A Lucky Break Given the choice between luck and skill… <ul><li>Ancient Egyptians used a form of writing called hieroglyphics, where pictures replace words written with letters. The Egyptian writing could not be translated until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799. This stone is engraved with text in ancient Greek, Coptic (an early Christian language), and Egyptian hieroglyphics. Since the Greek and Coptic could be read, and both said exactly the same thing, it was assumed that the Egyptian “picture writing” was also the identical text and was thusly translated. </li></ul>
Terminology <ul><li>Canon: A rule or law. </li></ul><ul><li>Egyptian canons in art: </li></ul><ul><li>Twisted Perspective </li></ul><ul><li>Hierarchical Scale </li></ul><ul><li>Idealization </li></ul>
Pallette of Narmer c. 3000 BC Slide 7 <ul><li>The Pallette of Narmer (Slide 7) is a commemorative relief sculpture fashioned in the shape of an Egyptian cosmetic palette. The ancient Egyptians used a lot of make-up, both men and women, and the palettes that inspired the The Pallette of Narmer were used for mixing the various rouges and eye colorings they used. </li></ul><ul><li>The front of the The Pallette of Narmer shows the victorious king Narmer who unified Egypt. He looms over his defeated enemy, clutching the beaten king’s crown in his left hand while his right hand holds aloft a stone war-hammer. It seems clear that Narmer is preparing to dispatch his opponent but the question arises; are we seeing a depiction of combat, where the two kings met on the field of battle, or is this an execution? There are some clues that suggest this is a ritualistic killing. </li></ul><ul><li>The defeated king is shown kneeling. This is a posture of defeat, subjugation and disempowerment. Behind Narmer stands a servant holding the victorious king’s sandals and a pot or basket. The fact that Narmer has removed his shoes indicates that this activity likely is ritualistic in nature since it was common to remove one’s foot wear when participating in a religious ceremony and the execution of a king, even a defeated enemy king, would be a very serious matter requiring the approval of the gods, making the execution a religious event. The container held by the servant probably holds holy oil for appropriate anointing, another clue that the scene depicts a ritual and not combat. </li></ul><ul><li>That the gods had been consulted and approved of Narmer’s actions is represented in the avian figure seen in the upper right corner of the front of the palette. This is Horus, the hawk god, and he stands on top of an acanthus plant with one foot raised in a mirror image of Narmer as he holds one hand above his head. The acanthus would symbolize Lower Egypt since the plant grows in the delta regions of Lower Egypt so the implication seems to be that Horus dominates Lower Egypt just as Narmer stands over the defeated king of that country. The fact that Narmer is seizing the doomed king’s crown symbolizes that he is grabbing the power and territory from him as the spoils of war. </li></ul><ul><li>There are several canons (rules or conventions) of Egyptian art. The most obvious to most casual observers is the use of twisted perspective, which is when artists render a subject so that it appears as though we are seeing it from multiple angles simultaneously. A good example of this technique can be seen the faces in Egyptian paintings. The faces of Egyptian figures are often shown in profile, but the eyes look as though the viewer is staring the figure’s face straight-on. We see the face from the side while the eye is a full-face view. </li></ul><ul><li>The Egyptians also avoided celebrating their opponents. Unlike the Mesopotamians who depicted their enemies as powerful and worthy to make their accomplishment in defeating them even more glorious, the Egyptians preferred to ridicule their enemies and make them look worthless and weak. Below Narmer’s feet are the bodies of the enemy soldiers killed in battle. They appear broken and crushed rather than defiant and strong. (Text continued Slide 6) </li></ul>
Pallet of Narmer c. 3000 BC Continued <ul><li>This theme of insulting the enemy is continued on the back of The Pallette of Narmer where in the top register (a panel of separated images in a single piece) we see the victorious Narmer contemplating the army he has just defeated. The dead soldiers are rendered as small and puny with their bodies stacked like firewood. A closer examination reveals that the dead soldiers have been beheaded, with their severed heads placed between their knees. Mutilation of fallen enemies is a practice that is seen in many warrior cultures throughout history. Trophies of the battle are sometimes taken in the form of scalps or whole heads. In some cultures enemies’ bodies were mutilated to prevent their souls from achieving paradise. Whatever the purpose for the Egyptian’s desecrations, it is clear that they are not celebrating their fallen enemy. </li></ul><ul><li>Egyptian art also make extensive use of the technique known as hierarchical scale. Hierarchical refers to one’s position within an organization and scale means relative size. So hierarchical scale means to show the subject’s importance by how large he is compared to other figures in the composition. On the front of The Pallette of Narmer king for whom the piece is named stands much taller than the defeated king or Narmer’s servant, who is very small in comparison. On the back of the palette, the army King Narmer leads appears to consist of very tiny men. Of course, Narmer’s men were actually normal sized. The artist is simply conveying the relative importance of Narmer by making him appear huge by comparison. </li></ul><ul><li>The bottom register on the back of the palette shows a bull trampling and goring his enemies. The bull is a powerful symbol, suggesting power, savagery and masculinity, all qualities that a warrior king would want to associate with himself. The bull is probably meant to represent Narmer, and serves as a warning to any potential enemies of the pharaoh or of Egypt that they will be trampled beneath the pharaoh’s might should they dare challenge him. Once again the pharaoh’s enemies are depicted as puny and weak. On the front of the palette Narmer wears a bull’s tail hanging from his waist to emphasize this association with the powerful and dangerous bull. The modern version of this warning is “Mess with the bull; get the horn.” </li></ul>
If unclear on the concept of that last statement this gentleman can probably explain the meaning.
Queen Tiye c. 1350 BC A question that often sparks fierce debate amongst academics is what race were the ancient Egyptians? Egypt is an African country, so many social historians maintain that they were dark-skinned African people. But Egypt is located in North Africa, between Libya and Saudi Arabia, both of which are usually considered Middle Eastern countries. Because of its location, Egypt has always been a crossroad for the ancient world, and people of many races made their way there. Today Egypt has a very mixed population and it was likely the same in ancient times. Reviewing the art of ancient Egypt reveals portraits that appear to depict people of differing racial heritage. The queen at left is thought to have had a Chinese mother. It may be incorrect to assign any specific race or ethnicity as being correct for all Egyptians.
Nebamun Hunting c. 1400 BC Slide 11 <ul><li>The celebration of the pharaoh (meaning king and god as the pharaoh was considered divine) in art continues throughout Egyptian history. In the painted image of the pharaoh Amenemheb hunting birds we see the usual canons of Egyptian art, like the use of twisted perspective and hierarchical scale. </li></ul><ul><li>As with the Assyrian Lion Hunting Tablets we’ve already seen, the image of the king hunting is one that remains popular throughout history, including ancient Egypt. There is a message in this painting intended for the pharaoh’s subjects. The pharaoh holds several birds captive in his right hand. Birds are often used to symbolize the concept of freedom since they can fly and breaking the bonds of gravity may be seen as the ultimate expression of liberty. But these birds are not free, they are held firmly in the pharaoh’s grasp. </li></ul><ul><li>A grasping hand might be viewed as a representation for control. Whoever does the grasping and holding is generally the one in control. In this case it’s the pharaoh who is in control, and it’s his subjects who are held tightly. This painting seems to tell the Egyptians that they may think that they are free, but they are not. The pharaoh is firmly in control and he holds their lives in his hand. </li></ul><ul><li>The woman seen standing behind the pharaoh is likely his wife (or one of them since the pharaoh could have as many wives as pleased him). She is depicted as physically much smaller than her husband and although it is not impossible for a married couple to be this much different in height the odds are we are seeing the hierarchical scale in use to indicate the relative importance of the figures. </li></ul><ul><li>A child (generally thought to be the pharaoh’s daughter although the child’s sex isn’t absolutely known) kneels between the pharaoh’s legs. The fact that the child is touching the pharaoh’s leg confirms that the child is a close relative because nobody else would be allowed to make physical contact with him. </li></ul>
Stepped Pyramid of Zoser by Imhotep c, 4600 BC This is an early attempt at pyramid building. The ancient Egyptians weren’t the only people to build pyramids, but they are famous for doing so. This stepped structure resembles the Mesopotamian ziggurat and is significant as the first piece of art in history where the artist’s identity is known. The architect was Imhotep, a physician who apparently dabbled in designing pyramids. The next slide depicts a small sculpture of the artist.
The Bent Pyramid Slide 15 & Slide 16 <ul><li>There are several explanations for why this pyramid was built with the walls being bent rather than straight as is customary. One theory that seems quite popular is that the structure suffered instability and damage as it was being built and was shortened to reduce the stress on the foundation. The problems with this explanation is that the Egyptians don’t really seem to have had any problems in building pyramids and none of the others show signs of distress. Also, if they were having such severe trouble, why is it still standing nearly 5,000 years later? If the builders were having difficulty with the foundation, would “bending” the walls have helped? This would surely have caused greater stress since the angled supporting walls would not be able to withstand as much weight as would straight ones. </li></ul><ul><li>Another theory being circulated is that the angles of the angles of the form a mathematical formula that corresponds to the exact longitude and latitude of the structure’s location. This assumes that the ancient Egyptians used the same system of global positioning that is currently in use. </li></ul><ul><li>Another possibility is that the project was completed in a hurry and the angle of the walls decreased to facilitate a quick completion. It’s possible that the pharaoh died suddenly and his tomb needed to be ready with the required time frame for burial. The king wasn’t buried here but rather he was entombed in a smaller pyramid nearby. Perhaps they didn’t get this one done in time. Interior painting shows signs of great haste with a mistake in the text being crossed out instead of erased and properly rewritten. </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 16 gives an indication of the size of this pyramid (344’ in height). Notice the man riding a camel to the lower left of the structure. </li></ul>
The Great Pyramids 2530-2470 BC Slide 18 & Slide 19 <ul><li>The pyramids were meant to serve as tombs for the pharaohs. The Egyptians believed that whatever one wanted to have in the next life needed to be buried with the body when departing this one. Objects entombed with the dead are called “grave goods” and this is not an usual practice, being found around the world in many cultures. However, the ancient Egyptians took it to an extreme level. </li></ul><ul><li>The pharaoh, being not only king but divine (pharaoh means “king and god”), would be entombed with many useful and extravagantly expensive items. This proved to be too tempting for thieves to resist and the royal tombs were routinely looted for the treasures contained within. The pyramids were designed to be fortress tombs, to protect the pharaoh’s goods. It didn’t work as every royal tomb discovered to date had been plundered at some point. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s almost cliché to describe the Great Pyramids as marvels of engineering, but that’s what they are. They were built using superior knowledge of mathematics and engineering along with a great deal of manpower, What the Egyptians lacked in tractors, trucks and motorized cranes that are associated with modern construction techniques they made up for in sheer numbers of laborers. A thousand men pulling on ropes can transport a 10-ton block of stone just as well as can a 300 horsepower truck. Well, maybe the men can’t get up to freeway speed, but they can certainly move the stone (see Slide 19 to appreciate the size of the blocks used in the construction).. </li></ul><ul><li>One common misconception regarding the building of the pyramids is that it was done using slave labor. While the ancient Egyptians did practice slavery, it was free men hired as work crews who built the pharaoh’s tomb. Slaves would be unworthy to touch anything used by the pharaoh. </li></ul><ul><li>The exteriors of the pyramids were originally covered with polished limestone but most of this façade has been stripped away over the centuries. The names of the pharaohs associated with the Great Pyramids, Chefron, Mycerinus and Cheops are actually Greek names. They were changed when a Macedonian family, the Ptolemy family, ruled Egypt following the Greek conquest. Cleopatra was a Ptolemy and as such had not one drop of Egyptian or African blood. She was Greek and totally Caucasian despite how Hollywood tends to portray her or what some revisionist historians want us to believe. She was also not beautiful as is widely thought, but was described by contemporary authors as “ugly as a mud hen.” She used sex to scheme her way into increased power and when her plan failed she killed herself. Hardly a hero. </li></ul>
The Great Pyramids at Giza 2530-2470 BC Chefron, Mycerinus and Cheops
Boat Museum The unattractive modern structure in front of the pyramid is a museum built to house a large boat recovered from a pharaoh’s tomb. It is not known why anyone would think that building this thing right in front of the pyramid was a good idea.
What’s in a Name? <ul><li>Chefron = </li></ul><ul><li>Khafre </li></ul><ul><li>Cheops = </li></ul><ul><li>Khufu </li></ul><ul><li>Mycerinus = </li></ul><ul><li>Menkaure </li></ul>
Colossus of Ramses II c. 1275 BC Also known as the Colossus at Abu Simbel this structure features four statues of Ramses II, who ruled for 67 years and is best remembered as the Biblical pharaoh contending with Moses. The monument was carved in a single piece and has a tunnel between the central figures that goes back into the hill some 100 yards. At sunrise on the Summer Solstice the sun would align with this passageway and the entire length would be illuminated. Slide 16 shows the memorial after it was relocated 1964-68. The Egyptian government built the Aswan dam on the Nile and the original location of this artifact is now under 200 feet of water due to the reservoir that was created. About $40,000,000 was raised from around the world through private donations to pay for cutting the monument into sections and moving it up the hill.
This is how it now looks. The engineers tried to duplicate the alignment of the tunnel with the Summer Solstice sunrise but failed to accomplish what the ancient Egyptians had done. Slide 24 shows the statues being dissected for moving. Slides 25 and 26 show the monument today. Gauge the size by the visitors seen in the photo. Slide 27 shows the interior of the tunnel and its sculpture of the pharaoh.
Apparently visitors to historic sites have always had difficulty in refraining from vandalism. Note the graffiti that is well over 100 years old.
Historic sites and monuments are often threatened by the encroachment of modern development. For many years it seemed the modern Egyptians had no interest in protecting and preserving ancient artifacts. Note how this apartment complex is literally built around this colossal sculpture. Such indifference is not indicative of a people concerned with maintaining their heritage and culture. Colossal sculpture of Ramses II
The pharaoh Hatshepsut was not particularly popular and following the death of the pharaoh many of the royal portraits were destroyed. See Slide 31 for a more recent photograph of this artifact. Hatshepsut was entombed in a large structure carved in one piece from the side of huge boulder. See Slide 33 and note the visitors seen standing around the funerary temple to appreciate its size. There were several reasons for Hatshepsut’s unpopularity. First of all, ancient Egypt was a patriarchal society, dominated by men and many of them were uncomfortable with this pharaoh because she was a woman. Did you realize Hatshepsut was female by looking at the sculpture? The portrait deliberately obscured her femininity while enhancing her image as pharaoh. Many of her subjects also did not appreciate the way she came to power. The daughter and wife of pharaohs, she certainly had royal blood. When her husband died young leaving a 5-year old son (Tutmosis II) Hatshepsut offered to serve as regent, ruling in her son’s name until he was old enough to assume full authority. It wasn’t long, however, before Hatshepsut donned the pharaoh’s garb and proclaimed herself absolute ruler. Despite having many enemies, she managed to rule for 18 years. Then she died suddenly and under mysterious circumstances. Perhaps Tutmosis II was weary of waiting? The Pharaoh Hatshepsut c. 1470 BC
This photo was taken by the instructor in 2006 during a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It is the same statue seen in the previous slide.
Rock Cut Tomb of Hatshepsut c. 1458 BC <ul><li>Hatshepsut’s tomb is not a pyramid although it is an above-ground structure. Note the size of the people visiting the monument for an idea of its scale. It is not a tradition “construction” but rather is actually akin to sculpture, being carved in one piece from the huge stone that makes up the hill behind it. </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 34 shows some of the wall decorations that would be found in a pharaoh’s tomb. Slides 35 - 37 show other surviving sculpture of Hatshepsut. Not many examples are available. Being unpopular, many of her portraits were destroyed after her death. The best way to destroy a sculpted image is to smash off the face rendering the statue unrecognizable. This is where we get the term “deface.” </li></ul>
Cleopatra was one of Egypt’s most famous rulers. She was not really Egyptian by blood, but Greek. She was the descendant of Ptolemy, one of Alexander the Great’s generals who was given Egypt to rule. His family ruled Egypt for about 300 years. Despite what some now claim, Cleopatra was not black; nor was she African or even Egyptian except that she was born there. Her lineage was pure Greek. She was also very plain looking, to the point where some who knew her called her rather homely.
Khafre Longevity was paramount to the Egyptians. They believed in an afterlife and eternity is a long time so the portraits of the pharaoh had to be designed to last forever. Unlike Greek or Roman sculpture where the figures often have arms and legs protruding into space, Egyptian statues are more contained, and are therefore less likely to suffer damage such as broken limbs. But it does make the subject appear less dynamic.
Menkaure and Wife In addition to longevity, formality was high on the list with Egyptian artists. The pharaoh must always appear regal, and in control. Even an intimate moment between a husband and wife assumes an air of rigid formality in Egyptian art.
Rohtep and Nofret Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the this portrait sculpture is the fact that the man is wearing a mustache. Facial hair was virtually unknown amongst the men of Ancient Egypt.
Akhenaten Akenaten never wanted to be pharaoh. He was so far down the line in the order of succession that he figured he never would assume the throne. But it worked out that he did and his reign was interesting. Akenaten wasn’t much impressed by the power and majesty of the office and continued to act as he always had, like a “regular guy.” See Slide 42 for a relief sculpture showing Akenaten relaxing at home with his wife, Nefertiti, and their three daughters. Nefertiti was said to have been very beautiful and a famous portrait bust of her can be seen in Slide 44. But most ancient Egyptians didn’t approve of this casual attitude in their pharaoh. They disliked his portrait at left that doesn’t appear to have been idealized , a technique where the subject is made to look better than he actually was. Egyptians were polytheistic (worshipped many deities) and they rebelled against his order that only Aten, the sun god, could be worshipped and all other temples had to be closed. In fact. Akhenaten’s name was changed from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten to reflect his devotion to Aten. Given the strong public sentiment against Akenaten, it’s not surprising that some historians believe he died suddenly and under mysterious circumstances. NOTE: There is great disagreement among historians about the exact relationships and histories of many ancient Egyptian rulers and their families. Always read with caution any author making definitive statements regarding who was related to whom and other personal information. Mostly we have theories and not hard fact about the rulers of ancient Egypt.
Royal Daughters This painting, as well as the relief sculpture in the previous slide, depict the pharaoh’s daughters as having grossly elongated heads. This may be evidence of head-binding, where a string or ribbon is tied around a baby’s head while the skull is still not fully formed in order to reshape it. This practice was popular amongst some African cultures until stamped out by Christian missionaries in the 20 th century. It causes no harm to the individual, it merely shapes the head to look long and narrow. They did it because they found it aesthetically pleasing.
This is a famous portrait bust of Akenaten’s wife, Nefertiti. In the debate regarding the race of the ancient Egyptians, some members of the royal family do seem to exhibit characteristics of sub-Saharn African people. But Nefertiti looks Middle Eastern in this portrait.
Tut and Ankhesenamun Following Akhenaten’s untimely death he was succeeded by his nephew, Tutankhamen. King Tut as he is commonly called, came to power at around the age of 13 and only ruled for about 5 years. About the only thing Tut is known for doing is undoing what his uncle had decreed. Note the differences in Tut’s relief at right compared to the much more casual and familial scene of Akhenaten and his family. It was always held that he was a sickly boy suffering numerous debilitating ailments likely cause by so much inbreeding in the royal family. However, recently the Egyptian government has issued reports that Tut was normal and healthy and disputes earlier evidence to the contrary. Some suspect they are idealizing the dead pharaoh to improve his marketability. Tut also died suddenly and under mysterious circumstances and his widow pleaded with the king of the Hittites to send a prince to marry her or she would be forced to marry Ay, an advisor to Tut whom some suspect murdered the young pharaoh in a power grab. The Hittite prince never made it to Egypt, disappearing somewhere along the road. It’s likely that he also died suddenly and under mysterious circumstances as there was a lot of that going around at that time. The records indicate that Queen Ankhesenamun was married to Ay in a public ceremony, then simply vanished never to be or heard from again. She probably died suddenly and under mysterious circumstances.
The relief seen in detail on Slide 45 is the back of a golden chair from Tut’s tomb. Discovered in 1922 by British explorer and adventurer Howard Carter, it contained many treasures because it had been restored after being looted by thieves almost immediately following Tut’s entombment. No pharaoh’s tomb has been located to date that had not been pillaged. Tut’s was also looted but the items were restored and was undisturbed until 1922.
This is the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen, the innermost of three that contained his body. This one is made of solid gold and weighs nearly 300 pounds. The beard is not really the pharaoh’s own facial hair. It is held on with a string. The pharaohs routinely wore the bear as a symbol of office. Even the few women pharaohs would wear them. If the portrait of the pharaoh was done while he (or she) was still living, the beard was depicted as straight. If the image was created post-mortem, then the beard has a small curl and the bottom to indicate that the pharaoh was deceased.
Tut’s Mummy Case A full length view of Tut’s golden sarcophagus. .
This view better reveals the details of the mask and the use of lapis lazuli to create the contrasting gold and blue. Being a minor pharaoh whose reign was short and relatively uneventful, Tut’s treasure was mostly gold. Gold was cheaper in Egypt than was silver which needed to be imported and thus cost more. A major pharaoh, like Ramses II, would have had his tomb filled with silver.
Temple at Karnak Located north of Luxor, this complex covers 247 acres, making it one of if not the largest religious sites in the world. It was built over a 1300 year span with some 30 pharaohs contributing to the development.
The complex is now in a generally poor state of condition due to neglect over the centuries. It remains Egypt’s second most popular tourist site.
Many pharaohs included their portraits at Karnak. This one happens to be Ramses II.
Karnak relief of the Pharaoh “ The king is the land and the land is the king” is a common concept. The ancient Egyptians believed the divine pharaoh needed to ensure the fertility of the crop land by blessing it with his own seed. So once each year the Pharaoh participated in a ceremony at Karnak that included him masturbating onto the ground. That would explain the engraved image at right. Male fertility figures are not as common as females, but when you do encounter one it is usually quite dramatic and unmistakable as to purpose. We can see why they made this guy pharaoh… or maybe it’s just some idealization going on?
Palace at Knossos The Palace at Knossos is all that remains of a culture once found on the island of Crete. When the ruins were discovered by the ancient Greeks they thought the sprawling structure was the palace of the mythical King Minos who is famous for constructing the labyrinth to imprison his monstrous grandson, the Minotaur. The Minotaur was half man and half bull and was the result of a relationship between the king’s daughter and a bull. Because the Greeks thought this was the home of Minos they dubbed the long lost culture the Minoans. We do not know what they actually called themselves. An artist’s concept of the original structure can be seen on Slide 55.
The columns used in the Palace at Knossos are unique in that they feature a reverse taper. They are larger at the top than at the bottom and this is not found anywhere else.
Knossos “Throne Room” We assume that some cushions were used on the stone seating for comfort. Or maybe the chairs were left uncomfortable to encourage brevity in official meetings.
Queen’s Megaron Megaron means “big room” and this one features a wall painting of fish and dolphins. But the painting is a reconstruction, done from a very small surviving piece so it may not be accurate. That’s always the problem with reconstructions. Always be cautious with reconstructions because we often don’t know how accurate they are to the original. The Octopus Jar in Slide 61 is another example of Minoan decorative arts with a sea life theme.
Queen’s Megaron Another view that better shows the wall painting. Compare this image to the photo in the next slide to illustrate how different objects can appear in photos due to lighting and other variables. Looking at photos of art is really an awful way to see it but sometimes we have no choice.
This is a bathtub. The Palace at Knossos is the earliest known building that is plumbed and featured running water. There were even flush toilets. A popular decorative theme with the Minoans was sea life as can be seen on the tub in Slide 63. Slide 64 shows some of the terra cotta (fired clay) pipes that carried the water and Slides 65 to 67 show the system of waste water removal using gravity to force the used water to flow down open channels and away from the palace.
Exposed plumbing at Knossos. The pipes are made of fired clay, called “terra cotta.”
This slide and the following two illustrate how waste water was carried away from the Palace at Knossos. No electric pumps were available so gravity was used to channel waste water down the hill out and away from the building where it dumped into a large sump.
Minoan Storage Jars More pottery featuring depictions of sea creatures (including another octopus jar in the center). Many large storage jars were found at Knossos that held water, wine or food. They were stored in underground chambers to keep them cool. See the next slide for an example of the subterranean storage. Note the blank spaces on the jars. These are the restored parts. An honest restoration doesn’t try to create what wasn’t known to be present, and clearly identifies itself as a reconstruction.
Bull-Leaping “Fresco” Slide 71 <ul><li>This is actually a wall painting in the Palace at Knossos and not a true fresco. A fresco is painted on wet plaster that has been applied to the wall or ceiling but this was dubbed a “fresco” when discovered and the name stuck. </li></ul><ul><li>The painting depicts some sort of activity involving athletes and a bull. Two men and one woman are seen engaged in either a sport or ritual. The men are shown as darker colored and this is typical in art. Even in modern motion picture production the actors use a darker tone of make-up than do the actresses. We can only speculate as to which type of event is taking place (ritual or game) but being coeducational a game might be more likely than a religious ceremony which tended to be segregated by sex. </li></ul><ul><li>Of course, there’s always the possibility that this event never occurred at all, and is merely a product of the artist’s imagination. If this were the only depiction of such activity known we would be guessing but it is not the only such depiction. Slide 72 shows a small bronze sculpture of a woman leaping a bull and Slide 73 depicts a ring with a similar scene displayed and Slide 74 is a painted diagram detailing the bull-leaping process. With so many depictions of bull-leaping it’s likely that they really did this. </li></ul><ul><li>Note that both women and the man in the painting are dressed the same. They all wear only a short skirt. It’s important later to recall that Minoan women apparently always went topless. </li></ul>
This young man is obviously a participant in the bull-leaping sport or ritual (as the case may be). His elaborate headdress signifies his status, but whether it is as a competitor, or an initiate, is unknown at this time. We presume there is a bull tethered at the other end of the rope he holds.
Cycladic sculpture c. 2500-1100 BC The name Cycladic comes from the circular nature of the island chain located in the Aegean Sea. From a long lost culture once there are these sculptures that were likely used for ceremonial purposes although we don’t know exactly how they were used or for what purposes. These figures will vary in size from about 12” to around 5’ in height. At 5’ it is technically considered life size and thus becomes the earliest known life size nude statutes in history. Slide 77 shows how many of these figures are very similar in appearance. The figure in Slide 78 is radically different, almost having an “African feel” to the design. Most of them seem to depict young females so a possible use in initiation rites for young women comes to mind. But there are other figures that defy this conclusion. Slide 79 shows a similar figure except she is very obviously pregnant (which would not fit with the initiation ceremony notion). Slide 80 depicts a pregnant looking figure with a child perched atop her head. Very odd. Slide 81 is interesting because the figure appears to be wearing polka-dot bikini bottoms. There is still great debate and disagreement over the interpretation of the Cycladic figures. Some argue the seated harpist is female. Others say it’s a fertility god and the harp is actually an enormous phallus (your instructor disagrees with both interpretations). The culture that produced this art left no written language and few clues to help us.
Mesopotamian Figure Often cultures will influence one another in creating art, and sometimes two cultures will independently develop similarities. There are certainly some resemblance between the Cycladic figures and this Mesopotamian statuette.
Slide 84 shows male musician figures. One plays a harp while seated and the other stands to blow on a flute. These musician figures are always male and are always found in a broken state suggesting that they may gave been deliberately broken. Perhaps they were smashed as part of the ritual or maybe they were seen as one-time use objects and were broken after being used once. Slide 85 is a detail of the harpist figure. It was once thought that all male Cycladic figures were musicians but some differing statues have come to light. The taller figure in Slide 86 is clearly male and plays no instrument. The other figure seems like an older female. The male figure in Slide 87 doesn’t appear to be a musician, but instead seems to be enjoying a beverage. Obviously we don’t have all the answers to how these statuettes were used.
Minoan Snake Goddess The snake is an old and powerful fertility symbol. The snake is somewhat phallic shaped; often lives in a hole in the ground (womb associations); reproduces masses of offspring; and sheds its skin giving it the aura of regeneration and healing in addition to its fertility associations. This is why snakes are a part of the symbol for the medical arts. This figure is called a goddess but that’s just the name applied to it. We do not know for sure that she is supposed to represent a deity. She may be a priestess or an initiate. She wears a goat-skin skirt and the goat was another popular and common fertility symbol amongst ancient people due to the high frequency of their breeding (the goats, not the ancient people). A house cat is perched atop the “goddesses” head. There are no known fertility associations with cats so the meaning behind its inclusion is not clear. The figure is overdressed for being Minoan. Depictions in art of Minoan women invariably show them as topless and it’s assumed this was normal dress for them. Yet this figure is completely garbed except that the bodice is cut away to reveal the breasts. This is surely to direct the viewer’s attention to this area and remind us that she is showing her breasts as a fertility reference. This is not case of casual nudity, it is deliberate and intentional exposure.
Why the Snake as Fertility Figure? <ul><li>Phallic Shape </li></ul><ul><li>Lives in a Burrow </li></ul><ul><li>Sheds its Skin </li></ul><ul><li>Produces Masses of Offspring </li></ul><ul><li>Why is the Cat a Fertility Symbol? </li></ul><ul><li>I have no Idea </li></ul>
Another Snake Goddess figure (the snakes are wrapped around her upper arms rather than held in her hands), this one cups her exposed breasts in her hands while gazing down at them. This is no doubt a deliberate attempt to direct our attention to her breasts as a means to separate this symbolic nudity from the casual habit of Minoan women to go topless on a regular basis.
La Parisienne from Knossos The Minoan painting on the left was named for the woman’s hair style, which was similar to one popular in Paris at the time of its discovery. Note the stylistic similarities between the painting from Crete and the Egyptian portrait on the right, especially the twisted perspective seen in the rendering of the eye.
This painting of birds is also reminiscent of the Egyptian “Geese of Medum” seen in the next slide.
Mycenaean Octopus Jar Reminiscent of a similar jar found on Crete, one wonders if the Mycenaean and Minoan cultures had contact and shared artistic ideals.
Treasury of Atreus c. 1300 BC The name is misleading as this is actually a tomb. A good example of corbelled architecture, where stones are fitted so as to overlap each other as they rise from the ground, the 44 foot high dome is the largest known for this type of structure.