Monthly Archives: May 2013

Starting with “Dirty Little Secrets”

Got my first email for the course prep yesterday with our first bit of homework which was to scout out some details of nearby archaeological sites and museums. I wasn’t expecting to learn anything new from this but I did…

English Civil War Reenactment

I live not far from the site of the first battle of the English Civil War (Edgehill, 1642) but I’ve never really looked at what has been going on in the archaeology there. I found an excellent site with details of the field walking and other surveys done there which have completely changed the understanding of the battle.

Archaeology is lending much better understanding to our knowledge about this aspect of our history – the work at Little Bighorn and Bosworth Field spring to mind – but one of the things I am conscious of is that the public awareness of the original stories and interpretations of sites persist long after academic understanding has moved on. And TV certainly isn’t doing much to change that!

English: Bristol Beaufighter carrying a torped...

English: Bristol Bulldog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also discovered (from the UK National Monument Record – a terrific resource) that just two villages down the road is the crash site of two 1930’s bi-plane RAF trainers that were dug up in the 1980’s.


Ο Διολκοσ – The Corinth Transporter

Before the Corinth Canal there was another way from the Adriatic to the Aegean – across the Isthmus of Corinth on the Diolkos.

Although its a bit later than my sphere of interest – it started in around 600BCE and ran until the mid-first century CE – it is nevertheless a fascinating example of the effort that was put in to enabling trade (possibly).

Western end of the ancient Greek ship trackway...

Western end of the ancient Greek ship trackway Diolkos across the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece. Bank erosion of the adjacent Canal of Corinth has damaged the ancient ashlar paving. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a 20 minute animated video (shared by Kallioi Efkleidou on the Aegeanet message board) which shows features of the maritime voyage of a trade ship arriving at the Gulf of Corinth, crossing the Diolkos and ending up at Kenchreai before leaving for Cyprus. (There is also quite a bit on other technological marvels of the era) It was produced by the ASSOCIATION of ANCIENT GREEK TECHNOLOGY STUDIES (EMAET) & the Technical Chamber of Greece.

I’m not sure about some of the detail (were they still using ox hide copper ingots at this time, for instance, I don’t know?) but its a terrific piece of work.

This is the Greek commentary version.  It is also available in two parts on You Tube, with an English commentary here : Part 1  and Part 2.

There is a controversy over the preservation of the Diolkos with claims that excavated areas have not been conserved and are being damaged by today’s shipping (a Facebook group campaigns for its preservation) , debate over whether its primary purpose was military or trade and uncertainty over just how it was used. (Wikipedia).

As always the more we learn the more there is to learn!

Ancient Seafaring in the Mediterranean

Here’s the 2010 ACSA paper on the mesolithic and palaeolithic finds on Crete that support a 130,00 years ago date for the earliest seafarers reaching Crete….

but now there’s suggestion of an even earlier date….

Schools In!

Well, the Coursera sessions on “Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets”  are approaching and today I got my first email kicking things off. Sue Alcock (the course leader) has asked us to look at the work of Brown Survey and Landscape Archaeology on Montserrat team.

First glance at their Facebook site shows everything from prehistoric flint knives to the remains of the AIR Recording Studios – certainly a wide cultural spread!


Pushing the Boat Out

Maritime trade in the Bronze Age Aegean is one of my interest areas and rock carvings are one of the important sources of information about the craft of this era.

Βραχογραφία της 3ης π.Χ. χιλιετίας με παράσταση πλοίου στην Αστυπάλαια. (c) TO BHMA

Βραχογραφία της 3ης π.Χ. χιλιετίας με παράσταση πλοίου στην Αστυπάλαια. (c) TO BHMA

These carvings were recently shown on the web site “TO BHMA”.

Roughly translated the remarks relating to the carvings are:-

“The rock paintings, 70 cm long depicting ships and vertically textbooks and spirals, were revealed by archaeologist Andreas Vlachopoulos, an assistant professor at the University of Ioannina,  in Vathy Astypalaias (halfway between Thira and Kos).

English: Clay frying-pan vessel with incised d...

Clay frying-pan vessel with incised decoration of a ship. Found at Chalandriani on Syros island. Early cycladic II period (Keros-Syros culture, 2800-2300 BC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They are located beside three landscaped pathways that lead to a small gated entrance to the Cycladic acropolis of the island which dates from the 3rd millennium BCE . The ships are oared and three of them have to bow their fish (?) and other various issues. They are similar to the ships shown on “frying pans” in  the prehistoric citadel of Chalandriani Syros (Wachsmann 1998, p71, 72) and rock paintings of Naxos. (Wachsmann 1998, p74) The same typology of rock paintings have been found in other parts of Astypalaias.”

A Study In Brown

English: Brown University wordmark.

Coursera -the on-line education platform – is hosting a course from Susan Alcock of Brown University on “Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets“.  It looks like it should provide a good platform for extending my understanding so I’ve enrolled. It will be an interesting experience too – the first time I’ve tried “distance learning”.