I am revising my plan for ARCHAEO-Crush posts… Clearly, my busy schedule cannot accommodate one post per month, so I am trying one per season. (Let’s see how that goes.) My ARCHAEO-Crush for winter 2019 is from a civilisation better known for its geoglyphs…
Loads of Nazca ceramics!
Trying to get a closer shot!
These are spiders that look remarkably like ants!!! But count the legs… there are 8, so spider it is!
Look at that friendly mien!
How cute is this little crab? (He looks a little sad, actually.)
Some cute… bugs? Shrimp? (Has a Precambrian-like feel that I like.)
Type: artefact (ceramics) Civilisation: Peruvian, Nazca (also spelled Nasca) Date: 200 BCE and 600 CE
ARCHAEO-Crush: This is really an archaeological crush because I don’t really know anything about the Nazca culture of ancient Peru. When I became curator of ancient art, I suddenly found myself in charge of archaeological collections from the Ancient Americas, artefacts from cultures I had never studied at uni or others I knew about from a television show I absolutely loved as a kid. I have since been paying more attention to these amazing civilisations and their material culture. I knew of the Nazca geoglyphs (aka the ‘Nazca Lines‘), but had never seen other materials produced by the Nazca people until recently (not every museum has a collection of ancient American art and amongst those not all include Nazca art).
I immediately fell in love with Nazca ceramics the second I laid eyes on them. They are the most colourful vessels I have ever seen (in earth tones, no less!) and decorated with incredibly adorable (and occasionally unexpected) figures and designs. The selection above are from the Milwaukee Public Museum (an unexpectedly stunning museum by the way!), the Field Museum in Chicago and the San Antonio Museum of Art. Seriously cute, don’t you think?
Bucket list status: One day I’ll get to Peru and will see the Nazca Lines (and other things); in the meantime I will enjoy the ceramics in museum collections.
Additional information: This is a nice little article in the Ancient HistoryEncyclopedia about of the Nazca civilisation.
As promised yesterday, today’s post presents the last study session of 2017. Actually, it’s the last study session. Full stop. We’ve looked at the entire Classical collection since 2013 and this part of the project is completed!! (Insert a sigh of relief here, but note that the project itself is far from being completed!)
So, back in mid-December, we studied the Greek ceramics. Again. (Yes, we did it before, but the consultant was not able to complete the project and thus I had to find somebody else and start over from scratch). The task was given to Keely, the expert on South Italian ceramics… who is also specialised in Greek ceramics. (Let’s not forget that South Italian ceramics are pots made by Greek colonists who settled in South Italy.) We invited Kat, who works in the marketing department, to come see what we were doing so she could post ‘behind the scenes’ stuff on social media. She admitted being a little verklempt at seeing the objects up close, without a vitrine, and have an expert tell her all about them. :)
Having a Greek ceramics expert at the museum for several days, we took the opportunity to film a few video clips for docent training (we also did some on South Italian pots, too!). Carpe diem, as the Romans would have said!
Earlier this morning, the classical galleries were closed for ‘research and conservation.’ Bill, our chief conservator, and I were there to take samples of the bright pink pigment found on the South Italian ceramics. We have a good idea of what this pigment might be but we’ll send samples to a colleague in Italy for scientific confirmation.
Sampling is always a delicate procedure because it is destructive. Bill had to scrape some of that fabulous pink off the four vessels that use it in their decoration. We picked locations on the vessels that are less visible when you’re visiting the galleries and viewing the pots. You shouldn’t notice where the pink pigment was scraped off.
The results will be published in the NCMA’s upcoming catalogue of classical art.
Last week, the study of the classical collection continued when Laurel Taylor came to the Museum to look at the other Roman artefacts (not the Roman marble statues that have already been studied). Corey Riley was there as well, taking care of the conservation assessment. The collection of Roman ceramics is rather small and not of good quality compared to other ceramics we have from elsewhere in the ancient Mediterranean.
Two of the objects were not even Roman and two others were probably forgeries! The rest were cute if not spectacular. Although we had fun, I guess our Roman study session was more like VENI, VIDI, SED NON VICI.
The research on the NCMA’s classical collection continues and that is making me really, really happy. It might not be related to ancient Egypt or Nubia, but at least it’s ancient! Very late in November, our intellectual travels took us to South Italy and Sicily, where the ancient Greeks established colonies. Keely H, who is an expert on this material, took a look at the small collection from the art historical and archaeological standpoint; she was assisted by yours truly as well as Stacey, NCMA conservation technician. Objects conservator Corey was examining the collection from the conservation perspective.
The collection consists of various ceramic vessels, some of which are wonderfully coloured… but are all these pigments actually ancient? That is the question! We are trying to find the answer by looking at the objects under UV lights, by X-ray fluorescence (which was done by NCMA paintings conservator Noelle who is not on the photos), and hopefully even by sampling for further testing in later months. Stay tuned for that!
After having spent most of the past year being buried up to my neck in Art Deco automobiles and motorcycles, I was more than delighted to get back in to the ancient groove in November and December, even though I worked evenings and weekends to make sure everything was done in time. This involved mostly lectures, talks and PowerPoint presentations, but it was all related to ancient things…
On November 19, I taught my Egyptology Seminar (it had been rescheduled from the spring because of the various deadlines for the exhibition). Also, due to this same lack of time, it was only a half day event instead of a full day affair, but it was very well attended nonetheless. The theme (well, title, really) was “Taking Care of Business at Pharaoh’s Court” and I presented with short lectures a number of important individuals who helped shape Egypt during its long history–Imhotep and Hemiunu (both from the Old Kingdom), Ahmose son of Ibana (New Kingdom) and Mentuemhet, the mayor of Thebes during the Third Intermediate Period and the Late Period. Luckily, Dr. Bonnie Sampsell—the author of the Geology of Egypt, who happens to be not only a geologist but also an amateur Egyptologist—kindly helped by giving one of the seminar talks. She presented Senenmut, Queen Hatshepsut’s trusted architect and royal nanny. That gave me some time to breathe…
On November 21 I spent the whole day at North Carolina State University as guest speaker, invited by Dr. Dru MgGill, archaeologist at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. I presented the scientific methods used in museums to study ancient ceramics for the students taking Special Topics in Anthropology, Pots and People: Ceramics Analysis in late morning. Then, after a tasty lunch with my colleague, I spoke to two groups taking Unearthing the Past: Introduction to World Archaeology. I introduced them to the archaeology of ancient Sudan (Meroe and Dangeil) and mused the work of an archaeologist employed in a museum. Few students actually think of this option when considering jobs related to archaeology and material culture.
These were intense and very tiring months, but at least I was back into the ancient groove!!
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.