Sleeping Hermaphroditos, a Roman Imperial work (2nd century AD), which was discovered near the Baths of Diocletian in Rome, and probably inspired by a Greek original of the 2nd century BC. The mattress was sculpted by Bernini. 

With the voluptuous curves, one might assume walking by this sculpture, without closer observation, that a female is depicted. Hermaphroditos was actually a male, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, and is depicted here as a bisexed figure. The sculpture, and those like it, raise profound questions about the nature of arousal and desire.

The following sections are written by Astier Marie-Bénédicte of the Louvre, and are all worth a read:

The story of Hermaphroditos:

There is nothing improper in this work, but it still intrigues the viewer. Hermaphroditos, had rejected the advances of the nymph Salmacis. Unable to resign herself to this rejection, Salmacis persuaded Zeus to merge their two bodies forever, hence the strange union producing one bisexed being with male sexual organs and the voluptuous curves of a woman. Stretched out in erotic abandon on the mattress provided by Bernini, the figure sleeps. Yet Hermaphroditos has only fallen half asleep: the twisting pose of the body and the tension apparent down to the slightly raised left foot are indicative of a dream state.

An embodiment of Hellenistic taste:

[…] The subject reflects the taste for languid nudes, surprise effects, and theatricality, all of which were prized in the late Hellenistic period. The work is designed to be viewed in two stages. First impressions are of a gracious and sensuous body that leads one to think that the figure is a female nude in the Hellenistic tradition; this effect is heightened here by the sinuousness of the pose. The other side of the statue then brings a surprise, revealing the figure’s androgynous nature by means of the crudest realism. This effect of contrast and ambiguity, indeed this taste for the strange that plays with the viewer’s emotions, is the result of the theatricality of some Hellenistic art. This utopian combination of two sexes is sometimes interpreted as a half-playful, half-erotic creation, designed to illustrate Platonic and more general philosophical reflections on love. 

Courtesy of & currently located at the Louvre, France: Ma 231. Photos taken by Anne-Marie Bouché.

Depictions of the Abu Simbel temples, from 1843 to present.

Of the most magnificent monuments in the world, the two temples at Abu Simbel date to about 1260 BCE, and have long captured the interest and imaginations of many.

Ramesses II dedicated the so-called Small Temple of Abu Simbel to the goddess Hathor, and his wife Nefertari. Slightly further south is the larger temple, which Ramesses dedicated to the gods Ptah, Amun-Re, Re-Horakhty, as well as his own divine self. 4 colossal seated figures of Ramesses take up the facade of the latter.

The Great Temple of Ramesses II by kairoinfo4u.

Temple of Hathor/Nefertari, published in 1902, Internet Archive Book Images.

The Great Temple of Ramesses II, published in 1921, Internet Archive Book Images.

The Great Temple of Ramesses II, published in 1896Internet Archive Book Images.

'Interior of the excavated Temple of Abu Simbel in Nubia,' published in 1843, The British Library.

A quick look at: Greek votive offerings, with a particular focus on those of the Archaic period from Olympia.

Since we have received everything from the Gods, and it is right to pay the giver some tithe of his gifts, we pay such a tithe of possessions in votive offering, of bodies in gifts of (hair and) adornment, and of life in sacrifices.” -Sallustius in ‘On the Gods and the Cosmos,’ XVI (translation by Gilbert Murray).

A ‘votive offering’ is essentially a gift to a god. Once dedicated, the object is thought to become the “inalienable property of that god” (Whitley 2001). In theory, almost any kind of object could be used as a votive, we even have literary accounts which speak of captured ships being dedicated as a thank offering to a god (see Herodotus VIII.121).

Here I won’t be exploring the psychology of giving such offerings, however, it is likely that the motives were not quite so straightforward as suggested by the Latin phrase ‘do ut des' (I give that you may give). While the concept of reciprocity, a cycle of exchange between human and god, is of course relevant here, one must also not underestimate the value ancient Greek society placed on visibly showing one’s piety.

The shown Greek votive offerings are from Olympia, and consist largely of tiny animals made of bronze, stone, and clay. These objects date from the 10th century BCE, though those from the 8th century are the greatest in number. From the 9th century BCE, we can see a distinct increase in the range of votive offerings, and their quality.

When writing up this article, James Whitley’s book The Archaeology of Ancient Greece (Cambridge University Press, 2001) was of use, and is recommended for those interested Greek history. Photos taken by Richard.

A stag-shaped Parthian drinking horn. 1 of about 4 similar horns currently on view at the Getty, I believe. 
Made of silver, gold, glass, and garnet, this stunning drinking vessel dates from 50 BC- AD 50.

The forepart of a stag emerges from the curving body of this gilt silver rhyton. The stag is very naturalistic and highly detailed, down to the rendering of veins in the snout. The wide inlaid eyes and the outstretched legs heighten the realism as the stag seemingly bolts in flight. The term rhyton comes from the Greek verb meaning “to run through,” and depictions of rhyta on Greek vases show that they were used to aerate wine. Wine poured into the top of the vessel came out of a spout between the animal’s legs. The spout on this example is now missing, but the hole remains visible.
Stylistic features suggest that this rhyton was made in northwest Iran in the period from 50 B.C. to A.D. 50. This region had been part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire until Alexander the Great’s conquest. After his death in 323 B.C., the Hellenistic Greek Seleucid dynasty, whose kingdom stretched from Turkey to Afghanistan, ruled this area. As Seleucid authority began to weaken In the later 200s B.C., a group of semi-nomadic people called the Parthians, from the steppes of south central Asia, challenged the dynasty and by the mid-100s B.C. had firm control of this area of Iran. This complicated political history left its legacy in the art of the area. Rhyta of this form had a long history in earlier art of Iran, but the floral motifs were drawn from Seleucid art. (getty)

Courtesy of & currently located at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California. Via their online collections: 86.AM.753.

A stag-shaped Parthian drinking horn. 1 of about 4 similar horns currently on view at the Getty, I believe. 

Made of silver, gold, glass, and garnet, this stunning drinking vessel dates from 50 BC- AD 50.

The forepart of a stag emerges from the curving body of this gilt silver rhyton. The stag is very naturalistic and highly detailed, down to the rendering of veins in the snout. The wide inlaid eyes and the outstretched legs heighten the realism as the stag seemingly bolts in flight. The term rhyton comes from the Greek verb meaning “to run through,” and depictions of rhyta on Greek vases show that they were used to aerate wine. Wine poured into the top of the vessel came out of a spout between the animal’s legs. The spout on this example is now missing, but the hole remains visible.

Stylistic features suggest that this rhyton was made in northwest Iran in the period from 50 B.C. to A.D. 50. This region had been part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire until Alexander the Great’s conquest. After his death in 323 B.C., the Hellenistic Greek Seleucid dynasty, whose kingdom stretched from Turkey to Afghanistan, ruled this area. As Seleucid authority began to weaken In the later 200s B.C., a group of semi-nomadic people called the Parthians, from the steppes of south central Asia, challenged the dynasty and by the mid-100s B.C. had firm control of this area of Iran. This complicated political history left its legacy in the art of the area. Rhyta of this form had a long history in earlier art of Iran, but the floral motifs were drawn from Seleucid art. (getty)

Courtesy of & currently located at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California. Via their online collections86.AM.753.

An interesting find from Wessex Archaeology.
This Saxon gilt button-brooch appears to have a stylized human face (?) in the centre. Similar brooches have been found in other locations across southern England, this particular one was excavated at the Ham Hill Iron Age hillfort.
Courtesy of Wessex Archaeology. Also, here is their write-up of Ham Hill, for those interested in learning more about the context of this find.

An interesting find from Wessex Archaeology.

This Saxon gilt button-brooch appears to have a stylized human face (?) in the centre. Similar brooches have been found in other locations across southern England, this particular one was excavated at the Ham Hill Iron Age hillfort.

Courtesy of Wessex Archaeology. Also, here is their write-up of Ham Hill, for those interested in learning more about the context of this find.

When his majesty saw them, he was enraged against them, like his father, Montu, lord of Thebes. He seized the adornments of battle, and arrayed himself in his coat of mail […] His majesty was like Sutekh, the great in strength, smiting and slaying among them; his majesty hurled them headlong, one upon another into the water of the Orontes.”

The Battle of Kadesh against the Hittites. The shown scene is from the second court of the Ramesseum, the Egyptian mortuary temple of Pharaoh Ramesses II, dating to Dynasty 19.

In this particular detail we can observe Hittite troops reaching out to their defeated comrades, who are drowning in the river Orontes.

Quoted at the start of the post is part of the Egyptian account of the Battle of Kadesh, translated by James Henry Breasted (Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents. Chicago: 1906, III:136-147).

Photos taken by kairoinfo4u.

The Bushmans Kloof rock art site in the Cederberg region of South Africa.

Recently awarded the status of a South African National Heritage Site, Bushmans Kloof contains over 130 rock art sites, some of which date to 10,000 years before present.

Stained with oxide pigments, these rocks depict the spiritual and cultural legacy of the San (also known as Bushmen), who have lived in these mountains for some 120,000 years. A particular point of interest about this rock art for some is the depictions of about 30 Cape mountain zebra, which are today endangered, with only about 1,200 remaining worldwide. Antelopes such as the eland, black wildebeest, and springbok are also depicted.

Recommended reading & food for thought: ‘Access to Rock Art Sites: A Right or a Qualification?’ By Ndukuyakhe Ndlovu iThe South African Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 64, No. 189 (June 2009), pp. 61-68

Photos taken by mlaaker. The contrast and tone of the original images have been readjusted.