Roman Forum

While talking with my aunt about my plan to backpack across Europe after college, she adamantly insisted I see the Roman Forum. (We both love history, and more specifically Ancient Rome) At her insistence I see the Roman Forum, my curiosity peeked, I began to research the site.

I had known that the best Roman ruins are not found in the modern city of Rome today; instead they are found else where. Places like Spain, France, etc.  Over the course of history the people of the city of Rome have demolished buildings built during the Roman Empire and Republic. They built new buildings in their place. There are few sites in Rome that have Roman ruins. The most well know site of Roman ruins in Rome would be the Roman Forum.

Being one of the few remaining ancient Roman sites still existing in Rome today the Roman Forum is very special. In the Roman Forum’s heyday it was the political center of the city, being the place of many government buildings, temples, public speaking venues, memorials, and statues. This is where the Senate and the Roman republic began.

Excavation of the Roman Forum began in the 18th Century. Italian archaeologists and Napoleon were the first to study the ancient Roman ruins. The site proved very information as Roman custom was the built over the old. These layers would show the growth of Rome as a city as well as the architecture techniques of various times, and the transformation of the Roman Forum from a marketplace to a political center.  The forum is home to many great ruins, for a few examples the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Vesta, the Basilica Julia, and the Temple of Castor and Pollux.

After being abandoned in 410 AD when Rome because a Christian empire the Roman Forum was used as a cattle and sheep grazing field. Some of building blocks of the structures were used to build other structures.

Today the Roman Forum is one of the largest remains of Ancient Rome as well as one of the most interesting excavation sites. It is still being excavated today as well as an intense preservation project to maintain the site. It is of the utmost importance to preserve history, the world should learn from the Romans. Without a doubt when I will in Rome I will see the Roman Forum.

Stonehenge, Theories of Its Purpose

In our last discussion in class we talked about Stonehenge. Stonehenge is a perfect topic for any class that deals with archaeology. It is also widely recognized and known about to the general public. Being human nature, people ask “What is its purpose?”, “Why was Stonehenge built?” both archaeologists and regular people wonder and ponder about Stonehenge’s function. Well why was it built? Though we may never know Stonehenge’s true purpose archaeologists can speculate as to why England’s ancient peoples designed and built this testament to ancient peoples’ ingenuity.

There are many theories about Stonehenge’s function and purpose from the rational to the irrational to the magical. These range from folklore to aliens to sacrifice to serving as a calendar.

The earliest theories about Stonehenge were of mythical proportions. Folklore explanations of Stonehenge involve Merlin, a wizard from the tales of King Arthur, using magic to construct Stonehenge. The story is that Merlin had a giant take stones from Ireland to England and then construct Stonehenge or that Merlin himself magically transported the stones. Folklore attributes the reason for this as Merlin making a burial place for Britain’s princes. Obviously this theory is impossible, magic is not real, and radiocarbon dating tells archaeologists that Stonehenge was built between 2400 to 2200 BCE.

Other theories have played with the ideal that Stonehenge is practically a giant calendar. There is scrutiny over whether Stonehenge being used as a calendar is for religious, agricultural, or social reasons. This much is true though the double circle can be used as a vantage point for constellation observation, and thus could measure seasonal changes and the coming and going of seasons. Hence the best time to harvest, plant crops, etc. The telling of seasonal changes could have also been for religious festivals and celebrations. All of this is highly debated.

Archaeologists also speculate whether Stonehenge was used for ritual reason, whether or not it is religious. Evidence can suggest that Stonehenge was used for funeral rituals. Supporting this theory is the fact that their are numerous burial mounds and sacred sites surrounding Stonehenge. Further supporting this claim is the comparison to other cultures and the placement of structures. Being located in a very sacred sanctuary Stonehenge is more likely a funerary structure for the burial of England’s ancient people.

Many, many more theories surround Stonehenge’s use and purpose. The ritual funerary theory is the most widely accepted theory of Stonehenge’s purpose, partly because evidence that Stonehenge’s astronomical alignment is more than a symbolic one is less than adequate.

Why Egyptomania?

When our class started on ancient Egypt I was very excited. I knew a lot, or I thought I did, about ancient Egypt because when I was a child I would watch a great number of Discovery Channel shows and many of them being about the pharaohs, pyramids, and Egyptian mythology. This would play a big role in my childhood Egyptomania. Television shows would turn into big colorful books on ancient Egypt with large pictures of tombs, pharaohs, and the like. Movies like the Mummy, and the Mummy Returns further fueled this fascination.

As the subject was further presented and talked about I began to wonder, why ancient Egypt? Certainly Europe had numerous ancient civilizations they could be obsessed with, study intensely, and obtain artifacts to gawk at in museums. The same with India, Iran had the Persians, China had many dynasties like ancient Egypt, and South American had the Aztecs, Incas, and the Mayas. Why would ancient Egypt be so appealing over the other civilizations? European colonial powers treated Egypt like an archaeological gold rush, each trying to grab as much as they could. Without a doubt ancient Egypt has a larger presence when it comes to archaeology.

The only explanation I can come up with is ancient Egypt had beautiful artifacts, standing infrastructures, and made wondrous, glittering gold sarcophagi and jewelry that made Egypt more attractive than other past civilizations’. Egypt must have been more enticing because the civilization offered more interesting artifacts to put in their museums. Ancient Egyptian artifacts were pretty being made out of gold and precious gems while gems and gold were scarcer in other ancient civilizations. As we all know, because we all took some sort of history class in high school, colonial Europeans had an obsession with gold. Also ancient Egyptian infrastructures are still, somewhat, standing. The Great Pyramids for instance though worn are mostly all together and standing, whereas Babylonian, Persian, and Greek structures are more decrepit. While the other ancient civilizations also made similar infrastructures (the Greeks made the Pantheon, the Persians built Persepolis, the Mayans built the Pyramid of the Sun) ancient Egyptian structures still had paint and readable hieroglyphics. But the great frequency to which they made their temples, pyramids, and tombs must have been more enticing than the other civilizations’. Furthermore, ancient Egyptians had a tendency of having well preserved artifacts, for example the Khufu ship which is one of the oldest, best preserved wooden vessels in antiquity. Perhaps these are the reasons ancient Egypt took preference over the other civilizations.

Because of the Rosetta Stone

The past week our class focused on the topic of the Great Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings, and Egypt in general. While in class the discussion centered around explorers, the pyramids, and the systematic robbing of Egyptian artifacts something piqued my curiosity. Albeit somewhat briefly, the Rosetta Stone was mentioned.The Rosetta Stone itself was a stele inscribed with a decree by King Ptolemy V, on it were the sane decree but written in three different scripts; Ancient Greek, Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, and demotic script. This ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic stele has been so important to Egyptology and plays such a predominant role in learning about the ancient Egyptians. Rosetta Stone has even become a name for an essential clue in a field of knowledge. If it were not for the Rosetta Stone archaeologists would not be able to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Through the work of many linguists and archaeologists the Rosetta Stone became a tool to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, making scholars and archaeologists able to translate an innumerable amount of cravings, scripts, and wall inscriptions. Information could be gathered from hieroglyphics that could date back thousands of years. For example, ancient Egyptian literature such as papyrus scrolls from the Middle Egyptian era, and hieroglyphs on the walls of Theban temples. Egyptians wrote about burial customs, history, Egyptian mythology, and so much more all across their temples, in scripted on many walls. This gave Egyptologists an insight into the beliefs and minds of ancient Egyptians (or at least the upper, educated class). Such beliefs as the intricate Egyptian mythological system of many gods and goddesses. In addition, through the translation Egyptologists discovered cartouches and the names of the pharaohs, giving them the names of the buried pharaohs in the pyramids.

Locking the code to the Egyptian hieroglyphics also showed archaeologists that Egyptians had an extensive knowledge of astronomy, some scholars even argue that the pyramids have connections with astronomy. While that may be debatable, the impressive knowledge of ancient Egyptian architects is not. These architects designed and built massive structures. Even the sides of some pyramids have slopes with a small margin of error. Their lives and techniques written and stored in the burial places near their pharaohs.

There is plethora of knowledge about ancient Egypt that without the Rosetta Stone would be a mystery. The Rosetta stone has been essential to the modern knowledge of ancient Egyptian literature and civilization.