Thursday, October 19, 2006

What year is it?

Last night the BBC carried this news item,* about a Roman cemetery under the Vatican. This particular bit of cemetery was discovered three years ago (though that there was a cemetery under the Vatican has been known for a very long time, and other tombs have been known for years, including one which may be that of Saint Peter). Clearly it's been tarted up for public display (something to do next time I'm in Rome).

However, I'm blogging this because of the text that was given to newsreader Huw Edwards to lead into the item, and which is repeated in the text accompanying the online video version. It's not the implication that this is a new discovery - that's typical hyperbole. It's the age given, 3,000 years old. The report itself says that the tombs date from the time of Christ. Which, unless I'm mistaken about the current date, is rather nearer 2,000. A bit of a failure in basic maths, there, rather like that in Battlefield Britain, where the Battle of Hastings (1066) was described as 'nearly a thousand years' after the Boudiccan revolt (AD 61), or Rageh Omar's slip in his otherwise interesting series on the miracles of Jesus, where he gave the dates of birth (63 BC) and death (AD 14) of the emperor Augustus, and then said that Augustus was dead at the age of forty-nine (he was, of course, seventy-six).

(Note that what is on the website may change, as I am going to drop a line to the BBC.)

* Actually, if you search under 'Rome' on the BBC website, you'll find a link to a rather better quality version.

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