Metal Heads! (The archaeological kind.)

Last week, the objects under study for the classical catalogue were the ancient metals (bronze statuettes and gold finger rings). Ancient bronze specialist Carol M. visited the NCMA to examine our (very lovely) pieces and Corey was there as well for the conservation assessment. However, Noelle, our very tech-savvy conservator of record for the research project, had all the fun!

Some of the statuettes were x-rayed and the fabulous Head of a Woman in the Guise of a Goddess was zapped in the eye with the XRF (to obtain the composition of the silver used for her eyes).  Noelle also brought the Head to the mail room this morning so it could get weighed!

Cue whatever heavy metal band you’ve got on your playlist and take a look at these cool pics!

 

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Tomb of the Griffin Warrior

An article I was reading this morning replaced at the last minute what I had planned for February’s ARCHAEO-Crush.  Yes, this Mycenaean treasure is super cool…

TOMB OF THE GRIFFIN WARRIOR

Type: burial (intact, no less!)
Civilisation: Ancient Greece, Mycenaean civilisation, circa 1600-1100 BCE
Date: circa 1450 BCE

ARCHAEO-Crush: The Tomb of the Griffin Warrior (so-named because of an ivory plaque featuring a griffon found between the man’s legs) was discovered at Pylos (Greece) in May 2015 and excavated during that summer by a team from the University of Cincinnati, led by archaeologists Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker.
Situated in an unexplored field near the Palace of Nestor (erected later), the tomb has remained undisturbed for 3,500 years, from the day the warrior was laid to rest until today. The discovery came as a surprise to the archaeologists, who were flabbergasted at the richness of the tomb’s contents.  Surprisingly amongst the numerous pots, cups, pitchers, and basins deposited into the grave, none are actually made of ceramic. They are all made of metal–bronze, silver or gold–speaking to the power and wealth of the man buried therein. There are several weapons, various pieces of jewellery, including hundreds of gold, carnelian, amethyst and amber beads, combs and mirrors as well as hundreds and hundreds of other objects. (More than 1500 artefacts were discovered in this tomb alone!) What most impressed me, however, were the perforated wild boar’s teeth that were part of the warrior’s helmet–just like the one given to Odysseus in Homer’s Iliad! (I don’t recall ever seeing one before, but there was a drawing that struck me in the article and you can actually find real examples in museums. A Google search led me to this one at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.)
Because of the early date of the burial (this is the beginning of Mycenaean civilisation), it is interesting to note that most objects are in the Minoan style, the previous Bronze Age civilisation of ancient Greece (circa 3650 BCE –1450 BCE). There are many other very interesting things to learn about this tomb and its fabulous contents, but it is too much to present here. I will leave the reading to you: you can find several articles here. The write-up I was reading this morning is this one.

Bucket list status: It’s a treasure I have yet to see with my own eyes. I have been discussing Mycenaean art with a colleague the last couple of weeks and when he sent me an article about the tomb this morning, I remembered that I had only glanced at the announcement of this discovery. As I actually read in depth the article, I thought it would make a great ARCHAEO-Crush post.
Additional information:  There is an official website entirely dedicated to the ‘Grave of the Griffin Warrior.‘  You can find out more about the discovery and the project, and find great shots of the excavations as well.

Off view

If you were to take a walk in the Classical galleries at the museum this week and the next, you’d notice that some vitrines are completely empty of artefacts. The reason? These are being studied by private objects conservator Corey Smith Riley.

Corey’s looking at material, manufacture, condition and previous conservation treatments for all the Greek objects (ceramics and bronze). It’s part of the research project I have been managing for the last three years, the study of the Classical collection for the catalogue. Corey’s work is a follow-up to Taking a look at Greek ceramics.

Bronze statue of the Boxer at Rest

My ARCHAEO-Crush for the month of May is a fabulous Greek bronze found in a museum in Rome.

An original Greek bronze sculpture of a boxer at rest.

An original Greek bronze sculpture of a boxer at rest.

THE BOXER AT REST
Type: artefact (bronze statue, lost-wax process)
Civilisation: Ancient Greece
Date: Between the 4th and 2nd century BCE (Hellenistic period)
ARCHAEO-Crush: Greek bronzes are rare not only because bronze was expensive, but also because it could be melted down and reused. However, the examples that survived the millennia–like the Boxer at Rest–show an exceptional mastery of technique and breath-taking details.  The boxer was found in 1885 on the Quirinal, near the baths of Constantine. It is a Hellenistic masterpiece representing a professional athlete.  My photo does not do justice to this remarkable work of art.   The pugilist is resting after receiving quite a beating: he has broken nose, cauliflower ears and he might have lost some teeth.  His face is scarred and bruised, and has bleeding cuts. What is quite amazing is the fact that artist has used red copper inlays to indicate the bloody cuts and there are even a few drops and trickles of blood shown on his right  shoulder, forearm, caestus (leather glove) and thigh, as if they have fallen there after he moved his head! You will find an interesting video about the Boxer at Rest on the site of  Khan Academy.
Bucket list status: I saw this astounding bronze statue during the summer of 2014 while in Rome. It was not on my bucket list because I was not aware of this statue (I came upon it quite by chance), but it is now one of my favourites at the Palazzo Massimo.
Additional info:
The work is on view at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme (one of the branches of the Museo nazionale romano) and its inventory number is 1055. Should you be in Rome, I would highly recommend visiting the museum just to see this work.  The Palazzo Massimo is not far from Termini station, you can walk there.