Examples in Archaeology: The Multiple Burial in the Corner of the Hexamilion North of the Roman Bath (Gully Bastion)
When and where the feature was found
The multiple burial (Grave 2 Gully Bastion) is located in the Corner of the Hexamilion North of the Roman Bath at Isthmia. The grave cut into what is assumed to be ground level at the time of the construction of the Hexamilion wall which is a hard white soil. The grave itself was excavated in the 1970 season and was found under a later kiln or oven.
Topelev = 41.08
Botelev = 40.18
Located in a corner of the Hexamilion wall the Gully Bastion Grave Two has the interior face of the wall forming both the West and the North sides with the North side slightly undercutting the Hexamilion by around 20cm. The sides of the grave are lined with large tiles, these tiles also included in their number one stamped tile and another which being heavily smoke stained indicates that it may have originally been part of the nearby Roman Bath. The interpretation of this tile as formerly of the Roman Bath is also suggested by how the smoke staining does not extend to the corners of the tile where it would have been resting on top of hypocausts.
The grave is actually split into two irregular sections, North and South. These two sections were split by a line of vertical tiles which ran West to East across the grave. Within the north section was found two skeletons with their heads to the west and within the south compartment eight skeletons were uncovered also with their heads to the west. There is some debate to who these individuals were, whether they were part of the garrison assigned to guard or build the Hexamilion or from some other associated part of society.
Underneath the lowest body in the southern section a number of artefacts were found, namely an Athenian glazed lamp fragment which shares much of the characteristics of other lamps found in the Roman Bath (IPL 70-100) which can be dated to the second half of the fourth century after Christ. There is debate over the function of the lamp in the grave. Was it part of some religious ceremony for the deceased or simply just lost or for another reason yet to be thought of? Either way this lamp fragment allows for the best dating of the grave in relation to similar lamps found in the Roman Bath as mentioned previous. Several other items were found in the same area as the lamp fragment including a coarse dark reddish bowl (IPR 70-26) which like the lamp can be dated to the second half of the fourth century. A bronze buckle (IM 70-32) and a bead on a wire (IM 70-54) were also excavated.
The north side of the grave undercutting the Hexamilion along with the relation between the lamp fragment found in the south section of the grave in relation to lamps found in Roman Bath dating to the fourth century suggest that the grave was contemporary with the construction of the Hexamilion. This is further indicated by how the grave sides are the interior of the wall on two sides. The graves construction can hence be placed either at the time the Hexamilion was being built or slightly after but before the kiln/oven was placed on top.
The position of the skeletons within the grave suggests primarily a Christian burial with the skeleton’s heads to the west. Christian burials of the period were generally orientated East-West with the head to the West end of the grave in order to mirror the layout of the Christian Church and the direction from which Christ is meant to come on judgement day.
Gregory, T.E., Isthmia: Vol.5, The Hexamilion and the Fortress (1993), pp.42-45
Gully Bastion 1970 Vol.2 – pp.47-72 May 1970
Gully Bastion 1970 Vol.3
Wohl ‘Deposit of Lamps’ No. 24
Fraser, P.M., Archaeology in Greece, 1970-71, Archaeological reports, No.17 (1970-71), p.9
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)
Several ways to get funding easiest if you are a university student.
Options there include:
International travel grants for undergraduates
Department higher degree funding and postgraduate research grants for postgraduates
Specialist grants from universities worldwide for specific dig locations. For instance, I got one from the near eastern department of an Australian university this year when I don’t even go to that university. Some of these you don’t even have to be a student to apply for. Most you do. Just research a bit.
Many governments also have international travel grants for people to come over and volunteer on digs. I know for instance that Iceland even gives grants to Australian and New Zealanders for some projects.
Volunteer organisations often also have an archaeology section where they contribute some funds for you. I know at the moment that there are organisations working in Romania, Vietnam and Cambodia which are doing this. Check out the projects-abroad website.
Best options and easiest by far though are international undergrad travel grants and projects-abroad.
- How to find Archaeology Field Schools (graecomuse.wordpress.com)
Arrived in Gazipasa after a long bus trip from Antalya and several lessons: Lesson number one, learn more Turkish; two, people lie; three, people don’t know their own country. After many hours and help from a lovely Swedish woman who explained that the Turkish men were having fun confusing us, grrrr, we are now in a lovely town with lovely people and excellent food.
Gazipasa is located in the south of Turkey and is associated with the ancient city of Selinus. Selinus has settlement evidence from as far back as the Hittites in 2000 BC. Selinus was established on the River Kestros and is now called Hacimusa and was incorporated into Cilicia in 628 BC. It is located about 180 km to the East of Antalya on the Southern coast of Anatolia.
Selinus became part of the Roman Empire in 197 BC and became particularly famous in the first century AD when the Emperor Trajan died there. As a consequence, for some time Selinus was known as Traianapolis. Selinus later became part of the Byzantine Empire alongside the rest of Cilicia before falling into the hands of the Turks in 1225 AD. It is listed among the castles of Gazipasa alongside Iotape, Lamus, Nephelis and Antiochia ad Cragum and is still subject to archaeological research by a team from Florida State University. The archaeological artefacts from Selinus are now mostly housed in the museum of Alanya.
The dig site itself is located about 7 miles the east of Gazipasa. Antiochia ad Cragum has also been called Antiochetta and Antiohia Parva which basically translate to ‘little Antiochia’. Its name ‘Cragum’ comes from its position on the Cragus mountain overlooking the coast. It is located in the area of modern Guney about 12km from the modern City of Gazipasa. The city was officially founded by Antiochis IV around 170 BC when he came to rule over Rough Cilicia. The site covers an area of around three hectares and contains the remains of baths, market places, colonnaded streets with a gateway, an early Christian basilica, monumental tombs, a Temple and several structures which are yet to be identified. Excavations are currently being undertaken by the Antiochia ad Cragum Archaeological Research Project headed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The site and its harbour likely served as one of the many havens for Cilician pirates along the South Anatolian coast, likely because of its small coves and hidden inlets. Unfortunately no definite pirate remains are visible in the modern day. Its pirate past ended with Pompey’s victory in the first century BC and the take over by Antiochis IV. Initial occupation appears to have occurred in the Classical and Hellenistic periods followed by a surge of activity in these Roman periods. The city itself was built on the sloping ground that comes down from the Taurus mountain range which terminates at the shore creating steep cliffs; in some places several hundred metres high. The temple complex is situated on the highest point of the city and most of the building material remains though in a collapsed state. There is also evidence of a gymnasium complex nearby.
The harbour at Antiochia ad Cragum measures about 250,000m squared and is one of the few large, safe harbours along the coast between Alanya and Selinus. On its Eastern side are two small coves suitable for one or two ships but with limited opportunity for shipping and fishing due to wave activities. The area is well situated as a defensible position against invaders. Recent Terrestrial survey at Antiochia ad Cragum has had emphasis on finding evidence of pirate activity which has been limited, but it has turned up Pottery principally from the Byzantine Period with additional pottery from the late Bronze Age, the Hellenistic and some from the Roman periods. There is little evidence of pre-Roman occupation at the fortress or pirate’s cove at Antiochia ad Cragum. Banana terracing may have caused much of the evidence to have been erased. The maritime survey has turned up shipping jars, transport Amphoraes and anchors from the Byzantine, Roman and Hellenistic periods as well as a range of miscellaneous items. The assemblage appears to indicate early activity to the West of the harbour moving East over time.
So that’s the site. Now to what I am doing because this is my blog! We have started a new trench at the back of the temple which is abutted by the temple wall and a neighbouring trench. So far we have uncovered all the steps down to the base of the temple, which isn’t bad for a week or so’s work if i do say so myself. We have a wall running oddly through the middle of the trench with a channel situated about two thirds down. Tomorrow I intend to investigate this channel but it looks like some form of drainage system. We also have stone and mortar strangely situated alongside the south edge of the trench which we can see also in the abutting trench but here it seems to lose uniformity. MMMM, questions arise. Well we continue in the hope of answering them!
Elsewhere we have two of the boys excavating the West side of the temple and the some others starting a new trench in which we have thus far found a snake, a frog and several snake eggs. A goat was also found in my trench but that was cheekily put there by the site foreman while I wasn’t looking! Sufficed to say I got a bit of a fright…
We have found several coins and a mountain of pottery as usual in addition to glass and tiles. We also have a Turkish team restoring the mosaic down the hill which is probably the largest mosaic in Turkey. And a team from Clark university drawing and recording the huge number of marble blocks in our block field so that one day work can begin on restoring the temple! Very exciting.
That’s the start of it. More soon. Now though it is time for dinner at a lovely little restaurant and bar owned by an English Expat which acts as our home away from home. Dig Hard and Live Free!
- Archaeology Travel Blog: Istanbul pt. 1 (graecomuse.wordpress.com)
- Archaeological Travel Blog: Istanbul Part 2 (graecomuse.wordpress.com)
- Piracy in the Ancient Mediterranean (graecomuse.wordpress.com)
- Silchester Iron Age finds reveal secrets of pre-Roman Britain (guardian.co.uk)
- You Must See Aphrodisias, Turkey (daydreamtourist.com)
This post is just a bit of fun after a very long week. Recently another PhD student and I decided to branch out a bit and do something a unconventional and fun, so at the start of the year we started taking a pole fitness class at a local dance studio. And before anyone asks, we wear gym clothes and it is nothing that you would see in a strip club. Pole can be a sport; a combination of dance, gymnastics and body-building and it is part of the International Body Building Association. But it got me thinking that there must be traditions behind the idea going back into my favourite subject: Ancient History. Lo and Behold I was correct.
So let me introduce you to the origins and traditions of pole fitness just because I can.
Mallakhamb is a traditional Indian sport which is made up of gymnastics and poses undertaken on a vertical wooden pole or rope. The word Mallakhamb comes from the terms ‘malla’ meaning a ‘gymnast’ or ‘man of strength’ and Khamb meaning ‘pole’. Essentially it translates as ‘pole gymnastics’. The earliest records of the sport come from the twelfth century when it was mentioned in the Indian classic Manasollasa written in 1135 AD by Somesvara Chalukya. In the Manasollasa it is called by an earlier form of the term ‘Mallastambha’.
Mallakhamb lost popularity over the centuries before being the subject of a revival in the early nineteenth century in India. It was revived and recorded by Balambhatta Dada Deodhar who was the fitness instructor of Peshwa bajirao during the reign of Peshwas. Nowadays, twenty-nine states in India participate nationally in competitions demonstrating three main types of Mallakhamb; hanging, rope and fixed Mallakhamb. Also forms of Mallakhamb are predominantly male and was originally introduced as a supporting exercise for wrestlers in order to develop and maintain concentration, speed and flexibility. Modern studies have even begun to appear showing the benefits of the sport to health and strength. P.Nande explains for instance that it causes a decrease in body fat percentage and an increase in lean body mass.
The video below shows just how much skill and strength is required in Mallakhamb. It also demonstrates the types of moves that are performed in pole fitness. This video is not sped up…which is a bit scary actually…
Chinese Pole is an amazing feat of strength and gymnastics which is today associated with the likes of Cirque du Soleil. It dates also to around the twelfth century in the literary evidence with it being performed by circus professionals using 3-9m tall poles laced with rubber material. The rubber material is not always used because it had the potential to cause painful friction burns. Yet again Chinese Pole is predominantly male activity and hence friction burns would be even more painful to certain areas. Full body costumes were and are worn often by performers requiring even more skill on the behalf of the performer.
Chinese pole is still a popular sport which is often performed with at least two participants or many more. They display climbing, sliding, stretching and holding positions with acute strength usually performed with two poles. Performers hop from pole to pole displaying gravity defying tricks.
Just watch the link below. If you thought Mallakhamb was amazing, this is just ridiculous!
European Pole Dancing
The western world had its own types of pole dancing with influences from Druid, Pagan and Roman traditions. The most famous of these is Maypole dancing which dates back in the record to the twelfth century as well. Maypole dancing was essentially a pagan celebration of fertility (hence the pole as a phallic symbol).
It was performed by young girls performing circle dances around a pole decorated with garlands of flowers and emblems. The younger girls involved danced in the inner circle while the older danced in the outer circle, all holding ribbons. The dancing itself involved circular steps which allowed the ribbons to intertwined and plait round the pole and then be unravelled while the girls retraced their steps. The festival, in which the maypole dance was performed, marked the beginning of the pastoral summer or Beltane. It is also connected to the Roman worship of Flora and the festival of Floralia which was celebrated at the same time.
The Ancient Greek’s also had their own form of maypole like dancing in the Daphnephoria. Eutychius Proclus discusses the pole in the Daphnephoria in his Chrestomathy written in the second century AD:
(74) This is the daphnephoria: They wreathe an olive-wood pole with laurel-branches and colourful flowers, and on top of it they fasten a bronze ball, and from this they hang smaller ones. And, onto the middle of the pole, they attach purple fillets of wool, and put them around a ball smaller than the one at the top. And they wrap around the [bottom] end-parts of the pole with saffron-dyed material.
(75) To the people the highest ball represents the sun (with which they also associate Apollo), and the one lying beneath [represents] the moon; the hanging balls [represent] the planets and stars; and, indeed, the purple fillets [represent] the yearly cycle – for they even make exactly 365 of them.
(76) A boy with two living parents starts/leads the daphnephoria; and his closest relative holds up the wreathed pole, which they call the kōpō.
(77) And the daphnephoros himself follows and holds onto the laurel, with his hair let down, wearing a golden crown, bedecked in bright clothing down to his feet, and shod in epikratides; a khoros of parthenoi accompany him, holding out sprigs in supplication [and] singing hymns.
(78) And they escort the daphnephoria to the temples of Apollo Ismenios and Khalazios.
(Translation provided by my dear friend A.Cox from Sydney University)
African Pole Dances
There is little information on the history of pole dancing in Africa but it certainly existed in some forms. Tribal rituals in certain areas involved betrothed women dancing around wooden poles as a type of fertility dance. Again the pole represented a phallic symbol with the connection to fertility.
Panjat Pinang (Pinang Climb)
Panjat Pinang is a traditional game played in Indonesian which was introduced in the era of Dutch colonialism as a form of entertainment. It is essentially a climbing game performed at events like weddings using traditional areca nut trees. Participants compete to climb the poles to reach a variety of interesting gifts. It is also performed as a way of celebrating Indonesia’s Independence Day when the pole is covered in oil or lubricants and young men are invited to climb and compete to reach the prizes at the top.
Obviously western pole dancing is largely associated with exotic dancing which has its roots far bar in ancient history. The exotic dance dates back to at least ancient Sumerian times when dances like that of the seven veils was used in association with the goddess of love Inanna. The dances were used to tell stories as a form of interpretive dance. The dance of the seven veils for instance represents the seven gates which Inanna had to pass through to find her lover and partner Damouz.
Pole dancing also has influences in Belly-dancing and Latin inspired dancing such as the Rumba and the Tango. Nowadays it still relates to the ancient forms as a hybrid dance and fitness form.
Want to see what modern pole is like as a hybrid of all these historical and international influences? Just watch the video below of the amazing pole fitness and art champion Oona Kivela:
Everyone is aware of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but few realise that these were just one find in a region which continues to yield hundreds of finds significant to our understanding of live in the first centuries, the Jewish revolts and the relationships between the peoples involved in the area. While at a conference earlier in the year on New Testament archaeology, I picked up a very interesting book by Richard Freund and was introduced to the Cave of Letters.
The Cave of Letters was discovered in Israel in the early 1960s and was excavated by the famed Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin from 1960-1961. Yadin devoted himself to research and archaeology upon leaving the military and received the Israel prize in Jewish studies for his doctoral thesis on the translation of the dead sea scrolls. Apart from the Cave of Letters, Yadin excavated numerous important sites in the region which included Tel Megiddo, Masada, the Qumran Caves and Hazor.Yadin discovered the cave when he launched an urgent search of the dead sea caves in order to rescue artefacts of historical significance before they were looted by increasing numbers of treasure hunters in the region. The cave may be one of the sixty-four locations which were inscribed on a copper scroll found in another cave near the dead sea village of Qumran. This is believed due to the similarities in location and shape of the cave entrances as two columns in addition to the placement of bronze artefacts and stone vessels in the cave which are also mentioned on the scroll. The Cave of Letters was found above a canyon called Nahal Hever.
The cave is located in the area of the dead sea in the Judean desert and can only be assessed via a 50ft climb up to the cave’s entrance. During the 1960-61 excavations, Yadin uncovered a number of human skulls and bones and common objects of daily life alongside what he believed to be bronze ritual items. Yadin’s team also uncovered clusters of papyrus letters which made up the largest cache of ancient personal correspondence and documents ever found in Israel! These letters are slowly being published but are yet to be completed. Among the letters include correspondence from Bar Kokhba, a messianic leader of the third Jewish revolt against the Romans in the second century AD. Judea was part of the Roman empire but the Jewish people lived uncomfortably with their Roman rulers as a subject nation.
Among the documents in the Cave of Letters were found military orders signed by Bar Kokhba as Shimon Bar Kokhba, Simon son of a star. Surprisingly to some scholars the letters have quite a harsh tone and include threatening letters to Yehonatan who was the leader of En Geddi.
In 2000-2001 the archaeologist and Professor of Jewish History, Richard Freund, from the University of Hartford, led a team under the John and Carol Merrill Expedition to find out more about the Cave of Letters. On returning to the cave with an international team of archaeologists and scholars, Freund uncovered new evidence about the use of the cave and located a large number of new artefacts. Freund explains that the Cave of Letters is a massive cave with two openings in the sheer cliff wall with three internal chambers connected by narrow passageways with the cavern complex cutting more than 300 yards deep into the cliff-side. Freund had the chance to explore new areas to excavate which Yadin didn’t get a chance to. Yadin was unable to explore beneath the thick layer of rubble on the cave floor caused by centuries of earthquakes. In some areas the rubble was as thick at 15ft. Freund also had access to ground-penetrating radar and electrical resistivity tomography which allowed him to excavate and survey beyond Yadin’s means. Freund and Yadin’s excavations turned up artefacts that are signficiant to the history of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity and the politics of the modern Middle East.
One of the most significant corpuses of letters found in the cave are the personal documents of a Jewish woman who lived in the port town of Maoza. This woman was named Babatha. The documents give a vivid picture of the life of an upper-middle class Jewish woman during the second century AD. They date from around 96-134 AD and give examples of Roman bureaucracy and legal systems by including legal contracts concerning marriage, property transfers and guardianship. They show that Babatha was born around 104 AD and inherited her father’s date palm orchard. She married for the first time in 124 and was widowed with a son named Jesus. She remarried in 125 to a man named Judah who already had another wife and a teenage daughter. There are also loan documents showing that Judah borrowed money from Babatha who was clearly in control of her own money. She got this money back upon Judah’s death in the form of his estates. Other documents in the Babatha archive include those concerning the guardianship of her son and a dispute between her and Judah’s first wife Miriam over Judah’s estates.
The use of the Cave of Letters is still under some debate but the artefacts are revealing. The most common theory is that the cave was used as a hideaway by Jewish refugees who were escaping oppressive Roman rule. Babatha would have been in the area in 132 when Bar Kokhba was performing his revolt. It is possibly that she fled or was killed as the documents in the cave were never recovered and were found alongside twenty skeletons which suggest that she or others perished while taking refuge in the cave.
What is interesting about the skeletal remains is that complete lack of signs for violent trauma suggesting that they died of starvation. The cave being used as a refuge is also suggested by signs of animals and cooking preparations including a piece of a circular oven. Freund found a number of items indicative of everyday life including rope and papyrus fragments, fabrics, a wooden comb, signs of living areas and a child’s sandal. The sandal is particularly significant because evidence of women and children in the area is rare.
The Cave of Letters also provides direct evidence of Bar Kokhba’s early triumphs supposedly with a Bar Kokhba coin found in the A-B passage. This is one of eight coins found in the cave. The inscription on the coin reads ‘for the freedom of Jerusalem’. Clearly the Cave of Letters is a trove of information and significance.
- Possible Bar Kochba Revolt Hoard Found (rogueclassicism.com)
- Oldest Jewish archaeological evidence on the Iberian Peninsula (eurekalert.org)
- Dead Sea Scrolls: Priceless window into history (philly.com)
- Possible Bar Kochba Revolt Hoard Found (frstephensmuts.wordpress.com)
- Nehemiah Found! (withmeagrepowers.wordpress.com)
- “Emergency” Gold Treasures Found in Holy Land (thesciencebulletin.wordpress.com)
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