Stories tagged Archaeology

7 Strange Artifacts from Malta

We know many things about history, but what we don’t know outweighs what we think we know. Throughout my travels, I have come not only to embrace, but to seek out history’s mysteries. If your eyes and your mind are open you can find mysteries whenever and wherever you travel. Malta is one of those places where the mysteries are too numerous to count, and the culture is too rich to understand in just a few days. Out of the hundreds of unique sites and artifacts found throughout Malta, seven are highlighted below that pose more questions than answers.

The Sleeping Lady of Malta

The Sleeping Lady of Malta was discovered on the lower floor of the Hypogeum of Hal-Safleni.

The Sleeping Lady is 5,000 years old. When you stop for a moment to pause and think about that span of time, that figure is remarkable. More questions remain about the Sleeping Lady than have been answered. Does she represent death? Meditation? Sleep? Why was she created? What was her purpose? Was she an offering to the Gods? The Hypogeum of Hal-Safleni is an underground chamber and a place of deep spiritual significance. Recent evidence indicates that the underground chambers in the Hypogeum were specifically carved to achieve acoustic frequencies that induce a meditative state.

The calendar of Mnajdra

How did a culture over 6,000 years ago track the equinoxes? We don’t know, but they left behind a snapshot of their work on a megalithic stone at the temple of Mnajdra at Qrendi. How were the equinoxes tracked and recorded? Why were they tracked? Who was in charge of tracking such events? Mnajdra is considered one of the oldest religious sites in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the only archaeological sites in Malta that is protected by a tent. I was annoyed at first, that the views of such an amazing place were obscured by a white tent. Upon closer examination however, it is obvious that these intricate carvings would eventually disappear if left exposed to the elements of wind and water.

The Phoenician Face (1500 – 300 BCE)

This is an uncommon find in Malta. No one knows exactly what it was used for or what it represents. Is it a crude image of a long dead Phoenician? Is it a figurative representation of death? In the Phoenician world some images are meant to ward off death, could this be such an image? Or are the tightly slit eyes and mouth meant to prevent death from getting in?

Miniature Temple from the Hagar Qim group

This limestone sculpture is the oldest representation of a temple in the world. It is from the Hagar Qim group in Malta and dates to about 3300 BCE. We know that this tiny temple is a true architectural rendering of the some of the larger megalithic structures in Malta. What we don’t know is why it was made. Is it a kind of draft for a life-size model? Is it an offering for the Gods? Is it a child’s toy?

The Venus of Malta

The Venus of Malta was discovered in the Hagar Qim temples (3300 BCE) and is from the same time period as the miniature temple above. A common consensus is that these Venus figurines represent fertility. Thousands of these Venus figurines have been found all over the world. The most famous of which is the Venus of Willendorf, which dates to 25,000 BCE! We know the age of these figurines but we don’t know their purpose. Was this meant to represent the worship of a mother or fertility goddess? Was it something kept in the home? Was it used in a religious ritual?

 

Bronze and Bone Dagger from the Borg in-Nadur phase (2000 BCE)

This dagger was found in a nearly inaccessible cliff-cave below Dingli, Malta. We do know that there was a thriving Bronze-Age culture in the area, but we don’t know why they chose this cave to deposit their artifacts. When I first saw this dagger I imagined that it looked like something from the Trojan War. I later discovered that Mycenaean pottery shards were found in the Bronze Age village where this dagger was discovered. Did my subconscious pick up just the slightest Mycenaean-Greek influence in the artwork of this dagger? Perhaps. Why was this dagger deposited in this cave? What was its purpose? Finally, what does the circular pattern on the hilt mean? Did the Mycenaean Greeks actually influence this design, or is that wishful thinking on my part?

Maltese Temple Statuary from the Hagar Qim period (3300 BCE).

These statues raise more questions than they answer. Are they male or female? Why do they all have one hand over the abdomen? They have holes in the neck; did they once have interchangeable heads? Hundreds of these figures have been found in Malta, all without heads. What happened to the heads? Maybe one day an archaeologist in Malta is going to discover a pit of disarticulated heads that fit all of these statues.

I hope that you have enjoyed this discussion of these unique artifacts from Malta. I can’t wait to go back for a second visit with keener eyes. I will be teaching 9th grade World History this year so my blog may not be as active as it once was, but it’s not going anywhere, and neither is my love of the mysteries of history!

Additional Information:

Megalithic Temples of Malta

National Museum of Archaeology Malta

 

Originally published on Jaunting Jen, republished with permission.

How Global Heritage Fund Saves Cultural Treasures

Since its founding in 2002, Global Heritage Fund has protected, preserved and sustained the most significant and endangered cultural heritage sites in the developing world. Focusing its efforts on preservation and responsible development of the most important and endangered global heritage sites, Global Heritage Fund selects projects using the strictest criteria.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Mr. Stefaan Poortman, Executive Director at Global Heritage Fund, about the importance of cultural heritage in addition to what Global Heritage Fund has done to save the world’s cultural treasures.

JW: Mr. Stefaan Poortman, welcome to AHE! Our interview comes at a time when archaeological and cultural heritage sites are in peril or destroyed in nearly every corner of the world, so I thank you so much for your willingness to speak with me.

A stone slab from the ancient city of Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. (Photo Credit: Mr. William Neuheisel.)

A stone slab from the ancient city of Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. (Photo Credit: William Neuheisel. Courtesy of GHF.)

In your words, could you tell us why cultural heritage and major archaeological sites merit protection as well as higher awareness among the public?

SP: The impact of cultural heritage on civil society is exponential, it always has been even during their glory in ancient civilizations — it’s about national pride, identity, a sign of prosperity, a source of education, inspiration for the arts. If we approach it with the same careful regard today, as a treasured and smart investment, we can leverage these sites to promote sustainability. The perspective needs to change because “ruins” are more than just reminders of a bygone era; they’re building blocks, especially in countries where protection of endangered sites yielded an impressive economic growth. Cultural heritage sites can bring economic, social, cultural and political benefits on a local, national and even regional level.

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Art and Sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Marble Head of a Companion of Odysseus

This week’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a marble head of a companion of Odysseus, copied after a famous work from the Hellenistic period.

Marble head of a companion of Odysseus from the Pantanello at Hadrian’s Villa, British Museum

This head shows the face of a man that probably belonged to a multi-figure group depicting Odysseus with his twelve companions blinding the one-eyed giant (and the most famous of the Cyclopes), Polyphemus, with a burning stake.

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Traveling in Israel on a Budget

Me in front of the Latin inscription dedicated to Hadrian revealed in Jerusalem on Wednesday 22nd October 2014 (1)

Carole in front of the Latin inscription dedicated to Hadrian revealed in Jerusalem. Photo © Carole Raddato

On the shores of the Mediterranean sea, Israel is a country with a rich archaeological and religious history. As a land of great significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims, it has many sacred sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque. People are also drawn to the many ancient relics and landmarks Israel has to offer.

In this interview with Ancient History Encyclopedia, Jade Koekoe speaks to Carole Raddato of Following Hadrian. Carole discusses her recent experiences in Israel and gives her advice about traveling to this magnificent country on a budget.

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The Ancient Minoans of Crete

dolphins

A detail of the dolphin fresco, the Minoan palace of Knossos, Crete, (c. 1700-1450 BCE). Photograph taken by Mark Cartwright for Ancient History Encyclopedia. Uploaded by Mark Cartwright, published on 26 April 2012 under the following license: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.

The Minoan civilization flourished on the Mediterranean island of Crete during the height of the Bronze Age (c. 2000-c. 1500 BCE). By virtue of their unique art and architecture, the ancient Minoans made significant contributions to the subsequent development of Western civilization. However, we still know less about the Minoans than the civilizations of Egypt or Mesopotamia. Professor Louise Hitchcock, an archaeologist specializing in Aegean archaeology at Melbourne University, introduces us to the world of the ancient Minoans and the importance of Aegean archaeology in this exclusive interview with James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE).

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In the Footsteps of Xerxes: Following the Remains of the Persian Wars in Today’s Greece

Today we have another contribution from Time Travels Magazine in which Ben Churcher writes about the remains that can be found of the Persian wars in Greece.

View of the Acropolis, Athens.

View of the Acropolis, Athens.

The road from the Plain of Marathon to downtown Athens is, as we all know, around 40 km due to the length of the modern marathon that supposedly commemorates a run undertaken in 490 BCE to announce to the Athenians that they had defeated the Persians. First, to put one thing straight, the runner was not, as the eminent scholar tells me, made by a Greek soldier Pheidippides. Pheidippides was not a soldier but a professional long-distance runner who, a few days before the Battle of Marathon, made a run from Athens to Sparta where he reached Sparta the day after he left Athens. Secondly, common belief has it that when the runner reached Athens to announce the victory that he collapsed and died after delivering his message. Again this is wrong.

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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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