The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet. Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap. - Novalis

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Juniper Fuse: Clayton Eshleman on the Archaic Mind

“Archeologists and artists have written on Southwestern European cave art, but none have given us a book like this. Clayton Eshleman has explored and inspected almost all of the great cave art of southwestern Europe including many caves that are not open to the public and require special permission. Now with visionary imagination, informed poetic speculation, deep insight, breathtaking leaps of mind, Eshleman draws out the underground of myth, psychology, prehistory, and the first turn of the human mind toward the modern. JUNIPER FUSE opens us up to our ancient selves: we might be weirder (and also better) than we thought.” - Gary Snyder

Abbreviated Introduction to Clayton Eshleman's Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination & the Construction of the Underworld. Wesleyan University Press, 2003. See Eshleman's website.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Masterpieces of the Animal Style

Pazyryk. 5th century (?). Altai Mountains, Southern Siberia. Map. (From the John Haskins Slide Collection, University of Pittsburgh) [The authenticity of this piece has been questioned. - details to follow]

Bronze idol of a bear - 6th-7th century. 8cm x 5.7cm - Western Urals, Russia. Hermitage Museum.

The Statues of Ain Ghazal

"The statues were discovered in 1984 at the prehistoric site of 'Ain Ghazal, located near Amman, the capital of Jordan. The settlement at 'Ain Ghazal was a village of farmers, hunters, and herders occupied between 7200 and 5000 B.C. E. during the Neolithic period (ca. 8500-4500 B.C.E.). Its inhabitants made objects for daily use, such as stone tools and weapons, and objects that seem to have served symbolic functions, such as small clay figurines of animals and humans. More sophisticated works of art have also been discovered at `Ain Ghazal: large, human-form statues and busts made of plaster, and faces in plaster, which had been modeled on human skulls." - From an Exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

The major internet source for information on Ain Ghazal is from an American - Jordanian team, Gary O. Rollefson, Director, the 'Ain Ghazal Research Institute and Zeidan Kafafi, the University of Yarmouk at Irbid, Jordan. More information here.

The Eye Idols of Tell Brak

From Tell Brak, north-eastern Syria
about 3500-3300 BC

"Tell Brak is the modern name of a huge site in north Mesopotamia, which was clearly one of the most important cities in the region during the late prehistoric period. Monumental buildings appear to have been rebuilt over many centuries. It was at one of these, known today as the Eye Temple, that the archaeologist Max Mallowan excavated hundreds of these miniature figurines, with their pronounced eyes. They may represent worshippers, placed as offerings. The figurines have been grouped into five types. Some have a single pair of eyes, with or without decoration; some have three, four or six eyes; some have small 'child' eye figures carved on their front (like here), and on others the eyes have been drilled through. Examples of figurines with drilled eyes have been found at a number of sites of this period across north Mesopotamia. Recent excavations at Tell Brak have confirmed their date." - The British Museum

For details see the excellent Tell Brak Project site of the MacDonald Institute for Archaeological Research of Cambridge University.

And for an overview, see The Eastern Mediterranean 8000-2000 BCE from the Metropolitan Museum Timelines of Art History.

Monday, March 9, 2009

First Came the Temple

Rethinking the Neolithic

For those who, like me, missed the stunning news about what is surely the most important archaeological find since Troy:

In the words of Klaus Schmidt, the principal investigator: "First came the Temple, then the city."

In the popular press:
Gobekli Tepe: The World's First Temple with this photo Gallery. by Andrew Collins, Smithsonian Magazine;
Nicholas Birch in The Guardian: 7,000 Years Older than Stonehenge.
Sandra Scham in Archaeology: The World's First Temple.

(Borrowed from the excellent wikipedia page.)