Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Ancient handshake about to go extinct

Assyrian King Shalmaneser III shaking hands with a Babylonian ruler.The handshake goes back to the dawning of ancient history but the reason and origin of it are not known. One of the oldest depictions of the handshake is from a ninth-century B.C. relief. A handshake was a symbol of loyalty and friendship in ancient Rome and clasped hands are often found on coins.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

The Battle of Marathon

The battle of Marathon is one of history's most famous military engagements and one of the earliest recorded battles. In 490 BC a Persian armada of 600 ships disgorged a force of 20,000 on Greek soil just north of Athens. Their mission was to crush the Greek states. Athens mobilized 10,000 hoplite warriors. The two armies met on the Plain of Marathon 26 miles north of Athens.
Greek general Miltiades made a passionate plea for boldness and convinced his fellow generals to attack the Persians. Miltiades ordered the Greek hoplites to form a line equal in length to that of the Persians. Then - in an act that his enemy believed to be madness - he ordered his Greek warriors to attack the Persian line at a dead run. In the ensuing melee, the middle of the Greek line gave way, but the flanks were able to engulf and slaughter the trapped Persians. An estimated 6,400 Persians were slaughtered while only 192 Greeks were killed.

The remaining Persians escaped on their ships and made an attempt to attack what they thought was an undefended Athens. However, the Greek warriors made a forced march back to Athens and arrived in time to thwart the Persians.
Corinthian Helmet and Skull from the Battle of Marathon 490 BCE – Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. A pivotal moment in Ancient Greek history, the battle of Marathon saw a smaller Greek force, mainly made up of Athenian troops, defeat an invading Persian army.

A fierce and bloody battle, with numerous casualties, it appears that this helmet (with skull inside) belonged to a Greek hoplite (soldier) who died during the fighting.

The story of the man who ran back to Athens with the news of the victory became synonymous with the long distance running event in the Olympics.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Gold Treasure of Nagyszentmiklos

The Gold Treasure of Nagyszentmiklos is the largest known hoard of early medieval gold vessels. The Treasure of Nagyszentmiklos was discovered accidentally in the Banat region of the Habsburg Empire in 1799. Its total weight is about 10 kg. It is remarkable for its quality and precision of craftsmanship.
Studies over the last few decades have revealed that the treasure was gathered over a long period of time, from the late 7th to the late 8th century AD, and seem to confirm its links to the Avar culture.

Monday, 20 April 2020

The Hoxne Hoard

The 1992 discovery brought the two men a finder’s fee of £1.75m.When Peter Whatling lost his hammer near Hoxne, Suffolk, he asked a friend with a metal detector to help out. They found something. The Hoxne Hoard is the largest hoard of late Roman silver and gold discovered in Britain, and the largest collection of gold and silver coins of the fourth and fifth centuries found anywhere within the Roman Empire. 14,780 gold and silver coins, along with 200 jewellery items,ornaments and tableware were found.
The hoard was part of the accumulated wealth of the affluent Roman Aurelius Ursicinus.
The hoard is made up of gold and silver coins and jewellery, amounting to a total of 3.5 kilograms (7.7 lb) of gold and 23.75 kilograms (52.4 lb) of silver.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Treasures of Ancient Nubia

Gilt-silver mummy mask of Queen Malakaye (664–653 BC)
An exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, titled 'Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia', provided insight into the meticulous craftsmanship of Ancient Nubia (located mostly in what’s now Sudan).

The show included more than 100 treasures from the MFA’s collection of jewelry from Ancient Nubia. The MFA’s collection dates from 1700 BC to AD 300 and is considered the most comprehensive of any outside of Khartoum. Gold and the Gods showcases elaborate necklaces, amulets, stacked bracelets, and earrings discovered inside the tombs of Nubian kings and queens.

Ancient Nubia ruled the entire Nile Valley during the apex of its power in the eighth century BC. Nubian artisans turned out some of the most sophisticated, finely crafted jewelry of the ancient world.
Hathor-headed crystal pendant (743–712 BC)
In addition to an array of gold objects, the exhibition shows jewelry made with lapis lazuli, blue chalcedony, amethystine quartz, and carnelian. Several pieces incorporate enamel and glass, rare and valuable materials at the time. Owners of these adornments valued them not only for their intrinsic beauty and as signs of wealth and status, but for magical powers that protected them in life and on their journey to the afterlife.
Nubian goldsmiths and jewelers employed methods that wouldn’t be reinvented in Europe for another thousand years.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

The Staffordshire Hoard

With more than 3,500 items, amounting to some 5kg of gold and 1.4kg of silver – plus thousands of garnets – the Staffordshire hoard is the largest cache of Anglo-Saxon metalwork ever found.
Archaeologists believe the treasures were captured over several large mid-seventh century battles. It's likely that they were seized by the English midlands kingdom of Mercia from the kingdoms of Northumbria, East Anglia and possibly Wessex.
The items are almost exclusively military. The hoard was made up of fittings from up to 150 swords, gold and garnet elements of high status seax (fighting knifes), a gilded silver helmet, crosses, and a probable bishop’s headdress.
The ornate bishop’s headdress is the world’s earliest surviving example of high status ecclesiastical headgear. One element bears an inscription – a quotation from the Book of Numbers. It reads “Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee”.

It is possible that the hoard was war booty captured by the pagan Mercian king, Penda, from armies led by Christians.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Golden Kingdoms: the Ancient Americas

Octopus Frontlet, 300–600, Moche culture
Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas, was on view at the Getty Center in 2018. It traced the development of gold working and other luxury arts in the ancient Americas from about 1000 BC to the arrival of Europeans in the early 16th century. The exhibit reveals the ways ancient Americans used not only metals, but also jade, shell, and feathers.
Ear Ornament Depicting a Warrior, 640–680, Moche.
It was a world where feathers were more valuable than gold. The rarest feathers, including the iridescent green feathers of the quetzal, were reserved for the Aztec emperor himself.

The unprecedented exhibition featured 300 works from 53 lenders in 12 countries.
The MET exhibition traced the development of gold-working in the Americas from its origins in the Andes, to its expansion northward into Central America, and finally to Mexico, where gold-working comes into its own only after 1000 AD.
Jade plaque showing a seated king and palace attendant, 600–800 AD

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Sword of Damocles

Damocles is a character who appears in a anecdote commonly referred to as "the Sword of Damocles." This refers to the imminent peril faced by those in positions of power. Damocles was a courtier in the court of Dionysius II of Syracuse, a 4th-century BC ruler. Damocles was pandering to Dionysius, and exclaimed to him that Dionysius was truly fortunate as a great man of power and authority. In response, Dionysius offered to switch places with Damocles for one day. Damocles eagerly accepted the king's proposal.

Dionysius, who had many enemies, had a huge sword above the throne, held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse's tail. Dionysius did this to evoke the sense of what it's like to be king: though having fortune, always having to watch in fear and anxiety against dangers that might try to take it away.
Damocles finally begged the king that he be allowed to depart because he no longer wanted to be so fortunate, realizing that with great fortune and power also comes great danger.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Hawaiian Kona-style statue of the god of war Ku-ka’ili-moku - $7.5m

Offered in the 'Collection Vérité' on 21 November 2017 at Christie’s in Paris.

Hawaiian figurative sculptures are incredibly rare. Kamehameha I associated himself with the war god Ku-ka’ili-moku — the ‘land snatcher’ or ‘island eater’. This example was made circa 1780-1820 from the Metrosideros, a tree found in the high mountains of Hawaii. The figures that are known are all in museums. The statue made a whooping $7.5m blowing well past it's $3.5m estimate.

Also being auctioned is a Uli figure, which is a type of wooden statue carved only in the villages of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. $ 3.4m

Tribal art is rising in value and has been doing so for many years. The reason is extreme rarity, there are more and more museums, but fewer and fewer pieces.