Monday, January 18, 2016

The Princeton Antioch Photo Archive

The Princeton-led expedition to excavate Antioch in the 1930s produced a trove of photographs, the vast bulk of which have never been seen in public. Even sifting through the works that have been published over the decades since there is only a minute fraction of the total number. Sometime back we discovered that there is a catalogue of these photos which is available online here:

We have engaged in some correspondence on the theme with Trudy Jacoby, the director of the Visual Resources Collection of the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton. Here are her comments on the progress they are making in bringing this material within access of Antioch scholars around the world:
"...the Antioch dig photographs are part of the Research Photographs Collection in the Department of Art and Archaeology. There are over 5,000 photographs and all of them have already been digitized....We will be adding thumbnails to the catalog listing in the future."

The thumbnails started to appear in 2009 and now they are all uploaded in full size versions. 

We have noted from perusing the list that there are many photos of some of the lesser digs that were undertaken which were never written up in the official five-volume report on the work of the Committee for the Excavation. Particularly exciting for us is the work at the Bridge Gate and the exploration around the Bab el-Kelb (the Porta Canis) from which we have never encountered any photographic record anywhere.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Latest Excavations at the Forum of Valens

A paper has recently been published in Turkish by Hatice Pamir who is the main archaeologist working on Antioch at this time. It has some interesting discoveries and images relating to what might appear to be the Forum of Valens or its fringes. 

The excavation area is located in Haraparası quarter of Antakya, 750 m. southwest of the so-called St Peter’s Grotto, and next to the west side of modern Aleppo road (which tracks the old Colonnaded main street) and adjacent to the Hacıkürüs (ancient Parmenius) river on the north. While not mentioned in the article, I suspect that this is the site where the "Hilton" was being built. 

The excavated area lies on southeast-northwest direction parallel to the ancient grid plan of the city. The area was a suburb of Antakya in 1930s when it was mainly gardens/orchards and then a truck depot/garage for a long time before the excavation.

The rescue excavation provided knowledge of city’s historical sequence in one place. It was also the first systematic excavation since the 1930s, and has revealed four significant building remains: a public building of 5th-6th century AD., a bath complex, a villa of 5th century AD, a row of shops and a stone paved road in two different places. The preliminary analyses shows the area was actively occupied from Hellenistic to the Medieval times.

While my Turkish is way less than proficient I was able to glean some key details of the discoveries. A decision was made in 2009 by the Hatay Archaeological Museum to do some drilling (sounding?) on the site. 

Based upon this work, a further decision to make a substantial excavation was made. As a result some six metres of overburden was removed and an area of a massive 180 metres by 95 metres was excavated. Some idea of the scale can be gauged from the people (little black dots) standing in the centre background of this photograph of the excavation. 

The site is challenging because over time the bed of the Parmenius "river" has shifted backwards and forwards across the plain at the foot of the mountains and in the process has destroyed some of the historic evidence. It has at time runs through the area excavated. 

Below can be seen the necropolis with around 50 graves counted. This relates to the same burial field uncovered in 1936 (numbered 16P at that time). The graves date from the 10th to 14th century.  

Under the graves was a totally different layer of settlement from the 5th to the 7th century consisting of side-by-side shops in an area 25m by 8 m, including storage areas with large ceramic grain-storage containers and some examples of two-colour "fish-scale" mosaics.

The next area uncovered was a marble-floored atrium of exceptional size measuring 58 metres north-south and 70 metres east-east. A marble structure on the East-West axis has been destroyed by the river flow shifting over time. There is series of nine mosaic panels stretching along the west side. These are 14 metres wide and some 90 metres long. This is not some humble building and could indeed be the type of structure which might represent the core of the Forum of Valens. The sixth panel (?) was totally destroyed but there are many pieces of red and yellow glass from the destroyed mosaics. It seems the stone walls of this portico(?) were covered with frescoes. 

There was a layer of ash and burnt wood, interspersed with nails from a collapsed roof, signalling that the structure was destroyed by an earthquake or some sort of natural disaster (or the Chosroe attack). 

There is a gateway onto a main street and a collapsed colonnade (with the photo above showing the fallen columns). After the main destruction some of the surviving parts were re-employed as storage areas. 

The author speculates that because of an inscription on a fallen pediment including the Latin word "Curia" that this was some sort of "parliament". Previous commentators have always placed a Bouleterion in the older part of the Seleucid city, but it is possible that Valens moved important functions to his new forum to enhance its status. 

Under this structure at a depth of around 13 metres was discovered more Hellenistic remains, including the sizable triclinium (dining room) of a house, with some more spectacular mosaics reminiscent of those found at Daphne and elsewhere in Antioch in the 1930s. 

The figure is a Megalopsychia surrounding by pairs of male and female birds (shown below).

The next discovery was some baths. As noted in the past Antioch was famed for the number of bathing establishments and their decor. Below can be seen the floor layout with the floor supports and the hypocausts for distributing sub-floor heat to the various chambers and pools. 

In the frigadarium part of the structure some important finds were made including a headless Hecate Triformis statue and two marble lions. While these baths were not large they were certainly sumptuously adorned. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Libanius on the Calends

Also in Thomas Taylor's two volumes translation of 41 dissertations by Maximus of Tyre, there is material from Libanius about pagan festivals. The material is in vol. 2, p.267, and belongs to the Descriptions, part of the Progymnasmata.

The Progymnasmata is described by Craig Gibson as "the largest surviving ancient collection of preliminary exercises used to teach young men how to compose their own prose, a crucial step toward public speaking and a career worthy of the educated elite. Graded in difficulty, the exercises range from simple fables and narratives to discussions of wise sayings, speeches of praise and blame, impersonations of figures from myth, descriptions of statues and paintings, and essays on general propositions (e.g., should one marry?). It provides a unique glimpse into the schoolrooms of the ancient Mediterranean from the Hellenistic period to the Byzantine Empire, vividly illustrating how ancient educators used myth, history, and popular ethics to shape their students characters as they sharpened their ability to think, write, and speak".

On the Calends, (Latin: kalendae, "the called") were the first days of each month of the Roman calendar. The Romans assigned these calendsto the first day of the month, signifying the start of the new moon cycle, Libanius has this to say: 

"This festival is extended as far as the dominion of the Romans ; and such is the joy it occasions, that if it were possible time could be hastened for mortals, which, according to Homer, was effected by Juno respecting the sun, this festival also would be hastened by every nation, city, house, and individual of mankind. The festival flourishes on every hill and mountain, and in every lake and navigable river. It also flourishes in the sea, if at that time it happens to be undisturbed by tempest : for then both ships and merchants cut through its waves and celebrate the festival. Joy and feasting everywhere abound. The earth is then full of honours, inconsequence of men honouring each other by gifts and hospitality. The foot-paths and the public roads are crowded with men, and four-footed animals bearing burdens subservient to the occasion ; and the ways in the city are covered, and the narrow streets are full. Some are equally delighted with giving and receiving; but others, though they do not receive any thing, are pleased with giving, merely because they are to give. And the spring by its flowers, indeed, renders the earth beautiful, but the festival by its gifts, which, pouring in from every place, are every where diffused. He, therefore, who asserts that this is the most pleasant part of the year will not err ; so that if the whole time of life could be passed in the same manner, the islands of the blest would not be so much celebrated by mankind as they are at present. The first appearance of the swallow is, indeed, pleasant, yet does not prevent labour ; but this festival thinks proper to remove from the days of its celebration everything laborious, and permits us to enjoy minds free from molestation. These days free the youth from twofold fears, one arising from their preceptors, the other from their pedagogues. They also make slaves as much as possible free, and exhibit their power even in those in chains, removing sorrow from their countenances, and exciting some of them to mirth. They can also persuade a father who expects the death of his son, and through sorrow is wasting away, and averse to nourishment, to be reconciled to his condition, to abandon darkness, lay aside his squalid appearance, and betake himself to the bath : and what the most skilful in persuasion are unable to accomplish, that the power of the festival effects. It also conciliates citizen with citizen, stranger with stranger, one boy with another, and woman with woman. It likewise instructs men not to be avaricious, but to bring forth their gold, and deposit it in the right-hands of others".

The most useful referral to the translations of Thomas Taylor are care of Roger Pearse, who uncovered them and reported them here