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.

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.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great

A study claims to identify King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, and determines he was buried in Tomb I, not Tomb II, as previously thought.

The tombs were discovered in 1977 in the village of Vergina in northern Greece. Gold caskets were found housing the remains of several people.
Studies were published concerning human remains found in the 24-carat larnax in Tomb II
Philip II was the 18th king of Macedonia (359–336 BC). He gained domination over all Greece, laying the foundation for its expansion under Alexander. Philip II is described as a powerful king with a complicated love life. He married between five and seven women, causing confusion over the line of succession. In 336 BC, Philip II was assassinated at a celebration of his daughter's wedding, perhaps at the behest of his former wife, Olympias. Olympias was the fourth wife of Philip II, and mother of Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great succeeded his father as king.

The golden larnax and the golden grave crown of Philip
An investigation was launched to analyze more than 350 bones and fragments found in the two golden caskets. The research team utilized X-ray computed tomography, scanning electron microscopy, and X-ray fluorescence. The skull showed signs of sinusitis, which may have been caused by an old facial trauma, such as the arrow that is known to have hit and blinded Philip II at the siege of Methone in 354 BC. There are signs of chronic pathology on the surface of several ribs, which are believed to be linked to Philip’s trauma when he was struck with a lance around 345 BC.
Alexander the Great in Pompeii mosaic.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire

In 2017 the de Young Museum hosted the exhibit “Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire.” More than 200 artifacts were featured, some never displayed before. Teotihuacan was established in the first century BC. By the fifth century it had evolved into an important urban center and multicultural metropolis, becoming the largest city in the Western Hemisphere. The so-called “City of the Gods” is estimated to contain 100,000 people at it's peak. Around 550 CE, the city was destroyed by fire.
900 years after its destruction, the Aztecs made their way into a ghost city in the northeastern part of the Valley of Mexico. There, the Aztecs considered Teotihuacan to be the city where the gods brought the world into existence.

Teotihuacan means the place where men become gods.

Friday, 10 April 2020

The friezes of Persepolis

Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC) and is a World Heritage Site. It is situated 60km northeast of the city of Shiraz in Iran. The friezes from Persepolis are of the highest artistic merit.
After invading Achaemenid Persia in 330 BC, Alexander the Great sent his army to Persepolis by the Royal Road. He stormed the "Persian Gates", a pass through the modern-day Zagros Mountains. Alexander's troops looted Persepolis.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

The Carambolo Treasure

While archaeologists believe the horde was deliberately buried in the sixth century B.C., most of the jewelry was likely made two centuries earlier.The Carambolo Treasure is a hoard of ancient gold discovered by construction workers near Seville in 1958. It is a collection of 21 pieces of goldwork, including a necklace, several chest decorations shaped like ox skins, and lavish bracelets.
Analysis revealed that the gold likely came from the same mines associated with underground tombs at Valencina de la Concepcion, which date to the third millennium B.C.
While the gold was sourced locally, the jewelry was mostly manufactured using Phoenician techniques. A Phoenician temple has been identified in the area where the Carambolo Treasure horde was found.