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.In 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.
When we hear the words “Anglo-Saxon literature,” Beowulf is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Then we might think of the beauty of illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Durrow or the Lindisfarne Gospels. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener talks with Professor Larry Swain of Bemidji State University about these works, as well as Norse and Irish influences on Anglo-Saxon literature and the significance of the Byzantines, Theodore and Hadrian, who came to Northumbria in the seventh century CE. Professor Swain recommends learning Old English in order to be able to read works in Old English, of course, but equally intriguing, to allow us to better express ourselves in modern English.
China’s Tang dynasty golden age is routinely described as one of the most brilliant eras in Chinese history. Under Tang rule and leadership, China became the wealthiest, most populous, and most sophisticated civilization on earth. While exerting political hegemony and a powerful cultural influence across East Asia, China was also open to influences from its Turkic and Indian neighbors.
In this exclusive holiday interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Jonathan Skaff, Professor of History at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and expert on Chinese-Turkic relations during the Tang era, who reevaluates Chinese culture and politics during an age of commercial trade, technological innovation, and ultimately, political instability.
Mesopotamia (from the Greek, meaning “between two rivers”) was an ancient region in the Near East, which corresponds roughly to present-day Iraq. Widely regarded as the “cradle of civilization,” Mesopotamia should be more properly understood as a region that produced multiple empires and civilizations rather than any single civilization. Iraqi cuisine, like its art and culture, is the sum of its varied and rich past. Delights from the Garden of Eden: A Cookbook and a History of the Iraqi Cuisine, by independent scholar Nawal Nasrallah, offers more than 400 recipes from the distant past in addition to fascinating perspectives on the origins of Iraqi cuisine.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Nawal Nasrallah about the research behind her unique, encyclopedic cookbook, the origins of Iraqi cuisine, and her passion for cooking ancient recipes.
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.
While much of Europe was consumed by social disarray in the centuries following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE, a remarkable golden age of scholasticism and artistic achievement began in Ireland. Untouched by centuries of Roman rule, Ireland retained an ancient cohesive society characterized by rural monastic settlements rather than urban centers. From c. 400-1000 CE — an era more popularly known as the “Age of Saints and Scholars” — Irish missionaries spread Christianity, bringing monastery schools to Scotland, England, France, the Netherlands, and Germany. In doing so, they also transmitted a new, effervescent style of art throughout western Europe: Insular art.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Dr. Dorothy Hoogland Verkerk, Associate Professor of Art History at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about the astonishing history of Insular art.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Janos Gaspar, Lead Designer of Total War: Attila, about Creative Assembly’s newest historical video game.
JW: What provided the impetus for Creative Assembly to make Total War: Attila? Why create a computer game about the Hunnic invasions of Europe (c. 370-469 CE) and the decline of the Roman Empire given the popularity of the Roman Total War series?
JS: In Rome II, we told the story of Rome becoming the world’s first superpower — from its first steps outside of Italy to the major body of its conquests; from a small republic to a vast empire. This time, we jumped almost 400 years into the future — right to the brink of the so-called “Dark Ages” — in order to recreate the last moments of this glorious empire and the birth of the new Europe. One of the major catalysts for such profound change is Attila himself. Overall, we thought it would be a fascinating era to cover.
Born in Algeria to Iraqi refugees, Ms. Seja Majeed grew up in the United Kingdom, where her family claimed asylum. Impassioned by history, archaeology, and especially Iraqi culture, Seja yearned to be a writer. In her début novel for young adults, The Forgotten Tale of Larsa, Seja explores the themes of love, loss, change, and exile in an ancient Near Eastern setting. In this conversation with James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia, Seja relates the joys and struggles one faces in writing the “young adult novel,” in addition to her thoughts on the current perils facing Iraqi cultural patrimony.
In antiquity, the Greeks and Romans referred to the pre-Islamic kingdoms of ancient Arabia as “Arabia Felix” or “Arabia the Blessed,” due to their immense wealth and political power. Flourishing along caravan and maritime trade routes for over a thousand years, these kingdoms achieved impressive feats in technology, engineering, and the conservation of natural resources.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Dr. William Glanzman, one of the world’s leading experts on ancient Arabia, about the importance of these polities as well as recent archaeological discoveries in southern Arabia.
For over a millennium, Byzantine artists in Greece produced sumptuous works of extraordinary quality and caliber. Whether inspired by the ethos of the new Christian religion or the tangible legacy of classical antiquity, these Greek artisans and craftsmen created a uniquely “Byzantine aesthetic,” which in time came to influence the artistic traditions of Italy, Russia, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Near East.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Mary Louise Hart, Associate Curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, about Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections, on view now at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, CA. This magnificent exhibition explores the breadth, balance, and beauty of Byzantine art from medieval Greece.