Ancient: statues, Med Pills, Dog Mummies, and Clay Figurines
‘Exceptional’ find of Roman statues linked to poet Ovid
By Alan Johnston BBC News
Archaeologists in Italy say they have discovered what they’ve called a “very important” series of statues dating back to the Roman era.
The seven figures were found in a villa outside the city owned by the patron of the celebrated poet, Ovid.
They depict one of the myths recounted in his masterpiece, Metamorphoses, that of the proud mother Niobe.
The team unearthed the 2m-high figures at the bottom of what would have been a richly-decorated swimming pool.
It is reckoned that the statues toppled in to the pool during an earthquake and remained there for about 2,000 years.
In Metamorphoses, Ovid recounted many myths of transformations. He wrote of Niobe, the mother of 14 children who boasted about how much more fertile she was than the goddess Leto.
She was punished her for her pride. Leto’s two children, Artemis and Apollo, slaughtered her offspring. In her grief, Niobe turned to stone, weeping continuously.
The discovery of the statues raises an intriguing question – which came first, the statues or Ovid’s famous poem?
Perhaps the owner of the villa ordered the making of the statues for his home after reading the tale in his favourite poet’s work.
Or maybe it was the other way round.
Maybe the statues inspired the poem. Perhaps Ovid admired them as he lounged by his patron’s pool, and was moved to write of the disaster that engulfed Niobe.
The archaeologists have only just announced their discovery of the statues, which are in comparatively good condition. The team described them as an “exceptional” find, the discovery of a lifetime.
ANCIENT MEDICAL PILLS
Pills found in ancient Tuscan wreck resemble modern medicine
ANCIENT DOG MUMMIES
Eight million dog mummies found in Saqqara
Eight million dog mummies were uncovered at the dog catacomb in Saqqara
Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 2 Jan 2013
During routine excavations at the dog catacomb in Saqqara necropolis, an excavation team led by Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at The American University in Cairo (AUC), and an international team of researchers led by Paul Nicholson of Cardiff University have uncovered almost 8 million animal mummies at the burial site.
Studies on their bones revealed that those dogs are from different breeds but not accurately identified yet.
“We are recording the animal bones and the mummification techniques used to prepare the animals,” Ikram said.
Studies on the mummies, Ikram explains, revealed that some of them were old while the majority were buried hours after their birth. She said that the mummified animals were not limited to canines but there are cat and mongoose remains in the deposit.
“We are trying to understand how this fits religiously with the cult of Anubis, to whom the catacomb is dedicated,” she added.
Ikram also told National Geographic, which is financing the project, that “in some churches people light a candle, and their prayer is taken directly up to God in that smoke. In the same way, a mummified dog’s spirit would carry a person’s prayer to the afterlife”.
Saqqara dog catacomb was first discovered in 1897 when well-known French Egyptologist Jacques De Morgan published his Carte of Memphite necropolis, with his map showing that there are two dog catacombs in the area.
However, mystery has overshadowed such mapping as it was not clear who was the first to discover the catacombs nor who carried out the mapping, and whether they were really for dogs.
“The proximity of the catacombs to the nearby temple of Anubis, the so called jackal or dog-headed deity associated with cemeteries and embalming makes it likely that these catacombs are indeed for canines and their presence at Saqqara is to be explained by the concentration of other animal cuts at the site,” Nicholson wrote on his website.
“These other cults include the burials of, and temples for, bulls, cows, baboons, ibises, hawks and cats all of which were thought to act as intermediaries between humans and their gods.”
Despite the great quantity of animals buried in these catacombs and the immense size of the underground burial places, Egyptologists have focused on the temples and on inscriptional evidence rather than on the animals themselves and their places of burial.
The mysteries behind De Morgan’s mapping were unsolved until 2009 when this team started concrete excavations at the cemetery in an attempt to learn more about the archaeological and history of the site.
“Results at the first season showed that De Morgan map has substantial inaccuracies and a new survey is under way,” Nicholson said.
“The animal bones themselves have been sampled and preliminary results suggest that as well as actual dogs there may be other canids present. Furthermore the age profile of the animals is being examined so that patterns of mortality can be ascertained.”
ANCIENT CLAY FIGURINES
More than 300 of the prehistoric clay figurines were found by British archaeologists in Greece
BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGISTS UNEARTH ASTONISHING COLLECTION OF ANCIENT FIGURINES IN GREECE
Monday January 7,2013 By Charlotte Meredith
A TEAM of history-lovers from Britain have unearthed over 300 prehistoric clay figurines in one of the biggest archaeological finds in south-eastern Europe.
The figurines, which were found scattered all over the site of Koutroulou Magoula – located around 160 miles from Athens – are considered a major discovery in understanding the ancient Neolithic people.
The site – roughly four times the area of a football pitch – had been occupied by an advanced community of a few hundred people who made architecturally sophisticated houses from stone and mud-bricks.
The figurines are believed to not only have been considered aesthetic art, but were also used to convey and reflect ideas about a community’s culture, society and identity.
“Figurines were thought to typically depict the female form, but our find is not only extraordinary in terms of quantity, but also quite diverse – male, female and non-gender specific ones have been found and several depict a hybrid human-bird figure,” says Professor Yannis Hamilakis, Co-Director of the Koutroulou Magoula Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography project.
“We still have a lot of work to do studying the figurines, but they should be able to give us an enormous amount of information about how Neolithic people interpreted the human body, their own gender and social identity and experience,” he added.
The Neolithic period is widely considered a significant age in the development of human technology, where behavioral and cultural characteristics progressed alongside the brith of agriculture.
Correspondingly, archaeologists at the Koutroulou Magoula site have discovered evidence of farmers who kept domestic animals, used tools and had connections with settlements in the nearby area.
In addition to excavation, the archaeological project has engaged in a series of events examining the importance of Koutroulou Magoula in contemporary communities – including communal celebrations with food, drink and dance – ensuring the site is an important feature in the social and cultural life of the area.