Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Graves of ancient Greek warriors to be open to the public

Closeup of Menelaus from the sculpture
Menelaus supporting  the body of 
Patroclus.  Photographed at the Loggia
dei Lanzi in Florence Italy by Mary Harrsch.  
Ancient Greek graves holding the remains of warriors slain in the Peloponnesian War, one of antiquity's deadliest conflicts, will soon be accessible to visitors in Athens, an archaeologist said on Wednesday.

"We have the remains of Athenian warriors of the Peloponnesian War carried there from battlefield funeral pyres," supervising archaeologist Haris Stoupa told reporters.

"We're not sure of the exact battle as we were not fortunate enough to find engravings," she added.

Discovered in the Athens district of Kerameikos in 1997, the site is part of a one-kilometre-wide cemetery dedicated to Athenian warriors and prominent citizens that still lies mostly buried under modern buildings.

The cemetery was created shortly after the Battle of Marathon against the Persians in 480 BC and remained in use until the Roman Wars against Carthage, Stoupa said.

According to 2nd-century Greek chronicler Pausanias, among heroes buried there is Pericles, leader of Athens during the city-state's golden era that saw the building of the Parthenon.
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5,000-Year-Old Artificial Eye Found on Iran-Afghan Border - Science News | Current Articles "A 5,000-year-old golden artificial eye that once stared out mesmerisingly from the face of a female soothsayer or priestess in ancient Persia has been unearthed by Iranian and Italian archaeologists.

The eyeball — the earliest artificial eye found — would have transfixed those who saw it, convincing them that the woman — thought to have been strikingly tall — had occult powers and could see into the future, archaeologists said.

It was found by Mansour Sajjadi, leader of the Iranian team, which has been excavating an ancient necropolis at Shahr-i-Sokhta in the Sistan desert on the Iranian-Afghan border for nine years.

Italian archaeologists said yesterday that the prophetess had also been buried with an ornate bronze hand mirror, which she presumably used to check her “startling appearance”.

They said the eyeball consisted of a half-sphere with a diameter of just over an inch. It was made of a lightweight material thought to be derived from bitumen paste. Its surface was meticulously engraved with a pattern consisting of a central circle for the iris and gold lines “like rays of light”.

Lorenzo Costantini, leader of the Italian group, said the eyeball still had traces of the gold that had been applied in a thin layer over the surface. On either side of it two tiny holes had been drilled, through which a fine thread, perhaps also gold, had held the eyeball in place.

Costantini said the woman had been as tall as 6 feet, putting her head and shoulders above most other women of the time. Aged between 25 and 30, she had a high sloping forehead, a “determined” jutting chin and dark skin, suggesting that she was from Arabia. Farad Foruzanfar, an Iranian anthropologist, agreed that the woman’s height and her “Afri-canoid cranial structure” suggested that she came from the Arabian Peninsula.

“She must have been a very striking and exotic figure,” Costantini told Corriere della Sera. He said the team had initially thought the eyeball might have been placed in the woman’s eye at burial. But microscopic examination had found an imprint left on her eye socket by prolonged contact with the golden eye. The socket also bore the marks of the thread, further proving that she had worn the eyeball in life.

Sajjadi said the skeleton had been dated to between 2900 and 2800 BC, when Shahr-i-Sokhta was a bustling, wealthy city and trading post at the crossroads of East and West. He said the woman might have arrived with a caravan from Arabia. Shahr-i-Sokhta means “Burnt City”, a local name referring to the fact that it burnt down and was rebuilt three times during Persia’s turbulent history before being finally destroyed in 2000 BC — about the time that Stonehenge was erected. The archaeologists said it was not clear what caused the woman’s death.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

New chronology proposed for Minoan civilization

I think the Minoans and their connection to early Greek civilizations are fascinating so I was particularly interested in a new chronology put forth recently:

"It’s generally thought that these cultural developments in the eastern Mediterranean occurred during the 16th century B.C., along with the New Kingdom period in Egypt, when Egypt expanded its influence into western Asia.

The new studies suggests that these developments probably took place instead during the preceding “Second Intermediate Period,” when Egyptian power was weak and a foreign Canaanite dynasty even conquered northern Egypt for a while.

According to the new chronology, the Late Bronze Age civilizations in the Aegean and on Cyprus may have developed in association with 18th- and 17th-century Canaanite and Levantine civilizations and their expanding maritime trade world. These cultures were very different from the Egyptians’ in terms of culture, language and religion.

For more than a century, archaeologists have developed the chronology for this region by painstakingly comparing the various civilizations’ artifacts and artistic styles, such as how spirals were painted on pots or how metalwork was done. To pin the cultural periods to calendar dates, they then linked them to the accepted dates for the Egyptian pharaohs.

Since the 1970s, scientists have been measuring radiocarbon dates from the same areas, which don’t match with this artifact-based timeframe. Because of uncertainty about the dating methods, however, the radiocarbon results haven’t been convincing enough to overturn the archaeologists’ conclusions."

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Reamins of 12th century prior unearthed at Dunster

"Remains of substantial walls pre-dating the 16th Century barn at Dunster were unearthed during work to convert the building into a community centre.

Experts said the two walls, paving and glazed tile fragments were almost certainly part of the Benedictine Priory of Dunster dating back to 1127.

The finds have been recorded and grassed over for safe-keeping.

Bob Croft, Somerset County Council's County archaeologist, said the finds suggest a wealth of history below the surface.

"This shows there is considerable potential for the survival of more medieval remains associated with the Priory," he said."

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