Archive for the 'Plaster' Category

Object: Replica of Phaestos Disk

Figure 1 Front of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 1 Front of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 2 Back of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 2 Back of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

 

C/1985/9/1
Replica of Phaestos Disk
Minoan
Crete
Late Minoan Period
Materials: Plaster

This Phaestos Disk replica is a modern cast of the Late Minoan Period original. It measures 16.5 centimeters in diameter and 1.5 centimeters in width. It was originally on loan from Dr. Allen C. Johnson, former professor of the Department of Classics at Princeton University, but since his death has become a permanent part of the Classics Collection at SNOMNH.

Figure 3 A view of the site of excavation of the Phaistos Disk; Photo "Festos1(js)" by Jerzy Strzelecki - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Festos1(js).jpg#/media/File:Festos1(js).jpg

Figure 3 A view of the site of excavation of the Phaistos Disk; Photo “Festos1(js)” by Jerzy Strzelecki – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Festos1(js).jpg#/media/File:Festos1(js).jpg

The original Phaestos (or Phaistos) Disk was unearthed on the island of Crete by Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in 1908. The excavation took place on the south coast of the island, and the disk gets its name from the ancient region and palacewhere it was discovered. Experts date the disk to the Minoan Neopalatial (New Palace) Period, about 1600-1450 BCE [1]. Currently, the original Phaistos Disk resides in the Heraklion Museum in Crete, along with other extremely well known objects from the Minoan time period. The Minoan people are known for their unique advancements in religion, art, and technology [2].

Figure 4 This map depicts the island of Crete during the Minoan period. Photo "Map Minoan Crete-en" by User:Bibi Saint-Pol - Own work (data from http://metamedia.stanford.edu/imagebin/minoan%20crete%20map.JPG, map background from Image:Map greek sanctuaries-fr.svg).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg#/media/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg

Figure 4 This map depicts the island of Crete during the Minoan period. Photo “Map Minoan Crete-en” by User:Bibi Saint-Pol – Own work (data from http://metamedia.stanford.edu/imagebin/minoan%20crete%20map.JPG, map background from Image:Map greek sanctuaries-fr.svg).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg#/media/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg

The most fascinating thing about the Phaistos Disk is its mysterious symbols and figures that are inscribed in a circular spiral on both sides. Archaeologists are still unsure as to what the markings mean, or even the original purpose of the disk itself [3]. In recent years, however, scholars have claimed to make significant strides in cracking the code of the disk, translating the text, and determining its purpose and significance. Yet the fact that we still don’t know for sure the meaning of the text or reason it was used has caused some critics to question the authenticity of the disk [4]. Despite such controversy and confusion, the fact that classical archaeologists and scholars have spent so much effort over the past 107 years trying to interpret the nature of this small circular object suggests that when we ultimately and definitively crack the Phaistos Disk code, we will be able to understand much more about the Minoan culture, and the ancient world as a whole.

In this TEDtalk, Dr. Gareth Owens shares the progress he and his colleagues have made in deciphering the Phaistos Disk.

[Elizabeth Rischard]

Object: Cast


C/1954/6/1
Cast of the Sandal Binder relief
Greek
Acropolis, Athens, Greece (original)
421-410 BCE (original)
Materials: Plaster, metal

This is a modern plaster cast replica of the famous Sandal Binder relief from the Temple of Athena Nike located on the Acropolis in Athens.  The Athena Nike was a form of the goddesss Athena that was worshiped in Athens as a goddess of victory in war and wisdom. After nearly a century of war the great Athenian statesman Pericles to negotiate a peace with Persia in 449 BCE, called the “Peace of Callias” which finally ended the Persian Wars. Following this great victory, Athens was chosen to house the treasury for the Delian League. This influx of wealth allowed Pericles, and the leadership of Athens, to embark on a historic building project in honor of Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. That building project became what we recognize today as the Acropolis. Along with the better-known Parthenon and the Erechtheum, the Temple of Athena Nike was one of several structures built (or re-built) on the Acropolis in honor of the Athenians victory in war. The Acropolis had long been a place of worship, with structures dating back to the Bronze Age. The buildings we see today were built on the foundations of these earlier structures, many of which had been destroyed and rebuilt many times before.

Located near the entrance to the acropolis, just to the south of the Propyla, the Temple of Athena Nike was one of the smaller structures on the Acropolis. The Ionic order temple was designed by Kallikrates and was completed in 420 BCE, nearly ten years after the death of Pericles. The interior of the temple once housed the cult statue of Athena Nike. An ornately carved parapet surrounded the temple and served as a type of guardrail, to keep visitors from falling down the cliff-like edges of the sanctuary. It is thought that the parapet was completed after the Temple of Athena Nike, perhaps as late as 410 BCE. We do not know the identity of the master sculptor, or sculptors, who worked on this project. The parapet was decorated with a number of scenes, including the so-called “Sandal Binder” relief shown in the cast from the Sam Noble Museum. The decoration on the parapet did not tell a continuous story, like that on the Parthenon frieze, but instead contained a number of similar but largely decorative scenes involving the winged goddess of victory, Nike. The “Sandal Binder” version of Nike is shown adjusting her sandal. This has been interpreted in a number of ways: some believe that Nike is removing her sandal before stepping on an altar; others believe she is fastening her sandal in preparation for flight. The Temple of Athena Nike has undergone many restorations, in both antiquity and during the modern era. The most recent restoration was completed over a year ago after the temple was completely deconstructed.

Replicas and casts remain important to sites such as the Acropolis. As weather and pollution pose serious threats to the structural integrity of stone, casts of the originals are placed on-site in order to protect the originals in museums. Casts are also produced for educational purposes, allowing students from around the world hands-on access to antiquities. The original marble Sandal Binder is currently housed in the New Acropolis Museum in Athens.

For more information see:
Gaifman, Milette
2006,  Statue, Cult and Reproduction. Art History, 29(2): 258-279
Koda, Harold
2000, “Classical Art and Modern Dress”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

[Chelsea Pierce]

Object: Fragmentary Wall Fresco

C/1950/2/1
Fragment of wall Fresco
Pompeii, Italy
Roman
Ca. 60 C.E.
Materials:  Paint and plaster

This object is a fragment of a Roman wall fresco from Pompeii, Italy.  A faded ink inscription on the lower part of the fragment at the time of accession indicates it originated in the Casa di Fauno (House of the Faun), in Pompeii.  The section is 7.5” high and 7.0” wide.  Between two horizontal bands of green is a pattern of successive diamond-shaped panels formed of simple wreaths.  In each panel an appliquéd stucco comic mask is located.  This example has two masks preserved. The House of the Faun was first excavated by Carlo Bonucci between October 1831 and May 1832.  Accession records for this piece of fresco indicate it was collected from Pompeii in 1896.

The site of Pompeii is located in western Italy in a region called Campania, near the Bay of Naples.  The oldest buildings of Pompeii date to the 6th century B.C.E. and likely only occupied a small part of the south-western area, between the main Forum and the Triangular Forum. Pompeii gradually expanded toward the east and the north. Most of the ruins date back to its establishment as a Roman colony in 80 B.C.E.

On the morning of August 24th, 79 C.E. the volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, burst open with an earsplitting crack. Smoke, mud, flames and burning stones spewed from the summit of the mountain, sending a rain of ash and rock through the surrounding countryside. The mud seeped down the sides of Vesuvius, swallowing nearby farms, orchards and villas. Adding to the destruction were the noxious vapors that accompanied the falling debris; the fumes first caused deliriousness in their victims, then suffocated them. The unfortunate people who could not escape the disaster were killed by falling buildings, overcome by the volcanic gas, or simply buried by the rapidly falling ash. Their bodies were quickly covered by the volcano’s mineral deposits, which covered Pompeii in a layer more than 30 feet thick.

Watch a video that includes Pliny the Younger’s first hand account of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius here.

The House of the Faun was one of the largest and most expensive residences in ancient Pompeii, and today it is the most visited of all the houses in the famous ruins. The house takes up a whole city block, with an interior of some 3000 square meters. Built in the late second century B.C.E., the house is remarkable for the lavish mosaics which covered the floors, some still in place.

Although scholars are somewhat divided about the exact dates, it is likely that the first construction of the House of the Faun was built about 180 B.C.E. Some small changes were made over the next 250 years, but the house remained pretty much as it was constructed until August 24, 79 C.E., when Vesuvius erupted, and the owners either fled the city, or died with the other residents of Pompeii.

Fresco is the term for mural painting that has been done on the fresh, wet plaster of walls and ceilings.  Many of the frescoes uncovered at Pompeii are buon fresco.  In this style of fresco painting, a rough under-layer called the arricco is applied to the whole area to be painted.  It is then allowed to dry for several days.  Many artists would sketch their composition on this under-layer since it would never be seen.  When the artist was ready to paint, a smooth layer of fine plaster was added to the wall.  Usually, only an area large enough to be completed in a single was day was covered.  This work area was called the giornata, or “day’s work.” [Debra Taylor]


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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