Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Head of Dionysus from Corinth

Hello all and welcome to this blog post!

Today I will be looking at this mosaic of the head of Dionysus, from ancient Corinth.

I picked it because I liked the pattern around the head, so I decided to do some research into it. Unfortunately, there are many pictures of this mosaic, but not very much information about it! I was able to find out that it is dated to around 150-225 AD, and that it was the floor in a Roman villa. I also found out that it is currently housed in the Ancient Corinth Museum, that opening times are 8-3 every day except holy days, and tickets are 6 euros unless you are over 65, under 18 or a student in the European Union, which sadly I am not!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Madaba Map

Hello and welcome to this blog post!

Today I will be looking at the Madaba Map, an intricate and interesting mosaic found during the construction of a Greek Orthodox in 1884, following the destruction of the city of Madaba by earthquake in 746 AD. It originally was part of the Nea Church, which was dedicated in 542 AD.

Now I say this is an intricate and interesting mosaic, and it is probably the most intricate and interesting mosaic in the world being as it is a map of the Jerusalem! We don't know who it was made by, but we do know that it was made between 542 and 570 AD, as no buildings build after 570 are on it. This means it it almost 1,500 years old. Unfortunately, after it's rediscovery in 1884 it was badly damaged by activities in the church, fires and moisture, reducing its size from the original 21 by 7 metes to 16 by 5 meters. Luckily, in 1964 90,000 DM (roughly £40,000 or $52,000) was given for the restoration, which was undertaken by archaeologists Heinz Cuppers and Herbert Donner. When complete, it would have had 2 million tesserae!

Reproduction of the mosaic, with credit to Bernard Gagnon

One of the many things that is interesting about this map is that it does not face north, as modern maps do, but instead faces towards the altar at the east. This means that the places the map depicts are in line with with the compass directions. The map depicts a large number of important biblical sites that were previously undiscovered, such as Askalon, the Nea Church and the Cardo Maximus, the latter two of which were found in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. It also showed a road running through the middle of Jerusalem which was later discovered 4m below the surface of a modern road!

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Basilica of San Vitale - Byzantine Mosaics


Today, I will not be covering just one mosaic, but a series of them in one of the most beautifully mosaiced places in the world - the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. As a basilica it is a deeply Christian building and that is reflected in the wonderful artwork on the walls, which is some of the best early Byzantine art in the world. Work was started on the church in 525 AD and took 21 years to complete, and cost up to 26,000 gold pieces, which shows the magnificence and scale of this building!

The basilica has something known as a triforium, which is an shallow gallery with arches that is embedded within an inner wall. Mosaics within the arches depict the sacrifices from the Old Testament, such as the sacrifice of Isaac. They also show Abraham and Melchizedek, Moses and the Burning Bush, the story of Abel and Cain, Jeremiah and Isaiah and representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Earliest Mosaic - Ninhursag Temple

Hello all!

Today I thought I would take us back into the deepest depths of time to discover the first mosaic made out of recognizable tesserae, as opposed to pebbles. Now I know this means this isn't the earliest mosaic, but it did make a catchier title!

A little bit of background; this mosaic was found at the Ninhursag Temple (as you may have guessed from the title) in Tell al'Ubaid, Iraq. Tell al'Ubaid west of Ur, pictured on the map below.

The temple itself is dated to 2,500 BC, which is also the age of the mosaic, which is the Early Dynastic period in Mesopotamia, of which Iraq was once part. So this mosaic is over 4,500 years old!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Zeugma - The City of Mosaics

In 2014, news articles ran about 3 new mosaics found in the ancient city of Zeugma, however these mosaics were not all Zeugma had to offer. In fact, it has the largest mosaic museum in the world, with 170^2 feet of mosaics! It is an incredibly interesting archaeological site, especially if you are interested in mosaics as we are here, so I thought I'd do some research on it and share my findings with you guys here!

First of all, Zeugma is located in the Gaziantep province of Turkey, as shown on the map below:

It was part of both the Greek and Roman empires at different points during it's life span, being founded by one of the generals of Alexander the Great in 300 BC. In 64 BC the city was conquered by the Roman empire, when it likely gained the name Zeugma, meaning "bridge of boats", due to it having a pontoon of boats across the river Euphrates. It was during this time that it became wealthy, and that the mosaics we are interested in first started appearing, as it was along the Silk Road connecting Antioch to China.