Brian Rose: Raider of the lost art(ifacts)


Archaeologist Brian Rose, professor of classics at the University of Cincinnati, really digs his work. Yes, it's been gritty labor done in isolation amidst dry dust and heat as high as 120 degrees while excavating at Troy (in Turkey). But now it's grit to glamour for Rose as a new movie on Troy starring Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom is set for release on May 14.

His phone began ringing last autumn, he says. First, came the broadcasters National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel and the History Channel, along with the BBC. Now, magazines and newspapers are calling and e-mailing too.

The interest was not too surprising, since Rose led archaeological expeditions at Troy for 15 years, following in the footprints of UC's Carl Blegen, who led major excavations there in the 1930s. Over the years, Rose and his international colleagues discovered an ancient sarcophagus that retains its original paint and color in a way that is unsurpassed by any other known marble coffin of the classical Greek period. Another nearby burial tomb for a teenage girl held a cache of gold jewelry that had been hidden for 2,500 years. But Rose really grabbed headlines when he and his students uncovered a larger-than-life statue of Roman Emperor Hadrian as well as a sculpture of the head of Augustus, the Roman emperor who ruled at the time of Christ (31 B.C.-14 A.D.).

"I think the Troy project will be remembered most for our work in the Lower City, which extends for about 1,200 feet south of the [Troy] mound, and especially for what we've learned about the defensive system of the citadel during the phases around 2500 B.C., the second millennium B.C. and the third century B.C.," opines Rose.

Among their findings was a ditch cut out of bedrock for the settlement most frequently associated with the Trojan War stories told in the Homeric epics. The trench may have been a defense against chariots. Another defensive structure dating from the third century B.C. a sizeable limestone fortification wall protected the city in the classical period.

"Suddenly, there's great interest in our work. Of course, it's because of 'Troy,' the movie," he admits. But he still appreciates the interest in history that such popular culture and the media can stimulate. So, he takes it all in stride as part of his (most days) 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. work day.

Rose even plans to see "Troy" on the day it opens. "I was asked to write a review for a children's archaeology magazine, and I want to get that done," he laughs, adding that he along with colleagues who have led digs in Greece will probably remain archaeological "stars" for a while to come yet.

"There's a whole spate of sword-and-sandal films that have been or are coming out. It all started with 'Gladiator,' and even 'The Passion of the Christ' is a sword-and-sandal film. Now, there's 'Troy,'" Rose explains. "Next, Vin Diesel has 'Hannibal' in production right now, and there are dueling Alexander the Great movies in production. Two are in the works. One stars Leonard DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman. The other is directed by Oliver Stone."

That being the case, Rose plans to keep his dark sunglasses handy so that archaeology fans don't mob him.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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