Friday, August 27, 2004

Greek steriod: Sheep testicles

Greek steriod: Sheep testicles - The Times of India: "The ancient Greeks may not have had pharmaceuticals like steroids or the blood-boaster EPO at their disposal, but many were still determined to win at all costs.

There are several references in the history books to competitors consuming sheep's testicles, whose performance-enhancing qualities were thought to include boosting testosterone and providing a competitor with more strength.

Mixing the posion-cum-stimulant strychnine with wine was another favourite potion, although getting the proportions wrong could be fatal."
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Il-Khanid Architectural Relics Found in Takht-e Suleiman

Iran: Il-Khanid Architectural Relics Found in Takht-e Suleiman: "The latest excavation in the northern gate of Takht-e Suleiman, an ancient Zoroastrian fire temple northwest of Iran, has revealed architectural relics dating back to the late Il-Khanid era (1256-1336).

Archaeological studies have shown that human settlements existed in the immediate region since at least the 1st millennium BC, with the earliest building remains upon the lake-mound from the Achaemenid culture (559-330 BC). During this period the fire temple of Adur Gushasp (Azargoshnasb) was first constructed and it became one of the greatest religious sanctuaries of Zoroastrianism, functioning through three dynasties (Achaemenid, Parthian, Sassanid) for nearly a thousand years."
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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Splendid China closing a tragedy

Chinese temple scene5
Chinese temple scene5, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Splendid China was a family theme park featuring more than 60 incredibly detailed replicas of China's most historic landmarks, including a half-mile long Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the modern archeological site of the Terra Cotta Warriors and dozens of other sites and scenes. Sadly, I read on its web site that it closed on December 31, 2003 because of the post 9/11 downturn in tourism.

I found the park fascinating despite the fact that it was 105 degrees the day I visited. I especially enjoyed walking through the 1/3 scale model of the excavation of the terracotta warriors.

For more photos see: Splendid China
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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Archaeologists find skeletons of medieval monastery in Oslo Park

Archaeologists find skeletal treasure - (United Press International): "The unearthing of 44 skeletons at a public works project in an Oslo park has helped locate a 13th century monastery site in Norway.

Archeologists say the skeletons belonged to a Dominican monastery located in the area from 1240 until the Reformation in 1537.

The discovery of skeletons from women and young children mingled with the monk's remains came as a surprise. But it is not believed the celibate monks could somehow have had families."
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Archaeologists find Sarmat artifacts in Orenburg region

Interfax > Politics: "Archaeologists have found household appliances and weapons of the Sarmat epoch (4th century BC) in the area of the Filippovsky burial mounds in the Orenburg region, a source in the Orenburg regional administration's culture department told Interfax.

The archaeologists found bronze items, including a boiler with animal-style handles, a brazier, mirrors and cosmetic vessels, Central Asian ceramic dishes, quivers, daggers and cuirass fragments. The origin of some finds is still unknown, the source said.

The expedition led by Doctor of History Leonid Yablonsky from the Russian Academy of Sciences' Archaeology Institute, also found medieval tombs in one of the mounds, the source said."
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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

British Museum unveils major Sudan exhibit

I see archaeologists are once again in a race against time as they try to excavate a site in the Sudan that will be covered by water upon completion of Merowe Dam hydroelectric project:

British Museum unveils major Sudan exhibit: "Over the next few months the British Museum also will hold a series of talks about Sudan and will highlight Sudanese items from its permanent collection, including hand-woven baskets from the nomadic people of Darfur and quilted armor for cavalry and their horses. These presentations will accompany a new exhibition featuring hundreds of items loaned from the Sudan National Museum in Khartoum, ranging from a 200,000-year-old stone ax to delicate painted pottery and 18th-century swords.

Sudan's archaeological heritage has long been overshadowed by that of its neighbor, Egypt, which it once conquered. It also humiliated the Roman empire; among the artifacts in the museum's collection is a bronze head of a Roman emperor, stolen and buried by Sudanese tribesmen after a raid."

See also: Ancient Sudan: The Kingdom of Kush
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Diggers find town on former sea bottom

Diggers find town on former sea bottom "Kazakh archaeologists have found a medieval town on the dried bottom of the Aral Sea, local media reported Tuesday.

The town, in the northeastern part of Aral, is covered with sand and bottom sediment. It could be Robat-Togan, a prosperous town that existed about 1,000 years ago, the Kazakh Nomad Web site said. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a levee surrounding the town that fits a description of Robat-Togan.

The diggers also found the ruins of buildings, pottery, iron lamps and coins. Remains of people and domestic animals also were chaotically scattered around the town, as though a catastrophe caught people unawares."
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Ancient Falconry - Ancient Falconry"Falconry has long been regarded as a noble sport, and it has a very ancient pedigree. According to traditional views, people first began to use tame birds of prey for hunting game in central Asia during the first or second millennium BC. Through trade and other contacts, the practice then extended westwards into the Middle East, and eventually to Europe.

But that theory raises a major puzzle. The first artistic views of falconry come not from the Far East, but from Turkey. Several carvings from around 1500 BC show a large bird on the fist of a human figure. Grasped in the same fist is the figure of a hare (presumably the quarry) held by the back legs.

Another, somewhat later, example has been found in northern Iraq. Dated to the period of King Sargon II (722-705 BC), this bas-relief depicts a small bird of prey on the wrist of a man. Significantly, this carving seems to show ‘jesses’ (leather thongs used to secure the bird to the human fist), tied to the bird’s feet and passing between the thumb and forefinger of the falconer. If so, it may indicate that falconry (and its paraphernalia) was well developed by the eighth century BC in the Middle East.

In both cases, some researchers have interpreted these carvings as purely religious or symbolic scenes. But if these examples do indeed depict hawking, then the sport is at least 3,500 years old in Western Eurasia."

I see there are also workshops to learn falconry:
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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Madison, Wisconsin hosts Trojan War Symposium

The Trojan War Symposium: "Three Thousand Years of the Trojan War in Myth and Art" will be the keynote address at The Trojan War: The Sources Behind the Scenes symposium to be held September 17 and 18 at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Keynote speaker, Jon Solomon, is the author of The Ancient World in the Cinema published in 2001. Other topics will include Achilles in Action: Battle in Homer and History, The Trojan War in Greek Art, Helen in Greek Literature: Conflicting Emotions and Conflicting Accounts, and Why Did Odysseus Fight the Trojan War?
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Documentation of Behistun Inscription Nearly Complete

Documentation of Behistun Inscription Nearly Complete "Iranian surveyors are giving the finishing touches to the documentation process of Behistun inscription, which is damaged badly over the last decades west of Iran. The Behistun inscription (also Behistun, Bisutun, and Bisistun) is to cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone is to Egyptian hieroglyphs: the document most crucial in the decipherment of a previously lost script.

The inscription is approximately 15 meters high by 25 meters wide, and 100 meters up a cliff from an ancient road connecting the capitals of Babylonia and Media (Babylon and Ecbatana). It is extremely inaccessible as the mountainside was removed to make the inscription more visible after its completion. The text itself is a statement by Darius I of Persia, written three times in three different scripts and languages: two languages side by side, Old Persian and Elamite, and Akkadian above them.

“The documentation process was started in 1999 by a group of Iranian experts, who applied the photogrameteric method. In other words, they took 2 dimensional photos using two cameras and then transmuted them into 3-D pictures,” said Malieh Mehdiabadi, project manager."

See also: The Behistun Inscription
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Friday, August 13, 2004

Iranian Archeologists to Explore Buried City of Parse

Iranian Archeologists to Explore Buried City of Parse"In a bid to scrutinize the 2,500-year-old city of Parse, the Achaemenids’ capital, Iranian archeologists are going to conduct geophysical surveys on a 400-hectare patch of the historical site, Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency reported on Wednesday.

Dating from the Achaemenid era (559-330 BC), Parse consists of a thorough set of structures and relics, including Persepolis, palaces, fences and utility services. It is believed the city was built on the orders of Darius I in 518 BC. Parse in general and Persepolis in particular have been extensively excavated over the last century, though there are many unexplored areas in the site.

“Geophysical surveys will begin in a month in order to draw up a complete map of the city,” said Mohammad Hassan Talebian, head of Pasargadae and Parse project."
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New finds debut at refurbished Kerameikos Museum | New finds debut at Kerameikos: "The Kerameikos Museum, closed for refurbishment over the past year and a half, reopened on Monday, with a major new find forming the centerpiece of its new display.

The Kerameikos Kouros, unearthed in May 2002, is a striking, 2.10-meter statue of the Archaic era whose beauty, unaltered over 2,500 years, stunned the German archaeologists who found it.

Apart from the Kouros, the renovated museum houses more new finds, including a Sphinx found with it that dates to 560 BC, two funerary marble lion sculptures (the better preserved of the two dates to the sixth century BC) and fragments from a marble Ionic-style pillar and a Doric-style pillar."
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Bones in Seville Not Those of Christopher Columbus

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Young bones lay Columbus myth to rest: "A centuries-old historical row over the whereabouts of the body of Christopher Columbus appeared to have been solved yesterday when scientists in Spain conceded that the corpse buried at Seville's gothic Santa Maria cathedral was not that of the famous explorer."
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Ancient Jacket Found to be Book Bag

Book bag reveals the education of ancient Scotland - The Herald: "ARCHAEOLOGISTS have made a remarkable 1400-year-old discovery which indicates early medieval Scots were better educated than their southern counterparts.

Re-examination of an ex-tremely rare leather artefact, originally thought to be a jacket and which was displayed in Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow for 40 years, has revealed that it was actually a book satchel."
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US Army helps to restore ancient Ninevah

US Army helps to restore ancient Nineva"Two major historic sites in Mosul dating back to the 8th century B.C. are being restored with help from the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion.

Maj. Wayne Bowen, head of the 416th’s Higher Education and Antiquities Team, is working with Ninevah Director of Antiquities, Muzahim Mahmood, to facilitate restoration projects at the Nergal Gate and King Sennacheribe’s palace.

“The Nergal Gate is just one of 15 gates that surrounded the ancient Assyrian capitol of Ninevah, but we decided to focus on this one first because it was in the best condition,” Bowen explained.

The second project involves restoring the site of King Sennacheribe’s palace, which is strategically located high on a hill overlooking the Tigris River and was the seat of government in Ninevah during his reign in the early 8th century B.C."
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Tombs of Achaemenids unearthed in south Lebanon

Tombs of Achaemenids unearthed in south Lebanon, more finds likely: "Archaeologists have unearthed 10 giant stone tombs belonging to the era of Achaemenid rule over Lebanon near the southern city of Saida.

As'ad Seif, an archaeologist, told IRNA that the tombs dated back to 500 BC. He added that the tombs had been located inside a cave, and that each five of them had been covered by two round stone plates.

Archaeologists have discovered a stone column and a capital in the shape of a cow, similar to those in Iran's ancient Persepolis stone complex, in excavations that have been so far carried out in central Beirut, Saida and Jubail in northern Lebanon. The column and the capital are believed to belong to the era of the Achaemenids."
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3500-year-old Bronze Age temple discovered in Jordan

The Daily Star - Arts & Culture - 3500-year-old Bronze Age temple discovered in Jordan: "A 3,500 year old temple from the Late Bronze Age has been discovered at Tall al-Umayri just south of Amman.

The walls and cultic shrine of a temple dating from about 1,500 BC were uncovered at the end of July at the Bronze and Iron Age archaeological site by excavators working for the Madaba Plains Project and the Jordan Department of Antiquities.

Towering 3 meters above the heads of the excavators, the walls of the temple created four rooms. In the largest room, about 5 by 8 meters in size, was a whitewashed niche with a smooth, dome-shaped standing stone in the center flanked by four smaller stones, two on each side.

According to the excavators, the smooth stones of the niche are unlike any other stones at the site and probably represented deities in the ancient world. The large central stone likely indicates the main deity of the temple, while the four other stones suggest associated, but minor deities, perhaps the children of the main god.

The major deity of the region at that time was a god named Il (or El). It is the same word as the Arabic word for God, Allah. To an ancient, Il was the father of the gods, but, stress the excavators, "we do not know for certain who the standing stones represent or the beliefs associated with them."

Within the niche and above the stones to the right the excavators found several ceramic vessels, probably containing votive gifts for the gods."
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Bulgarian Archaeologists find 3000-year-old Thracian script

: "Archaeologists exploring remains of a Bronze Age fortress in southern Bulgaria said Tuesday they found traces of primitive scripture supposed to have been used by Thracian tribes that once lived in that area."
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Alexander the Great a Victim of West Nile Virus?

Discovery Channel :: News :: Alexander the Great's Death Debated: "two U.S. scientists, John Marr, epidemiologist at the Virginia department of health, and Charles Calisher of Colorado State University, argued that Alexander's death as recounted by Greek biographer Plutarch several centuries later showed that he had encephalitis from West Nile virus.

Marr and Calister lean on Plutharch's account of the deaths of a flock of ravens as Alexander entered Babylon.

"The inexplicable behavior of ravens is reminiscent of avian illness and death weeks before the first human cases of West Nile virus infection were identified in the United States. We posit that Alexander may have died of West Nile virus encephalitis," said Marr and Calisher.

David Oldach of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, said Plutarch never meant to write a history and that Marr and Calisher were "perhaps unaware of the magnitude of Plutarch's obsession with avian auguries."
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Thursday, August 12, 2004

Many common sayings predate Shakespeare

As it turns out
, Shakespeare (who inhabited the Earth sometime after the ancient Greeks) is not the only source of some everyday expressions. A few that originated with the Greeks:

• Biting the dust: From Homer's The Iliad. Zeus is beseeched not to “let the sun go down” until the Trojans “(f)all headlong in the dust and bite the earth.” The English phrase “to bite the dust” is said to have originated in an 1870 translation.

I'm also listening to Arrian's "Anabasis of Alexander the Great" right now and I didn't realize that an ancient Persian saying was "Eat, drink, and "play" for nothing else in life is worth that."
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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Mosaic Arts Draws From Ancient Tradition

Mosaic artist takes life one piece at a timeDust from centuries-old stones seems to have settled for good inside the crevices of Pippa Murray's hands.

As a mosaic artist, she has chiseled, cut, polished and set countless tiles and stones, from Greece to San Francisco and back again. Most recently, the 29-year-old finished an 800-square-foot mosaic floor for the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito. "The Gathering Place," as it is aptly called, serves as an outdoor meeting and performance venue for the museum's new "Lookout Cove," a 2.5-acre exhibition and children's playground inspired by the nearby San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean. An ode to Bay Area ecology and history, the permanent installation depicts a sun, an octopus and other sea life. Two years in the making, the piece was put together from stones from across the globe: Carrara marble from Italy, blue stone (flagstone) from New Hampshire as well as local finds.

Murray was born in Bloomington, Ind., and grew up in South Salem, N.Y. The daughter of an Irish mother and a father who is an English architectural and art historian, and professor at Columbia University, she studied visual arts and art history at Columbia, with an emphasis on sculpture and print making. Murray went on to earn a master's in classical archaeology from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where she studied Greco-Roman mosaic technique and design.
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Iranian Scholar says Sassanid Kings Deliberately Ignored Achaemenids’ Glory

"The Sassanid used to reign over Persia some 500 years after the demise of the Achaemenids, but they have not clearly mentioned about the latter in their inscriptions, while others such as ancient Greeks and Romans have detailed the victories and defeats of this colossal empire.

Now Dr. Iraj Darayee, a professor of history at UCLA, contends the Sassanids deliberately left Iran’s first rulers in oblivion to avoid being overshadowed by them. He rules out the theory postulated by other scholars who maintain the Sassanids lack a historical memory, noting, “They did have historical memory, but instead adopted a policy of silence and ignorance."

See also: Shapur I
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Descendants of King Darius's steed found in Iran

"Celebrated in the ancient world as a chariot horse for racing and in battle, and presented to kings and emperors as a valuable gift, the caspian horse was thought to have disappeared in antiquity.

Drawings of the distinctive horse can be seen on 3,000-year-old terracotta plaques in the British Museum and on the seal of King Darius the Great from Persepolis in ancient Persia. They were probably used to pull chariots in the battle against Alexander the Great.

In 1965, a small but beautiful horse was discovered in a remote village in Iran on the shores of the Caspian Sea, being used to pull carts. Louise Firouz, an American who was married to one of the Shah of Iran's sons, bought it for her children to ride."

See also: The Caspian Horse Society

My search for a picture of a Caspian horse also led me to Mark Drury’s fascinating website on Achaemenid Persia
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