Dosidicus Giygas asks:

Can you recommend any good resources for learning about Aegean depictions of cephalopods?

That’s a… concerningly specific request

and this is coming from a guy whose thesis is on Roman window glass

So, uh… I mean, there’s nothing off the top of my head that isn’t ludicrously dry and technical; like, if you have JSTOR access or similar you could search for some of Penelope Mountjoy’s articles on the Late Minoan IB “Marine Style” but they’re, um… not exactly page-turners.  They probably won’t make a lot of sense without a fairly thorough grounding in Minoan archaeology, and honestly I’m not even sure they’ll tell you what you want to know, if you’re interested in, like, the accuracy of anatomical details.  Is the Marine Style what you mean?  Because that’s where my mind instantly goes on hearing “Aegean depictions of cephalopods,” but without context that phrasing is… kinda broad.  There’s a bunch of Attic black and red figure pots with octopuses(-pi/-podes) on them that you can find by searching the Beazley Archive database (type “octopus” into the “decoration description” field and hit “list” at the bottom of the page); I dunno if anyone’s ever written anything about them and at a glance it looks like a lot of them just have the octopus as a shield device or a generic ocean-themed ornament, but… I mean, they’re there if you want ‘em, I guess.

Leo M. R. asks:

Did the concept of cousinhood exist in Ancient Greece? I JUST learned that Jason and Odysseus were cousins on their mothers’ sides (side note: their grandfather was a master thief?!), and I was wondering if this ever translated into the concept of kinship to the Greeks back then, and if it ever influenced why the two of them had notable similarities (like being known for legendary naval journeys and having flings with powerful sorceresses).

So, on the specifics of Jason and Odysseus: a lot of minor characters in Greek mythology have very different family trees depending on who you ask, and the mothers of Odysseus and Jason are very minor characters.  Our main source for Odysseus is, of course, Homer, and Homer says that Odysseus’ mother Anticleia is the daughter of the legendary thief king Autolycus.  Now, Homer was probably alive in the 8th or 7th century BC (side note: Homer isn’t real, Google “the Homeric Question” some time; it’s wild, but this is 100% not the time to litigate that $#!tstorm).  Our main source for Jason, on the other hand, is Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica, which was written in the 3rd century BC, centuries after Homer was dead in the ground (if he was real, which he wasn’t), and Apollonius says that Jason’s mother was Alcimede, the daughter of Clymene, who was herself the daughter of Minyas, the legendary king of Orchomenos – no mention of Autolycus.  In addition, though, we have the scholia to Apollonius, which are basically the margin notes made on the text by scholars in the Early Byzantine period (like, 5th to 8th centuries AD), and they are the ones who, quoting other texts now lost to us, give her name as either Polypheme or Theognete and claim she was the daughter of Autolycus.  I think the only primary text we actually have that backs this up is a 2nd century BC encyclopaedia of myth attributed to Apollodorus, but he gives yet another name for the mother, Polymede, and he probably got that from Hesiod, who gives that name in his Catalogue of Women but doesn’t explain who she is (at least not in the bits we have, because there is no complete text of the Catalogue of Women and we have to rely on quotations in other authors; are you beginning to appreciate the scope of the insanity we have to deal with here?) (side note: Catalogue of Women is an awful, awful title in the 21st century; it sounds like what a pickup artist calls his diary).

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jeffthelinguist asks:

So, as an archaeologist, can you answer the age old question of how much time needs to pass before grave robbing becomes archaeology? What’s the appropriate time period for looting the dead to become acceptable?

I’m assuming you’ve seen the screenshot of an archaeologist commenting, in answer to this question, that this is actually a super awkward and uncomfortable question?  I’m fortunate enough to work in an area where it doesn’t really come up much – we’re all pretty sure that two thousand years is comfortably in the safe zone.  Even then, though… it would be a mistake to think that archaeology can be a pure science, that our study of the past can remain detached from the present. It’s all grave robbing, in a way. The only difference is in how pure your motives are… which is a matter of perspective.

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A Dragonborn With a Trident On His Back Playing a Syrinx asks:

This is definitely Heracles

…I mean, I can believe that it’s trying to be?  Heracles almost always has a club, though, and the ears of his lionskin aren’t usually that pointy; these look more doglike.  Honestly it kind of reminds me of an Age of Mythology Ulfsark.

Reviewing the glass from the Eretz-Israel museum

On Thursday I went to the Eretz-Israel museum in Tel Aviv, and because I am a huge glass nerd (and, y’know, I’m doing tourist things as well but I am technically in this country to study ancient glass) I spent basically the entire time in their glass gallery ogling pretty Phoenician core-formed alabastra and Roman mould-blown bottles. So my reduced posting schedule this month doesn’t sting too much, here’s my definitive expert review of all the things there that most stuck out to me:

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VikingBoyBilly asks:

Something’s been on my mind for a long time since I stopped lurking, but I need to say how I feel.

In our long argument about Odysseus, you ended it with “i know what I’m talking about; so there.”

No, you didn’t, because if you did, you wouldn’t have been a misanthrope. Reading mythology is what made me fall in love with humans, and it’s unsettling that you never acknowledged the irony of being a misanthropic archaeologist. The lessons the Oddessey taught me is that life is a journey full challenges and misery, but by keeping your wits and the strength to continue, you can reach your goals. Oddysseus’s goal was to reunite with the wife an son that he loved, and it’s so cynical to think he enjoyed having sex with women that kept him stranded on those islands, and it doesn’t mesh thematically when these are supposed to be a series of hardships. The optimist in me believes this was something to be overcome, either as a temptation like the lotus fruits and sirens, or a situation to get out of like the cyclops. His devotion and loyalty to his crew, his homeland, and family are values I live by, and I don’t like that being tarnished by accusations that he’s a scummy womanizer. I could just be satisfied with my own opinions and not be bothered by what anyone else thinks, but you know what the internet does to us.

I also was put off by your use of the vague buzz-word “western civilization.” It’s nonsensical to anyone with an understanding of geography, and condescending, as if any other civilization doesn’t count (and because I think an archaeologist/anthropologist would only use such a simplification of jargon when talking to a layman). Funny how people angry with the state of the world will defend “western civilization” as the best thing that ever happened.

I hope your outlook of your own species has changed since then, and if you want to reply non-publicly, my email is [REDACTED]

[This is what Billy is referring to – linking to the Tumblr version of the original question-and-answer post rather than the WordPress version because that’s where the relevant comment thread is, but I might actually move it over here for posterity’s sake]

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Adventures in Baking the Entire Athenian Acropolis, part 4

okay this part was insane and took literally a whole day and is really kind of a succinct illustration of why I can never have a normal life, but here it goes

So, last time I left off with this:

Three big slabs of chocolate cake, and all these piles of gingerbread that will turn into buildings.

Continue reading “Adventures in Baking the Entire Athenian Acropolis, part 4”