Thursday, December 17, 2009

New URL Pattern at American Numismatic Society

At the ANS, we are currently assigning hierarchical categories to all the objects in the database. You might think this had already been done, but in the pre-web world, when most of our 550,000 records were entered, it wasn't really necessary. If you wanted to find Byzantine Seals or Contorniates, you just went to the right tray and there they were.

In a webbie world, we want users to be able to navigate by well-known numismatic categories in order to access individual records, examination of which can suggest searches that will help one find what one is looking for. Keeping that goal in mind, our categories need to be sensible and recognizable, but do not need to carry an undue interpretive burden. It's OK that a user might question how we've arranged things, so long as we've helped her find what she's looking for.

Some examples:

'--' separates the components of a category.

The URL prefix is . We're trying to make these search-engine friendly. We do intend for these to be stable, but aren't quite making the guarantee that we do about URLs of the form Those should work for as long as the DNS/URL paradigm is around.

Appending "/images" to a URL will show only records with images.

In the future, I expect that extensions such as ".atom", ".json", ".kml" will also have the desired result.

Again, the reason we're doing this is to ease the user experience. See the description of the ANS Roman collection for a preliminary deployment of these links in the real world. We hope it's a convenience that our Italic coins, for example, will be one click away.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Museums Explain Their Databases

It's a good thing that museums are increasingly putting their curatorial databases online for public browsing and searching. A minor aspect of this trend is the language institutions use to explain the state of their data. This post collects some examples of the genre.

The Brooklyn Museum has the following on its opening search page:
The material presented here represents only a fraction of that rich collection. The Museum is committed to making its collections accessible to the widest possible audience, and this site is an important part of that process. It is, however, a work in progress. We intend to continue to expand the number of works of art included on the site and to update information currently posted. We are making every effort to ensure that the information provided about our collection is accurate and up-to-date, but the nature of scholarship is that there are sometimes changes in information and new discoveries. If you believe you have information we should have about any of the works you find here, we would be happy to hear from you.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston shows this to start:
Note that some of the electronic records indicate that they have not been reviewed recently by curatorial staff and might need revision; also, please note that a small percentage of the MFA’s collection is not presently searchable online.
The indicated MFA records have this:
This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the MFA's complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.
That text is essentially identical to what appears on the Yale Art Gallery site
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery's complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.
In turn, that's not so far off from the Harvard Art Museum text:
This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. Please contact the curatorial department listed above for more information.
[[Note that I don't give a link into the Harvard website. The (almost unbelievable) explanation is that if you click on you get a blank page. I clicked on the link from a search results page and saw information about a sherd of Roman pottery. Is it really possible that Harvard is checking a session id or the referrer and only displaying the info as part of an existing visit to the site? If so, that's highly (highly!) lame.]]

The Metropolitan Museum in New York has the following:
Due to the extremely large number of objects in the Museum's permanent collection, not all artworks are currently available in the Collection Database. Furthermore, information contained in the database records is, in some cases, incomplete, and all information is subject to change according to ongoing research and new acquisitions.
The British Museum just puts "Noticed a mistake? Have some extra information about this object? Please contact us." on its individual object pages. That's in the same spirit as the more extended explanations from other institutions.

Overall, these texts represent a mode of sharing data that is welcome. Better to make slightly incorrect or outdated data available than to hold on tight to it. That's especially the case when there are images of the objects as well.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mediterranean Ceramics Reference Stability Report, Number 8

The MCRSR first appeared in October, 2007. This is the first new installment since April 2008.

As I noted then, the JSTOR link to number 2 takes me to a login page. I still find it odd that no indication of the title of the work is given. When I am logged into JSTOR via UPenn, the link works.

Number 10, which was the Perseus Project Vase Catalog, is now part of the Persues Project Art and Archaeology Artifact Browser. The old URI does not work on the main Perseus site.

No new references have been added.

I have seen that some of these resources have improved URIs, meaning they are shorter and with fewer '?','&' and '=' characters. That's a welcome development and I will update the addresses next time round.

1. Walters' Catalogue of the Roman Pottery in the Departments of Antiquities, British Museum from Google Books:

2. Robinson's Agora V from JSTOR:, previously [noted April 2008].

3. Lattara 6:

4. K. Greene's AJA article on Early Roman lead glazed pottery:

5. Heath and Tekkök, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Pottery at Ilion (Troia):

6. Vessel from Çatalhoyuk (via Flickr):

7. A Late Minoan III Pyxis from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

8. An undocumented ARS Hayes 70 bowl from the dealer Classical Numismatics Group:

9. Fifteenth Century Mosque Lamp from Jerusalem now in the British Museum:

10. The Perseus Project Vase Catalog: now part of, previously [noted December 2009].

11. Wikimedia Commons Image of a Greek Geometric Skyphos in the Louvre:

12. Sagalassos from Pleiades:

13. Inscribed pot from Aphrodisias (HTML):

14. Inscribed pot from Aphrodisias (XML):

15. Hellenistic lamp from Assos, Turkey at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:

16. Open Context record for Halaf period jar from Domuztepe, Turkey:

17. Abbasid Ceramics from the Museum With No Frontiers:

18. Roman Amphorae: a digital resource:

Aegean Amphora at Dura Europos

As a follow up to the last post, here's a 3rd to 5th century AD Middle Roman Amphora 7 from Dura, now at Yale. It's essentially uncataloged but there's no doubt about what it is.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dura Europos Pottery at Yale

This is just a brief post to say that I've been enjoying looking at images of the pottery from Dura Europos that is now at the Yale University Art Gallery. At the time of writing, you can get to it by following this link. If that doesn't work try "Syrian, Dura-Europos" in the culture field and "Containers - Ceramic" in the classification field.

The Gallery's database is pretty nice. I'll give its URLs for addressing individual records a B+. Here's an example: . It would be better if that were something like , but I'm a quibbler for good looking identifiers.

Sometimes the information is limited. For example, 1938.5011 is definitely Eastern Sigillata A, and 1938.4969 looks to be African Red Slip. I do hesitate to identify from images, but again 1938.4980 sure looks like ARS.

The above is not a complaint. Similarly to many online museum databases, Yale displays the following text with each record:
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery's complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.
It's great that museums aren't hiding their data just because it's incomplete or incorrect. It's more useful just to put it out there so interested folk like me can have fun browsing.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Protecting Archaeology in Italy, Now by Email

Yesterday I wrote about the upcoming Nov. 13th meeting of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee. I am now getting reports that people have sent in their letters by fax. This is great. I have also heard that messages sent by regular mail will take weeks to arrive. That makes e-mail a good alternative. The address is Attaching a word document to that address is a good idea. Or the fax number is (202) 632–6300 .

Some relevant links.

In 2001 the US and Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding. You can read that here as a PDF:

Article II of the MoU was amended in 2006. Here's a link:

And as a pdf:

Here's the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affair's (ECA) page for the agreement with Italy:

And, finally, the page for the Cultural Property Advisory Committee:

If you're interested in the topic, it is worthwhile to poke around the ECA site. There is lots of good information there.

But to emphasize my main point, please write a letter. The deadline is Monday, November 2nd so that the may be the best way to communicate. If you have letterhead and no fax machine, make a scan at 8-bit 100 dpi and attach that. Here's the e-mail again: .

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Protecting Archaeology in Italy, Nov. 2nd Deadline

The primary US mechanism for regulating the trade in illegally excavated antiquities is a series of agreements with other countries that specify what can be imported and how the two countries are going to co-operate to promote the preservation of cultural patrimony.

On Nov. 13th, the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, which helps draft and review such agreements, is meeting in Washington, D.C. to consider the Memorandum of Understanding with Italy.

The full-text of the agreement can be found here

The call for the meeting is here: Follow the link at
the top right for more specifics.

The announcement of the meeting includes the following:

"With respect to comments on the interim review of the Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Italy Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material Representing the Pre-Classical, Classical and Imperial Roman Periods of Italy, concluded on
January 19, 2001, and extended in 2006, oral comments must be limited to Article II of this MOU."

Article II concerns actions that both the US and Italy are supposed to take to implement the MoU. I am writing now to encourage readers either to write a letter to CPAC commenting on Italy's actions under Article II.

Letters that address specific actions by Italy that fall under Article II and which benefit or affect the writer are the most useful. But the bar is low, so to speak. If you excavate in Italy, have conducted research there, have seen Italian material on loan to American museums, or have used such material in your teaching, that counts.

Discussion of loans is particularly important. Museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Getty Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Princteton University Art Museum, the Morgan Library in NYC, the Meadow Museum at Southern Methodist University and others have Italian material on loan. If you have seen these objects and enjoyed them, please write.

Letters do not need to be long. Without meaning to provide too much unnecessary advice: the opening sentence should say you're writing about the Memorandum of Understanding between the US and the Republic of Italy. Give a brief introduction (I am a teacher/professor/student/archaeologist/member of the public), and then a few examples of personal impact. End with a call for continued co-operation between the two countries.

DEADLINES: letters need to be received on Nov. 2. They can be faxed to (202) 632–6300 or sent to

Cultural Heritage Center,
SA–5, Fifth Floor,
Department of State, Washington,
DC 20522–0505.

Every letter counts so please write if you can.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Anglican Options in the UK

The continuing echo of late antiquity in the modern world is of interest to me. This comes to mind in light of the announcement from the Vatican that it will allow Anglicans to convert while "preserving aspects of their Anglican spiritual and liturgical heritage". I note that there is an alternative that looks back further than the reformation.

The document British Orthodox Heritage Resurgance starts with the paragraph:
For a thousand years, from AD37-45 to AD1054-66, the people living in the British Isles believed and worshipped God as an integral part of the undivided Orthodox Church. That Church was governed world wide by five Patriarchs, those of Constantinople (the Ecumenical Patriarch), Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria. The Church in the British Isles was a local expression of the common Christian Faith held throughout the world. The great saints of the British Isles such as Saint Aidan, Saint David, Saint Patrick, Saint Alban, Saint Chad, Saint Cuthbert, Saint Boniface, Saint Dunstan etc., were all members of that Orthodox Catholic Church in the British Isles which continued for a thousand years.
AD 1054 is, of course, the year of the so-called Great Schism, one of a series of events that lead to the remarkable variety of christian liturgy and doctrine that exists today. While I don't mean to comment on the historicity of the document, I do like the living offering of the pentarchy as a model for modern church government and self-description. Can't we just go back to the Middle Ages?

Brief Thoughts on EPUB Books at Google

I've been playing with downloading epub books from Google. EPUB is a format for digital publication targeted to portable readers. That's not what I care about right now. It is cool that it uses plain old xhtml and standard image formats to represent the contents of a book. That means if you can unpack an EPUB file, which is very easy, you have access to text and images in readily consumable form.

I'm not the first to point this out. See Greg Crane What do you do with a Million Books for early thinking on the large scale implications of Google's work.

In terms of playing, here's what's fun. If you go to the G Books page for H. Chase's Catalogue of Arretine pottery from the MFA, you'll see a link to download the "EPUB" version.

Once you've downloaded that file, it's easy to unpack. I'm a Mac/Linux user. If you are too, and you like the command line, 'unzip Catalogue_of_Arretine_pottery.epub' will do the trick. Otherwise, change the extension to ".zip" and double-click on the file. I'm sure something similar will work in Windows.

Once unpacked, you have two directories, 'OEBPS' and 'META-INF'. The first is the one with all the goodies in it. Open 'OEBPS/images' and you'll see the plates from the book. Those files aren't hi-res, but better than nothing.

The text is the in 'Content-###.xml' files. These can be opened in a browser directly.

As people like Greg have noted, cool things will happen when communities, such as scholars/enthusiasts of the ancient Mediterranean world, take these files and add value to them. In the meantime, I like being able to get at the images, and to have the text on my hard-drive so its available for searching. On the Mac, Spotlight does a good job of indexing the Content files. It also indexes the compressed archives when their extensions are ".zip". It seems to ignore the ".epub" files but I bet that will change soon enough.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Another Video of Upenn Roman Pottery

I'm still enjoying using my phone to shoot video in museums. And I've upgraded my copy of iLife so I can put the clips together with iMovie. That's seems to be good enough for my skill level. The latest product is overviews of a display at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

As I note in the opening frame, these are totally unofficial and personal works. Yes, I'm a Consulting Scholar in the Mediterranean Section and that's why I find myself in the galleries. But I'm just messing around here so don't think worse of the institution because of my low production values.

I'm also still playing around with how to do captions, etc. This time I tried adding "freeze frames". When I get comfortable with what I can do, I'll start adding more informative copy.

I have clips of Upenn Dressel 1's and a Dressel 20 handle/body sherd. And I went to the Brooklyn Museum last weekend. In the past they've had a little bit of Roman pottery on display. But the Egyptian displays keep growing at the expense of later material. I shot some of that and some Bronze Age Cypriot and Minoan vessels. I'll compile and upload those eventually.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Chronology of Phocaean Red Slip (LRC) Hayes 1 and 2

The chronology of Phocaean Red-Slip (LRC) Hayes forms 1 and 2 is turning out to be very important for the work Billur Tekkök and I are doing at Troy/Ilion, in particular when it comes to dating late 4th century building activity at the site. No real surprise there. In the grand scheme of things, Phocaea is near Troy so we should expect to have a fairly complete range of vessels, especially through the early to mid 6th century when the city is still in pretty good shape. An earthquake hits in c. 525 +/- and things seem to get rapidly worse after that. A few PRS Hayes form 10's and a little bit of African Red-Slip, including a Hayes 91d, show that there was ongoing activity at the site but it seems clear that things slow down over the course of the 6th century AD.

In terms of forms, we have lots of Hayes 1s, plenty of Hayes 2's, and many Hayes 3's. We also have a few 5's, vessels near form 6, 8's, a single 9, and a few 10's.

This post isn't about quantities so I'm intentionally using very vague terms. It is about chronology, or rather about the current thinking on the early chronology of the ware. It's just an opening shot so I hereby invoke all the informality that comes with a blog post.

Hayes defined the most widely used typology in 1972 in his Late Roman Pottery (worldcat). He described 10 forms with various subtypes and made frequent reference to his work at the Athenian Agora. Picking from his combination of explicit dating and narrative discussion gives the following date ranges for early PRS (p. 325-329):
Hayes 1a"late fourth-early fifth century."
Hayes 1b"early-third quarter fifth century."
Hayes 1c"uncertain, perhaps first half of fifth century"
Hayes 1d"early-third quarter fifth century"
Hayes 2alate fourth (370) to 450
Hayes 2bNo explicit dates are given for the start of this variant, end falls under the general rubric that form 2 ends by 450.
Hayes 2cEarly variant, "with mid-late fourth century material".

And while we're at it, here are some profile drawings:
Hayes 1a/b from Troy (I17.0647:5)

Hayes 2a from Troy (I17.0647:1)

For more examples go to

Since 1972, the start of form 2 has at times been moved later. This has been done partly on the basis of excavations at San Giacomo degli Schiavoni in Molise (Italy), which documented PRS from a rich early fifth-century cistern fill. The full reference is U.Albarella , V.Ceglia & P.Roberts, S.Giacomo degli Schiavoni ( Molise ): an early fifth century AD deposit of pottery and animal bones from central Adriatic Italy. Papers of the British School at Rome, LXI, 157-230. I'm writing this from home but I do have a photocopy of that article. (Note: why isn't PBSR online? Really, it should be. Or is it and I just don't know about it.)

Jumping ahead a little bit, J. Hayes in his 2009 Agora volume on the imported fine-wares (about which more below), writes of this deposit that it is "coin-dated" (p. 85). Roberts in the article itself writes, "No coins were found, but abundant dating evidence was provided by imported finewares..." (p. 163). Earlier, Albarella writes, "Continuity of occupation through the Imperial period is well documented by and coins...". Question: is there a subsequent publication of a coin from (or clearly dating) the cistern fill? Hayes only references the PBSR article so may overstate the case by calling it "coin dated". Regardless, it's a large deposit (435 vessels identified), with various imports including 33 African Red-Slip (7.5%) and 13 PRS (3%). It certainly shows ARS and PRS circulating together in the early fifth century but I'm not sure it needs to be read as indicating a later start for Hayes 2.

I could offer more references, both to Albarella et al. and to other deposits but I'll instead return to Hayes 2009 (worldcat). Pages 83-88 discuss PRS and offer a substantial update on the chronology presented in LRP. To go along with the narrative, catalog entries 1229 to 1419 are all PRS and there are many profile drawings and a selection of photographs. It's a "don't miss" selection of information about the ware.

Looking to turn Hayes' prose into some relevant dates - some represented as numbers -, I come up with the following:
First appearance of PRS in Agora"...later fourth century, but regular importation seems to coincide with the marked slump seen here in African imports around 390-400... (p. 85)
Form 2 and 3Citing Italian and other sites, "it seems reasonable to conclude that the stamped forms 2 and 3 both originated close to the turn of the century as replacements for two popular African products..." (p. 85)
Form 3f and 3gIn Beirut earthquake horizon of 551.(p. 86)
beginning of Form 10"...the evidence from Lejjun (Jordan) hints at ca. 550..." (p. 86)
"...the continued presence of PRS ware until the mid-7th century seems assured..." (p. 86)
Those are just a few quotes from Hayes' prose introduction to the ware. Turning to the catalog, here are synopses of/snippets from some of the entries that stand out as useful for our work at Troy:

1230A "forerunner" to Hayes 1 dated to the late 3rd/early 4th. This piece is useful for documenting transition from Çandarli/ESC to PRS.
1326 + 1327Form 1 variant. From "Grynnion" workshop? No join between sherds so perhaps not same vessel. "4th Century or later".
1231Form 1 from "Context of second half of 4th century.
1229Hayes 1. "Early(?) variant, in probable Çandarli fabric./Late 4th century. Context of Same date."
1232-1236Main series of Hayes 1's, from first half of fifth or residual in later context.
1237Hayes 2a from "Context of ca. A.D. 400.
1238Hayes 2a dated "Ca. A.D. 400-425."
1239Hayes 2a/b from "Context of ca. A.D. 400+."
1240Hayes 2b "Date later than 1239? Context of ca. A.D. 460-475"
1242Hayes 2c dated "Ca. A.D. 400 to mid-5th century."
1243Hayes 2c from "Context of mid- to late 4th century."
1244+1245Small Hayes 2's both from "Context of late 4th century."
1246+1247Small Hayes 2's both dated to "Ca. A.D. 400 or later."
I've assembled the above tables because when I read the prose introduction, I became concerned that the phrase "the stamped forms 2 and 3 both originated close to the turn of the century" could be become hardened into something like "forms 2 and 3 appear after 400." While this is true for Hayes form 3, I think the appearance of Hayes 2 needs to be kept a little earlier.

As noted, saying so goes against one stream of discussion of form 2. For example, when reviewing C. Abadie-Reynal's volume on the Roman pottery from Argos (worldcat) for BMCR, K. Slane wrote, "Recent work in Corinth confirms that LRC forms 1 and 2 are prevalent in the first half, perhaps even second quarter of the fifth century, rather than in the fourth." I quote the review first because it's readily available online. More in depth discussion can be found in two Hesperia articles: K. Slane and G. Sanders, Corinth: Late Roman Horizons Hesperia 74 (2005), 243-297 (online). To quote:
Assemblage 1 marks the earliest appearance of LRC at Corinth: Hayes forms 1 and 1A, 2B and C, 3.32, and 4 (or 3/4) appear in small quantities with coins of the second quarter and middle of the fifth century and with fifth-century AfRS. Although the amount of AfRS is sharply reduced from what it had been in the fourth century, it is still two or three times as common as LRC. (p. 283)
At the end of the same paragraph, assemblage 1 is dated to 450 or 460. By extension, LRC 1, 1a, 2b, 2c first appear at Corinth in 450 to 460.

In the catalog of this article no. 1.10 on page 251 and fig. 3 is a Hayes 2c similar in profile to Agora XXXII no. 1243, which is said to be from a "Context of mid- to late 4th century." So it looks like the first appearance of 2c at Corinth may post-date its appearance at Athens by 50 years. That's a big gap.

Slane has also published The End of the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore on Acrocorinth Hesperia 77 (2008), 465-496 (online). The most relevant paragraph is the following:
No additional Late Roman C was identified in the reexamination of the context pottery. The single piece found in the sanctuary remains an intact saucer of form 1D (120, Fig. 2) from the debris overlying the floor of the Roman Propylon (lot 2240).Although progress has been made in establishing that LRC was manufactured at several sites south of Pergamon, including Phocaea,the published dates of LRC still depend heavily on the Athenian deposits.In the West, LRC is rare until ca. 470 and most common in the first half of the 6th century. Earlier forms appear ca. 430 in southern Italy (San Giovanni di Ruoti, San Giacomo degli Schiavoni), and the same forms appear at Benghazi. At Corinth, in the area north
of Buildings 1–7 east of the Theater, LRC forms 1 and 2 occur in approximately equal numbers with form 3B–C, suggesting that importation occurred through most of the 5th century; assemblage 1 from the same area contained form 2 and an early example of form 3.40 The most likely date for 120 therefore remains 425–460. Unfortunately, it is not from what we term “destruction debris.” Because it is intact, I had suggested that it was from one of the late graves, but none were identified so far west on the Middle Terrace. Perhaps it can be associated with the dismantling of the Roman Propylon, which would thus be dated ca. 430–460.
That's a long quote, I admit. But it makes for a good read and it is worth following the footnotes if you have access to the article online or in print. For my immediate purpose, it makes no definitive statements about the start of production of PRS Hayes 2, only about its appearance at Corinth.

As noted above, Slane's BMCR review is of the Roman pottery volume from Argos. What's is going on there. In her introduction to PRS, Abadie-Reynal writes:
La chronologie établie par J. W. Hayes parait généralement confirmée par les trouvailles ultérieure. La date d'apparition de cette production a été fixée dans la seconde moitié du IVe siècle, autour des années 370. Cette production continue jusqu'au VIIe siècle. (p. 176)
Catalog nos. 288, 289, and 290 (17.1.2-4) reference sherds of Hayes 2a, b and c from early fifth century deposits. Cat. no. 292 (17.2.2) is identified as the foot of a Hayes 2. Here's the discussion:
Un exemplaire provient d'un context daté de la fin du IVe siècle. Il est importante car c'est le seul fragment de la forme Hayes 2 qui ait été trouvé à Argos dans un contexte de cette époque. Il confirme donc bien que cette forme a commencé à être utilisée à la fin du IVe siècle, même si la majorité des fragments proviennent d'ensembles du Ve.
This offers a correction to Slane's statement in the BMCR review that "Abadie-Reynal is explicit that all examples of LRC form 2 are found in contexts of the fifth century or later, but a few examples of form 1 seem to be transitional from Çandarli." A foot is not as good evidence as a rim, however.

[Quickly checking the catalog of A. Ivantchik Un puits d'époque paléochrétienne sur l'agora d'Argos BCH 126 (2002), 331-404 (online), gives 2 Hayes 3's and a 4 of the mid-fifth.]

OK. What does all this have to do with Troy/Ilion? We have a Hayes 2 sealed in the construction of a columned portico that was added to an earlier building in the late fourth or early fifth century AD. It's the example illustrated above. The same deposit produced 2 Hayes 1a/b rims, a Hayes 1a base, an ARS H50, and an ARS H53b. I'm repeating two drawings from above, but here they all are together.

Hayes 1a from Troy (I17.0647:4)

Hayes 1a/b from Troy (I17.0647:5)

Hayes 1a base (I17.0648:6)

Hayes 2a from Troy (I17.0647:1)

Hayes African Red-Slip 50a (I17.0647:2)

Hayes African Red-Slip 53b (I17.0647:3)

It's a nice group and its date matters. Building the portico is part of a larger resurgence of activity after a lull in the fourth century. If things don't get going again until after 400, that affects our understanding of how quickly Ilion responded to large-scale phenomena such as the increasing population of Constantinople. Consider this and other issues local, regional and Mediterranean-wide and the date of PRS Hayes 2 matters. Especially if it's after 400 and is the latest dateable sherd in that deposit.

Right now, partly on the basis of I17.0647 and on the basis of the Argos catalog, I think Hayes 2 begins before 400. On a related matter, I think the transition from Çandarli to ESC is a smooth one and that Ilion, even if the fourth century isn't a high-point, continues to receive finewares from the south throughout this transition. But I'm adopting a somewhat informal tone in offering this initial conclusion because I've gathered the evidence as notes on secondary literature and as consideration of the material at Troy. I haven't pursued the dialectic between those sources to a firm end. I'm comfortable I've read pretty much everything but I need to do more photocopying/photographing so that I can get everything in front of me at the same time. More importantly, I think the work will be strengthened if I ask for comments now, so that's mostly what I'm doing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Attitudes toward Pottery

Partially as a note to myself, here are a few passages from early Christian literature that reveal attitudes towards ceramic vessels:
[Romans 9:21] hath not the potter authority over the clay, out of the same lump to make the one vessel to honour, and the one to dishonour?
[Timothy 2:20] And in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some to honour, and some to dishonour
I'm using Young's Literal Translation because it's out of copyright and because its approach is useful.

More complete in terms of its range of material culture is the following from the so-called Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus:
See not only with thine eyes, but with thine
intellect also, of what substance or of what form they
chance to be whom ye call and regard as gods.
2:2 Is not one of them stone, like that which we
tread under foot, and another bronze, no better than
the vessels which are forged for our use, and another
wood, which has already become rotten, and another
silver, which needs a man to guard it lest it be
stolen, and another iron, which is corroded with rust,
and another earthenware, not a whit more comely than
that which is supplied for the most dishonourable
2:3 Are not all these of perishable matter? Are they
not forged by iron and fire? Did not the sculptor make
one, and the brass-founder another, and the
silversmith another, and the potter another? Before
they were moulded into this shape by the crafts of
these several artificers, was it not possible for each
one of them to have been changed in form and made to
resemble these several utensils? Might not the vessels
which are now made out of the same material, if they
met with the same artificers, be made like unto such
as these?

That's the somewhat archaic sounding translation of J. B. Lightfoot as found on the excellent Early Christian Writings website. The Greek text is available from The Christian Classics Ethereal Library, which is also a terrific resource.

Many more such passages could be cited so take the above as just a small taste from an abundant feast.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Mediterranean Ceramics" YouTube Playlist

I've created a "Mediterranean Ceramics" YouTube playlist. Follow that link or use this embedded player:

As always, this is in a spirit of experimentation.

One comment: you'll note that there are no voice overs. The one time guards looked at me funny when I was shooting one of these is when I was making comments about the objects in a case. So I don't do that anymore. Perhaps I'll get round to doing audio tracks in the future.

And let me know if there are any videos that should be added to this list.

FYI: Workshop at Center for Hellenic Studies

This should be interesting:

WORKSHOP: Host your texts on Google in one day

The Center For Hellenic Studies will conduct a one-day workshop at the Center's Washington, D.C., campus, on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010, with the subject: "Host your texts on Google in one day". Bring one or more XML texts to the workshop in the morning, and leave in the afternoon with a running Google installation of Canonical Text Services serving your texts to the internet.

For more information, including how to apply, please see

Feel free to forward this announcement to anyone who might be interested.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Roman Pottery Study Case at the Metropolitan Museum

I'm all for criticizing museums when they buy unprovenanced antiquities, pointing out when they seem to be unduly effected by poorly conceived laws, and praising them when they do a good job of presenting material to the public.

The last applies to the Metropolitan Museum's Greek and Roman study collection. It's true there aren't labels, but there is access for those who can travel to New York. In lieu of that, here's a YouTube video of one case of Roman pottery.

I shot it with my iPhone a little over a week ago. Very unprofessional but perhaps better than nothing.

There are three levels in the case and I move from top to bottom. I've added two annotations. Move to 1:50 to see a box indicating that a bowl is African Red-Slip. I would do more if it were possible to link to non-YouTube web pages. I suppose that's too dangerous in terms phishing, etc. But it would be nice.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Google finds Roman Amphorae

Way back in April 2008 I noted that the excellent resource Roman Amphorae: a digital resource seemed to be hiding itself from Google. See the third paragraph of that post.

Since then, I've written and submitted the chapter "Diversity and Reuse of Digital Resources for Ancient Mediterranean Material Culture" that is forthcoming (2010) in G. Bodard and S. Mahony, eds., Digital Research in the Study of Classical Antiquity from Ashgate. In that I make the same observation about Roman Amphorae. The text was submitted earlier this year, and I noted towards its end that many of the observations I make about digital resources may change since the Internet is a moving target.

Accordingly, I'm very happy to report that Google searches now include Roman Amphorae pages. Try For me, the seventh link goes to the drawings page for that Late Roman form from N. Africa.

An administrator from the Archaeological Data Service was an anonymous reviewer of my paper. Perhaps it made a difference. Or maybe not. That doesn't matter. I'm just happy that the problem has been corrected.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Video of UPenn Amphora

A while back I wrote about a North African Amphora at UPenn. I took the photos in that post with an iPhone. Here's video from a 3GS via youtube.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Panathenaic Amphoras

I'm in Troy. One agenda item is adding content to GRBPIlion. Last week Kathleen Lynch of the University of Cincinnati was here. She kindly sent me her catalog entries for a few of the Panathenaic amphoras that she is in the process of publishing.

The main goal is continuing work on the Roman pottery from the Lower City here. A side effect is improvements to the GRBPIlion catalogs, such as the one for Phocaean Red Slip.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mapping coin hoards at

As a small supplement to yesterday's post, here's an additional brief notice of some collaborative work at is a stable URI for hoard 546 as found in An Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards. If you scroll down you'll see there is a map. The text was contributed by the ANS. The lat-long info by colleagues in France. will get you a list of all the hoards for which we have geographic coordinates. That URL will change but works for now.

This is all still highly preliminary, but the data is available and already somewhat useful.

In other ANS matters, our main website is coming along, and there is a new website for the ANS Magazine.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A few items

Non-blog activities continue to keep me busy. Including:
  • Little by little, the digital publication Coins from Ilion (Troia) is coming along. This is very much a joint effort by all the people listed there. My goal is to be well-prepared for the upcoming study season, when I can look at the coins directly.
  • I'm in the proofs stage with "Forum Note: Legal threats to Cultural Exchange of Archaeological materials", co-authored with Glenn Schwartz, that will appear in the July American Journal of Archaeology. Should be done with it tomorrow.
  • Things seem to be moving along well with 'Diversity and Reuse of Digital Resources for Ancient Mediterranean Material Culture', which is coming out in G. Bodard and S. Mahony, eds., Digital Research in the Study of Classical Antiquity from Ashgate. There will be more editorial stages, I'm sure, but the writing is done.
  • Also working on "Ceramic Data from In-Field Use to Digital Publication" with Billur Tekkök and John Wallrodt. Needs to be done next week.
  • And don't forget the CAA2009 paper... Perhaps more on that later.

OK, not all of this will be immediately available for free and in digital form, but that doesn't mean it's totally without merit.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Surface of African Red Slip

Today I added explicit references to page nos. in Hayes' Late Roman Pottery [worldcat] to the GRBPIlion page for African Red Slip.

That's hardly worth a post. But I did re-look at the photographs so here are a few excerpts that show variability of surface treatment.

The exterior of an H32/58 of the late 3rd/early 4th AD. Shows thick unbrushed slip on surface. The photo is a little washed out, overall color of the vessel is "normal" ARS orange.

The interior of a similarly dated H53a. Thick, somewhat smoothed surface with feather rouletting.

It would be really nice if I had a good photo of a very smooth H50. I'll look for one.

Interior of an early 6th century H87b. Less detail than the previous two. Thick smoothed slip.

Exterior of the same piece. Obviously thinner slip is "streakily" applied.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

MFA Boston and Perseus

The URL brings up information about a mirror formed from two coins of a type issued for Antinous.

The object is in the MFA's collection and you can see further information at That URL isn't published by the MFA and some time ago I pointed out that this situation is unfortunate. It's now becoming unfortunate that the MFA website hasn't been updated to display nice, simple URLs for the records in its curatorial database. Something along the lines of JSTOR's stable urls (e.g.,

When it does, Perseus will be able to include markup along the lines of <link rel="alternate owl:sameAs" href=""> in the header of its page. That will be progress.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time Team Publishes

Briefly noting that Wessex Archaeology and the television series Time Team now have the show's resulting archaeological reports available for browsing and download. One model for funding field work and publication.

Monday, March 9, 2009

ARS in Wikipedia

In a fit of procrastination some time back, I started a Wikipedia article for African Red Slip. I've just added a bit today. Improvements can be made on the page itself (hint, hint).

A note on capitalization: wiki-style prefers lower-case. See the editing history for the change from "African Red Slip" to "African red slip". Many archaeologists may think of ARS as something of a proper noun. Either way is OK by me.

And, boy, do I hate typing wikicode in those text-entry boxes. But it's all for a good cause.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

NextEngine 3D

It's been too long since I've posted. Busy, busy, busy...

But now I have a specific question of the community: Has anybody used a NextEngine 3D to good effect? I know Scott Moore took one to Cyrpus. Scott, any further reactions?

I'm speaking with colleagues about getting funding for one but don't want to waste money/time if the machine is no good, too cumbersome, otherwise not useful.

Thanks in advance.

Friday, January 2, 2009

AIA Paper Preview: ESC to PRS

Here's a sequence of images that shows the transition from ESC/Çandarli to Phocaean Red-Slip (PRS). They will appear in my part of the upcoming paper Late Hellenistic and Roman Pottery at Ilion (Troia).

This is the interior of an ESC Hayes form 4 from a late third century AD pit.

Then a sequence of rim sherds. The top three are again ESC Hayes form 4, the lower PRS Hayes form 1. Surface treatment moves from a quite high-gloss finish to a dull matte slip. The ESC is from a 4th century deposit with considerable residual material. The PRS is from a late 4th/early 5th century group. Note the color variation that begins to appear on ESC. This has the feeling of error or at least sloppiness. On PRS, a stacking line becomes one of the signatures of the ware. While such lines do not need to be called "decoration", they shouldn't be thought of as errors.

Now the exterior of a fifth century PRS Hayes form 3 with thin slip.

That the transition from ESC H4 to PRS H1 was smooth has long been known. Nonetheless, these sherds come from distinct production centers. Or rather, the PRS likely comes from workshops in/near ancient Phocaea, whereas production of ESC may have been more regionally distributed between Pitane/Çandarli and Pergamon.

We don't have great early 4th century deposits at Ilion but our evidence indicates that Hayes was right to raise the possibility of overlapping production of these two forms. Nonetheless, ceramic catalogs often enforce a distinct separation between ESC and PRS, with the former falling into discussion of Roman period ceramics and being separated from PRS by the presentation of other wares. Ancient consumers may not have perceived much of a difference as their sources of supply slowly changed over the decades of the fourth century.