ancient

The Bronze Battle Scene from Pergamon

In 1913 Alexander Conze published some of the antiquities found at Pergamon. One of these was a remarkable relief from the second century BCE showing a battle on land. While Greek artists usually portrayed battle as a fight between scattered individuals, this relief shows different types of soldiers crowded together and even a Macedonian phalanx with its battle standard. The University of Heidelberg has generously digitized their copy of Conze’s book as part of the Heidelberger historische Bestände- Digitaler:

A line drawing of a bronze plate with reliefs of infantry fighting and cavalry dashing back and forth
1. Beschlagstück, mit Eisen gesüttert, darüber in Bronzeblech getriebenes Relief, 0,24 m lang. Im Haputfelde Kampf von Reitern und Fußgängern ganz links scheint ein Feldzeichen zu stehen. Das Dreiecksfeld der einen seitlichen Spitz mit einem Ägismuster und Medusenhaupte geföüllt. Abbilding beistehend. (Caption from Alexander Conze, “Altertümer von Pergamon,” Bd. 1 Text 2 p. 250

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One of My Tools

Only a fraction of the tablets from the Achaemenid period which have been excavated have been published, and many of the published ones look like this: A typical entry in Strassmaier’s “Inschriften von Darius, König von Babylon” (Liepzig, 1892): “1 1/2 mina 2 1/2 shekels silver …” One Johann N. Strassmaier... Continue reading: One of My Tools

The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Cities

My visits to Heuneburg and Haithabu/Hedeby reminded me that I don’t know enough about one of the great puzzles in world history: why cities spread so slowly, with frequent retreats and abandonments. There were towns in the Balkans before the Indo-Europeans came, but it was almost the year 1,000 before there was a single town on the Baltic, and that was burned and abandoned. Why did it take 5,000 years for cities to spread from Mesopotamia to Denmark, when other innovations spread in a few centuries? And why did many societies which once had prosperous cities give them up?
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When the Bronze is Like a Mirror

In April I participated in a prehistoric bronze-casting workshop with Dr. Bastian Asmus at the open air museum at Heuneburg (near Herbertingen, Baden-Wurtemburg, Germany). I believe that it is helpful for historians to understand the world of things and skills in which their subjects lived. Like any other art, imitating historical bronze-casting requires a range of skills and is best learned by practice.

Das Donautor
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The Research Process

On Thursday I traced a theory back from 1935 to 1909. Asking colleagues did not help. Being in Europe, I didn’t have my usual handbooks available, but a search on some of the standard journal databases had turned up some articles after I experimented with keywords. One of these articles was published in 1935 and... Continue reading: The Research Process

Twilight of the Scribes

The BBC has a short piece on the vanishing of professional letter-writers in India (link). A generation ago, someone who wanted a letter written or a package addressed could hire someone to do that for them outside most post offices in big cities. In the author’s view, rising literacy rates make letter-writers less necessary, but... Continue reading: Twilight of the Scribes

Persian Encounters

Replica of an Achaemenid bull column-capital from a Bierkeller in Ingolstadt, by Bildhauerei Setayesh http://www.bildhauerei-setayesh.de/ On a recent trip, I stumbled over a bar with some Achaemenid sculpture in front. Most of the pillars at Persepolis were crowned with a pair of bull’s heads back-to-back; they supported one set of timbers... Continue reading: Persian Encounters

A “Primitive” Battle in Afghanistan

The horrors of these domestic feuds [amongst the Eusofzyes, Kipling’s “Yusufzaies”] are sometimes aggravated by a war with another Oolooss [roughly a “tribe,” p. 211]. Many causes occasion these wars, but the commonest are the seduction of a woman of one Oolooss by a man of another, or a man’s eloping with a girl of his own Oolooss, and seeking protection from another. This protection is never refused, and it sometimes produces long and bloody wars. I shall show their nature, as usual, by the example of the Naikpeekhail.
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