Bronze Head of a Woman

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Image courtesy of the British Museum

Today we’re looking at this female head made from bronze and filled with lead, which might have been a mirror cover. It was found in Greece and dates back to 350-330 BCE, and now belongs to the collection of the British Museum although it’s not on display.

Many ancient cultures used mirrors, and I came across mirror lids of varying styles and shapes while doing research for this post. Most of the classical ones have scenes engraved on them, so I kept this one because I found it to be more interesting, first of all in the way it’s carved. The lids that depict scenes are relatively flat with low relief engravings, whereas this one is carved in three dimensions. Also, the subject differs significantly and this one is much more related to the use of its corresponding object. Remember the water jar? This has essentially the same context  in that it’s an image of a person, featured on an object whose function is to give an image of the person. Of course, this may not be a mirror lid at all in which case this whole argument is pointless; but you can learn more about this artifact here and formulate your own opinion.

Mummy Portrait of a Man

Image courtesy of the Chicago Art Institute

This mummy portrait was found in Fayum, Egypt (as were many others), and dates back to the second century A.D. It belongs to the collection of the Chicago Art Institute but isn’t currently on display.

Mummy portraits start showing up in Egypt by the Roman period. It’s a trend that lasts about 200 years. These portraits, as you may have already guessed, were included in the mummy of people. Studies were done to evaluate how realistic they were, using techniques of facial surgery, and it turns out that these portraits are generally quite accurate in their depictions.

Usually, these portraits were painted on wooden boards using pigments, wax, and gold leaf. Some of them can be dated by the hairstyles of fashion and jewelry represented on them (because typology is awesome like that).

Senet/ Twenty Squares Game Box

Image courtesy of the Met museum

This is an ivory game box and pieces found in a sarcophagus in Thebes (Egypt) and dating back to 1635-1458 BCE. This particular one is on display at the Met Museum in New York but I had the intention of posting a similar one that can be admired at the Beirut National Museum; and that is in better condition as it does not have modern wood panels to reconstruct it. Unfortunately I couldn’t find good pictures of it.

Anyway this box also serves as the board for two games: Twenty squares on one side, in which the players had to race towards the central square; and Senet on the other, another racing game. The two weird looking pieces that are different from the game pieces are knuckle bones and were used as a dice. If you’re interested in learning more about the games, the Met has a great blog post about it which you can find here.

Image courtesy of the Met museum

Greek bronze-pointed neck amphora with stand

Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

This amphora from Greece dates back to the Late Archaic or Classical period in Greece (500-450 BCE). It has some very fine elaborate decoration featuring feline heads on the handles. It is mostly corroded but I think the relationship between the blue color of the corrosion and the metal itself provide a certain aesthetic dimension to it. This amphora is currently on display at the Met in New York and you can learn more about it here.