Wednesday, December 24, 2008

For Profit Archaeology

The Miliken Institute's Financial Innovations Labs have issued a report entitled Financial Innovations for Developing Archaeological Discovery and Conservation. It seems to be a call for archaeologists to participate in the profit-oriented market for antiquities, though the report certainly doesn't use that language. Even when mediated through the securitization of debt obligations backed by cash-flow from long-term loans, this is problematic. Archaeologists work to bring information about the past to the public, not to meet commercial demand for artifacts.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Sean Gillies has written an important memo Concordia, Vocabularies, and CIDOC CRM on Concordia's current approach to using the Comité International pour la Documentation des Musées - Conceptual Reference Model (CIDOC-CRM). It should be widely read by people interested in the digital publication of resources for the ancient Mediterranean and beyond. In it he gives a preliminary indication that RDFa - a standard for embedding the Resource Description Framework in html pages - provides a better route forward for the time being. But don't take my word for this, read his whole text.

RDFa has appeared on this blog: PRAP, xhtml 2.0 and Archaeological Databases was early thinking, RDFa at Ilion is more recent, also makes use of RDFa. So Sean's memo is welcome here because his reasoning is similar to mine.

But what of CIDOC-CRM? The main CIDOC-CRM website opens with:
The CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CRM) provides definitions and a formal structure for describing the implicit and explicit concepts and relationships used in cultural heritage documentation.
It also notes that the CRM is an ISO standard (ISO 21127:2006). That's a good thing.

In general, the main CIDOC-CRM website doesn't do a good job of introducing itself. If you want a quick feel for how the CRM organizes concepts, try the relevant section of Princeton's QED site. You'll see that the CRM provides a well-thought out vocabulary of concepts for describing cultural heritage. Apart from the odd use of gendered language, it's useful that the CRM defines the concept E24 Physical Man-Made Thing. It will be cool when I can search the Internet for E24's within the Aegean that date to the Late Roman period. I'm guessing the CRM will play a role in enabling such functionality.

In terms of resources linked from the main CIDOC-CRM website, I've paid the most attention to the "mappings" page. I take heart in the work being done in this domain because of the implication that my use of the CRM can be indirect. This is encouraging because current self-representation by CIDOC seems to obscure notions of "best practice" in an over-abundance of detail. See this paper for an example. It is to the CRM's credit that it can represent all the concepts used there, but in many cases one does not have, nor need, this level of detail. I will be happy to use VRA, Dublin core and any other vocabularies and ontologies that gain traction in the Semantic Web world and trust that these will be mapped to the CRM.

From my perspective, that there is not a large amount of CRM-encoded original archaeological data easily available on the internet is an indication that the standard has not seen a high-degree of real world uptake. I understand that there is acceptance of the CRM and many initiatives discussing how it can be used (here) but I would very much like to see actual use with large datasets. I'm also interested in seeing projects that adopt the CRM as the original format for "born digital" data. Will that really happen?

This post represents thinking that I hope will change as we see real world adoption of standards in Cultural Heritage. I'm agnostic as to what the future holds. For the present, I'm all for exploring vocabularies and ontologies that are moving towards RDFa representations.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Briefly: two books and a new resource

I am in the Thomas J. Watson Library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's a very pleasant place to work and recommended for archaeologists visiting NYC. They have very strong holdings in Roman pottery.

I've paged and am using A. Camilli. 1999. Ampullae : balsamari ceramici di età ellenistica e romana [worldcat]. That's Italian for "Unguentaria", the common small ceramic bottles/flasks found in many contexts on Mediterranean sites. I stress this because the book is not about Early Christian/Late Roman ampullae associated with pilgrimage. If you're working with unguentaria, you want this book.

Next up is M. Berndt. 2003. Funde aus dem Survey auf der Halbinsel von Milet : (1992 - 1999) : kaiserzeitliche und frühbyzantinische Keramik [worldcat]. This is a very useful catalog for the period it covers. A noteworthy feature is that the 172 plates are on a CD in the back. Putting a CD in the back of a book is an inane long-term solution so I want to go on record here as saying "Don't do it!". And if you do, "Dont use PDF!". But it wouldn't be entirely straightforward of me not to admit that I have the plates on my hard-drive. In the short term, yes, this information is useful. But who is going to have CD readers 20 years from now? Not many of us. And the text isn't available in digital form so here I am checking a few things.

Finally, the American Numismatic Society has initiated a project to establish stable URIs for numismatic concepts and entities. It's at Take a look but be gentle since it's all in early stages.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Semantic Web Vocabularies for the Ancient World

As previously indicated, I'm working on an xhtml+rdfa representation of GRBPIlion.

At some point I will give a more general statement of why this is a good idea. Right now, I'm still very much in the planning/modeling phase. In particular, I'm interested in which pre-existing vocabularies I should be using. What follows is a lightly annotated list of potential candidates, some more obvious and stable than others.

General statements of properties and relationships:

The Dublin Core is a well understood and widely used standard. Where it matches, it's a no-brainer to use it as a default. Currently, each record in the db has "dc:title" as a human readable title. E.g., "African Red Slip Hayes form 68".

The Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) is a W3 standard that has some uptake in the real world. uses the skos:subject property to indicate membership in categories such as those found on Wikipedia. My use is semantically similar.

The newly-started Open Vocab was brought to my attention by Sean Gillies. More precisely, he mentioned it on twitter and since I follow him, I checked it out. OV is a nice staging ground for creating URIs for terms that aren't found in other vocabularies and for terms you just want to think about before choosing an existing standard.

Visual Documentation:

Right now I use "vra:imageIs" to indicate that an external file is an image (whether svg or bit-mapped) of an object.


As suggested by S. Gillies, I've qualified some of the geographic markup with "ov:origin".

Authorial/Responsibility Metadata:

The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) provides a richer set of tools than DC for indicating authorship and related concepts. Its version P5 also provides a complete and elegant standard for encoding digital documents. For now, I'm representing GRBPIlion in xhtml and rdf, because the combination has explicit W3 backing and is suitably lightweight for my purposes.

Data modeling:

No surprises here. I do think there will always be a place for asserting relationships that are not strongly typed by reference to a particular discipline. That and using RDF and Owl for mapping relationships that will be more richly defined at a later date.

What about CIDOC-CRM? I did not find an up-to-date and official looking document that integrates RDF and CIDOC-CRM. I'm also concerned about using a standard whose official release appears only in Microsoft Word and PDF.

I should also explore ArchaeoML as implemented by Open Context but the site seems to be down right now. When I click through to individual databases, no records are being returned. I may be doing something wrong, but if not, I'm sure the site will come back soon.

Again, this is all highly preliminary. Constructive criticism would be very much appreciated.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

RDFa at Ilion

The following will seem cryptic and I promise to give more detail later...

If anybody is interested in a draft RDFa representation of the GRBPIlion database, then point your parser at

It even uses ov:origin! (sort of)

It's all in pursuit of the four goals given by Tim Berners-Lee in his Linked Data paper.
  1. Use URIs as names for things

  2. Use HTTP URIs so that people can look up those names.

  3. When someone looks up a URI, provide useful information.

  4. Include links to other URIs. so that they can discover
    more things.

Not there yet, but trying.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Late Hellenistic and Roman Pottery at Ilion (Troia)

Here is the abstract of my co-authored AIA paper. It's part of the Sunday morning session 7A: Pottery Production and Trade. My colleague Billur Tekkök and I are splitting the main text; she'll work on Hellenistic and I'll do Roman. Ernst Pernicka, director of the Troia Project, will contribute the results of NAA of sherds we selected.

Late Hellenistic and Roman Pottery at Ilion (Troia)

Billur Tekkök, Başkent University,
Sebastian Heath, American Numismatic Society,
and Ernst Pernicka, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen

This paper presents results from the study of stratified deposits dating from the late second century B.C. to the early sixth century A.D. Beyond establishing chronological horizons, our purpose is to explore the role of ceramic evidence in identifying economic and cultural trends at the site. Throughout this period, Ilion participated in both regional and long-distance exchange networks, and the ce-ramic assemblage includes a wide selection of Aegean utilitarian and tablewares. For the late Hellenistic period, Neutron Activation Analysis shows that regional workshops continued to produce Aegean forms, while also incorporating wider Mediterranean trends. Tablewares from first-century A.D. well-fills, pits, and foundation trenches indicate regular access to trade networks that brought ce-ramic material from outside the Aegean to the households of the region. Eastern Sigillata A, Italian Sigillata, as well as Eastern Sigillata B, are regular features of the ceramic assemblage, though none are common. Eastern Sigillata C, also called Çandarli-ware, becomes increasingly available at this time. By the late second cen-tury A.D., ESC makes up the bulk of the tableware assemblage. Pontic products remain rare in the Roman period. NAA indicates that ESC vessels, which display differences in inclusions and manufacture, were all supplied by regional work-shops. Late Roman tablewares show a transition to the use of Phocaean Red-Slip, as well as the presence of African Red-Slip and pale-slipped tablewares. Equal attention has been given to utilitarian wares and amphoras, and these vessels are presented as well. Finally, we present ongoing efforts toward digital publication of ceramic data.
To encourage me to get the text done in a timely fashion, I'll post sections here as I work on them. That will help me select the right photographs and drawings.

Last year I posted a list of papers whose titles indicated they had something to do with pottery. Look for a similar list to appear soon. And anybody who wants to post a relevant abstract here, just send it by e-mail or paste it into a comment.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Profile Drawing from the Illustrator's Perspective

Jane Heinrichs posts on the relative merits of drawing amphora vs. African Red-Slip sherds.

I spent two seasons at Leptiminus (Lamta) when I was a graduate student. Great site, nice kilns. My only comment on the post is to wonder why the project is using JPEG rather than a vectorized format.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Roman Pottery List at Worldcat

On AWBG, David Gill mentioned his History of Egyptology Worldcat list. That has inspired me to start such a list for Roman Pottery. You'll see that the focus is the Mediterranean.

It's incomplete, of course, but will grow over time. Suggestions, preferably with Worldcat links included, are welcome.

More on Sharing

Readers may recall a blog-based discussion of sharing archaeological data. See this post on AWBG for a summary with links to most of the discussion. The originator of the thread, Charles Watkinson, offered further observations in a contribution to the CSA Newsletter. I don't mean to re-open the whole issue, but I did recently come across a quote that seemed relevant.

The short volume, Francovich and Hodges. 2003. Villa to village: the transformation of the Roman countryside in Italy, c. 400-1000. London. [worldcat], is a good introductory text on an important early Medieval topic. When surveying the contributions of archaeology, the authors write:
...ceramic remains from for[sic] the post-classical period were needed to identify medieval sites. The opportunity arose in the spring of 1960 during the survey of the Ager Veientanus, some 17km north of Rome. Deep ploughing turned up what what on inspection proved to be the bases of a church colonnade, together with other major architectural elements and medieval pottery. Ward-Perkins soon identified the conspicuous surface remains as those of the monasterium sancti Cornelii in Capracorio, a monastery found between 1026 and 1035 on the site of a papal estate established by Pope Hadrian I in c. 776 (Christie 1991). Ward-Perkins realised that the site had almost certainly been occupied by a Roman villa as well, and with some zeal set out to explore the possibility of establishing direct continuity between a Roman villa and a domusculta - a ninth-century papal farm. Over five seasons, under the direction of Barri-Jones and then Charles Daniels, the British School at Rome uncovered this rare example of an early medieval rural settlement, permitting the pottery types of the age to be identified and used for locating other sites in survey. Unforunately, as Chris Wickham has recently written, "Santa Cornelia did not have the impact of the Castelprio or Torcello sites, or the German excavations of Invillino later in the decade, because it was not published for 30 years; by the time Neil Christie piloted it to publication in 1990, medieval archaeology had moved on." (Wickham 2001:38)

The key phrase here is "did not have the impact...because it was not published for 30 years". It is not important who you are - and I leave it to others to slot Ward-Perkins into a scholarly taxonomy - if you don't share ("publish"), then your data doesn't matter. I could certainly be more expansive and subtle but that would dilute the point.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lamp fillers or baby feeders?

First, a quick word of thanks to Sebastian for allowing me the chance to post here on Mediterranean Ceramics, particularly as the post's in some respect a selfish one. Y'see, I'm the student with whom he's working on the lamps from Beit She'an: and after discussing the several examples with him from a particular tomb, as well as associated ceramic and glass vessels, I'm left with a question I hope someone on the interwebs can answer.

Among the other ceramic vessels found within the tomb in question was a small, one-handled vessel with a bulbous body and a high neck--it'd be a stretch to call it piriform, but not entirely inaccurate--with a slender spout emerging from the body above its thickest point. More to the point, it's the sort of vessel which usually gets characterized as either a lamp filler or a baby feeder. Both are sensible enough guesses, I suppose, but they strike me nevertheless as almost comically divergent (similar shapes notwithstanding). Has anyone seen a treatment of these sorts of vessels anywhere--another example from Beit Sh'ean is at right--especially as regards their use in Late Roman or Byzantine Palestine? I'd be curious to know whether I ought to assume the thing's a lamp filler, given the presence of several associated lamps, or if I'm looking at a baby bottle. Thanks for the help!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Three Books: Argos, Britain and Loot

Somewhat randomly:
  • Catherine Abadie-Reynal's La céramique romaine d'Argos: Fin du IIe siècle avant J-C - fin du IVe siècle après J-C. [worldcat] is an excellent contribution to the study of Aegean ceramics in the Roman period. In conception, it is a well-executed catalog-based typological study. The introductions for each ware are up-to-date and the regionally organized bibliography is a resource all on its own.
  • Lloyd Laing's Pottery in Britain: 4000 BC to AD 1900 [worldcat] is useful for its color illustrations. If you take the book on its own terms, it makes a good addition to your personal or institutional library.
  • I recieved a review copy of Sharon Waxman's Loot: the battle over the stolen treasures of the ancient world [worldcat]. Preliminary reading has added it to my "get to soon" list. For reactions and links see Looting Matters.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quick Lamp Follow-Up

Looking at lamps from Beit She'an was enjoyable. The wider topic was material from a single tomb but lamps were the most numerous category of ceramic object. This was done in the context of an independent study so all the credit for setting things up goes to the student who pulled the pieces. The main reference we used was:
Hadad, S. (2002). The oil lamps from the Hebrew University excavations at Bet Shean. Qedem reports, 4. Jerusalem: Hebrew University of Jerusalem. [worldcat]
Generally a very useful book, particularly when you're lucky enough to be looking at objects from the same site that happen to be in the very museum you're working in!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quick Poll: LRC, Phocaean or Phokaian

Towards the top right of this page you'll see a poll asking for your preferred term for the late Roman red-slipped ware from Phocaea (or Phokaia?). This is the kind of thing that I don't much mind what your answer is. The modernist in me likes Phokaian, though Phocaean seems more common in English-language publications. Everybody knows what LRC means, but it is out of date and a geographic term is probably preferable.

Three Websites for Ancient Lamps

Tomorrow I am taking a look at lamps excavated by the University of Pennsylvania Museum from tombs at Beit She'an/Scythopolis [wikipedia].

There are a few good websites for ancient oil-lamps. Three that come immediately to mind are:It will be clear that I've listed sites that are well illustrated and have reasonably good descriptions, not sites that are replete with objects from properly excavated and documented contexts. One would wish that there were more of the latter.

Feel free to add to this short list in the comments.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Online Syriac Studies

I've been poking around the online resources for Syriac studies. First issue of note is the seeming disappearance of the site Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Computing Institute. Does anybody know what's going on there? I've seen notice of a Syriac Unicode font but can't get at it.

I have enjoyed the online journal Hugoye. Unfortunately, the copyright statement includes the following:
Hugoye articles are copyrighted and must be treated like any other published articles. They cannot be copied, duplicated, or reproduced by any means without prior written authorization from the General Editor.
Such restrictions only serve to marginalize this important field. The articles are already online and freely available. How about using a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work license?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Living Late Antiquity

I think many students of the Ancient World can see the repercussions of their own period of expertise still present in current events. This was brought home to me by the article A Short Overview of the Common History of the Syrian Church with Islam through the Centuries by HH Patriarch Mor Ignatios Zakka I Iwas.

Without meaning to preview it too much, I think anybody interested in the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages will find it offers an interesting perspective.

And while I'm sure one can find controversy in this document, that's not my interest at all.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Roman Cheese Presses

An October 18th post to the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC) VIP blog mentions a Roman period cheese press (illustrated below) excavated in 1973 and recently repackaged. I claim no great familiarity with such objects. But if you're intrigued, you can read about another one in a BBC News report from 2006. And the Google search "roman cheese press" suggests they are an occassional part of the Roman-period assemblage in Britian.

Clicking through on the image drops you into the LAARC photostream on Flickr, which is also recommended.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sword and Kylix

Aegeanet and a few blogs are discussing the find of an imported Italian sword in a Mycenaean grave. But note the nice kylix as well. Bronze age elites liked their drink as much as their arms.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

An African Amphora in Sicily

The University of British Columbia has a good writeup on Roger Wilson's excavation near Punta Secca in Sicily. The evidence for periodic feasting around burials is interesting. As is this nearly complete amphora:

The piece is clearly an African Amphora. I can't make the rim be of the common Keay 62 type. It looks like the rim is banded so perhaps it's a Keay 8? Regardless, that's a nice find.

While we're on the topic of feasting for the dead, I can also recommend: Kathleen Warner Slane with Mary E. H. Walbank. 2006. "Anointing and
Commemorating the Dead: Funerary Rituals of Roman Corinthians," in D. Malfitana, J. Poblome and J. Lund (eds.), Old Pottery in a New Century. Acts of an International Conference held in Catania, Sicily 22-24 April, 2004, pp. 377-387. [worldcat]

And while were in the Corinthia: Joe Rife, M. Morison, A. Barbet, R. K. Dunn, D. H. Ubelaker, and F. Monier. "Life and death at a port in Roman Greece: The Kenchreai Cemetery Project 2002-2006" Hesperia 76 (2007): 143-181. [handle]

Friday, September 19, 2008

Also Ridiculous

D. and N. Soren's 1999 A Roman Villa and a Late Roman Infant Cemetery: Excavation at Poggio Gramignano Lugnano in Teverina [worldcat], which is a useful publication, costs $608.00 at

If you happen to have access to a library that spent the money to acquire the volume, you can find a useful discussion of the pottery in part 2, with good photographic documentation of amphoras reused as child burials on plates 236 to 250. Black-and-white, but you can still get a sense of North African and other fabrics.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Still Totally Ridiculous...

I recently received the David Brown Book Company's Byzantium and Late Antiquity list via regular mail; the one that is valid through October 31st, 2008. On the inside of the last page, J. Bardill's Brickstamps of Constantinople is offered for $199.98. That's much better than the original list price of $750.00 still given at, and again less than the independent reseller prices also listed there. At the time of writing, these ranged from $692.12 to $297.99.

Even with these reductions, it does nonetheless seem clear that expensive, print-only distribution was a bad way of bringing this information to the world. I say this without meaning to take anything away from the author's scholarly accomplishment.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pottery Database from the British Institute at Ankara

Tom Elliot noticed that the British Institute at Ankara has put up a website for its collection of artifacts from various sites around Turkey. Pot sherds seem to make up the greatest part of this material.

The map at the top right is nice for exploring what's available. Here's a link to the site of Kavak on the Gallipoli peninsula. Click here for an enlarged photo of some sherds from the site. Note the nice Phocaean Red-Slip Hayes form 3, it's one-up from the lower left corner. It looks like there are some PRS bases in there as well, and the largest ridged amphora sherd should be LRA2. But it's always risky to identify small fragments from photos so take that for what it's worth.

Another nice digital resource, even if the descriptions aren't yet very complete.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hadashot Arkheologiyot from the IAA

The Hadashot Arkheologiyot website offers useful preliminary discussions of archaeological work in Israel. There is a nice search form with a link to a clickable map.

Many of the articles discuss ceramic and numismatic finds and are accompanied by well-chosen illustrations. Here's a notice of an agricultural "watchman's hut" where African Red-Slip was found. That's certainly an interesting site classification. And see here for salvage work that recorded Cypriot Red-Slip.

There's much to be learned from browsing and searching so I recommend taking the time to try it out.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Amazonian "Cities"

Nothing to do with the Mediterranean, but the BBC story on newly-reported "cities" in the Amazon is very cool. Defensive walls, roads with shared orientation, farming, pottery... All relevant to debates on the origins of agriculture and other big topics in archaeology.

You'll note that I link to the BBC version and not the Science Magazine original. You have to pay for that, an annoyance that will cost them hits and influence.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Profile Photo of ARS Hayes 87b

Gebhard Bieg took terrific photographs of the late 5th/early 6th century AD African Red Slip plate found at Troia last year. I've added his profile shot and preview it here:

Monday, August 18, 2008

An African Red Slip Hayes Form 87b

Last year the Troia Project excavated and published via GRBPIlion an African Red-Slip Hayes form 87b of the late fifth to early sixth centuries AD. The vessel was conserved this summer and I've now added photos. Here's a description with links to high-res images:
P.H. .063. Est. diam. rim .44. Th. .074.
P18.0093:1. Almost completely preserved plate, twenty-six joining sherds leave two gaps and missing sections at rim and base. There is some chipping of the interior surface, though in general the slip is very well preserved; patches of plaster adhere to the interior of one group of joining sherds, to exterior of another. Vessel has been conserved.
Broad sloping walls with thickened rim and short triangular foot. Slightly granular fabric, fired red throughout (btw. 2.5YR 6/8-5/8) with occasional lime inclusions and some reddish bits. Smooth slip on interior surface is slightly darker red (10R 5/8), drip marks over rim, exterior largely plain.
From deposits associated with the aftermath of the early sixth century AD earthquake.

I'll work on getting in situ images of the piece up on the site .

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008

2008 Preliminary Report from Tel Kabri, Israel

Excavations at Tel Kabri took place from July 6th to July 31st. The preliminary report just now published is admirable for both its timeliness and detail.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Munsell 1954 and 2000

Picking a Munsell color for the fabric and surfaces of one's sherds is a staple of ceramic studies. Here's a quick comparison shot of a 1954 edition, at left and courtesy of one of my colleagues here at Troy, next to a 2000 edition. It's of the 5YR page. The top row (hue 8/) has shifted, but many chips on the older edition have held their color well. Note also the layout changes, e.g. 5YR 4/8 is missing at the right. That's the major concern between editions: they are different in the details and that can influence perception. But if the goal is to communicate the general appearance of a sherd, either one would do just fine.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Whither Archer Huntington's Coins?

The Hispanic Society of America is withdrawing its coins from the American Numismatic Society; a decision that has drawn only limited press coverage, mostly in specialized numismatic publications. Here is an energetic telling of the story from Inner City News. The authors seem to have very up to date information.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Late Roman Amphora 1

I have added photographs of the neck, handles and upper body of a Late Roman Amphora 1 to the GRBPIlion catalog of Roman amphoras (scroll down to near the bottom or search for 'I17.0181:1'). Gebhard Bieg kindly photographed the vessel today and I uploaded his images shortly after he was done. Here are two direct links to an overview and detail of the rim:

There's a good description of the form on the Digital Amphorae website. Once you click past the annoying interstitial, you can read Paul Reynolds' up to date text. Here's a passage from it:
Sixth century examples (Egoff 164) differ by having a more cylindrical body and a rounded, plain base. The neck is also cylindrical, ending with a marked concave band. Handles are large and thick. The walls are ‘turned’ to create stepped wide flat sections separated by a narrow ridge. This ridge is in fact a spiral from the base to the neck. The same ribbing is found on later fifth century AD examples, but is not stepped. Narrow convex ribbing is characteristic of shoulder and base sections of fifth century AD and some early sixth century AD examples.
The Ilion example comes from the deposits we associate with an early sixth century earthquake but doesn't yet have the 'stepped wide sections'. A date sometime in the later fifth century or early sixth fits this vessel well.

FYI, the British Museum has an LRA1 with wide stepped flat sections. Click on 'Larger image' for useful detail.

Regarding that Digital Amphorae insterstitial, read this from Tom Elliott.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

On Fire

I arrived at Troy in the evening of Tuesday the 29th after thirty-six hours of travel. Yesterday, the 30th, was to be my first full work-day but forest fires to the NE shutdown the electricity. I could only work until my battery ran out so I'm a little behind, though catching up quick.

One task is to help bring to completion the stratigraphic and chronological narrative of of the lower city at Ilion. The third and fourth centuries AD have my attenion right now. For example, here's a partial and preliminary list of pottery from a late third century + fill. You'll quickly see that there is residual material but if you scroll down, you'll find African Red-Slip, ESC/Çandarli and amphoras that bring the deposit later. There's a coin of Aurelian (270-275 AD) in here as well.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Licit Markets and Archaeologists

Peter Tompa has described the presentation made by a representative of the AAMD in relation to a request by Honduras to renew the MoU concerning import restrictions on pre-Columbian archaeological material from that country. To quote Tompa:
Josh Knerly, an attorney who represents the AAMD, made the most interesting presentation. He suggested that Honduras should create licit markets for duplicate archaeological artifacts as one part of a scheme to protect Honduras' culture.
The AAMD seems to be pushing this idea. For example, its recent report on the acquisition of archaeological material:
Affirms the value of licit markets for the controlled sale of ancient art and archeological materials as an effective means of preventing looting.
I am an archaeologist and respond to the idea of a licit market as someone with a professional interest in the matter. I do not think it appropriate for me to carefully record and publish artifacts that will then be sold into the private possession of individuals or institutions. Rather, I do my work so that the material I document is kept for future study using ever-new techniques and in the pursuit of ever-more knowledge of antiquity. I understand that the nations that currently care for that material can and may chose to sell it. This is not likely to happen to any of the objects that I have worked on, however. I am sure that many archaeologists would agree that public funds, such as those from the NEH and the NSF in the United States, should not be used to pay for archaeological work that supplies commercial goods to the antiquities market.

The idea of licit markets is currently so ill-formed that I express the above only as a concern. But if the AAMD membership is really looking to acquire "duplicate archaeological artifacts," I do have to ask whom they think is going to collect and prepare this material for them? Programs such as the UK's Portable Antiquities Scheme may seem to be one source, but the AAMD's membership usually has its eye on larger objects than are registered by the PAS.

Bottom line... it is not the job of archaeologists to provide services to the private market, we work for the accumulation of greater public knowledge.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Stratified Groups at Ilion

On an even more preliminary basis than usual, I have started adding stratified groups to GRBPIlion. Available as of writing:
  • K/L16/17.0417 Clean-up after an episode of destruction in the third century AD. Could be associated with "Herulian activity", though that is a larger question.
  • K/L16/17.0419 A related fill with less pottery. What's there firms up the chronological profile.
  • M18.0099 Late Roman fill associated with the use of a house from the late fourth to early fifth centuries AD. There is pretty nice ARS in here.

The accompanying text for these deposits is lightly adapted from a longer narrative that will also be a focus of my upcoming time in Turkey. Working out the relationship between digital and print-based publication will be interesting. Publication of this material was planned before the current generation of digital tools and practices existed. I look forward to moving ever more of my prior work into digital format, with availability as a PDF and on of course happening in parallel with html-based distribution.

Adding these pages raises issues of presentation and navigation. In terms of presentation, this short list of deposits is buried far down the page under the heading "Table of Contents: Deposits". The whole ToC list is getting long, and I may have to change its layout.

The issues related to navigation are more substantial. Readers browsing the catalog should be made aware that there is a description of the other pottery found alongside any one piece. This will not be hard to do; I just need to figure out the best way. Searching may become more pressing as readers try to answer questions such as "what is the earliest deposit with Middle Roman Amphora 7?" All in good time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Well Vessels

I've added brief descriptions of three nearly-complete third-century AD pots to the the "Roman Plain and/or Partially Slipped Vessels" page of GRBPIlion. That's a work in progress that Billur Tekkök and I will update over the next three weeks when we're both at Troy.

The vessels themselves were found at the bottom of a well-shaft. As a preview, I'm reproducing the relevant page from the PDF version of the publication.
The third image of the first entry shows the vessel as found in situ. The well-shaft was cut through bedrock into a natural, underground water-system. This allowed for excellent preservation in this remarkable context. You can click through from the plain-wares page for a full-size version of that image, and I also reproduce a thumbnail here:

There's more to come from this deposit and that's one reason to be excited about getting back on-site.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Planning for Troy

I leave for Troy this coming Monday, the 28th. One focus will be ongoing work on GRBPIlion. Part of my planning has come in the form of incomplete pages that I'll edit while in the field. For example, there is now a page on unguentaria. Just four examples right now, and only a two-item bibliography. Starting next week, I'll confirm and complete the measurements and beef up the descriptions. I'll also add an introductory text on the presence of these vessels at Troy. So for now that page is somewhat of a reminder to myself to do the work, if you see what I mean.

I'll make more of these available before I leave and blog the process. I'll also be making regular (maybe even daily) posts from Troy. I've been enjoying the PKAP blogs and Brandon Olson's many posts. See also Real Time Archaeology. It will be fun to add to this developing genre.

One question: what is it about archaeology that makes blogging field-work worthwhile? Assuming that it is, of course. I'm sure somebody has thought about this. I'm guessing there's an understanding that we have an obligation to share our work. It helps that, for some of us, field-work is a discrete phase of our professional lives. Travel-writing is well established and there is overlap with that. The pictures are nice. Etc. Whatever the reasons, I like the results and feel the imperative.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

WAC Clarification

In the post "Don't Bomb Persepolis", I offered that advice as a small commentary on a resolution that I thought represented an official policy of the World Archaeological Congress. I was responding to a press release that was circulated fairly widely, for example on the Iraq Crisis list. I quickly received e-mails that not all was as it seemed. That was the case and it is worth reading "Cultural Heritage in Iran Under Threat", a media-release direct from WAC. A passage from this second release provides context:
A resolution suggesting that no archaeologists or cultural heritage specialists assist the military in planning to protect the cultural heritage was passed by the Plenary session of the WAC-6 Congress for consideration by the World Archaeological Congress Assembly, Council and Executive but was not approved as a formal statement of the position of the organisation as a whole.
I am not expert in WAC's organizational structure but am now glad to see its flexible response to these difficult questions. I am also happy to have been corrected and to offer an update that reflects better information.

Looting in Iraq

On July 1, The Art Newspaper published an article titled "Archaeological sites in south Iraq have not been looted, say experts". The full-text is freely available and the article received wide notice and comment. Larry Rothfield offered a rebuttal at SAFECorner. Now a follow-on editorial by Melik Kaylan has appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Kaylan directly and approvingly cites the Art Newspaper's reporting on the topic.

The Art Newspaper article seems obviously biased. For a far more judicious description of the assessment of damage in Southern Iraq see Andrew Lawler's July 4th article in Science titled "Preserving Iraq's Battered Heritage". If you click on that link, you'll eventually be asked for money in order to read the full-text. On July 15th, two weeks after publication of the Art Newspaper version, the text of this better reporting was posted to the Iraq Crisis e-mail list by its author. Perhaps the Science article would have had a greater impact if it had been freely available. Such are the intellectual consequences of fee-based journalism.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Don't Bomb Persepolis

Consider this post a small bit of personal protest against the resolution recently passed in plenary session by the delegates of the World Archaeological Congress. The text reads:
The 6th World Archaeological Congress expresses its strong opposition to any unilateral and unprovoked, covert or overt military action (including air strikes) against Iran by the US government, or by any other government. Such action will have catastrophic consequences for millions of people and will seriously endanger the cultural heritage of Iran and of the Middle East in general. Any differences with Iran (as with any other country) should be resolved through peaceful and diplomatic means.

The Congress also urges its members, all archaeologists and heritage professionals to resist any attempts by the military and governments to be co-opted in any planned military operation, for example by providing advice and expertise to the military on archaeological and cultural heritage matters. Such advice would provide cultural credibility and respectability to the military action. Archaeologists should continue emphasising instead the detrimental consequences of such actions for the people and the heritage of the area, for the past and the present alike. A universal refusal by archaeologists and others would send the message that such a plan is hugely unpopular amongst cultural professionals as well as the wider public.
The WAC website doesn't yet reflect passage of the resolution so I'm quoting from a widely circulated e-mail.

I sure as heck hope that the United States doesn't go to war with Iran so please interpret the subject line of this post broadly. But the resolution seems to ignore its real world implications. It is a feature of modern warfare that the international community does put informed constraints on the behavior of armed forces. Does the ICRC encourage war by promoting adherence to the Geneva Conventions? I don't think so.

Without questioning the sincerity of the WAC's delegates, it seems irresponsible for archaeologists to put completely aside the professional imperative to protect cultural resources during times of military conflict. I don't need to see museums looted and sites destroyed to know that war is bad. People dying is a sufficient proof of that.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

CAARI Clarification

It has come to my attention that Danielle Parks never served as a trustee of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute. This is of no particular consequence to me so I have no interest in fact-checking the details of what others say about her. There is a general interest, however, in not only speaking well of the departed, but also in speaking accurately.

For its part, the ACCG has made much of the late Dr. Parks' perceived connections to CAARI on its website:
...ECA's consultations with the late Professor Danielle Parks (a CAARI-Trustee) about coins BEFORE Cyprus even made a formal request for their inclusion... (2nd paragraph; accessed July 9, 2008)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Way to go CAARI

The Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute's Code of Ethics indicates that it supports the following principles:
  1. archaeological excavations be carried out under the highest standards possible;

  2. illicit trade of antiquities be actively discouraged; and

  3. the authorities of the Department of Antiquities be informed of any improper activities involving excavation or exportation of archaeological artifacts.
I am glad to see Peter Tompa documenting that affiliates of CAARI put these principles into action in working to increase the likelihood that the findspots of Cypriot coins will be properly recorded. He highlights the efforts of the late Danielle Parks. Dr. Parks was an acquaintance of mine in college and I worked with her for one season on Cyprus, where she made her greatest impact. I suspect that she knew the seriousness of her illness during the period when she consulted with the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. If so, I applaud her willingness to engage with this important professional matter towards the end of her life.

doesn't provide a citation for the following quote attributed to Justice Brandeis:
The most important political office is that of the private citizen.
Regardless, it is good to see an archaeologist living up to this creed.

Those who click through to Tompa's post on the ACCG site will note the conspiratorial tone of his news item. Click even further for his observations that archaeologists effectively represent archaeological interests in their interactions with the United States Government. This is good news.

If there is a conspiracy, count me in. I'm happy to state right here that I too have been consulted by the State Department on matters of cultural heritage leglislation and that I've visited Congressional offices on the same topic. I certainly defer to Dr. Parks when it comes to the efficacy of my interactions but do hope to live up to her example.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

ASCSA Publications

The publications page of American School of Classical Studies at Athens web-site is nicely done. It doesn't provide full-text search (yet?) but searching for "pottery" as a keyword returns a useful list of monographs, edited volumes and Agora picture books, many of which will be well-known to readers.

A nice feature is that the individual pages for each work will give a link to an online version if one is available. I'll note that at least one such link is broken, that for Virginia Grace's Amphoras and the Ancient Wine Trade, but the idea is very useful. It is particularly to the School's credit that it has allowed the full text of many of these titles to be read on Google Books; see the link for Jeremey Rutter's The Pottery of Lerna IV.

I hope that this level of access will be quickly available following the publication of the long-delayed Roman Pottery by John Hayes. Jennifer Neils' blurb for this book reads:
The importance of this volume for the archaeology of the Mediterranean cannot be overstated. It will prove invaluable for decades to come for a wide range of scholars dealing with the Roman world. The manuscript is a tour de force: comprehensive, up-to-date, well researched, and well written.
It is a large volume whose retail price is set at $150.00. Its importance will be greatly diminished if it is not available at low-cost in digital format.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Say What?

Good people sometimes go off the rails. Peter Tompa is a good person and his "Cultural Property Observer", although filled with conclusions with which I disagree, at least tries to be well-reasoned and calmly argued. In the comments to this post on PhDiva, our Observer manufactures a set of circumstances and pressures which become the basis for excusing lawless removal of cultural artifacts by in-country military forces. This is odd at best and it is disappointing to see that an advocate of the personal retention of cultural heritage can't even condemn the behavior noted by Dorothy King.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Kommos 4

I came across a digital version of Kommos 4, edited by J. and M. Shaw, on the University of Toronto's institutional archive [worldcat]. The text is here. The plates here. Oddly, the plates are distributed under a Creative Commons "Attribution - Non-Commericial - No Derivatives" license, whereas the text has the more generic statement, "All items in T-Space are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved."

For myself, I'm glad to have Hayes' discussion of the Roman pottery on my hard drive. It begins on p. 310. The relevant plates begin on the twelfth page of the PDF file titled "Kommos_volume_4-2_256-275". You'll see what I mean if you follow the links given above.

But there's much of interest in this publication, something for most everyone really, so I recommend downloading all the files.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Holed N. African Amphora at UPenn

The UPenn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has a Late Roman Amphora (L-771-1) on long term loan. In form it's a Keay 62a, a type that was produced from 450 to 600 AD in North Africa. The name is taken from S.J. Keay, (1984), Late Roman Amphorae in the Western Mediterranean. A typology and economic study: the Catalan evidence, BAR Int. Ser. 196, Oxford. [worldcat]. In 1998 Keay updated his chronology for the whole series in his contribution to Lucia Sagui (ed.), Ceramica in Italia: VI-VII Secolo. Atti del Convegno in onore John W. Hayes Roma, 11-13 maggio 1995, Florence [worldcat]. You can find his chapter "Roman Amphorae" on p. 141. M. Bonifay includes observations about the form on p. 137 of his 2004 volume Etudes sur la céramique romaine tardive d’Afrique, BAR Int. Set. 1301, Oxford.[worldcat].

Here are some pictures taken with my iPhone and presented unprocessed except for resizing. You can see that the results are OK for images taken from a distance but blurry for close-ups.


Close-up of Neck

Side view of handle

Partial view of "button toe"

Close-up of the surface

Close-up of plugged hole

The last image of the plugged hole is an opening for further comment. Ted Peña, in his book Roman Pottery in the Archaeological Record [worldcat], follows Bonifay (above, p. 467-8) in listing four methods of holing amphoras that contained liquid commodities. The first consists of:
the creation of one or two small holes ca. 1-2 cm. in diameter, usually by means of a drill, though sometimes by means of punching or chipping, generally in the lower third of the vessel's wall. This method is attested almost exclusively with examples of the Neo-Punic amphora, the "a gradino" variety of the African 2A, and the Keay 25. (p. 67)

The UPenn piece shows such holing in a Keay 62. Of course, we don't know that the vessel was pierced in antiquity and we don't know why the hole was re-filled, or when. It looks like the fill is lead, which certainly could be ancient. It seems likely that something was attached at the point of the hole, perhaps just excess lead. Perhaps not since the marks in the accretion show an incomplete ring as well as distance from the hole. I'm not sure what this means so comments are welcome. And what about the chips below the ring? There's a lot going on here when you take the time to look closely.

One reason to discuss holing of amphoras now is that tomorrow (6/20/2008) is the first day of the conference, "'Pottery in the archaeological record: a view from the Greek world'. A Workshop on J. Theodore Peña’s publication, Roman Pottery in the Archaeological Record", hosted by the Danish Institute at Athens. Consider this post a small contribution to the topic.

I'm grateful to Brian Rose for permission to discuss this piece, and to Lynn Makowsky for accession information.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

To Dorothy King

Dorothy King is frequently a cogent commentator on matters ancient and modern. But I was unhappy to see her beginning a recent post with:
I sometimes get frustrated with archaeologists who seem to be more worried about preserving every single little broken bit if pot everywhere - and ignore the human cost of war. To some people, the men and women who have given their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq seem to have become theoretical statistics.

To suggest that archaeologists ignore the human cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is a serious charge and to use "seem" without providing any specific references is unfair.

For my part, I am not so vain as to think she had anything I've written in mind, but I can't help but personalize my response. As a citizen I can express my horror at the human cost by voting, contributing to political campaigns and expressing my opinion. In doing so I am one voice among millions taking part in our pluralistic democracy. As a parent I can teach my three children to honor the service of the troops while disparaging the appointed leaders who have served them so poorly. I do this in my home and usually wouldn't mention it here.

But as an active field-archaeologist and museum professional with direct experience of and expertise in the losses to world cultural heritage wrought the by the international trade in illicit antiquities, I can focus my writings and advocacy on the deleterious effects of these two wars on archaeological knowledge. That this intellectual loss pales in comparison to the human loss should most often be able to go without saying.

To go a step further, I actually think there is a very strong correlation between a focus on the material consequences of the war in Iraq and an understanding that the predictable human cost was one reason to find a better way. To put this differently, I don't personally know archaeologists who strongly supported the war and one basis for their concern was the inevitable loss of life. I am not suggesting a causal relationship: opinions held as a citizen and opinions held as a professional are distinct, but in this case they seem to have overlapped. Since I take this step on the basis of anecdote and conversation, I can't directly cite my sources.

So, I'll stand up for archaeologists as caring as much as any other group of citizens about the human costs of war. When acting as archaeologists, however, we will speak to what we know best, which is the consequences of war for our chosen profession.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Stolen Artifacts Returned to Iraq"

That's the headline of a brief NYTimes article. Here are the opening sentences:
A cache of ancient artifacts stolen from the National Museum of Iraq during the American-led invasion in 2003 were returned to Iraq’s Antiquities Ministry on Monday in a ceremony in Baghdad, Reuters reported. The items, 11 cylinder seals made from agate and alabaster between 3,000 and 2,000 B.C., were found in Philadelphia last month by American customs officials and turned over to the Iraqi embassy in Washington, a spokesman for the ministry said.
Those of us interested in the legitimate protection of the world's cultural property have realized that looting and theft in Iraq feeds the international market in illicit antiquities. While it is unfortunate that this story proves us right, it is a counter-balance to those who discount such a connection. As an example of such thought I offer this post from Peter Tompa and its admonition to:
watch out for claims that the long-promised 'tidal wave' of looted Iraqi material has finally left its secret warehouses for our shores!

Does the Times story describe a tidal wave washing back to Iraq? No. But add in the Syrian return mentioned there, along with what looks like an upcoming return from Jordan predicted in the Reuters version, and it's hard to justify the lighthearted approach to the problem of stolen Iraqi property taken in Tompa's "Cultural Property Observer".

Coins on the Move

The ANS has moved all its coins and other objects. I mention this because the whole event got coverage in the New York Times. Check out the photo essay as well.

My contribution to this process was only the design of the database we used to track all the crates and their contents. My colleagues did all the heavy lifting.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Earliest Church" in Jordan

Dorothy King, among others, notes reports of an early church in Jordan. A first century date is almost certainly too early for the pottery shown:

Those look to be amphora necks near in form to Late Roman Amphora 1 from Cilicia or Cyprus. As also indicated by their reasonably good preservation, they should date from the late Roman use of the church and have little to do with any earlier phase.

So... that's a great illustration but is misplaced to the extent that lay-people might think it shows early Roman (let alone "Christian") pottery.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

More on Barrington Atlas IDs and a Question

Sean Gilles has blogged about deriving unique representations of geographic names from the Barrington Atlas.

He suggests the pattern:{label-normalized}-{map}-{grid}

See the complete post for how to transliterate names containing non-ASCII characters into URL friendly (near) equivalents. It's mostly simple: 'Ağva' becomes 'agva' but there are more interesting cases.

Quick question: should the host component of the url be '' or ''? This may not matter from a redirection point-of-view but consistency, searchability, and interchange issues might make it desirable to designate one or the other as the preferred form.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mapping GRBPIlion

I continue to be interested in using the Atom Syndication Format, Georss, KML and Google's mapping tools to express the geographic component of data related to the ancient Mediterranean. These formats are all simple, well-documented and xml-based so that Greek, Roman and Byzantine Pottery at Ilion (Troia), in which we try to use open standards, is a good test-bed for trying out ideas.

To cut to the chase, the following URLs show what I'm up to:Clicking on the Google Maps link shows a browser-embedded map with a short list of sites on the left. It's early yet, but that list will expand. Regardless, clicking on a site name on the left will bring up a text-bubble pointing to the right place on the map. Within the bubble are one or more links to relevant pages on the GRBPIlion website. Imagine more dots and you get the idea.

The implementation is pretty simple but should give me flexibility going forward. There are three basic components. The file "geography.atom" defines geographic entities. If you look inside you'll see that I derive unique IDs from the Barrington Atlas, so Gaza is "". In doing so, I follow the suggestions of Tom Elliot of ISAW. Looking inside "groups.xml" - which instantiates concepts such as "African Red Slip" for rendering into html - shows that a few such groups make reference to these geographic entities. Search for 'rel="geographic"' to see what I mean. Finally, I munge those two files into "grbpilion.kml", which can be shown directly in Google Earth or via Google Maps using the URLs listed above.

The xslt that does the munging is "kml.xsl". It's pretty ugly right now but it works so will do for the short term.

At a more abstract level, I can theoretically put elements such as '<link rel="geographic" href="" />' anywhere in the publication. Right now I only implement this idea in groups.xml but I look forward to extending this system to individual sherd descriptions and to the bibliography.

Friday, May 16, 2008

GRBPIlion and

[Updated thanks to Susan Heath, who caught a substantive error in my description of the inbibrec element.]

Where possible, I have added links to for books in the bibliography of Greek, Roman and Byzantine Pottery at Ilion (Troia), the volume I edit with Billur Tekkök.

I probably should have been doing this all along... It was a little boring to play catch-up... But it will now be easy to keep on top of the task as I go forward.

A word on format. Here's the xml I use for Fleischer et al. 2001. Late Antiquity: art in context [worldcat]:

<bibrec id="FleischerJLundJ2001">
<title>Late Antiquity: art in context</title>
<series>Acta Hyperborea</series>
<publisher>Museum Tusculanum Press</publisher>
<link rel="url" href="" />
<link rel="worldcat" href="" />
This volume is in the bibliography because it includes the chapter "The stamped decoration on Phocaean red slip ware" by L. Vaag on p. 215. The xml for this chapter is:

<bibrec id="VaagL2001">
<inbibrec idref="FleischerJLundJ2001"/>
<title>The stamped decoration on Phocaean red slip ware</title>
The inbibrec element of the chapter record, whose idref attribute equals the value of the id attribute of the volume record, creates the link between the two.

It is very true that this xml adheres to no standard. It's my own creation. When I started encoding bibliographic data in xml, I was unsatisfied with all the options so I made up my own. I'm sure I'll move to a standard when one that is granular, lightweight and easy to encode comes along. But sticking to what's current now, combining the two xml records via an xslt stylesheet leads to html such as this.

My one current concession to somewhat standard markup is the link element by which I instantiate the connection to the Worldcat record and to the Google Books version of this volume. This element originated in html and is now used in the Atom Syndication format. I use it as a lightweight encoding for noting multiple relevant internet resources for the volume's record. You can see those links rendered in html here. Next I'll make those links show up in the chapter's html page.

For those who care, I'm tempted to use Atom as a wrapper for the individual bibliographic records. I could even use georss to make the bibliography mappable. That could be cool.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Numismatic Geography

I attended a workshop yesterday on digital geography at NYU's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. It was billed as a hackfest and the participants focused on strategies for interoperability of geographic datasets, which is a primary concern of the Concordia Project. My contribution was discussion of the work I'm doing at the American Numismatic Society to provide a geographic infrastructure for accessing our collection. The most concrete result of this work is an incipient list of "geographic entities" that are linked into the ANS database. Here's a sampling of URL's that make this list actually usable:
If you open any of these links and click on one of the symbols, you will see a link to a URL similar to The resulting page is a little spare but it points to a future in which the ANS establishes unique identifiers for conceptual entities of numismatic interest. In this case, Patara is a geographic entity that is also a mint. "Mint" is an ambiguous term but that's a discussion for another context. What matters is that the ANS now has a simple syntax for establishing identity. Such identities can be linked to third party authority lists, in this case the Pleiades definitions of ancient places. Anybody else using that identifier can know that s/he is referring to the same concept as is the ANS when we say, "Here is a list of coins from Patara." That is a huge step forward.

These id URLs can also be extended with ".atom" and ".kml" to produce an automatically parseable Atom feed or Google Earth compatible representation for each entity. A further implication of this is that I can show maps in the search results produced by the ANS database. If you scroll down in, you'll see a "show map" button for the records from Cyrene. Click there for the relevant Google Map.

The NYU/ISAW workshop provided an incentive to get this infrastructure up and running on a preliminary basis. I'm grateful for that and for the hospitality of our hosts. It was an enjoyable day all round!

Monday, May 12, 2008

CAG 66: Les Pyrénées-Orientales

My copy of Carte Archéologique de la Gaule: Les Pyrénées-Orientales (66) edited by J. Kotarba, G. Castellvi and F. Maziere arrived recently from [worldcat]. The CAG series describes each volume as a "pré-inventaire archéologique" but there is some modesty in this. While it's true that most of the entries are brief, the introductory thematic overviews are usually first rate and the information in each volume is so up-to-date at the time of publication that they are essential research tools.

CAG Les Pyrénées-Orientales continues the trend of increasing use of color images and this is very welcome. Overall, the volume is excellent and there is something for everyone to enjoy. Do you like inscriptions? Check out the color image of a lead tablet discoverd in 2003 and inscribed with incompetent Greek (p. 250). Or the series of Roman-period inscribed pots, known since 1958, which may represent the trash from a tavern (p. 504). I particularly enjoyed the review of work at Ruscino near Perpignan. There is a Visigothic component here as well as an Islamic settlement dating to the 8th century, as indicated by the presence of lead seals with Arabic legends (p. 471-473). For its part, the overview of underwater discoveries pulls together information that is scattered in many publications (p. 622-641).

It takes patience to makes one's way through a CAG volume. The reward is finding something interesting that you might otherwise have missed, like the six nomismata Byzantine weight illustrated on p. 281. It comes from a site at which African Red-Slip was recorded, including the 5th to 6th century form Hayes 87.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Psalmodi in France

After a long hiatus, my colleague David Yoon and I are turning our attention to the website of the Williams College Excavations at Psalmodi, France. It currently has the aesthetic of an earlier Internet age but there is a lot of good content there, with more to come. As an example of what's there now, the ceramic pages currently include:It will be good to get back to this material.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mediterranean Ceramics Reference Stability Report, Number 7

The MCRSR first appeared in October, 2007. For the seventh installment I am making one addition, no. 18, Roman Amphorae: a digital resource from the United Kingdom Arts and Humanities Data Service's Archaeological Data Service. Astute readers will note that the URL I use re-directs to a interstitial page that asks for compliance with a Copyright and Liability Statement and with a Common Access Agreement. I don't usually use redirects but in this case I do because the publication explicitly asks that citation be only to this URL. It is helpful when sites specify a citation form so that I am happy to comply. But see below for comments on an unfortunate side effect of the site enforcing compliance in this way. In general, however, this is an excellent resource that is highly recommended to anyone interested in the topic. There is much to say about the high quality of the scholarly content but for now I'll keep myself to just a few technically-oriented comments.

First, the title of the work gives me an opportunity to highlight a personal bugaboo of mine. Many digital resources qualify themselves by prepending "electronic" to their titles. This is a misnomer as electricity is only one component of their storage and transmission. Plastics, light, magnetism, etc. are all involved so "digital" is a better term. But this is a somewhat petty observation that doesn't apply here so I'll move on quickly.

About that compliance page, it seems to come at a high cost. If one clicks past the page and makes one's way to the entry for Africana 1 Picolo amphoras, you can read the phrase "Production is attested at Ariana near Carthage...". Try searching for it in Google and you won't find anything. I don't think this can be due to the format of the URL for that particular page - - because Google usually handles such strings with no problem. Rather, I'm guessing that any links to this page first run the Google spider through the compliance page and that interferes with indexing. Regardless of cause, the result is that these superb pages are not discoverable via search engines. That is unfortunate. And having read both the Copyright and Liability statement and the Common Access Agreement, they did not strike me as so unique as to require this intrusion. To put it another way, what benefit is worth that cost?

Readers may be aware that the AHDS' funding will soon run out. Fortunately, as announced on its website, ADS funding will continue. It will be interesting to see if the published URLs of ADS resources change.

There has been one significant change for the previously listed URLs. The JSTOR link to Robinson's Agora V is now Unfortunately, the previous URL,, no longer works. And to compound the issue, the new URL takes one to a login page that does not indicate the title of the linked work. This is an unexpected situation that I hope results from temporary errors. One reason to think they are temporary is that there are "old style" URLs that do redirect to the new and improved URL format. For example, remains usable.

1. Walters' Catalogue of the Roman Pottery in the Departments of Antiquities, British Museum from Google Books:

2. Robinson's Agora V from JSTOR:, previously

3. Lattara 6:

4. K. Greene's AJA article on Early Roman lead glazed pottery:

5. Heath and Tekkök, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Pottery at Ilion (Troia):

6. Vessel from Çatalhoyuk (via Flickr):

7. A Late Minoan III Pyxis from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

8. An undocumented ARS Hayes 70 bowl from the dealer Classical Numismatics Group:

9. Fifteenth Century Mosque Lamp from Jerusalem now in the British Museum:

10. The Perseus Project Vase Catalog:

11. Wikimedia Commons Image of a Greek Geometric Skyphos in the Louvre:

12. Sagalassos from Pleiades:

13. Inscribed pot from Aphrodisias (HTML):

14. Inscribed pot from Aphrodisias (XML):

15. Hellenistic lamp from Assos, Turkey at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:

16. Open Context record for Halaf period jar from Domuztepe, Turkey:

17. Abbasid Ceramics from the Museum With No Frontiers:

18. Roman Amphorae: a digital resource:

Dining and Numismatic Imagery

I've added a preliminary discussion of Roman New Years lamps to the ongoing draft of Dining and Numismatic Imagery. I've had a few discussions with colleagues on this topic but until I am better able to incorporate their thoughts, I won't name names so as to protect the innocent. I gladly take responsibility for all mistakes and welcome them being pointed out.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dining and Numismatic Imagery

I am putting myself in position to make more progress on the dining and numismatic imagery article. I decided is was unfeasible to write directly in the blogger interface. So I've moved the text into xhtml and made it available on my personal website. The URL is It's pretty much the same as before with just a few additions, perhaps fewer typos, more of the links actually work, etc.

I link back to this post and welcome more comments, though I will be making significant changes "real soon now".

Monday, April 21, 2008

Looting and Westphalian Sovereignty

David Gill's Looting Matters and Saving Antiquities for Everyone's SAFE Corner are the "go to" blogs for cultural property issues. In a recent post, Gill comments on James Cuno's recently published essay "Who Owns the Past?", which can be found on the Yale Global Online web site.

I endorse the whole post and quote just the closing paragraphs:
Do we care about the destruction of sixth century BCE tombs in the Republic of Macedonia to supply antiquities for, say, private collectors?


Not because of "nationalist retentionist cultural property laws" (though I could understand a call by archaeologists working in the Republic of Macedonia for the return of specific pieces) but because looting is destroying some unique and highly significant archaeological contexts—and that destruction is removing part of human knowledge for ever.

Looting has intellectual consequences.
Looking at Cuno's article directly, it seems to me that the following passage offers archaeologists flawed advice on the basis of an uneven conception of the role of national sovereignty:
Archaeologists should work with museums to counter the nationalist basis of laws, conventions and agreements, and promote a principle of shared stewardship of our common heritage. Together we should call attention to the failure of these laws to protect our common ancient heritage and perversion of that heritage by claiming the archaeological record as a modern nation’s cultural property[.]
For a modern nation state to claim the archaeological record as cultural property is not a perversion but rather a commonplace application long-standing claims of national prerogative. I use the historical term "Westphalian Sovereignty" to highlight one source of this prerogative: the set of treaties that brought an end to many decades of European war in 1648. Historical debates about the origins of our current international system notwithstanding, nations have since at least that time acted either individually or collectively to address issues of global concern. The system is imperfect, to be sure, but has so far allowed us all to avoid global armageddon while holding out hope for general progress and improvement.

Why then are we asked to carve out an exception when it comes to cultural property and to offer a safe haven from national sovereignty to those who would participate, whether directly or indirectly, in the evident and ongoing looting of global cultural heritage? This makes no sense to me.

As an aside, I am reminded of the time I was a delegate at the 2006 ACLS annual meeting in Philadelphia. During the program, the then Deputy Chairman of the NEH spoke and offered similar arguments about the disjunction between national sovereignty and universal cultural heritage. I was struck by the incongruence of a public servant - an individual whose salary was paid because the sovereign government of the United States chose to compel its citizens both to pay taxes and to take on common debt - standing in front of the American Council of Learned Societies - an organization explicitly organized along national lines - in order to question a state such as Italy's choice to exercise its sovereignty in the protection of material property inside its national boundaries. That seemed odd at best.

To return to Cuno's article, arguments that rely on a unique safe-haven from national sovereignty for the trade in antiquities should be suspect as either arbitrary, self-serving or both.