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.

A quick look at: Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of death and lord of the underworld.

Mictlantecuhtli was believed to live in Mictlan, the cold, damp and gloomy underworld of the Aztecs, or lower part of the cosmos, where the remains of humans were kept.

This Templo Mayor Museum figure of Mictlantecuhtli, which is perhaps one of the most famous representations of the god, was found in the House of Eagles. Here he wears a loincloth, and stands grinning. Some have suggested that this grin of Mictlantecuhtli, who once harassed Quetzalcoatl on his journey to the underworld, may suggest his desire to torment. His claw-like hands are posed, as though ready to attack someone.

The holes on his scalp would have once been filled with black, wavy hair -which the Aztecs associated with chaos. Parts of his flesh has been teared off, and his liver falls from his chest cavity. This organ was connected to Mictlan, and housed the Ihiyotl soul (see Aguilar-Moreno 2007, chapter 7). Recent residue analysis has found traces of human blood on the statue. 

Artefact courtesy of the Museum of the Templo Mayor, Mexico City. Photos taken by Travis: oosik.

Recommended reading: Handbook to Life in the Aztec World (Oxford University Press, 2007) by Manuel Aguilar-Moreno. This is a very good overview and introduction to the Aztec culture, and expands on many of the points I briefly mentioned here.

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.

Plank figures.

While they may look a bit familiar to some (hmm…), truth is we don’t really know a lot about these rare ‘Plank Figures’ found in the province of Paphos.

Traces of paint remain on these large plank figures with schematic arms. Despite the ‘arms,’ there appears to be no further indication of anatomical features, however it remains possible that the lost paintwork once depicted such details. The relief present in the second shown example may indicate clothing once portrayed.

The role of these statuettes remains puzzling to scholars today. Some suggest that they imitated xoana (wooden cult effigies) that stood in prehistoric shrines. Another line of thought is that they were associated with beliefs of fertility, and played a role in mortuary rites prior to their use of grave goods as markers of status.

Both date to the Early Cypriot III - Middle Cypriot I period (ca. 1900-1800 BCE), and are from a cemetery on a hill near the village of Kidasi. The Museum of Cycladic Art houses 7 such plank figures, the best collection of these unique artefacts in the world.

Artefacts courtesy of & currently located at the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece, Z 576 & Z 726. The artefact descriptions provided by the museum were of great use to me when writing up this post. Photos taken by Dan Diffendale: 1, 2 (cropped).

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).

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.