Category: Final Projects

Ancient Greece’s Parthenon: A Minecraft Reconstruction

Allie Hagg

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

The Greek Parthenon can be found in ruins at the acropolis in Athens. Originally designed by architects Iktinos and Kallikrates, the temple became the best renowned structure of Ancient Greece. In the middle to late 5th century BCE, this massive structure was dedicated to the gods, specifically to the goddess Athena whom acted as the patron deity of Athens. The original structure is made out of limestone and marble (as well as bronze and gold in some areas), which was continually looted over centuries. This was nicely outlined in Evan Hadingham’s “Unlocking Mysteries of the Parthenon”. As a result, there is very little left remaining of this structure due mainly to the erosion of the materials over time, but mistreatment of the space and looting as well. Over the years several reconstructions were created to portray the magnitude and structural genius that defines the Parthenon as well as the core ideals of Greek culture. There are several different ways that reconstructions have been created including the replica in Nashville, Tennessee as well as smaller models approximately the size of a dollhouse. Through the advancements in technology as well as some research into the considerable amount of architectural elements, this reconstruction of the Parthenon was created using the game Minecraft. Because the current ruined state of the structure, people are unable to experience the magnitude of the structure as well as the ethereal qualities of the Parthenon, which were carefully architected by interacting with its environment and displaying its culture.

Using Minecraft as a tool to reconstruct this temple has its benefits because there are night and day settings that cast shadows at realistic angles. This is optimal for this reconstruction because one of the most remarkable aspects of the Parthenon is the contrasting light and dark spaces within the different parts and rooms of the building. For the vast majority of the reconstruction, I used the white quartz blocks and its several forms. Most of the floor as well as the roof is made from the chiseled white quartz blocks, the columns are made from the column white quartz blocks, and the capitals for the columns as well as the remainder of the structure is made out of the original white quartz. The white quartz looks the most similar to marble in the server and offers the use of the columns as well (columns cannot be created using other materials). In order to maintain the lighting on the interior as well as around the sides of the building, golden braziers were created with ignited netherrack in the center. There were additional gold accents that were used on the roof as well as adorning the colossal statue of the goddess Athena in the cella.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

In order to begin the reconstruction, researching plans and photos of the Parthenon was essential. The most useful of these were found within James Fergusson’s book, The Parthenon. Within this text a plan was made available as well as useful information regarding the columnar order as well as the proper labeling for the various rooms and sections of the ancient Greek structure. It is also fortunate that there is a decent amount of foundation that remains at the acropolis and has been photographed millions of times. The photographs of the Parthenon from all different angles on the Internet were also very useful in regard to estimating the scale of the building and how it would most accurately and perfectly be reconstructed within the game server. Once an area within the game realm was cleared out into a flat area, the plan that was included in Fergusson’s book was utilized.

The most important aspect of the Parthenon is the aspect of lighting. There is a stark contrast between light and dark within the structure due to the outer columns within the colonnade as well as the wall that sections off the inner portions of the temple. This is also mainly due to the Eastward facing entrance of the temple which was mentioned in Lena Lambrinou’s “The Parthenon Through Time”. During the morning daylight hours, the sun would shine through the columns and within the cella and illuminate the interior of the structure. This aspect of lighting is included within the Minecraft reconstruction because the temple was created with an Eastward facing entrance as well. The columns were all put into place precisely as the plan instructs. This accuracy allows for optimal illumination of the pronaos and the cella exactly as the architects would have originally intended. Additionally, Fergusson remarks upon that of the Doric order columns. Creating stairs out of the white quartz blocks and placing them upside-down on the ceiling and normally on the ground surrounding each column block could recreate the Doric order column style.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Colonnade– Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

Another aspect of the Parthenon that becomes quintessential to Hellenistic architecture of temples is the illusion of a wall made out of columns. In reality, if one desired to visit the Parthenon at the Athenian acropolis, they would come at the structure from an angle. This angle offers the illusion that the left side of the structure, completely made from columns, is really a wall. The concept of creating walls without actually making solid walls is a trend that continues for centuries. For comparison to the real structure, the angular wall illusion is still functional with the Minecraft reconstruction. This peristyle structure is not only ideal to withstand the weight of the roof, but allows for the light and dark contrast to persist throughout the building.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Traditional Angle, Wall Illusion– Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

The colossal statue of patron deity, Athena, proudly stood within the cella. Bruce S. Thornton remarks on the glorious statue and refers to her golden armor. Though there are certain limitations within Minecraft (such as being able to create a realistic statue on a smaller scale), a generalized Minecraft version of Athena was created in the statue’s place. The gold blocks were placed to display Athena’s armor in this section. It had already been established by the plan included in Fergusson’s book that the statue was raised above the ground level of the structure. Outside of the cella, but within the naos, would have contained the infamous Elgin Marbles. These statues were, of course, taken from their home at the acropolis and taken to museums that maintained what remained of the pieces. Thornton remarks on the statues and particularly on how much the statue of Athena cost, as well as the rest of the construction of the acropolis during ancient times.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Cella and Statue of Athena– Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

The last section of the Parthenon is the opisthodomos. This would have been restricted to very few people. The only entrance to this area is around the back. The room is small and contains four Doric order columns. This is where the treasure of Athens was said to be kept. People would give Athena large offerings of gold and precious belongings that were held in the opisthodomos. According to Thornton, this area acted as Athens’ treasury of sorts. The security of the room is heightened because there is only one entrance; it is small, dark and not especially easy to get to.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Opisthodomos– Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

Lastly, the pediment of the Parthenon was a main point of reconstruction. Because of the scaling used, a simplified scene was created to fill the space. The East pediment, of the original structure, was a narrative representing the birth of Athena. The West pediment portrayed the competition between Athena and Poseidon that determined which deity would earn the position of divine patron of Athens. The pediments were not the only details included in constructing the upper parts of the building: the friezes and metopes were included as well which were analyzed in Toshihiro Osada’s article, Also 10 tribal units: the grouping of cavalry on the Parthenon north frieze.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Upper Structure– Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

Reconstructions of ancient Greece’s Parthenon are essential to understanding the experience of the structure. Because it was located at the highest point in the city and because the structure is so grandiose, the temple could be nothing less than a product of and related to the gods. The structure and the devotional statue located within offer a larger-than-life experience to the viewer. It is a marvel to experience the magnitude of the building and its contents while also experiencing the contrasting light and dark spaces within and how the building interacts with its environment. The Parthenon has been, and will continue to be, one of the most influential structures in history. Even in ruins, the structure inspires awe to millions of people and provokes curiosity of ancient Greek culture.




Fergusson, James. 1883. “The Parthenon: an essay on the mode by which light was introduced into Greek and Roman temples.” HathiTrust (accessed April 18, 2015).

Hadingham, Evan. 2008. “UNLOCKING MYSTERIES OF THE PARTHENON. (cover story).” Smithsonian 38, no. 11: 36. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 21, 2015).

Lambrinou, Lena. 2010. “THE PARTHENON THROUGH TIME.” Calliope 20, no. 4: 20. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 21, 2015).

Osada, Toshihiro. 2011. “Also 10 tribal units: the grouping of cavalry on the Parthenon north frieze.” American Journal Of Archaeology no. 4: 537. Academic OneFile, EBSCOhost (accessed April 21, 2015).

Thornton, Bruce S. 2014. “A MIRROR IN MARBLE.” Claremont Review Of Books 14, no. 4: 84. Points of View Reference Center (accessed April 21, 2015).

From the Greeks to Augustus

Jesse Busby

Since the Greeks, there has been an emphasis on the human body. Whether it be exaggerated emotions and contorted posture or the idealization of the human form, we see countless reconstructions of Greek statues. The Greeks pointed sculpture in a direction it would continue to travel even through today.

Kouroi, the earliest of the large stone figures, were rigid and stiff as seen in Egyptian statues. These lifeless figures slowly evolved, and with great detail added to their musculature. Arms slowly begin to rise and their slightly leaning posture begins to bring movement to the sculptures. Eventually the Greeks get so realistic and miniscule in detail that the human form has reached perfection. This perfection didn’t emerge because the Greeks had an infatuation with perfect bodies. For the Greeks, reaching peak physical stamina was strived for. Greek city-states like Sparta and Athens placed so much emphasis on the thought of the perfect human form that they would discard infants if they didn’t meet the expectations of the time.

The sculptures of the ancient Greeks, Etruscans and Romans didn’t come about for the sole purpose of having something pretty to look at. These sculptures aren’t only alike in that they follow Greek methods, but also because they all reflect certain ideologies of the culture and society that produced them. For example: the influence the Greeks placed on physique; the light-hearted laissez-faire attitude of the Etruscans; or the importance of age, wisdom and experience for the early Romans. Every work of art we see from these societies is the direct response of their social and political way of life.


Dying Gaul

The Dying Gaul is an ancient Roman marble copy of a lost Hellenistic bronze sculpture. The original may have been commissioned some time between 230 and 220 BC by Attalus I of Pergamon to celebrate his victory over the Gauls, who were the people of Anatolia, which is part of what is now modern Turkey[1]. The identity of the sculptor has been attributed to Epigonus, court sculptor of the Attalid dynasty of Pergamon, may have been the creator.[2]

Dying Gaul, Roman, 1st or 2nd century AD marble, 37 x 73 7/16 x 35 1/16 in. Sovrintendenza Capitolina — Musei Capitolini, Rome, Italy
Dying Gaul, Roman, 1st or 2nd century AD
marble, 37 x 73 7/16 x 35 1/16 in.
Sovrintendenza Capitolina — Musei Capitolini, Rome, Italy

The marble statue shows a fatally wounded Gallic warrior with remarkable realism, putting emphasis on the strange posture of the body and the pain shown on the Gaul’s face. A bleeding sword puncture is visible below his right breast. The figure is shown with a torc around his neck, which represents his high status among the Gallic people.[3] He lies on his fallen shield while his sword, belt, and a curved trumpet lie beside him. An interesting aspect of this sculpture is how courageous and composed the Gaul looks, even on the brink of death. Though the Gaul does appear to be in pain, he is not represented as overly dramatic, like many other Greek statues around this time.

Laocoon and His Sons

As described in Virgil’s Aeneid, Laocoon was a Trojan priest. When the Greeks left the famous Trojan horse on the beach, Laocoon tried to warn the Trojan leaders against bringing it into the city. The Greek goddess Athena, acting as protector of the Greeks, was furious that Laocoon warned the Trojans about the horse. Athena punished Laocoon for his interference by having him and his two sons attacked by the giant sea serpents.[4]

Credit: Creative Commons Laocoön and his sons, also known as the Laocoön Group. Marble, copy after an Hellenistic original from ca. 200 BC. Found in the Baths of Trajan, 1506.
Credit: Creative Commons
Laocoön and his sons, also known as the Laocoön Group. Marble, copy after an Hellenistic original from ca. 200 BC. Found in the Baths of Trajan, 1506.

The emphasis on emotional intensity and theatricality is very common among Hellenistic sculptures. The amount of pain in Laocoon and his sons’ faces is the ultimate depiction of pain. Their bodies are depicted as perfect forms, as to match the exaggerated emotions on their faces. This sculpture represents Hellenistic art at its finest. The way the bodies are contorted in uncomfortable positions and the way Laocoon’s head is rolled back, placing strain on his neck, are similar to Athena Fighting the Giants from the Altar of Zeus, another Hellenistic sculpture.[5]

Apollo- Etruscan

The Apulu of Veii is a great example of Etruscan sculpture. Apulu, the Etruscan equivalent of Apollo, is a terracotta sculpture that is slightly larger than life-size from the Portonaccio Temple at Veii. The figure was part of a group of statues that stood on the ridgepole of the temple and depicted the myth of Heracles and the Ceryneaian hind.[6] The figure of Apulu confronts the hero, Heracles, who is attempting to capture a deer sacred to Apulu’s sister, Artemis. Of the remaining figures from the temple at Veii, Apulu is the most complete statue.[7]

Credit: Creative Commons Apulu of Veii. Painted terracotta. Ca. 510-500 BCE. Portonaccio Temple, Veii, Italy.
Credit: Creative Commons
Apulu of Veii. Painted terracotta. Ca. 510-500 BCE. Portonaccio Temple, Veii, Italy.

The figure of Apulu has several Greek characteristics, but there are a few differences that set the Etruscan statue apart. The face and position of the body are similar to that of Archaic Greek kouros figures. The face is simply carved and an Archaic smile provides a link to Greek influence. The hair of Apulu is stylized and falls across his shoulders and down his neck and back in simple, geometric twists that could possibly represent braids.[8] The statue, like Greek statues of the time, was painted using vibrant colors.

Unlike Archaic Greek statues and kouros, the figure of Apulu is shown with more body movement and more stylized muscles and clothes than that of the Greeks. Apulu is shown stepping forward, with an arm stretched out, possibly holding a bow that is no longer intact. Unlike Greek sculptures and portrayals of Apollo at the time, the Etruscans have clothed the figure, draping a toga over one of his shoulders.[9] The way the toga is represented clinging tightly to his body and the stylized folds of the fabric differ from that of the Greek’s over-exaggerated realism.


Sarcophagus of Spouses

Credit: Creative Commons
Credit: Creative Commons

A late sixth century sarcophagus excavated from a tomb in modern day Cerveteri is a terracotta sculpture depicting a couple reclining together on a sort of couch. The sarcophagus displays not only the Etruscan Archaic style but also Etruscan skill in working with terracotta. The figures’ torsos are modeled and their heads are in a typical Etruscan egg-shape with almond shaped eyes, long noses, and an Archaic smile.[10] The hair is stylized, as seen in Apulu of Veii, and the figures are shown making gestures. The Etruscans place a large amount of emphasis on gesture, both in sculpture and painting.[11] It is believed that the woman originally held a small vessel, maybe used for wine, and the couple appears to be intimate and happy due to the fact that the two are intertwined.[12] Greek art portraying a man and woman aren’t this light-hearted and loving. Generally, Greek art showing a man and wife has a more serious tone.


Aulus Metellus (the Orator)

After the fall of the kings of Rome, the Republic began to form, and in turn the emphasis on realistic portrayals of public officials.[13] Fearful that the Republic could take back power from the people, seeing the statues of figures of power portrayed like a regular roman citizens restored hope that the leaders are there as an extension of the common Roman. The bronze statue Aulus Metellus was one of the statues used to speak to the people, assuring them that the Republic was working in their interests.[14]

Credit: Creative Commons
Credit: Creative Commons

The life size statue of the Roman official stretches his hand out toward the crowd he is addressing. With his arm outstretched toward the people, the official is letting the public know that he has the power and authority to help them voice their opinions.[15] The way the statue is posed makes him appear more like one of the people rather than someone that is of higher status. His toga is neatly folded and draped around his body, marking him as a governmental official, but the way his garments are shown so naturalistically also supports the idea that this figure doesn’t see himself as an elevated official.[16] The figures features and body are very common, unlike Hellenistic and other Greek figures, showing the human form in perfection. Viewers would be able to identify with this statue and place their trust in this man. The portrayal of senators and officials as caring and strong individuals helped restore trust and ease the tension on the Republic’s political system.[17]


Portrait bust, Cato the Elder

The portrait bust of Cato the Elder, from Otricoli (ancient Ocriculum) dates to the middle of the first century B.C.E. The portrait is a powerful representation of a male aristocrat with a strong roman nose.[18] The figure is shown lacking emotion, letting the wrinkles and scars do the talking. The figures abundance of wrinkles, a strong brow, and sunken skin, characterize the portrait head. The Romans used this veristic style of portraiture to show how wise and experienced the figures were, which were very influential characteristics to have.[19]

Credit: Creative Commons Head of a Roman Patrician. From Otricoli, Italy. Ca. 75-50 BCE.
Credit: Creative Commons
Head of a Roman Patrician. From Otricoli, Italy. Ca. 75-50 BCE.

Though this bust may seem unappealing by today’s standards, the portrait of Cato the Elder would have made for an influential piece while participating in the elections of the Republic. The physical traits of this portrait image are meant to convey seriousness of mind (gravitas) and the virtue (virtus) of a public career by demonstrating the way in which the subject literally wears the marks of his endeavors.[20]

Augustus Primaporta

Roman art and politics often go hand in hand. This is easily visible when viewing portraits of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Augustus used the power and influence of imagery in his portraits to spread his ideology across the Roman Empire.[21] One of Augustus’ most famous portraits is Augustus of Primaporta (20 B.C.E.).

Credit: Creative Commons  Flickr user: russavia Augustus of Primaporta
Credit: Creative Commons
Flickr user: russavia
Augustus of Primaporta

In this marble freestanding sculpture, Augustus stands in a contrapposto position (a relaxed pose where one leg bears weight). The emperor is wearing armor with his right arm extended, demonstrating that he may be addressing his soldiers or some sort of crowd.[22]  Already, this sculpture gives off a sense of power and status, differing from previous roman figures such as Cato the Elder and Aulus Metellus.

Delving further into the composition of the statue, an obvious resemblance to the Greek sculptor Polykleitos’ Doryphoros, is clear.[23]  Both sculptures are shown in a similar contrapposto stance, and both figures are idealized.  Like Doryphoros, Augustus is also portrayed as youthful and flawless. Augustus is shown as youthful and in great shape, though he was well past his prime at the time of the sculpture’s commissioning.[24] Augustus has tried to link himself to the golden age of the Greeks by associating himself with the idealized body and posture of the Doryphoros.[25]


“National Gallery of Art.” The Dying Gaul. November 26, 2013. Accessed April 17, 2015.

“Laocoon and His Sons (c.42-20 BCE).” Laocoon and His Sons, Greek Statue: History, Interpretation. January 1, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2015.

“Archaic Art.” Boundless Art History. Boundless, 03 Jul. 2014. Retrieved 15 Apr. 2015 from

“Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.” Arthistoryoftheday. August 19, 2011. Accessed April 18, 2015.

Becker, Jeffrey. “Khan Academy.” Khan Academy. Accessed April 19, 2015.

Fischer, Julia. “Khan Academy.” Khan Academy. Accessed April 19, 2015.

[1] “National Gallery of Art.” The Dying Gaul. November 26, 2013. Accessed April 17, 2015.

[2] “National Gallery of Art.”

[3] “National Gallery of Art.”

[4] “Laocoon and His Sons (c.42-20 BCE).” Laocoon and His Sons, Greek Statue: History, Interpretation. January 1, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2015.

[5] “Laocoon and His Sons (c.42-20 BCE).”

[6] “Archaic Art.” Boundless Art History. Boundless, 03 Jul. 2014. Retrieved 15 Apr. 2015

[7] “Archaic Art.”

[8] “Archaic Art.”

[9] “Archaic Art.”

[10] “Archaic Art.”

[11] “Archaic Art.”

[12] “Archaic Art.”

[13] “Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.” Arthistoryoftheday. August 19, 2011. Accessed April 18, 2015.

[14] “Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.”

[15] “Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.”

[16] “Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.”

[17] “Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.”

[18] Becker, Jeffrey. “Khan Academy.” Khan Academy. Accessed April 19, 2015.

[19] Becker, Jeffrey

[20] Becker, Jeffrey

[21] Fischer, Julia. “Khan Academy.” Khan Academy. Accessed April 19, 2015.

[22] Fischer, Julia

[23] Fischer, Julia

[24] Fischer, Julia

[25] Fischer, Julia

Ancient Art’s Relationship with Religion

Carly Strickland

Religion and the beliefs of the cultures of the ancient world played a huge role in the art that was created. Through this digital micro-exhibition visitors should experience the strong relationship between many great works of art and religion. From deities to gods and goddesses, religious narratives, and beliefs shaped the cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece.

As each piece of art in this exhibition is viewed and the cultures in which they were created are studied, comparisons can be drawn to the religious beliefs of the viewer, and it is the hope of the curator that each viewer will find some joy in seeing these pieces from this interesting perspective. A clear understanding of the freedom we have in America to worship and follow any belief system we choose can be overwhelming when one thinks about the uniqueness of these freedoms. There is definite beauty in being able to represent these belief systems through works of art. Consider the societies and cultures of the ancient past as well as the present, and consider your freedom in this melting pot of cultures in which we live.

Here are some questions to ponder while viewing these pieces: What kind of art would these cultures have created if religion and beliefs had not influenced the art so greatly? Would those cultures have had any art at all? How can you relate your own beliefs to these cultures? How does religion play a role in art today?

The curator of this exhibit recently watched a film about Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph which sparked a connection between art and her own beliefs. The women in the rent tent were worshiping Inanna, the goddess of love and fertility. Although the fictional book and TV series may not have been entirely true to the Bible it still evoked a sense of what other gods the tribes and people of that time worshipped other than the God of the Bible. The commandment “You shall have no other gods before me,” came to life in that moment. Although at times in Evangelical teaching, the “other gods” can be associated with money or some other thing in modern life that takes attention away from the relationship with God, it is interesting to learn that people actually worshipped idols, and clay figures. So hopefully each viewer of this exhibit can find a connection to these pieces and the cultures from which they came, and these connections will further open hearts and minds to the many cultures of the world.

Warka Vase, Uruk, (modern day Warka, Iraq) c. 3300 – 3000 BCE

warka vasePhotograph credit

The Warka Vase is made from alabaster, a form of marble, and stands approximately 36 inches high. The piece was found in the Temple Complex of the Sumerian goddess Inanna. Inanna was the patron deity of Uruk and is often mentioned with the other three Mesopotamian deities of Uruk – Anu, Enki, and Enlil. Her name is often accompanied by the symbol of a reed stalk tied in a hook at the top next to it. Inanna was believed to be the goddess of love and war and was later believed to be the goddess of fertility. While Inanna was the goddess of love, she was not the goddess of marriage. She was associated with sexual behavior. In each story that is told about her she is never an innocent bystander. She is always sly, manipulative, “violent and lusting after power“. One of many examples of Inanna’s manipulation can be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was two-thirds god and one-third man, and Ishtar, Inanna’s Akkadian counter-part, fell in love with him the first time she laid eyes on him. “Inanna was carefully identified with Ishtar and rose in prominence from a local vegetative deity of the Sumerian people to the Queen of Heaven and the most popular goddess in all of Mesopotamia”.[i] Gilgamesh did not return the same affection towards her to which she took great offense. Ishtar had her father, Anu, make a divine bull to kill Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu. Enkidu defeated the bull so the gods punished him by taking his life. Ishtar’s scheme did not go as planned, but someone’s life was still taken because of her selfishness and manipulation.

The Warka Vase tells a narrative story and is said to be a representation of the New Year’s festival. The registers show men, animals, water, and grain, and the New Years festival is believed to have brought fertility and growth to the soil. The bottom register shows a procession of animals walking to the right. The middle register shows nude men carrying vessels walking to the left in the opposite direction of the animals. The top register seems to depict the performance of a sacrifice or offering and shows a bearded bull which often represents deity. The direction switching from left to right gives a sense of movement up to the temple starting from the bottom register of the vase and proceeding to the top register. The male and female figures on the vase, which are no longer in tact, are believed to be depicting Inanna and Dumuzi, or her priestess and the priest-king. “The fusion of the world of the gods and that of the humans was so complete at the end of the fourth millennium, when the vase was produced, that depictions of figures lack indicators of divinity”.[ii] Union between deities and humans was believed an essential step in the process of growth and fertility in Sumer. Cultural wisdom was that the pleasure of deities brought prosperity to the lands.

The interaction between deity and priest-king in the Warka Vase is why the piece was chosen for this digital exhibition. Inanna “…brings knowledge and culture to the city of Uruk” .[iii] She was said to be the source of abundant harvests, power, and protection of the kings.

[i] Joshua J. Mark, “Inanna”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2010,

[ii] The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art of the First Cities, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003), 24.

[iii] Joshua J. Mark, “Inanna”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2010,

Babylonian Stele of Hammurabi, Made in Babylon, Erected at Sippar, Found in Susa, c. 1792-1750 BCE

Screen shot 2015-04-21 at 7.57.20 AMPhotograph credit Getty Images

The Stele of Hammurabi is an art piece and code of laws that was found in ancient Susa, and commissioned by Hammurabi, the sixth king of Babylon. The stele is made of diorite and is 7.4 feet tall, which emphasizes its significance. The main purpose of the piece was to serve as political propaganda, reminding those in the towns of Hammurabi’s kingdom of his rule and his laws. While the bottom portion serves as political propaganda the top is a religious relief sculpture paying tribute to Shamash, the sun god. The principle scene depicted shows King Hammurabi receiving his investiture from Shamash.

Hammurabi was the king of Babylon in Mesopotamia from 1792 to 1750 B.C.E. Babylon’s history was made famous because of Hammurabi’s greatness and military prominence. “Hammurabi combined his military and political advances and irrigation projects and the construction of fortifications and temples celebrating Babylon’s patron deity Marduk”.[i] Hammurabi implemented one of the earliest forms of legal codes in ancient Babylon. “His code, a collection of 282 laws and standards, stipulated rules for commercial interactions and set fines and punishments to meet the requirements of justice”.[ii] “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is an example of one of the harsh punishments that Hammurabi enforced. Hammurabi’s Code was written in cuneiform script, the earliest system of writing, which was developed by the Sumerians. It is divided into three parts, a prologue, epilogue, and two literary passages describing the 282 laws. The prologue describes King Hammurabi’s role as protector, his empire, and triumph. The epilogue is a lyric and summary of Hammurabi’s legal work and groundwork for the future. The two literary passages were put into layman’s terms so everyone could understand the terms of the laws. The punishments were written as conditional statements, for example, “If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out”.

Shamash, the sun god, who is seen in the top half of the stele, was also the god of law and justice, which explains why he is holding a staff and ring. He was an Akkadian god who “exercised the power of light over darkness and evil”.[iii] When comparing the Stele of Hammurabi to the Shamash Stele you can see that there is no division between Hammurabi, the king, and Shamash, the deity. It gives a sense of unification between the two. The Victory Stele of Naram-Sin shows Naram-Sin portraying himself as a god, so in comparing the two, the Stele of Hammurabi holds to the tradition where the king is still the negotiator with the deity and submits to the power of the god.

This piece represents another example of the interaction between the king and patron deity. The king is the middleman who communicates with the deity, presenting the god with worship and gifts. In this case the relationship is also used as political propaganda to ensure that the people of Babylon submit to the Hammurabi code – a legal system implemented “to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and to see that justice is done to widows and orphans”.[iv]

[i] Staff, “Hammurabi”, 2009, A+E Networks,

[ii] Staff, “Hammurabi”, 2009, A+E Networks,

[iii] Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Shamash”, accessed April 21, 2015,

[iv] Staff, “Hammurabi”, 2009, A+E Networks,

Temple Complex at Karnak, c. 1292-1190 BCE

KarnakPhotograph credit

The Temple Complex at Karnak is found in Thebes on the east bank of the Nile River. The ancient Egyptians knew the temple of Karnak as Ipet-isu—or “most select of places”—.[i] It is considered the largest temple complex on Earth. It pays tribute to the deities Amun (Amun-Ra), Khnosu, and Mut. It is made up of courts ascribed to over 30 different kings, 3 main temple precincts, Hypostyle Hall, the sacred lake, and Scarab statues.

The largest temple in the complex is the Temple of Amun (Amun-Re), the King of the gods. The other two temples are the temples of his wife Mut, and son Khnosu. Amun was one of the most important gods in ancient Egypt, and once united with Ra, the sun god, he was the most powerful. “Amun-Ra was considered to be the father and protector of the pharaoh”.[ii] Six enormous figures sit outside the Temple of Amun that are believed to be the sculptures of the royal family, Hatshepsut and her ancestors. Hastshepsut, the Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty often associated herself with Amun, and one form of propaganda even said that she was the daughter of Amun.

The Great Hypostyle Hall built by Sety I, the 19th century pharaoh, is the most grand of the buildings at Karnak, even in the presence of the temples of gods and goddesses. The Hall is a 54,000 square feet forest of 134 columns. The columns are 45’ wide and approximately 70’ tall. “Not only does the scale and completeness of this monument remain a rarity among ancient Egyptian temples, but is also the largest and most elaborately decorated of all such buildings in Egypt”.[iii] There is great detail in the relief carvings throughout the hypostyle. “The patchwork of artistic styles and different royal names seen in these inscriptions and relief sculptures reflect the different stages at which they were carved over the centuries”.[iv] Some of the relief’s include; Sety I offering two flowers, Ramesses II offering incense, Ramesses IV offering lettuce to Amun-Ra, Sety I attacking the Syrian town of Kadesh, and Horus with the headdress of Amun and the King.

The Sacred Lake is 393 feet by 252 feet and was dug by Tuthmosis III. The lake represents the remembrance of the void of chaos, memorial witness, and the commencement point of creation. It is a place of purification and is where the priest would bathe himself before sacred rituals. The goose is a symbol of Amun and the sacred geese of Amun also lived in the lake.

The Scarab of Amenhotep III, dung beetle and granite statue, was an emblem of the cycle and nature of creation. The dung beetle was an insect associated with the sun god Khepri. “The plinth is decorated with a lightly inscribed sunk relief scene of a kneeling Amenhotep III offering to Khepri who is seated on a low throne. A winged solar disk extends over their heads”.[v] The Scarab is attached to the sacred lake, almost as if they are standing guard, standing between chaos and the rest of the world.

The Temple Complex at Karnak, filled with sacred buildings and rich culture, holds great significance to Egyptian history. “It is the largest religious building ever made, covering about 200 acres, and was a place of pilgrimage for nearly 2,000 years”.[vi] This virtual exhibit would not have been complete without the Temple Complex at Karnak taking an appropriate place considering the amount of religious ceremonies and practices that took place there.

[i] Owen Jarus, “Karnak: Temple Complex of Ancient Egypt”, 2012,

[ii] J. Hill, “Gods of ancient Egypt: Amun”, 2010,

[iii]University of Memphis College of Arts & Sciences, “Welcome to the Hypostyle Hall”,

[iv] University of Memphis College of Arts & Sciences, “Welcome to the Hypostyle Hall”,

[v] C. Zarnoch, E. Sullivan, “Scarab of Amenhotep III”,

[vi] Mark Millmore, “Karnak Temple Sacred Lake”, Discovering Egypt Website, 1997,

Marble metope from the Parthenon, Athens, 447-438 BCE

marble metopePhotograph credit Ancient History Encyclopedia

The marble metope from the Parthenon was a series of 92 marble panels on the exterior Doric frieze of the Parthenon in Athens. The marble metopes are also known as the Elgin Marbles, named after the 7th Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce who sold the marbles to Britain when Greece was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The Elgin Marbles still to this day reside in the British Museum, which has led to a rather heated debate. “Britain used to say that Athens had no adequate place to put the Elgin Marbles, the more than half of the Parthenon frieze, metopes and pediments that Lord Elgin spirited off when was ambassador to the ottoman empire two centuries ago”.[i] Now that the Acropolis Museum is a fully functioning museum with state of the art technology to help preserve and restore art, Britain’s argument is invalid. The debate still continues and further questions to whom ownership belongs and whether repatriation is the correct thing to do or not. Art does help define a culture and its ways but do other people deserve see the art too? Would people appreciate art as much if there weren’t places like encyclopedic museums where they can encounter these pieces first hand?

This particular marble metope from the Parthenon depicts a scene of “A fight between a human Lapith and a Centuar”.[ii] Lapith’s were Greek mythological people who lived on Mount Pelion and were known for their rivalry with the Centaurs. Centaurs were creatures that were part human and part horse and descended from Centaurus, the son of the music god, Apollo. The story the scene was taken from was of Centaurs first encounter with wine. The Lapith’s were throwing a marriage feast for their King, Peirithoos, and gave the Centaurs wine. The Centaurs got unruly and their leader, Eurytion, tried to take advantage of the bride. This caused uproar and “a general battle ensued, with the Lapiths finally victorious”.[iii]

This scene is portraying the victory of the Lapith’s over the Centaurs. The nude Lapith male is in the forefront of the sculpture showing dominance. The stance of the Centaur is uncomfortable and like he is in pain, and the stance of the Lapith is more relaxed and over powering. The defeat of the Centaur is shown very clearly on his face, and even though the Lapith is faceless, his body shows his victory. “The composition is perfectly balanced, with the protagonists pulling in opposite directions, around a central space filled by the cascading folds of the Lapith’s cloak”.[iv]

The connection this piece has with this exhibit is that Centaurs are descendants of Appollo’s son, Centaurus, and that Lapith’s are humans derived from greek mythology.   In this particular piece there is not a god or goddess being worshiped or offered sacrifices, but the piece gives a sense of how Greek culture was shaped around Greek mythology and the gods. Countless stories were told and art was made to visualize those stories. “The ancient Greek spiritual beliefs, religion, and oral tradition are all reflected and formulated through rich myths and legends that besides entertainment provided an articulation of the moral fiber of the Greek culture as it evolved through at least two thousand years”.[v]

[i] Michael Kimmelman, “Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light”, 2009, New York Times,

[ii] B.F. Cook, The Elgin Marbles, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

[iii] B.F. Cook, The Elgin Marbles, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

[iv] B.F. Cook, The Elgin Marbles, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

[v] Staff, “Greek Mythology”,

Laocoon and His Sons Hagesandros, Polydoros, and Athenodoros of Rhodes, Hellenistic Greece, 1st century BCE,

LaocoonPhotograph credit Wikipedia

This sculpture of Laocoon and His Sons is one of the most famous sculptures from the Hellenistic time period, around 200 BCE. The sculpture was discovered in nine pieces, one seemingly life-sized, by a farmer in his vineyard on Esquiline Hill, was excavated in 1506, and placed in the Vatican where still housed today. The discovery of Laocoon sparked the imaginations of artists from Raphael to Michelangelo, becoming the standard for aesthetic beauty in art for the next several centuries. One can certainly see the influence of this piece on the physical attributes of some of the works of Michelangelo such as many figures on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling with similar muscular structure, and on the emotional attributes of pieces like his Slaves sculptures. Politicians sought after the sculpture as well, and Napoleon even captured the piece for his Louvre for a time. Eventually Laocoon was returned to the Vatican. Standing around eight feet tall, Lacoon and His Sons is sculpted from marble. The sculpture illustrates the scene of Laocoon and his two sons being attacked by sea serpents.

Laocoon was a Trojan priest and was said to be the priest of Poseidon. Some say he was also the priest of the god Apollo. The Trojan War could have been prevented if the Trojans had listened to Laocoon the day the Greeks brought the Trojan horse into the city. Laocoon tried to warn them against bringing the horse into the city because he sensed that it was a trap and indeed it was. Athena, the goddess, was the protector of the Greeks and punished Laocoon for trying to interfere with their plan. She punished him by sending two sea serpents, Porces and Chariboea, to attack his two sons and him. Another narrative says that, “Laocoon offended Apollo by breaking his oath of celibacy and begetting children or by having sexual intercourse with his wife in Apollo’s sanctuary”.[i] Apollo sent two serpents to kill Laocoon and his sons while he was sacrificing a bull at Poseidon’s altar. Whichever tale is true, both stories show that the gods and goddesses interacted with humans regularly but were not always trustworthy and did not always fight on the side of the humans.

The musculature in this sculpture shows the idealized body type of Grecian males during this time period of ancient Greece. The males were warriors and were expected to be the most fit. This piece shows a very intense narrative moment and emphasizes this by exaggerated tension in the bodies. One son seems to be breaking free of the grip of the sea serpents when he looks across to see his father and brother in the agony of their deaths.

This piece was chosen for this exhibit because of the relationship between Laocoon and the gods and goddesses, which also once again illustrates how gods and goddesses were part of everyday life in Greek culture, and for its influence on generations of artists centuries after the original sculpture was made.

[i] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Laocoon, Greek Mythology”, accessed April 21, 2015,

 Statuette of Isis and Horus, Ptolemic Period, ca. 304-30 BCE

horus and isisPhotograph credit The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Isis was arguably the most important goddess of ancient Egyptian history as she was worshipped not only in Egypt, but also throughout Italy and Greece, and her influence lasted long after the demise of the Egyptian empire. The Statuette of Isis and Horus was made of Egyptian faience, the oldest type of ceramic glaze, created by the Egptians. “Faience was made by grinding quartz or sand crystals together with various amounts of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and copper oxide”.[i] This particular statue of Isis and Horus was approximately seven inches high. This piece was one of many statues of Isis nursing Horus. The other figures were mostly made of bronze, like a majority of other statues and figures of deities during this time period.

Isis nursing her son Horus was seen as a sort of symbol of rebirth for the ancient Egyptians. During this time period deities were often placed in temples and “the most important was the triad (a group of three persons) of Osiris, his wife, Isis, and their son Horus. They represented the king of the dead, the divine mother, and the living king respectively, together they were the perfect family”.[ii] Osiris was the god of the earth and vegetation. His wife, Isis, was also his sister and she was the goddess of the sky. Their son Horus was the god with whom the Egyptian kings associated themselves, and he became a very prominent god. “As a child, Horus was known as Harpokrates, “the infant Horus”. And was portrayed as baby being suckled by Isis”.[iii] His birth was significant because he was conceived after the death of his father, Osiris. The story is told that his mother, Isis, reassembled all of Osiris’s parts so that she could conceive a successor for the throne.

Horus is suckling Isis in this piece, which is why the statue is sometimes referred to as the Divine Mother nursing her infant. Isis is seated on a throne and is holding Horus’s head in her hands. Horus is not clothed and on the right side of his head is a single lock of hair. The object on top of Isis’s head is a throne hieroglyph that represents her name.[iv]

This piece has been replicated and recreated in many different forms throughout history, which confirms its importance and significance in Egypt as well as other cultures. “During later periods, Egyptians produced many small bronze statuettes of their deities, which they then gave as tributes during pilgrimages of holy sites”.[v] Figures were placed in temples as a representation of the gods and goddesses being worshipped and given offerings. The gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt shaped the culture more and more during the later periods, and Isis influenced religious worship for centuries after her death and even after the end of the Egyptian empire.

[i] Joshua J. Mark, “Faience”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2010,

[ii] British Museum of Art Staff, “Bronze figure of Isis and Horus”,

[iii] Egyptian Myths Staff, “Horus”,

[iv] British Museum of Art Staff, “Bronze figure of Isis and Horus”,

[v] The Louve Staff, “Statuette: Isis Nursing Horus”,

The Amphipolis Mosaic, 4th Century BCE

The AmphipolisPhotograph Credit Hellenic Ministry of Culture. Graphics and analysis ©

The final piece chosen for this digital exhibition is The Amphipolis Mosaic. Archeologists found the Amphipolis floor Mosaic in 2014 in a tomb in Amphipolis, Macedonia, Greece. This piece was chosen because of its mysteriousness and for the very different artistic techniques used in creating the piece in comparison to other art of this time period. The Amphipolis Mosaic measures ten feet wide and fiftenn feet long and is constructed of white, black, blue, red, yellow, and grey pebbles. The tomb in which the mosaic was found is believed to have been under the rule of Alexander the Great at the time the piece was constructed, and could have been the site where his mother, Olympias, was buried. Although there is conflicting evidence suggesting other possibilities for who is buried in the tomb, Alexander wanted to make his mother a goddess, and she held tremendous political power even after his death, so a tomb of this kind would have been a fitting burial place for such a prominent figure.

The scene depicted “is identified as Hades in the process of carrying Persephone, with a lamenting female figure (Demeter) left behind”.[i] Pluto, whose earlier name was Hades, was in love with Persephone and abducted her to make her his queen. Persephone, also known as Kore, the goddess of the harvest, was the only child of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of nature. Pluto, or Hades, was the god of the underworld, hell. Hades fell in love Persephone one day when he traveled above ground and saw her picking flowers in a field. One story says that Zeus, the brother of Hades and Persephone’s father, was his cohort and that they trapped her by causing the ground underneath her to split in half. “Persephone slipped beneath the Earth and Hades stole her to the Underworld where he made her his wife”.[ii]

The figure leading the chariot is believed to be Hermes, the god of transitions and boundaries. This would make sense considering this scene is a depiction of the subjects traveling from Earth back to the underworld. As the son of Zeus, the depiction of Hermes leading the chariot also becomes more plausible. Hades is driving the chariot and some say the female figure is Demeter being left behind. However, a better assumption might be that the female figure is actually Persephone herself, judging by the agony on her face and somber wave. Regardless of who the figure is, the raw emotion on the face of the female figure allows a deeper level of connection with the piece of art.  The detail and different approach to this piece is what makes it so unique and one of the reasons why it was chosen for this exhibition. Artists during this time period were making bronze figures and marble sculptures, not mosaic pieces from marble. Although it is only a two-dimensional work of art, the detail and scale give great emphasize to the scene of Hades abducting Persephone and bring it to life. “The artist enhances the story with simple gestures and lines, which create a cinematic approach where the viewer has caught a fleeting glimpse of a continuous action in a space and time”.[iii] The piece again reflects the theme of the exhibit as it beautifully shows the connection between art and religion in ancient times.

[i] Ancient-Greece Staff, “Amphipolis Mosaic”,

[ii] “The Myth of Hades and Persephone”,

[iii] Ancient-Greece Staff, “Amphipolis Mosaic”,

By Carly Strickland

Work Cited 

Joshua J. Mark, “Inanna”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2010,

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art of the First Cities, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003), 24. Staff, “Hammurabi”, 2009, A+E Networks,

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Shamash”, accessed April 21, 2015,

Owen Jarus, “Karnak: Temple Complex of Ancient Egypt”, 2012,

Hill, “Gods of ancient Egypt: Amun”, 2010,

University of Memphis College of Arts & Sciences, “Welcome to the Hypostyle Hall”,

Zarnoch, E. Sullivan, “Scarab of Amenhotep III”,

Mark Millmore, “Karnak Temple Sacred Lake”, Discovering Egypt Website, 1997,

Michael Kimmelman, “Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light”, 2009, New York Times,

B.F. Cook, The Elgin Marbles, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997) Staff, “Greek Mythology”,

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Laocoon, Greek Mythology”, accessed April 21, 2015,

Joshua J. Mark, “Faience”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2010,

British Museum of Art Staff, “Bronze figure of Isis and Horus”,

Egyptian Myths Staff, “Horus”,

The Louve Staff, “Statuette: Isis Nursing Horus”,

Ancient-Greece Staff, “Amphipolis Mosaic”,

“The Myth of Hades and Persephone”,

The Great Sphinx

Kirsty Rice

The Great Sphinx has been seen as the symbol of both ancient Egypt and even for Egypt today. The Sphinx is an iconic symbol that is so widely recognized it is crazy to think that there is so much we don’t know about it. Although it is largely recognizable that information that we have about it is fleeting. The Sphinx is in many ways on of the greatest ancient mysteries; from it creation to the always changing face. The origin date of the Sphinx is unknown, the most common and agreed upon date is that it was constructed in the 4th Dynasty (2575 – 2467 BCE) by the Pharaoh Khafre. “However, an accumulating body of evidence, both archaeological and geological, indicates that the Sphinx is far older than the 4th Dynasty and was only restored by Khafre during his reign.”(Gray) Along with the indefinite creation date we struggle to figure out what the original face looked like on the sphinx. With all these questions I was intrigued to see how my own personal recreation would come out based on what I learned from my research.

As I’m sure many would assume that task of reconstruction such an enigmatic figure was not an easy one. All the decision’s I made in the building of my replica where thought out and double-checked. My approach involved a lot of research and comparisons of information to see what I agreed with and thought to be most likely accurate. This was not the easiest task considering there are thousands of different opinions on what the sphinx originally looked like, who it was modeled after and when it was originally constructed. Once I finished my first step, which was research, I moved on to step 2: materials. The sphinx, “varies from a soft yellowish to a hard grey limestone. The massive body is made of the softer stone, which is easily eroded, while the head is formed of the harder stone.”(Gray) Since I am in no way equipped to handle carving stone I moved to something I knew could harden to have the effect of stone but could also be easily manipulated: clay. My decision to use clay was based on what I though would be the closest I could get to stone and still make it something in which I could manipulate it to get an accurate portrayal of what I wanted to accomplish. With clay I knew I could make the sphinx in blocks like it was made from blocks of stone but I could also smooth it down like many believe the sides originally were before they were eroded away by the sand and wind. The sides of the sphinx over time have been distressed because of the sand and wind, “The archaeological record confirms that Thutmosis did indeed free the Sphinx of sand.” (Hawass) When we learned that the sphinx was discovered with sand covering its body it was easier to understand how so much erosion could have occurred to the body of this fig (Orcutt) (Hill)ure. Making the body appear to be more rough and angular then smooth on the sides.

This is a picture of the smoothed down body of my sphinx.
This is a picture of the smoothed down body of my sphinx.

My third step was the actual construction of the sphinx. The building of my sphinx took about two hours. Once I figured out the measurements of the original sphinx scaled down to my one foot long replica the building was not very hard. I made the sphinx one and one hundred- fiftieth of the size. The hardest part in making the sphinx was wanting to fix it so that it was proportional. Making that body the appropriate size made the head appear to be to small and the head alone appeared to large. This was hard to ignore while I was putting the two pieces together. I found it hard to remember that it was not mine to fix and make proportional. But once I looked past the discrepancies in size I then made it a point to spend time on the face. I think the head was a step in-and-of itself.

This is a close up of my face early on. I was working on making the eyes uneven and the mouth off center.
This is a close up of my face early on. I was working on making the eyes uneven and the mouth off center.

Step 4 of my reconstruction project was the head. The reason I see the head as its own step is because most of the controversy that surround this historical object is around the head and more specifically the face of the sphinx. Still to day we lack a confirmed identification on who the sphinx is modeled after. “In ancient Egypt, it wasn’t so much the physical similarity of a statue to its owner that lent its identity, but rather the name on the inscription. Statues were idealized representations, even in the Old Kingdom, and the figure could only be related to a particular individual when the inscription was added.”(Orcutt) And this is something that doesn’t help us much considering we know the sphinx to be thousands of years older than when we have the first inscription into it. Another problem we see with the face is that it was rushed work. “Its left (north) eye is higher than its right (south) eye, and its mouth is a bit off-center. The axis of the outline of the head differs from the axis of the facial features. The quality of details apparent on the face of the diorite Khafre are absent from the face of the Sphinx.”(Orcutt) With information like this we can assume that the workers who built the face where not working while the person whom this was modeled after was alive. Along with the face there is a great debate about whether or not the sphinx had a beard. A beard was found in pieces around the Sphinx and now resided in the British Museum. Although this beard was found and may have been on the sphinx at some point there is not accurate record that the beard was an original piece because that beard with the head dress are more New Kingdom and we know that the Sphinx was created before then. “There is some evidence that a ceremonial beard was added to the Sphinx some time after its original construction.”(Hill) That’s why in my reconstruction I did not include a beard on my Sphinx. My replication of The Great Sphinx is what I believe to be the closest to what the original Sphinx may have looked like. Reconstructing something so enigmic real opened my eyes to all the different studies and theories that surround history.

This is my Final result!
This is my Final result!


Works Cited

Gray, Martin. The Great Sphinx Facts. 1982-2014. <>.

Hawass, Dr. Zahi. The Sphinx Book: “The Secrets of the Sphinx Restoration, past and present”. Published by Samir Gharieb Director of the Development Fund of the Ministry of Culture in Collaboration with Mr. Mark Linz, Director of the American University in Cairo press, 1988.

Hill, J. The Great Sphinx of Giza. 2010. <>.

Orcutt, Larry. The Sphinx Indentity. 2000 . <>.





Alight at the Top of the Staircase: An examination of the Louvre’s recent restoration of The Winged Victory of Samothrace as a case study for right practices in contemporary restoration of Ancient statuary

Alight at the Top of the Staircase

An examination of the Louvre’s recent restoration of The Winged Victory of Samothrace as a case study for right practices in contemporary restoration of Ancient statuary

by Kelly Konrad

A stroll through the tourist-swelled, though undeniably beautiful, Jardin de Tuileries gives way the palatial expanse of the Palais du Louvre, France’s most illustrious museum. As its director Henri Loyrette expresses, the Louvre serves as “a mirror of human existence, passions, and sentiments, a world in which we can all find something in ourselves, of our lives, thoughts and deeds.”1 Amongst the Louvre’s immense collection of treasures, stands The Winged Victory of Samothrace, referred to interchangeably as the Winged Nike of Samothrace. Positioned “in splendid isolation”2 atop the Daru staircase—the most frequented of the Louvre’—and standing at nearly three meters high, this Winged Victory exudes energy, sensuality and power “as she hurtles into space, her chiton blown back” against her body so that her powerful legs remain visible. Ludovic Laugier, a Curator at the Louvre, describes the Winged Victory, as an “essential work” that “immediately draws attention.”3 Sculpted in high quality Paros marble in approximately 190 BCE by an unknown artist, this Winged Victory commenced her Parisian séjour after her discovery at the Greek island of Samothrace in Aegean Sea by French diplomat Charles Champoiseau in 1863. Upon her initial arrival to the Louvre, four early restoration efforts ensued, the last of which ended in 1934.4 Upon her one hundred and fifty year anniversary with the Louvre in 2013, another intensive restoration effort, costing more than four million euros, commenced. Now complete, the Winged Victory’s restoration may serve as a model for contemporary

1 Leo Schofield, “Behind the Louvre Doors,” Australian Gourmet Traveller 7, no. 11 (2007) : 206-214, doi: 2 Ibid.
3 Jamey Keaten, “Louvre’s Winged Victory,” Associated Press, September 3, 2013.
4 Ibid.


restoration of ancient statuary for its international scope, use of integrative technologies, and crowdsource funding efforts. This paper seeks to synthesize the Winged Victory’s ancient, nineteenth-century, World War II-era, and contemporary histories while providing a case study for right practices contemporary restoration of monumental ancient statuary.

First, for her Story

This monumental sculpture represents a winged female figure, that of Victory—the messenger goddess often credited with spreading the news of victory in war and athletic games alike in Ancient Greece.5 The very moment depicted, selected approximately 2,200 years ago from an unknown sculptor, portrays Victory as she ends her flight, landing on the prow of ship. Presently headless, footless, and armless, separate pieces of stone—though not so many as before —constitute the Winged Victory. Her striking impact results from a sculptor’s superb naturalistic skill as well as ability to manipulate elements so as create a palpable sense of drama: a forward- striding forward right leg matched with splayed wings and a tilted torso. Together these elements “create a series of boldly opposing diagonals that enhance the impression of (…) motion.”6 As art historian Lauren Kinnee expresses, “As she advance agains the invisible force of the wind, the Nike becomes a dramatic study of conflicting forces and counter forces”—as evidenced in the twisting of the body.7 Her drapery, clinging in “thin, long, and uneven ripples to her breasts, abdomen, right leg” serves to emphasize both the dynamism of her forward movement against a strong gust of wind as well her “full, robust form—her powerful thighs and the active, contracted

5 “A brief history of the Winged Victory of Samothrace,” American Friends of the Louvre, accessed April 19, 2015,http://

6 Lauren Kinnee, “The Nike of Samothrace,” 40. (New Haven: Yale, 2002),


7 Ibid.


muscles of her torso.”8 The near transparent quality of her drapery reveals the form of the Victory in such a way that she appears nearly nude. Echoing the V-shape of the drapery surrounding Victory’s pelvis, her intensely naturalistic wings “contribute to the uneven, chaotic, and exuberantly active tone of the statue.”9 Her wings appear as pushed as far back as possible and extended to their full length—thus mimicking the behavior of bird just alit on a branch. Though her wings’ construction—“from their curved crests to the joint midway through, to their outspread textured feathers”—reveal her sculptor’s great attention to naturalistic detail, they “lack the regular fan-like arrangement found in real birds”10 Instead, the sculptor chose to position the feathers at odd and overlapping angles—seemingly random in the same manner as the Victory’s drapery folds. This “combination of naturalism and exaggerated irregularity”—a pairing of a “very corporeal body and realistic, though non-ideal wings” grants the Winged Victory her sense of urgency. The feathers of her wings continue to ruffle scholars into the twenty-first century.

Dating to the Hellenistic era of Ancient Greece, The Winged Victory of Samothrace may have served as an offering to the great gods of Samothrace following a naval victory.11 As Bonna Wescoat, American art historian and contributor to the Victory’s restoration efforts, explains, “Nike is the personification, the embodiment of victory in war or in competition. We see her hovering over contestants in scenes of chariot races, crowning the victor, or making offerings; statues of Nike are often dedicated in sanctuaries as symbols of a victory.”12

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid., 41.

11 “A brief history of the Winged Victory of Samothrace,” American Friends of the Louvre.

12 Leslie King, “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre,” Emory Report, July 31, 2014,


Additionally, Wescoat describes the the placement of the Winged Victory as brilliant, for “the statue served as the visual pivot” in the Sanctuary of Great Gods, a complex of a dozen temples dedicated to different deities popular in antiquity.13 Kinnee describes the ancient role of Samothrace as a site “known for both its mystery cult and its position on an important but stormy lane.” Thus, the Samothracian Sanctuary of Great Gods, likely served as an entertainment zone of sorts, particularly for religious pilgrims. After having completed an initiation ceremony, these pilgrims celebrated their both journeys’ end and their own personal victories with elaborate feasting and theatrical performances.14 This religious center gradually faded in importance as the popularity of Christianity rose.15

Additionally, from her vantage point, this Winged Victory would have appeared to behold travelers arriving to the island from sea. Though perhaps of even greater political importance, travelers would have beheld her—the powerful, energized form of Victory herself—as a visual marker of triumph in their approach to the island of Samothrace. As Kinnee explains, “The viewer was thus expected to experience the Nike as part of a realistic seascape diorama.”16 Additional scholarly, though inconclusive, evidence suggests that this Winged Victory may have served as the centerpiece in a fountain construction on the Samothracian Sanctuary of Great Gods.17

Despite her centuries of physical survival, little to no literary or epigraphical reference to this Winged Victory survive. Sans such crucial evidence, scholars continue to debate even the most

13 Ibid.
14 Kinnee, “Nike of Samothrace,” 39.

15 Inti Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back,” The Wall Street Journal (blog), July 8, 2014, (5:04 p.m.,

16 Kinnee, “Nike of Samothrace,” 44. 17 Ibid.


crucial questions surrounding the sculpture, such as “Who made her?”, “Precisely when?”, and perhaps most essential: “Why?”. Without answers, scholars often grant this Winged Victory a vague treatment—“commenting on the statue’s beauty but hesitating to speculate about what deeper reaction it may have been intended to evoke in the ancient Greek spectator.”18 Defying this tradition, Kinnee suggests this Winged Victory exists as a Pergamene dedication serving to memorialize the “Pergamene-engineered Roman capture in 166 BC of King Perseus, last of the Macedonians, at the island of Samothrace.” Thus, according to Kinnee, this Winged Victory belongs to the Attalid tradition of generosity, intellectualism, and claim to the Classical Athenian role as savior of Greek civilization.”19

Her Early Years in France
In 1863, Monsieur Champoiseau, a French diplomat, uncovered this Winged Victory,

broken into several pieces, lying in a rectangular-shaped basic upon a windy ridge overlooking the Samothracian Sanctuary of the Great Gods, and, in the distance, the roar of the Aegean Sea.20 She likely sustained her breaks in a fall from her original pedestal resulting from a natural disruption, such as an earthquake.21 Monsieur Champoiseau and his team transported the newly uncovered Winged Victory to France.These late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century restorations considerably complicated the 2013 project. Late nineteenth-century museum experts repaired theses breaks by covering the joints with plaster and then painting over their work. Additionally, as the Victory stood poised to fly without her entire right wing, museum experts created a new right wing, exactly symmetrical to the right one, entirely of plaster. Additionally, to

18 Ibid,,39-40. 19 Ibid., 40.
20 Ibid.
21 Ibid., 39.


connect the original wing to the Victory’s torso, they also recreated her missing left breast. Contemporary conservationists regard these reconstitutions as historically inaccurate.22 Yet, in an effort to resist privileging the history of one era over another, the conversation team at the Louvre will not disturb these earlier modifications. Ludovic Laugier, Head of the Antiquities Department of the Louvre, explains that the Victory stands not only as a testimony to the Hellenistic sculpture, but also as an example of nineteenth-century tastes.23

Her Renewal

In September of 2013, the Louvre issued a press release to announce the restoration project.24 The restoration sought to clean and repair the statue’s base as well as address the significant discoloration resulting from centuries’ accumulation of dirt and grime that diminished the contrast between white tones of Winged Victory and the gray marble of boat-shaped structure on which it rests.”25 Organizers of the project anticipated that the restoration would take more than eighteen months to complete. This conversation project consisted primarily of cleaning. Once removed from its boat-shaped base, conservators will dismantle the twenty-three blocks that form the boat and pedestal. At this point, conservators will verify the assemble of the component parts and incorporate previously unused, though surviving fragments of the original sculpture— many of which were discovered quite recently.26 Additionally, the cement block previously placed between the statue and the boat will no longer serve its previously intended function, as no

22 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back,” 23 Ibid.

24 “Conservation project for the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the monumental staircase,” Louvre, accessed April 18, 2015, staircase.

25 Ibid.
26 “Conservation project for the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the monumental staircase,” Louvre.


scientific justification exists for its presence. Coinciding with the restoration this restoration, the a team from Louvre will refurbish the walls, floors, and vaulted ceilings of the Daru staircase.27
As the Louvre anticipated, the the project unfolded in several stages. In September of

2013, conservations commenced by dismantling and removing of the monument. This restoration marks the first instance since World War II that the Winged Victory descended the Daru staircase.28 The summer of 2014 marked the triumphant reinstallation of the Winged Victory. In the spring of 2015, the Louvre inaugurated both the renovated monument and its newly refurbished surroundings. Only then, according to the Louvre, will the Winged Victory be showcased to her best advantage.29

Thus, beginning in early September of 2013, Daniel Ibled led a team of eight archeologists and conservators in the meticulous cleaning of the Winged Victory. This small international team, comprised of French, Greek, German and American archeologists, restored the marble of the statue to its original white shade, as more than a century of dust, dirt, and grime had rendered it yellow in tone.30 Restoring old, stained marble is both complicated and delicate work. The conversationist first cleaned the Victory’s white marble with compresses soaked in water—a means to simultaneously protect the integrity ancient marble and erase the layers of grime.31

Additonally, Scientist Giovanni Verri, a restoration Scientist from London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, identified microscopic touches of blue paint in his analyses of the Winged Victory.

27 Ibid.

28 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back,”

29 “Conservation project for the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the monumental staircase,” Louvre.

30 “The New Nike: Winged Victory of Samothrace,” My Parisian Island (blog), July 22, 2014,http://

31 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back.” “7

These microscopic pigments suggest that the Victory was once partly colored with—at the very least—a blue fringe on her drapery. Verri also discovered blue pigments upon the Victory’s wing. Additionally, the restorers attached newly discovered fragments to the drapery as well as the superior flight feather of the left wing to the Victory.32

The base upon which the Winged Victory stands appears in the form of the prow of a warship. The relationship of the Victory to her base necessitated careful study throughout the restoration process. Though most of the statues base resided in Paris, a teams of archeologists in Samothrace uncovered the central internal block and various smaller fragments—four of which were only discovered during the restoration’s progress. Following intense study of these fragments, archeologists three-dimensionally scanned each fragment, so that the restoration team in Paris could first print accurate models then construct exact copies.33 Although the additional fragments to the drapery may escape the notice of all but the most discerning observers, the addition of the superior flight feather creates an impact.34

In the words of Wescoat, in visitors’ next excursion to the Louvre, “you’ll be seeing a whole new girl, so to speak.” She continues, “She is so amazingly cleaned up that it’s going to be a real pleasure.”35 Wescoat reveals as well that the renewed Victory now possesses a translucent brilliance, “When the light from the windows came into the room where the Louvre conservators were restoring her, you could see right through parts of the statue. It just glows; it’s

32 Ibid.
33 King, “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre.” 34 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back.”
35 King, “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre.”


remarkable”—quite appropriate for a goddess alight the top of one of the most traversed staircases in the world.36

Her Mysterious Feather

According to Wescoat, “The primary feathers of the Nike are unlike those of birds in nature and also of wings generally represented in ancient Greek art.”37 Differences exist in both the density and the overlapping nature of the feathers arrangement. In comparing the feathers of this Victory’s wings to hundreds of representations of feathers in ancient art as well as to wide range of birds believed to have inhabited the Mediterranean in early antiquity, Wescoat and her team uncovered no visual precedent, that is, no explanation. The tip of the feather upon which Wescoat and her team conducted their investigation was discovered in the 1962, just north of the monument.38 To this misery, Wescoat explains, “If we cannot find a place for our feather on the left wing, then we’ll have to consider the possibility that the missing right wing was made of more complex construction of at least two different kinds of marble” —referring to the slightly different composition of the marble used in the feather fragments for the right wing in Paris.39

Her Legacy

Though cleansed, renewed, and restored to her place atop the Daru staircases, scholarly inquiries continue. As Wescoat explains, “While the restoration of the statue is complete, we still have a great deal more work to do to understand the many aspects of this masterpiece.”40

36 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back.”
37 King, “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre.” 38 Ibid.
39 Ibid.
40 Ibid.


Additionally, archeologists in Samothrace continue to work towards determining the context that originally surrounded the Winged Victory, pondering such questions as, “Was she within a closed building, or an open precinct?”.41 Specifically, Wescoat and her team of scientists continue to investigate a rediscovered plan of the South Nekropolis while working towards completing a new topographic plan for the Sanctuary—particular of its Western area.42

In a new display, the Louvre will include a case containing the remaining, though yet- attached fragments of the statue.43 Fragments from the Winged Victory of Samothrace now reside in a museum on the island of Samothrace, alongside a copy of the Louvre’s, Winged Victory. Although Greece has not formally requested France to return the Winged Victory, many travelers regularly write to the Louvre on behalf of returning Victory to her home island in the Aegean Sea.44

For this comprehensive restoration’s demonstrated commitment to international scholarly engagement, observance of the ancient objet’s recent history, and use of integrative technologies, it may well serve as a model by which similar restorations of monumental ancient statuary may plan future restorations. Additionally, creative crowdsource funding campaigns may serve as a successful means by which museums, large and small, may gather the resources to embark upon restoration of such cultural treasures as the Winged Victory of Samothrace—a renewed light at the top of the Louvre’s grand Daru staircases.

41 Kinnee, “Nike of Samothrace,” 39.
42 King, “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre.” 43 “A brief history of the Winged Victory of Samothrace,” American Friends of the Louvre.
44 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back,”



Keaten, Jamey. “Winged Victory of Samothrace will be moved for restoration.” Record, The (Kitchener/Cambridge/Waterloo, ON), September 07, 2013., Points of View Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2015).

King, Leslie. “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre.” Emory Report, July 31, 2014 , er_winged_victory_at_louvre%20/campus.html.

Kinnee, Lauren. “The Nike of Samothrace: The Next Generation Attalid Victory Monument?”. New Haven: Yale 2002),

Landauro, Inti. “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back.” Wall Street Journal (blog). July 8, 2014 (5:04 p.m.). winged-victory-of-samothrace-is-back/.

Schofield, Leo. “BEHIND THE LOUVRE DOORS.” Australian Gourmet Traveller 7, no. 11 (November 2007): 206-214. Hospitality & Tourism Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2015).

“Conservation project for the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the monumental staircase.” Louvre. Accessed April 18, 2015. victory-samothrace-and-monumental-staircase.

“A brief history of the Winged Victory of Samothrace.” American Friends of the Louvre. Accessed April 18, 2015.

“Art movers from Bovis move the statue toward the Salle de Sept Cheminées as Mr. Ibled, the director of the restoration, watches. Musée du Louvre/Antoine Mongoudin” via the Wall Street Journal
“A view of the left Wing of the Winged Victory of Samothrace statue, with an added feather. Natalie Bruhiere”  via the Wall Street Journal
"Art movers maneuver the statue back into position. Musée du Louvre/Antoine Mongodin" via the Wall Street Journal
“Art movers maneuver the statue back into position. Musée du Louvre/Antoine Mongodin” via the Wall Street Journal
“After restoration Musée du Louvre/Antoine Mongodin” via the Wall Street Journal

The Great Debate: Final Conclusions of Encyclopedic Museums and Ownership

Justice is served!  All rights to the Indiana Jones franchise © Paramount Pictures.
Justice is served!
All rights to the Indiana Jones franchise © Paramount Pictures.

Jennifer Crumby

The Great Debate: Final Conclusions of Encyclopedic Museums and Ownership

Throughout this course we have looked into a vast collection of ancient structures and artifacts that create an idea of how we depict the early civilizations of the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia, ancient Egyptians, and the ancient Greeks. Through studies of these objects and preserved archaeological sites, art historians have pieced together what we believe to be accurate depictions of how these societies lived and ruled the Near and Middle East and Africa. From found artifacts we can learn how these ancient people farmed and hunted or fished, reproduced, bathed, traveled, communicated, and how they otherwise generally lived everyday lives. The study of the uses of these objects also reveal the economy or geography of the area at the time. Objects also commonly lead to discovery of liturgical purposes, such as icons for devotion and funerary practices. These artifacts and tombs also serve as primary sources for a historical map to the rulers of kingdoms. With the uncovering of artifacts we can study the advancement and political structures of these early civilizations, giving us insight into the world of our ancient predecessors.

A recurring topic has been the issue of rightful ownership and the legality of how ancient artifacts in museum and private collections were acquired. A hotbutton issue in the world of art history and the political sphere is the advocacy of encyclopedic museums. Museums are sometimes defended as sanctuaries for found objects, and at other times seen as thieves from the original lands of the artifacts’ perceived rightful owners and their descendants. While open discussion has proven that the general feeling is that any resolution should honor these ancient civilizations and the contextual significance of these objects, no clear consensus has been reached as to where these objects rightfully belong. As ancient predecessors to every human being on Earth, these objects demonstrate a sociological understanding of these early civilizations that benefit the world and history in its entirety. Without a doubt, we would not know much at all about these ancient civilizations without the discovery and allowed study of the objects, structures and geographical locations. Together we will analyze seven key historical objects whose significance of contextual meaning, amount of respect given in its current confinements, and rightful ownership are currently being questioned.

The Stele of Hammurabi.  © Musée du Louvre, Paris. This image is for non-commercial scholarly use.
The Stele of Hammurabi.
© Musée du Louvre, Paris. This image is for non-commercial scholarly use.

The Stele of Hammurabi is a six-foot-high monument made of black dolomite. It bears an image of the King Hammurabi receiving powers bestowed upon him by the Ancient Sumerian Sun God Shamash, c. 1792 to 1750 B.C.E. King Hammurabi ruled Babylon from 1782-1750 BCE and conquered around 1,000 square miles of present-day Iraq, cementing Babylon as a formidable ancient city. But what has made King Hammurabi most memorable was that he placed many monuments like this stele in his Babylonian cities, all which reminded the Babylonian people of their civic and religious duties to live by the Code. The Hammurabi Code was an impressive, highly developed ancient Sumerian legal system.

An article by Donald G. McNeil examines the Stele of Hammurabi’s inlaid Code of Hammurabi. McNeil does a wonderful job of examining King Hammurabi in-depth through this ancient stele’s coded legal system, judging King Hammurabi’s fairness and the authority exerted during his thirty two-year reign of Babylon. The breakdown of the Code of Hammurabi does thoroughly analyze King Hammurabi’s legal system and its rudimentary pre-Bible and pre-Democracy systems of checks and balances, but it is the author’s other outline that is of great interest to the topic of rightful ownership. McNeil introduces a fine detailed account of the discovery of the Stele of Hammurabi. Found in the ancient Persian city of Susa, now in Iran, the Stele of Hammurabi was discovered by a man by the name of M. deMorgan. According to McNeil’s account, M. deMorgan was the director general of an expedition sent by the French government to Susa on an archaeological dig in their interests (McNeil 444). It was during this expedition in 1901-1902 that they discovered the Stele of Hammurabi. It was in horrible shape, having been found in three separate pieces. deMorgan and his company of archaeologists joined the pieces back together to form what we now know as the Stele of Hammurabi, effectively preserving what’s left of the ancient artifact. From there art historians have been able to study the piece in cuneiform and reveal the earliest known example of a highly developed legal system in an ancient civilization.

The Stele of Hammurabi currently sits on display in the Louvre. The ancient artifact is safely preserved and exhibited to the public in an easily accessible and high-traffic encyclopedic museum, which happens to one of the world’s most popular museums. The Louvre also makes available digital images of the artifact online and in publications, as well as extensive information known about the object and King Hammurabi. This ancient artifact was unearthed from Iran in pieces and restored, the first time anyone of what we consider modern culture had ever seen this ancient stele. Without the questioned archaeological digs performed around a century ago, archaeologists may have never found ancient artifacts like the Stele of Hammurabi. These found objects were taken from the country of origin with permission from the ruling government of the time, breaking no laws and without use of any questionable ethics. Given that this artifact has been in the care and ownership of another country for over 100 years, has been made easily accessible to the public and to scholars, has been researched thoroughly to the advantage of the historical value of all mankind, and seems to be well preserved in a facility better than the country of origin can provide; any request to claim ownership of this particular artifact or otherwise remove the Stele of Hammurabi from the Louvre is currently unfounded. While it can be said that the contextual meaning is lost outside its land of origin, the Stele of Hammurabi’s context is long since gone. The original use was to outline the Code of Hammurabi during its reign. The current political structure of Iran hardly still adheres to the laws and religious practices of the ancient Babylonian era. Where contextual meaning is concerned, that has long since passed. As for a point of rightful ownership, the Iranian people cannot definitively prove without a doubt that they are completely straight descendants of this ancient Sumerian civilization only. Nor should the thousand of years between this modern era and this ancient civilization bestow any inheritance of this magnitude on the residents that currently occupy the region in which the ancient artifacts were first uncovered. In yeat another perspective, this region is currently experiencing a radical political and religious uprising tht has directly sanctioned the destruction of artifacts from ancient civilizations. The country of Iran is still experiencing an internal uprising, and cannot be considered a stable country capable of protecting ancient artifacts. In these instances, art historical preservation organizations such as UNESCO, who cooperate on an international scale with the United Nations, should be called in to mediate discussions and assist in a peaceful resolution to any dispute or analyze when to remove items due to threats of safety and preservation.

Mask of Tutankhamun, from the innermost coffin.  Ownership now © The Museum in Cairo, reused here for non-commercial scholarly use only.
Mask of Tutankhamun, from the innermost coffin.
Ownership now © The Museum in Cairo, reused here for non-commercial scholarly use only.

Being one of the most famous and influential archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century can easily be attributed to the uncovering of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. In 1920, the determined archaeologist Howard Carter continued digging his way through the Valley of the Kings, eager to uncover anything left to be found. Where many other archaeologists accepted that nothing more of value was left to be found, Howard Carter found the sponsorship of English Earl of Caravon. The Earl of Caravon was himself an amateur explorer who had plenty of financial backing to keep Howard Carter digging. In January 1922, after two long years of digging and admittedly on the verge of giving up, Howard Carter and his team of excavators uncovered the tomb of a then-unknown young pharaoh.

The Mask of Tutankhamun, c. 1327 BCE, is a solid gold-encrusted mask from the innermost coffin of King Tutankhamun’s elaborate set of sarcophagi in his burial tomb. The mask is believed to be a representation of King Tutankhamun’s face. It bears lapiz lazuli and quartz motifs to define the brow and eyes. Now deconstructed, this innermost coffin’s mask is one of the most iconic images from the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. With Howard Carter’s discovery of the first fully intact tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh and previously discovered funerary artifacts and pieces displaying King Tutankhamun’s name, this fully intact mummy gave scientists and art historians most of the information that is known today of the process of mummification and other funerary practices of the ancient Egyptians.

The British Museum in London originally transported many of the found contents of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber to London to be put on display. This mask and many other ancient artifacts appeared in a gallery opening in 1929, which was an enormous hit with historians and patrons. Queen Elizabeth II visited the 1929 exhibition and viewed Howard Carter’s discoveries herself. Through much controversy of Howard Carter’s taking of the tomb’s contents and England’s long-upheld claims to ownership of the tomb contents, as well as many world tours around the globe, the items and King Tutankhamun’s remains are now back in Egypt and under ownership of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo.

An article by John H. Douglas lays out many details of artifacts found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Douglas also mentions a little bit of details revealed by Howard Carter and the press as he uncovered the tomb and eventually took these artifacts as his own. The discovery and ultimately the removal of the contents of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber have been well-documented by Howard Carter and member of the press of 1922. The Egyptian government at the time of discovery did not represent the sentiments of the Egyptian government that rules today. The inhabitants of Egypt today are understood to be the descendants of the ancient Egyptians, even being home to a radical sect of Egyptians who choose to follow the religion and other customs of the ancients. Egypt itself has been found to be capable of hosting, displaying, and preserving ancient artifacts and structures. The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities have many of these items on display to the public and still negotiate to make items available for further research, such as the famous x-ray CT scan that led to a forensic team’s digital facial reconstruction of what we believe to be King Tutankhamun’s true face. Given the amount of availability, preservation, and respect given to King Tutankhamun’s belongings and remains, the Cairo museum continues to prove that they are quite capable of handling the responsibilities that come with being bestowed the ownership rights of the ancient artifacts of one of their ancient pharaohs.

Cleopatra's Needle in Alexandria, ca. 1880; old archive photo
Cleopatra’s Needle in Alexandria, ca. 1880; old archive photo

A solemn look at the deterioration of ancient artifacts leads us to a Cleopatra’s Needle monument, located outdoors in New York City’s Central Park. In Chas. Chaille Long’s article “Send Back the Obelisk,” Long recalls his first-person account of witnessing the unveiling of the Cleopatra’s Needle at its inception in the current installation on Central Park. He then recalled his first seeing it in Egypt during his military service, emotionally stating that the monument no longer evoked the civic and other ethereal meanings he once asociated with it. Additionally, according to Long, the context of Cleopatra’s Needle was lost when it was removed from its original environment. It was damaged in transport and was enduring weathering in its new place in Central Park. Deterioration or destruction of an ancient artifact is exactly hat needs to be prevented, and is a serious enough case that an advocacy or preservation group should step in to protect the ancient artifact. Likewise, returning the monuments simply for re-installation and allowing these monuments to continue to be weathered down and destroyed should be considered irresponsible and unacceptable in the art historical and historical preservation communities. In situations like these, deliberations with political leaders and groups such as UNESCO should take place to have peaceful resolutions. Preservation of the obelisk in the United States should be the key issue, and any rightful owner should be ready and able to provide preservation of the obelisk.

Although well-trained art historians generally aim to be respectful of the country’s culture, the area of disagreement is rightful ownership of the artifacts. While it is easy to sympathize with a group of people who feel disenfranchised over actions of something being taken from their land, that premise of sympathy is based on spiritual meaning. We cannot assume that every country claiming ownership has the best intentions in mind. Assuming that a governing body cares for artifacts on a respectful, emotional level is a detriment to archaeology and hinders preservation. We have to examine the country’s ability to preserve the sites or objects. ISIS and Boko Haram are reportedly uniting. A part of the militant terrorist groups’ “cultural cleansing” campaigns includes ridding nations of artifacts from other religions or civilizations – deliberate destruction of ancient artifacts. In the event of armed conflict, UNESCO cites The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 for setting standards for discussing risks of leaving the artifacts, which are currently being destroyed by radical Islamic terrorists. In this case, preservation cannot be guaranteed. Though not enough evidence is currently provided to warrant a return of Cleopatra’s Needle, preservation should be the responsibility of the current owners of the monument.

Hatshepsut, ca. 1473–1458 B.C; © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Statue of Seated Hatshepsut, ca. 1473–1458 B.C; © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The statue of Hatshepsut, c. 1479 to 1458 BCE, is located in the British Museum in London. It is carved from limestone and originally was further decorated with paint. The statue was uncovered in Deir el-Bahri, Thebes, which is the location of her temple. Though damaged quite a bit when it was recovered, it is still a mainly intact and wonderful representation of a female pharaoh. As Hatshepsut reigned further, physical depictions of the queen began to change. A published 2006 museum review by Emily Teeter beautifully describes this and many other physical depictions of Hatshepsut, along with a nice description as to what we know historically from her reign. Images of Hatshepsut began a metamorphosis of her gender, changing some of her body style to resemble more of a masculine form without much subtlety. Her female breasts smooth out to a more masculine chest, she wears a male ceremonial kilt, and she sports a false beard which a female most definitely could not have grown herself. The damage could be attributed to the destruction of some of her monuments by her stepson Thutmose III, who harbored a great deal of animosity towards his stepmother after she usurped his throne a little while after he came of age to assume the title of King. Accordingly, mentions of Hatshepsut became scarce likely at King Thutmose III’s wishes. Hatshepsut’s temple, the Hathor Chapel, was a target of his anger, and archaeologists can see why. Inside the temple are inscriptions announcing her accomplishments and a message from her celestial father delivering the message that his daughter is a wonderful king and reinforcing her right to rule as she did.

This statue was recovered from Thebes in 1845, though not intact. Other pieces were recovered approximately 80 years later and were rejoined with the original piece, which was located in Berlin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art then negotiated to acquire the main piece to restore the statue. An expensive and painstaking process from excavation to restoration, a great deal of care and responsibility has been put into this statue of Hatshepsut by the museum. As a queen who achieved the rare title of a female pharaoh, a statue such as this is extremely important in terms of historical research. This ancient artifact, along with primary scholarly sources, arguably proves that such a person very likely existed. The current condition of the statue causes enough alarm that preservation not only should come first, but that whichever museum, no matter which country, appears to be the most stable and has the best conditions for preserving this artifact should do so with ownership and accepted responsibility of the object, along with the technology and other capabilities that only a major museum could handle.

The Pyramids of Giza, scholarly use courtesy of Encyclopedia Brittanica; © Sylvain Grandadam—Stone/Getty Images
The Pyramids of Giza, scholarly use courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica; © Sylvain Grandadam—Stone/Getty Images

An example of an international group at work is UNESCO. The work they have accomplished with on-site preservation includes the Great Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt. Constructed between 2575 and 2465 BCE, the Great Pyramids have been called architectural and engineering marvels, as well as one of the seven wonders of the world. Extremely similar to ziggurats, these structures serve as burial tombs of pharaohs. UNESCO is an acronym for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO designated these famous pyramids as a protected World Heritage site in 1979. That proclamation came in handy in 1995 when the Giza Pyramids were threatened by way of destruction for a highway project in Cairo. When contemplating how Egyptians could consider doing such a thing, we must remember that these ancient pyramids actually run flush to the outskirts of a present-day densely populated city of Cairo.

UNESCO was able to complete this task with the World Heritage Convention: a subgroup inside UNESCO that takes immediate action to preserve any World Heritage site that is in danger of destruction. Negotiations with the Egyptian Government resulted in a number of alternative solutions which replaced the disputed project. UNESCO does not claim ownership, but instead negotiates for the protection of World Heritage Sites and empowers groups within the countries to work with their governments to preserve historical sites.

The Temple of Ishtar ruins, Ashur. Courtesy of UNESCO, © Editions Gelbart (scholarly use only)
The Temple of Ishtar ruins, Ashur. Courtesy of UNESCO, © Editions Gelbart (scholarly use only)

Another example of a key historical monument that is now considered to be in danger is the Temple of Ishtar in the city of Ashur, located approximately 100 kilometers outside Mosul in present-day northern Iraq. The Assyrian city of Ashur was a key city during the Akkadian empire that ruled c. 2334 to 2154 BCE, and was eventually the capital of Assyria. While smaller than Nimrud and Nineveh, it sat at a pivotal position along a trade route in Mesopotamia that aided in supporting a strong economy that guaranteed the city’s survival over centuries. Another element of this particular ancient city was its geographical benefits. This particular city was erected flush to the Tigris River, and the city’s other unique geographical surroundings afforded the city natural defenses which were strengthened with buttressed walls. Ashur was one of the earliest forts ever uncovered from ancient early civilizations. Ashur is also the site of the Temple of Ishtar or Inanna of Ashur, where a large cache of ancient artifacts were unearthed by excavator Walter Andrae.

Looking at an article discussing Assyrian artifacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and previous installments in Berlin, we can see that many found object from the discovery of the Temple of Ishtar in Ashur are currently preserved and protected within encyclopedic museums. Considering the armed conflict currently plaguing Iraq and the imminent danger ancient artifacts face from the radical terrorist groups, ownership is no question. Of the many ancient artifacts from Ashur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, some were objects from the uncovering of the Temple of Ishtar. From just this temple we discovered votives and statues depicting gods, rulers and other objects that have been studied and benefited our understanding of rituals and everyday lives of the ancient Sumerians. A discovery of ancient artifacts found underneath the temple was very valuable to research. Excavator Walter Andrae uncovered items such as copper objects, clay statues, glasswork and precious stone jewelry. These significant ancient artifacts demonstrate metalwork and glass and jewelry-making skills of the Assyrians and their predecessors.

The rising power of radical forces and the beginning of the Iraqi-American War assisted UNESCO in making the decision to make the city of Ashur and its Temple of Ishtar a World Heritage Site in 2003 in efforts to further protect the site from damage or destruction. UNESCO submits that the ancient city provides scholars the opportunity study the evolutionary engineering practices of the ancient Sumerians. Right now northern Iraq is in immediate danger from the sanctioned destruction of ancient artifacts by the radical religious group ISIS, who aim to eradicate artifacts from ancient civilizations that did not worship their god. In March of 2015, UNESCO used the term “cultural cleansing” when describing and condemning the devastating destruction of the archaeological site at Nimrud, the ancient Assyrian capital. UNSECO continues efforts to mobilize the people of Iraq and the international political and academic communities to further protect cultural heritage sites in Iraq.

Figure of Iris from West Pediment of the Parthenon, Elgin Marbles;  © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Figure of Iris from West Pediment of the Parthenon, Elgin Marbles; © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A final key historical topic that is still greatly debated today is the rightful ownership to the Elgin Marbles. The Elgin Marbles happen to be a large portion of the Parthenon frieze. The Elgin Marbles were removed from the Parthenon during the reign of the Ottomans over Greece by an Englishman by the name of Lord Elgin, for which the marbles are currently named. The Elgin Marbles have been held by the British Museum since 1816. Lord Elgin’s reasoning for removing the marbles were the state of deterioration as monuments were not being properly cared for at the time. While the Ottoman Empire spanned Greece, their ruling political government at the time of the sale of the Elgin Marble did not have any personal stake in the removal of the ancient artifact. Since Greece gained independence from the Ottoman oppression, the country was petitioned for the return of their artifacts they consider to be stolen.

The argument for repatriation of the Elgin Marbles in an article by Michael Kimmelman introduces an excellent example of encyclopedic museums overstepping their boundaries to inappropriately keep possession of ancient artifacts. Kimmelman documents the opening of the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece, a state-of-the-art encyclopedic museum with outstanding capabilities to both preserve and display ancient artifacts of their culture. Designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi, the Acropolis Museum sits near the base of the Acropolis. The museum houses the rest of the Parthenon frieze that Lord Elgin did not take, making do with plaster casts of the missing Elgin Marbles that complete the frieze. The displeasure of the missing Elgin Marbles is a national argument in Greece, with even the President of Greece affirming that the ancient artifacts were in fact stolen, and he offers his own support in his nation’s campaigning for the return of the Elgin Marbles to the rightful place.

According to UNESCO, who has been involved by initiation deliberations between Athens, Greece and the British Museum, their mediation and questions have gone unanswered by the British Museum. Since the 2009 construction of the state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece, the British Museum’s long-standing claims of inadequate preservation and protection have been answered in full. Considering that the Elgin Marbles acquirer, Lord Elgin, was ambassador to a ruling empire that was not only oppressive but no longer rules, the British Museum’s argument for their ownership to the Elgin Marbles goes unfounded. The Ottoman Empire had no stake in ancient Greek artifacts, as they were an oppressive foreign government with no historical connection to the removed artifacts. the Elgin Marbles were not truly their possessions to sell to Lord Elgin and England. The act of taking the Parthenon frieze in 1816 while the country of Greece was under the rule of an oppressive regime was an issue of the past for which the British Museum is not fully held accountable; however, the refusal to return the Elgin Marbles to their rightful owners and original location shows a lack of ethics within the British Museum that Kimmelman feels greatly tarnishes the museum’s reputation in both academia and the general public.

Of all seven of the key topics discussed, it can be determined that the general purpose of our encyclopedic museums are to benefit mankind and our cultural heritage and preserve these ancient artifacts or world heritage sites. While armed conflicts bring about extremely difficult circumstances, having key diplomatic organizations such as UNESCO oversee peaceful mediations in certain controversial or emergency situation could bring about positive change in the art historical and preservation communities and initiate progress within these ancient artifacts and sites. Where our cultural heritage can be preserved and protected, great care and sometimes ownership should be given in light of how the artifacts can be preserved. However, ownership where ethics are not solid and preservation is no longer a topic for opposition, the discussion for repatriation should be on the able. Every situation will be different, and having organizations such as UNESCO to mediate between individual situations are very necessary for any hopes of reaching peaceful resolutions.


Works Cited

“Assyria at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” In The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 58, 167- 169. Boston, MA: The American Schools of Oriental Research, 1995.

Douglas, John H. “Treasures of a Boy-King.” In Science News, Vol. 110, 396-397. Washington, D.C.: Society of Science and the Public, 1976.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Ashur”, accessed April 21, 2015,

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Hatshepsut”, accessed April 19, 2015,

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Pyramids of Giza”, accessed April 20, 2015,

Kimmelman, Michael. “Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light.” New York: The New York Times, June 2009.

Long, Chas. Chaille. “Send Back the Obelisk!” In
The North American Review, Vol. 143, 410-413. Iowa: The University of Northern Iowa, 1886.

McNeil, Donald G. “The Code of Hammurabi.” In American Bar Association Journal, Vol. 53, 444-446. Washington, D.C.: American Bar Association, May 1967.

Teeter, Emily. “Museum Review: Hatshepsut and Her World.” In American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 110, 649-653. Long Island, NY: Archaeological Institute of America, 2006.

Human and horses


Ma Lijun

“There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse.”


The relationship between horse and human is  one of the longest love affairs to traverse history, and it is an affair that has been described by the hand of the artist.Horses have always occupied a special place in human consciousness. The connection with strength and power inspires man to produce works of art identifying his feeling for the horse, and human’s culture has been enriched by the association. The practical advantages from mastery over the horses have appealed to the more sophisticated requirements of human nature – the need for excitement, for aesthetic  satisfaction and as an expression of spiritual aspiration. To be seated on horseback, five feet above the ground, brings authority; to gallop hell-for- leather with the wind in your face lends the rider wings, as if at one with gods. This wonderful creature have played in human societies since they were domesticated some six thousand years ago has been so crucial that it is no exaggeration to say that the development of nations and cultures would have been quite different had they not existed.

The horse become integral to all the great early cultures, and with the recognition of its innate value it come to be perceived differently. Horses were decorated and adorned; they become to a large degree status symbols and we hightly prized. Individuals took a prode in their horses, and this, combined with a necessity for military horsepower, led to breeding regimes and intelligent animal husbandry. The Sumerians and Assyrians, who were skilled hunters and able to shoot arrows from their cavalry, kept detailed records of their horses, taking horses as their treasures.

The horse as a vehicle for the greater glorification of the rider is a tradition perpetuated since the horse was first ridden, and it most clearly appreciated in equestrian protraiture. This in itself is an ancient and enduring form of flattery. Who could doubt the power of the Roman emperor immortalized in bronze with his horse.

Depictuons from the Egyption tomb of Tutankhamun show splendidly presented horses in good condition: they were obviously inportant chariot horses, fit to pull a king. The horse is bigger than everbefore.”Thin-skinned, hot- blooded ,resilient, fine – boned and with a splendid and unparalleled bearing, these horses of ‘Eastern’ character had an overwhelming influence on the develoipment of modern horse breeds.”[Johns,11]

Horsing-racing propagated first by the Greeks and then take up by the Romans. Satisfying  human’s innate desire to compate when not warring, chariot- racing was an intoxicating , fast and furious sport, and usually involved either two-horse or four- horse teams.[Pickeral,132]

It was from the splendour of ancient Greece and Rome, from the second millenium BC onward, that the most tantalizing myths and legends sprang, and the horse again took centre stage.The stories so often recounted were vivdly illustrated in paint, bronze, marbel and mosaic, with Pegasus remaining one of the most often depicted and best known of mythological horses.

The relationship between the horse and human is one that has constantly changed, shifted and evolved with the passage of time. What has not changed is the irrefutable essence of the horse that so attracts humankind, including artisets.It is this indefinable quality that inspires great feeling, a feeling intangible but potent, a mysterious element that defies exact explanation.


 Kings and horses

Strength and speed are two of the equine qualities that humans have exploited since horse were first domesticated, and as the urge to compete is strong in many people. Kings and rulers of antiquity liked to be shown as mighty conquerors and the war-chariot was an appropriate part of that image.

Seal of Darius I (reigned 521-486 BC) Agate cylinder seal Height 3.7 cm (17/16 in.) London, The British Museum
Seal of Darius I
(reigned 521-486 BC)
Agate cylinder seal
Height 3.7 cm (17/16 in.)
London, The British Museum

Ancient Persians were great horse-people and value their horse highly. The horse was symbols of social status and courage. Within Persian society, horses were owned only by the privileged. They were used for racing and hunting, as in the lion hunt pictured, as well as for military campaigns and transport. With the exception of the magnificent Nisean breed, which is very smaller than a morden horse.

Light two-wheeled chariots were of the highest importance in ancient warfare and ceremonial display. The hunting of very large predators such as lions has been a royal and noble pursuit in many cultures.

The powerful , stocky horse shows no apparent signs of panic  in spite of the fact that lions claws are tearing at him, and both horse and rider are dressed with a degree of splendours that may seem inappropriate to the bloody business of slaughter. the effect, perhaps heightened by the uses of precious metal , is theatrical.


Tutankhamun in his chariot attacking Africans c,1567 -1320 BC  painted wood Cario, Egyptian National Museum
Tutankhamun in his chariot attacking Africans
c,1567 -1320 BC
painted wood
Cario, Egyptian National Museum

This painting  is one of several scenes decorating an elaborate wooden chest, which was one of the treasures uncovered during the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and remains in excellent condition, with the paintwork surprisingly bright and colourful.(Pickeral ,41)

The young king stands in his chariot drawn by two spirited horses. One of them with bared teeth, showing his age.Those horses,obviously larger that those in Persians’, are surging forwards. before and beneath them  are dead Africans,who are killed brutally by the king’s arrows and dogs. Thehorsespaintted by bright red is plunging into their attack with a ferocity that matches that of the young king. The horses with a tiara, dressed by caparison like they are showing themselves in a big festival.

Tutankhamun has the chariot reins tied around his waist to free both hands for shooting, indicating horses are good trained.


Achaemenian Period, 515B.C  Limestone Iran,Persepolis
Achaemenian Period, 515B.C

“Persepolis was the unashamedly opulent palace of Darius I, begun in about 518BC and built to serve as the great king’s seat of government and as a centre for lavish entertaining. The place was designed to reflect the wealth and importance of the Persian empire in every stone, with the magnificent central hall, being the most visually arresting. Thirteen of the original seventy – two columns supporting the roof still survive, soaring from the arid landscape into the sky.”[Baskett,30]

This sense shows dignitaries from across the empire bringing tributes to the king. The finely modelled horse is just a gift, and  one that shows respects to the king. Although small is size, the horse has all features of powerful.  His strong legs and muscular body remind viewers his durable and reliable.



detail of the so-called Alexander Sarcophagus Marble relief,451/4 in. high. Istanbul, Archaeological Museum
detail of the so-called Alexander Sarcophagus
Marble relief,451/4 in. high. Istanbul, Archaeological Museum

ALEXANDER was perhaps  the most charismatic leader in history: a legend in his own lifetime, he has been regarded as the model o fa great ruler and general throughout succeeding ages. The ancient accounts of his life include the story of how he won his horse, Buccephalus(Oxhead), by demonstrating, as a twelve- year- old boy, that he could control and ride his grown  stallion that was regarded as dangerously unmanageable. Buccephalus remained Alexander’s equine companion throughout the years of travel and campaigning as far afield as the Indian subcontinent, and died, aged about thirty, in 326BC, after the battle of Hydaspes. Alexander founded the city of Bucephala in his memory.

The sarcophagus was discovered at Sidon and was probably intended not  for Alexander but for his ally, Abdalonimus, King of Sidon(died 304 B.C). The relief’s  style follows that of Lysippus(active mid- to late 4th century), Alexander’s portraits, who, according to Pliny, carved many animals, including horses in quadrigas As in the famous cavalcade on the Parthenon frieze(part of the Elgin Marbles in The British Museum; about 440 BC), the horses’ poses are somewhat repetitive – and there for rhythmic – but naturalistically conceived. In this desperation of battle and even the pain inflicted by the fierce  Greek bits (the riders once held reins in one hand.)



Since people first learnt how to ride, there must have some who delighted in showing off exceptional equestrian skills, not only those that had an obvious purpose, such as the ability to use weapons of war when on horseback, but others that simply demonstrated athleticism and a high degree of mutual understanding between man and horse.

Greek horsemen of the fifth century BC riding bareback with the most casual ease and grace, their horses lively and spirited, but fully under control; Small but powerful, the horses’ prancing pose conveys eagerness and dynamism. Accustomed though we are to seeing saddles as essential articles of riding equipment, the image of the naked or near-naked rider on a similarly naked horse remains a powerful expression of the horse-human bond.

Statuette of a Horse and Rider Greek, mainland, early fifth century B.C. Bronze Height 8.3 cm., length 7.5 cm., width 2.5 cm. Princeton University Art Museum, gift of Frank Jewett Mather Jr. (y1948- 8)
Statuette of a Horse and Rider
Greek, mainland, early fifth century B.C.
Height 8.3 cm., length 7.5 cm., width 2.5 cm.
Princeton University Art Museum, gift of Frank
Jewett Mather Jr. (y1948- 8)

The horse’s head is large in proportion to its stocky body and short legs. It holds itself proudly erect, the neck vertical, the head at a forty-five-degree angle. The eyes are large and slightly bulging; the nostrils flare. The muscles of the breast and flanks are well modeled.

The rider may be a boy: he is beardless, and his feet barely extend past the horse’s belly.He is nude, but unlike the horse, his genitals are not represented. He rides bareback, his posture erect but not stiff. The reins pass through the horse’s mane on the right side to emerge on the left, where the rider holds them in his left hand, his right hand lowered to his thigh. The reins are taut, accounting for the erect posture of the horse. “Through the slight turn of the rider’s head to one side, the group becomes more relaxed in its pose and signals the tendency of the period to break away from rigid postures”


 Racing horses

SPORTING celebrities , both human and equine, were admired and feted in the ancient world. The fourth- century poet Ausonius was asked by the emperor tho write an epitaph on the death of a famous racehorse name Phosphorus (‘Light – bearer’).

“Fly with haste to join the wing- footed

horses of Elysum; may Peasus gallop on your right and Arion as your

left-wheeler, and let Castor find a fourth horse for the team”

The poem describes the horse’s skill and strategy on the racetrack, delighting the roaring crowd of spectators, and concludes with the wish and belief that in the afterlife  Phosphorus might joun the immortal winged horses of myth and legend.

Fragment of a Relief-Amphora with Horse and Rider Greek, Cretan, ca. 660-630 B.C. Ceramic Height 19.07 cm., width 19.7 cm., maximum thickness 2.45 cm. Tampa Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Knight Zewadski in honor of j. Michael Padgett,Curator of Classical Art, 1990-1992 (1991.023.001) CONDITION The medium red to light brown clay is coarse and contains mica and darker red inclusions. The fragment is broken on all sides. The surface is worn, and there are chips in the horse's tail and the raised band below.
Fragment of a Relief-Amphora with Horse and Rider
Greek, Cretan, ca. 660-630 B.C.
Height 19.07 cm., width 19.7 cm., maximum thickness 2.45 cm.
Tampa Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Knight Zewadski in honor of j. Michael Padgett,Curator of Classical Art, 1990-1992 (1991.023.001)
The medium red to light brown clay is coarse and contains mica and darker red inclusions. The fragment is broken on all sides. The surface is worn, and there are chips in the horse’s tail and the raised band below.

A horse gallops to the right, its body, legs, and tail stretched out and elongated in order to accentuate the perception of speed. A male figure wearing a belted tunic rides bareback, his head and upper body turned frontally to face the viewer. while holding onto the reins with his left head, his right hand is swung back, clutching a riding crop, now largely affected.


 Myth and Symbolism

People have always invested nature, including other animals, with symbolic menatings and mystical powers. In religious myth and magical folk-tale, horses take their palce as symbols of speed and power, courage and loyalty , beauty and nobility.”The idea of a flying horse is , however , far older and more widespread that its focus in Graeco-Roman culture”[25],A depictuon of a horse with huge, feathered wings can look wonderfullly plausibel, and the idea of flight is no more than an extension of the qualitites of speed and grace that are already associated iwth the species.

Terracotta, orange clay with inclusions, pale yellow-beige slip, mold-made, hand-finished, painted H. 56, W. 50 Museo Archeologico Regionale "Paolo Orsi" di Siracusa, inv. 34540, 34543, 34895 Syracuse, via Minerva, old temple of Athena, near aedicula E, 1913-14 excavations
Terracotta, orange clay with inclusions, pale
yellow-beige slip, mold-made, hand-finished,
H. 56, W. 50
Museo Archeologico Regionale “Paolo Orsi” di
Siracusa, inv. 34540, 34543, 34895
Syracuse, via Minerva, old temple of Athena, near
aedicula E, 1913-14 excavations

This terracotta tablet represents the winged Gorgon Medusa, her legs positioned in the “Knielauf”pose, an Archaic convention that represents a figure running at great speed. Her torso is shown frontally and her lower body in profile. Her large wings curl above her shoulders and her winged right boot extends beyond the edge of the tablet.
Originally the figure was set in a square black background, and the tablet has been reassembled from several fragments with missing areas restored, especially noticeable on the right side.

With her right hand, the Gorgon grips the belly of the small winged horse Pegasus, tucking the creature under her arm. Pegasus rests his head on his mother’s breast. His elongated right eye is outlined in black and his mouth is slightly open. His neck is painted purple, the details of the mane, black. His rear hooves rest on the Gorgon’s right foot and his front hooves on her right thigh. The feathers of his lowered wing are painted black and purple, and his long cord-like tail hangs above th Gorgon’s foot. Pegasus and Chrysaor were the offspring of the Gorgon and the god Poseidon. Chrysaor’s head once rested in the hollow of the Gorgon’s left shoulder, but both his head and body are now missing.[Bennett,230]


Johns, Catherine. Horses: History, Myth, Art. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 2006.

Baskett, John. The Horse in Art. New Haven, Conn.Yale University Press, 2006.

Pickeral, Tamsin. The Horse: 30,000 Years of the Horse in Art. London: Merrell, 2006.

Bennett, Michael J. Magna Graecia: Greek Art from South Italy and Sicily. Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Museum of Art , 2002.

Padgett, J. Michael, and William A. P. Childs. The Centaur’s Smile: The Human Animal in Early Greek Art. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Art Museum , 2003.

By Ma Lijun

Egyptian Mortuary Temple reconstruction


imageedit_10_6457030866Reconstruction of a Mastaba

           By Connor Carraway

The ancient Egyptians were one of the most architecturally gifted people of the ancient world. Their most noticeable contributions being the care they put into building their tombs. From the greatest of pyramids in Giza, to the humble mastaba were worked on by expert builders so they could serve one purpose, to withstand the harsh ravages of the sands of time. The Egyptians believed that the body must be intact for the deceased’s soul may live in the afterlife, and these tombs in addition to being created in the memory of the deceased, also serves as a protection for the deceased’s body. imageedit_3_8726632542

The exterior to this tomb is guarded by two statues depicting the ancient Egyptian god of embalming, Anubis. Behind the statues is a row of Obelisks that lead up into the doorway, and into the dark halls of the tomb.


The inside of the tomb is nearly pitch black, and that darkness is amplified upon entering from the sunlit outside, emulating a portal from the world of the living, and into the world of the dead. It is through here that the family and friends of the deceased would traverse in order to pay respects, and tributes for the ka.


The dark halls open up to a small mortuary chapel, where a totem, or serdab is placed. A serdab is a statue or totem that depicts the image of the deceased which is meant to house the ka, the deceased’s link to the world of the living. The ka needs to be able to live in the world of the living so the spirit can exist in the afterlife, and it serves as an image for the family so they can feel like the deceased is there and accepting their tributes.


It is believed that there were treasure chambers full of equipment that had would’ve been used by the spirit in the afterlife. These treasures could range anywhere from the practical including foods and incense, and the ornate including statues, and benches. Unfortunately many treasures have been lost to the likes of grave robbers over the millennia, creating the need to come up with plans to prevent robbing, and most importantly, a way to protect the body.


The tomb architects decided not to place the sarcophagus under the main chamber, as that would prove an easy target for the grave robbers. Instead they would place the burial chamber in a different section of the mastaba, and to confuse the would be thieves even further, they would build false chambers that would lead into a dead end.


Meanwhile the sarcophagus would rest in an isolated chamber, and there it was there that the earthly remains of the deceased could rest in and their spirit could proceed into the afterlife and live there in peace for all of eternity.





1. ” The Mastaba (Tomb) of Idu At Giza in Egypt” Accessed April 21 2015.

2. “Serdab” Accessed April 21 2015.

3. “Mastaba” Last modified July 15 2014.

4. ” Anubis” Last modified April 16 2014

Reconstruction of the White Temple

Busy Hopper

The White Temple is one of the few ziggurat structures that left enough remains to give a hint to what it could have looked like when it was first built. This famous temple was built for the Mesopotamian god, Anu, around mid 3000 BCE (Gates). These ziggurats were unique because of the trend of this period to place a deity as the owner of a city (Mark). Therefore, the temple of these gods would be the center of town, the largest structure, and could have been seen from beyond the city’s fortress to foreigners (Ruins). Reconstruction of the White Temple exhibits all of these Mesopotamia characteristics, which helps us better understand the importance of religion to this society.

Reconstruction of the White Temple on the Anu Ziggurat
A virtual representation of the reconstructed White Temple.

For this reconstruction, the rebuilding of what the White Temple should have resembled could better help with the understanding of the Sumerian religion. Ziggurats were made of mud-brick during this time and often would be high enough to be the tallest structure in the city. The Anu Ziggurat (the base of the White Temple) is a polygonal shape, which is different because of the complicated staircase that was created to reach the terrace around the White Temple (Uruk). The staircase and walkway were built in a way so that the entire city would have been able to see the people walking up to the terrace. This is important because it would have been imperative to the city people to broadcast to the town that they were visiting Anu, the sky god. However, only a few were allowed into the White Temple to be a part of the sacrifices and religious ceremonies, most likely the priest and important leaders (Ruins). The White Temple stood forty feet above the city level oriented by the corners to the cardinal points of a compass (Gardner 34). It would have been made of mud-brick as well, but since this is not attractive to the eye, the temple was covered in white plaster. The interior of the temple would have had a central hall leading to an altar (Gardner 33). These temples were often seen as the gateway between the gods and earth, so Anu would have descended to the altar in this divine hall. These are the key elements that make up the layout of the reconstruction of the White Temple. Though we cannot be certain this is the exact layout of the White Temple, it does fit in with the ziggurats of Mesopotamia. There were enough remains to also suggest to this kind of setup, as well as a small temple model that was found in the White Temple during excavation (Uruk).

This reconstruction aids historians in understanding why the layout of the White Temple can White Temple Reconstructed
describe so much about the culture of this society in relation to religion. Religion was the most important aspect of life for Sumerians, so it makes sense that the temple to their deity would have been the largest structure. Also, mountains and high structures such as this temple would have been seen as a sacred high place between heaven and earth. But, not only were there religious ceremonies held in the temple, but also this would have been where the leaders met for executive and economic meetings (Gardner 33). The terrace had a surface area of about 45 x 50 m, which alludes to the encouragement for the townspeople to come up to this area and praise Anu (Uruk). Even though most people did not go into the actual temple, they were definitely encouraged to visit the temple and observe rituals. The layout of the temple suggest to many offerings to the altar where Anu would have descended down to before the priest (Gates). The layout of the White Temple exhibits that there was a necessity for the people to be seen by the city and by the gods visiting their deity. The governmental backbone was even focused around religion, and it is clear from the layout of the White temple that administrative meetings would have also been held in this sacred temple. The height and large-scale of the White temple being above the fortress wall is the prime explanation to the importance of religion. The Sumerians would have wanted anyone passing outside their city to see the White Temple and know this town belonged to the deity, Anu.

Reconstructions like this can help historians today better understand the Sumerians based on these specific structures. Each choice made in building the White Temple suggested to a religious motive driving that architectural decision. By looking at other Mesopotamian structures and the remains, we can come close to an accurate setup to help us understand these decisions. The White Temple is a perfect example of rebuilding a structure from history, so that we can learn more about the history from that time period.

Works Cited:

1. Gardner, Helen, and Fred S. Kleiner. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

2. Gates, Charles, and Neslihan Yılmaz. Ancient Cities: The Archaeology of Urban Life in the Ancient Near East and Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011. Print.

3. Mark, Joshua J. “Uruk.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. N.p., 28 Apr. 2011. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. 4. “Ruins of the White Temple and Ziggurat.” Art Through Time: A Global View. Annenberg Learner, n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.

5. “Uruk Visualisation Project: The White Temple.” Artefacts – Scientific Illustration & Archaeological Reconstruction. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.

Narrative and Ancient Architecture

Stuart Fleischer

Throughout history, places of religious worship have served as the centerpieces of ancient cities. The temples, pyramids, ziggurats, and the other buildings and structures of religious worship that are in this exhibit were all the focuses of their respective cities. These buildings also each convey a narrative, or a story. Many religious institutions of the ancient world constructed the buildings to send out a narrative to the citizens and anybody else who witnessed them. Although the messages that the religious institution were trying to send are usually different from place to place based on religious beliefs and social customs and norms, the reason for telling the public the narratives was mostly the same, to reflect the ideals and beliefs of the religious institution in which the person with the most power in society was associated with. Some of these structures also reflected values that the society held dear through their design. By looking at works of architecture of the ancient world from societies of the Near and Middle East, Egypt, the Mediterranean region, and Rome, this exhibit will demonstrate how each culture’s religious institution was telling a narrative to its city’s people and explore the effects that the narrative might have had on the lives of the people who came into contact with the structure. This exhibit will also look at how some of the pieces of artwork use illusion and deceit to help create narratives and then discuss some repercussions that this might have had. Included in the exhibit are the Great Ziggurat at Ur, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Temple of Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahari, the Parthenon of Greece, the Great Altar from Pergamon and the Pantheon in Rome. Although they are from different parts of the world and of different time periods, they each share the fact that they each use narrative to try to convey a message to the people that saw them.

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The first structure that will be looked at in this exhibit is the Great Ziggurat of Ur, located in modern day Iraq. It has also been referred to as the Nanna Ziggurat. A ziggurat is a giant edifice with multiple platforms that rise high into the sky, creating the illusion of it ascending into the heavens. This ziggurat in particular stands about 100 feet tall, which is actually a rough estimate because of the damage to the structure over the centuries, and 210 by 150 feet in the length and width respectively. Like many other ziggurats of the time, it was built in synchronization with the orientation of the cardinal directions; the front stair case, one of the three massive stair cases that lead to the upper platforms is pointed towards the north. The construction of the ziggurat was ordered by Ur’s king Ur-Nammu. It was first built around 2100 BCE, but has had a lot of reconstruction done over the centuries since to ensure its longevity. It looks somewhat similar to a step pyramid, but the ziggurat also doubled as a temple complex. At the top was a small temple dedicated to city’s chief deity Nanna, the god of the moon, although this temple has been destroyed by time, neglect, and warfare. The foundation of the ziggurat is mostly made of dried mud brick, literally dried blocks of mud. Although the temple no longer exists, remains of blue glazed brick have been found in excavations, which have been speculated by some archaeologists to be decorations of the temple (German). The ziggurat was the focal point of Ur, standing at the center of the city. Surrounding the ziggurat were the houses of the citizens, smaller temples dedicated to other deities, two harbors that connected to the Euphrates River, businesses, and even a royal cemetery, which was dubbed by British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley “The Great Death Pit.” Ur’s system of government was theocratic. The rulers of the city were the kings and high priests. This ruling class was depicted in various pieces of ancient art as being able to communicate with the gods. An example of this is in the Stele of Ur-Nammu, where we see who art historians believe to be the god Nanna sitting in his throne conversing with the king Ur-Nammu. The Stele of Ur-Nammu may be the depiction of a religious ceremony meant to honor the god. Only the priests and king could participate; the common person was not allowed to ascend the ziggurat and partake in the ceremonies that took place at the top. From ground level, it was hard for the common person to see what was going on at the top of the ziggurat during the ceremony. The people in power, by keeping the people ignorant, had created the narrative that the ziggurat was a place where the supernatural and natural worlds met at the top of the mountain and that the king was basically a demi-god that was negotiating with Nanna to keep the city prosperous. By using the powers of ignorance and deceit, the king was able to keep the common people under control and because they believed the king to be a god, he was able to maintain an absolute divine right style of ruling with relative ease. This deceptive narrative might have had several effects on the common person. Out of fear of punishment from their god-king, the people of Ur were unlikely to disobey any laws that were created by him. The Code of Ur-Nammu, the oldest code of law known to man, created by Ur-Nammu, outlined what the laws of Ur were and the penalties associated with breaking them. Ur-Nammu’s laws were relatively peaceful when compared to other ancient codes of law like the Code of Hammurabi, but having the power to create a law system with unquestioned authority can lead to a very malignant set of laws which could set in motion the persecution of certain groups of people, similar to what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust. Another possible effect of the deceitful narrative communicated by the ruling class is the idea that the king could basically tell the people whatever he wanted and say that the god orders them to do it. This could have led to huge buildings, like more ziggurats, being able to be built at great speeds, but it could have also lead to the slavery of the people who were forced to build them. When deception is used to produce ignorance in the people, it creates a narrative that puts the ruling class at the top of the power pyramid, in this case quite literally.

Jane Sweeney—Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images
Jane Sweeney—Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images


The next piece of architecture that will be looked at in this exhibit is the Ishtar Gate of the ancient city of Babylon, which is also located in modern day Iraq. Only reconstructions of the gate exist today. It served as one of the main entry ways into the city proper. It was constructed around 575 BCE under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II, who was the king of Babylon at the time. Under Nebuchadnezzar II’s rule, Babylon was transformed into a city of prosperity and beauty through his generous funding towards the building and restoring of architecture and urban development. He is responsible for the building of not only the Ishtar Gate but also the walls surrounding the city and the ziggurat in the center of the city, Etemenanki, dedicated to the patron deity of the city, Marduk. It is even speculated that he was also responsible for the legendary, wonder of the ancient world, Hanging Gardens, although there is no proof that the gardens ever actually existed (Garcia). The Ishtar gate stood over 38 feet tall and is constructed of burnt brick (Encyclopedia Britannica). The gate is a beautiful blue color, signature to the stone lapis lazuli. Lapis lazuli is a valuable stone because it is mainly only found in certain mountainous regions of Afghanistan which meant that Babylon had to trade to in order to get it. While a majority of the gate is the deep blue color of the stone, there also are relief mosaics depicting three animals: the lion, the auroch, and the dragon. These mosaics stick out from the wall slightly and cast a shadow. The gate is dedicated to the goddess of the same name, Ishtar. She was the goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. The lion was symbolic of the goddess and represented her warlike ways. The auroch, which is an extinct ancestor to modern day cattle, was representative of the god Adad, the god of storms. The dragon was representative of Babylon’s patron deity, Marduk. If one were to walk through the Ishtar Gate they would then find themselves at the Processional Way, which was used during the New Year’s festival and also led to Etemenank (MET Museum). This passageway is also covered in lapis lazuli and again features relief sculptures, but this area only features Ishtar’s lions. An optical illusion takes place as you walk along the procession; due to the shadows cast by the relief sculptures it appears as if the lions are walking along side you. This might have given those walking on the path a sense of protection from the goddess. Another interpretation is that the goddess is watching carefully, ready to pounce on those who do not honor her. The Ishtar Gate is not just an entrance into the city and the Processional Way; it is also trying to tell a narrative. The gate tells the people what is important to their culture. The lapis lazuli shows how prosperous the city is because of its rarity and need to trade in order to obtain it. The animals, representative to the deities previously mentioned, tell the people of the city who the most important gods and goddess are. The illusion of the lions is evidence of the goddess walking amongst the people, which can be a sign of safety or danger depending on how it is interpreted. The illusion of the lions walking can also be an ancient version of GPS; the direction of the lion’s procession points you in the direction of Etemenanki, and since that is the ziggurat of the city’s patron deity it would have been a destination of interest for many in the city so having a lion guide you would probably be very helpful to the people of the city. The narrative that the Ishtar Gate is telling one that would help a person better understand and navigate the city of Babylon.

© Sylvain Grandadam—Stone/Getty Images
© Sylvain Grandadam—Stone/Getty Images

The third architectural marvel that will be looked at in this exhibit is the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the oldest and only one of the seven that is still intact, which is a testimony to how well the pyramid was constructed considering it was built around the year 2550 BCE during Egypt’s Fourth Dynasty. The pyramid’s construction was ordered by Pharaoh Khufu and because of this it is often also referred to as the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The pyramid stood 481 feet tall before erosion caused the building to get slightly shorter. Erosion or not, The Great Pyramid was the world’s tallest man made structure from the completion of its construction up until the year 1311 CE, over 3500 years. The Great Pyramid has four sides each approximately 755 feet in length. It is truly a massive edifice, one that is similar to the Great Ziggurat of Ur in that it would look like a mountain; the pyramid looks even more like a mountain because it has a point at the top opposed to the platform top of the ziggurat. The flat, desert landscape surrounding the Giza Plateau Complex makes this illusion even more noticeable. In ancient times, the sides were covered in a smooth, polished, white limestone, which would have probably reflected light that created an awe inspiring illusion of a shining mountain. Now, however, the polished limestone has been removed or eroded away and the pyramid’s yellow limestone is now exposed.  The pyramid served as Pharaoh Khufu’s funerary tomb. The inside of the pyramid consisted of multiple different chambers, including the King’s and Queen’s Chambers (Encyclopedia Britannica). As was ancient Egyptian custom, Khufu was mummified and placed inside a sarcophagus along with all his earthly valuables that he could bring along with him into the afterlife. When he died it was said that he would ascend into after life and become a god himself. Despite being watched over by the mythical guardian the Sphinx, over the course of history the pyramid and its chambers have been infiltrated by tomb raiders, who stole everything they could, including the mummified remains of Khufu himself. Little is actually known of the methods used to build the great Pyramid. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, recorded in his works that the pyramid took 20 years to complete and needed 100,000 men in order to complete it. His claims have been argued by modern day archaeologists, who suggest that only 20,000 people were needed to complete the pyramid’s construction (Fowler). The narrative that the pyramid was originally built to try to communicate was the story that Pharaoh Khufu wanted to tell, which was that he was going to ascend into heaven and become a god. The pyramid would not only serve as a portal in to the spirit world but would also be a symbol for his eternal afterlife because he made sure it was designed to survive for millenniums to come. When people saw his Great Pyramid, they would know that he was a great ruler and a deity because of his huge monument, regardless of how great of a ruler he actually was. With so little actually know about the life of Khufu other than the fact that he was the one who commissioned the pyramid, it is hard to know how effective of a pharaoh he actually was, but the narrative that the pyramid tells make it seem like he was a phenomenal ruler due to the massive size of his tomb. Present day, the pyramid is still telling this narrative by simply still existing; Khufu wanted to be immortal and his memory will still live on as long as the pyramid is still standing.

© Vova Pomortzeff/
© Vova Pomortzeff/

The fourth piece of architecture in the exhibit is the Temple of Hatshepsut, located in Deir el-Bahari, which is located near the Valley of Kings in Egypt. Hatshepsut was the daughter of the pharaoh Thutmose I. When her half-brother and husband Thutmose II passes away, she takes the throne and becomes the first female pharaoh of Egypt. Her stepson, Thutmose III, who would have taken the throne earlier had he not been only a child when his father died, was very bitter about having to wait to claim the throne for himself. It has been speculated by art historians that this bitterness led to him destroying almost all records of Hatshepsut which caused her to nearly be lost by history until her tomb was discovered in the 1920 (Sullivan). Part of the narrative being told by this building is being told through the vandalism and destruction done throughout the temple, which shows us how the lust of power can drive even family members to turn on each other. The temple of Hatshepsut was designed by Senmut, who was an architect, engineer, and the chancellor to the pharaoh. “Construction of the temple of Hatshepsut took fifteen years, between the 7th and the 22nd years of her reign. . . .The site chosen by Hatshepsut for her temple was the product of precise strategic calculations: it was situated not only in a valley considered sacred for over 500 years to the principal feminine goddess connected with the funeral world, but also on the axis of the temple of Amun of Karnak, and finally, it stood at a distance of only a few hundred meters in a straight line from the tomb that the queen had ordered excavated for herself in the Valley of the Kings on the other side of the mountain” (Siliotti 100). Hatshepsut did not coincidentally choose this valley and because of this, the location of the temple also tells a narrative. By choosing to put the temple in the valley dedicated to the goddess connected to the funerary world, Hatshepsut was guaranteeing herself a safe passage into the afterlife and ensuring her place among the gods when she dies. An interesting aspect of Hatshepsut’s depiction in sculpture is how she varies from sculpture to sculpture. When comparing two the sculptures “Seated figure of King Hatshepsut” and “Kneeling figure of King Hatshepsut” we see that although they originate from the same time period, the kneeling figure has a masculinized version of Hatshepsut, with a wider face than the sitting depiction of her. The kneeling figure also has a beard and more muscle tone. This differentiation in her depiction might also be telling its own narrative, one that might be reinforcing patriarchal norms. It is hard to be certain because of all of the destruction done by her step-son to her records, belongings, and the hieroglyphics and art that portrayed Hatshepsut. Because there are so few depictions of Hatshepsut in existence it is impossible to tell if Hatshepsut was depicted more frequently as a male or female. If she was depicted more as a male it might have been an attempt to hide the fact that she was a girl, maybe because the society was heavily patriarchal and could not stand to have a female as their pharaoh. On the other hand, however, if more of the depictions of Hatshepsut were of her in female form then perhaps the people were accepting of her rule regardless of her gender. It is unfortunate that Thutmose III destroyed all that he did because it could have given us more insight on how the ancient Egyptians viewed issues of gender.

© Neil Setchfield—Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images
© Neil Setchfield—Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images
© Goodshoot/Jupiterimages
© Goodshoot/Jupiterimages

The fifth work of architecture that will be examined in the exhibit is the Parthenon, located in Athens, Greece. The focal point of the Athenian Acropolis, this temple was dedicated in honor of the city’s patron deity, Athena. She was the goddess of wisdom, justice, and warfare, two principles held in high regards by the citizens of Athens. The temple was designed by architects Kallikrates and Iktinos and was completed in the year 432 BCE. The temple has a peristyle colonnade, with columns of the Doric order surrounding the temple’s pronaos, cella, and opithodomos. Inside the cella was a giant statue of the goddess Athena, which has since been destroyed or gone missing but reconstructions exist. Because of the small amount of light that could enter the cella through the colonnade, this statue would have appeared very surreal when the lights flickering on it, perhaps giving the illusion of it moving slightly. During ancient times, on the outside of the building one would see both the frieze and the pediment and the relief sculptures and metopes that were above the entrance way to the temple, and the sculptures would have actually been painted. This is contrary to what many are people used to seeing in museums today, which are usually plain, white marble sculptures, with any trace of paint fading off over the years. Many of these sculptures are no longer a part of temple and have been removed from the structure and are now in the British Museum as part of the controversial Elgin Marbles collection. Before a gun powder explosion caused destruction to the temple that damaged the sculptures beyond repair, if a person were to look at the eastern pediment they would see the mythological tale of the birth of Athena out of Zeus’ head. On the west side pediment one would see the myth about the contest between Athena and Poseidon to see who could offer the best gift in order to become the patron deity of the city (Silverman). Many art historians believe the images that appear on the friezes are depicting the procession of the Panathenaic festival, a festival held every four years to honor Athena (Jenkins). The relief sculptures that are on the Parthenon tell a narrative about how you should conduct yourself during the festival. It also uses myths to reinforce the city’s origin story. The Athenians took pride in their intelligence and systems of law and justice and having a temple a temple that is dedicated to the goddess that represents those qualities further reinforces that narrative. Another way the narrative of the Athenians being intellectuals is subliminally being told is through the use of columns. From the looks of the Parthenon, the columns seem to line up to make a perfectly straight line along the top of the columns, but that is actually an optical illusion. In reality, the columns are actually on a slight curve. The architects designed the building like this because if the columns were all literally the same size and on the same leveled platform it would look curved even though it actually is not. This architectural technique is call entasis. This again reinforces the narrative that Athenians were intelligent because it takes advanced mathematics and geometry to be able to counter act the tricks our eyes play on us. All of the narratives that this build is telling us have something to do with being an Athenian citizen. It gives a guideline for how you should present yourself during the festival and also reinforces the city’s origin story and religious beliefs through the depictions on the pediments.

via Pergamum Museum, Berlin
via Pergamum Museum, Berlin
(Pergamum Museum, Berlin)
(Pergamum Museum, Berlin)

The sixth architectural construction that will be looked at in this exhibit is the Great Altar from Pergamon, which was in modern day Turkey and has been reconstructed in Berlin. It was built from 166 to around 156 BCE by the order of King Eumenes II during the Hellenistic period, where Greek culture was being spread around the Mediterranean region. This alter was heavily influenced by the architecture and sculpture of the Classical Greeks. It is constructed entirely of marble in the Ionic order, evidenced by the columns. The Great Alter possesses a large set of stairs with a colonnade at the top of the steps. It also has multiple high relief sculptures on the east and west sides of it. These relief carvings depict several different scenes from Greek mythology. One of the friezes, measuring 360 feet long, is the Gigantomachy frieze, which depicts the battle between the Greek gods and goddesses and the Giants (Altar of Zeus at Pergamon). This battle held a lot of significance in the religion because it tells how the Olympians conquered the Giants and seized power for themselves. Another scene shows Athena and Nike teaming up to fight against the giant Alkyoneus and his mother Gaia. Like the other pieces of architecture in the exhibit that featured reliefs or sculptures in some way, these statues create a narrative that show the stories and myths in the physical form. By seeing the relief sculptures not only come out of the wall in to the three dimensional but do so in the Hellenistic style of sculpture, which featured a lot of twisting of the body and cloth that draped over the body with incredible realism, almost makes the sculptures appear like they are coming to life.

© Jeffrey S. Campbell
© Jeffrey S. Campbell
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Samuel H. Kress Collection
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Samuel H. Kress Collection

The seventh and final architectural achievement that will be examined in the exhibit is the Pantheon in Rome. Its construction originally was ordered by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in the year 27 CE, but it was burned down in a fire in 80 CE, leading to another Pantheon getting erected in the same spot as the old building. Unfortunately, this Pantheon was burned down yet again in 110 CE, so a third building was constructed and finished in the year 125 CE under the rule of Emperor Hadrian. The building was built in the Corinthian order. The purpose of the building is speculated to be a temple dedicated to all of the gods. “However, no cult is known to all of the gods and so the Pantheon may have been designed as a place where the emperor could make public appearances in a setting which reminded onlookers of his divine status, equal with the other gods of the Roman pantheon and his deified emperor predecessors (Cartwright).” If this is was what the building was actually for then the emperor was certainly trying to create a narrative that he was sending the citizens that he was a living god. Creating this narrative probably would make the citizens scared of him and follow his rule unconditionally. It also elevated him above everyone else, meaning the emperor could basically do whatever they wanted with no repercussion. Inside, the Pantheon had a rotunda, which was a circular type of room. The ceiling of this room is an unsupported dome, with an oculus at the top of it. An oculus was an opening in the ceiling that allows light in. When the light shines through the oculus it can give one the impression of having the gods staring down at them. This creates a narrative as well because if you believe the gods are literally peeking through the oculus to check that you are not up to no good you are probably a lot less likely to do anything that you thought that the gods would consider wicked out of fear of their painful wrath.

Works Cited

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Jenkins, I. “Central Scene of the East Frieze of the Parthenon.” British Museum -. January 1, 1994. Accessed April 23, 2015.

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“Panel: striding lion [Excavated at Wall of Processional Way, Babylon, Mesopotamia]” (31.13.2) In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)

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Silverman, David. “The Parthenon.” Parthenon. Accessed April 22, 2015.

Sullivan, Mary Ann. “Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.” Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. January 1, 2001. Accessed April 23, 2015.