http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/video/installing-hoard-gallery – A new video on the Staffordshire Hoard, featuring the mounting and installing of Hoard objects into the new Staffordshire Hoard gallery at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. The new gallery opened on 17th October.
The deeply troubling damage caused to antiquities and ancient monuments in the Near and Middle East, particularly Egypt, Syria and Iraq, as a result of war, insurgency, neglect, looting and deliberate destruction at the hands of religious fanatics is a subject I have addressed in this Blog before. It is likely to remain very much alive for the foreseeable future, causing me to reflect upon one institution, in particular, that has safeguarded a vast collection of antiquities from the region for two centuries. This institution is, of course, The British Museum in London.
A great many public and university museums in North America, the UK, Europe and beyond do house collections of Near Eastern and related antiquities, often collected long ago when there were no national laws or international regulations governing their acquisition from source countries. Acquiring antiquities, sometimes using methods that would be considered shocking today, was a normal and perfectly legal practice for large museums, private collectors, dealers and even ordinary tourists on the Grand Tour. In many cases, the modern nation states from whose territories these items were removed are entirely artificial creations on a map, holdovers from colonial occupations by the Ottoman Empire and later by European powers, with little sense of a cohesive national identity; e.g., Iraq and Syria. Many antiquities removed from their place of origin might well have been destroyed had they not been collected in this way. Even in Greece, with a much clearer sense of national identity and respect for its past, it was common well into the early 20th Century for antiquities and ancient monuments to be broken up for building material or road fill, burnt to make lime mortar or defaced because they were considered anathema to local religious beliefs. The British Museum, an island of stability, has safely housed some of the most iconic pieces of ancient Near Eastern art; objects that are now recognized as groundbreaking in the history of human artistic expression.
In this brief entry I would like to share just a very few of these objects, excluding the British Museum’s marvelous collection of Assyrian art, as I have addressed this in another recent article: https://clioantiquities.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/assyrian-art-and-the-repatriation-of-antiquities/
To learn more about The British Museum’s collections of Near and Middle Eastern antiquities, visit their website, where visitors can explore their collections by place, by culture, by date, by name or by material: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore.aspx
A remarkable excavation in the town of Exning, Suffolk, England may have uncovered members of the royal family of the ancient Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia. Twenty-one graves with rich grave goods, some imported from the Continent, dated to about 650 AD, point to this possible connection.
Here is a link to an article about this find in the British press (link opens in a new tab or window): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2838214/Have-ROYAL-skeletons-Suffolk-Bodies-buried-vast-amounts-jewellery-linked-King-Anna-East-Anglia.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490
One of the key imported grave goods from this find is a glass bowl probably made in the Rhineland. The news article above includes an image of this, which would have been a very high status item in early Anglo-Saxon England. Here is an image of a similar bowl, on display in the Dover Museum.
We will report further as more news of this discovery becomes available.
An important update on continuing work at the Amphipolis Tomb: Human remains have been found in a built structure beneath the 3rd chamber, as well as sophisticated ornamentation from the now disintegrated wood coffin. Details here: http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2014/11/human-remains-found-at-amphipolis.html#.VGOph8lSq0M.
As if the news from Amphipolis were not amazing enough, now comes news of an unlooted high status male tomb in northern Greece (Vergina) from the time of Alexander the Great: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2014/11/12/new-alexander-the-great-era-tomb-found-in-vergina/
This is an excellent video, utilizing computer graphics and drawing upon the latest research. Worth watching and thinking about the next time you view a complex artifact in a museum context. Link to the video on YouTube: http://youtu.be/lrMVA8F-fiY
In an interview published November 3 for THE ART NEWSPAPER web edition, J. Paul Getty Museum director Timothy Potts reveals plans for the Getty Villa to redisplay its exhibits and expands its focus to include broader Mediterranean cultures formative to and related to ancient Greece and Rome including making new acquisitions. Visitors may need to wait up to one year before the physical changes begin. In this writer’s view, it is a sensible move and should make a visit to the Getty Villa, a pleasure at any time, all the more satisfying. Here is a link to the web article: http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Getty-plans-to-redisplay-the-Getty-Villa/36227 A more complete version of the article is available in their print edition.