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Ithaca was Homeric land of Odysseus March 15, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Culture History Mythology.
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Study refutes Cephalonia theory > Greeks yesterday hailed a new study showing the modern-day island of Ithaca is the same as that of Homer’s legendary hero Odysseus, rejecting a recent British theory that pointed to a nearby island.

British researchers last year claimed they had solved an intriguing classical puzzle, saying the Kingdom of Ithaca was located on another Ionian island, further west. «This new study shows how wrong and inaccurate the British theory is» Ithaca councilor and former island Mayor Spyros Arsenis told Reuters of the study conducted by Greek geology professors and other scientists over eight months. Arsenis also heads the island’s Friends of Homer Society.

The British study, which suggested that Homer’s Ithaca was actually part of what is modern-day Cephalonia, had enraged islanders who are fiercely proud of their renowned ancestor, the wiliest of the ancient Greek writer’s epic heroes.

The British team suggested that drilling showed the Paliki peninsula on Cephalonia may have once been an island and that it better matched Homer’s description of the homeland which Odysseus left behind to fight in the Trojan War. «The new Greek study shows… the geological formations could not have been formed in just 3,000 years and there is no evidence of any sea channel» Arsenis said.

The study will be officially presented next week. The island’s local council also welcomed the results. «This study rules out once and for all the theory that the Paliki peninsula was once a separate island. It is a slap in the face for the British researchers» it said in a statement.

Finding ancient Ithaca could rival the discoveries in the 1870s of ancient Troy on Turkey’s Aegean coast and the mask of Agamemnon, who led the Greek forces against the Trojans. No one knows for certain whether Odysseus or his city really existed.

The discovery of the ruins of Troy, where Odysseus, Achilles, Paris, Menelaus and other Greek heroes did battle, has led scholars to believe there is more to Homer’s tales than just legend.


Tsunami readiness tests for coastlines March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Environment, Nature, Science.
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Greece should start holding tsunami readiness tests in the southern Aegean and southern Ionian, according to Greek and Italian scientists who are creating an early warning system for the Mediterranean.

The system, being developed under the auspices of UNESCO, should be in place by the end of the year and fully functional by 2011, according to Stefano Tinti of the University of Bologna.

Already three seismograph systems are in operation, said Gerasimos Papadopoulos of the Athens Geodynmaic Institute, adding that six sea-level gauges will be set up, two in Crete and four in the Ionian.

Particular care must be taken during the tourist season, the experts said. “Local authorities will be trained in readiness exercises,” Tinti said. “Evacuating the beaches of 10 Greek islands in summer cannot be taken lightly,” he added.

UPDATED > 15 March 2008 >>> Tsunami that devastated the ancient world could return

“The sea was driven back, and its waters flowed away to such an extent that the deep sea bed was laid bare and many kinds of sea creatures could be seen,” wrote Roman historian Ammianus Marcellus, awed at a tsunami that struck the then-thriving port of Alexandria in 365 AD.

“Huge masses of water flowed back when least expected, and now overwhelmed and killed many thousands of people… Some great ships were hurled by the fury of the waves onto the rooftops, and others were thrown up to two miles (three kilometres) from the shore.”

Ancient documents show the great waves of July 21, 365 AD claimed lives from Greece, Sicily and Alexandria in Egypt to modern-day Dubrovnik in the Adriatic.

Swamped by sea water, rich Nile delta farmland was abandoned and hilltop towns became ghost-like, inhabited only by hermits. The tsunami was generated by a massive quake that occurred under the western tip of the Greek island of Crete, experts believe. Until now, the main thinking has been that this quake, as in the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, occurred in a so-called subduction zone.

A subduction zone is where two of the Earth’s plates meet. One plate rides over another plate which is gliding downward at an angle into the planet’s mantle. Subduction zones usually have measurable creep, of say a few centimetres (inches) a year. But as the rock becomes brittle and deformed at greater depths, these zones can also deliver titanic quakes, displacing so much land that, when the slippage occurs on the ocean floor, a killer wave is generated.

The 365 AD quake occurred at a point on the 500-kilometre (300-mile) long Hellenic subduction zone, which snakes along the Mediterranean floor in a semi-circle from southwestern Turkey to western Greece.

Researchers in Britain have taken a fresh look at this event and have come up with some worrying news. University of Cambridge professor Beth Shaw carried out a computer simulation of the quake, based especially on fieldwork in Crete where the push forced up land by as much as 10 metres (32.5 feet).

They estimate the quake to have been 8.3-8.5 magnitude and that its land displacement, of 20 metres (65 feet) on average, puts it in the same category as the 9.3 temblor that occurred off Sumatra in 2004. They conclude the slippage occurred along 100 kilometres (about 60 miles) on a previously unidentified fault that lies close to the surface, just above the subduction zone.

The quake happened at a depth of around 45 kilometres (30 miles), around 30 kilometres (20 miles) closer to the surface than would have been likely if the slip had occurred on the subduction fault itself. After the 365 AD quake, the fault is likely to remain quiet for around 5,000 years.

But if the tectonic structure along the rest of the Hellenic subduction zone is similar, a tsunami-generating quake could strike the eastern Mediterranean in roughly 800 years, the scientists estimate. The last tsunami to hit the eastern Mediterranean occurred on August 8, 1303. According to research published in 2006, a quake off Crete of about 7.8 magnitude hit Alexandria 40 minutes later with a wave nine metres (29.25 feet) high.

“That there has been only one other such event… in the past 1,650 years should focus our attention on the modern-day tsunami hazard in the eastern Mediterranean,” the new study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, warns. “Repetition of such an event would have catastrophic consequences for today’s densely-populated Mediterranean coastal regions.”

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is setting up a tsunami alert system for the Mediterranean as part of a global network established after the 2004 Indian Ocean disaster.

Greek archaeologists discover ancient skull hat underwent brain surgery March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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Skull of patient from 3rd century found during dig in northern Greece

14-03-08_greek_brain.jpg  The patient, a young woman, is believed to have died during or shortly after the operation.

Archaeologists in northern Greece said yesterday that they had unearthed the skull of a young woman believed to have undergone head surgery nearly 1,800 years ago. The team of Greek scientists, who discovered the skeleton at an ancient cemetery in Veria, a town some 46 miles (75 kilometers) west of Thessaloníki, said the skull bore perforations that indicate emergency surgery had been performed.

Their examination of the skull concluded that it had belonged to a woman who had suffered a severe blow to the head and had died during or after the operation. Ancient writings contain frequent references to such operations but perforated skulls are rarely found in Greece, experts said.

“We think that there was a complex surgical intervention that only an experienced doctor could have performed,” said Ioannis Graikos, the head of the archaeological dig. “Medical treatment on the human body in the Roman Veria is part of a long tradition that began with Hippocrates up to Roman doctor Celsus and Galen,” he said, cited in the Ta Nea newspaper.

Hippocrates is believed to have lived in the fifth century BC, Celsus between 25 BC to 50 AD, and Galen from 131 to 201. The procedure believed to have been carried out was a trepanation, an ancient form of surgery to address head injuries or illnesses.

In 2003, Greek archaeologists discovered a man’s skull in a tomb on the Aegean island of Chios from the second century BC that had also undergone a trepanation. The patient was believed to have lived a number of years after the operation. Another trepanation was discovered in 2006 in Thrace on a young woman from the eighth century BC believed injured by a weapon.

Earlier on Monday, Greek archaeologists reported finding more than 1,000 graves, some filled with jewelery, coins and art while carrying out excavations in the metro line of Thessaloniki. Majority of the graves, which were 886 in number, were found just east of the center of Greece’s second largest city, at the site of a cemetery during Roman and Byzantine times.

Hundreds of ancient graves found in Thessaloniki, Greece March 11, 2008

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Excavations for Thessaloniki’s metro line have revealed more than 1,000 graves, some filled with jewellery, coins and art, the Archaeological Service in Greece said.

Greek workers discovered around 1,000 graves, some filled with ancient treasures, while excavating for a subway system in the historic city of Thessaloniki, the Greek State Archaeological Authority said Monday.

Some of the graves, which dated from the first century B.C. to the 5th century A.D., contained jewelry, coins and various pieces of art, according to the Authority’s statement.

Thessaloniki was founded around 315 B.C. and flourished during the Roman and Byzantine eras, from the 2nd century BC to the 15th century AD. Today is Greece’s second largest city, with a population around 1 million.

The great majority of the graves, 886, were just east of the city’s center in what was the eastern cemetery during Roman and Byzantine times. Those graves ranged from traces of wooden coffins left in simple holes in the ground, to marble enclosures in five-room family mausoleums. A separate group of 94 graves were found near the city’s train station, in what was once part of the city’s western cemetery.

More findings were expected as digging for the Thessaloniki metro continues. Digging started in 2006 and the first 13 stations are expected to be done by the end of 2012. A 10-station extension to the west and east has been announced.

Awaiting the Marbles’ return, and Melina March 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Museums, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
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Ever since her grandfather, Spyros Mercouris, the Mayor of the Greek capital, used to take her out for a walk and tell her “This is your Athens”, Amalia-Melina Mercouri knew that this was her home town.

The woman who had everything – beauty, dynamism, an unquenchable thirst for life, love and service – managed to fit it all in to her glittering life, which was not without its shadows during the years of the dictatorship. Exiled to New York at the time, where she was starring on Broadway in a production of “Never on Sunday” she was at the head of all the demonstrations for freedom and democracy in Greece. Recruited to serve her country again in the government of Andreas Papandreou in the 1980s, she was the first to demand the return of the Parthenon sculptures from the British Museum.

Fourteen years ago on March 6, Melina died in New York after an operation. Her beloved companion, the film director Jules Dassin who gave up his career for her, also gave his fortune after her death to found the Melina Mercouri Foundation for the purpose of building a new Acropolis Museum, now completed.

08-03-08_melina.jpg  “When the sculptures come back to Athens, so will I,” she promised.

In search of the ancient Minoans March 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Culture History Mythology, Hellenic Light Europe.
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Archaeologist Nikolaos E. Platon (1909-1992), a native of the island of Cephalonia, was an expert in Minoan civilization who undertook many excavations in Boeotia, Evia, Fthiotida, the Sporades and Crete.

It was he who discovered the fourth Minoan palace and surrounding settlement, bringing to light a large number of exhibits, many of which are now in the Archaeological Museum of Iraklion in Crete.

In a lecture at the Hellenic Center, London, his son Lefteris, professor of prehistoric archaeology at Athens University, said he hoped that some of these could be transferred to the Siteia Museum. Lefteris Platon’s lecture for the Greek Archaeological Committee of Britain was held on February 20.

He described the work carried out by his father and the exploration that continues to this day, which he himself leads. Professor Platon presented a large number of slides showing Linear A inscriptions, gold and other objects, clay pots decorated with marine themes and stone objects.

From the land of the Labyrinth to New York City March 7, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece, Hellenic Light Americas.
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Minoan Crete at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York City 

06-03-08_minoan.jpg  Bull’s Head Rhyton. A spectacular vessel dating to the Late Minoan IB period (ca 1450 BC), Iraklion Archaeological Museum. More than 300 artifacts reflecting the high level of creativity of the Minoan civilization will be exhibited at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York.

A full depiction of the glory of Minoan Crete is set to travel outside Greece for the first time. In collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and archaeological museums on the island, the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation is preparing to launch the “From the Land of the Labyrinth: Minoan Crete, 3000-1100 BC” exhibition at its New York-based affiliate, the Onassis Cultural Center. The exhibition, which will run March 13 to September 13, will reveal different aspects of the daily life of the so-called Minoan civilization, which derives its name from the legendary Cretan King Minos.

Onassis Foundation President Antonis Papadimitriou pointed out the importance of Minoan civilization, as Europe’s first fully developed culture, at yesterday’s press conference. “We decided to do something more edgy,” he explained, because lately the foundation’s New York exhibitions have dealt with more “mainstream” themes, such as the Athens-Sparta conflict and Alexander the Great.

“We should not forget that Crete had unfortified cities, something which we only encounter later in Europe after the 19th century,” said Papadimitriou. “At a time like today, when civilizations, religions and races get all the more intertwined, it is important to remember what it is that connects us.”

Minoan civilization is the name given to the culture that developed in Crete between 3000 and 1100 BC and which is divided into different periods (Prepalatial, Protopalatial, Neopalatial and Postpalatial). Favored by its privileged geographical position, Crete developed an extensive network of trade routes. The blossoming of trade in the first period and the ensuing wealth resulted in a well-structured palatial society, with the palaces becoming the centers of economic, religious and social life. Two types of scripts, a hieroglyphic script and Linear A, were used to facilitate economic activities.

Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, head of the 25th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and director of the Hania and Rethymnon archaeological museums as well as one of the exhibition curators, said the display covers all Minoan periods. It is divided into 11 thematic and chronological sections. Highlights include the “Religion and Ritual” section, which features sacred Minoan symbols (such as the Bull’s Head Rhyton), the murals section but also “Scripts and Weights” which includes Linear B tablets, clear proof of a Mycenaean presence in Crete in the final period. “Pots and Potters” features some skillfully made vases, while “Masterpieces in Stone” demonstrates a variety of stone artifacts. There are sections devoted to tools used in workshops, weaponry and cooking. Elaborate seals, jewelry and sarcophagi will also be on display.

An international day conference as well as lectures have been scheduled to take place in the context of the exhibition, which will be accompanied by a catalog and a DVD.

The Foundation has also launched a series of dramatized readings of ancient Greek texts. The first rhapsody of Homer’s “Iliad” was successfully performed at the steps of the Altar at Berlin’s Pergamon Museum recently. The next reading will re-enact ancient historian Thucydides’ famous “Melian Dialogue”, the debate between the Athenians and the residents of Melos which failed to deter the former from their hard stance. It will be held in Washington in the near future before traveling on to other US cities.

Onassis Cultural Center, Olympic Tower, 645 Fifth Avenue, New York City, USA.

Related Links > www.onassis.gr