Category: archeology

Rethinking the Parthenon - symposium Oct. 17


parthenon.jpgIt's one of the world's great iconic structures, a cultural symbol as well as an artifact and a living presence in one of the world's great metropolises. Even from a distance, the Parthenon inspires, compels and provokes as it connects past to present. All this and more awaits at an upcoming international symposium at UGA on the restoration of the great structure:

"Rethinking the Parthenon: Color, Materiality and Aesthetics" Oct. 17-18.

The international symposium will bring scholars to UGA to present recent research on the Parthenon, a temple built for the goddess Athena on the Acropolis of Athens between 447 and 432 B.C. 


The symposium will focus on three interrelated aspects of the Parthenon: its color, its materiality and its aesthetics. New interdisciplinary research in London and on the Acropolis in Athens has uncovered remains of ancient painting on the sculptures and architecture of the Parthenon. These discoveries add new insights to old discussions of the building's decoration. The diversity of the Parthenon's construction materials, including white marble, bronze, ivory, gold and pigments are of critical importance, the complex symbolism and material aesthetics of the religious use of these materials.

Robin Osborne, a professor of ancient history at Cambridge University, will deliver the keynote speech, "The Parthenon as a Work of Art," Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m. in the M. Smith Griffith Auditorium at the Georgia Museum of Art following a 5 p.m. reception.

The stories codified in Greek architecture are myriad and it's no surprise that more have been uncovered in the restoration at the Acropolis. Classical culture is alive in so many ways; come out and be a part of what are sure be fascinating discussions.

Georgia Museum of Natural History gets major addition of specimens


whale skull with peopleWith large scale coordination of people, machines, the United Parcel Service and the Smithsonian Institute, the Georgia Museum of Naural History received a rather significant expansion to what was already one of the largest university-based collections in the country:

As officials with United Parcel Service, which coordinated the move, looked on, they unloaded literally tons of bones and animal skins.

Freeman and other museum workers talked most about the marine mammals in the truck — dozens of whale and porpoise skeletons, including skulls larger than a tall man and weighing hundreds of pounds.

But there was a lot more than that.

“There’s a giraffe in there somewhere,” said zooarchaeologist Betsy Reitz, who helps archaeologists find out what long-ago people ate by identifying bones the researchers dig up from archaeological sites.

But there was also a hippopotamus, seals, a black rhinoceros, an elephant, flying foxes from Vietnam, and a collection of bird specimens that once belonged to a legendary American ornithologist, A.C. Bent, author of the 21-volume series, “Life Histories of North American Birds.”

Image: A group watches as a whale skull is moved into a University storage warehouse on Friday, May 24, 2013, in Athens, Ga. (Richard Hamm/Staff) OnlineAthens / Athens Banner-Herald

Underwater Archeology in Prehistoric Scotland


The Crannogs of Scotland, in waterA crannog is a kind of artificial island, usually found on lakes, rivers and estuaries in Scotland and Ireland, that were used as dwellings over five millenia from the European Neolithic Period. On Wednesday April 24, The Archeological Institute of America, along with the Lamar Dodd School of Art, the classics department and the department of archeology present a lecture on this and other prehistoric mysteries of Scotland.

The lecture, at 5:30 pm in room S150 of the Lamar Dodd School of Art, features Celtic archeologist Nick Dixon of Edinburgh University. Free and open to the public.

Image: cover from Dixon's 2004 book on the crannogs of Scotland.

Public archeology dig


On Saturday March 16, Jennifer Birch, assistant professor in the department of anthropology, and students from the Student Association for Archaeological Sciences hosted a public archaeology day for the Greater Atlanta Archaeological Society. The dig took place at the Raccoon Ridge site, north of Madison, GA. This location was the site of two prehistoric village occupations, one dating to the Late Woodland period ca. AD 900-1150 AD and the other to the Late Mississippian period ca. AD 1350-1500. The volunteer excavators uncovered pottery and stone tools from three excavation units.

people outside in a field with digging tools

The UGA field school in archaeology will be returning to the site this summer to continue excavations targeted at uncovering the remains of structures, trash pits, and other features associated with the Late Woodland occupation of the site in order to help us better understand this often-overlooked chapter in the prehistoric of Georgia.

Image: from the March 16 dig, courtesy of Dr. Birch.

UGA scientific divers discover 36,000-year-old gray whale fossil


diver underwater with toolThis story has been cropping up several places, even before we could get the press release out. But it is, ahem, a whale of a story:

While the Atlantic gray whale was hunted to extinction by the 1700’s, the Pacific or California gray swims today with a population near its pre-whaling levels. University of Georgia scientists have published their discovery of an Atlantic gray whale fossil off the Georgia coast that has re-enlivened efforts to connect the two species.

UGA geoarcheology professor Ervan Garrison, marine scientist Scott Noakes and research scientist Alexander Cherkinsky of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, along with Greg McFall of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), discovered and fully recovered the large fossilized whalebone near Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, approximately 20 miles off the Georgia coast in 2008. The discovery was published in the journal Paleontologica Electronica on November 5.

The recovery of the fossil required two years, as it was embedded in substrate at the bottom of the ocean, seventy feet below the surface. The dig site was a small reef where the bone was impacted in sedimentation layers of shell and sand. The bone, a left mandible, was recovered in sections totaling 1.5 meters in length. The bone was radiocarbon dated to approximately 36,000 years. A joint UGA and Emory University team restored the bone for study and display.

“We were looking for more terrestrial animals that lived there when humans lived there, when Scott Noakes saw something unusual and called us over to take a look,” said Garrison, professor in the departments of anthropology and geology and lead author on the paper. “When colleagues at the Smithsonian said that it was clearly an Atlantic gray, we realized that the discovery would take on much more meaning.”

Noakes worked with restorers at the Smithsonian Institution to create casts of the bone. Garrison delivered two samples to Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, where cetacean experts sought to identify the bones by its DNA. Though ultimately unsuccessful because of the age of the whalebone, the interest of the biologists helped propel the UGA scientists to their ultimate conclusions about it origins.

“The California grays looked exactly like the bones that were dug up in Scandanavia back in the 19th century,” Garrison explains, “one of the first instances where a living species was named based on the fossil evidence.”

Great discovery, right here off the Georgia coast. Congratulations to these scientists and their quest to add to our understanding of the fate of the Atlantic Gray.

The full journal article is here.

Image: A diver conducts a tool test at the J Reef in December, 2007.

UGA welcomes internationally renowned religion scholar


halpern_baruch, with books.Scholars around the world are congratulating the Franklin College and UGA for one new faculty member in particular on campus this semester:

An internationally recognized scholar whose work combines ancient history, archeology and religious studies has joined the University of Georgia as the inaugural holder of the Covenant Foundation Professor of Jewish Studies.

Baruch Halpern, who comes to UGA from Penn State University, has authored four books, including "The First Historians" (Harper & Row, 1988) and the landmark "David's Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King" (Eerdmans, 2001). The latter, which is being translated into Hebrew and Italian, used historical and archaeological evidence to examine the life of King David of Israel.

Halpern also co-directed archeological excavations of the ancient city Megiddo in Israel, edited two scholarly book series and has appeared in several documentaries on Biblical history. He is currently writing a history of Israel and a biography of the prophet Jeremiah.

"Dr. Halpern is a first-rate scholar whose addition to our faculty highlights the importance of Jewish studies to an intellectually vibrant department of religion that also boasts expertise in Christianity, Islam, Asian studies and Native American religious traditions," said Franklin College Dean Alan T. Dorsey. 

We are glad to welcome Dr. Halpern to campus and happier still for the new opportunties our students will have to learn from him. Esteemed faculty members across our college help attract top students and this is an instance of, a closer look at, how a university advances into the highest eschelons intellectual inquiry and engagement.

Image: UGA photo of Baruch Halpern, Covenant Foundation Professor of Jewish Studies in the department of religion.

Stonehenge at LDSOA



In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy described the solitude of Stonehenge:

 ‘What can it be? … A very Temple of the Winds’ … ‘It seems as though there were no folk in the world but we two’ … they … listened a long time to the wind among the pillars … Presently the wind died out, and the quivering little pools in the cup-like hollows of the stones lay still."