Princeton University

Apulum Mithraeum III Project in Alba Iulia 2014

The archaeological campaign of 2013 on the Cartier Cetate site, findspot Mithraeum III, from Alba Iulia, Alba District, is part of a multi-annual research project developed by the National Museum of Unification.

Alba Iulia worked together with the Princeton University (USA), Babeş-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca and the Institute of Archaeology and History of Art Cluj-Napoca. The main scope of this campaign, carried out in July – August 2013 and 2014, was to systematically uncover the building identified in a 2008 rescue excavation as the sanctuary of Mithras, using a complex, interdisciplinary approach.The investigations led to the identification of a complex stratigraphy, consisting of several layers belonging to different chronological phases, which were dated according to the archaeological evidence. Besides the structure of the sanctuary, which has a NW – SE orientation, the excavations also uncovered a large refuse pit that predates the building and a part of a rectangular timber structure, both belonging to the Roman period, as well as a part of a medieval house.

The recovered inventory consists of: altars, architectural elements, pottery, objects made of glass, iron, bronze, stone, coins and a large quantity of animal bones. Sets of palynological, archaeobotanical, archaeozoological, soil and radiocarbon samples were also collected.

Our team is two weeks into the second season of the Mithraeum III Project and so far, progress is being made. We have made important finds and are moving in the right direction to understand several layers of different occupation occurring on site. The hope of the site is to unearth the mithraeum structure in it’s entirety and to understand the human occupation surrounding. This year we have a geophysical science student collecting geophysical data of unexcavated areas near the excavation and we hope to understand what is happening around the Mithraeum.

We are staying in the University of Alba Iulia’s accommodation, about twenty minutes from our site, and our day begins around 7:30am and we work until 4:30pm with lunch and a few breaks in between from Monday to Saturday (Saturday is a half-day). Sunday is our free day in which we go to select locations in the Transylvanian region, such as the mines of Rosa Montana or the Roman capital of Sarmizegetusa as our team visited last year.

As the Student Education Coordinator, I have had the pleasure of working with the directors to plan a weekly lecture for the students and creating a manual for quick archaeological information. This has been a sensational project to be a part of and this season promises to answer many questions our team holds. Thank you to all members of the excavation team, universities, museums, and the city of Alba Iulia for your support!

From Cultural Property to Fiction

Cast of part of the Parthenon frieze at UCS

Is there a typical day in the life of a Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk?

This is the week of Ip-Art, the Ipswich Arts Festival. On Tuesday night I was at Arlington’s in Museum Street for a poetry evening hosted by Poetry Anglia. The building was constructed as a museum – so it appropriately became the home of the muses! I was invited to be the first reader and offered my ‘Roman Vision‘ reflecting on the Roman remains that peep out among the buildings of modern Athens.

Earlier in the day I had attended an e-learning workshop. There was a focus on the use of iPads, a topic of interest to me through the Gwella project work at Swansea University (in my previous role). I am developing materials that can be delivered to smart phones and tablet devices to assist with the interpretation of archaeological and heritage sites.

Wednesday was the UCS research day. There was a varied programme with a keynote address on e-medicine. I gave a paper, ‘Looting matters: cultural property, conventions and compliance’. This considered a discussion of how recently surfaced antiquities can continue to surface on the market and to be acquired by major museums. I reviewed some of the international guidelines, as well as the ethical codes for museums and dealers in ancient art. The focal point was the compliance (or non-compliance) of dealers and museums when questionable material is identified. (For more on this topic see ‘Looting Matters‘.) Earlier in the week I had received my offprint of a study of the material returned to Italy from Princeton University Art Museum.

The same research conference included a discussion of project management from a colleague in the Business School. We have developed an interesting dialogue about the management of ancient projects. I was struck by the wording the (Athenian) Eleusinian Epistatai decree of the 430s BC that cites the way that the ‘management’ structure for the temple (presumably the Parthenon) and the statue (presumably the Athena Promachos) should be used as a model.

The Sainsbury Centre at UEA

Yesterday was spent in a series of meetings at UEA in Norwich. Part of the day involved discussions in the Sainsbury Centre and it was good to see the series of Cycladic marble figures from the southern Aegean. These figures formed the subject of a research paper with Christopher Chippindale (Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) that was published in the American Journal of Archaeology [JSTOR]. It was the first in a series of studies about cultural property.

One of the trends on Twitter yesterday was the submission of online poetry from around the world to celebrate the forthcoming Olympics.  I offered my ‘Shaded Marbles‘ as an audio track with appropriate images. The theme is on (historic) cultural property currently in the British Museum. (The Greek theme was appropriate given the origins of the Games.)

Another of my roles is as Head of the Division of Humanities. So this evening I will be attending the Short Story event in the Spiegeltent at Ip-Art to hear the competition winner announced. I was one of the judges for the short-listing and I have been asked to say something about our institutional support for this literary event.