Gem of a Find

There was some beginner's luck this field season at the Hellenistic port of Tel
Dor, 19 miles south of Haifa, Israel. On her first dig, Megan Webb, a
28-year-old potter from Philadelphia, was cleaning an area of a large public
building with her trowel when this tiny gemstone etched with Alexander the
Great's portrait, emerged. Less than half an inch long, it might once have been
mounted on a signet ring

"It is one of perhaps 20 to 30 gemstones--with identifiable portraits of
Alexander--that exist in the world," says University of Washington archaeologist
Sarah Stroup, director of the Tel Dor field school. "And it's one of the first
discovered in a controlled excavation. Many such stones ended up in museums via
the black market."

From Archaeology

Finding Lost Tombs

At press time, a team led by archaeologist Leonardo López Luján of Mexico's Templo Mayor Museum was excavating an underground chamber in Mexico City that might hold the remains of an Aztec king. It would be the first royal Aztec burial ever found.

The possibility of such an exciting discovery got us thinking about great leaders whose tombs are still waiting to be unearthed. So in the interest of science, we polled our online readers to find out which historical figure they'd most like to see archaeologists dig up. After some 2,200 voted, it was a rout for a certain Macedonian military genius.

Alexander the Great 47%
History tells us his body was spirited to Egypt after his death in Mesopotamia. If his tomb survives, it may lie somewhere beneath modern Alexandria.

And the rest of the pack...

Genghis Khan 18%
All the witnesses to his funeral were executed, so details are sketchy, but the great Khan's tomb may be in a valley to the east of Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar.

Cleopatra 18%
She may have been buried at the temple of Tabusiris Magna outside Alexandria, a site that is the focus of ongoing excavations.

Hammurabi 13%
Should archaeologists ever work again at the site of Babylon in Iraq, they just might find the city's famous law-giving king there.

Jimmy Hoffa 4%
A horse farm in Ontario was the last place authorities searched for the Teamsters president, but the smart money is still on an end zone in Giants Stadium.

Archaeology Magazine, Originally posted Jan 2008

From the President: Everyone's Hero

In 1926, a newly independent Albania issued equally new banknotes called "lek," after the Albanian version of Alexander the Great's name. In so doing, the nation essentially linked itself to one of the most durable heroes of classical antiquity, one who still enjoys broader name recognition than any other ancient commander. At more or less the same time, across the Adriatic, Mussolini was arranging the 2,000th anniversary of the birthday of the Roman emperor Augustus, on whose government many components of his new regime were modeled.

This negotiation of antiquity within a political context was hardly innovative: the Greek general Cimon retrieved a set of bones allegedly belonging to the legendary hero Theseus and enshrined them in Athens during the fifth century B.C., while Roman Imperial coinage regularly included images of the Trojan Aeneas.

We witnessed a similar phenomenon following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which prompted the rearrangement of a multitude of geographical boundaries and national identities, many of which are still in formation. Armenia now features the third-millennium B.C. hero Hayk on its coins; Tamerlane graces the post-Soviet currency of Uzbekistan; and Mongolia's tugrik has Genghis Khan. The most prominent example of an appeal to a past hero involves Alexander: the airport in Skopje, capital of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), now bears the name of Alexander, and plans are underway to erect a bronze statue more than 70 feet high of him and his horse Bucephalus in the city center ("Owning Alexander," January/February 2009). As a consequence, emotions have been running high: a group of more than 300 classicists have recently sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he press the FYROM to forego its hero-based focus, since they believe that the inhabitants, who are primarily Slavic-speaking, have no legitimate claim to the heritage of Alexander. In the midst of so much spirited rhetoric, it is easy to miss the broader historical framework to which these arguments belong: during periods of fundamental economic and political change, nations have continually repackaged antiquity, assigning to heroes parts that they may not have originally played, but which foster a shared identity and sense of stability in an otherwise unstable world.

Despite the rapid pace of globalization today, there may never come a time when the heroes of the past are not pressed into the service of the present.

Originally posted @ Archaeology