Often during the holiday season I get rather bored so have a tendency to watch large numbers of documentaries. As many of you are also documentary buffs here are some for the month. Enjoy.
BBC – Treasures of the Lourve
Paris-based writer Andrew Hussey travels through the glorious art and surprising history of an extraordinary French institution to show that the story of the Louvre is the story of France. As well as exploring the masterpieces of painters such as Veronese, Rubens, David, Chardin, Gericault and Delacroix, he examines the changing face of the Louvre itself through its architecture and design. Medieval fortress, Renaissance palace, luxurious home to kings, emperors and more recently civil servants, today it attracts eight million visitors a year. The documentary also reflects the very latest transformation of the Louvre – the museum’s recently-opened Islamic Gallery.
The Search for the Crystal Skulls
From the Nazis’ search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon’s mines – this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.
Note this link may not be available outside Australasia.
A History of Art in Three Colours – Gold
For the very first civilisations and also our own, the yellow lustre of gold is the most alluring and intoxicating colour of all. From the midst of pre-history to a bunker deep beneath the Bank of England, Dr James Fox reveals how golden treasures made across the ages reflect everything we have held as sacred.
A History of Art in Three Colours – Blue
Dr James Fox explores how, in the hands of artists, the colours gold, blue and white have stirred our emotions, changed the way we behave and even altered the course of history.
When, in the Middle Ages, the precious blue stone lapis lazuli arrived in Europe from the East, blue became the most exotic and mysterious of colours. And it was artists who used it to offer us tantalising glimpses of other worlds beyond our own.
A History of Art in Three Colours – White, Part 1
In the Age of Reason, it was the rediscovery of the white columns and marbles of antiquity that made white the most virtuous of colours. For the flamboyant JJ Wickelmann and the British genius Josiah Wedgewood, white embodied all the Enlightenment values of justice, equality and reason.
Pompeii: The Mystery Of People Frozen In Time
n a one off landmark drama documentary for BBC One, Dr Margaret Mountford presents Pompeii: The Mystery Of The People Frozen In Time.
The city of Pompeii uniquely captures the public’s imagination; in 79AD a legendary volcanic disaster left its citizens preserved in ashes to this very day. Yet no-one has been able to unravel the full story that is at the heart of our fascination: how did those bodies become frozen in time?
The Other Pompeii: Life and Death in Herculaneum
Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill presents a documentary following the scientific investigation that aims to lift the lid on what life was like in the small Roman town of Herculaneum, moments before it was destroyed by a volcanic erruption. The investigation, based arround the discovery of 12 arched vaults, reveals in great detail the lives of the ill-fated town’s residents, and unique aerial photography gives a behind-the-scenes look at the town from the skies. With contributions from the forensic scientists leading the investigation, the film uncovers the minutiae of daily life in Herculaneum, including not just what residents ate but how they ate it, and why most of the skeletons found on the coast were men and those in the vaults, women and children.
The Secret of El Dorado: The Discovery of Biochar
n 1542, the Spanish Conquistador, Francisco de Orellana ventured along the Rio Negro, one of the Amazon Basin’s great rivers. Hunting a hidden city of gold, his expedition found a network of farms, villages and even huge walled cities. At least that is what he told an eager audience on his return to Spain.
BBC – An Islamic History of Europe
n this 90-minute documentary, Rageh Omaar uncovers the hidden story of Europe’s Islamic past and looks back to a golden age when European civilization was enriched by Islamic learning.
Rageh travels across medieval Muslim Europe to reveal the vibrant civilization that Muslims brought to the West.
This evocative film brings to life a time when emirs and caliphs dominated Spain and Sicily and Islamic scholarship swept into the major cities of Europe.
BBC Simon Schama: A History of Britain, Part 1 (Beginnings)
A study of the history of the British Isles, each of the 15 episodes allows Schama to examine a particular period and tell of its events in his own style. All the programmes are of 59 minutes’ duration and were broadcast over three series, ending 18 June 2002.
The series was produced in conjunction with The History Channel and the executive producer was Martin Davidson. The music was composed by John Harle, whose work was augmented by vocal soloists such as Emma Kirkby and Lucie Skeaping. Schama’s illustrative presentation was aided by readings from actors, including Lindsay Duncan, Michael Kitchen, Christian Rodska, Samuel West and David Threlfall.
When you first enter an ancient history or archaeology degree you are introduced to several sets of material evidence. Notably, the archaeology, material evidence, and philological evidence. But the philological side is more often than not rarely mentioned again. This is quite a shame considering some of the most interesting and revealing information comes from the ancient written sources. People generally fall into the trap of ignoring the writing in favour of the archaeology and artefacts and frankly you can’t really blame them because humans are naturally attracted to pretty visual things. I see this every day with the likes and shares on my Facebook page. But philology is all important too and if students can learn even a little about ancient writing and textual criticism, a whole new side to history and analysis opens up to them as it should.
Philology is derived from the Greek terms φίλος (love) and λόγος (word, reason) and literally means a ‘love of words’. It is the study of language in literary sources and is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics. Philology is generally associated with Greek and Classical Latin, in which it is termed philologia. The study of philology originated in European Renaissance Humanism in regards to Classical Philology but this has since been combined to include in its definition the study of both European and non-European languages. The idea of philology has been carried through the Greek and Latin literature into the English language around the sixteenth century through the French term philologie meaning also a ‘love of literature’ from the same word roots.
Generally philology has a focus on historical development. It helps establish the authenticity of literary texts and their original form and with this the determination of their meaning. It is a branch of knowledge that deals with the structure, historical development and relationships of a language or languages. This makes it all the more significant to study as language is one of the main building blocks of civilisation.
There are several branches of philological studies that can also be undertaken:
Comparative philology is a branch of philology which analyses the relationship or correspondences between languages. For instance, the commonalities between Latin and Etruscan or further flung languages of Asian or African provinces. It uses pre-determined techniques to discover whether languages hold common ancestors or influences. It uses comparison of grammar and spelling which was first deemed useful in the 19th century and has developed ever since. The study of comparative philology was originally defined by Sir William Jones‘ discovery in 1786 that Sanskrit was related to Greek and German as well as Latin.
Decipherment is another branch of philology which looks at resurrecting dead languages and previously unread texts such as done and achieved by Jean-Francois Champollion in the decipherment of Hieroglyphs with the use of the Rosetta Stone. And more recently by Michael Ventris in the decipherment of Linear B. Decipherment would be key to the understanding of still little understood languages such as Linear A. Decipherment uses known languages, grammatical tools and vocabulary to find and apply comparisons within an unread text. By doing so more of the text can be read gradually as similarities and grammatical forms become better understood. The remaining text can then be filled in through further comparison, analysis, and elimination of incorrect solutions.
Textual philology editing is yet another branch of philology with includes the study of texts and their history in a sense including textual criticism. This branch was created in relation to the long traditions of Biblical studies; in particular with the variations of manuscripts. It looks at the authorship, date and provenance of the text to place it in its historical context and to produce ‘critical editions’ of the texts.
The importance of philology is exhibited in its use and achievements. Without philology the bible translation would be even more wrong, trust me read it in the original Greek. We would not be able to translate hieroglyphs, Linear B, Linear A, Sanskrit, any ancient language. Our entire written past would be blank, we would not have the information we have now on mathematics, social structure, philosophy, science, medicine, civilisation, transport, engineering, marketing, accounting, well anything really, knowledge would not have been rediscovered or passed on without the ability to study texts and language. Understand the love of words.
- The unsung heroine who helped decode Crete’s ancient script (bbc.co.uk)
- Rediscovering Philology (sites.tufts.edu)
- The Open Philology Project and Humboldt Chair of Digital Humanities at Leipzig (sites.tufts.edu)
- Genes and Languages: Not So Strange Bedfellows? (23andme.com)
- Bavinck on Comparative Religion and Comparative Philology (calvinistinternational.com)
- How to Teach yourself Ancient (and Modern) Languages (graecomuse.wordpress.com)
- Welcome to GraecoMuse (graecomuse.wordpress.com)
- Alice Kober: Unsung heroine who helped decode Linear B (adafruit.com)
- The Unsolved Mysteries of the World (secretsofthefed.com)
- Macquarie Ancient Languages School – Winter Session (graecomuse.wordpress.com)
We talk often about the archaeology and artifacts, excavations and publications, but little do we hear about the museums that house these wonderful pieces of history. A Lebanese friend of mine recently told me of a restoration effort that I had never even heard of before and is an interesting story of what can be achieved even after devastation and vandalism.
The Beirut National Museum has been through a lot in its relatively short history. This museum is the principal museum of archaeology in Lebanon and is one of the most significant Near Eastern museums of archaeology because of its rich collection which is even more impressive because of the trials this collection has suffered. The idea for the museum was conceived in 1919 with its foundations in the collection of the French officer Raymond Weill who was stationed in Lebanon. In 1923 an official founding commitee was set up called the ‘friends of the museum committee’ which was headed by the then Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Fine Arts, Bechara El Khory. Work began with the work of architects Antoine Nahas and Pierre Leprince Ringuet and the building was completed in 1937 in the area of the Beirut Hippodrome.
While the opening was postponed because of the lead-up to WW2, the museum was finally opened in May 1942 by President Alfred Naqqache. It housed objects from prehistory all the way to the 19th century AD including large sarcophagi, mosaics and smaller collections of artifacts including jewelry, coins and ceramics. For the first 30 years of its operation, the museum added extensively to the collections through excavations undertaken under the direction of the Directorate General of Antiquities.
With the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, the museum closed its doors in 1975 with the situation in decline and the buildings located on the demarcation line which had divided Beirut. The museum and its antiquities thus became a victim of the raging war. Originally the authorities intended the closure to be temporary but this closure ended up being full term. But instead of allowing the antiquities to fall victim to total destruction, the authorities took action.
The first protection measures were undertaken in the periods of truce which alternated with the destruction. Firstly the smaller finds and most vulnerable objects were removed and placed in storerooms in the museum’s basements and were walled up so that no access was possible to the lower underground floors. The mosaics in the floors of the museum were also covered in a layer of concrete and large unmovable objects such as sarcophagi and statues were protected by sandbags. However, with the situation further worsening, in 1982 these sandbags were replaced by concrete cases which were built around wooden structures that surrounded the monuments. It was measures such as these which eventually saved a vast majority of the artifacts and monuments in the museum.
When cease-fire was announced in 1991 the museum was in a state of extraordinary destruction. Water flooded the basement levels and poured from the roofs and windows. The outer walls were covered in shots and shell-holes and the inner walls were covered in graffiti left by the militia who used the museum as a barracks. The flooded basements left many artifacts beyond repair, and shellfire had left many documents and 45 boxes of archaeological objects destroyed alongside all the lab equipment. In 1992 the first plans to restore the museum were set out by Michel Edde the then Minister of Culture and Higher Education. But the initial proposal was turned down because of the state of the building leaving it in danger of looting. But once the doors and windows were put in with the help of private donations, the concrete barring the basement was removed and the restoration could begin.
The restoration work continued through 1995 to 2000, starting on the building itself and inventory, recording and restoration of objects. This was made possible through the work of the Ministry of Culture, the Directorate General of Antiquities and the National Heritage Foundation. In 1997 the doors reopened to the ground floors but then closed again in 1998 for modifications and modernisation. The museum reopened again in 1999 with over 1300 archaeological artifacts on display. The rehabilitation continued on the underground galleries but already the museum was returning to its former significance especially as a leading collector of Ancient Phoenician objects. The museum is now under the directorship of Anne-Marie Ofeish and retains many of the artifacts which were originally packed away and successfully saved.
Human history is full of wars and conflicts and artifacts and archaeology often suffer in the process which is a great shame. Through efforts such as those undertaken in this case we are lucky to see such wonderful artifacts survive.
For further information:
Short Documentary – “Beirut National Museum;Rebirth”
- U.S. returns 4,000 archaeological relics to Mexico (cbc.ca)
- New archaeology museum at the University of South Alabama peers into the area’s past. (al.com)
- Stray cat discovers ancient Roman catacomb in a residential neighborhood (slashgear.com)
- On Display at New Orleans Baptist Seminary (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
Hello Everyone! This month this website turns one year old. Thank you everyone for reading and continuing to do so! GraecoMuse has now had over 40,000 views and has 528 subscribers. 🙂
So incase you missed some of the entries and are interested in having a read, here are all the entries for the last year. Hope you all enjoy, keep reading, and most of all learn new things.
Also remember that there is now a facebook page for archaeology and history news and comments. At https://www.facebook.com/GraecoMuse.
Kepler’s Somnium (The Dream) – 30/10/11
Lost in Translation: It’s all Greek to Us – 07/11/11
Wilde/Chase Books 1-4: Andy McDermott – 22/12/11
Santa Claus Before Coca Cola – 25/12/11
Felix sit annus novus! Happy New Year! – 31/12/11
Female Heroism in Ancient Greek Literature – 04/02/12
Ancient Scripts of Egypt: An Introduction – 02/03/12
Tools of the Trade: Archaeology – 18/03/12
Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 1 – 08/05/12
Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 2 – 08/05/12
Isthmia: Roman Baths and Muscular Men – 16/05/12
The Cave of Letters – 20/06/12
Graecomuse and Parkinson’s Disease – 01/07/12
Archaeology Travel Blog: Istanbul pt. 1 – 18/07/12
Archaeological Travel Blog: Istanbul Part 2 – 27/07/12
Archaeology Travel Blog: Ancient Side – 04/08/12
Curses and Fines on Greek Grave Stele – 06/09/12
Neodamodeis – The Freed Helots of Sparta – 07/10/12