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Archaeology Travel Blog: Selinus and Antiochia ad Cragum!

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So it is about time I told you all about this archaeological dig I am on. Welcome all to the wonderful world of Gazipasa and Antiochia ad Cragum!

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.

Beach side of Gazipasa

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.

Side of Temple at Antiochia ad Cragum

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.

Part of Mosaic in Bath Complex at Antiochia ad Cragum

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!

My Trench on Day 2 at Back of Temple

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!

My Trench on Day 10
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From Pole to Pole: The History of Pole Dancing and Fitness

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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

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

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

Image from A Little Pretty Pocket-book
Image from A Little Pretty Pocket-book

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.

Influential Origins

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:

Isthmia: Roman Baths and Muscular Men

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Amazing Mosaic at Roman Bath Complex, Taken by myself 2008

Not entirely sure where my work is going today so I have thus decided to take a short break to tell you about one of the more interesting, actually the most interesting sites I have worked on so far: Isthmia, Greece.

Isthmia is a genitive noun with the meaning ‘of the Isthmus.’ It generally refers to the site that held the famous Isthmian Games near Korinth on the Isthmus. A natural assembly place for many Greeks and travellers.

Isthmia in Antiquity was one of Greece’s large Panhellenic sanctuaries and played host to the Isthmian Games (founded in 584BC) and hence held a special importance throughout the Greek and Roman periods, with its athletic and religious festivals coming second in significance only to Olympia. The Isthmian Games was held in the spring of the second and fourth years of each Olympiad and were believed to have originated with the King of Corinth Sisyphus or Theseus himself. They were open to all Greeks but were particularly popular with the Athenians. Romans were also allowed to take part from around 228/9 BC onwards. Unfortunately they, alongside the other great Games, left to the wayside with the rise to dominance of Christianity. In their heyday the Isthmian Games saw the implementation of the Isthmian Truce with was declared by Corinth to grant athletes safe passage through Greece.

The site is often associated with the events and matters of Korinth due to its close proximity and because it was administered by the city-state of Korinth. It was also a natural place for the sanctuary considering its place near the Isthmus and the many travellers that passed through on land and at ports. For instance, the Macedonians brought an army through the Isthmus in 225/4 to face another Achaian force trying to take Korinth. Due to its location, armies would frequently march through it with often disastrous consequences to the site and its temple. Even after the Isthmia had been abandoned between the late 7th century and 11th century AD, the Isthmus continued to be an important medieval and early modern strategic location.

The sanctuary was primarily dedicated to the worship of Poseidon with a large Doric temple to Poseidon being built around 700BC which was later replaces around 465 with a newer larger temple complex. The temple of Poseidon was discovered in 1952 by Oscar Broneer. Unfortunately, by the year 400AD with the force of Christianity, the sanctuary and the games at Isthmia had been abandoned. In its current state, the site of Isthmia includes The Sanctuary of Poseidon, an Upper sanctuary, Roman Bath (Including a beautiful mosaic floor), Greek Pool and fortress and Hexamilion (A wall constructed in the reign of Theodosiius II across the Isthmus), as well as an eastern field which still warrants investigation. Excavations have been carried out by The Ohio State University and the University of Chicago.

Remains of Roman Bath Complex

The Roman Bath at Isthmia was constructed around the mid-second century AD and it most often the focus of Isthmia in the current day. Artefacts in the form of pottery, walls and cement floors indicate that the area was used at least as late as the Byzantine era despite being abandoned as a bath in the late fourth century AD. An extremely elaborate structure, the Bath contained vaulted ceiling, sculptures, marble walls, and most obviously a huge Italian style monochrome mosaic accompanied by colossal statue bases and evidence of sculpture in what would most likely have been the great hall of the complex. Among an array of rooms, pools and furnaces is also highly sophisticated drainage systems and heating systems, with the drainage systems still in sufficient working order in the present day. The Roman Bath was built over a Greek structure; with the mosaic covering what was before hand a Greek pool.

A short but informative post I say. And now back to the realms of chapter writing on recurring themes of certain pieces of ancient Greek literature.