Stories tagged Egyptian_Culture

Ancient Mediterranean Funerary Art

This post is part of a series of image posts Ancient History et cetera will post each month. Today’, it is all about ancient funerary art!

All ancient cultures had varying and extensive beliefs about life and death. They also had elaborate burial rituals performed at death. These rituals ensured safe travel to the afterlife, so that the dead are remembered forever.

By the sixth century CE, ancient Greek concepts of the afterlife and ceremonies associated with burial were well established. They believed that when one died they went to the realm of Hades and his wife, Persephone. Greek burial rituals were usually performed by the women of the family and involved a prothesis (laying out of the body) and the ekphora (funeral procession). The most common forms of Greek funerary art are relief sculpture, statues, and tall stelai crowned by capitals, and finials.

Similarly, the Romans performed a funeral procession for their dead which would end in a columbarium. These columbarium, depending on the person’s station in life, could be quite elaborate. Roman Sarcophagi also tend to be quite beautiful and visually tell us Roman values. (Whereas, epitaphs provide literary insight into Roman values.) Roman funerary art also includes death masks, tombstones and sculptural reliefs.

In ancient Greece and Rome, the Etruscans were identified as a culture of their own. Etruscans burial practices resulted in many items of funerary art such as: sculpture, sarcophagi, decorative cinerary or burial urns and tombs.

The various Egyptian burial rites, I am sure most have heard about! Rather than go into detail about Egyptian beliefs, I think everyone can agree that their practices resulted in a mass of items which could be classified as funerary art.

Funerary urn lid of an Etruscan woman

Painted terracotta funerary urn lid of an Etruscan woman, from Chiusi, ca. 150-120 BCE (Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe, Germany). Photographer: Carole Raddato

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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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The Tomb Chapel of Nebamun

The British Museum in London is rim-filled with treasures. Not only does its Mesopotamian section blow your mind, but you can continue and wander through time, enjoying the ancient Greeks and Romans. Almost hidden, at the back of the museum on the first floor, is the Egyptian section. It’s filled with the usual mummies and papyri, but my personal favourite of this section is the tomb chapel of Nebamun.

Nebamun was an accountant in the Temple of Amun at Thebes (modern Karnak), living around 1350 BCE. He must have been good at what he was doing, as his family was so rich that he was buried in a richly-adorned tomb. The tomb is covered with beautiful wall paintings that show many facets of ancient Egyptian life… or at least how the wealthy classes in Egypt wanted to portray their life. These murals are an idealised view of how life was like in Egypt, but seeing it you can still imagine how things might have been.

Hunting in the Egyptian Marshes

Standing on a small boat, Nebamun hunting in the marshes. His wife and their daughter have come along for the ride. Like many cultures, the Egyptians hoped to enjoy life and see beauty in the afterlife.

Standing on a small boat, Nebamun hunting in the marshes. His wife and their daughter have come along for the ride. Like many cultures, the Egyptians hoped to enjoy life and see beauty in the afterlife. Isn’t the wildlife stunning?

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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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Drink of the Gods: Wine in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean

AncientphoenicianportTyreA symbol of fertility, immortality, and divinity, wine was the favored drink of choice across the ancient Near East and Mediterranean. Wine is mentioned frequently in biblical scriptures, and was used for everyday purposes in cooking and medicine. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Mr. Joel Butler, co-author of Divine Vintage: Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age, about the religious, cultural, and social importance of wine across the centuries.

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Pharaoh Up-Close: An Interview with Dr. Garry J. Shaw

The civilization of ancient Egypt is at once timeless and ethereal with remarkable cultural continuity and towering monuments. From the time of the semi-mythological Menes to the Roman Diocletian, it was also a civilization was guided by the rule of the legendary pharaohs. A king, priest, judge, and warrior, all in one, the pharaohs played a defining role in shaping Egyptian life and culture for thousands of years.

In this special feature interview, James Blake Wiener speaks with Dr. Garry J. Shaw, a British Egyptologist, who teaches at the Egypt Exploration Society in London, UK. Shaw’s latest work is The Pharaoh: Life at Court and on Campaign, which highlights the multifarious roles the Egyptian Pharaoh fulfilled within ancient Egyptian civilization.

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An Enduring Fascination with Lebanon: A Conversation with Dr. Marielle Martiniani-Reber

Unique among the countries of the Middle East, Lebanon is a mélange of diverse peoples, cultures, and religious creeds. For centuries, it lay at the crossroads of civilizations with a history marked by the ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, European Crusaders, Mamluks, and the Ottomans. With over 60 centuries of human history, Lebanon’s countless archaeological treasures and stunning works of art beguile and mesmerize the world.

Fascinating Lebanon (Fascination du Liban), now on show at the Musée Rath (Musées d’Art et d’Histoire de Genève) in Geneva, Switzerland, surveys the role of religion and the arts in Lebanon’s history. Featuring a selection of 350 archaeological objects and works of art–never before seen in Europe–Fascinating Lebanon reveals the social and artistic elasticity of Lebanon’s religious and cultural past through the presentation of votive statues, ancient sarcophagi, Byzantine mosaics, Crusader coins, Mamluk garments, in addition to Melkite icons and manuscripts. In this brief interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Marielle Martiniani-Reber, Curator-in-Chief of Applied Arts, Byzantine and post-Byzantine collections at the Musées d’Art et d’Histoire de Genève, about this extraordinary display of Lebanese patrimony.

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