Skip to content

Vidi IX

January 20, 2008


Theatre at Jerash

I thought to start with some good news. Gauis Caecilius on Flickr has been uploading photos of Roman Jerash / Jerassa in Jordan. They could be very useful for anyone interested in the Roman East.

Flickr and Photography is also news thanks to the announcement of The Commons. This is a project to usefully tag a lot of public domain images from the Library of Congress. Tom Goskar at Past Thinking and Manan Ahmed at Cliopatria discuss what this could mean for you.


The big news story of the week is the return of ten antiquities, exact details unknown, to Italy from the Shelby White collection. It’s reported by David Gill at Looting Matters and Derek Fincham at Illicit Cultural Property. The reason these antiquities are being returned is connected to photographic evidence showing some of these artefacts still encrusted with dirt. It’s as close to finding a big neon sign saying ‘LOOTED!’ as you can hope for. I’m ambivalent about the news. On the one hand this could be a big financial hit for Ms. White, so I could feel sympathy. But on the other looting has been a known problem for many years. She and her late husband chose to ignore it. At best she’s clearly has very poor judgement- which raises the question, “Why are only ten of the twenty artefacts requested by Italy being returned?” asked by David Gill at Safecorner.

The Malaysian reports on a delegation led by the Minister for Culture, Arts and Heritage which hopes to repatriate some human skeletons. The interesting twist is that it’s for research purposes rather than spiritual matters. However, the Malaysian casts doubt on the government’s interest in research. The trip comes in time for an election campaign. There is currently active research by Cambridge archaeologists in Malaysia, so I don’t know what the exact status of the bones is.

Saudi Arabia plans to put its archaeology to work. The Archaeology and Museums Department has been merged with the Supreme Commission for Tourism, which is good news. Or at least better news than hearing it had been merged with one of the many Lesser Commissions for Tourism, which the existence of a Supreme Commission seems to imply. It’s news, if you’re interested in how the concept of the past is made and marketed:

The SCT is particularly interested in the project because heritage villages will serve as the most suitable platform for holding cultural and heritage activities that would attract tourists in huge numbers. The significance of heritage villages has been established by the Italian heritage village at San Gimignano, where around three million tourists visit annually, Fez in Morocco and Taiba Zaman near Petra in Jordan.

International studies have emphasized the significance of offering financial support to local people to launch heritage-related trades to manufacture folk artifacts and handicraft products in their villages. The financial support would also be required to establish hotels, restaurants, furnished apartments, car rentals and special restaurants where food with a special stamp of the local culture is served. These are some of the factors that guarantee a sustained flow of tourists.

I’ll be honest. I think Saudi Arabia’s tourism is going to need a bit more than a heritage village if it wants to attract patronising Westerners. Nonetheless it’s a nice graphic illustration of the importance of modern economic goals over an idealised notion of ‘the past’ in heritage policy. Something which is done less openly in many other countries.


Carla Nayland has comments on Human Sacrifice in Anglo-Saxon England. She’s found evidence of gruesome post-mortem rituals but isn’t convinced that it happened.

Duane Smith at Abnormal Interests has been looking at Things the Gods Hate. He compares YHWH to Ba’al and find YHWH has a real problem with lying. Ba’al in contrast unhappy about lewdness.

Eric Kansa has news about Google hosting open science data. He’s enthusiastic but raises questions about the long-term viability of the project.

Troels Myrup is back from Chicago with a 36 kilo suitcase. You can browse his expanded library for inspiration.

Mark Hall has a post on Middle-Earth and Discworld as Mirrors of Medieval Europe at the EJA’s blog. I assume I’ve missed something basic, because I would have thought it would have been more productive to present it to an audience of Medieval Literature scholars, or Contemporary Literature scholars. Please show me I’m wrong and add your comments on the EJA’s blog.

The Walled City Taskforce continues its dig in Charleston. They’re putting up some very nicely illustrated entries. This is Day 10.

Other News

The Museum of Underwater Archaeology has a new home page.

Aberdeen University reports on its new Archaeology department.

Derek Fincham has more on the Bolton Forgers. There is a heart-warming Ealing comedy to be made out based on them. I’m sure of it.

The British Museum is putting videos related to their First Emperor exhibition online.

…and the Ancient World Bloggers Group is working on an aggregator. With luck it could make these posts redundant.


Horothesia posted a short note on John Matthews winning the Breasted Prize. It’s an award for the best book in English on any field of history prior to the year 1000 A.D. Prof Matthews won with The Journey of Theophanes: Travel, Business, and Daily Life in the Roman East. I’m tremendously pleased because I heard him give a talk on this and it was brilliant.

Theophanes’ trip from Hermopolis Magna in Egypt to Syrian Antioch, and the financial records documenting it, does not sound like gripping material for a book. On the contrary, he uses these records to start asking all sorts of questions about society the 4th Century. What you buy relates to who you are, who you’re entertaining, who’s coming with you. The financial records aren’t simply costs, they’re evidence of the complex interplay of relationships that made up travel in the Roman world. If the book is half as good as the talks he’s given then it would be an essential buy in paperback. Hopefully Yale University Press will notice. You can read a review at BMCR.

Comments are closed.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: