Off the northernmost tip of Scotland lies the Orkney Islands where it is said that if you scratch its surface Orkney bleeds archaeology! This is nowhere truer than in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site that is renown for some of the most iconic prehistoric monuments of Atlantic Europe: the great stone circles of the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness; Maeshowe the finest chambered tomb in northern Europe; and the exceptionally well preserved 5,000-year-old village of Skara Brae.
Recent research and excavation in this area is radicalizing our views of this period and providing a sharp contrast to the Stonehenge centric view of the Neolithic. In particular, the stunning discovery of a Neolithic complex at the Ness of Brodgar that was enclosed within a large walled precinct is changing our perceptions. The magnificence of the Ness structures with their refinement, scale, and symmetry decorated with color and artwork, bears comparison with the great temples of Malta. These excavations are revealing a 5,000 year old complex, socially stratified, and dynamic society.
The Ness excavations were recognized by the American Institute of Archaeology as one of the great discoveries in 2009; named the 2011 Current Archeology Research Project of the Year; winner of the international Andante Travel Archaeology Award in 2012; and featured in cover article in National Geographic in 2014.
The excavations are directed by Nick Card who has lived and worked on Orkney off the north tip of Scotland for more than 25 years. He is Senior Projects Manager of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, University of Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute that he helped to establish. He is also a Member of Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site Research Committee; an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of the Highlands and Islands; Chair of the Ness of Brodgar Trust and Vice-president of the American Friends of the Ness of Brodgar.
While on a study tour in Greece and Turkey this summer, I saw many beautiful artifacts depicting Roman gladiators. While all of these artifacts were fascinating, the most interesting ones that I found were two gladiator grave stelae in the Istanbul Archeological Museum that depicted left-handed gladiators.
With the first stele (labeled “A”), it is easy to tell that the gladiator (a secutor) was left-handed since he is depicted holding his sword in his left hand. It was not as easy to determine the handedness of the gladiator depicted on the other stele. The second stele (labeled “B”) depicts a gladiator (a provocator) resting his right hand on his stacked helmet and shield. The clue that reveals that this gladiator was left-handed, however, is that he is wearing his greave (leg guard) on his right leg. The heavily armed gladiator types, like the one depicted in this stele, wore a greave on the leg that corresponded with their shield arm. A left-handed gladiator would have carried his shield with his right arm and therefore would have also worn his greave on his right leg. Using this information, I was able to determine that the gladiator depicted in the second stele was a lefty.
I found these left-handed gladiators so fascinating partly because of my experience fencing. I am right-handed, and I distinctly remember that fencing with left-handed people was always very difficult. Although the Roman method of sword fighting was very different from modern fencing, I can’t help but think that differences in handedness between gladiators would have presented the same sort of challenges. The almost universal use of shields by most gladiator types would probably compounded these issues.
Thursday, Nov. 8th
*WU Campus : Rogers Music Center : Hudson Concert Hall
Dr. Jodi Magness
Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
In this slide-illustrated lecture, we survey Jewish tombs and burial customs in Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, and consider the archaeological and literary evidence for the burials of Jesus and his brother James. The lecture includes a discussion of the claims surrounding the so-called “James ossuary” and the “Talpiyot tomb” (recently said to be the tomb of Jesus and his family).