I found today this fun post on the British Museum blog that contains interesting facts most people don’t know about the BM. Did you know that the most searched-for thing on their website is ‘Egypt’? Or that the 1972 exhibition of Tutankhamun’s treasure was the most popular. Ever? Those didn’t surprise me at all and I knew of some other facts mentioned in the listicle; however, there were some cool things I wasn’t aware of…
My ARCHAEO-Crush for this month is something that doesn’t look like much, but is rare and interesting to archaeologists.
Ox-hide copper ingot at the Museum of Prehistory and Early History in Berlin. Photo by yours truly.
OX-HIDE COPPER INGOT
Type: artefact (ingot) Civilisation: Ancient Cyprus Date: 2nd millennium BC ARCHAEO-Crush: In 2009, I visited the Neues Museum in Berlin and toured all the galleries–not just the Egyptian and Nubian ones at the Ägyptisches Museum, but also those at Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte (both museums are housed in the same building). One of the artefacts that really impressed me was this ox-hide copper ingot, an object that might appear very boring to many.
Before I tell you why I was very intrigued by this object, let me first explain what it actually is. It is an ingot of copper and its shape is similar to a stretched skin of an ox (sometimes, but not in this case, they have ‘handles’ at each corner, like the legs of animal). According to the label, the ingot weighs 25.67kg (a little over 56 lbs) and it is believed to have been discovered in the sea between Turkey and Cyprus in 1907 (although the location has since been lost). Such copper ingots were raw material traded all over the ancient Mediterranean and it seems that Cyprus was the main producer of copper during the second millennium BC.
The ingot really made an impression on me because it’s the kind of object you see bring brought as tribute on the walls of beautifully decorated New Kingdom Theban tombs–like that of Rekhmire, Nebamun, Useramon, etc… Men carry them on their shoulder and they are exactly of this ox-hide shape. Very few are still extant because the copper would me smelted and mixed with tin to make bronze objects. What is remarkable is that ox-hide ingots have been recovered from shipwreck sites, where entire cargoes disappeared under the seas. (That also appealed to me because I use to scuba dive when I was a teen.) A famous example is the Ulu Burun wreck, where more than 10 tons of ingots were found! (Click on the Ulu Burun link for info about the underwater excavation of the wreck and images of the ingots on the website of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M.) Bucket list status: I have seen this particular ingot only once, but it certainly impressed me! Additional information: The ingot’s inventory number is MK 618/1913 and, if I remember correctly, it was in a gallery dedicated to Schliemann’s collection of artefacts from Troy and the cultural history of Cyprus.
My ARCHAEO-Crush for September is an amazing statue of a female pharaoh at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.
The delicate and feminine features of the great New Kingdom female pharaoh. (Photo by yours truly taken during a trip to the Met in 2011)
STATUE OF HATSHEPSUT SEATED Type: artefact (sculpture) Civilisation: Ancient Egypt Date: New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, joint reign Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III (circa 1479–1458 BC) ARCHAEO-Crush: Queen Hatshepsut is undoubtedly the most remarkable female pharaoh of Egyptian history. Daughter of Pharaoh Thutmosis I and wife of Thutmosis II, her half-brother, she found herself at the death of her husband the regent of a young boy king, Thutmosis III–who is both her nephew and her stepson. (Thutmosis III was the son of Thutmosis II and his second wife Isis.) At the beginning, she is not opposed to the reign of this five year old child because as the wife of the deceased king she is regent and has all the powers necessary to rule the country on the young king’s behalf. However, a few years later–with the support of powerful officials–she is crowned pharaoh, usurping her stepson/nephew’s throne. While she may appear to be the evil stepmother of fairy tales, her reign is nonetheless peaceful and prosperous. She dedicates her energies to artistic endeavours and architectural projects (her funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri is one of her remarkable constructions).
The statue presented here shows Hatshepsut in the royal accoutrement of a male pharaoh wearing a kilt and the nemes headdress. Yet her delicate features are utterly feminine and graceful. There is not doubt that this is the face of a woman. I find this particular statue incredibly beautiful and delicate, even if stone sculptures in ancient Egypt tend to be very heavy and blockish. Bucket list status: Every time I’m at the Met, I go see Hatshepsut… Additional information: There are a number of statues portraying Hatshepsut in that particular gallery at the Met. However, this one (object # MMA 29.3.2) is displayed at all by herself and softly illuminated the end of the room, seated majestically.
This week, I had planned a three or four day photography session of the statue of Bacchus… the statue that is soon to be object of a special conservation project. The session included regular photography, documentary photography and videography as well as UV examination and photography. Basically, Bacchus got the treatment he did not receive last summer during our nights at the museum.
The statue was brought to the museum’s photo studio and we spent the whole day examining every surface and every break under ultraviolet and regular light. Below are some pictures I took with my BlackBerry (and one is courtesy of Corey and her iPhone–that would be the one of me on the ladder with Chris).
The marble statue of Bacchus in the photo studio.
Yours truly holding the ladder so that Chris can wave a UV wand during an exposure and illuminate the top of Bacchus (where the big UV lamps don’t reach).
Weird ghost-like photo… it seems I took my shot at the same time as the strobes went off—overloading my camera with light. Cool, huh?
What perfect lighting does: show incredible details in the sculpted marble. Isn’t it amazing?
Side view of Bacchus under UV and the detail of the arm join on the computer.
Photographing every little detail of Bacchus: here Luke holds a reflector to dispel shadows as Karen takes a photo… of either Bacchus’ bum or the cracks in the joins in his thigh.
It looks like Bacchus sat in a puddle of radioactive goo… but the yellow-green stuff you see is the fluorescence of the restoration materials.
We were so efficient and everything went so smoothly that we were done by 3pm today! Bacchus was done in one day! All of us working on this project were rather pleased because it means we have the rest of the week to catch up on stuff. In my case, I’ll work on a conference presentation… and, if I can get that done quickly, get back to my revisions of an article slated for publication. I’m so glad we finished early!
In his third lesson, Fefi introduces us to his buddy Khnumti (hieroglyphically speaking, of course) and poses an interesting question about his name and nickname. Read the NCMA’s ancient scribe’s latest post, Name or Nickname? That Is the Question!, and meet Khnumti.
There is a new and fun post on Circa… written by no less than an ancient Egyptian nobleman who once was a scribe! (Or perhaps not… I might have something to do with this.) Click on the image below to be transported to the NCMA blog and enjoy learning hieroglyphs with Caroline, I mean Fefi.
Screen shot of Fefi’s first post on Circa, the Museum Blog.