Month: June 2016

The Forces of Madness Take up the Earth Basket

The ground has been surveyed, the walls measured, and the materials gathered. Now it is time to build the siege ramp for this sartorial siege, or less metaphorically to quilt endless rows of stitches.

A pile of stacks of pattern pieces for a jacket with complicated sleeves
Stacks of pattern pieces ready for the final adjustment of the stuffing then quilting and assembly. From left to right: back, sleeves, front

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A Monster-Headed Luristan Axe

As my chapter on war in the ancient near east before the Achaemenid period takes shape, I am reading books like Oscar White Musarella’s study of bronze and iron artifacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As I do so, it occurred to me that I have something to add to my earlier post about monster-headed axes.

The first axe belongs to the sad collection of artifacts known as Luristan bronzes. The ancient people there deposited many fine bronzes in their tombs, and in the 1920s the locals began to dig them up and sell them on a large scale. Once enterprising smiths began to cast their own “Luristan bronzes,” and dealers began to market objects looted from other regions under the “Luristan” label, a great deal of knowledge was lost forever. However, this axe resembles finds with inscriptions from the 12th century BCE or excavated from a temple built at at Tschogha Zanbil in the 13th (although there are others in contexts 400 years younger). Have a look at how the blade is attached to the socket.

An axehead with its blade emerging from the mouth of a duck attached to its socket
A bronze axehead from the Metropolitan Museum, NY, accession number 32.161.2; discussed in Muscarella, Iron and Bronze, p. 190 no. 304.

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Katzenbilder!

A tabby-coloured cat turns halfway around and stretches its neck from a bed of greenery to a paved terrace
A stray cat at the Iman Khomeni monument, Tehran.

It has come to my attention that there is a shortage of pictures of cats on the Internet. Although I am not equipped to deal with most global problems, my trip to Iran has armed me to fight against this one. There are also some dogs and lizards, but my photos of birds on the wing did not turn out very well, and other bloggers seem to have squid covered.

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The Elamite Relief at Naqš-e Rostam

A relief set deep into a mountainside of seven men standing on either side of a tall, crowned figure holding a sword

Naqš-e Rostam is famous because Darius and three of his successors were buried there in a new style of tomb cut deep into the rock, and for the mysterious stone cube (Kaˁba) which probably also dates to his reign. The reliefs by the Sasanid kings, and the long inscription of Shahpur boasting of his victories over the Romans, are also renowned.

If you climb up from the parking lot past the souvenir shops and toilets through the remains of the Sasanid ring wall, and follow the cliffs beneath the tombs of the kings of old and past the Kaˁba, you will find something else.
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Some Thoughts on “A Greek Army on the March”

John W.I. Lee, A Greek Army on the March: Soldiers and Survival in Xenophon’s Anabasis. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2007. DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511482830 Bookfinder link to the hardcover version.

John Lee’s book on the Greek-speaking half of the army of Cyrus the Younger does not seem to have found the audience which I think it deserves. That is a shame, because I found it very useful when I was writing my Master’s thesis, and I think that a wide variety of other people both inside and outside the university would find it helpful too.

Many books on life in the Ten Thousand have been written by retired soldiers or policemen, and implicitly or explicitly take the bureaucratic armies of the last hundred and fifty years as a model. Writers searched for a detailed chain of command with large units made up of small ones and a network of officers and non-commissioned officers, a relationship between the organization of the army in camp and the organization of the army in formation, and other things which modern armies have. It was possible to do this by ignoring or minimizing a large number of anomalies. John Lee had the courage to ask “what if we take Xenophon seriously? What if we accept that what he describes seems very different from a modern army, and ask him what he means?” And so he wrote a book about how the Ten Thousand functioned as a community of men and women living and marching and fighting together.
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