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The ‘Antikythera Mechanism’ June 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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A shoebox-sized metallic device retrieved from a 2,000-year-old shipwreck in 1900 that had baffled scientists for years has now been established as the world's oldest surviving astronomical computer.

A party of Greek sponge divers had found the ancient Roman-era wreck off the coast of Antikythera, a small island near Greece.

Routine examination of some of the salvaged items led to the discovery of a corroded bronze object dubbed the 'Antikythera Mechanism' which was slated to rewrite the history of Hellenic achievements in applied science.

Dated to about 80 BC, the device turned out to be a clockwork machine consisting of numerous dials with numbered scales and rotating slip rings along with a complex train of gears.

After partial restoration was carried out in the 1950s, the device was tentatively identified as a calendrical apparatus operated by a folding crank and utilising a differential turntable an innovation not encountered again until 16th century Europe.

Commenting on it later, American historian of science Derek J deSolla Price, of the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, USA, said that it was like finding a jet plane inside the tomb of King Tutankhamon.

The artefact which is kept in the Athens National Archaeological Museum, and is not allowed to be moved, was most recently studied by a multidisciplinary team of researchers who assembled a 3-D tomography scanner on site to read the inscriptions hidden inside.

After deciphering most of the text they found the device was indeed made to calculate the position of certain stars, the known planets, the Sun and Moon, and to predict astronomical phenomena.

According to Yannis Bitsakis of Athens University, the challenge now is to place this device into a scientific context, as it comes almost out of nowhere and flies in the face of established theory.

Because if the investigators are correct it would mean that at least some Greeks had already adopted the heliocentric view of the solar system as opposed to the prevailing Aristotelian doctrine which put Earth and humanity at the centre of the cosmos.

Previously it was believed that such a profound rethink did not happen until 1,400 years later when Copernicus and Galileo conclusively proved the heliocentric view. The Antikythera Mechanism could rewrite whole chapters in this area.


Atlanta museum to reunite Venus statue June 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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Atlanta museum to reunite Venus statue with its head

For the first time in possibly 170 years, a Roman marble statue of Venus will be reunited with its head as both are coming to the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, where conservators will piece them back together, the Associated Press reports.

The museum bought the charmingly prudish portrait of the goddess of love, whom the Greeks called Aphrodite and the Romans Venus, for $968,000 at a Sotheby's auction in New York on June 6. A private collector in Houston, Texas, agreed to sell to those who purchased the body at the auction the head as well, which was last documented attached to the body in 1836. The head sold for about $50,000.

The 4-foot-6-inch statue is a marble copy from the late 1st century A.D. of an earlier Greek bronze sculpture, which many scholars argue is the most widely reproduced female statue in antiquity.

One of the copies, on view at Rome's Capitoline Museums since the 18th century, counted Mark Twain among its admirers, and was one of a handful of artworks neoclassical artists looked up to for inspiration. Today, it's one of the most visited attractions there.

"Sculptures like the one on its way to Atlanta are very important because they were widely influential," said Cornelius Vermeule, former curator of classical art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

While there are thousands of similar images of Venus in all sorts of sizes and materials, very few statues are as large, almost life size, and nearly intact like this one, missing only the right arm.

"When you have one of the best and most complete examples of one of the finest statues in the ancient world, that's rather thrilling," said Jasper Gaunt, curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Carlos, who bought the statue with a donation from Thalia Carlos, widow of the museum's namesake. Michael Carlos, who died in 2002, made a fortune in the wine and spirits wholesale industry.

It portrays a Venus caught off guard as, having removed all her clothes to take a bath, she glimpses an unseen onlooker. She tries to cover herself with her hands, with a result that's more provocative than protective. A small figure of Eros rides a dolphin at her feet, a reference to the goddess' birth from the sea.

"She's a little coy about it, a delightful combination of alarm and delight," Gaunt said. "The great contribution of the Greeks is the nude. The ancients thought this was the pre-eminent type of female nude."

The statue dates from a time when Roman emperors were reviving all things Greek from literature to the arts. It probably stood next to a fountain or pool in the gardens of a wealthy villa somewhere in the Roman Empire, possibly in today's France, where the statue was first documented in the collection of Napoleon's art adviser in the 1830s, Gaunt said.

It'll be a few months before the statue is exhibited, since they still need to be shipped to the museum and then will need extensive cleaning and careful rejoining of the head and body.

The Venus is the second major acquisition this spring by the Carlos, following a sculpted Roman altar from Augustus' era.

Work hours dip in 2005 for Greeks June 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Living.
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The amount of hours spent at work still seems to be shrinking in the industrialised world, despite rising competition from developing countries, according to data published by the OECD on Tuesday.

The Greeks remain the champions of time spent working but the Czechs are starting to catch up, the data, contained in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s annual report on employment in its 30 member countries, suggests.

The report of nearly 300 pages, largely devoted to renewing OECD advice on labour market reforms, included an update on the average number of hours worked, showing that the total declined in 18 countries and rose in nine in 2005.

Data for some countries were still missing, and one or two showed little change, but the overall impression was that the long-term trend of decline continued in a large number of the OECD countries, almost all relatively industrialised nations.

The Norwegians overtook the Dutch last year as the workers that put in the least hours, with a total of 1,360 per employee on average, three hours less than the year before.

But the Dutch figures need to be treated with caution because of the country’s relatively large number of part-time workers and the OECD advised against reading too much into any data for an individual year or country.

Also prominent at the bottom end of the working-time league were Germany and France, where the average hours per employee dropped last year, to 1,435 and 1,535 respectively. Belgium and Denmark were also among those with shorter hours.

Slovaks appeared to have experienced a dramatic leap in work time, to 1,791 in 2005 versus 1,735 in 2004, a rise of 56 hours, which is more than a week’s labour by most standards in the industrial world.

The South Koreans, for whom a 2005 update was not available, would have stayed well ahead of everyone including the Greeks, having done nearly 2,400 hours on average in 2004.

In the United States, the average number or hours worked dipped by four in 2005, but remained in the higher end of the league table, at 1,804, which is equivalent to a month or two more than the German or French average.

A dance ode to love and beauty June 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Ballet Dance Opera.
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Production is inspired by C.P. Cavafy poem and the ancient Kerameikos cemetery in Athens

“I the Month of Athyr” choreographer Sofia Spyratou’s latest work, inspired by C. P. Cavafy’s poem of the same title, will be staged at the Roman Agora tomorrow by the Roes dance theater. The performance, an ode to love and beauty, is based on the funerary inscriptions and other depictions found in Athens’s ancient Kerameikos cemetery as well as other archaeological sites.

“In this poem, Cavafy takes a walk through an ancient cemetery and comes across the funerary monument of a young man, Leukios. I identified with his walk in my wanderings around the Kerameikos, where all the statues and the inscriptions reflect such beauty. The feeling is so strong it affects visitors even today. Everyone is depicted in moments of brightness: You have the mother touching her jewelry, the grandmother with her grandchild and the young warriors as victors. You can see life coming to you, it is as if courage and beauty beat death,” Spyratou said.

“We come across the same symbols in our traditional funerary songs. One can see a line of continuity which inextricably connects the great emotions.” All these elements have been incorporated into a show performed by nine dancers and seven actors. “The performance is structured like an ancient tragedy. It consists of choral lamentations, funerary processions, the recitation of inscriptions, translated into Modern Greek, and many dance scenes referring to the depictions on ancient vases and their movement,” said Spyratou.

The Contemporary Ensemble of the City of Athens’s Music Ensembles, under the baton of Lefteris Kalkanis, will interpret Alkinoos Ioannidis’s original score. The texts were edited by Christos Boulotis and the sets and costumes are by Constantinos Zamanis. Despina Stefanidou was the music coach and the lights are by Sakis Birbilis. Dancers Dimitris Ferras, Michalis Pappas, Gina Kalantzi, Evi Hadzaki and others are participating.

“It is moving to listen to Alkinoos’s music; it is his first composition for a dance theater performance,” said Spyratou. “A work based on funerary inscriptions brings to mind something sad. But art, especially when it is based on ancient lyric poetry, is not sad; on the contrary, it is uplifting. That is what we want to give to the audience. We want to awaken this beauty and love.”

Spyratou’s production takes place in collaboration with the City of Athens Cultural Organization. Tickets are available at Metropolis music stores and at the Theatro Technis box office, 5 Pesmazoglou Street, Athens.

After the Roman Agora, the performance will be staged at the Vrachon Theater in Vyronas on June 20, in Elefsina on July 5, at Meteora on July 15, in Iraklion in Crete on August 8 and at Petroupolis’s Petra Theater on September 14.