Thursday, December 17, 2009
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt, 12.17.2009
By KATARINA KRATOVAC , Associated Press Writer
Egyptian archaeologists on Thursday lifted an ancient granite temple pylon out of the waters of the Mediterranean, where it had lay for centuries as part of the palace complex of Cleopatra, submerged in Alexandria's harbor.
The pylon, which once stood at the entrance to a temple of Isis, is to be the centerpiece of an ambitious underwater museum planned by Egypt to showcase the sunken city, which is believed to have been toppled into the sea by earthquakes in the 4th century.
Divers and underwater archaeologists used a giant crane and ropes to lift the 9-ton, 7.4-foot-tall pylon, covered with muck and seaweed, out of the murky waters. It was deposited ashore as Egypt's top archaeologist Zahi Hawass and other officials watched.
The temple, dedicated to Isis, a pharaonic goddess of fertility and magic, is at least 2,050 years old, but likely much older, officials said. It was part of a sprawling palace from which the 1st Century B.C. Queen Cleopatra and her predecessors in the Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Egypt.
The palace and other buildings and monuments now lay strewn on the seabed in the harbor of Alexandria, the second largest city of Egypt. Archaeologists have been exploring the underwater ruins since the 1990s.
The Isis temple was uncovered by a Greek team in 1998.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
- I am reposting a post by Jo Berry made on Blogging Pompeii. The topic is of particular interest to HSC students currently studying the Cities of Vesuvius (Pompeii) Unit.
This topic makes a great class discussion question. (Hint for teachers)
Google Street View has generated an awful lot of chatter about Pompeii on Twitter and in other blogs. I came across one blogger the other day who was advocating the reburial of the site as a solution to its conservation problems, since computer-generated reconstructions mean that tourists no longer need to visit. Conservators are fighting a losing battle, even when they have appropriate funding. Pompeii is dying, there is no doubt about it.
You can imagine my knee-jerk reaction to the idea of burying Pompeii, because I'm sure you all just had it too! But since then I have been mulling the idea over. So here are my thoughts, in no particular order. I'd be really interested to know what anyone else thinks.
* This is not a new idea, but one that surfaces every few years, often alongside with the idea of building a replica Pompeii for tourists (the best versions imagine the real site left to scholars - now, there's an idea!). The thing is, a replica - whether real or digital - can't reproduce the atmosphere of Pompeii and the experience of walking its streets and entering its houses. We need to remember that Pompeii is a tourist site. I sometimes think that we scholars are there on sufferance. The SAP likes us, for sure, for I don't think the Italian government cares all that much unless there is money to be made. Perhaps I am being too cynical. But note that the majority of Fiori's current initiatives are to do with making the site more accessible and enjoyable for tourists. Even if scholars all agreed that Pompeii should be reburied, the government would never allow it to happen.
* Burying Pompeii would be an economic disaster for the region. Ok, the entrance ticket money goes directly to the site and funds (one hopes) conservation and other necessary works. But an entire modern town depends on Pompeii for its livelihood - hotels, restaurants, shops, stalls. This is an economically depressed region at the best of times. Reburying Pompeii would destroy it.
* How exactly would it be reburied? Practically, I mean. It took years of effort to get rid of the fill in the first place! Anyone who has read the excavation reports knows that this issue was a serious and costly one. Thank goodness for the A3 autostrada, since that used up a lot of lapilli! So what could be used to rebury the site, where would it come from, and how much would it cost to do it?!
* Covering Pompeii over would mean the end of stratigraphic excavation. Reconstructions would document the state of the town in AD 79 (or should I say 2009!), but investigations into Pompeii's pre-AD 79 history would stop. We wouldn't be able to answer any of our questions about the development of the site, for example.
Would any reconstruction really be able to document everything? Scholars are finding new things all the time - I'm thinking about recent research into upper floors and on graffiti, but there are other examples too. And wouldn't the reconstructions decay too (look at the current condition of the Pompejanum at Aschaffenburg, for example)? Even computer-generated reconstructions will eventually degrade.
So is there is a solution? Personally I don't think we can stop the destruction of Pompeii. We can slow it (as they are doing in Herculaneum), but Pompeii won't be around 1000 years from now. Just look at the parts of the town excavated in the 1700s. The walls have crumbled, the wall-paintings have disappeared. And this has happened DESPITE conservation attempts (yes, the first efforts of conservation occurred in the 1770s and have continued since then). So our job is to study and record (in multiple formats) as much as we can now, and to support any efforts of conservation. There is no point complaining about the inevitable decay of the site.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
This should be of value to those students who are studying the City of Rome option in Year 11.
ROME — Not only was Nero a Roman emperor, it turns out he may also have been the father of the revolving restaurant.
Archaeologists unveiled Tuesday what they think are the remains of Nero's extravagant banquet hall, a circular space that rotated day and night to imitate the Earth's movement and impress his guests.
The room, part of Nero's Golden Palace, a sprawling residence built in the first century A.D., is thought to have been built to entertain government officials and VIPs, said lead archaeologist Francoise Villedieu.
The emperor, known for his lavish and depraved lifestyle, ruled from 37 A.D. to 68 A.D.
The dig so far has turned up the foundations of the room, the rotating mechanism underneath and part of an attached space believed to be the kitchens, she said.
"This cannot be compared to anything that we know of in ancient Roman architecture," Villedieu told reporters during a tour of the cordoned-off dig.
She said the location of the discovery atop the Palatine Hill, the rotating structure and references to it in ancient biographies of Nero make the attribution to the emperor most likely.
The partially excavated site is part of the sumptuous residence, also known by its Latin name Domus Aurea, which rose over the ruins of a fire that destroyed much of Rome in A.D. 64.
The purported main dining room, with a diameter of over 50 feet (16 meters), rested upon a 13-foot (4-meter) wide pillar and four spherical mechanisms that, likely powered by a constant flow of water, rotated the structure.
The discovery was made during routine maintenance of the fragile Palatine area, officials said.
Latin biographer and historian Suetonius, who chronicled his times and wrote the biographies of 12 Roman rulers, refers to a main dining room that revolved "day and night, in time with the sky."
Angelo Bottini, the state's top official for archaeology in Rome, said the ceiling of the rotating room might have been the one mentioned by Suetonius, who wrote of ivory panels sliding back and forth to shower flowers and perfumes on the guests below.
"The heart of every activity in ancient Rome was the banquet, together with some form of entertainment," Bottini said at the dig. "Nero was like the sun, and people were revolving around the emperor."
That part of the palace – which sprawled across nearly 200 acres (80 hectares) occupying parts of four out of Rome's seven ancient hills – offered a panoramic view over the Roman Forum and a lake, later drained by Nero's successors to build the Colosseum, Bottini said.
Described by Suetonius as one of Rome's most cruel, depraved and megalomaniac rulers, Nero often indulged in orgies and, fancying himself an artist, entertained guests with his own performances of poetry and songs.
However, Nero did not enjoy the frescoed halls and gold-encrusted ceilings of his Golden Palace for too long. It was completed in A.D. 68 – the year the unpopular emperor committed suicide amid a revolt.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
3. Your book is as much about the history of the excavations as the human remains - how do these two topics fit together?
Two years ago when I first met Estelle as she accompanied a group of teachers and students to Pompeii on a study tour, she told us during the course of the tour that she was working on publishing a book on her experiences "romancing the bones" in Pompeii. Well the work that was in progress is now a reality and from all reviews it is a book that anyone who is connected with or has an interest in Pompeii should read and have on their shelves.
Estelle spent seven field seasons working on the skeletal remains in the ancient city and her stories are as entertaining as they are informative. At last nights launch of Resurrecting Pompeii, Estelle presented her work in true Estelle Lazer fashion and had the audience not only enthralled in the detail of her work in Pompeii but had them rolling in the aisles as well. Those there I am sure, will forever chuckle to themselves when coming into contact with Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii in the future. Her presentation "Romancing the Bones" was a treat and capped off a very successful launch of the book.
Monday, September 7, 2009
My aim this week is to at least get a post or two up here including some more images from the field season in Pompeii with the Pompeii Food and Drink Project. Before I go any further I need to say a huge thank you to the principal researchers of the project Dr. Betty Jo Mayeske, Dr. Bob Curtis and Dr. Benedict Lowe. Thanks so much for having me on the team and allowing me to work with you. It is indeed a privilege and I can't wait to join you again on further adventures in the scavi. Bring on 2010.
For students here in Australia, let me say it is not too long now before those HSC exams start rolling in. I hope I can bring a few more things to light and to think about as you revise and plan for the Ancient History exam.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
well fieldwork for this season is over in Pompeii. It was a wonderful two weeks working in the ancient city as part of an important archaeological and historical research project. I would have liked to have posted more from the city however, internet is not quite as reliable as it is here at home. I will post more information about my work and field experience in the next week or so and also post a few more activities and discussion starters using some of the sources I saw and/or worked on over the summer.
I will also be adding some information about other excavations and sites around the Vesuvian region and a few things about the city of Rome.
There are also a few more articles of interest I will post including information from field reports from some of the current projects happening in Pompeii and the region.
Also coming up will be a review of the "A Day in Pompeii" exhibition in Melbourne, after my students and I have been to visit in August.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Mr Avery wanted to know the basic food eaten during the day in Pompeii and would a mid day meal resemble anything like a staff morning tea.
Well Mr Avery, to be simple and straight to the point, no it wouldn't. Some types of food in Pompeii were staple to the diet such as bread and other grains. Mid day meals were not a large concern as the evening meal was usually the highlight of the day. Social status often determined what types of food you consumed and how large a meal that might be. In other Roman areas we assume that communal banquets occurred however as of yet there is no real evidence for it in Pompeii.
Meat of some kind was desirable but consisted of usually wild game such as pork, deer or some fowl available in the nearby forest or on the riverfront. Fish of course, being a seaside city, would have been a staple meat. One tour guide the other day pointed out to a group of tourists that the ovens were used for baking bread and pizza. Let me assure you that although it may be possible at a staff morning tea, pizza was not cooked in Pompeii's ovens.
Sweet cakes were also baked however chocolate was not a treat for anyone in Europe in ancient times.
The area around Pompeii was famous for its Garum (fish sauce) and also wine production. I had a chance to eat Garum on pasta this evening. Quite tasty really. Market gardens within the city and on the outside of the walls also supplied the population with fresh vegetables and fruits. More than just a little garnish for the plates.
Hope this helps answer your question.
well the internet has been unavailable for the last couple of days but here I am again. The last few days have been interesting. We did the Herculaneum visit late last week and I will be posting some amazing photos of the Suburban Baths as well as the Theatre and Bassilica.
Friday was a short day in the scavi again due to the custodians needing to do Friday lunch and lock up those houses we were in.
The weekend was great. Maybe lounging around the pool would have been the order of the weekend however as intrepid explorers we decided on a more adventurous weekend. Saturday saw 8 of us climb to the crater of Mount Vesuvius. This was not the easiest of tasks but a lot of fun and the final reward of looking into the crater made it worthwhile. Sunday was spent in Sorrento immersing ourselves in local culture and doing that souvenier shopping.
Back at the Scavi again today and it was the hottest day out there yet. Archaeology in 30+ degree temperatures is not exactly the most enjoyable. We rotated team assignments and I am now on the measuring and drawing team. As the job descriptions suggest I am responsible for measuring the features of each room we research and mapping them. I also had a chance to be working in some closed areas of Region 8 today separate from our research in Region 1 and made a few amazing discoveries including some human remains. Hard to actually describe the feeling of coming across the remains of someone. I will post a picture or two of what I found over the next day or two, in a section dealing with ethics.
Until next time.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Well I hope the Lararium research is going well and believe me the whole religion aspect associated with both homes and commercial business is pretty interesting.
Primarily the work of the Pompeii Food and Drink Project is to record and publish data and research about aspects of the site of Pompeii that specifically are associated with food and drink. It is an important and interesting research project. Important because the principal goal is the preserving both visually and in written form aspects of Pompeii that literally disappear day to day. Paintings for example that are clear or in reasonable condition can be totally lost to history by the next season simply through the natural degredation of the site.
In the next day or two I will give you a run down of the various duties that the researchers and archaeologists are performing on a day to day basis, including your's truely. I am the colour and black and white film records photographer. I am also on a remediation team that revisits early work of the project and fills in some of the blanks with lost research.
Remember that very little excavation is occuring in Pompeii. There is almost a complete ban on it. The important work currently being done in the city are by research teams such as ours.
I also have a number of activities to post using some of the images I have taken whilst here. These will include activities on streetscapes, wall structures and garum and wine production.
Well its back to work. Keep an eye out over the next day or two for my next update.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
thanks to Jackie and Bob at pompeiiinpictures there is some talk about an urban myth that I had not heard before. Remember that pompeiiinpictures is a great resource and a link to it is also found on the History Teachers Association of NSW website in the links section.
Delta the dog of (Pompeii or) Herculaneum
There is a reference to this myth or truth in a book of 1822 but there is no source information quoted to prove this as myth or fact. There are references to the dog being found in Herculaneum and the the collar, with a Greek inscription, being (then) in the Gallery of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. (Other versions elsewhere refer simply to the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum).
The story is not about the dog that was chained up. It's about the dog who was protecting a child that day in 79 AD. The story reads that a dogs skeleton was found laying over the body of a child about the age of ten or twelve. The dog had a silver collar that was engraved with his name "Delta" and it also recounted how he had saved his master, Severinus (Severino) from death on three occasions. Some accounts say the child was Severinus, and some say he was the son of Severinus.
A rather touching story although it didn't end well for either the dog or the child.
A researcher is currently trying to prove the story by finding the collar which seems to have vanished over time. I'll let you know if any more comes of this.
A really nice letter arrived today from Sarah Court at the Herculaneum Conservation Project. She has arranged special access for me to some of the closed to the public areas of Herculaneum and also to the new excavation areas in the city.
I look forward to bringing you some pictures and activities for Herculaneum from July 2-5. A big thanks to Sarah.
Don't forget....Herculaneum, although treated like Pompeii's poorer cousin by some in the HSC, is an integral part of the course and your responses to source based questions. With new excavation work in the city (which is only 1/3 excavated) especially at the beachfront where the famous skeletal remains were found, it's an exciting time to be in Herculaneum.
Join us for some up to date pictures and information.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
The Melbourne Museum will host from June till October "A Day in Pompeii". The exhibition features artefacts from the buried city including frescos, everyday items, gladiator helmets and plaster casts of the dead. Click on the video link below to see a news clip on the exhibition.
If you are a student studying the HSC in Ancient History, this is one exhibition you will not want to miss. The only other way to see this material would be to visit the Naples Museum in Italy where it is usually housed.
Information on the exhibition can be found at http://museumvictoria.com.au/pompeii
VIDEO: Unveiling the past
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009
ICE Seizes a Cultural Artifact Reported Stolen in Italy Almost 12 Years Ago
Posted: 02 Jun 2009 01:05 AM PDT
This from artdaily.org:
NEW YORK, NY.- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) today seized a Pompeii wall panel fresco from a Manhattan auction house that was reported stolen in Italy 12 years ago. The fresco panel, which was the subject of an international search by INTERPOL, was located by the Art Loss Register of New York and brought to the attention of ICE and Italian Authorities. Italian authorities provided ICE agents via the ICE attaché in Rome with information and documents identifying the fresco panel as stolen and part of the cultural property of Italy. The panel, rectangular with a white background depicting a female minister, white wash on plaster with a modern wooden frame, was previously located at the excavation office in Pompeii and was reported stolen with five other fresco panels on June 26, 1997. The investigation revealed that, between 1903 and 1904, the Italian government authorized a farmer, Giuseppe De Martino, to restore his farmhouse, which was located on an archeological site in Boscoreale, province of Naples. During the restoration, six important frescos, originating from Pompeii were found. On July 12, 1957, the Government of Italy purchased the frescos. On June 26, 1997, after the completion of work to the excavation site, the Italian government observed that the six frescos were missing and subsequently reported the theft. The Carabinieri cultural patrimony unit previously recovered the other five of the six frescos. "We are pleased to assist in the recovery of this fresco panel. It completes the collection of the six panels reported stolen from the Italian government close to 12 years ago." said Peter J. Smith, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in New York. "ICE applauds the ALR for coming forward with information on the whereabouts of this precious cultural artifact, which will soon be returned to the Italian government.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The adventure begins June 29
NSW HSC students can email me with any questions or requests for information or images to be posted on the blog. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I will also be posting a number of activities during this field season to help you revise for the HSC core topic; Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum