eckhart et Ruysbroeck, la mystique rhénane et la Devotio moderna
15h 30 : Eric MANGIN (UC Lyon), Imitation et conformatio  au Christ chez Eckhart et dans la Devotio moderna
16h 30 : Élisabeth BONCOUR (UC Lyon), L’imitation du Christ dans les Entretiens spirituels d’Eckhart
17h : Andres QUERO-SANCHEZ (Université d’Erfurt, Max Weber Kolleg), Le Sermon 52 et sa réception dans la Devotio moderna
17h 30 : Antoine LAMBRECHTS (Chevetogne), L’influence et la réinterprétation de la mystique rhénane dans  L’imitation de Jésus-Christ


9h : Silvia BARA BANCEL (Université de Madrid), Les Institutions spirituelles   : moyen de diffusion de la mystique rhénane en Espagne ou  passage vers la Devotio moderna ?
9h 30 : Isabelle RAVIOLO (ERMR, Paris), La conformation au Christ souffrant. L’influence de Jean Tauler dans la Devotio moderna 
10h : Markus ENDERS (Université de Fribourg in Brisgau), La réception de  L’Horloge de la Sagesse  d’Henri Suso dans la “Suite du Christ” (De imitatione Christi) de Thomas a Kempis
11h : Jean DEVRIENDT (ERMR, Strasbourg), Gérard Groote, lecteur du Lebemeister  Henri Suso
11h 30 : Monique GRUBER (ERMR, Roanne), Henri Suso, serviteur souffrant du Christ souffrant et précurseur de la Devotio moderna 

14h : Luc BERGMANS (Université de Tours), La notion ruysbroeckienne de vie commune et la mystique rhénane
14h 30 : Inigo BOCKEN (Université de Nimègue, Titus Brandsma Instituut), Qu’en est-il de la mutation de la mystique rhénane dans la Devotio moderna ?
15h : Wolfgang Christian SCHNEIDER (Université de Hildesheim), La transmission de l’œuvre de Tauler dans la première édition du XVI° siècle dans les cercles spirituels.
15h 30 : Matthias VOLLET (Cusanus Hochschule, Bernkastel-Kues), La mystique rhénane, relue au prisme de la praxis  dans la Devotio moderna
16h 30  : Alberto AMBROSIO (Luxemburger School for Religion and Society), Entre la mystique rhénane et la Devotio moderna : Pier Luigi Petrucci.
17h : Workshop de jeunes chercheurs :
Riwanon GELEOC (UL), Les béguines, sources d’inspiration pour Eckhart ou relais vers la Devotio moderna ?
Johanna HUECK (Cusanus Hochschule, Bernkastel-Kues), Nicolas de Cues entre la mystique rhénane et la Devotio moderna
Andrea FIAMMA (Université de Chieti), Le Codex Cusanus 21 a-t-il été connu dans la Devotio moderna ?

Responsabilité scientifique : Marie-Anne VANNIER
Contact organisation : edwige.pierot[at]

Source : MSH Lorraine

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

CAMERA KALAUREIA An Archaeological Photo-Ethnography | Μια αρχαιολογική φωτο-εθνογραφία by Yannis Hamilakis & Fotis Ifantidis

CAMERA KALAUREIA An Archaeological Photo-Ethnography | Μια αρχαιολογική φωτο-εθνογραφία by Yannis Hamilakis & Fotis Ifantidis.
170 pages; illustrated in full colour throughout. Full text in English and Greek. Available both in print and Open Access.
ISBN 9781784914141. 
How can we find alternative, sensorially rich and affective ways of engaging with the material past in the present?

How can photography play a central role in archaeological narratives, beyond representation and documentation?

This photo-book engages with these questions, not through conventional academic discourse but through evocative creative practice. The book is, at the same time, a site guide of sorts: a photographic guide to the archaeological site of the Sanctuary of Poseidon in Kalaureia, on the island of Poros, in Greece.

Ancient and not-so-ancient stones, pine trees that were “wounded” for their resin, people who lived amongst the classical ruins, and the tensions and the clashes with the archaeological apparatus and its regulations, all become palpable, affectively close and immediate.

Furthermore, the book constitutes an indirect but concrete proposal for the adoption of archaeological photo-ethnography as a research as well as public communication tool for critical heritage studies, today.

Also available in hardback and paperback printed editions:
Click here to purchase paperback edition priced £30.00.
Click here to purchase hardback edition priced £55.00.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Note for downloading: PDF displays best in Chrome. For best results right-click 'Download (pdf)' below and use the option 'Save link as...' to save a local copy to your computer/device.
View Reviews
Download (pdf)   These downloads are single-user and for your own personal use only.

David Stuart (Maya Decipherment)

More Deathly Sport

by Stephen Houston, Brown University

Some years ago, I posted a blog suggesting a distinct pattern in urban form among the ancient Maya. This was an alignment in which ballcourt alleys pointed towards royal interments (Houston 2014, Deathly Sport). Another example comes to mind. A fine map by George Bey and William Ringle shows the location, at Ek’ Balam, Yucatan, of the ballcourt at the site. A reference to that feature may appear in the local texts, in Room 29sb, Mural B, yet the preceding, partly effaced sign, …bu, probably cues a stairway, ehb. Ballplay sometimes took place on such features.

Here is my photograph of the much-restored ballcourt (Figure 1), followed, in the next image, by the Bey/Ringle map (Figure 2).

thumb_IMG_2341_1024 (1).jpg

Figure 1. Ek’ Balam ballcourt, with alley pointing toward the “Acropolis” at the site (note thatching over tomb building, top-center; photograph by Stephen Houston).

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 1.49.04 PM.png

Figure 2. Map of epicentral Ek’ Balam, with arrow added for orientation and sight-line towards tomb (cartography by George Bey and William Ringle).

The skewed alignment, headed not towards the center of the Acropolis but to an area just west of its main axis, transports the gaze to the location of a spectacular tomb. That grave was found under Room 49 by Leticia Vargas de la Peña y Víctor R. Castillo Borges. To my knowledge, the tomb has not been published in full. But, as shown by Alfonso Lacadena (2004), it surely belonged to the principal lord of the site, U Kit Kan Lehk (the final word of his name is insecurely transliterated).

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 2.16.35 PM.png

Figure 3. Location of royal tomb in Acropolis (map by Vargas de la Peña y Víctor R. Castillo Borges).

There are as yet no detailed publications on the relative chronology of these features—did the ballcourt come before the tomb or after?  Nor do I have readings from a Total Station of the precise alignment. But these buildings may well add to the growing evidence for links between ballplay and the illustrious dead. 


Houston, Stephen. 2014. Deathly Sport. Maya Decipherment: Ideas on Ancient Maya Writing and Iconography Deathly Sport.

Lacadena García-Gallo, Alfonso. 2004.The Glyphic Corpus from Ek’ Balam, Yucatán, México. Report to the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. Ek’ Balam texts

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Open Access Journal: Journal for Semitics - Tyjdskrif vir Semitistiek

[First posted in AWOL 3 October 2013, updated (new URL) 23 July 2016]

Journal for Semitics - Tyjdskrif vir Semitistiek
ISSN 1013-8471
Journal for Semitics
The Journal for Semitics is published by the Southern African Society for Near Eastern Studies (SASNES). The journal is published twice annually. Journal for Semitics is an accredited journal of the Department of Education.

See AWOL's full List of Open Access Journals in Ancient Studies

Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues)

Who is "Lisa", who is "Adam"?

"Hansons are delighted to have metal detecting find experts, Lisa and Adam involved". Why are no surnames given for these "experts" ? In what are they expert? Which way up to hold a metal detector? UK antiquities legislation? The identification of objects? Working with metal detectorists? Are these "metal detecting find experts" FLOs by any chance? As a reader has pointed out, there is a pair of FLOs from a nearby county which have these Christian names. I would hate to think that these are the "metal detecting find experts" working with the auction house which is currently refusing to answer the question on establishing title to sell. We remember what happened to the FLO found selling Roman coins when Roger Bland ran the PAS.

Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online)

Hale and Buck: A Latin Grammar

Hale and Buck: A Latin Grammar


Hale and Buck's A Latin Grammar was first published by Ginn and Company in 1903. This edition is a collation of the two different versions of the original that I am aware of, hereafter referred to as versions A and B.

The Scans

Corrections and bug reports

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Editorial practices

Throughout I have tried to emulate the typographical conventions of the original fairly closely, but I have not hesitated to depart from them where convenient. Most such changes can pass without comment, but one perhaps requires some justification. In the original, there are many instances of paragraphs that are set in a smaller type than the main text, for example, 269 a and 270 a, b. An examination of the changes made in version B reveals that many of them are similarly reduced in size, which makes me think that most if not all such passages represent changes made in galleys. In other words, I believe the smaller typeface was used solely (or at least primarily) in order to make room for late additions to the page rather than to indicate that this material is somehow of less importance. Especially in view of the absence of any indication by the authors that they attach any such meaning to variation in type size, I have not tried to preserve such variations. (It's possible, of course, that the smaller type size does carry meaning in some cases, and there is sufficient variation in style to foster doubt. But if so, I'm unable to distinguish the cases.)

Ancient Peoples

Gold Bracelet with Deities Representing Fertility and Good...

Gold Bracelet with Deities Representing Fertility and Good Fortune

Romano-Egyptian, 1st century B.C.–A.D. 1st century

Powerful talismans of fertility and good destiny are woven into this rich golden composition. The bodies of two snakes intertwine to form a Herakles knot, the centerpiece of this bracelet. The snake on the left represents Agathodaimon, and the cobra on the right Terenouthis, two agrarian/fertility deities associated with Serapis and Isis, respectively. On the platform between them stand two goddesses, Isis-Tyche (or Isis-Fortuna), a deity closely associated with Alexandria, and the nude Aphrodite.     

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Archaeology News Network

Ancient wooden strips from Horyuji temple stun researchers

Eight ancient strips of wood adorned with kanji characters were found among treasures dedicated to the imperial family by Horyuji temple in Nara Prefecture in 1878. The front, far right, and the reverse, second from right, of one of the wooden strips now in  the possession of the Tokyo National Museum. They record sales and purchases of rice bales  and salt, respectively. The infrared photos of the two sides are shown on the...

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40,000-Year-Old Rope-Making Tool discovered in Germany

Prof. Nicholas Conard and members of his team, present the discovery of a tool used to make rope in today‘s edition of the journal: Archäologische Ausgrabungen Baden-Württemberg. A 40,000-year-old rope-making tool in Hohle Fels Cave, southwestern Germany  [Credit: University of Tübingen]Rope and twine are critical components in the technology of mobile hunters and gatherers. In exceptional cases impressions of string have been...

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Bronze Age barrow and Anglo-Saxon cemetery discovered in Leicestershire

A University of Leicester project has investigated how different generations have re-used ancient sacred places. The site during excavation. Archaeologists stand around the line of the backfilled Bronze Age barrow ditch.  The Cossington Barrows would have once been positioned in the middle background  [Credit: University of Leicester]Archaeologists from the University of Leicester have recently excavated a Bronze Age barrow...

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James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

Jacob and the Angel for Piano and Orchestra

I expect that I will be using Max Stern’s books about Bible and Music and Psalms and Music in connection with my course on the Bible and Music in the Spring. Stern is a composer, and not only is his piece exploring the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel interesting musically, but the expanded retelling [Read More...]

BiblePlaces Blog

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

The archaeological co-directors provide a summary of this summer’s work at Tel Ein Jezreel.

Archaeologists working at Bethsaida have found some monumental towers guarding the approach ramp to the city gate.

Haaretz (premium) reports on the latest discoveries in the Mount Zion excavation, including a bathtub and a cup with a priestly inscription. Joel Kramer’s drone photo gives a good perspective.

Wayne Stiles reflects this week on lessons to be learned from Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth.

For the first time, researchers have succeeded in sequencing the genome of ancient barley grains found in a cave near Masada.

An update on the renovations of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity includes photos of newly restored mosaics.

IAA inspectors raided a shop in the Old City of Jerusalem suspected to be selling antiquities without a license.

Invitations are now open for a 2017 conference entitled “The Anglo-German Exploration of the Holy Land, 1865-1915.”

Eric Mitchell has begun a series on biblical archaeology for the Christian Examiner.

An article in Forbes asks how augmented reality will affect archaeological sites.

With a recent grant, plans are moving forward in the creation of the Digital Library of the Middle East.

Gordon Govier speaks this week with Cynthia Shafer-Elliott about “Daily Life in Ancient Israel” on the Book and the Spade (part 1, part 2).

Some Leon Uris favorites are on sale for Kindle now: Exodus, Mila 18, QB VII, and others.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Explorator, Daniel Wright

Elena Cano (Γνωθι τους αλλους)

Una jornada para conocer el pasado romano de Aragón en familia

Este domingo 24 de julio tenéis oportunidad de descubrir uno de los lugares de Aragón más rico en patrimonio romano de mano de los arqueólogos y estudiosos que dirigen las excavaciones en curso. Se trata de Los Bañales, donde además de un acuducto y varios monumentos funerarios se ha descubierto un ciudad que está dando muchas alegrías a los amantes de la historia. El yacimiento se encuentra en la comarca de las Cinco Villas, que ya de por sí merece una visita.
Este domingo se celebra la jornada de puertas abiertas  en la que además de la visita al yacimiento, se han organizado diversos talleres y actividades para conocer mejor la cultura romana. Podéis encontrar el programa completo aquí.
Os recomiendo vivamente la visita. Si estáis lejos o no podéis ir, os podéis hacer una idea visitando su canal de youtube o siguiendo las novedades de la investigación y el trabajo en el yacimiento en su página de Facebook.

Archaeological News on Tumblr

Ancient wooden strips from Horyuji temple stun researchers

Eight ancient strips of wood adorned with kanji characters were found among treasures dedicated to...

He has a wife you know

Overlooking Syracuse was the plateau of epipolae. This was of...

Overlooking Syracuse was the plateau of epipolae. This was of huge strategic importance and where the Athenians co-ordinated the seige from.

Penn Museum Blog

Ankara and Gordion: First Days on the Ground

I boarded a plane at the Philadelphia International Airport last Tuesday at around 10:30 am. Two layovers and 20 sleepless hours later, I landed at Esenboga Airport in Ankara, Turkey, at roughly 1:30 pm local time. I found my checked bag, exchanged some US currency for Turkish Lira, and got myself a yellow cab at the taxi stand outside. While we drove, between my curious stares at the unfamiliar landscape, I quietly studied my translation book and rehearsed my phonetics for when we got to my hotel: “Te-shek-kur e-der-im” (“thank you”) and “mawk-booz al-a-bee-leer me-yim” (“can I please have a receipt”).

My bed at the King Hotel was waiting, where I collapsed into a four-hour nap. Eventually the phone rang, with Brian Rose, Director of the Gordion Project, on the other end, letting me know when I should meet him and some of the other project participants in the lobby. Brian was soon headed off to a party at the Embassy, but I sat by the hotel pool and chatted with Gareth Darbyshire, Gordion Archivist at the Penn Museum, and two other team members: Beth Dusinberre, Professor of Classics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Richard Liebhart, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art & Art History at Elon University. Gareth and I got dinner at a restaurant up the block (a delicious lamb dish with a heaping helping of fresh vegetables, and fruit for dessert) before heading back to the hotel, where my jet lag made me stay up until 3:30 am watching a combination of Al Jazeera news, Sumo wrestling, and occasional glances at something called “BabyTV” which was literally just footage of dangling baby toys with their wind-up music in the background. I’m surprised this hasn’t caught on in the U.S. yet.

DSC_5014Home away from home in Ankara.

The next day, before we headed out to the excavation site, Brian and Richard took me into Ankara, directly to one of the local carpet stores—clearly a familiar haunt for the two of them. The owner promptly served us tea, and commenced in presenting what seemed like half of his inventory of gorgeous, handwoven carpets of all sizes to Brian and Richard. Brian was looking for something to fill a specific space in his home in Philadelphia, and had me take some photos for reference, while Richard agonized over whether he could justify the purchase of yet another carpet.

A view of some of the beautiful carpets on display.A view of some of the beautiful carpets on display.




Brian examines a woven pouch, intended for use as a baby cradle, but just as good as a table cover.Brian examines a woven pouch, intended for use as a baby cradle, but just as good as a table cover.


A view of Ankara.A view of Ankara.

We walked through the neighborhood, which felt far more like an old village than part of a city. Along the way we saw vendors of all kinds, handling and selling everything from sheep’s wool to colored rocks to handmade ornaments for minarets to be used at mosques.

DSC_5000A man tends to his wool.
A dazzling selection of trinkets for sale.A dazzling selection of trinkets for sale.
Crafting a minaret ornament.Crafting a minaret ornament.

Before long, we were off to the excavation site, just over an hour drive from Ankara into the Polatli District and the village of Yassıhöyük (or “flat mound”), which takes its name from the ancient citadel on which the excavations are based. Therein, the Gordion Excavation House (commonly referred to as “the White House”) awaited; Brian gave me a brief tour of the house and the property, and I was promptly greeted by the house budgie, Bulut (Turkish for “cloud).

The Gordion Excavation House, also known as the “White House.”The Gordion Excavation House, also known as the “White House.”
HDR5The old project truck, waiting for repairs, with the project storage facility in the background.
IMG_1344My digs for the next two weeks, shared with my roommate, Ramon.
IMG_1345Bulut says “Welcome to Gordion, Tom!”

I met the housekeeping staff and many of the project participants, of whom there were about 35 when I arrived. The team takes its “weekends” on Wednesday and Thursday, and this being a Thursday, several of them were outside playing some kind of ping pong/musical chairs mashup game. I snapped photos of them and of the resident cat family, before the bell rang for dinner—consisting of sausage, pilav, beans and potatoes, fresh vegetables, and homemade yogurt from the village. A nice sunset gave way to another relatively poor night of sleep, in spite of my comfortable sleeping quarters on the first floor.

DSC_5101An interesting take on ping pong.
The resident mama kitty, with one of her kittens behind her.The resident mama kitty, with one of her kittens behind her.
…And a show.…And a show.

The same bell that rings for dinner also rings at 5:00 am for breakfast—a colorful selection of mostly vegetables, fruits, and cheese. We all suited up and headed for the excavation site, just down the road from the White House, where I was quickly put to work on a surveying project. I worked with Braden Cordivari, a rising junior at Penn and one of the select few undergraduate students working on the project. We spent the morning working with the total station, which gives us readings on slope distances; this was a great first project, as it gave me a good walkthrough of the Citadel Mound, the former site of the ancient city center and the primary focus of the excavations.

Braden sets up the total station.Braden sets up the total station.
Giving directions to my next point of reference.Giving directions to my next point of reference.
Braden speaks with Ramon (at right), who is helping to direct a trench excavation.Braden speaks with Ramon (at right), who is helping to direct a trench excavation.
My helping hand.My helping hand.

One of the major undertakings on the site involves the fortification of the Early Phrygian citadel gate. It was originally built in the 9th century BCE, and was subsequently buried as a result of a major fire in 800 BCE. A second citadel gate was then built on top of it, which weakened the masonry of the first gateway; that masonry was weakened further by an earthquake in central-western Turkey in 1999, resulting in a bulge developing in one of the walls. To deal with this problem, the project developed a program to conserve the wall, which involved the erection of scaffolding around the wall, and the installation of a crane on top of the scaffolding that enables the team to lift the damaged blocks, consolidate them, and ultimately replace them on the wall. This is a five-year program, currently in its fourth year.

The massive scaffolding at the citadel gate.The massive scaffolding at the citadel gate.
Workers move stones from the citadel gate atop the scaffolding.Workers move stones from the citadel gate atop the scaffolding.

Nearby, the team is also dealing with the rubble fill, which was originally put in place to raise the gate around the Early Phrygian gate to raise the ground level five meters higher when the Middle Phrygian settlement was constructed. The rubble fill was excavated in part by Rodney Young in the 1950s; since then, some of the rubble fill collapsed, thereby endangering the blocks of the Middle Phrygian gate built above it. The team is working this year to lift the surviving blocks from the gate, reconstruct them in another part of the gate, and shave back the rubble fill to an angle of 45 degrees in order to give it greater stability. This includes the use of a crane on several days of the week.

The rubble fill next to the citadel gate.The rubble fill next to the citadel gate.
The crane lifts a block from the citadel gate.The crane lifts a block from the citadel gate.
Workers carefully guide the block to a safe point at the top of the gate.Workers carefully guide the block to a safe point at the top of the gate.

The rubble fill was stabilized in antiquity through the insertion of wooden beams at various points. This was a common practice among Phrygian builders, who used wood extensively for stabilization purposes, even in stone buildings. As the excavation team shaves back the rubble, they have encountered several of these wooden beams, which were laid during the early 8th century BCE. As the beams are identified, the rubble around them is being cleared so that the beams can be removed and subjected to dendrochronological analysis, which will help to firm up the chronology of the laying of the rubble fill.

Climbing the rubble fill.Climbing the rubble fill.
An 8th-century BCE wooden beam in situ in the rubble fill.An 8th-century BCE wooden beam in situ in the rubble fill.
Brian observes as team members work to clear the area around the beam.Brian observes as team members work to clear the area around the beam.

It was a very busy first day on site; the excitement, combined with a touch of jet lag, had me up well past the rest of the team’s bedtime and glued to my iPhone to pass the time. Before I could go to bed, though, news broke that a military coup was being attempted back in the capital (which ultimately failed); this news was followed by a flurry of text messages and emails from friends and family asking if I was okay. Out here in the countryside, I wouldn’t have had any idea if not for my phone; needless to say, we are all safe, and work continued like normal the next morning. But what a whirlwind of a first day on the job it was.

More to come from the Gordion Archaeological Project in the coming days and weeks.

Adrian Murdoch (Bread and Circuses)

3D app for Antonine Wall

Exciting news that thanks to a grant from Creative Europe, a 3D app is going to be developed for the Antonine Wall. “Over the last twelve months we have made great strides in digitally interpreting the Antonine Wall. Thanks to...

James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

What Does “Biblical” Mean?

Chuck Queen wrote a helpful post recently, sharing his own experience of interacting with someone who insisted the Bible was clear – but didn’t accept its “clear” teaching on certain matters. The quote above is from that post. Click through to read the rest. I’ve said it often before, but it bears repeating. One should never say [Read More...]

Jim Davila (

Review of Gardner, Alcock, and Funk, Coptic Documentary Texts from Kellis, Vol. 2

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Dandamaev, A political history of the Achaemenid Empire, rev. ed.

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Cosmic secrets in 3 Enoch

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