Friday, March 03, 2017

Frescoes, not phalluses, are the stars - and no sex toys

MORE ON THE OMRIT HOUSE: Ducks, not phalluses, real stars of 1,900-year-old find in northern Israel. Archaeologist at Roman settlement of Omrit, near Hula Valley, says phallic find that grabbed headlines pales in comparison to pastoral frescoes discovered at Roman manor (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel). The frescoes:
While excavating the settlement surrounding the temple in June, [expedition co-director Daniel] Schowalter and his team stumbled across the frescoed room.

In the room they found a broken fountain with “a really nicely painted fresco of a nature scene with ducks floating on the water and fish swimming underneath and plants and everything else.”

“Apart from that fountain, the walls of the room have a pattern that looks like a lattice fence, and if you look through the lattice fence you see in the background trees, bushes, leaves, maybe some birds,” he told The Times of Israel in a telephone interview.

“It’s really cool because clearly they were trying to portray that you were looking through a fence into a garden.”
The phalluses:
When the ancient builders at Omrit lay the foundations for the stoa, they filled in the existing houses with rubble. In the fill were found little terra cotta phalluses, Roman amulets.

While the phalluses grabbed headlines recently, Schowalter downplayed their significance.

“They’re very small, about three centimeters (just over an inch) long, and one is complete and the other is broken,” he said. “It’s a pretty simple find, and we frankly don’t know where it came from because it was part of the fill. It was basically dumped in.”

Phallic amulets were commonly used by Romans to ward off the evil eye, referred to in Latin as fascina. They were etched into stones at crossroads, hung as pendants around the necks of children, and placed in gardens and hearths for totemic protection.
The reports about these objects took a lurid turn pretty quickly. The Daily Mail headline involved a 1,900-year-old Roman house covered in PENIS-shaped amulets. That's right, the house was covered in the amulets.

Yahoo News carried the misunderstanding a step further with: Archaeologists find Roman house ‘covered in metal penis amulets’. Now the house was covered in metal penis amulets. Evidently Yahoo misunderstood the stock photos of metal fascina from Wikimedia Commons as finds from the Omrit house. And note the fake-news quotation marks in the headline. There is no such quote in the article.

Then the Express had to transmogrify the story to its illogical conclusion: Ancient SEX TOYS discovered by archaeologists examining ruins of Roman house. (All capitalizations in these headlines are in the originals.)

For the record, these were ceramic amulets; there were two of them, one broken; they were just over an inch long; and they weren't sex toys.

Remember how the media handled this story when they try to tell you, well, anything.

The frescoes do sound very interesting and I look forward to more information about them.

Background here.