Friday 10 February 2023

Why the discovery of Cleopatra’s tomb would rewrite history

The south wall of the temple of Hathor at Dendera. Cleopatra and her son Caesarian are depicted on the left side.
 By Jane Draycott, Lecturer, Classics, University of Glasgow

It couldn’t have been a case of better timing. Egyptologists celebrating the centenary of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, now have a promising new archaeological discovery that appears to have been made in Egypt. Excavators have discovered a tunnel under the Taposiris Magna temple, west of the ancient city of Alexandria, which they have suggested could lead to the tomb of Queen Cleopatra. Evidence that this is really the case remains to be seen, but such a discovery would be a major find, with the potential to rewrite what we know about Egypt’s most famous queen.

According to the ancient Greek writer Plutarch – who wrote a biography of Cleopatra’s husband, the Roman general Mark Antony, and is responsible for the lengthiest and most detailed account of the last days of Cleopatra’s reign – both Antony and Cleopatra were buried inside Cleopatra’s mausoleum.

Bust of Cleopatra's husband, Roman General Mark Antony, at the National Archeological Museum of Madrid. Made from white stone, the nose partially eroded, the bust faces the camera
Bust of Cleopatra’s husband, Roman General Mark Antony, at the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid. WH_Pics

According to Plutarch, on the day that Augustus and his Roman forces invaded Egypt and captured Alexandria, Antony fell on his sword, died in Cleopatra’s arms, and was then interred in the mausoleum. Two weeks later, Cleopatra went to the mausoleum to make offerings and pour libations, and took her own life in a way that is still unknown (a popular misconception is that she was bitten by an asp). She too was then interred in the mausoleum.

In the days that followed, Antony’s son Marcus Antonius Antyllus and Cleopatra’s son Ptolemy XV Caesar (also known as Caesarion, “Little Caesar”), were both murdered by Roman forces, and the two young men may likewise have been interred there.

If the mausoleum of Cleopatra has not already vanished beneath the waves of the Mediterranean along with most of the Hellenistic city of Alexandria, and is one day found, it would be an almost unprecedented archaeological discovery.

A discovery that could rewrite history

While the tombs of many famous historical rulers are still standing – the mausoleum of Augustus, Antony and Cleopatra’s mortal enemy, in Rome, is one example – their contents have often been looted and lost centuries ago.

Aerial drone photo of the iconic Mausoleum of Augustus in the heart of Rome
The Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome. Aerial-motion

One notable exception is the tomb of Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, uncovered at Vergina in the late 1970s. The tomb was found intact, and this has enabled decades of scientific investigation into its contents, advancing our knowledge of members of the Macedonian royal family and their court. The same would be true if Cleopatra’s tomb were discovered, and found to be intact.

The amount of new information Egyptologists, classicists, ancient historians, and archaeologists could glean from its contents would be immense. For the most part, our knowledge of Cleopatra and her reign comes from ancient Greek and Roman literary sources, written after her death and inherently hostile to the Egyptian queen. We do not have much evidence revealing the Egyptian perspective on Cleopatra, but what we do have, such as honorific reliefs on the temples that she built and votives dedicated by her subjects, gives us a very different view of her.

The ethics of unearthing Cleopatra’s remains

To date, no other Ptolemaic ruler’s tomb has been found. They were reportedly all situated in the palace quarter of Alexandria and are believed to be under the sea with the rest of that part of the city.

The architecture and material contents of the tomb alone would keep historians busy for decades, and provide unprecedented amounts of information about the Ptolemaic royal cult and the fusion of Macedonian and Egyptian culture. But if Cleopatra’s remains were there too, they could tell us a great deal more, including the cause of her death, her physical appearance, and even answer the thorny question of her race.

But should we be hoping to find Cleopatra’s remains, and to analyse them? From Tutankhamun to the ordinary ancient Egyptians whose mummies have been excavated over the centuries, there has been a long history of mismanagement and mistreatment.

While the days when mummies were unwrapped as a form of entertainment at Victorian dinner parties have thankfully passed, concerns are increasingly being raised by those who work in heritage about the appropriate treatment of our ancestors.

While the discovery of Cleopatra’s tomb would be priceless for Egyptologists and other scholars, is it fair to deny the queen the opportunity for peace and privacy in death that she did not receive in life?The Conversation

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Thursday 9 February 2023

Want to delete your social media, but can’t bring yourself to do it? Here are some ways to take that step

By Sharon Horwood, Senior lecturer in Psychology, at Deakin University

For more than a decade we’ve been deeply immersed in a love affair with social media. And the thought of ending things can be painful. But like any relationship, if social media is no longer making you happy – and if curating your online persona is exhausting instead of fun – it might be time to say goodbye.

Late last year, Meta (previously Facebook) came under intense scrutiny after leaked documents revealed the company was fully aware of the negative impact its products, Instagram in particular, can have on users’ mental health.

Meta went straight into damage control. But it seemed no one was particularly surprised by the news – not even teenage girls, who Meta identified as most at risk. Was the leak just confirming what we already suspected: that social media has the potential to be much more harmful than helpful?

How did our once carefree relationship with social media turn sour? And perhaps most importantly, can (or should) it be salvaged?

Spotting the red flags

Relationship counsellors will often ask troubled couples to think about what made them happy in their relationship. Social media, for all it’s annoying peccadilloes, does have some redeeming features.

Throughout the pandemic, the ability to stay connected to people we can’t see in person has become incredibly valuable. Social media can also help people find their tribe, particularly if the people in their offline world don’t share their values and beliefs.

With so many social platforms available – and millions (or even billions) plugged in – our FOMO can takeover. Shutterstock

But if you can’t go a day without trawling through the sites, feeling compelled to “like” or be “liked”, your relationship is in trouble.

Though far from settled, the bulk of screen time research focuses on the detrimental effects of excessive or problematic screen use on well-being and mental health. A 2021 meta-analysis of 55 studies, with a combined sample size of 80,533 people, found a positive (albeit small) association between depressive symptoms and social media use.

An important finding was that negative consequences were more likely to come from how social media use made participants feel, rather than how long they used it.

Information overload

In trying to understand why social media can leave us feeling less than content, we can’t look past the effect of the 24/7 news (and fake news) stream on our collective psyche.

A 2021 Deloitte survey of Australians found 79% thought fake news was a problem, and only 18% felt information obtained via social media was trustworthy. Having to navigate content that deliberately aims to perpetuate fear and dissent only adds to people’s cognitive and emotional burden.

But here’s the rub. It seems while we’re generally concerned about technology having a negative impact on our well-being, this doesn’t translate to behaviour change on an individual level.

My own research published last year found more than two-thirds of survey participants believed excessive smartphone use can negatively impact well-being, yet individual usage was still very high, averaging 184 minutes per day. There was no relationship between the belief and the behaviour.

What leads to this apparent cognitive-behavioural dissonance? The results of a long-term study by University of Amsterdam researchers might provide a clue. They found living in a “permanently online” world leads to decreased self-control over social media use and, subsequently, lower well-being.

In other words, we know what we’re doing might be bad for us, but we do it anyway.

Simple steps you can take

How do you know when it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with social media? There’s one deceptively simple question to ask yourself: how does it make you feel?

Think about how you feel before, during and after you use social media. If you feel like you’re wasting large chunks of your day, your week (or, dare I say, your life) on social media - that’s a clue. If you feel negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, guilt or fear, you have your answer.

But if divorcing social media abruptly feels like a step too far, what else can you do to slowly break away, or potentially salvage the relationship?

1. Start with a trial separation

A “soft delete” lets you see how you’ll feel without your social media before committing to a hard delete. Let friends and family know you’re taking a break, remove the apps from your devices, and set yourself a goal of maybe one or two weeks where you don’t access the account/s. If the world is still turning at the end of this trial, keep going! Once you no longer feel the pull of social media, you’ll be ready to hit delete.

2. Reduce the number of platforms you engage with

If you have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Pinterest and Reddit on your phone, tablet and computer, you’re probably past saturation point and into drowning territory. Pick one or two apps that genuinely serve a meaningful purpose for you, and ditch the rest. Gen X’ers find it hard to say goodbye to Facebook, but Gen Zers in the US have largely bid it farewell. If they can do it, so can you!

3. If steps 1 and 2 are still too much, try to reduce your time spent on social media

First and foremost, turn off all your notifications (yes, all of them). If you’re conditioned to respond to every “bing”, you’ll find it almost impossible to stop. Set aside some time each day and do all your social media catching up or browsing. Set an alarm for your predetermined time allocation, and when it sounds, put the phone down until the same time tomorrow.

None of this will be easy, and walking away from social media might hurt at first. But if the relationship has become uncomfortable, or even abusive, it’s time to take a stand. And who knows what untold happiness you might find, beyond the four walls of your screen?The Conversation

Failing to disconnect from social media can end up hurting more the alternative.

Sharon Horwood, Senior lecturer in Psychology, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

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Thursday 26 January 2023

Celia Kritharioti's Scintillating Spring/Summer 2023 Haute Couture Collection

A model wears a vivid gown in Paris for the SS23 haute couture show by Celia Kritharioti. Main photograph (above) by Matthew Fisher. Cover pcture by Elli Ioannou

Greek designer Celia Kritharioti has built a starry clientele who seek out her shimmering and sheer gowns. From Beyonce to Lady Gaga and Gwyneth Paltrow to Jenifer Lopez, they all wear her beautifully made gowns on the red carpet. The new Spring/Summer 2023 collection, shown in Paris, offers an eclectic glamour and sparkle, writes, Isabella Lancellotti. Photography by Elli Ioannou, Matthew Fisher and Nathan Geary

The trees and grasses of the show
held at the Pavillon Cambon Capucines.
Photograph; Nathan Geary
UNDER THE SOARING CEILING of the Pavillon Cambon Capucines in Paris, Greek designer Celia Kritharioti presented her new Spring/Summer 2023 haute couture collection. 

Appearing amid a tundra of African grasses and trees to an upbeat soundtrack, the models sauntered out in hand-embroidered cocktail dresses, diaphanous gowns, beaded jackets, brightly patterned mini dresses and fluid kaftans, recalling the fashion house's origins in Athens. 

A vivid color palette ranged from a mix of bright orange, green and yellow to more subtle hues such as coral, mint, scarlet, and dark red. Highlights of the collection include hand-painted taffetas and animal prints as well as handcrafted jewelry.

"Every journey begins from within," explains the designer about the collection. "It is not about a destination, it is always the starting point that matters, the connection between cultures, mythologies, and all forms of creation, filtered through my personal vision and interpreted through art."

Although Celia Kritharioti has been dressing high profile women in striking outfits since 2012, she presented her first show in Paris five years later, during haute couture week in January 2017. This season she wanted to get across a message of joie di vivre with her vibrant and eclectic collection. 

"It is the starting point that matters, the connection between cultures, mythologies, and all forms of creation, filtered through my personal vision and interpreted through art."

Beautiful tailoring and draping 
are signatures of Celia Kritharioti.
Photograph; Nathan Geary
All of her couture designs are handmade with exquisite attention to detail and include fine embroidery, feathers and beautiful fabrics such as silk lace from Paris, taffeta, tulle, often embellished with gemstones. 

“My wish is the confidence of the woman wearing my clothes to rise as the zipper goes up,” she says. The collection ranges from cocktail dresses to sophisticated wedding gowns. 

Along with her successful career as a fashion designer, Celia Kritharioti has created costumes for the Greek National Opera productions of Romeo and Juliet and Swanlake and designed the uniforms for the Greek national airline. Proud of her Greek heritage, her Athens atelier goes back more than a century in her family to 1906. 

Highlights from the Celia Kritharioti SS23 Couture Show
A cinematic gown with dashes of bright red and yellow. Photograph; Matthew Fisher 

A symphony of blues is enhanced by large, turquoise earrings. Photograph: Elli Ioannou
The front row before the haute couture show. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

Waiting for the show to begin with the grasses and moss lining the runway. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

A beaded bustier with turquoise details looked ready for summer evening party. Photograph; Elli Ioannou

A spectacular headdress was one of the highlights of the show. Photograph; Elli Ioannou

The grasses and trees surrounding the runway were an atmospheric backdrop to the show. Photograph: Matthew Fisher 

A diaphanous leopard pattern in blue with a cutaway bustier and a flower-like headpiece added to the collection's sense of whimsy. Photograph: Nathan Geary 

A barely-there concoction in brilliant turquoise turned heads. Photograph; Matthew Fisher

A dark chocolate-hued kaftan was enlivened with lime green beading across the shoulders. Photograph: Nathan Geary.  

A long celestial blue gown looked graceful with its fluid drapery. Photograph; Matthew Fisher

Draped stripes in brilliant colours were the least part of the eye-catching drama of this revealing dress. Photograph; Nathan Geary
An artistic and asymmetrical sky-blue gown with striking embellishments was a highlight of the show. Photograph: Matthew Fisher
One of the outstanding gowns of the collection was this dramatic design with a graphic print in red and earthy tones. Photograph: Nathan Geary

One of Celia Kritharioti's signature kaftans in in emerald green and turquoise blue. Photograph: Matthew Fisher

Vivid turquoise is one of the themes of the new haute couture collection. Photograph: Matthew Fisher

A black and white geometric design has a striking Seventies aesthetic. Photograph: Matthew Fisher

The sweep of a ball gown made contemporary with the bold, colourful print. Photograph: Nathan Geary 

This orange dress had a strong Mid-Century vibe with its abstract print and statement jewellery. Photograph; Nathan Geary

Translucent gowns with gold sequins were another standout of the show. Photograph: Nathan Geary

Phones are raised as the collection can be seen in its vibrant entirety. Photograph: Nathan Geary

The bright hues of the collection's gowns looked spectacular seen together. Photograph: Matthew Fisher

The finale with the bride in a lacey dress with a transparent bodice and feathered ruff., Photograph; Elli Ioannou

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All that Glitters is Gold: Stephane Rolland's Spring/Summer 2023 Haute Couture Collection

    The gilded splendour of Stephane Rolland's SS23 haute couture show in Paris. Cover picture by Elli Ioannou. Main picture (above) by Matthew Fisher.
French couturier Stephane Rolland's Spring/Summer 2023 haute couture collection, presented in Paris, is his most spectacular yet, showcasing both his creativity and artistry as a designer, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Reporting by Antonio Visconti. Photography by Elli Ioannou, Matthew Fisher and Nathan Geary

French couturier Stephane Rolland
is touched by the appreciative
audience at the show finale. 
Photograph: Nathan Geary
"BRAVO, BRAVO," the guests called as they rose to their feet in a standing ovation at the finale of French couturier Stephane Rolland's thrilling haute couture show in Paris, a rare accolade from a Parisian fashion week audience. 

The music was exhilarating and Rolland's creations coming down the gilded runway at the Théâtre de Chaillot were equally dramatic. All of the designer's skills as a couturier were on display with the sculptural gowns a tour-de-force of French savoir faire.

The crescendo of the show was the bride emerging on to the runway in a gleaming golden cloqué lamé creation, a fittingly striking last look. Embellished with Marajoara sculptures, the design was inspired by a small, gilded Madonna sculpture, called Our Lady of Aparecida housed in a colossal basilica (45,000 people can be accommodated), in São Paulo, Brazil.

The theme of Stephane Rolland's collection was initially inspired by Marcel Camus' 1959 Brazilian film, Black Orpheus. A modern adaptation of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in a favela in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. The film went on to win the Palme d'Or at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival plus the 1960 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 

Stephane Rolland also planned his show like a film or play in three visual acts, with the first part an ode to the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and the music of Rio de Janeiro's bossa nova. Black Orpheus is also famous for its soundtrack by the Brazilians composers Antônio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá, whose works became classics of bossa nova.

All of the designer's skills as a couturier were on display with the sculptural gowns a tour de force of French savoir faire.

Sculptural shapes and emroidered
gemstones are favoured motifs. 
Photograph:Nathan Geary
The couturier's signature minimalism of crisp silhouettes and fluid fabrics brings a strong contemporary ethos to the collection. The richness and colour of this season's Brazilian inspiration is provided by Rolland's brilliant use of gemstones, embroidering them into his designs. 

He created glistening collars of lapis lazuli, sparkling amethysts, deep green malachite, translucent jade and polished wood.  No other couturier works with gemstones, making them an integral part of their designs as much as Stephane Rolland ~ and this makes his work particularly rich and layered.

The short Sambadrome dress in white gazar is embroidered with glistening jade (see above) opens like petals around the head and finishes with swirling curves above the thighs. Gazar is a wonderfully sculptural silk organza that was developed by couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga with a Swiss textile firm in the 1960s. Stepane Rolland worked at the famous maison in his early twenties soon becoming its youngest artistic director. 

In the second part of his current collection, Rolland looks to Amazonian art with column-like totem dresses in jersey and crepe embroidered with symbols and shimmering mirrors. Highlights of this series include a long, coffee-brown jersey and gazar dress with Rolland's signature three dimensional sculptural embellishments, this time with a “Brasilia” style embroidery created in lacquer and white jersey.

Another standout was a diaphanous gown in emerald chiffon with a deep decolletage embroidered with malachite and jade. Gemstones were also a feature of the jersey jumpsuit embroidered with luminous lapis lazuli. Large, eye-catching cuffs added to the drama along with stem-like, sparkling crystal earrings.

Stephane Rolland's signature minimalism with crisp silhouettes and fluid fabrics brings a strong contemporary ethos to the collection. 

Glimmering gold was the theme
of the last 'act' of the collection. 
Photograph: Elli Ioannou
In the third act of the show, the designer harks back to the Black Orpheus film and the conquistadors, with a symbolic rising sun at end of the runway. The conquistadors, the Spanish and Portuguese explorers who travelled to the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries, were in search of gold. Stephane Rolland uses all of these themes and the baroque Bahia churches as inspiration to create golden gowns as a splendid finale.

A short, asymmetrical toga dress in white gazar embroidered with golden pebbles (another of his favourite motifs) contrasts with the formality of a hooded dress in golden lamé crepe embroidered with amethysts. 

The comfort and quirkiness of a sweater dress in stretchy white chiffon and an embroidered jacket with a gilded metal "fur" is mixed with a long cut-out dress in golden lamé gazar embroidered with “Marajoara” motives in golden mirror and crystal. 

The collection is an engaging and often enthralling insight into the passions, technical skill and creative vision of a couturier at the height of his powers. 

See below highlights and details of the Stephane Rolland SS23 collection in Paris. 

Lustrous beaten gold earrings make a striking counterpoint to this black gazar tuxedo dress. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

Long and elegant asymmetrical wrapped dress in coffee-hued crepe. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

Sundress in golden lame cotton voile with Marajoara back jewel. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

Striking jumpsuit in black gazar. Photograph; Elli Ioannou    
Long gold lame gazar tunic dress with golden metal neck jewel. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

Short Sambadrome dress in white gazar embroidered with jade. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

On the golden runway, the transparent back of an emerald chiffon gown. Photograph: Nathan Geary

Long, Baiana sculptural dress in white jersey and gazar. Photograph: Matthew Fisher 

The audience awaits the opening of Stephane Rolland's haute couture show. Photograph: Nathan Geary  

Cut-out gold lame gown embroidered with Majahoara motifs in golden mirrors and crystal. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

Curvilinear black gazar short dress. Photograph: Matthew Fisher

Fluid coffee-coloured jersey creation with embroidered lapis lazuli. Photograph: Elli Ioannou
Long wrapped dress with an asymmetrical cape in white crepe with sculptural white jersey breastplate. Photograph: Matthew Fisher

The guests at the Theatre de Chaillot in Paris for the Stephane Rolland couture show. Photograph: Nathan Geary 

Emerald green chiffon gown embroidered with malachite and jade. Photograph: Nathan Geary
Tuxedo dress in white gazar with shoulder sculpture in white jersey and luminous gemstone cuffs. Photograph: Matthew Fisher 

Embroidered with golden pebbles, this asymmetrical, white toga dress is made from white gazar. Photograph: Matthew Fisher

Stretchy chiffon sweater dress worn with a metallic "fur" jacket. Photograph: Elli Ioannou 

Shimmering golden lame crepe hooded dress embroidered with amethysts. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

The spectacular finale. Photograph: Nathan Geary

The bride, inspired by Our Lady of Aparacida, in golden cloque lame embellished with Marajoara sculptures. Photograph: Nathan Geary

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