Saturday, October 25, 2014

Real Archaeologist Reviews BBC4's Detectorists

Friday, October 24, 2014

Amphipolis at the British Museum and Looting

Very quick post as I still have the 'flu.

Stolen Amphipolis antiquities in Britain and Germany |

Amphipolis: British Museum responds to looting accusations |

I've mentioned before that there was material from Amphipolis in the Louvre, and there is also material from Amphipolis at the the British Museum. And in German museums, and in Greek museums - it was a pretty amazing city with many fabulous tombs, although none quite as fabulous as is currently being excavated.

The Getty returned a wreath which was probably looted in modern times from Amphipolis:

Six months ago no-one was interested in Amphipolis, now everyone is. I understand that the Greek people are hugely enthusiastic about this tomb, and would like to see all material returned that was taken from the city.

Conquerors have been looting forever. The Romans despoiled Greece, and there are still sculptures to this day in Rome that we can prove ancient Romans took from ancient Greek sanctuaries.

In legal terms people tend to draw a line between sites looted before the 1970 UNESCO Convention, and those looted after, for example the Getty Wreath. This may not be fair, and exceptions are made for Nazi war loot by many countries (although not Greek museums), but this is the general rule.

According to Dr Donna Yates, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis of the Greek Ministry of Culture is the man who seems to have said that the Lion Tomb was looted in modern times, so I suggest he would be the person to ask about that.

My feeling is that the is no sign of modern looting that I am aware of. The breaks in the doors are strange, but there could be a good explanation for them and there is no concrete evidence of ancient looting as everything can be explained by attempts to resolve structural issues.

Dr Katerina Peristeri and the Ministry of Culture have been very generous with access and photographs, but in the past 29 months - and because there was a generous suggestion that I write a book about the tomb, I have done quite a lot of research - there has been nothing that to me in any way suggests that there has been recent looting, nor are there pieces on the art market or in museums that seem to come from this tomb.

On the contrary, I would say that although there might have been looting in the Amphipolis area in both the recent and distant past, currently the citizens of Amphipolis are aware that the superstructure of the tomb was dispersed over a considerable area and are going out of their way to alert Dr Peristeri and her team of all the blocks they find in or near the 200 m exclusion zone.

If journalists are looking for a story, may I suggest that the pride of the people of Amphipolis and this active support for the excavation would be a better story than recycling old news.

Today In 51: Domitian Born

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Swedish Schools Closing

If you follow Ida Ostenberg (@IdaOstenberg) on Twitter you might have heard the news that the new coalition in Sweden wants to close down the Schools in Athens, Rome, Istanbul etc. This would be very sad as Sweden has both a long archaeological and a long Classical Tradition.

This tweet is to a petition - unlike ISIS or the Taliban, the Swedish government is more likely to listen if many sign this, so please take a moment to do so. Without the Schools Swedish postgrad education and opportunities will be dimmed, and our own interaction with them will also fade. The international culture of the schools is one of the great benefits of spending time in Athens, and discussing work with colleagues and sharing projects (even if the Ephoria then kicks you off it when they realise it's far more important than they thought).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Carphone Warehouse ... Fraud

Like most people I've had so many issues with Carphone Warehouse and their debt collection agencies making threats in the past.

There was the time they switched my broadband from BT to TalkTalk without my permission.

There was the contract I ended, but they insisted they had sent me a new phone which never arrived, and which they claimed meant I had agreed to a new 18 month contract. I filed the court papers after month of harassment, and not only did I win - although I'm still waiting for the refund ... - but they admitted that they didn't check the PO box to which letters ending contracts were sent.

We're currently in another one of their harassment cases, because I returned a phone that didn't work the same day I had been pushed into buying it, and they claim that the cooling off period allowed under UK law and various other laws do not apply to them. Again, I'm pretty sure if it comes to court I'll win that one too.

But ... this is where it gets interesting.

At 9.01 am today I received a phone call from the MacKenzie Hall Group of telephone number 01563503797 from a man who would not identify himself, and insisted on speaking to Mr xxx xxx.

The interesting detail is that they were calling a spare cell phone I keep for either visitors from abroad or when a second phone is useful.

When I bought the pay as you go phone at the Carphone Warehouse concession in Selfridge's, I told the saleswoman I didn't really want to give my details because they spammed, so she told me to make up a name and I did. So the Mr xxx xxx that they asked for does not exist.

So the MacKenzie Hall Group is a debt collection agency trying to harass a completely fictional person about an equally fictional debt.

Only the Carphone Warehouse could have sold them that name and number.


Oh, and I probably should have mentioned that Mr xxx xxx was my cat. And he's been dead a while.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Amphipolis: The Door

The third photo shows the tracks I mentioned before, and there are cuttings to show it could be set open in various places - this is normally seen in temples.

One thing no-one has asked is why is the door at Amphipolis so much more damaged than the rest of the structure and sculpture ... was it locked? and if so, this would be the first evidence of a possible attempt to rob the tomb in Antiquity. Or maybe the slabs were less secure than the rest of the building, so they fell and shattered.

Sphinx Head Found at Amphipolis

Alert! Βρέθηκε το κεφάλι της Σφίγγας στην Αμφίπολη

I'm going to guess that like the wing, it was found in an ancient context. So the break was not the result of modern looting as Christos Tsirogiannis of the MC has been telling people.

And the journalist who was taking photos for the dig is no longer posting them on her open Facebook page:

Best Archaeological Finds of the Week


The full mosaic. This has to be the top find. Press release here.

I won't be blogging any more about Amphipolis, or blogging much for a few weeks, as I'm busy writing a book. I will from now on happily discuss the finds being made at Amphipolis with any reputable journalist that gets in touch.

Since the posts I have written are all over the internet anyway, I've put them back up. I have already reported the man from the excavation and the man from the Ministry of Culture who have been leaking about the site. I can see that information is being leaked, and I can guess who might be leaking it, but I have nothing more to do with the excavation so I cannot be held responsible for problems the MC has. So that there are no misunderstandings, I have blocked anyone I know on the dig or whom I think is leaking on email, Facebook, etc.


Whilst there were many statues carved in wood in Antiquity, it is quite rare to find them, so this statuette found during excavations for the Athens metro extension is particularly exciting.

Press release here.


The second half of an inscription known since the 19th century will be presented Thursday. This is one of the rare official inscriptions from Hadrian's Jerusalem found, and I've blogged about the oter half before.

Preliminary press release here.


The press coverage - here - is a little garbled, and I suspect something was lost in translation. The stele was found in the Mausoleum precinct, which is where the vase Xerxes gave Artemisia I was also found. The inscription is a poem for a ruler, an eulogy naturally, written in “catalectic trochaic tetrameter” - this last details is interesting, as the Margites, a largely lost mock epic was also written in this meter. And the Margites was written by a poet named Pigres, who happened to be the brother of Artemisia I of Halicarnassus. The article gives a date for the stele of "was erected at the end of fourth century B.C. or at the beginning of the third century B.C.", and obviously it could well have been erected in honour of one of the many Diadochs in charge of the city, but if this detail is misreporting by the press, which also says the poem is Classical ... we probably have an important early stele linked to the Hecatomnid dynasty, or at least to the earlier dynasty they were trying to associate themselves with, and possibly a lost poem of Pigres?

UPDATE - this article is clearer and makes it clear that it is an ode to Hecatomnus himself!

And this photo (source) makes it clear that the block was used as a step - the 'shadow' of lines where the block above where can still be seen.


The quick answer to the question is I am ignoring leaks and to be honest have not had the time to look at most press and blog coverage. I am going to stick to discussing what is in the press releases and photos the Ministry of Culture release and explaining them. I think it is fair to discuss ideas based on them, but until they release all the information any ideas are just that ... Ideas.

The tomb may or may not contain a body, and we'll have to wait and see.

Phillip II seems to have been buried at Vergina and Alexander the Great was buried in Egypt so was not there.

Amphipolis is a model excavation, and the archaeologists know what they are doing and are some of the best in the world. Discussing their finds and explaining the press releases is in no way meant to be taken as a criticism of them. Once again, I have not been talking to the press, as I think they are the ones who should be doing so - not people claiming they are wrong.


Amphipolis: Alexander's Horses

I will blog about the mosaics that the Ministry of Culture just issued a press release about later today.

Before Olga Palagia announces that mosaics are Roman, let me make it clear that there is very good evidence of fine mosaics from a town destroyed by Philip II in 348 BC.

I am aware of how much hope and excitement the excavation at Amphipolis has generated during this difficult time in Greece. I am also aware that people are frustrated that they are not being told everything that has been found, and some of this is due to the slow nature of archaeology - for example tests need to be done on the soil, to confirm the date.

Having said that, I have gone out of my way not to mention conclusive evidence from the excavation. Doing so would have been a betrayal of archaeological protocol and of friendship.

But by refusing to share this information with the people of Greece, the Ministry of Culture has broken their bond of friendship with the people of Greece, whom they serve, and whose taxes fund their work.

I think that it is time that the Greek Ministry of Culture told the Greek people about Alexander's Horses and other finds from the excavation. Please do so.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Marcel Camille of Waitrose

Cycles on pavements, doesn't care about small children or dogs. BTW doesn't understand the Highway Code - cyclists with driving licences get points on their licences.


Another Monday Moaning

Because we can all do with a smile on a Monday morning ...

And remember the first five days of the week are the hardest - after that it gets easier.

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Book

Ian Drury at Sheil Land is my worldwide agent, and has the first quarter. Please contact him with bids, not me.

Obscure Roman Emperors: Diadumenian

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ellie ...

... Quickly walking her post dentist. No pain or puffiness from wisdom tooth because Ann at Wallace Bryer is by far the best dentist in London, maybe Europe (seriously cannot recommend her enough). But I might be high as a kite as I rarely drink so the anaesthetic is still ... No more posts today, although news stories auto-post on my Twitter feed.