Do not stand up against / me as witness; do not contradict me in the court; do nothing against me in front of the deities; / do not treat me with hostility in front of the Keeper of the Balance. You are my Ka (life-force), which is in my body; the creator, / who makes the limbs of my body whole; you may come out to the beautiful place, which is there prepared for me. Do not cause my name / to stink in the presence of the members of the court, who make people to resurrected (at) the beautiful place. Excellent is it for the posers; a pleasure is it / for the judge. Do not speak lies against me beside the great god.”

-A translated section from the right scarab, which is from spell 30B of the “Book of the Dead” (trans. Walters).

Scarabs in ancient Egypt.

One of the most well-known amulets from ancient Egypt is the scarab, which represented the dung-beetle. These amulets were usually made of faience or stone, decorated with an almost endless repertoire of geometric and figurative designs engraved on the base, and came in various sizes.

Originally a form of personal seal, scarabs took on the role of good-luck charms. The scarab-beetle itself was associated the Atum and the sun god Re, both deities concerned with resurrection and rebirth. The idea that the dung beetle was symbolic of rebirth and regeneration was probably inspired by its life cycle. When the beetle laid its eggs hidden in the sand, the newly hatched insects would emerge from seemingly nowhere, as though they were the result of self-generation. 

Large scarabs with engraved text from the Book of the Dead were used as a substitute for the heart in burial, intended to ward of evils and help gain the joys of the Egyptian paradise. The scarab shown in the right image is one such heart scarab. This funerary amulet was intended to have a supportive function for its deceased owner in the Court of the Dead, as illustrated by its translated text at the start of the post.

Both chosen examples of scarabs are from the Walters Art MuseumBaltimore, and via their online collections: 1984.30.542.81. The first dates to 946-525 BC (Third Intermediate-early Late Period), and the second, 1070-736 BC (Third Intermediate).

When writing up this post Rosalie David’s Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt (Penguin UK, 2002) was of use.

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.

Etruscan urns, 3rd/ 2nd centuries BCE.

A distinctive burial form developed by the Etruscans was the practice of placing a reclining effigy/effigies of the deceased on the lid of the urn, which contained their ashes. Often such urns would reflect the Etruscan love of banqueting, which they liked to envision themselves doing in their afterlife.

I am uncertain of the original location of the 1st urn, however, the 2nd was found at the Hypogeum of the women of the Velimna family, and the third, the Hypogeum of the Rafi family.

Aertefacts courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum of Perugia. Photos by Dan Diffendale: 1, 2 & 3

The Egyptian Book of the Faiyum, 1st century BC-2nd century AD.

The Book of the Faiyum is the modern name of a text that describes the Faiyum oasis as the mythical center of prosperity and ritual. The text was compiled during the Greco-Roman period, perhaps in the temple of the crocodile god Sobek in Shedet, but it may be based on precedents from earlier periods. The most famous copy of this text, known as the Boulaq/Hood/Amherst papyrus, consists of two papyrus scrolls with hieroglyphic text and illustrations. Portions of this papyrus are now in the Walters Art Museum (Baltimore), the Morgan Library & Museum (New York), and the Egyptian Museum (Cairo). Besides this and other hieroglyphic versions, there are also hieratic and Demotic copies on papyrus and an unillustrated hieroglyphic version inscribed on the walls of the Sobek temple in Kom Ombo (Upper Egypt).

The focal point of the Walters Art Museum’s section of the book of the Faiyum is a long oval representing the Faiyum lake itself. Inside the lake, images of mythological figures including the crocodile god Sobek-Re, Osiris, and the solar child allude to stories of the creation of the world as well as the nightly regeneration of the sun god. Around the lake, forty-two deities are depicted, each representing an important cult site in Egypt. In this way, the book functions as a map of a ceremonial landscape centered in the Faiyum. (Walters)

Courtesy of & currently located at the Walters Art Museum, Balitmore, USA. Via their online collectionsW.738.

Etruscan strainers at the MET.

All the shown examples date to the 6th-5th centuries BCE and are made of bronze. Strainers were were used at symposiums (drinking parties) to strain the wine or additives mixed into it.

The strainer shown in the first image is one of the most elaborate, and best-preserved, Etruscan strainer handles found to date. The MET provides the following description of this artefact:

The artist has skillfully presented a complex subject on a very small scale in the openwork square just below the handle’s attachment point. Two nude boxers appear to have just finished a bout in which one man has been knocked to his knees. Their trainer or referee holds his arms up to indicate the end of the round. On the underside of the attachment point is a delicately modeled doe lying on a wave-crest border. The handle’s base depicts a bearded male figure with fish-like legs that terminate in bearded snake heads. The strange legs form a perfect circular opening that allowed the patera to be hung when not in use. The sea monster, almost like a merman, may have been intended to ward off evil.

Courtesy of & currently located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, via their online collections12.160.834.11.814.105.365.11.122.139.1711.212.2.

Egyptian relief of mourning men.
This limestone relief dates to ca. 1352-1336 B.C.E., and is from Saqqara, Egypt.

This relief fragment shows two men, on the right, who make the gestures of mourners. The small cuts in the stone surface above and in front of the figures represent the dust that mourning Egyptians poured on their heads as a sign of bereavement. To the left can be seen the traces of a man in official dress who appears to be hurrying from the opened door of the tomb. Unlike many of the objects in this gallery, the scene suggests distress in the presence of death.

Courtesy of & currently located at the Brooklyn Museum, USA, via their online collections: 69.114. +If you’re interested in learning more about mourning in ancient Egypt, check out this post I did a while ago on the matter.

Egyptian relief of mourning men.

This limestone relief dates to ca. 1352-1336 B.C.E., and is from Saqqara, Egypt.

This relief fragment shows two men, on the right, who make the gestures of mourners. The small cuts in the stone surface above and in front of the figures represent the dust that mourning Egyptians poured on their heads as a sign of bereavement. To the left can be seen the traces of a man in official dress who appears to be hurrying from the opened door of the tomb. Unlike many of the objects in this gallery, the scene suggests distress in the presence of death.

Courtesy of & currently located at the Brooklyn Museum, USA, via their online collections69.114. +If you’re interested in learning more about mourning in ancient Egypt, check out this post I did a while ago on the matter.

Banqueting scenes in ancient Greek Attic red-figure pottery.

Banqueter and musician, kalos inscription (“Ho pais kalos” “The boy is handsome”). Tondo from an Attic red-figure cup, ca. 490 BC. Colmar Painter, found in Vulci.

Boy serving wine in a banquet, holding an oenochoe (wine jug) in his right hand and a kylix (shallow cup) in his left hand. Side A from and Attic red-figure kylix, ca. 460-450 BC, Euaion Painter.

Banquet scene: youth holding a kylix (shallow cup), surrounded by two young men holding skyphoi. Attic red-figure cup, ca. 490-480 BC, Cage Painter.

Courtesy of & currently located at the Louvre, France, G 135, G 467 & G 133. Photos taken by Jastrow: 1, 2 & 3.

Examples of ancient Chinese ceramics at the Palace Museum.

Painted pottery pot with dragon and phoenix relief. Western Han Dynasty, 206-8 B.C.

White pottery “Bu” with carved geometric pattern, Shang Dynasty, 1600-1100 B.C.

Painted pottery pot of the Majiayao Culture, Neolithic era, 2200-2000 B.C.

Courtesy of & currently located at the Palace Museum, Beijing. Photos taken by Xuan Che, CC BY 2.0.

Here is one of the earliest known reliefs to commemorate the legitimate marriages of former Roman slaves. 
The Funerary Stele of Aurelius Hermia and his wife Aurelia Philematium is from the tomb on Via Nomentana, and dates to ca. 80 BCE.
The British Museum provides the following prose translation of the funerary stele:
"Aurelius Hermia, freedman of Lucius, butcher by trade from the Viminal Hill. My partner who departed this life before me was pure of body and loving of spirit. She was the only one for me, and lived her life faithful to her faithful husband, with equal devotion. She never failed in her duties through self-interest or greed. Aurelia, freedwoman of Lucius.
Aurelia Philematio, freedwoman of Lucius. In life, I was given the name Aurelia Philematium (little Kiss) and led a chaste, modest and sheltered life, faithful to my husband. Aurelius, my husband, whom I now sadly miss, was a fellow freedman. He was, in fact, much more to me than even a parent. He took me into his care at the age of seven. Now at the age of forty, I fall into the hands of death. He flourished in the eyes of others due to my constant and close support.”
Courtesy of & currently located at The British Museum, London, 1867,0508.55. Photo taken by Sebastià Giralt.

Here is one of the earliest known reliefs to commemorate the legitimate marriages of former Roman slaves. 

The Funerary Stele of Aurelius Hermia and his wife Aurelia Philematium is from the tomb on Via Nomentana, and dates to ca. 80 BCE.

The British Museum provides the following prose translation of the funerary stele:

"Aurelius Hermia, freedman of Lucius, butcher by trade from the Viminal Hill. My partner who departed this life before me was pure of body and loving of spirit. She was the only one for me, and lived her life faithful to her faithful husband, with equal devotion. She never failed in her duties through self-interest or greed. Aurelia, freedwoman of Lucius.

Aurelia Philematio, freedwoman of Lucius. In life, I was given the name Aurelia Philematium (little Kiss) and led a chaste, modest and sheltered life, faithful to my husband. Aurelius, my husband, whom I now sadly miss, was a fellow freedman. He was, in fact, much more to me than even a parent. He took me into his care at the age of seven. Now at the age of forty, I fall into the hands of death. He flourished in the eyes of others due to my constant and close support.”

Courtesy of & currently located at The British Museum, London, 1867,0508.55. Photo taken by Sebastià Giralt.

The Bhaja Caves of Maharashtra, India.

Bhaja contains about 29 rock-cut caves, which date back to the 2nd century BCE, and is described by the Archaeological Survey of India to be “one of the important Buddhist centres of Hinayana faith in Maharashtra.” 

A prominent features of Bhaja is Cave 12, a chaitya-griha, pictured in the final photo, which is considered one of the earliest of its kind. The stupa at the back of the large apsidal hall was used for worship. Cave 20 contains a group of stupas, which were built in memory of deceased monks, and probably once contained their relics.

Cave 18 was a monastery, and its verandah contains two famous sculpted reliefs. One of these (pictured in the 2nd photo) is located to the left of the door. This artwork depicts a person riding an elephant (thought by some to be Indra) who carries an ankusa (elephant goad), with attendants aside the figure, carrying a banner. The second relief shows a royal personage aside two women. The royal figure (who some identify as Sun god Surya), rides a chariot driven by four horses, and appears to be trampling a demon-like figure.

Photos courtesy of & taken by Himanshu Sarpotdar. The write-up of the site done by the Archaeological Survey of India was of great reference to me when writing this post.

"They take first a crooked piece of iron, and with it draw out the brain through the nostrils, thus getting rid of a portion, while the skull is cleared of the rest by rinsing with drugs; next they make a cut along the flank with a sharp Ethiopian stone, and take out the whole contents of the abdomen, which they then cleanse, washing it thoroughly with palm wine, and again frequently with an infusion of pounded aromatics…" -Greek historian Herodotus describes the process of mummification in Egypt (trans. Rawlinson).

Shown here is an extraordinarily well preserved Egyptian mummy at the Louvre. This man lived during the Ptolemaic Period, and his name can be read as either Nenu or Pachery. The body has been sophisticatedly wrapped in strips of linen, and the mummy is covered with a cartonnage. Included here is a mask, an apron across the legs, and a collar over the chest.

Rigault Patricia from the Louvre provides the below description. This is only a section of the full write-up, you can read the rest here if you wish.

A body preserved for eternity

Not everyone in ancient Egypt had access to the funerary practices that ensured eternal life, and many people had to settle for a simple pit in the desert and a few modest offerings. For the more fortunate, preserving body provided an additional guarantee of survival in the afterlife. It offered a new support for the various elements of the living being that were dispersed at the time of death. Although the earliest mummies were little more than bodies wrapped in linen strips dipped in resin, more sophisticated methods soon developed; mummification procedures were highly perfected by the New Kingdom.

Although the number of mummies increased from this period on, the quality of the work tended to decrease. Nevertheless, mummies from the Greco-Roman period are often remarkable for the highly subtle designs formed by the interwoven linen strips. Depending on the period, a mummy could be covered a clothing, a net of beads, a mask, or a decorated wooden plank or cartonnage. During the Ptolemaic Period, various cartonnage elements were arranged on the mummy before it was placed in the coffin. 

Courtesy of & currently at the Louvre, France, N 2627. Photos by: Massimo Palmieri (1), Yann Caradec (2 & 3, cropped), and Oleg Ы (4).

Depictions of dolphins in ancient art.

Dolphin, Greece, 300 BC-AD 100. Courtesy of the LACMAAC1992.152.16.

Dolphins and OctopusesPhiale with decoration in superposed colour, ca. 510–500 BC. From Eretria. Courtesy of the LouvreMNB 624. Photo by Jastrow.

Dolphin mosaic from the Baths of Buticosus, Ostia Antica. Roman, 2nd century. Photo by Roger Ulrich.

Dolphin fresco, Knossos, Crete, 1700-1450 BC. Photo by H-stt, via the Wiki Commons.

Youth playing the flute and riding a dolphin. Red-figure stamnos, 360–340 BC. Alcestis Group, from Etruria. Courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum of Spain. Photo by Jastrow, via the Wiki Commons.

Fish (Dolphin), Syria or Palestine, 300-400. Courtesy of the LACMAM.88.129.118.