How not to publish an excavation

I’m still (10:30am) in the West Room in Cambridge University Library, where I have been working on Vermaseren’s The excavations in the Mithraeum of the church of Santa Prisca.  The objective is to obtain an image of the inscription said to record that Mithras “saved” people by the shedding of the eternal blood, not least in order to see if it actually says any such thing.

Despite what the Google books preview might suggest, the book itself is a big heavy volume of large size.  It’s a shock to be reminded of how unwieldy a paper book can be, compared to a PDF.

There are terminals here, quite close together, which is fortunate.  The photocopiers are incredible – they’ve bolted on a scanner facility.  But… the interface is pretty hostile.  So I scan the image, then go back to the terminal to see if it came out OK.  I had to move terminals once, thanks to a chap with bad breath who came into this empty room and sat plumb next to me!

I’m disappointed with Vermaseren’s book.  The first question I have is as to where the inscription appears in the Mithraeum.  This I cannot determine.  The book is filled with waffle.  The nearest I can come is that there are two levels of paintings around the walls of the Mithraeum, an upper and a lower layer, and the inscriptions relate to the lower layer.  That’s not really very good.  Nor can I gain any overview of the layout from his book, because he dives into detail instead.


The upper layer consists of pictures of people, full length, walking toward the Mithras figure at one end.  These have names above them – “Nama Gelasius Leoni”, etc.  The lower layer seems to be similar stuff.  But… where oh where are the verse inscriptions located?

The plate is not very good.  It’s fine for what it is; but it is monochrome, and consequently everything is a jumble.  I’ve tried several times scanning at 600 dpi, and it won’t get any better than I have.  I’ll get this online, tho, for what it is.

It’s now 11am.  I think I’ve had enough of Vermaseren’s effusion.  Time to walk into Cambridge and get away from it for an hour.

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