Monday, May 16, 2016

The Treasure Unearthed at El Lahun

       Like the other Twelfth Dynasty pyramids in the Faiyum, the Pyramid of Lahun is made of mud brick, but here the core of the pyramid consists of a network of stone walls that were infilled by mud brick. This approach was probably intended to ensure the stability of the brick structure. Unusually, despite a Pyramid Temple on the east side, the entrance to the pyramid is on the south. The archaeologist Flinders Petrie nevertheless spent considerable time searching for it on the east side. He discovered the entrance only when workmen clearing the nearby tombs of the nobles discovered a small tunnel at the bottom of a 40-foot shaft, which led to the royal burial chamber. Evidently the original workmen on the tomb had used their legitimate activity as a cover for digging this tunnel, which enabled them to rob the pyramid. Once he was in the burial chamber, Petrie was able to work backwards to the entrance.
Entry to the "jewelry tomb" at El Lahun.
       The pyramid stands on an artificial terrace cut from sloping ground. On the north side eight rectangular blocks of stone were left to serve as mastabas, probably for the burial of personages associated with the royal court. In front of each mastaba is a narrow shaft leading down to the burial chamber underneath. Also on the north side is the Queen's Pyramid or subsidiary pyramid.
       The most remarkable discovery was that of the village of the workers who both constructed the pyramid and then served the funerary cult of the king. The village, conventionally known as Kahun, is about 800 meters from the pyramid and lies in the desert a short distance from the edge of cultivation. When found, many of the buildings were extant up to roof height, and Petrie confirmed that the true arch was known and used by the workmen in the village. However, all the buildings found were demolished in the process of excavation, which proceeded in long strips down the length of the village. When the first strip had been cleared, mapped and drawn, the next strip was excavated and the spoil dumped in the previous strip. As a result, there is very little to be seen on the site today.
       The village was excavated by Petrie in 1888-90 and again in 1914. The excavation was remarkable for the number, range, and quality of objects of everyday life (including tools) that were found in the houses. According to Dr Rosalie David's Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt, "the quantity, range and type of articles of everyday use which were left behind in the houses may indeed suggest that the departure [of the workmen] was sudden and unpremeditated"
       Among the curiosities found there were wooden boxes buried beneath the floors of many of the houses. When opened they were found to contain the skeletons of infants, sometimes two or three in a box, and aged only a few months at death. Petrie reburied these human remains in the desert.
       Also found in the town were the Kahun papyri, comprising about 1000 fragments, covering legal and medical matters. Re-excavation of the area in 2009 by Egyptian archaeologists revealed a cache of pharaonic-era mummies in brightly painted wooden coffins in the sand-covered desert rock surrounding the pyramid.
       The site was occupied into the late Thirteenth Dynasty, and then again in the New Kingdom, when there were large land reclamation schemes in the area.
       The town was laid out in a regular plan, with mud-brick town walls on 3 sides. No evidence was found of a fourth wall, which may have collapsed and been washed away during the annual inundation. The town was rectangular in shape and was divided internally by a mudbrick wall as large and strong as the exterior walls. This wall divided about one third of the area of the town and in this smaller area the houses consisted of rows of back-to-back, side-by-side single room houses. The larger area, which was higher up the slope and thus benefited from whatever breeze was blowing, contained a much smaller number of large, multi-room villas. The size of the houses ranged from 2,520 square meters for the elite houses to 120 square meters for small houses. Petrie compared the village to a Welsh mining village, where the workers lived in terraces in the valley while the mine owner and overseers lived in larger houses up the hill.
       A major feature of the town was the so-called ‘acropolis’ building. This was an important building, as indicated by the presence of column bases. Petrie suggested that this may have been the King’s residence whilst he was visiting construction work. The building seems to have been out of use and derelict before the end of occupation.
       Other records show that there were a large number of Semitic slaves in Egypt during the Twelfth Dynasty  It is interesting that some of the villas were constructed of layers of mudbrick separated by layers of reed matting, a technique used in Mesopotamia. Furthermore, burial beneath the living quarters of a house was a custom noted at Ur by Woolley. It is possible that the workers who were so carefully guarded by the village wall and separated from the overseers by an equally strong wall were Semitic (Asiatic) slaves not trusted by their overseers.
       It was announced by the Supreme Council of Antiquities on 26 April 2009 that an anthology of pharaonic-era mummies vividly painted wooden coffins were uncovered near the Lahun pyramid in Egypt. The sarcophagi were decorated with bright hues of green, red and white bearing images of their occupants. Archaeologists unearthed dozens of mummies, thirty of which were very well preserved with prayers purposed to help the deceased in the afterlife inscribed upon them. The site, once enveloped in slabs of white limestone, revealed that it could possibly be thousands of years older than previously thought.
       Experts think that a new understanding of Egyptian funerary architecture and customs of the Middle Pharaonic Kingdom all the way to the Roman era could be learned from the exploration of the dozens of tombs encompassing the site near the Lahun, Egypt’s southernmost pyramid. "The tombs were cut on the rock itself, and they vary in architectural designs," said archaeologist Abdul Rahman Al-Ayedi, head of excavations at the site. . Some of the tombs were erected on top of gravesites from earlier eras. Ayedi told reporters, "The prevailing idea was that this site has been established by Senusret II, the fourth king of the 12th dynasty. But in light of our discovery, I think we are going to change this theory, and soon we will announce another discovery." He said teams had made a discovery of an artifact that was dated earlier than the 12th dynasty, but did not include any specifics on the item and promised an official statement would be made within days.
       Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities announced May 23, 2010 that 57 ancient Egyptian tombs were discovered in an area close to Lahun. Most of the graves contained an ornamental painted wooden sarcophagus with a mummy inside. Some of the tombs date from the Egyptian First and Second Dynasties, as far back as 2750 BC. Several of the sites were decorated with hieroglyphics that the ancients believed would help the deceased travel through the afterlife.
       Twelve of the tombs were found to belong to the 18th dynasty which ruled Egypt during the second millennium BC. Egypt's archaeology chief, Zahi Hawass, said the mummies that date to the 18th dynasty are covered in linen decorated with religious texts from the Book of the Dead and scenes of ancient Egyptian deities. The discovery might help experts have a better understanding of the ancient Egyptian religions. Some of the tombs are decorated with religious texts that ancient Egyptians believed would help the deceased cross over to the underworld, said Abdel Rahman El-Aydi, chief archeologist of project.
       El-Aydi said one of the oldest tombs is almost completely intact, with all of its funerary equipment and a wooden sarcophagus containing a mummy wrapped in linen.
       In 31 of the tombs, dating back to around 2030 - 1840 B.C., during the Middle Kingdom Era, archeologists found scenes of different ancient Egyptian deities, such as the Horus, Amun, Hathor & Khnum decorated on the tombs. Wikipedia
       The jewelry and personal hygiene items made up the majority of the artifacts found at El Luhun, apart from the coffins and mummies. I've included the largest available sizes of those detailed illustrations of the jewelry, for teachers who need to develop Power Point presentations for your classrooms. A return link to the blog would be much appreciated please!
Egyptian Pectoral of Senusert II and Amethyst Necklace.

Egyptian Lion-head Collar and Armlets.

Egyptian Claw and Amethyst Necklace.

Cowry Collar and Armlets.

Gold Crown of Sat-Hathor-Ant.

Backs of Gold Pectorals.

Pectoral, Scarab, Rosettes of Crown, Ivory and Copper Knives, Mirror Shen.

Egyptian Gold Beads, Copper Razors, Whetstones and Lazuli Scarab.

Anklets and Armlets.

Gold and Ivory Casket Plan of Treasure Recess.
Alabaster and Obsidian Vases.

Friday, June 27, 2014

tim jenison's vermeer

      "Tim's Vermeer" is a documentary film, directed by the performer Teller, produced by his stage partner Penn Jillette and Farley Ziegler, about inventor Tim Jenison's efforts to duplicate the painting techniques of Johannes Vermeer, in order to test his theory that Vermeer painted with the help of optical devices. The film premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and was released in limited theatrical release in the United States by Sony Pictures Classics on January 31, 2014.

Vermeer's "The music lesson" is Tim's obsession.
      Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (Dutch: [joˈɦɑnəs jɑn vərˈmeːr]; 1632 – December 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime. He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.
      Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, using bright colours and sometimes expensive pigments, with a preference for lapis lazuli and Indian yellow. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.
      Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. "Almost all his paintings are apparently set in two smallish rooms in his house in Delft; they show the same furniture and decorations in various arrangements and they often portray the same people, mostly women."
      Recognized during his lifetime in Delft and The Hague, his modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death; he was barely mentioned in Arnold Houbraken's major source book on 17th-century Dutch painting (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists), and was thus omitted from subsequent surveys of Dutch art for nearly two centuries. In the 19th century, Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who published an essay attributing sixty-six pictures to him, although only thirty-four paintings are universally attributed to him today. Since that time, Vermeer's reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. Read more . . .

incredible losers become incredible masters

      Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. His genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance Man, a man of "unquenchable curiosity" and "feverishly inventive imagination". He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent and "his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, the man himself mysterious and remote". Marco Rosci states that while there is much speculation about Leonardo, his vision of the world is essentially logical rather than mysterious, and that the empirical methods he employed were unusual for his time. Read more . . .
      Two excellent videos to show to high school art students at the beginning of the school year. Teach the young, "patience is the virtue that pays in the end."

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Plain & Fancy: American Women and Their Needlework, 1700-1850"

Plain & Fancy: American Women and Their Needlework, 1700-1850 by Susan Burrows Swan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This comprehensive survey of American needlework written by Susan Burrows Swan is a very entertaining read for those of you who love to learn about Early American art history. Although some of her writing is weak in the area of understanding how religious history influenced the kinds of topics that women pursued, her overall coverage of the genre is certainly appropriate within the arena of textile methods and women's social history.

I acquired the book from a library discard shelf and as usual, it was a valuable teaching resource that should never have been classified as "discard material." These kinds of books are needed for research and education of our young people. Ms. Swan writes in a style that teens can read easily and with some degree of patience. Because of this, her work is a valuable treasure for teachers who integrate both literacy and art.

This being said, however, it is obvious that she writes about religious topics from a disposition of one who does not have any true connection with those who practice religion, an unfortunate circumstance often plaguing those authors who have written about the history of art in our museums for the past fifty years. It is difficult to write about religion from an agnostic or atheistic point of view. It's like writing a book about war without ever having had to live through one, if you know what I mean.

Art history is a difficult subject to write about if one does not share deeper connections with the artists that go beyond the surface study of an object or museum collection. So much of what inspires religious topics in art comes from deeply rooted belief and this belief should be explored with the same depth of study that one gives to the art object itself. For what is art if it does not reflect life? Where does it's true value come from? Art is not merely object, it is also reflection of human experience.

The needlework collections are from the Winterthur Museum, Delaware.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

the "together" art journal page

This “Together” art journal page was created with a little help from “Elegant Floral Designs,” by Dover.

       I designed a simple heart pattern, transfered it directly onto my original book page and then drew lines where I needed to cut with an Xacto blade. As you can see in the photo, I slipped another magazine beneath my page to give cushion for the blade. This was very important! If you don’t remember to do this you will have multiple slashing throughout the entire volume; xacto blades are sharp!

       I then cut along the lines in order to begin a paper weave. See how clean the cuts are? I have chosen to incorporate parts of the images on the original page into my design. This will not only be a lesson in paper weaving but also in the repetition of colors, lines, shapes and themes in order to create a cogent artwork.

A collection of papers I keep just for paper weaving.

I wove a paper heart directly into the page and glued down the edges as I went.

       Three entirely different surface treatments are pictured in this art journal page: a paper weave, applied lace, and Dover clip art cut and pasted into the arrangement.

I frequently combine paper and textile fiber in the same collage. I love the added textures.

       The tan parts of the design were colored with layered tissue papers and Mod Podge. I also drew directly onto the layered surfaces with black ink markers.

       A wedding photograph of my Aunt was also incorporated into the page. Wasn’t she lovely! The verse I included here is in the public domain. I only had room for the first and last stanzas. I will post it on the blog for those of you who would like to include it on your own journal pages.

       I love a sophisticated palette. The subtle variations of white and the formal black lines combine well with this vintage wedding theme.

The finished product. I submitted it to Dover for their 2012 contest. You can visit their pinterest files here and submit something yourself.

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