Archaeology in the News! Romans get all up in Scottish cricket grounds

Roman altar stones unearthed at

Scottish cricket ground

Roman altar stones dating back almost 2000 years have been found at a cricket pavilion in Musselburgh, East Lothian.

The stones have been described as the most significant find of their kind in the past 100 years.

Renovations were planned at the pavilion but archaeologists had to survey the protected building before work could begin.

Their unearthing of the stones and other artefacts has postponed the planned developments on the pavilion.

George Findlater, senior inspector of ancient monuments at Historic Scotland, said: “The stones have carvings and quite possibly inscriptions which can have a wealth of information on them, a lot of data about the people and their religion at that time.”

This helps with the emerging picture of life in and around the Roman fort at Inveresk during the second century
Councillor Paul McLennan

At least one of the altars is from the 2nd Century and is dedicated to the Roman God Jupiter.

Councillor Paul McLennan, cabinet member for community wellbeing at East Lothian Council, said: “The discovery of these remains is particularly exciting as it is not often that Roman altar stones are discovered during an archaeological excavation in Scotland.

“This helps with the emerging picture of life in and around the Roman fort at Inveresk during the second century.”


Things They Don’t Teach You in Field School

In honor of ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’, which is easily one of the worst films that has even been made, I have compiled a short list of skills that one does not necessarily learn in field school (or school in general) that we see in this “film”.

Basic Hand-to-Hand Combat

Ok. I’ve been out in the field a number of times and I cannot recall a single time when I needed to defend myself with hand-to-hand combat. I mean, the most combat I can think of was that time I was in Spain and became the fly swatting ninja because it was impossible to sit still for any period of time without flies landing everywhere. There were so many flies! So it was only natural that all of us began developing lightning quick reflexes. It may have also helped that I play video games. In any case, I have yet to encounter a situation in the field, or otherwise, that requires hand-to-hand combat to defend myself or an artifact.
Foreign Relations

This one is a little different. I have technically had several adventures in foreign relations mostly because I’ve done digs in other countries. It’s really a lot of fun learning about the people you’re with (English, Spanish…) because everyone has different social norms and traditions (tea time, siesta, cerveza con limon…) that you get to experience! I suppose what this really applies to is actively participating in Cold War and/or WWII international diplomacy (or lack thereof). I’ve never had to engage in any high-security anything or have bad guys of a different nationality take my artifacts away.
Arcane Artifact Identification

I’ve worked with pottery, jewelry, organic material and even a skeleton. None of these have ever threatened to summon one of the Old Gods or aliens or whatever. In fact, the most they’ve done is join their friends of similar construction in plastic bags for cataloging and cleaning. Don’t get me wrong, it would be totally awesome to find a silly mystical amulet or whatever! Especially if it had an Old God to go with it! But alas…old Babylonian things are usually laundry lists or trade orders, things with hieroglyphs on them are usually just fun material goods and/or jewelry, if it’s in a language you don’t know there’s probably someone you can talk to who knows it and if it’s a deity you don’t recognize, it’s probably because most cultures with polytheistic tendencies have lots of deities with lots of different aspects.

I’ll just come out and say it: I have no upper body strength to speak of. I blame this on my current job and its extreme lack of fitness requirements. I’m pretty sure the most strenuous dig activity I’ve had to do is the overhead dirt toss-to-wheelbarrow maneuver. It’s tough but once you get the hang of it it’s really fun and super effective for moving dirt from your particular section back up to the wheelbarrow that is at the actual ground level. I’ve never really had to climb anything, except for that one time I went to go see the standing stones at Stanton Drew and saw a rather awesome tree nearby…and climbed it. I’ve never had to quickly scale anything except for maybe a flight of stairs.
Weapon Skills and/or Sharpshooting

This one gets filed under the same category as the first topic, which is Things I’ve Never Had To Do On A Dig. I mean, I suppose I could defend myself with a shovel or trowel if called upon, but I really haven’t had any formal training in that sort of thing…or anything like it šŸ˜› The best I could do is drawn upon my extensive knowledge of zombie apocalypse survival tactics and hope for the best.
Stunt Driving

I am not licensed to drive anything other than a regular car…and a regular car in the US at that. Forget manual transmission or UK cars. That’s right out. The most stunt driving I’ve done has been on Mario Kart (64 and Double Dash), Rush and probably one of those Need for Speed games too. I’ve never had to participate in a high speed chase along a perilous cliff and/or Grand Canyon. However, if some Nazis or psychic Soviet spies felt the need to engage in a car chase along Rainbow Road, they would get SCHOOLED.
Radiation Safety
Nope. Never.

Archaeology in the News! Accidental discoveries are the best

But wait! There’s more!

Hundreds of rare Roman pots discovered by accident off Italy’s coast by British research ship

A British underwater research team has discovered hundreds of rare Roman pots by accident, while trawling the wreckages of ships on the sea bed.

The team had been using remote operated vehicles (ROVs) to scour modern wrecks for radioactive materials.

They were amazed to come across the remains of a Roman galley which sank off the coast of Italy thousands of years ago.

roman pot

One of the Roman pots that were found lying on the sea bed off the coast of Italy by a British research team. Experts believe they held oils

The crew from energy company Hallin Marine International, based in Aberdeen, found a number of ancient pots lying in the mud 1,640ft below the waves.

After the first sighting the crew worked around the clock for two days to bring them to the surface without damaging them.

Supervisor Dougie Combe said the team managed to recover five of the 2,000 year-old vessels intact. They cleared debris off them using water jets.

They were then handed over to an archaeology museum in the historic Graeco-Roman city of Paestum, in northern Italy.

Mr Combe, from Speyside, Scotland, said: ‘They would have probably been loaded on some kind of merchant ship which sank all those years ago.’


An underwater research team brought up five pots from the seabed, but said there were hundreds still down there

He added: ‘It was a big surprise when we came across the pots as we were looking for modern wrecks from the last 20 years or so.

‘It’s certainly the oldest thing we’ve come across on the seabed.

‘We managed to get five up altogether, but there must have been hundreds of them there.’

The Mare Oceano was searching for low-grade radioactive material alongside Italian company GeoLab when they made the discovery.

They were trawling off the coast of Capo Palinuro, near Policastro, Italy.

The jars that were found are believed to be ancient Greek or Roman and are thought to date back at least 2,000 years.


Archaeology in the News! Fun times at Bahariya Oasis

Better late than never!

Mummy of a ‘tiny, wide-eyed woman’ discovered in Egyptian oasis


Antiquity: A 3 ft tall intricately carved plaster sarcophagus portraying a wide-eyed woman dressed in a tunic

Egyptian archaeologists discovered an intricately carved plaster sarcophagus portraying a tiny, wide-eyed woman dressed in a tunic in a newly uncovered complex of tombs at a remote desert oasis.

It is the first Roman-style mummy found in Bahariya Oasis some 186 miles southwest of Cairo, said archaeologist Mahmoud Afifi, who led the dig.

The find was part of a cemetery dating back to the Greco-Roman period containing 14 tombs.

‘It is a unique find,’ he said, confirming that initial examinations indicate a mummy is inside the coffin.

The carved plaster sarcophagus is only 3 feet long and shows a woman wearing a long tunic, a headscarf, bracelet and shoes, as well as a beaded necklace.

Coloured stones in the sarcophagus’ eyes gave the appearance she is awake.

Afifi said they had not dated the new find yet, but the burial style indicated she belonged to Egypt’s long period of Roman rule lasting a few hundred years and starting 31BC.

He said his team first thought they had stumbled across a child’s tomb because of its diminutive stature, but the decorations and features indicated it was a woman.

Afifi said it was still unclear who the woman was but said it was most likely she was a wealthy and influential member of her society, judging by the effort taken on the sarcophagus.

Mummies of people of diminutive stature have been unearthed in other parts of Egypt, where they appeared to have importance in local religions at the time, he added.

The archaeologists also found a gold relief showing the four sons of the Egyptian god Horus, other plaster masks of women’s faces, several glass and clay utensils and some metal coins.

The metal coins are being checked to see whether they can date the era of the tomb more precisely.

Afifi said the find suggested the presence of a larger tomb complex, but said humid weather in the area may have destroyed similar sites.

He said none of the other 13 graves were as complete as that of the woman.


Archaeologist Mahmoud Afifi, who led the dig, said the new find had not been dated but the burial style indicated the sarcophagus belonged to Egypt’s long period of Roman rule, from 31BC

Enlarge Mummy

Archaeologists work around the intricately carved plaster sarcophagus at the remote Bahariya desert oasis area some 186 miles south-west of Cairo

The find was made after archaeologists had made a series of exploratory digs ahead of a local council plan to build a youth center on the land. The area is known for its relics from the Greco-Roman period.

Bahariya Oasis rocketed to fame a decade ago with the discovery of the ‘Valley of the Golden Mummies,’ a vast cemetery that has yielded up hundreds of mummies, many covered in gold leaf, from the Greco-Roman period.

Those sarcophagi were decorated in a more traditional ancient Egyptian style, rather than the Roman style of the current find.

The discoveries from this period indicate the comparative wealth and prosperity of the oases at the time due to their location on major desert trading routes.

Enlarge Mummy

A gold relief representing the four sons of the Egyptian god Horus, in a newly uncovered complex of tombs


A gypsum mask unearthed alongside a sarcophagus recently discovered in Bahariya



Greetings gentle readers! In honor of yet another Greek mythology-themed film that will be coming to a theater near you, here’s a brief look at another popular hero, Theseus, and how he had nothing to do with a looming war between the Olympians and the Titans!

Theseus led a very interesting life among the many colorful characters in Greek mythology, and his early life was perhaps a very good indicator that he was meant for big things. To begin at the beginning, Theseus had two fathers! He was the son of both Aegeus and Poseidon, at the same time, as his mother Aethra got busy with both lucky gentlemen in the same evening. Theseus is perhaps most famous for his adventure involving the mighty Minotaur of Crete but it might be best to enjoy a little background information to understand exactly how and why he ended up in a strange maze battling it out with a giant man-bull-thing. I’ll try to break it down as best I can, as some of it is a bit convoluted as mythology can often be. Here we go!
In the beginning: Theseus’ mortal father, Aegeus, was one of the first kings of Athens. He left the city to marry his new bride Aethra and upon discovering her fairly instantaneous pregnancy (mythology rules? This is also when her encounter with Poseidon took place…) he decided to return to Athens. Before he did, however, he hid his sandals and sword under a huge rock (like you do) and decreed something along the lines of “If my son can lift the rock, he should totally take the stuff I hid there and have them as tokens of his royal lineage. He can come find me if he wants, or whatever.” Once back in Athens, Aegeus took up with a newly child-free Medea. Turns out the Mediterranean wasn’t so big after all! In any case, Theseus was born and grew to be a characteristically strapping young lad who moved the previously mentioned rock and took his new swag. His mother then informed him about the true identity of his father and he decided it would be best to go to Athens and hang out. However, he was a bit far from Athens so he was given two options to get there: take a boat or go through the Underworld. An easy choice, right? So Theseus packed his things and proceeded into the Underworld. (Wait, what?)

Theseus goes to the Underworld: There were six entrances to the Underworld, each guarded by a chthonic mini-boss of sorts, and he boldly forged ahead to each one. At Epidaurus, Theseus beat the bandit Periphetes and took his nubby staff that often identifies Theseus in vase art and other art. At the Isthmian entrance, Theseus killed Siris using the same method he used on hapless travelers (it involves 2 tied-down pine trees, 1 person and a whole lot of…splitting) and then raped his daughter (wtf? was that even necessary?!). At Crommyon, Theseus just killed a giant pig. Near Megara, Theseus pushed Sciron off a cliff and then headed of to Eleusis where he wrestled and then killed Cercyon. The last one was in the nearby plain of Eleusis where Theseus crammed Procrustes into a truly custom-fit bed. Yes, really. The cool part about all these places is that they were all sites of sacred antiquity…in addition to having odd bandits living there.

Theseus finally gets to Athens: Once in Athens, Theseus didn’t identify himself to his father the king but Medea recognized him immediately. She made mention of the usual ‘OMG he’s going to overthrow/succeed/kill you’ plan and also worried that her own son wouldn’t get to be king, so they determined the best course of action was to send Theseus to Crete to capture and/or kill the Marathonian Bull. Theseus did so quite efficiently and when he returned and proceeded to sacrifice the bull, Medea tried to poison him (like she do) but it was RIGHT THEN that Aegeus recognized Theseus’ sandals, shield and sword and slapped the cup o’ poison right out of Theseus’ hand. Medea took this as her cue to leave and fled, perhaps to Asia.

Meanwhile, on Crete: King Minos and his wife PasiphaĆ« were enjoying a pleasant life together with many children when Poseidon made PasiphaĆ« fall in love with a snow white bull he sent to be sacrificed but Minos ended up keeping for himself because it was such a pretty bull. Deeply embarrassed by her…predicament…PasiphaĆ« went to the genius inventor Daedalus, who was currently being held as a guestage by King Minos, and asked him to help her. Daedalus constructed a cow-shaped container (cowntainer?) for PasiphaĆ« to climb inside and be with her behooved. This led to the birth of, you guessed it, a half-human half-bull baby. Minotaur! Naturally Minos was less than thrilled with his development and ordered Daedalus to construct a giant labyrinth to contain this mutant child who grew to have serious anger management problems and a hunger for human flesh as no other food source could satisfy his unnatural man-beast needs. Or something like that.

Theseus finally fights the Minotaur: For one reason or another (there are several) Crete and Athens didn’t get along. Whatever the reason, it all ended with King Minos of Crete demanding a shipment of seven Athenian males and seven Athenian females every nine years to be fed to the Minotaur. Athens had complied with this request until Theseus arrived and so did the nine year due date for the sacrifice. Theseus volunteered to be Athenian Male #7 and boarded a ship for Crete, telling his father that should he return victorious, he would use white sails but if he failed, the ship would return with black sails. Theseus arrived in Crete and was promptly stripped of any and all weaponry (early TSA?) but was given a ball of string by Minos’ daughter Ariadne, who had fallen madly in love with Theseus upon first seeing him. That night, Ariadne led Theseus to the entrance of the labyrinth and instructed him, courtesy of Daedalus, to proceed straight down to the Minotaur and use the string to find his way back out. In return, Theseus promised to take Ariadne back with him to Athens should he be victorious. Theseus found the Minotaur and dispatched him after a decent fight using a sword he had managed to hide in his tunic and emerged from the labyrinth with the Minotaur’s head. He and the other Athenian youths escaped along with Ariadne and her sister Phaidra. On the way back to Athens, Theseus abandoned Ariadne on an island (gratitude!) and got so caught up in his epic victory that he forgot to change the sails on the ship from black to white and when his father Aegeus saw the black-sailed ship approaching the Athenian coast, he threw himself into the sea (the AEGEAN sea! šŸ˜€ ) out of grief for his not-dead son. Moral of the story: Theseus became king of Athens and is associated with other founder-heroes like Perseus, Cadmus and Heracles.
Ok, so that’s pretty much the entire reason I wanted to make this particular post. Until next time!


In honor of the new ‘Clash of the Titans’ reboot opening in a theater near you today, here’s a brief look at the mythology of said titans and our good friend Perseus.

Perseus was one of many Greek folk who were lucky (or unlucky) enough to be the offspring of a mortal mother and a frisky Olympian. Perseus’ mother, DanaĆ«, was the daughter of the king of Argos and once she discovered she was pregnant after an encounter with Zeus, she was imprisoned by her father because he had been told by an oracle that he would be killed by his daughter’s son. It’s worth mentioning that DanaĆ« was visited by Zeus in the form of a…golden shower.

Just getting that factoid out there. Anyway, once little Perseus was born, the king still wasn’t jazzed at the idea of being killed by him BUT he didn’t want to kill a child of Zeus so he put both DanaĆ« and her baby in a chest and sent them out to sea. The two eventually landed on the island of Seriphos and were taken in by the kindly fisherman Dictys, whose brother, Polydectes, just happened to be king of the island. You know how that goes. Eventually, Perseus grew up and at some point Polydectes started making eyes at DanaĆ« and wanted Perseus out of the way so he could be free to marry DanaĆ« without having to worry about things like kids from previous relationships. Polydectes hatched the most diabolical plan he could think of: a banquet for which every guest would have to bring him a horse. Perseus had no horse, so he offered to bring the king another gift, to which Polydectes promptly demanded the head of Medusa. Because that’s a comparable gift, right?

Perseus soon discovered that he was in waaaaaay over his head but that’s right about when both Hermes and Athena showed up to help him. Hermes lent Perseus his adamantine curved sword and Athena lent him her highly polished bronze shield and some helpful nymphs provided him with the Helmet of Invisibility. There are other versions of the myth in which Perseus receives the winged sandals of Hermes, the Helmet of Invisibility and a stylish bag in which to carry Medusa’s head, modeled here by actor Sam Worthington.

Once he was properly kitted out, Perseus headed to the island of the golden apples to ask the Hesperides where he could find Graeae. He paid a visit to the Graeae next and held their single eye hostage until they told him where he could find Medusa and her Gorgon sisters. They eventually told him, but he tossed the eye in a lake anyway. Perseus eventually made it to the cave where the Gorgons dwelled and rather promptly dispatched Medusa using the reflection of his shield to see her, thus avoiding her stony gaze.

For his troubles, Perseus was given a pony! Pegasus sprang forth from the blood of Medusa’s neck and joined the party, allowing many exciting pony adventures to occur. The other two Gorgon sisters pursued him but he made like a paladin and bubbled out using his handy Helmet of Invisibility.

On his way back home, Perseus stopped by the lovely and scenic Ethiopia, where King Cephus and Queen Cassiopeia were in a bit of a predicament. Cassiopeia decided it would be a good idea to compare her own beauty to that of the Nereids, and Poseidon wasn’t too pleased with that so he sent Cetus (THE KRAKEN!) to eat everyone.

The oracle of Ammon decreed that the only way to stop said kraken was to sacrifice Cephus’ daughter Andromeda to the sea beastie. Luckily for Andromeda, Perseus chose that moment to fly in on his magical Pegasus, slay Cetus and marry Andromeda all in one go. Effective, no? Andromeda’s intended husband wasn’t exactly thrilled by this, so at the wedding reception Perseus turned him to stone with Medusa’s head when he started acting a fool (Ovid, Metamorphoses iv). Andromeda followed her new husband back to Argos and eventually had a son, Perses. Once in Argos, Perseus decided he had had enough of Polydectes’ shenanigans and turned him to stone with Medusa’s head and placed his brother, Dictys the kindly fisherman who had raised Perseus, on the throne. Perseus gave his magical gifts back to their respective deities and offered the head of Medusa as a gift to Athena, who set it in on her shield.
Perseus did end up fulfilling the prophecy that so terrorized his grandfather many years later. he attended games held in Larissa (either athletic or funeral games depending on the source) and his grandfather was in attendance. Not knowing what had become of Perseus, he did not recognize him and was accidentally killed when he was beaned by a stray discus…thrown by Perseus.
Later in life, Perseus had an unfortunate run-in with Kratos.
Bubo thanks you for your time.