Monday, January 21, 2008

Comic used to stimulate kids interest in local archaeology in Bidford, England

"WARWICKSHIRE County Council has published a comic to encourage children and young people to get involved in digging up the past in Bidford.

Its archaeological outreach project, Buried under Bidford, which aims to give people the opportunity to experience hands-on archaeology and learn more about the rich heritage of the village, has produced the comic in a bid to engage youngsters with the scheme.

And feedback so far has shown it is doing just that.

It features a picture story of two modern children being taken into the past to live with Romans, facts from Roman times, puzzles, games and historical information.

Aimed at seven to 11-year-olds, it also ties in with key stage 2 of the national curriculum.

Christina Evans, project manager for the county council, said: "Speaking to young people helped shape the format of the comic so that it would be in a format they would understand and enjoy.

"Our feedback since it was published shows that it has helped the Buried under Bidford project to reach young people which is the only way to safeguard its heritage long term."

Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlements in the Bidford area and more is believed to be in existence.

Christina added: "The archaeology of an area such as Bidford is priceless and should be preserved for future generations."

An exhibition displaying artefacts featured in the comic is currently running at Warwickshire Museum. These include a tankard discovered at the site of a Roman fort, a samian bowl from Gaul and a spike from the Roman bridge at Bidford, which shows the Roman practice of coating a wooden spike with iron.

Copies of the free comic can be obtained from the Historic Environment Record, Warwickshire Museum, Roman Alcester or Bidford library."

I think comics and graphic novels are vastly underrated for their ability to interest children (and even adults) in historical topics. I'm presently evaluating a tool called CMAP, originally designed as a concept mapping tool, that would enable students to collaborate on storyboards/graphic novels. I created a sample storyboard using the tool (and images from HBO's Rome under fair use) at:

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The Role of Music in Ancient Civilizations Topic of New Exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem

"...A new exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem illustrates the role of music in the ancient Near East with an elegant display of musical instruments and iconography. Entitled "Sounds of Ancient Music," the exhibit opened on January 7 and features many noteworthy items, including some from as long ago as 12000 BCE.

As well as covering ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia, the display also has a special section examining music during the Second Temple period, and features a cornerstone from the Second Temple compound believed to be from where the priests would blow trumpets to usher in Shabbat. Also on display from the same period is an exquisite flute fragment found in a burial site in Jerusalem; due to its fine workmanship, assistant curator Moshe Piamenta speculates that it may have been actually used in the Temple itself.

ALTHOUGH THE only instruments that have survived the ages are those made from bone or metal like flutes, cymbals and rattles, the exhibit displays modern reproductions of ancient lyres, harps and drums created by closely following iconography found on vases, pottery and other implements. The iconography itself is very interesting, a fascinating gallery of mythological figures and statues playing ancient instruments. Especially noteworthy is the large number of females portrayed playing frame drums, a rare silver bowl from the Roman period showing Eros playing an ancient harp, and a cult item from 10000 BCE (found in Ashdod) depicting a five-person musical ensemble..."

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ancient Nabatean's Petra still fascinates today

Here's a really nice piece on Petra and the Nabateans.

"Although Petra was inhabited by the Edomites before the arrival of the Nabateans, the latter carved grandiose buildings, temples and tombs out of solid sandstone rock. They also constructed a wall to fortify the city, although Petra was almost naturally defended by the surrounding sandstone mountains. Building an empire in the arid desert also forced the Nabateans to excel in water conservation. They were highly skilled water engineers, and irrigated their land with an extensive system of dams, canals and reservoirs.

Detail of the Treasury in Petra.  Photo
courtesy of Richard White.
We still know comparatively little about Nabatean society. However, we do know that they spoke a dialect of Arabic and later on adopted Aramaic. Much of what is now known about Nabatean culture comes from the writings of the Roman scholar Strabo. He recorded that their community was governed by a royal family, although a strong spirit of democracy prevailed. According to him there were no slaves in Nabatean society, and all members shared in work duties. The Nabateans worshipped a pantheon of deities, chief among which were the sun god Dushara and the goddess Allat.The Nabateans were exceptionally skilled traders, facilitating commerce between China, India, the Far East, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. They dealt in such goods as spices, incense, gold, animals, iron, copper, sugar, medicines, ivory, perfumes and fabrics, just to name a few. From its origins as a fortress city, Petra became a wealthy commercial crossroads between the Arabian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures. Control of this crucial trade route between the upland areas of Jordan, the Red Sea, Damascus and southern Arabia was the lifeblood of the Nabatean Empire.

As the Nabateans grew in power and wealth, they attracted the attention of their neighbors to the north. The Seleucid King Antigonus, who had come to power when Alexander’s empire was divided, attacked Petra in 312 BCE. His army met with relatively little resistance, and was able to sack the city. The quantity of booty was so great, however, that it slowed their return journey north and the Nabateans were able to annihilate them in the desert. Records indicate that the Nabateans were eager to remain on good terms with the Seleucids in order to perpetuate their trading ambitions. Throughout much of the third century BCE, the Ptolemies and Seleucids warred over control of Jordan, with the Seleucids emerging victorious in 198 BCE. Nabatea remained essentially untouched and independent throughout this period.

Although the Nabateans resisted military conquest, the Hellenistic culture of their neighbors influenced them greatly. Hellenistic influences can be seen in Nabatean art and architecture, especially at the time that their empire was expanding northward into Syria, around 150 BCE. However, the growing economic and political power of the Nabateans began to worry the Romans. In 65 BCE, the Romans arrived in Damascus and ordered the Nabateans to withdraw their forces. Two years later, Pompey dispatched a force to cripple Petra. The Nabatean King Aretas III either defeated the Roman legions or paid a tribute to keep peace with them..."

My friend and fellow photographer Richard White just returned from Petra not long ago with some great photos as always! His Flickr photostream on Petra can be viewed at:

His photos of nearby Jerassa, Jordan can be viewed at:

Like me, Richard offers his photos freely for non-commercial purposes with proper attribution through Creative Commons.
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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Colossal statue of Hadrian found at Sagalassos, Turkey to be highlight of new British Museum exhibition

Two thousand years after he built a wall across Britain to keep out the barbarians, Hadrian is returning to this part of his empire. More than 200 treasures relating to the Roman Emperor will go on display in a block-buster exhibition this summer, the British Museum announced yesterday.

Spectacular artefacts that have only just been found will be among loans from 31 countries - a reflection of the global scale of Hadrian’s empire. It extended from Scotland to the Sahara, and from the Nile to the Danube.

Negotiations are now under way to bring to London a colossal marble statue of Hadrian that was found only a few months ago at Sagalassos, Turkey.

Archaeologists were excavating the site of a huge Roman bath complex, whose construction began under Hadrian, when they found the lower part of a leg and a foot with an exquisitely decorated sandal. The foot alone is about 0.8 metres (2.6ft) long. The complete statue, topped by an imposing head, was originally nearly five metres high. Traces of red paint have survived on both the hair and sandal...

The exhibits will include a sculpture of Hadrian’s wife, created with a beauty that, according to Thorsten Opper of the British Museum, “would have had Michelangelo in raptures, if he had seen it”.

There will also be exquisite bronzes, including an extraordinary statue found in Israel in the 1970s and a silver bowl bearing an intricate portrait of his young Greek lover, Antinous, who accompanied him on his travels around the empire.

A papyrus fragment will give an insight into the man himself as the only surviving section of Hadrian’s autobiography. Its contents are particularly touching in that Hadrian described the loss of his father at the age of 9.

The show also includes objects from the museum’s own collection such as the famous Vindolanda wooden tablets, the oldest surviving examples of handwriting in Britain, which were discovered near Hadrian’s Wall.

Before the exhibition, a bronze head of the emperor from the 2nd century AD will travel to both ends of the wall, which extends 80 miles from the Solway Firth to the Tyne at Wallsend. The head, one of the rare remaining bronzes from Roman times, has never left the museum since its discovery in the Thames in 1834."

This sounds like a fantastic exhibit. If the blood clot in my leg dissolves in time, maybe I can pop over to London and have a look!

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Roman pan displayed at Arbeia Rom Fort

An ancient Roman pan, which was made sometime after AD 122 but was only uncovered in 2003, is to go on display at Arbeia Roman Fort on Saturday January 5 2007.

Unearthed by a man using a metal detector in the Staffordshire Moorlands, the pan is a tiny cast copper-alloy bowl missing its base and handle and shows exceptional craftsmanship.

Although the pan is a small object, it can tell us a great deal about life on Hadrian’s Wall,” said Alex. “The inscription on the pan names four of the westernmost forts of the Wall; it is the earliest naming of the fort Congabata.”

“Hadrian’s Wall is possibly named for the first time here (Aelius was Hadrian’s family name), which tells us that the pan was made after AD 122.”

An inscription on the pan suggest it might have belonged to somebody called Draco and the small exhibition also questions who Draco was and what relevance the pan had to him.

The pan may have been an offering to the river gods, as its burial site overlooks a river valley. Courtesy British Museum, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and Tullie House

A band of Celtic-style curvilinear decoration dances around the wall of the vessel and there is a vibrantly coloured enamel inlay around the engraved inscription.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Roman Garden to be added to Roman Legion Museum

"Once a Roman stronghold where military features were part of the landscape, Wales’ National Roman Legion Museum at Caerleon will soon have a new, more floral and ornamental Roman feature.

Work is underway on a new Roman style garden at the museum, inspired by gardens from around the Roman Empire with traditional elements such as pergolas, ornate raised flower beds, box hedging and frescoes.

“We have been looking forward to starting work on the Roman garden for some time,” said Dai Price, Museum Manager, “and we are developing a range of resources and interpretation to help visitors find out more about Roman horticulture and its uses in everyday life.”

“Work will commence by planting 22 new cypress trees during the winter, before laying new paths, painting frescoes and planting the garden in the spring.”

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Portion of Thetford Treasure to be exhibited in Thetford

If you're in Thetford for the reenactment presentations during May you will also get a chance to view at least part of the original Thetford treasure of Roman buckles, coins, jewelry, strainers, and spoons.

"The Thetford Treasure - one of the country's greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century - will leave the British Museum in early May for six month secondment to a 500-year-old town house.

The loan of almost half of the priceless collection of gold bracelets, necklaces, pendants, rings and silver spoons and strainers, dated between 380 and 390AD, represents a major coup for Ancient House: Museum of Thetford Life.

The museum, in White Hart Street, which has about 30 replicas of the Thetford Treasure on display, will get to exhibit the real thing to the public from May 12, 18 months after a top-to-toe refurbishment of the Tudor building.

The beautiful 83 piece collection, which was found in superb condition in the Gallows Hill area of Thetford in 1979, revealed a lot about life and religion at the end of the Roman era in Britain in the late 4th century."

More on the Thetford Treasure:

The magnificent Thetford Treasure was hidden in the Norfolk soil during the troubled times of the AD 390s; though it is also possible it was intended as some kind of ritual deposit. Its items typify the flamboyance of the late antique World and show explicit pagan influences at a time when Britain was officially Christian. Amongst the treasures are 33 silver spoons, 22 exquisite gold finger-rings (apparently made by the same jeweller), 4 pendants, several necklaces and a golden belt-buckle, 2" high, displaying a dancing satyr and possibly intended to be worn by a Roman army officer. -
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Reenactors needed in Thetford!

For those of you living in the Thetford area in England, it's time the don the armor and volunteer to participate in their Ancient Museum's reenactment activities scheduled for this year. (I wish I lived close by - the Rampaging Romans and Irate Iceni sounded like particular fun!)

"Ancient House Museum, in Thetford, [England] has launched a recruitment drive in a bid to get more residents from the town in costume and involved in their House Alive days.

Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service has been running a series of popular, fun and informative re-enactment history days at the Grade I listed building, in White Hart Street, since it reopened after a £1.6m refit in 2006.

Officials now want to encourage more enthusiastic people to volunteer as a 'Thetford Treasures' who might be willing to dress up as Tudor cooks, maids, or ladies and gentlemen.

Karen-Emma White, from Ancient House, said no experience was necessary to become a House Alive helper and training would be provided.

“Becoming a museum volunteer is a rewarding and sociable activity and as a Thetford Treasure you will be part of a small friendly team working in a delightful, fascinating and award- winning environment,” she said.

The team of volunteers also support the museum's outreach work at events at Gressenhall Museum of Rural Life, Thetford's dragon boat racing, and Weeting Steam Engine Rally.

Some of the House Alive events in 2008 are:

Victorian spring cleaning on Friday February 15, 11am - 2pm.

Meet the Tudors on Friday 26 March, 11am - 2pm.

Rampaging Romans and Irate Iceni - learn about Roman life during the reign of Boudicca - on Friday May 30, 11am- 2pm."
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