Month: May 2015

Vishnu as Varaha, Udayagiri Caves

A sculpted panel at the Gupta-period (4th-6th century CE) caves of Udayagiri, Madhya Pradesh, India. The caves are rock-cut Hindu shrines and this panel shows Vishnu as the boar-headed incarnation Varaha. The god rises from the cosmic waters, defeating the primeval serpent monster, and rescuing the goddess Bhudevi (earth), who hangs from his tusk. Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra (Creative Commons: Attribution).

Lion Gate, Hattusa

What Caused The Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse?

The urge to find a single explanation as the cause for such calamitous events seems to come from a modern human need for an easy explanation as often as possible. The decline of the Late Bronze Age civilizations of the Mediterranean and Near East has puzzled historians and archaeologists for centuries. While many have ascribed the collapse of several civilizations to the enigmatic Sea Peoples, Professor Eric H. Cline, former Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at George Washington University, presents a more complicated and nuanced scenario in his new book, 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed. Professor Eric H. Cline speaks to Ancient History Encyclopedia’s James Blake Wiener about his new title and the circumstances that lead to the collapse of the cosmopolitan world of the Late Bronze Age in this interview.

Palmyra in Photos: Ancient Gem of Syria

Palmyra (also known as Tadmor) is mentioned frequently in the news, as the so-called Islamic State is advancing on this ancient gem of a ruined city in Syria. The formerly prosperous metropolis of Palmyra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with good reason. From 44 BCE to 272 CE, the city became a wealthy trade centre at the crossroads between Roman, Greek, and Persian cultures. Located in an oasis in the Syrian desert along key trade routes across the ancient world, it was an important hub for trade, and many caravans passed through this city, increasing its wealth. Its architecture and arts reflects this mix of styles and economic wealth.

Winged Ibex Vessel Handle

This winged ibex was a handle for a metal amphora-shaped vessel, made in the 4th century BCE in Achaemenid Persia. This high level of detail was achieved through the use of lost-wax technique. It has been suggested that this piece of art resembles both the god Bes and the Greek god Silenus, which may indicate that a Greek artisan made this piece of art. Louvre Museum, Paris. Sully wing, ground floor, Room 12a. H: 27cm W: 15 cm D: 10cm Photo by Jan van der Crabben (Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike).

The Hadrianic Baths at Aphrodisias, Caria (Turkey)

The beautiful ancient Greek city of Aphrodisias, still partly excavated, is one of the most important archaeological sites of the late Hellenistic and Roman period in Turkey. The city was located in Caria in Asia Minor, on a plateau 600 meters above sea level. Today it lies near Geyre village, some 80 kilometers west of Denizli. The city was founded in the 2nd century BC on the site of a rural sanctuary of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. It was named after Aphrodite who had her unique cult image, the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias, and who became the city’s patron goddess.

Mosaic with Musicians

Mosaic depicting musicians, signed by Dioskourides of Samos. The mosaic shows an episode from a comedy since the figures are wearing theatrical masks. The figures are playing musical instruments often connected with the cult of Cybele: the tambourine, small cymbals and the double flute. The mosaic was found in the so-called Villa of Cicero near Pompeii and dates to the 1st century BCE. It was made with tiny tesserae, in a technique called opus vermiculatum. (Naples National Archaeological Museum) Photo by Carole Raddato (Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike).

Fresco with Wounded Aeneas

Fresco depicting Iapyx removing an arrowhead from Aeneas’ thigh. Venus stands over while beside Aeneas stands his young son Ascanius. 1st century CE (between 45 and 79 CE), from Pompeii. (Naples National Archaeological Museum). Photo by Carole Raddato (Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike).