The Value(s) of UNESCO

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Statue of Liberty © David Gill

One of the many roles for UNESCO has been the recognition of World Heritage Sites around the world. The news that both the US and the State of Israel will be withdrawing from the funding of UNESCO raises deep concerns.

The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property has had a major impact on the way that countries can protect their cultural property in the face of organised looting and damage. Over 300 items have been returned to Italy from North American public and private collections as a result of this benchmark for cultural property. (The value of this Convention is discussed on “Looting Matters“.)

Among the WHS locations in the USA is the Statue of Liberty that was inscribed on the list back in 1984. As UNESCO states, the statue “endures as a highly potent symbol – inspiring contemplation, debate, and protest – of ideals such as liberty, peace, human rights, abolition of slavery, democracy, and opportunity”.

Dog and cat in the Kerameikos

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Athens, National Museum 3476 © David Gill

In 1922 the marble base of a kouros was found built into Themistoklean Wall in the Kerameikos in Athens. On the right hand side four youths watch as a god and a cat confront each other.

The sculpture is dated on the orthodox chronology to c. 510 BC.

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Athens, National Museum 3476 © David Gill

Election promises at Corinth

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Erastus inscription, Corinth © David Gill

The dedication of a square next to the theatre at Corinth by an official named Erastus was ‘in return for his aedileship’ (PRO AEDILIT[AT]E). Erastus would appear to be have made an election promise, and the square, edged with the dedicatory inscription, demonstrated that he had kept to his side of the agreement.

Brian Shefton: Classical Archaeologist

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2017

Oxford University Press has published a series of essays on refugee scholars who found a home and a welcome at the University of Oxford from 1930.

My contribution was on Professor Brian Shefton (1919-2012), who was brought to England with his parents in the summer if 1933. His father, Professor Isidor Isaac Scheftelowitz, initially found a home at Montefiore College in Ramsgate before moving to Oxford in the summer of 1934. Brian was a scholar at Oriel College, Oxford, where he came under the influence of Paul Jacobsthal and (Sir) John Beazley. His studies were interrupted in 1940 when many refugees of German origin were interned on the Isle of Man. Brian enrolled in the Pioneer Corps of the British Army serving in Yorkshire and Scotland. In 1944 he transferred to the Education Corps.

At the cessation of hostilities Brian returned to Oxford to complete us studies, and in 1947 obtained a School Scholarship at the British School at Athens where he assisted with the excavation of Old Smyrna. During this period he collaborated with colleagues at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) on the publication of some of the pottery from the Agora excavations. One of his significant publications from this time was on the monument to Kallimachos from the Athenian Acropolis.

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Nike from the Kallimachos monument on the Athenian Acropolis © David Gill

In 1950 he was appointed Lecturer in Classics at Exeter, and in 1953 moved to King’s College, Newcastle (now Newcastle University). One of his achievements was the creation of the Greek Museum (now incorporated in the Great North Museum). Among his research interests was the distribution of Greek and Etruscan material in Central Europe, a topic no doubt inherited from Jacobsthal.

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Brian Shefton lecturing at the opening of the Great North Museum © David Gill

Gill, D. W. J. 2017. “Brian Shefton: classical archaeologist.” In Ark of civilization: refugee scholars and Oxford University, 1930-1945, edited by S. Crawford, K. Ulmschneider, and J. Elsner: 151-60. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kerameikos: archaic stele

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Archaic stele, Kerameikos Museum © David Gill

This stele of a male with a stick and a sword was found in the Kerameikos cemetery at Athens. The two parts were found in 1935, and in 1937/38. It probably dates to the mid-6th century BC, and is considered to be one of the earliest Attic examples (Richter, no. 23; Knigge, fig. 24). It was associated with a mound on the west side of the Sacred Way. The stele may have been placed over the shaft grave that was found in the mound (Knigge, p. 105 under no. 15).

The stele appears to have had a sphinx mounted at the top.

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Mound to the west of the Sacred Way, Kerameikos © David Gill

The Ptolemaic Base of Arsinoe in the Peloponnese

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Ptolemaic base, Methana © David Gill

The Ptolemaic fortified base of Arsinoe in the Peloponnese is located on the eastern side of the Methana peninsula, facing the island of Poros. The base was located on the Nissaki, joined to the peninsula by a narrow spit. Beyond it, and to the south, was an inlet that contained (according to an inscription relating to a boundary dispute) Ptolemaic naval installations, a drag way, as well as tunny traps. This was adjacent to the narrow isthmus that joins the peninsula to the Troezenia.

For further details about the base see here (“Arsinoe in the Peloponnese: the Ptolemaic base on the Methana peninsula”).

The archaeology of ostracism

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Ostraka from the Eridanos in the Kerameikos © David Gill

German excavations in the Kerameikos, in the bed of the river Eridanos, revealed major deposits of pot sherds or ostraka with the incised names of individuals. They include:

  • Aristeides Lysimachou, candidate in the 480s
  • Kallias Kratiou, candidate in the 480s
  • Megakles Hippokratous, candidate in the 480s [or later]
  • Themistokles Neokleous, candidate in the 480s [or later]
  • Kimon Miltiadou, candidate in the mid 5th century

Although in some cases the date of the (successful) ostracism is known, the individual could have been a candidate in earlier voting.

These ostraka were used in the process of ostracism in the Athenian democracy to restrict the power of a person who had been seen as becoming too powerful. If sufficient votes were cast against an individual they were forced to go into exile.

Note that some of these ostraka come from the same pot.

Reference

Lewis, D. (1974). The Kerameikos Ostraka. Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik, 14, 1-4. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20180644

See also:

Lang, M. (1990). Ostraka. The Athenian Agora, 25, Iii-188. doi:10.2307/3601999