Cephalopodic Human Figures Drawn by Bored Children in 13th-Century Novgorod

Erik Kwakkel, Professor of Book History & Director, School of Information, UBC, Vancouver, Canada, shares all sorts of interesting tidbits online. Among the older ones—posted over seven years ago now and dating from the Middle Ages—are some wonderful children’s drawings made on birch bark.

This piece of bark is from among a large find made near the city of Novgorod, Russia, from the 13th century.

Tumblr Erik Kwakkel C13th Novgorod Birch Bark Drawing

Isn’t it interesting? Look at the eyebrows and the noses! And the torsos! Incredibly cephalopodic, in a charming way. And the hands look like rakes. The figures are clearly identifiable as humans, but the customary ways of drawing some of the details seems to have changed over the centuries quite a bit.

Check out Kwakkel’s Tumblr or Twitter for more book history particulars.

Image via Erik Kwakkel on Tumblr

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Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Inspiration for Moria Doors

Sophie Berry on Twitter shared this amazing photo of a church door flanked by two trees that have basically grown into the wall:

Twitter Sophie Berry St Edwards Stow-in-the-Wold Back Door

Apparently it’s thought to be the inspiration for the doors of Moria in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. No surprise there. How incredible!

Image via Sophie Berry on Twitter.

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Good Health with Telesphorus

With Covid-19 still largely unchecked and the winter flu season closing in on us (in the northern part of the world at least), health and illness are on a lot of our minds. So here’s a votive statuette of an ancient Greek god of health, Telesphorus.

Telesphorus represents an interesting combination of influences from several different cultures. Mythology describes him as a son of the Greek healing god Asclepius specifically concerned with recovery from disease or injury. In art he was often shown as a short, squat man similar to some earth-related deities from Phrygia in inland Anatolia wearing a type of hooded cloak typically associated with Gauls. This version, found in France and carved at some time when the Roman Empire ruled the region, has heavily outlined eyes, a triangular nose, and straight bands of hair, all of which are characteristic of Gaulish and British art. Somehow, this seems an appropriate image for a season in which we face a worldwide pandemic.

We wish you all good health in the times ahead.

Image: Telesphorus statuette, photograph by Millevahce via Wikimedia (found Moulézan, currently Musée Archéologique de Nîmes; Roman period; limestone)

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A Striking Greek Gods Photoshoot

Here’s a beautiful new imagining of the Greek gods, “20 Dioses y Diosas para 2020,” photographed by Ana Martinez and styled by Mario Ville. This photoshoot combines ancient ideas, modern fashion, and imaginative graphics with Black models taking the roles of the gods. You can see the full set of photos at N20.

A few of my favorites:

Juana Mum as Hera

Lewis Amarante as Poseidon

Ruben Baika as Apollo

I appreciate how these images combine classic symbols such as Apollo’s lyre and Poseidon’s trident with modern dress and accents. I wish the artists had chosen to use color for the clothing rather than just white, since ancient images of the gods were brightly colored, not the plain white marble we are used to seeing now, but there’s no denying how strikingly the white garb sets of the models’ dark skin. I also enjoy seeing versions of some of the less well-known gods like Hestia, goddess of the hearth, and Eris, goddess of discord.

This photoshoot is another example of how effectively the ancient Greeks crafted their mythology and its visual language in ways to be flexible enough to allow for many new interpretations and to be accessible to a broad and diverse audience.

Images by Ana Martinez via Neo2

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Video of 14th-Century Techniques of Bridge Building

Here is an interesting animation of how the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, was built with 14th century techniques:

Karlův most – Stavba pilíře a klenebního pole ve 14. století by praha-archeologicka.cz on YouTube

3D graphics and postproduction is by Tomáš Musílek, with assists from Ondřej Šefců and Zdeněk Mazač. More information about Charles Bridge can be found at the portal Prague – the City of Archaeology. (Note: most of the site’s content and functionality seems to be in Polish, or link from the English summary to the equivalent full page in Polish.)

I love it how we’re now able to not just model but animate many old or even ancient building projects. It really reveals how far we’ve come and the skills and persistence we have as a species.

Found via File 770.

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A Huron/Wyandot Glengarry Cap

This decorated hat was created by an indigenous North American Huron/Wyandot artisan around 1840. It is made of wool, silk, and moosehair, worked using traditional techniques, but patterned after the Glengarry-style cap of the Scottish highlands and decorated with a Victorian floral motif.

Hats and other decorated objects like this one represent a complex interplay of cultural, artistic, and economic influences. Indigenous artisans from Iroquoian, Wabenaki, and other native nations had long created trade goods intended for exchange with European settlers and adapted to European tastes. In the nineteenth century, indigenous creators took advantage of the growth of a tourist industry around the Great Lakes region to market a broader range of wares combining forms that white customers would recognize and find useful, like this Glengarry cap, with decorative schemes that appealed to Victorian sensibilities while preserving traditional techniques. Such objects were created in a combination of traditional and modern materials, such as moosehair and leather combined with wool, silk, and glass beads.

The creation and sale of these goods—often produced by female artisans—provided both a means of preserving traditional artistic methods and a valuable economic resource to indigenous and First Nations peoples at a time when other opportunities in white-dominated American and Canadian society were hard to find, and indigenous cultures were often suppressed, sometimes violently.

Image: Glengarry-style cap via Metropolitan Museum (Metropolitan Museum, New York; c. 1840; wool, silk, and moosehair; unknown Huron/Wyandot artist)

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Virtual 3D Tour of the Tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses VI

The Egyptian Tourism Authority has released an amazing virtual 3D tour of the tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses VI. Known as Tomb KV9 or Tomb of Memnon, it’s located in the east Valley of the Kings. Ramesses VI ruled during the 20th dynasty (mid to late 12th century BCE).

Matterport Ramesses VI Tomb KV9 Corridor

There are a couple of different views to play with, plus a highlights tour.

Matterport Ramesses VI Tomb KV9 Dollhouse View

Some modern amenities like wooden walkboards, handrails, and electric lights are visible, but the additions are reasonably unintrusive. You start on floor 3 and make your way down the long ramp to floor 1.

Matterport Ramesses VI Tomb KV9 Burial Chamber

It really is quite breathtaking! The screencaps above can’t really adequately capture the ambience.

Visit the tour for the full experience!

Found via Colossal.

Images: screencaps of the virtual 3D tour via Matterport

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A Bird in the Hand

The fall is coming, and for a lot of us this fall will be bringing anxiety and stress. So, for a moment of relaxation, enjoy this scene of hunting wildfowl in the marshes, from the tomb of Nebamun, a scribe who lived around 1350 BCE in Egypt.

Hunting scene from the tomb of Nebamun, photograph by Marcus Cyron via Wikimedia (currently British Museum, London; c. 1350 BCE; paint on plaster)

And for added joy, just look at that cat! Have you ever seen a cat so happy as when it has two birds in its claws and a third in its teeth?

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Aiming for Alpha Centauri with Light-driven Nanocraft

Some people say we’re living through a golden age of science fiction and fantasy, and I for one agree. I’d also argue that we’re living through a golden age of science and exploration, especially of space.

Breakthrough Starshot is a new-to-me initiative whose aim is to “demonstrate proof of concept for ultra-fast light-driven nanocrafts, and lay the foundations for a first launch to Alpha Centauri within the next generation.”

Breakthrough Starshot Light-driven Art image3

Alpha Centauri would be reachable within a reasonable timeframe if unmanned space flight could reach 20 % of the speed of light. Ultra-light craft with solar sails could, they calculate, reach and fly by the system in just over 20 years.

The Breakthrough Initiatives were founded in 2015 by Yuri and Julia Milner to “explore the Universe, seek scientific evidence of life beyond Earth, and encourage public debate from a planetary perspective.”

Judging by their News section, however, Breakthrough Listen—which is “a $100 million program of astronomical observations in search of evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth” directed from UC Berkeley—is currently producing the most interesting results.

The board of Breakthrough Initiatives consists of three people as of this writing: Stephen Hawking, Mark Zuckerberg (yes, of the Facebook reputation), and Yuri Milner (an Israeli-Russian physicist, entrepreneur, and capitalist).

I must say that the initiative sounded more exciting to me prior to checking who the board are. Then again, who knows—after all, SpaceX has had its share of successes despite having essentially started as a millionnaire pet project. At least the Breakthrough Listen data is supposed to be open to the public.

Found via Helsingin Sanomat (NB. Finnish only).

This post has been edited for clarity.

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Video Compilation of Roving on Mars

A new Mars video is out, and it’s incredibly beautiful. The compilation was created on the basis of images captured by three Mars rovers. The imagery was turned into a 10-minute video with amazing detail.

Yoinked from the description by ElderFox Documentaries on YouTube:

“A world first. New footage from Mars rendered in stunning 4K resolution. We also talk about the cameras on board the Martian rovers and how we made the video.

“The cameras on board the rovers were the height of technology when the respective missions launched.”

New: Mars in 4K by ElderFox Documentaries on YouTube

It’s amazing enough to think that we, ugly bags of mostly water, have sent probes into the far reaches of our solar system to capture high-definition photos and send them back. Now we also have rovers on multiple planetary bodies. (Two counts as multiple in my book, LOL!)

Found via Colossal.

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