Friday 19 July 2019

Gaza Apollo - the story continues

Ever since a bronze statue of Apollo surfaced - and then promptly disappeared - in Gaza over five years ago, historians, curators, collectors, political groups and just about everyone have been yearning to either possess it or at least get a better look and know more about it. Currently, it appears to be in the custody of Hamas - and perhaps not likely to re-emerge any time soon.

In the meantime, a documentary by Nicolas Wadimoff was released last year and Al Jazeera have announced an abridged version. See it here while it lasts (until 14 August 2019). Frankly, I could do without the cheesy philosophical interludes but the film does offer a few excellent insights into some of the context and characters involved.

My personal thoughts? I suspect the statue is authentic (ancient Greek or a Roman copy) but its condition does not seem to suggest that it was lying under the sea for centuries. I tend to think it was originally found on dry land and perhaps, as one of the people in the film speculates, dropped overboard for some reason while being transported in modern times. It's quite possible it was being smuggled by boat between two other countries and jettisoned or lost off the Gazan coast when the venture was inconveniently interrupted. Who knows?

At any rate, whatever its origin, my two greatest concerns - assuming the statue really is authentic - are that it is likely to be in urgent need of conservation and that it eventually ends up properly curated on public display.

My thanks to Michael Press for publicising this news.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Latest find at Vindolanda

Loving this latest find announced yesterday (15 July 2019) by the Vindolanda Trust. The artefact was merely described as a "beautiful little oil lamp that was uncovered from the Antonine excavation" but I'll flesh that out a bit with my own analysis. The object is a Firmalampe (factory lamp), a late form of Loeschcke Type X, and was made in the Rhineland during the 2nd century AD. Although Trier was the prime production centre, the style and fabric here suggest it was possibly made in Cologne. Many examples bear a maker's mark in raised letters on the base, sometimes of an Italian maker with a branch workshop(?) in the Rhineland, but the marks are less common on this later style.

Oil lamps never really caught on to a large extent in Britain. British-made examples tend to be relatively crude and typically mica-dusted. A large proportion of the oil lamps found in Britain were imported, normally from Gaul, Germany or Italy. They are found mainly in urban or military contexts, and are very rarely found in any context at all after the 2nd or 3rd century.

The likely reasons for their comparative rarity in Britain are the cost of importing olive oil and their unfamiliarity outside urban or military environments. The preferred lighting in most of Britain consisted of open lamps (e.g. Loeschcke Type XI) burning animal fat, or possibly tallow candles.



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