A quick look at: Imhotep.

While some might better recognize Imhotep as the possessed mummy from the Hollywood blockbusters The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, he was, in fact, one of the most renowned figures in Egyptian history for much more admirable feats.

An astoundingly talented man, Imhotep was the master builder for King Djoser, and built the famous stepped pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara (photo 2). Dating to before 2600 BCE, this pyramid is one of the first monumental stone buildings in the history of mankind. Certainly a milestone in the evolution of architecture, it is viewed as a forerunner to the more typical smooth-faced pyramids built during the great ‘age of the pyramids’ in the 4th Dynasty. He is also the first artist to have their name recorded anywhere in the world.

Imhotep has also variously been recognized as a poet, scribe, astrologer, vizier and as an influential doctor. He also served as the high priest of Re, and as the pharaoh’s official seal bearer. Following his death, Imhotep was deified by the Egyptians as the son of the god Ptah. 

In priestly wisdom, in magic, in the formulation of wise proverbs; in medicine and architecture; this remarkable figure of Djoser’s reign left so notable a reputation that his name was never forgotten.” -Egyptologist James Henry Breasted.

Images used: Seated Imhotep, bronze, dates between 664 and 332 BC and was found in Mitrahina, Egypt. Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum54.402. The photo of the pyramid of Djoser is by Olaf Tausch.

Just as a quick side note, consider the time span between the life of Imhotep who lived during the reign of Djoser (2630-2611 BCE) and the age of the shown statuette. This would be like us making artworks of a person who lived over 2000 years ago, not something that would typically be done unless that person was perceived to have been particularly remarkable and important to our history.

The site of Julius Caesar’s assassination: the Theatre of Pompey in Rome.

When he saw that he was beset on every side by drawn daggers, he muffled his head in his robe, and at the same time drew down its lap to his feet with his left hand, in order to fall more decently, with the lower part of his body also covered. And in this wise he was stabbed with three and twenty wounds, uttering not a word, but merely a groan at the first stroke, though some have written that when Marcus Brutus rushed at him, he said in Greek, “You too, my child?”

All the conspirators made off, and he lay there lifeless for some time, and finally three common slaves put him on a litter and carried him home, with one arm hanging down.”

-Roman historian Suetonius in The Lives of the Twelve Caesars 1.82.2-4 (trans. Rolfe).

The Theatre of Pompey was one of the first permanent theatres in Rome, and was dedicated in 55 BC during the late Republic. It was commissioned by Pompey primarily was a way to gain political popularity during his second consulship, and was inspired by his visit to a Greek theatre in Mytilene. 

The first photo was taken by franfeeley, and the reconstruction of the theatre was done by Lasha Tskhondia, via the Wiki Commons.

A false door on one of the Preah Ko towers, Cambodia. Writing is chiseled into the tower doorways, and some of it appears to have been unfinished (photo 3).

Erected by Indravarman I in the 9th century, Preah Ko was dedicated to his deified ancestors: the front towers relate to male gods or ancestors, and the rear towers, female goddesses or ancestors. These towers of Preah Ko (‘Sacred Ox’) display three nandis (sacred oxen), and lions, which guard the steps leading up to the temple.

Each tower has one real, and three false doors. These false doors are exceptionally decorated in carving; the columns which frame the doors are “incontestably the most beautiful of Khmer art” (Rooney 1994). These doors also contain elaborate inscriptions, which are written in the ancient Hindu language of Sanskrit. The inscriptions of each tower correspond to the subject they’re devoted to.

Recommended reading: Michael Vickery’s publication The Khmer Inscriptions of Roluos (Preah Ko and Lolei): Documents from a Transitional Period in Cambodian History, which translates the inscriptions discussed above, as well as others from the period, and can be read for free here.

Photos courtesy of & taken by Buzz Hoffman.

Candi Kalasan.

This 8th century Buddhist temple is located east of Yogyakarta, near the Prambanan temple and Kalasan village, Indonesia.

Candi Kalasan is one of oldest temples on the Prambanan Plain, and is dedicated the female Bodhisattva, Tara.

Curiously, there is little evidence of Theravada Buddhism in Central Java; the first dated temple, Candi Kalasan of 778 CE, is dedicated to Tara. During the Central Javanese period, Hindu and Buddhist temples were built side by side, reflecting what must have been an atmosphere of both cooperation and competition.

It is possible that successive rulers sponsored different religions or that a single ruler could have supported the construction of both Buddhist and Hindu monuments.

-Natasha Reichle in Violence and Serenity: Late Buddhist Sculpture from Indonesia, (University of Hawaii Press, 2007).

Fine, detailed carvings can be seen on the southern side of this temple, where a huge, elaborate, kala head watches over the doorway

First photo taken by Crisco, the rest by Felix Krohn.

The Arch of Augustus at Susa, the best preserved of all Augustan arches in italy.
On the road leading to the Alpine crossing to Gaul, in 9 BCE Augustus erected this arch to celebrate the peace treaty he and Marcus Iulius Cottius had signed. A thin frieze on this arch depicts the treaty signing and the related ceremonies that accompanied it (close up here).
Cottius was the successor and son of the king of 14 tribes in the so-called Cottian Alps. Within the terms of this treaty was for Cottius to become a Roman citizen with the name Iulius, to renounce his kingship, and to become a local magistrate over the people he once ruled.
The Arch of Augustus celebrates the bloodless establishment of the Pax Augusta in this part of Italy. Augustus will boast about this in Res Gestae (5.26):
"The provinces of the Gauls, the Spains, and Germany, bounded by the ocean from Gades to the mouth of the Elbe, I reduced to a state of peace. The Alps, from the region which lies nearest to the Adriatic as far as the Tuscan Sea, I brought to a state of peace without waging on any tribe an unjust war." (trans. Shipley)
Photo taken by Hibernian. When writing up this post Fred Kleiner’s A History of Roman Art (2010) was of great use.

The Arch of Augustus at Susa, the best preserved of all Augustan arches in italy.

On the road leading to the Alpine crossing to Gaul, in 9 BCE Augustus erected this arch to celebrate the peace treaty he and Marcus Iulius Cottius had signed. A thin frieze on this arch depicts the treaty signing and the related ceremonies that accompanied it (close up here).

Cottius was the successor and son of the king of 14 tribes in the so-called Cottian Alps. Within the terms of this treaty was for Cottius to become a Roman citizen with the name Iulius, to renounce his kingship, and to become a local magistrate over the people he once ruled.

The Arch of Augustus celebrates the bloodless establishment of the Pax Augusta in this part of Italy. Augustus will boast about this in Res Gestae (5.26):

"The provinces of the Gauls, the Spains, and Germany, bounded by the ocean from Gades to the mouth of the Elbe, I reduced to a state of peace. The Alps, from the region which lies nearest to the Adriatic as far as the Tuscan Sea, I brought to a state of peace without waging on any tribe an unjust war." (trans. Shipley)

Photo taken by Hibernian. When writing up this post Fred Kleiner’s A History of Roman Art (2010) was of great use.

Etowah Indian Mounds, Bartow County, Georgia, USA.

Shown in the second photo is a reconstruction of what the site would have looked like during its apex. 

The Etowah site has produced some extraordinary Mississippian artifacts and includes one of the largest platform mounds ever built in North America. The fifty-acre site once contained six mounds, the three largest of which still remain, and two plazas surrounded by a large moat and an impressive bastioned stockade.

The site was home to at least 3 separate chiefdoms during the approximately 600-year span of the Mississippian period.

[…] Hernando de Soto and his army visited Etowah, known to the Spanish as Itaba, in 1541. At the time, it was no longer the seat of regional power, but merely the home of a subchief under the direct influence of the chief of Coosa, whose capital was located nearby.

-Eric E. Bowne in Mound Sites of the Ancient South: A Guide to the Mississippian Chiefdoms (2013), page 147.

Photos taken by Kevin TrotmanMuora, & Heironymous Rowe. I would also highly recommend Bowne’s cited publication for further reading on the site.

A few photos from the Maya archaeological site of Yaxha, northeast of the Petén Basin region, Guatemala.

We actually know relatively little about Yaxha. Despite this, it seems to have had a long political history from the Early Classic (approx. AD 250–600) to the Late Classic (approx. AD 600–900). Yaxha grew into one of the largest capitals during the Early Classic, where it reached its peak. It is most likely that Yaxha’s decline at the end of the Early Classic was attributed to Naranjo, whom recorded on a monument a series of wars with Taxha during the Late Classic.

Photos taken by frischifresh.

The Maya archaeological site of Cerros, Belize.

Located on a peninsula that juts into Corozal Bay, Cerros was initially a fishing and trading hamlet, and remained so during about 350-100 BC. Even during this early period we have evidence for long-distance trade: as far south as the highlands of El Salvador and Guatemala, and as far north as the northern coast of Yucatán. 

The construction of large-scale architecture started from about 50 BC, and as David Freidel, Maynard Cliff, and Robin Robertson state, this “involved such an explosive transformation that it is fitting to speak of massive urban renewal.” The site reached its peak from about 50 BC- AD 100.

The shown monument from Cerros is ‘Structure 5C-2nd’. Thought to have been built around 50 BC, it is particularly noted for its four stucco mask reliefs, which flank either side of the stairway. Freidel & Schele (1988) write: ”The main mask on the lower west panel depicts the Jaguar Sun-second born of the Ancestral Heroes’-identified by the k’in, Sun, day or light, glyph on his cheeks (Freidel and Schele 1988; Freidel 1986a). Flanking the Sun are his objects.”

Photos taken by chistletoe1. Joyce Kelly’s An Archaeological Guide to Northern Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador (1996) was of use when writing up this post. As was David Freidel & Linda Schele’s 1988 publication ‘Late Preclassic Maya Lowlands: The Instruments and Places of Ritual Power’, in American Anthropologist, 90(3), pp. 547-567.

The Poulnabrone Dolmen, County Clare, Ireland. Classified as a portal tomb, this structure dates to the Neolithic period, radiocarbon dates place its use between 3,800 - 3,600 BCE.
During excavations the skeletal remains of up to 22 prehistoric individual were found, which included both adults and children, as well as one newborn. Extensive specialist analysis has been done on these remains, offering us a rare insight into the lives of these Neolithic people. 

[…] A variety of artefacts, presumably representing grave goods, were also recovered from the burial chamber. These included a polished stone axe, two stone beads, a decorated bone pendant, a fragment of a mushroom-headed bone pin, two quartz crystals, several sherds of coarse pottery, three chert arrowheads and three chert/flint scrapers.
The burial evidence from Poulnabrone has given us rare glimpse into the lives of our early ancestors. It appears that they endured a relatively tough existence, that involved hard physical labour, childhood illnesses, occasional violent attacks and early deaths. Although only a small section of the community were deemed worthy of burial in the tomb, there is little evidence for gender or age discrimination, with both male and female remains present as well as young and old. Prior to interment their bones appear to have been stored elsewhere and this may indicate that they were venerated as ancestor relics. Why certain individuals were chosen to be buried in the seemingly exalted location of a megalithic tomb, however, remains a mystery. 
-Irish Archaeology

Photo courtesy of & taken by Nicolas Raymond.

The Poulnabrone Dolmen, County Clare, Ireland. Classified as a portal tomb, this structure dates to the Neolithic period, radiocarbon dates place its use between 3,800 - 3,600 BCE.

During excavations the skeletal remains of up to 22 prehistoric individual were found, which included both adults and children, as well as one newborn. Extensive specialist analysis has been done on these remains, offering us a rare insight into the lives of these Neolithic people. 

[…] A variety of artefacts, presumably representing grave goods, were also recovered from the burial chamber. These included a polished stone axe, two stone beads, a decorated bone pendant, a fragment of a mushroom-headed bone pin, two quartz crystals, several sherds of coarse pottery, three chert arrowheads and three chert/flint scrapers.

The burial evidence from Poulnabrone has given us rare glimpse into the lives of our early ancestors. It appears that they endured a relatively tough existence, that involved hard physical labour, childhood illnesses, occasional violent attacks and early deaths. Although only a small section of the community were deemed worthy of burial in the tomb, there is little evidence for gender or age discrimination, with both male and female remains present as well as young and old. Prior to interment their bones appear to have been stored elsewhere and this may indicate that they were venerated as ancestor relics. Why certain individuals were chosen to be buried in the seemingly exalted location of a megalithic tomb, however, remains a mystery. 

-Irish Archaeology

Photo courtesy of & taken by Nicolas Raymond.

Kuttam Pokuna (“Twin Pools/Ponds”), built in the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

The twin pond is undoubtedly the best surviving example of landscape architecture in ancient Sri Lanka” -Professor Anuradha Seneviratne.

An outstanding example of hydrological engineering, the Kuttam Pokuna are ritual baths used by Buddhist monks, and are thought to date to the 8th or 9th centuries. ‘Kuttam pokuna’ is the name given to these pools in the 20th century, their ancient name is not known. Water was transferred to these pools through underground ducts.

The second pool is located directly behind the one shown, better displayed in this photo. Although referred to as “twins”, the northern pool is significantly larger than southern one, the northern being 40m long, and the southern, 28m.

Of the two ponds the one in the north, seems to have been constructed before the southern one. Fine architectural differences confirm this point. It seems that after the construction of the southern pond an attempt has been made to connect them. The two ponds varying in size and architectural details areharmonised to create to make up a composite place of artistic creation

During excavations, a metal box was discovered at the bottom of a pool. Within this box were small replicas of water dwelling animals, such as of a fish and crab, now displayed at the Anuradhapura Museum.

Photos courtesy & taken by Vasse Nicolas Antoine. The quoted sections are from Professor Anuradha Seneviratne’s book Ancient Anuradhapura (1994).

A quick look at: Acueducto de los Milagros, Mérida, Spain.
This Roman aqueduct was dubbed Acueducto de los Milagros ("Miraculous Aqueduct") by the inhabitants of Mérida for the fact that it was still standing, and for the awe that it evoked. 
This aqueduct was located in the Roman colony of Emerita Augusta (present day Mérida), which was founded by Augustus Caesar in 25 BC. The construction of the aqueduct itself is thought to have taken place during the 1st century AD, with later construction or renovations occurring around 300 AD. 
The structure was built to supply water to Emerita Augusta. This water was originally brought to the city from Lago de Proserpina -a reservoir which was fed by the Las Pardillas stream, about 5km north-west of Mérida. 38 pillars which stand 25 metres high along some 830 metres remains today. The structure is constructed from opus mixtum. 
The Romans constructed aqueducts to supply water from distant sources to their towns and cities, supplying public baths, private households, etc. Water was moved by the aqueducts through gravity, the aqueducts were built on an ever-so-slight downward gradient. This diagram is useful in showing how Roman aqueducts worked. 
Photo courtesy & taken by Jane Drumsara.

A quick look at: Acueducto de los MilagrosMérida, Spain.

This Roman aqueduct was dubbed Acueducto de los Milagros ("Miraculous Aqueduct") by the inhabitants of Mérida for the fact that it was still standing, and for the awe that it evoked. 

This aqueduct was located in the Roman colony of Emerita Augusta (present day Mérida), which was founded by Augustus Caesar in 25 BC. The construction of the aqueduct itself is thought to have taken place during the 1st century AD, with later construction or renovations occurring around 300 AD.

The structure was built to supply water to Emerita Augusta. This water was originally brought to the city from Lago de Proserpina -a reservoir which was fed by the Las Pardillas stream, about 5km north-west of Mérida. 38 pillars which stand 25 metres high along some 830 metres remains today. The structure is constructed from opus mixtum

The Romans constructed aqueducts to supply water from distant sources to their towns and cities, supplying public baths, private households, etc. Water was moved by the aqueducts through gravity, the aqueducts were built on an ever-so-slight downward gradient. This diagram is useful in showing how Roman aqueducts worked. 

Photo courtesy & taken by Jane Drumsara.

Seeing as today is Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought it were only appropriate to do an Irish-themed post. So today I will be looking at the Ballynoe Stone Circle in Ballynoe, County Down, Northern Ireland.
Thought to date to the Neolithic or early Bronze Age, this complex monument is over 33m in diameter, and some of the stones used are over 2m high. 
Although this monument was excavated in the late 1930s, the understanding and interpretation of it has remained difficult. It appears to have been built and used over a considerable amount of time, but we are not sure which parts were built first, and which were later additions. The excavation work done on the site focused on the mound inside the circle, which had been built over an earlier stone cairn.
At the eastern end of the cairn the burnt bones of an adult male were found. At the opposite end, a much more complex stone feature was discovered, and was divided into three compartments. This section contained the burnt remains of two, possible female, adults.
Pottery fragments from this site suggests that at least some of this monument dates to the Neolithic period. The presence of stone cists and cremation burials show that at some point this site was used for burial, likely in the early Bronze Age.
Photo taken by Philip Hay. Information from the sign next to site provided by the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency was of use when writing up this post.

Seeing as today is Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought it were only appropriate to do an Irish-themed post. So today I will be looking at the Ballynoe Stone Circle in Ballynoe, County Down, Northern Ireland.

Thought to date to the Neolithic or early Bronze Age, this complex monument is over 33m in diameter, and some of the stones used are over 2m high. 

Although this monument was excavated in the late 1930s, the understanding and interpretation of it has remained difficult. It appears to have been built and used over a considerable amount of time, but we are not sure which parts were built first, and which were later additions. The excavation work done on the site focused on the mound inside the circle, which had been built over an earlier stone cairn.

At the eastern end of the cairn the burnt bones of an adult male were found. At the opposite end, a much more complex stone feature was discovered, and was divided into three compartments. This section contained the burnt remains of two, possible female, adults.

Pottery fragments from this site suggests that at least some of this monument dates to the Neolithic period. The presence of stone cists and cremation burials show that at some point this site was used for burial, likely in the early Bronze Age.

Photo taken by Philip Hay. Information from the sign next to site provided by the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency was of use when writing up this post.