Category Archives: Virtual Vault

Weekly object highlights from archaeological collections at Brown University.

‘Grand Tour’ Plaster Intaglio Casts

Object: JI1819a-c
JIAAW Collection

While the provenance of these particular objects is unknown, plaster reliefs such as these were popular souvenirs in the 18th and 19th centuries. A tradition for wealthy young European men and women was a Grand Tour of Europe, lasting for months or even years, with visits to major cities and cultural sites. Artisans took advantage of the popularity of carved gems by making similar objects out of less expensive materials, such as plaster, to be purchased by travelers as mementos of their tour. Plaster intaglio casts were often mounted into books or cases and usually depict historical and mythological figures and scenes. The theme of this set of casts is “Mitologia” (mythology).

-Jess Porter, JIAAW Operations and Events Coordinator

See other examples of plaster intaglio casts and learn more about The Grand Tour here:

Untitled Document

“As such it (the Grand Tour) fulfilled a major social need, namely the necessity of finding young men, who were not obliged to work and for whom work would often be a derogation, something to do between school and the inheritance of family wealthŠIt allowed the young to sow their wild oats abroad and it kept them out of trouble, including disputed with their family, at home.”

Italy on the Grand Tour (Getty Exhibitions)

Three exhibitions at the Getty explore the Grand Tour and its importance as an 18th-century artistic and cultural phenomenon.

From the Harvard Art Museums’ collections Collection of 114 Plaster Casts in a wooden box

Identification and Creation Physical Descriptions Medium Wooden box, plaster casts Dimensions 8.8 x 20.3 x 33.4 cm (3 7/16 x 8 x 13 1/8 in.) Provenance Dr. George E. Ellis, Boston, MA; [1] to the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA, gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1910.

Olpe

Object: 19
JIAAW, Bishop Collection

The olpe is one of the earlier types of the oinochoe and specifically has no spout and a high handle above the lip. In English, its most equivalent term is the pitcher. During meals or drinking, it would serve as a measure of how much wine had been consumed. 

-Elaina Kim ‘21, JIAAW Records and Collections Assistant 2017/18

See other examples of olpe here:

Olpe (Getty Museum)

Olpe; Attributed to Painter of Malibu 85.AE.89 (namepiece); Corinth, Greece; about 625 B.C.; Terracotta; 32.8 × 17 cm (12 15/16 × 6 11/16 in.); 85.AE.89; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California; Rights Statement: No Copyright – United States

Olpe

Penn Museum Object MS714 – Olpe

Olpe

The information about this object, including provenance information, is based on historic information and may not be currently accurate or complete. Research on objects is an ongoing process, but the information about this object may not reflect the most current information available to CMA.

Ceramic Rim Sherd

Object: 132
JIAAW, Bishop Collection

Archaeologists classify sherds (pottery fragments) into three main categories: rim sherds, body sherds, and base sherds. In order for a sherd to be identified as a rim sherd, it must include at least a small piece of the lip of the vessel – like this sherd from the acropolis at Pergamon. Archaeologists use the angle of the rim sherd to determine what kind of rim the original vessel had (inslanting, flared, or vertical are some of the most common categories) and measure the curve of the rim sherd to determine the size of the vessel’s opening. These tiny fragments can tell us a surprising amount about the vessels they came from!

-Jinette Jimenez ‘21, JIAAW Records and Collections Assistant

See other examples of rim sherds:

alabastron | British Museum

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Jar rim sherd | Early Bronze Age | The Met

1968-69, excavated by Julian Reade, on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq; acquired by the Museum in 1972, as a result of its financial contribution to the excavations.

Rim Sherd

Penn Museum Object 64-37-2 – Rim Sherd

Lead Wreath

Object: 1550
JIAAW, Old Department Collection

This lead wreath was found in the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia in Sparta, Greece. The sanctuary was established in the 9th century BCE and was an important site for centuries – being rebuilt, expanded, and incorporated into new structures up until the 3rd century CE. The sanctuary was devoted to Artemis Orthia, likely a merging of the widely known Greek goddess Artemis and the local Spartan goddess Orthia, both of whom were known as goddesses of hunting and wilderness.

Excavations at the sanctuary have revealed that tiny lead figurines and miniature ceramic vessels were commonly left as offerings, and often in large numbers. More than 100,000 lead figurines depicting people, animals, and wreaths have been excavated from the site and they seem to have peaked in popularity around the second half of the 5th century BCE. Other offerings found in the sanctuary include terracotta figurines, brooches, pins, buttons, and trinkets made of bronze, ivory, gold, and silver.

-Jess Porter, JIAAW Operations and Events Coordinator

Learn more about the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia and see other examples of lead votives:

Who was Artemis-Orthia?

When most people think of ancient Greece, the Classical city of Athens usually springs to mind. Yet, Sparta in the Peloponnese, is known as the military state and is the total antithesis of the city of Athens.

VOTIVE OFFERINGS FROM THE SANCTUARY OF ARTEMIS ORTHIA, SPARTA, IN LIVERPOOL COLLECTIONS

https://www.jstor.com/stable/44082091 Two museums in the city of Liverpool have material from the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, Sparta: the Garstang Museum of Archaeology in the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, and World Museum, part of National Museums Liverpool.

Lead wreath of lotus buds | Greek, Laconian | Archaic | The Met

Small flat votive figurines of cast lead have been found in great quantities at the ancient sanctuaries of Laconia; over one hundred thousand, dating from the seventh century B.C. to the Classical period, were dedicated to the goddess Artemis Orthia in Sparta.

Lead wreath | Greek, Laconian | Archaic | The Met

Small flat votive figurines of cast lead have been found in great quantities at the ancient sanctuaries of Laconia; over one hundred thousand, dating from the seventh century B.C. to the Classical period, were dedicated to the goddess Artemis Orthia in Sparta.

Lead figure of a winged goddess, possibly Artemis Orthia | Greek, Laconian | Archaic | The Met

Small flat votive figurines of cast lead have been found in great quantities at the ancient sanctuaries of Laconia; over one hundred thousand, dating from the seventh century B.C. to the Classical period, were dedicated to the goddess Artemis Orthia in Sparta.

Etruscan Bucchero Kantharos

Object: 45
JIAAW, van Heusen Collection

This small cup is a beautiful example of a quintessential Etruscan vessel: a drinking cup of a Greek type made in the typically Etruscan bucchero sottile. As a drinking cup, it is very much associated with the symposium or feasting banquet that became very prominent in Etruria (Central Italy, roughly modern Tuscany and Lazio) during the 7th and 6th centuries BCE.

The shape is that of a typical kantharos, defined by the two vertical loop handles that rise well above the rim of the cup, and which obviously served to hold the vessel. While this particular cup is rather small at just under 5 cm high, that doesn’t make it a miniature or leave it without parallels (cf. below). It is most likely handmade, possibly with the help of a mold and/or a slow turntable. The most defining feature is its pitch-black appearance, achieved through firing in a well-controlled environment without oxygen (reduced firing), and the careful polishing, which gives the vessel its characteristic shiny look – and which is captured by the Italian term bucchero; the qualification sottile indicates that it is thin-walled, which is characteristic for older, mostly Archaic products. Both the shape (classifiable as Rasmussen 3A) and the bucchero production suggest a date in the later 7th century BCE.

This cup finds a practically identical match, including its size, in a specimen held in the British Museum, which is recorded as coming from Vulci, in southern Etruria (Lazio, north of Rome). Our cup is without provenance, but the close parallel and the highly characteristic bucchero product make it very likely that our cup may also be attributed to southern Etruria. Such cups typically come from funerary contexts, which would be chamber tombs constructed under mounds, which have long been looted for their contents. The fact that our cup had been broken and restored before being donated to Brown suggests that this is how it found its way to the US before it was donated to Brown*.

-Peter van Dommelen, Director of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World

See other examples of Kantharoi:

kantharos | British Museum

Black burnished and polished kantharos, Bucchero ware, Rasmussen Type 3a, with a ring foot, two handle and marked on the exterior of the body with a ridge, level with the lower juncture of the handles, one handle has been broken and rejoined, worn and chipped in places.

Kantharos | Etruscan | Archaic | The Met

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*While the provenance of many of the objects in our collection is unclear, the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World is committed to upholding the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970).

Bronze Dog Figurine

Object: 286
JIAAW, Wagner Collection

Happy National Dog Day! In celebration, let’s take a look at object 286 – a solid bronze figurine of a dog begging (sitting up on hind legs with paws drawn to the chest). It’s possible this figurine depicts one of the most popular dogs in antiquity – the Melitan, also known as the Melitaean, Melitean, Melitaian, or Maltese (though it doesn’t closely resemble what we know today as the Maltese Terrier). Representations of this lap dog can be found on vases, gravestones, statues, gems, and coins and show the Melitan to be a small, fluffy, spitz-type dog with a pointed muzzle and a curled trail, often white in color. There are many indications that these dogs were treated as family members – vases show Melitans playing with children, texts tell of Melitans being taken as companions on voyages, and gravestones were erected in their honor.

One Roman gravestone was found with a carved figure of a dog and the inscription:
HELENAE ALUMNAE
ANIMAE
INCOMPARABILI ET
BENE MERENTI
Which can be translated as “Helena, foster-daughter, a soul incomparable and well-deserving,” suggesting that the ancient Romans loved their fur babies just as much as we do!

-Jess Porter, JIAAW Operations and Events Coordinator

Learn more about Melitans and see other depictions of these ancient lap dogs:

Philadelphia 75-10-1 (Vase)

Condition: The surface of the vase is chipped and worn, especially on the handle and lip. Decoration Description: Maltese dog and grapes. A Maltese dog stands to the right, his right forepaw off the ground. A bunch of grapes hangs above him. Shape Description: The vessel has a trefoil lip.

chous | British Museum

Pottery: red-figured chous. A boy, with a mantle rolled around his left shoulder, walking with short steps and bent head to the right, playing on a chelys. In front of him a Spitz dog bounds forward, with an oinochoe wreathed with ivy lying on its back (?).

Terracotta rhyton (vase for libations or drinking) | Greek, South Italian, Apulian, Tarentine | Hellenistic | The Met

Hôtel Drouot. May 11-14, 1903. Collection d’Antiquités Grecques & Romaines: vases peints et moulés, terres cuites, verrerie, sculptures, bronzes, bijoux. no. 14, lot 165, pl. VIII. Canessa, Ercole and Arthur Sambon. 1904. Vases Antiques de Terre Cuite: Collection Canessa, Bibliothèque du Musée. no. 159, p. 46, pl. XII, Paris. Hoffmann, Herbert.

The Maltese Dog

J. Busuttil, The Maltese Dog, Greece & Rome, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Oct., 1969), pp. 205-208

The Melitan Miniature Dog: The most popular lapdog in antiquity

There is something so disarming, so human, about reading that the ancient Greeks and Romans kept dogs as pets – not just as hunting hounds, but also as tiny companions. The Melitan, while it is not the only kind of miniature dog mentioned in surviving texts (a “Gallic miniature dog” was named once in Martial’s…

Roman Sling Bullet

Object: 1546
JIAAW, Old Department Collection

Lead sling bullets like this one were widely used in the Greek and Roman world. This sling bullet is a typical biconical (almond) shape and was probably made in a two part mold. The mold was incised with a spear and a winged thunderbolt (a common symbol of power), resulting in the raised designs you see on the final cast bullet. Inscriptions on sling bullets are not uncommon and range from names of people and cities, to symbols (as seen on this object), to commands or exclamations. The collection of the British Museum includes one sling bullet, linked to below, inscribed with the word ‘Catch’!

-Jess Porter, JIAAW Operations and Events Coordinator

See other examples of sling bullets:

sling-shot | British Museum

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sling-shot | British Museum

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Lead sling bullet | Cypriot | The Met

The Met Fifth Avenue is planning to reopen on August 29, pending state and city approval.

Terracotta Dancers

Object: 256
JIAAW, Wagner Collection

To someone like me who studies the Greco-Roman world, at first glance this is a very familiar scene and artefact. The two terracotta dancing figures display a quite common Hellenistic (4th/3rd century BC) image, and we find many examples of this kind in Greece (Athens and Tanagra) or Southern Italy (Sicily or Taranto). It’s a great period for sculpture, in which we suddenly see a lot more dynamics, movement, and emotion allowed in statues, together with the depiction of more “common” people (as opposed to the earlier period that predominantly consisted of religious and mythological scenes).

As happy as confirming the above identification would make me, a closer look shows certain particularities that cannot be ignored. The clothing, hairstyles, faces, and postures are different, for instance. The execution of this object is much cruder, with far fewer details than the three-dimensional Hellenistic figurines would normally display. The Hellenistic figures were all about details, in the female dress (himation), for instance, so that it could show movement very well. And is that not what you would want in a dancing couple? This figurine therefore could be either an exceptionally carelessly executed example or a Roman or maybe even way later copy (or fake?) of these kinds of statuettes. It reminds me of Italian dancing I participated in at village parties I attended a lot during my fieldwork!

-Eva Mol, Greco-Roman Archaeologist (JIAAW Postdoctoral Fellow 2017-2019)

Learn more about Hellenistic sculptures and see similar objects:

How the Natural Beauty of Hellenistic Sculpture Has Captivated the World for Centuries

Hellenistic sculpture is one of art history’s most prized practices. Celebrated for its unprecedented naturalism, this movement introduced a skillful sculptural approach that artists would emulate for years to come. Today, Hellenistic antiquities can be found in top collections across the globe, with world-famous works like the Winged Victory of Samothrace leading the way.

Terracotta statuette of a dancing woman | Greek, South Italian, Tarentine | Hellenistic | The Met

McClees, Helen and Christine Alexander. 1933. The Daily Life of the Greeks and Romans: As Illustrated in the Classical Collections, 5th ed. p. 79, fig. 98, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. McClees, Helen and Christine Alexander. 1941. The Daily Life of the Greeks and Romans: As Illustrated in the Classical Collections, 6th ed.

Terracotta statuette of a dancing woman | Greek, South Italian, Tarentine | Hellenistic | The Met

Richter, Gisela M. A. 1913. “Classical Department: The Accessions of 1912. Sculptures, Terracottas, and Miscellaneous Objects.” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 8(8): p. 177. Richter, Gisela M. A. 1927. Handbook of the Classical Collection. pp. 202-3, fig. 140, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Richter, Gisela M.

Basalt Millstone

Object: Petra33
JIAAW, Loan from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

This rotary mill is made from basalt, a volcanic stone found at Petra. Each mill was made of one stationary stone and one funnel-shaped stone that fit over it. The funnel-shaped stone was turned by animals or people using wooden levers that fit into the slots on the ‘ears’ of the stone.

Mills like this were used to crush grains and remind us of the importance of the agricultural lands outside of Petra’s city center. While many representations of Petra highlight its desert location, water systems designed by the Nabataens directed water around Petra for agricultural uses in the hinterlands and for aesthetic purposes within the city.

This is one of the many artifacts from Brown’s excavations from 1993 to 2008, directed by Martha Sharp Joukowsky, of a series of structures known as the “Great Temple Complex” of Petra. The Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology began its work at Petra with the excavation of the Great Temple, however its involvement has continued with further research on the hinterlands of Petra. The Brown University Petra Archaeological Project (BUPAP) was an archaeological survey of the Petra hinterlands conducted from 2009 to 2013. The Brown University Petra Terraces Archaeological Project (BUPTAP) is currently underway, and is carrying out further research on the terraces examined in BUPAP’s initial research. 

-Jess Porter, JIAAW Operations and Events Coordinator

Learn more about ancient mills:

Basalt Grinding Mill

The basalt grinding millNote the basalt stone of the mill Look at the texture and color of this piece of stone and notice how it differs from the other objects on this tour. The mill is made from basalt, another stone found at Petra that comes from a previous volcanic eruption near the site.

Pompeii Art and Architecture Gallery

The frescoes, mosaics and buildings, by Dr Joanne Berry

Roman Mills

The Romans constructed mills for use in agriculture, mining and construction. Around the 3rd century BCE, the first mills were used to grind grain. Later developments and breakthroughs in milling technology expanded their use to crushing ores in mining and such construction activities as cutting wood and marble.

Red-figure Lekythos

Object: JI1723
JIAAW Collection

This vessel features a squat, cylindrical body with a closed neck and mouth, suggesting it was used to contain and pour a valuable liquid, such as olive oil or perfume. Its distinctive black and red color and style of decoration likely indicate it is Greek, though where it comes from is a mystery. This form is called “lekythos”, a small pouring form commonly used in Greek ritual practice and funerary rituals. These types of vessels often had scenes of daily life on them, and this one features the figure of a nude male.

As a Mediterranean archaeologist, my particular interest is in exploring games in human societies. This Greek vase is really interesting to me because it seems to depict a Greek boxer. I base this interpretation on two observations: First, he is nude, and most Greek athletes performed in games naked. Secondly, in one hand he holds what appears to be leather straps, which were used by Greek boxers during competitions as a kind of boxing glove. He seems to have just finished a match or is about to start one. Boxing was one of the important events held at Greek athletic events held in the Panhellenic Games, which included the major festivals of the Pythian Games, the Isthmian Games, the Nemean Games, and of course, the Olympic Games! Even as a modern viewer, this image brings out memories of the cheers, tension, exultation, and the spectacle of the Olympics games I attended in London 2012!

-Carl Walsh, Mediterranean Archaeologist (JIAAW Postdoctoral Fellow 2017-2019)

Learn more about athletics in ancient Greece and see other depictions of boxing:

Athletics in Ancient Greece | Essay | The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

According to tradition, the most important athletic competitions were inaugurated in 776 B.C. at Olympia in the Peloponnesos. By the sixth century B.C., other Panhellenic ( pan=all, hellenikos=Greek) games involving Greek-speaking city-states were being held at Delphi, Nemea, and Isthmia. Many local games, such as the Panathenaic games at Athens, were modeled on these four periodoi, or circuit games.

White ground oil flask (lekythos) depicting a grave monument for an athlete

White ground oil flask (lekythos) depicting a grave monument for an athlete Place of Manufacture: Greece, Attica, Athens Medium/Technique Ceramic, White Ground, polychrome Dimensions Height: 31.5 cm (12 3/8 in.) Diameter: 10 cm (3 15/16 in.) Credit Line Henry Lillie Pierce Fund Description The grave monument resting on a two-stepped base represented is an unusual type.

Attributed to the Antimenes Painter | Terracotta neck-amphora (jar) of Panathenaic shape | Greek, Attic | Archaic | The Met

Alexander, Christine. 1933[1925]. Greek Athletics. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Richter, Gisela M. A. 1953. Handbook of the Greek Collection. pp. 62, 203, pl. 23g, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Beazley, John D. 1956. Attic Black-figure Vase-painters. pp. 274, 691, no. 124, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Beazley, John D.