NUNTII: Roman Ships in Brazil
I've been on various email lists for well over a decade and it is interesting how things seem to resurface on a semi-regular basis. This morning, the thing that resurfaced on the Imperial Rome list was the story that a Roman shipwreck had been found near Rio di Janiero. The reference on the list was to an article from February, 2002 in Dockwalk, a magazine/ezine for the boating set, which has most of the standard details.
The story, in brief, goes something like this: fishermen working in Guanabara Bay kept bringing up strange pottery in their fishing nets. Eventually an "authority on Roman shipwrecks" named Robert Marx is called onto the scene to investigate. He finds amphorae (sometimes it's just the necks) which are given to an unnamed world authority on amphorae, who in turn, claims they were originally from Morocco. Other objects are sometimes said to have been found -- in the Dockwalk piece, these include
As far as I'm aware, none of this has ever been formally published in a peer-reviewed Classical/archaeological journal -- if it has, I would very much appreciate a reference. With that in mind, most of what I have been able to find out has come from the Internet. First of all, we should deal with the bona fides of the 'excavator' Robert Marx. He is not an academic and I think the jury is still out whether he warrants the moniker 'treasure hunter' or not. He certainly has dived on a large number of wrecks, as a sort of C.V.ish thing from an 'International Shipwreck Conference' shows. We should note the entry in that C.V. which pertains to this discussion (and which we'll return to):
Another page -- apparently his own -- gives further background; I note no university affiliation nor any mention of any publication in a refereed journal. On the other hand, an article from Diver magazine does give the impression that he is not interested in treasure hunting per se, although one wonders how he supports himself (according to one piece, he gets a 75% cut of anything he does as a 'consultant', with the state getting 25%). There is also a very interesting thing to note:
Okay, we're dealing with a controversial character who clearly has no ties to academe. That normally sets off alarm bells in my skull, but I'm going to ignore them for the time being and consider what was found. According to Science Frontiers Online, ultimately deriving from Omni Magazine (June 1983):
Okay ... I think it is safe to say that Marx did find amphorae. He claims they're second century B.C.. I managed to find out who the unnamed world authority on amphorae usually mentioned in conjunction with the identification. According to the Mysterious Earth site, it was Dr. Elizabeth Lyding Will (whose credentials are definitely not questionable), who wrote a piece for Archaeology Odyssey (January/February 2000) which still lingers at the Internet Wayback Machine. Here's what they quote, which comes from the end of the article:
If we believe our world authority, who appears to be dating things solely on stylistic grounds, we have a potential gap of 500 years in the dating (from Marx's 2nd century B.C. to her 3rd century A.D.). We can also throw into the mix a photo from some unnamed source which dates the amphora to ca. 100 A.D.. Where Marx gets his second century B.C. date from is beyond me, but it is interesting that he sticks to it in all the sites mentioned about. He's certain about 2nd century; our authority says much later. That is cause for suspicion.
I should also mention that I once saw a claim that the amphorae might have been part of the ballast of some ship that sank; this might seem plausible given that three other shipwrecks are found at the same site. However, as far as I'm aware, ballast in Spanish and other ships from the 15th century onwards tends to be stones (and it's the pile of stones that often leads to the discovery of a wreck). So let's discount that.
What no one seems to mention in any of these articles, however, and it makes me very suspicious, is that amphorae were used by the Spanish in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries to transport olive oil (and other purposes, I would imagine)! I think there is a knee-jerk response to see an amphora and automatically think that it must have come from some Roman or Greek source, but obviously such is not the case. A recent article in Athena Review, e.g., about the discovery of a Caravel which might be associated with Columbus' fourth voyage notes in passing:
If you don't trust Athena Review, the Guardian has a similar report on the same discovery.
In other words, I am not sure why these amphorae are definitely identified as Roman. The fact that Elizabeth Lyding Will seems to only comment on the shape in somewhat vague terms suggests we do not have any markings on the amphora to definitely identify them as Roman. I can only think that the identification of Roman has come from the 'marbles' and/or 'fibula' which was supposedly also found there. I can also only think that Marx' insistence on a Second Century B.C. date must somehow be connected to the 'marbles' and/or 'fibula' as opposed to the amphorae. Finally, I can't help but recall that he was accused of seeding the site. Put it together for yourself ... I don't buy it.
NUNTII: Very Nice Myth Site
This just in from the Australian:
The site -- Winged Sandals -- is definitely worth a visit. I checked out the flash version, which did take a while to load on my ancient modem, and although Hermes the navigator has a real annoying voice (and questionable purpose), there's some good stuff here. E.g., I asked the Delphic Oracle "Will rogueclassicism take over the blogosphere" and I was given the response (after a suitable wait) "Blessed is Corinth, but I would rather come from Tenea". The response was glossed "Corinth was a wealthy and powerful city, Tenea a small town. Sometimes it's better not to be the most prominent". Interestingly, this is an actual response -- apparently -- which the oracle gave at some point, according to Strabo.
BLOGWATCH (and a rant): @ Hobbyblog
I probably don't mention Hobbyblog enough, where Ed is posting his ancient coins one at a time ... excellent photos and a brief description. Over the past week, for example, there have been some very nice Antoniniani, but last week's offerings were even better (in my opinion). I particularly liked the Salonina coin with the demanding brats on the obverse.
Now as I understand it, most, if not all of Ed's coins are of the sort that one would purchase and subsequently clean -- i.e. they are the sorts of coins which assorted folks claim should not be allowed to be sold on EBay or used as teaching materials by the ACE coins people. The motives for such posturing is, of course, noble -- most of these coins come from questionable sources in various European countries. "Scholars" never get to see them and purchasing them is seen as 'encouraging' the looting of archaeological sites. Of course, the reason the sources are questionable at all is because most European countries have bizarre laws about the discovery of antiquities and for the most part, whoever finds them doesn't get to keep them or get any benefit from them. So really, there is no incentive for the finder to be 'honest' or 'honourable' about what they've found.
At the same time, though, suppose a bucket of such coins are found during a legitimate archaeological dig. What happens to them? Well, generally, the big coins are weeded out, cleaned, and added to the collection -- perhaps filed away. The piles of other coins -- specifically the ones that you see on EBay -- get shoved into a drawer to rot or whatever it is that happens to such coins (I have been unable to find out; anecdotal reports suggest some are thrown out). Of course, there really is little incentive for a museum to clean and identify every single coin ... the effort required in terms of man/womanpower just isn't in proportion to what you know will be found.
And so, let's make a suggestion: why don't museums become more proactive in this? Why don't they make an effort to become the legitimate middlemen for coins of this sort? That is, why don't museums push for legislation which would allow folks who find a coin horde to bring it to a museum and get a fair price for it (in exchange for a provenance as well), something like the UK's Portable Antiquities Scheme but a little more developed. Then museums could put the remainder on EBay and sell them with the provision that, e.g., any coin which is sufficiently cleaned be identified, photographed, and published on the internet, perhaps in blog form as at Hobbyblog -- proceeds from the coins could either pay for the upkeep of such a section of a website or could just be added to the general revenues of the museum. It seems to me to be a win-win-win situation for all parties involved ...
NUNTII: Nuntii Latini
The latest headlines from YLE's Nuntii Latini:
BLOGWATCH: @ Curculio
Michael Hendry has added some useful material to his sidebar at Curculio under the rubric Teaching Texts II. The texts included are a number of epigrams of Martial and one piece from Seneca which are at a level which students using Ecce Romani (or other such texts) could handle at various stages of their learning career. (See similiter Teaching Texts I if you've not made use of them before -- more Martial and a pile of Propertius too!)
BLOGWATCH: @ Hypotyposeis
Hypotyposeis has had some interesting items this week, but the one of most interest to folks with a Classical bent (especially those of you with webpages) will be a post about in-line glosses for Greek text on a webpage. Definitely worth a look.
NUNTII: CSA Newsletter
Here are the contents of the latest Center for the Study of Architecture/Archaeology Newsletter (Winter, 2004):
A Final Survey Experiment on the NW Wing of the Propylaea
From One Context to Another: Building a Common Information Environment for Archaeology
Archiving Data from the Older Propylon Project
Note-Taking with Total Station Survey Work
NUNTII: Roman Plumbing at Vindolanda
I thought I had posted this here already, but apparently I hadn't ... the BBC has a report on the discovery of some pipes at Vindolanda which appear to still be in working order. Here's the incipit:
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