The astrolabe was an instrument used to predict the positions of the planets and tell time and longitude and latitude. The astrolabe was first invented around 150BCE, but many improvements were made to it over the next several centuries. It was especially important in the Muslim world, where it was used to determine the location of Mecca.
Guest post written by Allison Miller, ROMKids Educator. Last update: January 7, 2014.
Liz Butler Draws The ROM: Tang Dynasty Horses!
Inspired by a recent Weapons Wednesday post, I headed off to the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery of China to draw earthenware horse sculptures, from the Tang Dynasty.
These ceramic sculptures all show a great understanding of the forms of the bodies of horses, and often convey the personality of the horses as well. But these impressive horse sculptures were not meant to be admired in galleries or homes; these sculptures were part of funerary rituals. Sculptures representing aspects of earthly life (human and animal figures, especially horses and camels) were buried with noble-people. These beautiful ceramics became especially popular as burial items during the Tang Dynasty, after it became illegal to be buried with precious metals like gold or silver.
Some of the ceramic Tang Dynasty horses in the museum’s collection show a very distinctive type of glazing, known as sancai. Sancai glazes were created using heavy metals, and their bright colours are still vibrant today. In addition to the distinctive colours, the way artisans applied these glazes was also unique – the glazes often ended in drips, forming animated patterns on the figures they covered.
When you visit this gallery, look for ceramic figures with sancai glazes. What do you think of this drippy, expressive technique?
- Liz Butler is an artist and teacher who loves natural history and museums. She loves drawing, painting, and making crafts of all kinds. She is happiest when she can find ways to combine art projects with science content.
- Liz’s Website – Liz Butler Draws
- Liz’s Blog – Saw Whet Studio
- More guest posts from Liz HERE!
- Do you like to sketch? Love museums? Are you a full time student in Canada? The ROM is yours to explore, FREE, every Tuesday! MORE!
Guest Post By Liz Butler. Last Updated: February 10th, 2014.
Lamassu on the Move!
This custom built Lamassu piece, built for our just finished Mesopotamia Exhibit, is moving. Unlike the rest of the artifacts and sets which are travelling back to their museums ‘round the world, this ancient god will find a permanent home somewhere else in the ROM. Watch for it to reappear later this Winter!
Weapon Wednesday: The Horse
The horse is not just a form of transportation, but is a weapon in itself. The genus Equus is thought to have evolved over 4 million years ago in North America, specialising in being able to eat the grass of the steppelands and run away from predators. North American horses later became extinct, possibly due to hunting by humans, although various species of horse, asses and zebras thrived in the Old World. When they first appear in the archaeological record they are probably being hunted by early Modern Humans, as they are depicted with other prey species in Upper Palaeolithic cave art. By about 4,000 years ago humans domesticated the horse, possibly in a number of centres in Central Asia, Western Asia, and also Arabia. It seems not entirely certain that horses were actually used to ride on but certain authors certainly thought they were. The Royal Standard of Ur is thought to show the first chariot, 4-wheeled and dated to 2600-2400 BC, but it is questionable whether these vehicles were drawn by horses or asses, or possibly even a cross between the two! Certainly within a few hundred years two-wheeled chariots are widespread, and are often found in burials with what are recognizably domesticated horses.
Chariot warfare continued to be an important aspect of warfare across the Old World for some centuries, the Battle of Kadesh in about 1274 BC between the Egypt under Ramesses II and the Hittite Empire under Muwatalli II being arguably the most famous chariot battle of this time. But chariots were only useful on flat terrain and for relatively light fighting, using archery and javelins, it could never charge straight into a force of foot soldiers who were determined to stand their ground. The tactic of chariot warfare is actually preserved in chess, for the “L” shaped path of the Knight is actually that of a chariot, charging forward and then attacking from the side. Eventually chariots became used more for ceremony, transport, symbolism, and for racing.
For many years the balance between cavalry and infantry was quite balanced, with exceptions like the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC in which Parthian horse-archers annihilated a much larger army of Roman infantry under Crassus. Eventually Rome fell to horseman, and it is [ossible that these horseman used an important new invetion: the stirrup. The origins of the stirrup are not fully known. The horse-peoples of Central Asia probably knew how to ride before they could walk, and had little need for such devices, but there is occasionally evidence of them. In India there was an early tradition of the horse-rider putting their big toes through a loop of rope on each side of the horse, but this is not a stirrup. Whatever the stirrups true origins, it was adopted in a large scale in China, with clear evidence in the 4the century AD and being widespread by the 5th century.
Stirrups became widespread across the Old World, and horse-borne warriors came to dominate societies from the knights of Europe to the Samurai of Japan, and everywhere in between. The stirrup defined a new period, the Age of the Stirrup, which lends justification for extending the term “Mediaeval” for the period between the Ancient cultures and the beginnings of gunpowder. During the mediaeval period some horse warriors, and their horse became very heavily armoured, and all of society was geared to maintain these warriors. However, even after gunpowder swept the heavily armoured warrior from the battlefields, the horse remained important in warfrae until the 20th century.
To this day humans have a very close relationship with horses, and the symbolism of the free running horse is still quite potent. In the Chinese calendar the Year of the Horse is a dynamic year for freedom, travel, and adventure.
- Model of a chariot pulled by two horses, Ceramic (earthenware, modelled), wooden parts modern reconstruction, 19th-16th century BC, Middle Bronze; Old Babylonian, Ishchali, Mesopotamia (Iraq), 17.5 cm wide, #931.44.58, on display in the Wirth Gallery of the Middle East, (ROM Photography).
- Silver didrachm with Jupiter on a chariot; struck silver; Rome, Italy; Roman Republican period; about 225 BC; 989.117.1, on display in the Eaton Gallery of Rome (ROM Photography).
- This Chinese Burial figure of a horse is dated to the mid 7th century, note the stirrup.Moulded earthenware with hand-made components and glaze, Tang Dynasty, 33cm high, from the George Crofts Collection, #918.21.278, on display in the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery of China.
- Robert Mason is a ROM archaeologist. See his previous posts HERE. Follow him on twitter HERE.
- Original post found HERE.
- All images by ROM Photography.
Post by Robert Mason. Last updated: February 1st, 2014
The Tomb of General Zu Dashou, otherwise known as the Ming Tomb
Brought to the Museum in 1921, it wasn’t confirmed to be the General’s tomb until 2005. This section of the gallery is designed to look like it would have in the mid 1600s when it was originally built.
The amount of light that is reflected off of the snow can inflame the cornea. Snow goggles restrict the amount of light getting into your eyes. They could be made of wood/ivory/bone, etc.
It’s fascinating to think about the different inventions people have used to adapt to their environment.
Guest post written by Allison Miller, ROMKids Educator. Last update: January 7, 2014.
so my friends and I went to the Royal Ontario Museum last weekend…
Incredibly accurate recreations of ancient Greek statues.
Thanks for visiting!
Cylinder Seals: Printing the Mesopotamian Way
Cylinder seals were primarily an administrative tool and could be worn as jewelry as well when a string was placed through the whole.
The first cylinder seals from Mesopotamia were about 3,500BC and they were used for about 3,000 years. Your cylinder seal was unique to you. Cylinder seals became more complex as the cuneiform writing system continued to develop and more written expressions were needed.
Write like a Babylonian!
Guest post written by Allison Miller, ROMKids Educator. Last update: January 3, 2013.
Senet is an ancient Egyptian board game that is being played all week at the ROM. I got curious and looked it up in my handy dandy dictionary, it seems like it was the name; I thought it would mean something else ha.
I’m volunteering for most of the week at the ROM so come and find me. The theme for the holiday is Toys, Games and Gatherings so they’re showcasing games and activities from all over the world and across history. More info can be found here. I’m helping out with promoting a new App called ScopifyROM but I’ll there :)
Things I’ve learned from playing Senet:
- Gorgeous game that reminds me how much I miss LOST.
- It takes forever to play. So would be a great game for the afterlife.
Also, everyone needs to check out Scopify! It’s a free app, and you get to see inside a cat mummy, and put skin on to a Futalognkosaurus! You might also just meet Samantha and Kelsey while you’re at it!
— Kiron/ROMKids (@ROMKids)