Weekly Roundup of Archaeology, History and Historical Fiction Jan 7-13

Here are some posts I enjoyed this week:

A favorite Mycenaean sword to help you visualize the sword mentioned in the article. This one in Athens National Museum

A favorite Mycenaean sword to help you visualize the sword mentioned in the article. This one in Athens National Museum

This Smithsonian article about the extraordinary 2015 finds in a Mycenaean shaft grave near Nestor’s palace at Pylos is totally worth the read. Sit down with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and savor. What one untouched grave can reveal, dug with contemporary respect for context etc. The conclusion that the archaeologists have made, that we should now reject the old model of Mycenaean/Minoan relations as aggressive take over by Mycenaeans/destruction of one culture to make room for the next, is powerful. The artifacts reflect a far more sophisticated and intermixed relationship between the pre-palatial Mycenaeans and the Minoans. The Mycenaeans were aware of the larger world and embraced it in an intelligent and open way. In the placement of the pieces in the shaft grave—their sheer gorgeousness as art is breathtaking—we can hear an ancient conversation between Minoan culture and Mycenaean, a conversation based on respect and understanding. A seal ring with a bull staff in the hand of a Minoan goddess reflected in a full scale bull horn staff lying next to the warrior and next to the seal ring. No more bumbling Mycenaeans with a violent warrior culture as their only marker. I think a lot of us had intuited this, but it’s extraordinary to have it revealed in such richness. Click here for Smithsonian Magazine “This 3,500 Greek Tomb upended what we thought we knew about the roots of western civilization”

A group of Israeli holiday cavers found something remarkable. A menorah carved into the wall of a hidden cave in the Judeah Shfela hints that this might have been a refuge after the Bar Kokbha uprising, along with other buildings that had been discovered there previously. The menorah is a primary symbol of the Temple during the Second Temple period. Niches in the wall appear to be part of a columbarium for raising doves. Doves were kept for sacrifice in the temple. There are also later Byzantine carvings of a cross and buildings at the site. Click here for Archaeology News Network “Engravings of seven-branched menorah and cross discovered by hikers in Israel”

Judith at Paleo Paphos Kouklia site before they dug out the murex shells...

Judith at Paleo Paphos Kouklia site before they dug out the murex shells…

Last week I shared a BBC post about Paphos, Cyprus that focused on the temple of Aphrodite and the later Roman mosaics and buildings. Here’s an article about the rich presence in Paphos during the Classical period of the 6th century BC to the end of the 4th century BCE. One of the finds, by using evidence on the micro level, indicates the murex (the rich purple dye gathered from a shellfish) production was dominant here. A unique funereal monument has been excavated also, that must, by chronology, have been built by the Ptolemies when they ruled the island in the 3rd century BCE. Under the Ptolemies the independent dynasties that ruled the island came to an end. Cyprus is quite amazing at how many periods and civilizations you can find there. Click here for Archaeology News Network “Results of the 2016 excavations at the Kouklia site in Palaepaphos”



photo image Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia’s acoustics recreated digitally at Stanford. This is a project to have performed within the acoustic dimensions, so to speak, medieval Christian music dating to the period of Hagia Sophia’s use as the crown jewel church of Constantinople. Somehow they ascertain the acoustics by recording balloon pops in current Hagia Sophia. This I cannot quite conceptualize, but I’m intrigued. Click here for Archaeology News Network “Hagia Sophia’s Sublime Acoustics Digitally Created”





The site of Troy–which is troublesome to bring alive on all kinds of levels (pun intended)

Turkey is building (or apparently rebuilding something that had “infrastructural problems”) a modern museum in the city nearest Troy, Çanakkale. This article says it will display artifacts unearthed in the ancient city of Troy, but isn’t more specific. I’m not sure if this means they will pull the museum collection out of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum that pertains to Troy or if they mean artifacts found during the last two decades or so of contemporary excavation at Troy. I’m guessing the later—which would be appropriate. Let me know, if anyone has more specific knowledge. Of course, the “treasures of Priam” taken out of Turkey by Schliemann are now in Russia and no one sees those moving anytime soon. I’m hoping the photograph included in the article shows scaffolding or something around a building, not the building itself since it is not an attractive picture. They are also restoring Ottoman bastions and displaying information about WWI in this same museum area. I hope they look to the Çorum Museum as a model for how to curate and organize in this new one. That is the one Turkish museum with outstanding displays that reflect contemporary international standards of excellence and provides the richest experience for tourists and school children, etc. who visit. The goal with these endeavors in Turkey is always to attract tourism. Beautiful, coherent and interactive curating is the way to draw tourism. This will be especially true if the collection is primarily what has been dug up in the last couple decades because it will need interpretation and context to be intriguing. These are subtle treasures, not gaudy golden riches—much as we all are drawn to the golden. It’s the rest of an archaeological dig, stuff that got thrown away or never noticed by early archaeology such as was performed at Troy in its first stages, that really teaches about the world being excavated. The narrative and display techniques will be essential. Click here for The Daily Sabah “Troy to have its own museum Hamidye Bastions restored”


Weekly Roundup of Archaeology, History and Historical Fiction Jan 7-13 — 2 Comments

  1. Re: the “conversation” between the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures reflects a NY Times article on Neanderthals and Homo sapiens (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/11/magazine/neanderthals-were-people-too.html). It seems we may not have driven them to extinction by war, but that both groups–and other Homo species–lived side by side and interacted as well as interbred. So our stories of civilization and evolution evolve also as we accumulate evidence, let go biases, and imagine other possibilities. A parable, perhaps, for the next 4 years?

    • Let’s hope that’s the parable that we continue to enact. It is interesting how often blending and respect have been the mode rather than war and killing. We get pessimistic and think the later, but it hasn’t always been the case and let’s hope doesn’t need to be.

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