1.30.2015

Hotel Fellah, (a world away from) Marrakech

Updated October 2015 - although in the past I have praised and recommended the Fellah Hotel to people, and quite a few have visited on my recommendation ... this is my fourth and last trip here, as the place has become a disaster (not bad; dire - I removed this post in case people assumed it was still the same hotel).

1.28.2015

Amphipolis ...

... look, I had literally refused to go on TV for well over five years as I don't want the "fame" and I only went on Greek TV as I was tired of people who had never been to the site at Amphipolis (Palagia, Chugg) talking crap; I wanted to defend the work of the amazing team who actually are working at Amphipolis.

I also should admit that whilst a book about Amphipolis would be lovely in the long term, I also had never planned to 'rush' to publish one before the archaeologists. I knew a book by me on the market would blow out others' attempts to get advances for a book, and that was my main plan. Also, if a book of mine one day is published and makes money, obviously I would split the profits with the guys there as they did the hard work.

I am happy to try to explain the archaeologists' finds, and try to theorise about them but ... I am currently taking a break as I was close to the CharlieHebdo office and the doctor told me I need to go for a rest. I have had absolutely no news or contact about the excavation finds from the team since the news broke in August - no-one is leaking to me as I gave the few (minor) people who tried hell. Theorise away, just be aware that we are just theorising and discussing possibilities!

Normally excavations are complicated, but the public and press only see the end results. Amphipolis may look a "mess" because unusually here people are seeing the excavation as it goes along. This is normal! As is changing theories as new evidence comes to light ... whoever this turns out to be, it is already the most important find of the century.

Michaelis Lefantzis has been there from the start, he was the one who went looking for bits of the Lion and thus in turn found even more amazing discoveries. Lefantzis is one of the most talented archaeologists (in Greece it's "architect" but in the UK & US we include that within "archaeologists") that I am aware of, not just in Greece but the world. He's the hero of Amphipolis, and the idiots claiming other crap are just that - idiots. Greece voted for change, so let's give Amphipolis a chance to change too.



Today In 98: Trajan Became Emperor

He's one of the few to successfully invade Iraq, although his heir found it harder to consolidate the conquest and withdrew.

Trajan's ashes were put in the base of his Column in Rome. Mondadori have created a very good (and free) App about Trajan's Column in English and in Italian.


Augustus claimed to have found a city of brick and left one of marble. Trajan was equally naughty with when it came to claiming edifices ...




If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

Update: The Continuing Saga of the AIA-St. Louis Society



Beth Ann Judas, MA, Phd


The final decision of the AIA Council was that the AIA-St. Louis (AIA-STL) board must resign, in its entirety, by February 1, 2015 or the AIA would revoke their charter. January 13, 2015 saw another moment in the continuing saga of the AIA-St. Louis Society.  The Society called an emergency meeting to discuss the decision by the AIA Council during the 2015 Annual Meetings in New Orleans.

According to Douglas Boin (@douglasboin), who was present at the meeting, the members of AIA-STL discussed the situation and then voted to retain their board. The vote was 30 for the board, 27 against the board, and 4 abstentions, which suggests that many Society members felt strongly that the board did not act incorrectly (and the close numbers also demonstrate possible conflict concerning this issue).  Although members demonstrated support for their board, with that one act, they condemned their society.

But there was a sudden twist in the story. On Sunday night, January 25, the St. Louis officers and board of directors decided to resign in order to allow AIA-STL to continue its association with the national organization. Prior to their resignation, the officers and board picked their replacement interim officers and board.  Presumably, this will allow their members to decide who wants to participate in an election of officers.  The resignation was effective as of January 26, 2015.

Meanwhile, AIA memebrs and archaeological communities wait to see what will officially happen on February 1. The assumption at this point is that the AIA will allow AIA-St. Louis to continue as an affiliated socity since they have met the requirements set forth by the AIA Council at the 2015 Annual Meetings.

I have to admit this update has been a little harder to write, which is why I haven't posted this as quickly as I thought I would (plus, every time I think that I am ready to post it, some new information appears).  Aside from my confusion as to why the society members wanted to vote themselves out of existence, I can only assume that the vote against removing the officers was a result of the members believing-very strongly-in their board's decisions.  Was there also a bit of hoping to call the AIA's bluff? Perhaps... But that is all moot now, as the officers and board of directors resigned, and now we wait to hear from the AIA itself.

Meanwhile, over the past several months, I've had various conversations concerning this issue with friends who are not archaeologists and who know nothing about archaeology (except whatever interactions they have with it as a result of being my friend).  And the conversations, while positive, in-depth ones, seem to be exercises of how do (should?) archaeologists communicate complex issues such as this with the general public, especially one such as this, which is not as clear cut as one would think.  The sale was legal, but question of ethics in regards to an archaeological society and what roles and responsibilities it has as a public face of archaeology remains. It's easy to have in-depth discussions between friends and acquaintances over dinner or drinks, but that's not a feasible answer for reaching out to the rest of the public. Ultimately, the hard and terrible question remains, how do we communicate archaeological issues and ideals in a manner that makes sense to lay people?

*Announcement of Officers and Board Resignation on the Facebook page of  "St. Louis Archaeological Institute of America" (January 26, 2015)

*An Announcement concerning the AIA St. Louis Society (January 21, 2015)
The AIA announces that the St. Louis Society's charter will be revoked if the 100% of the current St. Louis Society board members resigned by February 1, 2015.  The announcement recognized the the decision of the St. Louis Society to not remove their board members from their positions on January 13, 2015.

*All of the statements made by the AIA re the AIA St. Louis Society gathered into one page on the AIA website.

*Changes to the (national) AIA Regulations
These updates were voted upon at the January 10, 2015 AIA Council meeting

1.24.2015

PTSD in 1300BCE account of 'ghosts faced in battle'

Post-traumatic stress discovered in 1300BCE with accounts of 'ghosts faced in battle':
Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, a former consultant clinical psychologist for the Ministry of Defence, believes the first description of PTSD was accredited to Herodotus. The Greek historian describes what happened to a warrior called Epizelus during the battle of Marathon in 490BCE.

He "was in the thick of the fray, and behaving himself as a brave man should, when suddenly he was stricken with blindness, without blow of sword or dart; and this blindness continued thenceforth during the whole of his after life".


the timing of an old post being cited in this is slightly ironic as have it a bit again post Paris :-(

Today In 76: Hadrian Born

Hadrian built a fabulous villa at Tivoli, which has been reconstructed in 3-D by some brilliant scholars:



If you want to explore Hadrian's travels, there's a game for that: Hadrian: The Roamin' Emperor - OpenLearn - Open University

Today In AD 41: Caligula Died






If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

1.21.2015

Painted XLII Marks the Colosseum

Pretty exciting discovery from the team working on the Colosseum:

Colosseo, sulle arcate riaffiorano bagliori di rosso, la direttrice Rea "Quei numeri colorati, scoperta eccezionale" - Repubblica.it

They were cleaning the monument and this revealed traces of color; red paint was used to mark the numbers above the arches, indicating different sectors of the arena. They seem to believe that different colours were used to indicated different sections used by different classes.

Loebs and Ancient Sources ...

I've been sharing some of my DropBox folders on Twitter, and this is worth sharing more widely: ancient sources quoted by some books are a bit more interpretation than literal quotation, so it is worth going to the original text, eg the Loeb bilingual editions.

My file is here - https://www.dropbox.com/sh/popbs2wt0vmvgy4/AAAMPpgsFG3oMy4t1f7-mTt3a?dl=0 - and at the moment is just a mirror of Ryan Baumann's Loebulus, which is in turn based on Edwin Donnelly's “Downloebables” .... I'm slowly adding more as I clear out and back up various hardrives.

1.20.2015

A Beautiful Sculpture from the Ancient Greek Diaspora

Nice reminder of how beautiful the (now all too rare) Archaic architectural sculpture was. This was found at Apollonia Pontica, a Greek colony off Bulgaria. An inscription links the 6th century BC temple to Apollo himself, the eponymous protector of the city:
Archaeologists Investigate Ancient Greek Temenos on Black Sea Island | Popular Archaeology

Today In 225: Gordian III Born





If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

Today in 1961: Senator Kennedy Became President

... and Mrs Kennedy moved into the White House, which she re-decorated.


1.19.2015

CSI: Amphipolis - Murder

One body had old injuries that had healed, the other had so many stab marks on the bones - which went through skin, flesh, muscle and are pretty hard to do with a knife - so there is no doubt in my mind that the younger man was assassinated.


UPDATED Amphipolis: The Bones ... Murder!

Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού και Αθλητισμού - Μελέτη Σκελετικών Καταλοίπων Ταφικού Μνημείου, Λόφου Καστά, Αμφίπολη:
"The bodies of those buried have been distinguished: In a woman (person 1), two middle aged men (people 2 and 3) and a newborn person (4 person)."
The woman in the cist grave, around which the others seem to have been buried, was over 60; Olympias was born circa 370 BC and died in 316, so the maths is wrong for her.

The two men were in their later 30s or earlier 40s, and the younger of the two shows signs of several sharp blows - possibly injuries, more likely murder by stabbing. The older, taller man has an old wrist fracture that has heeled. Interestingly "both men have degenerative osteoarthritis and spondylitis lesions in different parts of their skeletons." - this suggests they could have been related as these are genetic issues.

In addition as Edson noted in his article The Tomb of Olympias, inscriptions show she was buried at Pydna; so Amphipolis could not have been built pre the Battle of Pydna around her earlier tomb there ... you can download the article here.

There are also animal bones (those of the 550 which are not the human 157?) including horses, which further supports the idea of a Macedonian royal burial - way back when everyone was poo-pooing Amphipolis, I asked if there were horse bones or equipment by the entrance, as to me that was a key indicator. 

The skeletons are fragmentary, so we might be missing people, but this many figures is unusual; family mausolea were not the norm at the time.

Philip III Arrhidaeus was murdered and is the right age for one of the men. We know that he died in 317 BC, but was later honourably buried with his wife Eurydice II Adea, whose suicide had been forced and her mother Cynane: Diodorus 19. 52; Athenaeus 4. 41.

Whilst I can't find a source that mentions Adea having a baby, a newborn son could well have been the issue that forced Olympias' hand, and led him to murder them all. Cynane died in 323 and is too young to be the woman buried in the cist grave; her mother Audata vanishes from the records after Philip II, and is assumed to have died but need not have. (Obviously this is just a guess!)

The bottom line is not just any noble could have built this sort of tomb, and the Argead Dynasty had strong ties to Amphipolis for centuries - Alexander I famously defeated the Persians there.

Hephaestion died not stabbed at 32, so has to be excluded. 

Update - the reason I left to Philip III and Eurydice II is that near Amphipolis is where they were kept hostage and probably killed. 

Everything I have seen fits a tomb built the period of Alexander and soon after, but the cremated bodies could have been added later. Cassander honourably buried them, and he married Alexander's half-sister Thessaloniki after Pydna to cement his claim to the throne ... so yes the making a point of honourably burying is odd, but so were the politics of the day!

The uncremated 60+ woman could be the tomb of an "ancestor" such as Deianira from whose child with Heracles the Argeads claimed descent, or another early royal - don't forget the earlier Macedonians were Persian vassals, and practiced certain rituals that differed from other Greek states.

A cremated fifth body is in such a poor state the sex could not be determined, and if it was a woman, Eurydice is a candidate but if she is a separate death then she'd be Cynane.

CORRECTION as he rightly pointed out, I was using an old book and forgot the new source showing Olympias murdered them (Cassander killed Roxane and Alexander IV at the Amphipolis fortress):




UPDATE: also, I sometimes state the conclusion and forget to explain the thought process ... "Aegae" in the sources is possibly two later writers making a mistake / misinterpretation of a lost source that describes a "royal cemetery" or "mausoleum" and an assumption made it was the traditional one at Vergina etc. Ancient sources can be wrong which is why we tend to trust more contemporary inscriptions more ... Athenaeus was around AD 200 and gathered interesting titbits; and Diodorus was Augustan.

1.18.2015

Amphipolis Bones: News Soon

I thought the press conference was scheduled for the 20th, but some on Twitter are saying the results will be released today. This was the previous press release from December is below, and the new one will be here.

Just a quick re-cap: the tomb was constructed at the time of Alexander the Great, and possibly / probably construction continued after his death.

The body found inside seems to have neither been cremated nor mummified; earlier suggestions from the archaeologists suggest that it predates the main body of the tomb. We know that after the Persian Wars Cimon went to find the bones of Theseus so that they could be buried in a shrine to him (probably on the hill over the Agora, the so-called Hephaisteion); whether he took them from a long-known 'tomb' of Theseus or they were random old bones is of course open to question. Alexander adores Achilles, but his tomb is elsewhere in later sources, so we need to look for a suitable hero or ancestor that was thus honoured, and my best guess would be Alexander I who defeated the Persians at Amphipolis and was the first Macedonian king to take part in the Olympics ... but obviously that is just an "educated guess"!

The Source of Papyri ...

Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel:
Evans told Live Science, "We're not talking about the destruction of any museum-quality piece."

 Oh yes they are! And here's the proof they themselves provided:


And as I noted before, I am confused how fragments of the same old Mark are supposedly coming out of a "legally acquired" cartonnage in Texas AND via a dealer in Istanbul selling on eBay ...

How To Tell a Fake 101


It's a very pretty ring, and when I was in Paris someone Tweeted a photo of this Greek 2nd Century BC ring in the Benaki, and trying to stay positive I RTed it. Almost immediately I thought "no!" ... I undid the RT and made a passing remark that it was interesting that the ancient Greek creator had knowledge of the work of Michelangelo.

Recent events have made me realise too few people spend enough time with originals, and so I thought it might be worth taking the time the explain my thought process.

NSFW ---> PLEASE NOTE I HAVE ADDED A BREAK HERE AS THESE IMAGES OF ANCIENT ART ARE NOT SAFE FOR WORK

1.17.2015

Norwegian Design: Pia Tjelta byTiMo

What feels like the most beautiful dress in the world arrived in the post yesterday ...

I have bought items from By Ti Mo in the past, and am generally rather sceptical when celebrities collaborate with brands, but Norwegian actress Pia Tjelta's designs are simply stunning.

This photo is of the shorter version, the Nº 12 The Vega Dress (note the model is very tall, and one shorter women it would come to above the knee), whilst I bought the floor length white cotton and lace Nº 11 The Helena Dress.

Introducing the Master of the Miami Vice Hermes

This "ancient" head was seized by Turkish police (here) as the smugglers were trying to get it to a buyer who was apparently willing to pay $1 m. Tiny problem ... I have photos of his work in progress circa 2009.


1.16.2015

The Looting of Papyri & Islamophobia

I do love how my years of work, after all the people in papyrology couldn't have care less as about looting, being dismissed as bombastic. But then again if I were an old man who was just a lecturer at an obscure State college rather than someone who has achieved things ... well I might too have a chip off my shoulder. I do find it odd that so many "scholars" find discussing - or in the case of papyrology ignoring - looting from their (in his case faux) ivory towers ... and go out of their way to disparage people who actually do the work, and get pieces returned.

Whilst I am thrilled that someone else in papyrology, PhD candidate Brice Jones is now enthusiastically anti-looting ... may I just make the point that my comment pointing out that the Galatians on eBay was being illegally offered for sale was not originally moderated and posted amongst his comments. And like others working in this field I am horrified by the way he blogs about identifying papyri on eBay, therefore raising their values and making them more valuable rather than unsaleable.

Roberta Mazza is the only papyrologist I can name that has not only become an enthusiastic crusader against looting but is also doing some good.

Smuggling papyri, which all either passed through or are linked to a dealer who has admitted repeatedly to smuggling is shocking. The way so many US academics turned a blind eye to them, justifying that they were 'saving' Christian texts from "Muslim countries" is pretty shocking. That was bigotry, racism and self-serving - their old boy's club turned a blind eye as they saw themselves as superior to 'barbarian' Muslims and also because of the pressure in the field to come up with new discoveries. They really only started getting interested in the issue when the Sappho Papyri hit the media, and suddenly the topic became 'sexy' ... So yes I might not be an expert in papyrology, but at least I have morals.

1.15.2015

Roberta Mazza on The new Sappho fragments acquisition history

Roberta is covering some of the same ground as my posts, but much more elegantly and both this and her earlier posts are highly recommended reading. Neither of us are making direct accusations, just raising the increasing catalogue of issues.

Galatians etc I've been on the trail of for years but Christians "saving" Christian fragments from 'nasty' "muslim countries" wasn't 'sexy' and Roberta is the one who made it so by linking those eBay fragments to the new Sappho ones by getting this info out of the Green collection:

The new Sappho fragments acquisition history: what we have learnt so far | Faces &Voices:
The new paper tells a different story. I understood that the version of events was going to be different, when David Trobisch, director of the Green collection, suddenly started to mention in conversations and emails that both the Coptic Galatians 2 and the Sappho fragments (all of them) had in their acquisition history files a Christie’s auction of 2011.
What interests me is that Eugenio Donadoni, a young "Specialist" at Christie's "was so kind to confirm via email that the source is that lot" - despite mistakenly also telling her (I assume he panicked and miss-wrote) that there were no images:
When I asked for images and documents relative to the 59 folders and
their content, he told me there aren’t any: the only record is the short
entry in the printed catalogue. Believe it or not, Christie’s has no
snapshot or any other form of catalogue file for the lot. When I raised
the point that this lack of documentation – which Mr Donadoni said is
not unusual – opens a breach in the acquisition history of ancient
artefacts, and is problematic for everybody from academics to
responsible collectors and dealers, Donadoni said they have budget
issues and too much work with too few personnel.
Hmm, odd as what I've been looking at make it difficult for me to work out how large fragments were hidden in the small fragments in the lots ... I guess I'm just being a dumb blonde again.

Is this More of the "First Century" Gospel of Mark?



Interesting similarity of handwriting ... between these fragments I posted photos of yesterday from the Turkish eBay seller "Zelis eksioglu" ...and the newly discovered Gospel of Mark ;-)

These top three photos of material he was touting to sell "off eBay" and below the ones of the Gospel of Mark Josh McDowell recently 'discovered' ... although frankly when the seller is boasting of what it is ...


Papyrus: Jesus' Wife?


I gave Roberta my files unredacted, and no I have no idea what this means, I only noticed this detail yesterday. At the time had not assumed a link to the Karen King papyrus, but now that Sappho is in play and he's not just flogging NT bits on eBay ...

1.14.2015

Lobel Calls "bull" on Christie's Sappho "provenance"

This is going to be a long one, but this Lobel called "dodgy" on it whilst she was in Paris, and the more she reads, the dodgier she feels the provenance given for the Sappho Papyri is ...

This is the only public catalogue image of the papyri sold by the Manuscripts not Antiquities department, which is claimed as the 'provenance' of the Sappho and Green ex eBay Turkey papyri. There are more, and I think Christie's is being set up possibly, with dealers claiming that lot as the provenance as it was the only recent 'jumble' lot of papyri sold within the right time frame - here - but ...

Christie's, eBay, Green and Sappho Papyri ...

I put it on Twitter, but forgot to mention it on the blog ... the provenance the Green Hobby Lobby Museum is giving for the papyri they bought from Turkey on eBay and the provenance for the Sappho papyri is the same lot at Christie's. It all just seems a bit odd that papyri passed through the auction house without someone paying them any attention, so it may sound like a Kosher provenance but I continue to be dubious.

For the Christie's provenance claimed for Green see: Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: Mixantik and his 'Connections' with Christies

For the Christie's provenance claimed for Sappho see Tim Whitmarsh's photo of Obbink's hand out:


Best News I've Heard All Day

I am so glad Greece is following this idea! If Greece is not good enough for the British Museum, then ... two can play at that game.

Greece baulks on art loan after Parthenon Marbles row - The Art Newspaper:
The British Museum’s decision to send a piece of the Parthenon marbles to Russia has delayed a loan from Greece of a key antiquity for a forthcoming exhibition on classical sculpture. A British Museum spokeswoman confirmed that “we have requested to borrow” an important work from the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens for the show, “Defining Beauty: the Body in ancient Greek Art” (6 March-5 July). She says the Greek museum has not yet decided on the loan request.

AIA-St. Louis Society's Sale of Egyptian Artifacts - update

Beth Ann Judas

wrote her first blog post about it last month here, and being new to blogging updated her blog post rather than writing a new one which would have been at the top of the stream -- please do take a look at her update with the AIAMeeting vote etc

Beth Ann Judas: How Many Hekats of Barley are These Worth?

**** UPDATE: January 10, 2015 AIA Council Meeting at the 2015 Annual Meetings****

Last night, thanks to the miracle of twitter, those of us unable able to
attend the 2015 AIA-SCS Annual Meetings in New Orleans, LA, USA, were
able to follow along with the proceedings regarding the AIA-St. Louis
Society.  I followed two people (@jstpwalsh and@sylviadeskaj) and
retweeted their live tweets. I was torn-part of me wanted desperately to
be there (but that is always the result of my
"why-didn't-I-go-to-the-Annual-Meetings-this-year"-itis, although it was
heightened this year), but I am also very glad I wasn't there, as my
blood pressure might have spiked so high that my head might have popped
right off my body, which we can all agree would have been rather
distracting during the meeting.  The live tweets were the next best
thing, and so I re-tweeted them. From the tweets that I saw I remain
unimpressed by the arguments from the AIA-STL Society President...and
that is all I will say about that (as he seems very keen on litagation).

1.10.2015

The Sappho Papyri Provenance

Via Tim Whitmarsh on Twitter: a photo of Obbink's handout. Although the way the story told changed, which made everyone suspicious, and soaking papyri oneself is not something I'd recommend ... It seems kosher enough.

1.04.2015

Istanbul: The Orient Express

Audrey Tautou in this Chanel No. 5 Perfume commercial directed By Jean-Pierre Jeunet is filmed at the wrong station in Istanbul (trains from Asia not Europe arrive at this one) ... but it captures the glamour of the city.

1.02.2015

Obscure Roman Emperors: Valerian

He was captured by the Parthians and used by Sharpur as a block from which to mount his horse, according to Lactantius ...




If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

1.01.2015