Saturday, December 05, 2020

Women in ancient Assyria

 During the Middle Assyrian Period, the social position of women in Assyria became lower than that of neighboring societies. Men were permitted to divorce their wives with no compensation paid to the latter. If a woman committed adultery, she could be beaten, have her ears or nose cut off, her nipples torn off, her eyes gouged out, or put to death. It's not certain if these laws were seriously enforced, but they appear to be a backlash against some older documents that granted things like equal compensation to both partners in divorce.

A law code dating from the reign of King Tiglathpileser I (1115 - 1076 BCE), a particularly misogynistic ruler,  in which punishments were especially severe, especially for women, reveals a woman could be punished not only for their individual transgressions, but also for crimes committed by their relatives under the principle of ius talionis (an eye for an eye).

‘If a man forcibly seizes and rapes a maiden who is residing in her father’s house... the father of the maiden shall take the wife of the rapist of the maiden and give her over to be raped. He shall not return her to her husband, he shall take her (for himself).'

'If a woman has procured a miscarriage by her own act, when they have prosecuted her and convicted her, they shall impale her on stakes without burying her. If she died in having the miscarriage, they shall impale her on stakes without burying her.’ 

`If a woman has crushed a gentleman’s testicle in a brawl, they shall cut off one finger of hers. If the other testicle has become affected along with it by catching the infection, even though a physician has bound it up, or she has crushed the other testicle in a brawl, they shall tear out both her eyes.’ 

The women of the king's harem and their servants were also subject to harsh punishments, such as beatings, mutilation, and death. Scholars have pointed out that this suppression of women's rights appears to have corresponded to the rise of monotheism in Assyrian theology. As the Assyrians conquered more and more peoples and elevated their god, Ashur, from a local god to supreme god over all and far removed from the natural world, women, with their critical role in the natural world as life bearer, became diminished. A man who saw a woman behaving in any way deemed unacceptable had to report that woman to the authorities instantly or risk 50 lashes, mutilation, and enslavement for a month.

However, during the Neo-Assyrian Period (883-608 BCE) royal women, at least, became independently wealthy and could buy land based on letters that have been recovered.  There are records of female officials who had important roles running the households of royal ladies and possibly others as well. Women outside the royal household also worked as priestesses and prophetesses.  But, no evidence of temple prostitution has been discovered and is thought to have been merely invented by later Greek authors to illustrate the moral decline of Babylon.

The Assyrian word harimtu, which was once translated as prostitute is now thought to refer to just a single woman without a husband or father and not tied to an institution. Although the term was used derogatorily in several texts as an insult, it was not defined as such universally.

The status of women in Assyria probably differed little from women throughout the patriarchal societies of the ancient Near East.  The brutality used to enforce the social order was the exception.

Assyria, in general, had much harsher laws than most of the region. Executions were not uncommon, nor were whippings followed by forced labor. Some offenses allowed the accused a trial under torture or duress. One tablet that covers property rights has brutal penalties for violators. A creditor could force debtors to work for him, but not sell them. Sex crimes were punished identically whether they were homosexual or heterosexual. An individual faced no punishment for penetrating a cult prostitute, someone of an equal or lower social class, such as slaves, or someone whose gender roles were not considered solidly masculine. Such sexual relations were even seen as good fortune. However, homosexual relationships with royal attendants, between soldiers, or with those where a social better was submissive or penetrated were either treated as rape or seen as bad omens, and punishments applied.

Read more about women in ancient Assyria at:

and more about Tiglath Pileser I at:

Image: Head of a female figure ca. 8th–7th century B.C.E. Assyrian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art courtesy of the museum.

This female head, carved in the round, was found in the Burnt Palace at Nimrud and may have originally been part of a composite statuette made of various materials and overlaid with gold foil. A square mortise cut into the bottom of this piece suggests that a tenon would have secured it to a now lost body. Part of the head has been damaged, but several features that remain, including the large, originally inlaid eyes, prominent ears, hooked nose, small mouth, and receding chin, are characteristic of North Syrian ivories. The hair falls in long individual locks, crowned by a diadem of rosettes and inlaid discs (the original colored glass or semiprecious stone inlays are now lost) tied at the back of the head. - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Syro-Phoenician Ivories

Built by the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II, the palaces and storerooms of Nimrud housed thousands of pieces of carved ivory. Most of the ivories served as furniture inlays or small precious objects such as boxes. While some of them were carved in the same style as the large Assyrian reliefs lining the walls of the Northwest Palace, the majority of the ivories display images and styles related to the arts of North Syria and the Phoenician city-states. Phoenician style ivories are distinguished by their use of imagery related to Egyptian art, such as sphinxes and slender elongated figures wearing pharaonic crowns, and the use of elaborate carving techniques such as openwork and colored glass inlay. Some were also adorned with gold leaf. North Syrian style ivories tend to depict stockier figures in more dynamic compositions, carved as solid plaques with fewer added decorative elements. However, some pieces do not fit easily into any of these three styles. Most of the ivories were probably collected by the Assyrian kings as tribute from vassal states, and as booty from conquered enemies, while some may have been manufactured in workshops at Nimrud. The ivory tusks that provided the raw material for these objects were almost certainly from African elephants, imported from lands south of Egypt, although elephants did inhabit several river valleys in Syria until they were hunted to extinction by the end of the eighth century BCE. - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

This statuette group, carved in the round, was found with five other statuettes with similar imagery. The six statuettes were excavated in and just below two arched niches built into the wall of a room at Fort Shalmaneser, a royal building at Nimrud that was probably used to store booty and tribute collected by the Assyrians while on military campaign. Those found just below the niches could have fallen when the palaces were destroyed during the the final defeat of Assyria at the end of the seventh century B.C. Originally, these objects were attached to long ivory plinths and exhibited in the arched niches, perhaps arranged in a procession of foreigners bringing different animals and animal skins as tribute to the Assyrian king. A frontally facing male, striding to the right with his lower body in profile, grasps the horns of an oryx (a species of desert-dwelling antelope) that strides behind him. The male figure’s eyes, necklace, and armlet were carved to receive colored glass or semiprecious stone inlays. He wears a short kilt belted with a long sash, embroidered with decoration including two uraei (mythical, fire-spitting serpents), zig-zags, wavy lines, small squares, rosettes, diamonds, and circles. A monkey, whose fur is rendered with short incisions, sits erect on his left shoulder and grasps his short curly hair. Although his right arm does not survive, it was probably extended to support the elaborately patterned leopard skin draped over his right shoulder. - Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Griffin at a Sacred Tree, Syro-Palestinian, 8th century BCE Ivory photographed at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

Cow Suckling a Calf Ivory Syro-Palestinian 8th century BCE Ivory photographed at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Plaque-winged Sphinx Ivory Nimrud Iraq 8th century BCE photographed at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ivory Panel Syro-Phoenician Nimrud 8th to 7th centuries BCE (2) photographed at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, California

Ivory Panel Syro-Phoenician Nimrud 8th to 7th centuries BCE photographed at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, California

Ivory Panel Syro-Phoenician Nimrud 8th to 7th centuries BCE photographed at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, California

Ivory Panel Syro-Phoenician Nimrud 8th to 7th centuries BCE photographed at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, California

Ivory Panel representing the Tree of Life Syro-Phoenician Nimrud 8th to 7th centuries BCE (7) photographed at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, California

Ivory Panel Syro-Phoenician Nimrud 8th to 7th centuries BCE photographed at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, California

Ivory Panel Syro-Phoenician Nimrud 8th to 7th centuries BCE photographed at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, California

Ivory Panel Syro-Phoenician Nimrud 8th to 7th centuries BCE photographed at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, California

Ivory plaque depicting female sphinx Megiddo Stratum VIIA Late Bronze IIB (1300-1200 BCE) photographed at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago

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Monday, November 30, 2020

Egypt and Cyprus in the Late Archaic Period

Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean, located north of Egypt and west of the Levant, was considered a strategic site  in the ancient world and subsequently occupied by the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans.  During the Cypriot Archaic Era (c. 750 BCE to 475 BCE), the island was ruled by Sargon II of Assyria, starting in 709 BCE when the Assyrians extorted taxes from Cyprus in exchange for their independence.  But, by 699 BCE the Assyrians withdrew because of conflicts elsewhere and the Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis II (also known as Ahmose II) claimed the island around 560 BCE.

According to Herodotus, Amasis was of common origins and originally an officer in the Egyptian army. He campaigned in Nubia under the Pharaoh Psamtik II in 592 BCE and rose to the rank of general. 

Psamtik II was succeeded by his son, Apries (also known as Waphres of Manetho). Apries led an expedition in an attempt to protect Libya from incursions by Dorian Greek invaders but his forces were badly mauled.  When the defeated army returned home, a civil war broke out in the Egyptian army between the indigenous troops and Greek mercenaries Apries had secured. The Egyptians threw their support to General Amasis who quickly declared himself pharaoh in 570 BCE. Apries fled Egypt and sought refuge in Babylon. When Apries marched back to Egypt in 567 BC with the aid of a Babylonian army to reclaim the throne of Egypt, he was likely killed in battle with Amasis' forces. Herodotus, however, claims Apries survived the battle and was captured and treated well by the victorious Amasis, until the Egyptian people demanded justice against Apries, whereby he was placed into their hands and strangled to death. Amasis, however, reportedly treated Apries' mortal remains with respect and observed the proper funerary rituals by having Apries' body carried to Sais and buried there with "full military honors." Amasis then  married Apries' daughter, Chedebnitjerbone II, to legitimise his accession to power.

Herodotus reports Amasis cultivated a close relationship with Greece and under his prudent administration, Egypt reached a new level of wealth. Amasis even married a Greek princess named Ladice daughter of King Battus III and made alliances with Polycrates of Samos and Croesus of Lydia.  In the fourth year of his reign, Amasis defeated an invasion of Egypt by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II but when Cyrus the Great ascended the Persian throne in 559 BCE, Amasis had no major Near Eastern allies to counter the Persian threat.  The final assault by the Persians did not come until shortly after Amasis had died in 526 BCE. His son, Psamtik III, though, ended up reigning for only six months before his defeat in 525 BCE.

Amasis II was buried in the royal necropolis of Sais, like other pharaohs of the 26th dynasty, but he was not left undisturbed to rest in peace. According to Herodotus, Cambyses gave orders that Amasis' body was to be taken and beaten with whips, stuck with goads, and have its hair plucked.  When the embalmed body would not fall to pieces, Cambyses finally ordered it burned.

Image: Limestone male figure in Egyptian dress, mid-6th century BCE, Cypriot, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The figure wears the double crown of Egypt, a three-row pectoral, a baldric perhaps for a quiver, bracelets, and a kilt that is embellished with winged uraei, a head of the Egyptian god Bes or of the Gorgon Medusa, and an eye. Whether this individual represents Amasis II or Psamtik III, though, is unknown.

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Friday, October 30, 2020

Less stylized Amarna portraiture

 Less stylized Amarna portraiture

During Akhenaten's reign, royal portraiture underwent dramatic change, often depicting the pharaoh in an androgynous and highly stylized manner. Artists showed subjects with  elongation and narrowing of the neck and head, sloping of the forehead and nose, a prominent chin, large ears and lips as well as lowered eyelids. Each figure was also illustrated with a more elongated body than previous representations. In the new human form, the subject had more fat in the stomach, thigh, and breast region, while the torso, arm, and legs were thin and long like the rest of the body. The skin color of both male and female is generally dark brown (contrasted with the usual dark brown or red for males and light brown or white for females). Figures in this style are shown with both a left and a right foot, contrasting the traditional style of being shown with either two left or two right feet and fingers and toes are depicted as long and slender and are carefully detailed to show nails. 

The Brooklyn Museum points out that the unusual, elongated skull shape often used in portrayal of the royal family "may be a slightly exaggerated treatment of a hereditary trait of the Amarna royal family  given that "the mummy of Tutankhamun, presumed to be related to Akhenaten, has a similarly shaped skull." Some scholars, though, suggest that the presentation of the human body as imperfect during the Amarna period is in deference to Aten while others interpret this unprecedented stylistic break from Egyptian tradition to be a reflection of the Amarna Royals' attempts to wrest political power from the traditional priesthood and bureaucratic authorities.

However, some less stylized portrait sculpture has survived from this period including these portrait heads of Akhenaten and Nefertiti that I photographed at the Neues Museum in Berlin back in 2016. Although Akhenaten's portrait does feature the lowered lids, the skull shape and more normal anatomical appearance of the facial structures would seem to discount the presence of some of the more severe genetic disorders that have been proposed.

After Akhenaten's death, the new capital was abandoned, and traces of his monuments elsewhere defaced. Remains of Amarna art are therefore concentrated in Amarna itself, but some remains have been found at Karnak, where large reliefs in the style were dismantled, and the blocks turned round to face inwards when a later building was constructed using them. These were only rediscovered in recent decades. 

Image: Portrait heads of the royal couple Akhenaten and Nefertiti, 18th Dynasty, Egypt, 1340 BCE that I photographed at the Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany in 2016.

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Funerary Masks of the Mayan Classic Period

 Maya Classic Period rule (250-900 CE) was centred on the concept of the "divine king", who acted as a mediator between mortals and the supernatural realm. Kingship was patrilineal, and power would normally pass to the eldest son. A prospective king was also expected to be a successful war leader. Maya politics was dominated by a closed system of patronage, although the exact political make-up of a kingdom varied from city-state to city-state. By the Late Classic, the aristocracy had greatly increased, resulting in the corresponding reduction in the exclusive power of the divine king. The Classic period Maya political landscape has been likened to that of Renaissance Italy or Classical Greece, with multiple city-states engaged in a complex network of alliances and enmities. The largest cities had populations numbering 50,000 to 120,000 and were linked to networks of subsidiary sites.

In 378 CE, Teotihuacan decisively intervened at Tikal and other nearby cities, deposed their rulers, and installed a new Teotihuacan-backed dynasty. Tikal's great rival was Calakmul, another powerful city in the Petén Basin. Tikal and Calakmul both developed extensive systems of allies and vassals which were used to against each other. At various points during the Classic period, one or other of these powers would gain a strategic victory over its great rival, resulting in respective periods of ascendance and decline.

Classic Maya social organization was based on the ritual authority of the ruler, rather than central control of trade and food distribution. This model of rulership was poorly structured to respond to changes, because the ruler's actions were limited by tradition to such activities as construction, ritual, and warfare. This only served to exacerbate systemic problems that may have included overpopulation with resulting severe environmental degradation and drought. By the 9th and 10th centuries, this resulted in collapse of this system of rulership. In the northern Yucatán, individual rule was replaced by a ruling council formed from elite lineages. But, in the southern Yucatán and central Petén, kingdoms declined. In western Petén and some other areas, the changes were catastrophic and resulted in the rapid depopulation of cities. One by one, cities stopped sculpting dated monuments. The last Long Count date was inscribed at Toniná in 909 CE.

Image: Funerary Mask (Jade, Shell and Grey Obsidian) Calakmul, Late Classic (660-750 CE) at the Museo de Arquitectura Maya, Baluarte de la Soledad, Campeche, Mexico courtesy of Bernard Dupont (CC BY-SA 2.0) The Maya exhibited a preference for the color green or blue-green, and used the same word for the colors blue and green. Correspondingly, they placed high value on apple-green jade, and other greenstones, associating them with the sun-god Kʼinich Ajau. 

See more Maya funerary masks on Wikimedia Commons:

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Kudurrus of ancient Babylon

A kudurrus is an ancient Babylonian stone with an inscription that records a land grant, usually between the ruling monarch and a subject.  It's name is derived from kudurru, the Akkadian word for boundary.  The only kudurrus excavated in ancient Babylonian sites were found in temples where they would have served to record the transaction and to protect the rights of owner by legal as well as divine means.

Inscriptions usually provided the location of the plot of land, the boundaries of its four sides, the name of the surveyor of the property and the names of witnesses to the transaction. To provide divine protection of the relationship, a kudurrus also often included many symbols of deities such as the crescent, symbol of the moon-god Sin, the solar disk of the sun god Shamash, and the eight-pointed star of the goddess Ishtar/Inanna.

A Kassite example I photographed at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago was cast from an original in the British Museum.  The Kassites rose to power after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire and ruled from 1595 BCE until about 1155 BCE. The Kassites were members of a small military aristocracy but were efficient rulers and locally popular. Their 500-year reign laid an essential groundwork for the development of subsequent Babylonian culture. The chariot and the horse, which the Kassites worshipped, first came into use in Babylonia at this time. Kassite rulers in Babylon, though, were scrupulous to follow existing forms of expression, and the public and private patterns of behavior which was probably an important factor in their popularity.

Although the Kassite kings ruled conservatively, they were conquered in the 12th century BCE by the neighboring Elamites. They regained control briefly during Babylonian Dynasty V (1025-1004 BCE) but were then deposed by the Arameans. The Kassite people, however, survived as a dstinct ethic group in the mountains of Luristan long afterwards. Babylonian records describe how the Assyrian king Sennacherib on his eastern campaign of 702 BCE subdued the Kassites in a battle near Hulwan, Iran. During the later Achaemenid period, the Kassites, referred to as "Kossaei", lived in the mountains to the east of Media and were one of several "predatory" mountain tribes that regularly extracted "gifts" from the Achaemenid Persians, according to a citation of Nearchus by Strabo (13.3.6). However, they fought with the Persians against Alexander the Great in the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BCE. According to Diodorus Siculus (17.59) and Curtius Rufus (4.12), Alexander later launched a winter attack against the Kassites and put an end to their tribute-seeking raids.

Kudurrus recording a grant of land by Marduk-nadin-ahhe, King of Babylon to Adad-zer-iqisha 12th century BCE (cast) at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago (original in the British Museum)

There are more images of interesting kuddurru on Wikimedia Commons:

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Monday, October 12, 2020

Servitude in ancient Egypt

 The distinction between servant, peasant, and slave described different roles in different contexts in ancient Egypt.  Forms of forced labor and servitude are seen throughout all of ancient Egypt.  There were three types of enslavement in ancient Egypt: chattel slavery, bonded labor, and forced labor.

Chattel slaves were mostly captives of war and were brought over to different cities and countries to be sold as slaves. All captives, including civilians not a part of the military forces, become a royal resource. The pharaoh would then resettle the captives by moving them into colonies for labour, giving them to temples, giving them as rewards to deserving individuals, and giving them to his soldiers as loot. Some chattel slaves began as free people who were found guilty of committing illicit acts and were forced to give up their freedom. Other chattel slaves were born into the life from a slave mother.

Ancient Egyptians were able to sell themselves and children into slavery in a form of bonded labor.  Self-sale into servitude was not always a choice made by the individuals’ free will, but rather a result of individuals who were unable to pay off their debts. The creditor would wipe the debt by acquiring the individual who was in debt as a slave, along with his children and wife. The debtor would also have to give up all that was owned. Peasants were also able to sell themselves into slavery for food or shelter. In the slave market, bonded laborers were commonly sold with a 'slave yoke' or a 'taming stick' if the slave was troublesome.

 The last form of slavery , forced labor, occurred when the Egyptian government drafted workers from the general population to work for the state with a corvée labor system. The laborers were conscripted for projects such as military expeditions, mining and quarrying, and construction projects for the state. These slaves were paid a wage, depending on their skill level and social status for their work. Conscripted workers were not owned by individuals, like other slaves, but rather required to perform labor as a duty to the state. Conscripted labor was a form of taxation by government officials and usually happened at the local level when high officials called upon small village leaders.

I noticed that research states servitude was known as far back as the New Kingdom but numerous statues of laborers engaged in various tasks have been found in Old Kingdom tombs as well.  Whether they were just citizens engaged in their various occupations or those laboring under servitude is unclear.  Perhaps they were merely included in high status tombs to ensure the deceased would have all of the products and services he needed in the afterlife.

Images: Figurines of servants from the Old Kingdom tomb of courtier Nykauinpu, Dynasty 5, 2477 BCE, Giza, Egypt that I photographed at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago in 2009:

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Thursday, October 08, 2020

Reassertion of political power reflected in Late Period Egyptian art

 A scene of two girls in a wheat field quarreling and pulling each other's hair, found in Luxor in a Late Period tomb of a man named Mentuemhet closely resembles a scene used in the tomb of man named Menna who lived 1200 years before.  It dates from Dynasty 26 circa 664 BCE.  The Late Period is considered by scholars to be the last flowering of native Egyptian culture before the Persian conquests, followed by the victories of Alexander the Great and the establishment of the Ptolemaic Kingdom.

Its first pharaoh, Psamtik I, threw off ties to the Assyrians about 665 BCE by forming alliances with King Gyges of Lydia and mercenaries from Caria and Greece.  In the ninth year of his 54-year reign, Psamtik reunified Egypt by destroying the last vestiges of the Nubian 25th Dynasty's control over Upper Egypt. But Psamtik, in his effort to reassert Egyptian authority in the Near East, was driven back by the Neo-Babylonian forces under Nebuchadnezzar II.  However, he succeeded in restoring Egypt's prosperity and established close relations with Greece, encouraging many Greek settlers to establish colonies in Egypt and serve in the Egyptian army.

This reassertion of native Egyptian culture after a period of foreign control was proclaimed by the emulation of earlier Egyptian art to harken back to the historical period when Egypt was a dominant power in the region.  In 2017, a colossal quartzite statue of Psamtik I was discovered at Heliopolis. It, too, was sculpted in the ancient classical style of 2000 BCE, symbolizing a resurgence to the greatness and prosperity of the classical period.  At some point, however, the colossus was deliberately destroyed.  Fragments of the sculpture are cracked and discolored, evidence of having been heated to high temperatures then shattered with cold water, a historical method used to destroy ancient colossi.

Tomb engraving of two girls quarreling in a wheat field dating to the Egyptian 26th Dynasty, also known as the Saite period, that I photographed at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois in 2009.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2020

The contentious relationship between ancient Cyprus and Persia

 The early documented history of Cyprus begins with an inscribed stele commemorating a victory by Sargon II (722–705 BCE) of Assyria there in 709 BCE.  Assyrian domination of Cyprus appears to have begun earlier than this, though, during the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III (744–727 BCE), and ended with the fall of the Neo Assyrian Empire in 609 BCE, whereupon the city-kingdoms of Cyprus gained independence once more. Following a brief period of Egyptian domination in the sixth century BCE, Cyprus fell under Persian rule. Royal palaces excavated on Cyprus resemble the architecture of Achaemenid examples like Persepolis, with audience chambers, open courtyards, bathhouses, and stores.  Town fortifications and houses were built of mudbrick walls on stone foundations.

Early Greek influence is reflected in Cypriot sculpture, however.  Archaic Greek art with its attractive smile on the face of the statue is found on many ritual pieces dating between 525–475 BCE although portrait sculptures began to exhibit more realism.  Ionian influence on sculptures intensified and copies of Greek korai appear, as well as statues of men in Greek dress. Naked kouroi, however, although common in Greece, are extremely rare in Cyprus, while women are always presented dressed with rich folds in their garments. The pottery in Cyprus retained its local influences, although some Greek pottery was imported at this time.

Cyprus supplied armies and ships for Persia's foreign campaigns including Xerses' invasion of Greece in 480 BCE where Cyprus contributed 150 ships to the expedition. Despite this, Cyprus took part in the Ionian Revolt in 499 BCE led by the brother of the king of Salamis.  But the Persians crushed the Cypriot armies after a five-month siege. 

However, when Evagoras I of Salamis dominated Cypriot politics for forty years,  he favored Athens during the closing years of the Peloponnesian War, elicited Persian support for the Athenians against Sparta and urged Greeks from the Aegean to settle in Cyprus. At the beginning of the 4th century BCE, he took control of the whole island of Cyprus and within a few years was attempting to gain independence from Persia with Athenian help. 

Following resistance from the kings of Kition, Amathus and Soli, who fled to the great king of Persia in 390 BC to request support, Evagoras received less help from the Athenians than he had hoped for and in about 380 BCE, a Persian force besieged Salamis and Evagoras was forced to surrender. In the end, though, he remained king of Salamis until he was murdered in 374 BCE, but only by accepting his role as a vassal of Persia. Together with Egypt and Phoenicia, Cyprus rebelled against Persian rule again in 350 BCE, but the uprising was crushed by Artaxerxes III in 344 BCE. 

Cyprus finally gained political independence  when, hearing of Alexander's great victory over the Persians at Issus, the Cypriots rose up against their Persian overlords yet again and made available to Alexander the fleet of ships formerly in the service of Persia.  These ships and Cypriot engineers were instrumental in Alexander's successful siege of Tyre in 332 BCE.

When I saw these portraits of Cypriot men at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I thought their faces reflected this independent nature.  

Terracotta head of a man wearing a wreath Cypriot Late Classical 4th century BCE photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Male Head Cypriot Hellenistic period 3rd-2nd centuries BCE Limestone photographed at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, California.

Closeup of a limestone grave marker depicting men reclining at a banquet Cypriot Classical Period 4th century BCE photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Limestone figure of a young beardless man of high rank probably in service to a deity Cypriot Archaic early 6th c. BCE photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Closeup of limestone male figure in Egyptian dress Cypriot Archaic 3rd quarter of the 6th century BCE photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Limestone head of a bearded man wearing a conical cap indicating high rank Cypriot Archaic early 6th century BCE photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Colossal votive terracotta head of a man with full beard and helmet with upturned cheekpieces 600-500 BCE from the sanctuary of Salamis-Toumpa excavated in 1890 Cyprus photographed at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Destruction of Hasanlu in northwest Iran

 The site of Hasanlu was extensively excavated from 1957–77 as part of a general investigation into the archaeology of the Ushnu-Solduz Valley in northwestern Iran, a joint venture of the Penn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, and the Archaeological Service of Iran. The site has deposits dating back some 8,000 years to Neolithic times, however, the Iron Age levels, beginning around 1250 BCE, are the best understood.

The settlement portion of Hasanlu was dramatically destroyed (ca. 800 BCE) leaving a burned and body-strewn destruction level. The conflagration is thought to have happened in late summer based on plant remains. The people who remained in the buildings on the High Mound, including women and children, were completely wiped out by violence and fire. Most seem to have been left where they were killed in the streets and in buildings, which then collapsed on their bodies because of the fire. The people who remained at Hasanlu did have weapons and horses at their disposal. Large collections of various types of weapons were found in several of the buildings, possibly in storage areas. However, the bodies strewn all over the city indicate that the end was swift and violent.  This is the site where the famous Hasanlu Lovers, a pair of skeletons in a bin of plaster-covered mudbrick in 1972 were found. The two lie facing each other with one reaching out with its right hand to touch the face of the other.

Read more about this fascinating site here:

Image: Kohl box in the shape of an elongated figure wearing a helmet (?) and cape (?), Hasanlu Period IV Bronze (ca. 800 BCE). The body expands outward to a flat base supported by four human-shod feet although one is missing.  Image courtesy of the Penn Museum.

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Monday, August 31, 2020

“Kings of the Sun” in Prague, Czech Republic through February 7, 2021

The exhibition, "Kings of the Sun", which will run until Feb. 7, 2021, will display 90 artifacts unearthed by the Czech archaeological mission working on the site of Abu Sir in Egypt's Giza governorate. Chief among these treasures is the head of a statue of King Ra-Nefer-F produced around the year 2460 BCE. Abu-Sir is a royal burial ground with three pyramids built during the Fifth Dynasty. The display will encompass artifacts from the 3rd to the 1st millennium BCE and include an extensive collection of statues from the tombs of Princess Sheretnebty and the scribe Nefer discovered in 2012. Statues of a writer, senior statesmen, and royal staff as well as canopic jars, and Faience ushabti figurines will be presented.

Image: Old Kingdom statue of an Egyptian couple from the exhibit "Kings of the Sun" courtesy of Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Chinese and Japanese art at the Penn Museum

 Yesterday I finished editing and uploading my images of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum)'s Chinese and Japanese Art on display in their Asian galleries to Wikimedia Commons.  These are high resolution images suitable for both print and digital applications and I only require attribution for their use. The Penn Museum's Asian collection ranges from bronze vessels of the Zhou Period (1046-256 BCE) to sculptures of the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912 CE).  Most objects on display at the time of my visit in 2015 are related to Buddhism in some form.

I'm now working on my images of their ancient Egyptian collection and will begin uploading those soon.  Most of my images of their spectacular objects from ancient Mesopotamia including the death pit of Ur have been uploaded from my Flickr account by another Wikipedia editor:

A small sampling of the Penn Museum's Asian Art:

Female Guardian Lioness Cloisonne 17th century CE Qing Dynasty possibly from Beijing China

Lokapala Tang Dynasty 618-907 CE Henan Province China. A lokapala is a warrior, or one of the four Heavenly Kings who guard the four directions of the universe.

Unglazed pottery funerary figurines of horses Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) China

Sakyamuni Buddha Dry Lacquer Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 CE) China

Silver death mask of the Liao Dynasty (907-1124 CE) Shanxi Province China

Luohan monk earthernware with Sancai decoration Liao or Jin Period from a cave hear Yizhou Hebei Province China. This Luohan wears an outer garment called the jiasa, which is draped to purposely show the right shoulder and arm, revealing the green undergarment, a symbol that he is trying to help save sentient beings.

Monju, the bodhisattva of wisdom's lion from a Shingon Temple altar Japan late 19th century CE

Bodhisattva Guanyin recovered from a river near Mukden Manchuria in 1918. A small figure of Amitabha Buddha appears at the base of the high crown headdress. Liao China 10th century CE

Wooden figure of Guanyin from the Song Period (960-1279 CE) China

Wooden Seitaka attendant of Fudo from Koyasan Temple, Kyoto Japan 19th century CE

Wooden Kangara attendant of Fudo from Koyasan Temple, Kyoto, Japan 19th century CE

Zen Buddhist figure of a seated Patriarch or Monk 18-19th century Japan

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