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Hidden beneath the Mediterranean is a matchless collection of antiquities; but for centuries the sea has jealously watched over its treasures, allowing us no more than an occasional peep. Sometimes when a harbour is being deepened the dredger brings up an important specimen, such for instance as the massive silver patera with designs in gold, a splendid example of Alexandrian art, now in the Bardo Museum at Tunis; or the bronze statuettes from the harbour of Bona (found in July 1912), one of which, representing a girl—unfortunately headless—seated on the ground, is a rare combination of grace and artistic skill. At other times again it is the lucky haul of a fisherman which gives back to us a fine piece of sculpture. Thus it was that in 1832 near Piombino there was fished up out of the sea the Apollo of the early 5th century B.C. which is the pride of the Salle des Bronzes in the Louvre. Other objects found in the same way are the fine bronze headless statue of a boy found near Eleusis in 1879, and acquired by the Berlin Museum from the Sabouroff collection; Poseidon holding a dolphin, of the early 5th century, found near Creusis on the Boeotian shore of the Gulf of Corinth and now restored and exhibited at Athens; and the marble Aphrodite found in 1929 not far from Rhodes. One might easily prolong the list.
The study of the archaeology of eastern Christendom is as yet still in its infancy and the students of east Christian and Byzantine art have been few and far between in England. But of recent years there has arisen a new and more general interest in the civilization which was so violently condemned by Gibbon, and work both of a theoretical and of a practical character has been undertaken on a wider scale. With the theoretical or purely scholastic aspect we are not here concerned; but it seems of interest to present a brief survey of the actual work which has been undertaken by British investigators at Constantinople, the very centre of the Byzantine civilization. During the last four years excavation on a larger or smalIer scale has been in progress, and six separate sites have been examined more or less elaborately as funds have permitted. In 1927 and 1928 a large Expedition, supported by the British Academy, was in the field. In 1929 and 1930 funds were raised in England for work of a more modest nature, but the results were none the less interesting and in one instance discoveries were made which can well be classed within the realms of the sensational.
We publish in the form of an article a summary of Professor Herzfeld’s important researches in Persia. He is describing them in a new journal which he has founded for the purpose, and of which four parts have already appeared. This journal is of course indispensable to all students who wish to keep abreast of the work which he is doing. Archaeologically Persia has long been a closed area and it is still by no means fully opened up to scientific research. Professor Herzfeld is working there practically single-handed but H.I.M. the Shah has taken a personal interest in the progress of his work and has accompanied him on some of his expeditions. Such evidence of official interest will be most gratifying to orientalists, and we look forward to the further results which must follow from such influential recognition.—EDITOR.
An interesting discovery, made during the season's excavations three years since on the historic site of Ur, has moved the writer to carry to a conclusion some researches originally started several years ago. Many able pens have been exercised in dealing with the wider archaeological and historic significance of the discoveries as a whole, but the individual objects have as yet scarcely attracted the notice that they, for the most part, deserve.
In the first of these papersX dealing with certain problems in the history and archaeology of Ancient America an account was given of the Maya Old Empire and the possible causes which lead to its collapse in the fourth or sixth centuries A.D. The whole tract of Xibalba was probably deserted, its inhabitants scattered, and the alien theocracy which had inspired a great semi-civilization destroyed.
On the suggestion of Rev. L. P. Murray, and influenced by the discoveries made at Stonehenge and elsewhere by 0 means of air-photography , the Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, at a meeting held 27 April 1927, agreed to pursue similar investigations in the Province. The Ministry of Finance, which in regard to Ancient Monuments corresponds to H.M. Office of Works in England, gave its support and asked the Air Ministry for its cooperation. This was readily accorded, and 502 Ulster (Bombing) Squadron of the Royal Air Force stationed at Aldergrove, co. Antrim, was instructed to give assistance, so far as was consistent with its ordinary duties. Valuable help was given by Wing Commander A. Claud Wright and the Squadron under his command, and the results have been decidedly interesting.
The excavations at Minet el Beida and Ras Shamra, begun in 1929 and continued in 1930,were undertaken at the suggestion of M. Rene Dussaud, Member of the Institute and Conservator at the Louvre. The natural harbour of Minet el Beida (the White Bayy lies facing Cyprus; and it was this fact which gave M. Dussaud the idea of a Mycenaean colony from Cyprus importing thither the copper which had to be disembarked for transport to the interior and to Mesopotamia. This theory was supported by the fact that 1000 metres from the bay is a huge tell (mound), called by the natives Ras Shamra (Cape Samphire), which might well hide the ruins of this assumed sea-port.
With the publication of Sir Hanbury Brown’s Fayoum and Lake Moeris in 1892, it was widely believed that the problem of the situation and extent of the Lake Moeris of antiquity had been finally solved. Sir Hanbury Brown pointed out that the shore-lines of an ancient lake could be traced in the Faiyum at a level of about 22 metres above sea; he concluded that this lake, which must have covered almost the whole of what is now the Faiyum province of Egypt, was the ancient Lake Moeris, and that the remarkable gravelly ridge known as the ‘Idwa Bank was the remains of an artificial embankment which had served to reclaim from the lake a comparatively small area around the present town of Medinet-el-Faiyum. Sir Hanbury Brown’s views received ready acceptance, because whilst satisfying all the modern levelling and other observations which had up to that time been made, they were also in tolerable accord with the account of Lake Moeris given by Herodotus and copied by subsequent classical writers.
It has always been part of the programme of ANTIQUITY to insist on the value of air-photography as an archaeological method; and records of discoveries made by its use have often appeared in the pages of this journal. Here is another such record; the first, I think, in which air-photography has led to the discovery and excavation of an altogether unknown Roman site.