Last month, I had the chance to visit a hidden gem among Madrid’s better-known museums: Museo de América (English: Museum of the Americas). Filled with thousands of pre-Columbian artifacts, treasures, and works of art, the Museo de América explores the languages, religions, and cultures of the Americas — from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego — as well as their interactions with imperial Spain.
Known the world over for their hauntingly beautiful cities of Petra and Mada’in Saleh and engineering acumen, the Nabataeans of ancient Arabia were the middlemen in the long distance trade between the ancient Mediterranean and South Arabia. Mysterious and beguiling, their legacy endures across time and space in the Arabic script and in the sophistication of their cities, carved out of the harsh desert landscape. In this exclusive interview, Dr. Laïla Nehmé, a senior research scientist at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, speaks to James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) about the creative genius of the Nabataeans.
Filled with ancient, simplified recipes as well as photographs and essays, Samarkand: Recipes & Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus, written by journalists Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, is a love letter to the region and the peoples who left their imprint on its varied cuisine: Turks, Jews, Georgians, Armenians, Azeris, Persians, Afghans, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, and Uighurs. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to the authors about their new, evocative cookbook.
Stretching from the beaches of the Adriatic Sea to the banks of the Indus River, Alexander the Great’s empire was the largest the world had ever seen when he died in 323 BCE. His empire broke into several smaller kingdoms soon after, but his enduring legacy can be found in signs of Hellenistic cultural diffusion in ancient artifacts that survive today. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest exhibition, Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World, is a testament to this cultural interaction and the footprint Alexander left in history far beyond what his imagination could have conceived.
There I stood, the slopes of Mt. Etna rising before me, the glorious Sicilian coastline reflecting the brilliant blue sky. I hadn’t taken a trip to Sicily, but was rather at the British Museum’s latest exhibition, Sicily: Culture and Conquest, gazing into one of the many photographic vistas that adorn the walls. When I first entered the exhibit, two objects immediately caught my attention. On the left, a terracotta pot dating to 650-600 BCE. Its importance? It is the earliest known depiction of what is now the official symbol of Sicily, the triskelion (three legs in a circle). The influence of Greek culture on Sicily is still felt to this day it seems. The other object was a wonderfully ornate ivory casket. Made by Muslim craftsman, it bears a long Arabic supplication, but also Christian iconography (two haloed saints holding crosses). The casket was most likely made as a gift for the Cathedral of Bari, and demonstrates Norman Sicily’s multicultural exchange and religious co-existence. These two objects sum up the story of this exhibition, which …
From the dawn of civilization to the present day, human hair has seldom been worn in its natural state. Whether cut, shorn, curled, straightened, braided, beaded, worn in an upsweep or down to the knees, adorned with pins, combs, bows, garlands, extensions, and other accoutrements, hairstyles had the power to reflect societal norms. In antiquity, ancient hairstyles and their depictions did not only delineate wealth and social status, or divine and mythological iconography; they were also tied to rites of passage and religious rituals. Hair in the Classical World, now on view at the Bellarmine Museum of Art (BMA) in Fairfield CT, is the first exhibition of its kind in the United States to present some 33 objects pertaining to hair from the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity (1500 BCE-600 CE). The exhibition takes the visitor on a rich cultural journey through ancient Greece, Cyprus, and Rome, in an examination of ancient hairstyles through three thematic lenses: “Arrangement and Adornment”; “Rituals and Rites of Passage”; and “Divine and Royal Iconography.” In this exclusive 2015 holiday season …
Despite the popular appeal of the legendary city of El Dorado, our collective understanding of ancient Colombia’s history remains largely obscured by the advanced civilizations of Mesoamerica and the Andes. A new exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, CA, however, reveals that ancient Colombia’s past is far older and more diverse than is apparent in documents written by Spanish conquistadores. Drawing from LACMA’s impressive collection of ancient Colombian artifacts, Ancient Colombia: A Journey through the Cauca Valley offers fresh perspectives on the material culture and indigenous history of Colombia’s native peoples. In this interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Dr. Julia Burtenshaw-Zumstein, a Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow in LACMA’s Art of the Ancient Americas department, about this exciting new exhibition, which juxtaposes colonial Spanish documents with recent archaeological finds.