But first, the hot news from Arles in southern France.
Extremely rare ancient Roman frescos -- comparable to those found in the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii and the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale a little north of Pompeii -- have just been discovered in the bedroom of a freshly-dug Roman villa in Arles (Latin Arelate). This is the very first full mural ever found in France in what's known as the Second Pompeian style (starting and ending in Gaul some 20 years later than in Italy, (ca. 70-20 BCE).
Among the images in the fresco (now broken into more than 12,000 fragments that will have to be pieced together like a giant jigsaw puzzle) is this extraordinarily expressive face of a young woman with full red lips and dark eyes gazing slightly upwards.
As expert restorers started putting fragments together, they discovered that she was plucking the strings of a harp.
The lady harpist is painted in expensive Egyptian blue and red vermilion pigments. Even in Italy, in fact, large human figures painted on a vermilion background in the Second (rather 'Illusionistic') Style, only appear on a handful of sites. It seems very likely that the fresco-painters came to Arles from Italy.
Although Arles had been a Roman town since 123 BCE, it remained rather small compared to Massalia (Marseilles) -- until the city fathers had the wit, or luck, to support Julius Caesar in the Civil War. When Caesar emerged victorious in 48 BCE, Massalia (which had backed Pompey) was stripped of its possessions, which were transferred to Arelate as a reward. This must have been the time when the newly-discovered luxurious villa was built and so very richly decorated.
Now, for the other hot news of summer.
Join an Archaeological Research Project
Fleur Schinning is a young scholar in the Department of Archaeology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. She wrote to me last week asking if the readers of my Zenobia blog might be willing to help in her post-graduate research project for Heritage Management. The focus is on how blogs and social media can be used as tools in creating public support for archaeology. Accordingly, she is comparing a number of blogs from the UK and USA, where blogging seems widely accepted. As she writes, "I have come across some very interesting and successful blogs, of which your blog is one."
I am flattered, of course. She asks me and the readers of this blog to join her in the project. If you can spare just five minutes to complete a simple anonymous questionnaire to share your thoughts about this and other blogs you read, she would be tremendously grateful. Click here to get started.
In return, you might win six issues of Archaeology, the very magazine that was so quick to publish the story of the Roman fresco discovered in Arles (10 July 2015) ... and which supplied the best photograph of the lady harpist. So you see, 'what goes around, comes around'. Click here.
My thanks to my Facebook friend, Lynda Albertson, for the heads up on the new Arles frescos.
Sources include INRAP fr: 'Des fresques romaines uniques en France découvertes à Arles'; RFI: 'Rare ancient Roman frescos found in south of France'; Le Monde: 'Des fresques dignes de Pompéi exhumées à Arles'; Archaeology: 'Complete Roman Fresco Discovered in Arles, France'.
Upper left: Arles fresco: detail of young woman. Photo credit: Julien Boislève, INRAP/MUSÉE DÉPARTEMENTAL ARLES ANTIQUE (via Le Monde)
Middle left: Arles fresco: the lady harpist. Photo credit: Julien Boislève, INRAP/MUSÉE DÉPARTEMENTAL ARLES ANTIQUE (via Archaeology)
Centre: Arles fresco : decorations around the edge of the bedroom. Photo credit: Julien Boislève, INRAP/MUSÉE DÉPARTEMENTAL ARLES ANTIQUE (via RFI )
Lower left: Fleur Schinning