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
My ARCHAEO-Crush for the first month of 2016 is cutest thing…
Type: organic remains (animal mummy) Civilisation: Ancient Egypt Date: no idea (!) ARCHAEO-Crush: I don’t think an ARCHAEO-Crush can get any cuter than these little cat mummies!!! Aren’t they absolutely adorable? The cat mummies are amongst the many mummies of the Musée du Louvre; however, there isn’t any information about them on the gallery labels or the museum website. Nothing regarding their discovery or their date. Zilch, niet, nada. What is remarkable about these little mummies is that their legs were wrapped separately from their body and they look like gambolling kittens! That is why they are so, so, so cute! Actually, I had never seen cat mummies wrapped like this before. Usually, they look like the little guys in the picture on the left. You have to admit that the effect is not quite the same! It’s unfortunate not too have any additional information… Animal mummies are generally offerings to the gods or sometimes mummified household pets buried with their owners. Bucket list status: I saw these cute mummies back in 2012.
Additional information:Since the Louvre does not have any further information about these kitties, there is not much else I can share with you.
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.
During holidays like (American) Thanksgiving and Christmas, I bring out my archaeological/Egyptological Memory game, which I set up on the coffee table in the living room. When I walk by (while otherwise puttering around the house), I try to find matching pairs of artefacts or galleries of the Neues Museum in Berlin.
A memory game fit for archaeologists and Egyptologists, given to me by my good friend Dana (who happens to be an Egyptologist herself).
When 5pm rolled around, I was officially off for the long Thanksgiving weekend and the game came out. I have already found four out of thirty-six pairs. (Still looking for Nefertiti.) Even though I do have some activities planned this weekend, I’m pretty sure I’ll find them all by Sunday evening!
Are you looking for a little something archaeological to do with the family during the Holidays? If yes, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History is presenting an interesting exhibition about Agatha Christie and archaeology. Indeed, the Queen of crime is intimately linked to archaeology: not only did she used several important historical and archaeological sites in a number of novels, she also was married to archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan, whom she accompanied on excavations in Mesopotamia.
Excerpts about the exhibition from the Museum’s website:
Pointe-à-Callière is mounting Investigating Agatha Christie, an original exhibition focusing on an exceptional woman whose unusual life and compelling novels left their mark on international literature. The exhibition, to run from December 8, 2015 to April 17, 2016, will look at Agatha Christie through her work, her imagination and her world, including archaeology. It is one of the major international events planned to mark the 125th anniversary of the famous novelist’s birth, on September 15, 1890. … Christie drew heavily on archaeology and history as inspiration for many of her famous novels, including Murder in Mesopotamia, They Came to Baghdad, Appointment with Death and Death Comes as the End. She also described daily life on dig sites in a fascinating little book entitled Come, Tell Me How You Live. She wrote that an archaeologist and a detective have much in common: both must come to understand an event (recent or in the distant past) using their observation skills and clues that are brought to light, piecing them together and relying on a bit of luck, too!
No wonder many archaeologists are fans of Christie’s novels! Indeed, I count myself amongst them: I am quite fond of Hercule Poirot (slowly but surely, I have been re-reading all the Poirot stories in order). I’m very much tempted to go see this exhibition. Perhaps I might have time during the holiday…
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.