Stone foundation tablet, limestone, 1849-1843 BC (Old Babylonian).
This tablet is plano-convex, with a cuneiform inscription of Sin-iddinam on two faces.
Obverse: (For) Utu, / lord of justice of heaven and earth, / learned in decision, / the one who choses in favor of innocence, / the king of Ebabbar, / his king, / Sin-iddinam, / the shepherd who decorates everything / for Nippur, / the provider of Ur, / king of Larsa, / king of Sumer and Akkad, / the Ebabbar, / his beloved house,
Reverse: for the sake of his life, / he built (it) / For abundant distant days / he enlarged that dwelling place. / With the thing that he (Sin-iddinam) has done, / (may) Utu, / rejoice. / A life of sweet things / (and) bright days / as a reward, / may he (Utu) give to him (Sin-iddinam).
Courtesy & currently located at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA. Accession Number: 41.222.
Maya Stela H, Copán.
Gender studies in ancient Maya culture and art often address the question of sexual identity.
Costume, which is gender distinctive among the modern Maya, has been a focus of attention and is usually assumed to be either masculine or feminine in archaeological contexts.
Masculine attire is generally represented as a hip cloth or loincloth, sometimes coupled with a short skirt. Feminine costume is typically a skirt worn to below the knee, sometimes accompanied by a long tunic-like huipil.
Occasionally in Maya art, the relationship between sexual identity and gender-marked costume is problematic when attempting to interpret the subject matter.
Stela H is an example of this. In an early account of the stela, Alfred P. Maudslay identified the skirted figure shown as a woman (1889-1902, 5:50). Subsequent work and the recovery of the inscriptions has determined that this monument actually represents Waxaklajuun Ub’aah K’awiil (18 Rabbit), the male ruler of Copán.
So why is he shown wearing the long skirt typical of women? One interpretation is that male rulers donned such “female” costumes for bloodletting ceremonies (Schele 1979). As argued by Andrea Stone (1988, 1991), such gender crossing is suggested in other aspects of Maya ceremonies.
Photo taken by Christine and John Fournier. Quoted segments from Traci Ardren’s Ancient Maya Women (2002).
Pitcher with Applique of a Bacchant, about 50-75. Corning Museum of Glass. (via Pitcher with Applique of a Bacchant | Corning Museum of Glass)
The Iberian Biche of Balazote, from Balazote (Albacete, Spain). Dates to the 4th-5th centuries B.C.E.
This sculpture represents an androcephalic bull (a mythical animal with the body of a bull and a human head). It formed part of a funerary monument in which it performed the function of guardian and protector.
The head is sculptured from a different block to that used for the body. The mouth is small, the eyes large, there are the remains of horns (which have not been preserved), and below them the ears. The hair is indicated by tufts using a straight incision. In terms of iconography it is identified with the representation of Achelous, a Greek river god.
Combined with its features and general style this means it can be considered a work of Greek influence created on an underlying oriental base.These doe figures consisting of multiple incised strokes engraved on shoulder blades have only been found in a specific region along the northern coast of Spain and may be interpreted as symbols identifying a territorial group.
Courtesy & currently located at the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid. Photo taken by Rowanwindwhistler via the Wiki Commons.
Ute petroglyphs at Arches National Park, Utah, USA.
Photo taken by Jim Mullhaupt.
Head of a large female figure. Cycladic, 2600 - 2500 B.C.E.
With their starkly elegant and simplified rendering of the human form, Cycladic sculptures often strike viewers as quite modern. This head preserves some of the original effect of these figures, on which facial features, hair, and occasionally jewelry were added in paint. Short vertical lines on the forehead, a stripe on the nose, and bands of dots on the cheeks and chin—all added in red and black pigment—may be cosmetic lines or tattooing.
While most of these sculptures were under a foot tall, this head was from one of the rare examples that were approximately life-size. Most Cycladic figures are found in graves, and they may have had some religious function connected with the afterlife.
Courtesy & currently located at the Getty Villa, Malibu, USA. Photo taken by Alyson Gill.
This inscribed terra-cotta cylinder describes King Nebuchadnezzar’s rebuilding of Babylon, especially its famous walls and temples. It also offers a prayer that Nebuchadnezzar be granted long life and other blessings in return for his piety.
Neo-Babylonian, 604-562 BC, in the Ancient Near East Gallery
The ziggurat of Dur-Kurigalzu, Baghdad, Iraq. This ziggurat was built in the 14th century BCE by Kassite king Kurigalzu.
Photo taken by Spc. David Robbins via the Wiki Commons.
Carved head thought to represent Quetzalcoatl found at Teotihuacan, similar to the type seen at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. Such sculptures adorned the doorways and patios of temples and dwelling units, as well as the facades of the latter.
Teotihuacan (‘the place where the gods were created’) is about 50 km north-east of Mexico City, and was built between the 1st and 7th centuries AD. A prominent feature at this archaeological site is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (sometimes also referred to as the Temple of the Plumed Serpent), which is where this carved head likely came from.
One of the most important gods of the Aztec pantheon, Quetzalcoatl is a creator god, and the patron of merchants, knowledge, and crafts.
Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, is a very complex god, with many aspects and spheres of influence.
According to an Aztec myth of creation there were four suns (or worlds) before the present one. Each sun was created and destroyed in a different way, and inhabited by a different race of people. Each sun was also presided over by a different deity.
After the destruction of the Fourth Sun, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca created the earth and the heavens by tearing apart the earth monster, Tlaltecuhtli.
-Clara Bezanilla, A Pocket Dictionary of Aztec and Mayan Gods and Goddesses.
Artifact courtesy & currently located at the Teotihuacan Museum, Mexico. Photo taken by Travis S.
Sword from the Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo ship-burial, dates to approximately AD 620. Suffolk, England.
This sword is one of the many artifacts discovered in the Sutton Hoo ship-burial, which is thought to have belonged to one of four East Anglian kings: Eorpwald, Raedwald and co-regents Ecric, and Sigebert. The artifacts of this burial were chosen to reflect the high rank of the king, and to equip him for the Afterlife.
Courtesy & currently located at the British Museum, London. Photo taken by Völkerwanderer.