Here are images, with links, to some recent additions to our Etsy and eBay online stores. Links will open in a new window or tab.
Here are images, with links, to some recent additions to our Etsy and eBay online stores. Links will open in a new window or tab.
One group of artifacts making up a large proportion of small bronze objects available on the legitimate antiquities market is the fibula or brooch — an ornate pin, usually made of copper alloy but sometimes of precious metals or even iron, used to fasten and decorate clothing. Prior to the use of buttons becoming common with the introduction of new clothing types in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, fibulae made in their many thousands were an absolute necessity for many social classes, and both sexes, in Roman society.
Our “Object of the Week” this week is a small, inexpensive but finely crafted and well preserved Roman bronze fibula. This is a variant on”Kraftig-profilierte” type brooch, dating to the 1st Century AD. Despite measuring little more than one inch long, this lovely piece displays a great range of line and form in its cast bronze body.
Fibulae already had a long history throughout what would become the Roman Empire. Many early Roman fibulae, including this week’s object, reflect prior local traditions and styles. While the great majority of Roman brooches were simple bronze sprung or hinged pins on a roughly bow shaped body with minimal cast, punched or filed decoration, some examples utilized more elaborate decorative techniques to enhance their otherwise simple form. A brooch’s owner might have an ordinary example enhanced to look “upmarket” with a layer of tin (to make it look like silver) or of silver or even gold or the addition of colored enamels or niello (black silver sulphide) in recessed areas. Fibula types evolved over time, of course, and varied greatly by region within the Roman Empire and beyond, meaning the range of types is truly enormous, including those dating from well before and well after the Roman period. The scope for collecting is great, particularly since the majority of types are quite affordable.
To purchase this item, click either of the URLs below –
There are many excellent resources for this specific area of antiquities collecting available in print. Here a couple we recommend:
This large and impressive textile, our Object of the Week, is a fragment from a Coptic Egyptian garment and features complex geometric and foliate designs. Thanks to exceptionally dry conditions, many types of artifacts made from perishable materials that would not survive elsewhere are common finds on Egyptian archaeological sites. Between the late 18th and early 20th Century great numbers of ancient Egyptian textile fragments from all periods were retrieved by local Egyptian treasure hunters and artifacts dealers for sale to foreign visitors, by foreigners conducting their own ad-hoc “excavations” and by archaeologists, often excavating using methods that would by today’s standards be considered little more than treasure hunting.
While textiles of all types, from the most humble garments to the most elaborate, and from every period of Egypt’s long history have been preserved in the dry environment, Coptic textiles are a class unto themselves. In common parlance, use of the term “Coptic” here refers both to the time period from which these textiles date – corresponding to the roughly 300 year period of Byzantine rule in Egypt – and the Christian culture that created them, as the Coptic Church, still very much alive today in Egypt, gives its name to both the ancient and modern Coptic culture. This uniquely Coptic textile style continued on in Egypt long after the Islamic conquest of the 7th Century AD.
Many Coptic textile fragments, and in some cases entire garments, have since found their way into museum collections. This has somewhat reduced the number of high quality examples available on the legitimate art market. But many fine examples can be acquired from the major London and New York auction houses and reputable antiquities dealers in Europe and the North America.
This example is tapestry woven in black (now appearing purple) with red details on a cream ground, with two parallel strips of mostly foliate and geometric patterning, including remains of a few figural elements contained in lozenges. The fragment has been professionally mounted on a linen backing and very neatly framed and is suitable for hanging. It was acquired on the Swedish art market in December, 2009 and was formerly in a late 19th – early 20th Century Cairo collection. It dates from the 5th to 7th Century AD, and has the following dimensions: 27.9 x 17.8 cm (11 x 7 in.); 17 x 13.5 inches with the frame For related examples, see the Rietz Collection of Coptic textiles in the California Academy of Sciences, online catalog numbers CAS 0389-2421 and CAS 0389-2416.
For those interested in acquiring this object, you may do so on our Etsy site here – https://www.etsy.com/listing/262372123/framed-coptic-egyptian-textile-fragment
There are excellent print and online resources for the student or collector of ancient Coptic textiles. The Coptic Tapestry Albums & The Archaeologist of Antinoe, Albert Gayet by Nancy Arthur Hoskins, is a very accessible, lavishly color illustrated guide to the collection amassed by the controversial French psuedo-archaeologist Albert Gayet in the late 19th Century. It describes Coptic textile production techniques as well as offering insight into how collections of these objects were built in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Online, in addition to the Rietz Collection mentioned above, we recommend the Indiana University Museum’s small but excellent online collections – http://www.iub.edu/~iuam/online_modules/coptic/cophome.html.
Our object of the week is an intact Roman glass toilet bottle, usually called an unguentarium. This name seems to be a 19th Century invention, based on the ancient Roman term “unguentarius,” a word used to describe sellers of perfumes. This type of glass vessel is believed to have been used for dispensing perfumed oils for both daily and ritual use. The actual Roman name for this type of vessel is unknown, despite the form being relatively common.
Our example is structurally intact. The vessel consists of a long bag shaped body, wider and rounded towards the bottom, with a tall narrow neck that widens to a rim that has been thickened by folding it back over itself. Around the body is a thin trail of glass, applied while molten, making seven full revolutions around the vessel, starting from just above the base and ending at the rim. A pair of chunky handles are attached very thickly to the midpoint of the vessel, are pulled outward and meet it just below the rim. Much of this decorative trailing is still intact. There is some encrusted reddish soil inside the vessel and in recessed areas of the exterior, obscuring the vessel’s original color. The original glass color, which is a transparent green-blue, may be seen clearly at the top of the vessel in the first image above. The vessel sits on a thick, round pad base. When the glass worker was attaching the completed vessel to this base he did so slightly off-center, which may also be seen most clearly in the first of two photographs above.
Unguentaria were first made popular in the Hellenistic period but these were mainly of pottery. Many of these have survived, making them rather inexpensive today, and a few are available on our eBay and Etsy stores. While the pottery types continued into the Roman period, it was the development of glass blowing, making glass a common and affordable commodity rather then the preserve of the wealthy, that made our vessel possible. Blown glass unguentaria have survived in countless forms. The Corning Museum of Glass’ printed and online catalogs of unguentaria list dozens of distinct variations, though few have the twin handles of our example until the middle and late Roman period. Our example was made in the Eastern Mediterranean, probably in the coastal region of what is now Israel/Palestine and Lebanon This form continued on and developed in new directions during the early Byzantine period in the Near East and changed again with the advent of Islamic rule in the region.
This vessel was part of a large collection of antiquities formed by a Welsh collector between the 1970s and 2008, drawn from the UK and European art markets. The collection was dispersed at auction by Bonhams, London, Sale #16777, 29 April, 2009. this object was part of Lot # 302.
For those interested in purchasing this item, you may find it here —
Our Etsy store (opens in a new tab or window) – https://www.etsy.com/listing/261567267/roman-glass-unguentarium-late-3rd-4th?ref=shop_home_active_8
Our eBay store (opens in a new tab or window) – http://www.ebay.com/itm/Roman-Glass-Tubular-Vessel-with-Trailing-4th-5th-Century-AD-/131818636485?hash=item1eb100c4c5:g:SdoAAOSw6BtVU2zy
To learn more about unguentaria and ancient Roman glass in general, we recommend the following printed and web resources —
Because these printed resources are quite expensive, we also recommend online research. The Corning Museum of Glass has a tremendous online collection of ancient glass, especially Roman. A simple search for the word “Ancient” with an image brought up 4,644 results (new tab or window) – http://www.cmog.org/collection/search?f=bs_has_image%3A1&f=im_field_object_work_type%3A299021&solrsort=
Also useful is this exploration of Roman glass from the University of Pennsylvania Museum (new tab or window) – http://www.penn.museum/sites/Roman%20Glass/index.html
The recent decision by The British Museum to send a single sculpture from the famed Parthenon Marbles (or Elgin Marbles) on loan briefly to the Hermitage in Russia, causing outrage in Greece, has once again drawn attention to issues of cultural heritage relating to antiquities. Whatever the merits of the arguments put forward by those demanding the return of the marbles to Greece and those arguing for their continued care in The British Museum – and both sides have many valid points – there can be no doubt that the Museum has been a vital source of knowledge, stewardship and inspiration for those with an interest in classical antiquity, in a way that perhaps no other institution in the world has. Visitors to London may drop in at the Museum free of charge, as millions do annually (6,701,000 in 2013) and this writer has on more than one occasion, to marvel at the most exquisite works of antiquity from all over the globe, thoughtfully presented in a secure and pleasant environment.
The current tempest over the brief loan to the Hermitage seems a good opportunity for a broader review of the British Museum’s ancient Greek holdings. Every medium and material is presented in their displays, including sculpture in stone and bronze, ceramics and terracotta, glass and organic materials. The collections reflect the broad sweep over time and geography of Greek influence in the broader Mediterranean world. In this brief photo essay, I have entirely left out the Parthenon marbles and have selected 15 images that are personal favorites and I hope capture a sense of the complexity of ancient Greek art. I have focused only on Greek art from the Archaic through Hellenistic periods and have incorporated works not only from Athens and other important centers in Greece itself but also in regional styles from Greek communities in Asia Minor, North Africa and southern Italy.
All images are original and should be credited to Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities.
In April of 2013 I published on this blog a photo essay highlighting some of the many Assyrian antiquities in The British Museum (here is the link: https://clioantiquities.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/a-sampler-of-ancient-assyrian-art-at-the-british-museum/ ). Little could anyone have known at the time that a gang of fanatics and thugs, referred to now under the English language acronyms ISIS or ISIL, would take control of swaths of Syria and Iraq that include the ancient Assyrian heartland. Reports are sketchy but it is clear that in addition to Christian and Yazidi monuments and art works and those of other Islamic sects ISIL finds objectionable, ancient Assyrian, Neo-Hittite, Roman and Byzantine monuments and antiquities have been destroyed. This has occurred both in-situ and in museums.
Those who call for blindly repatriating ancient works of art from western museums to their source countries in the name of some form of political or cultural correctness should consider the fate not only of ancient Assyrian art in Iraq and Syria but also ancient works in many other conflict zones around the world. Attacking collectors, auction houses and art dealers, the overwhelming majority of whom are ethical and do not traffic in looted material, is an absurd gesture that utterly fails to address the root causes of looting and destruction. In the long term, many legally acquired antiquities circulating on the market today will find their way into public museum collections. Great museums in stable nations provide a venue for visitors from all over the world to see these works, which are mankind’s cultural legacy, not just those of a single modern nation state with artificially drawn borders whose modern populations have, in many cases, little or nothing to do with those that created the ancient works they have inherited.
With so much ancient Assyrian art now at risk, I would like to expand upon that original blog post and share more images of the British Museum’s Assyrian collections (and one image from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford) and more textual detail on the previously published images. All images should be credited to Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities. For those wishing to see Assyrian art at locations other than The British Museum, I recommend visiting The Louvre in Paris, The Vatican Museums in Rome, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. On the US west coast, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco also have some examples on view.
The UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport, along with The British Museum, have issued the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s 2013 Annual Report. The Report shows how, more than ever, this model of public participation in the finding and recording of archaeological data can have huge benefits to finders, museums and the broader base of archaeological and historical knowledge. It is a model that should be emulated by many other countries in and beyond Europe.
Some amazing key facts from the Report –
Visitors with a special interest in antiquities will be stunned when visiting the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University, not only because of the great quality of ancient art and artifacts on view but also because of the key role that many of these objects have played in the development of fields such as archaeology and art history.
The Ashmolean in its present form was created in 1908 through the merger of two very old Oxford collections: the University Art Collection, begun in the 1620s, and the original gift of antiquities and curiosities from Elias Ashmole in 1692. Gifts of art and artifacts continued until by the early 19th Century the galleries had become a must see for visitors to Oxford. The superb neo-Classical building was completed in 1845 and has expanded since. Later, through the work of such distinguished scholars as Sir Arthur Evans, antiquities obtained through modern excavations poured into the collections. Today the Museum houses extraordinary Near Eastern, Egyptian, Aegean, Cypriot, Greek, Etruscan, Roman and related antiquities, well worth the train ride from London or elsewhere.
The galleries are not arranged in a strict chronological fashion but by geographic region. This allows a somewhat freer flow for the visitor. The spaces are open and easy to navigate, without the crush of dense crowds one often gets at The British Museum. Objects are thoughtfully displayed and quite well lit, though the bright lights sometimes create too much glare on the cases for successful photography. The staff is helpful, facilities of all types are easily available, the cafe is excellent and the gift shop carries a good selection of antiquities related books, catalogs, etc.
All images and caption presented here must be credited to: Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities. Enjoy.
To learn more about the Ashmolean Museum, visit their website at: http://www.ashmolean.org/
Years ago, when I first made the transition from merely collecting Mediterranean and related antiquities, to becoming a dealer in antiquities with a world wide clientele, I would never have imagined that I would so often be solicited by so many strange and misguided people. By e-mail, phone and post, I regularly receive messages from persons attempting to sell looted antiquities in violation of national and international laws, as well as those trying to sell fake, forged and fabricated “antiquities” to turn a quick profit.
In part because the illicit trafficking in looted antiquities is a serious concern, and in part because many of these solicitations are entertaining, I have decided to post here some examples of actual solicitations received by Clio Ancient Art. These have come mainly by e-mail, usually accompanied by digital images.
There are three general categories of messages:
1. Persons residing in antiquities-rich countries who have found or looted antiquities and are attempting to sell them to dealers in the US, UK or Europe, in violation of both their own national laws and international conventions governing the transfer of cultural property.
2. Persons who have created and are attempting to sell fake antiquities, either obvious copies of real ancient objects or composite fakes made from bits and pieces of real antiquities. Plenty of examples of both may be found on ebay.
3. Tourists or armed services personnel from the US who have acquired fake “antiquities” from local dealers or have found genuine ancient objects and unwittingly violated national laws by removing those objects from their source countries and bringing them to the US. This broad category also includes US citizens who have inherited genuine, replica or deliberately faked objects from family members who acquired them in good faith in antiquities source countries.
Below are just a few samples, as promised, of actual messages soliciting purchase of their objects, authentication, dating or assistance with selling their objects. Of course, all names have been removed, except in one case where an e-mail address has been left in, should anyone reading this blog also be solicited by these criminals. Part or all of the original message is in bold italics, while my response is in plain text.:
I have a beautiful stone axe head that I found on a hill above Athens, Greek. I checked the Greek and Cypriot museums and the one I have is better than theirs. It is apparently about 6,000 yrs. Old. I am wondering if there is a market for something like this and if so how do I get an expert to manage the sale of it?
MY RESPONSE: I’m afraid the best advice I can offer is that you turn this object over to the nearest Greek Consulate or the Greek embassy. Having taken this object out of the country (Greece) is a violation of Greek laws that have been in place for many decades governing antiquities and the transfer of cultural property. You may not legally sell this object.
Dear sirs ,
Peace be upon you …,
We are an Egyptian Family from upper Egypt , while digging to build a new built we have found a 3 ancient Egyptian ( pharos ) Statues in their Coffin .
We knew that you are interested to buy the ancient Egyptian ( pharos ) statues to expand your collections , so we offer to sell these 3 statues to you .
I think that you should know that these matters are always very urgent as it is illegal to some extent .
Any way I am sure that you may not trust my e-mail , but also we are ready to prove to you by any means that we are right and telling the truth .
I am also respect all your rights to be sure that these 3 pieces are original & I will respect any procedure you may want to do to be sure from this matter , but again please put in your consideration that these matters are always very urgent , so we need your reply as fast as you can .
I want to tell you that their lengths are between 1.9 – 2.4 meters , they are big beautiful and very respectful statues , they are made from wood covered by a layer from gold .
Please , put in consideration that in case you accept to buy these 3 statues or any one of them , we can only give them to you in Egypt and you will bear their travelling to their final distention .
I also want to say that we have some videos for these statues , we can send them to you before we prepare the whole matter .
Again and again , please put in your consideration that these matter are always very urgent , top secret & trustful as it is illegal to some extent .
Hope you have understood the matter and trusted us , and please we need your reply so urgent either you accept or not .
Again please send us your reply either you accept or not .
And finally , Please accept our great respect .
MY RESPONSE: I must point out that if you found the items in question on Egyptian soil, you are illegally in possession of them. Egyptian law is very clear that antiquities and cultural artifacts found on Egyptian soil are the property of the State. Removing them from Egypt, or even possessing them, however innocently, is a violation of Egyptian law and a serious offense.
These are photos of the Greek bull I was given on Crete. I am sure it is Minoan or Mycenaen.
Thanks for sending the excellent photos of your bull. I can tell you with absolute certainty that this piece is not ancient. The casting technique is quite unlike anything that would have been used in Crete in either the Mycenaean or Classical periods. The piece is not bronze but slag metal that has been artificially patinated to resemble bronze. The overall style is something of a hybrid between Mycenaean bulls seen in Cretan art and later images of the early Classical period. This may be something of a disappointment but really you should be relieved. If this piece had proven to be a genuine antiquity, you would have been obliged to hand it over to the Greek government at your nearest Greek Consulate or Embassy, in order to comply with international conventions governing the transfer of cultural property to which both the U.S. and Greece are parties. In addition, the transfer of antiquities illicitly excavated in the modern era from Greek soil to a foreign party is quite illegal in Greece. This is in contrast with the Greek antiquities available from a reputable antiquities dealer, which have long ownership histories predating modern laws governing ownership of such items. (I should point out here that the American couple who sent the images were indignant at my response, certain that I was wrong because the person who gave them this "antiquity" was a friend.)
My name is XXXX XXXX and I have found an ancient coin and only recently discovered what it was after several years. I uncovered what it was while brushing it off during a snow storm and some extra time at the house. I found it in southern Iraq in 2003 while fighting there. I un-earthed it in the sand and thought it was just a peice of weird metal. Being perplexed and in a hurry I shoved it in my back pocket and I have had it ever since. I have taken it to several coin specialist shops and to a collector of ancient coins all to no avail. I would be pleased if you could help me figure out what it is. It is in great condition and has the face of a ancient conquerer or commander. On the reverse is writing in some ancient language i haven’t been able to find it even on the internet but of course i am no expert. i have included some photos of the coin and think maybe it was from alexander the great time frame as no coin online resembles it quite like the alexander coins, but it has no direct match. Please contact me via email at
XXXXXXXXX@yahoo.com or by cell at XXX-XXX-XXXX if you happen to have any information on the origin or story behind this coin.
MY RESPONSE: Please be aware that by leaving Iraq with this coin you have committed a crime. I understand that you did so unwittingly, but this is considered looting of another nation’s cultural heritage. A single coin (which is late Medieval Islamic and has very limited value) may not seem much but the principles involved remain the same. You should immediately contact the U.S. State Department and / or the Iraq Embassy and arrange to hand over this item. In good conscience, I will be obliged to contact both the U.S. State Department and the Iraq Embassy if you do not do so yourself.
Unlike most people, who either do not respond at all, are sure that I’m wrong about their treasures, or reply with obscenities, this person agreed to return the coin via the State Department.
It should be pointed out that when dealing with overseas contacts attempting to sell genuine, looted antiquities, I always inform them that that their contact information, including e-mail, and images of the objects in question, will be passed on to US Customs and to the embassy of the country from which the solicitation came, usually Egypt but sometimes Turkey, Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East, and occasionally Eastern Europe. Whether or not any governmental body has taken meaningful action on the basis of the information provided by me is unknown.
I hope in a future post to share with readers some of the bizarre, comical or sometimes convincing fakes, forgeries and reproductions that have come across our real or virtual desk.
Located on the grounds of Dover Castle in Kent, England, is a well preserved Roman lighthouse constructed from the orange-red tiles found throughout the Roman world, and from local flint and other stones. The original structure seems to have been erected about 50 AD with major reconstruction around130 AD, and was perfectly situated atop the high chalk cliffs of this area to help guide maritime traffic moving through the Channel between the ports of southeast Britain and what is now France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was originally one of a pair, the other lighthouse having been situated on the cliffs about one thousand meters to the southwest. That structure did not survive the centuries and its foundation is now buried beneath 18th Century fortifications.
The lighthouse’s function is known with certainty due to its very close resemblance to other surviving lighthouses in Egypt and Spain and excavated examples in Italy, as well ancient depictions of the famous Pharos lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt. In its original form it would have been square inside and octagonal outside, with four levels. It stands about 75 feet tall today, with the top 19 feet being Medieval reconstruction. It owes its survival mainly to having been used as a church tower in the Middle Ages and a variety of other uses over the centuries. Adjacent to it is the church of St Mary in Castro, the original fabric of which was partly constructed of material recycled from the lighthouse and other nearby Roman remains by the Saxons around 600 AD. Roman tile and worked flint are clearly visible throughout the structure. The Saxon church is a significant monument in itself, though it has seen much rebuilding. It is still in use today.
Trains from London to Dover take between one and two hours, depending on time of day. The lighthouse can be accessed today with an admission ticket to Dover Castle. The site is managed by English Heritage. Dover Museum offers excellent exhibits covering the Roman and Saxon periods and these strongly complement a visit to the lighthouse and church. Views from this location are spectacular, with the French coast visible on a clear day, the harbor of Dover directly below and the expanse of the Channel and the Dover cliffs stretching off for miles.
English Heritage page for Dover Castle – http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/dover-castle/
Dover Museum – http://www.dovermuseum.co.uk/Home.aspx
A close up view of Dover Roman lighthouse. The figure standing at bottom right between the lighthouse and church offers a sense of scale. Note the layers of Roman tile alternating with worked flint and stone.
View from inside the lighthouse, showing clearly the square interior plan and four levels.
Exterior detail, showing the use of Roman tile in the window arches.
This Blog is focused on students in the National Security Studies Program, the DC Diplomatic Community, and anyone else who has assisted my course, "The United States in World Affairs.".
Reconnecting with The Darkness in the Light
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Life from Southern California, mostly San Diego County
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Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae
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Ancient beauty in modern times
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φιλοσοφίας μὲν ἔργον νοῦν ἡμᾶς ποιῆσαι, θεουργίας δὲ ἑνῶσαι ἡμᾶς τοῖς νοητοῖς. τέλος δεῖ πάσης μὲν προγνώσεως πάσης δὲ θεουργικῆς πραγματείας ἡ πρὸς τὸ νοητὸν πῦρ ἄνοδος. Τέλος καὶ σκοπὸς ἦν τὸ ἑνωθῆναι καὶ πελάσαι τῷ ἐπὶ πᾶσι θεῷ.