Showing posts with label archaeology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label archaeology. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Ruins: The Temple of Apollo at Corinth, and the Corinth Canal

By Jack Brummet, Travel Editor

click to enlarge

This is a photo from our first trip to Greece.  It is a distant view, at dusk, of the ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Corinth.  And one of the first (of many) ruins I would visit over the next 30 years.  As beautiful as this is, Corinth is also the site of the pretty amazing Canal of Corinth (see photo below), which was completed in 1893.  It is a pretty amazing thing to see--and think about what they had to do in the late 19th century to remove all that rock.

After 14 months without visiting any ruins or ancient sites, I am getting itchy feet...

click to enlarge

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Incredible Minoan Ruins at Knossos, Crete

4/5 of the family at Knossos. The other 20% were taking the photo. Click to enlarge.
We visited the impressive Knossos ruins, just outside Heraklion, Crete, about half an hour after landing on our turbo prop flight from Rhodes. This is my second visit here, and it’s still as impressive as I found in 1982.
The famous dolphin Fresco at Knossos. Circa about the 15th Century B.C. - click to enlarge
Although the controversial archaeologist Arthur Evans took some liberties in his reconstruction (but not his excavations), in some ways these are the most impressive ruins of all, and give you a better picture of what once existed there. Some other archeologists strongly disagree with his theories on Minoan culture and life at the palace. And, in particular, people object to his use of reinforced concrete (and other “non-native”) materials to bridge the gaps (of missing timbers, slabs, or tiles) and actually recreate entire rooms and series of rooms and chambers. They also object to his use of copies of frescoes, thrones, and friezes (that he took away and placed in places like the Heraklion Archaeological museum). On the other hand, unlike other British raiders, he left the booty right here in Greece, instead of hauling it back to the British Museum.

Jack's drawing of the famous Minotaur at Knossos - click to enlarge

Seeing even copies of the 4,000 year old frescoes in place is incredible, and puts the palace in great context, unlike the extensive ruins at, say Afrodesia or Ephesus. If you want to see the originals, you visit the Heraklion Museum…just like you don’t see Michaelangelo’s David outdoors, but a copy. It’s not that radical a concept…if you visit ruins and museums a lot, you well know that most Roman and Greek statuary is hidden away in museums, not exposed at their native site.
part of the reconctructed ruins at Knossos - click to enlarge

People do respect much of Evans’ theory and work, but a small group violently object. . .and it’s not hard to see their point either. Evans was brilliant, so sure I don’t begrudge him a few crackpot theories or taking certain liberties. In my booklet, it was all worth it.
another famous fresco at Knossos (or, rather, a copy--the originals are in the stellar museum at Heraklion). Click to enlarge.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Poem: Just beneath the topsoil

Collonaded ruins wait
Hidden beneath the topsoil
For the next generation

Of archaeologists and historians
To begin excavation anew.
Cream colored Ionic columns

Shattered friezes, and statues
Lie quietly in repose
As someone back at the University

Matches Part 1324A to 1324B
And come up with a cornerstone
To act as a plinth

For the first earthquake fractured column
And the reconstruction begins.
If time and grants allow,

They may later get to the fragementary
Fingertips, hands, noses, ears, and penises,
And reconstruct the statues for us.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Turkey in Ruins

By Keelin Curran
All This Is That History and Archeology Editor

Turkey is in ruins, and fully alive at the same time. I love ruins, and did not fully realize when we selected this destination for our trip exactly how much in heaven I would be here tramping around the churches, columns and caves.

A salvaged frieze from the Temple of Afrodesias

Aphrodite (aka Venus) herself, from the Afrodesia Musem of statuary, friezes, etc. Click to enlarge.

In college, one of my sidelines was Greek archeology. I even took a few semesters of Ancient Greek. On one of our earlier trips to Greece, I tracked down a just-discovered (1979) Minoan temple site destroyed by an earthquake in 18th century BC—Anemospilia—see based on the xeroxed information my professor at Hunter College (whose name I don’t recall, but who was an acolyte of renowned Greek archeologist Emily Vermeule) had handed out to the class.

The gate to the Temple of Aphrodite. Click to enlarge.

A close-up of the gates. Click to enlarge.

I travelled by bus, and tramped around the hills near Iraklion to find it. It was not much—just three rooms you could imagine based on the stone foundations, but they had done sacrifices there that brought the place to life—and death--as this passage describes:

Del Brummet ponders a statue of a philosopher in the excellent Afrodesias Museum. Click to enlarge.

“The west room is, in many ways, the most interesting. . . . [t]his room was used for blood sacrifices. Uniquely in Crete, three skeletons were found in the room. Two of these people, a man and a woman, had been killed by the earthquake and resulting fire. Another male skeleton was also found in the room. This body was found lying on an altar. A knife was resting on the skeleton. The feet had been tied and it has been argued that the young man had been sacrificed and the blood drained from his body. If so, it might well have been his blood in the vessel found in the antechamber next to the skeleton. It is most likely that the normal victims of sacrifice would have been bulls, but in the face of seismic activity which threatened the whole community, it may have been considered necessary to make a human sacrifice.”

Colum Brummet emerges from the gladiator's tunnel at the vast 30,000 seat stadium at Afrodessia. Click to enlarge.

This is about as dramatic as it gets
in the ruins world, but well illustrates the open-ended speculation (along with tolerance for sifting and digging) required to do this work.

The 30,000 seat stadium & gladaiatorial venue at Afrodesia.

Anyway, since that 1982 trip
to Anemospilia, I haven’t been able to indulge my ruins interest until the last few weeks. The family has been most accommodating in patiently going along on trips to see Agia Sofia in Istanbul, (not a ruin, an amazing, living space from 6th C BC but still a lasagna of one culture on top of another, as ruins often are), the cave dwellings and churches of Goreme, and more recently, the ruins riot that is Ephesus, and most dreamily, the ruins of Afrodisias.

I barely know where to start in talking about these experiences. Goreme and Cappadocia were the most mysterious and humbling. These cave refuges of troglodytes and early Christians were often built at great heights above the current ground level—or far below ground. How did they get up there? How did they tolerate long seasons underground? You have a sense about how scared these people must have been, much of the time, threatened by Hittites and Romans et al. The spaces are so small. They would have known everything about each other—a contrast from our life of screens and large dwellings. And the simple, repetitive and sometimes beautiful scenes of the life of Christ in these churches give one the sense of how much reinforcement is necessary to start a religion from the ground up.

Jack in the Bouletarian theatre that served as the ruling council's meeting place as well as a theatre and performance space.

Then, Ephesus and Afrodisias.
These two cities give a living sense of Roman life, in its beauty and brutality. The museum near Ephesus had a riveting exhibit on gladiator culture in ancient Rome, complete with an analysis of the wounds suffered by gladiators based on the skeletal evidence. This culture existed among the beautiful marble buildings and statues; blood and circuses and Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe. Yet you can not help but compare the artistry born of imperial ego, politics, wealth and will in these urban spaces with those we inhabit and find our world poverty-stricken in comparison.

At Afrodisias, up until the last few decades, the town of Gehre was built right on top of Afrodisias. Townspeople built there modest houses braced by the bottoms of roman columns, and crushed their grapes in roman baths. The Temple of Aphrodite, unreconstructed, was a field for their livestock. Seeing the pictures of Gehre (since moved a few kilometers, sadly, to allow the excavation) gives one the sense of how we are just the latest layer in this earth lasagna.

Okay, I will stop. Thanks to you All This Is That readers for indulging me in this Turkey travelogue. We have more ruins to go, so life is very, very good for that reason and all the others that make travel so great.