Roman oil lamps, Roman antiquities, Roman artifacts, Roman art, Roman pottery

A Sample of our finer Roman oil lamps

Over the years we’ve sold countless ancient pottery oil lamps. As is typical of the market for this type of antiquity, most ancient lamps are the more common low-fired pottery lamps from the Levant (Palestine / Israel / Jordan / Syria). These have a special significance for many collectors and the general public because of their connection to the Holy Land, Judaism and early Christianity. Less common and more expensive are the finely made red ware lamps of the early Roman period. These are formed of a higher grade of clay fired to a higher temperature. These often feature molded designs on their discus, ranging from mythological imagery to scenes from the theater, and sometimes have clear maker’s marks on their base. We have several of these in stock. These are depicted here, in multiple views, with links to them in both our Etsy shop and eBay store.



ABOVE: A Roman pottery oil lamp from North Africa, 2nd Century AD, featuring an unusual scene of a dwarf or child slave with a wine amphora. Probably a theatrical image derived from Roman comedy. In our eBay store here –  And in our Etsy shop here –





ABOVE: A Roman pottery oil lamp, possibly North Africa, Circa 120-180 AD, featuring a Krater (large open top vase with handles) with vegetation growing from it. In our eBay shop here –  And in our Etsy store here –




ABOVE: A Roman pottery oil lamp with a wild haired head of Jupiter, from North Africa, 2nd Century AD. In our eBay store here –

And in our Etsy store here –


ABOVE: We also have a selection of oil lamps from the Holy Land, Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic. Above is a good example of a Late Roman type. In our eBay store here –   And in our Etsy store here –


A few additions to our online shops

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.



Object of the Week: A Superb Roman Bronze Brooch

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.

Clio Antiquities

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:

  • Justine Bayley & Sarnia Butcher, Roman Brooches in Britain: A Technological and Typological Study Based on the Richborough Collection, The Society of Antiquaries of London, 2004


  • Richard Hattatt, A Visual Catalogue of Richard Hattat’s Ancient Brooches, Oxbow Books, Oxford, 2007

Clio Ancient Art

This Week’s Featured Object: A Framed Coptic Egyptian Textile 5th – 7th Century AD


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.

CA-12-228 - Copy

For those interested in acquiring this object, you may do so on our Etsy site here –

Or our eBay store here –

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 –

Object of the Week: A Roman Glass Unguentarium

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) –

Our eBay store (opens in a new tab or window) –

To learn more about unguentaria and ancient Roman glass in general, we recommend the following printed and web resources —

  1. E. Marianne Stern, “Roman, Byzantine and Early Medieval Glass, 10 BCE-700 CE” Ernesto Wolf Collection, 2001.
  2. Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, Volumes I and II, Corning Museum of Glass, 1997 and 2001, respectively

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) –[0]=bs_has_image%3A1&f[1]=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) –

Greek bronze, ancient Greek art, British Museum

Greek Antiquities in the British Museum, London

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.


Knidos, East Greek Sculpture, Greek antiquities, ancient Greek art
7 Ton marble lion from a Greek monumental tomb at Knidos (now in SW Turkey). The lion once stood atop the tomb, overlooking the sea approach to Knidos. The marble used is Pentellic and was brought from near Athens. The now hollow eyes were once filled with glass or metal to reflect the light. There is debate among scholars as to the age of the tomb, which survived only in fragments when uncovered in 1858; some attribute it to about 350 BC while another school of thought puts it in the middle Hellenistic period.  Now residing in the interior court of the British Museum.
A-2 Forepart of a monumental horse from the chariot group once surmounting the Masoleum
Forepart of a monumental marble horse from the chariot group that once surmounted the podium of the famed Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Circa 350 BC. This and a few other fragments in the British Museum, along with some in a small museum near the site, are all that remain of the sculpture that once adorned the Mausoleum. pilfering of usable stone blocks in antiquity and in the middle ages by local inhabitants and invaders, and burning of the marble to make lime plaster, as well as earthquakes, all left the great building shattered. Excavations in the 1960s showed that the burial chamber below ground had itself been looted in antiquity.
Nereid Monument, Lykian tombs, Xanthos, East Greek sculpture, ancient Greek art, British Museum
The Nereid Monument, finest of the Lykian tombs found at Xanthos, in what is now SW Turkey. Dated to about 390-380 BC, it is named for the statues of the Nereids, daughters of the sea god Nereus, between its columns. It reflects strong influences from both Greece and Persia. It is the first example of a temple-tomb in the region, the greatest of which would be the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, British Museum, Greek sculpture, Greek antiquities, ancient Greek art
Marble column drum carved in high relief, from the second Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, circa 330 BC. The lost site of the Temple was rediscovered after a long search in 1869 and many fragments, that would no doubt otherwise have been used by local people as construction material or burnt for lime, were sent to the British Museum.
Tanagra figurines,  terracotta figurines, Greek terracottas, Greek antiquities, ancient Greek art, British Museum
Tanagra terracotta figurines (named for the first find-spot of this type of figurine), some with polychromy remaining on the surfaces. All 3rd and 2nd Century BC. See the descriptive labels for details of each.
Marble tombstone Athens, Athens 425-400 BC, Athenian sculpture, ancient Greek sculpture, Greek antiquitiesm ancient Greek art, British Museum
Marble tombstone of a woman who died leaving her child in the care of a nurse. Athens, 425-400 BC
Artemis Bendis, Piraeus, Athenian sculpture, ancient Greek art, British Museum
Marble votive relief dedicated to the goddess Artemis Bendis. Found at Piraeus, the ancient and modern port of Athens. Bendis was a Thracian goddess, similar to the Greek Artemis, whose cult was introduced to Athens around 430 BC. She is shown here on a larger scale than her mortal worshipers, who may be athletes participating in a torch relay in her honor. This piece dates to about 375 BC.
Greek black figure pottery, Greek red figure pottery, British Museum, Panathenaic prize amphora, ancient Greek athletics
The red figure and earlier black figure pottery shown here are all prize amphorae. Filled with the finest olive oil, these were given to winning athletes in regional or civic competitions. They often depict the type of event for which they were given, such as foot races or chariot races. Mainly late 6th and 5th Century BC.
White ground jug made in Athens, Athenian pottery, Greek vases, British Museum
A white ground jug made in Athens in the early 5th Century BC. The woman is depicted holding a distaff in one hand while she uses the other to separate the fibers that will be spun into thread. White ground vessels are far less common than the typical black figure and red figure pottery of classical Athens. This is one of the finest Attic white ground vases I have ever seen, on account of its excellent preservation and fine line drawing.
Bronze head of a North African, Temple of Apollo at Cyrene Libya, Greek bronze sculpture, British Museum
A stunningly realistic cast bronze head of a North African man, possibly a native Libyan. From the Temple of Apollo at Cyrene, Libya, about 300 BC. It was found with fragments of bronze horses, suggesting it may have been part of a monumental equestrian group. The separately made lips were originally covered in copper sheet, the pupils of the eyes made of glass, the whites of the eyes from magnesium carbonate. The eyelashes were also separately cast and attached.
Apotheosis of Homer, temple in honor of Homer at Alexandria, Ptolemaic sculpture
Apotheosis of Homer. From a temple in honor of Homer at Alexandria, Egypt. Marble, later 3rd Century BC. Reading and reciting Homer was an essential part of Greek education and he was honored as a god in the Hellenistic period. A superb and complex example of early Ptolemaic sculpture, this fragment comes from a temple erected by Ptolemy IV Philopater and his Queen, Arsinoe III. They are shown in the bottom left corner behand the seated Homer. An altar is placed before Homer and worshipers come in procession. Other figures on the sculpture include key characters from the Iliad and Oddysey, his 2 great epics, and the 9 Muses.
native Italic Askos, Greek colony of Canosa, Greek South Italian pottery, Magna Graecia, British Museum
An elaborate pottery askos of native Italic form from the Greek colony of Canosa, Italy, 270-200 BC. In addition to the separately made figures attached, much of the original polychromy has survived. Painted in pink are 2 marine horses flying over a brown sea, while 3 figures of Nike are attached to the false spouts and handles and the foreparts of 2 horses to the wall of the vessel. Relief images of Medusa and a dancing Maenad also enhance the vessel.
Greek terracotta figurines, Magna Gaecia, Greek colonies, British Museum
Terracotta figurines from Magna Gaecia (the western Greek colonies), 3rd and 2nd Century BC. See the labels beneath each for details.
Red figure vases, Greek colonies of south Italy, Gnathian ware
A variety of red figure vases with applied white and red on a glossy black slip. Known as Gnathian Ware, these were produced in great numbers in the Greek colonies of South Italy. These examples date to about 350-320 BC.
East Mediterranean Hellenistic glass bowls, ancient Greek glass, mosaic glass bowls
East Mediterranean Hellenistic glass bowls made by slumping a round blank of hot glass over a negative form and applying canes and / or chips of contrasting glass until they fused. Despite being expensive to produce, these were widespread in the Mediterranean world. They were eventually replaced by the introduction of less expensive blown glass in the early Roman period. These date to between 125 and 50 BC.
Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Assyrian Art and the “Repatriation” of 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: ). 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.

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Glazed terracotta tile. Nimrud. 875-850 BC. An Assyrian king, holding a cup in one hand and bow in the other, is accompanied by his bodyguard. This is a ceremonial image intended to show the king as both warrior and hunter.

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Assyrian winged male protective spirit from the Northwest Palace at Nimrud (modern Iraq), Room Z, Panel 8. 865-860 BC, reign of Ashurnasirpal II

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Eagle headed protective spirit from the Temple of Ninurta at Nimrud. 865-860 BC. He carried a pale of holy water and a pine cone with which to sprinkle the water in a gesture of purification, rather like holy water used in some modern Christian denominations.

Assyrian antiquities, Assyrian art, Clio Ancient Art

Arab prisoners brought before King Tiglath-pilesser III, relief from the Central Palace at Nimrud, about 728 BC

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Captured flocks of sheep and goats, taken during Tiglath-pilesser III’s campaign against the Arabs, are driven back to the Assyrian camp. From the Central Palace, Nimrud, about 728 BC.

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Stela of King Shamshi-Adad V, 824-811 BC. It depicts the king before symbols of his principal gods. He extends his right hand, with the forefinger outstretched, an Assyrian gesture of respect and supplication towards the gods. The gods could be worshipped in symbolic form and here are, from top to bottom, Ashur, Shamash, Sin, Adad and Ishtar. The king wears a large symbol resembling a Maltese cross on his chest, another symbol of the god Shamash.

Assyrian Art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Partial reconstruction of the Balawat Gates. Erected by King Shalmaneser III at his new palace at Balawat between 858 and 824 BC. The gates were constructed of wood with bronze reinforcing strips. Only the bronze strips have survived. They showed scenes of conquest and tribute with Cuneiform captions.

Assyrian antiquities, Assyrian art, Clio Ancient Art

Remarkable scene of the Assyrian assault on a fortified city. This relief, from Nimrud and dating to 865-860 BC, depicts a remarkable armored tank-like siege machine on wheels, using what appears to be a metal tipped wedge or ram to work loose the blocks in the city wall. Assyrian archers are shown in their characteristic formation of pairs, with one man using a shield to prove cover while another lets loose his arrow.


A pair of winged human headed bulls from the NW Palace at Nimrud, 865-860 BC. These guarded what may have been the entrance to the King’s private apartments.


Detail of one of the winged human headed bulls described above.


Ashurnasirpal in his chariot, aiming an arrow at a lion while his attendants fend off a lion behind. This and the next image, the famed “Dying Lioness”, are part of a lengthy series of panels showing wild animal hunts from the North Palace at Ninevah, 668-627 BC. Lions were common in the Near and Middle East at this time and hunting them, and other animals considered fierce and powerful, was part of a long tradition in region to display the King’s prowess, bravery and skill.

Assyrian antiquities, Assyrian art, Clio Ancient Art

This poignant image has come to be known as “The Dying Lioness”. It is part of the animal hunt sequence from the North Palace at Ninevah, 668-627 BC. The lioness has been partly paralyzed by arrows in her hind quarters and drags herself forward to snarl at her attackers.

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

In another scene from the Nineveh animal hunt panels, deer are trapped by herding them into a high net enclosure. As no weapons are depicted here, the animals may have been intended for a private zoo or park on the royal estates.

Assyrian art, Assyrian sculpture, Ashurnasirpal, Nimrud, Ashmolean Museum

Assyrian winged genius from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal (883-859 BC) at Nimrud. Acquired through excavation by A.H. Layard in the early 19th Century. Now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

UK Portable Antiquities Scheme Releases 2013 Annual Report

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 –

* One million finds have now been recorded by the Portable
Antiquities Scheme (PAS) since 1997.
• 80,861 PAS finds were recorded on the PAS database in 2013 (
• 90% of finds were found by metal-detectorists.
• 91% of PAS finds were found on cultivated land, where they are susceptible to plough damage and artificial and natural corrosion processes.
* The great majority of PAS finds are returned to the finder.
• 993 Treasure cases were reported. It is hoped that many of these will be acquired by museums for public benefit.
• Important new Treasure finds included eight Bronze Age gold bracelets from Woollaston, Gloucestershire (2013 T805), a Civil War coin hoard from Staveley, North Yorkshire (2013 T635) and a post-medieval silver ewer from Kingston Russell, Devon (2013 T476).
It is worth noting here that if about 90% of PAS finds are returned to the finders, in just 2013 this would amount to over 70,000 individual objects being available to enter the marketplace for antiquities and related items. Those who claim, with no actual proof, that the antiquities market is flooded with looted objects should consider this number. In the space of a decade this would approach nearly a million objects, many tens of thousands of them being marketable Celtic, Roman, Saxon and other antiquities. All perfectly legal under British and international law.
The PAS 2013 Report is available to download or view in PDF format here –
Cypriot antiquities, Cyprus antiquities

Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: A Photo Essay

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.

Iran, Iron Age, Near Eastern antiquities, Iranian antiquities, Ashmolean Museum

Painted terracotta tiles from the Iron Age ceremonial building called “The Painted Chamber” at Baba Jan, Iran, dated to about 800-700 BC.

Assyrian art, Assyrian sculpture, Ashurnasirpal, Nimrud, Ashmolean Museum

Assyrian winged genius from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal (883-859 BC) at Nimrud, Irag. He holds a pale of water and a pine cone to be used in a manner similar to “holy water” in modern churches. Acquired through excavation by A.H. Layard in the early 19th Century.

Egyptian antiquities, Pre-Dynastic Egypt, Egyptian artifacts, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Large ceremonial flint knives and other tools from the Hierakonopolis Deposit, an important group of Pre-Dynastic and Early Dynastic Egyptian objects.

Khasekhem, 2ns Dynasty, Egyptian antiquities, Egyptian art, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Statue of Khasekhem, last king of Egypt’s 2nd Dynasty, died 2,686 BC. In this pose he wears the White Crown of Upper Egypt. One of his sons Djoser, would be responsible for building the famed Step Pyramid at Saqqara.

6th Dynasty, Egyptian art, Egyptian antiquities, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

A large pottery lion from the Temple Enclosure at Hierakonopolis, Egypt, dating to the 6th Dynasty, about 2,325 to 2,175 BC). Appearing at first glance to be made of stone, this magnificent and technically accomplished work is, in fact, hollow pottery, resting on a plinth. Fragments of another lion were found at the site and the two may have served as guardians of the Temple precinct.

Sobek, Fayum, Amenemhat III, Egyptian sculpture, Egyptian art, Egyptian antiquities, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Limestone statue fragment of Sobek, the crocodile headed chief god of the Egyptian Fayum region. It comes from the scant remains of the funerary temple of Amenemhat III, of the 12th Dynasty, 19th Century BC. The temple was attached to his pyramid and was known as the Labyrinth to classical authors such as Herodotus, who declared it surpassed even the Great Pyramid as a wonder of antiquity

Aspelta, Napata, Kawa, Nubian antiquities, Egyptian art, Kingdom of Kush, Ashmolean Museum

Sandstone wall of King Aspelta from Temple T at Kawa, circa 600-580 BC. The Kingdom of Kush, to the south of Egypt in what is now Sudan, adopted Egyptian art, religion and funerary practices wholesale, adorning their capital cities and royal tombs in the Egyptian style. Here, King Aspelta offers Ma’at (Truth) to the ram headed god Amun-Re.

Ram of Amun, Kawa, Napatan Period, King Taharqa, Egyptian art, Asmolean Museum

Granite statue of the god Amun in the form of a ram protecting King Taharqa. Dating from about 680 BC, this is also from Temple T at Kawa and was uncovered during excavations in 1931. It has a twin in The British Museum.

Abydos, Middle Kingdom, Egyptian art, Egyptian antiquities, Ashmolean Museum

Painted Egyptian limestone grave stela of Reniseneb making an offering of food to his father Redysankh, while a scribe sits at right. From Abydos. Middle Kingdom.

Egyptian funerary stela, Egyptian art, Egyptian antiquities, Ashmolean Museum

Egyptian painted limestone funerary stela of Ankhreni, steward of the granary, with his brother and sister in law. Abydos, Middle Kingdom

Egyptian amulets, Egyptian antiquities, Egyptian art, Egyptian faience, Ashmolean Museum

Egyptian funerary amulets were placed on the body and in the mummy wrappings, representing funerary deities or parts of the body requiring special magical protection. Examples shown here are made from colored faience, hematite, carnelian and gold foil, and date mainly to the New Kingdom and Late Dynastic Period.

Egyptian shabtis, Egyptian ushabtis, Egyptian antiquities, Ashmolean Museum, Clio Ancient Art Antiquities

A stunning display of Egyptian funerary figures, servants for the afterlife known as shabtis or ushabtis. These examples date to the New Kingdom and Late Period and are mainly made from faience or glazed composition

Sir Arthur Evan, Knossos, Crete, Minoan, Arshmolean Museum, Clio Ancient Art

A display of superb Minoan pottery from the palace complex at Knossos, Crete, Circa 1,700 BC. Excavated by Sir Arthur Evans.

Knossos, Crete, Arthur Evans, Minoan, Ashmolean Museum, Clio Ancient Art Antiquities

A display of superb Minoan storage pottery from the palace complex at Knossos, Crete, Circa 1,700 BC. Excavated by Sir Arthur Evans.

Cypriot pottery, Cypriot antiquities, Cyprus antiquities, Ashmolean Museum, Clio Ancient Art

A staggering display of Cypriot pottery, mainly from the Iron Age but also running through the Classical, Hellenistic and early Roman periods.

Apollo, Classical sculpture, Cypriot antiquities, Ashmolean Museum

Hellenistic statue of a nude youth found on Cyprus and made from local limestone. The hairstyle and other features suggest this may represent the god Apollo. Circa 300-100 BC

Greek antiquities, ancient Greek art, Ashmolean Museum, Clio Ancient Art Antiquities

A superb Greek red figure pottery pyxis (jewelry box) of the 5th Century BC from Athens, accompanied by Greek gold jewelry of the Classical and Hellenistic periods.

Roman antiquities, Roman artifacts, Roman pottery, Clio Ancient Art Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum

Excellent display of Roman ceramic vessels, tiles and oil lamps, spanning several centuries, from the 1st Century BC through the 3rd Century AD, and three continents, including Europe, North Africa and western Asia

Roman art, Roman antiquities, Clio Ancient Art Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum

Cinerary box of a Roman woman named Cornelia Thalia, about AD 50-75. This finely made marble box from Rome is in the shape of a shrine and includes Latin text dedicated to the departed spirits of the deceased woman, whose cremated remains were kept inside.

Roman art, Roman Jewelry, Roman antiquities, Clio Ancient Art, Ashmolean Museum

Part of a display or Roman Jewelry, including objects of gold, silver, bronze and bronze that has been tinned, gilt, silvered or enameled, as well as glass, precious and semiprecious stones, jet and other materials. The types include earrings, necklaces, rings and hairpins, with a great geographic distribution, from what is now Syria and the Levant in the east to England in the west, and spanning 500 years.

Roman jewelry, Roman art, Roman antiquities, Clio Ancient Art, Ashmolean Museum

Parts of a display or Roman Jewelry in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK. Included are objects of gold, silver, bronze and bronze that has been tinned, gilt, silvered or enameled, as well as glass, precious and semiprecious stones, jet and other materials. The types include brooches, earrings, necklaces and clasps, with a great geographic distribution, from what is now Syria and the Levant in the east to England in the west, and spanning 500 years.

To learn more about the Ashmolean Museum, visit their website at:

Antiquities, Egypt, Looting

How Clio Ancient Art Deals with Illicit Traffickers and Uninformed Travelers

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 .

Egyptian Family

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 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.