Thursday, September 29, 2016

Khorsabad - More Reliefs

Fig. 1 - Horses brought to Sargon as tribute.
     The Oriental Institute has more reliefs from Khorsabad than we have already seen. The reliefs from "Corridor 10" show tribute being brought to Sargon from Anatolia (what is now Turkey). In Sargon's day the Urartians and the Mushki we not ruled by the Assyrians and were a constant source of trouble. Indeed, Sargon died during a battle in Anatolia and his body was not recovered for a proper burial.

Fig. 2 - Two spirited horses being brought to the Assyrian King
     Some of the Corridor 10 reliefs show horses being brought to Sargon as tribute by the Mushki. The usual touches in Assyrian reliefs are here, with the horses trappings and the beards of the men being shown in detail. In Figure 1 the sculptor has added a little liveliness to the reliefs by showing one of the tribute bearers looking backwards almost as if he is conversing with the men who follow. In Figure 2 one person tries to control two horses. The person in front of him holds the reigns of one of the horses, but is turned away from the horse. The horses themselves seem to be showing some spirit and to be making their handler's lives a little bit difficult.

Copyright (C) 2016 John Freed

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

More from Khorsababd

     One of the things I like about the Assyrian reliefs is the attention to small details that show the skill of the sculptor. One of the scenes that lined  the wall of the royal palace at Khorsabad (but are now in the Oriental Institute) shows what I mean.

     This scene is of a foreigner bringing a pair of horses to the Assyrian King (Fig. 1). No doubt the country that sent the horses considers  them a "gift" while the Assyrians consider them "tribute", but let's not quibble over terms here.

     The tribute-bearer has the elaborately detailed hair and beard we saw in the Lammasu carvings shown a few posts back. Figure 2 shows the wonderful carving of the trappings worn by the horses. The decorations on the head of the horse are finally detailed and the tassels at the neck of the equids is also beautifully carved. Notice also the rosettes decorating the bridle. In figure 1 you can see the delineation of the muscles in the horse's front legs.

     When you see royal Assyrian sculptures always look for these types of details, they really show the skill of the craftsman that carved these reliefs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Penn Museum Outreach to Inner City Students

Figure 1 - the Penn Museum Mummy Mobiles
     I recently had the pleasure of having lunch with Tracy Carter of the Penn Museum. She gave me an overview of a really exciting program the Museum is doing to get inner city students interested in history and museums.

     The program, called "Mummy Makers" brings replicas of ancient Egyptian artifacts to seventh grade students in their schools and then shows the students how mummies were made. What kid can resist that! The highlight of the program is showing students how something the size of the brain was removed through something as small as the nose. They do this using jello (watch the video clip to see how they do this).

     Last year over 5,500 Philadelphia students had this program brought to their schools. Additionally, the students are given vouchers that can be redeemed for a free year long family membership to the museum. Hopefully this will also get the parents of the students interested as well.

     Last, but not least, Tracy explained the mummy mobiles that I photographed outside the museum during a recent visit there (see figure 1). This is how the museum staff get to the schools to bring this wonderful learning experience to the kids. So yes Tracy, I will admit it, Mummy Mobiles are cooler than the Bat Mobile!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Upcoming Events at the Penn Museum

     With the start of the new school year begins the annual archaeology lecture season. If you are anywhere near Philadelphia in the next few weeks you may want to check out some of the following events, all of which are taking place at the Penn Museum:

1) Saturday, September 17: Armed and Dangerous: an Iconography of Protective Middle and New Kingdom Demons - Dr. Kaisa Szpakowska of Swansea University will give a talk about the demons that the ancient Egyptians believed caused diseases or protected people from illness. She will also introduce the audience to DemonBase, which is a database of information on this topic. The talk is at the Penn Museum at 3:30 PM and is being organized by the American Research Center in Egypt.

2)  Wednesday, September 21, at 6:15 PM - the Archeological Institute of America will have Neil Asher Silberman give a lecture entitled Rebooting Antiquity: How Holy Wars, Media Hype, and Digital Technologies are Changing the Face of 21st Century Archaeology.

3) Thursday, October 6 at 6:45 PM - C. Brian Rose, Curator of the Mediterranean Section of the Penn Museum and a Professor of Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, will give a talk on Archaeology and Conservation in Turkey.

4) Saturday, October 15 at 3:30 PM, Dr. Emily Teeter (of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago) will speak on Crafts and Consumerism in Predynastic Egypt.

5) On Thursday, September 29 at 6:00 PM the Penn Museum will hold a Mummies and Martinis event in the mummies gallery of the museum. This after-work happy hour event costs $9 and includes one free drink for guests 21 or older.

The museum also has lab conservators available to answer visitor questions about preserving precious archaeological artifacts from 11:15 - 11:45 and 2:00 - 2:30 Tuesday through Friday and from 12:30 - 1:00 and 3:30 - 4:00 on Saturday and Sunday. The next time I visit the Penn Museum I am looking forward to this.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Palace of Sargon at Khorsabad

Fig. 1 - Sennacherib Leading Courtiers into the Presence of King Sargon
     The main room of the palace of Sargon was about 92 feet in length and was lined, as is typical of Assyrian palaces, with monumental sculptures. One section of the walls show a procession of courtiers approaching Sargon, with crown prince Sennacherib (far left in figure 1) leading them into the presence of his father.

     Some claim that the flabby, beardless features of the courtiers in this scene indicates that they are eunuchs. Notice the rightmost figure, who is waving his arm at the courtiers behind him (to urge them forward?).

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Khorsabad Lamassu

Figure 1 - head of Sargon's Lamas, with Bull's Ears
     The giant lamassu found at Khorsabad is now housed in Chicago at the Oriental Institute. It takes the form of a winged bull, with a human head (but a bull's ears), and has the wings of a large bird.

Figure 2 - View of the Face of the Oriental Institute's Lamassu
Figure 3 - Rear View of the Lamas Showing the "Blanket" and Wings
     Take a look at figures one and two and notice that this lamassu has one major difference with those from other palaces of  Assyrian Kings, the head is turned to the side, rather than looking straight ahead. Otherwise it is very similar to other winged bulls from other palaces. Notice the long hair with the huge curls at the bottom as well as the long, curled beard of the statue. The human head also wears the crown of the Assyrian King. The feathers on the wings are nicely detailed by the sculptor (figure three) and there is what looks like it might be a wool blanket on the back of this creature (you can see it peeking out from under the wings in figure three).

Figure 4 - The Statue has Five Legs
     There is one other standard trait of these figures that is present in this example as well as all the others I have ever seen. The beast has five legs. From the front and rear it looks like it is standing still, while from the side it seems to be striding forward (figure four).

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Oriental Institute Excavations at Khorsabad

     Years ago, when I was a college student I had my usual Friday night archaeology class. This particular semester it was the Archaeology of Mesopotamia. We had a paper due every semester and the topic was assigned by passing around a hat from which you would draw the name of the archaeological site you would use as your topic. This particular semester I picked the site of Khorsabad.

     I knew nothing about the site but dug in to the topic and found it had an interesting story. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago had excavated the site from 1928 to 1935 and there they found the palace of the Assyrian King Sargon. The King decided to build a new capital just after he ascended to the throne (about 721 B.C.). When he died (about 705 B. C.), the city had not yet been completed and was abandoned when his successor, Sennacherib, decided to move the capital back to Nineveh.

     Excavations centered around Sargon's palace, which was surrounded by a wall that isolated it from the remainder of the city, making the palace something of a citadel within Khorsabad. The throne room of the palace was lined with large carvings of the King, gods, and officials. But the major piece found was the shattered remains of a huge winged bull (Lammasu) that guarded one of the throne room's doorways. At the end of the season the Oriental Institute asked for the pieces of the Lammasu as part of its portion of the antiquities found.

     Earlier this year I visited Chicago and was able to go to the Oriental Institute to see the objects I had written about many years before. The next couple of posts will try to give you a flavor of what the city of Khorsabad was like more than two thousand years ago.