Sumerian headdress, made of gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian, and dates to ca. 2600–2500 B.C.
Kings and nobles became increasingly powerful and independent of temple authority during the course of the Early Dynastic period (2900–2350 B.C.), although the success of a king’s reign was considered to depend on support from the gods. A striking measure of royal wealth was the cemetery in the city of Ur, in which sixteen royal tombs were excavated in the 1920s and 1930s by Sir Leonard Woolley. These tombs consisted of a vaulted burial chamber for the king or queen, an adjoining pit in which as many as seventy-four attendants were buried, and a ramp leading into the grave from the ground.
This delicate chaplet of gold leaves separated by lapis lazuli and carnelian beads adorned the forehead of one of the female attendants in the so-called King’s Grave. In addition, the entombed attendants wore necklaces of gold and lapis lazuli, gold hair ribbons, and silver hair rings. Since gold, silver, lapis, and carnelian are not found in Mesopotamia, the presence of these rich adornments in the royal tomb attests to the wealth of the Early Dynastic kings as well as to the existence of a complex system of trade that extended far beyond the Mesopotamian River valley. (met)
Courtesy of & currently located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, via their online collections, 33.35.3.
The gorgeous and mysterious bird stones.
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Some really nice examples of bird stones at the Royal Ontario Museum.
For comparison, here is another example currently housed at the Walters Art Museum which dates to between 1500 and 1000 BC (via the Wiki Commons, 2006.15.5):
The comprehensive study done by Moorehead shows that these ambiguous prehistoric objects are found most frequently in Western Pennsylvania, New York, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and also more northward in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and central Canada. Loosely resembling birds, they do not usually exceed 6 inches in length, and are most commonly made of banded slate.
While still a matter of debate, it seems most likely that these bird stones were used as a counter weight for an atlatl (throwing stick), which was used throughout the Americas. One characteristic feature of the bird stone is their flat base, which is drilled at either end. These drilled holes may have been used to attach it to the atlatl. The atlatl essentially acted as an extension of the arm, and hurled a spear with great force. The earliest evidence we have of the use of the atlatl comes from the Upper Palaeolithic, dating to approximately 40,000 years ago. To visualize how these weapons were used, see this short demonstration by Dr. Elliot Abrams, professor of archaeology at Ohio University on Youtube.
It is also possible that the bird stone was worn. One interpretation along this line of thought is that they were worn on the head of women as an indication of pregnancy, appealing to the “Thunderbird” for protection.
On this day in 306 AD: Constantine the Great is proclaimed emperor of the Roman empire.
The rule of Constantine is given a particular significance in world history. This is largely because he was the first Christian (or, at least pro-Christian) emperor of Rome and the empire.
Not born or raised Christian, it was before the battle of the Milvian Bridge against Maxentius in 312 AD that Constantine experienced his famous vision. According to this account, after calling upon the highest God for help, Constantine is said to have seen a cross in the sky rising from the sun. Following this, the monogram for Christ (chi rho) was placed on the shields of his men going into battle. Constantine attributed the resulting victorious battle to the God of the Christians.
The question of whether of not Constantine was Christian, or how sincere his proclamation was, remains a matter of debate. Evidently his conversion did not entirely result in a changed morality, Constantine had his wife and son murdered. He was baptized a Christian shortly before his death, which was not an uncommon decision to make in this period. In Constantine’s instance, being emperor, he was still obligated to order executions and fight battles, which is why the cleansing of his sin through baptism was postponed to not long before his death. I would suggest that the importance Constantine placed on his baptism in preparation for his death reflects at least a degree of genuine belief.
The matter of his personal faith aside, few other Roman emperors have left such a lasting impact on the course of world history. With his conversion, construction of Christian Rome, foundation of a new senate and capital, the way to a new epoch of world history was opened.
The artefact shown is the head of Constantine’s colossal statue, courtesy of & currently located at the Capitoline Museums. Photo taken by Jean-Christophe Benoist, via the Wiki Commons.
Howling Dog Effigy, Jalisco, 300 BC-AD 200.
Why were dogs so significant to the Mexica?
Dogs were associated with the god of death, Xolotl, among the Mexicas of the highlands of Mexico. Both a dog and Xolotl were thought to lead the soul to the underworld. The skinny body and white hue of the shown dog represented above may have underworld connotations, connecting it to this belief. Xolotl was also associated by the Mexica with the planet Venus as the evening star, and was portrayed with a canine head.
The dog’s special relationship with humans is highlighted by a number of Colima dog effigies wearing humanoid masks. This curious effigy type has been interpreted as a shamanic transformation image or as a reference to the modern Huichol myth of the origin of the first wife, who was transformed from a dog into a human. However, recent scholarship suggests a new explanation of these sculptures as the depiction of the animal’s tonalli, its inner essence, which is made manifest by being given human form via the mask.The use of the human face to make reference to an object’s or animal’s inner spirit is found in the artworks of many ancient cultures of the Americas, from the Inuit of Alaska and northern Canada to peoples in Argentina and Chile. (Walters)
On the subject of the significance of dogs, and dog effigies wearing humanoid masks, check out this post from a while back of ‘examples of dogs represented in ancient Mexican art.’ The final artefact here is from Colima, and shows a dog wearing a human mask.
Courtesy of & currently located at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA, via their online collections, 2009.20.148.
The interior of the hypogeum of the Volumnus family. This Etruscan tomb is located in Ponte San Giovanni in central Italy, and thought to date to approximately the 3rd century BCE.
Photo taken by CyArk.
Golden amphora, 4th century BCE. Part of the Panagyurishte Treasure, this extraordinary Thracian artefact was uncovered accidentally in 1949 by three brothers who were digging for clay to make bricks. Note the centaur-shaped handles.
Courtesy of & currently located at the National Historical Museum, Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo taken by vintagedept.