Category Archives: ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS

Centuries-old Nandi statues unearthed near Mysuru, India

A pair of centuries-old Nandi statues, carved out of monolithic soapstone, have been unearthed from a dried lake bed in Arasinakere, about 20 km from Mysuru.

The locals, particularly the senior citizens of the village, had earlier been aware of the presence of the Nandis, whose heads appeared to peep out partially whenever the water level in the lake dipped. The complete drying up of the waterbody during summer presented the curious residents an opportunity to dig deeper.

The locals, who dug up the area and even deployed an earth mover during a three-to-four-day exercise, managed to unearth two giant Nandi statues facing each other.

A team of officials from the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, including archaeologist M.L. Gowda and engineer Satish, visited the spot on Monday. Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Gowda said the statues appeared to belong to the 16th or 17th century, dating back to the post-Vijayanagar period. He said they resembled most of the sculptures carved out of the smooth soapstone during that period.

The statues are carved out of a single rock. “The statues are incomplete. While one appears to be 60% completed, the other is at about 85%,” Mr. Gowda said. He added that the statues were also not identical in size.

While one Nandi statue measures 15 ft in length and 12 ft in height, the other statue is smaller. the smaller one is more compact, according to locals.

The horns of the Nandis were observed by the villagers and following this, villagers started offering pujas to them. The statues were excavated on Sunday using earthmovers in a four-day-long operation.

Villagers said that more than ten idols of Gods too were found at this spot but they did not have a specific identity of them. Although these idols are said to be dated to the Mysore Maharaja rule, there is no clarity about this, they said

A report on the excavation has been sent to the Commissioner of the Department Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, T. Venkatesh. For the time being, further excavation has been stopped and the department officials is awaiting instructions from seniors on the measures to be taken for the statues’ conservation. Mr. Gowda said the department had been aware of the presence of the statues. “We conducted a spot inspection during 2016, but the area was covered with shrubs and submerged,” he said.

Meanwhile, citing locals, Jyothi S., Panchayat Development Officer of Marballi Gram Panchayat, under whose purview Arasinakere falls, said the village adjoining the waterbody is named after the Maharaja. Arasinakere, when translated into English, means ‘the king’s lake’, she said.

Locals also claim that the late Maharaja of Mysore, Sri Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, had visited the lake several decades ago and tried to unearth the statues by deploying men and material. However, the labourers had to be abandon the task because of the rising water level in the lake.

While the locals suggest there could be an ancient temple beneath the lake, archaeologists say it is plausible that the Nandi statues had been carved out of the rock found at the spot for transportation to a different destination.

Source – Indian Media

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Scientists solve 100-year-old mystery of yellow desert glass prized by Egyptian pharaohs

Mysterious glass known as Libyan Desert Glass confirmed to be created by meteorite forces almost 29 million years ago has been found in Egypt’s Western desert.

Researchers agreed that this strange glass was originally fragmented throughout both the Egyptian and Libyan Saharan Deserts due to the explosion of an asteroid in the atmosphere, Dailymail reported.

Naturally created with no structured shape, glass is immediately formed once the molten materials cool. This glass was also identified in an ancient scarab made of the exact material and found beside Tutankhamen’s burial materials.

Several ingredients found in the glass, including zircon, were investigated by researchers at Australia’s Curtin University. Results showed that the examined zircon includes a mineral called reidite that is formed under a meteorite effect only.

Silica glass at the Great Sand Sea. Credit: Mohamed El-Hebeishy.

“It has been a topic of ongoing debate as to whether the glass formed during meteorite impact, or during an airburst,” said Aaron Cavosie from Curtin University, as reported by Dailymail.

“Both meteorite impacts and airbursts can cause melting. However, only meteorite impacts create shock waves that form high-pressure minerals,” he added.

Breastplate found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb. The scarab is made out of Libyan desert glass. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Moreover, the air blast that took place in Russia in 2013 encouraged people to support the idea that the glass was formed amid airburst.

prized for its beauty for thousands of years. The glass — the purest natural silica glass ever found on Earth — is generally yellow in color and can be very clear, although most pieces are milky and may even contain tiny bubbles, white wisps, and inky black swirls.

“Previous models suggested that Libyan desert glass represented a large, 100-megatonnes (Mt) class airburst, but our results show this is not the case,” Mr. Cavosie mentioned.

A variety of Libyan Desert Glasses. Credit: Corning Museum of Glasses.

“Meteorite impacts are catastrophic events, but they are not common. Airbursts happen more frequently, but we now know not to expect a Libyan desert glass-forming event in the near future, which is cause for some comfort.”

The research team also included Natural History Museum of Vienna Director, Professor Christian Koeberl.

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ASI unearths treasure in India : 4,000-year-old sacred chambers and coffins found

Ongoing excavations at 4,000-year-old burial sites at Sanauli in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat continue to enthrall archeologists as for the first time the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has unearthed underground “sacred chambers”, decorated “legged coffins” and fascinating artifacts in what is being claimed to be a first in the Indian subcontinent.

In the recent excavation resumed by the Archaeological Survey of India at Sanauli, district Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, two decorated ‘legged coffins’ with two skeletons were discovered along with other fascinating artifacts.

In continuation of the work conducted in 2018 the present excavation is carried out under the direction of Dr. S.K. Manjul, Director, Institute of Archaeology, ASI, to understand the extension of burial site and also habitation area in relation with earlier findings.

Sanauli is located on the left bank of River Yamuna, 68 km north-east of Delhi which brought to light the largest necropolis of late Harappan period datable to around early part of second millennium BCE.

Credits : ANI

The excavation is being carried out at two different areas, the first in the area in continuation of 2018 excavation and the second in the area 200 m east of the former.

In the first area, two burial pits and a sacred chamber of burnt brick were discovered along with burial goods. In burial pit no. 9 one wooden ‘legged coffin’ decorated with steatite inlays having extended skeleton of a female oriented North-South, tilted 10 ˚west is excavated.

This burial pit contains evidence of decomposed bow, bone points, armlet of semiprecious stones, gold bead and pottery including vases, jars, bowls and dish on stand systematically arranged towards north and eastern sides of the coffin. An interesting find from this burial pit is the antenna sword placed near the head.

The pelvis of the skeleton is sinking in the middle indicating the process of decomposition of wooden base of the coffin, a similar feature also seen in the burial pit no.10.

In burial pit no.10 includes extended female skeleton in disturbed condition. The burial goods include copper mirror, hairpin, channel, beads and pottery. Interestingly steatite inlays forming a figure of eight which is probably the lid of a Vanity Box found between two legs of the coffin in north. The coffin is also decorated with steatite inlays similar to coffin in burial no.9. Two big pots are placed under the coffin which could have contained food and other organic remains associated with the rituals.

Another important feature to the north of two coffin burials is a sacred chamber of burnt bricks. The structure has eight courses of bricks on three sides with a probable entrance towards the south. Pottery fragments, brick bats and bones are recovered inside the structure.

The excavation in the second area, unearthed the remains of four furnaces with three associated working levels. The furnaces yielded slags, potsherds, and few charred bones. Stone weights, stone anvils, animal figurines, gamesmen, etc are part of the antiquities recovered from this area. Storage jars and cluster of pottery dump are common feature of the topmost working level. The overall ceramic assemblage has late Harappan characters.

Furnaces have narrow top and broad base with air ducts and mouth to regulate temperature. The nature of these furnaces suggests their long term usage.

The discovery of furnaces from the site indicates towards habitation activity of the period associated with the necropolis. The nature of burial pottery, coffins, antiquities such as antenna sword, pottery, etc. suggest a complex of late Harappan period. Sanauli therefore is important in not only giving new evidences of copper decorated chariots and coffins, shields, halmet in Indian sub continent first time with antenna swords, dagger, etc but also in understanding of the cultural scenario of upper Ganga-Yamuna doab.

The excavation at the site is still in progress.

Picture Courtesy : ASI

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Centuries old Bronze Idols unearthed During Foundation Work In Tamilnadu, India

Indian subcontinent, land of ancient Vedic Civilization continue to amaze us with its grand treasures, this time with Centuries old bronzes.

In Kongudi village of Aranthangi Taluk in Pudukottai district of Tamilnadu, centuries old Bronze Idols were found buried under the earth and were retrieved when the spot was excavated for foundation work.

Lord Nataraja with Goddess Sivagami idols found during the construction work
Soma Skandha Murthy of Lord Shiva

Seven Idols have been excavated in all and include a Nataraja with Sivagami and Somaskanda Shiva, Skandha and a standing Sukravara Ambal Vigraha.

Skandha and a standing Sukravara Ambal Vigraha

There is an Amman temple (Goddess) in this village and adjacent to it for constructing a Local Panchayath office building, the land was excavated using a JCP Machine. During this it was found that many Bronze idols were kept buried in the spot.

Local people praying for the idols of goddess

The idols were then carefully dug out. The Goddess idol /Ambal Vigraha alone weighed 50 kg.There were three more Devi Bronzes and a Bhairava Vigraha, All the Idols were handed over to the local Tahsildar and are expected to be handed over to the Archaeology Department by the Revenue Department.

Villagers with Unearthed Bronzes

Yet to receive the actual period of these bronzes from
Archaeology Department of India.Special thanks to Dr.K P Ravichandran.

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The discovery of a rock tomb dating back to the Greco-Roman era in western Aswan

The Egyptian-Italian archaeological mission working in the area of the Aga Khan tombs in western Aswan, headed by Dr. Patricia Piasti, found an ancient tomb carved in rock for a person named tjt, which dates back to the Greco-Roman era.

Dr. Mustafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that a wooden coffin containing the whole hieroglyphic text was found inside the tomb, in which the mission was able to find out the name of the graveyard as well as a text for the funerary rites of the third region of Khannum, The Nile.

Dr. Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Department, said that the tomb was made of a Yodi ladder to a side chamber that was found on a rock-carved coffin. Another stone was found in front of a group of mummies in a poor state of preservation.

For her part, Patricia Piacentini of the University of Stattal in Milan and head of the mission that it was also found many important archaeological collections dating back to the Greek Roman era, including a large collection of cardboard cartons of the footprints of the foot of the mummy who wears sandals and embellishes the nails of his doctrine, A white cartonage, a cartonage for a full head cover with a winged sun disk on top, two funeral funerary masks and two small statues, one of which is a good conservation of the alba bird, representing the spirit of the deceased and showing all the details of the decoration. A large collection of amphorae of various shapes and two pottery vessels containing the bitumen used in embalming.

She added that the archaeological mission has also completed the work of a complete map of the site by raising the architectural number of 226 graves of the region

Photo Credits : Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

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‘Mindblowing’ haul of fossils over 500m years old unearthed in China’s Hubei province

Thousands of fossils date back to huge burst in diversity of life on Earth known as Cambrian explosion

The fossils are estimated to be about 518 million years old, and are particularly unusual because the soft body tissue of many creatures, including their skin, eyes, and internal organs, have been “exquisitely” well preserved.

Palaeontologists have called the findings “mind-blowing” – especially because more than half the fossils are previously undiscovered species.

Paleontologists found thousands of fossils in rocks on the bank of the Danshui river in Hubei province in southern China, where primitive forms of jellyfish, sponges, algae, anemones, worms and arthropods with thin whip-like feelers were entombed in an ancient underwater mudslide.

The creatures are so well preserved in the fossils that the soft tissues of their bodies, including the muscles, guts, eyes, gills, mouths and other openings are all still visible. The 4,351 separate fossils excavated so far represent 101 species, 53 of them new.

The fossils, known as the Qingjiang biota.

Fossils of soft-bodied creatures like jellyfish are extremely rare

Fossils of soft-bodied creatures like jellyfish are extremely rare

More than 20,000 specimens were collected, and a total of 4,351 have been analysed so far, including worms, jellyfish, sea anemones and algae.

Scientists say they have discovered a “stunning” trove of thousands of fossils on a river bank in China.

They will become a “very important source in the study of the early origins of creatures”, one of the fieldwork leaders, Prof Xingliang Zhang from China’s Northwest University, as reported by BBC.

The discovery is particularly remarkable because “the majority of creatures are soft-bodied organisms like jellyfish and worms that normally stand no chance of becoming fossilised”, Prof Robert Gaines, a geologist who also took part in the study, said in an email to the BBC.

The creatures were rapidly buried by mudflows and sediment

The majority of fossils tend to be of hard-bodied animals, as harder substances, like bones, are less likely to rot and decompose.

Fossils discovered in the Qingjiang include animals rarely seen in the Cambrian rock record, such as comb jellies (left) and kinorhynchs (right) ( D Fu/Supplied )

The Qingjiang biota must have been “rapidly buried in sediment” due to a storm, in order for soft tissues to be so well preserved, Prof Zhang says.

Scientists are especially excited by the jellyfish and sea anemone fossils, which Prof Gaines describes as “unlike anything I have ever seen. Their sheer abundance and their diversity of forms is stunning”.

Meanwhile, Prof Allison Daley, a palaeontologist who was not part of the study but wrote an accompanying analysis in Science, told BBC’s Science in Action programme the find was one of the most significant in the last 100 years.

“It blew my mind – as a palaeontologist I never thought I’d get to witness the discovery of such an incredible site.

“For the first time we’re seeing preservation of jellyfish – [when] you think of jellyfish today, they’re so soft-bodied, so delicate, but they’re preserved unbelievably well at this site.”

The research team are now documenting the remaining specimens, and conducting more drilling in the region to find out more about the ancient local ecosystem, and the fossilisation process.

Naraoiids, a type of soft-shelled arthropod, were found at the site

Prof Zhang says he looks forward to studying “all these new species – I’m always excited when we get something new”.
The fossils are from the Cambrian period, which began 541 million years ago and saw a rapid increase in animal diversity on Earth.

Prof Gaines hopes his work will also strike a chord with modern readers.

Paleontologists digging on the banks of the Danshui river, Hubei province, China. Photograph: Dong King Fu / Science / AAAS

“Biotic diversity today is something that we take for granted, even though there are indications that extinction rates are sharply increasing.

A fossilised kinorhynch, otherwise known as a mud dragon. Photograph: The Gaurdian

“Yet most of the major animal lineages were established in a singular event in the history of life, the Cambrian explosion, the likes of which have never been seen before or after. It also reminds us of our deep kinship to all living animals.”

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Herodotus Is True, Nile shipwreck discovery proves it after 2,469 years

In the fifth century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus visited Egypt and wrote of unusual river boats on the Nile. Twenty-three lines of his Historia, the ancient world’s first great narrative history, are devoted to the intricate description of the construction of a “baris”

An artistic treatment of the discovered shipwreck. The upper half of the model illustrates the wreck as excavated. Below this, unexcavated areas are mirrored to pro­duce a complete vessel outline. Photograph: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

For centuries, scholars have argued over his account because there was no archaeological evidence that such ships ever existed. Now there is. A “fabulously preserved” wreck in the waters around the sunken port city of Thonis-Heracleion has revealed just how accurate the historian was.

“It wasn’t until we discovered this wreck that we realised Herodotus was right,” said Dr Damian Robinson, director of Oxford University’s centre for maritime archaeology, which is publishing the excavation’s findings. “What Herodotus described was what we were looking at.”

In 450 BC Herodotus witnessed the construction of a baris. He noted how the builders “cut planks two cubits long [around 100cm] and arrange them like bricks”. He added: “On the strong and long tenons [pieces of wood] they insert two-cubit planks. When they have built their ship in this way, they stretch beams over them… They obturate the seams from within with papyrus. There is one rudder, passing through a hole in the keel. The mast is of acacia and the sails of papyrus…”

The wooden hull of ship 17. Photograph: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

Robinson said that previous scholars had “made some mistakes” in struggling to interpret the text without archaeological evidence. “It’s one of those enigmatic pieces. Scholars have argued exactly what it means for as long as we’ve been thinking of boats in this scholarly way,” he said.

Bust of Herodotus of Halicarnassus (c484-425 BC) Photograph: G Nimatallah/De Agostini/Getty Images

But the excavation of what has been called Ship 17 has revealed a vast crescent-shaped hull and a previously undocumented type of construction involving thick planks assembled with tenons – just as Herodotus observed, in describing a slightly smaller vessel.

Originally measuring up to 28 metres long, it is one of the first large-scale ancient Egyptian trading boats ever to have been discovered.

The wooden hull of ship 17. Photograph: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

Robinson added: “Herodotus describes the boats as having long internal ribs. Nobody really knew what that meant… That structure’s never been seen archaeologically before. Then we discovered this form of construction on this particular boat and it absolutely is what Herodotus has been saying.” as reported by The Guardian.

The wooden hull of ship 17. Photograph: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

About 70% of the hull has survived, well-preserved in the Nile silts. Acacia planks were held together with long tenon-ribs – some almost 2m long – and fastened with pegs, creating lines of ‘internal ribs’ within the hull. It was steered using an axial rudder with two circular openings for the steering oar and a step for a mast towards the centre of the vessel.

Robinson said: “Where planks are joined together to form the hull, they are usually joined by mortice and tenon joints which fasten one plank to the next. Here we have a completely unique form of construction, which is not seen anywhere else.”

Similar rudder systems, from the Deir el-Gebrâwi reliefs, c.2325-2155 BCE. (Davies, N. de G., 1901-1902) credits : Science Alert

Alexander Belov, whose book on the wreck, Ship 17: a Baris from Thonis-Heracleion, is published this month, suggests that the wreck’s nautical architecture is so close to Herodotus’s description, it could have been made in the very shipyard that he visited. Word-by-word analysis of his text demonstrates that almost every detail corresponds “exactly to the evidence”.

Herodotus (c. 484 BC – c. 425 BC) was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire (modern-day Bodrum, Turkey). He is known for having written the book The Histories, a detailed record of his “inquiry” (ἱστορία historía) on the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. He is widely considered to have been the first writer to have treated historical subjects using a method of systematic investigation—specifically, by collecting his materials and then critically arranging them into a historiographic narrative. On account of this, he is often referred to as “The Father of History”, a title first conferred on him by the first-century BC Roman orator Cicero.

Despite Herodotus’s historical significance, little is known about his personal life. His Histories primarily deals with the lives of Croesus, Cyrus, Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius, and Xerxes and the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Artemisium, Salamis, Plataea, and Mycale; however, his many cultural, ethnographical, geographical, historiographical, and other digressions form a defining and essential part of the Historiesand contain a wealth of information. Herodotus has been criticized for the fact that his book includes a large number of obvious legends and fanciful accounts. Many authors, starting with the late fifth-century BC historian Thucydides, have accused him of making up stories for entertainment. Herodotus, however, states that he is merely reporting what he has been told. A sizable portion of the information he provides has since been confirmed by historians and archaeologists.

Relief of Herodotus by Jean-Guillaume Moitte (1806), Louvre, Paris Source : Wiki
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5000-Year-Old Human Skeleton Excavated in India, Archaeologists Find New Burial Site of Harappan Civilization

Apart from human skeletons, archeologists also discovered animal remains, shell-like bangles, grinding stones, and blades from the site.

Archaeologists in Gujarat, India have discovered a massive burial site around 360 kilometers from Dholavira in the Kutch district which they believe dates back to the Harappan Civilization.

5000-year-old skeleton found at burial site (Photo Credits: YouTube grab)

According to a Times of India report, the burial site has over 250 graves and 26 of them have already been excavated. The site, which is 300m x 300m in size, also had a human skeleton, estimated to be around 5,000 years old.

Harappan civilization experts and archaeologist said the burial site is rectangular in shape and estimated to be 4600-5200 years old.

Representative Image, Harappan Excavation Site

Interestingly, the researchers found the mode of burial to be non-uniform. Instances of primary burial and secondary burial (when the remains of the primary burial are exhumed and moved to another grave) were found. The remains of those who were possibly cremated were also found in a few graves.

Artefacts that were unearthed from an early Harappan site in Kutch. Credits: The Hindu

All the burial sites found in Gujarat till date are either circular or semi-circular. We are trying to establish the significance of this rectangular shape,” Suresh Bhandari, head of Department of Archeology, Kutch University, told the newspaper.

“The skeleton has been taken to Kerala University for determining its age, possible reason for death and knowing its gender,” Bhandari added.

Artefacts that were unearthed from an early Harappan site in Kutch. Credits : The Hindu

Kutch University and Kerala University performed the excavation in a joint effort near Khatia village of Lakhpat taluka.

Faculty members of both the universities said the rectangular burial site had sound wall rocks in the east-west direction and the biggest grave is around 6.6 meters wide.

Apart from human skeletons, animal remains, shell-like bangles, grinding stones, and blades were also discovered from the site.

The artifacts will now be studied by experts to find out the rituals and social deeds that existed in the Harappan culture.

“Studies of the potteries, as well as rock blocks, will enhance our knowledge about the different techniques employed and the raw material used to make them,” said Bhandari.

Grinding stones, blades made of rock with sharp edges, bangles were also found from this site. They also found pottery vessels near the grave.

All the material that has been found here will be sent in different laboratories across the country to find out more about the history and culture of the people living during the Harappan period.

Lending credence to the trade network that could have existed during the early phase of the Harappan civilisation from 3300 BCE to 2600 BCE, the researchers claimed that the mud pots bore similarities with those that were unearthed from other Harappan sites in Kot Diji, Amri and Nal in Pakistan, Nagwada, Santhali, Moti Pipli and Ranod in North Gujarat, and Surkotada and Dhaneti in Kutch.

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All you need to know about Winged Victory of Samothrace, Great Sphinx of Tanis and Venus De Milo at Louvre Museum, Paris

It’s no secret that the Louvre has one of the world’s most stunning collections of art.

In addition to the Mona Lisa and an entire Michelangelo Gallery, the major museum also excels in antiquities, with gems that include a Great Sphinx, the Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Winged Victory of Samothrace

Though this marble masterpieceremains one of history’s most famous sculptures, many people may not be aware of its history—including its ancient roots, 19th-century discovery, and soaring influence on modern and contemporary art.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Photo: muratart’ via Shutterstock)

Origin and History

The exact origins of the Winged Victory of Samothrace are not known. However, archaeologists and art historians have extensively studied the sculpture in order to estimate its age, intention, and subject matter.

According to the Louvre, the piece was likely crafted by the people of Rhodes, a Greek island, in the early second century BCE. This places its creation at the heart of the Hellenistic period (323 BCE-31 CE). This ancient art movement is particularly renowned for its expressive sculptures of mythological subjects in motion—an approach embodied by the Winged Victory.

The 18-foot sculpture depicts Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. As wet and wind-blown drapery clings to her body, the winged figure triumphantly steps toward the front of a ship, leading historians to conclude that it was created to commemorate a successful sea battle.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Photo: muratart’ via Shutterstock)

The statue was one of many marble pieces that adorned the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, an ancient temple complex on the island of Samothrace. This seaside shrine was dedicated to the Mystery religion, or secret cult, of the Great Mother.

Given both the prevalence of naval battles during this time and its close proximity to the Aegean’s widely-used maritime routes, the shrine featured several sea-inspired monuments. These included dedicated columns, important ships, and, of course, the Winged Victory, which was placed in a rock niche (possibly a grotto) that overlooked the shrine’s theatre.

Discovery of the Sculpture

French diplomat and amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseauunearthed the Winged Victory in April of 1863. While he reassembled 23 blocks that compose the ship, he sent the figure back to Paris just as he found it: in three pieces.

The base, torso, legs, and left wing eventually reached the Louvre, where they were reassembled in the Carytid Room of classical antiquities. The museum also added a plaster wing to the sculpture—an addition that remains today—but did not opt to recreate the head or arms.

However, nearly 90 years after Champoiseau discovered the fragmented figure, archaeologists from Austria uncovered missing pieces, including Nike’s right hand. Unfortunately, the hand had no way of being reattached to the sculpture, as the figure remained armless. Still, its unearthing was extremely important, as the unclasped hand disproved an early theory that the figure had originally been grasping an object.

“It has been suggested that the Victory held a trumpet, a wreath, or a fillet in her right hand,” The Louvre explains. “However, the hand found in Samothrace in 1950 had an open palm and two outstretched fingers, suggesting that she was not holding anything and was simply holding her hand up in a gesture of greeting.”

Today, the fragmented hand can be viewed at the top of the Louvre’s Daru Staircase, where the Winged Victory has been on display since 1883.

Hellenistic Realism

Like other Hellenistic sculptures, the Winged Victory is admired for its naturalistic anatomy and, consequently, its realistic depiction of movement.

To suggest a body in motion, the artist positioned Nike in an asymmetrical stance. Known as contrapposto(“counterpose”), this pose implies movement through the use of realistic weight distribution and an S-shaped body.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Photo: muratart’ via Shutterstock)

Other famous sculptures that demonstrate this classical approach to conveying the human body are The Walking Man by Rodin and Michelangelo’s David.

Another element that helps suggest movement is the billowing fabric draped across the figure’s body. As Nike dramatically steps forward, the seemingly translucent garment twists around her waist and wraps around her legs.

According to the Louvre, this “highly theatrical presentation—combined with the goddess’s monumentality, wide wingspan, and the vigor of her forward-thrusting body—reinforces the reality of the scene”

Legacy

Today, the Winged Victory of Samothrace remains one of the most celebrated sculptures on earth. Since making its debut at the Louvre in the 19th century, it has inspired countless artists. Surrealist Salvador Dalí directly appropriated this sculpture for his Double Nike de Samothrace (1973), and Futurist Umberto Boccioni employed the figure’s iconic stance for his Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913).

The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Photo: The October Sky)

While these modern interpretations undoubtedly capture the spirit of the piece, no other Winged Victory can captivate audiences as triumphantly as the original treasure

Great Sphinx of Tanis

The sphinx is a fabulous creature with the body of a lion and the head of a king. This one was successively inscribed with the names of the pharaohs Ammenemes II (12th Dynasty, 1929-1895 BC), Merneptah (19th Dynasty, 1212-02 BC) and Shoshenq I (22nd Dynasty, 945-24 BC). According to archaeologists, certain details suggest that this sphinx dates to an earlier period – the Old Kingdom (c. 2600 BC).

Tanis

This is one of the largest sphinxes outside of Egypt. It was found in 1825 among the ruins of the Temple of Amun at Tanis (the capital of Egypt during the 21st and 22nd dynasties). This impressive stone sculpture with its precise details and polished surfaces is a work of admirable craftsmanship. The recumbent lion, with tense body and outstretched claws, gives the impression of being ready to leap. The shen hieroglyph sculpted on the plinth under each paw evokes a cartouche, confirming the royal nature of the monument.

Great Sphinx of Tanis, Louvre Museum,Paris

Modifications

The legible inscriptions are all “usurpations”, i.e. traces of subsequent modifications to the monument. The names of Merneptah (19th Dynasty) and Sheshonq (22nd Dynasty) are legible. The original texts (traces of which are still visible in places) were deliberately erased and replaced. It is therefore impossible to date this statue with certainty, especially as the face does not resemble any known, well-documented royal portrait. In view of this uncertainty, Egyptologists are divided: some date the sphinx to the 12th Dynasty, others to the 6th or even the 4th.

Great Sphinx of Tanis, Louvre Museum,Paris

Shesep-ankh

The Greek word “sphinx”, commonly used to refer to the Egyptian statues representing a lion with a human head, was not the original term. The appropriate Egyptian appellation for a statue or image of this kind was shesep-ankh (“living image”). The creature was a symbolic representation of the close relationship between the sun god (the lion’s body) and the king (the human head), and was the “living image of the king”, demonstrating his strength and his close association with Ra.
The sphinx was always positioned either as (recumbent) guardian and protector of places where gods appeared – such as the horizon, and temple entrances – or as (upright) defender of Egypt against hostile forces, whom he trampled underfoot.

Bibliography

Christiane Ziegler, Les Statues égyptiennes de l’Ancien Empire, 1997, Réunion des musées nationaux p. 39
G. Andreu, M.-H Ruthscowskaya, L’Egypte ancienne au Louvre, 1997, Hachette, pp. 52 à 54
Nadine Cherpion, “En reconsidérant le grand sphinx du Louvre (A 23)”, in Revue d’égyptologie, 1991, t. 42, pp. 25 à 41
Jean Leclant, Le Temps des pyramides, 1978, Gallimard, coll. “L’univers des formes”, t. 1, p. 213
Jacques Vandier, Manuel d’archéologie égyptienne, 1958, Picard, t. 3, p. 56

Information Via Louvre Museum

Ancient Ruins of Tanis, Egypt

Venus De Milo

As one of art history’s most significant sculptures, the Venus de Milo continues to captivate audiences today. Located in the Louvre Museum, the marble masterpiece is celebrated for its Hellenistic artistry, renowned for its beauty, and famous for its absent arms.

Like many other treasured antiquities, the story behind the statue was entirely unknown when it was unearthed in the 19th century. Today, however, archaeologists and art historians have managed to piece together a narrative that explores and explains its possible provenance—though the sculpted goddess remains shrouded in mystery.

What is the Venus de Milo?

Known also as the Aphrodite of Milos, the Venus de Milo is a marble sculpture that was likely created by Alexandros of Antioch during the late 2nd century BC. It features a nearly nude, larger-than-life (6 feet, 8 inches tall) female figure posed in a classical S-curve.

Her body is composed of two blocks of marble as well as “several parts [that] were sculpted separately (bust, legs, left arm and foot),” according to the Louvre. Furthermore, the sculpture was likely colorfully painted and adorned with jewelry, though no pigment or metal remain on the marble today.

Due to her nudity and the sinuous shape of her body, the figure is widely believed to be Venus, the goddess of love. However, she may also represent Amphitrite—the goddess of the sea—who held special significance on the island where the work of art was found.

VENUS (APHRODITE)

‘Aphrodite Anadyomene’ (before 79) Photo: Stephen Haynes via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)
Poseidon and Amphitrite’ (50-79) Photo: Stefano Bolognini via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain
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The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro : 2500BCE

The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro is what generations of besotted archaeologists have named a 10.8 centimeter (4.25 inch) tall copper-bronze statuette found in the ruins of Mohenjo Daro. That city is one of the most important sites of the Indus Civilization, or more accurately, the Harappan Civilization (2600-1900 BC) of Pakistan and northwestern India.

The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro at National Museum, Delhi

The Dancing Girl figurine was sculpted using the lost wax (cire perdue) process, which involves making a mold and pouring molten metal into it.

Mohenjo-Daro Archeological Site

Made about 2500 BC, the statuette was found in the remains of a small house in the southwestern quarter of Mohenjo Daro by Indian archaeologist D. R. Sahni [1879-1939] during his 1926-1927 field season at the site.

The figurine is a naturalistic free-standing sculpture of a nude woman, with small breasts, narrow hips, long legs and arms, and a short torso; her genitals are explicit. She wears a stack of 25 bangles on her left arm. She has very long legs and arms compared to her torso; her head is tilted slightly backward and her left leg is bent at the knee.

On her right arm are four bangles, two at the wrist, two above the elbow; that arm is bent at the elbow, with her hand on her hip. She wears a necklace with three large pendants, and her hair is in a loose bun, twisted in a spiral fashion and pinned in place at the back of her head. Some scholars suggest that the Dancing Girl statuette is a portrait of a real woman.

Although there have been literally thousands of figurines recovered from Harappan sites, including over 2,500 at Harappa alone, the vast majority of figurines are terracotta, made from fired clay. Only a handful of Harappan figurines are carved from stone (such as the famous priest-king figure) or, like the dancing lady, of lost-wax copper bronze.

Figurines are an elaborate class of representational artifact found in many ancient and modern human societies. Human and animal figurines can give insight into concepts of sex, gender, sexuality and other aspects of social identity. That insight is important for us today because many ancient societies left no decipherable written language. Although the Harappans had a written language, no modern scholar has been able to decipher the Indus Script to date.

A recent survey of the use of copper-based metals used in Indus civilization sites (Hoffman and Miller 2014) found that most of the classic Harappan aged objects made of copper-bronze are vessels (jars, pots, bowls, dishes, pans, scale pans) formed from sheet copper; tools (blades from sheet copper; chisels, pointed tools, axes and adzes) manufactured by casting; and ornaments (bangles, rings, beads, and decorative-headed pins) by casting. Hoffman and Miller found that copper mirrors, figurines, tablets, and tokens are relatively rare compared to these other artifact types. There are many more stone and ceramic tablets than those made of copper-based bronze.

The Harappans made their bronze artifacts using a variety of blends, alloys of copper with tin and arsenic, and varying lesser amounts of zinc, lead, sulfur, iron, and nickel.

Adding zinc to copper makes an object brass rather than bronze, and some of the earliest brasses on our planet were created by the Harappans. Researchers Park and Shinde (2014) suggest that the variety of blends used in different products was the result of fabrication requirements and the fact that pre-alloyed and pure copper was traded into the Harappan cities rather than produced there.

The lost wax method used by Harappan metallurgists involved first carving the object out of wax, then covering it in wet clay. Once the clay was dried, holes were bored into the mold and the mold was heated, melting the wax. The empty mold was then filled with a melted mixture of copper and tin. After that cooled, the mold was broken, revealing the copper-bronze object.
Most of the images of women from Harappan-period sites are from hand-modeled terracotta, and they are primarily curvaceous mother goddesses.
The ethnicity of the woman depicted in the figure has been a somewhat controversial subject over the years since the figurine was discovered. Several scholars such as ECL During Casper have suggested that the lady looks African. Recent evidence for Bronze Age trade contact with Africa has been found at Chanhu-Dara, another Harappan Bronze Age site, in the form of pearl millet, which was domesticated in Africa about 5,000 years ago. There is also at least one burial of an African woman at Chanhu-Dara, and it is not impossible that the Dancing Girl was a portrait of a woman from Africa.

However, the figurine’s hairdressing is a style worn by Indian women today and in the past, and her armful of bangles is similar to a style worn by contemporary Kutchi Rabari tribal women.

British Archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler, one of many scholars besotted by the statuette, recognized her as a woman from the Baluchi region.

Second bronze statuette of a girl c.2500 BC, now displayed at Karachi Museum, Pakistan.
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