Friday, August 11, 2017

Christopher Kissane: ‘Historical myopia is to blame for the attacks on Mary Beard’

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ‘legitimises autocracy with historical myths’.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
2017 Anadolu Agency

On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the historian calls for an end to the trivialisation of the lessons of the past

Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther sparked a movement of Reformation that would leave indelible marks on European history. While some have used this anniversary as an opportunity for reflection, and others a chance to heal old wounds, 2017 finds us in an age of intense historical myopia. Breathless news cycles and furious outrage are shrinking our horizons just as they need to widen. Public debate barely remembers the world of last year, “old news”, let alone that of a decade or few ago.

History’s expertise, and most dangerously its perspective, are being lost in our inability to look beyond the here and now. We stumble into crises of finance and inequality with ignorance of economic history, and forget even the recent background to our current politics. We fail to think in the long term and miss a growing environmental catastrophe. We refuse help to millions of refugees by turning away from our own history. As technology and globalisation bring the world closer together, we have narrowed rather than broadened our perspective. With challenges on many fronts, history needs to be at the heart of how we think about our ever-changing world.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mary Beard is right – ‘Romans’ could be from anywhere, from Carlisle to Cairo


Mary Beard has faced ‘unnecessary insult, misogyny and language of war’ for defending the BBC cartoon.

The classics professor’s naysayers refuse to believe ancient civilisations could have been anything but Caucasian, but there is evidence that proves them wrong.

The wonderful Mary Beard has been sucked into another Twitter row – where she faced, in her words, “unnecessary insult, misogyny and language of war”. This latest tussle has been about her defence (which, as usual, was measured, graceful and – above all – well-informed) of a BBC cartoon showing a Roman British family with a black father. For some people this was infuriating, disgusting: a politically correct piece of anachronistic nonsense, throwing modern multicultural values back on to the past. And yet, as Prof Beard has pointed out, of course it is perfectly possible, even pretty likely, that such families existed in Roman Britain, and an entirely reasonable thing for the BBC cartoon to have posited.

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Construction of a Luxury Hotel is Continuing in Sofia Despite the Discovery of an Ancient Roman Necropolis


Work was in full swing at the building site of the first Hyatt hotel in Bulgaria, in the centre of the capital, Sofia, on Monday, Balkaninsight reported. 

While numerous machines laid concrete and strengthened the foundations of the future 190-room five-star hotel, a team of archaeologists with an excavator was carefully digging a rare find out of the ground.

They recently discovered an ancient Roman tomb – part of the eastern side of the necropolis of the Roman city of Serdica, which lies under Bulgaria’s capital – which could soon be buried under the luxury new hotel.

The same fate has already befallen six other tombs discovered at the construction site in April.
They were recently covered up by the construction company, Tera Tour Service, sparkling public outrage.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Archaeologists uncover 'little Pompeii' in southeast France

Archaeologists work on a mosaic on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an "exceptional discovery" by the French Culture Minsitry 
[Credit: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP]

A "little Pompeii" is how French archaeologists are describing an entire ancient Roman neighbourhood uncovered on the outskirts of the southeastern city of Vienne, featuring remarkably preserved remains of luxury homes and public buildings.

"We're unbelievably lucky. This is undoubtedly the most exceptional excavation of a Roman site in 40 or 50 years," said Benjamin Clement, the archaeologist leading the dig on the banks of the Rhone river, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) south of Lyon.

The city of Vienne -- famous for its Roman theatre and temple -- was an important hub on the route connecting northern Gaul with the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis in southern France.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Malaria already endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman period

Malaria was already widespread on Sardinia by the Roman period, long before the Middle Ages, as indicated by research at the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine of the University of Zurich with the help of a Roman who died 2,000 years ago.
Even today, Malaria is one of the greatest medical challenges worldwide, killing hundreds of thousands of people every year. In the past, people have adapted to the threat of malaria in various ways. These methods range from interventions in the environment like draining swamps, to genetic adaptations in the human body.

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Tomb depicting famous gladiator brawl discovered in Pompeii


A brawl between gladiators that ended in tragedy, narrated by Tacitus, and a mysterious character that probably died in it is a 2,000-year-old mystery of Pompeii brought to light by a marble monumental tomb with the longest funerary epigraph ever found. The excavation was connected with the rehabilitation of state-owned property as part of the Great Pompeii Project in the San Paolino area near Porta Stabia, one of the accesses to the ancient city.

The tombstone was made shortly before the eruption that destroyed Pompeii in 69 AD and was presented on Thursday in the archaeological area. The inscription is over 4 meters long, in seven narrative registers, and though it does not include the deceased's name, it describes in detail the major events in the life of the man buried within it: from the acquisition of the 'toga virilis' to his wedding, and describes the munificent activities that accompanied such events such as public banquets, largess, the holding of gladiatorial games and battling large beasts.


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Fused imaging reveals sixth century Roman Law text in Medieval book binding


16th century copy of Hesiod examined with different imaging techniques by Northwestern researchers 
[Credit: Emeline Pouyet]

After being hidden for centuries, the secrets within medieval manuscripts might soon come to light. By fusing two imaging techniques — visible hyperspectral imaging and x-ray fluorescence — an interdisciplinary team of Northwestern University researchers has developed a new, non-destructive technology that gives access to medieval texts hidden inside of ancient bookbindings.

Between the 15th and 18th centuries, bookbinders recycled the bindings from medieval parchments into new binding materials for printed books. While scholars have long been aware that books from this time period often contain hidden fragments of earlier manuscripts, they never had the means to read them.

“For generations, scholars have thought this information was inaccessible, so they thought, ‘Why bother?’” said Marc Walton, senior scientist at the Northwestern University-Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies (NU-ACCESS). “But now computational imaging and signal processing advances open up a whole new way to read these texts.”

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Extremely rare Roman sarcophagus lifted from ancient Southwark burial site

rchaeologists prepare to lift the lid of Roman sarcophagus found in Southwark, London 
[Credit: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire]

This is an exceptional find for London, where only two similar late Roman sarcophagi have been discovered in their original place of burial in recent years: one from St Martin-in-the Fields near Trafalgar Square (2006) and one from Spitalfields in 1999.

The excavation, which began in January this year, revealed a large robber trench around the coffin and found that the lid had been moved, suggesting that the coffin was discovered and robbed in the past. However, it is possible that only the precious items were removed, and the less valuable artefacts, such as the body itself, still remain within the stone sarcophagus.

Southwark and the City of London are remarkable in being the only two London Boroughs that have their own, in-house, dedicated archaeologist. Southwark Council champions archaeology and has dedicated planning policies to ensure that the borough’s ancient history is identified, protected and managed for future generations. The Harper Road excavation is just one of the many archaeological projects that are currently running across Southwark.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More extraordinary Roman writing tablets found at Vindolanda Roman Fort


More ‘Vindolanda writing tablets’ full of visible cursive Latin text have been unearthed at Vindolanda Roman Fort, on Hadrian’s Wall

Archaeologists at Vindolanda Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall have discovered a new hoard of around 25 Roman ink documents, known as the Vindolanda writing tablets, as part of an extraordinary excavation season at the archaeological site.

Found during the latest dig at the former Roman Army encampment, the tablets containing letters, lists and personal correspondence were discovered lying in the damp and anaerobic earth where they had been discarded towards the end of the 1st century AD.

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Roman 'domus' with mosaic floors unearthed in Auch, France


Excavation of Roman Imperial-era domus in Auch, France 
[Credit: © Jean-Louis Bellurget, Inrap]

Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a luxurious 5th-century Roman palace in Auch in the Gers – and they face a race against time to excavate it. 

Abandoned some 16 centuries ago, this aristocratic ‘domus’ possessed private baths and splendid mosaics on the ground. It was close to the centre of the ancient Roman city of Augusta Auscorum, which was the capital of the province of Novempopulanie - and near the centre of the modern town of Auch.

Originally found by the landowner digging foundations to build a house, just 50cm below the surface the impressive 2-metre-deep ruins have been revealed. Since the end of April, l’Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives (Inrap) has been bringing to light a part of what was once a vast aristocratic home.

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Ancient roman sarcophagus found at London building site


An ancient Roman sarcophagus has been excavated from a building site in central London.
The 1,600-year-old coffin found near Borough Market is thought to contain the remains of a member of nobility.
Archaeologists have been unable to identify the body as the stone coffin has been left filled with soil after being robbed, experts believe.
The sarcophagus will now be taken to the Museum of London's archive for analysis.
The coffin was found several metres underground with its lid slid open, which indicates it was plundered by 18th century thieves.

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