Archive for juni, 2016

13.06.16

Athletes from around the world re-enact ancient games in Nemea

http://www.ekathimerini.com/209524/article/ekathimerini/sports/athletes-from-around-the-world-re-enact-ancient-games-in-nemea

DEREK GATOPOULOS

Fifty-five days before the Games begin in Rio de Janeiro, athletes from around the world are taking part in very different kind of sporting tournament in southern Greece.

Think of it as the no-frills Olympics: No national teams. No medals. No shoes.

Wearing only white tunics and running barefoot, athletes competed Saturday in the Sixth Modern Nemean Games, a partial revival of ancient Greek games which draws enthusiastic participants aged from 5 to 89.

The races, run in age categories, only include a 90-meter sprint on a straight dirt course at a 2,300-year-old stadium and 7.5-kilometer run through fabled olive groves and vineyards in the area, where in ancient Greek mythology Hercules – god of strength, sport and fertility – slayed a fearsome lion.

Runners take an oath before competing, and pass through an ancient tunnel to reach the track. A teenage boy, with a red cloak and laurel branch crown on his head, sounds a long horn before each race.

Overnight rain delayed the games for 90 minutes and caused some runners to slip in the mud during races.

Irish runner Andrew Fortune stayed on his feet to win the print in his age group. A white ribbon was tied behind his head and his feet were cooled in a copper basin.

«It was amazing to come into these games. The tunnel was phenomenal,» the 42-year-old said, still slightly out of breath. «The track was very muddy today.

One guy tripped beside me but the feet are good and the race is won. It was a great experience — the right way to run Instead of a starting gun, track officials used a mechanism copied from antiquity: a wood-and-rope starting gate that drops to the ground when the race begins. Runners pick numbered blocks of marble out of a metal drum at random to be assigned their lane.

The Nemean Games were revived by an American archaeologist who first came to Nemea in southern Greece in 1973.

Stephen G. Miller, professor emeritus of classical archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley, led the excavation when the ancient site still lay buried beneath a highway and vineyards used by raisin farmers.

Near the southern city of Corinth, Nemea is steeped in ancient history. The 2,300-year-old Temple of Zeus stands next to the track and a museum built at the site.

Miller and his team unearthed the temple and stadium, one of the four major sites where Ancient Greek games were held: Olympia, Delphi, Isthmia and Nemea.

The 74-year-old has led the games at Nemea since 1996, a lower-key, more egalitarian affair than the Olympics, in which athletes engage in the no-prize competition with a relatively small but dedicated following.

The games attract a mix of Greek and overseas travelers and tourists, history lovers, fitness enthusiasts and school trips. The tunics, held tight with a piece of rope, could be mistaken for hospital gowns and are color-coded: White for athletes, black for track officials, and yellow, green or light blue for other organizers.

Miller, in yellow, manned the entrance, checking the names of athletes as they entered the games area.

Giving an ancient site a little modern significance, he says, encourages people to learn.

«Im an archaeologist. And what I do is greatly satisfying – to be the first person to see what was made by an ancient Greek 2,300 years ago. But that’s self-satisfaction. What does that mean for our society? Nothing,» he told the AP in an interview during an interval at the games.

«I think here with our games, [people] will learn with physical contact – with the same stones and the same earth that the ancient Greeks touched. I hope they will be inspired to read a little history, to learn something about ancient Greek athletics and through ancient Greek athletics to learn about ancient Greece.»

Ancient games, held over roughly 1,000 years, were of major significance in Greece, pausing wars between rival city states so that hostilities would not interfere with the competition.

Unlike the ancient games and the Aug. 5-21 Rio Olympics, Miller said, Nemea is open to everybody.

«We don’t rival the Olympic games. We supplement the Olympic games. Weextend the experience of the Olympic spirit to everybody,» he said.

«You don’t have to be a great athlete as you do in the Olympics. You can be a common person. You can walk down the track instead of running. But you are part of ancient history.»

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11.06.16

Scientists decipher purpose of mysterious astronomy tool made by ancient Greeks

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/antikythera-mechanism-1.3628648

Inscriptions on Antikythera Mechanism suggests it was mechanical computer used to track sun, moon

Fragments of the 2,100-year-old Antikythera Mechanism are displayed at the National Archaeological Museum, in Athens. For over a century since its discovery in an ancient shipwreck, the exact function of the Antikythera Mechanism — named after the southern Greek island off which it was found — was a tantalizing puzzle.

Fragments of the 2,100-year-old Antikythera Mechanism are displayed at the National Archaeological Museum, in Athens. For over a century since its discovery in an ancient shipwreck, the exact function of the Antikythera Mechanism — named after the southern Greek island off which it was found — was a tantalizing puzzle. (Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press)


When you’re trying to fathom a mangled relic of very old hi-tech, it helps to have the manufacturer’s instructions.

For over a century since its discovery in an ancient shipwreck, the exact function of the Antikythera Mechanism — named after the southern Greek island off which it was found — was a tantalizing puzzle.

From a few words deciphered on the twisted, corroded fragments of bronze gears and plates, experts guessed it was an astronomical instrument. But much more remained hidden out of sight.

GREECE-ARCHAEOLOGY/ANTIKYTHERA-MECHANISM

After more than a decade’s efforts using cutting-edge scanning equipment, an international team of scientists has now read about 3,500 characters of explanatory text — a quarter of the original — in the innards of the 2,100-year-old remains. (Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)


They say it was a kind of philosopher’s guide to the galaxy, and perhaps the world’s oldest mechanical computer.

«Now we have texts that you can actually read as ancient Greek, what we had before was like something on the radio with a lot of static,» said team member Alexander Jones, a professor of the history of ancient science at New York University.

«It’s a lot of detail for us because it comes from a period from which we know very little about Greek astronomy and essentially nothing about the technology, except what we gather from here,» he said. «So these very small texts are a very big thing for us.»

Eclipse predictions

The team says the mechanism was a calendar of the sun and the moon that showed the phases of the moon, the position of the sun and the moon in the zodiac, the position of the planets, and predicted eclipses. Nothing of the sort was known to be made for well over 1,000 years.

Greece Ancient Computer

University of Athens professor Xenophon Moussas speaks behind a possible reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism during a press conference in Athens, on June 9. The team says the mechanism was a calendar of the sun and the moon that showed the phases of the moon, the position of the sun and the moon in the zodiac, the position of the planets, and predicted eclipses. (Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press)


«It was not a research tool, something that an astronomer would use to do computations, or even an astrologer to do prognostications, but something that you would use to teach about the cosmos and our place in the cosmos,» Jones said. «It’s like a textbook of astronomy as it was understood then, which connected the movements of the sky and the planets with the lives of the ancient Greeks and their environment.»

«I would see it as more something that might be a philosopher’s instructional device.»

The letters — some just 1.2 millimeters (1/20 of an inch) tall — were engraved on the inside covers and visible front and back sections of the mechanism, which originally had the rough dimensions of an office box-file, was encased in wood and operated with a hand-crank.

GREECE ANCIENT COMPUTER

While hypotheses were made as to the functioning of the gears and the use of the machine, it was for long impossible to read more than a few hundred characters of the texts buried on the inside of a multi-layered mechanism a bit like a big clock. (Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press)

It wasn’t quite a manual, more like a long label you would get on a museum to describe a display, according to another team member, Mike Edmunds, who is an emeritus professor of astrophysics at Cardiff University.

«It’s not telling you how to use it, it says `what you see is such and such,’ rather than `turn this knob and it shows you something,»‘ he said Thursday, during a presentation of the team’s findings in Athens.

Found in shipwreck

The mechanism’s fragments were raised in 1901 from a mid-1st century B.C. shipwreck, and at first seemed like a scruffy footnote to a magnificent body of finds that included bronze and marble statues, luxury glassware and ceramics.

But the sediment-encrusted, compacted lumps soon attracted scientific attention, and were studied by successive teams over the next decades. While hypotheses were made as to the functioning of the gears and the use of the machine, it was for long impossible to read more than a few hundred characters of the texts buried on the inside of a multi-layered mechanism a bit like a big clock.

Greece Roman Wreck

A diver with a metal detector holds a copper ship’s fitting next to a vase at the site of the Antikythera wreck off the island of Antikythera in southern Greece, where the mechanism’s fragments were raised in 1901. (Brett Seymour/ARGO via Greek Culture Ministry/Associated Press)

About 12 years ago, Jones’ and Edmunds’ team started to use x-ray scanning and imaging technology to analyze the 82 surviving fragments.

«The original investigation was intended to see how the mechanism works, and that was very successful,» Edmunds said. «What we hadn’t realized was that the modern techniques that were being used would allow us to read the texts much better both on the outside of the mechanism and on the inside than was done before.»

It was a painstaking process, as to read each of the tiny letters, researchers had to look at dozens of scans.

Not a toy

Edmunds said the style of the text — formal and detailed — implied that it was designed to be much more than a rich collector’s plaything.

«It takes it to me out of the realm of executive toys — an executive wouldn’t pay all that money to have all that waffle — it’s more serious than a toy,» he said.

Greece Ancient Computer

«Perhaps, at some point, our reading may be fleshed out by sections retrieved from the sea,» said team member Yanis Bitsakis, speaking behind a possible reconstruction of the device at a news conference on June 9. (Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press)

It was probably made in Greece between 200 and 70 B.C., although no maker’s signature has been found.

The team says they have read practically all the text on the surviving fragments. Their greatest hope is that archaeologists currently revisiting the shipwreck will uncover pieces overlooked by the sponge divers who found it a century ago — or even another similar mechanism.

The commercial vessel was a giant of the ancient world — at least 40 meters (130 feet) long — and broke into two as it sank, settling on a steep underwater slope about 50 meters (164 feet) deep.

Most of the inscriptions, and at least 20 gears that worked to display the planets, are still there.

«Perhaps, at some point, our reading may be fleshed out by sections retrieved from the sea,» said team member Yanis Bitsakis.

08.06.16

Stone age Aegean Sea migrants brought agriculture to Europe

http://www.ekathimerini.com/209429/article/ekathimerini/life/stone-age-aegean-sea-migrants-brought-agriculture-to-europe

FRANK JORDANS

Stone Age people from the Aegean Sea region moved into central and southern Europe some 8,000 years ago and introduced agriculture to a continent still dominated at the time by hunter-gatherers, scientists say.

The findings are based on genetic samples from ancient farming communities in Germany, Hungary and Spain. By comparing these with ancient genomes found at sites in Greece and northwest Turkey, where agriculture was practiced centuries earlier, researchers were able to draw a genetic line linking the European and Aegean populations.

The study challenges the notion that farming simply spread from one population to another through cultural diffusion. The findings were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Joachim Burger, one of the study’s authors, said genetic analyses of the samples showed that the ancient farmers in central Europe and Spain were more closely related to the Aegean group than to each other. This suggests that farmers came in two separate waves – northward into the continent and westward along the coastline to Spain.

«One is the Balkan route and one is the Mediterranean route, as we know it also from migration of today,» said Burger, an anthropologist and population geneticist at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

Researchers were also able to deduce some characteristics of the ancient Aegean farmers based on their DNA, he said. They were relatively fair-skinned with dark eyes and didn’t yet have the genes necessary to digest milk after childhood – a trait that only developed in Europe later.

The Aegean farmers also appeared to be closely related to Oetzi the Iceman, whose well-preserved remains were found on a glacier on the border between Austria and Italy.

Finally, by comparing the ancient samples to those of modern-day Europeans, the scientists found that the ancient farmers weren’t their direct ancestors. These ancestors also include the hunter-gatherers, who eventually mixed with the newcomers and a third population thought to have arrived in Europe from the eastern steppes about 5,000 years ago.

An expert not involved with the study said it was «solid and well done,» but cautioned that some of its conclusions were based on limited data.

«Small statistical effects might be [a] fluke,» said Michael Hofreiter, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Potsdam, Germany.

But the insight into Europe’s Stone Age migration offered by the study was valuable, Hofreiter said.

«It adds to our knowledge about human history. And I think it is always valuable to replace speculation by factual evidence,» he said.

Burger said researchers will now investigate whether the Aegean farmers can be linked directly to populations further southeast in the Fertile Crescent stretching from Syria to southwest Iran, where agriculture is known to have first emerged more than 10,000 years ago.

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