Monday, September 28, 2009

Possible Victims of Trojan War unearthed in Turkey


A team from the University of Tubingen, led by Ernst Pernicka, have uncovered a pair of skeletons in the ancient city of Troy near ceramic fragments dated to the period of the Trojan War. It is discoveries like this that remind us how important literature like Homer's Iliad is to understanding our ancient past. It will really blow me away if they find a skeleton of an infant with its head crushed. We could then be looking at the only corporeal remnant of the famous Hector, trainer of horses!

[Image - Warrior with captured child, Roman copy of 3rd century BCE Greek original. Photographed at the Museo Archaeologico di Napoli, Naples, Italy by Mary Harrsch.]

This discovery, though, also raises the question about disposal of "enemy" dead after a catastrophic sack. Both the Greeks and the Trojans at the time practiced cremation. If skeletons are found that could have been retrieved for burial, it makes a person wonder if the Greeks not only violated religious taboos by slaughtering people who had fled to the temples for sanctuary, but did not grant the defeated and enslaved survivors the courtesy of properly burying their dead either. Perhaps the violent deaths later visited upon the Mycenaean victors were just desserts after all.

"Pernicka said pottery found near the bodies, which had their lower parts missing, was confirmed to be from 1,200 BC, but added the couple could have been buried 400 years later in a burial site in what archaeologists call Troy VI or Troy VII, different layers of ruins at Troy. professor of archaeometry who is leading excavations on the site in northwestern Turkey, said the bodies were found near a defense line within the city built in the late Bronze age.

The discovery could add to evidence that Troy's lower area was bigger in the late Bronze Age than previously thought, changing scholars' perceptions about the city of the "Iliad."

"If the remains are confirmed to be from 1,200 B.C. it would coincide with the Trojan war period. These people were buried near a mote. We are conducting radiocarbon testing, but the finding is electrifying," Pernicka told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Pernicka said pottery found near the bodies, which had their lower parts missing, was confirmed to be from 1,200 BC, but added the couple could have been buried 400 years later in a burial site in what archaeologists call Troy VI or Troy VII, different layers of ruins at Troy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pompeii exhibit nears its end in Los Angeles


The fantastic exhibit "Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture Along the Bay of Naples" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will be closing soon (October 4, 2009). If you haven't seen it yet, I would heartily recommend it.

I had the opportunity to see this exhibit last month while I was in the area attending a donor fund raising event for the Gallery of Historical Figures. I was particularly fascinated by the emphasis on archaism in Roman art, so much so that I wrote an extensive article about it for Heritage Key. Heritage Key is a new website that came online in June 2009 that focuses on the ancient and prehistoric world before 600 CE. The executive director, Jon Himoff, asked if I would be interested in writing articles for them and I agreed. If you haven't explored their website yet, I would encourage you to do so as they not only have some fascinating articles to read but have a virtual recreation of King Tut's tomb that you explore using an interface very similar to the one used in Second Life.

[Image: Bronze Replica of a Wild Boar at the House of the Chitharist in Pompeii. Photograph by Mary Harrsch]

At the Pompeii exhibit I was also finally able to see the original wild boar surrounded by hunting hounds sculpture from the House of the Citharist. In Pompeii there is a marvelous
replica of the work in situ but there is nothing like seeing the real thing. I'm afraid I was teased by my friends for traveling all the way to Pompeii (about a 20 hour flight with plane changes for me)
to see a replica then just taking a short hop (2 hours from here) down to L.A. to see the original!

I also saw a fresco of the Three Graces from an insula in Pompeii. It looks very much like a mosaic of the Three Graces from the House of Apollo in Pompeii that I photographed at the Museo Archaeologico di Napoli two years ago.

[Image - Mosaic of The Three Graces from the House of Apollo in Pompeii. Photographed at the Museo Archaeologico di Napoli in Naples, Italy by Mary Harrsch.]

I was also excited to finally get to see the beautiful ceremonial gladiator helmet that I had heard about but was unable to see at the museum in Naples because it was on tour at the time.

The ornate Thracian-style helmet was beautifully embossed with scenes from the Fall of Troy. The curators felt that the helmet was probably ceremonial because of the detail on it. It was probably worn during the pompa or parade of the gladiators that preceded the combat portion of the games.

Roman Archaeology Timeline