Monthly Archives: July 2017

Il privilegio dell’archeologia

Come risulta da molti dei post, l’archeologo è un mestiere difficile, quasi sempre (almeno in Italia) mal ricompensato. Però lavorare in posti come questo costituisce un privilegio senza prezzo.

Nella foto, il sito di Cecilia Metella, lungo l’Appia antica. Sul mausoleo e le pareti sopravvissute del castrum caetani si addensano le prime ombre della sera, quelle dei pini marittimi che costeggiano l’Appia.

Le stesse ombre e gli stessi pini che vide Goethe, quando, l’11 novembre 1786, venne qui in visita e riportò – profeticamente – nei suoi diari:

“Oggi sono stato alla Ninfa Egeria, poi alle Terme di Caracalla e sulla via Appia a vedere le tombe ruinate e quella meglio conservata di Cecilia Metella, che da un giusto concetto della solidità dell’arte muraria. Questi uomini lavoravano per l’eternità ed avevano calcolato tutto, meno la ferocia devastatrice di coloro che son venuti dopo ed innanzi ai quali tutto doveva cedere.”

In fondo, dovendo sintetizzare in un solo concetto in che cosa consista il mestiere di archeologo, direi che sia proprio quello di opporsi alla “ferocia devastatrice” di oggi e di domani, in qualsiasi forma si manifesti.

The Greatest Archaeological Find of Our Time!

Okay, so I might be exaggerating slightly in my title, but this year’s Day of Archaeology was spent promoting the Festival of Archaeology and, when promoting archaeology to the media, you need to know how to get their attention. It is that balance between the exaggerated and the factual that makes promoting the work of archaeologists so difficult – and that allows a handful of enquiries to fill an entire day. As Communications Officer for the Council for British Archaeology – a representative of and promotional body for archaeology – the challenge is somewhat greater as we are one-stage removed from the finds and research itself.

Getting that initial interest from the media isn’t easy. Ideally, you need a superlative to grab attention and get a press release read by a journalist or editor in the first place. It has to be the best, greatest, first of its kind, last of its kind, imperilled, or destroyed to be considered newsworthy, or compete with the other hundreds of releases and emails a journalist receives, and this is not how most archaeologists tick. So I am very fortunate that an annual Festival, which is an accumulation of hundreds of local events, has managed to get their interest – and massively grateful to the journalists involved, thank you! This piece is as much about the difficulties of their jobs as it is about mine. I appreciate how difficult that editor and those readers are to impress.

I have regularly been put on the spot with the question from journalists “So what incredible finds have been unearthed during the Festival?” We have been fortunate to have organisations such as Durham University taking part, who chose to reveal a previously discovered and investigated find for the first time during the Festival (shameless plug here ). Normally it isn’t that easy.

Roman Fleet Diploma c. Durham University

The Roman Fleet Diploma on display at Durham University

It takes time to investigate any finds or prove any theories we may come up with. Sadly, that doesn’t quite fit with the requirements of modern media – if you dug up the most groundbreaking find in the world 3 years ago, and are only just ready to publish your findings, that gnawing voice in the back of a journalist’s mind is questioning if that is breaking news or old news. As such, I’ve developed a fondness for the less scrupulous archaeologists who will boldly declare that what they pulled out of the ground 5 seconds ago will change our entire understanding of the prehistoric world. I love to read their stories in the local – and every so often national – press, admire their spirit, and laugh at the minimal amount of research that went in to the article.

However, this is the challenge I have faced during the Day of Archaeology. Getting journalists and other influencers interested in our work, whilst ensuring that the final published story is somehow balanced, despite the temptation on all sides to dazzle the readers with something exaggerated. It is easy to be mis-quoted, something I fear more than anything, not being a practicing archaeologist myself. Generating publicity is comparatively easy, conveying good archaeology through the media is hard.

So for me 28th July was spent answering calls from journalists who were suitably intrigued by the concept of a two week Festival of everything archaeological. I’ve nurtured the better ideas, passed images to those who just wanted to copy and paste our press release, and sadly dashed the hopes of some of the more optimistic writers who wanted to publish their “greatest single development in the history of the world” piece. I’ve sourced quotes from those in the know for those stories that fit with the reality of a good archaeological approach. All being well, you won’t even know I’ve done it. You’ll read a story about the Festival of Archaeology in the next few days that will have a catchy title but will be well informed and balanced, with a tasty quote from someone relevant, that makes people want to get out there and get involved with their heritage.

From Raindogging to Becoming a “Real Boy”: A Day in the Life of a New Lecturer

The crest over the doorway at King’s Manor.

Six years ago for the first Day of Archaeology (which I posted to my own blog for reasons that have become obscured by time) I posted about selling off my worldly possessions to live out of my suitcase. It was a mildly maudlin post, rife with Tom Waits. As predicted, I “raindogged” for 2.5 years afterwards, working, writing on planes, trains, borrowed couches and archaeological projects with no permanent address. I ended up circumnavigating the globe before landing in York, at the ragged ends of travel.

After a series of increasingly convoluted and miscellaneous postdoc/associate lecturer escapades, I found myself suddenly A Lecturer. A Real Lecturer. It’s about as magical and unlikely as the scene in Pinocchio, where the wooden puppet becomes a Real Boy. There’s a lot to unpack there with gender, posthumanism and transfiguration, but let’s leave it for another time.

So, while I’d love to polish my tiara (academics get tiaras, right?) and call it good, I had a lot of work to do on my Day of Archaeology. When I posted on my blog about getting The Job, one of the comments I received was:

“Congratulations! The down side is that we’ll be seeing fewer posts on Digs in Exotic Places, and more on the Joys of Faculty Meetings.”

It is true, I spent the morning in a meeting, but it was an exciting meeting, if there can be such a thing, about grants funding research that I’ve been thrashing about since at least 2009, with avatars and chatbots. Now that I’m A Real Lecturer I can lead on these types of things, instead of glomming onto grants led by others.

Though I’d earmarked the day for research, I found myself having to finish up a bit of admin: the last touches on a short video promoting the Digital Heritage MSc and Archaeological Information Sciences MSc programs here at York, which I’ll be taking over in the Autumn. I’d love to have more students from North America, let me know if you’d like more information.

After I finished uploading the video, I finalized the design of an incredible illustration of a papercraft King’s Manor, created by Nick Ellwood. I really enjoyed collaborating with an artist on this work, which is in turn archaeological and whimsical.

I also spent some of the day finalizing teaching for both undergraduates and postgraduates, including this delightful roster of lectures for the upcoming Analysis & Visualisation course offered to our Masters students:

Perhaps it isn’t quite as exciting as Sunrise in Bangkok or The Recent Ancient Tradition of the Ogoh Ogoh or even spending your days with your head down a toilet, but I’m up for it. I won’t even act jealous when I hear about Katy drawing up a storm at Catal, or updates from Freya’s project in Egypt or any of the other amazing Day of Archaeology posts from the field. Nope.

The Young Archaeologists’ Club: Archaeologists of the Future

This Day of Archaeology found me multi-tasking as many archaeologists do. The bulk of my day was spent with the Mersey and Dee Young Archaeologists’ Club, on my day off from the History of Place project with some PhD reading and Society For Post-Medieval Archaeology Treasurer tasks in the evening-the life of an archaeologist is varied, exciting and never stops!

The image shows a sign that reads 'Galkoff's and the Secret Life of Pembroke Place: Stories from a fascinating Liverpool community'

Galkoff’s and the Secret Life of Pembroke Place: Stories from a fascinating Liverpool community

I joined the Mersey and Dee Young Archaeologists Club at their ‘summer school’ for a day working on the joint Museum of Liverpool/Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine project ‘Galkoffs and the secret life of Pembroke Place’ in a session run by Placed

The Museum of Liverpool and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine are working together to preserve, record and display the heritage of two important buildings on Pembroke Place, Liverpool-the decorative tiles of P Galkoff butcher shop which opened in 1908 (although the tiles were added later in 1933) and one of the three last remaining examples of courtyard housing in Liverpool. Courtyard housing in Liverpool is of particular interest to me as it forms one of my PhD case studies. The team involved in delivering the project have planned a full schedule of engagement activities to enable the public to participate.

A handwritten list of reasons why we should save old buildings;They can show us how people used to live,

The YAC’s debated why we should save historic buildings or why we should demolish

Placed (Place-Education) deliver hands-on, creative activities to excite, empower and engage the public, in particular young people, about the built environment. The workshop they delivered involved a number of activities designed to inspire the young people to consider potential new uses for the buildings on Pembroke Place. We started the day debating the reasons why we might want to reuse a historic building or why we might want to demolish. We then looked at maps of the local area to consider who might be future users of the buildings and other environmental factors such as access, roads and the physical space available.

A young boy stands looking at a model of two rooms

A member with one of the models showing potential reuse

We investigated Pembroke Place by looking at historic maps and photographs, who lived and worked in the buildings previously and what is significant about the heritage of the buildings. We worked in teams to repurpose the buildings using design images for inspiration and then we built models showcasing our designs. The teams created models of a ‘tropical’ frozen yoghurt shop (linking with the school by providing healthy ‘tropical’ snacks), a community library/coffee shop that sold hot chocolate and a public indoor ‘zoo’ to showcase some of the worlds most poisonous creatures.

a number of young people stand gathered around a table on which a model of a building stands

The YAC teams all presented their visions of reuse

We had so much fun using the historic buildings as a template for our creative ideas for the future. None of the young people wanted to demolish the buildings-all wanted to creatively redesign them to be reused.

Working with young people to help them to participate in archaeology is important to me. Currently I’m working for Accentuate on the History of Place project. A major part of the History of Place project is to engage young people, particularly young people who identify as Deaf or disabled, in their heritage. The project is researching 8 sites of disability in England, spanning 800 years.

A young boy is helped by a teacher to hold a windmill toy

A student at the Royal School for the Blind explores a hand held windmill as part of our ‘tunnels and seaside visits’ sensory story

In Liverpool, where I’m based, we are researching the Royal School for the Blind-the first of its kind in Britain (after Paris) and the oldest in continuous existence. Established in 1791 by a group of men, three of which were themselves blind, the school aimed to provide safe residence and training in the mechanical arts to blind men, women and children. Through our research we have uncovered some previously unseen objects and stories and are working to create a fully accessible exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool in January 2018. We have also been working with young people to create a sensory story, a mobile phone game and film about the history of the school.

A group of students are sat in a circle telling stories. One student holds a suitcase full of objects to help inspire a story.

Students from St Vincent’s School in Liverpool at a games workshop

I mentioned earlier some additional activities I did on Day of Archaeology. I’m involved with the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology as Treasurer and I did some general tasks such as checking our bank balance, updating records and checking e-mails. To complete my Day of Archaeology I did some reading towards my PhD. I’m in my final year (in real time although i’m a part time student) at the University of Liverpool investigating how a combined approach of archaeology and oral history can enhance our understanding of working class housing from 1790-1970. I find researching incredibly rewarding and as much as I’m excited to submit my thesis i’m also sad that my PhD experience is almost over. I am incredibly lucky to be working with so many brilliant people and on so many different themes. The final picture shows me at Pembroke Place with YAC in the background surveying where one of the two rows of courtyard housing stood.

are members of the Young Archaeologists Club carrying out geophysical surveying at Pembroke Place.

Here I am at Pembroke Place

The Challenge of Managing Visitors to Archaeological Sites in the Mayan Riviera, Mexico

In the first week of July I went to the Mayan Riviera as part of my duties as the Head of the Unit for Planning and Management of Archaeological Sites in the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). The main objective of this field visit was to carry out an holistic inspection of the current management and operation status of the archaeological sites open to the public on the easter coast of the Yucatan Peninsula (commonly known as the Mayan Riviera). The sites I visited were Muyil, Tulum, Xelhá, Xcaret and Playa del Carmen. These are my preliminary results of this visit (I am still working on the processing of the data – very interesting information!)

First of all, some location information. The sites I visited are located on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, within the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. As some of you dear readers may know, Quintana Roo is one of the main tourisitc destinations of Mexico (and the world I would say), with two main touristic beach hubs, Cancun and Playa del Carmen. On the coast, the Mayan Riviera, several archaeological sites are open for public visits, and this may be the main challenge in this region of Mexico.

Location of the visited Mayan archaeological sites on the eastern coast of Quintana Roo


Muyil is managed by the Director of Operations of Tulum, considering is very close to this site. The area open to the public is quite small, but what the regional authorities have been doing is to consolidate the site as a model example of how to maintain the vegetation. This is more important than you may thought. The weather on the region is very humid and the jungle around the sites may be an obstacle for the tourism, for what a proper gardening and maintenance programme is necessary. Muyil is a site with a small amount of visitors per month so the management strategies are focused on guarantee a visitation experience. Something very important about density of visitors will be noticed further on.

Access to the archaeological site.

Interpretative signage in Muyil.

Maintained green areas.

“The castle”, Muyil’s main structure.


Tulum is the more visited archaeological site in the Mexican Mayan Region, just ahead of Chichen Itza (there may be months when Chichen Itza is more visited than Tulum, but in general Tulum has more visitors). This is mainly because its location, on the heart of the touristic development of the Mayan Riviera, surrounded by the main cities in the area, modern Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun. It is common, if you go to one of these resort cities, to have a day trip to Tulum. Also, it is known that Tulum is the favourite beach destination for visitors that want to do both, archaeological tourism and beach (and I have to say, the very turquoise colour of the Caribbean, white sand, rocky cliffs, and pre-Hispanic Mayan buildings behind you, it is actually quite impressive and breath taking).

Visitors on the viewing point of the sea and the main structure, The Castle.

The inspection visit to Tulum was focused on evaluate the conservation of the heritage signage. The weather in the coast is very agressive, and the sunlight may damage the signage fabrics. Although I took the chance of being in the site to take some photographs of the areas where visitors congregate the most. And yes, there may be a problem in the near future (I was very impressed with the amount of visitors on a regular Tuesday. According to the Director of Operations of the site, the day with the major visitors density is Saturday and Sunday, with a “rush hour” – yes, Tulum has rush hours – between 9am and 11am), for what a visitors management programme will be implemented very soon.

Queue to buy the entrance ticket.

Rush hour in Tulum.

The weather could be very agressive. Finding shade is a must!

Tulum is the only archaeological site in Mexico with three opening times. One regular visitation time, between 9am and 5pm, and two special opening times (which require a special ticket, more expensive than the regular access ticket), one in the early morning, and the other one after closing time. I had the opportunity to enter into the site after the last group visited the site. And let me tell you something: Tulum without visitors is MAGICAL. This made me think about the great challenge for us heritage managers to implement visitors management plans considering all elements, mostly the visitors experience and the conservation of the archaeological heritage.

Tulum without visitors. So quiet! You can even hear the sea.


You might heared before this name, Xelhá. This is because Xelhá is actually two places: the most known Xelhá is the resort-beach park in the coast, famous for snorkeling activities and eco-tourism; the other place less known is the archaeological site, which gave the name to the resort-beach park.

The site have been in moderate abandonment, but currently the regional offices of INAH in Quintana Roo have being implementing a major programme in order to diversify the visitation offers outside Tulum. I have been closely involved on this kind of programmes in Mexico, developing archaeological routes using major archaeological sites as a focus point in order to communicate to the public the opportunity they have to visit other archaeological sites, some of them bigger and more impressive than the most visited ones (not always, though). This measures are very important in the Mayan Riviera, around Tulum. As the pictures above may tell you, Tulum may have in the near future some difficulties with the carrying capacity of the site and public areas.

Main entrance to the site.

Updated introduction sign, with a site plan.

Detail of the site plan updated sign.

Paths of the site are being renovated.

The visit route in Xelhá, tracked with a GPS. This is actually the route available for visitors.

Xelhá, then, is being attended with this consideration. The visitor services infrastructure is being attended, with a general programme of conservation and update of signage being carried out. Xelhá is a very impressive archaeological site, with some archaeological features unique in the region: it has a pre-Hispanic artificially made road known in Mayan language as “Sacbé” (which means “white road”). This road connects the center of the site with a resiential and ceremonial archaeolgical group known as “The Jaguar Group”, which is located next to a natural water source known as “cenote”. One problem in this site, though: MOSQUITOS. Oh my god…

Sacbé (white road).

The sacbé (white road) connects the center of the site with the Jaguar Group. Notice the artificial elevation of the road above the bedrock.

The Jaguar Group.

The cenote, a natural water source common in the Yucatan Peninsula.

About Xcaret and Playa del Carmen: those sites are very interesting cases of management of archaeological heritage in the region. The archaeological buildings of Xcaret are scatered within a resort-park named also Xcaret, and Playa del Carmen (originally known in Mayan language as Xamanhá) is a site scatered within a residential area and hotels. But that would be for another post. I am still working on the data. Stay tuned!

Note: All the management data collected on the field is being desk-processed in Mexico City.

A Day with Macedonian Archaeology – Transition

          The transition from the Middle to Late Neolithic in Eastern Macedonia

Towards the middle of the VI millennium BC, major ethno-cultural changes occurred on the Balkan Peninsula. According to certain researchers, these changes were the result of internal migrations of people caused by the climate change. According to others, this was the so-called successive migration through which new cultural elements were brought from Anatolia, not excluding the possibility of a movement of small or large groups of people.

The second theory is widely accepted in science and some of the scientists even see the entire Balkan Peninsula and Anatolia as one huge cultural complex with sub-groups. The territory of Eastern Macedonia was not excluded from such occurrences and movements, so towards the end of the Middle Neolithic some novelties in the material culture are noticed. The ceramic material from the Middle Neolithic period is characterized by its red coloring, it is fired under oxidizing conditions and the main feature is the decoration with dark-colored curved, spiral and meander motifs, the rough pottery is decorated with barbotine and impressed ornaments.

In the last phase of the Middle Neolithic or Anzabegovo-Vršnik IV phase, despite the red pottery, the number of dark, mainly gray and black pottery increased, which will latter give the main mark of the Late Neolithic pottery. The ornamentation in this IV stage also shows the blending of the old and the new traditions.

In the late Neolithic, most of the settlements were erected on top of the Middle Neolithic ones, so we can notice continuity of living on certain positions. The ceramic material of the Late Neolithic period has quite different characteristics in contrast to the Middle Neolithic. In this period the pottery is mainly dark-colored, black or dark brown, obtained by reducing conditions in the firing process.

Between the shapes, we can notice more rounded or biconical vessels decorated with shallow channels or with incisions and punched strips, also typical for this period is the Blacktopped pottery. In the Late Neolithic period a new technology for making pottery occurs, that is, firing under reducing conditions, and with that novelty, the previous traditions disappear completely. This transitional period from the Middle to the Late Neolithic on the wider Balkan region is mainly viewed through the prism of ceramic material and the technological changes that we can notice on it.

According to some research, the change in the technology of pottery production is a result of the change in the social relations, as well as the contacts between different communities, where an integration of pottery makers might have occurred. Towards the end of the Anzabegovo-Vršnik IV phase, the population has decreased, traditional values were declining and the stylistic and technological knowledge of the pottery makers had fallen under the strong influence of the neighboring communities.

This was primarily due to the increase of the temperature and the depletion of the natural resources, which have been exploited over several centuries. Under such conditions, people had to leave their settlements and search for better locations where the conditions for agriculture and breeding livestock were better. Because this territory was densely populated in the Middle Neolithic period, we can easily exclude the migrations of foreigners from far away.

It is about local migrations from several smaller Middle Neolithic settlements into a larger one, just like the case of the Anzabegovo settlement, but also formation of new settlements from the people who left their homes due to the depletion of the natural resorts around their old settlements.

A good example is the settlement of Barutnitsa in the village Anzabegovo, where we may find the answer related to this issue. In this settlement there was a sharp increase in the population in the Late Neolithic period, the calculations showed that there were about 710 houses in the settlement and between 4000 and 7000 inhabitants. This leads us to conclude that this archaeological site was a small town and an economic center in this region in the Late Neolithic Period.

The favorable climate in the Middle Neolithic period provided a good life for the population settled on this territory. With the rise of the temperatures, many droughts occurred and the people could not produce and live as before, this has forced them to migrate and search for a better location, and thus the cultural group Anzabegovo-Vršnik has ended. All this led to the decline of the traditional and technological values of the local potters.

Towards the end of the Middle Neolithic Period, under the influence of the surrounding settlements and cultures, a new “fashion” of pottery production has taken hold over the entire Balkan Peninsula. Even though certain communities from our territory remained faithful to Middle-Neolithic traditions for some time, in the period between 5300 and 5200 BC all of the communities entered the era of the Late Neolithic.

Pero Sinadinovski

A Day with Macedonian Archaeology – Women in Antiquity: Voices of the Hushed

Irena Teodora Vesevska

Ss. Cyril and Methodius University
Faculty of Philosophy
, Skopje

The status of women in early Christianity is an inspiring topic for debating in the last few decades. The New Testament is full of texts that testify to the involvement of women in early Christian communities. In the Epistles of St. Paul, he salutes the women, addresses them as collaborators, addresses one of them as a deaconess, even one calls it the Apostle. Before trying in detail to understand exactly what these terms meant, we would make a brief overview of the role and position of women in antiquity, which, in addition to the later analysis of their place in the early Christian world, would best show whether and how much the new religion influenced their, to use here an exquisite modern word, emancipation.

Ancient Greece

In Athens, the foundations of the formalized approach to women are laid down as a creature subordinated to a man, a predisposed and projected humiliating attitude that we can follow until Homer.

Socrates, as Plato declares in the “Republic”, although it is against the division of obligations by sex, nevertheless emphasizes that in every work the woman is weaker than the husband. For his student Xenophon, the ideal woman is the one who sees as little as possible, speaks as little as she can and asks even less.

Aristotle devotes an important place in his works to the family, that is to the woman, who he sees in a subordinate position in relation to the man, that is, the male. The secondary role of the woman is obvious, which arises primarily from his understanding of a society in which a woman has no formal role. Since the life of a political state is the peak of social life and by nature is more superior than family, it is understood that men have the advantage of organizing political life and participating in it.

While Aristotle examines the place and role of a woman within the state and general social-political philosophy; his contemporary Demosthenes, a speaker and thinker, speaks of the same questions in the context of everyday life: “Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of our persons, but wives to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households.” (Demosthenes, Against Neaera, 59, 122)

Although women lived retreated, in the home circle and homework, especially in the classical world, it is evident that after the 3rd century BC, they begin to move in wider social circles. A number of women received primary education, which in this case involved: athletics, musical knowledge and reading. Although there are examples of women involved in philosophy, these examples were still rare and the participation of women in such schools did not mean that they did not have a humiliating and disdainful attitude towards women.

Ancient Rome

Women, or more correctly, girls, were usually married by the time they were twelve years old, sometimes even younger. Aristocratic families wanted male children to carry on the family name and lineage, and expected their wives to be perpetually pregnant. Infertility was actually grounds for divorce, and women would often offer a divorce so that their husbands would have the opportunity to have children with someone else.

Although the role of women in ancient Rome was primarily child-bearing, women also played an important role in raising the children. This differed greatly from the Athenian tradition which placed both the cultural and educational aspects of raising boys exclusively in the hands of men. In the Roman world, women were encouraged to teach their children Roman culture. When the boys grew up, the mother would spend both her money and time to advance their political careers. Even the girls would receive this sort of home education because they would be expected to teach their own children one day.

Could be seen in public, not having the right to vote, allowed in public spaces (baths, separated; amphitheatre, even to fight as gladiators, and in religious ceremonies), not allowed to act.

A dichotomy existed within the lives of Roman women. They did have some personal freedoms, but they had little chance for individuality or personal choice. They were under the constant supervision of their fathers, male relatives, and husbands, who regularly kissed them on the mouth to find out if they had drunk wine. Drinking wine was strictly forbidden for Roman women and they could be punished by death. (!!!)

Another controlling device used against Roman women was the practise of not allowing them to have personal names. Instead, a woman took her father’s middle name or nomen and feminized it. From a Roman woman’s name you could tell who her father was and therefore, her position in society.  Women existed within their families and had no identity of their own. Their fathers had absolute control over their lives and could even sell them into slavery or force them into a marriage and out of one, too. Some women were forced to get a divorce because their fathers had found more lucrative and prestigious families for them to marry into. If they had children at the time of the divorce, women were forced to leave them behind. When marriages dissolved, women had no legal rights concerning the offspring and often never saw them again. Marriages were often without manus, meaning that the father kept the property of his daughter and would therefore, retain a hold over her wealth. A marriage with manus gave power over the woman to her new husband, as well as ownership of her property. In either case, Roman women were not permitted to do anything they wanted with their own money, since personal wealth is always equated with power.

Women had to know their place, remain modest, be tireless, and both loyal and obedient to their families – emotionally, physically, and financially. That was what Roman men were looking for in a wife.

Women in Judaism

The role of women in Judaism is determined by the Hebrew Bible, the Oral Law (the corpus of rabbinic literature), by custom, and by non-religious cultural factors. Although the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature mention various female role models, religious law treats women differently in various circumstances.

Gender has a bearing on familial lines: in traditional Judaism, Jewishness is passed down through the mother, although the father’s name is used to describe sons and daughters in the Torah, e.g., “Dinah, daughter of Jacob”.

Marriage and family law in biblical times favoured men over women. For example, a husband could divorce a wife if he chose to, but a wife could not divorce a husband without his consent. The practice of levirate marriage applied to widows of childless deceased husbands, not to widowers of childless deceased wives; though if either he or she didn’t consent to the marriage, a different ceremony called chalitzah is done instead, which basically involves the widow removing her brother-in-law’s shoe, spitting on it, and proclaiming, “This is what happens to someone who will not build his brother’s house!”

Laws concerning the loss of female virginity have no male equivalent. These and other gender differences found in the Torah suggest that women were subordinate to men during biblical times, however, they also suggest that biblical society viewed continuity, property, and family unity as paramount. However, men had specific obligations they were required to perform for their wives. These included the provision of clothing, food, and sexual relations to their wives.

Women also had a role in ritual life. Women (as well as men) were required to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem once a year (men each of the three main festivals if they could) and offer the Passover sacrifice. They would also do so on special occasions in their lives such as giving a todah (“thanksgiving”) offering after childbirth. Hence, they participated in many of the major public religious roles that non-Levitical men could, albeit less often and on a somewhat smaller and generally more discreet scale.

Women depended on men economically. Women generally did not own property except in the rare case of inheriting land from a father who didn’t bear sons. Even “in such cases, women would be required to remarry within the tribe so as not to reduce its land holdings.”

Traditionally, Jewish “men and women pray separately. This goes back to ancient times when women could go only as far as the second court of the Temple.” The reason for this is so that the men do not gaze at the women (which in itself can be a sin) and get distracted from their prayers.

Women in Early Christianity

The New Testament Gospels, written toward the last quarter of the first century CE, acknowledge that women were among Jesus’ earliest followers. From the beginning, Jewish women disciples, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, had accompanied Jesus during his ministry and supported him out of their private means (Luke 8:1-3). He spoke to women both in public and private, and indeed he learned from them. According to one story, an unnamed Gentile woman taught Jesus that the ministry of God is not limited to particular groups and persons, but belongs to all who have faith (Mark 7:24-30; Matthew 15:21-28). A Jewish woman honoured him with the extraordinary hospitality of washing his feet with perfume. Jesus was a frequent visitor at the home of Mary and Martha, and was in the habit of teaching and eating meals with women as well as men. When Jesus was arrested, women remained firm, even when his male disciples are said to have fled, and they accompanied him to the foot of the cross. It was women who were reported as the first witnesses to the resurrection, chief among them again Mary Magdalene. Although the details of these gospel stories may be questioned, in general they reflect the prominent historical roles women played in Jesus’ ministry as disciples.

The letters of Paul (mid. I century CE)

Vivid clues about the kind of activities in which women engaged more generally. He greets Prisca, Junia, Julia, and Nereus’ sister, who worked and traveled as missionaries in pairs with their husbands or brothers (Romans 16:3, 7, 15). He tells us that Prisca and her husband risked their lives to save his. He praises Junia as a prominent apostle, who had been imprisoned for her labour. Mary and Persis are commended for their hard work (Romans 16:6, 12). Euodia and Syntyche are called his fellow-workers in the gospel (Philippians 4:2-3).

Paul’s letters also offer some important glimpses into the inner workings of ancient Christian churches. Paul tells of women who were the leaders of such house churches (Apphia in Philemon 2; Prisca in I Corinthians 16:19). This practice is confirmed by other texts that also mention women who headed churches in their homes, such as Lydia of Thyatira (Acts 16:15) and Nympha of Laodicea (Colossians 4:15). Women held offices and played significant roles in group worship. Paul, for example, greets a deacon named Phoebe (Romans 16:1) and assumes that women are praying and prophesying during worship (I Corinthians 11). As prophets, women’s roles would have included not only ecstatic public speech, but preaching, teaching, leading prayer, and perhaps even performing the eucharist meal. (A later first century work, called the Didache, assumes that this duty fell regularly to Christian prophets.)

Other Christian women

Mary Magdalene was a Jewish woman who followed Jesus of Nazareth. Apparently of independent means, she accompanied Jesus during his ministry and supported him out of her own resources (Mark 15:40-41; Matthew 27:55-56; Luke 8:1-3; John 19:25). Although other information about her is more fantastic, she is repeatedly portrayed as a visionary and leader of the early movement.( Mark 16:1-9; Matthew 28:1-10; Luke24:1-10; John 20:1, 11-18; Gospel of Peter ). In the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus gives her special teaching and commissions her as an apostle to the apostles to bring them the good news. She obeys and is thus the first to announce the resurrection and to play the role of an apostle, although the term is not specifically used of her.

Other women appear in later literature as well. One of the most famous woman apostles was Thecla, a virgin-martyr converted by Paul. She cut her hair, donned men’s clothing, and took up the duties of a missionary apostle. Threatened with rape, prostitution, and twice put in the ring as a martyr, she persevered in her faith and her chastity. Her lively and somewhat fabulous story is recorded in the second century Acts of Thecla.

From very early, an order of women who were widows served formal roles of ministry in some churches (I Timothy 5:9-10). The most numerous clear cases of women’s leadership, however, are offered by prophets: Mary Magdalene, the Corinthian women, Philip’s daughters, Ammia of Philadelphia, Philumene, the visionary martyr Perpetua, Maximilla, Priscilla (Prisca), and Quintilla.

Archaeological data that directly or indirectly state the place, role and involvement of the female population in Early Christian church organisation are rare and therefore even more estimated. First of all, specification of the problem requires maximum caution in interpretation and attribution of the material remains. Three didactic mosaic fields incorporated into the pavements of early Christian basilicas in Stobi and Plaoshnik, bearing inscriptions of their female dedicators shed light upon this question.

The first inscription is placed in the north-western angle of the first field of with mosaic decoration, incorporated into the pavement arrangement of the first phase of the Philip’s basilica in Stobi.







υπέρ ευ[χῆν]

τῆς ματ[ρώας]

η ευλαβ[εστά]

τη διακ[όνισσα]

τήν έξὲδραν


Due to oath

Of the matrona

Most pious


has paved the exedra

with mosaic


The second inscription is situated at the lower part of the third mosaic field incorporated in a decorative arrangement.




υπὲρ εὐχῆς



Due to oath

Made by



The last mosaic with a vowel inscription is located in the deaconicon of the South Basilica at the site Plaoshnik, Ohrid.  In the middle part of the room, surrounded by a shield of black and white triangles, there is a four-edged inscription in a circular field, complemented by two ivory lists in the lower zone.






Υπὲρ μνήμης

τῆσ Σοσίας Παύλας

τῆς διακόνου

In memory

Of the deaconess

Sosia Paula



The chanting inscriptions bear witness to the still developed and active female clergy who maintained uninterrupted ties with the municipal elite (matron, in the case of Stobi) who practiced the new religion.

Stobi, Gradsko, R. Macedonia

Stobi, Gradsko, R. Macedonia

Plaošnik, Ohrid, R. Macedonia




Ancient sources:

Aristotle, Politics 1, 2

Demosthenes, Against Neaera, 59.122

Plato, The Republic, New York, 1956

Xenophon, Within The Home, 1943

  1. Archer, , Fischler, S. And Wyke, M. (1994) Women in Ancient Societies: an Illusion of the Night (London)
  2. Arjava, A. (1996) Women and Law in Late Antiquity (Oxford)
  3. Athanassiadi, And Frede, M., eds. (1999) Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity (Oxford)
  4. Barnes, (2002)‘Ancient Philosophers’, in Clark and Rajak 2002, 293–306
  5. Barnes, D. (1968) ‘Legislation against the Christians’, Journal of Roman Studies 58: 32–50
  6. Barton, And Muddiman, J., eds. (2000) The Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford)
  7. Bauer, (Englishtranslation, 1972) Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (London)
  8. Beard, , North, J. And Price, S. (1998) Religions of Rome.Vol.1: A History;Vol.2: A Sourcebook (Cambridge)
  9. Becker, And Reed, A. Y., eds. (2003) The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Tubingen)
  10. Benko, (1984) Pagan Rome and the Early Christians (Bloomington)
  11. Blumenthal, J. (1996) Aristotle and Neoplatonism in Late Antiquity (London)
  12. Bowersock, G., Brown, P., Grabar, A., eds. (1999) Late Antiquity: a Guide to the Postclassical World (Cambridge, MA)
  13. Bradshaw, (ed. 2, 2002) The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy (New York)
  14. Brooten, (1982) Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue (Chico)
  15. Brown, P. R. L. (1971) ‘The rise and function of the Holy Man in late antiquity’, Journal of Roman Studies 61: 80–101
    1. (1981) The Cult of the Saints: its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago)
    2. (1988) The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (London)
  • (1992) Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: towards a Christian Empire (Madison) (rev. edn 2000)
  1. Brubaker, (1997) ‘Memories of Helena: patterns in imperial female matronage in the fourth and fifth centuries’, in James 1997, 52–75
  2. Castelli, E. (1998)‘Gender, theory, and The Rise of Christianity: a response to Rodney Stark’, Journal of Early Christian Studies 6.2: 227–58
  3. Clark, E. A. (1986) Ascetic Piety and Women’s Faith (New York)
    1. (1999) Reading Renunciation: Asceticism and Scripture in Early Christianity (Princeton)
  4. Clark, G. (1993) Women in Late Antiquity: Pagan and Christian Lifestyles (Oxford)
    1. (1998a) ‘Bodies and blood: martyrdom, virginity and resurrection in late antiquity’, in Montserrat 1998, 99–115
    2. (1998b)‘The old Adam: patristics and the (un)making of masculinity’, in Foxhall and Salmon 1998, 170–82
  1. Cloke, (1995) This Female Man of God: Women and Spiritual Power in the Patristic Age, AD 350–450 (London)
  2. Cooper, (1996) The Virgin and the Bride: Idealized Womanhood in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, MA)
  3. Copenhaver, B. P. (1992) Hermetica: the Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a New English Translation with Notes and Introduction (Cambridge)
  4. Countryman, L. (1980) The Rich Christian in the Church of the Early Empire (New York)
  5. Cramer, (1993) Baptism and Change in the Early Middle Ages, c.200–c.1150 (Cambridge)
  6. Curran, (2000) Pagan City and Christian Capital: Rome in the Fourth Century (Oxford)
  7. Edwards, , and Swain, S., eds. (1997) Portraits: Biographical Representation in Greek and Latin Literature of the Roman Empire (Oxford)
  8. Elm, (1994) Virgins of God: the Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity (Oxford)
  9. Elsner, (1998) Imperial Rome and ChristianTriumph (Oxford)
    1. (2003) ‘Archaeologies and agendas: reflections on late ancient Jewish art and early Christian art’, Journal of Roman Studies 93: 114–28
  10. Esler, (1994) The First Christians in their Social World: Social-Scientific Approaches to New Testament Interpretation (London) ed. (2000) The Early Christian World (London)
  11. Evans Grubbs, (1995) Law and Family in Late Antiquity: the Emperor Constantine’s Marriage Legislation (Oxford)
  12. Fiorenza, S. (1983) In Memory of Her: a Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (London)
  13. Foxhall, And Salmon, J., eds. (1998) Thinking Men: Masculinity and its SelfRepresentation in the Classical Tradition (London)
  14. Fredriksen, (2000) From Jesus to Christ (second edition, New Haven and London)
  15. Fredriksen, And Reinhartz, A. eds. (2002) Jesus, Judaism and Christian Anti Judaism (Louisville and London)
  16. Frend, (1965, revised 1982) The Early Church: from the Beginnings to 461 (London)
    1. (1984) The Rise of Christianity (London)
  17. Gamble, (1995) Books and Readers in the Early Church: a History of Early Christian Texts (New Haven and London)
  18. Garnsey, And Humfress, C. (2001) The Evolution of the Late Antique World (Cambridge)
  19. Horbury,W., Davies,W.and Sturdy, , eds. (1999) The Cambridge History of Judaism, iii : The Early Roman Period (Cambridge)
  20. Jones, (1993) ‘Women, death and the law in the Christian persecutions’, in Wood 1993, 23–34
  21. Karras, V. A (2004)., Female Deacons in the Byzantine Church,  Church History 73, 2004
  22. King, K. L (2000) , Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism (ed.), Philadelphia: Fortress Press 2000
  23. King, K. (2003) What is Gnosticism? (Cambridge, MA)
  24. Kraemer, R. S. (1988) Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics: a Sourcebook on Women’s Religions in the Greco – Roman World (Philadelphia)
    1. (1992) Her Share of the Blessings: Women’s Religions among Pagans, Jews and Christians in the Greco-Roman World (Oxford)
  25. Kuefler, (2001) The Manly Eunuch: Masculinity, Gender Ambiguity, and Christian Ideology in Late Antiquity (Chicago)
  26. McAuslan, , and Walcot, P., eds. (1996) Women in Antiquity: Greece & Rome Studies 3 (Oxford)
  27. Филипова, С., Примери на рановизантиски пластика и капители од Македонија со аплицирани натписи/ или букви, SYSTATIS 7
  28. Wiseman, J. (1977-78) , Stobi in Yugoslavian Macedonia: Archaeological Excavation and Research, JFA 5, 1977-78
  29. Wiseman, J., Mano – Zissi, Dj. (1971) , Excavations at Stobi, 1970, AJA 75, no.4 1971
  30. Wiseman, J., Mano – Zissi, Dj (1972)., Excavations at Stobi, 1971, AJA 76, 1972
  31. Wiseman, J., Mano – Zissi, Dj (1973)., Excavations at Stobi, 1972, AJA 77, no. 4 1973
  32. Wiseman,J., Mano-Zissi, Dj (1974)., Excavations at Stobi, 1973-1974, JFA 1, 1974

A day with Macedonian archaeology – Stakina Češma

          Archaeological excavations on the site Stakina Češma – Valandovo


This presentation is a reminder of the previous archaeological excavations on the site and the results obtained so far, with a brief overview of the latest results.

The site Stakina Češma is located on the very edge of the small town Valandovo.  It was first recorded through archaeological survey in the 70s of the last century, and with short-term archaeological excavations by the Institute for the protection of cultural monuments from Skopje, several rooms with floor mosaics made in various techniques were discovered. The Museum of Macedonia under the leadership of Mila Šurbanoska started with excavations in 1987 (unfortunately with long interruptions) which continue to this day.

The systematic archaeological excavation of this area confirmed that it is a late roman building – Roman Domus with beautiful floor mosaics. Ten rooms with floor mosaics made in various techniques, an apsidal pool which was marble plated, part of the hydro-installation system, as well as a part of the economic premises of the building have been discovered. Due to an unsettled property claim by the owner of one part of the area, the building has not been fully explored yet, which makes it difficult to definitely determine its purpose.

The floors in all the rooms, except in the economic ones were made in opus tessellatum and opus sectile with various geometric motifs, decorated with polychromatic tesserae. In some of the rooms we have a combination of opus tessellatum and sectile. In one of the rooms on the west side of the building i.e. the assumed entrance a marble impluvium was found. On the east side of the building a large room connected with a semicircular pool was discovered, it had floors with both opus tessellatum and opus sectile. The pool was covered with marble slabs, and right in front of it, in the floor itself a marble bath was also discovered.


According to the stylistic features of the mosaics, the preserved architecture, as well as the several bronze coins form the second half of the 4th century, the building is dated in the Late Roman period.

During the research in the previous seasons, exploratory- trial trenches were dug in certain areas, especially in the south and west side of the building, where it is assumed that either the existing building may continue or that there are other buildings. It was concluded that in the whole surrounding area there are large amount of hydrostatic plaster, parts of collapsed walls and tesserae.

At the excavations in 2013, after the inspection of this area (west of the existing building), the following condition was determined: on 30-40 cm below the surface a mosaic floor was visible in the opus sectile technique, covered with large deposits of soil, stones and various debris.

Due to these new findings and the condition of the site, in 2015 the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia initiated new excavations again under the leadership of Mila Šurbanoska on the new area called Baknovka.

Namely, then, west of the excavated domus, in a layer of sediment and debris, a part of a new building was found, that is, a mosaic floor in opus sectile. The floor segment was with approximate dimensions of 1.00 x 1.20 m. Preventive conservation, measuring and documenting was carried out.

The discovered building was located at a distance of 29.55 m west of the threshold of the room 2 of the Roman Domus, that is, 17.15 m west of the western wall that was last excavated. The level of the newly discovered floor is 0.78 m lower than the floor in the room 1 of the house. The conclusions drawn from these preliminary records led the researchers to believe that it was definitely a new building, which requires systematic excavations.

The results from the excavations showed that it was part of a building with an apsidal form, and that the entire inner wall was probably covered with marble plates. On the outer side, on the east part, remains of fresco decoration with yellow background and ornaments in red color were preserved. The floor area on the east side ends with a vertically placed marble plate, set as a stair, which was measured and it was 10 cm below the floor. Despite the short period of excavation, it became clear that it was a significant, luxurious building and that the discovered part probably was the exedra.

This year the archaeological excavations were realized by an expert team from the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia with several collaborators, led by the same project manager.

At a depth of almost 1 m. in the room 2 (working title), a new floor appeared in the opus tessellatum technique. In the south and south-east part of the room the floor is damaged. On the floor, in front of the vertical marble plate a bronze coin was found.

The mosaic is made from polychromatic tesserae, arranged in various motifs. For the time being, we do not know how much of the mosaic floor is preserved and what are its definite dimensions.

In the west side of the room four vertical marble plates were also found. They were made from fine white marble and three of them have channelled decoration on the front side.

From the movable material, ceramic fragments mostly kitchen and tableware ceramics were found and one bronze coin.

The luxurious polychromatic mosaics with various decorative motifs and the other details revealed in the 2017 campaign confirmed that this was an extremely representative luxurious building.

Igor Širtovski

A day with Macedonian Archaeology – SAA Axios

International student journal for Archaeology and History of Art “AXIOS”

Day of Archaeology 2017

Since its foundation in 2001, the Association of Archaeology Students “Axios” – Skopje represents the main form of organization of the students from the Department of Archaeology and History of Art at the Faculty of Philosophy in Skopje, Macedonia. In the past 16 years, over a hundred members passed through the ranks of this Association, every one of them giving their own contribution in the realization of about 20 project with the purpose of promoting Archaeology, History of Art and their related sciences, as well as improving the quality of the studies of the same.

In that direction, one of the key activities of “Axios” was the publishing of popular newsletters through which the students could inform themselves about news connected to their studies, practical field work and getting acquainted about new archeological discoveries and methods of work in Macedonia and the world. So, the Association started with the publishing of the newsletter “Pintadera” in 2005, and in 2012, with the newsletter “Archaeofacts”.

In 2016, we decided to go one step further and at the end of the summer opened a call for papers for the first issue of the yearly student journal for scientific papers “AXIOS”. Namely, the Association set a goal for publishing a journal that will follow the format of the standard professional scientific publications, in which the students will have the opportunity to publish their first thoughts and views related to the profession that they have chosen and the topics of research that interest them.

Eligible for sending papers were all students, regardless of the type of studies that they have enrolled in – undergraduate or postgraduate, and the only precondition for the texts was that they should be written by following the usual standards for writing professional scientific papers. We have chosen an open access electronic format for the journal, as the most practical for maximizing its reach among the young internet generation.

The second important goal that we defined as key for “AXIOS” is the possibility of interconnection between the students and their acquaintance with the work of their colleagues from different countries i.e. to have an international character. We decided that the ‘skeleton’ of the journal, as well as the summaries of all the papers, will be written in English, while giving the authors freedom to write the main body of their texts in the language that they think is most appropriate or suits them the best.

An extra motive for the ‘internationalization’ of the journal was the collaboration that the Association “Axios” had that year with students from the Department of Archeology and History of Art at the Georg-August University from Gottingen, Germany, which also resulted with a published paper by them in the first issue of the journal. Besides them, several students of Archeology from the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, Serbia, also had their own papers published in “AXIOS”.

After the collection of all the papers and their technical editing and proofreading, the first issue of the international student journal for papers from the fields of Archeology and History of Art “AXIOS” was published in January 2017, consisted out of fourteen different texts that covered topics starting from the beginnings of the monetary economy on the Balkans, the ancient development of the Maleshevo region, the luxury homes of the wealthy citizens from the Roman period on the territory of Macedonia, the spiritual background of the ancient mystery cults of Mithras and the Danubian horsemen, the symbolic aspects of hermaphroditic deities in old mythologies, the political and economic ordeals in medieval Byzantium, Scandinavia and the Ottoman Empire, up to physical anthropology skeletal analyses and digital studying of some of the most valuable ‘pearls’ of the  medieval Macedonian fresco paintings.

The issuing of the journal was followed with an appropriate solemn promotion and presentation of some of the published papers, which caused a significant interest, both from the professional public, as well as from the media in the country – all reactions with positive messages of praise, support and encouragement.

With the wind in our backs from colleagues, friends and professors, as well as with the support of the Ministry of culture of the Republic of Macedonia, this 2017, with the same rapture, we started the preparations for the second issue of the journal “AXIOS”. The rules known, the call for papers opened, the date for publishing is the second part of October – we are looking forward to your applications!

Igor Eftimovski
SAA Axios