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"Colors of the Romans: Mosaics from the Capitoline Collections" opens at the Centrale Montemartini in Rome

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The “Colors of the Romans” exhibition at Centrale Montemartini, one of Rome’s great museums, hopes to attract tourists to the Italian capital through this lesser-known but varied selection of mosaics. The exhibition is divided into four sections.  The first showcases the history and mosaic techniques. The works chosen represent all types of mosaic floors and wall decorations, allowing to illustrate through the techniques, materials, colors, decorative motifs, the stylistic evolution and the transformation of mosaic art over time.  The second explores living and dwelling in Rome between the end of the Republican age and the late ancient age: luxury residences and domestic contexts.  The route follows a chronological criterion, passing from the oldest examples - such as the large polychrome mosaic with coffered, discovered at the Villa Casali al Celio - to the more recent ones, up to the fourth century CE, the period to which the mosaic belongs with a seasonal bust, perhaps part of the f

Waterfowl in Greco-Roman art

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Ducks, geese, and swans were often depicted on serving ware in both Greek and Roman households. Although fish was a more common protein source than ducks and geese, even the humiliores occasionally enjoyed poultry.  Following his triumph, Caesar sponsored a public feast for 260,000 of the poorer people of Rome, offering them ducks and geese as well as seafood and game.   But waterfowl as art was used to appeal to Greek and Roman intellect as well as to their stomachs.  In addition to their inclusion in myth such as  the legendary transformation of Zeus into a swan to seduce Leda, these species appeared multiple times in popular works of Aesop and Aristophanes as they were deemed "characterful" enough to lend themselves to literary purposes.  In his play "The Birds", Aristophanes points out that a goose could act as an agent of Eros when used as a competitive gift exchanged in the homosexual courtship between an erastês and his young erômenos. Some scholars, like Pli

First Look: Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins at the newly reopened Getty Villa

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Today's featured "Antiquities Alive" virtual exhibit - The first batch of images from my friend Allan Gluck of the "Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins" exhibit at the newly reopened Getty Villa:   Head of a God, Neo-Sumerian, 2150-2000 BCE, Terracotta, now in the collections of the Louvre, courtesy of Allan Gluck Head of a Man, possibly a ruler, Sumerian, 2700-2600 BCE, Limestone, now in the collections of the Louvre, courtesy of Allan Gluck Head of a ruler, Amorite, about 1840 BCE, Gabbro, now in the collections of the Louvre, courtesy of Allan Gluck Bronze model of a chariot, Sumerian, 2900 - 2340 BCE, now in the collections of the Louvre, courtesy of Allan Gluck Plaque with King Gilgamesh killing the monster Humbaba, Amorite, 2000 - 1600 BCE, terracotta, now in the collections of the Louvre, courtesy of Allan Gluck Relief fragment with royal chariot and officers, Neo-Assyrian, 668-627 BCE, Gypsum, now in the collections of the Louvre, courtesy of Allan Gluck St

Demon God Protector of Egypt at the NY Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, Denmark, May 20 - October 31, 2021

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Say the words ‘Egyptian gods’ and it is usually the sun god Ra, Anubis god of the dead or the goddess Isis that spring to mind. These gods were closely associated with the Pharaoh and the upper echelons of Egyptian society. But in ancient Egypt, it was the demon gods that were inextricably linked to the everyday life of Egyptians. The most important of these was Bes, who provided protection against all manner of ills and ailments in ancient Egypt. “The exhibition isn’t just a story about the popular, multifaceted deity Bes, whom very few people today know. Bes provides a unique insight into how the people in general lived, and into the thought and faith of ancient Egypt”, says the Egyptologist and exhibition curator Tine Bagh. “Throughout history, humankind has sought safety and security. In today’s Denmark we have a welfare system to look after us. In ancient Egypt they had Bes.” Bes is easily recognisable. He has short, stumpy legs, his tongue pokes out of his mouth, his beard resemb

Neolithic cheese production

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In 1981, archaeologists studying key farming developments proposed that farm communities adopted dairying sometime between 4,000 and 3,500 BCE and  began using livestock for more than just meat. "Animal bones from sites in the British Isles showed patterns of which cows were slaughtered—lots of young males and older females—it is consistent with what you would find in a dairying economy,” observed archaeologist Peter Bogucki.   Bogucki had also noticed an unusual type of pottery at a number of sites around Poland: fragments of pots that had been perforated with small holes. Sieve sherds were frequently found at sites dating as far back as the Neolithic period. But other archaeologists proposed they may have been used only as honey strainers or for braziers. Bogucki analyzed animal remains from Linear Pottery Culture settlements and concluded that Linear Pottery settlers seldom hunted for food and relied heavily on cattle. There were also almost no remains of pigs, a far more effic

The aspis and rise of the Argives

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The ancient city of Argos was inhabited as far back as 7,000 years ago.   Argos experienced its greatest period of expansion and power, though, under the energetic 7th century BCE ruler, King Pheidon.  Pheidon was said to have been a descendant of Heracles through Temenus. Pheidon seized the throne from the reigning aristocracy with the support of the lower classes.  He was a vigorous and energetic ruler and greatly increased the power of Argos. Under Pheidon, Argos regained sway over the cities of the Argolid and challenged Sparta’s dominance of the Peloponnese. Spartan dominance is thought to have been interrupted following the Battle of Hyssiae in 669-668 BCE, in which Argive troops defeated the Spartans in a hoplite battle. The Argive army was already equipped at the time with a deeply dished wooden shield called the aspis which is thought to have given the Argives an advantage over the Spartans.  The revolutionary part of the shield was, in fact, the grip. Known as an Argive grip,

Silver plate possibly depicting the debate between Myth and Science

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Two seated philosophers, labeled Ptolemy and Hermes, engage in a spirited discussion on this fragmentary plate. A woman stands behind each man, gesturing and partaking in the exchange. The woman on the left is identified as Skepsis. Above the two seated men, an unidentified enthroned man is partially preserved. The scene on this plate has been interpreted as an allegory of the debate between Myth and Science: Ptolemy, the founder of the Alexandrian school of scientific thought, debating Hermes Trismegistos, a deity supporting the side of myth. - J. Paul Getty Museum Hermes Trismegistus, "Hermes the Thrice-Greatest" or Mercurius ter Maximus in Latin, is a legendary Hellenistic figure that originated as a syncretic combination of the Greek god of interpretive communication, Hermes, and the Egyptian god of wisdom, Thoth. He is the purported author of the Hermetica, a widely diverse series of ancient and medieval texts that lay the basis of various philosophical systems known as