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The Archaeology of the Hajj 6 December 2009

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology, Making of the Archaeological Record, Photography , add a comment


The holy mosque at Mecca with high-rise pilgrim hotels and other construction massively re-shaping the cityscape. Photo copyright Khaled Desouki.

One of my future projects is to take a closer archaeological look at pilgrimage in a cross-cultural perspective. So it was fascinating to see this photo essay in the Danish newspaper Information on the Hajj and especially its archaeological footprint, the infrastructure that it generates (including both tent towns and high-rise hotels) and all of the debris left behind by the pilgrims during their time in Mecca.

Public PhD Defense 16 December 3 December 2009

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology, Late Antiquity, Thesis Rant , 8 comments

Just a brief announcement that I will be defending my dissertation on 16 December, more here and here. The examiners at a PhD defense are in Denmark (and in Sweden and Norway as well, I think) called “opponents” which gives certain connotations to boxing matches or the like. We’ll see how it goes…

Troels Myrup Kristensen will defend his PhD dissertation “Archaeology of Response: Christian Destruction, Mutilation and Transformation of Pagan Sculpture in Late Antiquity” on Wednesday 16 December 1-4 pm.

The official opponents are:
Dr. Peter Stewart, Reader in Classical Art and its Heritage, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK.

Dr. Eric Varner, Associate Professor, Departments of Classics and Art History, Emory University, Atlanta, USA.

Mag. art. Birte Poulsen, Associate Professor, Institute of Anthropology, Archaeology and Linguistics, Aarhus University (chair)

Aarhus University Conference Centre, Byg. 1421, Mødelokale 2

Neues Museum and Spolia 10 November 2009

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology, Travel , 2 comments

I’m just back from a seminar on spolia in Berlin, organised by Topoi. In my paper, I discussed the re-use of sculpture in late antique contexts and the life histories of individual statues. I also had the opportunity to visit the recently re-opened Neues Museum, closed at the beginning of the war and then bombed in 1943. It now has been spectacularly restored in the fashion that manages to incorporate parts of the original building, including signage and the feel of ‘ruination’. Here are a couple of shots of some of the museum’s many treasures:

Relief fra Sethos I.'s grav
Relief from the tomb of Sethos I (KV 17) in the Neues Museum. Photo: TMK, November 2009.

Amarna relief in the Neues Museum
Amarna relief in the Neues Museum. Photo: TMK, November 2009.

Speaking of spolia, here’s an archaic statuette re-used in the Justinianic city wall at Miletus:

Archaic statuette from the City Wall of Miletus
Neues Museum, Berlin, inv. Sk 1625. Photo: TMK, November 2009.

Karnak Cachette Online 9 November 2009

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology, Digital Classics, Quick Notes , add a comment

P1130410
Painting of saint in the Festival Hall of Thutmose III, Karnak. Photo: TMK, May 2007.

The French institute in Cairo has just announced the first online version of their database of the Karnak cachette, a massive haul of sculpture unearthed at Karnak between 1903 and 1907:

L’IFAO a le plaisir de vous annoncer la sortie de la base de données‘Cachette de Karnak’, désormais accessible librement en ligne à l’adresse suivante : http://www.ifao.egnet.net/bases/cachette/.

Elle est le fruit d’une collaboration entre l’IFAO et le Conseil Suprême des Antiquités de l’Égypte et présente le premier essai d’inventaire général des objets (statues, stèles, etc.) de toutes époques découverts entre 1903 et 1907 par G. Legrain dans la « Cachette» de la cour du VIIe pylône de Karnak.

Ce travail s’est appuyé sur une documentation photographique très riche issue principalement du Corpus of Egyptian Sculpture du Brooklyn Museum, mais aussi de plusieurs milliers de photographies prises par l’IFAO en 2008-2009 au Musée égyptien du Caire. La collaboration avec les conservateurs du Musée du Caire et les promoteurs de l’Egyptian Museum Database a permis d’étudier de manière très approfondie les registres du Musée et de faire connaître pour la première fois certains objets conservés dans les réserves. L’inventaire s’est également fondé sur le réexamen des archives G. Legrain recensées par M. Azim et G. Réveillac (2004) mais aussi sur de nouveaux documents, par exemple les volumes du Catalogue Général préparés par G. Legrain et Ch. Kuentz et restés inédits ou les estampages conservés au CFEETK à Karnak.

La version 1 de la base, disponible actuellement, offre un inventaire aussi exhaustif que possible des objets (raisonnablement) attribuables à la Cachette, avec pour chacun une bibliographie hiérarchisée. Les quelques objets portant un numéro « K » de Legrain mais ne provenant pas de la Cachette ont également été inclus. Une version 2, comportant notamment un volet prosopographique plus détaillé, est en préparation.

Les données seront mises à jour régulièrement, notamment pour la bibliographie où l’exhaustivité n’a évidemment pu être atteinte. Les auteurs sont reconnaissants à tous les collègues qui voudront bien leur faire part de toute remarque, addition ou correction qui permettra d’améliorer cet outil de recherche.

Speaking of Egypt, my article “Embodied Images: Christian Response and Destruction in Late Antique Egypt” has just been published by Journal of Late Antiquity (online here).

Top 5 Photos on Flickr 21 October 2009

Posted by Troels in : Photography , add a comment

Although I only make a small portion of my Flickr photos publicly available and only contribute to groups when invited to do so, I have had 100,000+ views on my account (however, this is small fry when compared with, for example, museum photographer extraordinaire Hans Ollermann). So what kind of images are people searching for? Here’s a top 5 list of the most viewed images on my Flickr:

#1 Getty Villa, Malibu, US
Getty Villa i Malibu
With 8484 views (as of 17 October 2009), this shot of the Getty Villa in Malibu easily takes first place. Photo: TMK, January 2007.

#2 Deir el-Medina, Egypt
Deir el-Medina
With 2217 views, second place is taken by this overview of the site of Deir el-Medina in Western Thebes. Photo: TMK, May 2007.

#3 VDNKh, Moscow, Russia
Cockpit i Tupolev 154
This shot of the cockpit of a Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft (parked at VDNKh in Moscow) has had almost 1500 views, which can be explained by its (invited) inclusion in several aviation groups on Flickr. Photo: TMK, September 2005.
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Looking Up in Alexandria 20 October 2009

Posted by Troels in : Photography, Travel , add a comment

Continuing the series “Looking Up” begun with Baalbek back in May, I now turn to Alexandria. The series is mostly an excuse to post some photos on the blog, but the act of looking up (to ponder the monumentality of cathedrals, mosques, artworks, etc.) is in many ways an integral part of the tourist gaze which I occasionally try to capture.

Cistern beneath the Alexandria Serapeum

Cistern beneath the Serapeum in Alexandria. Photo: TMK, May 2008.

Fort Qaitbey Mosque

Fort Qaitbay mosque. Photo: TMK, May 2008.

“The Italians Have No Legal Title to Repatriation”: Another Glyptotek Update 18 October 2009

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology, Ethics , add a comment

P1060158
Reconstructed context: “Etruscan tomb” in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Photo: TMK, August 2006.

I have neglected to report on the on-going series of articles in the Danish newspaper Information on the negotiations between Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen and the Italian Cultural Ministry (previously discussed here, here, here, here, here, and here). The series resurfaced back in June but has since gone quiet, awaiting further developments in the case.

Here are links and some translations of the headlines:

16 June “Glyptotekets kunstskatte skaber kulturkamp” (“The treasures of the Glyptotek trigger a struggle for culture”) – with no comments from the Glyptotek, but including opposing views from Kjeld von Folsach, director of the David Collection, and Peter Watson, author of The Medici Conspiracy.

2 June “Glyptotekets forhandlinger med Italien om kunstskatte gået i stå” (“Glyptotek’s negotiations on art treasures with Italy have stalled”) – with comments from Erland Kolding Nielsen of the Royal Library who is chairing the negotiations with the Italians. He notes inter alia (my translation):

The Glyptotek should not accept the deal [the return of artefacts to Italy, such as an Etruscan chariot purchased from Robert Hecht in 1971, with no specified quid pro quo, TMK]. The demands of the Italians rest on the premise that the Glyptotek has acted illegally. But this is not the case – the Italians have no legal title to repatriation of the artefacts, neither from an international, EU nor Danish legal viewpoint.

It seems that the Glyptotek has a long way to go.

The Politics of Street Signs 17 October 2009

Posted by Troels in : Photography, Quick Notes, Travel , add a comment

Street sign in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem
Street sign in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. Photo: TMK, June 2009.

Just another small but potent reminder of the political nature of everyday spaces in the Old City of Jerusalem: In the Jewish Quarter, the vast majority of streets (always labelled in Hebrew, Arabic and English) have had their Arabic names vandalised. This is only partially an act of erasure, and just as much part of an on-going negotiation between regional politics and the local environment of the streets.

More on the contested spaces and archaeology of Jerusalem here.

A Day at the Tokyo National Museum 30 September 2009

Posted by Troels in : Photography, Travel , 1 comment so far

Tokyo National Museum
A manuscript in the Tokyo National Museum. Photo: TMK, February 2009.

Tokyo National Museum is one of the best museums I’ve visited in the last couple of years. Beautifully laid out with plenty of space around the exhibited objects (preventing the clutter effect that causes that experience of information overload in certain other museums), nice display cases, useful labels, atmospheric light and wonderful gardens. I especially liked the Japanese galleries that took different approaches to the material on two floors, chronological on one and thematic on the other. The archaeology galleries are also world class, with lots of Jōmon material (including some of the earliest pottery known). Spending a day there was all in all the perfect antidote to Shibuya and Shinjuku.

Buddha Triad
Buddha Triad in the Asian Galleries, Tokyo National Museum. Photo: TMK, February 2009.

The museum’s attention to detail was also evident from these umbrella stands!

Der er styr på paraplyerne
Umbrella stands, Tokyo National Museum. Photo: TMK, February 2009.

Staying Behind 29 September 2009

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology, Quick Notes , 1 comment so far

G.W.L. Harding (1901-1979)
The grave of G.L. Harding, Gerasa, Jordan. Photo: TMK, May 2009.

The archaeologist Gerald Lankester Harding is a name closely associated with Qumran as well as Jordanian and Palestinian archaeology in general. He is also one of the members of a small exclusive club of archaeologists that are buried on sites where they were active. The above photo shows his grave on the site of Jerash (Gerasa) in Jordan. I’m strangely fascinated by such cases, the ultimate manifestations of archaeologists that have gotten so attached to an archaeological site that they somehow never manage to leave. Another example is Kenan Erim who is buried at Aphrodisias. (more…)