Monday, September 30, 2013
AN eight-week dig at the British Roman settlement site at Maryport has revealed the remains of six buildings, including at least one shop, and a Roman road.
The town was first established in around 122 AD at the western end of Hadrian's Wall. Recent geomagnetic surveys have revealed a large Roman town surrounding the fort, and this two-month dig was aimed and exploring the town.
Stephen Rowland, project manager for Oxford Archaeology North said: "Previous detailed geophysical surveys of the site have shown lines of structures likely to be buildings either side of the main street running from the north east gate of the fort, so we had a good idea where to start digging and we've been able to confirm the survey results.
"The building we've spent most time looking at this year might have been a shop at some point during its use. It is stone built and 5 metres wide by 20 metres long with several rooms, some with flagged floors.
"The reason we think it may have been a shop is the fact there isn't a stone wall at the end facing the road. Instead, there could have been a booth-like timber frontage, or perhaps double doors that have long since rotted away. This kind of construction has been found at other sites.
"At Maryport we have possible evidence of a stairwell too, perhaps suggesting that people would have worked on the ground floor and lived upstairs. We haven't yet been able to determine what was sold here, but we have found a large in situ sharpening stone, and lots of smaller whet stones for honing blades and tools."
Other small finds from inside the building include glass beads, remains of pots for processing food, fragments of amphorae that could have contained oil or wine, glass vessels and a spindle whorl, according to a report in HERITAGE DAILY.
The land to the rear of the buildings, equivalent to a modern backyard, is surrounded by a ditch. It contains several pits, perhaps used for outdoor toilets or for dumping rubbish, and at least three square wells or cisterns for holding water.
The civilian settlement is the largest currently known along the Hadrian's Wall frontier, and is next to the Roman fort in Maryport.
Nigel Mills, director of world heritage and access for the Hadrian's Wall Trust said: "The part of the site we've been examining appears to date to around the second and third centuries AD.
"It looks like people abandoned this area around AD250, which seems to have happened at other sites along the frontier too.
"At Maryport, we know from earlier excavations on the fort that it was occupied through the third and fourth centuries, while the recent excavations by the Newcastle University team for the Temples Project have revealed evidence of a late fourth century building on top of the hill.
"One explanation could be that as time went on the garrison became smaller and some parts of the settlement moved into the fort itself. The truth is nobody knows yet, archaeological excavation often raises new questions at the same time as providing some answers.
"There's much more to do, but we've got off to a great start this season. We'd like to thank both the volunteer diggers and the Senhouse Roman Museum volunteer guides without whom we couldn't have achieved so much in such a short time."
Sunday, September 29, 2013
A Medusa mosaic that was unearthed in 2009 in the Odeon structure in the Turkish city of Kibyra, had been kept away, untouched, for years.
Now, for the first time, the mosaic has been unveiled to the public.
While she might no longer be able to turn people to stone, the infamous Medusa will soon go on display after undergoing restoration in coming months.
The mosaic was discovered in 2009 in the ancient city of Kibyra in the southern province of Burdur's Gölhisar district during excavation work carried out by Mehmet Akif University. About 95 percent of the mosaic is intact despite being around 1,800 years old.
"The mosaic is made up of thin, colored marble plaques. The technique used is called 'Opus Sectile' and there is no other Medusa in the world made with this technique," said the head of excavations, Professor Şükrü Özüdoğru.
Archaeological excavations in Kibyra have been in progress since 2009, unearthing artifacts and relics of historical significance. Özüdoğru said the city, which was a regional power in the Hellenistic period, was founded in 330 B.C.
He also stated that the stadium, concert hall, parliamentary building, baths and theater all possessed an impressive structural integrity that had allowed them to survive to the present day.
He said a 3,600-person-capacity Odeon structure unearthed in the ancient city was the only structure in the city covered with a roof, hence its functional capacity as a theater, court and parliamentary building in winter months.
Özüdoğru said the Medusa was 11 meters in length, adding that the Medusa had never before been properly uncovered for study.
"In accordance with the reports of expert restorers, we closed the outer surface of the Medusa with five different layers. This year, we opened it so that it could be checked, and so that our restorers could carry out feasibility works on it."
He said the restorers had presented him with a report about the restoration and conservation of the Medusa.
"Next year, we will restore the Medusa," he said. "After the restoration, the Medusa will be covered with glass and opened to visitors."
Saturday, September 28, 2013
THE mystery of an Egyptian mummy discovered in a homeowner's attic in Germany has been totally unraveled by forensic scientists who now say it is an elaborate 20th Century hoax for gullible European tourists.
Tests showed that someone had gone to great lengths to put a carnival spook house plastic skeleton in mummy wrappings.
The only genuine thing about the mummy is its human skull. However, the experts said it is the sort of hinged skull that medical students use.
A "diadem" which ringed the brow in an initial X-ray photo turns out to be ordinary tape which was used to tape the hinged top of the skull to the rest of it.
An arrowhead which X-rays had detected in one eye socket turns out to be a children's toy arrowhead.
It is believed the mummy was foisted off on a West German tourist in the 1950s as a genuine ancient mummy.
The GERMAN ATTIC MUMMY made headlines around the world in August when a 10-year-old boy was playing in his late grandparents' attic in the hamlet of Diepholz and pulled away a wall panel which revealed a hidden chamber containing an ornate Egyptian coffin and boxes containing a Canopic jar and a replica Egyptian head.
Experts quickly determined that the coffin was not of dynastic origin, but rather a 20th Century mock-up. For one thing, the coffin decorations were imitations of wall murals from the Tomb of Tutankhamun, which was not discovered until 1922.
And the mummy bandages are factory woven 20th Century gauze, experts say.
"I couldn't believe my eyes when I opened it and saw a genuine mummy, exactly 1.60 meters long (5 ft, 3 in), and the interior of the case artistically worked out in hieroglyphs," says Lutz Wolfgang Kettler, a 53-year-old dentist.
His 10-year-old son Alexander was poking around the dusty attic when he noticed some loose boards on a wall panel.
Like a young Indiana Jones, he sensed there might be something behind them ... and sure enough there was.
How did these strange crates end up in the northern German hamlet of Diepholz?
Kettler says it all may have started over half a century ago in Egypt: "My father, who died 10 years ago, traveled to Egypt in the 1950s. Unfortunately, he never told us much about it ... except that he had to go to the port of Bremerhaven to get something through customs. I'm afraid there aren't any documents on what it was."
The secret died with his father.
"First the experts said it might be a genuine ancient Egyptian mummy," Kettler says. "Then they thought it might be a murder victim. And now they say it is a plastic side-show carnival skeleton. I don't know what to think any more."
The Egyptians have a long history of selling mummies to foreigners. Every European aristocrat wanted a mummy in their stately home. And "mummy dust" from ground-up mummies was believed to be a curative for a vast array of ailments aimed at prolonging life.
In some cases, genuine ancient mummies have been sold to travelers, and many of the mummies now in museums around the world were bought from mummy vendors in Egypt, as depicted in this vintage photo.
But very often, fake mummies have been foisted onto gullible tourists over the centuries.
Oftentimes the elaborate wrappings conceal animal bones arranged to resemble the form of a human skeleton.
Other times ... and despite Islamic abhorrance of desecrating the dead ... human corpses were hastily eviscerated and haphazardly mummified and sold to foreigners.
Through the centuries, it has been a neat way of disposing of unwanted corpses ... eliminating the corpus delicti without anyone being the wiser. This ploy has been a frequent plot device in countless novels and movies.
Friday, September 27, 2013
EXPERTS in France have found the first mummified Egyptian dog ticks.
The mummy of an Egyptian puppy whose left ear was infested with 61 preserved brown dog ticks has been examined by archaeo-entomologist Jean-Bernard Huchet of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.
This particular puppy may have been killed by a tick-borne disease.
"Although the presence of parasites, as well as ectoparasite-borne diseases in ancient times was already suspected from the writings of the major Greek and Latin scholars, these facts were not archaeologically proven until now," he said.
The dog mummy was one of hundreds of dogs that had been found in tombs at the late 3rd Century AD Roman fortress at El Deir.
Further study of the animals could provide clues about the spread of parasites and disease.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
A life-size marble head of Venus-Aphrodite has been uncovered in southern Turkey during an archaeological excavation while diggers were uncovering an ancient pool-side mosaic.
The head of the goddess of love and beauty isn’t as beautiful as the day it was carved, but the sculpture was no less impressive.
LiveScience reports that researchers believe the presence of a Venus-Aphrodite sculpture could shed light on how wide the Roman Empire's cultural influence used to be.
Aphrodite’s head was discovered while archaeologists were working at a site called Antiochia ad Cragum (Antioch on the cliffs).
The site is on the Mediterranean coast. Researchers think the area was once a haven for Cilician pirates, the group who kidnapped Julius Caesar and held him for ransom in 75 BC. However, the pirates' reign over the region ended once the Roman Empire expanded. The city was established around the time Emperor Nero ruled, according to researchers.
NBC News notes that excavators were looking for more parts of the massive Roman mosaic when they found Aphrodite’s head instead. They believe the goddess' head was separated from its body long before they discovered it lying face-down in the ground.
Traces of lime kilns were also found in the area, suggesting many statues and hunks of stone were burnt to be reused as concrete.
The mosaic at the site is the largest Roman work of its kind found in Turkey. It is an impressive 1,600-square-foot marble creation decorated with geometric designs.
The goddess' head is the first fragment of a monumental statue discovered at Antiochia ad Cragum in eight years of excavation.
The excavation's director, Michael Hoff, explained, "We have niches where statues once were. We just don’t have any statues. Finally, we have the head of a statue. It suggests something of how mainstream these people were who were living here, how much they were a part of the overall Greek and Roman traditions."
Along with Aphrodite's head, archaeologists also found a second mosaic indicating traces of Roman influence. The new mosaic adorned a building that looks like it may have been a temple.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
IF you can't make it to see the British Museum's landmark Pompeii show, you can see it at your local movie theater in selected major cities around the world today and tomorrow.
The British Museum has produced a film about their landmark exhibition "Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum."
The film, "Pompeii from the British Museum," will be shown in cinemas in North America Wednesday September 25th at 7:30 p.m. local time.
It will be shown on September 26th in other countries around the world. Check local listings for times and venues.
It is a pretty wild ride through history, complete with some down-and-dirty details about the average lives of people about to be buried by a volcano.
Looking at some of the exquisite objects in the exhibition, you would never imagine that they were buried under 15 to 20 feet of ash and pumice for over 1,600 years.
The film features conversations with scholars walking through the museum exhibition, which is set up in the layout of a typical Roman house in Pompeii in the 1st Century AD.
Introduced by the British Museum's director, Neil MacGregor, the film features insights from renowned experts including Paul Roberts, the curator of the exhibition; Mary Beard, professor of classics at Cambridge University; historian Bettany Hughes and interviewees such as Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli and gardening specialist Rachel de Thame.
According to the curator, Paul Roberts: "From the very beginning, I wanted to do an exhibition that was about the ordinary people of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It’s about the 99 percent -- not the one percent -- the famous, the wealthy. That’s why the exhibition was set up in the form of a home."
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
A Finnish archaeologist has discovered a lost city in the Amazon jungle which he compares to the engineering feats of the Ancient Egyptian.
Martti Pärssinen has made sensational finds of an ancient lost civilization in the Amazonian area. The digs in Brazil have unearthed unique artefacts, including entirely new forms of ceramics.
The clearing of the Amazon rain forest has revealed mysterious patterns in the earth. The large-scale patterns are best visible from the air, where Finnish archaeologist Martti Pärssinen takes pictures of them.
The geometrical patterns have been made with earth mounds and moats. Many of them are huge, with sides measuring up to a few hundred meters.
Over 300 such structures have been discovered in the Brazilian state of Acre alone.
The construction feat involved can be compared to that achieved by those that built the pyramids in Egypt.
Pärssinen points out that people here must have expended as much energy as the workers in Egypt, shaping the earth into vast motes and mounds, in complex, multiple structures.
The find has been a sensation for researchers, as it was previously thought that much of the Amazon was merely sparsely populated, wild rain forest.
Graduate student Ivandra Rampanelli from Spain's University of València says the patterns are rewriting the history of habitation of the Amazon – an area that was before seen as devoid of great civilizations.
Radiocarbon dating shows the oldest patterns were built some 2,000 years ago, and that the civilisation suddenly ended 700 years ago, possibly due to foreign diseases brought by Europeans.
Monday, September 23, 2013
EXTRA Egyptian security forces are heading to el-Minya and the Antinoopolis area after the riot-ridden nation's antiquities minister received a letter from Islamic radicals threatening to loot and burn the world-renowned Oxyrhynchus archaeological galleries.
Hadrian and Antinous OXYRHYNCHUS visited during their fateful tour of Egypt in 130 AD, just days before Antinous died at a spot on the Nile where the city of Antinoopolis was founded.
Looting has been occurring off and on for more than a year at Antinoopolis and the modern-day priests of Antinous have spear-headed an ongoing worldwide campaign to STOP THE LOOTING.
Just last month 1,200 irreplaceable exhibits were destroyed or stolen when a mob ransacked a museum at MALAWI just south of Antinoopolis.
Now, the military and police have sent additional security forces to archaeological sites and galleries in the Upper Egypt city of Minya near the ruins of Antinoopolis to help guards of the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) protect the city's heritage.
The additional security personnel travelled to Minya at the request of Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim, who received a letter from an unknown person threatening to set fire to archaeological galleries and to loot its treasured artefacts at Al-Bahnasa, the modern name for Oxyrhynchus.
The galleries house a large collection of ancient Egyptian objects that were discovered at Oxyrhynchus, which is famous for its priceless library of ancient documents.
The gallieries also house artefacts from Antinoopolis and Amarna, the fabled city of the "heretic" Pharaoh Akhenaten.
Al-Bahnasa is a few kilometers north of Antinoopolis. In ancient Egypt, its name was Pr-Medjed, derived from the name of a fish that was thought to have swallowed the severed penis of the god Osiris after his brother Seth murdered Osiris and dismembered his body.
During Greek times, it was known as Oxyrhynchus. It is considered one of Minya's largest archeological sites where more than 100,000 papyri fragments were found, most of them now at the Sackler Library in Oxford.
Ibrahim said that security measures were being tightened in every archaeological site, museums and gallery all over the country, in order to protect them from encroachment or attempts at looting during the current period of political turmoil.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
ON THE EQUINOX in September the Religion of Antinous commemorates the FEAST OF THE PERSEPHONEA — the initiation of Antinous into the ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES in Greece at the outset of Emperor Hadrian's Imperial Tour of the Eastern Provinces.
Historical records state that, in the late summer of the year 128, the Imperial Court embarked on a grand tour of the East. The Empress Sabina, Hadrian's wife, and her attendants were members of the entourage.
But on this particular journey, Antinous was the most favored of Hadrian's companions. Their love affair was openly, and gracefully displayed before the eyes of the world. This journey through the East, what we call the SACRED PEREGRINATION, is the only part of the short life of Antinous that history has conveyed to us.
For this reason it takes on the importance of a sacred epic. Antinous was in the very flower of his beauty and vigor, he was a shining star held in the wings of the Imperial Eagle, and it is no coincidence that this court of demigods should travel through the lands of Ganymede, Attis, Adonis, Jesus and Osiris, who were all beautiful souls taken from life before their time.
The court stayed in Athens for five or even six months, they arrived in time for the celebration of the MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS, which symbolically portrayed the rape of Proserpina by Hades, the mourning of her mother Demeter, and the return of Spring.
In the modern Religion of Antinous, we commemorate these ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES during the September Equinox, for it is believed that Antinous underwent the secret initiations provided by the priests of Eleusis. Through them he received the consecration of the dark goddess of the underworld Proserpina, which prepared him for his own death and resurrection.
In the Mysteries of Eleusis, the initiates are led into the realm of death and are confronted with immediate death. Two years later, in 130 AD, Hadrian and Antinous would indeed be confronted by physical death. In the Mysteries of Eleusis (and indeed in the Underworld after Death), the initiates cannot go back the way they have come. And they cannot go forward without knowing the Words of Power that will allow the gatekeepers to throw open their gates.
But we face such situations not only in secret initiations, or on our deathbeds. No, we face such "mysteries" every day of our lives. We put off our dreams and aspirations so we can cope more effectively with the challenges of the present, ostensibly to have more time and leisure to realize our purpose in the future. Or we tell ourselves that we will chase our dreams someday once we have accomplished other lesser goals.
In truth, it is our fear that keeps us from seeking fulfillment in the here and now — because we view failure as a possibility, our reasons for delaying our inevitable success seem sound and rational. If we ask ourselves what we are really waiting for, however, we discover that there is no truly compelling reason why we should put off the pursuit of the dreams that sustain us.
That is what "mystery initiations" are all about. Hadrian and Antinous were forced by the Eleusinian priests to confront their fears and to find a way to go forth into life — NOW. They had no options. It was now or never. Life or Oblivion. In our own lives, we face the same question every day. And usually we try to find a way to avoid the question.
The idols, the images, the icons, the gilded statues and the gods themselves are as nothing.
YOU YOURSELF HOLD THE KEYS TO FINDING AND FULFILLING YOUR OWN DESTINY.
It is yours to find and to fulfill. No one else's. Not even the gods'.
That is what the ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES are all about. And that is what the PERSEPHONEA is all about. And the Journey Up the Nile by Hadrian and Antinous to their Fateful Destiny with Eternity. And it is also what the symbolism of the Equinoxes is all about.
Even if the days are getting shorter, they are also getting longer — it is all a matter of perspective. The days ARE getting longer — our brothers in South America, South Africa and Australia can look out the window and see the lavender blossoms of the jacarandas in springtime bloom.
Remember Hadrian and Antinous in the Underworld (or on their Fateful Voyage Up the Nile) and understand what they understood: That the keys of fate are in your hands and you can venture forth RIGHT NOW wherever you wish to go.
FOR IT IS WRITTEN ON THE OBELISK OF ANTINOUS:
He is able to enter any place he wishes.
The Guardians of the Gates
Of the Underworld
Say "Praise to You!" to Him...
They loosen their bolts
And throw open their Gates before Him ...
Millions of years ... daily ...
As His duration of life is as the sun,
Never in eternity elapsing!"
Saturday, September 21, 2013
ON September 21st the Religion of Antinous honors KING EDWARD II of England and his lover PIERS GAVESTON.
Although Edward fathered at least five children by two women, he was widely known to be homosexual. His inability to deny even the most grandiose favours to his male favourites (first a Gascon knight named Piers Gaveston, later a young English lord named Hugh Despenser) led to constant political unrest and his eventual deposition by his wife Isabella in January 1327.
Several contemporary sources criticised Edward's seeming infatuation with Piers Gaveston, to the extent that he ignored and humiliated his wife. Chroniclers called the relationship "excessive, immoderate, beyond measure and reason" and criticised his desire for "wicked and forbidden sex".
As the resentment against Edward's rule and Gaveston's position of power grew, some barons insisted Gaveston be banished, through the Ordinances of 1311. Edward recalled his friend, but could do little to prevent Gaveston being captured in 1312 under the orders of the Earl of Lancaster and his allies, who claimed that he had led the king to folly. He was captured murdered and his head cut off.
Edward's grief over the death of Gaveston was profound. He kept the remains of his body close to him for a number of weeks before the Church forcibly arranged a burial.
In 1326, another of Edward's lovers, Hugh Despenser the younger was brutally killed by a mob. They dragged him from his horse, stripped him, and scrawled Biblical verses against corruption and arrogance on his skin. He was then condemned to hang as a thief, be castrated, and then to be drawn and quartered as a traitor. In 2009, mutilated body parts found at an abbey were identified as those of Sir Hugh Despenser the Younger, one of the most reviled medieval courtiers and reputed gay lover of the Plantagenet king, Edward II.
Edward II abdicated and was imprisoned. A historian later described his death: "On the night of 21st September while lying on a bed the king was suddenly seized and, while a great mattress ... weighed him down and suffocated him, a plumber's iron, heated intensely hot, was introduced through a tube into his anus so that it burned the inner portions beyond the intestines."
In 1598, the almost certainly gay playwright Christopher Marlowe wrote a wonderful play called, simply, Edward the Second. It does not shy away from describing the love between Edward II and his greatest favourite Gaveston.
There is one lovely quote which we can imagine our Beloved Boy saying to Hadrian. Edward offers Gaveston gold, men at arms, his great seal or anything he desires. Gaveston responds:
It shall suffice me to enjoy your love,
Which whiles I have, I think myself as great
As Caesar riding in the Roman street,
With captive kings (in) his triumphant (chariot)
Friday, September 20, 2013
ITALIAN police have launched an investigation into companies working on the world famous Pompeii archaeological site against mounting claims that the mob is creaming off EU funds going into restoration projects.
Naples' anti-mafia squad, police and Carabinieri searched two working sites inside the ancient Roman city which was buried under tonnes of volcanic ash when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.
"Twenty people and two companies were subjected to inspection," the Naples branch of Italy's anti-Mafia unit (DIA) said.
Detectives checked documents, equipment, restoration work and the identities of all workers for signs of involvement by Naples mafia clans, known as Camorra. The results of the investigation have not been announced.
In Italy only private contractors certified as 'Mafia-free' are allowed to take up large public works such as Pompeii's renovation.
However, vetted contractors often subcontract part of a job to local firms, which are then seized by the mafia.
"Mafia clans have increasingly shifted from traditional criminal activities such as drug trafficking, prostitution and murder, to the business sector, where they can achieve massive profits while facing lower sanctions," a DIA source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained to IBTimes UK.
Clans use legitimate businesses for money-laundering purposes and as a front for other criminal activities. Mafia-run companies involved in restoration or construction projects use lower-quality materials than those specified by building safety standards.
"They also impose their own manpower and do not comply with work security laws," the source said.
Such practices allow them to save huge amounts of money, while charging authorities full or even inflated prices.
Mafia infiltration also drives out clean companies, which, because they follow the rules and incur higher costs, cannot compete.
"Mafia companies don't play by the rules of the free market so the market isn't free any more," the source said.
Pompeii's restoration is listed among a series of public works that Italian authorities designated as highly attractive to criminal organisations because of the huge amount of public money poured into them.
The EU and the Italian government allocated €105m (£88m) to save Pompeii from disintegrating after Unesco published a damming report on the World Heritage site's crumbling state.
Years of "neglect and mismanagement" had triggered a number of collapses that affected famous sites such as the House of the Gladiators and the Small Theatre.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
SEPTEMBER 19 the Religion of Antinous celebrates the birth of the Divine Emperor Antoninus Pius.
Caesar Titus Aurelius Fulvius Boionius Arrius Antoninus was born on this day 86 A.D. at Lanuvium, near Rome.
Under the Divine Hadrian he served as Proconsul of Asia minor from 130 to 135, the most crucial years in the development of the Religion of Antinous. After that he was summoned to Rome to be close to Hadrian as his health failed.
With the untimely death of the emperor's chosen heir, the blessed Lucius Aelius Verus Caesar, Hadrian chose Antoninus to be his successor. Thus Hadrian adopted him as his son and successor on the 25th of February 138, on condition that he himself adopted Hadrian's great nephew-by-marriage Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Aelius Verus's son Lucius Verus, who was only 7 years old.
Hadrian's choice in successors proved to be infinitely wise.
Following decades of political turmoil, civil strife and imperial excesses, Hadrian and his successors ushered one final period of peace and prosperity for Rome which would go done in history as the Sacred and Golden Age of the Antonines.
On Hadrian's death, Antoninus Pius was enthusiastically welcomed to the throne by the Roman people, whose hopes of a happy reign were not disappointed. For Antoninus came to his new office with simple tastes, kindly disposition, extensive experience, a well-trained intelligence and the sincerest desire for the welfare of his subjects.
One of his first acts was to persuade the Senate to grant divine honors to Hadrian, which they had at first refused (but later agreed to). This gained him the title of Pius (dutiful in affection). He built temples, theaters, and mausoleums, promoted the arts and sciences, and bestowed honors and salaries upon the teachers of rhetoric and philosophy.
Unlike his predecessors Trajan and Hadrian, Antoninus Pius was not a military man. His reign was comparatively peaceful. Insurrections amongst the Moors, Jews, and Brigantes in Britain were easily put down. The one military result which is of interest to us now is the building in Britain of the Wall of Antoninus (a few miles north of Hadrian's Wall), which was proclaimed in 2008 to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
During his reign, Antoninus issued coins celebrating the religious glory of Rome in celebration of the nine hundredth anniversary of the city in 147. The coins asserted the superiority of Romanism over the Empire.
Antoninus is said to have restored the sanctity of the ancient Roman faith, and to have reinvigorated its ceremonies, which is another possible reason why he was surnamed Pius.
The Religion of Antinous was in its infancy when Antoninus Pius came to power. The Blessed Boy's temples were under construction. The Sacred City of Antinoopolis was unfinished. It would have been easy for Antoninus Pius to pull the plug on the expense involved in the new religion. After all, Antoninus Pius was known as a penny-pincher who demanded fiscal restraint.
Instead, Antoninus Pius generously supplied the fledgling religion with imperial largess and was instrumental in the spread of the Faith of Antinous in those early years. Without him, the religion would have vanished at Hadrian's death. Instead, it flourished for centuries.
After the longest reign since Augustus (surpassing Tiberius by a couple of months), Antoninus died of fever on March 7, 161. His last public utterance was when the tribune of the night-watch came to ask the password — "aequanimit as" (equanimity). It was a fitting epitaph.
His body was placed in Hadrian's Mausoleam, a column was dedicated to him on Mars Field, and the temple he had built in the Forum in 141 to his deified wife Faustina was rededicated to the deified Faustina and the deified Antoninus. The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina still stands today in the Roman Forum (at right, now called the Church of San Lorenzo in Miranda).
We pay tribute to Antoninus Pius, who truly lived up to his title as a man of wisdom and piety.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
MAGINATION is the key word. Just imagine the cramped artist's studio in London's Chelsea district and, with the help of the artist's images, you are there. It is December 1909. The solid-black walls of the apartment contrast starkly with the red-orange drapes.
Jamaican folk artefacts share space on a Victorian curio shelf with photographs of friends and relatives — a mother in Jamaica, a father in Brooklyn Heights, a famous actress in a West End production, Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats. The jet-black walls form a void-like exhibition space which highlights the dazzling Caribbean art as well as the dozens of paintings and sketches which line the walls. Suffragette posters. Oil landscapes. But particularly watercolor illustrations of dreamscapes and fairy tales.
A brightly painted miniature theatre with ornate proscenium and cloth curtain stands proudly in one corner, with its cast of tiny cardboard cut-out "actors" waiting patiently for their entrances.
An enormous gramophone stands in the opposite corner, and Debussy's La Mer is playing at full volume, as it has been all morning. The neighbours have long since stopped complaining about the music.
The artist, Pamela Colman Smith, is a petite woman in her early 30s who sits in the middle of the studio with paint brush in hand, mixing watercolors, her eyes trance-like as the music envelops her. She is wearing a vividly hued kimono with broad sleeves made even more colorful by splotches of paint.
One of the two Japanese combs pinning back her long dark hair has loosened, causing her tresses to sag to one side, but she is oblivious. The paint is dripping from her brush, but she pays no mind, keeping her eyes firmly shut as Debussy transports her to a place she calls "the unknown country" of her artistic inner heart.
On the easel in front of her is a small canvas showing an androgynous person wearing a short kimono-like tunic with sleeves and an abstract floral design uncannily like the kimono she is wearing. The figure is striding to a precipice as a small white animal dances at his heels.
The painting is almost finished. The outline was done in pen. Only a few more brush strokes are needed for the hand-coloring. Debussy will provide the musical sunrise which will be the cue that the illustration is finished.
And then the small illustration will join all the others (about 80 in all, give or take one or two) which are carefully arranged on drying shelves around the studio. The printer is waiting. The cards must be delivered by the end of December.
She has been working on the Tarot card project for about a year, since Arthur E.A. Waite asked her to illustrate "his" new pack of Tarot cards in his long-running one-upsmanship feud with other occultists in London.
He had very strong ideas about the design of the 22 Greater Trumps but was unconcerned with the 56 Lesser Trumps. Only one other artist had ever illustrated all 78 cards, an unknown 15th Century artist whose dazzling cards were jealously guarded by the Sola Busca family of Italy.
The Sola Buscas had grudgingly permitted photographic copies of the cards to be put on view at the British Museum in 1908.
And so it was, that a petite 30-something sufragette took a tweedy advertising executive for the Horlick's bedtime powdered milk drink (Waite's "day job" when he wasn't doing occult spellwork) and dragged him to the British Museum and said she would do the job but only on condition that she illustrate all 78 cards with artistic license for design and color.
It had taken months of pain-staking work. "A big job for very little cash!" she would write to her friend and benefactor Alfred Stieglitz, who had made room in his famed New York photography gallery for exhibitions of some of her "Pictures in Music", watercolors she painted in a trance-like state while listening to her favorite composers, such as Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Debussy. On a visit to Paris, she had even been bold enough to introduce herself to Debussy and show him paintings she had done to his music. She was greatly flattered when he said she had captured the very essence of his music.
"You ask me how these pictures are evolved," she said. "They are not the music theme — pictures of the flying notes — not conscious illustrations of the name given to a piece of music, but just what I see when I hear music-thoughts loosened and set free by the spell of the sound."
She explained that, for example, "Often when I hear Bach I hear bells ringing in the sky, rung by whirling cords held in the hands of maidens dressed in brown."
Stieglitz had shown her music paintings to rave reviews in New York in 1907. The New York Sun critic wrote: "Pamela Colman Smith is a young woman with the quality rare in either sex — imagination."
Pamela — "Pixie" to her few close friends (mostly women) — had grown up in London and New York City, as well as in Jamaica. Her father was a globe-trotting businessman who spent little time at home. Her mother came from a long line of women poets and children's story-book writers. The details of her childhood are fuzzy. She had a dark complexion and facial features which prompted speculation that she had been adopted during her father's many trips to Jamaica. At any rate, she spent her formative years in Jamaica, where she learned the patois dialect perfectly and became a master story-teller of Jamaican tales of magic and wonder.
But when her mother died at an early age, little Pixie moved to Brooklyn Heights where she lived with her father and pursued art classes at the renowned Pratt Institute, a progressive school which encouraged students to explore new avenues of expression.
And when her father also died suddenly, she was shipped back to England to live with a troupe of actors who were friends of her eccentric father. She was relieved to be back in England, since her skin color had exposed her to racist discrimination in the States.
The rarified atmosphere of London's Leicester Square theatre district was an invigorating change. In New York she had been "a mulatto".
In London's West End she was simply exotic. She lived with the high-profile actress Ellen Terry, who became her mother, mentor and best friend. Sir Henry Irving, a leading thespian and empresario, became her ersatz father. The three of them toured Britain in productions when they weren't staging their own plays in the West End. Pixie lived in Irving's theatre. She learned set design, costume design (and how to mend costumes between acts) and she learned how the stage is the world-in-small.
A century on, it is hard for us to appreciate how mind-opening the theatre was. There was no radio, no television. Even the cinema was in its infancy. To see the world, you went to the theatre. Pamela didn't just go to the theatre. Surrounded by actors and directors 24 hours a day, she truly LIVED the theatre. She said it was the perfect place for a budding artist.
"Go and see all the plays you can," she advised young artists. "For the stage is a great school — or should be — to the illustrator — as well as to others."
She openly admitted she had learned more in the theatre than at her famous New York art institute.
"The stage has taught me almost all I know of clothes, of action and of pictorial gestures," she said, and her advice to other artists was to throw away the textbook and just open their eyes and ears. An artist should always have a sketch pad at hand. She even took her sketch pad to the ballet to see Nijinsky dance.
"Learn from everything, see everything, and above all feel everything! And make other people when they look at your drawing feel it too!"
She was dismissive of painters who are interested only in their medium and who shun other liberal arts.
"Keep an open mind to all things," she said. Even though you are a painter, listen to music, go to the ballet.
"Hear all the music you can, for sound and form are more closely related than we know."
And she dismissed turn-of-the-century painters who strove only for beauty, ignoring ugliness.
"For through ugliness is beauty sometimes found," she observed. She recalled having seen a very dark and brutal stage production which in a way reminded her of the gritty beauty of poverty-stricken Jamaica.
"All through that play I thought that ugly things may be true to nature, but surely it is through evil, that we realize good. The far-off scent of morning air, the blue mountains, the sunshine, the flowers, of a country I once lived in, seemed to rise before me — and there on the stage was a woman sitting on a chair, her body stiff, her eyes rolling, a wonderfully realistic picture of a fit."
Through Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, Pamela made friends with literary luminaries such as "Dracula" author Bram Stoker, "Peter Pan" playwright J.M. Barrie and and poet/playwright W.B. Yeats.
In fact, "Sherlock Holmes" was her uncle — because her real-life great uncle was the actor William Gillette, who brought Holmes to the stage in London and on Broadway. It was Gillette who introduced many of the mannerisms and props (the deerstalker cap, the meerschaum pipe) which have been intrinsically associated with Sherlock Holmes by succeeding generations. Her Uncle Bill even saw to it that Pamela illustrated the programs for his Holmes productions.
Pamela became well-known for her afternoon literary teas, at which Yeats, Stoker and other luminaries would gather in her studio while she put on the costume of a Jamaican wise woman and sat cross-legged on the floor, relating Jamaican folk tales in dialect.
She used a miniature theatre and tiny cardboard characters to illustrate her hugely delightful tales.
Her literary friends encouraged her to publish and illustrate the stories under her own name, which she did. The book is still in print.
One frequent male visitor described one such literary evening, saying, "The door was flung open, and we saw a little round woman, scarcely more than a girl, standing in the threshold. She looked as if she had been the same age all her life, and would be so to the end. She was dressed in an orange-colored coat that hung loose over a green skirt, with black tassles sewn all around over the orange silk, like the frills on a Red Indian's trousers. She welcomed us with a little shriek. She was very dark, and not thin, and when she smiled, with a smile that was peculiarly infectious, her twinkling gypsy eyes seemed to vanish altoghether. Just now, at the door they were the eyes of a joyous, excited child."
This was shortly after the turn of the 20th Century, and she had perfected her artistic style and was busy as a book and magazine illustrator. While publishers mandated style to some extent, Pamela Colman Smith advocated the Arts and Crafts style, also known as the Secession style or, in the US, as the Craftsman or, especially in California, called the Mission style.
The Arts and Crafts Movement was a style which dominated in the years before World War I, and which was between the Art Nouveau style of the 1890s and the Expressionist style which would revolutionize art after the Great War. The Arts and Crafts Movement was an attempt to reject superfluous Victorian "wedding cake" adornment and to simplify things to the basics of simple lines and solid colors, in defiance of bourgeouis homeowners who wanted clutter.
For one brief moment, in the cosy years before the war, idealistic artists such as Pamela depicted a magical world in which machines did not dominate humankind. They were artists who sought to recreate pre-industrial, even primitive styles in art, architecture and decoration. Lines were simple. Colors were bold and earthy.
Pamela's generation of artists saw that a world driven by steam pistons was heading blindly, full-steam ahead for collision with the cold and immutable forces of nature. The Titanic disaster in 1912 was only a symbolic inevitable disaster waiting to happen, as far as these artists were concerned.
The Arts and Crafts Movement flourished in the first decade of the 20th Century, and Pamela managed to get by financially with her illustrations in that style. She also provided illustrations and even wrote articles for Gustav Stickley's "The Craftsman" magazine which was a leading purveyor of the style.
Not surprisingly, her Tarot cards are an enduring monument to the Arts and Crafts Movement and its philosophy which holds that a return to timeless styles in the Arts can help the human race return to timeless virtues and ageless wisdom. She was seeking to create a world in which racist thought and moral hypocrisy would vanish along with high-button shoes and celluloid shirt collars. She wanted everyone to sit on the floor, cross-legged, and discover the childlike magic of just being alive.
The cards were published with very little fanfare in December 1909. Only a few occultists took notice, and most of them were engaged in feuds with each other. The general public did not notice. Tarot cards were considered to be "French". The only Tarot cards hitherto available were from France, and they were considered only slightly less objectionable than saucy French porn postcards. Pamela was keenly aware that her cards were not going to make inroads into popular culture.
"Oh, the prudishness and pompous falseness of a great mass of intelligent people!" she wrote in an article for Stickley's "The Craftsman". It was an article aimed at inspiring young artists. "Lift up your ideals, you weaklings, and force a way out of that thunderous clamor of the steam piston, the hurrying herd of blind humanity, noise, dust, strife, seething toil!"
Those 78 cards are a veritable map of the place which she called "the unknown country" within an artist's heart. Many of her book illustrations are variations on that theme, such as "The Hill of Heart's Desire" at left.
To look at each card in succession is to take a trip through a magical land where cosmic wisdom and virtue prevail. You can spot recurring landmarks, such as castles, bridges and towers, which recur from different vantage points throughout the "journey". This magical land is peopled by beings who at times wear Renaissance clothing and at other times wear chitons and togas. The whole magical world is a place beyond linear time and space.
Waite never adequately acknowledged her work. In the book accompanying the cards he failed to mention her by name, saying only that a "young woman artist" had illustrated them on his instructions.
But in fact, Pamela had been a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn along with Stoker and Waite. In a way it was only natural since the English-speaking world's first esoteric book store, Watkins, had just opened its doors a few steps away from the Leicester Square theatre district.
Pamela never wrote about her initiation into occult mysteries. But the very first card in the deck, The Magician, is graphic proof that she was privy to occult knowledge of the most secret sort. In 1909 only a handful of people had read a badly translated copy of Das Buch Abramelin, a 15th Century German-language grimoire written by a German-Jewish sorcerer who claimed to have been initiated into ancient mysteries by a master living in a desert cave on the banks of the Nile.
Even now, a century after Pamela painted that card, very few people have read the Book of Abramelin, certainly not in the original German. To this day there is no full English translation. Those few who have read it immediately realize that The Magician card is a very precise portrait taken straight from the ancient book.
In it, the novice magician is instructed to wear a clean white tunic bound at the waist by a symbolic ouroboros serpent. He is to wear a crimson mantle over the tunic while standing before a simple wooden table upon which are his magical tools. The book then says that, for best results, the magician's magical work space should look out over a witch's garden of flowers and magical herbs.
Whatever Waite thought of "his" cards — and he was very vague in saying what their purpose should be other than clearly to aggrandize himself — Pamela knew they were tools not for TELLING the future, but for SHAPING the future through ancient Abramelin magical spells. That occult secret, sealed in the colorful symbolism of her cards, was destined to die with her — to be rediscovered a century after she created the cards by priests of ANTINOUS THE GAY GOD.
With that first card, The Magician, and with Renaissance alchemical symbolism throughout the deck, Pamela shows she was highly knowledgeable in the occult arts.
The rest of her story is quickly told. The Titanic sank but the age of the steam pistons did not go down with it. Instead, the First World War swept aside the lofty dreams of Pamela's generation of artists. The Arts and Crafts Movement was the first casualty. By 1915 Gustav Stickley's "The Craftsman" magazine ceased publication and his design company went bankrupt.
Pamela's illustration assignments dried up. By the mid-1920s she was unable to get even one job a year. When a distant uncle died and left her a modest nest egg, she took the money and left London, buying a village cottage at the far western tip of England — not far, in fact, from the fictional location of Baskerville Hall, which had figured so prominently in Uncle Bill's Broadway-hit Sherlock Holmes plays.
She lived in isolation with a woman companion. She died penniless at age 72 on September 18, 1951. The cottage and all her possessions were auctioned to pay back taxes, leaving her companion with nothing.
In December 1909 she had told her New York gallerista friend Alfred Stieglitz that she would send him a pack of the Tarot cards which she said were being "printed in color lithography (probably very badly) as soon as they are ready" and that she would also "send over some of the original drawings as some people MAY like them." By "some people", she meant "buyers". But the original art work has never surfaced. Not one of the 78 originals is known to exist.
The printed card decks vanished into obscurity for decades until the American playing card connoisseur Stuart R. Kaplan resurrected them in about 1970. It is largely thanks to him that anyone knows anything about this extraordinary artist, who created a single work which is ageless and timeless and which continues to appeal to new generations.
The final word belongs to Pamela Colman Smith, and it is a statement of inner strength which could just as easily be the catch-phrase of The Fool card in her Tarot:
"Banish fear, brace your courage, place your ideals high up with the sun, away from the dirt and squalor and ugliness around you and let that power that makes the 'roar of the high-power pistons' enter into your work — energy — courage — life — love. Use your wits. Use your eyes. Perhaps you use your physical eyes too much and only see the mask. Find eyes within, look for the door into the unknown country."
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
THE Ancient Romans never quite made it to China ... but the Chinese made it to Rome ... and sent back reports of tall and virtuous people who wore odd clothes and tended to dispose of their rulers on a whim.
One of the best Chinese travel reports is in the "Weilüe," a 3rd Century AD account of the interactions between the two nations. Here's what China had to say about their imperial neighbors!
From a translation by the University of Washington’s John E. Hill:
This country (the Roman Empire) has more than four hundred smaller cities and towns. It extends several thousand li in all directions. The king has his capital (that is, the city of Rome) close to the mouth of a river (the Tiber). The outer walls of the city are made of stone.
This region has pine trees, cypress, sophora, catalpa, bamboo, reeds, poplars, willows, parasol trees, and all sorts of plants. The people cultivate the five grains [traditionally: rice, glutinous and non-glutinous millet, wheat and beans], and they raise horses, mules, donkeys, camels and silkworms. (They have) a tradition of amazing conjuring. They can produce fire from their mouths, bind and then free themselves, and juggle twelve balls with extraordinary skill.
The ruler of this country is not permanent. When disasters result from unusual phenomena, they unceremoniously replace him, installing a virtuous man as king, and release the old king, who does not dare show resentment.
The common people are tall and virtuous like the Chinese, but wear hu (‘Western’) clothes. They say they originally came from China, but left it.
They have always wanted to communicate with China but, Anxi (Parthia), jealous of their profits, would not allow them to pass (through to China).
Here's a description of some of Rome's trade goods:
This country produces fine linen. They make gold and silver coins. One gold coin is equal to ten silver coins.
They have fine brocaded cloth that is said to be made from the down of "water-sheep". It is called Haixi ("Egyptian") cloth. This country produces the six domestic animals, which are all said to come from the water.
It is said that they not only use sheep's wool, but also bark from trees, or the silk from wild cocoons, to make brocade, mats, pile rugs, woven cloth and curtains, all of them of good quality, and with brighter colours than those made in the countries of Haidong ("East of the Sea").
Furthermore, they regularly make a profit by obtaining Chinese silk, unravelling it, and making fine hu ("Western") silk damasks. That is why this country trades with Anxi (Parthia) across the middle of the sea. The seawater is bitter and unable to be drunk, which is why it is rare for those who try to make contact to reach China.
You can read the full account at SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE.
Monday, September 16, 2013
THE discovery in Peru of another tomb belonging to a pre-Hispanic priestess, the eighth in more than two decades, confirms that powerful women ruled Ancient Peru 1,200 years ago, archaeologists said.
The remains of the woman from the Moche - or Mochica - civilisation were discovered in late July in an area called La Libertad in the country's northern Chepan province.
It is one of several finds in this region that have amazed scientists. In 2006, researchers came across the famous 'Lady of Cao' - who died about 1700 years ago and is seen as one of the first female rulers in Peru.
"This find makes it clear that women didn't just run rituals in this area but governed here and were queens of Mochica society," project director Luis Jaime Castillo told AFP.
"It is the eighth priestess to be discovered," he added. "Our excavations have only turned up tombs with women, never men."
The priestess was in an "impressive 1200-year-old burial chamber" the archaeologist said, pointing out that the Mochica were known as master craftsmen.
"The burial chamber of the priestess is 'L'-shaped and made of clay, covered with copper plates in the form of waves and sea birds," Castillo said.
Near the neck is a mask and a knife, he added.
The tomb, decorated with pictures in red and yellow, also has ceramic offerings - mostly small vases - hidden in about 10 niches on the side.
"Accompanying the priestess are bodies of five children, two of them babies, and two adults, all of whom were sacrificed," Castillo said, noting there were two feathers atop the coffin.
Julio Saldana, the archaeologist responsible for work in the burial chamber, said the discovery of the tomb confirms the village of San Jose de Moro is a cemetery of the Mochica elite, with the most impressive tombs belonging to women.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
FOR the first time, experts have found geological proof that the prehistoric builders of Stonehenge aligned it to the Solstice axis, and it has to do with an Ice Age "fluke" of terrain.
The discovery was made by accident during road work.
In what is described as a "missing piece in the jigsaw" in our understanding of one of the world's greatest prehistoric sites, excavations confirm the theory that its ancient processional route was built along an ice-age land form which was naturally on the solstice axis, according to Professor Mike Parker Pearson, a leading expert on Stonehenge.
The monument's original purpose still remains shrouded in mystery, but this is a dramatic clue, he said.
The route, known as the Avenue, extended 1.5 miles from the standing stones' north-eastern entrance to West Amesbury.
The discovery came only after the closure of a modern road which bisected the route, allowing archaeologists to excavate there for the first time.
Just below the modern road’s surface, they unearthed ditches dug by prehistoric builders.
Professor Parker Pearson identified naturally-occurring fissures that once lay between ridges which follow the route of the Avenue.
The ridges were created by Ice Age meltwater and naturally point directly at the mid-winter sunset in one direction and the mid-summer sunrise in the other.
Professor Parker Pearson is excited by the evidence, which he describes as "hugely significant".
"It tells us a lot about why Stonehenge was located where it is and why they were so interested in the solstices," he said.
"It's not to do with worshipping the sun, some kind of calendar or astronomical observatory.
"It's about how this place was special to prehistoric people. This natural land form happens to be on the solstice axis, which brings heaven and earth into one."
He explained that Stonehenge is "all about the solstices" and our ancestors could see this in the land.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
HERE's what you'll be wearing next summer ... Antinous the Gay God!
Antinous along with other Classical male deities are emblazoned in oversize prints on shirts, jackets, shorts and trousers in the DOLCE & GABBANA men's collection for Spring and Summer 2014.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have found a perfect formula: Sicily as an inspiration for clothes modeled on the catwalk by Sicilians themselves.
The sweet authenticity of the idea has powered their last few collections for men, and when cynics in the Spring/Summer 2014 runway audience in Milan sighed, "Oh no, not again," you wanted to slap them.
Or torture them by passing on Gabbana's confident declaration: "There is so much in Sicily, we could be doing this forever."
It was Sicily's Greece-inflected mythology that forms the 2014 collection ... Antinous.
"Fashion is freedom," Gabbana said.
Check out the D&G Summer 2014 Men's Collection here:
Friday, September 13, 2013
NEARLY 2,000 years of erosion, not to mention pillaging by locals, have turned Hadrian's Wall from a formidable fortification into a broken series of forts and a low three foot wall.
So recent visitors to the Wall might have been surprised to see archaeologists taking the wall apart.
It's all part of a major make-over designed to allow the Wall to stand for another 2,000 years.
The Emperor Hadrian built the Wall in the 2nd Century BC near the border between modern-day England and Scotland. This 1877 painting by the Scottish painter William Bell Scott is entitled "The Romans Cause A Wall To Be Built" nicely depicts the culture clash between Romans and Britons.
Hadrian's Wall is on many monument lists and registers but the most unfortunate is English Heritage's At Risk Register.
In an effort to preserve the wall for future generations, the SITA Trust (an independent environmental funding body) has awarded the Hadrian's Wall Trust a grant of £537,185 ($850,000) to rebuild parts of the wall, improve access in some areas and provide new signage and interpretation.
"It's fantastic to see the work that has been done so far and more work in progress to conserve this part of the world heritage site for future generations," says Andrew Saunders, from the SITA Trust.
"We hope that this significant grant will also encourage other funders to come forward to support Hadrian's Wall, ultimately removing all sections from the Heritage at Risk register."
Survey work began in June, with the project expected to be completed in October. Work at Housesteads and Peel Crags has already been completed, with work now taking place at Great Chesters, Burtholme Beck and Port Carlisle.
Each section of the wall has been treated differently over time, meaning that conservation work must be tailored to for each section’s needs. All the work will be completed by hand using traditional methods such as lime and sand mortar.
New stones will be a different colour to ensure that they are distinct to the Roman stones, creating a visual representation of this new stage in the history of the wall.
Even after the conservation work has been completed, it will still be vulnerable to erosion from nature and humans.
"Everyone can help conserve the wall every time they visit by following the Hadrian's Wall Trust's Every Footstep Counts code," suggests Bryan Scott, the sustainable access manager for the Trust.
"Walkers are asked not to walk on the wall itself and to walk side-by-side rather than in single file to help protect surrounding archaeology which often lies just beneath the ground surface."
Thursday, September 12, 2013
IN a revelation which has rocked the dusty world of Egyptology, British archaeologists have announced that Egypt sprang "fully formed" into being some 500 years later than hitherto has been accepted.
Using mathematical models, radiocarbon dating and archaeological evidence, researchers found the first ruler, King Aha acceded to the throne between 3111 BC and 3045 BC ... up to 500 years later than some previous estimates.
A new timeline shows the original territorial state developed from primitive beginnings in as little as 600 years ... the twinkling of an eye in archaeological terms.
The pharaohs, who are understood to have started with King Aha, ruled Ancient Egypt for more than three thousand years and the story of the very last pharaoh, Cleopatra, is famous to this day.
But it will be another thousand years before we are as far removed from her as she was from her earliest predecessors who remain shrouded in legends and conjecture, known only from a handful of frustratingly incomplete sources.
Archaeologist Dr Michael Dee, of the University of Oxford, said: "There are no records before the third dynasty, so we have had to guess exactly when the vital First Dynasty, which led to the development of writing and agriculture, happened."
The study, published in the journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society A," also found the Predynastic period when inhabitants along the River Nile started to form permanent settlements was probably closer to 3700 BC than 4000 BC, with the stone age Neolithic era preceding it lasting longer and finishing later.
"The origins of Egypt began a millennium before the pyramids were built, which is why our understanding of how and why this powerful state developed is based solely on archaeological evidence," Dr Dee said.
"This new study provides new radiocarbon dating evidence that resets the chronology of the first dynastic rulers of Ancient Egypt and suggests Egypt formed far more rapidly than was previously thought," he added.
Aha is believed to have become pharaoh at the age of 30 and ruled until he was about 62. Legend has it that he was killed by a hippopotamus while hunting.
His "chief wife" was Benerib, whose name was written on his tomb at Abydos, but he also had another wife, Khenthap, with whom he became father of Djer, Egypt’s second king.
Then came King Djet, Queen Merneith, King Den, King Anedjib, King Semerkhet and King Qa’a whose reign began between 2906 BC and 2886 BC.
Dr Dee said they would have ruled over a territory spanning a similar area to Egypt today with formal borders at Aswan in the south, the Mediterranean Sea in the north and across to the modern day Gaza Strip in the east.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
TOXIC gas was first used in Syria against the Ancient Romans ... 1,700 years ago.
Poison gas was used in Syria in the 3rd Century AD when a Roman fort at Dura-Europos became the site of a violent siege by the powerful Sasanian Persian empire, according to University of Leicester archaeologist Simon James.
No historical record exists of the battle, which occurred around 256 A.D., but archaeological remains, unearthed by major excavations in 1920-1937 by teams from France and Yale University, and after 1986 by French-Syrian teams, helped James piece together the action.
Trying to enter the city, the Sasanians dug tunnels underneath its walls. Intending to hold their ground at all costs, Roman defenders responded with counter-mines.
In the 1930s, archaeologists unearthed dramatic evidence of the fight. In one of the tunnels, a pile of bodies, still completely fitted with their weapons and armour, testified to the horrors of the battle.
At the time, the researchers believed the trapped Roman soldiers had died after the tunnel collapsed. But according to James, residue of pitch (a resinous substance) and yellow sulfur crystals found in a jar lying near the bodies indicated a much more gruesome reality.
Indeed, the Sasanians placed fire pits strategically throughout the tunnel, and when the Romans broke through, they gassed them by adding sulfur crystals and bitumen to the fire.
"Defining what constitutes a chemical weapon in antiquity is complex, but this is certainly one of the earliest archaeological finds of the addition of chemical accelerants to a fire to produce toxic fumes," Adrienne Mayor, a research scholar in classics and history of science at Stanford University, told DISCOVERY NEWS.
Mayor described the skirmish in the tunnel and the presence of burnt residue as an early example of archaeological evidence for a chemical incendiary in her 2003 book "Greek Fire, Poison, Arrows and Scorpion Bombs."