Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘ancient’

Photo: Department of History, United States Military Academy, West Point
The Persian Empire in 490 BC.

Call me naive, but I can’t help thinking that the enmity of governments obscures what ordinary people in a country are like and the value that their cultural history holds for the people of other nations. Consider ordinary Iranians for a moment and some wondrous aspects of their ancient empire.

Eve MacDonald, a lecturer in Ancient History at Cardiff University, writes at the Conversation, “It’s simply not possible to do justice to the value of Iran’s cultural heritage – it’s a rich and noble history that has had a fundamental impact on the world through art, architecture, poetry, in science and technology, medicine, philosophy and engineering.

“The Iranian people are intensely aware – and rightly proud of – their Persian heritage. The archaeological legacy left by the civilisations of ancient and medieval Iran extend from the Mediterranean Sea to India and ranges across four millennia. …

“In the 6th century BC, Iran was home to the first world empire. The Achaemenids ruled a multicultural superpower that stretched to Egypt and Asia Minor in the west and India and Pakistan in the east. They were the power by which all other ancient empires measured themselves. Their cultural homeland was in the Fars province of modern Iran. The word Persian is the name for the Iranian people based on the home region of the Achaemenids – Pars.

“Some of the richest and most beautiful of the archaeological and historical heritage in Iran remains there. This includes Parsgardae, the first Achaemenid dynastic capital where King Cyrus (c. 590-529BC) laid down the foundations of law and the first declaration of universal rights while ruling over a vast array of citizens and cultures.

“Nearby is the magnificent site of Persepolis, the great palace of the Achaemenid kings and hub of government and administration. Architecturally stunning, it is decorated with relief sculptures that still today leave a visitor in awe.

“When the Achaemenids fell to the armies of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, what followed was great upheaval and also one of the most extraordinary moments in human history. The mixing of Persian and eastern Mediterranean cultures created the Hellenistic Age. …

“With new cities, religions and cultures, this melting pot encouraged the rise of a thriving connectivity that linked urban centres in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Syria. … The great city of Seleucia-on-Tigris/Ctesiphon, just south of Baghdad on the Tigris river in modern Iraq, became the western capital and centre for learning, culture and power for a thousand years.

“Hellenistic rulers gave way to Parthian kings in the 2nd century BC and the … Parthian Empire witnessed growing connectivity between east and west and increasing traffic along the silk routes. Their control of this trade led to conflict with the Romans who reached east to grasp some of the resulting spoils.

“It was also a time of religious transition that not only witnessed the rise of Buddhism, but also a thriving Zoroastrian religion that intersected with Judaism and developing Christianity. In the biblical story of the birth of Christ, who were the three kings – the Magi with their gifts for Jesus – but Persian priests from Iran coming to the side of child messiah, astronomers following the comet. …

“The Sasanians ruled a massive geopolitical entity from 224-751 AD. They were builders of cities and frontiers across the empire including the enormous Gorgan wall. … The wall is a fired-brick engineering marvel with a complex network of water canals running the whole length. It once stood across the plain with more than 30 forts manned by tens of thousands of soldiers.

“The Sasanians were the final pre-Islamic dynasty of Iran. In the 7th century AD the armies of the Rashidun caliphs conquered the Sasanian empire, bringing with them Islam and absorbing much of the culture and ideas of the ancient Iranian world. This fusion led to a flowering of early medieval Islam and, of the 22 cultural heritage sites in Iran that are recognised by UNESCO, the 9th century Masjed-e Jāmé in Isfahan is one of the most stunningly beautiful and stylistically influential mosques ever built.

“This was a thriving period of scientific, artistic and literary output. Rich with poetry that told of the ancient Iranian past in medieval courts where bards sang of great deeds. These are stories that we now believe reached the far west of Europe in the early medieval period. …

“Iranian cultural heritage has no one geographic or cultural home, its roots belong to all of us and speak of the vast influence that the Iranians have had on the creation of the world we live in today. Iran’s past could never be wiped off the cultural map of the world for it is embedded in our very humanity.” More at the Conversation, here.

If you’re interested in more about the ancient culture of Iran, try Jason Elliott’s book Mirrors of the Unseen, reviewed at the Guardian, here. A related, equally fascinating, book is Destiny Disrupted, by Tamim Ansary, here. I learned a lot from those books.

P.S. An Iranian-American journalist I follow has been raising funds for healthcare workers in Iran who are dangerously short of personal protective equipment. Click here.

Read Full Post »

file-20191128-178107-1txjme0

Photo: Margaret Carew
In 2014, two Warlpiri women from central Australia were photographed performing a traditional dance about a child who attempts to take seed paste from a coolamon (vessel). Ancient stories can give us insight into survival and the interconnectedness of all things.

Back in early January, when I in my ignorance thought coronavirus was just a problem for China, I saved this story about indigenous people passing along ancient wisdom. I did understand then that we’re all connected in the sense that if your island is drowning, mine will, too. I also understoood that indigenous people know a lot about protecting nature. Today I’m thinking that the wisdom of the ancients might help us in ways we have yet to explore.

Meanwhile, check out this article at the Conversation. The authors are Dana Lepofsky of Simon Fraser University, Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares at the University of Helsinki, and Oqwilowgwa Kim Recalma-Clutesi, contributor to the special issue on Ethnobiology Through Song.

“Since the beginning of time, music has been a way of communicating observations of and experiences about the world. For Indigenous Peoples who have lived within their traditional territories for generations, music is a repository of ecological knowledge, with songs embedding ancestors’ knowledge, teachings and wisdom. …

“Academics are just beginning to see the deep significance of these songs and the knowledge they carry and some are working with Indigenous collaborators to unlock their teachings.

“At the same time, non-Indigenous researchers and the general public are becoming aware of the historic and current loss of songs. Indigenous communities are also grappling with what this means. The loss of songs was brought on by brought on by colonization, forced enrollment in residential schools and the passing of the last of the traditionally trained knowledge holders and song keepers.

“A recent special issue of the Journal of Ethnobiology celebrates the power of traditional songs as storehouses of traditional ecological knowledge. …

“Although traditional music is threatened by past government-sanctioned actions and laws, with much already lost, Indigenous Peoples globally continue to use music in sacred and ritual contexts and celebrate their traditional songs.

“The lyrics in traditional songs are themselves imbued with meaning and history. Traditional songs often encode and model the proper, respectful way for humans, non-humans and the natural and supernatural realms to interact and intersect.

“For instance, among the Temiar singers of the Malaysian rainforest — who often receive their songs in dreams from deceased people and who believe all living beings are capable of having ‘personhood’ — dream-songs help mediate peoples’ relationships with these other beings. …

“The special issue was inspired by Kwaxsistalla Wathl’thla Clan Chief Adam Dick. Kwaxsistalla Wathl’thla was a trained Clan Chief, [the] keeper of hundreds of songs about the Kwakwaka’wakw people, their traditional territory in coastal British Columbia, and all aspects of their lives and their ritual world.

“In his role as ninogaad (culturally trained specialist), Kwaxsistalla Wathl’thla was the last culturally trained potlatch speaker. The cultural practice of potlatching is a central organizing structure of northern Northwest Coast peoples.

“Potlatching was banned until 1951. As a result, singing potlatch songs was a source of punishment and fear for many generations. The interruption of the transmission of traditional songs in every day and ritual life has been profound. …

“In 2002, he revealed an ancient ya’a (Dog Children song) that unlocked the mystery of lokiwey (clam gardens) on the Pacific Northwest Coast. Cultivating clams in clam gardens — rock walled terraces in the lower intertidal — is a widespread practice among Coastal First Nations. We now know this practice is at least 3,500 years old.

“Kwaxsistalla Wathl’thla’s sharing of this clam garden song unleashed a wave of research on traditional management practices and helped not only awaken people’s understanding of the extent to which Indigenous Peoples tended their landscapes, but also provided the foundation for research on how to improve clam management. …

“Despite the immense global value of traditional songs as libraries of ecological and other cultural knowledge, researchers and the general public have been slow to recognize their social and cultural importance.

“For instance, the findings of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), highlight the importance of protecting and honouring Indigenous languages, but songs are not explicitly mentioned.[But] in many Indigenous cultures certain dialects, words and expressions are found only in certain songs, not in spoken conversations. Thus, protecting traditional songs is a critical aspect of protecting Indigenous languages. …

“Recognizing the importance of traditional songs and creating a context to promote this knowledge is fundamental to Canada’s reconciliation process. Speaking at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Traditional Knowledge Keepers Forum, Blackfoot Elder Reg Crowshoe said:

‘… We need to be aware or re-taught how to access those stories of our Elders, not only stories but songs, practices that give us those rights and privileges to access those stories.’ …

“Such knowledge, as in the case of clam gardens, may provide important lessons about how people today can more respectfully and sustainably interact with our non-human neighbours.” Hmmm. What if humans had left the endangered pangolin alone? Would we have a pandemic today?

More at the Conversation, here.

Read Full Post »

2953

Photo: Achilleas Zavallis
Will these ancient, mudbrick, high-rise buildings survive the war in Yemen?

When I read fantasies to grandchildren, I explain that although passing through a wardrobe into another reality is not true, the feelings of the characters and the challenges they confront are. In fact, sometimes the issues of our world are made clearer through a fantasy lens.

Some fantasies I read just for my own pleasure. Having just finished Book Two of Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust, I’m thinking about the way selfish monetary interests fuel the real world’s endless Middle East wars. In Pullman’s trilogy, a certain rose oil from the region of the old Silk Road has been found to have priceless properties, and behind-the-scenes power brokers are focused on trying to control it. Rose oil is a stand-in for whatever countries in the real world try to control, frequently another kind of oil.

One of the fiercest Middle East wars wars today is being fought in the small country of Yemen, and the report below is about amazing cultural sites we might not have heard about but for this disaster. I hope that spreading stories about the risks for civilians and cultural treasures will lead to more people demanding peace.

Bethan McKernan writes at the Guardian, “On the edge of the vast Empty Quarter desert that dominates the Arabian peninsula, white and brown towers rise together out of the valley floor like tall sandcastles. Once they welcomed weary caravans traversing the Silk Roads: now they stand as testimony to the ingenuity of a lost civilisation.

“This is the ancient walled city of Shibam, nicknamed the ‘Manhattan of the desert’ by the British explorer Freya Stark in the 1930s, in modern-day Yemen, a country also home to an untold number of other archeological treasures. The kingdom of Saba, ruled by the legendary Queen of Sheba, and many other dynasties of the ancient world rose and fell here, their fortunes linked to Yemen’s position at the crossroads of early frankincense and spice trades between Africa and Asia.

“Today, as a result of Yemen’s complex civil war – now in its fifth year – many of the country’s wonders have been damaged or are under threat. While the destruction pales in comparison to the human cost of the conflict, the country’s rich cultural heritage has also been ravaged. …

“Shibam, a 1,700-year-old settlement in the valley of Hadramawt, has largely escaped direct violence, but is still suffering from years of neglect, despite being a Unesco world heritage site.

“Named for King Shibam Bin Harith Ibn Saba, it is one of the oldest – and still one of the best – examples of vertical construction in the world. In the 16th century, Shibam’s inhabitants found they had run out of space to expand. To compensate, they began to build carefully on a rectangular street grid, and instead of spreading out, they built up …

“The city’s 3,000 residents still largely follow the traditional living pattern, with in some cases up to 40 family members in the same tower. Animals and tools are kept on the ground floor and food is stored on the second. Elderly people live on the third and the fourth is used for entertaining. Higher levels are occupied by more nimble families, with childless newlyweds on the roof. …

“Shibam is largely self-sustaining: its farmers and shopkeepers cater to the small population and many men are employed baking the straw and mud bricks used in construction. As in many Yemeni cities, goats and chickens roam the streets.

“ ‘Lots of young people have left,’ said Ali Abdullah, 28, who was looking after his family’s goats along with his 10-year-old brother, Majid.

‘Shibam is beautiful but there is no reliable money to make here unless they start preserving the buildings again.’ …

“Since Yemen’s Arab Spring revolt in 2011, funding to help preserve the city has dried up, as has the once steady flow of tourists, said Salim Rubiyah, the head of the local association responsible for looking after the public buildings inside Shibam’s walls. …

“Said Rubiyah, ‘I worry that this will be the last generation who are able to make a life here and appreciate the city’s beauty.’

“Elsewhere in Yemen, the story repeats itself. … In Sana’a, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, ancient sites have been razed by Saudi-led coalition bombing [paid for, sadly, by the US]. … Despite Unesco having provided the coalition with a no-strike list of historical sites when the campaign began in 2015, sites such as the Castle of Taiz have been targeted, as well as the Dhamar Museum.

“ ‘We are nervous about the politicisation of heritage and the militarisation of archaeology during the conflict,’ said Sama’a al-Hamdani, director of the Yemen Cultural Institute for Heritage and the Arts. … ‘You can’t be the destroyer and the saviour at the same time.’ ”

More here.

Read Full Post »

5becce96818cc.image_Photo: Dani Hemmat
The elongated rocks seen above are called lithophones and are used to make xylophone-like music. Found in Colorado as well as other parts of the world, they are 6,000 years old.

Do you sometimes imagine being a person in a completely different period of history? What would it feel like? One thing I’m pretty sure of: you would behave has if your time period was the only one.

But today, let’s imagine living 6,000 years ago, before the European invasion, in what is now Colorado. Let’s imagine having an urge to make music.

Dani Hemmat writes at the Left Hand Valley Courier, “Colorado has rocks that, well, rock. They are called lithophones, and a local archaeologist who first came across these strangely shaped stones 40 years ago is finally sharing their musical story.

“Longmont archaeologist Marilyn Martorano first laid eyes on the long, baguette-shaped rocks almost four decades ago, as a volunteer at what is now Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in southern Colorado.

“The clearly hand-shaped stones, which had been discovered in the area, were housed in the on-site museum when Martorano first saw them. They were a strange set of artifacts for which no one had yet determined a use. Martorano put them back into their drawer, assuming that someday someone would figure out their purpose.

“Thirty years later, Martorano borrowed the rocks from the museum to study. While many had postulated that the rocks were tools for grinding, the absence of typical marks led Martorano away from that theory. She studied for three years, without success.

“The day before she was to return the rocks to the museum, a friend sent her a video that showed a collection of stones from Paris — stones that looked exactly like those she’d been studying. The rocks, musical stones classified as lithophones, had been found all over the world, but never in Colorado. After watching the video, Martorano started tapping the mysterious stones, and their purpose was suddenly clear. …

“ ‘The rock is very dense, usually volcanic, granite or basalt. In order to be shaped, it can’t be hit too hard or too soft,’ Martorano said.

“She presented some of her findings and artifacts during her open-to-the-public presentation on Nov. 8 at Front Range Community College (FRCC). FRCC instructor and Niwot musician Michael DeLalla had heard about Martorano’s work on public radio, and reached out to her. …

“Martorano demonstrated the different tones achieved by hitting the lithophones with wood, antler and bone. The lithophones produce sounds ranging from the sound of tapping on a crystal glass, to a wooden marimba, to a xylophone.

“ ‘Out of the 22 artifacts we studied, we got a minimum of 57 notes out of them. That’s at least two different notes from each stone,’ Martorano said. …

“While most of the stones Martorano has studied have come from the San Luis Valley area, lithophones have been found in the eastern plains of Colorado and near Salida as well. One Colorado percussionist, Jeff Shook, has found several lithophones while digging post holes.”

More here.

 

Read Full Post »

http3a2f2fcdn-cnn-com2fcnnnext2fdam2fassets2f180910100856-03-roman-gold-coins

Photo: Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities
A trove of ancient gold coins hidden in a soapstone jar was recently unearthed in Como, Italy.

When you were a kid, you believed in the possibility of finding buried treasure. I, for one, believed so thoroughly, I could be easily taken in. My neighbor Kenneth Jukes was a great one for tall tales, and I remember distinctly being persuaded by him that some charcoal refuse in a stream was actually gold. I took it to my parents who were annoyingly skeptical. My grandmother said to my father, “But what if it is … ?” Kenneth looked sheepish.

Nevertheless, people do find gold in unexpected places. Kids may know things grownups have forgotten.

As Amanda Jackson and Gianluca Mezzofiore report at CNN, “Archaeologists are studying a valuable trove of old Roman coins found on the site of a former theater in northern Italy. The coins, at least 300 of them, date back to the late Roman imperial era and were found in a soapstone jar unearthed in the basement of the Cressoni Theater in Como, north of Milan.

” ‘We do not yet know in detail the historical and cultural significance of the find,’ said Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli in a press release. ‘But that area is proving to be a real treasure for our archeology. A discovery that fills me with pride.’

“Whoever placed the jar in that place ‘buried it in such a way that in case of danger they could go and retrieve it,’ said Maria Grazia Facchinetti, a numismatist. … ‘They were stacked in rolls similar to those seen in the bank today. … They don’t go beyond 474 AD.’ …

“The ministry did not place a value on the coins. But reports in the Italian media suggest they could be worth millions of dollars.

“The historic Cressoni Theater opened in 1807 before transitioning into a cinema and eventually closing in 1997. The site is not far from the Novum Comum forum area, where other important Roman artifacts were discovered, according to the ministry.”

More at CNN.

Read Full Post »

image1

Photo: Martin Lemke
The city of Bassania in Albania is no longer a legend.

There is always more to be discovered. Maybe just under our feet.

That is what some archaeologists found not long ago in Albania.

As Christina Ayele Djossa writes at Atlas Obscura, “Sometimes, rocks are more than crumbled pieces of the earth. Sometimes, they unveil clues about our planet’s ancient past or future. For archaeologists from the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre at the University of Warsaw, the rocks in Shkodër, Albania, turned out to be the ruins of the 2,000-year-old lost city of Bassania.

“Back then, Bassania was an economic and military stronghold, part of the Illyrian kingdom, which existed from 400 to 100 B.C. The ancient city contained numerous settlements and fortresses, one of which the archaeologists unearthed.

“What they found were ancient stones of a fortress guarded with large bastions and roughly 10-foot-wide stonewalls and gates. These defensive buildings, according to University of Warsaw professor Piotr Dyczek, are common in Hellenistic architecture. The team confirmed the age of the ruins by analyzing nearby coins and ceramic vessel fragments, which dated back to the time of the Illyrian kingdom. …

“But this city, and the Illyrian kingdom, ultimately fell to a Roman invasion in the beginning of the first century. This may be why it took so long for archaeologists to find Bassania. … The Polish and Albanian archaeologists also speculate that the location’s geological infrastructure has something to do with it. The ruins are found on a ‘hill locally called “lips of viper” in [the village of] Bushat, a few miles from Shkodër,’ wrote Dyczek. After years of erosion, the stone remnants look like a part of the sandstones and conglomerates that make up the hill. So to a passerby, it might look like a bunch of stones, not a structure made by humans.”

Now I want to know why any hill would be called “lips of viper.” Always more discoveries to be made.

More at Atlas Obscura, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Vincent Francigny / Sedeinga archaeological mission
A large cache of recently discovered texts offers insight into one of Africa’s oldest written languages.

Archaeologists, whether professionals or amateurs like those in a recent post, keep discovering new wonders. They remind us never to make the mistake of thinking that everything has been discovered.

Jason Daley writes at Smithsonian magazine, “Archaeologists in Sudan have uncovered a large cache of rare stone inscriptions at the Sedeinga necropolis along the Nile River. The collection of funerary texts are inscribed in Meroitic, one of Africa’s earliest written languages.

“As Charles Q. Choi at LiveScience reports, the find is full of potential. … The archaeological site of Sedeinga — once part of the kingdoms of Napata and Meroe (which were jointly referred to as the ‘Kush kingdom’ by their ancient Egyptian neighbors) –- includes the remains of 80 small brick pyramids and more than 100 tombs created during a cultural period from about 700 B.C. to roughly 300 C.E.

” ‘The necropolis’ miniature pyramids were initially inspired by Egypt’s massive monuments, but during a later time, Meroitics refashioned the tombs and pyramids to include chapels and chambers where they could worship the dead. …

“In addition to the funerary texts, archaeologists also found pieces of decorated and inscribed sandstone. … One of the more interesting new finds from the dig is a lintel, or structural beam from a chapel with a depiction of Maat, the Egyptian goddess of order, equity, and peace. This is the first time archaeologists have found a depiction of Maat with black African features.

“Another find of note, a funerary stele, describes a high-ranking woman by the name of Lady Maliwarase and details her connections with royalty. Similarly, a lintel uncovered during the excavation explores the lineage of another woman of high rank, Adatalabe, who counts a royal prince among her blood line.

“These kinds of inscriptions are sure to help historians continue to piece together the story of Meroe. For instance, as Francigny tells Choi, the aforementioned finds reveal that in Meroe kingdom matrilineality — the women’s lineage — was important enough to record.”

More here.

Read Full Post »


Image: Tom McShane
The author of those lines is an unusual 10th century figure — Shmuel HaNagid, prime minister of the kingdom of Granada in Spain, head of both Granada’s Muslim army
and Andalusia’s Jewish community.

The force of history works in mysterious ways. Here is a story about how an ancient Arabic poetic tradition was preserved because Jewish poets valued it.

Benjamin Ramm reports at the BBC, “On 9 December 1499, the citizens of Granada awoke to a scene of devastation: the smouldering remains of over a million Arabic manuscripts, burnt on the orders of the Spanish Inquisition. …

“[Years before], as much of Europe languished in the Dark Ages, the Iberian peninsula was a cultural oasis, the brightest beacon of civilisation. Under the Umayyad dynasty, the caliphate of Al-Andalus stretched from Lisbon to Zaragoza, and centred on the Andalusian cities of Córdoba, Granada and Seville. From the 8th Century, the caliphate oversaw a period of extraordinary cross-cultural creativity known as La Convivencia (the Coexistence). …

“Among the Muslim poets of Al-Andalus, there was a concerted attempt to rediscover and reinvent the literary forms of Arabic, sophisticated and lyrical, rooted in the concept of fasaaha (clarity, elegance). The fire in Granada destroyed part of this heritage, but it survives in an unexpected form – in an imaginative body of Hebrew poetry, which illustrates the extent of cross-cultural exchange.

“Peter Cole, the foremost translator of Hebrew poetry from Al-Andalus, argues in his book The Dream of the Poem that a major legacy of the Moorish writers was to inspire Jewish poets to emulate their work. … The innovations were initiated in the 10th Century by Dunash Ben Labrat. …

“Controversially, Ben Labrat adopted Arabic poetic metre, and was accused of ‘destroying the holy tongue’ and ‘bringing calamity upon his people’. But the Hebrew renaissance that followed produced some of the most beautiful poetry in the language, and the period became known as the ‘Golden Age’ of Iberian Jewish culture. …

“At a time of intercommunal tension, it is tempting to idealise this Muslim-Jewish period of mutual flourishing. There are critics who argue against the notion of La Convivencia – some have called it a ‘myth.’ … Documentation about communal relations during this period is scant, [and] the extent of ‘coexistence’ continues to be a subject of passionate disputation. …

“The kingdom of Granada was the last territory to fall to the Christian Reconquest in 1492, after which Jews were forcibly converted or expelled. Saadia Ibn Danaan, a rabbi who wrote prose in Arabic and poetry in Hebrew, transmitted the tradition to North Africa.” Read more.

Read Full Post »

I don’t know what it is about stories like this, but they really float my boat.

Here is an ordinary woman, a hairdresser who loves hairdressing, who tried to recreate an ancient hairstyle and ended up making a discovery that got published in a scholarly journal. What it took was being openminded, curious, and persistent.

As Abigail Pesta writes in the Wall Street Journal, Janet Stephens tried to re-create on a mannequin a hairdo she had seen on a bust of the Roman empress Julia Domna at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

” ‘I couldn’t get it to hold together,’ she says. Turning to the history books for clues, she learned that scholars widely believed the elaborately teased, towering and braided styles of the day were wigs.

“She didn’t buy that. Through trial and error she found that she could achieve the hairstyle by sewing the braids and bits together, using a needle. She dug deeper into art and fashion history books, looking for references to stitching.

“In 2005, she had a breakthrough. Studying translations of Roman literature, Ms. Stephens says, she realized the Latin term ‘acus’ was probably being misunderstood in the context of hairdressing. Acus has several meanings including a ‘single-prong hairpin’ or ‘needle and thread,’ she says. Translators generally went with ‘hairpin.’

“The single-prong pins couldn’t have held the intricate styles in place. But a needle and thread could. It backed up her hair hypothesis.

“In 2007, she sent her findings to the Journal of Roman Archaeology. ‘It’s amazing how much chutzpah you have when you have no idea what you’re doing,’ she says. ‘I don’t write scholarly material. I’m a hairdresser.’

“John Humphrey, the journal’s editor, was intrigued. ‘I could tell even from the first version that it was a very serious piece of experimental archaeology which no scholar who was not a hairdresser—in other words, no scholar—would have been able to write,’ he says.

“He showed it to an expert, who found the needle-and-thread theory ‘entirely original,’ says Mr. Humphrey, whose own scholarly work has examined arenas for Roman chariot racing.

“Ms. Stephens’ article was edited and published in 2008, under the headline ‘Ancient Roman Hairdressing: On (Hair)Pins and Needles.’ ”

More.

Photographs: Janet Stephens

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: