Ancient History et cetera

Pondering Britain’s Stone Circles

Grand, centuries-old cathedrals distinguish Great Britain’s cities and towns, providing spiritual nourishment to those who visit. These places of worship seem ancient almost beyond imagination. But long before Gothic cathedrals…long before recorded history even, Britain’s stone circles were this land’s sacred spots.

Visitors to the Avebury circle — which encloses nearly 30 acres — are free to revel among the stones. (photo: Rick Steves)

Visitors to the Avebury circle — which encloses nearly 30 acres — are free to revel among the stones. (photo: Rick Steves)

Stonehenge is the most famous of these — and has a new visitors center to serve nearly one million annual sightseers. As old as the pyramids, this site amazed medieval Europeans, who figured it was built by a race of giants. Archaeologists think some of these stones came from South Wales — 150 miles away — probably rafted then rolled on logs by Bronze Age people.

Most believe stone circles functioned as celestial calendars, and even after five thousand years Stonehenge still works as one. As the sun rises on the summer solstice (June 21), the “heel stone” — the one set apart from the rest — lines up with the sun and the altar at the circle’s center. With the summer solstice sun appearing in just the right slot, prehistoric locals could tell when to plant and when to party.

Despite the tourist hordes, Stonehenge retains an air of mystery and majesty (partly because smartly designed barriers, which keep visitors from trampling all over it, foster the illusion that it stands alone in a field).
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Visiting the Ancient City of Borsippa

by Osama S. M. Amin November 11, 2014 Photos, Travel 0 Comments

Borsippa lies about 11 miles southwest of the ancient city of Babylon. It is a Sumero-Akkadian city and was built on either side of river Euphrates. It lies within modern-day Babel Governorate, Iraq. There is a road, which takes you directly near the city. It is not a desert.

The modern-day name of the city is Birs-Nimrud (Arabic: برس نمرود). Local people think/thought that this is the place where king Nimrod ordered the burning of Prophet Abraham. A nearby shrine can be found and is linked to Prophet Abraham.

The city of Borsippa is marked by this survived ziggurat and temple of God Nabu. The so-called tongue tower lies on the top. People thought that these are the ruins of the Tower of Babylon

The city of Borsippa is marked by this survived ziggurat and temple of God Nabu. The so-called tongue tower lies on the top. People thought that these are the ruins of the Tower of Babylon

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Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia

Winged Isis pectoral 538–519 B.C. Gold * Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Winged Isis pectoral 538–519 B.C. Gold. Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Located at the intersection of long distance trade between East Africa, the ancient Near East, and the classical world, ancient Nubia was Egypt’s rich and powerful neighbor to the South. Successive Nubian cultures dominated what is modern-day Sudan and southern Egypt for over two millennia, developing in turn a distinctive set of cultural aesthetics and an impressive level of craftsmanship. Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia, a new exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, entices visitors with 95 items on display, including jewels, gems, and exquisite artifacts of personal adornment.
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10 Greek Pottery Details

by Mark Cartwright November 09, 2014 Photos 0 Comments

The pottery of ancient Greece has provided us with some of the most distinctive pottery shapes and striking decoration from antiquity. This collection begins with the Minoans whose love of the sea and flowing, vibrant forms can be seen on the famous Marine Style askos. In the archaic period geometric designs gained popularity until designers eventually began to experiment with human figures. These would become more and more expressive and detailed with the black-figure style which first appeared in Corinth and then spread across Greece. Finally, the red-figure style added yet more details and greater variety in colours to pottery decoration and saw more ambitious attempts made at achieving depth and perspective.  For more on this fascinating subject see Ancient History Encyclopedia’s definition on Greek pottery.

Minoan Pottery

New-Palace period (1500-1450 BCE) Cretan Clay askos with 'Marine Style' decoration, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete.

Minoan Octopus, New-Palace period (1500-1450 BCE) Cretan Clay askos with ‘Marine Style’ decoration, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete.

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Timeless Travels Magazine Review

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TT_LogoTimeless Travels is a new free online magazine designed specifically for iPad and Android tablets, but also viewable on PC/Mac. It’s an excellent combination of history, narrative, and practical travel information. The layout is attractive, the texts are informative and enjoyable, and each article includes stunning photographs that not only supplement the texts but can also stand on their own as beautiful images. Read more…

Exploring Aelia Capitolina, Hadrian’s Jerusalem

With thousands of archaeological sites, Jerusalem is one of the most excavated cities on the planet and to walk its streets is to walk through thousand years of history. This ancient city has been fought over more than any other place. It has been conquered, destroyed and rebuilt many times and Hadrian played a significant role in Jerusalem’s physical development.

In AD 130, on his grand tour of the eastern part of the Roman Empire, Hadrian visited the devastated city of Jerusalem, accompanied by his young lover Antinous. He established a new city on the site of the old one which was left in ruins after the First Roman-Jewish War of 66-73.

The new city was to be named Colonia Aelia Capitolina.

Aelia is derived from the emperor’s family name (Aelius, from the gens Aelia), and Capitolina refers to the cult of the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno and Minerva).

Drawing of the reverse of a coin from Colonia Aelia Capitoliana, depicting Hadrian as founder of the colony

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Eureka! Teaching Ancient History

My name is Nathan Olsen and I am a sixth grade teacher in Madison, Wisconsin. A good portion of my day is spent teaching ancient civilizations to eleven and twelve year olds. We start the school year with Early Hominids, and finish with the European Middle Ages. Millions of years of history condensed into nine months? I call it a buffet of history. We never go in-depth on any one topic; we go in-depth on the skills required to be a historian.

Teaching has come a long way since the time of such classrooms. How are you making your class more engaging? Photo by Matthew Paulson / Flickr.

Teaching has come a long way since these types of classrooms. How are you making your class more engaging? Photo by Matthew Paulson / Flickr.

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10 Greek & Roman Frescoes

by Mark Cartwright November 04, 2014 Photos 0 Comments

As a technique, true fresco painting (buon fresco) is the painting of colour pigments on wet lime plaster without a binding agent, and when the paint is absorbed by the plaster, it is fixed and protected from fading. Inherent problems with frescoes for historians are their fragility, incompleteness, and artistic anonymity. In addition, at archaeological sites they are often found removed from their original settings, making them extremely difficult to date. However, frescoes can provide us with some of the most striking imagery from antiquity, and they can give a unique insight into the ordinary lives of people long ago.

For more on frescoes see our articles on Minoan Frescoes, Akrotiri Frescoes, and Roman Wall Painting.

 Minoan Frescoes

Minoan Dolphin Fresco

Minoan Dolphin Fresco from Knossos, Crete, 1700-1450 BCE.

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What a Sensation at the Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq!

I’d just finished my neurology ward tour and the rest of my duty in our hospital. My Nikon D90 camera and its incredible Nikkor AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR lens were in my car. “I have plenty of time, what to do?” I asked myself. After a while, I decided to visit the Sulaymaniyah (Slemani) Museum. How about taking some pictures there and publishing them on Ancient History Encyclopedia?

The Sulaymaniyah Museum is the second largest museum in Iraq (after the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad) and was founded in the year 1961 CE. It lies within the heart of the city of Sulaymaniyah and looks over Salim Street, one of the main streets in the city. What a surprise! A lot of school children are about to enter the museum.

A group of primary school children are scrutinizing various artifacts. The girl close to me was looking at glass containers which date back from the Sasanian period (from 226 CE) to the early Islamic and Umayyad period (750 CE).

A group of primary school children are scrutinizing various artifacts. The girl close to me was looking at glass containers, which date back from the Sasanian period (from 226 CE) to the early Islamic and Umayyad period (750 CE).

There are no tickets and the entry is free (similar to the British Museum). Once you enter the museum’s building, the main halls are straight ahead. The very first thing you will encounter is a replica of the rock-relief from the entry into the cave of Kiz Kappan, which is flanked by replicas of two mountainous rock-reliefs of Rabana and Meer Quli; these three replicas represent historical landmarks within the Governorate of Sulaymaniyah. Read more…

10 Coins of Ancient Greece

by Mark Cartwright October 31, 2014 Photos 0 Comments

The first Greek coins were minted in Aegina from 560 BCE, and then Athens and Corinth also began their own coin production shortly after. Each city used an easily identifiable symbol: a turtle for Aegina, an owl for Athens and a winged-horse for Corinth.  The turtle was an apt choice for the Mediterranean trading power, the owl was associated with Athens’ patron goddess Athena, and Pegasus was the horse of the Corinthian hero Bellerophon. Other cities soon produced their own coins and images from Greek mythology continued to be popular in coin designs. Later, letters and short inscriptions were added to signify the issuing authority.  The coins were created by hammering a plain metal disk placed between two engraved metal dies made from hardened bronze or iron. The disks were heated first to aid the stamping of the design. Greek coins were most commonly made of silver, gold, or a copper alloy.

Silver stater from Metapontum, 520 BCE. O: Ear of wheat, R: same incuse.

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