Tuesday, February 22, 2011


The Arch of Titus, Rome, commemorating the Roman victory over the Jewish rebellion of 70 AD.

Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome, a statue known as the Augustus Primaporta.

Frieze from the Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace) showing members of the Imperial family.

The Pont du Garde, a bridge and an aqueduct, southern France, Roman

Apollodorus of Damascus, Markets of the Forum of Trajan, Rome

The Pantheon, Rome, exterior

The Pantheon, Rome, interior


Roman Architecture
Trajan's Forum
--Emperor Trajan
--Apollodorus of Damascus
The Pantheon
--Emperor Hadrian

Read Chapter 9

The End of Pompeii

The city of Pompeii, south of modern Naples, ended suddenly in the year 79 CE in a catastrophic volcanic eruption.  Mount Vesuvius, dormant for centuries, suddenly awoke and exploded, destroying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and leaving a massive crater where the mountain once stood.
Unknown thousands of people died in the eruption.  Vesuvius buried Pompeii and the surrounding countryside under 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash, boulders, and pumice.  The city was so thoroughly buried and the landscape so altered that people forgot where the city was.  Pompeii was not rediscovered until 1599.  Excavations began 1748.
The airless dry volcanic ash preserved a lot of normally perishable items from the city, including the dead.

The ruins of Pompeii today.  After 250 years of excavation, much of the city still lies buried.
Mount Vesuvius rises on the horizon.  The peak on the right is part of the crater rim left by the eruption of 79CE.  Vesuvius was originally a much higher mountain before the 79CE eruption.

A loaf of bread carbonized by the eruption.

Skeletal remains of victims of the eruption left where they were found.

Excavators discovered that many bodies as they decayed left hollows in the hard volcanic ash.  They poured plaster into the hollows and created remarkably vivid casts of people at the moment they died.  It was long thought that victims suffocated under the ash.  Scholars now believe that these victims died suddenly from the intense heat of pyroclastic flows.

The face of a woman at the moment of her death.

A remarkably vivid cast of a child.

A computer animation of what the last day of Pompeii might have looked like.

It was long thought that the people of the nearby city of Herculaneum escaped since no human remains were found in its ruins.  Recent excavations of what were once boathouses on the beach revealed the remains of hundreds of people caught by the eruption as they awaited evacuation.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011



 Krater in the Metropolitan Museum, Geometric Period, Greece


Exekias, Achilles and Ajax, Black Figure Vase, Archaic Period

Euphronios, Death of Sarpedon, Red Figure Vase, Archaic Period

The Peplos Kore, Archaic period, Greece

The New York Kouros, Archaic Period, Greece


The Kritios Youth, Classical Period, Greece

Contrapposto -- bending the knee and shifting the weight onto one leg.

The Riace Warrior, Classical period, Greece, cast in bronze

The Temple of Hera at Paestum, Classical Period, Greece, a Doric order temple

The Temple of Hera at Paestum with the parts labeled (click on the image to enlarge)

A satellite photo of the Temple of Hera at Paestum with the parts labeled (click on the image to enlarge)

The Parthenon, Athens, designed by Iktinos and Kallikrates, Greece, Classical Period

Three Goddesses from the East Pediment of the Parthenon, sculpted by Phidias, Greece, Classical Period

Horsemen from the Ionic Frieze of the Parthenon, sculpted by Phidias, Greece, Classical Period


Geometric Period
Archaic Period
--black figure vase painting
--red figure vase painting
Classical Period
Greek Temple Architecture
--Greek Orders: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian
The Parthenon
--Persian Wars
--Iktinos & Kallikrates

Donald Duck learns Pythagorean Sacred Geometry

A kids' film from 1959;  Donald Duck very effectively shows us a design principle that began with Pythagoras and the ancient Greeks and still forms the foundation of Western art and design down to the present day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Narmer Palette, front and back, Pre-Dynastic


Step Pyramid and Tomb Complex of Pharaoh Zoser at Saqqara, designed by Imhotep, Old Kingdom

Great Pyramid of Pharaoh Khufu, Giza, Old Kingdom

The Sphinx, Giza, Old Kingdom

Valley Temple of Pharaoh Khafre, Giza, Old Kingdom

Pharaoh Khafre, from his Valley Temple, Giza, Old Kingdom

Pharaoh Menkaure and his Queen Khamerernebty, Old Kingdom


Pharaoh Senwosret III


Pharaoh Hatshepsut, New Kingdom

Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir El Bahri, New Kingdom

Pharaoh Akhenaten with Queen Nefertiti and their Daughters, Amarna Period, New Kingdom

Queen Nefertiti, Amarna Period, New Kingdom

Hypostile Hall from the Temple of Amon at Karnak, New Kingdom

Gold Mummy Mask of Pharaoh Tutankhamun from his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, New Kingdom


The Nile
Old Kingdom
mastaba tomb
----Valley Temple
hieroglyphic writing
relief sculpture
Middle Kingdom
New Kingdom
Valley of the Kings

Read Chapter 5

An Ancient Crime Discovered

... and an ancient mystery perhaps solved.

According to the BBC and other news outlets,  CT scans in 2012 on the mummy of Pharaoh Ramses III revealed a large and deep cut across his throat that was probably fatal.  The Pharaoh apparently was assassinated.  Until now, the fate of the Pharaoh Ramses III was largely unknown.  All of the surviving ancient records describe an attempted coup in 1155 BCE by one of his 2 wives, Tiye and by one of his sons, Pentaweret.  The records agree that the coup failed.  Prince Pentaweret was captured and committed suicide.  The assassination now appears to have succeeded.

The mummy of Pharaoh Ramses III; the linen around his neck cannot be removed because of preservation issues.  Until now, it hid the fatal injury in his neck.

The mummy of Ramses III was among the New Kingdom royal mummies discovered all together in a single tomb in the cliffs of Deir El Bahri.  Priests from a later dynasty removed most of the royal mummies from their tombs in the Valley of the Kings in order to protect them from looters (perhaps from mobs of looters descending on the Valley during a time of political and social disintegration).  When the cache was discovered in 1875, another mummy was discovered near Ramses III's mummy of an unknown man in a plain unadorned coffin, the Unknown Man E, better known as the "Screaming Mummy."

Unknown Mummy E, "The Screaming Mummy"

His mummification had been very hastily done with no evisceration.  The embalmers wrapped his body in a goat skin (considered very unclean by the ancient Egyptians) before putting it into the unpainted coffin with no inscriptions.  The hands and the legs of the body were bound with leather thongs.  He was very young, only about 18 years old.  The circumstances of the burial and the striking expression on the withered face gave rise to all kinds of speculation that he had been buried alive.

Recent forensic DNA tests on this mummy indicate that he was from the royal family, and directly related to Ramses III.  Scholars now think that this is the mummy of Prince Pentaweret who led the coup attempt.  This would explain the shabby treatment of this mummy by the embalmers.

Ramses III was the last great king of the New Kingdom period of Egyptian history.  Even before his death, Egypt began to suffer economic decline and foreign predation.  Most of his reign was consumed in warfare, repelling invasions by the neighboring Libyans and by the Sea Peoples who may have been seafaring Greeks enduring their own dark age in the wake of the Dorian Invasions.  Though ultimately victorious for Egypt, these wars were hard fought and very costly in terms or lives and treasure.

Pharaoh Ramses III's mortuary temple at Medinet Habu near Luxor is the last great monument from New Kingdom Egypt.  The king was buried in a secret tomb in the Valley of the Kings, but in this massive temple on the west bank of the Nile, resident priests perpetuated his cult for centuries.

The granite sarcophagus of Ramses III in the Louvre

The mortuary temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu

The entrance to the temple of Ramses III

A relief sculpture from the temple showing the Pharaoh killing captured enemy soldiers


The mummy of Ramses III was the inspiration for the extraordinary makeup for Boris Karloff in the 1932 movie The Mummy.


Paintings from the tomb of Ramses III in the Valley of the Kings: