The Ancient Historian

Ancient history, mountaineering, cycling and other outside adventures

Just back from North Conway, NH

I made a quick trip up north, to my beloved White Mountains. It was gorgeous up there. A friend and I climbed a couple of classic ice climbs, Shoestring gully and Willie’s slide. Nothing major, but outstanding fun, and some good experience at multi-pitch climbing. Learned a bunch, had fun, and as a reward, when leaving the valley I got this fantastic view of the big daddy, Mt Washington. I dont think Ive ever seen it this clear.

mtwash.

Training for the new alpinism

Finally, my copy of Steve House and Scott Johnson’s Training for the New Alpinism. A Manual for the Climber as Athlete, Patagonia Books, 2014, has arrived. It treats the climber as an athlete, and differentiates types of climbing/specific training. I especially like the Alpine versus big mountain mountaineering distinctions in it. And fantastic photos throughout the book. More anon. But at first glance this looks like a book every climber will have, and continue to read.

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New study on male stature/disease correlation

An interesting new study published in the advanced online version of Oxford Economic Papers by Timothy J. Hatton (Essex University) is fascinating. In a bit more than a century, from 1879-1980, average heights of males in Europe (15 western European countries) increased 11 cm! The author’s main conclusion is that the improvement in the disease environment ( examining infant mortality) is the single most important factor.

Next stop, Mt Shuksan

I am heading out on Sunday to Seattle for some much looked forward to climbs. First up, myself and a guide are spending some quality time on the glaciers of Mt Shuksan in the North Cascades. In cycling we call it “Time-in-the-Saddle,” I’ll call this “Time-in-Crampons.” As always, I am climbing with IMG-simply the best people around. Climbing the Sulphide Glacier route. Here are the basics for Shuksan from summitpost.

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A view of the mountain, and sulphide glacier, upper mountain in shadow

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Photo taken 5/28/05 by Kelsi Franzen

Material from the important harbor excavations at Heracleion to go on display

The Catholic news online consortium reports the following, which is excellent news. The French excavators have done some marvelous work here. The main reason the site was abandoned, of course, is the building of the Ptolemaic harbors at Alexandria.

Ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion to share its sunken secret at long last

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion, engulfed by the Mediterranean Sea more than 1,200 years ago will soon be sharing its underwater treasures with the modern world. Relics, such as 16-foot sculptures, gold coins and giant tablets are among some of the items recovered from the ancient port city, 20 miles northeast of Alexandria in Egypt.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) – The city of Heracleion, which was also known as Thonis, was believed to only be legend for hundreds of years. The city was mentioned by the Greek historian Herodotus, who told of Helen of Troy visiting Heracleion with her lover Paris before the Trojan War.

The city was discovered during a survey of the Egyptian shore at the beginning of the last decade. French researcher Franck Goddio discovered it in 2000 with a team from the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology.

An international team of marine archaeologists is now preparing to show some of the objects found in the underwater city.

Weights from Athens have also been discovered at the site, confirming beliefs the city was once an important trading port.

A University of Oxford archaeologist working at the site, Elsbeth van der Wilt told reporters the port was an important hub in the network for long-distance trade in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“Excavations in the harbor basins yielded an interesting group of lead weights, likely to have been used by both temple officials and merchants in the payment of taxes and the purchasing of goods,” she said.

“Amongst these are an important group of Athenian weights. They are a significant archaeological find because it is the first time that weights like these have been identified during excavations in Egypt.”

Scientists remain baffled as to why the city suddenly disappeared. One theory suggests a rise in sea level and unstable collapsing sediment combined to submerge the city.

Dr Damian Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford, who worked on the excavation, told The Telegraph: “It is a major city we are excavating.

“The site has amazing preservation. We are now starting to look at some of the more interesting areas within it to try to understand life there.”

© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.

Final report on Mt Whitney via the Mountaineer’s route

Well, gentle reader, I am very late with this, since I climbed Whitney in March! So this is by way of keeping me honest. Mt Whitney is a gorgeous place, and it was a challenge to climb it in March. I was not in the best of shape as we started heading to the trail from Whitney Portal, although I was happy that my pack weighed in at only 54 pounds. Day one headed up to Upper Boy Scout Lake. We did not go up the ledges, but instead stayed low and followed a gulley up. Rough bushwacking, some large steep up, and postholing. Uggh. There was a good amount of snow, and by 10 AM is was sludge in places. We hit camp one and I was feeling pretty worked. Something like a 6 hour day. The guides, the other guys on the climb, and the food was great. Days 2 and 3 were the humps up snow fields, I guess averaging around 30% grade or so, although it felt much steeper to my sore legs. We saw very few other climbers  heading either up or down, which I thought was a great feature. In the Summer, this must be a mad house, although the permits are controlled thankfully. We hit the high camp, which was a nice quiet spot. We saw two guys who had summited the previous day chilling out, getting ready for more climbing elsewhere. I was definitely feeling tired, and was glad to get the tent set up. Went to bed early since we had a pre-dawn start. It was cold as we got the avalanche transponders clicked out and crampons on the boots. It was a fun day, but once again as we weer on the final climb up to the notch I was wishing I had been doing more cardio over the Winter! I decided not to go all the way up, we hit the notch, 14K, at about noon or so, cold and windy, and I was worried about 3 more hours of technical climbing yet just 500 feet more (!), before the long down climb. I decide the better part of valor was calling it a day, and heading down strong, which is what I did. I regret it a bit, and here is one of the things that I am still learning. That is, how far can you push beyond your limit and recover. On a bike, I know it perfectly, on the mountains, I still keep it throttled back so I know I can come down feeling strong, and not holding up teammates. The more mountains, the better I know how far to push into the red zone and feel confident. This is what I take with me Sunday as I climb Shuksan in the north cascade range ( lots of snow no doubt), come down and rest, and then onto Rainier and the Kautz glacier route. Onward, upward!

A few photos of the climb up Whitney:

Resting at high camp, waiting for tea

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Heading up to high camp

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Still heading up, now in snowshoes

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Day 3, up to the notch, feeling this was steeper than it looks!

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Downclimbing on the famous Ledges

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The team, at high camp, feeling good

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And here I am celebrating the town of Lone Pine, and Whitney in the backgound. A beautiful experience

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The coevolution of farming and property rights

There is a fascinating study reported in this week’s PNAS by Bowles and Choi arguing that farming co-evolved with private property rights regimes in the early Holocene. I have not read it yet, but it is a theory that is deeply interesting and fundamentally important for economic history and especially for the history of property.

Climbing Mt Whitney in March

Finally, I am getting around to reporting on my climb of Mt Whitney via the Mountaineer’s route this past March. As usual, I used IMG, simply an outstanding guiding company, and they did not disappoint. A first class experience all the way. That does not mean it was easy, because it wasn’t. We had a team of five climbers, and two guides, one of whom was one of the owners of IMG and a legend in the mountaineering world, George Dunn. The other guide was Tristan Sieleman, of Sierra Mountaineering International, an authorized guiding company in the Inyo National Forest. One heck of a great guide. So we were set for an adventure. I fly into Las Vegas on March 12, picked up the car ( a yellow bug ?!), hit the cheap hotel, behind the strip, and slept. I spent the next morning waiting for George to arrive, I had great luck that he needed a ride out to Lone Pine CA and I was happy to have his company. We left Vegas around noon and drove West, through Death Valley. Quite something in itself, and my first time seeing this truly spectacular place. Hitting Pahrump NV we passed a promising looking Mexican Restaurant, and had lunch. Simple, but very good. We continued on and hit Lone Pine at around 4 or so. I knew nothing of this town, but it has a real history, and quite a lot of charm for being so remote. I Stayed at the Dow Villa, famous as a place where the movie stars stayed filming the dozens of westerns shot in Lone Pine over the years. A very nice spot. After a quick pizza, I packed up my pack for the early start the next day, took a photo of the Sierras, with Whitney front and center 15 miles away, and wondered what the next day would bring.

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The Ptolemaic Serapeum at Sakkara and the Archive of Ptolemy, son of Glaukias, the recluse

MemphisApis

I’ve been reading through the early part of a very famous archive from Sakkara, dated to the 160′s BC with students in my Daily Life in the Greek Papyri course this term. It is one of the most fascinating group of texts from the ancient Mediterranean world for sure. Dorothy Thompson’s (who by the way is the next Rostovtzeff lecturer here at Yale, November 2013) Memphis under the Ptolemies, Princeton U Press ( now just out in a 2d ed.) analyzes the archive (all in Greek, but some of the petitions anyway were probably originally in Demotic and translated) in wonderful detail. The BBC did a kind of docudrama of some parts of the archive-makes for fun watching, especially after having read and thought about the texts. I was just recently in Vienna, where the famous Apis embalming text (mentioned in the film) is on display in a lonely corner of one of the rooms. A bit of a shame. It is a profoundly beautiful text written in the finest Demotic hand I’ve ever seen.  There are a few howlers in the film, but it’s fun. The actors are speaking mainly Moroccan Arabic, but there is some Coptic in the dialogue, attempting to vocalize the spoken demotic of the 2d century BC.

The file is here (may take a while to load)

And an American version in 5 parts on Youtube is here

Widespread destruction of antiquities in Egypt continues

From recent BBC reporting found here. Just awfully depressing.

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