Gold diadem of twisted ribbons with a Herakles knot
Said to be from the island of Mílos, Aegean Sea
Marking a moment of transition
This unusual and lovely diadem is made up of three long sheets of gold twisted to form ribbons on each side of a Herakles knot. The Herakles knot is found in Greek jewellery from the Mycenaean period, but became particularly popular in the fourth century BC. Its symbolism is closely connected with marriage, and the knot that tied the bride’s garment and was untied by the groom. In many cultures the tying or untying of knots marks moments of transition, whether from maiden to married woman or even from life to death. The untying of knots is also connected with the easing of childbirth.
Source: British Museum
Jurisdiction in Ancient China
In ancient times, Imperial China was divided up into provinces, which were separated into prefectures, lead by a prefect, or governor. These prefectures were in turn divided up into districts, led by magistrates. The magistrates of a prefecture answered to the prefect, but were otherwise autonomous and the highest authority in their district – in cases that required civil law. Matters of the military were handled strictly in military circles, though the two must have sometimes coincided. As a general rule, a magistrate spent only about 3 years in the same district before he was either appointed to another district, or promoted to a higher office.
The magistrate in China was responsible for keeping order in his district, bringing justice and solving crimes and disputes between citizens. Ideally, jurisdiction was not only about penalizing the guilty, but to the same extent focussed on restoring and propitiating the victims. Anyone could appear before the magistrate’s court and file a complaint against his fellow, or bring a dispute of any kind to attention. However, when a man or woman was falsely accused of a capital crime, he or she would not only be acquitted, but the accuser could face being judged as though he had committed the crime himself.
In the course of investigation, the magistrate had a number of methods available to him to make sure justice was served. One of these was torture. The use of this was, in theory, restricted: a case could not be closed without a full confession, so when a suspect’s guiltiness was clear in light of available evidence, but still he refused to confess, the magistrate would be in his right to order the use of torture to make him speak the truth. This torture could range from anything to a trashing with a light or heavy rod of bamboo, a whip, or even subjection to thumbscrews.
Obtaining a declaration of guilt was still paramount, and if the suspect died while being interrogated, or if he wrongly tortured an innocent citizen, the magistrate would be in trouble. He was required to know all that transpired in his district, and could himself be prosecuted by the provincial court if he did not do his office as he should.
Punishment for crimes ranged from fines and imprisonment to death in various forms. Depending on the severity of the crime, a criminal could be decapitated, quartered, flogged to death, or subjected to the ‘Slow Death’, which was a particularly nasty punishment that could take a couple of forms, but usually entailed the criminal being slowly cut into pieces by the executioner. Crimes that touched state interest, such as high treason, could be passed on to relatives up until the third generation.
Agate seal with a man leading a bull
Minoan, about 1500-1300 BC
Minoan craftsmen were particularly skilled at the art of seal engraving. Though small, Minoan seal stones often show scenes that are both beautifully carved and an insight into this ancient culture.
Seals had a practical purpose - they were used to impress a pattern onto lumps of clay around the fastenings of doors, jars, boxes, and even bundles of documents. They could indicate ownership or the identity of a controlling authority, and were part of the Minoan administrative systems that controlled movements of goods and produce.
The seals were also decorative: the stones used were usually attractive, and the seals could be worn like jewellery, suspended from the wrist or neck. This example, carved in agate, shows a man leading a tethered bull. Bulls are very common in Minoan art, perhaps most famously in bull-jumping scenes. Representations of the capture and leading of bulls may represent the preliminaries to these bull sports.
(Source: The British Museum)
7th Century BC
The 7th and early 6th centuries BC are known as the Orientalizing period because of the many eastern, or “Oriental,” elements in the art. In this prosperous era of international trade, Etruscan artists manufactured luxury goods, such as those seen in this case, that reflect influences from the art of the eastern Mediterranean. This ornamental strip of silver is slightly curved, with holes for attachment on each end, suggesting that it could have been worn across the chest. The artist created the processions of lions and other designs using stamps. Pendants of heads emerging from palmettes are attached along the lower edge.
Source: The Walters Art Museum
The Haniwa (埴輪) are terracotta clay figures which were made for ritual use and buried with the dead as funerary objects during the Kofun period (3rd to 6th century AD) of the history of Japan.
During the Kofun period, a highly aristocratic society with militaristic rulers developed. The cavalry wore iron armor, carried swords and other weapons, and used advanced military methods like those of Northeast Asia. Many of them are represented in haniwa figurines for funerary purposes.
The most important of the haniwa were found in southern Honshū—especially the Kinai region around Nara—and northern Kyūshū. Haniwa grave offerings were made in numerous forms, such as horses, chickens, birds, fans, fish, houses, weapons, shields, sunshades, pillows, and male and female humans. Besides decorative and spiritual reasons of protecting the deceased in his afterlife, these figures also served as a sort of retaining wall for the burial mound. Because these haniwa display the contemporary clothing, hairstyle, farming tools, and architecture, these sculptures are important as a historical archive of the Kofun Period.
The origin of haniwa started during the latter part of the Yayoi Era around the Kingdom of Kibi. During this time special earthenware figurines and bowls started to appear on top of the tombs of leaders. The early sculptures exceeded 1 meter (3 feet) in length. They consisted of a cylindrical portion which represented the torso, and a skirt-shaped portion at the base, which represented the legs. Many times a special insignia or pattern would be displayed on the torso. Sometimes an obi would be placed around the torso portion of the sculpture. These sculptures are thought to have been used as part of a funeral ritual. Other than the Kibi area, the only other place these sculptures were found was in the Izumo province.
During the latter part of the 3rd century AD, these sculptures started to appear on top of the imperial grave mounds in the Kinai region. During this time more elaborate haniwa would appear along with earthenware bowls. It is believed that the movement of these sculptures and haniwa from the Kibi region to the Kinai region is indicative of an increase in the importance.
During the earlier part of the Kofun period (latter 3rd century A.D.) the only earthenware haniwa were of the cylindrical variety; however, towards early 4th century AD, shield and other tool-shaped haniwa started to appear. Additionally, during the middle Kofun period (mid-5th century A.D.) shrine maiden, horse, dog and other animal-shaped haniwa were introduced. As the practice of having ceremonial burial mounds declined in the mid 6th century A.D., haniwa became rarer in the Kinai region; however, the haniwa were still made in abundance in the Kantō region.
Originally, the cylindrical type haniwa were set on top of the funeral mounds, so it is believed that they had a purpose in funeral rituals; however, as the haniwa became more developed, they were set towards the outside of the grave area, and it is thought that they were used as boundary markers to mark the borders of the gravesite.
There is a theory that the soul of the deceased would reside in the haniwa, as the earlier haniwa were placed on top of the funeral mounds. There are haniwa that are equipped with weapons and armour, and these are also thought to be containers for souls. The armor and weapons would serve the purpose of driving away evil spirits and protecting the buried ruler from calamity. Because the horse and animal shaped haniwa were normally neatly arranged into a line, it is believed that they were part of a sending-off ceremony.
Jupiter’s great red spot. A hurricane three times the size of our whole planet that’s been raging for centuries.
Pair with the first poem published in a scientific journal, an ode to bioluminescence.
Chemistry meets astronomy in today’s post, with a graphical guide to the atmospheres of our Solar System.
Read more about them here (there’s also a link to download the graphic, or to purchase it as a large poster): http://wp.me/p4aPLT-nV