Thursday, April 30, 2020

Explorations into Roman surgery

I'm researching and comparing the finds made in other houses in Pompeii designated as houses of physicians with the finds made in the House of the Prince of Naples since scattered surgical instruments were found there and came across an interesting observation in an Italian research paper describing the use of surgical instruments found in Pompeii. Michele di Gerio, in her article entitled "Study on surgical instruments of the National Archaeological Museum of Naples" published in the Rivista di Studi Pompeiani Vol. 25 (2014), pp. 93-110, observes that although cauterization was advantageous for the treatment of abscesses after the infection was drained and was sometimes applied to the bites of rabid dogs, it was rarely used in non-military settings and only if the patient was well fed and in otherwise good physical condition to limit the damage of stress. Pythagoreans, although they frequently used ointments and poultices for wound care, did not practice cauterization.
I also learned that late 19th century archaeologists divided scalpels into two categories, the flat type and the type shaped like an olive leaf. When I translated the Italian find summaries for the House of the Prince of Naples,I thought the reference to the olive leaf in regards to the scalpel found in the kitchen was a literal description of the handle and thought it may have been repurposed for use in the kitchen to disarticulate meat because I had never seen any surgical instruments in Pompeii exhibits that had olive leaves depicted on the handle. But in fact it was a common description for scalpel types used by late 19th century archaeologists. It may have ended up in the kitchen for cleaning since there was a water channel found running between the kitchen and cistern in the garden or the instrument may have fallen from the upper story where the inhabitants of the house had private rooms.
Image: Ancient Roman Surgeon's tools recovered from Pompeii at "Pompeii the Exhibit" at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Featured Antiquity: Gold Diadem from the Black Sea Region, 2nd century BCE, at the Glyptothek Museum in Munich, Germany

Produced in around 150 BCE, this headdress from the Crimean Peninsula probably served as a burial object. It is composed of multiple separately crafted pieces: The lower part is dominated by a Hercules knot made up of garnet and gold elements. The ends on both sides are encased in sheaths made of gold plating to which the two half-arches of the diadem are attached by means of hinges. The half-arches are covered with a meshed scaly pattern made up of engraved leaf ornaments the edges of which are decorated with gold wires and beads. Inlaid garnets present a sensational play of colours. On the right and the left, the half-arches are finished off with decorative capsules with rich scrolled and cord trimmings. The front section of the headdress is decorated with tasselled pendants, all of which have the same structure: an array of rosette-studded discs, garnet pearls flanked with hemispheric flower bowls, and bundles of chains, to which gold beads and garnet, carnelian and white-banded sardonyx pearls set in gold are attached. The goldsmith created the figures that were soldered to the centre section of the diadem in one distinct design stage. Here you see two sea dragons, one on either side of the winged goddess of victory, Nike, who is wearing a girdled garment, a chiton, and is carrying an offering cup or a wreath in her right hand.

Image courtesy of the museum.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Before the Gracchi - Lycurgus of Sparta: Early Land Reformer and the Father of the Great Rhetra

Image: Lycurgus, his arm bearing his shield raised above his head enters the city in a gold chariot pulled by white bulls, his soldiers around him, and a young man running with white hounds in the left foreground. This graphite, pen and grey ink detailed watercolor heightened with touches of white bodycolor and gum arabic was produced in 1797. Image courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
Lycurgus was the quasi-legendary lawgiver of Sparta who established the military-oriented reformation of Spartan society in accordance with the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. All his reforms promoted the three Spartan virtues: equality (among citizens), military fitness, and austerity and were contained in an oral constitution known as the Great Rhetra.

According to Herodotus, at some time before the reigns of Leon of Sparta and Agasicles about 590 BCE, the Spartans "had been the very worst governed people in Greece" until Lycurgus consulted the Delphic oracle and was provided with an entire constitution which Lycurgus took back and implemented. Lycurgus was the younger son of the Eurypontid king, Eunomus. He was thus passed over for the throne in favor of his brother, Polydectes, but the latter died. Although Lycurgus was offered the throne, his dead brother's wife was pregnant so Lycurgus became regent for the child when it was born. But Polydectes' wife and her relatives envied and hated Lycurgus and accused him of plotting the death of the infant, Charilaus.

So Lycurgus surrendered his position of authority and went on a legendary journey to Crete where he studied the laws of Minos and met the celebrated composer Thales, who, like Orpheus, could sooth the masses and inspire his listeners to become better people. From Crete, Lycurgus traveled to Asia Minor, Egypt, Spain, and, some say, even India. In Ionia he studied the lessons of statecraft and morality in the works of Homer and compiled fragments of them and expounded the lessons widely. According to Plutarch, Lycurgus was inspired by the Egyptians with the idea to separate the military from common laborers and this was the reason later Spartan warriors were not allowed to practice manual crafts. When Lycurgus was finally recalled to Sparta, he, like the Gracchi centuries later in Rome, prescribed land reforms to redistribute wealth more equally among Spartan citizens.

"For there was an extreme inequality among them, and their state was overloaded with a multitude of indigent and necessitous persons, while its whole wealth had centered upon a very few. To the end, therefore, that he might expel from the state arrogance and envy, luxury and crime, and those yet more inveterate diseases of want and superfluity, he obtained of them to renounce their properties, and to consent to a new division of the land, and that they should all live together on an equal footing; merit to be their only road to eminence." — Plutarch, Lycurgus.

Lycurgus was also credited with the development of the agoge for the education of children and the institution of common mess halls, the sussita, that required all Spartan men to eat together and provide the shared meals through the monthly contribution of a bushel of meal, eight gallons of wine, five pounds of cheese, two and half pounds of figs, and a small amount of money to purchase meat or fish. Even kings were not exempt from the daily ritual and expected contributions.

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Monday, April 27, 2020

Etruscan art resembling Pre-Columbian art of the ancient Americas?

The shape of this triple-necked oinochoe with globular belly is paralleled in a great number of other examples discovered in southern Etruria and the Faliscan region around Civita Castellana (Falerii Veteres). This oinochoe was probably made in this area in the early Orientalizing period, circa 710-670 BC. It was shaped by hand and is made of a heavy, unrefined clay that is quite a coarse brown in color. Standing on two feet wearing ankle boots, the belly is decorated with geometric motifs and figures scratched into the surface of the clay; this type of decoration is denoted 'incavo' in Italian.

Meander patterns and elongated rectangles occupy the upper portion of this vessel. The lower part of the belly is decorated with four monsters or four horses with schematic human figures riding them or above them. The rest of the decoration consists of five catlike creatures with speckled fur and two large birds with spread wings. The geometric motifs fall within the decorative tradition of the preceding period. - The Louvre

This unusual shape and the decorative motifs sort of reminded me of pre-Columbian art of the ancient Americas.

Triple-necked oinochoe with globular belly Etruscan 8th - 7th century BCE at The Louvre

Image courtesy of The Louvre.
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Becoming Roman: The Thracians Part 2.

Suetthes III bronze portrait head, 4th century BCE at the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria
The son of the first king of the Odrysian Kingdom,  Sitalces, proved to be a good military leader and built roads to develop trade and a powerful army.  In 429 BCE.  Sitalces allied himself with the Athenians and  the Greek alphabet was adopted as a new Thracian script.  Sitalces also organized a vast army from independent Thracian and Paeonian tribes that, according to Thucydides, included as many as 150,000 men to defend Thrace against the Macedonians, now led by the ambitious Philip II of Macedon.

But, Odrysian military strength was based on intra-tribal elites, making the kingdom prone to fragmentation and as a result of the intertribal unrest, the Odrysian kingdom split into three parts.  Philip II of Macedon then invaded and conquered much of Thrace. Some Odrysian kings and other Thracian tribes submitted and paid taxes at times during different periods to Philip II, Alexander the Great and Philip V.

Two of the three kingdoms were forced into vassal status by Philip II in 352 BCE. Then in 342–341 BCE Philip conquered the Odrysian heartland deposing reigning kings and rebel vassals. Seuthes III (341-300 BCE) was one of the Odrysian kings that retained power. But, in 325 BCE, after Alexander's governor of Thrace, Zopyrion, was killed in battle against the Getae, Seuthes revolted against Macedon.  Then when Alexander died in 323 BCE, Seuthes took up arms against the new governor, Lysimachus, but they fought each other to a draw and withdrew from battle. Ultimately, though, Suethes was forced to acknowledge Lysimachus until 313 BCE during the Third War of the Diadochi, (Alexander's successor generals) when he threw his support behind Antigonus I and occupied the passes of Mount Haemus. But again, Seuthes was defeated and forced to submit. In 300 BCE, Seuthes died.

In 281 BCE, the Odrysian capital was sacked by the Celts, who had formed their own kingdom with its capital at Tylis near the eastern edge of the Haemus Mountains. In 212 BCE, an army led by an Odrysian king Pleuratus destroyed the Celtic kingdom and its capital. But, the restored Odrysian hegemony was short lived as the kingdom was conquered by the Romans in 146 BCE.  By then, Thracia had broken up into several kingdoms.  In 100 BCE, a Thracian kingdom under the leadership of a son of Beithys, one of the last Odrysian kings, arose but it is unclear if it was a vassal of Rome or independent.  Thracians under Odrysian leadership overran the southern Balkans, Epirus, Dalmatia and northern Greece, and penetrated the Peloponnese.

It was during this time that the famous Spartacus was born, according to some scholars, into the Maedi tribe which occupied the area on the southwestern fringes of Thrace, along its border with the Roman province of Macedonia. Both Appian and Florus state Spartacus became a Roman soldier but for unstated reasons was eventually enslaved and became a gladiator along with his Maedi prophetess wife. Five out of twenty kings of the Thracian Spartocid dynasty of the Cimmerian Bosporus and Pontus are known to have borne the name, and a Thracian "Sparta" "Spardacus" or "Sparadokos", was the father of Seuthes I of the Odrysae. But, there are no ancient sources connecting the Roman slave to this lineage. The gladiator Spartacus, though of Thracian origin, trained as a murmillo and not a Thraex. He was assumed killed in the final battle of the Third Servile War in 71 BCE at the hands of the legions of Marcus Licinius Crassus.

In 11 BCE, an uncle of Augustus was placed on the Odrysian throne and Romanization of the region began in earnest, although Greek rather than Latin remained the predominant language.  Then in 46 CE, the Roman emperor Claudius designated the region of Thrace as two new Roman provinces of Thracia and Moesia Inferior. Members of Thracian aristocracy were granted the right of Roman citizenship. Epigraphic evidence show a large increase in such naturalizations especially in the times of Trajan and Hadrian.  Then all Thracians gained Roman citizenship through Caracalla's constitutio Antoniniana.  Thrace was once more a central battleground during Rome's Gothic Wars of 376-382 CE. But, that's another tale!

More Thracian archaeology:   Professor Bogdan Filov, the Director of the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia, figured prominently in early Thracian archaeology.  Filov  conducted the first studies of the ancient city of Kabile, near Yambol, in 1912.  In 1918, he discovered Trebenishta, a necropolis of Peresadyes, rich with gold and iron artifacts. His find of a large ritual-funeral complex near the village of Douvanlii proved to be the royal necropolis of the Odrysian dynasty. Dating from the 6th-5th centuries BCE, finds included gold breastplates, gold rings and other jewelry, gilded siver armor and chariot trappings, shields, horse harness, and kantharos-like vessels.  Some of the finds reflected Achaemenid influence and made some scholars question if there had been a Persian princess among the deceased but others think the items were still obviously made in Odrysian workshops.

A wealth of Thracian discoveries have occurred in a steady stream ever since including the:

Valchitran Treasure in 1924 - consisting of 13 gold Kantharos-type vessels and discs dating clear back to the 14th century BCE.  Scholars think the treasure was a set of scred vessels related to the worship of nature and a sun cult.

Panagyurishte Treasure in 1949 - items thought to be the product of a Hellenic colony on the souther Black Sea in the mid 4th century BCE that included 4 gold rhytons, 3 gold decanters, 1 vial and a rhtyton-style amphora decorated with scenes from Greek mythology and Homer's Iliad. Now in the Archaeological Museum in Plovdiv. Now in the Archaeological Museum in Varna.

Loukovit Treasure in 1953, 1955, 1986 - 15 silver vessels, 23 appliques for horse harness, 200 silver rings, and buttons, tubules and other adornments.  Images of the Great Thracian Goddess in both her main hypostases have indicated to researchers that the find is related to annual change of seasons (or the nundial years) and the cults of the 'Mother-Earth' and her daughter, the Goddess-Virgin.

Varna Treasure in 1961 - Nine items including massive bracelets, a diadem, necklace fragments, a cross and two belt applications dating to the early Byzantine period in Odesos.

Letnitsa Treasure in 1963 - A bronze vessel full of gilt silver horse trappings depicting heroic hunt scenes and animals from the 4th century BCE.

Mogilanska Mound Treasure in 1964-65 - In the town of Bratsa, three graves, one sacked in antiquity but the other two containing a chariot with ritually killed horses, silver horse trappings, and the skeleton of a young woman thought to be a servant ritually killed to serve her master in the afterlife.  Another skeleton of a young girl was found wearing a golden wreath and wearing massive gold earrings and holding a mirror.  She was accompanied by the remains of a young Triball warrior, fully armed and thought to have died during Alexander the Great's campaign against the Triball King Syrmos in 335 BCE. Now in the Regional History Museum in Vratsa.

Borovo Treasure in 1974 - Dating to the end of the 5th century to the beginning of the 4th century BCE, this find included four gilt silver rhytons and a large bowl with inscriptions referring to the Thracian king Kotis (383-359 BCE).

Preslav Treasure in 1977 - Byzantine coins and jewelry, hair needles and button from the second half of the 10th century CE.

Rogozen Treasure in 1985 - 165 silver, gold, and gilt silver vessels depicting plants, animals and the Thracian Great Goddess dating to the middle of the 4th century BCE thought to have been buried because of threat from Macedonian forces of Philip II and Alexander the Great.  Now in the Vratsa History Museum.

Ravnogor Silver Suite in 1987 - Near the village of Ravnogor archaeologist George Kitov excavated a burial of silver applications for a horse harness, several pieces adorned with busts of Athena. and animorphic gilt silver rhytons.

Teres' Golden Mask  in 2004 - Found during the excavations of Svetitsata Mound near Shipka in the Valley of the Thracian Rulers led by Professor Georgi Kitov. In addition to the golden mask thought to be the burial mask of the first Odrysian king Teres I, archaeologists found silver and bronze vessels and adornments depicting Hercules, Menadius, and Priapus as ell as swords and arrows.

Sboryanovo Treasure in 2012 - Excavated by Professor Diana Gergova from the Omurtag Mound, the monumental Dorian-style tomb from the end of the 4th to the beginning of the 3rd century BCE contained 264 gold appliques from horse tack and personal adornments including a gold diadem adorned with depictions of animals and mythical beasts, four gold spiral bracelets, a gold ring with a relief of Eros and number of gold threads, beads, and clothing adornments.

Most of these objects are now displayed in Bulgaria's National Archaeological Museum in Sofia unless otherwise stated. For more information See:
Thracian breastplate from Moushovitsa Mogila of the Odryses' royal necropolis near the village Douvanliy 5th century BCE
Gilt-silver rhyton from the Rogozen Treasure 4th century BCE

Gilt silver applique depicting a lion attacking a deer from the Loukovit Treasure Late 5th century BCE

Gold pitcher with chariot scene from the Mogilanska Mound 4th century BCE

Athena on a gilt silver disk from the Ravnogor silver hoard.

Gold offering dish from the Borovo Treasure 5th-4th century BCE

Gilt silver applique of a warrior from the Loukovit Treasure Late 5th century BCE

Gilt silver greave from the Mogilanska Mound 4th century BCE

Gilt silver vessel from the Borovo Treasure 5th-4th century BCE

Gilt-silver vessel from the Rogozen Treasure 4th century BCE

Gilt-silver rhytons from the Borovo Treasure 5th-4th century BCE

Silver plate with bulls from the Rogozen Treasure 4th century BCE

Gilt Silver rhyton with bull protome from the Borovo Treasure 5th-4th century BCE

Gilt-silver plate with mythological scene of Heracles from the Rogozen Treasure 4th century BCE

Gilt-silver pitcher from the Rogozen Treasure 4th century BCE

Gilt-silver relief from the Letnitsa Treasure 4th century BCE

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Saturday, April 25, 2020

Before they were Roman: The Thracians Part 1

Ancient Thrace was a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains to the north, the Aegean Sea to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. Today it comprises southeastern Bulgaria (Northern Thrace), northeastern Greece (Western Thrace), and the European part of Turkey (East Thrace). It's name was based on Greek mythology, derived from the heroine and sorceress Thrace, who was the daughter of Oceanus and Parthenope, and sister of Europa. Greek mythology also provided the Thracians with a mythical ancestor Thrax, the son of the war-god Ares, who was said to reside in Thrace. The Thracians appear in Homer's Iliad as Trojan allies, led by Acamas and Peiros. Later in the Iliad, Rhesus, another Thracian king, makes an appearance. Cisseus, father-in-law to the Trojan elder Antenor, is also given as a Thracian king. In fact, Greek mythology is replete with Thracian kings, including Diomedes, Tereus, Lycurgus, Phineus, Tegyrius, Eumolpus, Polymnestor, Poltys, and Oeagrus (father of Orpheus). In Roman times, Ovid populates his Metamorphoses with Thracians in the episode of Philomela, Procne, and Tereus: Tereus, the King of Thrace, lusts after his sister-in-law, Philomela. He kidnaps her, holds her captive, rapes her, and cuts out her tongue. Philomela manages to get free, however. She and her sister, Procne, plot to get revenge, by killing her son Itys (by Tereus) and serving him to his father for dinner.

Culturally, as early as the 2nd millenium BCE, the Thracians, previously roaming tribal bands, formed a hierarchical society dominated by soldiers and priests. Beginning with the Iron Age, Thracian society coalesced into religious states headed by itinerant priest-kings who led troops of aristocratic cavalry and free peasant-warriors who resided in a series of fortified cities. Beginning in the 6th century BCE, Thracians became trading partners of the Greek city-states, who established colonies on the shores of the Aegian Sea and Pont-Euxine Sea. Thracians are first mentioned in the historical record by Herodotus who pointed out that if they had only one king and the various tribes could get along with each other, the Thracians would be invincible.

Thrace was incorporated into the Persian empire in 516 BCE during the rule of Darius the Great, and was re-subjugated by Mardonius in 492 BCE. During Persian rule, it was made part of the Skudra satrapy (province) with parts occupied by Scythians and Greek colonists. After the Persian defeat in Greece, however, Thracian tribes united under a single ruler, King Teres. But, sovereignty was never exercised over all of its lands as it varied in relation to tribal politics. Historian Z.H. Archibald tells us, "The Odrysians created the first state entity which superseded the tribal system in the east Balkan peninsula. Their kings were usually known to the outside world as kings of Thrace, although their power did not extend by any means to all Thracian tribes. Even within the confines of their kingdom the nature of royal power remained fluid, its definition subject to the dictates of geography, social relationships, and circumstance."

According to the Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides, a royal dynasty emerged from among the Odrysian tribe in Thrace around the end of the 5th century BCE, which came to dominate much of the area and peoples between the Danube and the Aegean for the next century. Later writers, royal coin issues, and inscriptions indicate the survival of this dynasty into the early 1st century CE, although its overt political influence declined progressively first under Persian, Macedonian, later Roman, encroachment. Despite their demise, the period of Odrysian rule was of decisive importance for the future character of south-eastern Europe, under the Roman Empire and beyond.

The Thracians left a wealth of archaeological material in over 19,000 tombs. The first recorded discovery of Thracian treasure occured In 1851, near the village of Rozovets in the Kazanlak valley when a local resident moved a large marble block in his field. It covered a vault containing a gold wreath, dinner sets and royal accoutrements. The graves were older by three millennia than the Trojan War. The earliest gold finds, from the end of the 5th millennium BCE, were discovered in the necropolises in the villages of Hotnitsa, Varna and Dourankoulak. Then the burial of gold grave goods seemed to cease for three millenia until discoveries dated to the 1st millennium BCE, were made in Belene, the village of Kazichene and Valchitran in 1924.
Thracian gold rhyton depicting a Thracian ruler with rampant lion handle
Thracian pitcher with repousse relief of a chariot with winged horses

Thracian inscription on gold artifact
Thracian vessel with animorphic handles

Thracian gold rhyton with goat protome

Thracian cup with gilded animal motifs

Thracian gold applique depicting a lion attacking a griffin

Thracian gold vessel with relief depicting two chariots

Eagle-handled swords of Odrysian King Suethes III 331-300 BCE courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Thracian peltast warrior 

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Friday, April 24, 2020

East Meets West - Rome and the Han Dynasty of China

Lamp depicting a deer Western Han dynasty
2nd century BCE
Ancient Rome and the Han Dynasty of China exchanged goods, not only over the famous Silk Road but by sea as well. Unfortunately, intermediate empires such as the Parthians and Kushans, seeking to maintain lucrative control over the silk trade, initially inhibited direct contact between Rome and China. Although ancient Chinese geographers demonstrated a general knowledge of West Asia and Rome's eastern provinces, Roman histories of the 1st century BCE offer only vague accounts of China and the silk-producing Seres people of the Far East. In classical sources, the problem of identifying references to ancient China is exacerbated by the interpretation of the Latin term Seres, whose meaning fluctuated and could refer to several Asian peoples in a wide arc from India over Central Asia to China.
But, by the 1st-century CE, geographer Pomponius Mela asserted that the lands of the Seres formed the centre of the coast of an eastern ocean, flanked to the south by India and to the north by the Scythians of the Eurasian Steppe. In the 1st century CE work, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, its anonymous Greek-speaking author, a merchant of Roman Egypt, provides such vivid accounts of eastern trade cities that it is clear he visited many of them. These include sites in Arabia, Pakistan, and India, including travel times from rivers and towns, where to drop anchor, the locations of royal courts, lifestyles of the locals and goods found in their markets, and favorable times of year to sail from Egypt to these places to catch the monsoon winds. The Periplus also mentions a great inland city, Thinae (or Sinae), in a country called This. The text notes that silk produced there travelled to neighboring India via the Ganges and to Bactria by a land route.
In 97 CE, the Chinese general Ban Chao tried to send his envoy Gan Ying to Rome, but Gan was dissuaded by Parthians from venturing beyond the Persian Gulf. Later, in the 2nd Century CE, several alleged Roman emissaries to China were recorded by ancient Chinese historians. The first one on record, supposedly from either the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius or his adopted son Marcus Aurelius, arrived in 166 CE. Others are recorded as arriving in 226 and 284 CE. In Chinese records, the Roman Empire came to be known as Daqin or Great Qin.
Images: Photographs I took at an exhibit of Han Dynasty artifacts back in 2017 at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. There was a Hellenistic basin that looks quite similar in pattern to omphalos bowls found in the Midas Mound in Turkey dating to the 8th century BCE but this one is thought to have been imported toward the end of the 3rd century BCE and found in a Qin dynasty burial in Tomb 1, Dayun Mountain, Xuyi, Jiangsu.
Gilt bronze lamp in the form of a deer 2nd century BCE Western Han Dynasty at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

Gilt Bronze music stand base in the form of a mythical creature Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE photographed at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

Bronze tent stand in the shape of a stylized tiger Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Gilt bronze ornamental furniture foot in the form of a mythical creature Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Gilt bronze mat weight in the shape of a tiger Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Musician figurine earthenware, Western Han Dynasty 206 BCE - 9 CE

Earthenware dancer figurine Western Han Dynasty 206 BCE-9 CE

Gilt bronze mat weight in the shape of a figure listening to music Western Han Dynasty 2nd century BCE

Earthenware dancer figurine Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Very Scythian-looking gold belt buckle from the Western Han period 2nd century BCE. This fearsome hunting scene in which a tiger and a bear are biting a horse-like pray is the kind of striking attack scenes that often decorated objects from the grassland territories north of the Han domain. These gold belt buckles were possibly produced in imperial workshops, fashioned after imported prototypes, and granted by the throne as gifts to the nobility. More than two dozen sets of gold buckles have been excavated from Xuzhou, which were likely imperial gifts received by the Chu kings.

Gilded bronze furniture fixture in the shape of a bear with inlaid turquoise Western Han dynasty 206 BCE - 9 CE from the permanent collection of the Asian Art Museum. Han dynasty furniture and objects often had legs in the form of standing or squatting bears which were popular pets and used in animal fights and hunts organized by emperors and princes to demonstrate harmony with and control of nature.

Gilt Bronze chariot fitting in the form of a mythical creature Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Gilt Bronze chariot fitting in the form of a mythical creature Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Wood Cavalry Figurine Western Han Dynasty 1st century BCE

Wood Cavalry Figurine Western Han Dynasty 1st century BCE

Bronze halberd (ji) and shaft cover, Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Crossbow trigger mechanism Western Han dynasty 1st century BCE

Bronze lamp (gangdeng) Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Bronze basin (xuan) Zhou dynasty Spring and Autum period 771-475 BCE. This type of vessel was not only used for hot water or ide to warm or cool wine but also functioned as a mirror using the reflection on the water's surface.

Hellenistic silver basin imported from West Asia Qin dynasty 221-206 BCE

Male tomb figure on a pillar Eastern Han dynasty 25 - 220 CE ceramic from the permanent collection of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

Painted earthenware archer figurines Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Painted earthenware archer figurine Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Jade burial suit with gold wire stitching Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Jade burial suit with gold wire stitching Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Earthenware incense burner with birds Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Gold belt buckle Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Jade belt buckle depicting a mythical creature Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Foot of a set of bells Bronze camel? or mythical creature Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Gilt Bronze mat weight in the shape of a tiger Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Gilt bronze mat weight in the form of a tiger Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

Gilt bronze mat weight in the form of a tiger Western Han dynasty 2nd century BCE

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