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Sagalassos Cover Story 4 December 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology,Quick Notes , add a comment

There’s a new issue out of Sfinx, the Danish popularizing journal on Mediterranean culture and archaeology. The cover story is a small piece by me on the recent sculptural finds from Sagalassos (“I bad med kejserfamilien”, pp. 170-171). Mainly, I urge readers to visit this spectacular site in Pisidia, and I hope that the Belgian excavators from Leuven receive some Danish visitors during next year’s season! Other features of interest include the latest thoughts on the sculptural programme of the Templum Pacis (do by all means also visit the wonderful new Museum of the Imperial Fora), and an article on the work of Danish architects in Greece (on which an exhibition opens on Friday at Thorvaldsen’s Museum in Copenhagen).

Antioch Photo Archive 11 November 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology,Digital Classics , add a comment

Nude fishing. Detail from a mosaic in the Antakya Archaeological Museum. Photo: TMK, August 2003.

I was pleased to read, over at the Antiochepedia, that plans are underway to digitize and make available online the Princeton Antioch Photo Archive. This would create a wonderful resource of over 5,000 images of late antique sites and monuments in the region of Antioch (modern Antakya, Turkey).

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Speaks Out on Hecht-Medici Case 9 November 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology,Ethics , add a comment

Glyptotek Victoria
A relief of Victoria in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (acquired in the 19th century and thus not under investigation by Italian authorities…). Photo: TMK, August 2006.

I’ve reported intermittently on the connections between the Hecht-Medici case in Rome and a number of archaeological artefacts now in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen (here, here, and here). These connections were investigated in a number of Danish newspapers during 2007, especially Information. In the 2008 Annual Report of the New Carlsberg Foundation, curator of Greek and Roman antiquities Jette Christiansen now gives the Glyptotek’s version of the events as they unfolded since the Italian authorities first made contact in the summer of 2002 (PDF available here, in Danish only).

Christiansen remarks on the general acquisition policy of the museum:

..the museum has not, since a change of directors in 1978, made acquisitions on the international art market. The ethics and moral standards of a new generation have since then characterized the museum’s acquisition policy. (Christiansen 2008: 141, my translation)

This statement is laudable but does not go well with the acquisition of a portrait of an Amarna princess in 2005 from a German “private collection” (ÆIN 1814; fig. 6 in this PDF). The Glyptotek has on several occasions refused to give the name of the collection and to provide details of the provenance of this particular artefact. The spurious nature of such “private collections” has been intensively documented in Peter Watson’s The Medici Conspiracy and continuously on David Gill’s Looting Matters blog.

In her conclusion, Christiansen reports on the current position of the Glyptotek in the Hecht-Medici case:

At the Glyptotek we are currently awaiting the final verdict of the case in Rome and contemplating the possibilities of exchange that the Italians have so far offered us as compensation, as they acknowledge that they have no legal claims of repatriation. We are working on formulating and realizing new cooperative projects with Italian colleagues in an effort to keep the museum as a living organism and at the same time to contribute to the conservation of our common cultural heritage. (Christiansen 2008: 145, my translation).

I wonder what “living organism” refers to in this context? “Living” as in a continuously expanding collection? Perhaps future developments in the case will enlighten us.

Ostia Excavations Blog 4 September 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology,Digital Classics , 2 comments

A street in Ostia. Photo: TMK, March 2006.

Luke Lavan, Axel Gering and their team have recently begun excavations in Ostia, the harbour city of Rome. They will be looking at the late antique street system and use of urban space. They have also just launched their blog: Berlin-Kent Ostia Excavations.

Imperial Dynastic Group at Sagalassos 28 August 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology , 1 comment so far

Marcus Aurelius….still standing. Image courtesy of the Sagalassos project.

Another summer, another batch of great finds from the Sagalassos project… This season has yielded colossal portraits of Faustina and now Marcus Aurelius. As both of these as well as last year’s Hadrian, currently on display in London at the “Hadrian: Empire and Conflict” show but later to join the wonderful Burdur museum, come from the central room of the baths, this is quite clearly a dynastic group. A rather unusual and quite splendid thing about this find is that it even made it into Danish mainstream media (e.g. Jyllands-Posten). (more…)

Sculpture in the Roman Near East 26 August 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology,Thesis Rant , 3 comments

As Jason notes, there is a new, very important book out on Roman sculpture in the Near East, “The Sculptural Environment of the Roman Near East. Reflections on Culture, Ideology, and Power” (Leuven 2008), edited by Yaron Z. Eliav, Elise Friedland and Sharon Herbert. It contains numerous interesting papers, and several that are of primary importance to my dissertation (a preliminary outline is now available here). I haven’t had my copy of the book for very long and thus only managed to read one paper in full so far, Kenneth Holum on the (re)display of ‘pagan’ statues in Byzantine Caesarea Maritima, a topic that I will be talking about in Leicester in November. I also look forward to reading papers by Frank Trombley, John Pollini, Yoram Tsafrir, and David Frankfurter on various aspects of the use of images in the Roman Near East and Egypt.

A Visit to “Le Jardin Romain” 21 August 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology,Travel , add a comment

Jardin Romain de Caumont
65 metres worth of opus spicatum, Caumont-sur-Durance. Photo: TMK, August 2008.

A relatively ‘new’ Roman site in Provence is “Le Jardin Romain” in Caumont-sur-Durance. The site opened in July 2006, and has branded itself as a sort of didactic playground (labyrinth included). The villa to which the garden originally belonged is still buried below modern housing, but its centrepiece, a 65 metres long monumental basin paved with opus spicatum can now be seen in its full glory. The owner’s taste for a luxurious villa lifestyle is also suggested by other finds such as Campana plaques and marble statuary (now in Avignon).

Jardin Romain de Caumont
Another view of the monumental basin, Caumont-sur-Durance. Photo: TMK, August 2008.

Jardin Romain de Caumont
French site management at Caumont-sur-Durance. Photo: TMK, August 2008.

Deconstructing Hadrian the Philhellene 15 August 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology,Making of the Archaeological Record , add a comment

This fascinating video from the British Museum deconstructs an iconic image of the emperor Hadrian as a philhellene philosopher-emperor, clad in the greek himation. The statue was purchased by the British Museum in the 19th century and comes from the Temple of Apollo at Cyrene in modern Libya. However, recent work has very clearly shown that the head and the body of the statue do not belong together. I suppose this is another Hadrian myth ‘busted’….

The statue is featured in the current exhibition “Hadrian: Empire and Conflict” that I look forward to seeing. Do also check out Mary Beard’s thoughts on the modern construction of Hadrian in The Guardian.

The Survival and Reception of Roman Antiquities in the Middle Ages 9 August 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology,Making of the Archaeological Record,Quick Notes , add a comment

This is just a brief note to state that Michael Greenhalgh’s The Survival of Roman Antiquities in the Middle Ages (Duckworth 1989) is available online. This is a very interesting study that presents some fascinating data concerning the fate of Roman monuments in the Western provinces, and especially France. It is, however, not as often quoted as it should be. Perhaps this is because the book is entirely devoid of illustrations or maps of any kind…Greenhalgh’s forthcoming Marble Past, Monumental Present: Building with Antiquities in the Medieval Mediterranean (Brill 2008) should be interesting as well.

TAG Session: Archaeologies of Destruction 7 August 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology,Conferences , add a comment

Here’s an abstract for a session on ‘Archaeologies of Destruction’, to be held at the upcoming TAG in Southampton, 15-17 December:

Archaeologies of destruction
Ben Croxford (btcroxford@yahoo.co.uk) and Troels Myrup Kristensen (University of Aarhus; klatmk@hum.au.dk)

It is often the norm that material studied archaeologically is incomplete or in some way damaged. Despite the frequent engagement with the bits and pieces in question, the processes responsible for this state are not often explicitly tackled. The work of Chapman (2000; 2007) has emphasised the possibilities where broken objects are concerned and encouraged consideration of the means of production, i.e. destruction: challenging assumptions relating to destruction as an act and damaged as a condition that renders objects redundant. Many researchers are working on these issues, dealing with assemblages of damaged objects and considering the implications of their breaking. Such work though is often carried out in isolation, in part due to the range of object types, periods and geographic regions involved. This session offers an opportunity to draw together these ultimately similar efforts, these archaeologies of destruction. This will enable a broad consideration of a variety of damaged assemblages and ideas surrounding the act of damage and its social significance.

The treatment of anthropomorphic sculpture offers a particularly interesting prospect for consideration. Damage to such objects is common and found in a range of periods and regions. Several historic instances are well-known and seemingly well-understood i.e. the various campaigns of Christian iconoclasm. Current research (e.g. Graves 2008) offers new insights into such events, adding complexity to the often simplistic older narratives of straightforward destruction to cease use. The interaction such damage represents is infinitely more multifaceted than often allowed, offering insight into concepts of damage within wider society (both our own and those of the past). Furthermore, the anthropomorphic character of the material has specific implications for understanding engagement with flesh and blood bodies and the manipulation of these. Destruction is a common activity and well attested archaeologically. The aim of this session is to bring together the various strands of thought concerning such action to enable an archaeology of destruction.

Chapman 2000. Fragmentation in Archaeology: People, Places and Broken Objects in the Prehistory of South Eastern Europe.
Chapman, J. and Gaydarska, B. 2007. Parts and Wholes: Fragmentation in prehistoric context.
Graves, C.P. 2008. ‘From an archaeology of iconoclasm to an anthropology of the body: Images, punishment and personhood in England, 1500–1660’. Current Anthropology 49 no.1: 35–57.

Abstracts for papers can be submitted here.