The Cow Under The Museum
Sometimes when you make a museum, you find something worthy of belonging in it underneath.
This cow bone was unearthed while building the Museum, on the side closest to Bloor. Though not significantly old, it’s wonderful that the construction staff had the foresight to keep it, as the bone provides a unique look into the past of our bustling metropolis.
Written by @kironcmukherjee. Last update: March 17th, 2014.
Daggers of Luristan
In museum circles the region of Luristan in the Zagros Mountains of Iran has a long association with the antiquities looted from tombs there in the 1920’s and 30’s. These objects seem to be primarily from the Early Iron Age (circa 1000 BC - 750 BC), and comprise an array of distinctive objects that include horse bridles and other equipment; fittings possibly associated with chariots; and an array of weapons, primarily of bronze. These “Luristan bronzes" flooded the market for a while, and some archaeologists also excavated in the region to give the finds some context. However, most of the material associated with Luristan is based on the attribution of dealers. This includes two interesting weapons in the ROM collection.
The first of these is a bronze short sword or dagger (ROM #938.35) which bears a cuneiform inscription in Akkadian saying that it belongs to Marduk-shapik-zeri, “King of the World.” Marduk-shapik-zeri (which means “Marduk the outpourer of seed”, Marduk being the great god of Babylon). Marduk-shapik-zeri was king of Babylon from about 1082 to 1069 BC, so the weapon will have the same date. The association with Luristan is therefore entirely due to the dealer’s attribution, it being acquired from the noted dealer Dikran G. Kelekian in 1938. Conceivably the weapon was taken to Luristan as a diplomatic gift or as booty in subsequent centuries.
The second object seems more reliably associated with Iran, although it is actually made of iron, not bronze. The iron dagger (ROM# 931.19.10) was purchased from Sotheby’s in 1931, and apparently ninety of this style are known, although none are from a specific site. The ROM’s object provides a major contribution to our knowledge of these daggers, however, as it has been radio-carbon dated using accelerator mass-spectrometry to 1044 plus or minus 60 years BC (since the date is of the carbon in the object derived from the wood used to smelt the object, the date of the object would probably be 15 years later). Like most iron in this period, it is generally low carbon, but it is very heterogenous with higher carbon areas, essentially being “steel”, the alloy of iron and carbon.
So here we have two objects made in the same general area, at about the same time, for what seems to be the same purpose. So why is one made of iron or steel and the other is bronze? It is a common misconception that iron or steel is functionally superior to bronze. The quality of the iron or steel is an important consideration and these early irons are not of the quality of later steel anyway, but even so tests of bronze against iron weapons have shown that the iron is not actually superior to a well-made bronze weapon. The advantage of iron over bronze is the economy of the material itself. Bronze is made of copper and tin, two relatively rare materials - especially tin, which may even have been imported from Britain in this period. Iron is a relatively common material, and once the process of smelting it had been developed, it was possible to supply much more metal for use in weapons and tools. Hence bronze weapons would have continued to be produced as long as people could afford them!
A further interesting aspect of these weapons is how they were used. Daggers are held in a number of specific ways which dictate to a certain degree how you fight with them. The dagger of Marduk-shapik-zeri has a distinct grip that looks odd at first, but when you hold it your hand naturally takes on the “fencer’s” grip, with the forefinger and thumb settled into the embayments in the grip. The iron dagger is quiet unwieldy in this grip, as has been mentioned by other authors, but in fact it works very well in the “ice-pick” grip, which I would associate with fighting against heavily armoured opponents.
- ROM #938.35, the dagger of Marduk-shapik-zeri, 43.6 cm long (ROM Photography)
- Detail of inscription on ROM #938.35, the dagger of Marduk-shapik-zeri (ROM Photography)
- Iron dagger ROM# 931.19.10, 40.3 cm long (ROM Photography)
- Detail of iron dagger ROM# 931.19.10 (ROM Photography), showing bearded heads which were made separately and then forged onto the main piece. These daggers are thought to be high-status items, the pinnacle of the metal workers craft at the time.
- 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: April 7th, 2014
#REgenerationtour: The Tropical Spice Garden
By Emile Watanabe, 10 years old
During my stay in Penang, Malaysia I met a nice boy named Ian Minton. He is traveling the world with his family just like me. We met him through a Facebook group that my mom is connected to called Families on the move. He is from Texas, USA . We went to The Tropical Spice Gardens with him and his mom.
Malaysia is very well know for its spices because the British and Dutch explorers and traders brought many incredible spices to the country. Here are some things about spices, plants and herbs that we learned at The Gardens.
- Tumeric (a type of orange coloured ginger) is used as dye for the orange robes of the monks in India.
- The Pandan Leaf is used in Asia to make a sweet dessert with cream. I had one in Thailand and it was really good!
- Stevia, a local plant, is used as a natural sweetener for tea, coffee and other drinks. You can also make delicious desserts with it. Our guide let us taste it and it was really tasty!
- Citronnella is a lemony smelling plant that is used for bug repellant all over Malaysia. Unlike lemongrass, cirtonnella is a herb and is not edible.
- Lemongrass is a lemony plant just like citronnella but is used for cooking soups and stir frys. It is believed to fight cancer cells and it’s used to lose weight when put in a tea. We learned that locals smash the leaves to make a dish more flavourful.
- Bamboo, the pandan leaf, wheat and rice are all part of the grass family.
- There are at least 1000 types of bamboo. We saw green, golden, black and fishing pole bamboo.
- The Palmae is one of the largest growing palm trees in the world.
- Torch ginger is the only ginger the Malays use although there are approximately ten types of ginger.
- Follow the rest of the #REgenerationtour HERE!
- Anthony’s (Dad) blog on the environmental mission: www.the-regeneration.com
- Rose’s (Mom) blog shares the family experience on the road:www.yolomomonthego.wordpress.com
- You can also follow Emile on Instagram @emiwata15!
- Check out the rest of our #ROMKidsGoesWhere series HERE!
Hidden beneath our mastodon skeleton is a rarely viewed case containing one of our most overlooked specimens- a clump of mammoth hair.
Unlike non-avian dinosaurs that went extinct 65 million years ago, Ice Age mammals like mammoth only died out around 10 thousand years ago, creating much more favourable conditions to last into the present. The best preserved mammoths (and even wooly rhinoceros) are often frozen in ice, allowing organic material to remain, like skin and the hair above. The hair gives scientists an amazing opportunity to literally peer into the past and see what these red haired ice elephants looked and even felt like.
- National Geographic: Can Purported Mammoth Blood Revive Extinct Species?
- National Geographic: Of Mammoths and Men
- Nature World News: Yuka - the World’s Best Preserved woolly Mammoth on Public Display in Japan
Written by @kironcmukherjee. Last update: March 13rd, 2014.
~12,000 year old muskox skull from Toronto
Muskox are now only natively found in northern Canada and Greenland. During the last Ice Age however, muskox could be found as far south as Toronto, Canada, far from their range today. Recently, populations have also been introduced in parts of Europe like Norway and Russia.
- Large Herbivore Network: Reintroduction Of Musk Ox In The Northern Russia
- Dolly Jørgensen: Where the muskox roam
Written by @kironcmukherjee. Last update: March 23rd, 2014.
The Queen’s Quay Killer Whale
Certainly one of the most historically surprising pieces on display, this ~500 year old killer whale vertebrae found in downtown Toronto has cemented itself in our history as a city urban legend.
In 1987, while building the light rail transit line at what is now Queens Quay Station, TTC construction workers unearthed this startling bone, posing the question, how did a killer whale end up in Lake Ontario? Killer whales, as ocean faring mammals, are found all over the world, except in fresh water. After much study, mystery and worldwide acclaim, this vertebrae found it’s way to the city, not naturally, but by human hand. ROM led research by Kevin Seymour, indicates that the bone is authentic, though not native, and seems to have been brought to the city and dumped in Lake Ontario by a traveller 200 years ago.
Sometimes something seemingly significant is actually just the misplaced belonging of a long ago person.
- Torontoist: Queen’s Quay Whale Relic’s Origin Remains Murky
- Documentary: Whale Of A Tale
- Image 2, Killer whale in the southern Ross Sea. By Robert L. Pitman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Written by @kironcmukherjee. Last update: March 17th, 2014.
Happy 100th birthday, ROM!
More AMAZING photos celebrating our 100th birthday!
Liz Butler Draws The ROM: The Gallery of Greece
This week I headed off to the Gallery of Greece to see beautiful artworks and artifacts from the Ancient Mediterranean!
If you have an interest in Western art history, this gallery is an amazing place to visit. Ancient Greek sculptors, after many generations and periods of development, devised a highly representational style of sculpting marble that has been admired by artists ever since! In fact, as you read about the sculptures in the gallery, you may notice that some of the marble sculptures are Roman copies of Greek originals. Ancient Romans were just as taken with Classical Greek sculpture as many artists and admirers are today, and they copied and built upon this Greek style.
But it wasn’t just the Romans who were taken with these amazing artworks. Artists through some of the most important movements in Western art history have looked back to these ancient sculptures for inspiration as well. Artworks from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical movements all drew inspiration from those early Greek works.
What do you think of these ancient sculptures? Can you see any similarities between these artworks and more recent artworks in the other culture galleries in the ROM?
- 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: March 25th, 2014.