25 September 2008

Italy has lost its marbles

In this case though, it is a good thing. Italy has recently returned a small portion of the Parthenon to Greece. Called the "Palermo fragment" because it was housed in the museum in Palermo, the marble piece depicts the lower half of Artemis, the ancient Greek hunting goddess. Greece claims it has been trying to get the fragment returned for 13 years. 

This repatriation is a milestone for Greece since it has been trying for decades to get other Parthenon frieze fragments back from other countries, namely England, that were taken by Lord Elgin, the 19th century British ambassador to Greece that at the time was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The (in)famous "Elgin Marbles" or "Parthenon Marbles" are still held in the British Museum as negotiations continue for their return. Unbelievably my folks still argue that the marbles should remain in the BM! We get in this huge discussion every now and then about antiquities being moved from war-torn countries for safe keeping, but when was the last time Greece was considered a war zone?? It is pure arrogance keeping the marbles in England and they should be returned. Who's with me?!

22 September 2008

Milestone in (my) blogging

As this is my 101st post (a milestone perhaps?), I thought it might as well be childish and completely unscholarly. The "childish" part is the huge LEGO sphinx that was just completed at the Discovery Center in Halifax, Canada. Check out the photo. The head alone weighs 200 pounds. Insane! I wonder if Hawass will claim copyright?

The "unscholarly" award goes to Will Smith (of course) and his upcoming portrayal of Pharaoh Taharqa in the new movie "The Last Pharaoh." Seriously that is the title. I thought "The Last Samuari" already covered historical stereotypes? Anyway, you may be wondering when the last pharaoh actually reigned in Egypt. According to this absurd movie, it was 677 BCE when the Neo-Assyrians (led by Esarhaddon) finally managed to conquer the region. In actuality "Egypt" lives on through the Persian Period until Alexander conquers the entire Near East and everything goes to hell. Though the movie plot may have it correct that no "pharaohs" per se continued after the middle of the first millennium, there were certainly local rulers present. A single king though, hmm. Will have to check with my Egyptological colleagues.

[23.9.2008] Update: HA! I was right! The last pharaoh isn't until much later in the Persian Period, around 500 BCE. Then you get the Persians conquering Egypt, Greeks coming in, Alexander then Ptolemies, etc.

Finally I will just throw this in, but I came across this book today: Ancient Board Games in Perspective. Sweet! Need to pick it up.


18 September 2008

Busy as hell...

...so you'll have to deal with just the deadlines:

-Egypt is planning an underwater museum at Alexandria so visitors can swim through Cleoptra's palace and part of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, once one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Makes me want to get my diving certification!

-The oldest camel remains, around 1 million years, have been uncovered in Syria. The same scientific team also discovered the bones of a hitherto unknown "Giant Camel" last year that measured 4 meters tall. Seriously. It was supposedly the height of many African elephants today! 

-Prominent evangelical "anoints" Sarah Palin as biblical prophet. Need I say more?

-Old story, but ancient figs found at Jericho are reportedly the earliest cultivated crop. This is a rather controversial statement, since many scientists and archaeologists have long held that wheat and barley were the first.

-A Temple of Athena has been unearthed in Bodrum, a pretty sweet resort town in western Turkey. Dates to about the 6th century BC. Sweet.

-The legend of Eve's burial (yes, that Eve) in Saudi Arabia lives on.

-A computer modeling project is helping bring sound to life for ancient (well, Greek) musical instruments.

-Finally a mouse skeleton from a Bronze Age shipwreck is giving clues to how mice and rodents moved around the world, even as early as 2,000 BC.
 


14 September 2008

10 September 2008

"Sleeping" Buddha

Alas no picture (yet), but Yahoo! News reports that archaeologists in Afghanistan have uncovered a 19-meter-long reclining Buddha statue at Bamiyan. If you are up on your recent political history, as you should be, Bamiyan is where the Taliban blew up 2 other monumental Buddha statues in 2001. These statues that were carved into the cliff face are apparently being reconstructing in a painstaking effort. It begs the question: are we undoing history by restoring the Buddhas? 

But I digress. A few years back I had the good fortune of hearing a lecture by the head of Afghani Antiquities. He spoke about their, then-beginning, efforts to locate this third Buddha and it seems their efforts have paid off.  

In Turkey, however, the Culture and Tourism Ministry is not happy. Apparently they are figuring out that a lot of excavations being run in the country are doing a half-ass job. The article by Zaman seems to target Turkish-run excavations only, but notes that almost half of the projects are run by foreign teams. Apparently what the Ministry wants are excavation directors who care for their projects and the objects they unearth "like children." Uhh I'm sure what they meant was to have "child-like" enthusiasm for their jobs and not stick the artifacts in their mouths and then throw them across the room screaming.


07 September 2008

A statue, volcano and book

It has dawned on me that, yet again, I am way behind on posts. News stories have been piling up and I haven't found time to blog 'em. Finishing this diss and applying for jobs have really been bogging me down and I see no real let-up for the rest of the fall, so I suppose you should get used to posts that are few and far between. In the meantime, you can keep busy with a new blog by a very old friend and these "latest" (ok maybe 2 weeks old now) stories:

The BBC News reports that a marble sculpture of
everyone's fav Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, was recently uncovered in a bath house at Sagalassos, Turkey. The statue is 4.5 meters high (whoa) and he is wearing ornately carved boots complete with lion skin. Check out the excavation picture.

For your next trip to Italy, the Philly Inquirer recommends you skip Pompeii and go for the lesser-well-known nearby cities that were also destroyed by Vesuvius in good ol' 79. Places like Herculaneum weren't buried over a number of hours by falling volcanic rock and debris. Instead super hot gas, lava and mud completely filled and covered the buildings at Herculaneum that eventually solitified, encasing the buildings in a a thick black rock that is visible in some excavated parts today. This makes me think about the pertrified forest B and I hiked around in this weekend. Trees turned to minerals..very cool.

Finally, despite this being from the Christian Science Monitor and there is a mistake in the very first line of the article/blog/whatever (can you find it? hint: there are no "apples" mentioned in the book of Genesis, only "fruit!"), this seems like a cool book. "Figs, Dates, Laurel and Myrrh" looks at plants mentioned in the Hebrew (and Greek?) bible, Apocrypha and Quran. If you know me, you know I love gardening and cooking and plants n' such so this is yet another book to add to my shelf. Ahh just as I placed a moratorium on book buying...
 

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