Weekly Roundup of Archaeology, History and Historical Fiction July 8-14

Here are some posts I enjoyed this week:

Fresco from the house of mysteries, Pompeii

Fresco from the house of mysteries, Pompeii

Pompeii has been going through some EU funded restorations, with 30 buildings open again and now the tourist numbers are climbing again (bringing revenue). Apparently only 10 buildings were open by 2010, down from 64 in 1956. Crumbling and decay were spreading. I hope this good news is genuine and will continue, avoiding any mishaps. It is an amazing place. Among the opened buildings, the Villa of Mysteries, which on my last visit, you could only peek into from a far and disappointing distance. Click here for Archaeology News Network “With 30 buildings restored, Pompeii heads towards new visitor record”

Roman cement lasts in seawater but modern cement doesn’t. Now we know why. Volcanoes are involved. If you want to know the chemistry involved, you’ll have to click through. Such things go in one of my ears and tumble out the other. Click here for BBC News “Scientists Explain ancient Romans long-lasting cement” 

A while back I read about some virtual unrolling of some of the papyrus scrolls carbonized in Pompeii and Herculaneum. This is an article that goes into some interesting detail about that continuing process. It isn’t easy. They are thrilled to get 14 readable lines. But that’s 14 more than we had before. Let’s just hope it’s not the Roman equivalent of junk reading. There’s so much good stuff it could be! Click here for Archaeology News Network “First ‘virtual’ unrolling of ancient scroll buried by Vesuvius reveals early text”

Aztec temple with serpent

Aztec temple with serpent

When the Spanish came into contact with the Aztecs, they brought back reports of towers of skulls that were meant to intimidate enemies and inspire Aztec warriors. The assumption by modern archaeologists was that the skulls were of conquered warriors—hence the intimidation factor. But now that a huge one of these skull collections is being excavated under Mexico City, they are finding women and children’s skulls among the towers. Uh oh, another understanding goes to the wind. But I’m not sure, as I think about it, if you were inclined to use enemy skulls in this gruesome way, why wouldn’t you include the women and children you had killed also? But the whole thing makes me glad I’m not time traveling back to witness the original display. I’m trying to think of modern parallels. It’s not like we’ve gotten more “civilized.” What comes to your mind in the psychological battle to intimidate foes (and one’s own people also)? Click here for BBC News “Aztec tower of human skulls uncovered in Mexico City”

A 6th C AD palimpsest manuscript containing a medical recipe of Hippocrates was found during a restoration of St. Catherine’s monastery in Egypt. Unfortunately, this article doesn’t include the recipe. I love those kinds of details. Medicine attributed to Hippocrates pops up in all kinds of places and such manuscripts are highly intriguing if medicinally they sometimes sound most unwise. I love the idea of collections so big (and ill kept?) that new important finds are waiting to be discovered. Just think what might turn up. What ancient lost document do you most want to read? Click here for National Geographic “Text by ‘Father of Medicine’ Found in Remote Egyptian Monastery” Click here National Geographic “Text by ‘Father of Medicine’ Found in Remote Egyptian Monastery”

 

 


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