Stories tagged Archaeology

Everyday Life in Pompeii

Triptych featuring images of various foods. Painted plaster. MANN 8760. ©The Superintendence for the Archaeological Heritage of Naples (SAHN).

Triptych featuring images of various foods. Painted plaster. MANN 8760. ©The Superintendence for the Archaeological Heritage
of Naples (SAHN).

Two thousand years ago, Mount Vesuvius – a stratovolcano located close to the Gulf of Naples – erupted with tremendous force and little warning. Within only 24 hours, the Roman city of Pompeii was buried under a rain of hot ash and falling debris. Lying undiscovered for over 1,600 years, the city’s rediscovery remains one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time.

Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano, which opened last month at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Canada, examines everyday life in Pompeii through six distinct sections on those who called the ancient city home. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Curator Paul Denis about the exhibition as well as the ways in which our lives mirror those from the distant past.

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The Aztecs of Ancient Mexico

Wings outspread, jagged talons projecting front and back from his knees, his face emerging from an eagle’s beak, this is an eagle warrior. Templo Mayor Museum, INAH. National Council for Culture and Arts – INAH.

Wings outspread, jagged talons projecting front and back from his knees, his face emerging from an eagle’s beak, this is an eagle warrior. Templo Mayor Museum, INAH. National Council for Culture and Arts – INAH.

Around 1325 CE, southward migrating Mexicas or “Aztecs” came upon an island in Lake Texcoco, located in the highlands of Central Mexico. On this spot, they consecrated a temple and founded their capital city — the legendary Tenochtitlán — from which they initiated a wave of imperial conquests throughout Mesoamerica. Aztec civilization flourished for nearly two hundred years before falling to the might of the Spanish, led by Hernán Cortés (1485-1547 CE), in 1521 CE. Despite their remarkable innovations in engineering, agriculture, and architecture, many remember the Aztecs solely for their bloody rituals of human sacrifice.

This summer, Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Museum in Montréal, Canada presents a major international exhibition, The Aztecs, People of the Sun, which offers glimpses into the lost world of a culture that reigned over much of what is present-day Mexico. In this interview, James Blake of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Ms. Christine Dufresne, Project Manager at Pointe-à-Callière, about the exhibition and the finer points of Aztec civilization.

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5 Great History Apps

Out of all the history apps available these select few are ones used by Ancient History etcetera’s blog editor, hopefully you find them useful too!

Byzantium at the Getty

GETTY If you are interested in exploring the visually rich and  spiritual art of the Byzantine Empire, this app is for you.  It contains audio, video and photography displaying  items of spiritual significance.

The Getty is available on both Android and Apple   phones. It was created in conjunction with two 2014  exhibitions, Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections and Heaven and Earth: Byzantine Illumination at the Cultural Crossroads.

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The Berthouville Treasure at the Getty Villa

Mercury, 175 - 225. Roman. Medium: Silver and gold. Object: H: 56.3 x Diam.: 16 cm, Weight: 2772 g (22 3/16 x 6 5/16 in., 6.1112 lb.). D: 24 cm (9 7/16 in.). Accession No. VEX.2014.1.1. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des monnaies, médailles et antiques, Paris.

Mercury, 175 – 225. Roman. Medium: Silver and gold. Object: H: 56.3 x Diam.: 16 cm, Weight: 2772 g (22 3/16 x 6 5/16 in., 6.1112 lb.). D: 24 cm (9 7/16 in.). Accession No. VEX.2014.1.1. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des monnaies, médailles et antiques, Paris.

Accidentally discovered by a French farmer in 1830 CE, the spectacular hoard of gilt-silver statuettes and vessels known as the Berthouville Treasure was originally dedicated to the Roman god Mercury. Following four years of meticulous conservation and research at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, CA, Ancient Luxury and the Roman Silver Treasure from Berthouville allows visitors to appreciate their full splendor and offers new insights about ancient art, technology, religion, and cultural interaction in Late Roman Gaul. James Blake Wiener, Communications Director at Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), learns more about this exhibition from Mr. Kenneth Lapatin, Associate Curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, in this exclusive interview.

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What Caused The Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse?

“Fire of Troy” by Kerstiaen de Keuninck (1560-1632 AD). Oil on panel, last third of the 16th century CE (?). H. 58.3 cm (23 in), W. 84.8 cm (33 in). Public domain.

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.

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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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Treasures Of The Lost Dhow

One of the most important discoveries in marine archaeological history occurred in 1998, just off Indonesia’s Belitung Island in the western Java Sea: A 1,200-year-old Arabian dhow with an astounding cargo of gold, silver, ceramic artifacts, coins, and tangible personal effects. The ship’s hold contained some 57,000 pieces in total and yet no human remains. The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route, now on show at the newly opened Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada, explores the movement of cross-cultural exchange, trade, and technology between the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258 CE) and Tang dynasty China (618-907 CE) through the prism of an ancient shipwreck.2.0_exhibitions_theLostDhow_1246x620In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Mr. John Vollmer, Guest Curator for the Aga Khan Museum’s presentation of this exhibition, about the importance of the objects in this exhibition and what the exhibition means to the recently opened museum.

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A Pilgrimage to the Sea of Galilee

For years, my travels have caused me to think about organized religion. (When I got my history degree in college, one of my favorite classes was “History of the Christian Church.”) And for years, I’ve believed that those who enjoy getting close to God should pack their spirituality along with them in their travels.

Christians from around the world come to Yardenit near the Sea of Galilee to be baptized in the River Jordan. (photo: Rick Steves)

Christians from around the world come to Yardenit near the Sea of Galilee to be baptized in the River Jordan. (photo: Rick Steves)

In Israel, religious tourism is a big part of the economy. And much of that is Christian tourism: bus tours of believers visiting sights from Jesus’ three-year ministry — places they’ve imagined since their childhood Sunday school classes. While Jerusalem is the major stop, they generally make a quick visit to Bethlehem (in the West Bank), and loop through the north to stop at several sights near the Sea of Galilee.

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Fabled Jerusalem

Before Columbus, many maps of the world showed Jerusalem as the center of the world. Jerusalem — holy, treasured, and long fought over by the three great monotheistic religions — has been destroyed and rebuilt more than a dozen times.

Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock marks the site where Jews believe Abraham was preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac and where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad journeyed to heaven. (photo: Rick Steves)

Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock marks the site where Jews believe Abraham was preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac and where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad journeyed to heaven. (photo: Rick Steves)

Its fabled walls corral a tangle of colorful, holy sites, and more than 30,000 residents — most with a deep-seated reason to live so close to their religious ground zero.

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Archaeological Visit to the Ancient Mound Bakr Awa

I was chatting with my friend Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, Director of the Sulaimaniya Museum, about archaeological excavations in Iraqi Kurdistan. By chance, he mentioned the name of the ancient site of Bakr Awa. “There is a German archaeological team there, and they have been excavating the site for a few years,” Hashim said. “How about going there and seeing them while they are working?” I replied. “ This Friday we will go,” Hashim suggested. Bingo, let’s go!

Bakr Awa is a mound southeast of the modern city of Sulaimaniya, near the city of Halabja (which was bombarded by a chemical attack by Saddam’s regime in 1988 CE), within the Sharazor plain, Iraqi Kurdistan. A German archaeological team headed by Professor Peter Miglus (of the University of Heidelberg) has been excavating the site since 2010 in cooperation with the Sulaimaniya Antiquities Directorate and the Sulaimaniya Museum. The site underwent limited excavations by Ephraim Speiser in 1927 CE. During the years 1960-1961 CE, Iraqi archaeologists (of the Directorate General of Antiquities in Baghdad, Iraq) did extensive excavations and field studies on the site. Numerous artifacts, from the Islamic period back to the late Bronze Age, have been recovered within different ancient layers/levels.

General overview of Bakr Awa. The hill (mound or Tell) is the largest one within the whole southern part of Sharazor Plain. The hill’s citadel stands for about 40 meters high in the middle of a proximately 600 x 800 meters lower city.

General overview of Bakr Awa. The hill (mound or Tell) is the largest one within the whole southern part of Sharazor Plain. The hill’s citadel stands about 40 meters high in the middle of approximately 600 x 800 meters lower city.

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