Friday, November 18, 2005

Tree of Paradise: Jewish Mosaics from the Roman Empire

Brooklyn Museum: "This exhibition will examine the role of twenty-one extraordinary Roman-period mosaics, which were acquired by the Museum in 1905, in the development of synagogue decoration in the late Roman Empire. Approximately thirty-eight related artifacts, such as contemporaneous textiles, marble statues, gold jewelry, and bronze ritual objects, will be included. The presentation will also investigate the origins of synagogues, the development of Jewish art in the Roman period, female patronage in the ancient synagogue, the differences between early Christian and Jewish symbolism in art, and the relationship between ancient and modern synagogues.

Twelve of the mosaic panels that will be on display were part of the sanctuary floor of the synagogue in Hammam Lif, Tunisia (the ancient Punic city of Naro, later the Roman Aquae Persianae), the primary subjects of which are Creation and Paradise. The Latin inscription on the floor panels indicates that Julia of Naro gave the floor to the community. Two menorahs flank the inscription. Included are depictions of a tree in Paradise, sea animals and birds in a scene portraying Creation, and symbolic birds and baskets that relate to the themes of Creation and the coming of the Messiah. Decorative motifs include birds and fruits. The remaining nine panels come from other rooms in the building and other nearby buildings. They depict animals, a male figure, and a female figure."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Genius Cucullatus Exhibition

by Carlie Sigel, curator

"Throughout the past two centuries, excavations in Romano-Celtic settlements on both Britain and the European Continent have turned up a number of representations of a hooded deity interpreted to be cult objects of the genius cucullatus. Providing a case for the origin and identity for the cult has been a challenge for archaeologists because, as with many topics in the study of Celtic culture, the only information available is encoded in the relief carvings and votive objects depicting the deities. Often, these objects have been long disassociated with their original context and have suffered heavy weathering. This essay intends to give an overview of the topics that have concerned scholars of the genius cucullatus including the general attributes of the deity, its origin, the regional variation in the representations, and a list of genii cucullati found thus far.

Hoods, eggs, and parchment scrolls
The genius cucullatus takes on a general form that is modified and embellished according to localized interpretations of the deity's power. To draw up a list of features each figure displays would be short; they wear thick hooded cloaks and are found in pontentially sacred contexts. The cloaks vary in length, number of folds, extent of body coverage, and hood shape. Although no pattern has been determined among the different cloak styles, other differences between the figures are partly linked to the regions in which they were found. Most scholars agree that the genii cucullati of Britain predominantly appear in triads, are small of stature, and often carry eggs, or other fertility attributes (Heichelheim 192-3). In contrast, the cucullati of the European continent appear singularly, as giants and dwarves, and occasionally imply phallus worship(193). In both regions the deities are often found clutching parchments or scrolls, which may signify wisdom (Jenkins 88) or the secrets of healing lore (Toynbee, 1957 158)."

Hungarian museum houses the only surviving Roman water organ in the world

Fire Extinguishing Museum: "

South of the Aquincum Museum In Obuda while the bases of the transformer of the Electric Co. were being dug up the workers found an antique Roman cellar with caved in ceilings. They found broken bronze pipes and the components of an organ under the ruins. They also found bronze tablets which had data saying that the instrument was given as a present to Aquincum's fire-department, which was lead by Gaius Iulius Viatorinus, in 228 AD.

The organ must have fallen into the cellar in 250 AD, when the building, which eventually burned down, was under siege. Since the cellar was not cleaned out after the fire, the pieces of the organ were left there covered with debris."

In 20 AD, Vetruvius described the operation of a Roman water organ:

Compressed air (shown in green) is forced by the pump (A) into the air vessel (B). The piston (grey) is shown at the top of its stroke. The air vessel is nearly empty of water (blue) and the surrounding water chest (C) is nearly full. On the downstroke of the piston, water within the water chest flows into the air vessel from beneath, and continues to maintain air pressure within the vessel.

Water can flow into and out of the air vessel because there are spaces between the blocks upon which it sits. On the upstroke of the piston, water is forced back up into the water chest, compressing the air at the top of the water chest (yellow), as well as in the air vessel. (These reservoirs of compressed air may exist for some little time, subject to leaks and to any key being played.) When the piston reaches the top of the cylinder, the pumping cycle is repeated. Valves on the cylinder prevent the escape of air.

The pressure within the air vessel forces air into the wind chest (D), where other valves (shown in red) may be opened or closed by depressing the organ keys. - The Hydraulicus

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Byzantium 1200 offers new computer reconstructions of Byzantine monuments

"Byzantium 1200 is a non-funded and non-profit project aimed at creating computer reconstructions of the Byzantine Monuments located in Istanbul, TURKEY as of year 1200 AD.

New models added this month include the Hagia Sophia Atrium and an aerial view of Zeuxippos. The Seawalls model has also been updated.

If you have never visited this site before, I urge you to set aside a few hours and indulge yourself!"