Ancient History et cetera

The Hadrianic Baths at Aphrodisias, Caria (Turkey)

The open-air pool with columns at its corners and surrounding statues of the Hadrianic Baths, Aphrosidias Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

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.
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Mosaic with Musicians

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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).

The Power and Pathos of Hellenistic Bronze Sculpture

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Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World underscores the power, prestige, and pre-eminence of ancient sculpture during the Hellenistic Era. This blockbuster show, which opened at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy this spring, is the first major international exhibition to assemble nearly 50 ancient bronzes from the Mediterranean region and beyond in a single venue. Prized over the centuries for their innovative, realistic displays of physical power and emotional intensity, the sculptures of the Hellenistic world mark a key and important transition in art history.

In this interview, Dr. James Bradburne, the recently departed Director General at the Palazzo Strozzi, introduces James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) to the finer points of the exhibition.

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The Hadrianeum and the personifications of provinces

Just a short walk from the Pantheon in Rome, in Piazza di Pietra, are the majestic remains of the Temple of the deified Hadrian (Hadrianeum) built by Antoninus Pius, Hadrian’s adopted son and successor. Of the original temple, only eleven columns with capitals and the cella wall are still visible today.

Temple of Deified Hadrian (Hadrianeum), Campus Martius, Rome © Carole Raddato

In 1696, during the pontificate of Pope Innocent XII, the surviving part of the temple was incorporated into a large building designed by Carlo Fontana to house the central Customs Office. In 1879-82 the building was modified and its baroque decoration was replaced by a simpler one; in 1928 the wall of the cella was freed from later additions. Today the building houses the Borsa Valori di Roma, Rome’s stock exchange. Read more…

Apamea, Syria: Roman Ruins in a Warzone

The human cost of war can be so unimaginably large that it seems unfeeling to speak about the damage to cultural and natural heritage, yet it is important to acknowledge that cost as well. The disaster in Syria will be felt not just by a few generations, but for the rest of time. After World War II, the international community recognized the need to protect cultural and natural heritage in times of conflict, and UNESCO was formed. As in all human history, it seems like all those conferences, petitions, international declarations, talks and meetings failed to come up with a decisive way to prevent the destruction of life and heritage. Unfortunately, Syria is just one of the many cases of failed attempts.

The colonnade at Apamea, following Cardo Maximus. It was built in 2nd century CE. This huge boulevard was 2 km long. Photo by Mina Bulic

The destruction of archaeological sites in conflict zones is not, as the media often reports, done mostly because of the religious views of perpetrators. No, the main reason is that there is big money to be made in the black antiquities market. Some people buy and own artifacts coming from Syria, Iraq and other zones of conflict (sometimes without realizing their origin) and in this way they finance the dogs of war. You have to wonder, who are the people who own artifacts from Apamea?  Whose villas and gardens are decorated by Syria’s war? It seems many of those people are coming from our “civilized” west…

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The Secret History of Iddi-Sin’s Stela

Osama Shukir Mohammed Amin sets out on a detective journey to discover the mysterious history of Iddi-Sin’s stela in Iraqi Kurdistan. Going back into this region’s troubled past, he disentangles a family dispute and discovers what really happened to this exquisite artefact.

I posted a picture on my personal Facebook page of what is commonly called “the rock of the Martyr Ghareeb Haladiny” (Kurdish: به ردي شه هيد غه ريب هه له ديني; Arabic: صخرة الشهيد غريب هلديني), which depicts a limestone stela of Iddi(n)-sin, king of Simurrum. Shortly after, one of my friends phoned me. He was very upset. He said that the “title” of the rock with respect to Martyr Ghareeb is wrong and that the rock was found by local people of the village of Qarachatan, and that Martyr Ghareeb had nothing to do with the rock. “They have altered the stela’s history and ignored the role of people of the village of Qarachatan, who found and protected this rock for 15 years,” he said.

Interviewing Mr. Nejem-Alddin Ahmad (who stands between the stela and Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, the director of the Sulaymaniyah Museum. A snapshot using VLC media player; video interview using my Nikon D610.

Interviewing Mr. Nejem-Alddin Ahmad (who stands between the stela and Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, the director of the Sulaymaniyah Museum.

A few days later, I met with Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, the director of the Sulaymaniyah Museum (Sulaymaniyah Governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan), where the stela is currently housed and displayed to the public. I told him what my friend said. He replied: “Yes the matter is complicated and the rock has passed through very turbulent times. It is a long subject that we have not uncovered its root till this moment. Many rings of its chain are still lost. Some people from Qarachatan village claimed that they did find and store the stela.”

The right edge of the stela. The edge has been broken and a large fragment has been lost. This has resulted in a large lacune; the cuneiform signs at the beginning of the lines have been lost. March 30, 2015.

“OK, let’s uncover the truth,” I suggested. “Let’s go there and meet the people who have any information about the stela.” Mr. Hashim replied positively and phoned Mr. Nejem-Alddin Ahmad, one of the Museum’s employees. Mr. Nejem-Alddin still lives in Qarachatan village and is the guard of the rock-relief of Rabana (mountain Rabana looks over the village and the relief lies on the cliff of that mountain, about 3-4 Km far from the village).

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Easter Island Statues, History and Art at Manchester Museum

Easter Island or “Rapa Nui” is among the most remote islands in the world, located some 3541 kilometers (2,200 miles) off the coast of Chile in the Pacific Ocean. Famous for its mysterious yet iconic statues (moai), Easter Island is currently the subject of a new exhibition at Manchester Museum in Manchester, UK: Making Monuments on Rapa Nui: The Statues from Easter Island. This show explores the incredible artistic, cultural, and religious traditions of the Rapanui people.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener speaks to Mr. Bryan Sitch, Deputy Head of Collections at Manchester Museum, about the engineering and construction of the moai, their purpose in the lives of the islanders, and the intrepid explorers who sought to understand them.

Moai against a setting sun on Easter Island, Chile. Adam Stanford @Aerial-Cam for RNLOC. (Courtesy of Manchester Museum.)

Moai against a setting sun on Easter Island, Chile. Adam Stanford @Aerial-Cam for RNLOC. (Courtesy of Manchester Museum.)

JW: Mr. Bryan Sitch, welcome to Ancient History Encyclopedia! This is the first interview we have ever conducted with Manchester Museum, as well as the first to encompass the perennially intriguing topic of the moai statues.

Why has Manchester Museum chosen to create an exhibition encompassing Rapanui and their moai? One cannot deny that there is considerable public interest in these monolithic statues.

BS: Thank you for inviting me, James. Manchester Museum’s temporary exhibition Making Monuments on Rapa Nui: The Statues from Easter Island is the happy convergence of an offer to lend statue from Easter Island, “Moai Hava,” as part of the British Museum’s National Programs, and the fact that Professor Colin Richards of the University of Manchester’s Department of Archaeology has been carrying out excavations on Rapa Nui. Richards is one of the co-investigators on an AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) funded program of fieldwork involving the University College London, University of Manchester, Bournemouth University and Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), University of Highlands and Islands, as well as Rapanui and Chilean archaeologists.

Manchester Museum regularly works with academics across the campus on temporary exhibition projects, the intention being to bring the results of their research to a wider audience here in the museum. In this way the museum is able to draw upon the most recent research in support of its temporary exhibitions, which implement the two principal strands of the organization’s mission: to promote understanding between cultures and to develop a sustainable world. The Making Monuments exhibition is the latest such “academic-led” project with which I, as Curator of Archaeology and Deputy Head of Collections, have been involved.

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The New Acropolis Museum Review

The New Acropolis Museum in Athens opened its doors to the public on June 20th 2009. Since then, millions of visitors have flocked to its airy halls. It was decided that a new museum was needed to replace the old nineteenth-century museum building (situated on the Acropolis) in order to house the ever increasing amount of archaeological material and to act as a fit and proper house for the marble sculptures of the Parthenon. We are so used to seeing old artefacts housed in old buildings, drowned in artificial light, but this museum, with its vast glass walls and lofty atmosphere, brings a true feeling of vitality to what it holds. It is because of this that the New Acropolis Museum is easily in my ‘Top 5 Museums’ list; how could it not be when the museum building itself is part of the attraction?

The Museum Entrance at Night-Time

The Museum Entrance at Night-Time.

One of the things that strikes me on each visit to this museum is just how much you can see in every single direction. On the first floor, you can look down and see the ruins of the archaeological site upon which the museum was built. If you look to your sides you will see ceiling-high displays of some of the finest Greek pottery. “Mind your back!” You nearly walked straight into a votive dedication to Asclepius, which thanks the god for healing an ancient Athenian’s ear, foot, and eye ailments (with the affected parts carved into the marble). In stooping down to look at some low-level displays you stand up and find yourself at the feet two Nikai statues, and if you look up, you see the ‘Bluebeard pediment’ looming where the first floor ramp meets the second floor. If you are looking for ancient Greek art and artefacts, you have certainly come to the right place!  The entire first floor of the museum is this long gradual ramp, and it displays artefacts that were found on the slopes of the Acropolis (video displays, a shop and a cloakroom fill the rest of the floor). Read more…