Frescoes in the Roman Catacombs

A couple of days ago we had some exciting news about new Roman finds in Britain; now here’s some even more exciting archaeology news from Rome itself. Frescoes in the Catacombs of Domitilla, just outside the city, have been restored to show images and inscriptions which provide new evidence for life in Rome in the 3rd-4th centuries CE – from the organisation of the communal corn dole to the role of Christianity in the city at this period – plus graffiti left by the catacombs’ first excavators in the 17th century. Details and some nice pictures here. This is definitely going on my list of things to see in Rome!

Roman baths discovered in Carlisle

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Archaeologist Kevin Mounsey holds a Roman water pipe (from the News & Star)

Some exciting news from the north of England – the remains of a Roman bathhouse have been found underneath a cricket pavilion in the city of Carlisle. The baths are thought to be associated with a nearby fort on Hadrian’s Wall. Here‘s the BBC report, and the local News & Star paper has more details and pictures here (including the one on the right, featuring the archaeologist in charge of the dig holding a rather nice Roman water pipe). Hopefully the site will be open to visitors in the future!

Sensational new Linear B tablet discovery in Athens

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Linear B tablet (replica)

Archaeologists working on a rescue excavation in Athens city centre have just announced the discovery of a series of clay tablets inscribed in the Linear B script, the first to be found in the city. The tablets date from the end of the Bronze Age, c.1200 BCE, and provide exciting new evidence for ritual practices in Mycenaean Greece. According to the excavation director, Professor Ilithios Apriliou, the texts refer to a ritual taking place on the first day of the month Apate, tentatively identified as the fourth month of the Mycenaean year. Participants in the ritual are recorded as receiving varying quantities of barley, while other tablets list offerings of wine and olive oil to the god Hermes (Hermahas in Mycenaean Greek). The most enigmatic of the tablets appears to act as an introduction to the whole series; while much of its text is currently obscure, Prof. Apriliou believes it describes a part of the ritual in which participants compete to tell the most outrageous stories in honour of the trickster god Hermes. The tablet is, however, badly damaged, and this interpretation relies heavily on Prof. Apriliou’s suggested restorations; an alternative reading, in which the festival is simply opened by a council of elders, is equally possible, and only close further study – and, it is to be hoped, further discoveries of tablets – will reveal the true nature of this mysterious ancient celebration.

Update: some helpful explanations (and a few more classical news items from April 1st) here!

Blog round-up: from PhDs to SF

A quick round-up of some recent blog posts by friends and colleagues that I think are worth checking out! I recently linked to some good advice for new graduate students from Res Gerendae; here’s another similar post from Katherine McDonald (featuring some more good advice re work/life balance, and a cute picture of a mouse).

Fans of Mycenopoly, or of board games in general, will enjoy this post by Daniel Unruh about the ‘gods playing games’ motif – when gods are depicted as playing board games to control human lives (as frequently seen in the Discworld, for example, or the classic film Jason and the Argonauts).

Finally, one for the SF fans: an interesting pair of posts by Philip Boyes on the close but problematic relationship between science fiction and archaeology: Part 1 and Part 2.

Oh, and here is a picture of a cat, because every blog post is improved by a picture of a cat:

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Happy reading!

‘If the shoe fits’…Roman shoes at Vindolanda

A brief note to share some exciting news from the Roman fort of Vindolanda (home of the famous writing tablets), where this year’s excavations have produced 421 Roman shoes, including children’s shoes and even baby boots! More details and some wonderful pictures on the Vindolanda blog.

Santorini, the volcanic island

As promised in my last post about the conference I recently attended on Crete, here’s one about the short holiday I took en route back to the UK – a couple of days on the island of Santorini (aka Thera), the largest of several islands formed around and inside a caldera (crater) left by a series of volcanic eruptions. The first thing to say: even before getting off the ferry, the views of the steep cliffs forming the side of the caldera are stunning, and they only get better once you’re at the top:

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View from Skaros headland towards Fira (the main town of Santorini)

Continue reading “Santorini, the volcanic island”

International Congress of Cretan Studies

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ICCS poster at the new Heraklion Cultural and Conference Centre

I’ve just returned from a trip to Greece to attend the 12th International Congress of Cretan Studies. The ICCS takes place every 5 years in different locations around Crete – this time, it was in the capital, Heraklion, which I’ve visited a couple of times before. It’s a huge conference – several days of two or three simultaneous sessions going on at once, and that was just the Prehistoric/Classical stream I was attending (there are also streams on Byzantine/medieval and post-medieval Crete). This year’s theme was ‘mobility’, and within that was an extraordinary large range of papers relating to the movement of people (migration, travel, changing settlement patterns), goods (trade and exchange), or ideas (practices, ideologies, beliefs). Continue reading “International Congress of Cretan Studies”