Friday, February 26, 2010

Routine Child Sacrifice Not Practiced by Ancient Carthaginians After All

Although Hannibal was used as a "boogey man" to scare misbehaving Roman children, Carthaginians did not, contrary to popular myth, actually wantonly sacrifice their children according to a new report by researchers from the University of Pittsburg.

The scientists examined the remains of children found in Tophets, structures on the margins of Punic cemetaries where urns containing the remains of young children and animals were placed.  The contents of 348 urns were inspected for developmental markers that would reveal the children's age at death.

[Image: Medea Killing Her Sons by Delacroix, 1862.  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

"Schwartz [Jeffrey H. Schwartz, a professor of anthropology and history and philosophy of science in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences and president of the World Academy of Art and Science] and Houghton [Frank Houghton of the Veterans Research Foundation of Pittsburgh] recorded skull, hip, long bone, and tooth measurements that indicated most of the children died in their first year with a sizeable number aged only two to five months, and that at least 20 percent of the sample was prenatal."

"Schwartz and Houghton then selected teeth from 50 individuals they concluded had died before or shortly after birth and sent them to Macchiarelli and Bondioli, who examined the samples for a neonatal line. This opaque band forms in human teeth between the interruption of enamel production at birth and its resumption within two weeks of life. Identification of this line is commonly used to determine an infant's age at death. Macchiarelli and Bondioli found a neonatal line in the teeth of 24 individuals, meaning that the remaining 26 individuals died prenatally or within two weeks of birth, the researchers reported."

"The team's report also disputes the contention that Carthaginians specifically sacrificed first-born males. Schwartz and Houghton determined sex by measuring the sciatic notch&'a crevice at the rear of the pelvis that's wider in females&'of 70 hipbones. They discovered that 38 pelvises came from females and 26 from males. Two others were likely female, one likely male, and three undetermined." - More: Spero News

Carthage: A Journey Back in Time (Lost Treasures of the Ancient World)    History - Engineering An Empire: Carthage   The Punic Wars: Rome, Carthage, and the Struggle for the Mediterranean   Dying for the Gods: Human Sacrifice in Iron Age & Roman Europe   Some Inquiries Concerning Human Sacrifices Among the Romans
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Romans to paint Trajan's Column - with light!

A couple of years ago I attended an excellent exhibit at the Getty Villa about the use of vibrant color in ancient art.  At that exhibit, copies of some ancient sculpture had been brightly painted to demonstrate how Greek and Roman temples and the frieze of the Parthenon actually looked to ancient Greeks and Romans.

Now, Italian researchers, using analysis of ancient pigment fragments recovered from the monument carved with scenes depicting the Emperor Trajan's battles with the Dacians, are planning to repaint Trajan's Column but use projected light instead of physical paint so the original is not damaged or irrevocably changed.  High-definition film containing appropriately colored images of the column's reliefs will be projected onto the monument for a few minutes each hour during the evening hours beginning next year to give visitors a view of the intricately detailed 100-foot column that has not been seen in almost 2,000 years.

Discovery News has  an interesting video about the project:

Designing Experimental Research in Archaeology: Examining Technology Through Production and Use   Ancient Germanic Warriors: Warrior Styles from Trajan's Column to Icelandic Sagas   The Forum of Trajan in Rome: A Study of the Monuments in Brief
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2nd century CE bust of Jupiter rediscovered at Fountains Abbey (UK)

A fragmented bust of Jupiter, estimated to be about 2,000 years old, has been rediscovered at Fountains Abbey in the UK among the remains of the estate of the Earl of Arundel.  Unfortunately, little is known about the piece like many works collected by wealthy patrons of the 17th century.  It was given to the Earl as a gift in the 1660s. It was among the antiquities in his collection dispersed about 100 years later.  It ended up in a temple in Fountains Abbey until it was stored away so the temple could be rennovated.  It may have been damaged at that time.

English Heritage is cleaning it up and visitors can request to see it by calling the archaeology store at Helmsley after April 21, 2010. 

[Image courtesy of English Heritage]

Roman Myths (The Legendary Past)   Looking at Greek and Roman Sculpture in Stone: A Guide to Terms, Styles, and Techniques (Looking At...)   Roman Portraits
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Over 300 Roman artifacts displayed in "Ancient Rome & America" exhibit

Ever since the U.S. became involved in Iraq, I have seen a plethora of articles and books comparing "America" with the Roman Empire.  Now, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia has teamed up with ten Italian museums to produce a new exhibit "Ancient Rome and America" that will be on display at the center in Philadelphia until August 1, 2010.  It sounds quite interesting and will include over 300 ancient Roman artifacts including this 1st century CE cavalry mask shaped like the face of the god Dionysos  [Image Courtesy of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence] , a bronze citizenship tablet issued to a soldier by the emperor Domitian in 93 CE and the head of an eagle from a Roman military standard.  The exhibit will even include a beautifully preserved example of a gladiator helmet  [Image Courtesy of the Museo della Civilit√† Romana, Rome]  Objects from over 40 lending institutions in the United States will also populate the exhibit.

"Ancient Rome & America" showcases the cultural, political, and social connections between the lost world of ancient Rome and modern America...Covering over 8,000 square feet, Ancient Rome and America is organized into five galleries: Introduction, Building a Republic, A Classical Revival, Expansion and Empire, and Epilogue." - Ancient Rome and America, National Constitution Center

My husband wants to drive to Topeka, Kansas in June to attend the national Military Vehicles Preservation Association conference.  Afterwards, we'll probably swing up to Chicago to visit my son and his family so I'll point out that its not that much farther to head on over to Pennsylvania to visit my daughter.  She and her family live only about 1 1/2 hours from Philadelphia so maybe I'll get to see this fascinating exhibit!!

Roman Military Equipment: From The Punic Wars To The Fall Of Rome    The Roman Cavalry   The Cavalry of the Roman Republic
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