Stefano Anastasio and Barbara Arbeid present the photo-archives of archaeologist and photographer John Alfred Spranger (1889-1968)
The importance of early photo-archives for archaeology
Early photo archives are becoming an increasingly important source of information for archaeology. This is, of course, a positive trend: any effort to make “forgotten” data available to the scientific community is to be welcomed.
Early photos may prove a powerful tool for protecting and promoting the value of archaeological heritage.
Hopefully, the current interest in early photo-archives will result in an increasing number of published archives. This will help archaeologists enhance their research, as well as the protection and conservation of the archaeological heritage.
John Alfred Spranger
John Alfred Spranger was born in Florence on 24 June 1889. His father, William, moved to Tuscany from England in the middle of the nineteenth century and was a professor at the Academy of Arts and Drawings in Florence. John Alfred was a leading figure in the cultural milieu of Florence at the beginning of the twentieth century. Both archaeologist and photographer (as well as engineer, topographer, mountain climber, art collector…), he was the author of several photo reportages detailing archaeological monuments and landscapes especially in Italy, Albania, Greece, Canada, Egypt, and Mesopotamia.
In 1913-1914, he participated in the Filippo De Filippi Expedition to the Himalayan Karakoram, as assistant topographer. The photographers of the expedition – Cesare Antilli, Major of the Italian Army, and Giorgio Abetti, a Florentine astronomer – systematically used cameras during the expedition, creating a real reportage, and Spranger surely gained a great passion for photography thanks to this expedition.
In the 1920s-1930s, he took part in a number of Etruscan excavations in Tuscany and paid great attention to the use of the camera to document the excavation work in progress. During this period, he spent time with Harry Burton, photographer of the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. It was, in fact, in Florence that Burton was hired as a photographer and archaeologist by Theodore M. Davis, who obtained the concession for the excavations in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. During his stay in Florence, Burton spent time with Spranger and both were involved together in a number of Etruscan excavations. Their friendship is witnessed by Spranger in his Egyptian album, where Burton is portrayed in some photos taken in 1929 during the excavations at Deir el-Bahari (see fig. 1). Spranger died in 1968 at Newbury, in England, and was buried in Florence.
The publication of Spranger’s photo-archives
The passion for photography accompanied Spranger for life. He took thousands of photographs, collecting them in refined photo-albums, consistent in shape, size and style, enriched by annotations, topographic maps and plans (most of the original stereograms were recently retrieved at the public library of Vaiano, a small town close to Florence where many documents from Spranger’s family are held today). On Spranger’s death, some albums, i.e. those dedicated to “archaeological subjects” were donated by his heirs to the then Superintendency of Antiquities of Etruria, and are currently held at the Photo-Archive of the Archaeological Museum of Florence. The volume published by Archaeopress presents the photos dedicated to a trip to Egypt in 1929 and a trip to Mesopotamia (Iraq) in 1936, as well as to some surveys and excavations carried out in Etruscan archaeological sites in Tuscany between 1932 and 1935.
Spranger’s photos are particularly meaningful, especially because he combined his skills in using the camera with a great expertise in archaeology and topography. He often glued maps of the sites he had surveyed on the albums, on which all perspectives and camera angles were marked and numbered (see an example in fig. 2). As a result of this, he was able to create outstanding “georeferenced” sets of photos for many archaeological sites: Giza, Heliopolis, Menphis, Saqqara, Beni Hasan, Abydos, Dendera, Medinet Habu, Karnak, Luxor, Thebes and Deir el-Bahari, in Egypt; Ur, al-Ubaid, Uruk, Nippur, Babylon, Ctesiphon and Birs Nimrud in Mesopotamia; the tholos of Casaglia, the tumulus of Montefortini and the necropolis of Casone, Riparbella, La Ripa in Tuscany.
Cover photo: Page from an album dedicated to the temple of Seti I in Abido, Egypt. On the left is the temple plan, with perspectives and camera angles numbered so as to allow identification of the related photographs, in turn numbered and placed on the right page.
About the authors Stefano Anastasio has carried out archaeological researches in Italy (Sardinia, Tuscany), Syria, Turkey, Jordan and currently works at the Archaeological Photo Archive of the Superintendency of Florence. His main research interests are the Mesopotamian Iron Age pottery and architecture, the building archaeology and the use of the early photo archives for the study of the Near Eastern archaeology.
Barbara Arbeid is an archaeologist at the Superintendency of Florence, appointed to the archaeological heritage protection service. Her main research interests are the archaeology of Norther Etruria, the Etruscan bronze craftsmanship, the archaeological collecting and photography.
Egitto, Iraq ed Etruria nelle fotografie di John Alfred SprangerViaggi e ricerche archeologiche (1929-1936) by Stefano Anastasio and Barbara Arbeid. Archaeopress Archaeology, Oxford, 2019.
205x290mm; 178 pages; highly illustrated throughout in sepia and black & white. Italian text with English summary.
Paperback: ISBN 9781789691269. £35.00.
eBook: ISBN 9781789691276. From £16.00 (+VAT if appl.).
Also available from Archaeopress
The 1927–1938 Italian Archaeological Expedition to Transjordan in Renato Bartoccini’s Archives by Stefano Anastasio and Lucia Botarelli. Archaeopress Archaeology, Oxford, 2015.
210x297mm; ii+242 pages; extensively illustrated throughout in black & white.
Paperback: ISBN 9781784911188. £40.00.
eBook: ISBN 9781784911195. From £16.00 (+VAT if appl.).
Ceramiche vicinorientali della Collezione Popolani by Stefano Anastasio and Lucia Botarelli. Archaeopress Archaeology, Oxford, 2016.
170x240mm; vi+200 pages; illustrated throughout in colour and black & white. Italian text with English summary.
Paperback: ISBN 9781784914646. £34.00.
eBook: ISBN 9781784914653. From £16.00 (+VAT if appl.).
Archeologia a Firenze: Città e TerritorioAtti del Workshop. Firenze, 12-13 Aprile 2013 edited by Valeria d’Aquino, Guido Guarducci, Silvia Nencetti and Stefano Valentini. Archaeopress Archaeology, Oxford, 2015.
210x297mm; iv+438 pages; illustrated throughout in black & white. Italian text. Abstracts for all papers in Italian & English.
Paperback: ISBN 9781784910587. £58.00
eBook: ISBN 9781784910594. From £16.00 (+VAT if appl.).
Magdalena and William Isbister present a qualitative examination of thimbles recorded in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database
Note: This paper was originally written in 2014. Minor adjustments have been made but all discussions regarding finds within the database reflect data available at that time.
According to its website, ‘The Portable Antiquities Scheme is run by the British Museum and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of archaeological objects are discovered, many of these by metal detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work… The Scheme’s database[i] holds records of archaeological finds discovered by members of the public.’ Objects found by professional archaeologists are not included in the database. The database was first made available online in 1999 and by September 2014 about 220,000 objects had been recorded. The majority of items reported seemed to come from the south east of England (Fig 1). In this paper we examine the data relating to thimbles in the database and the database itself and report our findings.
We searched the database for the term ‘thimble’ and 2776 items were found. We downloaded this database into Microsoft Excel and then imported the relevant parts to Microsoft Access. We found that not all of these objects were actually thimbles and after filtering out the non-thimbles including ‘palm guards’, ‘belt buckles’ etc., we were left with 2616 true thimbles to analyse. Some listings were for multiple numbers of thimbles so overall numbers in this paper are only approximate. Whole thimbles and thimble fragments are included. We searched the text for the words ‘copper alloy’, ‘silver’ ‘aluminum’, ‘tin’, ‘gold’, ‘iron’, and ‘lead’, in order to determine and classify the material from which the thimbles were made. We examined pictures of all of the silver thimbles, but there were too many copper alloy thimbles to examine each one individually.
Overall the distribution of thimbles found seemed to be similar to the overall distribution of all artefacts reported (Fig 2).
We wondered whether the type of material from which the thimbles were made might have affected their distribution but this seemed not to be the case either. There is a slight pictorial suggestion that there might be fewer silver thimbles found in the North of England and this might be due to the greater affluence existing in the South-East of the country (Fig 3).
The numbers of thimbles reported from each region, however, were too small for any meaningful statistical analysis, although we did compare silver and copper alloy findings in the county with the single largest number of thimbles recorded (Fig 4). Again there was no obvious difference.
107 thimbles were described as modern and these thimbles did seem to be distributed differently (Fig 5). The South-East domination seems to have disappeared.
The majority of thimbles were made of ‘copper alloy’, a term used in the database because, without a detailed analysis of the metal from each thimble recorded, it would be impossible to know visually what to call the material.
The percentage of silver thimbles was twice as great in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and the Greater London Authority area than in Suffolk, possibly an indication of greater prosperity in these three regions, but this may simply be a function of the relatively small numbers of thimbles involved.
* one tin, + one iron
218 copper alloy thimbles were described as either ‘acorn top’ or ‘beehive’ in shape but not all thimbles were classified, and not all ‘acorn top’ thimbles were so called (Fig 6, 7).
Of the silver thimbles recorded, 54 seemed to be ‘modern’ (19th century and later), 83 were long (mid 17th century), often called Jacobean thimbles (Fig 8) and 84 were short (late 17th century) (Fig 9).
Among the 167 17/18th century silver thimbles recorded there were only four which depicted King Charles II and his wife (Fig 10).
One short thimble had two medallions containing a crowned rose, the symbol of Charles I (Fig 11).
There were nine late 18th century thimbles and some would have had steel tops like the one illustrated (Fig 12).
A single damaged silver thimble, missing its steel top, and made by Hester Bateman is recorded in the database. The maker’s initials are clearly seen on the border of the thimble (Fig 13).
41 thimbles were recorded as having inscriptions. Of these, one was an aluminum advertising thimble, one was recorded as medieval (Fig 14), and three were ‘modern’. Six thimbles were made of copper alloy and the remaining 34 thimbles were made of silver.
From the database it was not possible to determine whether the inscription was a motto, maker’s mark or owner’s initials. Inspection of the pictures of the corresponding thimbles indicated that in addition to the single advertising thimble, 16 had mottos and the remainder either had maker’s marks (Fig 15) or owner’s inscriptions (Fig 9, left) or both (Fig 16).
Inscriptions were mainly hand-engraved (Fig 9, 16, 17) although the silver thimble with the clearest motto was not listed as having an inscription (Fig 18, 25).
Many thimbles were so damaged that it was very difficult to read the inscription from the picture (Fig 19).
A maker’s mark on a post-medieval thimble was recorded as ‘HC&S’ although the thimble was hallmarked in 1928 and the maker was Henry Griffith and Sons (HG&S) of Birmingham.
4. Other findings
Some thimbles seemed to have been cut down to very thin bands, presumably to be used as decorative finger rings (Fig 20). Two such thimbles were found.
Some thimbles were described as ‘double skinned’ (Fig 21) and, in the past[ii], we considered that two pieces of brass had been mistakenly deep drawn into a thimble.
Six such thimbles were recorded in the database. The finding sites were widely scattered and so we are now wondering whether this was not an accident but a deliberate method of construction, although we do not know why this might have been done.
Several of the thimbles recorded showed features that, as far as we know, have not been recorded in the thimble literature and they are illustrated below.
The only short strap work thimble that we have ever seen has a maker’s mark ‘AW’ and a rather unusual top (Fig 22).
This unusually shaped early strap work thimble might represent a stage in the progression from tall cylindrical silver thimbles to the later and shorter stubby silver thimbles (Fig 23)
Another thimble looks to be missing a top (Fig 24) but was it removable or does this thimble demonstrate yet another method of construction?
Niello thimbles were very rare in the 18th century and only one other is known (Fig 25). The found thimble has an ornate top and the inscription ‘+AFENDE +TO+THE+ENDE’ around the border (Fig 26). There is a makers mark ‘RL’ inside the rim. Another thimble (Fig 9, second from left) has a similar maker’s mark and these two thimbles are said to have been made in Holland by the recorder but this seems unlikely.
Two of the shorter 17th century silver thimbles had interesting bands (Fig 27) and one had an unusual top for a short thimble (Fig 28)
Finally, we found a couple of thimbles with medallions containing what looked like cupids and a bleeding heart overlying several arrows (Fig 29). These 17th century keepsake thimbles are exceedingly rare.
A database of this sort with many different recording officers is fraught with problems when it comes to analysing the recorded information. The organisers are to be commended on the mammoth project that they have undertaken and for the establishment of a searchable database. By nature of its organisation however it is subject to many limitations, many of which have only become apparent to us as a result of our study of the thimbles in the database.
The registration rate for the Portable Antiquities Scheme is unknown and therefore the total number of thimbles found and not reported is unknown. The majority of thimbles were found by metal detectors so this must necessarily bias the distribution of the thimbles found to the areas in which metal detectors are used most frequently. The distribution of thimbles and their types found must therefore be biased somewhat and cannot truly represent the distribution of thimbles in England and Wales during the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition, many of the more expensive thimbles, for example, might still be in aristocratic households or lost in the grounds of stately homes and therefore not available for metal detection. In the absence of any other archive, however, the database is invaluable as a window into the past.
Occasionally recordings were brief, some were duplicates and this made analysis crude at best. Not all recorded thimbles were described and often database fields were left blank or incomplete. When the search term ‘thimble’ was used online, finger guards (could be considered to be a form of protection for sewing but not really thimbles), a buckle, rings, crotal bells and a whistle were found in the listing. Silver thimbles were described as ‘cast’ when they had been milled in two parts. Some thimbles were described as ‘acorn’ shaped whilst similarly shaped thimbles were not described in this way by other recorders (see above, Fig 6, 7). The term ‘medieval’ was not used in the same way by all recorders and some so called ‘medieval’ thimbles were from a much later period. These inconsistencies, arising from the multiplicity of the recorders, made analysis difficult and somewhat limited. Clearly defined parameters for specific fields in the database, to be used by all recorders, might limit some of these problems and even insisting that all fields be filled would be a help. From a research standpoint the standard of data recording must be improved. We do not underestimate the difficulty of this task although the quality of recording in another multiple-user metal detecting database does seem to be much higher [iii].
The data presented in this paper represents our analysis of the thimbles recorded in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database [circa 2014]. The results are limited by the biases described above in relation to the data itself, the data collection and recording and possibly the fact that thimbles form only a small fraction of the database and maybe there are many more items which are considered to be more important than thimbles to the recorders. Nevertheless, the database is a valuable instrument for learning more about thimbles from the past. It is hoped that it will become even more useful if recording methods are standardized and all recorders enter consistent data into all the fields in the database. At the present time the database is more useful for qualitative rather than quantitative studies.
All images, unless otherwise designated, were downloaded from the PAS website.
The UK Detector Finds Database is a voluntary, hobby-based database for objects detected with metal detectors. One of its aims is to ‘encourage those detectorists who would not otherwise record their finds to do so by making use of the UKDFD self-recording facility and to ‘encourage the recording of post c.1650 finds, many of which are not eligible for inclusion on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) database’. Criteria for finds entry are clear and certain fields are mandatory. The standard of photography is high and the descriptive data is good as a result. The database itself is internet-based and can be analysed to some degree but not as easily or as fully as the PAS database. There are 451 thimbles recorded at the time of writing (October 2014) and 70 of these are silver thimbles. The silver thimbles are, in general, of the more modern type (Georgian onwards). The remaining thimbles are of copper alloy and include many early ‘acorn’ and ‘beehive’ thimbles. The detectorists seem to have a greater knowledge of thimbles[i] than the recorders of the PAS. As a result of the criteria for entry and selectivity of finds however, analysis, in detail, of the database is difficult and the results would necessarily be rather biased.
Three notable copper alloy thimbles found in the UKDFD:
Three interesting silver thimbles found in the UKDFD:
The right thimble is a very worn and possibly a little earlier version of the other two!
Commercially driven copies are conventionally considered to lack relevance to heritage because they are of recent origin and lack heritage values. But for others, including us, heritage should be valued in relation, not to its origin, but to its function in society. In the past, research on cultural heritage has centered on material things which can be catalogued, listed, conserved. In the last decade, heritage has been redefined as an area that is concerned primarily with people. Heritage is now theorized as a range of cultural practices in which people invest meanings to things and ascribe values to them (Smith, 2006; Filippucci, 2009). Heritage is a process which creates new meanings and values, and the cultural meanings of heritage are validated through linkage to the past (Smith 2006). To date, research on the interactions of people, material things and relevant cultural processes is frustratingly scarce (Wells 2015).
These issues can be illuminated further by the case of Tianducheng (Sky City), a simulated heritage site in Hangzhou, China. The city is a large suburb, which is designed to incorporate a selection of very prominent architectural heritage features from France including a 1:3 scale but nevertheless imposing copy of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (fig. 1). It is one of many suburbs in China that resemble far-away places and include copies of foreign historical landmarks, reflecting Chinese imaginations of the Western lifestyle (Boskar 2013, Piazzoni 2018). These suburbs are commodities that originated in a specific economic and cultural framework of contemporary China. As such, Tianducheng is part of the cultural heritage of early 21st century China. But questions are also raised about the relationship to the original heritage sites in France which Tianducheng evokes.
Arguably, more important than age is the experience of pastness which has been defined by Holtorf as the quality for a given object to be ‘of the past’. The presence of pastness is not related to age but specific to a particular perception situated in a given social and cultural context (Holtorf 2017a: 500). The Eiffel Tower in Hangzhou may not fool anybody about its recent age. But it plays on pastness insofar as it matches exactly people’s expectations of French 19th century architecture and the history that connects that architecture with the present-day city of Paris. We can therefore, in this case, speak of simulated heritage. It simulates the pastness of Paris’ heritage in another city, Hangzhou in China. We suggest that a strict distinction between simulated and non-simulated cultural heritage is not particularly helpful in any attempt at understanding either; instead we should be looking at what they share with each other (see also Holtorf 2017b).
Tianducheng was initiated by the real-estate company Guangsha Group which started this enormous project in 2001. It was a pioneering project back then, for this corporation wanted to build a self-sustained satellite city around Hangzhou and contended to lead the urbanization process in China. On the webpage of this property, it advertises itself as “taking France culture as its city culture” while “setting ‘business, tourism, residency and education’ as its pillar industry in this city” (http://www.guangsha.com/index.php/newsinfor/23/3682). The Eiffel Tower and the nearby park were finished before the apartment buildings were sold. They present a clear image of French culture to attract people to buy properties and settle down in Tianducheng (figure 2).
Interestingly, the construction of both the original and the Chinese Eiffel Towers were hotly debated. Opened in 1889, the French tower was widely criticized by the cultural elite at the time but became a huge popular success. Intended to be dismantled after 20 years, the 324m tall tower became a valuable asset for the city and has not only been maintained until the present day but also copied several times at other locations in the world (Wikipedia n.d.). Built in 2007, the 108m tall Chinese Eiffel Tower went through a similar controversy. On 20 November 2010, Guangsha Group started to dismantle the tower without notice, which caused a backlash among residents (Chen 2010). Many residents called the media to report what was going on and hung protest banners on the tower. After negotiation, the company decided to cease dismantling and returned the tower to its original condition.
Arguably, Tianducheng fulfills some of the same functions of heritage in Hangzhou as the original sites fulfill in France, in relation to place-making, for example. According to Laurajane Smith (2006: 79), place is “not only a space where meaningful experiences occur, but is also where meanings are contested and negotiated.” Indeed, place “provides a profound centre of human existence to which people have deep emotional and psychological ties and is part of the complex processes through which individuals and groups define themselves” (Convery et al. 2012, p. 1). People’s sources of meaning and experience as well as their environments all contribute to place-making (Harvey 2001). In the case of Tianducheng, as of course with the French original, local residents construct their sense of place from the iconic tower, its magnificent view during daytime and the light show on display at night, as well as from various leisurely activities around the tower. At daytime, it is relatively quiet. When the night curtain falls, it is lively, and can indeed be difficult to find parking spaces. Many people come here to enjoy square dancing with friends, to visit restaurants, and enjoy the tower light show. What is most important is not the question of whether or not the architecture has been copied, but how each site contributes to the local residents’ lives and their sense of place.
We spoke to some of the local population living in Tianducheng. More and more people choose to settle there, and the majority of them seem to enjoy the place very much. A shopper we spoke with stated that “of course we know we are not in Paris, everybody knows that. But we still enjoy the view and relaxing atmosphere.” On a web forum of local residents, many others expressed their appreciation of the site, too. There are also visitors going there, taking photos to “pretend” that they are in Paris and subsequently posting them on WeChat moments (similar to Twitter). This applies in particular to wedding pictures. The tower serves as a widely known symbol and icon. When people want to meet somewhere or when they want to locate a certain place, they tend to use the tower as a reference point. One of our interviewees is a member of the local Yixing jogging group. Among other activities, the group meets every morning underneath the tower to start a jog around the city. Ma Gangwei, the interviewee, said, “I like it here. But I don’t have any particular thoughts about this France thing. …I’ve never been to France. I don’t know what it is like to live in Paris. But I like the surroundings here. It might not have much to do with the architectural style. It’s about the park, the mountain, the environment here.”
Tianducheng is both French and Chinese. Some of the shops in the associated commercial district express an emerging hybrid heritage. One restaurant is called “Champs Elysees Noodle Restaurant”, but it serves local food, a kind of noodles from a city in the Zhejaing province (figure 3). Whereas the simulated Eiffel Tower may represent the power of cultural globalization, the local businesses and their customers appropriate the attractiveness of the iconic structure to enhance the practice of their own traditions. In that sense, we may see in Tianducheng a case where “global forces create conditions for local traditions to survive” (Reisinger 2013: 41). Somewhat ironically but hardly surprising, there are likely some Chinese restaurants in walking distance from the French tower, too. Many seemingly clear distinctions between the French and the Chinese versions of “Paris” and the “Eiffel Tower” thus fade away on closer inspection. What emerges is a common heritage value of the Eiffel Tower materialized on opposite sides of our planet in hybrid forms.
Places like Tianducheng simulate heritage, but at the same time they provide real heritage value in society and should therefore not be dismissed. In cases such as this, we may see some glimpses of a future of heritage that contradicts and replaces familiar concepts of cultural heritage bound to place and time. Tianducheng challenges us to think carefully about the possible character of future pasts and their benefits in society (Holtorf 2017b). It raises some profound questions: will there soon be many more suburbs around the world that simulate the past of other places? Should heritage experts and historians welcome them in the same manner as local communities do, appreciating their qualities? Does China lead the way towards the future of the past?
Boskar, Bianca (2013) Original Copies. Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China. Hongkong: University of Hongkong Press and Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Chen, Xiang (2010) The landmark of Tiandu city is gone. Morning Express.November 22nd, 2010, A0003
Convery, I., Corsane, G., & Davis, P. (Eds.). (2014). Introduction: Making Sense of Place. In Convery, I., Corsane, G., & Davis, P. (Eds.). Making sense of place: Multidisciplinary perspectives. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.
Filippucci, P (2009) Heritage and Methodology: A view from social anthropology. In Sørensen, M. L. S., & Carman, J. (Eds.). Heritage studies: Methods and approaches. London and New York: Routledge.
Harvey, Penelope. (2001) Landscape and Commerce: Creating Contexts for the Exercise of Power. In Bender, Barbara, Winter, Margot. (Eds). Contested Landscapes: Movement, Exile and Place. Oxford: Berg.
Holtorf, Cornelius (2017a) Perceiving the Past: From Age Value to Pastness. International Journal of Cultural Property 24 (4), 497-515.
Holtorf, Cornelius (2017b) “Changing Concepts of Temporality in Cultural Heritage and Themed Environments.” In: F. Carlà-Uhink, F. Freitag, S. Mittermeier and A. Schwarz (eds) Time and Temporality in Theme Parks, pp. 115-130. Hannover: Wehrhahn.
Piazzoni, Maria Francesca (2018) The Real Fake. Authenticity and the Production of Space. New York: Fordham.
Reisinger, Yvette (2013) Reflections on globalisation and cultural tourism. In: M. Smith and G. Richards (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Cultural Tourism, pp. 40-46. London and New York Routledge.
Smith, Laurajane (2006) Uses of Heritage. London and New York: Routledge.
Wells, Jeremy C. (2015). Making a Case for Historic Place Conservation Based on People’s Values. Forum Journal, 29 (3), 44-62.
Constantinos Paschalidis introduces his new volume with Archaeopress reporting on excavations of a Mycenaean cemetery, located by the historic Achaia Clauss wine factory, near Patras, Greece.
This work comprises the study of the finds from the excavation of the University of Ioannina and the Archaeological Society at Athens in the Mycenaean cemetery, located by the historic Achaia Clauss wine factory, near Patras. The research was carried out between the years 1988-1992 under the direction of Professor T. Papadopoulos (figs 1, 2). The presentation of the topic expands into seven thematic chapters, proceeding from the whole to the parts – and then returning to the whole. Thus, one progresses from the general review of the cemetery space and the sites, to the analytical description of the excavation, to the remarks on the architecture, to the study of the finds, to the analysis of the burial customs and finally to the narration of the overall history of the cemetery according to chronological period and generation of its people. The eighth and last chapter is an addendum including a presentation of the anthropological analysis of the skeletal material.
More precisely, the study is organized as follows: Chapter 1 includes a complete and brief catalogue of the Mycenaean sites in Achaea. The cemetery site is described separately with special mention of the neighbouring excavations (fig. 3). Furthermore, in this chapter the distribution and character of the sites across the entire territory is examined and presented as a general overview.
In Chapter 2, the description of the tombs is to be found, arranged into three parts for each in turn. The first section focuses on the description of the tomb’s architecture and the clustering and appearance of the finds in it. The second part sums up all the above evidence, following the chronological sequence of the burials. The third part displays, through easy-to-understand tables, the burials along with the gender, the age and the grave-goods of each individual, grouped in chronological order of introduction into the tomb. These tables also record any other non-burial episode that has been attested through the history of the chambers, in chronological order too.
In Chapter 3, the area of Clauss is examined, as well as the layout of the cemetery (figs 4, 5), the architecture of the tombs, the bedrock, the manner of construction and the structural problems related to them.
Fig. 4. Topographic sketch of the Mycenaean cemetery at Achaia Clauss.
Fig. 5. General view of the cemetery after the completion of its last excavation season, in 1992.
Chapter 4 contains the analytical catalogue of the finds in each tomb, recorded according to their excavation numbering, accompanied by the corresponding Museum of Patras inventory number. The catalogue contains one or more photos and drawings of each find, its detailed description and bibliographical documentation with parallels selected mainly from published assemblages from the rest of Achaea, Elis and the nearby Ionian islands.
Chapter 5 deals with the analytical presentation of the finds from the cemetery (figs 6a-b), citing typological parallels from the entire Mycenaean world, including comments on their use in the cemetery and in their era, in general. The examination of the finds is arranged according to category: pottery, bronze, bone, stone finds, along with minor objects made of various materials (spindle whorls, seals, beads and a figurine).
Figs 06a. Tomb B. Two-handled kalathos with five vases inside of it and one more outside, as found in the chamber.
Figs 06b. Tomb B. Two-handled kalathos with five vases inside of it and one more outside, as found in the chamber.
In Chapter 6, the burial customs of the cemetery (fig. 7) are discussed as these emerge from the investigation of the archaeological finds and the results of the osteological study by Dr Photini J. P. McGeorge, whose full analysis is not included in the present work and by DrWiesław Więckowski, whose report is presented in Chapter 8.
Chapter 7 sums up all of the research data into a brief and concise overview of the burials according to chronological period and generation (phases 1-6 of the LH ΙΙΙC period), with reference to the society that the Clauss people and their contemporaries in the rest of Achaea had brought into being, and with a presentation of the cemetery’s history.
In Chapter 8, Dr Photini J.P. McGeorge presents her detailed study of cremation Θ in tomb N, while Dr Wiesław Więckowski offers the results of his study on the anthropological material from alcove I and tombs K-N.
The richly illustrated documentation of the tombs derives from the archive of the excavation. The photographs of the nearby Mycenaean settlement at Mygdalia Petrotou (fig. 3) come from the archive of its ongoing excavation project and contribute to the understanding of the region’s archaeological landscape. The presentation of the data tables at the end of this book (Appendix) facilitates the comprehension of specific aspects of the cemetery (burial practices according to gender and age, grave-goods according to gender/age/generation, demographic data per generation etc.).
The publication of the Mycenaean cemetery at Clauss near Patras, yields information on various aspects of an unknown society situated at the periphery of the Mycenaean world, soon before its gradual end. It presents in a concise way the material culture of the society: the products of the local pottery workshops and their distribution, the metalworking industry of Achaea, the imported bronze objects from the Adriatic coasts, and discuss the role played by the NW Peloponnese in the distribution of these bronze objects throughout the rest of the Postpalatial world.
The detailed presentation of innumerous aspects of the material culture is followed by an analysis of other less tangible aspects of this society such as: the burial customs, the demographics of the cemetery, the palaeopathological findings, signs of social differentiation based on burial practices and offerings, details of family life (fig. 7), habits, and stereotypes, and any other unexpected finds from a society, which despite our ambitious approach remains anonymous, largely unknown, and enigmatic.
The study of the Mycenaean cemetery at Clauss near Patras, offers the chance to enlighten the ‘golden era’ of the NW Peloponnese in the years of the deep crisis that followed the fall of the Mycenaean palaces.
Constantinos Paschalidis Curator of Antiquities National Archaeological Museum, Athens
The main surprise of the study was that a metal vessel deposited in a tomb at the Egyptian site Abusir 5,000 years ago was made of a material that was used concurrently in distant Anatolia (present-day Turkey). The article shows how far metals travelled in the third millennium BC.
The paper contains an in-depth analysis of 22 ancient Egyptian artefacts currently stored in the Egyptian Museum of Leipzig University (Fig. 1). The analytical work deepens our understanding of the use of copper in the Early Dynastic Period and the Old Kingdom. Egyptian copper metallurgy of the third millennium BC has been known only superficially until now.
The artefacts were found at the Egyptian sites of Abusir, Abydos and Giza. They were excavated in the royal tomb of King Khasekhemwy at Abydos (c. 2700 BCE) and non-royal tombs of officials from the Early Dynastic Period (Abusir; c. 3100–2900 BCE) and the Old Kingdom (Giza; c. 2350–2275 BCE).
The paper is innovative in the range of analyses used and their combination with Egyptological and archaeological information. The production methods were similar for all artefacts, which were hammered and annealed to their final shapes. They were made either from copper with minor impurities of other elements or from arsenical copper, the most frequently used alloy in the ancient Near East in the third millennium BC. As lead was present in minute traces in all the artefacts, lead isotope analysis has been used to indicate the origin of the ores.
As the title suggests, the analyses have revealed “invisible connections” between the regions where the ore was mined and those where the artefacts were deposited. The ore coming from the Sinai Peninsula has been expected and confirmed, as it was the most frequent target of ancient Egyptian expeditions with many ancient Egyptian mining expedition inscriptions. A not at all negligible amount of ore originated from the Eastern Desert of Egypt. There are not many inscriptions in that area, but the archaeological research of the past two decades has identified many mining sites, and analyses have now confirmed that the ore was indeed used by ancient Egyptians.
The greatest surprise was a large bowl from a Dynasty-1 tomb at Abusir (Fig. 2, 3). It is peculiar by its contents of arsenic (1.4%) and nickel (4.8%), very unusual for that period in Egypt. The lead isotope ratios match Anatolian ores and are similar to contemporary Early Bronze Age Anatolian artefacts, in a distance more than 1,500 kilometres (Fig. 4).
The vessel was most probably made in Egypt, but the ore or metal ingot must have travelled from far away. Although this is most probably not an evidence of direct contact between the two regions, special metals had circulated around the ancient Near East earlier than previously thought.
The project will continue with the evaluation and publication of data from another important corpus stored in Leipzig: bronze artefacts from the Second Intermediate Period and the New Kingdom site Aniba in Nubia.
The authors of the article are archaeometallurgist Jiří Kmošek from the Department of Chemical Technology, Faculty of Restoration, University of Pardubice; Egyptologist Martin Odler from the Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague; and two physicists, Marek Fikrle from the Nuclear Physics Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and Yulia V. Kochergina from the Czech Geological Survey. In the same issue of the journal is also included an article of the Belgian team about the research of Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom metalwork in Brussels and a third piece, commenting both articles.
Anthony Comfort and Michal Marciak have written a study of the upper Tigris in antiquity, published in August as How Did the Persian King of Kings Get his Wine? (Archaeopress Archaeology, 2018). This monograph examines an area which has been mostly inaccessible to scholars and looks likely to remain so – despite its great interest and strategic importance during the conflict between Rome and Persia.
The publication follows completion of the Ilısu dam, not far from the point at which the modern borders of Turkey, Iraq and Syria meet. When filled the reservoir created by the dam will do serious damage to the environment but also to the cultural heritage of the region; it is obliterating various sites along the river Tigris which are crucial to our understanding of the region’s history and archaeology.
Apart from the importance of the valley for river and road transport, there are also many rock reliefs which are described in the monograph. It is very sad that the current security situation in South-East Turkey makes many of these reliefs, as well as the sites along the river itself, inaccessible. In Iraqi Kurdistan the situation is better but the Tigris valley there is still difficult to visit for researchers and visitors.
At least now the world can have some idea of what is being lost as a result of the Ilısu dam and of what has already disappeared under the waters of the Eski Mosul dam in Iraq. But much of importance remains and needs to be studied further; The monograph provides an introduction to the region’s history and archaeology. The authors intend that it also promote further research in a notoriously difficult part of the world.
Header image: The old bridge at Hasankeyf in May 2006 (photo by Anthony Comfort)
About the Authors
Anthony Comfort is an independent scholar associated with the Centre for the Study of Greek and Roman Antiquity at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. After a career in the secretariat of the European Parliament, he completed a doctoral dissertation dealing with the roads on the frontier between Rome and Persia at Exeter University under the supervision of Stephen Mitchell. He is a specialist in the use of satellite imagery for archaeology in the Middle East but is now responsible for a project concerning the Roman roads of south-west France, where he lives.
Michał Marciak, PhD (2012), Leiden University, is an Assistant Professor at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (Poland). He has published extensively on Northern Mesopotamia, including two monographs Izates, Helena, and Monobazos of Adiabene (Harrassowitz, 2014) and Sophene, Gordyene, and Adiabene: Three Regna Minora of Northern Mesopotamia Between East and West (Brill, 2017). He is currently also the Principal Investigator of the Gaugamela Project (in cooperation with the Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project of the University of Udine, Italy) which is dedicated to the identification of the site of the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE).
Sincerest thanks to Anthony and Michał for preparing this post for the Archaeopress Blog. Their new book is available now in paperback and PDF eBook editions:
Alka Starac describes the surprise discovery of a Roman temple in Pula, Croatia
The rescue excavations during 2005-2009 in the northern part of the ancient centre of Pula, Hrvatska, conducted over an area of 4000 square meters and at an average depth of 6 meters, revealed at first the foundations of St Theodore’s Church along with a female Benedictine monastery built in the 15th century. The church was pulled down during the construction of Austro-Hungarian barracks at the end of the 19th century. It was the only building complex which had definitely been expected to be revealed during the excavations, as it was the only one recorded in historical sources. It was considered likely that there might be Roman city ramparts as well, but it turned out that the assumed ramparts were in fact the wall of a Domus and a sewer situated inside the adjacent Public Thermae, destroyed in Late Antiquity and completely forgotten since then. In addition to the rich and well-preserved Domus and Public Thermae, the remains of an Early Christian and pre-Romanesque church were found below and inside St Theodore’s Church.
The biggest surprise, however, was the discovery of the foundations of a Roman temple surrounded by portico, containing the deposit of more than 2000 almost fully preserved amphorae of Lamboglia 2 type, placed for drainage and levelling of the temple terrace. Excavations at the end of the 19th century only just reached the rear temple foundation wall without entering the sacred enclosed area, so no one could assume the existence of a temple located within the barracks yard and hidden beneath the foundations of the monastery. Also, no one could know that the southern foundation wall of the 15th-century church, reaching five meters in depth, in its lower parts was the southern wall of the Early Christian church and the outer foundation wall of the northern portico wing surrounding the Roman temple, dividing the sacred terrace from the adjacent Thermae located at a lower level. At this point, the continuous sacred verticale measuring five metres in depth was documented, comprising the historical period of 2000 years since the Roman colony of Pola was founded.
But this exciting archaeological story did not end there. Descending into the lower stratigraphical layers in the sacred temple yard, the pre-Roman continuity of the cult place worshipped by the ancient Histri during the Hellenistic period was documented. It turned out that the Histrian cult place, active throughout three centuries until the foundation of the Roman colony, was placed next to a water spring in the karst terrain. A well, four meters deep, was built at the spring during the construction of the temple terrace, appearing above the ground beside the entrance to the temple. A limestone square building block with a club in relief is the only clear link with a certain deity found in the excavations, and this is obviously Hercules. Hercules is well known for having a strong ties with the Roman colony of Pola, honoured as a divine patron of the colony that carried his name among other titles, and a protector of the city Gate of Hercules decorated with his head and club in relief.
My new book, dedicated to the sanctuary of Hercules, deals with the urban history of the Roman temple with portico, the role of Hercules in local tradition and gives an interpretation of the archeological remains. It offers a hypothetical reconstruction of the temple and portico based on the excavated foundations, scarce fragments of architectural decoration and Vitruvian rules. The inscriptions possibly related to the sanctuary are discussed, and finally the hypothetical calculations of the building period duration and construction costs are added.
The discovery of a completely-unknown Roman temple with temenos and portico rarely happens. The entire structure was demolished to the ground and replaced by much more modest buildings in Late Antiquity, so the lack of historical information is unsurprising. This sequence of events resulted in the loss of elements of the architectural decoration; only a few fragments secondarily used in later buildings survived. Instead of a typical Late Republican sanctuary enclosed by a three-winged portico with open front side, Hercules’ sanctuary shows an inverse plan with a portico wing closing the front side of the temple. The foundations of two portico wings were identified, while the third wing remains an assumption. The temple was a tetrastyle prostyle, only a little smaller than the Temple of Rome and Augustus at the forum of Pola. Following the collection of data of the cult of Hercules in Pola, Hercules emerges as the central figure of the sanctuary, which is also related to the presence of a spring as well as an ancestor, hero and founder cult.
I am grateful to David Davison and Rajka Makjanić, who gave me the opportunity to publish the results of my work concerning Hercules’ sanctuary.
Archaeological Museum of Istria
PhD, Senior Museum Counselor, Head of excavations email@example.com
Sincerest thanks to Dr Starac for providing this blog. Her book, Hercules’ Sanctuary in the Quarter of St Theodore, Pula (Archaeopress Archaeology, 2018), is available now in paperback (£32.00) or PDF eBook (from £16+VAT).