September 30, 2007

Contemplating the past.

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15 comments:

ricpic said...

There have been many Roddy McDowalls, sad to say.

tjl said...

But only one Constantine the Great, whose bust this appears to be.

LarsPorsena said...

Looks like Constantine to me too.
In hoc signe vincit.

rightwingprof said...

We were in the JP Morgan Library yesterday.

tjl said...

"In hoc signo vinces."

No Constantine, no bond of Athens and Jerusalem, no Western Civilization as we know it.

Gedaliya said...

I believe this confirms the Constantine hypothesis.

Ralph said...

I've never seen an explanation for the pointed bottoms of amphora.

Gedaliya said...

I've never seen an explanation for the pointed bottoms of amphora.

Wikipedia has this to say about it:

Most were produced with a pointed base to allow them to be stored in an upright position by being partly embedded in sand or soft ground.

Peter Palladas said...

Most were produced with a pointed base to allow them to be stored in an upright position by being partly embedded in sand or soft ground.

Wiki update:

"However, some were produced that way just to give the maids a really hard time and to keep them on their toes. In a few rare cases it is recorded that the woman of the house used the pointy end to bean her feckless husband. Castration of young pigs has also been hypothesised as an alternative use, but no archaeological evidence of this by way of pierced porkine scrota has yet been uncovered. But hey who cares? It's a cool possibility."

Don't you just love the open book that is Wikiworld?

Ralph said...

So they screwed them into the ground. I guess the Greeks weren't big on flooring. I'd assumed it had something to do with ship stowage.

Joan said...

I assumed it had something to do with the sediment of the wine settling to the bottom, and the container's design allowed more clear wine to be poured off, minimizing the dregs.

Also, in pottery making, it's a lot easier to make a tapered vessel than one with a flat bottom, especially in larger sizes. The tapered bottoms would be less fragile during throwing and firing.

Ann Althouse said...

I thought it was something to do with stacking them on ships. Let me check the NYT archive. Here, from August 14, 2001: "In fact, the long, pointed bottom of the typical amphora gave it an excellent shape for stacking against a ship's hull, according to Dr. Shelley Wachsmann, a nautical and biblical archaeologist at the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. ''If you visualize three or four amphorae next to each other with the sides touching, there is a hole in the middle where the circles meet,'' he explained. ''If they are stacked in layers, an amphora in the next layer would rest in that hole.' In the evolution of amphorae, Dr. Wachsmann said, they often began rounded and egg-shaped and shifted to pointed, because the long bottom of the brittle pottery jar better withstood the pressure of being pushed sideways. The ancient shipper made sure his valuable wine or oil was carefully packed, Dr. Wachsmann said. In many shipwrecks, he said, amphorae are found still neatly stacked, though the packing between them has usually disappeared."

And that head -- which is really huge -- is Constantine.

Trooper York said...

Is that really Constantine? I know he got big head after American Idol, but this is ridiculous.

Ralph said...

Presumably, that's all ceremonial pottery not designed for everyday use. I wonder if anyone can still do that kind of decoration in clay. There may be more than one reason it's out of fashion.

Ralph said...

Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University
That's an unexpected combination.