Saturday, March 29, 2008

Repatriation of Artifacts Finds Vocal Opponent

I was surprised to read that a person as prominent as James Cuno, the director of the Art Institute of Chicago and possible successor to the retiring director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is willing to vocalize his opposition to artifact repatriation so openly.

"Along with Italy, the governments of Greece, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, Turkey, China, and Cambodia, among others, have pushed to reclaim prized artifacts from collections around the world. They have tightened their laws governing the export of antiquities or intensified the enforcement of existing laws and international agreements; they have made impassioned public cases on the world stage.

These governments argue that to allow such objects to remain abroad as trophies only encourages the continued pillage of their national patrimony. Their position has won broad moral support and increasingly become the norm among academic archaeologists, who see ancient objects as historic artifacts inseparable from their place of discovery.

It has forced major concessions from great museums around the world, including the MFA, the J. Paul Getty Museum, in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City. The British Museum is under persistent pressure to return the Elgin Marbles, its famous set of sculptures from the Parthenon.

But as one museum after another negotiates deals, and prosecutors all over the world target the commercial trade in ancient objects, some prominent scholars are drawing a line in the sand, saying that objects belong where they are — that the movement is based on a false reading of history, and, if allowed to progress, could do serious damage to the world’s cultural inheritance.

“What’s at stake,” says James Cuno, the director of the Art Institute of Chicago, “is the world’s right to broad and general access to its ancient heritage.”

Cuno, the former head of Harvard’s art museums and someone often mentioned as a possible successor to Philippe de Montebello, the retiring director of the Metropolitan Museum, is this spring publishing a book-length argument against returning cultural artifacts, “Who Owns Antiquity?”

Cuno, who is among the most vocal and prominent voices in the debate, argues that laws meant to keep antiquities in the countries where they’re found are wrongheaded and counterproductive. They limit the number of people who can see the objects, he says, while putting artworks at risk and driving collectors and dealers into the black market. They also present an existential threat to great “encyclopedic” museums like the MFA or Metropolitan Museum, places that provide a unique opportunity to see the full breadth and diversity of the world’s cultural history in one place.

Such arguments have triggered fierce responses, not only from source country governments, but from archaeologists, who see in the recent repatriations and prosecutions the best chance for protecting the fragile sites from which antiquities are too often looted.

Ricardo Elia, chair of the archaeology department at Boston University and an expert on the problem of looting, describes Cuno as an “aesthetic fundamentalist” willing to ignore ethical and archaeological values to get his hands on pretty objects. Cuno’s argument, many of his critics charge, is simply an endorsement of plunder.

Many curators and collectors are more cautious in their public remarks than Cuno. But the clash between Cuno and his critics is a battle between two very different philosophies, one that sees antiquities primarily as art, the other casting their value in terms of the historical information they provide. How the argument plays out will determine the way human history is dug up, studied and displayed. And it will determine, too, what it means to own a piece of the ancient past."

Bata Shoe Museum Offers Glimpse of Footwear from Antiquity


I have never heard of this Canadian museum or these unique ancient vessels!

"The Bata Shoe Museum has several examples of a very rare and unusual artifact from the ancient Near East, ceramic containers made in the shape of boots with upturned toes.

These ceramic boot vessels appear geographically from northwestern Iran to central Turkey between the years 1800 – 800 BCE.

They can also be compared to contemporary booted pouring vessels from the same regions, and later boot-shaped amphora of the Greeks and Etruscans.

Footwear had many symbolic meanings in the ancient world as is indicated in literary, legal and religious texts. In Mesopotamia, shoes were evoked in both curses and blessings, and the Bible describes the use of footwear as a legal symbol of ownership.

Some of the few clearly archaeologically excavated examples of ceramic boot vessels come from what appear to be funerary contexts, suggesting a deeper ritualistic purpose for them. "

Monday, March 24, 2008

Iraqi archaeologists unearth new Babylonian town

"A new Babylonian town has been discovered by Iraqi archaeologists 180km south of capital city Baghdad.

Mohammed Yahya, head archaeologist from the provincial Antiquities Department in the Province of Diwaniya, revealed that the town, which is more than 20,000 square meters in area, is dotted with administrative quarters, temples and other buildings of magnificent and splendid design.

We have dug up a sectional sounding covering more than 20 square meters and have come across fascinating finds, Iraqi paper Azzaman quoted him, as saying.

While the current name of the town is known, Yahya admitted that its ancient name is still a mystery.

One of the most striking finds in the town has been that of a 30-kilogram Babylonian Duck Weight, which is 20 kilograms more than the ones that have been discovered so far.

Mr Yahyas team also found several cuneiform tablets but he acknowledged that it would be some time for them to be deciphered as Iraqi experts with the knowledge to decipher Mesopotamian script have fled the country.

The researchers also found cylinder seals, which could easily be compared with counterparts discovered in Babylon, 90 kilometers away and what seems like an intricate and highly developed sewage system.

The shape of the finds however, indicated to the researchers that the town existed during the Late Babylonian Period, about 1000 BC.

The scientists have also unearthed four graves. However, they have been left somewhat baffled by the positioning of the bodies.

Two bodies had been cut in half, with one part buried in the wall of a house and the other half in an urn.

The other two had iron nails in their hands, feet and necks indicating that they might have been executed, Mr Yahya added."

Qin Dynasty Tomb Group Discovered Near Xi'an

The discovery near Xi'an of a Qin Dynasty tomb group, believed to be the largest in China, has delighted archeologists but also attracted the attentions of grave robbers.

Excavations undertaken ahead of a railway improvement project in Shaanxi Province unearthed 604 tombs in Qujia Village, Lintong County.

"I was astounded by the sheer number of tombs," said Sun Weigang, a researcher with the Shaanxi Institute of Archaeological Research. "We know Shaanxi is rich in cultural relics, with over a thousand tombs unearthed every year. But we have never found so many in such a small area".

Most of the tombs are of ordinary people and do not contain particularly valuable objects, but are of enormous interest to archeologists researching the social life of the period. A vast collection of pottery and bronze ware has been unearthed including cauldrons, pots, jars, axes and swords, as well as more than 200 complete human skeletons.

"The remains are mainly of adult men who died from natural causes. They don't appear to have had a close clan relationship with each other," according to Chen Liang, associate professor of Archaeology, Northwest University.

Archaeologists hope the discovery of the tombs will help them locate the site of the ancient Qin Dynasty city of Liyi. It had been thought that Liyi was near a village called Liuzhai, based on sporadic discoveries of Qin relics. "But the tombs are over 5 kilometers away from Liuzhai Village, and the custom of the time was to locate burial grounds close to the city," an archaeologist said.

Easter co-opted pagan festival of Spring


I found this article about the history of the Easter celebration extremely interesting. I was aware that such holidays as Christmas had developed from pagan festivals surrounding the winter solstice but did not realize Easter was not a historical Christian celebration. I was also dismayed that, like many other doctrines of the church, the observance of Easter Sunday was enforced by the persecution of dissenters. An abstract:

"The name Easter is actually derived from the name of an ancient goddess. In Europe she was known as Ostara, the goddess of spring. The Phoenicians called her Astarte, and her name also appears on Assyrian monuments found by 19th-century archaeologist Sir Henry Austen Layard in excavations at Nineveh. The Assyrians and the Babylonians called her Ishtar; in fact, the Assyrian pronunciation of her name sounds just like the English word Easter.

For more than a thousand years before Jesus’ birth, a festival to this goddess was celebrated each spring to mark the budding of new life—the resurrection of nature after the dead of winter. It was a feast of regeneration. Throughout the inhabited world in ancient times, spring festivals and various related sex rituals honored the sun’s welcome rays as they once again imparted life and warmth.

Professing Christians in the second century and later saw Christ’s resurrection to new life as a parallel to these pagan spring rituals. Gradually they incorporated the customs surrounding worship of the spring goddess into Christianity in the festival we know as Easter.

But the acceptance of Easter as a celebration within traditional Christianity did not come easily. Indeed, much controversy surrounded its integration into the Christian calendar.

Historical references show that the early Christian Church did not observe Easter. In his book The Primitive Church, Maurice Goguel noted that “those Christians of Jewish origin continued to celebrate the Jewish feasts, particularly the Passover...”

"...During the second century, the paths of the congregations in the West, centered at Rome, began to diverge from those in Asia Minor.

The two groups generally agreed that Jesus Christ ate the Passover on the 14th day of Nisan. The Christians in Asia Minor, who made up what came to be referred to as the Eastern church, stuck to that date for partaking of the bread and wine that symbolized Christ’s suffering and death. However, as Fernand Mourret pointed out in his five-volume History of the Catholic Church, “the Christians of the West made a different calculation. In their opinion the purpose of the great Christian feast was the commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection.”

So the church in the West established Sunday as a memorial to the resurrection, discontinuing the observance of the Passover on Nisan 14. But in Asia Minor, the Passover continued to be observed on that day..."

"...In time Constantine became the Roman emperor. In 313 he issued a proclamation at Milan that came to be called the Edict of Toleration, or the Edict of Milan. It accepted Christianity as an official religion in the empire, with legal equality to other religions.

Over the next several years, the church further removed itself from its Jewish roots and inculturated itself within Roman society. It became a politicized religion of the state. But the congregations in the East and even in other parts of the vast Roman Empire still differed significantly in doctrine and practice. Constantine therefore convoked the first great ecumenical council at Nicea, in Asia Minor, in 325.

This was a major turning point. The emperor had already decreed that the day of the sun should be kept as a weekly day of rest. Now the Council of Nicea would determine the course of the church in other respects as well.

In his letter to all those throughout the empire who had not attended the Council of Nicea, Constantine wrote concerning the keeping of Easter: “It appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews. . . . Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd. . . . It is most fitting that all should unite . . . in avoiding all participation in the perjured conduct of the Jews.” From such comments it appears that the adoption of Easter Sunday worship was motivated more by hatred toward the Jews than by love for Jesus Christ—Himself a Jew.

Without regard to the decisions rendered by Constantine and the Council of Nicea, many continued to observe the Passover. Eventually, however, Constantine issued an edict against all those whom he regarded as heretics, as recorded by Eusebius in his Life of Constantine. In the edict the emperor declared: “We have directed, accordingly, that you be deprived of all the houses in which you are accustomed to hold your assemblies: and our care in this respect extends so far as to forbid the holding of your superstitious and senseless meetings, not in public merely, but in any private house or place whatsoever.”

Since evening meetings were also banned, observing the Passover on the eve of Nisan 14 became increasingly difficult. As the politically organized church at Rome grew to great size and power, it gradually succeeded in stamping out the biblical teaching regarding the Passover as the memorial of Christ’s death. Easter Sunday thus became universally accepted within that church as the day when Christians should celebrate His resurrection.

We find, then, that in the early centuries of what is often called the Christian era, an unbridgeable gulf opened up between professing Christian churches and the apostolic Church Jesus founded. Nowhere does the New Testament command or even suggest that Christ’s resurrection should be commemorated on Easter Sunday or indeed on any day."

Al-Muzawaka necropolis reopened to the public

Following 16 years of closure to the public, the Al-Muzawaka necropolis in Dakhla Oasis will soon be back on the tourists track, reports Nevine El-Aref

Click to view caption
From top: restoration works in Al-Muzawaka tombs

Restorers and archaeologists have been working on the Roman necropolis to clean, consolidate and restore the tombs, which are embraced within a rocky, table-top mound. The 300 tombs are gouged out of the rock, all unpainted tombs except for two. These, the tombs of Petosiris and Sadosiris, are certainly the most interesting, with walls vividly- painted with scenes combining ancient Egyptian and Roman deities at one time. The tombs were discovered in 1972 by Egyptian archaeologist Ahmed Fakhry, who because of the paintings called them Al-Muzawaka.

The walls of Petosiris's tomb are painted with fair-haired, Roman- nosed figures in Pharaonic poses, curly-haired angels. On the ceiling is a zodiac with a bearded Janus figure. The owner of the tomb is also featured on the back right-hand corner, standing on a turtle and holding aloft a snake and fish -- a curious amalgam of Egyptian and Graeco-Roman symbols.

The wall paintings of Sadorisis's tomb show the deceased in positions with various deities: before Anubis while his heart is weighed; before Osiris while he is judged; and with Janus looking back on the deceased's life and forward into the hereafter.

Harvesting scenes are depicted in both tombs, as well as some agricultural products of the oasis such as grapes and olives.

While the other tombs in the necropolis are unpainted, they were found still with embalmed corpses. The most intriguing of these is one of a young girl with pronounced painted genitals.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Guillotine Victims Focus of New Web Site


This article was not only interesting but points out the importance of information held by the public that can improve or correct historical knowledge.


"It is the internet site that contains dark family secrets, unspeakable truths and appalling injustice. The French log on to it in trepidation and in private.

Les Guillotinés offers the most complete online list yet established of the French Revolution’s victims and invites users to discover the answer to a terrible question: “Do you have an ancestor who was decapitated?” Hundreds of thousands of people have consulted the death base, created by Raymond Combes, a computer programmer and amateur genealogist.

Many more are likely to follow suit. According to one estimate, up to five million French people are descended from victims of La Révolution.

Take, for instance, Denis Sarazin-Charpentier, a 54-year-old civil servant from Boissy-Le-Châtel outside Paris. Like all his compatriots, he was taught as a child that the guillotine fell on evil aristocrats. Then he found out that Claude Louis Deligny, his own ancestor, had lost his head in 1794 when revolutionaries discovered a cache of coins stamped with the King’s head in the family grange.

“He was condemned for plotting against the Revolution, but he was just a poor farmer and there was no plot at all,” said Mr Sarazin-Charpentier. “He only wanted to keep his money safe.”

Mr Sarazin-Charpentier, an amateur historian, said that the site – les. guillotines.free.fr – showed “they didn’t just guillotine the nobility. There were farmers, peasants and commoners who were decapitated as well.” More than two centuries later the subject remains highly sensitive in a country that sees the Revolution as its political bedrock.

“Personally, I don’t mind talking about my ancestor who was guillotined but I know families descended from the aristocracy who still can’t bear to mention it.” He added that France had tried to ignore the Terror in order to preserve the reputation of its revolutionaries “because it was the Revolution that created our Republic and no one really wants to call all of that into question”.

However, Mr Combes’s work may force historians to reappraise the period. According to the official figure 17,500 people were guillotined between 1792 and 1795. But Mr Combes already has more than 18,000 names on his site, which is based on lists compiled for the bicentenary of the Revolution in 1989 and from documents sent in by users."


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fault Near Crete Said To Be Responsible for 365 CE Quake

Tsunamis like the the one that devastated ancient Alexandria in A.D. 365 may hit the Mediterranean relatively often, a new study argues. Scientists say they have pinpointed the geological fault—off the coast of the Greek island of Crete—that likely slipped during a huge quake and caused the ancient tsunami.

Massive earthquakes—greater than magnitude 8—may strike the Mediterranean roughly every 800 years, the research suggests.

But other scientists say that not enough is known about these faults to predict how often such quakes might strike. They argue that the 365 disaster may have been unique.

The authors of the new study measured the remains of corals, algae, and other sea life that run in a band along the coast of Crete.

"The ancient shoreline resembles a bathtub ring high above the sea on the cliff face," said Beth Shaw of the University of Cambridge in England, lead author of the study.

The findings, published in Nature Geoscience, fix a date to when western Crete was suddenly lifted up, strengthening the tie between this event and the tsunami (see a map of Crete).

The team narrowed down the date of the uplift to within a few decades of 365, bolstering the idea that the upward shift happened in one sudden jolt.

"Ten meters [33 feet] of uplift is quite astonishing," Shaw said. "Unexpectedly, our results confirm that all [of the] uplift did happen in the 365 A.D. earthquake."

Pre-Incan Temple unearthed near Cuzco

"Archaeologists in Peru have discovered the ruins of an ancient temple, roadway and irrigation systems at a famed fortress overlooking the Inca capital of Cuzco, officials involved with the dig said Thursday.

The temple on the periphery the Sacsayhuaman fortress includes 11 rooms thought to have held mummies and idols, lead archaeologist Oscar Rodriguez told The Associated Press.

The team of archaeologists that made the discoveries believe the structures predated the Inca empire but were then significantly developed and expanded.

"It's from both the Inca and pre-Inca cultures, it has a sequence," Washington Camacho, director of the Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park, told the AP. "The Incas entered and changed the form of the temple, as it initially had a more rustic architecture."

Archaeologists are still waiting for carbon dating tests, but Camacho said their calculations about the facilities' age are supported by historical references such as ceramics and construction style.
The temple lies some a little under a mile from zigzagging walls of the Sacsayhuaman fortress, alongside an enormous rock formation believed to be one of the fortress' burial mounds. "

Mycenaen-era beehive tomb found on Lefkada


Road works on the western Greek island of Lefkada have uncovered - and partially destroyed - an important tomb with artifacts dating back more than 3,000 years, officials said on Wednesday.

The find is a miniature version of the large, opulent tombs built by the rulers of Greece during the Mycenaean era, which ended around 1100 B.C. Although dozens have been found in the mainland and on Crete, the underground, beehive-shaped monuments are very rare in the western Ionian Sea islands, and previously unknown on Lefkada.

The discovery could fuel debate on a major prehistoric puzzle - where the homeland of Homer's legendary hero Odysseus was located.

"This is a very important find for the area, because until now we had next to no evidence on Mycenaean presence on Lefkada," excavator Maria Stavropoulou-Gatsi told The Associated Press.
She said the tomb contained several human skeletons, as well as smashed pottery, two seal stones, beads made of semiprecious stones, copper implements and clay loom weights. It appeared to have been plundered during antiquity.

With a diameter of 9 feet, the tomb is very small compared to others, such as the Tomb of Atreus in Mycenae, which was more than 46 feet across and built of stones weighing up to 120 tons. But it could revive scholarly debate on the location of Odysseus' Ithaca mentioned in Homer's poems - which are believed to be loosely based on Mycenaean-era events. While the nearby island of Ithaki is generally identified as the hero's kingdom, other theories have proposed Lefkada or neighboring Kefallonia.

Mummy of Temple Dancer Turns Out to be Son of Ramesses II

It looks like the remains of Ramses II's extensive family may be scattered all over the world!

"The 3,000-year-old relic was thought to have been a female temple dancer, but a hospital CT scan showed features so reminiscent of the Egyptian royal family that experts are 90 per cent sure it is one of the 110 children Ramesses is thought to have fathered.
The Bolton Museum mummy: Egyptian mummy exhibit is son of Ramesses II
The Bolton Museum mummy was thought for many years
to have been the remains of a female temple dancer

Tests showed that the mummy had a pronounced over-bite and misaligned eyes, akin to members of the 19th Dynasty, and his facial measurements were found to be almost identical to those of Ramesses himself.

Experts believe that the mummified man died in his thirties between 1295 and 1186 BC of a wasting disease, likely to be cancer.

Chemical analysis also showed that the body had been embalmed using expensive materials, including pistachio resin and thyme, the preserve of priests and royalty. The story of the royal mummy was uncovered by a team from York University who were filmed carrying out the tests for History Channel series Mummy Forensics.

Bone wear indicates Egyptians domesticated donkeys in 3,000 BCE


It never ceases to amaze me how much scientists can determine from examining skeletal remains:

"Donkeys may first have been domesticated in ancient Egypt around 3,000BC, research suggests.

A study of 10 donkey skeletons found near a pharoah’s tomb has found that the animals were in the early phases of domestication.

Professor Fiona Marshall, of Washington University, St Louis, said: “Genetic research has suggested African origins for the donkey. But coming up with an exact time and location for domestication is difficult.” The donkey skeletons resemble those of wild animals but show patterns of joint wear which indicate they were used for transport."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Minoan Exhibit On Display at the Onassis Culture Center


I wish I could get to New York this summer and see this fascinating exhibit of Minoan artifacts at the Onassis Culture Center. The Minoan civilization has intrigued me all my life and I'm always excited to see Minoan art. I hope to visit Crete in the next few years and see the ruins in person. A friend of mine pointed out that much of the sites you visit in Crete are mostly reproductions but I can't help but long to see them anyway. I found this Late Minoan 1B (ca. 1450 BCE) carved chlorite bull's head with gilded horns from Zakros exquisite!

"An important new exhibition, From the Land of the Labyrinth: Minoan Crete, 3000-1100 B.C., has just opened at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York. It brings more than 280 artifacts from Crete--from a miniature gold double-ax to a four-foot-tall storage jar, from wall paintings to carbonized figs--most of which have never been shown abroad before and some being displayed for the first time ever. On loan from the archaeological museums of Herakleion, Khania, Rethymnon, Haghios Nikolaos, Ierapetra, Siteia, and Kissamos in Crete, the artifacts are arranged in 11 thematic sections intended "to reveal aspects of daily life in the Minoan civilization--including social structure, communications, bureaucratic organization, religion and technology--during the third and second millennia B.C." The first solely Minoan exhibition in the United States, From the Land of the Labyrinth is a great overview of the civilization and its achievements.

Some of the small terracotta figurines on display have a seemingly playful character, such as double-headed (push me, pull you) bull and a rather large dung beetle. But the bull is a votive offering from Vrysinas, a mountaintop sanctuary, and many two-headed bulls were found there. (The exhibition catalog notes that by adding a second head, the donor of the votive might have emphasized the importance of the request being made to the divinity.) The beetle, from the open-air sanctuary of Piskokephalo, is another votive and recalls the Egyptian scarab.

Two of the most intriguing finds on display are sistra, Egyptian rattles, found at excavations on Crete. One, made of bronze and found at Mochlos, is dated about 1450. The other is one of six terracotta ones that accompanied burials in a cave at Hagios Charalampos that are substantially earlier, ca. 2100-1700 B.C. The exhibition catalog notes that "the sistra constitute undeniable evidence for a strong relationship between Crete and Egypt and of the influences exerted by Egypt on Minoan civilization." Other reminders of links between the Minoans and Egypt in the exhibition include the beetle votive figurine already mentioned and a scarab of the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III from Kastelli, Khania.

A highlight is the well-preserved boars' tusk helmet from Armenoi, only the second such helmet found in Crete. Shown alongside it are two miniature representations of men wearing boars' tusk helmets. Both of these (one of hippo ivory and one of bone) would have been attached to a furnishing of some sort. All three date within 1375-1250 B.C. In an adjacent case is a large Late Minoan II (1450-1400 B.C.) jar on which boars' tusk helmets are used as the chief decorative motif. So, we have the full range of actual object, use of the object as a decorative plaque, and reduction of it to a motif that perhaps conveyed a sense of prestige.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ancient Ecoscience of the Mediterranean Basin

A good summary article about the ecological damage incurred in the Mediterranean Basin in ancient times:

"...The ancient Greeks took an essentially scientific view of their environment, and some Grecian writers saw that their land was deteriorating under human stewardship. Four centuries before Christ, Plato described Attica (the region around Athens), saying: "What now remains compared with what then existed is like the skeleton of a sick man, all the fat and soft earth having wasted away, and only the bare framework of the land being left." The description is even more apt today.

The Romans, in contrast, took a strictly utilitarian view of their environment: The land was there to be exploited by Homo Sapiens . The trend toward deforestation started in Greece and spread—during the Roman Empire—from the hills of Galilee in Palestine and the Taurus Mountains of Turkey in the east, to the mountains of Spain in the west. Various features of the Roman agricultural economy greatly encouraged this process . . . and their society had no counterbalancing conservation ethic.

Both the Egyptians and Greeks were determined hunters. They forced many larger animals (such as the lions in upper Egypt and in Greece) to extinction. But the Roman Empire had a far greater destructive impact on the fauna of the ancient world than did its predecessors. Not only were animals hunted for skins, feathers, and ivory . . . but multitudes were captured for use in "games".

Huge numbers of beasts were pitted against each other (and against human beings) in lethal combats. Titus, for example, had some 9,000 wild animals slaughtered during the three months' dedication of the Colosseum, and Trajan's conquest of Dacia (modern Romania) was celebrated by games in which 11,000 beasts were killed. When one considers that tens or even hundreds of lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalos, and so on must have died—or been killed—in transport or captivity for every one that lived to entertain the citizens, the probable scale of the Roman impact on wildlife staggers the imagination.

The Romans hit hard at their environment . . . but it struck back! Deforestation, the depletion of soils, and the exhaustion of mines were all factors in the fall of Rome's Empire. The Romans didn't finish the job, however. The last great plundering of Mediterranean forest resources occurred in the late Middle Ages, when the demand for timber for fuel and shipbuilding was very great. As a result, there's very little first-growth sclerophyllous forest left in the Mediterranean basin today . . . the best examples being in the Camargue of southern France and on the peninsula of Mt. Athos in Greece (protected by the famous monastery there)..."