Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Pioneering archaeological research charts African links with the Roman world

"University of Southampton archaeologists Professor David Peacock and Dr Lucy Blue have just returned from a pioneering expedition investigating Roman sites in the East African country of Eritrea alongside colleagues from the University of Asmara. The University group is the first from the UK to work in the country since it won its independence more than a decade ago.

British involvement in the area has a long history. In 1868 General Napier landed his troops near Adulis in a daring bid to rescue British hostages held by Emperor Theodore at his fortress of Magdala, now in Ethiopia. Napier built a landing stage and a railway to transport troops and equipment to the interior, and traces still survive on the coast 6 km to the east of Adulis. Archaeologists from the British Museum, who accompanied the army, excavated a church at Adulis, which can still be seen in a ruinous state."

See also: Eritrea Ruins of History

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Algorithms from the Human Genome Project used to piece together ancient Roman Map

"It's the world's oldest and largest jigsaw puzzle - an ancient map of Rome in 1,200 fragments of marble. Archaeologists for centuries have tried to painstakingly piece together the sculpture, fragment by fragment. Now, computer wizards at Stanford University say they have created a software program that holds the key to the puzzle and the ancient city.

At the heart of the program are three-dimensional scans of the fragments and algorithms to find possible matches. Already the work has produced several dozen probable and possible matches.
'They've advanced farther and faster in the last months than we have in centuries,' said Roman archaeologist Margaret Laird, a visiting lecturer at the University of Chicago. 'These new matches are going to change a lot of what we know about the city of Rome.'

The undertaking is a five-year study conducted by Marc Levoy, an associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford, to be completed by the summer. The findings and interactive 3-D models of the fragments are online, allowing scholars as well as elementary-school students unprecedented access to the monument."

Hopscotch: A Roman invention

On our imperial Rome discussion list we have been talking about how the Roman legions had to maintain a high level of physical fitness. So I found this item particularly interesting:

HOPSCOTCH: The Romans introduced Hopscotch to Britain. Their soldiers had to hop up and down along a 100ft court in their full armour to improve their footwork. Children copied this as a game and introduced scoring. Romans also played ball games, and had building blocks, swings and kites.

Apparently, the Romans also played marbles and may have adopted yo-yos from the ancient Greeks as well:

MARBLES: The earliest marbles were made of flint and clay, and in some cases marble, and date back as far as Ancient Egypt and Rome. The Venetians were the first to make glass marbles and the Germans began to mass produce them in the 19th century.

YO-YOs: Yo-Yos are the second oldest known toy. In ancient Greece they were made of terracotta, wood and metal and decorated with the pictures of the gods. As a rite of passage adult Greeks used to give up their childhood toys and place them on the family altar.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Yale Acquires Roman Coin Collection

"Yale University Art Gallery has acquired a collection of 4,100 coins of Greek and Roman origin. The collection was established over a period of forty years by Peter R. Franke, formerly Professor of Ancient History and Numismatics and head of the Institute for Ancient History at the University of Saarbrucken, Germany. Franke was mentor to many of the numismatists on staff at various collections throughout Europe, and taught until recently at the Institut fur Numismatik in Vienna. He is well-known as the author of a number of specialized monographs as well as introductory treatments of coinage. Although it covers the entire Mediterranean basin, the principal focus of the collection on Greek coins of the Roman period, which were produced at individual cities to meet local currency needs. "I am delighted that my collection has been acquired by Yale," said Professor Franke, "since I know that there the coins will be employed for teaching as well as research, and my work will be continued."

William E. Metcalf, who was appointed the first curator of coins and medals at the Yale Art Gallery in 2002 as well as adjunct professor of Classics, remarked, "Franke did not collect just to fill gaps in his holdings, every coin has a reason for being there. For the art historian, there are continuous streams of imperial portraits from various regions of the Roman Empire; for the historian there is evidence of local cults and magistrates, as well as representations of local buildings and such customs as games and religious festivals."