Monday, November 24, 2014

Today In 380: Theodosius Made His Formal Entry into Constantinople

The adventus was the ceremony in which the new Emperor was formally received by the city, and a version of this procession is still practiced after the election of popes in Rome. At this point Theodosius was only Emperor in the East, although he was eventually Emperor of the whole empire.

If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

Monday ...

Because we can all do with a smile on a Monday morning ...
And remember the first five days of the week are the hardest - after that it gets easier.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Shady Online Trade in Ancient Texts

Candida Moss has written a good summary of some of the issues: 
Dismembering History: The Shady Online Trade in Ancient Texts - The Daily Beast:

Both priceless papyri that could shed light on early Christianity and forgeries are openly trafficked online. Determining authenticity is increasingly difficult.

This past week a new eBay auction announced the sale of “Ancient Egyptian papyrus with Greek letters—Bible.” Listed with the “buy it now” price of $1,098, the seller claimed that the fragment was written ca. 200 BC and was “collected in the 1960s … from an old Swiss collection, probably the Erik von Scherling collection.”
That piece is fine, as it did turn out to be from von Scherling and to have a solid pre 1970 provenance.

I have to admit I come to this issue from the Loot busting perspective not the Christian scholarship perspective, so I was pretty shocked how laissez-faire Jones was about the seller admitting it was looted:
Standards are a little sloppier when it comes to Christian materials. As St. Louis University historian Douglas Boin told me, the Society of Biblical Literature, where most Christian objects will be presented, has no such policy in place. In the meantime, shifty manuscripts continue to wend their way into major collections. In 2012, scholarly bloggers Dorothy L. King and Brice Jones highlighted the suspicious trading practices of an eBay seller known as MixAntix. Two years later, Roberta Mazza, an ancient historian and papyrologist at the University of Manchester, recognized a papyrus that had been put up for sale by MixAntix when she saw it on display at the Vatican’s illustrious Verbum Dominini II exhibit last April. A papyrus of dubious and potentially illegal origin ended up in an exhibit on the Word of God at the center of the Roman Catholic Church.
The better posts to read on this blog are this one where the dealer admitted to smuggling: Dorothy King's PhDiva: So I Bought A Papyrus on eBay .... And more recently this one where I explain how little people care that the smuggled papyri are ending up in a dodgy American 'museum': Dorothy King's PhDiva: I come to bury Green, not to praise him

Papyri are a very specialised field, and these were all stolen directly from the ground in Egypt rather than from museums, and so could not be reported stolen. That's why they do not appear on

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Vandalism by Looters at Palmyra

المديرية العامة للآثار والمتاحف

Three Stolen Busts which once decorated a kline were stole from Palmyra but Confiscated by the Syrian antiquities police. They were in the TAIBUL Tomb ( H ), Southeast Necropolis.



Minister Tasoulas on Amphipolis

As I have said before it slightly worries me that people are overly associating me with Amphipolis, and I am happy to explain points, but ... I will wait until Katerina Peristeri presents the amazing finds on the 29th, and she reveals Act One of the great Saga of Amphipolis.

Today's press release (here) added this information:
Σύμφωνα με τον Υπουργό Πολιτισμού, με τις εργασίες συντήρησης αποκαλύφθηκαν οι πρώτες υποψίες ανθρώπινων αναπαραστάσεων στα επιστύλια που βρέθηκαν στον τρίτο χώρο. Αυτή τη στιγμή έχει γίνει ο πρώτος καθαρισμός των επιστυλίων και θα ακολουθήσει και επεξεργασία τους με λέιζερ, καθώς και άλλες διαδικασίες.  "Αν βιαστείς, κινδυνεύεις να κάνεις σφάλματα που μπορεί να είναι καθοριστικά", τόνισε ο Υπουργός, ο οποίος θέλησε να πει με αυτόν τον τρόπο ότι δεν κρύβουν κάτι, απλώς οι αποκαλύψεις γίνονται έτσι και αλλιώς με αργούς ρυθμούς και δεν είναι μόνο θέμα κάποιου νέου ευρήματος, αλλά και η ίδια η διαδικασία της συντήρησης θα συνεχίσει να αποκαλύπτει πράγματα. "Αυτή είναι και η γοητεία της αρχαιολογίας", ανέφερε
The description of the first human representations in friezes in the third room, and that they are being treated with lasers, suggests to me that they were painted. Similar painted figures were found inside the tomb of Hecatomnus, and unlike the sculptures these kinds of paintings can fade and vanish quickly if they are not treated correctly.

Also this paragraph suggest that I may have been correct in my assumption that filling the rooms with soil was partly to stop them collapsing:
Ο κύριος Τασούλας, θέλοντας να δείξει τις δυσκολίες που είχε να αντιμετωπίσει η ομάδα σε σχέση με τις στερεωτικές διαδικασίες, είπε: "Το χώμα μέσα στον τάφο, κατά τη διάρκεια των χρόνων, έπαιξε ρόλο στερεωτικό για το μνημείο. Η αφαίρεση του χώματος ανέτρεπε τη στήριξη, και οι υποστυλώσεις έπρεπε να γίνονται με τρόπο τέτοιο ώστε να παρέχουν ακριβώς την ίδια στήριξη στα τοιχώματα κάθε φορά, ούτε περισσότερη ούτε λιγότερη."
As I keep saying, the team at Amphipolis is one of the best in the world. In times of crisis, and Greece has been going through a horrible period, it is natural to doubt everyone in authority, but please do not doubt that Katerina Peristeri and Michaelis Lefantzis are doing an exceptional job at Amphipolis.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Today In circa 270: Maximinus Daia Born

If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

Today In 284: Diocletian Became Emperor

I blogged about the possible discovery of Diocletian's sarcophagus here: PhDiva: Porphyry and ... Diocletian's Tomb?

If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blog Love: Surprised by Time

Too often ancient Greece gets all the glory, but we forget about Byzantine and later Greek history which can be just as fascinating. Diana Gilliland Wright has a fascinating blog about the Greece we too often forget, often concentrating on the family of the Despots of Mystra, who are almost better documented than the rulers in Constantinople because so many Western sources survive.

This post concerns Cyriaco, who made the earliest surviving modern drawings of the Parthenon, and his visit to Mycenae: Surprised by Time: Cyriaco's Mycenae

Today In 461: Libius Severus Became Emperor

If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lara Croft and the Missing Loot

I'm not Lara Croft. Yes I know some of the people involved in creating her, and yes there are some superficial similarities. For example, my step-father had a butler, but I'm sure there are other archaeologists raised with butlers ;-)

The one thing I do have in common with her is that I fight quite hard to try to find stolen and looted antiquities and have them returned to the country they came from.

In the past I've said "someone" identified this mosaic as almost certainly coming from a set in Edessa in Turkey, others of which had been excavated then stolen. This one was not officially excavated, so never reported stolen. That "someone" was me.

I emailed Maxwell L. Anderson of the Dallas Museum and the Turkish Ministry of Culture at the same time with my worries about the mosaic, and the brilliant Dr Anderson had emailed the Turks even before they had checked their messages offering to sort out the mess.

This Orpheus mosaic with a Syriac inscription was looted directly from the site and never reported stolen, but circumstantial evidence led the Dallas Museum to contact the Turkish Embassy with their worries - all other known mosaics of this type come from Edessa in Turkey, the site was excavated only in 1979, and a number of other mosaics of Orpheus were reported stolen in 1981 (see here), etc.

And it turned out that, despite the Dallas mosaic having been published in an academic article, Dallas Museum was right to be concerned by the issues I raised about the mosaic.

After doing more research, the Turkish Ministry of Culture was able to find images of it in situ taken by the looters:

Dr Maxwell L. Anderson of Dallas Museum should be praised, not only for approaching the Turks when he was made aware of issues with the museum's mosaic but also for setting up the AAMD Object Registry where museums list archaeological items they acquire so source countries can check they were not looted. If all museum directors were like him, life would be so much better.

The mosaic had been sold in the past at Christie's. Christie's often tend to get criticised for some antiquities that pass through them, but I would also like to say that they have gone out of their way to help whenever I've asked them to, and without breaking client confidentiality the head of their legal team and I had a long conversation about this.

A lot of groups and people claiming to fight looting have used this returned mosaic on their web sites, implying they were responsible or using it to help with their fundraising. This is the first time I have explained the story. The Turks were very happy, and when I went to Istanbul the city was covered in large posters celebrating the exhibition:

A head several people were involved in getting returned to Libya is this one. Hafed Walda told me he was having difficulties with a head he said had been stolen from Sabratha, but wouldn't give me any details - in retrospect I guess there were other people trying and failing to sort it out, as I later learnt from Christie's that many allegations had been made, but neither the Libyans nor Scotland Yard had provided them with any proof.

I pushed Hafed for the details of which head in the auction, and he eventually told me. I tried the little girl running the department, and when that didn't work I had a conversation with a lady at Christie's legal department who understood exactly what my issues were, and sorted it out. A lot of people involved themselves with this return, and many of them were incompetent, but it was easily resolved and took a total of maybe 60 minutes' conversation between me and Christie's.

I try to give as much credit to others as I can, but really they don't deserve it in this case.

These are all old cases, but I am sure people can understand why I can't talk about ongoing investigations and projects. I don't publish articles either in academic journals or in newspapers about this sort of work as I don't want looters to be able to understand the methods I use, or they will change theirs. If looters understand how I work, they will change their methods and it will be harder to catch them - that's why although I have published academic articles and presented research at conference, I can't do so with looting.

The Dodgy Papyrus of Jesus’s Wife

Joel Baden and Candida Moss always write fascinating articles about religious studies, and as always this one is worth reading.

Was Jesus married? 

I remember having a discussion with Adrian Goldsworthy when he was researching Cleopatra about whether or not she could ride. He said no ancient source said she could, and I argued that riding a horse was something so basic in the ancient world that everyone would have assumed she could, so saying "Cleopatra can ride" would be as superfluous as saying "Cleopatra can breathe" ... even though the sources do not specifically state either, they heavily imply should could do both.

As Baden and Moss point out, the earliest Christians were much more pro women than the ones who later re-wrote Christian texts to highlight what they wanted. I have discussed in the past how similar early Christians were to Jews, and suggested that not insisting on circumcision was one reason they became more popular with converts. I think that the positive stance the early Christians took towards women may have been another reason women converted, and many of the prominent early converts were after all women.

Jesus was born in 6 BC. He is normally assumed to have died before John the Baptist, but again this may not be correct. The Gospels concentrate on his later life and death, as Baden and Moss point out, and not on the majority of his life. As a Jew of the time, it would have been normal for him to have married, and very unusual for him not to have married.

Whether this Gospel fragment is authentic or not, it would not be proof of whether Jesus was married; it could at best be proof of what some Christians thought at some point.

Karen L. King (no relation) is a very well regarded scholar when it comes to religion.

The problem here is that this piece of papyrus seems to have been made by a clever faker, and a it comes from the art market without a provenance, and seems intended to be sold again on the art market. Many great scholars have already discussed how blank papyri of the right date can be bought and ink faked; they have discussed the issues with the brush used, and the problems with the wording almost exactly copying the spacing of other texts.

They have also discussed the fact that the people given as the provenance are all dead and that the heirs of the 'owner' Hans-Ulrich Laukamp claim he never collected or owned antiquities nor had any interest in them.

The Curious Case of Jesus’s Wife - The Atlantic:
The same man provided King with five other ancient texts from his collection: a cache of papyri that he said he’d purchased from another collector, a German man named Hans-Ulrich Laukamp. The contract for the sale from Laukamp to the anonymous owner indicated that Laukamp had purchased the papyri in East Germany in the early 1960s. That was as far back as the trail went.
Once again a seemingly fake provenance to Communist era East Germany is given because those are harder to check.

The only point I would like to make in addition is a simple one. Although I was not alive in the 1960s, I spent a lot of time as a child visiting my grand-parents in Communist era Poland. They were fortunate enough to have a much better life there than the average Pole, and the black market was very active in Poland but ... there is no way in hell anyone would have been stupid enough to sign a 'contract' or issue an invoice that would provide proof of these illegal and strongly punished black market activities. Only a forger with a serious lack of a grasp of the realities of modern history would try to claim otherwise.

Katerina Peristeri's Amphipolis

Last week's press release was very clear: Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού και Αθλητισμού - Σημεία ενημέρωσης από την κ. Άννα Παναγιωταρέα και την Γ.Γ. κ. Λίνα Μενδώνη στην Αμφίπολη.-
Στις 22 Νοεμβρίου, ο υπουργός Πολιτισμού και Αθλητισμού κ. Κ. Τασούλας θα δώσει συνέντευξη στο Μουσείο της Αμφίπολης, στη μία το μεσημέρι σχετικά με τα ευρήματα και την επόμενη φάση των εργασιών στο τύμβο Καστά. 
On the afternoon of November 22, the Minister of Culture and Sport Mr. K. Tasoulas will be interviewed at the Museum of Amphipolis on the findings and the next phase of work in the tomb Kasta.
Στις 29 Νοεμβρίου, ημέρα Σάββατο και ώρα 11.00 θα παρουσιαστούν τα αποτέλεσματα της ανασκαφικής περιόδου στον λόφο Καστά, από την έφορο Αρχαιοτήτων Σερρών Κ. Περιστέρη και τους συνεργάτες της, στην Αθήνα, στο Αμφιθέατρο του Υπουργείου Πολιτισμού.
On November 29, Saturday, at 11:00 the Inspector of Antiquities Serres K. Peristeri and partners will present the results of the excavation season at the Kasta hill, in Athens, in the Auditorium of the Ministry of Culture.

I know that to Greeks who probably see me more in the press at the moment than Kim Kardashian this might seem surprising, but ... until last month I always refused to do television and interviews. The only reason I did Alpha News about Amphipolis was because I was so angry about the ridiculous attacks on Mrs Peristeri and her amazing team at Amphipolis, and because I was so upset by the criticism of their work. Their critics are as ridiculous as the people who claim Skopje is Macedonia.

Having said that, I worry that I am becoming too associated with Amphipolis, and I would like to make it very clear that the excavation is the result of the brilliant work of Katerina Peristeri and Michaelis Lefantzis, as well as their brilliant team.

That's why I've taken a step back, and as the Ministry of Culture has announced that Dr Peristeri will be presenting the finds at the end of the month, I am going to try to keep out of speculation and discussing anything else anyone spots in photographs.

I'm not sure where the story that the body found has blue eyes originates, but eyes are mostly water so one of the first things to disintegrate with a corpse. Red hair? Hair lasts longer, but every archaeologist knows that hair dramatically changes colour based on what it was buried in, so even if hair was found, wild speculation that the Hero of Amphipolis was a redhead is premature.

I know that believing in God is unfashionable these days, but I do. Whether we honour him in the Jewish manner or the Greek Orthodox manner, his basic teaching is the same: "treat others as you would like to be treated yourself" ... I've been quite happy to discuss the findings, and even push to get the Ministry to reveal a little more about their evidence for the date, but the tomb's glory belongs to the Greeks, but presenting it and credit for finding it belongs to the brilliant archaeologists working there. Jesus said "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" - with Amphipolis, let's allow Mrs Peristeri the credit and the opportunity to explain to Greece what amazing finds she has made, and whose tomb it could be.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Today In AD 9: Vespasian Born

Obviously he's the evil man behind the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, but in an attempt to be objective I suggest watching this video the see the other views of him ...

If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

Good Moaning Monday

Because we can all do with a smile on a Monday morning ...
And remember the first five days of the week are the hardest - after that it gets easier.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Aphrodite Kallipygos

Archaeology can be fun! This is an Augustan Roman copy of a lost Greek original of around 300 BC or possibly as late as 100 BC depending on the scholar asked. A temple to Aphrodite Kallipygos at Syracuse is mentioned in Athenaeus (12.554c), who discusses the strange competition between girls which led to ...

Clement of Alexandria condemned her (source):
Do not the Argives sacrifice to Aphrodite Peribaso (the protectress), and the Athenians to Aphrodite Hetaera (the courtesan), and the Syracusans to Aphrodite Kallipygos, whom Nicander has somewhere called Kalliglutos (with beautiful rump). .... The Sicyonians reverence this deity, whom they have constituted the god of the muliebria -the patron of filthiness- and religiously honour as the author of licentiousness (The Exhortation to the Heathen, 2).