farewell, artemidorus

(above) Assyrian sculpture and Balawat Gates (11th – 8th centuries BC)

Whenever we visit the British Museum The Euro spends most of his time in Room 4, which is where all the Egyptian sculpture is, mostly just staring at the Rosetta Stone. My favourite is the Ancient Assyrian (modern northern Iraq) exhibits. Large stone sculptures and reliefs were a feature of the palaces and temples of ancient Assyria. An entrance to the royal palace of King Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) at Nimrud was flanked by two colossal winged human-headed lions. A gigantic standing lion stood at the entrance to the nearby Temple of Ishtar, the goddess of war. This is one of a pair of lions that flanked the doorway in the throne room of the palace of Ashurnasirpal II (883-359 BC). They were suppose to provide magical protection for the building.

(above) Etruscan Sarcophagus (3000 BC – 1st century BC)

The Etruscans flourished between the eighth and first centuries BC and were famed in antiquity for being devoutly religious, for their metalworking, their love of music and banqueting, and the independence they allowed their women. There’s a sarcophagus called the Sarcophagus of the Spouses in The National Etruscan Museum in Rome that’s made of terracotta and dates back to the 6th century BC that I adore. This one’s only slightly less lovely.

(above) Roman Imperial Mosaic Panel (3rd Century)

A mosaic panel from a fountain basin excavated in Carthage. Jets of water stream from the mouth; a water outlet beneath it has been filled with white tesserae. It’s of the sea-god Oceanus. In classical antiquity, Oceanus was believed to be the world-ocean. In Greek mythology, this world-ocean was personified as a Titan. Not quite as eye catching as he appears in the Trevi Fountain, but you don’t miss it.

(above) Mummy case portrait panel of Artemidorus (AD 100-120)

Just a beautiful example of merging of cultural influences: a Greek personal name, a Roman-style portrait, together with traditional Egyptian funerary practices. The mummy case is painted in encaustic, a mixture of pigment and beeswax with a hardening agent like resin or egg. Below the portrait is a falcon-collar and a series of traditional Egyptian funerary scenes applied in gold leaf. The largest of these shows the god Anubis attending the mummy, which lies on a lion-shaped bier flanked by goddesses (probably Isis and Nephthys). The god Osiris himself is also depicted on a bier, awakening to new life.

The identity of the dead man is preserved in a short, mis-spelled Greek inscription across the breast, which reads: ‘Farewell, Artemidorus’.

(above) Roman Portrait Panel (80-120AD)

Another portrait panel. This time, sans mummy or case. It’s of a naked young Roman with curly hair. The portrait was painted on limewood in encaustic and tempera.

(above) Roman Portrait Panel (2nd Century)

A final Roman portrait panel. This time tempera on oak. The portrait is of a bearded man wearing white tunic with purple clavi. It was donated to the British Museum by Sir Robert Ludwig Mond, a Lancashire chemist and archaeologist. Mond did work with Howard Carter and was involved in the preservation of the tomb of Ramesses

(above) Amenhotep III (18th Dynasty)

My favourite of the Egyptian Sculptures. The head from a monumental quartzite statue of Amenhotep III wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt. Amenhotep III was the grandfather of Tutankhamun and ruled Egypt for more than 36 years. The head originally topped off one of a set of statues that stood around the courtyard of his funerary temple at Kom el-Hettan, near Luxor. In the early 19th century the British collector Henry Salt bought the head, together with a second head from the same site, and both ended up in the British Museum.

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  • michael
    Nov 24, 2010 at 1:31

    Have you been watching the “Ancient World’s” series BBC 4 is showing at the moment? <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00w0bl0&quot; Or maybe you are in America. It’s been pretty good so far. Part of a season about such things.

  • Buffy
    Nov 24, 2010 at 1:51

    I haven’t seen any of the series, Michael. But I’ll definitely go online and see if I can find them. I love this sort of thing, to the point of sometimes-obsession, and still secretly fantasise about being Indiana Jones.

  • steph
    Dec 9, 2010 at 1:36

    i so have a pic of me blowing kisses at some of these 🙂

    i just put my pics in an album last night