Monday, December 26, 2016

Crocodile God of the Fayum

Fig. 1 - Limestone Statue of Sobek
     The Ancient Egyptians often represented their gods as having a human body and the head of an animal. The Middle Kingdom statue of the god Sobek in Figure 1 illustrates this perfectly.

     The god is shown wearing a collar on his upper chest area and a wig with long, almost female, hair. The hair may be shown this way since Sobek was associated with Isis in caring for Osiris.

     The sculpture is of limestone, dates to the reign of Amenemhat III and is now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Sobek first appears, as far as we know, in the Pyramid Texts and is worshiped until the end of ancient Egyptian civilization.
Figure 2 - Crocodile Eating a Catfish

     The Egyptians often took mummified animals to the temple of a particular god as offerings. Sobek's temple at Kom Ombo has a large collection of mummified crocodiles, which were stacked haphazardly in a storeroom the last time I was there. Some of the mummies were from medium sized crocodiles that must have been rather dangerous to capture and kill. Mummified crocodile eggs were also presented to the the god as votive offerings.

     Crocodiles were often represented in Egyptian art in their non-divine form as well. Figure 2 shows a Middle Kingdom relief of a crocodile that is devouring a catfish while a reed boat floats above it. This relief is likely from a tomb and may have originally been part of a standard fishing / fowling scene that was so common in Middle Kingdom tombs.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Black Obelisk of Salmaneser III

Fig. 1 - the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III
     Shalmaneser III was a powerful Assyrian King who pushed the borders of Assyria eastwards into Babylonia and Iran, westwards into Urartu and Syria and then southwards  up to the borders of ancient Israel. This obelisk describes his conquests in text located at the top and bottom of the object.

Fig. 2 - and Elephant and Three Monkeys Being Brought as Tribute
     In between the text descriptions of this King's victories are illustrations of some of the tribute brought to Assyria by foreigners. Figure 2 shows an elephant and three monkeys being brought to Shalmaneser's palace at Nimrud. Figure 3 shows a pair of double humped camels being presented to his highness while Figure 4 shows Jehu, the King of Israel, kissing the ground before Shalmaneser's feet.

Fig. 3 - Camels Brought Before the King
     Shalmaneser ruled a little over 100 years earlier than Sargon II (who built Khorsabad). He ordered this obelisk to be set up in Nimrud, which was the Assyrian capital during his reign. This object is now in the Oriental Institute, in Chicago.
Fig. 4 - King Jehu of Israel Submits to Shalamneser

     No word on who cleaned up after all these animals were paraded before the ruler.

All photos copyright (c) John Freed 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

Colossal Statue of Tutankhamen

     Tutankhamen is one of Egypt's most famous Pharaoh's, but not for anything he did in his life. He was a completely minor King whose existence was not recognized by later rulers of Egypt. Very few objects from his reign, other than the objects found in his tomb, still survive. This statue, which is now in the Oriental Institute in Chicago, is possibly the largest surviving statue of the king. If it really is Tutankhamen.

     The statue bears the name of Horemhab carved over the erased name of Aye. But artistically, this statue looks like it dates to Tutankhamen's reign. Possibly it was only partially finished when the young ruler died and it was usurped first by Aye, and then by Horemhab.

     In any event, this statue is huge, standing about 17 feet high and weighing about six tons. Tutankhamen is shown wearing a Nemes headdress surmounted by the double crown and wearing the false beard of the Pharaoh.

     There is an indication that this work of art originally had the King's wife standing next to him, but only the feet of the Queen remain. This statue was found with a second, very similar, statue that is now in the Cairo Museum.

     If you look carefully at the photos, you will notice that the statue is heavily restored. The Oriental Institute has, correctly I think, left the restored portions of the work a different color so that visitors can tell the difference.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

New Pre-Dynastic to Early Dynastic Find in Egypt

     As always, there are many things going on in Egyptian archaeology. One of them is the discovery of a pre-dynastic site at Abydos, near the temple of Seti I. The site dates to around 3300 B. C., which makes it a fairly late Pre-Dynastic settlement. Some of the tombs may also belong to the First Dynasty and could be the burial place of the officials who oversaw the construction of the tombs of the First Dynasty Pharaohs located nearby. For some photographs and more information follow this link.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

New Ptolemaic Galleries at the Met

     The newly re-installed Ptolemaic Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum are getting some positive buzz since they opened. The new issue of KMT magazine has published a nine page article on the galleries. The article has the usual great photos that KMT is well known for publishing. The galleries are very nice and the papyri have been re-installed a little lower on the wall then they were previously, which makes them much easier to see.

     Speaking of papyri, Dr. Janice Kamrin gave a lecture at the New York chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt on November 17. Her topic was "Imhotep Comes Forth by Day" and  the lecture focused on the Book of the Dead of Imhotep, which is one of the papyri re-installed in the Met's Ptolemaic gallery. Dr. Kamrin had a photo of the papyrus, which is extremely long, mounted on a backing board. The case that it went into had several glass doors that needed to be opened so that the papyrus could be slid in. Judging from the photos, it must have been a tricky task, especially given the risk of damaging the papyrus.

     The papyrus has many interesting vignettes, but the one that caught my eye was a portrayal of the Opening of the Mouth Ritual which showed the deceased seated. This is not a common portrayal of this ritual.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Oriental Institute Satirical Ostracon

Fig. 1 - Oriental Institute Satirical Ostracon
     One of my favorite objects that has survived from ancient Egypt is a limestone chip (called an ostracon) with its delightful painting of a young boy being judged by a mouse dressed like an Egyptian official. The boy has obviously been found guilty and his punishment is administered by a stick wielding cat.

     There are also papyri with similar satirical scenes on them. One famous one shows a lion playing a game of senet with a gazelle and a cat herding a flock of birds with a shepherd's crook. Yet another papyrus shows a female mouse having her hair done by a cat servant.

     This like this New Kingdom painting remind us how people have not changed so much in thousands of years.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Upcoming Events

     If you are in the New York City area on Thursday, November 17, there will be a meeting of the New York Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt at 6:00, at the Institute for the study of the Ancient World (15 East 84th St.). You can click here for more information or to RSVP if you plan to attend. The lecture is "Imhotep Comes Forth by Day" and will discuss a Book of the Dead Papyrus in the recently re-installed Ptolemaic galleries in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The lecture is free and open to the public, but you do need to RSVP if you would like to attend.

     If you are in Philadelphia on December 7th, the Penn Museum will host Dr. Jennifer Houser Wegner who will give a lecture entitled "The Strong Silent Type: The Sphinx" at 6:00 pm. Space is limited, so if you would like to attend, please pre-register here.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ancient Egyptian Adoption

     Several years ago I did some posts (between Feb. 24, 2009 and Mar. 25, 2009) on Mesopotamian adoption and specifically how it seemed to sometimes be used as a way to ensure the transfer of property. An adult would pay a fee to be adopted and the adopters would agree to leave certain property to that person after their deaths.

     I recently came across an article by Emily Teeter that indicates that the Egyptians may have done something similar. In an article entitled "Celibacy and Adoption Among God's Wives of Amun and Singers in the Temple of Amun: a Re-examination of the Evidence", Dr. Teeter took a look at the long-standing theory that the God's Wives of Amun would adopt their successors as they were not (it is believed) permitted to have sex. As part of criticism this theory the author provides some interesting information about ancient Egyptian adoption. She mentions an 18th Dynasty papyrus that details the adoption of a woman by her husband as a way of making sure that she received her inheritance over other members of the family. The same woman later adopted some servant children to be her heirs.

     This is an interesting way of ensuring the transfer of a person's effects after their death, but Dr. Teeter does feel that the idea that the God's Wives of Amun were celibate and adopted girls in order to transfer their office to them is not supported by the available evidence.

Monday, October 24, 2016

One Last Khorsabad Post

     Ok, so I said I was done with Khorsabad posts, but I have neglected a few things about the site. So here goes one last post...

     Khorsabad was the site of the first large excavation of an archaeological site in the Middle East. Bottta began digging there in 1843 (see my previous post for photos of some of the objects he found). He was followed by Victor Place and, later on, the Oriental Institute.

     Many objects have been found by archaeologists aside from the large reliefs I have shown in previous posts. A foundation deposit that contained a description of the city's founding was found, as were several copies of the text on tablets made of copper, lead, silver and limestone. There were temples to the sun, moon and god of writing (Nabu) as well as a four story ziggurat. And last, but definitely not least, the Oriental Institute found the so-called "Khorsabad King-List", which named all of the Assyrian Kings from early times until Sargon along with the length of their reigns.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Wrapping up Khorsabad

Fig. 1 - Sargon and a Courtier
     I just want to wrap up the series of posts I have been doing about the Assyrian capital Khorsabad by mentioning that not all of the objects went to the Oriental Institute in Chicago. The Louvre Museum has several winged bulls and a number of reliefs from Sargon's city and has displayed them quite beautifully in their "Assyrian Court". I have posted on these objects before (October 7, 2012), but I am showing them again to close out this topic.

Fig. 2 - Assyrian courtier from Khorsababd 
     One large wall relief shows Sargon and an Assyrian courtier (Figure 1). I find their beards fascinating for some odd reason or another (Figures 2 and 3). Notice how they are curled at the top of the beard from the sideburns down to the chin. From that point on the hair alternates in different types of curls and braids. Last but not least, notice the large bulge of hair at the base of the neck and how the hair above it is braided until we lose site of it under the figures head dresses.

Fig. 3 - Sargon II from Khorsabad
Sargon (Figure 3) also were one of the Assyrian "wristwatches" on his right wrist. Both men wear large earrings.

Fig. 4 - Logs Being Taken from Byblos
     Figure 4 is a completely different type of carving. It shows logs being taken from Byblos (in what is now Lebanon). Wood from this area was highly prized by both the Egyptians and the Assyrians. This scene shows logs being floated (along a river I assume). Some of the logs are being towed by a boat. All of this wood would have been taken to Khorsabad as tribute from Byblos and used in the construction of the city.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mesopotamian Glazed Bricks

Fig. 1 - Khorsabad glazed mud bricks, now in the Oriental Institute
     Of course not all buildings in Khorsabad were lined with reliefs carved on large stone slabs, and even the ones that were were still primarily built using baked mud bricks. Figure 1 shows some glazed mud bricks from the temple of the god Sin (the moon god, Nanna in Sumerian) at Khorsabad. The bricks were covered in a decorative glaze and used to embellish the exterior of major buildings.

Fig. 2 - Glazed brick lion from Babylon (now in Oriental Institute)
     The decoration in figure 1 is hard to see, so I have also included an example that is much easier to see, and much more famous, the lion which was made from glazed mud bricks (figure 2) and used to decorate the processional way in front of the Ishtar Gate in Babylon (see figure 3 for a reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate).

     These examples of glazed bricks are from the Oriental Institute in Chicago. A full reconstruction of the Ishtar gate itself can be seen at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

     The gate fronted on a processional way would have seen statues of Babylon's major deities paraded as a part of the new year celebrations. The walls of the processional way were also decorated with bulls, dragons and flowers.

Fig. 3 - reconstruction of Ishtar gate (in Oriental Institute)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Khorsabad - More Reliefs

Fig. 1 - Horses brought to Sargon as tribute.
     The Oriental Institute has more reliefs from Khorsabad than we have already seen. The reliefs from "Corridor 10" show tribute being brought to Sargon from Anatolia (what is now Turkey). In Sargon's day the Urartians and the Mushki we not ruled by the Assyrians and were a constant source of trouble. Indeed, Sargon died during a battle in Anatolia and his body was not recovered for a proper burial.

Fig. 2 - Two spirited horses being brought to the Assyrian King
     Some of the Corridor 10 reliefs show horses being brought to Sargon as tribute by the Mushki. The usual touches in Assyrian reliefs are here, with the horses trappings and the beards of the men being shown in detail. In Figure 1 the sculptor has added a little liveliness to the reliefs by showing one of the tribute bearers looking backwards almost as if he is conversing with the men who follow. In Figure 2 one person tries to control two horses. The person in front of him holds the reigns of one of the horses, but is turned away from the horse. The horses themselves seem to be showing some spirit and to be making their handler's lives a little bit difficult.

Copyright (C) 2016 John Freed

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

More from Khorsababd

     One of the things I like about the Assyrian reliefs is the attention to small details that show the skill of the sculptor. One of the scenes that lined  the wall of the royal palace at Khorsabad (but are now in the Oriental Institute) shows what I mean.

     This scene is of a foreigner bringing a pair of horses to the Assyrian King (Fig. 1). No doubt the country that sent the horses considers  them a "gift" while the Assyrians consider them "tribute", but let's not quibble over terms here.

     The tribute-bearer has the elaborately detailed hair and beard we saw in the Lammasu carvings shown a few posts back. Figure 2 shows the wonderful carving of the trappings worn by the horses. The decorations on the head of the horse are finally detailed and the tassels at the neck of the equids is also beautifully carved. Notice also the rosettes decorating the bridle. In figure 1 you can see the delineation of the muscles in the horse's front legs.

     When you see royal Assyrian sculptures always look for these types of details, they really show the skill of the craftsman that carved these reliefs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Penn Museum Outreach to Inner City Students

Figure 1 - the Penn Museum Mummy Mobiles
     I recently had the pleasure of having lunch with Tracy Carter of the Penn Museum. She gave me an overview of a really exciting program the Museum is doing to get inner city students interested in history and museums.

     The program, called "Mummy Makers" brings replicas of ancient Egyptian artifacts to seventh grade students in their schools and then shows the students how mummies were made. What kid can resist that! The highlight of the program is showing students how something the size of the brain was removed through something as small as the nose. They do this using jello (watch the video clip to see how they do this).

     Last year over 5,500 Philadelphia students had this program brought to their schools. Additionally, the students are given vouchers that can be redeemed for a free year long family membership to the museum. Hopefully this will also get the parents of the students interested as well.

     Last, but not least, Tracy explained the mummy mobiles that I photographed outside the museum during a recent visit there (see figure 1). This is how the museum staff get to the schools to bring this wonderful learning experience to the kids. So yes Tracy, I will admit it, Mummy Mobiles are cooler than the Bat Mobile!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Upcoming Events at the Penn Museum

     With the start of the new school year begins the annual archaeology lecture season. If you are anywhere near Philadelphia in the next few weeks you may want to check out some of the following events, all of which are taking place at the Penn Museum:

1) Saturday, September 17: Armed and Dangerous: an Iconography of Protective Middle and New Kingdom Demons - Dr. Kaisa Szpakowska of Swansea University will give a talk about the demons that the ancient Egyptians believed caused diseases or protected people from illness. She will also introduce the audience to DemonBase, which is a database of information on this topic. The talk is at the Penn Museum at 3:30 PM and is being organized by the American Research Center in Egypt.

2)  Wednesday, September 21, at 6:15 PM - the Archeological Institute of America will have Neil Asher Silberman give a lecture entitled Rebooting Antiquity: How Holy Wars, Media Hype, and Digital Technologies are Changing the Face of 21st Century Archaeology.

3) Thursday, October 6 at 6:45 PM - C. Brian Rose, Curator of the Mediterranean Section of the Penn Museum and a Professor of Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, will give a talk on Archaeology and Conservation in Turkey.

4) Saturday, October 15 at 3:30 PM, Dr. Emily Teeter (of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago) will speak on Crafts and Consumerism in Predynastic Egypt.

5) On Thursday, September 29 at 6:00 PM the Penn Museum will hold a Mummies and Martinis event in the mummies gallery of the museum. This after-work happy hour event costs $9 and includes one free drink for guests 21 or older.

The museum also has lab conservators available to answer visitor questions about preserving precious archaeological artifacts from 11:15 - 11:45 and 2:00 - 2:30 Tuesday through Friday and from 12:30 - 1:00 and 3:30 - 4:00 on Saturday and Sunday. The next time I visit the Penn Museum I am looking forward to this.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Palace of Sargon at Khorsabad

Fig. 1 - Sennacherib Leading Courtiers into the Presence of King Sargon
     The main room of the palace of Sargon was about 92 feet in length and was lined, as is typical of Assyrian palaces, with monumental sculptures. One section of the walls show a procession of courtiers approaching Sargon, with crown prince Sennacherib (far left in figure 1) leading them into the presence of his father.

     Some claim that the flabby, beardless features of the courtiers in this scene indicates that they are eunuchs. Notice the rightmost figure, who is waving his arm at the courtiers behind him (to urge them forward?).

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Khorsabad Lamassu

Figure 1 - head of Sargon's Lamas, with Bull's Ears
     The giant lamassu found at Khorsabad is now housed in Chicago at the Oriental Institute. It takes the form of a winged bull, with a human head (but a bull's ears), and has the wings of a large bird.

Figure 2 - View of the Face of the Oriental Institute's Lamassu
Figure 3 - Rear View of the Lamas Showing the "Blanket" and Wings
     Take a look at figures one and two and notice that this lamassu has one major difference with those from other palaces of  Assyrian Kings, the head is turned to the side, rather than looking straight ahead. Otherwise it is very similar to other winged bulls from other palaces. Notice the long hair with the huge curls at the bottom as well as the long, curled beard of the statue. The human head also wears the crown of the Assyrian King. The feathers on the wings are nicely detailed by the sculptor (figure three) and there is what looks like it might be a wool blanket on the back of this creature (you can see it peeking out from under the wings in figure three).

Figure 4 - The Statue has Five Legs
     There is one other standard trait of these figures that is present in this example as well as all the others I have ever seen. The beast has five legs. From the front and rear it looks like it is standing still, while from the side it seems to be striding forward (figure four).

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Oriental Institute Excavations at Khorsabad

     Years ago, when I was a college student I had my usual Friday night archaeology class. This particular semester it was the Archaeology of Mesopotamia. We had a paper due every semester and the topic was assigned by passing around a hat from which you would draw the name of the archaeological site you would use as your topic. This particular semester I picked the site of Khorsabad.

     I knew nothing about the site but dug in to the topic and found it had an interesting story. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago had excavated the site from 1928 to 1935 and there they found the palace of the Assyrian King Sargon. The King decided to build a new capital just after he ascended to the throne (about 721 B.C.). When he died (about 705 B. C.), the city had not yet been completed and was abandoned when his successor, Sennacherib, decided to move the capital back to Nineveh.

     Excavations centered around Sargon's palace, which was surrounded by a wall that isolated it from the remainder of the city, making the palace something of a citadel within Khorsabad. The throne room of the palace was lined with large carvings of the King, gods, and officials. But the major piece found was the shattered remains of a huge winged bull (Lammasu) that guarded one of the throne room's doorways. At the end of the season the Oriental Institute asked for the pieces of the Lammasu as part of its portion of the antiquities found.

     Earlier this year I visited Chicago and was able to go to the Oriental Institute to see the objects I had written about many years before. The next couple of posts will try to give you a flavor of what the city of Khorsabad was like more than two thousand years ago.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Back from Vacation

     I am back from vacation in Alaska, which is a wonderful place to visit. But they do not have any museum collections relevant to this blog, so I have no new photos to share. I did, however, catch up on some reading I have been meaning to get to and found out a few interesting things.

     Egyptologists have long blamed Tuthmose III for attempting to destroy images and hieroglyphic references to Hatshepsut late in his reign. I have always had my doubts about this. Why would he wait many years to try to destroy her memory? You would think he would have done it as soon as he became the sole pharaoh, rather than wait.

     Douglas Petrovich made this same point in his article "Toward Pinpointing the Timing of the Egyptian Abandonment of Avaris During the Middle of the 18th Dynasty" (Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, vol. 5-2 2013) and points the finger at Amenhotep II (Tuthmose's son and successor).

     I have also long suspected that the closing of the temple of Amen by Akhenaten was politically motivated (the priests had become to powerful and needed to be "put in their place"). I admit to having no evidence to back this up, but it is as good a guess as anyone else's. Dr. Petrovich's article may be relevant to this topic as well.

     In the article he presents evidence that Amenhotep II ordered an attack against the god Amen and his priests. The author mentions that there is no record of a high priest of Amen after the early part of the reign of Amenhotep II or during the entire reign of his successor (Tuthmose IV). Also, there are no known tombs for a priest of Amen dating to this period. Last, but not least, Amenhotep issues instructions to the county's nobility to " destroy all images of the gods, their bodies [...] Am[u]n-Re". The "bodies" mentioned in the inscription (which is found on a pink granite stela usually referred to as the Western Karnak Stele) are likely the statues of the god(s). Petrovich also mentions that Helck has also argued that Amenhotep II had an open break with the priests of Amen (Wolfgang Heck, "Politische Gegensatze in alten Aegypten: Ein Versuch von Wolfgang Heck (Hildesheim: Gerstenberg Verlag, 1986, pp. 53 - 56)). So it would appear that Akhenaten's fight with the priests of Amen was not the first one between the pharaoh and the priests.

All in all, this is one of the most interesting articles I have read in a long time.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Amarna at Philadelphia

Fig. 1 - cloth hanging with a face of Akhenaten and one of his stelae
Fig. 2 - statuette of an Amarna Princess
     The Penn Museum also has a small display of Amarna Period objects from Egypt. They are now displayed downstairs, next to Merneptah's temple (they were upstairs last time I was at the museum) near a cloth hanging with a large image of a statue of Akhenaten (Fig. 1). A rather odd stela of Akhenaten can be seen in the lower left corner of Figure 1. It is odd in that portions of the royal figures have been carved very deeply so that something could be used to fill the figures and give the object a very unique look. However, since the filling material has long since disappeared, the stela today looks strange indeed.

Fig. 3 - statuette of Tutankhamen as the god Amun
Fig. 4 - Tutankhamen statuette, showing the broad collar and divine beard
     Figure 2 is a statuette of one of Akhenaten's daughters. We can be sure it is one of his daughters (rather than Nefertiti) because the bottom of the sidekick of youth (worn by children until they came of age) is visible on the princess' right shoulder (on the left side of the picture).

     Last, but not least, is a statuette of the god Amun that probably also represents Tutnkhamen. He is shown wearing a divine beard, a broad collar and a kilt that has the Knot of Isis on it (just below the Kings navel).

All photos on this website are copyright (c) 2016 by John Freed unless otherwise noted

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Great Sphinx of Phildelphia

Fig. 1 - front view of the UPENN sphinx
     One of the highlights of a trip to the Penn Museum in Philadelphia is a visit to the underground level of the Egyptian collection. Here they have columns from a palace go Merneptah as well as a sphinx from the reign of Rameses II (to which Merneptah added his name). All of these objects were originally found at the site of the temple of Ptah at Memphis, Egypt's ancient capital which was slightly south of modern day Cairo.

     Josef and Jennifer Wegner recently detailed the story of this huge statue in their book The Sphinx that Travelled to Philadelphia: the Story of the Colossal Sphinx in the Penn Museum. The sphinx, which weighs about 15 tons, arrived in Philadelphia in 1913 and has been a popular city treasure ever since. One of the stories told in this book is how the dock workers refused to unload the sphinx from the ship that brought it to the United States until the 1913 World Series (which was being played in Philadelphia that year) was over.

The face is heavily weathered (Fig. 1), although the body of the Sphinx is well preserved (Fig. 2). The statue is, as all Egyptian sphinxes are, a lion with the head of a human. The head of the statue wears a "nemes" head dress and is adorned with the false beard of the king.

     Today the sphinx is displayed in a very atmospheric setting. The room is dimly lit with spotlights used to highlight the sphinx and palace columns.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sumerian Votive Statuette

     In the last post I showed a silver statuette of a man that dates from around 800 B. C. I mentioned that the large eyes this figure had reminded me of Sumerian statuettes made from alabaster. Here is an example of such a statuette dating to 2600 - 2350 B. C. This object (from Khafaje, Iraq) is carved from alabaster and has shell eyes and lips lazuli pupils. The man's hands are clasped in front of him in the same way that they are clasped in front of the silver figure in the previous post. The similarities exist in the style of small statuettes from temples in spite of the fact that there is well over 1,000 years sepearating these two works of art.

     The purpose of this statuette is not completely certain. Does it represent a priest? Is it a votive statuette left in the temple by someone trying to impress a god or goddess with his piety? No one knows for sure.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Anatolian Silver Work

Fig. 1 - Figure of a Priest
     The ancient civilizations in Turkey produced some great silver work. Here are a number of pieces from different time periods. Some (fig. 1 to 3) are in the Penn Museum and the
others (figures 4 and 5) are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fig. 2 - Detail of a Silver Statuette of a Priest
     The first object (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2) is a silver statuette of a priest that dates from around 800 - 700 B. C. It was found in Bayidir in a tumulus burial. Note the rather large eyes of the priest, something I have seen in Sumerian votive statues (usually made of alabaster) as well.

     Figure 3 is an Omphalus (drinking) bowl dating to somewhere between 800 and 700 B. C. and is from the same tumulus (tumulus D) burial as the statuette of the priest.

Fig. 3 Silver Drinking Bowl from Bayidir, Tumulus D
Fig. 4 - Hittite Silver Drinking Rhyton in the form of a Stag
     The Silver Rhytons are from the Hittite Period in Turkey and date to about 1400 - 1300 B. C. Figure 4 shows a rhyton in the form of a stag. The antlers and handle were added separately and the owner drank from the rear of the Rhyton. The frieze at the rear of  the object show a god and a goddess separated by an incense burner, with three men also being shown making offerings to the deities. The bull Rhyton may represent the god Teshub. The eyes and brows of the bull were once inlaid.
Fig. 5 - Hittite Silver Drinking Rhyton


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Burial of Midas' Father

Fig. 1 - Phrygian Bronze Cauldron
     The Penn Museum has a really interesting exhibit that gives the visitor a very good idea of what the burial of a Phrygian King, in this case the father of the famous King Midas (the king with the golden touch), must have been like.

     The burial is what is known as a tumulus interment. The deceased was buried in a chamber that was then covered by a huge (and I mean huge!) mound called a tumulus. This particular burial dates to about 740 B. C. and was found in Turkey, which is where the Phrygian empire was located.

Fig. 2 - Winged Figure from the Bronze Cauldron
     Midas' father was apparently past his 60th birthday when he died. He was buried with dozens of objects made of bronze, including a large "cauldron" (fig. 1). The cauldron had four winged figures on its rim and each of these figures had a ring attached to it. Was this pot at times suspended in the air using these rings? There were also smaller bronze pots and bowls found within this tumulus (fi. 3).

Fig. 3 - Bronze Pots and Bowls from Tumulus MM

The museum has also included an interactive display of what the burial chamber looked like at the end of the funeral. You can see the body of the deceased (fig. 4) and then scroll around the burial chamber to see where all of the objects were left before the tomb was closed.

Fig. 4 - Computer Display of the Burial as it Originally Appeared
     The Phrygians do not often get mentioned in books about archaeology, but the bronze work from this tomb is highly sophisticated and, in its own way, quite attractive. Sometime soon, perhaps I will have a chance to cover the Phrygians in more detail.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Tomb of Puabi

     During the course of his excavations at Ur, Woolley found the burial of a woman named Puabi who is often referred to as a Queen, but in truth her exact status is not certain. She must have been an extremely important woman as her burial (which dates to around 2600 B. C.) was truly splendid.

     Her tomb was entered via a sloping corridor the led to a pit at the bottom of which was a stone covered burial chamber. Her burial included a lyre (a musical instrument similar to a harp) which was decorated by a golden bull's head like the one shown in the previous post on this blog. It also contained a great deal of jewelry which covered Puabi's body. In fig. 1 you can see the huge gold headdress that adorned her body. Also note the almost impossibly large gold earrings. The beads below the headdress were worn around the Queen's shoulder, like a shawl.

     Her tomb also contained the bodies of oxen and numerous retainers who were buried with her. They were either killed just before the burial pit was covered over, or they were drugged and left in the tomb to be covered with earth while still alive! Many of these retainers were decked out in golden finery before their deaths. When found, the bodies of these sacrificial victims had been crushed by the weight of the earth piled up on top of them. The skulls of some of these persons are on display at the Penn Museum with the flattened gold jewelry that adorned them still in place.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

New Photos of Objects from Ur

     Ur was a city in ancient Sumeria. Archaeologists have found remains there that date back as far as the Ubaid period. This level of the city was covered over by soil that clearly represents a flood and some archaeologists claim that this flood, which buried Ur, was the inspiration for the biblical story of the flood.

     Eventually Ur came under the control of Semitic speaking people call the Akkadians, who were led by their King Sargon the Great. Their language (Akkadian) is the language that was spoken by the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians and which eventually became the diplomatic language of the ancient Near East.

     After the fall of the Akkadian Empire, the so called Third Dynasty of Ur came into power under the kings Ur-Nammu and his successor Shulgi. Ur-Nammu was profiled several years ago in this blog (the post included some photos of some art from this king's reign). Ur-Nammu's law code is well known and is often translated by students learning Akkadian (been there, done that!).

     Excavations in the early 1900's were conducted by Leonard Woolley and Max Mallowan. Their finds at Ur led to a great deal of interest from tourists and Mallowan married one of the tourists, a well-known mystery writer named Agatha Christie.

     Woolley's excavations were funded by the British Museum and the Penn Museum in Philadelphia and many of the objects from their excavations found their way to London and Philadelphia. The photos I have included are of objects that I have posted before, but on my recent trip to Philadelphia, I took some new photos of the objects in their brand new display cases (or at least new since I last visited the museum), so I have decided to show these wonderful works of art again.

     The bull's heads, one made of gold with inlaid eyes and the other made of wood covered in gold leaf and having a lapis lazuli beard, were used as decorations on harps. The significance of the "Ram in the Thicket" is unclear to me. The museum has some photos of the ram as it was originally found, virtually completely crushed by the weight of the dirt used to cover the fabulous burial it was included in. It took endless, painstaking work for conservators to restore the piece to its current form.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Philadelphia's Mummy Mobile

     Wherever I go I like to photograph the local Near Eastern Art collections. Philadelphia is no exception as the Penn Museum has very nice collections of Egyptian, Anatolian and Mesopotamian art. I have not been to this museum since photographs were printed on paper, so I was anxious to take some digital pictures of the collection. I will share some photos from excavations at Ur and other places in my next few posts, but for today let's just have some fun.
     The first picture is taken right outside the Penn Museum's entrance. They have not one, but two mummy mobiles (the red car in the background is a mummy mobile as well). What exactly is the function of a mummy mobile? I have no idea, but it does not look to be as cool as the Bat Mobile.
     The second picture was taken inside the parking garage at the Penn Museum. The speed limit is 7 1/2 MPH?? Only in Philadelphia!