A couple of days ago, I watched ‘Who Mourns for Adonais,’ a Star Trek episode that features the Greek god Apollo and I have been meaning to write a post about it ever since. In light of today’s sad news—the passing of Leonard Nimoy, who played the unflappable Mr. Spock—I thought this might be the time to post my entry.
This is an episode of which I have always been rather fond because it features a female officer named Carolyn, who is an archaeologist and a specialist of ancient civilisations, relics and myths. (Does this sound like anyone you know?!) The gist of the episode is that the Enterprise is seized by Apollo—an alien being who was once worshipped by the ancient Greeks as a god of Olympus (along with others of his race, the remaining deities of the Greek pantheon). After the landing party arrives, Apollo insists that the rest of crew beam down and worship him as humans had done millennia before. Mayhem ensues, as you can imagine. The idea I have always liked about that episode is that gods cannot exist without love, admiration and worship; yet people cannot be forced to worship a deity in which they do not believe. People evolve, cultures change… and, as Apollo eventually admits, gods eventually die.
The episode appeals to me because it deals with antiquity, ancient myths and deities, and the evolution of cultures. That’s what anthropology and archaeology are all about: the advancement of humans and their various cultures–how things have changed (or haven’t) over millennia. How we learn, adapt and grow. We’re studying the past… and people from the future will undoubtedly study us in a similar manner. Fascinating.
Today, the North Carolina Museum of Art launched a brand new website and its blog has been renamed Circa, a term archaeologists and curators of ancient art often use. Circa: What Does It Mean? is the first post on the blog, presented by Karen Kelly, NCMA senior editor. The post includes a video by yours truly, where I explain the meaning of the term circa, its use on gallery labels along with B.C.E. and C.E.
Click on the blue link above to read Karen’s post and see my video.
We cannot begin to know how many mud bricks were actually used to construct Amenhotep III’s palace at Malqata, but we can develop a rough estimate. To start with, the enclosure wall is 2.5 meters thick and was probably over 600 meters long. Each 1 meter of length of a wall 1 meter high requires 540 bricks – if the wall was only 2 meters high, over half a million bricks would be necessary. But a 2.5 meter thick wall would surely be at least 3 meters high, so I’m raising our estimate of the number of bricks in the enclosure walls to slightly more than 800,000.
The walls comprising the palace rooms generally are much thinner, the majority being 0.6 meters thick, although some are only 20 cm thick and some are 1.6 meters thick. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the average thickness of the palace walls is 0.6…
A beautiful post on the Greek nude from Ian Jenkins at the British Museum. If you ever wondered about the nude statues in Classical sculpture galleries at various museums but were afraid to ask, you should read this.
I’m currently working on the Museum’s major exhibition Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art, which opens 26 March 2015. When you see the sculptures on display, you might be forgiven for thinking that the standard dress for men, in ancient Athens especially, was a state of undress. The Greeks, if their art is anything to go by, spent a lot of time starkers.
Although we must separate art from life, nevertheless, they enjoyed many more occasions for nudity than any other European civilisation before or since. The reason why they performed athletics in the nude was said to be because, in the early Olympic Games, a runner lost his knickers and as a result also lost the race. That story may be true or not but either way, it doesn’t explain the true nature of Greek athletic nudity as an expression of…
Today, I’m offering you a new chronicle, an idea that I have been churning in my head for a while: ARCHAEO-Crush. This chronicle will feature one archaeological crush per month–an artefact, a monument or a site of which I am rather fond. Each post will include a photograph, a brief info notice and the reason why I like it so much. (These posts will be regrouped in the ‘Categories’ section in the sidebar not under an actual chronicle in the menu.)
In celebration of Chinese New Year, my ARCHAEO-Crush for the month of February is…
The Great Wall of China as photographed by my father in fall 2014.
THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA Type: monument (military fortifications) Civilisation: ancient China Date: 3rd century BCE to 17th century CE ARCHAEO-Crush: The fact that this monument is the longest man-made architectural structure is absolutely amazing, even though the sections do not all join (apparently some natural features serve as ramparts). Astoundingly, it is over 20,000 km in length. Additionally impressive is the fact that it was built continuously (!!!) for practically 2000 years by various emperors, using different building techniques. It is a masterpiece of military architecture. I love architecture… Bucket list status: Somewhere near the top of the list! Additional info: UNESCO World Heritage number 438
It is fabulous to be at Malqata—an ancient Egyptian settlement with areas that show social stratigraphy and organisation. Kings, nobles, and commoners all lived here and celebrated the sed festivals of King Amenhotep III. I first worked on animal bones that were excavated from Malqata in the 1970s for my Ph.D., and am thrilled that the Met is digging now in different parts of the site so that there is a fresh source of bones to examine. The animal bones that I am studying come from trash pits, and undisturbed fill that lay in the North Village. By examining these, we are learning about what people ate and how animals were butchered.
Part of the rib of a cow that has been chopped in half.. Many of the bones I am examining come from a pit just outside the enclosure wall of a ceremonial area known as the Audience Pavilion…
A couple of great posts on the iMalqata blog today. Here’s one about ancient Egyptian bathing rooms… I didn’t realise there were no fewer than 10 bathrooms in Amenhotep III’s palace! The pictures of the ‘shower stalls,’ then and now, are quite humbling. So much has disappeared in the last +100 years…
The ancient Egyptians seem to have placed great importance on personal cleanliness. For most people, bathing appears to have been done in pools, rivers and canals but shower stalls were a feature in the Royal Palaces and in the model palaces.
In these stalls, the bather would stand on a stone slab with a drain cut into it and water would be poured over them by a servant standing beside a half wall enclosing the shower. Soap was made from natron and was beneficial for the skin. It may have even been scented as were soaps made from animal fat or vegetable oil.
The Palace of the King at Malqata boasted at least ten bathrooms. Only scant traces of them remain today, but when the Palace was excavated by Robb de Peyster Tytus in 1901 to 1903, he discovered a very well preserved bath in room N11, in one of the…