Not just my Hot Hot Heat cover band or an amazing B movie title anymore! This week’s Newsreel starts in England with a curse scroll, and tours the world to bring you dog archaeologists from Australia and baby volcanoes in Germany. Strange things are afoot in the world of classical studies, but have no fear, the gods will protect us from the curses of the volcano dogs!
The Accursed Scroll
A lead scroll dating back to the third or fourth century has finally been deciphered. Found three years ago in East Farleigh. The Maidstone Area Archaeological Group, a charity that promotes local archaeology and does talks on local history, finally used an electron microscope to discern the writing on the unrolled tablet, which is a curse tablet or defixio. It bears the names of a dozen people, some Roman, and some Celtic, though many of the names are incomplete. Such tablets were usually rolled to conceal the names and then buried at places near the underworld or nailed to temples so that their curses would come to pass. But this probably wasn’t the work of some kind of 3rd century Voldemort. Curse tablets are fairly common. For instance, the museum at Bath has over a hundred Roman curse tablets, likely created by ordinary people or on their behalf by local sorcerers. Read the full story at Discovery News.
Way Past Baking Soda
Prince Leopold III had a passion for travel, so much so that he needed to bring pieces of the world home with him. His estate, now a world heritage site, includes a Chinese pagoda, a synagogue that looks like the Temple of Hercules Victor, and a temple dedicated to Venus, among its over forty architectural delights, all designed by architect Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff and landscape architect Johann Friedrich Eyserbeck. But one of the things which fascinated the prince wasn’t an architectural marvel, but a natural one. When visiting Pompeii, he decided that he would have a pet Vesuvius of his own. Completed in 1794, the tiny volcano was fed by three furnaces and could erupt on command, which Prince Leopold did frequently because really, why wouldn’t you? After the prince’s death though, the volcano went dormant, and remained that way until the director of the site consulted with Brandenburg Technical University chemistry professor Wolfgang Spyra the Eruptor. Who, as you can tell by the title, is a total badass. Thanks to his efforts, and those of his students, it erupts once a year, without any warning. Here’s a video which sadly does not include instructions. Read more about this at the History Blog.
Indiana Was the Dog
Finally, last but not least, the world’s first dog archaeologist. Well, not exactly. Migaloo, a dog trained at Multinational K9 Dog Training in Brisbane, Australia, is trained to detect archaeological human remains. Unlike cadaver dogs, pooches specially trained to look for the remains of human flesh, Migaloo was taught to look for old bones. Gary Jackson, her trainer, used the scent of 250 year old aboriginal bones loaned from the South Australian Museum. On August 14th, her training shone through and shattered the record of Canadian cadaver dog Candy, who found the bones of three soldiers from the war of 1812, dating back 175 years. Migaloo, upon surveying a burial ground, located four burial spots dating back six hundred years, each of which was eight feet under the ground. For her next trick, I think Migaloo should learn how to establish a grid. Check out a video of her find here, and read more about her story on the History Blog.
That’s it for today’s Newsreel. By next week, classes will have started, so welcome back to all of our returning students, and welcome to all of the new students starting at the University of Waterloo!
Jim Tigwell is a freelance writer with an MA in Philosophy and a BA in the same, with a minor in Classical Studies. The creator of Concept Crucible, a blog focusing on applying philosophy to everyday life, he also writes about games, classics, and social media. Find him on Twitter as @ConceptCrucible.