Quasyr ‘Amra and the Umayyad bathhouse (Jordan) by Ian Randall

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In the dusty Balqa region of eastern Jordan there sits a modest structure of roughly hewn stone, set until the early part of the 20th century amidst a charming grove of terebinth and pistachio trees. Now starkly surrounded by gravel, dust, and a visitor’s center, the building appears unusual unless you are familiar with the type (Figures 1 & 2). It consists of a large hall, some fourteen by ten and a half meters, capped by three longitudinal barrel vaults (Figure 3 & 4). Directly off this hall at a right angle are three more, significantly smaller rooms, with an additional room beyond the last, only accessible from the outside. The second and third rooms beyond the hall have deep depressions in their floors.  Beyond its construction, which is clearly designed for a specific purpose, the feature of this building that has attracted the attention of scholars, from its first discovery for the West by the colorful adventurer/academic Alois Musil in 1896, is its vibrant wall paintings, 450 m2 of dancers, entertainers, mythological scenes, hunters, builders, naked women, and kings (Figures 5, 6, & 7).

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Madina al-Zahra (Spain) by Serena Alwani

The palace-city of Madina al-Zahra in Spain was built in 936 CE under the Caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III in a hillside at the base of the Sierra Morena. This location, some distance from Cordoba in a lush and well-watered landscape, lends to the complex being functionally more diverse and self-sufficient than its predecessors. Though excavations at the site began in 1910, still only about 10 percent has been properly explored. It is a significant site as one of few royal palace-cities that were not built over in later years (Ruggles 2002 pp. 53).

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Hagia Sophia by Zohra Kalani

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The Hagia Sophia is by far one of the most astounding beacons of art and architecture in history. Its walls have seen the reigns of some of the strongest empires of the past, and this rich political and religious history resonates to this day. Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum, the Hagia Sophia has been a precious gem in the world of architecture. Located in modern-day Istanbul, it is situated at the crossroads of two powerful empires, the Byzantines and the Ottomans. It is the grand representation of two great faiths, and now serves a secular purpose in educating its visitors about the rich history it contains.

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Mapping across time and space Project #3 Uluburun Shipwreck

Group #3: Uluburun Shipwreck

(Emile Bautista, Gabrielle Hick, Thomas Pettengill, Todd Stewart, Guo Wang)

Please click here to see the TimeMapper visualization of the Uluburun Shipwreck

The Uluburun Shipwreck was an ancient ship discovered close to the east shore of Uluburun and was, in its time, the deepest shipwreck to be completely excavated by underwater archaeologists. The wreck contained a significant cargo of trading goods, many of which originated from thousands of miles away. The ship was most likely sailing from a Levantine port, carrying Canaanite merchants to a Mycenaean emporium, when it sank off the coast of southern Turkey around 1305 BCE. The bulk of the items found were trade goods purchased or obtained along the Levantine coast, with the rest of the cargo most likely consisting of personal belongings of the crew and passengers. The most significant portion of the cargo was copper ore and ingots from Cyprus. The trade goods varied in both quality and kind, ranging from luxury items like Canaanite gold jewelry to jars of incense. Although the origins of the items found at the Uluburun shipwreck covered a geographical range as far west as Romania and as far east as Afghanistan, the majority of the trade goods were traced back to the Levantine coast, which was controlled by the Egyptian and Hittite Empires during this time. The bulk of the goods on board – the copper ingots and ore – originated from the island of Cyprus, which at this time had a Mycenaean presence but was independent of any large empire. Other commodities included Egyptian ebony, 2,000 pounds of terebinth resin stored in Canaanite jars, and almost 200 coloured disc-shaped glass ingots from the northern Levantine coast.

While it is inferred from the personal possessions found on board that the crew and ship were either from Canaan or Cyprus, certain personal items seem to indicate that two crewmembers were Mycenaean. A number of weights were also discovered in the wreckage, and considering merchants traditionally owned a personal set of weights, it may be argued that the seemingly out of place Mycenaeans were travelling merchants. However, the lack of any Aegean weights further proves that the Mycenaeans on board were not merchants, and therefore were most likely crewmembers. The stone sceptre head found, whose closest parallel was discovered in modern day Bulgaria, helps to connect this ship and its trading endeavors to the lands north of Greece. Additionally, the tin ore found, mined in Afghanistan, indicates trading relationships between the eastern Mediterranean world and Asian tribes almost as far east as the Himalayas. Therefore, the excavated artifacts prove that the Levantine coast and Cyprus would have served as centres of major international trade, connecting not only the two major powers of the Hittite and Egyptian Empire, but also the Mycenaean culture and those tribes as far inland as Afghanistan.

While international trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, to an extent, centred on the Mycenaean culture and the Hittite and Egyptian Empires, this was in the context of a larger web of international trade which, as previously suggested, involved trading powers as far east as Afghanistan and as far west as Romania. While none of these international powers directly controlled Cyprus, the island served as a major source for material resources like copper, and more importantly, was a strategically important centre for trade. It has been postulated that the Uluburun ship had even set sail from Cyprus, which would make sense given the vast amount of copper found on board. By sourcing the origins of all the items found in the Uluburun Shipwreck, a detailed picture of international trade during the Late Bronze Age can be painted. The Uluburun Shipwreck proves a significant archaeological find; the historical information archaeologists may ascertain from the wreckage more precious than any copper ingots.

The TimeMapper program was extremely useful for visualizing the connections between trading powers in the Late Bronze Age. It allowed for the mapping of the shipwreck’s contents, as well as where and when they were from, creating a map that simplifies the trade networks.

Mapping across time and space Project #2 Doric Temples

Group #2: Doric Temples

(Aubree Moore, Liam Casey, Alexandra DeFrancesco, Sophie Cohen, and Grace Cinderella)

Please click here to see the TimeMapper visualization of Doric Temples

In this project, our group was responsible for mapping the location of Doric temples built by ancient Greek cultures, as well as determining the timeframe in which these temples were built. We discovered that contrary to what is commonly believed, Athens was not the main location in which Doric temples were found. Many of the earliest Doric temples were actually located in regions outside of Athens, with some appearing as far away as Sicily. The Temple of Apollo at Thermon and Temple of Hera at Pasteum demonstrate how some cities outside of Athens served as leading forces of artistic expression and monument building beginning in the Archaic period.

The Archaic Temple of Apollo at Thermon served as a prime example of an Ancient Greek Doric temple. Multicolored ceramic metopes decorated with mythical scenes, such as Perseus grasping the head of Medusa and a hunter thought to represent Heracles, adorned the top of the temple, signifying the universal prevalence of mythological figures in Ancient Greek cult.[1] The metopes at Thermon are the earliest known remnants of this art form, which appeared in many other Doric temples as a component of the frieze — demonstrating the influence that this temple presumably had on other Greek Doric temples across the Eastern Mediterranean.[2] The temple also later served as a location for the assembly of Aetolian League and was therefore an important center of political activity within Thermon, the focal point of political and religious activity within Aetolia.[3] The Temple of Apollo at Thermon indicates the significance of Doric temples located outside of Athens, perhaps even suggesting that this temple, and others of this period, may have influenced the monumental temples of Athens – Athens may not have been the first to represent the designs we have come to know as Doric.

The Temple of Hera at Pestaeum was one of the most interesting temples of the Doric style and the development of that style. The temple contains some characteristics that are not commonly seen in Doric temples such as a different method of spacing the columns on the front and the incorporation of Ionic characteristics. The temple was also one of the first sites to have certain features which later became common to the Doric style: the entasis and the use of interaxial measurement as the basis for the measurement of the whole temple. [4] The Temple of Hera at Pestaeum serves as a powerful example of the artistic development of the Doric style that took place outside of Athens. Many of the features used in the temple were incorporated into later Doric temples and it is clear that many later architects took inspiration directly from the temples design. Much like the Temple of Apollo at Thermon, the Temple of Hera at Pasteum also indicates the significance of the Doric style and monumental architecture outside of Athens and reinforces the notion that Athens was not the original and only developer of the Doric style.

Although our time-mapper project mainly focuses regions other than Athens, it is important to consider Athens in the discussion of Doric temples. Looking at one, if not the most, famous temple the Parthenon in Athens, modern scholars as well as the general public are constantly reminded of this architectural style. That being said, the temples mentioned our time map highlight that these temples, although less known, are equally as important in the discussion of Doric style and should not be overlooked.

[1] James Whitley, The Archaeology of Ancient Greece (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 160; J.H. Croon, “Artemis Thermia and Apollo Thermios (With an Excursus on the Oetean Heracles-Cult),” Mnemosyne 9, no. 3 (1956): 206.

[2] R. M. Cook, “The Archetypal Doric Temple,” The Annual of the British School at Athens 65 (1970): 17-18.

[3] Whitley, 160; Croon, “Artemis Thermia and Apollo Thermios (With an Excursus on the Oetean Heracles-Cult),” 205.

[4] Symeonoglou, Sarantis . “The Doric Temples of Paestum.” Journal of Aesthetic Education. no. 1 (1985): 49-66. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3332558? (accessed March 31, 2014).

Mapping across time and space Project #1 The Buildings of Delphi

Group #1: The Buildings of Delphi

(Logan Bonney, Angela Cao, Mario Gionnazzo, Abigail Moses, Ashley Urrutia)

Please click here to see the TimeMapper Visualization of the Buildings of Delphi

Nestled in a bucolic valley of the Greek countryside, the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi was an important pan-Hellenic site. Before the sanctuary was dedicated to Apollo, it was dedicated to Ge, mother earth. Delphi housed many significant temples, treasuries, and monuments kept by some of the most prominent city states of the Greek world. The site housed the influential oracle Pythia, whose prophetic declarations were sought by influential leaders before they made important decisions like going to war. Delphi was also the site of the Pythian Games, wherein a year-long truce among the cities allowed the Amphictyonic League to focus on preparing for the games.

Due to its status as a hub of Greek religious and political gatherings, Delphi acted as a stage upon which rival powers displayed their might through lavish gifts to Apollo and the construction of grand monuments, temples, and treasuries. These structures, built to advertise the wealth of their donor cities, reflected the competition that existed amongst the cities.  They also represented competitions among the Gods.  The style, position, dedicator, and who it was dedicated to showcased the diachronic changing of power and politics in the Aegean.  For example, in the building of treasuries Greek powers jostled for prime real estate within the sanctuary to win Apollo’s favor and display their power and wealth in the most conspicuous locations. Areas along the sacred way were coveted, and rival polities constructed their treasuries close to one another, begging comparison with their neighbors. The city state of Thebes built its treasury opposite of a group of Spartan statues on the other side of the sanctuary. The Thebans intended for their large, simply crafted treasury to be compared with the lavish spartan statues near the sanctuaries gates. The Siphnian Treasury was built next to the Sikyonian on a natural incline of the terrain so that it looked over its neighbor and could be seen from outside of the sanctuary. Since there was limited space, treasuries were relatively small, causing there to be little differentiation in the size of each structure. Since polities were unable to construct treasuries which were physically bigger than their neighbors they displayed their wealth and power through ornate column groupings and elaborate metopes. In some cases treasuries were intentionally built with austere facades to represent the no-frills piety of their donor state.

The Timemapper software showed how the buildings fit together and allowed a more comprehensive look at the progression of the site from the Geometric through the Hellenistic periods.  We found the most helpful feature was the temporal separation of the buildings, which allowed us to look at phases of the site.  This is contrasted with maps, which don’t have the fluidity necessary to model changing political rivalries.  Utilizing the software, we could see building patterns and trends such as the rise of military dedications in the first half of the fifth century, which we could then tie to the Persian wars and showed the changing nature of Greekness and the tension between polis and larger alliances.

Bibliography

Michael Scott, Delphi and Olympia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Delphi. Coastal Carolina University Ashes2Art, n.d. Web. <http://www.coastal.edu/ashes2art/delphi2/index.html>.

Vandenberg, Philipp. Mysteries of the Oracles: The Last Secrets of Antiquity. London: Tauris   Parke Paperbacks, 2007.

From the Collections: An erotic oil lamp (Zakaria Enzminger)

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Objects and artifacts, far from being inanimate creations, exert an agency imbued by their creators depending on the purpose of the creation. These can have multiple functions, be it for symbolic or practical use, or a combination of both depending on the circumstances of the objects usage, and how exactly its representation is interpreted. Materials such as gold and silver are deemed precious, yet functionally are less valuable than copper or steel in their practical usage. Similarly, symbols of kingship and religion, such as saintly relics, affirm legitimacy and exert agency far beyond the material value of the objects, and such value changes overtime with shifts in cultural and material perceptions. For the purpose of this blog, I will be using a simple terracotta oil lamp as an example of an artifact reflecting cultural values and norms of its context. This will include a brief description of the object, and how the matter, form and aesthetics of the object reflect the cultural milieu of its use.

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From the Collections: A turquoise glazed vessel (Serena Alwani)

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The artifact I have selected is a lightweight and very attractive earthenware vessel of unknown provenance. Its design lends to the idea that it was used by an individual of high social standing, possibly for the consumption of wine or some other beverage. It was most likely wheel-formed given its symmetry and the thinness of the fabric, also indicating skilled craftsmanship.

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From the Collections: A bronze lamp from Khurasan (Zohra Kalani)

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This is an ornate bronze lamp, dating back to somewhere between the 12-14th centuries, most likely of Iranian origin. It is clear that the body, handle, base, and lid were cast separately by the presence of the welding marks between each individual part. The handle has a thumb rest at the top, with the figure of a mythical hybrid of a woman and bird, which was in typical fashion of oil lamps from the region of Khorasan. There are intricate geometric designs of a different metal engraved onto the surface of the lamp. These designs are fairly common of Islamic art, which use intricate geometric figures and symmetrical designs.  With closer examination, however, one can see the form of a bird hidden in the geometric and linear design on the sides of the lamp.   At the top of the lamp is a line of pseudo-Kufic script, which compliments the geometric and linear designs found all over the body and base. Though it is a dark, aged green color now, the lamp at the time of its use would have been a magnificent, gleaming bronze.

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