Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Queen Hatshepsut found!

Big, big news today. Researchers in Egypt have made a positive identification of a mummy as the body of Queen Hatshepsut, one of only a handful of female Pharaohs in Egyptian history and a major New Kingdom player. Her tomb (which had been desecrated after her death in an act of damnatio memoriae) has long been identified but it didn't contain any bodies. It did, however, contain some personal effects, including a box with Hatshepsut's cartouche containing a tooth. That tooth has been matched to a mummy found in a disturbed coffin, one of two, in a nearby tomb. The coffins had obviously been moved from somewhere else. One coffin bore the name of Hatshepsut's wet-nurse. The other held an anonymous woman, aged 45 to 60, who was apparently obese and suffering from cancer. She was also missing a tooth, and the tooth from Hatshepsut's tomb exactly fits into the jaw. The identification seems certain.

Hatshepsut was the daughter of Tuthmosis I, and married to her brother, Tuthmosis II. When he died, she took the throne as Pharaoh in her own right (although technically she was only regent for her son, Tuthmosis III), adopting masculine imagery in royal portraiture and sponsoring trading expeditions to East Africa.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Neat Pictures from Italy

For those interested, Martin Conde's Flickr page has some spectacular photos from Rome and nearby sites, including the new exhibit of the scepters and insignia of the Emperor Maxentius, recently discovered on the Palatine Hill, and some nice aerial photos of Ostia.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Days 13 & 14: Burgos and Clunia

I'm back in the States now; once again wi-fi access in some of my hotels was less than promised. I have one last update regarding my trip. In days to come, I will discuss some of the topics that have been brought up in more depth.

The main objective last weekend was to make it to Clunia, formerly an important city in Roman Spain, with a total population between 30 and 50 thousand people. Today, it's in a relatively isolated area, but one with tremendous natural beauty. Thanks to help from the team currently excavating there, I was able to make a brief visit, on which more below:

Clunia was excavated in a series of campaigns beginning in the 1930s and 1960s, although only some 10% of the total area has been dug. Most of the remains date from the heyday of the city in the first and second centuries A.D. The first building you encounter as you ascent the hill on which Clunia sits is the theater, built into the natural limestone of the plateau.

My camera was running low on memory towards the end, which is why the end of the video seems a little rushed. The theater is one of the largest known from Roman Spain, and is currently undergoing further excavation, which indicates that it was transformed into an amphitheater late in its life, a transformation paralelled in other Roman towns.

On the road from the theater to the forum, you pass two large bath complexes, also dating to the late first/early second centuries. The larger of the two, Los Arcos II, is also the most fully excavated. I shot a short video of the baths, which are quite lovely. I begin by entering through what would have been the main entrance, marked by a semicircular porticoed space. The bath complex is symmetrically arranged, with one half reserved for men and the other for women. After heading towards the right side of the complex, I swing back toward the left, passing through a porticoed garden or exercise yard (palaestra), a changing room (apodyterium) with opus sectile flooring, a cold room or frigidarium with plunge bath, a warm room or tepidarium, and finally the hot room or caldarium. The latter two can be recognized by the hypocausts or suspended floors, used to circulate hot air and keep the rooms warm. To help you follow along I will include a map of my route:

Proceeding further up the hill, one comes upon a residential area, with a large house originally dating to the first century, but which over subsequent generations slowly absorbed other nearby residences until it took up an entire city block. This is House #1 or the House of Taracena, and it has some absolutely gorgeous mosaics:

More on this house later. Finally, one gets to the buildings around the forum. Clunia had a very large public area, much of which is now buried or otherwise obscured. Here is a shot of the forum as it is now; the large hummock in the distance is the podium of one of the chief temples of the colony; either a temple to Jupiter or to the Imperial Cult.

All in all a very spectacular site, which I will discuss more in future posts. The last few days of my trip were spent travelling and consulting with people about future fieldwork. I hope you enjoyed this little experiment. I learned a lot, and hope to have the opportunity to do this again and learn from the problems I encountered. Thanks for following along!

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Days 8-12: Vitoria

Not much to report over the last few days. I was located in Vitoria, Spain, to do library work and to meet up with old friends. It was very productive, but I have little in the way of archaeology pictures to show. My plan originally was to rent a car and visit some of the sites in the area, but the theft of my driver's license scotched that idea. However, I am currently in Burgos, and plan to visit the important archaeological site of Clunia tomorrow, so I should soon have more interesting things to post about.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Days 6 & 7: Córdoba

From Madrid, to Córdoba I went, my first time in Andalusia. I enjoyed Córdoba immensely, lack of wi-fi notwithstanding. Not only is it a much smaller city than Madrid, it has an entirely different feel, more relaxed and serene than the bustling metropolis.

Córdoba has some interesting Roman remains, especially the late 3rd/early 4th century palace known as La Cercadilla, discovered (and to a great extent destroyed) when the train station was expanded. I would like to talk more about it, but it is a difficult site to explain in brief, so I will save it for a future Question Time. Instead, I will talk about Córdoba's more famous monument, the Mezquita or the Great Mosque, begun in AD 754 and expanded over the next 250 years, then turned into a Christian cathedral after the Reconquest. The latter event has caused some jarring effects, as 16th, 17th and 18th century architecture intrudes upon the earlier structure as if it had teleported in from some different dimension. However, one can still feel the majesty of the earlier building.

It really is something to behold; much more impressive than I had expected (which is saying something). Definitely something for the must-see-before-you-die list. The beauty of the architectural work is quite breathtaking:

The building is really something one needs to walk through to get the full experience. The atmosphere is something I have only felt in a few places, such as St. Peter's. My camera has a video feature and so I shot a short film showing the south end and leading up to the qibla niche (which was, unfortunately, inaccessible). This is the part built by the Caliph Al-Hakam II.

(Let me know if people have trouble seeing this).

In addition to the Mosque, the old quarter of Córdoba has many traditional Andalusian houses, some dating back in part to the 12th century. They share the common Mediterranean design of a quiet central patio with typically a fountain and flowering plants:

Different rooms open onto the courtyard, creating a extremely cool and tranquil atmosphere.

Originally, I had decided my dream house would be neo-Georgian. Now, however, I think that if I end up in a warm climate, it will have to be Andalusian.

Finally, another bit of Spanglish humor. Córdoba has a Dunkin' Donuts clone. Now, Dunkin' Donuts is not that exotic -- there are Dunkin' Donuts in Madrid. Remember McDowell's restaurant from Coming to America? Same idea here -- same colors, same layout, same kind of food. However, the name has been changed to protect the guilty. It would seem that the proprietors felt the most important thing about the original name was the alliteration. So I give you...."Duffin Dagels."

I guess the name is supposed to remind one of muffins and bagels, but the store sells neither, and I doubt most Spaniards know what they are anyway.

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Not Dead Yet.

Okay, the promise of wi-fi in my Cordoban hotel turned out to be erroneous, so I was unable to make any updates. But I am still here, now in Vitoria, and I will catch up as soon as possible. I did feel like I was dead Thursday in Madrid, though. I must have been working harder than I thought, as I hit the wall that day. It was a real effort to drag myself to the library to do research, and though I got some wind under my sails in the late morning, after lunch I was dead. I got back to the hotel and slept for four hours. Then got up, ate, and went back to bed for another nine hours. I was better after that.

More to come.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Days 3 & 4: Madrid

Yes, I'm still here. The last two days have been less picturesque as I have been holed up at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. Very nice (nicer than last time I was there) and welcoming. They have a wonderful library covering Spanish archaeology, which is the reason I am working there. Their space is a bit cramped; they've already moved to contractible shelving for much of their collection -- I don't know what they'll do in the future. It would be really nice for the Americans to have a similar facility -- a dream for the future. Now, on to more interesting stuff!

I took some time this afternoon to visit the National Archaeological Museum. This is the premier museum in the country, and it is right next to the National Library. To get there from my hotel, you walk past the giant fountain with the statue of the Anatolian goddess Cybele:

I have been by the fountain twice, on different days, and at different times. Both times I snapped pictures. And both times I failed to notice that there was a bird on her head! Probably the same bird. Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue....

The museum itself can be found near the Jardines de Descubrimiento (Gardens of Discovery), which has a fountain (off) and some modernist sculpture:

On the sculpture are a series of texts from various authors about the New World. Some aren't what you would expect, like this one from the Roman writer Seneca:

(Loose translation: "There will come in the latter years of the world certain times in which the sea will loose the bindings of things, and a great land will appear. And a new mariner like the one who guided Jason, who was named Tiphys, will discover a new world. And Thule will no longer be the most distant of lands.")

As for the museum itself:

It has great objects as always. In fact, I don't think the exhibit cases have been altered since the last time I was here, eight years ago. I'm used to museums in northern Spain, which are heavy on the multi-media presentations and grabbing the attention of the viewer. Not so much in Madrid. It's particularly bad on the lower level, where many of the displays look like they haven't been changed in the last 25 years. Upstairs, in the Iron Age - Medieval rooms, there are many new signs and placards, and some attempt to inject color and liveliness into the museum. Still, given what they have, I would expect more. I guess they don't worry too much about bringing in money from visitors, like a lot of modern museums. That has both advantages and drawbacks.

In addition, every guide book I have seen says that the museum has a reconstruction of the cave paintings at Altamira in the basement. I have been there twice now, and it must be very, very well hidden, as I swear there is no such thing inside.

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Monday, June 4, 2007

Days 1 & 2: Madrid

Okay, that nasty little surprise is more or less under control. So, let's share some pics, shall we?

Madrid is known for its great museums, less so for its archaeological remains. So most of these pictures will be of things other than ruins. But there will be some, I promise!

I spent most of Sunday morning visiting the Prado, then after a quick nap I saw the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum. Both are can't miss attractions. My favorite aritists are the early Renaissance Flemish painters like van der Weyden, but there was lots of Velasquez and Goya too, and even a good helping of American artists including Copley, Cole, Homer, and Sargent.

Then, I discovered that Madrid was having a book fair. Every time I come to Spain I encounter book fairs. There must have been a dozen or so in the eight months I lived in Vitoria. This one, however, was a little bigger than most:
Over 300 stalls, featuring booksellers and publishers from around the country.

Soon after, my attention was distracted by "the second incident." Today I visited the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. They were featuring a conference on the influence of eastern Islamic art and architecture on al-Andalus, the Muslim possessions in Spain. Not my field, but I caught a couple of papers that were very interesting. Tomorrow, I will return to begin research in earnest.

The rest of the day I spent taking in the sights and roaming the streets. I visited the Parque de la Montaña, a large garden terrace on the east side of the central city. It's one of the few places in Madrid (which is pretty flat, unlike, say, Barcelona), where one can find a scenic overlook:

That's a view of the royal palace. Pretty impressive, what? That's just the half of it. Here's what we have in the opposite direction:

That's right, that's an honest-to-goodness Egyptian temple, the Temple of Debod, originally dedicated to Isis and then relocated to Spain as a thank-you gift from the Egyptian government for Spain's help in relocating the temple at Abu Simbel. 'Twas closed today like all museums, but I'll be back to take a peak at the museum inside.

I also took the opportunity to increase my collection of photographs of statues of obscure Visigothic kings:

This is one of a series covering all of Spanish history from Athaulf (successor of Alaric) to the 19th century. They were originally supposed to decorate the roof of the palace but the queen worried about their weight so they were used to decorate the royal gardens instead.

Finally, some humor. I am always fascinated by the way that Europeans in general, and the Spanish in particular, find the American midwest so intriguing. I am from Nebraska, and I can say we are generally ignored by most Americans. Not so in Madrid. Would you believe a Nebraska restaurant?

Would you believe two?

How about three?

(Alright, the last two are part of a chain, I think. Still.....)

Finally, a bit of Spanglish:

I don't mind if my cream is nice, but I like my coffee surly, thank you.

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

¡Un qué disastre!

Well, I had intended to spend this evening posting some pics of my first day in Madrid. Instead, I was robbed by a very adept pickpocket this evening (for those keeping track, this is the second time in the last year that I was robbed on my first or second day in Spain). So I have spent the last four hours filing police reports and calling banks. Right now, everything seems to be in reasonable shape and I should be able to complete my trip (with perhaps a few changes) as planned. Pics will have to wait until tomorrow.

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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Liveblogging Spain

Today I am off to Spain to conduct research for my book, look up some sources for a couple of articles I am working on, and explore some possibilities for fieldwork next year.

I will be wired up -- laptop, digital camera and, I am led to believe, wi-fi connections. So I plan to post pics and news of my travels here as they happen. (Well, more or less). So stay tuned for lots of pretty pictures!

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Picket Wire Canyonlands Threatened

Ft. Carson, Colorado, is located in a landscape of breathtaking natural beauty. Picket Wire Canyon, part of the Comanche National Grassland, sits adjacent to the fort's Pinon Canyon testing range. The Canyon gets its name from the river, which is a corruption of the French Purgatoire, which in turn comes from the Spanish Río Purgatorio. Now the fort wants to extend the firing range into the Picket Wire Canyonlands. This move has gained publicity in part because the area contains the largest dinosaur track site on the continent. However, there are also archaeological sites at risk, including a late 19th century Mexican Dolores Mission, the ruins of a ranch that was continuously occupied from 1874 to 1974, and Native American petroglyphs. Currently, community activists are attempting to gain public attention in an attempt to block the expansion. If anyone reading this is from Colorado, I'd like to hear your view on this debate.

Pictures of the dinosaur tracks and some of the archaeological remains can be found here.

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