Wednesday, July 28, 2004

"Heroes of the Ancient Games" exhibit at the Walters

"Heroes of the Ancient Games" exhibit at the Walters"Statues, vases and other ancient art objects in the Ancient Greek Collection at the Walters Museum comprise a new exhibition, "Heroes of the Ancient Games," on display until September 26 in Baltimore, Maryland. Visitors may view stunning marble and bronze statues of athletes, some life-sized, some miniatures, depicting boxers, javelin throwers and wrestlers. Colorful ancient vases, which 2500 years ago would have been filled with precious olive oil, would have been awarded as prizes to athletes. There is even a bronze strigil, an instrument used to scrape oil and sand from athletes’ bodies after competitions.

Monday, July 26, 2004

200,000 Dollars Slated for Burnt City Development

.200,000 Dollars Slated for Burnt City Development: "Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization has earmarked over $200,000 to organize construction projects in the ancient Burnt City (Shahre-Sokhteh) located south of Zabol in the eastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan."

"The 5,000-years-old history of the Burnt City makes it one of the largest and most ancient sites in the Middle East. Various industrial and residential units, as well as cemeteries and monumental relics litter its 151 hectares of land."

"Experts had earlier estimated a thorough identification and documentation of an astounding 4 billion artifacts in the Burnt City would require some 400 years, at least. Archeologists have already managed to document and profile 102 villages of the sprawling city."

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The importance of history education

An outstanding article about the importance of history education by Professor David Nicholls of Manchester Metropolitan University is in the current issue of History Today. An abstract:

"The first, and most important, answer lies in history's place at the forefront of the humane disciplines. Studying history provides an insight into human behaviour in the face of the universal experiences that confront mankind. An understanding of past events thereby assists towards a better and more informed understanding of present events, and current affairs are more comprehensible if something is known of their origins. George Santayana expressed this elegantly in his famous dictum: 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' History enables students to investigate diverse evidence and interpretations and formulate conclusions. It helps shape identities – local, national, global. It gives a sense of place and time. It makes a vital contribution to a liberal, democratic society like our own by providing students with an understanding of the values that underpin such a society: citizenship, rights and duties, a sense of community, an appreciation of diversity and tolerance. Yet, as things currently stand, our children are denied this source of democratic oxygen precisely when it is most needed.


Secondly, history deserves special consideration in any national curriculum because it encompasses a wide range of sub-disciplines and provides a coherent medium and structure for introducing students to them. The practice of history requires the mobilisation of knowledge from many cognate branches of the arts and humanities including literature, cultural studies, geography, philosophy, sociology, politics, economics, religious studies, education, languages and media studies. And, of course, all disciplines – sciences as well as humanities – have their own history, knowledge of which illuminates their study. History is also a useful training ground for IT applications – not just word-processing but spreadsheets, databases and the internet. The pedagogic value of history to any structured curriculum is potentially enormous – offering as it does both an organising framework for, and pathways into, so many related areas. As such, history is truly 'the Queen' of the disciplines. This is not to say, however, that a case based on special pleading is strategically the best way forward. The reduced role of history is symptomatic of the broader need for a review of the national curriculum as a whole and the place of all subjects in it. In the coming debate on the Tomlinson proposals, the difficult task for historians will be to make common cause with colleagues from other disciplines for a more integrated and inclusive post-14 curriculum, while at the same time affirming the particular strengths and opportunities that history, because of its multidisciplinary demands, affords for organising and shaping it.


Finally, a history education furnishes its students with many life-skills. It is important to stress this in order to counteract a common prejudice that holds history to be at best a pleasant pastime, at worst a waste of curricular space that could be better devoted to 'something more useful'. 'More useful' in this context usually means something that will lead to a good job. In our utilitarian society, the value of an education is frequently equated with the opportunities it provides for well-remunerated employment, and history is not generally perceived as providing such opportunities. This is a misconception that needs to be challenged. The history curriculum has been radically re-shaped in recent years. The language of learning outcomes; of subject and generic, personal and transferable, skills, capabilities and competences; of personal development plans and records of achievement was virtually unknown a generation ago. Now, it informs the prose of all government policy documents on education from the Dearing report on schools to the benchmark statement that established the norms for curricular content in universities, while the attainment of such outcomes and skills is used as a measure of the quality and standards of provision."



He also makes a revealing statement about how conservative politics has impacted the history curriculum:



"The Conservative New Right wished to place British political and constitutional history, which had been the staple of history teaching for much of the twentieth century, at its heart. However, the rise of social history in the universities from the 1960s onwards had led to an interest in far less comfortable, much more contentious topics such as class and class conflict, feminism and multiculturalism, and to a greater emphasis on concepts and interpretations. These new developments had percolated to the schools and their influence could be seen in the Schools History Project and in the GCSE when it was introduced in 1986. The working group set up to advise Baker on the curriculum was instructed to restore British political history to its traditional place. However, it proved less than compliant, interpreting its remit very broadly. When it published its recommendations, topics like multi-culturalism were still present together with endorsement for the desirability of teaching different historical interpretations.

The state had let the genie out of the bottle and now hastily tried to summon it back. The prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, demanded that the report of the working group go out to further consultation, which resulted in a still greater focus on British history. The new Education Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, placed restrictions on the teaching of contemporary history on the grounds that it was not the job of history to teach 'current affairs'. His successor, John McGregor, announced in 1990 that history and geography would be optional at Key Stage 4. Geography, requiring fewer extended pieces of coursework, was perceived as less difficult and more pupils therefore chose it. As a result, Baker’s intended core role for history in the 14-16 national curriculum was shelved and, even at the peak of the popularity of GCSE history in the mid-nineties, only a little over one-third of Year 11 pupils was being entered for it.



The Labour government, when it came into office in 1997, continued in similar vein. In a speech made shortly before he became prime minister, Tony Blair had said: 'I think it is vitally important to study history. If we are going to lead Britain safely into the future, it is essential that we understand our country’s historical roots. If we can learn the lessons of the past, we will be able to avoid making mistakes in the future.’ Any expectations raised by this speech were quickly to be dashed. Such sentiment did not prevent his government pressing ahead with the implementation of the Dearing recommendations or with introducing the other damaging changes described earlier. Perhaps Labour’s unsympathetic attitude towards history was influenced by its determination to demonstrate its 'newness'. Integral to the image of New Labour created by its propagandists and spin-merchants was the need to break with the past, to discard old ideological baggage, to eradicate memories of 'Old Labour' and its electoral failures, internecine battles and association with trade union strikes and disruption.

A tension between professional and political control has therefore been at the root of the reduction of history's place in the curriculum. The arguments for its centrality to a humane education are, at one and the same time, the very reasons why the state would like to control what is taught and why historians are resistant to such interference. The government has sought to wrest control by exercising as much influence as possible over what remains of the shrinking history curriculum and by locating the teaching of humane values elsewhere. This has meant, on the one hand, yet more British history, on the other, classes in 'citizenship'. Curriculum 2000 specified 25% of GCSE to be devoted to British history and for a 'substantial element' at 'A' level; all this on top of a curriculum already heavily weighted to British history at Key Stages 1-3, raising issues of balance and progression. Curriculum 2000 also made citizenship a statutory part of a child's education, the content prescribed by the government. This is a more 'managed' way of delivering the message of rights, duties, and national identity than leaving it within the history syllabus where more subtle readings and potential contradictions might arise - for example, between 'Britishness' on the one hand and devolution and multi-culturalism on the other. A curriculum that prioritises 'Britishness' and 'citizenship' is far more conducive to the stability of the state than one that celebrates regional differences and ethnic and cultural diversity. Historians have the knowledge and experience to contribute to the teaching of citizenship, and understandably see it as a replacement for the work they have lost, but in itself it is no adequate substitute for a properly articulated, professionally determined history curriculum."

Although this article describes the influences on the British history curriculum, such influences have obviously taken a toll on the U.S. History curriculum as well. Although "Western Civilization" is still considered a core course for a liberal arts education in higher education, K-12 history exposure is primarily focused on U.S. history with a similar emphasis on the development of good citizenship, or should I say, "compliant" citizenship. In an increasingly globalized society, this promotion of fractious national centrism can only be detrimental to the long term ability of our peoples to understand each other, cooperate and collaborate on critical issues that will face our world in the years ahead.



Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Stargate director plans to resurrect King Tut

I see that Stargate director/producer Roland Emmerich is planning to begin filming "King Tut" next year.

..."the "action-adventure/love story revolves around the young pharaoh Tutankhamen and his attempt to reclaim his throne and save his country after the death of his father."

I loved the Egyptian-themed artwork that was developed for the original Stargate film so I am looking forward to the costume design for the new historical epic. I wonder if Emmerich is going to stick with the somewhat sketchy history of the Amarna period or if he will add in a dash of fantasy?

The image included here is a Stargate-inspired helm created by K. SIEGFRIED. His website includes many interesting Stargate links.

Newly discovered Minoan tombs yield weapons, jewelry and pottery

I noticed that there is a report that 50 more late Minoan tombs have been discovered near the town of Chania. Minoan burial practices varied widely over the course of their social development. Early cave burials gradually evolved to interment in "house" tombs. House tombs are grouped into two types, "Complexes consisting of a series of long and narrow parallel chambers within a single rectangular building or complexes consisting of a group of square and oblong "rooms" within a single building." Monumental tombs did not develop until the Middle Minoan period.

Of the tombs recently discovered, the oldest were of the Mycenaean type. "...certain variations of the Mycenaean tholos form are peculiar to Crete and hence appear to be purely Minoan versions of their Mainland Greek prototype. These variants include vaulted tombs with a square or rectangular rather than circular tomb chamber. Most of these tombs are also keel-vaulted rather than corbel-vaulted."

Monday, July 19, 2004

Amsterdam Hermitage Project Exhibits Greek Gold

"Bracelets, earrings, necklaces and spectacular golden wreaths dating back to the period between the 6th and the 2nd century BC, all related to the rich culture of funeral rituals in the various Greek colonies, that Russian archaeologists found during excavations in the 19th and 20th centuries in the present-day Crimea are part of an exhibit of Greek artifacts on display until August 24.

the jewelry is grouped by site based on its chronology, thus providing the spectators with a ready insight into the variety of Greek craftsmanship found in the various burial mounds.

Chains consisting of gold lotuses, rosettes and depictions of the river god Achelo?s were found in the burial mounds at Nymphaion and Pantikapeion.

Chains, for which the Greeks had seven different names, were worn tightly round the neck. Besides these chains, there are rings from Pantikapeion with images of Penelope and of a Persian, as well as two impressive gold bracelets with lion's heads."

Hi-tech Scots stand guard over herald of the gods

Hi-tech Scots stand guard over herald of the gods: "A team of Scottish experts led by Alistair Carty, technical director of Archaeoptics, a Glasgow-based 3D laser-scanning bureau, have used the latest computer technology to protect a priceless 2300-year-old Greek statue. Hermes of Praxiteles, the sole surviving work of one of classical Greece's finest sculptors, was threatened by earthquakes as it stood in the country's most important archaeological museum in Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic games.

However, pioneering work by computer experts from Glasgow, which involved scanning the statue, creating 3D models and pinpointing break lines, will now safeguard it from potentially catastrophic seismic activity."

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Sandrom Hill Yields More Burials in Third Excavation Season

Excavation Reveals Amorous Burial in Ancient Iran

The third season of the excavation at Sadrom Hill, one of Iran's most ancient cemeteries, has finally come to an end. The graveyard, located in the desert province of Qom, dates back to 3,500 years ago and is deemed as one of the most significant pre-historic cemeteries of Persia. Archeologists have already discovered so many graves and valuable antiquities there, mostly hailing from the Achaemenid period (559-330 B.C.).

This season, excavation leader Khosro Pourbakhshandeh noted, “We managed to discover the very first grave in which a man and woman were buried together, indicating their wish to have an amorous burial. In another grave, we found the remains of a suckling babe.”

The hill, mainly made of salt stones, is measured 192 meter in length and 115 in width and its height is just 6 meters. One of the tombs found there is strikingly similar to that of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire in Pasargadae.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Modern-Day Sisters of Queen Dido to Cross the Sea from Lebanon to Carthage

allAfrica.com: Tunisia: Modern-Day Sisters of Queen Dido to Cross the Sea from Lebanon to Carthage: "Women sailors from all-around the Mediterranean will embark upon a journey similar to that undertaken by Queen Dido-Elissa before founding the ancient city of Carthage in today's Tunisia.

Top professional as well as amateur women sailors, including four from Tunisia, will undertake the voyage from Tyre, Lebanon, by the end of August. The women sailors will spend 12 days, before reaching Carthage and Hammamet, on the northern shore of Tunisia.
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They will spend much less time in their journey than Queen Dido who founded the city of Carthage, in 814 BC, after a 7 year-journey across the sea."

Monday, July 12, 2004

Medicis Suffered From Rare Arthritis

Medicis' secret crypt exposed: "A long-rumoured secret crypt of Italy's mighty Medici family was discovered by scientists yesterday after a hunt reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie.

The vaulted chamber was found under a stone floor behind the main altar of the Medici chapels in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence. Under the gaze of sculptures by Michelangelo and his pupils, researchers lifted a stone slab to find seven steps leading down to the entrance. According to Italian media reports, the hidden crypt is between 2.1 metres (7ft) and 2.4 metres high and six metres by at least four metres wide.

It was known that some of the Medici family's remains were moved from their original burial places in 1857. And, according to the early 20th-century British historian GF Young, the coffins of Gian Gastone and his grandfather had been moved to a secret crypt accessible only down hidden stairs. Until yesterday's discovery, his account had been dismissed as baseless rumour.

However, inside the crypt, there were another eight bodies, one of an adult and the remaining seven of children.

Most of the remains were in an advanced state of decomposition. But one of the children had been expertly embalmed and vestiges of clothing remained on the body.

Even before discovery of the crypt, the Medici Exhumation Project had yielded interesting results.

The researchers are already convinced that the family was not, as previously believed, afflicted with gout, but with a severe form of arthritis. Piero de' Medici, who ruled Florence from 1464 to 1469 and was known as Piero the Gouty, was so badly crippled that he was often able to use only his tongue. "

Friday, July 09, 2004

Sasanian Empire Subject of New Website

Sasanika: Home: "One of the most remarkable empires of the first millennium CE was that of the Sasanian Persian Empire. Emanating from southern Iran 's Persis region in the third century AD, the Sasanian domain eventually encompassed not only modern day Iran and Iraq , but also the greater part of Central Asia and the Near East , including at times, the regions corresponding to present-day Israel , Turkey , and Egypt .

This geographically diverse empire brought together a striking array ethnicities and religious practices. Arameans, Arabs, Armenians, Persians, Romans, Goths as well as a host of other peoples all lived and labored under Sasanian rule. "