ARCHAEO-Crush: The remains of the viking ships at the museum in Roskilde were discovered in Roskilde Fjord, in a sailing channel between Peberrenden and Skuldelev. The five ships were deliberately sunk during the 11th century to create a barrier to defend the most direct route to Roskilde. The remains represent five different types of vessels. Skuldelev 1 is a large ocean-going trader use to transport cargo on high seas (think North Sea, Baltic Sea and even North Atlantic Ocean). While it is impossible to know who owned it, this type of vessel was used by merchants and chieftains on trading expeditions. Dendrochronology indicates that it dates to 1030. Skuldelev 2 is a large warship dating to 1042 and built near Dublin, Ireland (a Viking settlement called Dubh Linn founded the 9th century, where a much older Celtic village already existed according to the Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemaeus, author of synthesis of geographical knowledge of the Graeco-Roman world). The crew of this type of longship counted 65-70 men and the vessels belonged to chieftains whose exploits are celebrated in Scandinavian sagas. In comparison, Skuldelev 3 is a much smaller vessel. It is a trading ship used on the Danish coast and the Baltic Sea for the transport of goods or people. The vessel was powered by wind with the use of the sail, but, in very calm weather and on short distances, the oars could be used as well. There isn’t a Skuldelev 4 because the remains thought to be a fourth vessel turned out to be part of Skuldelev 2. So we go directly to Skuldelev 5, which is also a longship albeit a small one–its crew was only 30 men . This type of warship had 13 pairs of oars and was the smallest in a war fleet. As for the last ship, Skuldelev 6 was a fishing boat. Originally built in Norway with pine, the boat was modified with oak and birch and transformed into a simple transport boat, manned by a small crew.
Bucket list status: I have seen these fabulous ships on a day trip to Roskilde after a conference in Copenhagen. I would have loved to sail on one of the replicas of these ships. There is one for each of the boats in the MuseUm Habour! At least I got to board on Sea Stallion from Glendalough, the replica of Skuldelev 2, the large warship.
Additional information: You will find additional information for each of the ships on the museum’s website, Vikingeskibs Museet: size, draught, speed, crew, number of oars and even place of construction! (And more!) All you have to do is click on the blue links in the main section above. Be sure to read the Education section of the ‘Professions’ tab of the site for even more details.
In the middle of the week, Herakles left the West Building for a visit to the photo studio before heading to the conservation lab. Although he weighs about 1020 lbs(!), it only took a few minutes to move the big guy off his pedestal. All you need is brawn, brain and some smooth materials.
Heracles is a very complexe sculpture and we need to look at him even closer than we did before… Actually, we need to look at his knee joins. I’ll let you know when he gets his quasi-surgical operation!
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!!
Yours truly gave an interview to WNCN (CBS) in the Egyptian galleries this morning. We talked about cool objects in the collection. It’s one of those things you do when you’re a curator. I’ll share the details when I know at which time this will air.
Picture taken by my colleague Emily K., Communications Manager at the Museum.
This morning, I was in the NCMA’s Egyptian galleries teaching a class of students at Havelock High School (which is about 2 and half hours east of Raleigh)… using our very nifty SECU mobile distance learning cart. The class had already 3D-printed a replica of the Amulet of Isis and Horus (which we scanned back in February) but they could see the original in the vitrine next to me as I talked about it.
We also chatted about Nehebkau (another amulet) and one of the school groups visiting the galleries with their art teacher stopped to listen to me… and then photobombed the lesson when they realised I was actually talking to other high school kids. It was hilarious… everyone was waving at each other… and Emily and I were laughing. Yes, ancient Egypt is that fun!
Thanks, Emily, for taking the pictures and manning the cart!
My ARCHAEO-Crush for February is my favourite Classical sculpture of all times.
THE BARBERINI FAUN
Type: sculpture (marble) Civilisation: Ancient Greece Date: Hellenistic period, 323 -146 BCE (but could be a very high quality Roman copy) ARCHAEO-Crush: I have always had a soft spot for marble statuary and this magnificent sculpture really amazed me when I first learned of it in art history class. Although partially restored during the 17th and 18th century (notably the legs, which were apparently not positioned quite as high), this is a masterpiece on several levels, including the execution. The position of the body is not only rather unusual, but also extremely challenging for a sculptor; the musculature is wonderful and remarkably detailed; the face is expressive; the sculpture is exquisite.
The blatant sexuality of the sculpture can be chocking to some, but in Greek art nudity was common-place and normal, part of the notions of Greek ideal. Despite the provocative pose, there is also a certain vulnerability to be found in this sculpture, a vulnerability that is just as enticing as the sleeping male, a vulnerability not often associated with men. I think that this vulnerability makes us forget that the youth sprawled on a panther skin on the rocks is not a man…
In fact, it is a faun or, more fitting for a Hellenistic statue, a satyr–a woodland creature from Greek mythology with equine features, notably horse tail and ears, and ithyphallic. (The faun of Roman mythology is half-man, half-goat with hairy legs and hooves, pointy ears and horns). During Antiquity, the appearance of satyrs and fauns became more and more human-like and one must pay close attention to details to determine the identity of the subject. Here, the human legs of the youth belie its animal nature but a short tail is visible on the lower back and the pointy ears are hidden by the wreath of ivy. Yet the wreath is quite telling in and of itself… it is one of the symbols of Dionysos, the Greek god of wine, drunkenness, ritual madness, theatre and tragedy. Satyrs are his randy, drinking companions. The (terribly sexy) young satyr represented here is exhausted from excessive partying… Bucket list status: I drop by the Glyptothek every time I am in Munich just to see this wonderful sculpture. And I’m usually not the only one spending long minutes staring at its wonderful physique.
Additional information:The statue has the inventory number 218. There is a post about the Barberini Faun on Khan Academy