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).

A silver-gilded greave dating to the mid-4th century BCE from the Yambol region of Bulgaria.

Only recently rediscovered in 2005, this greave was part of a set of grave goods found in an Odrysian aristocrat’s grave in Golyamata Mogila tumulus. This greave appears to have been for the left leg.
Artefact courtesy of & currently located at the National History Museum, Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo taken by vintagedept.

A silver-gilded greave dating to the mid-4th century BCE from the Yambol region of Bulgaria.

Only recently rediscovered in 2005, this greave was part of a set of grave goods found in an Odrysian aristocrat’s grave in Golyamata Mogila tumulus. This greave appears to have been for the left leg.

Artefact courtesy of & currently located at the National History Museum, Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo taken by vintagedept.

Claudius -the 4th emperor of the Roman Empire.

His mother Antonia often called him “a monster of a man” […] and if she accused anyone of dulness, she used to say that he was “a bigger fool than her son Claudius.” […] When his sister Livilla heard that he would be emperor, she openly and loudly prayed that the Roman people might be spared so cruel and undeserved a fortune.”

-Roman historian Suetonius unfavorably speaks of Claudius in ‘The Lives of the Twelve Caesars’ (5.3.2). Rolfe translation.

Claudius ruled the Roman Empire from 41-54 AD, was the grandson of Mark Antony, and step-grandson and grandnephew of Augustus. Claudius suffered from trembling, a limp, and a speech defect, all of which may have been due to cerebral palsy. Because of his physical disabilities, Claudius was originally never considered a candidate for emperorship. This changed when his nephew Caligula, the current emperor, was assassinated. Upon this the rampaging praetorian guards found Claudius terrified, apparently hiding behind a curtain in the palace, and proclaimed the overwhelmed Claudius emperor of Rome.

During his reign Claudius demonstrated excellent management, and was involved in several building projects that improved Rome’s supply of grain and water, such as his construction of the harbour at Ostia. Thrace and Britain were added to the empire under his reign -perhaps partly a way for Claudius to prove himself in response to the opposition he faced from the senate. He died in 54 AD, and the consensus reached by our ancient historians was that he was murdered by poison. It is thought by many that Agrippina was responsible for the poisoning, and did so to secure her son Nero’s appointment of emperorship. Accordingly, Nero became emperor of Rome.

Images used:

Bronze head of Claudius found in Suffolk, England, 1st century AD. Courtesy of the British Museum, P&EE 1965 12-1 1. Photo by Kit.

Emperor Claudius. Marble, found at Gabii. Courtesy of the Louvre, Ma 1231. Photo by Jastrow.

The Mesoamerican archaeological site of Tula, located in Hidalgo, approximately 75km north of Mexico City, Mexico. 

Tula is thought to have been the historical capital of the Toltec state. Pictured in the top photo are the 16’ high colossal atlantids atop Pyramid B. These atlantids depict rulers or warriors armed with spear-throwers and darts. To date we actually still do not know a great deal about the Toltecs (their name meaning “makers of things”), whom the Aztecs claimed to have descended from.

Photos taken by AlejandroLinaresGarcia.

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.

The lion hunts of Ashurbanipal -details from the hall reliefs of the Palace at Ninevah

Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, who reigned 669-630 BCE, is shown in the first detail to be aiming his bow and arrow atop a chariot. The second image displays an arrow of his shot, flying in mid-air towards a lion. A close-up of Ashurbanipal is given in the final photograph to present the immense detail of these reliefs, for instance, note the intricate carvings which cover his clothing.

Artefacts courtesy of & currently located at the British Museum, London. Photos taken by Steven Zucker.

The petroglyphs in the landscape of Tamgaly, Kazakhstan, dating from approximately 1400 BCE to the 20th century.

Offering us unique insight into the rituals and social organization of the pastoral peoples who inhabited this site through time, the archaeological landscape of Tamgaly contains about 5,000 petroglyphs (rock carvings), which are distributed throughout 48 complexes largely associated with burial grounds and settlements.

The central canyon has the densest concentration of petroglyphs, contains ‘alters,’ and has been interpreted to have had ritual significance. The central canyon is devoid of dwellings, and is thought to have been a place for sacrificial offerings.

During the Middle Bronze Age we see Tamgaly-type petroglyphs, which include zoomorphic beings, people, a huge variety of animals, and ‘solar deities (sun-heads).’ During the Late Bronze Age the petroglyphs become smaller in size, and display less variety in what is depicted. Here scenes of pastoral life are popular, reflecting the prominence of nomadic cattle breeding activities during the time. During the Early Iron Age, scenes showing the hunting of wild animals remain present, but we also see camels starting to appear in the art.

If you are interested in reading more about the ‘solar-headed’ petroglyphs I would recommend The Archaeology of Shamanism (2001, Routledge), specifically chapter 5. This publication is edited by Neil Price, professor of archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, who is a specialist on shamanism in archaeology.

The petroglyphs within the archaeological landscape of Tamgaly are listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site -their article on the landscape was of great use to me while writing up this post. Photos courtesy of & taken by Ken and Nyetta.

One very fancy ancient spoon. 
Intended to be used for ointment, this Egyptian spoon with a pivoting lid is made of ivory and dates to ca. 1336-1327 BCE.

The late Eighteenth Dynasty was one of the the most flamboyant and excessive periods of design in Egyptian history. This spoon demonstrates the dominant aesthetic of the day: the complementary union of naturalistic elements, formal design, and excessive, stylized detailing.
The motif is a pomegranate branch terminating in a huge reddish-yellow fruit that swivels on a tiny pivot to reveal the bowl of the spoon. Tiny pomegranates, brightly painted flowers, and slender leaves project from the stem that serves as the handle. Beneath the lowest leaves the artisan has added an extraordinary embellishment: two lotus flowers, each with a Mimispos fruit emerging from it.
Although the individual elements of the spoon are treated with painstaking attention to detail, the design itself is pure fantasy. For example, pomegranate flowers and fruit never appear on a tree at the same time. (-Brooklyn Museum)

Courtesy of & currently located at the Brooklyn Museum, via their online collections, 42.411.

One very fancy ancient spoon. 

Intended to be used for ointment, this Egyptian spoon with a pivoting lid is made of ivory and dates to ca. 1336-1327 BCE.

The late Eighteenth Dynasty was one of the the most flamboyant and excessive periods of design in Egyptian history. This spoon demonstrates the dominant aesthetic of the day: the complementary union of naturalistic elements, formal design, and excessive, stylized detailing.

The motif is a pomegranate branch terminating in a huge reddish-yellow fruit that swivels on a tiny pivot to reveal the bowl of the spoon. Tiny pomegranates, brightly painted flowers, and slender leaves project from the stem that serves as the handle. Beneath the lowest leaves the artisan has added an extraordinary embellishment: two lotus flowers, each with a Mimispos fruit emerging from it.

Although the individual elements of the spoon are treated with painstaking attention to detail, the design itself is pure fantasy. For example, pomegranate flowers and fruit never appear on a tree at the same time. (-Brooklyn Museum)

Courtesy of & currently located at the Brooklyn Museum, via their online collections42.411.

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.

Marbury Hall Zeus. Roman, 1st century, marble.

Portrayed as a mature bearded man, Zeus sits enthroned in his role as king of the gods. Originally he would have held his attributes: a scepter and a thunderbolt. The colossal god towers over his mortal observers.
This Roman statue dates to the first century A.D., but certain stylistic features in the carving, especially in the face and hair, reveal that it reproduces an earlier, Hellenistic Greek statue. Its model was a statue made by a school of sculptors based in the city of Pergamon in the 100s B.C.
Documented in the 1570s at Tivoli near Rome, the statue once decorated the gardens of the Villa d’Este. It is named for having once been in the collection at Marbury Hall in England. (getty)

Currently located at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California, via their online collections, 73.AA.32.  Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Marbury Hall Zeus. Roman, 1st century, marble.

Portrayed as a mature bearded man, Zeus sits enthroned in his role as king of the gods. Originally he would have held his attributes: a scepter and a thunderbolt. The colossal god towers over his mortal observers.

This Roman statue dates to the first century A.D., but certain stylistic features in the carving, especially in the face and hair, reveal that it reproduces an earlier, Hellenistic Greek statue. Its model was a statue made by a school of sculptors based in the city of Pergamon in the 100s B.C.

Documented in the 1570s at Tivoli near Rome, the statue once decorated the gardens of the Villa d’Este. It is named for having once been in the collection at Marbury Hall in England. (getty)

Currently located at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California, via their online collections73.AA.32 Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.