Monday, 31 October 2016


Masada is one of the most visited sites in Israel. It contains ancient palaces and fortifications located on top of an isolated rock plateau overlooking the Dead Sea.

Masada (‘fortress’ in Hebrew) became known for its significance in the First Jewish-Roman War. In the first century A.D. a thousand Jewish rebels took over the fortress and were surrounded by the Roman army, which left behind the most complete siege works in the world. When defeat was imminent, the rebels chose to commit suicide.
Located about a 90 minute drive south from Jerusalem, the fortress was built during the time of King Herod between 37 and 31 BCE.

The eastern side of the rock falls in a sheer drop of about 450 meters (1500 feet) down to the Dead Sea basin, the lowest point on earth.

In 73 CE, the Roman governor of Judaea, Lucius Flavius Silva headed the Roman legion X Fretensis and laid siege to Masada. The Roman legion surrounded Masada, built a circumvallation wall and then a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau.
Remnants of one of several legionary camps of X Fretensis at Masada, outside the circumvallation wall.

The inscription reads IVDEA CAPTA. Coins inscribed Ivdaea Capta (Judea Captured) were issued throughout the Empire
The ramp was complete in the spring of 73, after several months of siege, allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress with a battering ram. When Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its 960 inhabitants had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed mass suicide or killed each other. Only two women and five children were found alive.

Sunday, 30 October 2016


Botticelli's Birth of Venus
In Roman mythology, Venus was the goddess of love, sex, beauty, and fertility. She was the Roman counterpart to the Greek Aphrodite.

The Roman Venus had many abilities beyond the Greek Aphrodite; she was a goddess of victory, fertility, and even prostitution. According to Hesiod's Theogony, Aphrodite was born of the foam from the sea after Saturn castrated his father Uranus and threw his genitals into the sea.

Her beauty became a source of tension among the gods, all of whom wanted to take her as wife. To calm matters, Zeus decided that Aphrodite would marry Hephaestus, the crippled smith god.
Hephaestus fashioned for her a magic girdle to ensure her fidelity. However, she proved unfaithful and had multiple affairs with both mortals and gods. Some of her offspring were the Cupids (Erotes) who were a collection of winged love deities who represented the different aspects of love.

Images of Venus have been found in countless forms from sculptures to mosaics to shrines and even domestic murals and fresco. Venus, due to her beauty and sexual nature, was often depicted nude. Venus continued to be a popular subject matter for artists through antiquity and the renaissance even into the 20th century.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Tutankhamun's dagger made from Meteorite

Analysis of a dagger found within Tutankhamun's sarcophagus has found the blade was made of iron from a meteorite. The dagger has a finely embossed gold handle with a crystal pommel. It was encased within a golden sheath decorated with a floral motif, feather patterns and a jackal's head.

The blade contained high levels of nickel, along with traces of cobalt and phosphorus. Researchers were able to match the chemical composition to a meteorite which was found in 2000 on the Maras Matruh plateau in Egypt, 150 miles west of Alexandria.
Ancient Egyptian royal archives from 1,400BC mention royal gifts of iron in the period immediately before Tutankhamun's reign. Tushratta, King of Mitanni – a kingdom in northern Syria and Anatolia – sent iron objects to Amenhotep III, the grandfather of Tutankhamun.
Hieroglyphic term used to mean iron, it literally translates as “iron from the sky”.
The high manufacturing quality of Tutankhamun's dagger blade suggests a mastery of iron-working in his time. The 13 inch long (34.2cm) dagger was found lying beside the right thigh of King Tutankhamun's mummy.

Studies suggest the ancient Egyptians believed iron from meteorites had magical powers that could usher souls into the afterlife. To the ancient Egyptians, meteorite finds were gifts from the gods.

Kamil crater in southern Egypt
Egyptians considered the sky divine, so anything that fell from it would have been seen as a gift from the gods – if not a physical piece of one. They believed that the gods had bones made of iron. (as well as having flesh of gold, skin of silver and hair of lapis lazuli)

There’s no evidence of iron smelting in the region until nearly 1000 years later, so there is no argument over where the metal came from.
Tutankhamun’s daggers

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Thursday, 27 October 2016

Waitress accidentally breaks Townley Venus statue

A catering worker snapped the thumb off a priceless Roman statue during an event held at the British Museum. The caterer smacked her head on the marble hand of the world-renowned Townley Venus statue as she rose from bending down.

The British Museum described it as an “unfortunate incident”. Museum workers have reportedly managed to glue the thumb back onto the statue, which they describe as being fully restored.
The Townley Venus is a 2.14 m (7 ft) marble statue that dates from the first or second century AD. It is adapted from a lost Greek original statue, dating from the fourth century BC, and depicts the goddess Venus with her torso nude.

The statue was excavated at Ostia, a harbour city of ancient Rome in 1775.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016


"Eureka" comes from the Ancient Greek word εὕρηκα heúrēka, meaning "I have found (it)" It is an interjection used to celebrate a discovery or invention. It is a transliteration of an exclamation attributed to Ancient Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes.

He reportedly proclaimed "Eureka! Eureka!" after he had stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose. He suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged. The volume of irregular objects could be measured with precision, a previously intractable problem. He is said to have leapt out of his bathtub and run through the streets of Syracuse naked.
Archimedes' insight led to the solution of the problem of measuring gold's purity. Hiero of Syracuse suspected, correctly, he had been cheated by a goldsmith removing gold and adding the same weight of silver to a crown he commissioned.

Equipment for weighing objects with good precision already existed, and now that Archimedes could also measure volume, their ratio would give the object's density, an important indicator of purity. The answer was now simple ... balance the crown against pure gold in air, and then submerge the scale with crown and gold in water to see if they still balance.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Egyptian Book of the Dead

A heart being weighed on the scale of Maat against the feather of truth, by Anubis. The ibis-headed Thoth, scribe of the gods, records the result. If his heart equals exactly the weight of the feather, one is allowed to pass into the afterlife. If not, he is eaten by the waiting Ammit.The Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian funerary text, used from the beginning of the New Kingdom (around 1550 BCE) to around 50 BC. The original Egyptian name for the text is translated as Book of Coming Forth by Day.

The loose collection of texts consist of a number of magic spells intended to assist a dead person's journey through the Duat, or underworld, and into the afterlife. It was written by many priests over a period of about 1000 years. The Book of the Dead first developed in Thebes towards the beginning of the Second Intermediate Period, around 1700 BCE and were exclusively for the use of the Pharaoh.
The Book of the Dead is made up of a number of individual texts and their accompanying illustrations. Some 192 spells are known, though no single manuscript contains them all. They served a range of purposes. Some are intended to give the deceased mystical knowledge in the afterlife, or perhaps to identify them with the gods. Others are incantations to ensure the different elements of the dead person's being were preserved and reunited, and to give the deceased control over the world around him.

Still others protect the deceased from hostile forces, or guide him through the underworld past obstacles. Two spells also deal with the judgement of the deceased in the Weighing of the Heart ritual.
The texts and images of the Book of the Dead were magical as well as religious.

Mummification served to preserve and transform the physical body into sah, an idealized form with divine aspects. The heart was regarded as the aspect of being which included intelligence and memory.

The ka, or life-force, remained in the tomb with the dead body, and required sustenance from offerings of food, water and incense.
The path to the afterlife as laid out in the Book of the Dead was difficult. The deceased was required to pass a series of gates, caverns and mounds guarded by supernatural creatures. These creatures had to be pacified by reciting the appropriate spells.

If all the obstacles of the Duat could be negotiated, the deceased would be judged in the "Weighing of the Heart" ritual.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Ancient Indian artifacts find their way home from Australia

Three more ancient artifacts have been returned to India from Australia. Most of the pieces in Australia have been acquired from the New York gallery of smuggler Subhash Kapoor.

It is more than four years since Subhash Kapoor was arrested and extradited to India. As recently as July 4, the National Gallery of Australia was talking about returning two of its artefacts following fresh evidence of links to the 68-year-old, once accused of “having created a black-market Sotheby’s”.
A sandstone stele of Rishabhanata from the 10th century
The highlight of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to America were the return to India of over 200 stolen artifacts, many of them linked to Kapoor. In September 2014, then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott returned a 900-year-old Shiva sculpture. In October 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned a 10th-century Durga idol stolen from Kashmir.

Over 30 years, Kapoor is believed to have traded in hundreds of antiques, including statues and paintings, now believed to be stolen. His gallery, Art of the Past, was located at the heart of Manhattan’s art circle.

Subhash Kapoor

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Monday, 17 October 2016

Ancient Gold coins top $3.4 million CNG auction

Gold oktadrachm of Antiochos III circa 222–187 BC, Seleukid Empire. Sold for $77,350 in VF
Classical Numismatic Group’s sale 103 produced top results. Their September auction hammered $2,826,186 on a pre-sale estimate of $1,992,300, for a clearance rate of 98.30 percent.
Gold Stater. Kroisos, c. 561-546 BC. $ 71,000
Gold aureus of Pertinax. He reigned as Emperor for just 86 days in 193 C.E. before being murdered by his Praetorian guard. EF $56,525. A very rare Qing dynasty pattern gold liang made $49,980.
A superb gold medal of Charles II struck for presentation to naval officers who distinguished themselves in the 1665 Battle of Lowestoft. No more than five examples are known. $ 50,000

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Ancient jewellery - Christies

A pair of Etruscan gold ear studs. C. 530-500 BC. Estimate: $30,000-50,000. Standout pieces from the Antiquities sale at Christie’s New York on 25 October.
A Greek gold olive wreath. Late classical period to early hellenistic. Estimate: $250,000-350,000.

A Celtic gold torque. C. late 4th century BC. Estimate: $120,000-180,000.

Eight Sarmatian Gold Phalerae circa 1st century B.C. Est. $ 12,000

3 Celtic gold finger rings. Late 4th century. Estimate USD 60,000 - USD 90,000

Viking gilt silver pendant. 10th century.Estimate USD 8,000 - USD 12,000
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