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Maia Atlantis: Ancient World Blogs -
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    Apollo magazine:
    The problem is that you cannot "narrate the past" by collecting loose decontextualised objects together. The "stories" you tell are your own stories, your own constructs, not that of the living culture itself.

    This is the kind of narrative you get, objects selected by the owner placed in groups by the owner, associated with other objects by the owner.

    Teddy Bears' picnic: Card by Susan Rinehart

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  • 08/18/17--04:34: Witches in the Bible?
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    The ancient Romans were famous for their advanced water supply. But the drinking water in the...

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    Croitoru, C. (2017) : Organizarea frontierei romane la Dunărea de Jos, Braila [L’organisation de la frontière romaine sur le Bas-Danube]. Cet ouvrage a une vocation de support de cours. Il reprend les travaux que l’auteur a présenté auparavant sur le … Lire la suite

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  • 08/18/17--05:45: Justinian Bridge in Tarsus
  • Justinian Bridge in Tarsus

    The early-Byzantine bridge over the Cydnus River is one of the best-preserved and spectacular tourist attractions in Tarsus. At the same time, it is easy to miss it because the bridge is located outside the city centre and only a few signposts show the way to this monument.

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    Event Type (you may select more than one): 
    Start Date: 
    Tuesday, April 3, 2018 to Saturday, April 7, 2018

    "The Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) invites abstracts (sessions, papers and posters) for the Program of the 78th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA, April 3-7, 2018. The theme of the Program is 'Sustainable Futures.'"


    Society for Applied Anthropology
    Call for Papers: 
    Right Header: 
    Right Content: 
    CFP Deadline: 
    October 15, 2017

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    One of the most exciting projects I.Sicily is currently involved with is a four-way collaboration to catalogue the epigraphic collection of the Museo Civico Castello Ursino di Catania and to display a selection of the material in a new exhibition, ‘Voci di pietra’, ‘Voices of stone’, which opened on Friday, 14 July 2017. This project is partly funded by The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH), and is a collaboration between the CNR-ISTC“EpiCUM” project, the Comune di Catania, and the Liceo artistico statale “M.M. Lazzaro”. Over the next few posts we’ll describe this project.

    Cataloguing the collection at Catania


    The civic museum at Catania, housed in the norman Castello Ursino, has an eclectic collection which unites objects gathered over the centuries by Catanese collectors. Principal among these was Ignazio Paternò, Principe di Biscari (1719-1786), who was an avid antiquarian scholar of Sicily and his native Catania. The other major part of the collection was formed by the museum of monks of the great Benedictine monastery of Catania, the buildings of which now form the seat of the University of Catania. Two monks, the abbot and antiquarian Vito Maria Amico and the prior Placido Scammacca (uncle of the Prince of Biscari) were instrumental in compiling this museum.

    Portrait of Vito Maria Amico

    The central part of the collection is formed by a group of some 500 ancient inscriptions, of which about half come from Sicily, and most of these from Catania. The remainder either come from Rome (e.g. the Catacomb of Domitilla), or are a mixture of copies and forgeries created in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (these have their own story, for another time – see the interesting new project on epigraphic forgeries at the University of Venice).

    The Catania collection was catalogued for the first time in 2004 by Kalle Korhonen of Helsinki University. Korhonen’s study (with a set of basic images online) includes an invaluable account of the history of the collection and the culture of funerary epigraphy in Catania; but it has become clear both that there is a need for a revised and extended digital catalogue and that some material escaped that first study. Dott.ssa Daria Spampinato of the CNR-ISTC, together with the director of the museum, dott.ssa Valentina Noto, initiated a project to create a new and comprehensive digital catalogue of the museum – the EpiCUM project (Epigrafe del Castello Ursino Museo). Since half the collection (c.250 inscriptions) is Sicilian material, and I.Sicily already has draft EpiDoc records for all these stones, it was then agreed to collaborate on the Catania catalogue, and a formal accord to that effect was signed between I.Sicily and the Assessore of the Comune di Catania, Prof. Orazio Licandro in 2016.


    Dr Prag and Prof. Licandro

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    Steinhardt said Turkey should have raised its claim
    years earlier, since the idol has been displayed publicly for decades.
    He said the provenance questions he has faced are typical for major
    antiquities collectors, calling the episodes “a little bit of bad luck.” 

    Christian Berthelsen and Katya Kazakina, 'Hex of the Idol: Steinhardt, Christie’s Fight Heritage Claim' Bloomberg, 18 August 2017
    Increasingly, courts and public opinion have supported claims by foreign governments to return stolen treasures, in challenges to museums, auction houses and collectors. [...] Gary Vikan, former director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, said the pendulum has swung too far in favor of foreign governments. “The enthusiasm for disputing things -- which is borne from very just cases -- has gone beyond the boundaries of common sense. “If objects have been in the public domain, they acquire good title over time,” said Vikan, the author of 2016’s “Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director.”
    Which is why Renfrew, nearly twenty years ago (Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership: The Ethical Crisis in Archaeology (Debates in Archaeology) 2000) was arguing that museums should not be showcasing poorly-documented objects from private collections, giving them a spurious legitimacy. Fortunately whether an object is illicit or not is based on other criteria than 'how many people saw it and did not ask questions'.

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    In addition to being back-to-school time, August is National Catfish Month. Catfish might not be a part of your daily life, but the fish once played an important role in the lives of Philadelphians. In a way, it’s like cheesesteak is today; when tourists came to Philadelphia in the 19th century, they would ask their hosts where to find the best catfish meal. The Penn Museum just so happens to have a resident catfish specialist.

    Dr. Teagan Schweitzer at her workspace in the Penn Musuem’s zooarchaeology lab.

    Dr. Teagan Schweitzer works in the zooarchaeology lab within the Museum’s Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM). Her catfish research stems from her dissertation “Philadelphia Foodways ca. 1750–1850: An Historical Archaeology of Cuisine.” In the name of National Catfish month, I asked Teagan a few questions about her research—and how she ended up in such a specific field.

    Question:How did you become interested in archaeology?

    Dr. Teagan Schweitzer: I grew up in Michigan. In fourth grade, there was a survey that we had to fill out and part of it asked what you wanted to be when you grow up — and in my fourth grade class, the coolest thing to want to be was an archaeologist. Then I actually thought, “Oh my gosh, that is the coolest thing!” At first I wanted to be an Egyptologist, not unlike many people, but in college I could never get into any Egyptology courses, because they were so popular. My dad is an architectural historian but also really knowledgeable about American history. I grew up going to a lot of historic places in the U.S. and learning to love American history. When someone told me there was a field of archaeology that combined both American history and archaeology, I thought “That’s for me! That’s what I’ve been looking for!”

    Q: And how did you get into zooarchaeology?

    TS: As part of my high school curriculum, we had to do a senior project. Knowing I wanted to do something with archaeology, I ended up working at the Natural History Museum at the University of Michigan with an ethnobotanist there for a month. In that month, I met some of the other graduate students at the University of Michigan, one of whom, Chris Glew, was a zooarchaeologist. I also studied abroad at the University of Cambridge for my junior year in college and there was a faculty member, Dr. Preston Miracle, who had also done his graduate work at the University of Michigan who was a zooarchaeologist. Then, when I came to Penn for graduate school, I met Dr. Kate Moore, who is the director of the zooarchaeology lab and Undergraduate Advisor in Anthropology, and she was also from the University of Michigan. It felt like I was getting a lot of messages that zooarchaeology was something I should study. In the years between undergrad and graduate school, I had gotten really into food: reading cookbooks and all different kinds of books on food. Zooarchaeology was a good way to combine my interest in archaeology and food, to make the things I’m researching the things I would want to read anyway.

    Catfish NeurocraniumDr. Schweitzer analyzes a catfish neurocranium bone.

    Q: Why catfish? That’s a pretty specific focus.

    TS: It wasn’t me that chose the catfish, it was the bones that chose it for me. I work primarily with bones from Philadelphia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Catfish bones are, of all the fish that people ate in this area, the most resilient. In the archeological record, they survive the best. What that means is that when I’m analyzing and cataloging the archaeological material, the fish bones I find most often are catfish. It became clear pretty early on in my research that people were eating a lot of catfish in this area. Because of this, I wanted to find out what people were doing with catfish in the Philadelphia area. It turns out that there was a popular 19th century Philadelphia dish called “catfish, waffles, and coffee.”

    Q: Can you tell me more about catfish, waffles, and coffee?

    TS: It was served primarily at roadhouses, little inns, and taverns. There was a woman named Mrs. Watkins who had a roadhouse on the Schuylkill River; she is the one who is credited with the origin of the dish catfish, waffles, and coffee. In the historical record, there are two different ideas of what that dish entails. One interpretation is that you get catfish, you get waffles, and you get a cup of coffee. But alternatively, it’s also used as a colloquial term similar to “from soup to nuts” (which we don’t use much anymore either). It means you are describing the full trajectory of the meal: soup starts the meal, nuts end the meal. It just meant you were going to get a lot of food and some of it was going to be catfish. It was so much food that it was a feast– fried catfish and a relish, followed by beefsteak, with fried potatoes, stewed or broiled chicken, waffles, and coffee, with an optional dessert.

    Q: Are you still focused on catfish?

    TS: It’s not something I’m actively researching, but I’m doing more cataloging these days than historical research. I still find a lot of catfish bones in the material that I’m cataloging. I’m looking into some other fish species that were popular in Philadelphia and seeing what their stories were. I work with archaeological materials that come from the Fishtown, Kensington, and Port Richmond neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Fishtown got its name because it was a hub of the shad fishing industry in the region; I’m working to flesh out this story both from an archaeological and historical perspective.


    You can read more about historic food in Philadelphia in Teagan Schweitzer’s article on turtle soup in the Penn Museum’s Expedition magazine.

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    Looking closely: Marina Di Bartolo, far left, with fellow medical residents, and Program Director Marc Shalaby, MD, examining the seated statue of Ramesses II in the Egypt (Mummies) Gallery.

    Fresh Eyes in the Galleries 

    It was 8:00 am on a Thursday morning in July, early for most Museum staff, but the special visitors from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania—seven medical residents and a program director—appeared wide awake and ready to engage.

    The residents had agreed to participate in a pilot program at the Museum, the brainchild of second year internal medicine resident Marina Di Bartolo, developed in conjunction with Dr. Anne Tiballi, an anthropologist and the Andrew W. Mellon Director of Academic Engagement at the Penn Museum. Marina had participated in a similar program as a medical student at Yale, where students focused primarily on training in deep observation, engaging primarily with European paintings from the Center for British Art. The Penn Museum project would include deep observation training, but the goal of the training went a step further: to help emerging doctors recognize and reduce implicit bias, bias that can interfere with doctor/patient communications and effectiveness when working with diverse patients. Marc Shalaby, MD, the Program Director for Primary Care Residency, was excited about the idea of exploring implicit bias, and supportive of the pilot project with the Museum.

    The focus of the observation, on this morning, would be a selection, not of paintings, but of culturally diverse objects from the Penn Museum’s international, and internationally renowned, collections.

    About Implicit Bias

    Implicit bias involves associations outside our conscious awareness that lead to misleading, often negative evaluations of a person based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. Medical professionals are not immune to implicit bias, as recent research reported in BMC Medical Ethics (2017) makes clear. Left unconscious and unexplored, these biases can influence diagnoses and ultimately, treatment decisions for patients.

    Before entering the galleries, the group settled into an introductory session in the Museum’s Nevil Classroom. Dr. Tiballi began. She spoke about a decade-plus shift taking place in museums, as traditional collaborations with “the usual suspects”—archaeology, anthropology, and art history students and scholars—are making room for a new model of learning and “skills-based programming,” where the Museum’s rich collections are explored anew as “media” to help new audiences better connect with diverse people and cultures.

    Marina shared a bit about her experience with the Yale program, where the art was predominantly from the 18th and 19th century European traditions. She had reason to be enthusiastic about a museum collaboration; there was evidence that even short training in deep observation helped medical students perform better with patients; later tests indicated that the positive results of deep observation practice stayed with them. At the Penn Museum, with a collection of archaeological and ethnographic cultural material from around the world, the objects for the workshop would be very different from European paintings—and Marina was interested in learning how that would change the program.

    Dr. Anne Tiballi (middle) talks about an artifact with the residents.

    “The Penn Museum has over a million objects from six continents. We had to think of something different for you all,” said Dr. Tiballi, suggesting that the residents could think about the pieces in the collection differently, too.  “Use objects as a window into underserved past lives. Who used these objects? How? Why? Objects are really agents, just as people are.”

    The residents shared definitions and thoughts about implicit bias, and its negative associations—usually based on race, gender, or other demographics—bias that can directly affect how a patient is treated, sometimes with negative consequences.

    “We are all subject to direct and indirect messages that society blasts at us,” Marina conceded, noting, “as residents, we are much more prone to this because of our cognitive load—we are tired.” She suggested a few tools to use to limit bias: increasing awareness of the pervasive problem; having a desire to change; learning more about the theory, practice of bias, and finally, employing tools, like this workshop, to overcome the tendency towards unhelpful bias.

    “Archaeology has had its own embattled history with bias,” Dr. Tiballi said. “Archaeology really wanted to be a science—but we aren’t exclusively a science. And we all come with biases.”

    After a warm up exercise—each participant was asked to talk about an object that they happened to have with them, discussing what it meant to them—the group was ready to visit the galleries and see how bias might play a role in their exploration of Museum artifacts.

    Exploring the Objects

    Once in the galleries, the residents spent time looking closely at three objects, including an eye kylix drinking bowl in the special exhibition Magic in the Ancient World and a colossal seated statue of Ramesses II in the Egypt (Mummies) Gallery. The first object, and the first stop, was in the Native American Voices exhibition.

    A girl’s elk tooth dress, from the Crow nation, was one of three objects the residents examined and discussed in the galleries.

    Stephanie Mach, a member of the Academic Engagement Department and PhD student in Penn’s Anthropology program, directed the residents to avoid reading any explanatory text, instead looking closely at an object in the corner of one large case, and describe what they saw. The residents grew uncharacteristically quiet. One resident broke the silence: “I will say, I find it very difficult to look at this object and not make any assumptions.”

    “Yes, you want to make these initial jumps into interpretation,” Dr. Tiballi acknowledged, offering a suggestion: “Just start by describing what you see.”

    The answers came more quickly: “Three feet by two feet garment made of cloth, with teeth, or bone, or shell, sewn on.”

    The residents added detail to their growing group description, noting beadwork, condition of the fabric and colors, vibrant red and some blue. After some time, Ms. Mach filled the group in on what was definitively known about the piece—and what some research into the time, place, and provenance of the object suggested about the item.

    There was general surprise when she noted that the clothing was designed, not for a woman but for a little girl, from the Crow nation living in Montana, circa 1880. It was an Elk Tooth dress, and as the residents had surmised, the quantity of elk teeth richly decorating the dress spoke to its value.

    Dr. Tiballi noted that the Crow culture frowns upon bragging about one’s wealth and prestige. One way around that cultural taboo would be to let a child’s clothing express a family’s wealth and status.

    Ms. Mach presented some of the context of the piece, noting that though we don’t know the name of the girl who owned this dress, we can piece together a story from the cultural context in which it was made and worn, and by examining the material clues of the dress itself. The trade materials (woolen cloth and glass seed beads), imitation elk teeth made of cow bone, and designs that compose the dress expressed Crow identity, wealth, and pride during a time that was especially difficult for Crow families.

    During the period from the late 1800s until 1934—when the dress was made— the US government policy of forced relocations and reductions in Native landholdings made daily life tenuous. Many American Indian children were sent to Indian Boarding schools during these years. This dress, then, is material evidence of Crow resiliency and the importance of maintaining Crow traditions. Wondering about the girl who wore the dress, it is possible, Ms. Mach surmised, that the family decided to sell her traditional clothing because this was such a difficult time to be Indian in the United States. Knowing, too, how fast little girls grow, it may have been too small and the family needed the money made from the sale.

    The group visited an ancient Greek “eye kylix” drinking bowl in the Magic in the Ancient World exhibition.

    In-depth conversations and collaborative discussions ensued as the group moved to the other objects. Conversations gravitated towards the residents’ working experience. Dr. Tiballi noted: “The discussion at the eye kylix included note of the fact that it had been broken, and that the pieces were put together in Conservation with missing pieces filled in in a way that harmonized with the rest of the object, but also made it obvious that it was incomplete. This was seen as a metaphor for the ways that doctors and archaeologists ‘fill in’ missing pieces in the stories they create about their patients and the past.”

    The take home from the experience? “It is impossible to get rid of bias completely,” Dr. Tiballi said, “but we can be more aware of the ways in which our own experiences influence the stories we create. We can become more rigorous in understanding and counteracting negative bias.”

    When the residents finished their tour, they were asked to give feedback on the pilot program. Responses were enthusiastic:

    “This was great. Every resident should have to go through something similar.”

    “We need to have further discussions about our experiences with implicit bias in the hospital.”

    For her part, Marina Di Bartolo was happy with the morning program: “Sessions like these can help to raise awareness among young medical trainees that these biases exist, and can be a first step to addressing them.”

    Acknowledging that “despite our efforts to avoid them, we all bring biases into our interpretation of art, artifacts, and medicine,” Program Director Marc Shalaby saw potential benefits to the program: “I am hopeful that the skills that we learned will translate to better care for our patients and more satisfying careers for ourselves.”

    Future residents and medical students may have opportunities to visit the Museum. “The exercise at the Museum was part of a curricular series that Marina and I—mostly Marina, actually—are developing to try to better understand how residents think and how to help them decide when they should rethink and re-frame their approaches to patient care.”

    A special thanks to the seven medical residents who took time out of their busy schedules to join the pilot program: Patrick Sayre, Lindsey Merrihew, Katie Anderson, David Lieberman, Louisa Whitesides, and Daniel Kim. Thanks to Marina Di Bartolo for initiating the discussion and plans, and Marc Shalaby, MD, for his support, interest, and engagement with the project.



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    Alison Babeu called my attention to a recent blog by a Princeton Classics undergrad that really captured a major challenge and opportunity for a new Perseus. Solveig Lucia Gold described her own reaction to the ups and downs of using the reading support that Perseus has offered for Greek and Latin for decades (and, indeed, since before many of our undergraduates were born, if we consider the CD ROM versions of Perseus). The situation will be even better — or worse — when we finally integrate treebanks and alignments between the source texts and the translations. At that point, you can puzzle out almost any text in any language. We have treebanks (morphological and syntactic analyses) for every single word in the Homeric Epics, for example — you have interpretations for any sentence in these epics.

    But you can’t read Plato’s Rebublic or the Iliad or the Diwan of Hafez (to shift to Persian) by looking up every single word — true reading and true appreciation requires that we internalize as much of a language as possible.

    The goal is not to replace learning but to provide a scaffolding whereby we can go from no knowledge to as much internalized understanding as we have the time and determination to acquire. If I were to pick one challenge for the coming ten years, it would be to create the framework to foster such learning. (And here I look forward to the next generation of work from Alpheios.)

    There is no greater topic for research in historical languages than enhancing the ways in which we human beings are able to learn those languages — a question that is technical, social, and profoundly intellectual, for it challenges us to understand why we care about the past as much as we do — and why we should care even more.

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    A correspondent, Rene Fassaert, has directed my attention to a 1910 two-volume item Monuments Antiques, which contains some architectural materials for ancient Greece and Rome.[1]  It’s online in very high resolution at the University of Texas here.

    On p.172 of the second volume (p.77 of the PDF), there is a splendid plan of the massive temple on the Quirinal Hill in Rome.  This very clearly relates the great stairwell down the hill to the existing layout of the Colonna gardens.

    The plate also contains a reconstruction of the whole plan of the temple.  For some reason the original had this upside down, so I have corrected it.

    Here it is.  As ever, click on it for a larger image.

    Much of the area of gardens to the left of the plan is now part of the Gregorian University.  But the plan is still useful as a guide to what might be where.

    UPDATE: I have had to reduce the size of the image, as the downloads were too much for my site bandwidth.  You can of course follow the link to get the full size original.

    1. [1]Monuments antiques : relevés et restaurés par les architectes pensionnaires de l’Académie de France à Rome; / notices archéologiques par Georges Seure, 2 vols, 1910.

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    Dutch Ship ExcavatedKENT, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that archaeologists from Historic England and the Netherland’s Cultural Heritage Agency have returned to the site of the 18th-century Dutch East India ship Rooswijk. The ship sank off the coast of Kent in January 1740, and all 250 aboard perished. So far this season, the team has recovered artifacts that include a sailor's shoe, glass bottles, an onion jar, and Mexican silver dollars, as well as pieces of eight. The first scientifically excavated Dutch East India ship, Rooswijk was excavated in 2005, and a quantity of silver was discovered and returned to the Netherlands. But much about the wreck remains mysterious. “We have many questions,” said Dutch maritime expert Martijn Martens. “We do not even know what this ship really looked like.” To read more about nautical archaeology, go to “History’s 10 Greatest Wrecks.”

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    Pompeii Lead Pipe AntimonyPOMPEII, ITALY—Researchers have analyzed a fragment of a lead water pipe from Pompeii and found that it contained toxic levels of the chemical element antimony, reports the International Business Times. Previously, scholars had suggested that widespread lead poisoning contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire. “They used it for work pipes, for sweetening the wine, for filling out small holes in aqueducts,” said University of Southern Denmark archaeochemist Kaare Lund. “There was a lot of lead in the Roman Empire.” But Lund and his team are proposing that lead by itself didn’t pose much of a health risk, since most pipes were lined with chalky deposits that would have kept significant amounts of lead from leaking into water. But Lund notes that antimony is much more toxic than lead, and if even trace amounts of it leached into the water supply it would have had disastrous consequences, leading to kidney and liver damage and even contributing to heart attacks. The team hopes to test more Roman lead in the future to determine how common the use of antimony-laced pipes was. To read more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

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    Egypt Monk Complex


    CAIRO, EGYPT—An excavation in Minya has turned up an ancient settlement that may have been a monks’ complex, according to a report from Ahram Online. The complex features a residential area measuring 320 by 425 feet that includes a mud-brick house once inhabited by a monk. Also discovered was a collection of burial chambers measuring 165 by 230 feet in all, as well as the lower part of a monk’s tombstone and a collection of metal coins and clay pots. Previous discoveries at the site have included the remains of a fifth-century mud-brick church, a shrine, a prayer hall, and chambers with walls on which Coptic hymns were written. For more, go to “Egypt’s Final Redoubt in Canaan.”

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    AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND—Extensive remains of a Maori village were unearthed during road construction in Papamoa, according to a report from the New Zealand Herald. Archaeologists Ken Phillips and Cameron McCaffrey were called in when the first evidence of the settlement was uncovered, and their excavation uncovered more than 300 archaeological features. These included large postholes, cooking pits, and sweet potato pits. The settlement appears to have been home to a large number of people and to date to between 1600 and 1800, though more precise information will be provided by radiocarbon dating. Several of the cooking pits had evidence of fire reddening at the bottom and sides, as well as concentrated deposits of charcoal and fire-cracked rocks. In addition, pieces of obsidian, all apparently from an island known as Tuhua, were found, providing evidence that tool manufacturing took place on the site. For more on archaeology in the region, go to “Death by Boomerang.”

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    A team of archaeologists from ANU has uncovered a vast trading network which operated in Vietnam...

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    Yesterday evening came the first word of a study bringing up the old idea of ‘lead and the downfall of Rome’ with a different twist. Specifically, that it wasn’t lead that was a big deal at Pompeii, but rather antimony, which can have all sorts of nasty ill effects in various contexts.  It is rather problematic as I see it, and hopefully this post will prevent the sensationalism which is already starting to percolate around this study. Let’s begin with the press release from the University of Southern Denmark:

    The ancient Romans were famous for their advanced water supply. But the drinking water in the pipelines was probably poisoned on a scale that may have led to daily problems with vomiting, diarrhoea, and liver and kidney damage. This is the finding of analyses of water pipe from Pompeii.

     The concentrations were high and were definitely problematic for the ancient Romans. Their drinking water must have been decidedly hazardous to health.

    This is what a chemist from University of Southern Denmark reveals: Kaare Lund Rasmussen, a specialist in archaeological chemistry. He analysed a piece of water pipe from Pompeii, and the result surprised both him and his fellow scientists. The pipes contained high levels of the toxic chemical element, antimony.

    The result has been published in the journal, Toxicology Letters.

    Romans poisoned themselves

    For many years, archaeologists have believed that the Romans’ water pipes were problematic when it came to public health. After all, they were made of lead: a heavy metal that accumulates in the body and eventually shows up as damage to the nervous system and organs. Lead is also very harmful to children. So there has been a long-lived thesis that the Romans poisoned themselves to a point of ruin through their drinking water.
    However, this thesis is not always tenable. A lead pipe gets calcified rather quickly, thereby preventing the lead from getting into the drinking water. In other words, there were only short periods when the drinking water was poisoned by lead: for example, when the pipes were laid or when they were repaired: assuming, of course, that there was lime in the water, which there usually was, says Kaare Lund Rasmussen.

    Instead, he believes that the Romans’ drinking water may have been poisoned by the chemical element, antimony, which was found mixed with the lead.

    Advanced equipment at SDU

    Unlike lead, antimony is acutely toxic. In other words, you react quickly after drinking poisoned water. The element is particularly irritating to the bowels, and the reactions are excessive vomiting and diarrhoea that can lead to dehydration. In severe cases it can also affect the liver and kidneys and, in the worst-case scenario, can cause cardiac arrest.

    This new knowledge of alarmingly high concentrations of antimony comes from a piece of water pipe found in Pompeii.

    – Or, more precisely, a small metal fragment of 40 mg, which I obtained from my French colleague, Professor Philippe Charlier of the Max Fourestier Hospital, who asked if I would attempt to analyse it. The fact is that we have some particularly advanced equipment at SDU, which enables us to detect chemical elements in a sample and, ever more importantly, to measure where they occur in large concentrations.

    Volcano made it even worse

    Kaare Lund Rasmussen underlines that he only analysed this one little fragment of water pipe from Pompeii. It will take several analyses before we can get a more precise picture of the extent, to which Roman public health was affected.

    But there is no question that the drinking water in Pompeii contained alarming concentrations of antimony, and that the concentration was even higher than in other parts of the Roman Empire, because Pompeii was located in the vicinity of the volcano, Mount Vesuvius. Antimony also occurs naturally in groundwater near volcanoes.

    This is what the researchers did

    The measurements were conducted on a Bruker 820 Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer.

    The sample was dissolved in concentrated nitric acid. 2 mL of the dissolved sample was transferred to a loop and injected as an aerosol in a stream of argon gas which was heated to 6000 degrees C by the plasma.

    All the elements in the sample were ionized and transferred as an ion beam into the mass spectrometer. By comparing the measurements against measurements on a known standard the concentration of each element is determined.

    The story was picked up practically verbatim by the usual science sites:

    It’s also been picked up elsewhere and rewritten:

    So much for coverage. If one goes to the actual article and downloads it (for 36 bucks), there will be profound disappointment, as the press release is probably as long as the article (fortunately I have a son with access). Here’s the citation if you care to pursue it (it’s considered ‘in press, corrected copy’):

    P. Charlier, F. Bou Abdallah, R. Bruneau, S. Jacqueline, A. Augias, R. Bianucci, A. Perciaccante, D. Lippi, O. Appenzeller, K.L. Rasmussen, Did the Romans die of antimony poisoning? The case of a Pompeii water pipe (79 CE), Toxicology Letters, 2017, ISSN 0378-4274,

    As is usually the case, I will preface my objections/observations by pointing out I’m a Classicist, not a scientist, but there are a couple of things in this study which set off alarm bells: one from a Classics standpoint, and one from a Science standpoint. First, the Classics objection: the piece of pipe that was studied was “a small metal fragment of 40 mg, which I obtained from my French colleague, Professor Philippe Charlier of the Max Fourestier Hospital.” As I voiced briefly on Twitter a couple of times, this is not really acceptable, even as a starting point. How does a Professor in a French hospital come to have a piece of Pompeii pipe? The Toxicology Letters article says it comes from the House of Caecilius Jucundus from 1875 and is now in a private collection. I really think we need some documentation confirming that provenance. Yes, the House of Caecilius Jucundus was excavating in 1875, but how did this tiny piece of pipe come to be in France? There are plenty of sources of Roman lead to be found, and our current knowledge of the antiquities market suggests we need more assurance in regards to how this piece got to France from Pompeii, if indeed it did.

    The other objection is tied more to the piece in Toxicology Letters. Without getting into lead and calcification of pipes which has recently been called into question (see, e.g., D. Keenan-Jones, Lead contamination in the drinking water of Pompeii) we note this comment in the article, dealing with the ‘leachability’ of antimony into a water supply from lead pipes:

    This is an alarming level because antimony is easily leached from the lead water pipe, and antimony poses a serious health hazard, as demonstrated by a study conducted on loops of lead pipes containing twenty Sn/Sb joints soldered by antimony. Barely detectable initially (less than 0.004 ppm), antimony concentration in the water running through the pipes reached a level of 0.01 ppm in 4 days, and of 0.068 ppm within four weeks (corresponding to 0.068 mg/L) (Murrell, 1987). This effect has not been reproduced by other studies due to the variability of experimental conditions such as water pH, debit, and concentration of antimony in the pipes.

    The first thing to note is that the comparative study is based on pipes which were soldered with antimony, so the water flowing through those pipes presumably would come in direct contact. Roman pipes were soldered with lead, not antimony. Second, we seem to be dealing with some sort of closed system involving ‘loops’, so a particular quantity of water would be repeatedly exposed to the antimony solder as opposed to just flowing through a pipe, presumably picking up more antimony each time around. That looks like a situation which will skew results. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the effect is apparently not reproducible and hasn’t been reproduced in thirty years. If you’re interested in tracking down that study (which Google couldn’t find today):

    Murrell, N.E., 1987. Impact of Metal Solders on Water Quality. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the American Water Works Association, Part 1. Denver American Water Works Association pp. 39–43.

    That said, it’s worth noting that the author of the study is aware of the limitations based on one sample, but that admission will be forgotten in the sensational headlines. In the press release:

    Kaare Lund Rasmussen underlines that he only analysed this one little fragment of water pipe from Pompeii. It will take several analyses before we can get a more precise picture of the extent, to which Roman public health was affected.

    The piece in Toxicology Letters concludes with:

    We strongly suggest further studies (including antimony level analyses in human bones and coprolites) to verify this groundbreaking theory.

    In other words, by all accounts we’re still at the theory stage. This really shouldn’t be getting press coverage yet, much less sensational headlines.

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    In the US, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has just resigned, every member. They have made public the letter they wrote to him, very strong and fine words, It ends:
    Supremacy, discrimination and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, we call on you to resign your office too.
    PCAH is an official agency, that makes this the first White House department to resign.

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    The remains of an ancient Maori village offering a rare insight for archaeologists has been...

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    [First posted in AWOL 18 July 2012, updated 18 August 2017]

    Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum: Lose-Blatt-Katalog Ägyptischer Altertümer
    Old Kingdom Volumes Courtesy of
    The Giza Digital Library

    Title Related People Date of Publication
    Hölzl, Regina. Reliefs und Inschriftensteine des Alten Reiches I. Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien Ägyptisch-Orientalische Sammlung, Lieferung 18. Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 1999. Regina Hölzl 1999
    Hölzl, Regina. Reliefs und Inschriftensteine des Alten Reiches 2.Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum. Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien Ägyptisch-Orientalische Sammlung, Lieferung 21. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 2001. Regina Hölzl 2001
    Jaroš-Deckert, Brigitte. Statuen des Alten Reiches. Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum. Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien Ägyptisch-Orientalische Sammlung, Lieferung 15. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 1993. Brigitte Jaroš-Deckert 1993
    Martin, Karl. Reliefs des Alten Reiches. Teil 1. Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum. Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim, Lieferung 3. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 1978. Karl Martin 1978
    Martin, Karl. Reliefs des Alten Reiches. Teil 2. Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum. Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim, Lieferung 7. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 1979. Karl Martin 1979
    Martin, Karl. Reliefs des Alten Reiches und verwandte Denkmäler. Teil 3. Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum. Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim, Lieferung 8. Mit Beiträgen von Peter Kaplony. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 1980. Karl Martin 1980
    Martin-Pardey, Eva. Plastik des Alten Reiches . Teil 1. Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum. Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim, Lieferung 1. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 1977. Eva Martin-Pardey 1977
    Martin-Pardey, Eva. Plastik des Alten Reiches . Teil 2. Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum. Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim, Lieferung 4. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 1978. Eva Martin-Pardey 1978
    Martin-Pardey, Eva. Eingeweidegefässe. Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum. Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim, Lieferung 5. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 1979. Eva Martin-Pardey 1979
    Martin-Pardey, Eva. Grabbeigaben, Nachträge und Ergänzungen. Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum. Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim, Lieferung 6. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 1991. Eva Martin-Pardey 1991

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    [First posted in AWOL 28 February 2012. Updated 16 November 2014]

    Neronia Electronica
    ISSN: 2272-6985
    La Revue NERONIA ELECTRONICA, à comité de lecture international, a pour objectif de nourrir la recherche et le débat scientifique sur l’époque néronienne (de Claude à Titus), ses racines hellènes, hellénistiques et romaines, son legs historique et son image jusqu’à aujourd’hui. Conformément à la vocation de la société, elle accueille des travaux des différents champs disciplinaires (histoire, littérature, philosophie, histoire de l’art, droit, archéologie, épigraphie, numismatique) en étant ouverte aux problématiques transversales et aux débats scientifiques.
    La revue publie :
    Sont acceptées des contributions dans les langues suivantes : français, anglais, allemand, espagnol, italien.

      Neronia Electronica – Fascicule 4 (2016)

      Sommaire L’image de Claude dans l’Antiquité.  Du maître de la mer au jouet de la cour (Anne-Claire Michel) The Rhetorical Construction of Female Characters and the Imperial Image of Nero in Tacitus’ Annals  (Sarah F. L. Azevedo) Afranius Burrus dans … Continuer la lecture
      Publié dansPrécédents fascicules de Neronia Electronica|Laisser un commentaire

      Neronia Electronica – Fascicule 3 (2014)

      Sommaire • Les cités thessaliennes et Néron : à propos d’une inscription inédite de Larissa. (Athanasios Tziafalias, Ancien Ephore des Antiquités de Larisa (Thessalie) et Richard Bouchon, Maître de Conférences en histoire grecque – Université Lumière Lyon 2 – HiSoMA UMR5189) … Continuer la lecture
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      Neronia Electronica – Fascicule 2 (2012)

      Sommaire • Dionysiaca aurea: The development of Dionysian images from Augustus to Nero. (Stéphanie Wyler – Université Paris 7 – Anhima, UMR 8210) • Les passages relatifs à Ofonius Tigellinus dans les Annales de Tacite. (Sandra Delage – Université Bordeaux … Continuer la lecture
      Publié dansPrécédents fascicules de Neronia Electronica|Laisser un commentaire

      Neronia Electronica – Fascicule 1 (2011)

      Sommaire • Les réformes électorales de Caligula et de Néron. Quelques réflexions. (Virginie Hollard – Lyon) • Le récit de l’année 53 dans les Annales de Tacite (12.58-63). (Olivier Devillers – Bordeaux) • La ex Vigna Barberini e le costruzioni … Continuer la lecture
      Publié dansPrécédents fascicules de Neronia Electronica|2 commentaires

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        Wilkinson Egyptology Series

        Founded in 2013, the Wilkinson Egyptology Series is a peer-reviewed imprint of the UAEE. The series is open to proposals from all scholars in the field of Egyptology for publication of monographs, comprehensive site reports, conference proceedings, and other edited works. The goal of the Series is to assist scholars in bringing high-quality work to print quickly, through a review process akin to those of most major journals. After a period of not more than five years, each volume will be made available online, free of charge. The series is named after and designed to reflect Richard H. Wilkinson's prolific academic career: producing the highest quality work in a timely manner. Contributions to the UAEE in honor of Professor Wilkinson will be marked to support the Series specifically, and can be made here.

        For questions or to submit a manuscript or proposal for inclusion in the series, please contact:

        The Series logo is an abbreviated writing of the word rHw, meaning "companions, comrades, fellows," an appropriate reminder that these works are offered in the spirit of advancing our collective knowledge and could not have been produced without the benefit of the work of those who have come before. See A.H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar (3rd edition revised, Oxford: Griffith Institute, 1957) pg 578 for the translation.

        Archaeological Research in the Valley of the Kings and Ancient Thebes: Papers Presented in Honor of Richard H. Wilkinson(ISBN 978-0964995819; 2013)

        Wilkinson Egyptology Series, vol. I

        In August 2013, the UAEE published Archaeological Research in the Valley of the Kings and Ancient Thebes: Papers Presented in Honor of Richard H. Wilkinson, edited by P.P. Creasman. At nearly 400 pages and including 125+ color illustrations, this work is composed of two dozen chapters by leading scholars from around the world. A great variety of new discoveries and current research are presented, covering topics as diverse as ancient tomb robbery to historic love letters.
        To purchase your copy & support the UAEE, click here.

        The Temple of Tausret(ISBN 978-0964995826; 2011)

        A report of UAEE's  excavations from 2004 to 2011 of the remains of the temple of millions of years of Tausert, the 19th Dynasty queen who ruled as a king ca. 1200 B.C.E., edited by R.H. Wilkinson.
        To purchase your copy & support the UAEE , click here.
        Also, you can learn virtually all there is to know about the Pharaoh-Queen Tausret in Tausret: Forgotten Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt(2012, Oxford), ed. R.H. Wilkinson, which can also be purchased from Amazon, here:

        Valley of the Sun Kings: New Explorations in the Tombs of the Pharaohs  (1995)

        The papers from the International Conference on the Valley of the Kings conducted by the Egyptian Expedition were published as Valley of the Sun Kings: New Explorations in the Tombs of the Pharaohs (Tucson, 1995).
        The volume is printed as a library quality laminated paperback (ISBN 0-9649958), 165 pp. with over 90 photographs, figures, maps and charts.
        A limited number of copies of this volume are available for purchase from the UAEE.
        Please contact:

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        Excavation has brought up silver dollars, pewter jugs and a mystery chest from Rooswijk wreck in...

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        Excavation work in Minya has uncovered an ancient settlement that might be a monks’ complex, the...

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        [615] Those who inhabited Bouprasion and radiant Elis,
        [616] as much as Hyrmine and Myrsinos on the furthest edge
        [617] and the Olenion rock and Alesion contain with them,
        [618] of these there were four leaders, and ten for each man
        [[619] swift shifts followed, and many Epeians embarked on them.
        [620] Of these Amphimakos and Thalpios were the leaders,
        [621] sons, the one of Kteatos, and the other of Eurytos, the two sons of Aktor. 

        A line drawing of the fibula discussed in this post (Public Domain)
        A large bronze fibula in the National Museum in Athens, described as being of the so-called Attic-Boeotian type and from the Idaean Cave on Crete, and dated to 700-675 BCE, appears to show the Aktorione Molione fighting another figure. The Aktorione Molione are conjoined twins in Greek myth who were evidently formidable opponents in battle. Eventually killed in an ambush by Herakles, they fought Nestor in his youth, as Nestor recounts in books 11 and 23 of the Iliad. Their mother was Molionē, but they seem to have had both a divine father, the god Poseidon, and a mortal father, Aktor. Although they each had a name (Kteatos and Eurytos), the twins are frequently referred to in the dual with the patronymic and matronymic Aktorione Molione. The scholia in the Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad refer to the twins' paternity as being ambiguous in a comment on 11.709, where Nestor refers to them as simply the Molione:
        Μολίονε: Ἄκτορος καὶ Μολίνης παῖδες Κτέατος καὶ Εὔρυτος. Κατά τινας δὲ, Μολιόνης καὶ Ποσειδῶνος...

        Molione: Kteatos and Eurytos were the children of Aktor and Moline. But according to some, [they were the children] of Molione and Poseidon...
        (The note goes on to discuss why Nestor might be referring to them only as the Molione, instead of the Aktorione Molione.) 

        A fragment of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, however, recounts their conception (the following partially reconstructed text and translation come from Most's 2007 Loeb edition of the Hesiodic fragments, this is fragment 17A in Merkelbach and West's edition):
        καὶ τὴν μέν ῥ' Ἄ]κτωρ [θαλ]ερὴν ποιήσατ‘ ἄκοι[τιν
                                      ]εος γαιηό̣χ̣ου ἐννοσιγαίου·
        ἣ δ' ἅρ' ἐνὶ μεγ]άροις διδυ̣μάονε γείνατο τέκ[νω 
        Ἄκτορι κυσαμ]ένη καὶ ἐρικτ̣ύ̣π̣ω̣ι̣ ἐννοσιηγαί̣[ωι,
        ἀπλήτω, Κτέα]τ̣ό̣ν τε καὶ Εὔ̣ρυτον, οἷσι πόδες [μ]έ̣ν̣.[
        ἦν τέτορες, κ]εφα̣λ̣α̣ὶ̣ δ̣ὲ̣ δ̣ύ̣ω̣ ἰ̣δ̣ὲ̣ χ̣εῖρες εεισ̣[. .]ν̣
                                    ὤ]μων δ̣.φ̣υ̣[. .]κ̣α̣π̣ι̣σ̣χι[. . . . .]μ̣ε̣ν̣[          

        Actor made her his [vigorous] wife.  
                                     ] of the Earth-holder, Earth-shaker;
        she] bore [in the] halls two twin sons, 
        pregnant by Actor] and by the loud-sounding Earth-shaker,
        dreadful both, Cteatus] and Eurytus, whose feet
        were four in number,] and their heads two, and hands [
                                    ] from shoulders
        The Iliad never indicates explicitly that the Aktorione Molione are conjoined twins (and other closely associated figures are referred to in the dual in this way in the poem), but the Hesiodic passage certainly appears to be depicting them as being conjoined. Moreover, in Iliad 23.638–42, Nestor tells a story in which he loses a chariot race to the Aktorione Molione. Snodgrass [1998:29] has pointed out in connection with this passage that both twins participate in what seems to be a one-man race with Nestor, and indeed their conjoined nature seems to be (at least in part) why they are so formidable: they are two men fighting as one (and one of those two is the son of a god!).  It is difficult to be absolutely sure as to what the Hesiodic fragment is saying about their paternity, but other figures in Greek myth have both a mortal and a divine father: Helen, for example is biologically the daughter of Zeus, but was raised as the daughter her mortal "father" Tyndareus, and her twin brothers, Kastor and Polydeukes, are biologically the sons of Tyndareus and Zeus respectively, one mortal, one divine. The Hesiodic text then may be saying that both Aktor and Poseidon are the biological fathers of the twins, in a pattern found elsewhere in Indo-European myth, as Douglas Frame has explored in his work Hippota Nestor (2009):
        The Molione, who are rescued from Nestor’s path by Poseidon, are another pair of Indo-European twins with clear distinctions between them. Like the Dioskouroi they have dual paternity, being sons of a god, Poseidon, and a mortal, Aktor: their patronymic Aktoríōne contains their mortal father’s name. In the Catalogue of Ships, where two of the four leaders from Bouprasion and Elis are sons of the Molione, the Molione themselves are given individual names, Kteatos and Eurytos. Pindar Olympian 10.26–27 calls Kteatos the son of Poseidon, and Eurytos must therefore be the son of Aktor. (Frame, Hippota Nestor, Part II Chapter 2)
        In addition to the early Greek poetic references we have noted so far, there are numerous depictions of the Aktorione Molione in Late Geometric art: Snodgrass notes that there are at least fourteen from this time period. As Coldstream has pointed out, their presence on ceramic vases and elsewhere allows us to find narrative in early Greek art where we might otherwise assume a representation of daily life. For example, a monumental vase attributed to the workshop of the "Dipylon master" (Louvre A519), used as grave marker, shows warriors in battle. If it weren't for the discernable presence of the Aktorione-Molione, we would not know that this a mythical, epic scene (see the drawing in Coldstream 1991, p. 50). Here are some of my own photos of another similar vase in the Louvre, where once again a four-legged figure appears to be fighting (and once again, we only seem to have the legs preserved!):

        Other surviving examples are far more clear in their depiction of two men fighting as one (see examples in Snodgrass 1998). These vases are telling a story, and an epic one at that. 

        The popularity of the Aktorione Molione as a subject in art may have to do with the way that their distinctive conjoined body allows the artist to invoke a recognizable story, rather than because of any poetic fad. Much ink has been spilled on the question of whether or not Late Geometric artists knew their Homer, and the differences between Nestor's tales about the Aktorione Molione in the Iliad and surviving visual representations have been extensively analyzed. I submit that of course the artists knew their Homer. What they might not have known is our Homer—that is to say, the Iliad and Odyssey as we now know them. As I have argued in my published work and in previous posts, the oral epic poetic tradition in which our Iliad was composed predates these works of art by at least a thousand years, but the tradition was a dynamic and multiform one. The Iliad and Odyssey surely existed as recognizable songs by this time, but they were being composed anew in performance every time within a system that was still very creative and generative. The myths that were being narrated by the poets in epic songs existed in multiple, at times competing versions, and they were being performed by competing epic poets who did not all sing the story in exactly the same way. The painters too must have had their own traditional ways of telling these stories visually (handed down as they were from master to apprentice over generations) that did not depend on what the poets were doing. What seems clear is that when Nestor recalls the Aktorione Molione as part of his youthful exploits, he alludes to what would have been a well established mythological tradition known to poets, artists, and their audiences. He refers to them hypertextually as it were, activating in the audience's mind their knowledge of another epic cycle of tales now largely lost to us. (For more on the concept of "hypertextual" references in Homer, see previous posts.)

        But the tales of the Aktorione Molione are not entirely lost; multiform though those tales seem to have been, they can be at least partially reconstructed from the surviving references to them. Here are the key passages from Iliad 11.707ff concerning the Aktorione Molione (in which Nestor is telling a story about a battle he fought when he was still a youth): 

        [707]                                οἳ δὲ τρίτῳ ἤματι πάντες
        [708] ἦλθον ὁμῶς αὐτοί τε πολεῖς καὶ μώνυχες ἵπποι
        [709] πανσυδίῃμετὰ δέ σφι Μολίονε θωρήσσοντο
        [710] παῖδ᾽ ἔτ᾽ ἐόντ᾽οὔ πω μάλα εἰδότε θούριδος ἀλκῆς... 

        [717]                                                οὐδέ με Νηλεὺς
        [718] εἴα θωρήσσεσθαιἀπέκρυψεν δέ μοι ἵππους:
        [719] οὐ γάρ πώ τί μ᾽ ἔφη ἴδμεν πολεμήϊα ἔργα.
        [720] ἀλλὰ καὶ ὧς ἱππεῦσι μετέπρεπον ἡμετέροισι
        [721] καὶ πεζός περ ἐώνἐπεὶ ὧς ἄγε νεῖκος Ἀθήνη...

        [737] ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δὴ Πυλίων καὶ Ἐπειῶν ἔπλετο νεῖκος,
        [738] πρῶτος ἐγὼν ἕλον ἄνδρα, κόμισσα δὲ μώνυχας ἵππους,
        [739] Μούλιον αἰχμητήν: γαμβρὸς δ᾽ ἦν Αὐγείαο,
        [740] πρεσβυτάτην δὲ θύγατρ᾽ εἶχε ξανθὴν Ἀγαμήδην,
        [741] ἣ τόσα φάρμακα ᾔδη ὅσα τρέφει εὐρεῖα χθών.
        [742] τὸν μὲν ἐγὼ προσιόντα βάλον χαλκήρεϊ δουρί,
        [743] ἤριπε δ᾽ ἐν κονίῃσιν: ἐγὼ δ᾽ ἐς δίφρον ὀρούσας
        [744] στῆν ῥα μετὰ προμάχοισιν: ἀτὰρ μεγάθυμοι Ἐπειοὶ
        [745] ἔτρεσαν ἄλλυδις ἄλλος, ἐπεὶ ἴδον ἄνδρα πεσόντα
        [746] ἡγεμόν᾽ ἱππήων, ὃς ἀριστεύεσκε μάχεσθαι.
        [747] αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν ἐπόρουσα κελαινῇ λαίλαπι ἶσος,
        [748] πεντήκοντα δ᾽ ἕλον δίφρους, δύο δ᾽ ἀμφὶς ἕκαστον
        [749] φῶτες ὀδὰξ ἕλον οὖδας ἐμῷ ὑπὸ δουρὶ δαμέντες.

        [750] καί νύ κεν Ἀκτορίωνε Μολίονε παῖδ᾽ ἀλάπαξα,
        [751] εἰ μή σφωε πατὴρ εὐρὺ κρείων ἐνοσίχθων
        [752] ἐκ πολέμου ἐσάωσε καλύψας ἠέρι πολλῇ.

        [707]                                        On the third day they all
        [708] came, both the many men themselves and the solid-hoofed horses,
        [709] at great speed. And with them the two Molione armed themselves,
        [710] although they were still young, not yet knowing much about rushing combat [alkê]...

        [717]                                                Neleus did not
        [718] allow me to arm myself, but hid my horses;
        [719] for he said that I did not yet know the deeds of war at all.
        [720] But even so I stood out among our horsemen,
        [721] although I was on foot, for so Athena led the fighting [neikos]...

        [737] But when the fighting [neikos] began between the Pylians and the Epeians,
        [738] I was the first to slay a man, and I took his solid-hoofed horses,
        [739] the spearman Moulios; he was the son-in-law of Augeias
        [740] and had his oldest daughter, golden-haired Agamede,
        [741] who knew as many drugs as the wide earth grows.
        [742] Him I hit with my bronze-tipped spear as he advanced,
        [743] and he fell in the dust; and I, leaping onto his chariot,
        [744] stood with the champions in front; and the great-hearted Epeians
        [745] fled in all directions when they saw that man fallen,
        [746] the leader of their horsemen, who was the best at fighting.
        [747] But I rushed ahead, same as a dark whirlwind,
        [748] and I seized fifty chariots, and on either side of each two
        [749] men bit the ground with their teeth, subdued by my spear.
        [750] And I would also have destroyed the young Aktorione Molione
        [751] if their father, the wide-ruling earthshaker,
        [752] had not saved [sôzô] them from the battle, covering them with a great mist.*           
        In these passages we learn that the young Aktorione Molione, like the young Nestor, were eager for war even before they were properly of age to fight. During Nestor's tremendous aristeia, in which he destroys fifty chariots and their warriors among many others, the Aktorione Molione are held up as the only ones Nestor couldn't stop, and that only because their father Poseidon covered them in a mist—to which we can compare Apollo's of preservation of Hektor by similar means in Iliad 20 (as well as Poseidon's preservation of Aeneas in that same book and Aphrodite's rescue of Alexander in Iliad 3). Likewise in Iliad 23, the Aktorione Molione are the only ones who can defeat Nestor in a chariot race:
        [638] οἴοισίν μ᾽ ἵπποισι παρήλασαν Ἀκτορίωνε
        [639] πλήθει πρόσθε βαλόντες ἀγασσάμενοι περὶ νίκης,
        [640] οὕνεκα δὴ τὰ μέγιστα παρ᾽ αὐτόθι λείπετ᾽ ἄεθλα.
        [641] οἳ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔσαν δίδυμοι: ὃ μὲν ἔμπεδον ἡνιόχευεν,
        [642] ἔμπεδον ἡνιόχευ᾽, ὃ δ᾽ ἄρα μάστιγι κέλευεν.
        [638] Only with horses did the two Aktorione surpass me,
        [639] surging ahead because of their greater number, ever so eager for victory
        [640] because the biggest prizes were left for that event.
        [641] They were twins, you see; the one steadfastly held the reins,
        [642] steadfastly held the reins, and the other urged on with the whip.*
        Obviously, Nestor has reason to portray them as formidable, but he/the poet could have chosen any number of opponents to fill the narrative function for which the Aktorione Molione are used here. It seems likely that the Aktorione Molione were traditionally associated with fearsome prowess, and that in the poetic traditions in which Nestor featured as a youth they were traditionally opposed to him. Those traditions are primarily known to us now through Nestor's memories related in the Iliad, but they may well have been at one time the subject of their own songs. 

        The Aktorione Molione were heroes of an earlier generation than those of the Trojan War, much like Herakles, who was one of the Argonauts and who was responsible for an earlier sack of Troy (alluded to in Iliad 7.451-453, 20.145-148, and 21.442-45) amidst his other labors, but who did not fight in the later Trojan War. So it is not surprising that in fact the Aktorione Molione and Herakles did fight each other, and indeed it is Herakles who ultimately kills them. The story is preserved in Pindar (Olympian 10.26–34) and Apollodorus (2.7.2). (See also Ibycus fr. 4.) Here are the relevant verses from Pindar:
        ἐπεὶ Ποσειδάνιον 
        πέφνε Κτέατον ἀμύμονα, 
        πέφνε δ᾽ Εὔρυτονὡς Αὐγέαν λάτριον 
        ἀέκονθ᾽ ἑκὼν μισθὸν ὑπέρβιον 

        πράσσοιτολόχμαισι δὲ δοκεύσαις ὑπὸ Κλεωνᾶν δάμασε  
        καὶ κείνους Ἡρακλέης ἐφ᾽ ὁδῷ, 
        ὅτι πρόσθε ποτὲ Τιρύνθιον 
        ἔπερσαν αὐτῷ στρατὸν 
        μυχοῖς ἥμενον Ἄλιδος 
        Μολίονες ὑπερφίαλοι.

        when he [Herakles] had slain the son of Poseidon,
        the faultless Kteatos,
        and he had slain Eurytos, in order that from the unwilling Augeas,
        who was overwhelming in his might, his servant's wages
        he might willingly recover;
        Herakles overcame them after keeping a lookout for them in a thicket below Kleonai
        and slew them by the roadside,
        because once before they had destroyed
        his Tirynthian army,
        when it was encamped in an innermost recess of Elis,
        the excessively arrogant Moliones.
        Mary Ebbott and I discuss Herakles' ambush of the Aktorione Molione as an example of the epic pattern in which a formidable enemy who can't be defeated in battle is taken down instead by ambush tactics (see Dué and Ebbott 2010:98). Rhesos, who is killed by Odysseus in and Diomedes in Iliad 10, is one such hero, but there are quite a few other examples. Apollodorus adds additional details to the story as told in Pindar: Herakles had made a truce with the Aktorione Molione because he was ill, but they attacked his army and killed many while Herakles retreated. He then ambushes them on their way to the Isthmian games. The key sequence is that Herakles ambushes them because earlier he could not defeat them in a standing battle. Within the tradition of the Trojan War, the primary example of this kind of ambush is the use of the wooden horse to ambush and defeat the Trojans when ten years of polemos alone cannot.

        The surviving sources, some poetic and some visual, strongly suggest that the Aktorione Molione were at one time deeply embedded in the mythological and poetic system in which the Iliad and Odyssey were composed, and that they were featured in epic songs about events that take place chronologically prior to the Trojan War. Their sons are included in the Catalogue of Ships, and one of them, Amphimakhos, son of Kteatos, son of Aktor, is killed by Hektor in Iliad 13.185. Nestor can refer to them, and the poet can expect his audience to know their backstory, and how frightening and skilled they were, whether in battle or chariot racing. The Aktorione Molione had a story, and although our evidence suggests that there were some variations on that story (such as the exact nature of their paternity) in antiquity, it was a story that was known to tradition and could be invoked in the process of composition in performance. For that reason, Nestor could not have killed them during his youthful aristeia. Poseidon had to rescue them, because, much like Aeneas in his encounter with Achilles in Iliad 20, death at the hands of Nestor would have have been ὑπερ μόρον. (See also Frame 2009, citing Cantieni 1942:76.)

        And now finally I return to the bronze fibula with which I began. We now know that the Aktorione Molione are depicted, and we know why they look as they do, with seemingly one body, four arms and four legs. But who are they fighting? The museum's description says they are fighting Herakles. But if indeed the Aktorione Molione, like Rhesos, could only be killed by ambush, it is much more likely that they are fighting Nestor (or another warrior) in conventional battle. 

        Works cited

        Cantieni, R. 1942. Die Nestorerzählung im XI. Gesang der Ilias (V. 670–762). Zurich.
        Coldstream, J. 1991. "The Geometric style: the birth of the picture." In T. Rasmussen and N. Spivey, eds., Looking at Greek Vases. Cambridge.
        Dué, C. and M. Ebbott, eds. 2010. Iliad 10 and the Poetics of Ambush. Washington, DC. 
        Frame, D. Hippota Nestor. 2009. Washington, DC.
        Snodgrass, A. 1998. Homer and the Artists: Text and Picture in Early Greek Art. Cambridge.
        *My translations from Iliad 11 and 23 were made together with Douglas Frame, Mary Ebbott, Leonard Muellner, and Gregory Nagy. See also Frame, Hippota Nestor (Center for Hellenic Studies, 2009), Part II chapter 4:

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        So-called "preservationists" have advocated for the removal or even destruction of Confederate war memorials as products of an inherently racist culture.

        In a blog post on the subject, Obama Cultural Property Advisory Committee Appointee Prof. Rosemary Joyce justifies her views based on the assumption that

        When you remove these statues to men who fought for slavery, you’re not destroying history – you’re making it.

        Surprisingly, this 180 degree departure from archeology's mantra of preservation of objects in context appears to be based on little more than reductionist reasoning, i.e., the statues must be symbols of  "white supremacy" because they were produced in a racist South.  Indeed, efforts to draw attention to the fact that their iconography is virtually identical to monuments erected in the North at around the same time when the politically powerful Civil War generation was passing from the scene elicited little more than condenscending responses. It seems furthering "white supremacy" not commemoration of sacrifices on the battlefield must be the prime motivator in the South, but not the North (despite similar racist sentiments there at the time).

        In any event, justifying the removal or even destruction of historical monuments by designating them as "racist" should be even more troubling given recent events in Iraq and Syria.   Indeed, there are distinct parallels between ISIS destroying "idolatrous" statues and monuments and efforts here to topple "racist" ones, not the least the motivation to deprive certain groups of artifacts deemed important to their culture (there Shia, Assyrian Christians and Yazhdis and here poor White people (who must be racist!)).  At least here, we have processes in place to allow localities and States to make the decision what to do with our Confederate monuments.  What must be avoided at all costs is another Durham, N.C., where a mob was allowed to take matters into its own hands.   

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        Review of Jeremy McInerney, Ineke Sluiter, Valuing Landscape in Classical Antiquity: Natural Environment and Cultural Imagination. Mnemosyne supplements. Monographs on Greek and Latin language and literature, 393. Leiden; Boston: 2016. Pp. xv, 495. $181.00. ISBN 9789004319707.

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        Review of Michael von Albrecht, Geschichte der römischen Literatur: von Andronicus bis Boethius und ihr Fortwirken. 3. Auflage (2 vols.)​. Berlin; Boston: 2016. Pp. xxiv; xiv, 1,605. $99.95 (pb). ISBN 9783110496437.

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      • 08/19/17--02:01: Catena manuscripts
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      • 08/19/17--02:08: Pedagogical candle-eating
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        It is time to plan for the blogging (and microblogging/tweeting/social media using) scholars who will be at AAR/SBL in Boston in November to meet. Last year we scheduled the bloggers’ gathering at the same time as the presidential addresses of the two academic organizations whose conference it is. I was in two minds about doing […]

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        • I don’t get it, safe deposit boxes, Sw. bankfack. Are they a disappearing bank service? Do I know anyone under the age of 50 who has one? What do you guys keep there?
        • Do you wonder if I’ve got my shit together? I’ll tell you. I have street maps of Helsinki from visits in 2002 and 2009 instantly retrievable from the bookshelf next to my desk. That’s how together I’ve got my shit, OK?
        • Sonja Virta: in the 1966 edition, Tolkien added to The Hobbit that Gollum is small and slimy. Illustrators had been drawing him too big.
        • New adjective: beshatten = very dirty. “Honey, can you find clean pants for Jr? His old ones are completely beshatten.”
        • WorldCon 75 restaurant guide: “Pasila is what the architects and city planners of the 1970s thought the future should look like.”
        • I hardly know any Finnish grammar, but it turns out I have this passive vocab that surprises me. A homeless man shuffled up to me and said “Something something kello“, and I actually understood immediately that he was asking for the time, not for a handout. It was 12:30. He thanked me politely and shuffled off.
        • Jrette saw seals, Perseid meteors and a big red August moon at camp.
        • “I hope you find your peas / Falling on your niece / Praying” Kesha
        • I pick up a spoon and a candy wrapper from the floor of Jrette’s room. “Are you QUESTIONING my INTERIOR DECORATION?!?!?”
        • The Federmesser is this Late Palaeolithic archaeological culture in Northern Europe. The word means “feather knife”. I’ve never studied its remains since they’re extremely rare in Sweden (Ice Age, 3 km thick ice, OK?). But I’ve assumed that the name is literally descriptive of a characteristic artefact type. Now I learn that a better translation is “quill knife”. Or as most people would put it, “penknife”. The Federmesser culture is the Penknife People!
        • Here’s an unexpected turn. Atheists are joining the dwindling Swedish Church in order to vote in the church elections and keep the Swedish Hate Party out of its governing boards. I consider myself a political opponent of both organisations, though I’m of course far, far more friendly to S. Church than to S. Hate.
        • Tomorrow I’m driving Junior and his furniture 330 km to Jönköping and engineering school. “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
        • The 45th presidency is like when your toddler messes with your laptop. Suddenly you have a Croatian keyboard map, a mouse cursor shaped like a banana and the screen is rotated 90 degrees. And you’re like “I had no idea you could do this! Now, how do you undo it?”
        • Local paper warns that rising sea level may obliterate thousands of islands in the Stockholm Archipelago. Neglects to mention that this would also recreate thousands of islands that have recently become part of larger land masses through post-glacial uplift.
        • Such a good day together with Junior. Now he’s in his new solo home. I bought him a toaster.

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      • 08/19/17--06:42: Weekend Roundup, Part 1
      • Three major salvage excavations in Israel may be excavated by private companies and directed by archaeologists with little experience. (Haaretz premium)

        They’re already recruiting for next summer’s excavations in Israel, and you can get all the information for digging at Shiloh here.

        Aren Maeir visited the new excavations of Kiriath Jearim and was very impressed with what he saw, suggesting that the site “will become one of the most important excavations in Israel.”

        Carl Rasmussen explains how a solar eclipse in 763 BC helps us to establish an absolute chronology for OT events.

        Steven Weitzman answers the question, “Can Genetics Solve the Mystery of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel?”

        Israel’s Good Name reports on his Bar Ilan U tour of the City of David.

        Ferrell Jenkins explains the Megiddo water system with a drawing he made and several photos (including a labeled aerial photo).

        Wayne Stiles shows how Banias Falls is a picture of despair.

        We were very encouraged by some positive words about the new Photo Companion to the Bible by Ferrell Jenkins, Andy Naselli, Leen Ritmeyer, Charles Savelle, and Luke Chandler. Luke writes,

        There is nothing like this resource available for teachers today. I cannot recommend the Gospels Photo Companion to the Bible strongly enough.

        The introductory special continues through Monday, August 21.

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        [First posted in AWOL 25 April 2013, updated 19 August 2017]

        Sculptures de la Gaule Romaine
        La base de données NEsp est issue d’un programme de recherche du Centre Camille Jullian sur les collections des sculptures romaines de la Gaule Narbonnaise.

        Dans un premier temps, les données collectées dans les musées du sud de la France ont été gérées par la base NarboSculpture. Cette recherche s’est élargie, à la faveur de l’opération du Nouvel Espérandieu, Recueil Général des Sculptures sur pierre de la Gaule, menée par l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres sous la direction d’Henri LAVAGNE. Elle couvre à présent l’inventaire, la gestion, l’étude et la publication des sculptures de l’ensemble de la Gaule romaine. L’accroissement constant des données a nécessité la création de la base NEsp sous la responsabilité de Danièle Terrer.
        Cette base devrait contenir au moins 15000 fiches et 60000 images. Certes, c’est un projet qui se réalise dans la durée, ce qui est, sans doute, le sort de tous les grands inventaires nationaux. Ce fut celui de l’inventaire réalisé par Emile Espérandieu de 1907 à 1938 (onze volumes), puis par Raymond Lantier de 1947 à 1966 (quatre volumes), l’ensemble constituant une collection prestigieuse de près de 10000 sculptures publiée sous le patronage de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. Jusqu’à la publication d’un Nouveau Recueil Général des Sculptures sur pierre de la Gaule, c’était le seul inventaire connu.

        En outre, ce premier inventaire, constitué par Emile Espérandieu au début du siècle dernier, était illustré par des plaques de verre dont nous avons pu assurer le sauvetage en les numérisant et en les indexant dans une base de données RBR en vis-à-vis de la nouvelle base NEsp . Ces plaques sont en partie conservées au Palais du Roure à Avignon et au Fort de Saint-Cyr. Jean-Daniel PARISET, Conservateur des Archives de Saint-Cyr, conscient à la fois de la précarité de ces fragiles documents du siècle dernier et de leur immense valeur de témoignage, a bien voulu entreprendre leur sauvetage, aux côtés de Henri LAVAGNE, Membre de l’Institut. La mise à disposition des plaques de verre auprès de la communauté scientifique a été rendue possible par le Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine. Diffusion RMN. La valorisation de ces plaques revient au Centre Camille Jullian où elles ont pu être indexées et intégrées dans la base de données RBR où sont consignés les identifications proposées par Emile Espérandieu, les références au CIL , les sources, les dessins et relevés anciens...

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         [First posted in AWOL 29 May 2012, updated 19 August 2017]

        IMPACT Radiological Mummy Database
        The IMPACT Radiological Mummy Database is a large-scale, multi-institutional collaborative research project devoted to the scientific study of mummified remains, and the mummification traditions that produced them, through non-destructive medical imaging technologies.

        IMPACT focuses on the body,  made artifact through cultural or natural intervention, in bioarchaeology, epidemiology, and social archaeology studies of  past human societies and their genetic and cultural decendants.
        IMPACT Site Map
        Last updated: 2016, August 18
        / 1 pages
        IMPACTdb/ 19 pages
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         [First posted in AWOL 12 October 2012, updated 19 August 2017]

        MetPublications is a portal to the Met's comprehensive publishing program with 1,500 titles, including books, online publications, and Bulletins and Journals from the last five decades.
        MetPublications includes a description and table of contents for most titles, as well as information about the authors, reviews, awards, and links to related Met titles by author and by theme. Current book titles that are in-print may be previewed and fully searched online, with a link to purchase the book. The full contents of almost all other book titles may be read online, searched, or downloaded as a PDF. Many of these out-of-print books will be available for purchase, when rights permit, through print-on-demand capabilities in association with Yale University Press. For the Met's Bulletin, all but the most recent issue can be downloaded as a PDF. For the Met's Journal, all individual articles and entire volumes can be downloaded as a PDF.
        Readers may also locate works of art from the Met's collections that are included in every book and periodical title and access the most recent information about these works in Collections.
        Readers are also directed to every title located in library catalogues on WATSONLINE and WorldCat.
        Please check back frequently for updates and new book titles.
        MetPublications is made possible by Hunt & Betsy Lawrence.
        Titles with full-text online

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        There is a little debate about tearing down confederate monuments in the US today - rather like Poland's (non-)debate on removing reminders of soviet dominance 1945-1989. This video is an interesting comment on part of it: The truth behind most of the Confederate monuments being torn down tells an even larger story than you'd realize — explains.

        hat tip: Katie Paul

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        FROM THE ORION CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS: Open Call for Papers An International Symposium: The Dead Sea Scrolls at Seventy: “Clear a Path in the Wilderness” Date: 29 April–3 May, 2018 Conveners: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Vienna, New York University, the Israel Antiquities Authority, The Israel Museum Venues: The Hebrew […]

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      • 08/20/17--03:06: (Ancient Blogger)
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      • 08/20/17--06:40: Weekend Roundup, Part 2
      • A first-century AD tomb in Irbid, Jordan, will open to the public next month. The unique tomb contains oil paintings, transcriptions, and drawings.

        A Hellenistic temple and network of water tunnels has been uncovered at Gadara.

        An analysis of a water pipe from Pompeii suggest that the Romans probably experienced daily problems with vomiting and diarrhea, as well as liver and kidney damage. The problem wasn’t lead, but the acutely toxic antimony. Cf. 1 Timothy 5:23.

        The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review has a number of articles of interest, including the capital city of Samaria, Hebrew on Herod’s time, and NT figures known outside the Bible.

        The William Kelly Simpson Memorial Colloquium will be held at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History on October 7.

        The Israel Exploration Society is having a clearance sale for all final reports of the Masada excavations. Each of the 8 volumes is reduced to $30 plus shipping.

        Among the resources for Accordance on sale now is the three-volume Archaeology of the Land of the Bible series (by Mazar, Stern, Meyers, and Chancey).

        GTI Study Tours is a unique travel agency that I’ve heard rave reviews about. They are offering a highly-discounted “Pastors and Christian Educators” Study Tour of Turkey in February with Mark Strauss.

        HT: Agade, Chris McKinny, Joseph Lauer

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        Church of Sts. Constantine and Helena in Edirne

        The Church of Sts. Constantine and Helena (tr. Sveti Konstantin-Elena Kilisesi, bg. Св. св. Константин и Елена) is one of the two churches of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church located in Edirne. The second church of this rite in the city is St. George's Church. The Church of Saints Constantine and Helena was built in 1869, in an astonishingly short period of just seven months. The temple was funded by Bulgarians from the regions of Macedonia and Thrace.