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.
“The Homeric narrator sees things that we, his audience, would have seen had we been on the scene, and things we would not have seen, e.g., the gods. Sometimes the narrative allows entities belonging to the unseen world to move into the seen world (or vice-versa): a god can make him-/herself visible to ordinary mortals, for example (epiphany). The quasi-theological rules that govern this arrangement are also rules for the visualization of the action, as proposed for tragic poets by Aristotle (Poetics ch. 17). In this talk I will explain and illustrate the Homeric rules as they normally operate, and then look at some places where they are put under strain. I will also consider some early evidence for audience awareness of the rules.”
Many of us have been asked what the possible use of a classics degree is. Here is one student’s answer.
Abiqua Academy is looking for an advanced Latin student to tutor one of their students taking high school Latin for next semester. Tutoring would be 1 to 3 hours per week, paying $20 per hour. It is preferred for the tutor to have their own transportation, though student can come to Willamette if necessary. Please email Lily Driskill at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in setting up an interview in December.
Edit: This position has now been filled, but similar employment opportunities will be announced here in the future when they come up.
Personally, one of my favorite parts of studying classics is finding the best modern takes on these ancient stories. They’re common enough from fabulous movies like “O Brother Where Art Thou?” to great books like the Percy Jackson series and “The Song of Achilles.” I have to say, though, my favorite modern take on the classics is an album called “Hadestown” by the artist Anais Mitchell.
Hadestown is a ‘folk opera’ set during the American Great Depression that retells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. (Spoilers ahoy! We all know the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, but if you would like to find out for yourself how it plays out differently in this different setting, then skip the rest of this paragraph.) Hades is a businessman who owns a gold mine, Persephone runs a speakeasy, and Orpheus works in the goldmine. It’s a bit unclear, but one of two things happens: Eurydice has starved to death because of Orpheus’ meager wages working at the goldmine (I think it’s this one?). But it’s also possible that Eurydice, still alive, ran away to Hades because Orpheus could not support her. Either way, Orpheus then goes on a quest to get her back from Hades.
Hadestown features a full cast of influential folk voices, including Justin Vernon and Ani DiFranco, playing Orpheus and Persephone, respectively. Mitchell herself plays Eurydice. The album is one of the highest rated folk albums of all time and, depending on your source, one of the highest rated albums of all time. In this album, Mitchell shows off her stylistic flexibility, transitioning effortlessly from slow orchestral numbers to upbeat love songs and back. The songs are incredibly emotive, underscored by the superb vocal cast.
But enough about praising this music (although I could really go all day!). Listen for yourself! This is the first song from the album, called Wedding Song, in which Orpheus and Eurydice are in love and getting married, but are struggling to afford the ceremony and a life together afterward.