Medieval image of face disfigured by leprosy : Wiki CommonsScientists reconstruct the genome of medieval strains of the pathogen responsible for leprosy by exhuming centuries-old human graves.
Why was there a sudden drop in the incidence of leprosy at the end of the Middle Ages? To answer this question, biologists and archeologists reconstructed the genomes of medieval strains of the pathogen responsible for the disease, which they exhumed from centuries old human graves. Their results, published in the journal Science, shed light on this obscure historical period and introduce new methods for understanding epidemics.
In Medieval Europe, leprosy was a common disease. The specter of the leper remains firmly entrenched in our collective memory: a person wrapped in homespun cloth, announcing his presence in the streets by ringing a bell. The image is not unfounded. In certain areas it is estimated that nearly one in 30 people were infected with the disease.
But at the turn of the 16th century, the disease abruptly receded over most of the continent. The event was both sudden and inexplicable. Perhaps the pathogen that causes leprosy had evolved into a less harmful form? To find out, an international team of biologists and archaeologists joined forces. They decoded the nearly complete genomes from five strains of Mycobacterium leprae, the bacterium responsible for leprosy, which they collected and reproduced by digging up the remains of humans buried in medieval graves.
Reconstructing the bacterial genomes was no easy task, as the material available—from old human bones—contained less than 0.1% of bacterial DNA. The researchers developed an extremely sensitive method for separating the two kinds of DNA and for reconstituting the target genomes with an unprecedented level of precision. “We were able to reconstruct the genome without using any contemporary strains as a basis,” explains study co-author and EPFL scientist Pushpendra Singh, who worked closely with Johannes Kraus and team from Tubingen University in Germany.Natural selection in action
The results are indisputable: the genomes of the medieval strains are almost exactly the same as that of contemporary strains, and the mode of spreading has not changed. “If the explanation of the drop in leprosy cases isn’t in the pathogen, then it must be in the host, that is, in us; so that’s where we need to look,” explains Stewart Cole, co-director of the study and the head of EFFL’s Global Health Institute.
Many clues indicate that humans developed resistance to the disease. All the conditions were ripe for an intense process of natural selection: a very high prevalence of leprosy and the social isolation of diseased individuals. “In certain conditions, victims could simply be pressured not to procreate,” Cole says. “In addition, other studies have identified genetic causes that made most Europeans more resistant than the rest of the world population, which also lends credence to this hypothesis.”Tracing the path of pathogens from Scandinavia to the Middle East
One interesting thing the researchers discovered was a medieval strain of Mycobacterium leprae in Sweden and the U.K. that is almost identical to the strain currently found in the Middle East. “We didn’t have the data to determine the direction in which the epidemic spread. The pathogen could have been carried to Palestine during the Crusades. But the process could have operated in the opposite direction, as well.”
In addition to the historical significance of the research, the study in Science is important in that it improves our understanding of epidemics, as well as how the leprosy pathogen operates. Sequencing methods designed as part of this research are among the most precise ever developed, and could enable us to track down many other pathogens that are lurking in foreign DNA. In addition, the incredible resistance of Mycobacterium leprae‘s genetic material – probably due to its thick cell walls – opens up the possibility of going even further back in history to uncover the origins of this disease that still affects more than 200,000 people worldwide each year.Contributing Source : Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne HeritageDaily : Archaeology Press Releases
Roman Temples Project on site at MaryportA team of archaeologists and volunteers led by Newcastle University’s Professor Ian Haynes with site director Tony Wilmott has started work in Maryport until 22 July.
This is the third year they have excavated at this important Roman site, commissioned by the Senhouse Museum Trust with in kind support from Newcastle University and the permission of the landowners the Hadrian’s Wall Trust.
The Temples project is the start of a new phase in the five year programme designed to learn more about the internationally famous altars which form the core of the Senhouse Roman Museum display.
Professor Ian Haynes said: “The last two years’ excavations focused on the area in which the altars were discovered in 1870.
“This year sees some further work at the 1870 site and the start of a three year project focusing on the place where, in 1880, local bank manager and amateur archaeologist Joseph Robinson uncovered further altars and two possible temples.
“Photographs and other documents from the 1880s indicate that the antiquarian investigation only unearthed part of the site and it is clear that much remains to be discovered.
“The excavations have yielded some remarkable and surprising results over the last two years, and it’s exciting to be back this season.”
Rachel Newman of the Senhouse Museum Trust said: “We’re delighted to have Ian and Tony’s team back on site. As in previous years any finds from the excavation will be included in the museum’s collections, donated by the Hadrian’s Wall Trust as landowners, and will join finds discovered previously by Joseph Robinson.
“The team of archaeologists and students from Newcastle University is being supported by 28 local volunteers. Two archaeology students from Germany are also joining the dig this year, as part of an initiative to twin the Senhouse Roman Museum with a similar museum on the Roman frontier in Bavaria.”
Nigel Mills, director of world heritage and access for the Hadrian’s Wall Trust said: “This is a fantastic site, yielding very interesting information indeed.
“The excavations are an important step towards the establishment of a long-term programme of archaeological research at Maryport, which is a key element in the development of the proposed Roman Maryport heritage and visitor attraction being taken forward in partnership by the Hadrian’s Wall Trust and the Senhouse Museum Trust.
“There is a lot more to be discovered about life on the Roman frontier and Maryport will be a major part of that.”
The Roman fort and nearby civilian settlement at Maryport were a significant element of the coastal defences lining the north western boundary of the Roman Empire for more than 300 years. They are part of the transnational Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.
Geophysical surveys of the Maryport site commissioned by the Senhouse Museum Trust show that it was extremely complex and of considerable size, and that it is well preserved.
The 23 Roman altars dedicated to Jupiter and other Roman gods by the commanders of the Maryport fort provide information of international importance for the study of the Roman army and its religious practices. In some cases their career histories can be established from the inscriptions on the altars, tracing their movements across the Roman Empire as they moved from posting to posting.
In 2012 partial plans of buildings on the site were recovered showing at least two phases of construction and the first complete altar stone was unearthed at the site since 1870. The altar has the fifth inscription recovered from the Roman Empire to record T Attius Tutor, commander of the Maryport garrison, and a man known to have served at other times in Austria, Hungary and Romania.
A late Roman/early Medieval cemetery was also discovered. Finds from the graves were few but included a glass bead necklace, bracelet and loose beads, now on display in the museum, and a tiny fragment of ancient textile. Radiocarbon dating of the textile shows that the wool from which it was woven was most probably sheared sometime between AD 240 and AD 340.Contributing Source : The Hadrian’s Wall Integration Project HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
We believe this irreplaceable monument may be under threat from acid rain and local pollution. After researching the Embankment obelisk specialist cleaners, Antique Bronze Ltd., revealed a gradual but dangerous erosion of the needle. Acidic deposits from rain and pollution are penetrating the surface of this ancient monument, causing erosion of the millennia-old hieroglyphs on its face.About us
We are a collective of professional Egyptologists and film-makers who are concerned about the tragic state of the many ancient Egyptian obelisks and monuments around the world, many of which have no conservation or preservation-specific strategies in place.A non-profit documentary
We are in the process of making a film which investigates this threat, investigating the monument’s history, historical, and physical properties, but we cannot do this important task alone, and we’d like to invite you to become a part of the monument’s story!Your donation and our pledge
We need seven and a half thousand pounds to make this happen, but obviously we’re not expecting you to give us that for nothing!
We have a great selection of rewards lined up for those of you who can give money. Things like commemorative t-shirts, personal tours of the needle and the British Museum, and even days on set for the aspiring filmmakers out there.
We will also be organising a special premier where you can rub shoulders with some very eminent characters from the archaeological world.
Our crowdfunding campaign is only a month long, and it’s live right now! Any amount helps, and from as little as five pounds you start seeing rewards. All the money is going towards the cause, and you only need a paypal account to donate, it only takes a few seconds.
You can visit our website to keep up to date on the campaign and we will be adding a host of promotional materials you can download as things progress.Take a stand for eternity…
This is a very important conservation issue, and one we need to tackle now. It would be a disgrace to allow this beautiful piece of the world’s history to fall into ruin. This grand old lady should be enjoyed for another three and a half thousand years at least!
Please help us tell the obelisk’s story. You will be doing future generations a great service. Thank you.See more : http://www.sponsume.com/project/eye-needle
The shores of the Sea of Galilee, located in the North of Israel, are home to a number of significant archaeological sites. Now researchers from Tel Aviv University have found an ancient structure deep beneath the waves as well.
Researchers stumbled upon a cone-shaped monument, approximately 230 feet in diameter, 39 feet high, and weighing an estimated 60,000 tons, while conducting a geophysical survey on the southern Sea of Galilee, reports Prof. Shmulik Marco of TAU’s Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences. The team also included TAU Profs. Zvi Ben-Avraham and Moshe Reshef, and TAU alumni Dr. Gideon Tibor of the Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute.
Initial findings indicate that the structure was built on dry land approximately 6,000 years ago, and later submerged under the water. Prof. Marco calls it an impressive feat, noting that the stones, which comprise the structure, were probably brought from more than a mile away and arranged according to a specific construction plan.
Dr. Yitzhak Paz of the Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University says that the site, which was recently detailed in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, resembles early burial sites in Europe and was likely built in the early Bronze Age. He believes that there may be a connection to the nearby ancient city of Beit Yerah, the largest and most fortified city in the area.Ancient structure revealed by sonar
The team of researchers initially set out to uncover the origins of alluvium pebbles found in this area of the Sea of Galilee, which they believe were deposited by the ancient Yavniel Creek, a precursor to the Jordan River south of the Sea of Galilee. While using sonar technology to survey the bottom of the lake, they observed a massive pile of stones in the midst of the otherwise smooth basin.
Curious about the unusual blip on their sonar, Prof. Marco went diving to learn more. A closer look revealed that the pile was not a random accumulation of stones, but a purposefully-built structure composed of three-foot-long volcanic stones called basalt. Because the closest deposit of the stone is more than a mile away, he believes that they were brought to the site specifically for this structure.
To estimate the age of the structure, researchers turned to the accumulation of sand around its base. Due to a natural build-up of sand throughout the years, the base is now six to ten feet below the bottom of the Sea of Galilee. Taking into account the height of the sand and the rate of accumulation, researchers deduced that the monument is several thousand years old.Looking deeper
Next, the researchers plan to organize a specialized underwater excavations team to learn more about the origins of the structure, including an investigation of the surface the structure was built on. A hunt for artefacts will help to more accurately date the monument and give clues as to its purpose and builders. And while it is sure to interest archaeologists, Prof. Marco says that the findings could also illuminate the geological history of the region.
“The base of the structure — which was once on dry land — is lower than any water level that we know of in the ancient Sea of Galilee. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that water levels have been steadily rising,” he says. Because the Sea of Galilee is a tectonically active region, the bottom of the lake, and therefore the structure, may have shifted over time. Further investigation is planned to increase the understanding of past tectonic movements, the accumulation of sediment, and the changing water levels throughout history.Contributing Source : American Friends of Tel Aviv University HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Illustration of what the eruption might have looked like from approximately 26 miles (42 km) above. Wiki CommonsWHEN did modern humans settle in Asia and what route did they take from mankind’s African homeland? A University of Huddersfield professor has helped to provide answers to both questions. But he has also had to settle a controversy.
Professor Martin Richards, who heads the University’s Archaeogenetics Research Group, co-authors a new article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. It refutes a recent theory, that there is archaeological evidence for the presence of modern humans in southern Asia before the super-eruption of the Mount Toba volcano in Sumatra.
One of the most catastrophic events since humans evolved, it happened approximately 74,000 years ago. In 2005, Professor Richards led research published in an article in the journal Science which used mitochondrial DNA evidence to show that anatomically modern humans dispersed from their Africa homeland via a “southern coastal route” from the Horn and through Arabia, about 60,000 years ago – after the Toba eruption.
However, a team of archaeologists excavating in India then claimed to have found evidence that modern humans were there before the eruption – possibly as early as 120,000 years ago, much earlier than Europe or the Near East were colonised. These findings, based on the discovery of stone tools below a layer of Toba ash, were published in Science in 2007.
Now Professor Richards – working principally with the archaeologist Professor Sir Paul Mellars, of the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, with a team including Huddersfield University’s Dr Martin Carr and colleagues from York and Porto – has published his rebuttal of this theory. In doing so, they have been able to draw on a much greater body of DNA evidence that was available for the earlier article.
“One of the things we didn’t have in 2005 was very much evidence from India in the way of mitochondrial sequences. Now, with a lot of people doing sequencing and depositing material in databases there are about 1,000 sequences from India,” said Professor Richards.
By using the mitochondrial DNA of today’s populations and working backwards, and by drawing on a wide variety of other evidence and research, the team was able to make much more precise estimates for the arrival of modern humans in India.
The evidence suggests dispersal from Africa and settlement in India no earlier than 60,000 years ago.
“We also argue that close archaeological similarities between African and Indian stone-tool technologies after 70,000 years ago, as well as features such as beads and engravings, suggest that the slightly later Indian material had an African source,” states Professor Richards.
“There were people in India before the Toba eruption, because there are stone tools there, but they could have been Neanderthals – or some other pre-modern population,” he adds.
“The replacement of the presumably archaic humans living previously in South Asia by modern people with these new technologies appears analogous to the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans in Europe and western Asia 50-40,000 years ago.”Contributing Source : University of Huddersfield HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Micrograph showing fibrous dysplasia with the characteristic thin, irregular (Chinese character-like) bony trabeculae and fibrotic : Wiki CommonsCroatian rib of a Neandertal reveals ancient example of now-common bone tumor
The first case of a bone tumor of the ribs in a Neanderthal specimen reveals that at least one Neanderthal suffered a cancer that is common in modern-day humans, according to research published June 5 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by David Frayer from the University of Kansas and colleagues from other institutions.
This discovery of a fibrous dysplasia predates previous evidence of this tumor by well over 100,000 years. Prior to this research, the earliest known bone cancers occurred in samples approximately 1000-4000 years old.
The cancerous rib, recovered from Krapina in present-day Croatia is an incomplete specimen, and thus the researchers were unable to comment on the overall health effects the tumor may have had on this individual. Fibrous dysplasia in modern-day humans occurs more frequently than other bone tumors, but Frayer says that, “Evidence for cancer is extremely rare in the human fossil record. This case shows that Neandertals, living in an unpolluted environment, were susceptible to the same kind of cancer as living humans.”
Neanderthals had average life spans that were likely to be half those of modern humans in developed countries, and were exposed to different environmental factors. The study concludes, “Given these factors, cases of neoplastic disease are rare in prehistoric human populations. Against this background, the identification of a more than 120,000-year-old Neandertal rib with a bone tumor is surprising, and provides insights into the nature and history of the association of humans to neoplastic disease.”Contributing Source : Public Library of Science HeritageDaily : Palaeontology News : Palaeontology Press Releases
Paranthropus-boisei-Nairobi : Wiki CommonsGrasses and sedges a key menu item in hominid survival, evolution
A new look at the diets of ancient African hominids shows a “game changer” occurred about 3.5 million years ago when some members added grasses or sedges to their menus, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.
High-tech tests on tooth enamel by researchers indicate that prior to about 4 million years ago, Africa’s hominids were eating essentially chimpanzee style, likely dining on fruits and some leaves, said CU-Boulder anthropology Professor Matt Sponheimer, lead study author. Despite the fact that grasses and sedges were readily available back then, the hominids seem to have ignored them for an extended period, he said.
“We don’t know exactly what happened,” said Sponheimer. “But we do know that after about 3.5 million years ago, some of these hominids started to eat things that they did not eat before, and it is quite possible that these changes in diet were an important step in becoming human.”
A paper on the subject was published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of June 3, along with three related papers. Prior to the new PNAS studies, researchers had analyzed teeth from 87 ancient hominid specimens. The new PNAS papers provide detailed information on the teeth of 88 additional specimens, including five previously unanalyzed hominid species, doubling the dataset, he said.
Sponheimer specializes in stable isotope analysis, comparing particular forms of the same chemical element, like carbon, that are present in hominid fossil teeth. The stable carbon isotopes obtained from ancient hominids helps researchers determine what types of plants they were eating, he said.
Carbon signals from hominid teeth are derived from two distinct plant photosynthetic pathways, said Sponheimer: The C3 signals are from plants like trees and bushes, while the C4 signals are from plants like grasses and sedges. The researchers also looked at the microscopic wear of hominid teeth, which provides scientists with more information on the foods they were eating, he said.
While the hominids from the genus Homo that evolved from australopithecines like the 3 million-year-old fossil Lucy — considered by many the matriarch of modern humans — were broadening their food choices, a short, upright hominid known as Paranthropus boisei that lived side by side with them in eastern Africa was diverging toward a more specific, C4 diet. Scientists initially had dubbed P. boisei ”Nutcracker Man” because of its large, flat teeth and powerful jaws, but recent analyses indicate it might have instead used its back teeth to grind grasses and sedges, Sponheimer said.
“We now have the first direct evidence that as the cheek teeth on hominids got bigger, their consumption of plants like grasses and sedges increased,” he said. “We also see niche differentiation between Homo and Paranthropus– it looks probable that Paranthropus boisei had a relatively restricted diet, while members of the genus Homo were eating a wider variety of things. “The genus Paranthropus went extinct about 1 million years ago, while the genus Homo that includes us obviously did not.”
There are some differences in the evolution of hominids in eastern Africa versus southern Africa that still puzzle researchers, said Sponheimer.Paranthropus robustus in southern Africa, for example, was very similar anatomically to its cousin, P. boisei in eastern Africa. But according to the new study, the two had very different carbon isotopic compositions in their teeth and, presumably, diets – P. robustus seems to have been consuming a substantial amount of C3 vegetation to go along with the C4 grasses or sedges it was eating.
“This has probably been one of the biggest surprises to us so far,” said Sponheimer. “We had generally assumed that the Paranthropus species were just variants on the same ecological theme, and that their diets would probably not differ more than those of two closely related monkeys in the same forest.
“But we found that their diets differed as much isotopically as those of forest chimpanzees and savanna baboons, which could indicate their diets were about as different as primate diets can be,” he said. “Ancient fossils don’t always reveal what we think they will. The upside of this disconnect is that it can teach us a great deal, including the need for caution in making pronouncements about the diets of long-dead critters.”
Anthropologists are still pondering what the new data mean in terms of hominid evolution, climate change and changes in the environment, he said. Scientists are particularly interested in the landscapes back then, and whether different geography and/or ecosystems might have impeded or encouraged the dispersal of hominids.
“Isotopes are a great tool for tracking the origin of carbon, but they don’t tell the whole story,” said Sponheimer. “We would still like to know what specific foods were consumed by the various hominids living several million years ago — including their mechanical and nutritional properties — and how such foods might have influenced hominid anatomy over time.
“What we have done to this point is pick the low-hanging fruit, and we’ve been most successful in determining what various hominids did not eat,” said Sponheimer. “But from here on out, we can’t expect any easy answers.”Contributing Source : University of Colorado at Boulder HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Image Source : Wiki Commons9,000-year-old ancient Near Eastern ‘wine culture,’ traveling land and sea, reaches southern coastal France, via ancient Etruscans of Italy, in 6th-5th century BCE
France is renowned the world over as a leader in the crafts of viticulture and winemaking—but the beginnings of French viniculture have been largely unknown, until now.
Imported ancient Etruscan amphoras and a limestone press platform, discovered at the ancient port site of Lattara in southern France, have provided the earliest known biomolecular archaeological evidence of grape wine and winemaking—and point to the beginnings of a Celtic or Gallic vinicultural industry in France circa 500-400 BCE. Details of the discovery are published as
“The Beginning of Viniculture in France” in the June 3, 2013 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Dr. Patrick McGovern, Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and author of Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton University Press, 2006) is the lead author on the paper, which was researched and written in collaboration with colleagues from France and the United States.
For Dr. McGovern, much of whose career has been spent examining the archaeological data, developing the chemical analyses, and following the trail of the Eurasian grapevine (Vitis vinifera) in the wild and its domestication by humans, this confirmation of the earliest evidence of viniculture in France is a key step in understanding the ongoing development of what he calls the “wine culture” of the world—one that began in the Turkey’s Taurus Mountains, the Caucasus Mountains, and/or the Zagros Mountains of Iran about 9,000 years ago.
“France’s rise to world prominence in the wine culture has been well documented, especially since the 12th century, when the Cistercian monks determined by trial-and-error that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were the best cultivars to grow in Burgundy,” Dr. McGovern noted. “What we haven’t had is clear chemical evidence, combined with botanical and archaeological data, showing how wine was introduced into France and initiated a native industry.
“Now we know that the ancient Etruscans lured the Gauls into the Mediterranean wine culture by importing wine into southern France. This built up a demand that could only be met by establishing a native industry, likely done by transplanting the domesticated vine from Italy, and enlisting the requisite winemaking expertise from the Etruscans.”Combined Archaeological, Chemical, and Archaeobotanical Evidence Corroborate Discovery
At the site of Lattara, merchant quarters inside a walled settlement, circa 525-475 BCE, held numerous Etruscan amphoras, three of which were selected for analysis because they were whole, unwashed, found in an undisturbed, sealed context, and showed signs of residue on their interior bases where precipitates of liquids, such as wine, collect. Judging by their shape and other features, they could be assigned to a specific Etruscan amphora type, likely manufactured at the city of Cisra (modern Cerveteri) in central Italy during the same time period.
After sample extraction, ancient organic compounds were identified by a combination of state-of-the-art chemical techniques, including infrared spectrometry, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, solid phase microextraction, ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, and one of the most sensitive techniques now available, used here for the first time to analyze ancient wine and grape samples, liquid chromatography-Orbitrap mass spectrometry.
All the samples were positive for tartaric acid/tartrate (the biomarker or fingerprint compound for the Eurasian grape and wine in the Middle East and Mediterranean), as well as compounds deriving from pine tree resin. Herbal additives to the wine were also identified, including rosemary, basil and/or thyme, which are native to central Italy where the wine was likely made. (Alcoholic beverages, in which resinous and herbal compounds are more easily put into solution, were the principle medications of antiquity.)
Nearby, an ancient pressing platform, made of limestone and dated circa 425 BCE, was discovered. Its function had previously been uncertain. Tartaric acid/tartrate was detected in the limestone, demonstrating that the installation was indeed a winepress. Masses of several thousand domesticated grape seeds, pedicels, and even skin, excavated from an earlier context near the press, further attest to its use for crushing transplanted, domesticated grapes and local wine production. Olives were extremely rare in the archaeobotanical corpus at Lattara until Roman times. This is the first clear evidence of winemaking on French soil.The Broader Picture
For nearly two decades, Dr. McGovern has been following the story of the origin and expansion of a worldwide “wine culture”—one that has its earliest known roots in the ancient Near East, circa 7000-6000 BCE, with chemical evidence for the earliest wine at the site of Hajji Firiz in what is now northern Iran, circa 5400-5000 BCE. Special pottery types for making, storing, serving and drinking wine were all early indicators of a nascent “wine culture.”
Viniculture—viticulture and winemaking—gradually expanded throughout the Near East. From the beginning, promiscuous domesticated grapevines crossed with wild vines, producing new cultivars. Dr. McGovern observes a common pattern for the spreading of the new wine culture: “First entice the rulers, who could afford to import and ostentatiously consume wine. Next, foreign specialists are commissioned to transplant vines and establish local industries,” he noted. “Over time, wine spreads to the larger population, and is integrated into social and religious life.”
Wine was first imported into Egypt from the Levant by the earliest rulers there, forerunners of the pharaohs, in Dynasty 0 (circa 3150 BCE). By 3000 BCE the Nile Delta was being planted with vines by Canaanite viniculturalists. As the earliest merchant seafarers, the Canaanites were also able to take the wine culture out across the Mediterranean Sea. Biomolecular archaeological evidence attests to a locally produced, resinated wine on the island of Crete by 2200 BCE.
“As the larger Greek world was drawn into the wine culture, ” McGovern noted, “the stage was set for commercial maritime enterprises in the western Mediterranean. Greeks and the Phoenicians—the Levantine successors to the Canaanites—vied for influence by establishing colonies on islands and along the coasts of North Africa, Italy, France, and Spain. The wine culture continued to take root in foreign soil—and the story continues today.”
Where wine went, so other cultural elements eventually followed—including technologies of all kinds and social and religious customs—even where another fermented beverage made from different natural products had long held sway. In the case of Celtic Europe, grape wine displaced a hybrid drink of honey, wheat/barley, and native wild fruits (e.g., lingonberry and apple) and herbs (such as bog myrtle, yarrow, and heather).Contributing Source : University of Pennsylvania HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
A set of new studies from the University of Utah and elsewhere found that human ancestors and relatives started eating an increasingly grassy diet 3.5 million years ago. TPhotos by Mike Hettwer, except Homo sapiens by Yang Deming.Tooth enamel shows surprising change in our ancient buffet
Most apes eat leaves and fruits from trees and shrubs. New studies spearheaded by the University of Utah show that human ancestors expanded their menu 3.5 million years ago, adding tropical grasses and sedges to an ape-like diet and setting the stage for our modern diet of grains, grasses, and meat and dairy from grazing animals.
In four new studies of carbon isotopes in fossilized tooth enamel from scores of human ancestors and baboons in Africa from 4 million to 10,000 years ago, a team of two dozen researchers found a surprise increase in the consumption of grasses and sedges – plants that resemble grasses and rushes but have stems and triangular cross sections.
“At last, we have a look at 4 million years of the dietary evolution of humans and their ancestors,” says University of Utah geochemist Thure Cerling, principal author of two of the four new studies published online June 3 by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Most funding was from the National Science Foundation.
“For a long time, primates stuck by the old restaurants – leaves and fruits – and by 3.5 million years ago, they started exploring new diet possibilities – tropical grasses and sedges – that grazing animals discovered a long time before, about 10 million years ago” when African savanna began expanding, Cerling says. “Tropical grasses provided a new set of restaurants. We see an increasing reliance on this new resource by human ancestors that most primates still don’t use today.”
Grassy savannas and grassy woodlands in East Africa were widespread by 6 million to 7 million years ago. It is a major question why human ancestors didn’t seriously start exploiting savanna grasses until less than 4 million years ago.
The isotope method cannot distinguish what parts of grasses and sedges human ancestors ate – leaves, stems, seeds and-or underground storage organs such as roots or rhizomes. The method also can’t determine when human ancestors began getting much of their grass by eating grass-eating insects or meat from grazing animals. Direct evidence of human ancestors scavenging meat doesn’t appear until 2.5 million years ago, and definitive evidence of hunting dates to only about 500,000 years ago.
With the new findings, “we know much better what they were eating, but mystery does remain,” says Cerling, a distinguished professor of geology and geophysics, and biology. “We don’t know exactly what they ate. We don’t know if they were pure herbivores or carnivores, if they were eating fish [which leave a tooth signal that looks like grass-eating], if they were eating insects or if they were eating mixes of all of these.”Why Our Ancestor’s Diets Matter
The earliest human ancestor to consume substantial amounts of grassy foods from dry, more open savannas “may signal a major and ecological and adaptive divergence from the last common ancestor we shared with African great apes, which occupy closed, wooded habitats,” writes University of South Florida geologist Jonathan Wynn, chief author of one of the new studies and a former University of Utah master’s student.
“Diet has long been implicated as a driving force in human evolution,” says Matt Sponheimer, a University of Colorado, Boulder anthropologist, former University of Utah postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the fourth study.
He notes that changes in diet have been linked to both larger brain size and the advent of upright walking in human ancestors roughly 4 million years ago. Human brains were larger than those of other primates by the time our genus, Homo, evolved 2 million years ago. (Our species, Homo sapiens, arose 200,000 years ago.)
“If diet has anything to do with the evolution of larger brain size and intelligence, then we are considering a diet that is very different than we were thinking about 15 years ago,” when it was believed human ancestors ate mostly leaves and fruits, Cerling says.How the Studies Were Performed: You Are What You Eat
The new studies analyze carbon isotope results from 173 teeth from 11 species of hominins. Hominins are humans, their ancestors and extinct relatives that split from the other apes roughly 6 million years ago. Some of the analyses were done in previous research, but the new studies include new carbon-isotope results for 104 teeth from 91 individuals of eight hominin species. Those teeth are in African museums and were studied by two groups working at separate early human sites in East Africa.
Wynn wrote the study about teeth from Ethiopia’s Awash Basin-Hadar area, where research is led by Arizona State University’s William Kimbel. Cerling wrote the study about teeth from the Turkana Basin in Kenya, where the research team is led by Turkana Basin Institute paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey, Cerling and geologist Frank Brown, dean of mines and Earth sciences at the University of Utah. Cerling also wrote a study about baboon diets. Sponheimer wrote a fourth study, summarizing the other three.
The method of determining ancient creatures’ diets from carbon isotope data is less than 20 years old and is based on the idea “you are what you eat,” Sponheimer says.
Tiny amounts of tooth enamel were drilled from already broken fossil teeth of museum specimens of human ancestors and relatives. The powder was placed in a mass spectrometer to learn ratios of carbon isotopes incorporated into tooth enamel via diet.
The ratios of rare carbon-13 to common carbon-12 reveal whether an animal ate plants that used so-called C3, C4 or CAM photosynthesis to convert sunlight to energy. Animals eating C4 and CAM plants have enriched amounts of carbon-13.
C3 plants include trees, bushes and shrubs, and their leaves and fruits; most vegetables; cool-season grasses and grains such as timothy, alfalfa, wheat, oats, barley and rice; soybeans; non-grassy herbs and forbs.
C4 plants are warm-season or tropical grasses and sedges and their seeds, leaves or storage organs like roots and tubers. Well-known sedges include water chestnut, papyrus and sawgrass. C4 plants are common in African savannas and deserts. C4 grasses include Bermuda grass and sorghum. C4 grains include corn and millet.CAM plants include tropical succulent plants such as cactus, salt bush and agave.
Today, North Americans eat about half C3 plants, including vegetables, fruits and grains such as wheat, oats, rye and barley, and about half C4, which largely comes from corn, sorghum and meat animals fed on C4 grasses and grains, Cerling says.
The highest human C3 diets today are found in northern Europe, where only C3 cool-season grasses grow, so meat animals there graze them, not C4 tropical grasses. The highest C4 diets likely are in Central America because of the heavily corn-based diet.
If early humans ate grass-eating insects or large grazing animals like zebras, wildebeest and buffalo, it also would appear they ate C4 grasses. If they ate fish that ate algae, it would give a false appearance of grass-eating because of the way algae takes up carbonate from water, Cerling says. If they ate small antelope and rhinos that browsed on C3 leaves, it would appear they ate C3 trees-shrubs. Small mammals such as hyrax, rabbits and rodents would have added C3 and C4 signals to the teeth of human ancestors.The Findings: A Dietary History of Human Ancestors and Relatives
- Previous research showed that 4.4 million years ago in Ethiopia, early human relative Ardipithecus ramidus (“Ardi”) ate mostly C3 leaves and fruits.
- About 4.2 million to 4 million years ago on the Kenyan side of the Turkana Basin, one of Cerling’s new studies shows that human ancestor Australopithecus anamensis ate at least 90 percent leaves and fruits – the same diet as modern chimps.
- By 3.4 million years ago in northeast Ethiopia’s Awash Basin, according to Wynn’s study, Australopithecus afarensis was eating significant amounts of C4 grasses and sedges: 22 percent on average, but with a wide range among individuals of anywhere from 0 percent to 69 percent grasses and sedges. The species also ate some succulent plants. Wynn says that switch “documents a transformational stage in our ecological history.” Many scientists previously believed A. afarensis had an ape-like C3 diet. It remains a mystery why A. afarensis expanded its menu to C4 grasses when its likely ancestor, A. anamensis, did not, although both inhabited savanna habitats, Wynn writes.
- Also by 3.4 million years ago in Turkana, human relative Kenyanthropus platyops had switched to a highly varied diet of both C3 trees and shrubs and C4 grasses and sedges. The average was 40 percent grasses and sedges, but individuals varied widely, eating anywhere from 5 percent to 65 percent, Cerling says.
- About 2.7 million to 2.1 million years ago in southern Africa, hominins Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus ate tree and shrub foods, but also ate grasses and sedges and perhaps grazing animals. A. africanus averaged 50 percent C4 grass-sedge-based foods, but individuals ranged from none to 80 percent. P. robustus averaged 30 percent grasses-sedges, but ranged from 20 percent to 50 percent.
- By 2 million to 1.7 million years ago in Turkana, early humans, Homo, ate a 35 percent grass-and-sedge diet – some possibly from meat of grazing animals – while another hominin, Paranthropus boisei, was eating 75 percent grass – more than any hominin, according to a 2011 study by Cerling. Paranthropus likely was vegetarian. Homo had a mixed diet that likely included meat or insects that had eaten grasses. Wynn says a drier climate may have made Homo and Paranthropus more reliant on C4 grasses.
- By 1.4 million years ago in Turkana, Homo had increased the proportion of grass-based food to 55 percent.
- Some 10,000 years ago in Turkana, Homo sapiens‘ teeth reveal a diet split 50-50 between C3 trees and shrubs and C4 plants and likely meat – almost identical to the ratio in modern North Americans, Cerling says.
Cerling’s second new study shows that while human ancestors ate more grasses and other apes stuck with trees and shrubs, two extinct Kenyan baboons represent the only primate genus that ate primarily grasses and perhaps sedges throughout its history.
Theropithecus brumpti ate a 65 percent tropical grass-and-sedge diet when the baboons lived between 4 million and 2.5 million years ago, contradicting previous claims that they ate forest foods. Later, Theropithecus oswaldi ate a 75 percent grass diet by 2 million years ago and a 100 percent grass diet by 1 million years ago. Both species went extinct, perhaps due to competition from hooved grazing animals. Modern Theropithecus gelada baboons live in Ethiopia’s highlands, where they eat only C3 cool-season grasses.
Cerling notes that primate tropical grass-eaters – Theropithecus baboons and Paranthropus human relatives – went extinct while human ancestors ate an increasingly grass-based diet. Why is an open question.Contributing Source : University of Utah HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Thanks to close cooperation with the building-site management, the WSL researchers were able to obtain a large number of subfossil pine stumps from a building pit in the Binz neighborhood of Zurich. Photo: WSL / Gottardo PestalozziA Sunday walk led to the discovery of a subfossil forest which has remained intact for over 13,000 years in the Zurich clay, opening new doors for Central European dendrochronology.
The fact that many finds have happened by chance was demonstrated again recently in Zurich. Daniel Nievergelt, a dendrochronologist at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, was just having a look at a building site on the southern edge of the city. He knew there was some justification for hope of a spectacular discovery from his collaboration with his colleague Felix Kaiser, who died in 2012 and who in 1999 had already found subfossil* wood during the excavation of the Uetliberg Highway Tunnel.
The researcher took a closer examination of a few tree stumps on the edge of the loamy building pit in the neighborhood of Zurich Binz that had been discarded by the construction workers as waste timber. He found they were pine trees, and immediately investigated them further with colleagues from the WSL. He also sent three samples to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), where they were C14-dated. This confirmed his suspicions: the timber was discovered to go back to between 12,846 BP** and 13,782 BP. With the support of the building-site management, to date the WSL researchers have managed to salvage some 200 pine-tree stumps, which they have had transported in truckloads to the WSL. To the knowledge of the researchers involved, the quality and scale of the find are unique worldwide.What the find could mean for science
WSL runs one of the leading laboratories for tree-ring research (dendrochronology) worldwide, making a significant contribution to research work in a wide range of disciplines. The most recent finds are being incorporated into a global database of environmental archives and may provide important information about a number of research questions: What was the climate like after the last Ice Age? What events left a mark on the area around Zurich and the Earth in general? What is the genetic relationship between the Zurich Binz pines and their cognates today? In addition, the prehistoric wood in Zurich Binz could help in the calibration of the C14 curve.
The tree rings and condition and location of the discovered stumps allow conclusions to be drawn about past fluctuations in temperature and precipitation and attest to disturbances such as fires, storms and earthquakes. The density and chemical composition of the wood may provide clues to the climate and air composition in the past. And since relatively recently, aDNA analysis allow trees’ evolution to be traced.All the data produced to be published
The WSL researchers are now sawing three sections from each useable stump and are analyzing the wood and the rings in their own laboratories and in those of their partners. The scientists will first try to add to the Central European dendrochronology chart (see image). This dataset contains dated tree rings going back to 12594 BP. The finds that have been made up to now in Zurich are from the period from 12700 BP to 14100 BP. Through meticulous comparison of tree-ring patterns, efforts are now being made to identify the overlaps needed for precise dating. Perhaps the new-found timbers can fill a gap and extend the chronology by around 2,000 years. Whatever the case may be, the timbers discovered in Zurich Binz and the data arising from their analysis are of invaluable scientific importance. In the tradition of open scientific exchange, the WSL will gradually make such data public, for instance through the International Tree-Ring Data Bank (ITRDB), which for decades now has been supplied with a wealth of data by the WSL’s tree-ring laboratory and its founder, Fritz Schweingruber.Contributing Source : WSL HeritageDaily : Palaeontology News : Palaeontology Press Releases
The findings provide evidence that human activity can trigger fast-paced evolutionary changes in natural populations.
Mauro Galetti from the Universidade Estadual Paulista in São Paulo, Brazil, along with an international team of colleagues, used patches of rainforest that had been fragmented by coffee and sugar cane development during the 1800′s to set up their natural experiment. They collected more than 9,000 seeds from 22 different Euterpe edulis palm populations and used a combination of statistics, genetics and evolutionary models to determine that the absence of large, seed-dispersing birds in the area was the main reason for the observed decrease in the palm’s seed size.
The study appears in the 31 May issue of the journal Science.
“Unfortunately, the effect we document in our work is probably not an isolated case,” said Galetti. “The pervasive, fast-paced extirpation of large vertebrates in their natural habitats is very likely causing unprecedented changes in the evolutionary trajectories of many tropical species.”
In general, researchers estimate that human activity, such as deforestation, drives species to extinction about 100 times faster than natural evolutionary processes. However, very few studies have successfully documented such rapid evolutionary changes in ecosystems that have been modified by human activity.
Galetti and the other researchers found that palms produced significantly smaller seeds in patches of forest that had been fragmented by coffee and sugar cane plantations and were no longer capable of supporting large-gaped birds, or those whose beaks are more than 12 millimeters wide, such as toucans and large cotingas.
In undisturbed patches of forest, on the other hand, large-gaped birds still make their homes and palms continue to produce large seeds, successfully dispersed by the birds, they say.
“Small seeds are more vulnerable to desiccation and cannot withstand projected climate change,” explained Galetti. But, small-gaped birds, such as thrushes, that populate the fragmented patches of forest are unable to swallow and disperse large seeds. As a result of this impaired dispersal, palm regeneration became less successful in the area, with less-vigorous seedlings germinating from smaller seeds.
The researchers considered the influence of a wide range of environmental factors, such as climate, soil fertility and forest cover, but none could account for the change in palm seed size over the years in the fragmented forests. They performed genetic analyses to determine that the shrinkage of seeds among forest palms in the region could have taken place within 100 years of an initial disturbance.
This timescale suggests that the conversion of tropical forests for agriculture, which began back in the 1800′s and displaced many large bird populations in the region, triggered a rapid evolution of forest palms that resulted in smaller, less successful seeds.
Long periods of drought and increasingly warmer climate (as predicted by climate model projections for South America) could be particularly harmful to tropical tree populations that depend on animals to disperse their seeds. About 80 percent of the entire Atlantic rainforest biome remains in small fragments, according to the researchers, and the successful restoration of these habitats critically depends on the preservation of mutualistic interactions between animals and plants.
“Habitat loss and species extinction is causing drastic changes in the composition and structure of ecosystems, because critical ecological interactions are being lost,” said Galetti. “This involves the loss of key ecosystem functions that can determine evolutionary changes much faster than we anticipated. Our work highlights the importance of identifying these key functions to quickly diagnose the functional collapse of ecosystems.”Contributing Source : American Association for the Advancement of Science HeritageDaily : Natural News
This is an illustration of the South African reptile, Eunotosaurus africanus, which fills an important gap in the early evolution of the turtle shell.Unique among Earth’s creatures, turtles are the only animals to form a shell on the outside of their bodies through a fusion of modified ribs, vertebrae and shoulder girdle bones.
The turtle shell is a unique modification, and how and when it originated has fascinated and confounded biologists for more than two centuries. A Smithsonian scientist and colleagues recently discovered that the beginnings of the turtle shell started 40 million years earlier than previously thought. The team’s research is published in the May 30 issue of Current Biology.
The oldest known fossil turtle dated back about 210 million years, but it had an already fully formed shell, giving no clues to early shell evolution. Then a clue came in 2008 when the 220 million-year-old fossil remains of an early turtle species, Odontochelys semitestacea, were discovered in China. It had a fully developed plastron (the belly portion of a turtle’s shell), but only a partial carapace made up of distinctively broadened ribs and vertebrae on its back.
With this knowledge the scientists turned to newly discovered specimens of Eunotosaurus africanus, a South African species 40 million years older than O. semitestacea that also had distinctively broadened ribs. Their detailed study of Eunotosaurus indicated it uniquely shared many features only found in turtles, such as no intercostal muscles that run in between the ribs, paired belly ribs and a specialized mode of rib development, which indicates that Eunotosaurus represents one of the first species to form the evolutionary branch of turtles.
“Eunotosaurus neatly fills an approximately 30-55-million year gap in the turtle fossil record,” said Tyler Lyson, a Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “There are several anatomical and developmental features that indicate Eunotosaurus is an early representative of the turtle lineage; however, its morphology is intermediate between the specialized shell found in modern turtles and primitive features found in other vertebrates. As such, Eunotosaurus helps bridge the morphological gap between turtles and other reptiles.”
Ribs in most other animals protect internal organs and help ventilate the lungs to assist breathing. Because the ribs of turtles have been modified to form the shell, they have also had to modify the way they breathe with specialized muscles. This presents the team with their next challenge. They plan to examine the novel respiratory system in turtles and see how it evolved in conjunction with the evolution of the turtle’s shell.Contributing Source : Smithsonian HeritageDaily : Palaeontology News : Palaeontology Press Releases
Image Source : Open UniversityResearchers at The Open University (OU) and The University of Manchester have found conclusive proof that Ancient Egyptians used meteorites to make symbolic accessories.
The evidence comes from strings of iron beads which were excavated in 1911 at the Gerzeh cemetery, a burial site approximately 70km south of Cairo. Dating from 3350 to 3600BC, thousands of years before Egypt’s Iron Age, the bead analysed was originally assumed to be from a meteorite owing to its composition of nickel-rich iron. But this hypothesis was challenged in the 1980s when academics proposed that much of the early worldwide examples of iron use originally thought to be of meteorite-origin were actually early smelting attempts.
Subsequently, the Gerzeh bead, still the earliest discovered use of iron by the Egyptians, was loaned by the Manchester Museum to the OU and the University of Manchester’s School of Materials for further testing. Researchers used a combination of the OU’s electron microscope and Manchester’s X-Ray CT scanner to demonstrate that the nickel-rich chemical composition of the bead confirms its meteorite origins.
OU Project Officer Diane Johnson, who led the study, said: “This research highlights the application of modern technology to ancient materials not only to understand meteorites better but also to help us understand what ancient cultures considered these materials to be and the importance they placed upon them.”
Meteorite iron had profound implications for the Ancient Egyptians, both in their perception of the iron in the context of its celestial origin and in early metallurgy attempts.
Co-author Dr Joyce Tyldesley, a Senior Lecturer in Egyptology at The University of Manchester, said: “Today, we see iron first and foremost as a practical, rather dull metal. To the ancient Egyptians, however, it was a rare and beautiful material which, as it fell from the sky, surely had some magical/religious properties. They therefore used this remarkable metal to create small objects of beauty and religious significance which were so important to them that they chose to include them in their graves.”
Philip Withers, Professor of Materials Science at The University of Manchester, added: “Meteorites have a unique microstructural and chemical fingerprint because they cooled incredibly slowly as they travelled through space. It was really interesting to find that fingerprint turn up in Egyptian artefacts.”Contributing Source : University of Manchester HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Right lower incisors of Aprotodon lanzhouensis from the Lower Miocene in the Linxia Basin. (Image by DENG Tao)Aprotodon is a large-sized primitive rhinocerotid form, distinguished by relatively robust and strongly curved lower incisors, and the specialized wide mandibular symphysis, which is similar to that of the hippopotamus.
It has been reported from the Late Oligocene Jiaozigou Fauna of the Linxia Basin, but the Early Miocene deposits of this basin produced only a few lower cheek teeth. In May 2008, six huge tusk-like incisors of Aprotodon were collected from the Early Miocene Shangzhuang Formation in the Linxia Basin, and Dr. DENG Tao, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, described them in the latest issue of Vertebrata PalAsiatica 2013(2). This find not only showed that Aprotodon survived surely into the Early Miocene in the Linxia Basin, but also proved that the climate in the Linxia Basin during the Early Miocene was similar to that of the Late Oligocene.
Although Aprotodon has an enormous size, the previously found material included only some fragmental mandibular symphyses with huge tusks from South and Central Asia, and the taxonomic position of Aprotodon was unclear. In 1997, a skull and several mandibles of Aprotodon lanzhouensis were found from the Lanzhou Basin, and the characters of Aprotodon are clearly recognized, and it was considered as an early specialized primitive true rhinoceros (family Rhinocerotidae).
The chronological and geographical distribution of Aprotodon was essentially coincident with that of giant rhinos, but the localities and numbers of individuals of Aprotodon were relatively rare. Aprotodon lanzhouensis first appeared in the Late Eocene. During the Oligocene and Early Miocene, Aprotodon apparently was rare, and it was distributed in the Lanzhou and Linxia basins as well as in Pakistan and Kazakhstan, and became totally extinct before the Middle Miocene.
As the mandibular symphysis of Aprotodon is very wide, resembling that of the hippopotamus, it may reflect an extensive aquatic environment. Accordingly, Aprotodon lived in rivers that crossed the otherwise open and dry woodland with low diversity under arid or semiarid conditions, and consequently it has a limited distribution and number of individuals.
“The extinction of Aprotodon possibly resulted from climatic changes, because the climatic and environmental characteristics during the Early Miocene were similar to those in the Late Oligocene, but different from the dense and humid forests with high diversity of the Middle Miocene”, said Deng Tao.
This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.Contributing Source : Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology HeritageDaily : Palaeontology News : Palaeontology Press Releases
The Birth of Venus (Botticelli) WikiPediaAn Analysis on The Origins of Praxiteles’ Creation of the Aphrodite of Knidos
The goddess Aphrodite’s depiction throughout art exudes a sensual charm and beautiful quality from her pose to her style and attributes, and the meaning behind her alluring qualities. According to Pliny, Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Knidos, created in 350 BC, was considered the best statue in the world.
A statement such as the one Pliny made must have strong and intentional backing other than the beautiful goddess’ nude body. Although this was the first female nude monumental statue ever created in Greek art, the question that must be approached is why Praxiteles decided to create art that had never been done before by any other artist, and what was the inspiration for this revelation. One can look to many factors and characteristics of the goddess of love and beauty to examine the such choice Praxiteles made.
The unusual birth of the goddess brings forth not only her natural lineage to the Earth but also to the Sea, and in tern gives reason why her cult ultimately identifies themselves with not only eroticism due to her sensual charms and ultimate power of procreation and sex, but also their dedication to the water and the bathing of the goddess as ritual.
This natural side of Aphrodite seem to fit to the natural nudity and water jug depicted in the statue. Also the more complex abilities and powers the goddess has, such as the power to harmonize a society, not just in the personal sphere but also the public and civic sphere, shows her dominance and exceptional power that would permeate through her self-conscious nude stance and aligns herself now with the dominant heroic nude males in statue, illustrating that women in statue could now be idealized in more than just the way of victims or property. Praxiteles’ statue is famous not just because he depicted a woman nude, but because he illustrated a woman’s power can be equal or dominant over a male’s and that women can be a positive ideal form in the art world.
Nikolaus Himmelmann, author of Reading Greek Art , explains the importance of Praxiteles’ work: “…Praxiteles was the first to depict Aphrodite completely nude. This assessment was based on the Knidian statue of the artist, although the ancient sources actually do not explicitly link the revolutionary development to the statue. The judgement might plausibly be derived from the passage in Pliny, according to which the Koans, for whom the statue was originally intended, preferred a clothed statue to the nude one.”. Himmelmann stating the Aphrodite of Knidos was the first time Aphrodite was shown naked is directed towards just monumental statue, for the goddess has been shown in many vase and fresco work, even miniature votive terracotta reliefs and statues.
Before the famous Praxiteles’ monumental nude statue of Aphrodite, nude women in Greek art were dismal figures in the art world. Depicted on vases and frescos, women in the nude, or in this case naked, were either rape victims or courtesans, not meant to be shown nude with a choice. Himmelmann in his commentary discusses how in the Rape of Helen, Attic red figure lekythos from St.
Petersburg, Hermitage, the goddesses were depicted nude, but did not fall into the category of victim or scandalous: “The old theme of the rape of Helen by Paris is free of all tragic elements in this scene which were fundamental in representations till the end of the fifth century, and has become the unambiguous triumph of the daughter of Zeus, whose path is guided by Hermes. Because of the presence of Hermes,the women with thymiaterion and phiale can only be Aphrodite and not an unknown servant. The stepped base clearly indicates that the nudity here is to be understood as purely ideal.”.
The goddesses in Greek mythology do not have a similar role dealing with their nudity in art, and Aphrodite is no exception. As Himmelmann states, Aphrodite being nude on the vase was ideal for the situation, which can play into the goddesses’ natural sensual being. Mark P. Morford, the writer of Classical Mythology, explains the progression of Aphrodite in art: “The gamut of the conceptions of the goddess of love is reflected in sculpture as well as literature. Archaic idols, like those of other fertility goddesses, are grotesque in their exaggerations of her sexual attributes.
In early Greek art she is rendered as a beautiful woman, usually clothed. By the fourth century she is portrayed nude (or nearly so), the idealization of womanhood in all her femininity; the sculpture Praxiteles was mainly responsible for establishing the type-sensuous in its soft curves and voluptuousness.” (Morford 180). As told by Morford, the exaggeration of body parts, breasts mostly, became Aphrodite’s spotting mark in art, but as the centuries went on, her appearance became more tame yet extravagant and sensual, playing into her characteristics as the goddess of love and beauty.
A reasoning for Praxiteles deciding to create not just a dressed statue of Aphrodite but a nude one can be seen in the statues done just about a century before Aphrodite of Knidos was made for the city of Kos. The best example is seen in the East Pediment of the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis. Commentators have examined the style, pose, and physical attributes emphasized on the three goddesses grouped together, including Aphrodite, and have noticed not only the drapery on these deities and their significance, but also how their presentation plays into their identities.
Marina Belozerskaya, the author of Ancient Greece: Art, Architecture, and History, explicates not only the position of each goddess to one another in the pediment, but also how this position relates to the goddesses’ character: “Hestia, Dione, and Aphrodite wear draperies with bold, whirling, heavily shadowed folds. Hestia, the matronly guardian of hearth and home, may be seated on a household altar.
The motherly Dione supports her voluptuous daughter Aphrodite, who reclines in her lap. The individual character of each goddess dictates her posture, dress, and physique.” Using the word “voluptuous” becomes apart of her identity as the goddess of not just love, but procreation. Sensuality defines this goddess from her other predecessors, and it’s not just in her developed person, but also in her drapery, as John Griffiths Pedley discusses in Greek Art and Archaeology: “The sculpture here is a revelation: the goddesses wear thin crinkly chitons pressed tight against upper bodies to reveal the contours of the breasts beneath.
The long flowing lines of the folds of the mantles over the legs produce a continuous rhythmic effect and are so deeply carved that they create a profoundly dramatic sense of light and shade. Here, too, drapery pressed up against the body barely conceals knees, thighs, and lower legs.”. This wet drapery illustrates the step closer to the nudity of the goddess of Aphrodite, without becoming nude.
The flow of the drapery on the goddesses, the way it hangs on the breasts and clings on the hips, legs, and thighs, gives such an emphasis on the body without being as revealing as being nude. As this clingy drapery permeates a more sensual feel to the women who dawn it in sculpture, Aphrodite’s drapery on her reclining body in this pediment goes deeper into her character and a reason why Praxiteles chose to create the famous nude.
Christine Mitchell Havelock, the creator of The Aphrodite of Knidos and Her Successors: A Historical Review of the Female Nude in Greek Art, discusses this more intricate explanation of Aphrodite’s wet drapery by saying, “The extraordinary interdependence of body and drapery in Greek art is evident in the east pediment of the Parthenon. Toward the right corner, the opulent figure of Aphrodite languishes in the lap of another woman, usually identified as her mother. Aphrodite’s nonchalance expresses her lack of self-consciousness and her utter indifference to any male observer.
Her pubic zone is indeed covered, but its precise location and vitality are indicated by the covering and undulating drapery folds. One breast is hardly cloaked, and the chiton slips off her shoulder. Can we assume that the sculptor was intent on obscuring the female body – or even placing any part of it off limits? In contrast, it is worth recalling how the human form is overpowered, hidden and obscured under excessive lines or bulky drapery in medieval sculpture as in much baroque sculpture as well.”
This idea of the power of the human body and Aphrodite’s carelessness to her audience, with the combination of the clingy drapery and her curves heightened, illustrates the power of nudity, a power said to have only been with the heroic male nudes in Greek statues. Aphrodite having this power with her body with this material concludes that her nudity would withhold the power of the heroic nude by males to an equal level, maybe even a higher lever, not just because of her body, but also her character and her attributes. This is an origin why Praxiteles created the nude Aphrodite alongside the draped goddess; Aphrodite is not just the goddess of love and beauty, but her power and her purpose to ancient Greek society is discovered to be abundant and fruitful to her being the first female nude in monumental statue.
The goddess Aphrodite is seen as one of the most alluring goddesses of the 12 Olympic gods. The majority of people who have heard of the goddess only associate just a few attributes with her, one being that she is commonly known as the goddess of love and beauty. Mark P. Morford, the author of Classical Mythology, writes a passage that simply summarizes the goddesses’ role in Greek mythology:
“In general Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty, love, and marriage. Her worship was universal in the ancient world, but its facets were varied. The seductive allurement of this goddess was very great; she herself possessed a magic girdle with irresistible powers of enticement.”
Excluding the explanation of the magic girdle that aided in her seductive powers, this passage by Morford epitomizes the qualities that are most known in relation to Aphrodite. These surface and superficial details, however, would not suffice to be the reason that this goddess would be portrayed as the first monumental female nude in marble statue in the history of Greek art. To begin examining the theory of the reasoning and origins for Praxiteles’ choice to present Aphrodite as nude in statue, you can look at the birth of Aphrodite herself.
The most famous representation of this comes from a Renaissance artist, Sandro Botticelli, who created The Birth of Venus in the 15th century, which illustrates the naked Aphrodite (or the Roman goddess Venus) riding the waves on a large shell surrounded by nymphs and other mythical creatures. Although this depiction obviously draws from the pose and stance of Praxiteles’ work Aphrodite of Knidos, and gives a paralleling contrapposto stance, the representation of the birth illustrates the soft pastels and the romanticism in the composition that doesn’t match entirely with the actual birth of the goddess of love.
Nigel Jonathan Spivey, writer of the commentary Understanding Greek Sculpture: Ancient Meaning, Modern Readings, gives an accurate account of the mythological birth of Aphrodite, which also shows the difference between Botticelli’s work: “Gaia, Mother Earth, was coupled with Uranus, who was Heaven in name but a brute by nature. Gaia bore the many unruly sons of Uranus, but eventually tired of his deceits and visitations. She made a flint sickle and enlisted the help of her youngest so, Cronos, in punishing Uranus. The punishment was drastic. Cronos lopped off his father’s genitals, which tumbled into the sea. A divine foam arose where they fell and out of that foam (aphros) came Aphrodite”.
Aphrodite’s birth speaks to her natural characteristics of the Earth and the Sea, which gives light to the natural nudity in Praxiteles’ art, and gives a closer insight into why Praxiteles chose to create this goddess nude when it was uncommon for the art world at the time. An important characteristic of Aphrodite’s birth is her origin of parents themselves. Her mother is Gaia, Mother Earth and her father is Uranus, who technically is Heaven. Aphrodite of Knidos is depicted nude in the statue by Praxiteles, which nudity permeates the natural, one of the most natural acts a human beings can be in life is nude.
Aphrodite’s origin of Earth can be seen in other deeper attributes of her mythology, such as being Aphrodite en Kepois (in the Gardens) in many cults to the goddess. Not only is there natural lineage in Earth, but also in the Sea. Although Aphrodite does not possess the romanticized and graceful birth Renaissance artist Botticelli illustrates in his late 15th century masterpiece, Aphrodite still is born from the foam of the sea, directly from the natural oceans of the Earth.
Praxiteles’ creation of the nude Aphrodite originally for the city of Kos needed reasoning behind why he created a female statue nude alongside a female statue with drapery, especially when it has never been done before. The first of the many reasons Praxiteles, in theory, created Aphrodite as nude was because of the connection between the naturalistic side of nudity, baring what was given to you in birth, and the naturalistic lineage of Mother Earth and the Sea foam to Aphrodite; the goddess of love and marriage aligns beautifully with nature and is shown in her natural state as nude.
As the female goddess Aphrodite shows herself nude in the famous Late Classical statue, nudity among males in statue was seen as power and beauty. What other female deity as Aphrodite to not only illustrate her power in the mythological world of Greek religion through her nudity, but also to explicate Aphrodite as more than just a beautiful goddess.
Aphrodite in all was more than just the goddess of love and beauty. Although she played a large role in creating harmony in these two areas for mortals on Earth, she exudes power in harmony in other areas as well. Further examining this point is author Rachel Rosenzweig, the author of Worshipping Aphrodite. Rosenzweig discusses in her work about the mythological goddess that has more to her than what commonly is applied to her character as a Greek god: “Aphrodite’s role in the cults of Athens reveals a goddess of great prominence and power – a goddess involved in more than simply sex and love.
Among Aphrodite’s cultic concerns were the fertility of people and vegetation, the harmonious coexistence of people in their private relationships, and public and civic harmony. These elements are fundamental to the well-being of a society.” Rosenzweig speaks to Aphrodite’s important role in the sexual and loving lives of the mortals on earth, through her activity in the private lives of relationships, which alludes to the sexual nature involved, and the “fertility of people and vegetation”, which not only connect to the sexual nature of her powers and abilities as the goddess of love and sex, but also connect to the natural side of her connection with Mother Earth and the desire for an abundance of natural life to grow in the mortal realm of the world.
Rosenzweig continually speaks of this nature of Aphrodite saying, “As Aphrodite en Kepois (in the Gardens), her powers of fertility extended to all forms of life, including people, animals, and vegetation.”. Aphrodite’s natural side in terms of fertility and the growth of the population of humans and animals was a great one, and one of her important powers possessed by the goddess, as Rosenzweig says, “Aphrodite is the embodiment of the most powerful instinctive behavior: procreation.
In this way, Aphrodite is a threat to the deities who are subject to her formidable power, and her repeated and successful efforts to lead the heart of Zeus astray with mortal women inspire his revenge.”. This passage indicates that Aphrodite has powers that can even defeat the other gods of Olympia, including the most powerful of them all, Zeus. This connection to the land and the need for the multiplying of life on earth plays with her origins to Mother Earth, and both connect with her nude appearance in Praxiteles’ statue of the goddess. Not only does the nature reflect the nudity, but also the other power that is related the Aphrodite, and the other important roles she plays in keeping society together.
Her strength in control over other powerful deities can be said to be equivalent to the status and power that male nude statues represented in Greek art. This illustrates an origin Praxiteles could have seen as equaling to the power and status seen in these heroic nudes, and prompted the artist to create the first monumental female nude. The great connection to people and nature on Earth Aphrodite possesses plays a key role into the creation of Aphrodite of Knidos.
Many see the Aphrodite of Knidos as just a sensual erotic portraiture of the goddess of love and sex, due to her nudity, exposing her breasts and partial pubic area. Because of her not being a simple sex goddess, and her power that has overwhelming complexities and qualities, her nudity needs to be seen as more than just a new form of erotica in Greek art. Looking at her ‘erotic’ nature can be justified as partially the art format of the time and Praxiteles’ own hand.
Havelock comments the statues body and how it speaks more to a harmonic tone than an erotic one: “She has no need of public hair, since her mature sexuality is visible through her whole body – in the roundness of her hips, in the developed breasts, and because girlish bones and muscles have been overlaid with a rich but firm surface of flesh. In sum, the sexuality of the figure is expressed and yet curbed but the rational perfection of the pose. The gesture of the goddess’ right hand and arm complicates her meaning and clearly distinguishes her from any ideal male figure. The arm itself is bent with a minimum of effort; indeed it almost seems to fall, in keeping with the classical contrapposto scheme.”
According to Havelock, this harmony of the body stance brings in a more mathematical and logical feel of nudity than just eroticism and sex. Connecting this harmony of her stance and presentation can be Aphrodite’s power of harmonizing a co- existence of people not just in the personal sphere but also the public and civic one. Relating to this harmony that clearly alludes to Aphrodite’s powers and attributes of her being a deity, it brings to light other reasons what her nudity could represent in the art world.
Just as Rosenzweig presents the many facades of Aphrodite’s great power, Praxiteles could have presented Aphrodite as a nude to stand next to the heroic nude male statues that have reigned all through Greek art up to this point in the 4th century. Havelock comments on Aphrodite’s nudity in relation to power for females in art: “…the Greeks, to whom sexuality was not so prescriptive, seem to have regarded nudity in a broader context as a display of power and liberty.
There was not an inherent contradiction between divinity and the exposure of the body. If a water vessel and a garment are placed near the Knidia, this need not be a pretext for depicting her nude. Her nakedness, on the contrary, refers to her divine birth in the sea and, by implication, to her seafaring responsibilities as Aphrodite Euploia at Knidos. The full revelation of her beauty is a recognition that the sight of her could epitomize the nature of desire and therefore could render her power explicit.
The drapery need not be a necessity required to furnish a way out if an intruder interfered, but may rather be a formal device to unite the goddess with the nearby vase, which is so important to the meaning of the whole. As an attribute, the hydria, a water vessel, implies the wide range of her powers, her fertility, her unending freshness and youth.”. Havelock mentions not only the importance of nature and her sea foam birth, but also her powers in rejuvenation and procreation, which touch the mortal realm in such a way that worshiping this goddess brings joy and harmony to everyone’s lives. This fact could have charged Praxiteles to create a nude statue of Aphrodite, not just to reference the cult ritual of bathing, but also to illustrate her power and ability is both great, and her being, sexual and persuasive powers brings a sensual charm that highlights the nudity in a well receptive light.
Power reigned not only in civic orders, but also in the power of sexuality and, in the end, the body for the goddess Aphrodite in Greek mythology. This sexual power in charms and the body equal to origins in Praxiteles’ choice to create an option of the Aphrodite statue for the city of Kos to be a female nude. Spivey, the writer of Understanding Greek Sculpture: Ancient Meaning, Modern Readings, describes the more intricate details of Aphrodite’s sensual powers over the mortals and even many of the gods and goddesses of Olympia:
“All Greek deities carried a bundle of sobriquets with them, but Aphrodite carried more than most: She was Ambologera: Postponer of Old Age. She was Epistrophia: the Heart-twister. She was Psithyros: the Whispering One. She was Parakyptousa: the Side-glancer. She was Peitho: Persuasion. Above all she was Charidotes: the Joy-giver. Some of her early temple images presented her as armed, reminding us of Aphrodite’s dalliance with Ares; but in general her cult was a shameless solution of life below the nave. And it was from below the navel, but in a bizarre manner, that she was born.”
These attributes Spivey presents in this passage demonstrates more power than most would every comprehend the goddess known for love and sex could possess. As male heroic nudes in statues depicted the epitome of beauty, Aphrodite had the power to sustain that beauty for all eternity. Aphrodite’s sensual powers, such as persuasion and being the joy-giver, shows her even more versatile status as an Olympic goddess.
Her powers in the political and civic world to create harmony and her powers of eternal beauty and persuasion in the private quarters of couples and relationships ranging from marriages to prostitutes and their clientele, which charges the idea that her powerful position as a deity intertwined with the sensual charms that her character exudes within herself and her powers illustrates reasonable origins for Praxiteles to create Aphrodite nude in monumental statue.
Because of these sensual, even erotic, powers existing with the Greek goddess Aphrodite, it is no surprise, as said by Spivey also, that the cult that was created around the goddess Aphrodite would have the sense of eroticism as well:“It hardly comes as a surprise to learn that the cult of Aphrodite thrived at sites visited by sailors, nor that the temples of the goddess were designated to accommodate the sex-hungry…the most celebrated Greek statue of Aphrodite was in a temple whose temenos was used by Aphrodite’s followers (Aphrodisiazontes) to practical effect, and it is tempting to connect the overly erotic nature of her cult.”
The way that Aphrodite was conceived in the sea and her sexual powers and charms that characterize her as the goddess of love and beauty play to the sexual nature of the nude statue by Praxiteles itself; Aphrodite herself is an erotic subject, her being, her powers, her followers, her cult and temple, all exemplify the erotic in nature, and the Aphrodite of Knidos shows to be an erotic statue. As Rachel Meredith Kousser comments in Hellenistic and Roman Ideal Sculpture, “Aphrodite’s sensuous power – erotic, seductive, irresistible – was rendered more overtly and effectively than it before in monumental sculpture and vase painting.” Both the erotic nature and the earthy nature of Aphrodite combine to form solid contributions to Praxiteles creating a nude statue of this complex goddess.
As discussed, Aphrodite has dominion over the powers of love and sex and marriage, and the harmony that wraps them all in the well-being of a good society. These characteristics are rooted in Gaia, Mother Earth, and Aphrodite’s mother. The female nude Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles gives the essence of the importance of nature due to the nudity portrayed by the goddess, and what better goddess to connect nature with than Aphrodite, whose pure being permeates with nature. Anne Baring, the author of The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of An Image, discusses the essence of this goddess, which gives insight into how the harmony she gives to society coexists greatly with her nature: “She is there whenever life sparkles with beauty and joy. The Graces who attend her, weaving her robes, plating her crown of violets, are called Joyous (Euphrosyne), Brilliance (Aeglea) and Flowering (Thalia) – all that makes for sweetness in life. When she steps out of the waves on to the shore, grass and flowers spring up beneath her feet. Desire (Himeros) and Love (Eros) follow her wherever she goes. As she walks up her mountain, the animals are filled with longing for each other.”
The goddess of love and beauty brings all the intricate attributes into those two characteristics to the world; with harmonious love comes joy and with beauty comes brilliance and flowering, which alludes back to the fertility and vegetation Rosenzweig emphasizes in her commentary. This is also seen in the ‘grass and flowers spring up beneath her feet’, as if she has been given her mother’s powers to create nature for this mortal Earth. Also, there are two connections made to the sensual nature that is Aphrodite; her procreation of animals and different creatures, which speaks to the abundance referenced by Rosenzweig also, and the emergence from her watery birth. This part of the passage is necessary to include due to not only her birth, but also to her erotic cult, and the importance water and bathing was to the cult. Praxiteles’ knowledge of the cult of Aphrodite possibly could have led to his strengthening in creating the famous female nude of this complicated goddess.
In Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Knidos and the hundreds of Roman copies thereafter, Aphrodite is shown either stepping into or stepping out of a bath, which illustrates a practical reason why, in the art work, she is nude. The connection between the bathing scene in Praxiteles’ work and the importance of bathing to Aphrodite and her cult cannot be underscored. Christine Mitchell Havelock, writer of The Aphrodite of Knidos and Her Successors: A Historical Review of the Female Nude in Greek Art, explains Aphrodite’s obsession with water and bathing that was both unintentional yet inevitable: “No Greek divinity enjoyed bathing more than Aphrodite. She had initially emerged from water: Hesiod informs us that she was born in the sea from foam that collected around the severed sexual organs of Uranus, the god of the heavens.
She approached the island of Cythera and then had a very long swim until she came ashore to her own sacred home on Cyprus. Thus, because of her marine origin, the ritual bathing of Aphrodite was particularly important in her cult.” Since her extraordinary birth, Aphrodite has been related to the sea and water, and that connection not only played in her beginnings in Greek mythology, but also played as a sacred ritual among her cult on Cyprus. As Baring shows, because of the goddess’ strange birth from the foam of the sea, bathing has a connection to the mortals with the birth, or rebirth, of their own souls and selves: “A union is reunion, so fertility is rebirth. This understanding was rendered in the annual ritual bathing of Aphrodite in the spring, which renewed her virginity and the virginity of the earth.”
This ritual done by her erotic cult illustrates that Aphrodite not only gives new life in procreation and fertility, but also new life to the mortals that worship her, in terms of their virginity and their inner being. Bathing is a type of renewal as well, washing all the dirt, and in a deeper sense wrong doings and sins, away from your body and for your life. With the bathing of Aphrodite, these were washed away and new life was given. Praxiteles would take this cult ritual and, underneath the practical showing of a goddess about to bath, would see it as a reason why he would make this complex goddess of love, beauty, and marriage into the first monumental female nude statue; illustrating the renewal of life Aphrodite gives to her worshippers, and the beginning of life to the mortal world below her on Mount Olympus.
Looking at the strong connection of Aphrodite and her connection to nature, both through her famous birth in the foam of the sea and through her power of fertilization and procreation, one can conclude that the nudity presented in Aphrodite of Knidos relates to the natural state of nudity itself and the natural state Aphrodite thrives in. In Praxiteles’ work, Aphrodite stands in contrapposto stance nude, with her left hand on drapery that slightly covers a water jug that rests on a stand next to the goddess. Whether Aphrodite is stepping out of the bath or she is about to bathe, this physical connection between her and the water relates to the mythological connection of bathing, the sea, and her cult.
Bathing and nudity both are natural for any human being, and Aphrodite is shown by Praxiteles to be open in her carefree stance. Christine Mitchell Havelock, writer of The Aphrodite of Knidos and Her Successors: A Historical Review of the Female Nude in Greek Art, examines the ideas of a 19th century thinker Bernoulli on the statue and its implications on the water jug and the practice of bathing itself, and how it strongly connects with the goddess Aphrodite herself. These ideas link to Anne Baring’s commentary on the goddess and her bathing ritual: “That the Knidian Aphrodite was thought by Bernoulli to be engaged in a bath served well as a practical pretext for her nudity. Washing the hands or immersion of the whole body has widespread religious significance in classical antiquity. All water – from a spring, a river, or the sea – was regarded as clean, fresh, and rejuvenating.”
The notion of the bathing process being a ritual that connects to a rebirth or a cleaning of the being of the soul is a common belief in the cult of Aphrodite. Aphrodite of Knidos presents not only the practical bathing time of a woman, but also the connection to the cult of Aphrodite, and her promise to her followers that the emersion in water will create a wave of new life not only in her but the mortals on earth.
As it is said, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty, and marriage, and brings harmony to all relationships, from marriages to prostitutes and their cliental. This ritual bathing and submersion into water helps all mortals, no matter their situation in life, as Havelock explains in his commentary: “He (Bernoulli) may have been associating the action he thought he saw in the statue with contemporary notions that washing the body assisted in conferring moral purity on the soul – especially on the souls of those most in need: the poor of society, including prostitutes.
Virginity, a major concern of the nineteenth-century male, might be metaphorically restored with a good scrub.”This illustrates the harmony Aphrodite brings to all the mortals of the earth, and gives equal opportunity to have all cleaned and renewed with life. This links to Aphrodite’s natural being and connection with the people of ancient Greece. Pedley examines the nature of how the statue was presented in the cult temple: “The marble original was made around 350 BC and stood in an open shrine visible from every side. Thus, the divine had become accessible, almost personal, captured in an intimate moment.”Aphrodite was shown open to all, not hidden or only kept for certain eyes. She was a goddess of harmony, and to be a goddess of such a capacity, her nude self in her inviting stance and side glance, and her placement with her ritual mark to her side invited followers to worship her and to have hope of a new clean slate in life.
The presentation of the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, before Praxiteles’ demonstration and the connection to nature, whether in creating new life or renewing life, cumulate together to give origin to Praxiteles’ creating the nude statue of the goddess. Pedley gives a summary of the famous statue and its stance in his commentary Greek Art and Archaeology: “Aphrodite stands naked, caught in a fleeting pose, her left hand resting on the drapery thrown over the adjacent water jar…she has long legs and a small head. Her right hip pushes out, and the S-curve rises slowly through her body. She has soft, wavy hair, and her face has a triangular forehead, shadowy eyes, a straight nose, and a small mouth.”
Pedley speaks to both the natural quality of the goddess in the statue with the connection to the cult ritual of water and her nudity side by side. Although this passage illustrates Praxiteles’ identifying S-curve and characteristically feminine features of the goddess yet boyish quality of depicting the human form, whether male or female, the physical connection of her left hand on the drapery and water jug stated brings to light the reasons of Aphrodite’s nudity in Praxiteles’ work; Her birth from the sea foam gives her connection to nature through her lineage, and her power illustrated through her cult and from her vitality in attributes and power herself, which gives her the heroic nude quality the male nudes received. Both nature and power that runs through the goddess’ being come together to illustrate why Praxiteles created a nude Aphrodite, which became the famous Aphrodite of Knidos. This statue created women statues as ideal as men were nude, and began to strip away the stigma of women only nude in helpless situations, but now in positions of power and prestige.Bibliography
Baring, Anne. The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of An Image. London: New York; Viking Arkana, 1991.
Belozerskaya, Marina. Ancient Greece: Art, Architecture, and History . Los Angeles : J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004.
Havelock, Christine Mitchell. The Aphrodite of Knidos and Her Successors: A Historical Review of the Female Nude in Greek Art. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1995.
Himmelmann, Nikolaus. Reading Greek Art . Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1998.
Kousser, Rachel Meredith. Hellenistic and Roman Ideal Sculpture. Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Morford, Mark P. Classical Mythology. New York : Longman, 1991.
Pedley, John Griffiths. Greek Art and Archaeology. New York : H.N. Abrams, 1993.
Rosenzweig, Rachel. Worshipping Aphrodite. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2004.
Spivey, Nigel Jonathan, Understanding Greek Sculpture: Ancient Meaning, Modern Readings. New York : Thames and Hudson, 1996.Written by Londyn Lamar HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Mummy of Herakleides : WikiCommonsThe Getty Villa in Malibu, California is the beautiful educational center dedicated to housing the artifacts and antiques from the ancient Etruscan, Greek, and Roman periods.
Although their busts and statues are remarkable, while I went to visit this beautiful museum on the cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway, an acquisition that combined Roman and Egyptian culture snagged my interest. The Mummy of Herakleides, which is a Romano-Egyptian mummy found in Egypt about 150 A.D, emphasizes the traditions of both the Roman art style and the Egyptian tradition of life after death and their practices of caring for the dead and protecting them in the afterlife. The Roman style of individual portraiture, with the emphasis on the upper body and expression of the face and gestures, is evident in this depiction of Herakleides.
While the upper exterior of the dead permeates with the ideals and styles of the Roman Empire’s control Egypt, the body’s exterior as a whole demonstrates the ideals and practices of the Egyptians.
Herakleides went through the mummification process, and is not placed in a sarcophagus, similar to Etruscan tombs such as the Cerveteri Sarcophagus. Also, the designs on the body of the mummy are in the Egyptian style of depicting hieroglyphics and pictorial images, similar to the innermost coffin of Tutankhamen. Herakleides’s usage of the Egyptian processes illustrates his influence and fascination with the Egyptian traditions of the dead. The Mummy of Herakleides shows that Herakleides desired to portray his exterior portrait in the Roman style to demonstrate his lineage, but also wanted to illustrate his connection to the Egyptians through their mummification process and hieroglyphical designs.
The Mummy of Herakleides demonstrates the Roman influence from the Egyptians through the traditional mummification process. In 30 BC, Egypt became under the rule of the Roman Empire, and with this new emersion of Egyptian culture and society came the adaptation of Egyptian techniques and influence of the Egyptian religion by the Romans. One of the cultural traditions that the Romans practiced in their 200 year rule over Egypt was the process of mummifying their dead.
The Mummy of Herakleides, which was found in the First Century A.D, demonstrates many of the characteristics of mummification, including the full 70 day process, beginning with the removal of the internal organs. The Romans also removed the heart, which was uncommon under Egyptians because the belief was “the heart was necessary for life and regarded as the seat of intelligence” (Kleiner 43). As the Egyptians, the Romans then covering the body with salts, lotions, and resins, then wrapped tightly with about a hundred yards of linen. Although the emblems and amulets differed with the Romans (the Roman use of a bird in contrast with the Egyptian beetle), they were placed within the wrappings as protection for the body in the afterlife. (43).
The Romans also were influenced by the Egyptian religious beliefs of the afterlife. The Roman adaptation of the Egyptians’ beliefs of the afterlife and the desire to protect the dead was seen not only through the placement of amulets, but also through the illustration of the hieroglyphic designs on the body of the mummy. At the chest area, there are birds, in profile, drawn in black outlines, with white and green color filling in the wings and ground line, and the rest of the body of the bird is filled in with flat gold leaf. The abdomen illustrates a man, filled in with gold leaf, with the same black outline, profile stance, and use of white and green, with wings sprawled out from side to side, flanked by two smaller posts.
The same type of bird man and winged creatures repeat all the way down the mummy to his feet, and these symbolize rebirth and protection in the afterlife, which was a part of the Egyptian religion (Getty Villa 2010). This use of text and imagery on the outside of the mummy was common in the Egyptian culture, and can be seen also on mummies such as the innermost coffin of Tutankhamen, from his tomb in Thebes, Egypt. Although it was made out of gold and “inlaid with semiprecious stones such as lapis lazuli, turquoise, and carnelian” (61) and presents hieroglyphics explicating the King’s rule and accomplishments, the mimicking of the designs on the mummy’s body clearly illustrates Egyptian influence on the Romans. Herakleides’s mummy shows that he was a Roman that wanted to demonstrate his Egyptian influence, widespread culture, and fascination with this conquered culture.
The Romans mummifying their dead and embracing the Egyptian cultural and religious traditions began to occur when Egypt was taken under control of the Roman Empire in 30 B.C. The Roman way of burial was through placing the body in a sarcophagus, with elaborate reliefs on the frontal side and a statue in the round of the person or persons deceased, in a reclining position on top of the sarcophagi. An example of this can be seen from the Etruscan Sarcophagus of Lars Pulena from Cerveteri, where the deceased reclining on top has a “somber expression” that “contrasts sharply with the smiling, confident faces of the Archaic era” (154). The main focus of the sculpture is the top half, with an emphasis on the realistic head and faces, and the placement of the hands. The expressions on the faces are quite stoic and have much control over their emotions, which was a common Etruscan, and later Roman, characteristic of portraits. This leads the way to the rise of the Roman Republic’s beginning of the individualized portraiture in sculpture.
This common Roman attribute of presenting an individual is seen in the Mummy of Herakleides, and many mummies created in Egypt for the Romans in the Roman Empire. Instead of the tradition Egyptian funerary masks, there were painted individualized portraits of the deceased on wood. For the Mummy of Herakleides, the deceased is depicted in typical Roman portraiture style, which emphasizes the individual’s features; individualized nose, long face, almond shaped eyes, tasseled hair, full lips, beard, and a long neck. He dawns a gold wreathe on his head, which his face is framed with gold leaf.
The expression on his face is stoic, with a side shift of the head with his eyes looking forward, which was typical of Roman portraiture, to have control and a regal heir over their expressions and the way they are presented, similar to the Roman sarcophagi in earlier periods of the Empire. Also, at the bottom of the mummy, there are drawn pairs of feet where his feet are wrapped, and above in black Greek letters spells out his name, which also identifies and individualizes him. These features, the painted individualized portrait replacing the death mask and the signing of his name in Greek letters, illustrates the Roman traditions and influences Herakleides wanted to have demonstrated in emphasized in death.
Both the traditions and influences of both Egypt and the Roman Empire permeate the Mummy of Herakleides, found in 150 A.D in Egypt during the reign of the Roman Empire.. The fact that the body of Herakleides is mummified and has the Egyptian religious traditions of placing amulets with the body and designs symbolizing protection and rebirth of the deceased illustrates that Herakleides wanted to be known for his cultured self in the art and ways of the Egyptians.
The mummy wrappings frame the entire personalized painted portrait of Herakleides, which illustrates that although he is a Roman in the Roman Empire, the cultural emersion into Egypt surrounds him and altars his way of depicting himself in death. Whether Tempera paint or Encaustic – colors mixed with hot wax – paint, Herakleides showed his Roman lineage through the individual portraiture and signing of his name in Greek letters, not losing sight of where he came from and that he was a Roman.Bibliography
The Getty Villa. Malibu, California. 17 November, 2012.
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective, Thirteenth Edition, Volume I. Boston, Massachusetts: Wadsworth, 2006.Written by Londyn Lamar HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Hominini Skull of Sahelanthropus tchadensis : WikiCommonsA new study by archaeologists at the University of York challenges evolutionary theories behind the development of our earliest ancestors from tree dwelling quadrupeds to upright bipeds capable of walking and scrambling.
The researchers say our upright gait may have its origins in the rugged landscape of East and South Africa which was shaped during the Pliocene epoch by volcanoes and shifting tectonic plates.
Hominins, our early forebears, would have been attracted to the terrain of rocky outcrops and gorges because it offered shelter and opportunities to trap prey. But it also required more upright scrambling and climbing gaits, prompting the emergence of bipedalism.
The York research challenges traditional hypotheses which suggest our early forebears were forced out of the trees and onto two feet when climate change reduced tree cover.
The study, ‘Complex Topography and Human Evolution: the Missing Link’, was developed in conjunction with researchers from the Institut de Physique du Globe in Paris. It is published in the journal Antiquity.
Dr Isabelle Winder, from the Department of Archaeology at York and one of the paper’s authors, said: “Our research shows that bipedalism may have developed as a response to the terrain, rather than a response to climatically-driven vegetation changes.
“The broken, disrupted terrain offered benefits for hominins in terms of security and food, but it also proved a motivation to improve their locomotor skills by climbing, balancing, scrambling and moving swiftly over broken ground – types of movement encouraging a more upright gait.”
The research suggests that the hands and arms of upright hominins were then left free to develop increased manual dexterity and tool use, supporting a further key stage in the evolutionary story.
The development of running adaptations to the skeleton and foot may have resulted from later excursions onto the surrounding flat plains in search of prey and new home ranges.
Dr Winder said: “The varied terrain may also have contributed to improved cognitive skills such as navigation and communication abilities, accounting for the continued evolution of our brains and social functions such as co-operation and team work.
“Our hypothesis offers a new, viable alternative to traditional vegetation or climate change hypotheses. It explains all the key processes in hominin evolution and offers a more convincing scenario than traditional hypotheses.”Contributing Source : University of York HeritageDaily : Anthropology News : Anthropology Press Releases
This molar tooth model with the cut face shows color-coded barium patterns merging with a microscopic map of growth lines. (Ian Harrowell, Christine Austin and Manish Arora/graphic)Most modern human mothers wean their babies much earlier than our closest primate relatives. But what about our extinct relatives, the Neanderthals?
A team of U.S. and Australian researchers reports in the journal Nature May 22 that they can now use fossil teeth to calculate when a Neanderthal baby was weaned. The new technique is based in part on knowledge gained from studies of teeth from human infants and from monkeys at the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis.
Using the new technique, the researchers concluded that at least one Neanderthal baby was weaned at much the same age as most modern humans.
Just as tree rings record the environment in which a tree grew, traces of barium in the layers of a primate tooth can tell the story of when an infant was exclusively milk-fed, when supplemental food started, and at what age it was weaned, said Katie Hinde, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and an affiliate scientist at the UC Davis Primate Center. Hinde directs the Comparative Lactation Laboratory at Harvard and has conducted a three-year study of lactation, weaning and behavior among rhesus macaques at UC Davis.
The team was able to determine exact timing of birth, when the infant was fed exclusively on mother’s milk, and the weaning process, from mineral traces in teeth. By studying monkey teeth and comparing them to center records, they could show that the technique was accurate almost to the day.
After validating the technique with monkeys, the scientists applied it to human teeth and a Neanderthal tooth. They found that the Neanderthal baby was fed exclusively on mother’s milk for seven months, followed by seven months of supplementation — a similar pattern to present-day humans. The technique opens up extensive opportunities to further investigate lactation in fossils and museum collections of primate teeth.
Although there is some variation among human cultures, the accelerated transition to foods other than mother’s milk is thought to have emerged in our ancestral history due, in part, to more cooperative infant care and access to a more nutritious diet, Hinde said. Shorter lactation periods could mean shorter gaps between pregnancies and a higher rate of reproduction. However, there has been much debate about when our ancestors evolved accelerated weaning.
For the past few decades researchers have relied on tooth eruption age as a direct proxy for weaning age. Yet recent investigations of wild chimpanzees have shown that the first molar eruption occurs toward the end of weaning.
“By applying these new techniques to primate teeth in museum collections, we can more precisely assess maternal investment across individuals within species, as well as life history evolution among species,” Hinde said.
Authors in addition to Hinde were: Christine Austin and Manish Arora, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, Harvard School of Public Health, and University of Sydney, Australia; Tanya Smith, Harvard University; Asa Bradman and Brenda Eskenazi, UC Berkeley; Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia; David Bishop, Dominic Hare and Philip Doble, University of Technology Sydney, Australia.
The work was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, U.S. National Science Foundation, Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council and Harvard University.Contributing Source : University of California – Davis HeritageDaily : Palaeoanthropology News : Palaeoanthropology Press Releases
Richard III : WikiCommonsWorld first academic peer-reviewed paper on the University of Leicester’s Search and Discovery of Richard III reveals slain king was buried in hastily dug grave.
An academic paper on the archaeology of the Search for Richard III reveals for the first time specific details of the grave dug for King Richard III and discovered under a car park in Leicester.
University of Leicester archaeologists have published the first peer-reviewed paper on the University-led archaeological Search for Richard III in the prestigious journal Antiquity.The paper reveals:
- Richard III was casually placed in a badly prepared grave – suggesting gravediggers were in a hurry to bury him
- He was placed in an ‘odd position’ and the torso crammed in
- The grave was ‘too short’ at the bottom to receive the body conventionally
- Someone is likely to have stood in the grave to receive the body – suggested by the fact the body is on one side rather than placed centrally
- There is evidence to suggest Richard’s hands may have been tied when he was buried
The paper – by a team from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, and Department of Genetics – follows the public revelation in February by the University of Leicester that the University had discovered King Richard III.
It followed a three-week dig started in August 2012 at what was once the medieval Grey Friars church in Leicester – now a Leicester City Council car park.
The paper reveals that the King’s grave was too short for him and had an untidy “lozenge” shape, with the bottom of the grave much smaller than it was at ground level.
The head was propped up against one corner of the grave, suggesting the gravediggers had made no attempt to rearrange the body once it had been lowered in.
There were also no signs of a shroud or coffin.
This is in stark contrast to the other medieval graves found in the town, which were the correct length and were dug neatly with vertical sides.
This may show that the gravediggers were in a hurry to put the body in the ground – or had little respect for the deceased.
This is in keeping with accounts from the medieval historian Polydore Vergil, who said Richard III was buried “without any pomp or solemn funeral”.
‘The king in the car park’: new light on the death and burial of Richard III in the Grey Friars church, Leicester, in 1485 is the first academic paper to be published on the University of Leicester’s Search for Richard III.
It outlines the key findings from the archaeological investigation of the Grey.
It includes analysis of Richard III’s grave and explains the conclusions about the friary’s layout based on the remains of the church and cloisters.
It also includes initial observations of the King’s skeleton.
The paper was written by key members of the University’s Search for Richard III, including lead archaeologist Richard Buckley and Grey Friars site director Mathew Morris.
It also includes contributions from osteoarchaeologist Dr Jo Appleby, geneticist Dr Turi King, medieval friary expert Deirdre O’Sullivan and Professor Lin Foxhall, Head of the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History.
The authors state in the paper: “The Grey Friars Project has been unusual in the nature of the collaboration between professional and academic archaeologists, an amateur group (the Richard III Society) and the City of Leicester. However, this also means that the project has addressed two different but overlapping sets of research questions, not all of which specialists would routinely ask.
“Projects developed in this way may become more common in future as non-specialists increasingly become users, stakeholders and participants in academic research.
What is somewhat different from the ways in which archaeological professionals and amateurs have generally worked together is that in this case the non-specialists played a role in shaping the intellectual frameworks of the project, although the final project design (including how questions could appropriately be asked of the evidence), and the execution of the project in practical terms remained in the hands of the archaeologists.
“Grey Friars offers a case study for addressing the issues of how to formulate multiple sets of research questions and aims, and how different kinds of partners can accommodate each other’s questions.
“The paper highlights the fact that this was a public archaeology project initiated by Philippa Langley, a member of the Richard III Society, and executed by a team of archaeologists and other specialists from the University of Leicester.”
They conclude: “At this stage we have discovered enough of the plan of the Grey Friars precinct to feel confident that we have identified parts of the eastern range, the chapter house and the eastern end of the church, including the transition between the choir and the presbytery.
“This means that the hastily constructed grave in Trench 1 is certainly in the place indicated by the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century written sources as the tomb of King Richard III.
“The radiocarbon dates, evidence on the male skeleton of severe scoliosis, trauma consistent with injuries in battle and potential peri-mortem ‘humiliation injuries’, combined with the mtDNA match with two independent, well-verified matrilineal descendants all point clearly to the identification of this individual as King Richard III. Indeed, it is difficult to explain the combined evidence as anyone else.
“This result is the most important one for our non-specialist partners, as well as for millions of people around the world, and addresses their key questions.”
The paper acknowledges the support of the Richard III Society, Leicester Shire Promotions, Leicester City Council and others.
Commenting on the paper Professor Chris Scarre, editor of Antiquity, said: “This discovery has been a focus of major public interest and debate, and we are delighted to publish the details of the excavation that have helped lead the team to their conclusion.”
The full outcomes from the bone analysis and DNA tests will be published in subsequent papers.Contributing Source : University of Leicester HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
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