Friday, 23 April 2010

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

ALEXANDER THE GREAT: FROM MACEDONIA TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD




ALEXANDER THE GREAT: FROM MACEDONIA TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
(Archaeological Museum of Ioannina)

The new exhibition of the Alpha Bank Numismatic Collection
entitled “ALEXANDER THE GREAT: FROM MACEDONIA
TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD” is presented at the
Archaeological Museum of Ioannina as of Friday 7 May 2010.

The exhibition organised by Alpha Bank, in collaboration with
the Archaeological Museum of Ioannina, for the first time in
Ioannina, refers to the history of Alexander the Great through
his coinage and its effect on the ancient world even after his
death.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue
- album in Greek and English.

Exhibition duration: 7 May – 31 October 2010

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Human Skeletons in a Garden! (T)

Human Skeletons of the 4th or 5th c. A.D. in a garden

According to the Archaeologist mr. Koutsomanis it is the grave of a woman of the Roman or Byzantine Period.

Two human skeletons and grave offerings were discovered by an inhabitant of Tychero of the Evros Prefecture, while digging in his garden.

According to the Archaeologist of the 19th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of Komotene, Matthaios Koutsomanis, it is the grave of a woman dated to the 4th or 5th century A.D.

He is led to this conclusion as in the grave offerings were found including two glass and two bronze bracelets. The jewellery will be cleaned and examined in the Komotene Museum where they were transferred so that archaeologists can determine their exact date and origin. As mr. Koutsomanis explained the service was called in by the police station of Tychero and arrived on the scene when the bones had already been transported the the coroners office of Thrace to be further examined; the result was that the archaeologists could not arrive at well founded conclusions.

Source: www.kathimerini.gr

Friday, 16 April 2010

(T) Impressive mosaic in Athens (Thiseio)


A treasure was hiddedn under no 24 Akamas street in Thiseio, Athens. During the archaeological control of the construction of the foundations of a new building, to one side of the plot, Katerina Stamatoudi of the 3rd Ephorate of Antiquities found an amazing mosaic in an ancient room.

It is entirely preserved, bearing diverse geometrical shapes around a central medallion bearing the scene of the Rape of Ganymedes, who is shown being carried away by Zeus in the form of an Eagle.

This important mosaic, especially given its state of preservation, is partially buried under another building that has been proclaimed a protected building. Various similar ancient buildings have been found in the Theseion region, dated to the late classical period (4th-3rd Centuries), most of which continue to be used into the Roman period.

The room that was also decorated with wall paintings, but unfortunately the walls are preserved to a small height. It is dated probably to the 2nd Century B.C. The luxurious room gives the impression that it was probably used as a welcoming are: in the classical period a banquet hall with seven or nine beds, while in the roman period it was used as a triclinium, with beds on the three sides and a table in the center. "Such mosaics where laid out to show off. Elsewhere they would have used a layer of stones or simple mortar".

The proposal of the head of the 3rd Ephorate, Nikoletta Valakou, to the Central Archaeological Council, is to move the mosaic to be exhibited in the planned Museum of the City of Athens in the Plato's Academy Area.

Source: Eleutherotypia, 16.04.2010
See also:
Archaiologia
Ta Nea, 16.04.2010
Kathimerini, 16.04.2010

Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Face of Young Myrtis (T)



Myrtis is almost 2500 years old. But her life was short. She died aged just 11, in the plague that hit ancient Athens during the Peloponnesian War.

Her God-Mother was Afi Baziotopoulou-Valavani, head of the excavations. But this little girls helped us understand which was the microbe that caused so much death in ancient Athens.

Manolis Papagrigorakis carried out a research on her teeth and on the teeth of the other skeletons that were discovered ouside Kerameikos, in the "plague grave". The grave is dated to 430-426 B.C. and held the remains of 150 people.

"My emotion was great when I looked on the face of Myrtis", said mr. Papagrigorakis, who carried out the facial re-creation, speaking tin the New Acropolis Museum. "I did not know anything about her exept that she was a little girl of the age of the Peloponnesian War, that lived through the siege and the plague and probably died of typhoid fever".

With these words the associate Professor announced to the world the completion of a unique achievement: in the shadow of the Parthenon the face of Athens of the time of Pericles appeared, in the form of a young Athenian who died in the Great Plague of 430 B.C. The re-creation of the face was the result of a great effort based on the skull that was discovered intact, amongst the archaeological finds of the Kerameikos dig.

"One of the skulls that attracted my attention, was that of a child. It preserved the lower jaw and, even more rare, the permanent teeth co-existed with milk teeth. The age was defined with a panoramic x-ray, by observing the root-ending of the teeth, and the sex was also defined.

It was a girl of about 11 years old, which the research team named Myrtis.

"Myrtis had all the anatomical skeletal elements of the cranio-facial complex; in other words an intact skull, important for the final result".


The technique of re-creation is based on the use of markers or little nails that show the thickness of the tissue, by considering the origin, the sex, the living conditions and the age. To recreate the muscles and the tissue of the face are sculpted, while the markers are used as a basic guide as to the how thick the sculpting clay should be. The shape and size of eyes and nose can be calculated from the size of the ocular and nasal cavities.

The conditions surrounding her death did not allow the usual care show to the dead, and she was thrown in a mass grave. Although they knew this, the researchers did not want to re-create the expression of pain that she must have lived before dying, the undying thirst that led the ill to crowd around sources and wells; they did not want to show the horror of what she saw and the agony of coming death. Rather they preferred a "light smile that gives the impression of peace and calm".

Aggeliki Kotti

source:
Ta Nea, 10.04.2010 and
Ta Nea, 10.04.2010

Adaptation/Translation: ArchaeologyMatters

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Egypt International Conference demands return of Antiquities (T)





The East Pediment of the Parthenon (Birth of the goddess Athena), kept in the British Museum, London. Photo: Ethnos, 10.04.2010


Top priority for "stolen" Greek antiquities are the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum, for which Greece has been fighting for almost thirty years.

Greece, along with another six countries - Egypt, Syria, Guatemala, Nigeria, Peru, and Libya - have already submitted their lists with antiquities that they prioritise among their demands for items to be returned from other countries, as Zahi Hawass announced, as soon as the two-day International Conference in Cairo ended.

At the conference that was carried out in the Egyptian capital and had the as its theme the "stolen" antiquities, decided that a list should be created which shall include the "stolen" antiquities that the participating countries demand be returned in order of priority.
Nefretity, kept in the Altes Museum, Berlin.
Photo: Ethnos, 10.04.2010

The rest of the countries, apart from the seven already mentioned, have one month to submit their own lists, announced mr. Hawass.

The priority for Cairo, according to the head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, is the return of six antiquities of great value, including the bust of Nefretiti from Berlin (Altes Muzeum), the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum in London and the Zodiac Cycle of Dedera from the Louvre in Paris.

Peru announced that is has asked for the return of the collections from the Inkas City of Machu Picchu from the Museum of the American university of Yale [on this, see here and here], and the coins, ceramics and tissues of the Paracas civilasation that are kept in the Museum of World Culture in Göteborg, Sweden.

The Rosetta stone, kept in the
British Museum, London.

Photo:
Earth-History.com

The Cairo conference was called "historic", while all the participating countries agreed to "fight together", mentioned Zahi Hawass.
Textile of the Paracas Civilisation in the Museum of World Culture in Göteborg, Sweden. Photo: Paracas.se

"It is necessary", he added, "to reinforce international cooperation and legal and tribunal proceedures for the protection of cultural heritage".

Source: Ethnos, 10.04.2010
Translation/Adaptation: ArchaeologyMatters

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Bulgaria: Rhodope Mountains

Rhodope Mountains

A Sanctuary of a Persian God Was Opened for Visitors in the Rhodope Mountain

A Sanctuary of a Persian God Was Opened for Visitors in the Rhodope Mountain
Kamelia Кrumova, information by dir.bg

The only sanctuary of a Persian god Mithra in the Rhodope mountain was shown to the attention to the medias”.

The sanctuary is situated in close vicinity to the Greek village Thermes, just 6 km from the Bulgarian border. It was discovered in 1915 by the archaeologists Mr. Bogdan Filov.

Archeology researches were not made in the region. After the opening of the new customs near Zlatograd, the rock sanctuary is now available for visits.

The sanctuary of Mithra God is situated in the forest nearby the Thermes village. Just a month ago it was covered with threes and shrubs. The barelef of Mithra and the sacred spring can be seen there.

In III-IV century Mithra was the most popular god in the Roman empire, later it was substituted with the Christianity, announced prof. Nikolai Ovcharov. According to him the cult to Mithra is connected with earlier cults in the Rhodope mountain – those of the Thracians.

The border zone to the south of Zlatograd is famous with its archeology resources. Thus Bulgarian and Greek scientists start mutual researches of the terrain. The sanctuary of Mithra God will b included in a joint tourism route.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Commerce of Antiquities

Greece:

Parthenon:


2010
AUCTIONS:

Egypt: International Conference on Recovering Ancient Artefacts from Abroad

Unite to recover looted artefacts, Egypt forum told

Egyptian antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass on Wednesday urged countries attending an international conference on recovering ancient artefacts from abroad to unite to recover their stolen heritage.

"We need to cooperate, we need a unification between our countries," Hawass told antiquities officials, deputy culture ministers and museum directors from 22 countries at the two-day Cairo meeting.

"Every country is fighting alone, every country suffered alone, especially Egypt," Hawass told the delegates from countries that have seen their national heritage looted over the centuries.

"We will battle together," he said, adding that "maybe we will not succeed in a lifetime (but) we have to open the subject."

Hawass, who heads Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), urged delegates to draw up lists of artefacts missing from their countries and displayed in museums abroad.

"This conference shows the importance many countries place in joining forces," said Elena Korka, who is in charge of protecting Greece's cultural heritage.

Korka confirmed that the return of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum is Greece's top priority. Athens has been locked in a 30-year antiquities "war" with London to retrieve them from the British Museum.

Egypt has been fighting for the Rosetta stone from Britain and a bust of Nefertiti from Germany.

Hawass said that other outstanding claims included against the Hildesheim museum in Germany for a statue of Hemiunu, believed to be the architect of the Great Pyramids of Giza, and a statue of Ramses II from the city of Turin in Italy.

Italy is represented at the conference, but countries like France, Germany or Britain have regularly given Egypt the cold shoulder over its claims of Pharaonic antiquities.

Egypt also hopes to recover the zodiac of Denderah, held by the Louvre museum in Paris, as well as the Pharaonic bust of Ankhaf that is owned by the Fine Arts Museum of Boston.

Greece was to chair a conference session devoted to examining "problems faced by countries in attempts to recover their antiquities."

A major aim of the conference is to call on the United Nations cultural body UNESCO to amend a 1970 convention banning the export or ownership of stolen antiquities acquired after that date.

The convention prohibits the illicit import, export and sale of cultural property, but stipulates there will be no "retroactive" measure for artefacts acquired before the convention was signed.

Since becoming head of antiquities in 2002, Hawass has helped Egypt reclaim 31,000 relics from abroad. Last year he insisted that "what has been stolen from us must be returned."

But he is still eyeing the Rosetta stone held by the British Museum for more than 200 years and the 3,400-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin.

Germany has repeatedly rebuffed Egyptian claims to the rightful ownership of the Nefertiti bust and says the priceless sculpture was acquired legally nearly a century ago. Egypt says it was spirited out of the country.

In March, Egypt said it retrieved from Britain some 25,000 ancient artefacts, including a stone axe dating back 200,000 years and pottery from the seventh millennium BC.

Hawass stressed that the countries were not reclaiming all antiquities, only those proven to have been taken illegally, and artefacts of great historical value for the country's from where they were taken.

He praised the United States as the "first country for the restoration of ancient artefacts," after it recently returned a Pharaonic sarcophagus that was illegally taken more than 125 years ago.

Twenty-two countries are attending the conference, five more than initially announced.

Austria, Chile, China, Cyprus, Ecuador, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Italy, Libya, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Syria, the United States are present in addition to Egypt, the majority represented by senior culture and antiquities officials.


Source: AFP, 07.04.2010

Greece: 5. Thessaly: c. Magnesia Prefecture: Sites and Monuments

Dimini
Mycenaean Settlement (Iolkos)

Dimini - Iolkos: Mycenean Settlement in need of Protection (T)

The impressive site of Dimini - Iolkos in the Magnesia Prefecture is a Mycenaean settlement with a palace complex. Works of restoration and supporting were commenced financed by the 2nd and continued with the 3rd Community Support Packet, and should have already led to a visitable archaeological site.

Unfortunately basic problems remain such as the temporary roofing - a naylon covering and buckets filling up with rain-water - which impede visitors. In is last meeting the Central Archaeological Council gave its accord for the construction of permanent roofing over the Megara A and B in the Mycenaean settlement.

The excavation in the Mycenaean settlement of Dimini, at the edge of the Pagasitic gulf, started o*in 1977 and in 30 years of research - under the dr Vasiliki Adrymi, archaeologist and director of the Archaeological Institute of Thessalian studies and former director the 13th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquuities - came to light the ruins of a large Mycenaean settlement, the only one of such size and organisation know in the whole of Thessaly. It was founded at the end of the 15th century B.C. in the plain to the East of the well known neolithic settlement of Dimini, and flourished in the 14th and 13th Centuries B.C. It is composed of a central architectural ensemble with two large buildings (Megaro A and B), which combine living quarters, storage areas where traces of agricultural products were discovered as were products of commerce, workshops for ivory and areas of religious uses.

The Mycenaean settlement of Dimini is identified (because of its morphology, finds and in combination with the settlements at Pefkakia and Kastro of Volos, but also with the 4 great Tholos tombs in the region and the newly-found on at the locality called Kazanaki) with the mythical centre of the famous Iolkos. This is where - according to myth - the Argonauts set out following their leader Jason, to find the Golden Fleece in Kolchis, in the gold-rich shores of the Black Sea.

Source: Kathimerini, 07.04.2010
Adaptation - Translation: ArchaeologyMatters

Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Miho Museum: time to resolve its dispute with Italy?

Lord Renfrew has reminded us of the unresolved case of the antiquities in the Miho Museum. He mentioned the museum at several points through his Rome lecture and wove it into his closing words:
If the striking advances recently achieved by the Italian authorities in combating the illicit traffic in looted antiquities are to be of wide general, indeed international value, a number of steps will be necessary. The first of these could be the formal and published acceptance of the 1970 Rule by museums and then by private collectors in all countries.
The second should be the true internationalisation of such a position. That would include, for instance, the recognition by Japan of its obligations under the 1970 UNESCO Convention, and the equivalent recognition by the Trustees of the Miho Museum of their own responsibilities. I do not imply here that the Miho Museum is alone in flouting the conventions of good conduct in this respect, but it is certainly prominent. And here it should be remembered that many museums, even private museums, have charitable status in relation to taxation. That status should be questioned by national authorities if the institution is seen to be flouting either international law or the widely shared ethical standards implied by the UNESCO Convention. Only then can progress be made.
Details of the controversial acquisitions by the Miho Museum emerged in the Rome trial of Robert Hecht and Marion True in June 2007. The Italian prosecutors had images of a Roman marble oscilla. Although these are images that are likely to have been seized in the Geneva Freeport, there was a comparable dossier seized in Basel. Earlier reports have indicated that there are some 50 objects in the Miho Museum that are under investigation by the Italian authorities. (Other countries, including Iran, may also be looking at their collection.) There are also indications that some antiquities in the Miho Museum were supplied by Gianfranco Becchina.

The Miho Museum opened in 1997 with a list of high-profile guests including museum directors and private collectors. The collection of European antiquities was reportedly formed from 1990. One of the key figures was the dealer Noriyoshi Horiuchi who trained as lawyer but turned into an antiquities dealer under the guidance of Dr Elie Borowski (Souren Melikian, "A Splendid Art Collection Goes On Display in Japan", International Herald Tribune November 6, 1997). Horiuchi spoke about concerns relating to authenticity as well as "illegally excavated objects" (Rita Reif, "A Japanese vision of the ancient world", New York Times August 16, 1998):
"We bought only from major dealers ... And we invited museum curators, scholars, collectors, restorers and dealers to look at the collection and urged everyone to tell us of any problems they saw."
It would be interesting for the Miho Museum to declare the names of the major dealers who provided the antiquities for the collection.

The Miho Museum needs to find a reasonable resolution with the Italian authorities or it will continue to be perceived as a museum that does not hold an internationally recognised ethical standard for acquisitions.

In 2000 the Miho Museum returned a statue of a bodhisattva, purchased "legally through a reliable art dealer based in Switzerland", to China (Mari Yamaguchi, "Japanese museum investigating Chinese statue's history", AP April 20, 2000). Hiroaki Katayama, the chief curator at the Miho Museum was quoted:
we decided to investigate because we want to know the truth and serve our research purposes.
The Shinji Shumeikai, the sect linked to the Miho Museum's founder, has as its values the "pursuit of truth, virtue and beauty". Now is the time for the Miho Museum to investigate the Italian claims with rigour.

There is also a lesson for other museums that have been seeking to build up collections of antiquities in an age when the finite archaeological record has been under so much threat from looting and the illicit trade in antiquities.

Source: Looting Matters

Image
Composite of Roman marble oscilla in the Miho Museum that have no declared collecting histories.

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Bronze Age Peak Sanctuary of Tatićev Kamen



The locality of Tatićev Kamen, near the village of Kokino, (F.Y.) Republic of Macedonia


The sun shining through the marker on the summer solstice fell on the central throne...


The locality of “Tatićev Kamen” is situated on the North-East part of the Republic of Macedonia, near the borders with Serbia and Bulgaria. It has been discovered in 2001 by archaeologist and director of the Kumanovo museum Jovica Stankovski who is in charge of archeological research on the site.

As research has shown, the locality is exceptionally rich in material dating from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, the majority being material of the Recent Bronze Age.



What makes the locality outstanding, however, is its use as a peak sanctuary. As Mr. Stankovski underlines, many topographic characteristics of the locality “Tatićev Kamen” situated near the village of Kokino confirm its use as a mountain sanctuary or as a sacred mountain. Among these characteristics are: the position of the path leading to the top of the hill (1013 m high) where the locality is situated (it leads up the South-East side of hill, the side lit by the sun), a large radius of visibility from the top of the hill, the absence of an agglomeration of the Bronze Age which could be connected with the material from that period found on the place, as well as other archaeological elements.


That the site was used as a sacred mountain is also shown by the fact that the material was found exclusively within a cult context. Two types of cult holes containing offerings were found:


Natural fissures (holes) in the rocks on the highest part of the hill with human interventions on them creating a circular opening at the upper part of the fissure (small stones and clay were used). After depositing the offerings, these structures were sealed with earth and small stones and delimited with large stones. Chronologically, the archaeological material found in these structures belongs to the entire Bronze Age (20th – 11th Century B.C.). In these structure entire or fragmented vessels, ceramic weights, whorls, stone tools, even fragments of clay walls from houses have been found.

The second type of the cult structure are circular stone constructions not unlike small tumuli. They are delimited with larger stones and have a diameter of 0,9 – 2,0 m. Inside, ceramic fragments and several vessels sometimes covered with earth and broken stones were found.

Some of the material shows traces of burning which indicates the ritual use of fire during the ceremonies. The numerous stone hand-mills and pestles for grinding grain as well as fragments of movable ovens lead us to conclude that ritual foods were prepared.

Three figurines were found on this locality: a small female torso, the lower part of a leg with a foot and a small animal.


The upper platform (above) and the central throne seen from the Sun-Marker (below)


The most impressive element on this locality is the row of stone cut seats in front of which there is a stone platform. On those seats, probably local community chiefs used to sit during the execution of the rituals.

All this elements indicate that on this mountain, the cults of the Great Goddess Mother and the Sun took place.

According to some astronomical researches, the movements of some of the celestial bodies as the Sun and the Moon were observed as to determinate the beginning of the harvest. This side of the locality however must be verified by further and more competent research. It should be mentioned that the locality is to be found on the list of archeoastronomical observatories made by NASA.



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Numerous artefacts of the Bronze Age, including molds (above)...
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Large amounts of pottery...
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The 99% of the British Museum not on show




In the BBC Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 Objects, the rise of civilisation is depicted with a hand picked selection of the British Museum in London.

Prehistoric axes show an appreciate of art and symmetry

Choosing just 100 out of 800,000 objects on display was no mean feat. But what is on public show amounts to just 1% of the institution's eight million artefacts.

Ed Davey investigates the 99% of the British Museum the public doesn't see - and discovers how miles of dusty shelves speak volumes about the human condition.

With his flowing white beard and donnish, almost magical air, Irving Finkel looks every inch the learned scholar.

And for decades, the Middle East curator has been conjuring a forgotten world back to the present - piecing together what he calls a "giant cosmic jigsaw".

One of the 100 objects analysed for the Radio 4 series was an early writing tablet, made of clay, written in cuneiform and dating back to Ancient Iraq.

Dr Finkel's life work has been to make sense of the remaining 129,999 tablet fragments in what is the world's largest collection.

Cuneiform, one of the world's first writing systems, arrived in the world before 3200 BC and lasted until the third century AD.

The majority of tablets in the museum are financial documents, while the piece studied by Radio 4 detailed how a beer ration was to be split.

"Hard-working individuals throughout history have always wanted their glass of beer," Dr Finkel explained. "The stimulus that gave rise to writing was nothing to do with poetry or literature, it was tax, bureaucracy and horrible things like that."

But among the collection are tablets recording literature, medicine, maths and history spanning three millenniums.

They could be written in Sumerian, Babylonian, Hittite or any one of the languages cuneiform was used for.

And there is the additional problem that most of them are broken.

"It's like opening a cupboard door in Narnia and finding yourself back in this ancient culture," Dr Finkel explained. "But clay breaks - so it is the biggest cosmic jigsaw you can imagine.

"People find bits of the jigsaw that stick together. There are moments of discovery when you are punching the air with one fist in triumph.

"And this game of trying to match complete documents has been going on since 1850."

Dr Finkel estimates there are 200 cuneiform readers left in the world, and "only 15 who are any good".

"Ours is a minuscule brother of Egyptology", he said. "There are two staff here to study the biggest collection in the world."

At the current rate it will take two centuries to complete the labour. But why bother?

The human emerges

"People sometimes see this as an irrelevance at a time when money is short", Dr Finkel conceded. "But things come out of the tablets which demand respect.

"The human being that emerges from the full collection is the same species as us."

He continued: "There is the conception that people in ancient times were not fully evolved.

"Modern humans think, cavemen grunt and Babylonians are somewhere in between.

"But ancient people thought and created, they lied and schemed and were afraid of disease - these people were every bit as intelligent as us. And that is deeply significant."

On looks alone, there may be little about clay tablets to enchant a 10-year-old.

The same cannot be said for the next collection I examine: the 241 samurai swords stored in the bowels of the museum.

Timothy Clark, head of the Japanese section, said: "At any one time perhaps five are on display.

"But the full collection is probably the most important in Europe."

He continued: "There is such a thing as a critical mass. When you have a sufficiently large sample you start to get a real feel for the taxonomy - the way technology developed and form changed.

"It allows us to give a complete picture of Japanese culture. The gallery is the interface for the general public - and experts study the entire collection up close."

An array of the swords - recently sent back to Japan to be polished - lie out for study in the back room.

They even perch upon custom-made sword cushions. But many staff are too worried to handle them because they are "downright dangerous".

"You have a softer steel inside and a harder one on the surface", said Mr Clark. "The softer metal inside creates a whiplash effect. That gives more force behind the strike.

Deadly functionality

"And the outer steel gives you a harder blade. So you have a combination of whiplash and slice."

Ouch. But the fascination with samurai swords goes way beyond deadly functionality.

"It is a combination of technology and aesthetics", said Mr Clark. "The aesthetic speaks for itself - the purity of the curve and beautiful, smooth lines into which the blade is varnished.

"At least 1,500 years of technological history has gone into it."

Considerably cruder a weapon - but with a vastly longer period of development - is the prehistoric stone hand axe.

I travel to Shoreditch where the museum stores its collection in a labyrinthine warehouse. BMX riding teenagers zip pass, perhaps unaware of the archaeological treasures cached in the nondescript building.

Amid row after row of carefully ordered shelves, curator Nick Ashton tells me what gathering more than 30,000 rocks in one place can tell us about humanity.

"We think of humans millions of years ago as much more primitive than ourselves", he explained. "But the skill in creating these objects is quite remarkable and we would have great difficulty in making them.

"They were very skilled people."

The collection is ordered by geography and era, each of the thousands of drawers sliding open to reveal a specimen lovingly crafted by our long-dead ancestors.

And from the whole emerges a picture of ourselves.

"They have a cutting edge for butchery and they are functional objects", explained Dr Ashton. "But what you see time and again is they have symmetry.

"You see that in axes found across the world, from millions of years in the past to 50,000 years ago."

Dr Ashton continued: "It goes beyond the purely functional and it tells about human appreciation of aesthetics: the creator putting something of themselves into what they are creating.

"It is the beginning of what you would call human."

Back in the tablet room Dr Finkel is pouring over his inscriptions.

"The Assyrians had a conception of the distant future", he says wryly. "Their kings buried time capsules with inscriptions for the future, so they would be gratified to know people like me study them 5,000 years later.

"But if the ordinary people knew I was pouring over their banking records they'd be pretty astonished."

Dr Finkel pauses, a selection of the baffling characters spread before him. "If I go senile I will forget how to read English long before I forget how to read cuneiform", he chuckles. "It is engrained into my very being."


Source: BBC, 02.04.2010

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Greece: 5. Thessaly: d. Karditsa Prefecture: Sites and Monuments

Mitropolis:

Georgikon-Xinoneri: Mycenean Tomb
Plastiras (Moschato): Temple of Apollo

(T) The Mycenean Tholos Tomb of Georgikon -Xinoneri and the Archaic Temple of Apollo in the Karditsa prefecture



Thessaly: Trikala: The Mycenean Tholos Tomb of Georgikon -Xinoneri and the Archaic Temple of Apollo in the Karditsa prefecture: Two of the most important monuments of Thessaly

In the greater area of ancient Metropolis two of the most important monuments of the Karditsa prefecture and of Thessaly in general have been found. These are the Mycenean Tholos tomb of Georgiko - Xinoneri and the Archaic Temple of Apollo at the "Lianokokkala" locality of Moschato, as is reported by Leonidas Hatziaggelakis, archaeologist, head of the 34th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. On the limits of the agricultural bounds of the Municipal departments of Georgiko and Xinoneri, at the locality called "Koufia Rachi" ["Hollow Hill"], the great Mycenean Tholos Tomb is to be found. The tomb, which is one of Thessaly's best preserved monuments, was built on the last low hill of a series of hills that starts in the plain and joins with the Agrafa mountain range in the west. This official archaeological site can be reached by following the country roads both from Georgiko and from Xinoneri. The Mycenean Tholos Tomb, according to the archaeologist, is considered one of the earliest, of a type found from the transitional phase onward. It consists of three basic parts: the dromos (road), or access corridor, the entrance and the built burial chamber, of a circular ground-plan. The chamber is covered by a tholos (dome) which is constructed using the corbelling technique. The tomb was discovered in 1917 already desecrated, by teams of workers, who were removing stones from the hill for construction purposes. It was then that the first excavations were carried out (by Ap. Arvanitopoulos, Ephore of Antiquities of Thessaly). Approximately forty years later, because of looting activity, which caused the partial destruction of the dome, part of the internal filling of the tomb was excavated (by Dim. R. Theocharis), where pieces of black-slip pottery were found, dating to the Leta Helladic I period, according to the excavator. Later, as mr Hatziaggelakis notes, the tomb was dated to the Late Helladic IIIB-C period (13th-12th century B.C.). In the mid '90s the monument was incorporated into the Net of Cultural Paths of Western Thessaly of the 2nd Communal Support Framework, marking the commencement of new excavational activities (B. Intzesiloglou). Of this impressive monument, notes the archaeologist, the circular chamber and the dome are preserved intact, after restoration. They have both a diameter and height of 8,80 m. The entrance to the chamber is 2,40 m. wide and 10,35m long and is partially roofed by large plaques. Although the tomb had been desecrated, some objects were discovered, small in size but important, as a gold ring, bearing the image of two Griffins attacking a goat. The most important fact concerning the hstory of the monument is that, outside the tomb large piles of stones were discovered, composed of many river stones. Under these shall vases were discovered, as were clay effigies and plaques bearing horsemen and other small male and female idols. This led the excavator - adds mr. Hatziaggelakis - to conclude that the site was used as a sanctuary of the ancestors from the beginning of the 5th century B.C. and later. The existence of such sanctuaries, rlated with the presence of Mycenean Tholos Tombs, is known from cases in southern Greece, and are related with rich local mythological traditions. In this case, explains the archaeologist, a portion of a tile bearing the inscription AIATIEION - found in the site during the excavations, links the creation of the sanctuary with the mythological person Aiatos. Aiatos, father of Thessalos, is considered in ancient sources to be the genitor of the Thessalian nation, and is linked with the arrival from Epeirus to Thessaly of the last pre-Thessalian tribes. According to the myth, Aiatos, son of Pheidippos and descendant of the Herakleis, with his sister Polykleia marched from their country to the West of Acheloos river against the Boiotians, who lived on the territory that would later be called Thessaly. There existed an oracle, according to which that he of their people who would first set foot on enemy land across the Acheloos would become the king of that land. After their army arrived at the river and was ready to cross it, Polykleia pretented that she had been hurt and asked her brother Aiatos to carry her accross. Aiatos lifted his sister in his arms and advanced into the river. As he approached the further bank, however, Polykleia jumped to the ground and told him that according to the oracle the new land would now belong to her. Aiatos, despite being thus deceived, was not angry, but admired her cunning, married her and they dominated the country, which taking its name from their son Thessalos was named Thessaly.

The Archaic Temple of Apollo


The Temple of Apollo. Photo: Mitropolis Town.

The Archaic Temple of Apollo is situated in the Municipal Department of Moschato of the Plastiras Municipality, at the locality called "Lianokokkala", to the west of the modern settlement of Metropoli, on a plateau to the south of the river Lapardas or Gavrias. The excavations started in 1994 because of some illegal excavations, and brought to light a Ekatombedos Doric temple with and external and an internal collonade, oriented from East to West and dimentions of 31,00 x 13,75 m. The temple is dated slightly before the middle of the 6th century B.C. based on the bronze cult statue and the type of the Doric capitals.

It was dedicated to the God Apollo, according to a dedicatiry stele that was found in the sekos (cella). The temple - says mr Hatziaggelakis - had five Doric columns on each narrow side and eleven of the long. For the columns of the pteron a soft psammitic stone was used of a grey colour, originating locally. The capitals of the pteron are important for the history of the monument but also for the history of ancient Greek architecture. Their echinos bears relief decoration composed of repeated motifs of closed and opened lotus flowers. The capitals show morphological differences concerning the profile of the echinos but also concerning the treatment of their relief decoration. this rare characteristic of the temple can also be found on the older temple of Hera in Posidoneia of Lower Italy (Magna Graecia). The differences of the capitals may be an indication that the temple had originally been constructed with wooded columns on the pteron, which were gradually replaced by stone ones.

The cella, having dimensions of 24 x 8,50 m., was built with orthostates (covering blocks) of the same soft psammite that had been used for the columns of the ptero and over these it was constructed with unbaked bricks. Internally the sekos had 5 wooden columns or piers along its axis, as is indicated by the preserved stone bases and a single pilaster in the middle of the western wall. In front of the third column and in contact with it there is a rectangular base, that was designed to bear the cult statues of the temple. Fallen on it was discovered - broken in two - the statue of Apollo of the hoplite type. In a second construction phase, adds mr. Hatziagellakis, the adytum was created, with the addition of a wall at right angles made of mud bricks at the level of the fifth, counting from the entrance, column. According to the

The cult statue of Apollo
Photo: Mitropolis Town.

excavator, this construction phase included the prolongation of the length of the base and the construction of a bench along the internal northern wall of the cella and along the the eastern wall of the adytum.

During the excavations no architectural parts were found that could belong to an architrave or to triglyphs or metopes. Thus the entablature of this temple must have been wooden. The temple had a double-sloping roof with pediments along the narrow sides of the temple, with a wooden construction internally and clay tiles. The tiles were of the Corinthian type and along the long sides of the temple ended in antefixes of a triangular form with relief decoration. The upper covering tiles of the roof bore relief flowers and plants. Along the narrow sides the temple had pediments that might have carried clay relief compositions. Over the pediments there was a sime (rainpipe) coloured in various shades and a geisum, while it is also possible that acroteria stood on the central, at least, corners of the pediments.

The movable finds include clay vases and idols, a small clay chest, a vessel for liquid offerings, parts of a bronze statue and - most importantly - the well-preserved intact bronze statue of a male form which represents the form of an hoplite [warrior]. The statue wears a helmet, breastplate, arm- and leg platings. Although the items it held in its hands are not preserved, it is possible that it held a lance in its right and a laurel branch in its left hand. This type of hoplite was the cult statue of the God Apollo and its identification as a godly figure was confirmed by the text of an inscribed offering stele, which was found in pieces inside the temple.

The temple was destroyed by fire in the 2nd century B.C., according to the finds in the destruction layer. During its long existence the temple seems to have undergone repairs and modifications, such as the replacing of wooden elements by stone ones, rearrangement of the interior of the cella and replacement of roof tiles.

The proclaimed archaeological site covers a surface of 18,5 stremmata (18,500 sq. m.), after expropriation in favour of the Ministry of Culture. Access is possible from the south via a country road, that comes from the regional road Mitropoli-Moschato. The temple is covered by a protective metal roof, which covers a surface of 735 sq. m.

"The Archaic Temple of Apollo - underlines the archaeologist, head of the 34th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, is the best preserved ancient monumental temple in the wjole of Thessaly and is a source of information, not only for the history and the cult practices of the region but also for the development of techniques in architecture and sculpture."

In order to show it up moderate interventions in the natural surroundings are suggested, that will offer the functionality of an organised archaeological site. These include installations of points entry and services for the public, fencing, creation of paths for the visitors and the installation of a roofed area for educational programmes, concludes the archaeologist.

Source: ANA-MPA, 23.03.2010

Turkey: Sites and Monuments

Turkey:
Istanbul (Constantinople):
Küçükçekmece lagoon

Greece: 8. Crete

Crete:

Eleutherna
Herakleion:

Herakleion Museum:

Greece: 7. Peloponnese: a. Korinthia Prefecture

Corinth
Diolkos

Corinth: The Diolkos in Danger!




Save and Restore Ancient Diolkos


Target:
Prime Minister. Greece
Sponsored by:


Sign the Petition Here!

General information (not part of the petition):

The Diolkos, the unique paved way of 600 B.C. which made possible transportation of entire fleets overland across the Isthmus of Corinth, is crumbling into the water at its western end.

After the excavation (~1960), great part of the monument was left at the mercy of its position near the Corinth Canal (itself a property of the Greek State).

Although seemingly wishing the monument's protection, for years the services of the Greek Ministry of Culture kept themselves TOTALLY UNPREPARED to protect Diolkos. Rescue actions continued to be denied even when the erosion had left considerable portions of this registered archaeological site in a state of demolition!

Recent investigations by Justice Authorities and world-wide ridicule (see for example link to a 2008 BBC coverage below), have induced the Ministry to promises for protection. Some partial temporary interventions in the first months of 2009, are however the only REAL work done so far. (See photo at: http://img192.imageshack.us/img192/3867/diolkos2009s.jpg) .

Although the Ministry declares since 2007 to be following a decision for IMMEDIATE salvage actions, no other work has been done!

The large exposed section of the monument continues to be violently attacked, while the erosion also approaches a large part of Diolkos from the side. (Updated March. 25, 2010).

With Diolkos' decay going on, our petition is:

We declare ourselves against the mentalities and practices that lead to the destruction of the world's heritage and we ask the Greek Prime Minister to exercise his authority so that, without any further delays and hypocrisy, the Diolkos is finally saved and restored.

Notes:
More info and images in greek at:
http://www.in.gr/Reviews/imagegallery.asp?lngReviewID=1667&lngChapterID=70039&lngItemID=57977
- in english (not updated): http://euroheritage.net/diolkos.shtml
- 2008 BBC video: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7479805.stm
- 2009 and 2010 videos at: www.youtube.com/user/sofiagreek
- Facebook group: www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=10046110469#!/group.php?gid=10046110469
On EUROPA NOSTRA: www.europanostra.org/read--amp--share/57/

The goal of 7,000 signatures is arbitrary. Pressure is being exercised ALL ALONG...
This petition has already been signed by concerned citizens from 105 countries:
Greece, Cyprus, USA, Canada, Australia,
United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Luxemburg, Austria, France, Andorra, Spain, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Portugal, Brazil, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Ireland, Iceland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Estonia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Albania, Serbia & Montenegro, Japan, Taiwan, China, Repubic of Korea, Hong Kong, Macao, South Africa, Philippines, Liberia, Ghana, Cape Verde, Senegal, Togo, Nigeria, Democratic Republic Of The Congo, New Zealand, Fiji, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Aruba, Chile, Maldives, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Seychelles, Philippines, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran, Iraq

WARMEST THANKS TO ALL!!!

Greece: 2. Macedonia: g. Emathia: Sites and Monuments

An asterisk (*) marks original posts. A (T) marks translations.

Vergina

(T) Vergina/ Aigai: A Walk in the Traces of Alexander

A Virtual Museum and archaeological park at Aigai.

by Giota Sykka

It is time to leave behind outdated ideas that imagine that a museum is a building with tens of showcases and thousands of objects, presented to visitors, limiting them a passive tour. The example of something different comes from Aigai with an ensemble of interventions in the legendary necropolis, that offer the opportunity for a charming promenade between separated poles and with it the delight of discovery.

An open museum that unifies, protects and shows up all the monuments of this enormous archaeological site, of which but a small part has been excavated and only the royal tombs of the Philip II group are open to visit.

However the 200,000 visitors that arrive each year - despite the fact that neither profound interventions have been carried out nor has the site been arranged to take advantage of it - show that they "thirst" to learn any information concerning the ancient Macedonian metropolis and its protagonists.

These problems shall be taken care of by the Multicentered Museum of Aigai in which the public, through a grand open promenade shall walk amongst the monuments and the natural environment, will halt under roofing and will follow courses, will travel in the environment and the history and will be able to have a direct appreciation of the site where Philip II and his son Alexander lived, walked and were active.

The enthusiastic and active archaeologist Aggeliki Kottaridi, responsible for the study of all these interventions, a veritable master plan which defines the principles of all that will be carried out in the archaeological site, has other plans as well - as long as money can be found!

For example the Virtual Museum of Alexander the Great which will take us to the country where the Great general was born and raised, informing us of the roots of his dynasty and his great adventure, that continues to fascinate.

Greece, instead of participating in others programmes, by lending antiquities to exhibitions and allowing filming in its sites and museums, can advance in a responsible and defining way toward the veritable administration of its past and heritage: thus goes the argument of the archaeologist.

The Virtual Museum shall function on two levels: on the Internet through a portal, and in its natural environment, at the Museum of Aigai, through a hall of realistic imagery projections; As dr Kottaridi underlines "it was in Aigai that Philip II was murdered and Alexander the Great was proclaimed King, and it was from here that in the spring of 334 B.C. commenced - according to Arrian- with festivities and sacrifices to the Gods, the great expedition that changed the history of the world".

The work shall be a coordinated effort to gather all known sources, interpretations and approaches, aiming at the production and composition of cultural content concerning the life and work of Alexander the Great in the World's Culture. To avoid historical distortion and inexactitudes, but also to promote the idea of free and equal coexistence of different cultures: "In parallel it shall be a new beginning for intercultural contacts and exchanges with states of North Africa and Asia".

The plan was approved with congratulations by the Central Archaeological Council, which was also informed of the present image and problems of the archaeological site of Aigai.

Apart from the Royal group A and the Palace on which conservation work is being carried out, all the rest of the monuments and remains are crudely protected by roofing and metal plating. The interventions are minimal or non-existent. Of 450 tumuli few have been excavated, while the lack of fencing results in the accumulation of rubbish and waste. The access to the Palace and the burial group of the queens from the West is inadequate, as it does not correspond to the structure of the Ancient City, while the hellenistic grave group Heuzey-Mpellas and the Palaio-christian and Late Byzantine monuments are not connected to the rest of the site.

The stored treasures of the Royal Tombs, more than 30,000, remain unknown to the public, which cannot even buy an official Museum guide, as it has not yet been published!

This real lack of interventions on the site is covered by the plan, which adds pedestrian bridges, fencing, the planting of trees and plans, excavation of the tumuli, while allowing the public to watch on... So that a walk in the Aigai area shall really be charming.

Source: Kathimerini, 01.04.2010
Translation: ArchaeologyMatters

See also: