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Posts tagged with 'antiquities'

Who was Artemis-Orthia?

8 August 2018 by Cicely Hill

When most people think of ancient Greece, the Classical city of Athens usually springs to mind. Yet, Sparta in the Peloponnese, is known as the military state and is the total antithesis of the city of Athens. This is where you would find the prolific Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, one of the most important religious sites in the ancient city and the centre of religious rituals that we still know very little about.

The World Museum has 83 lead votive offering figurines from the sanctuary in its collection. Other findings at the sanctuary – excavated by the British School at Athens in 1906 – included figurines made of terracotta and ivory, along with masks. The sheer number of offerings found at the site demonstrates the importance of the sanctuary.

A winged female figure votive offering

A winged female figure votive offering from the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia. Such representations are considered to be the goddess herself.

The lead figurines start to be offered around the 8th century B.C. The figurines at this time were well made, fairly thick and were cast in shapes that imitated expensive jewellery offerings, including earrings. In the following century (700-635BC) there was a boom in the different types of figurines being offered, including animals, both real and mythical, as well as representations of the goddess.

It’s at this time we see evidence of the goddess being addressed as ‘Orthia’ on pottery and tiles. Orthia is the Greek word for ‘standing’, but it also could have been the name given to the Spartan winged animal goddess of women and fertility.

Two main fragments of a decorative plaque

Two main fragments of a decorative plaque from a votive offering associated with the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia.

In later periods there is evidence of her being referred to as ‘Artemis-Orthia’. There’s a possibility that Orthia was merged with the Greek goddess ‘Artemis’, who has similar qualities being a mistress of the animals. However in Ancient Greek art representations, Artemis is often depicted as a maiden huntress in a skirt carrying a spear. In around 635-600 BC winged goddesses were popular, as well as women wearing skirts, suggesting that both interpretations of the goddess were used by different individuals at the same time.

Figurines dating to 600-500 BC suggest an ideological shift to the Greek style Artemis, rather than Orthia. In this period deer – Artemis’ most sacred animal – are introduced, and other animals decrease in number. Other gods, including Poseidon (Artemis’ uncle) and Hermes (Artemis’ half brother) also start being used along with warriors. This is also the peak time for the number of figurines found. The shift in figurines offered coincides with the building of a second temple around 570BC and an expansion of the old temple.

Fragments of a deer, a votive offering from the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia.

Fragments of a deer, a votive offering from the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia. Deer are associated with the hunting goddess Artemis.

The figurines gradually become poorer quality, and many of them have not survived. Around the 3rd century AD the Romans had taken over the region and built a theatre around the temple, welcoming tourists to watch ritual displays. It is probable that the figurines became more crude as the offerings became a novelty for tourists.

View our Artemis Orthia collection >

The Etruscans are here – online!

29 June 2018 by Gina

What do false teeth, a terracotta uterus and a focolare have in common? They are all objects selected by Dr Gina Muskett, our Honorary Research Associate (Classical Antiquities), as part of the 50 highlights of the Villanovan and Etruscan collection of World Museum.

Human teeth

Human teeth are part of the World Museum Etruscan collection

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It’s a kind of magic

22 February 2018 by Chrissy Partheni

Roman religion, especially during early Imperial times, was to a great extent formal and public, with organised rituals and hierarchies of divinity and priesthood. But there were also popular cults and informal religious practices and beliefs, like the ones represented in our collection of magical gem stones.  Read more…

A little history of LGBT+ love

14 February 2018 by Scott Smith

Love between LGBT+ people has existed throughout the whole of history, and our own collections testify to that fact. Here we’ve taken the opportunity to highlight some historical LGBT+ relationships that we think you should know about.

The artworks and objects discussed here are part of National Museums Liverpool’s collections and all relate in some way to intimate relationships between members of the same sex, both real and fictional, which go beyond platonic friendship in some way. All of these partnerships offer, in their own way, an alternative to the type of heterosexual relationship that continues to be socially dominant. Read more…

Ten missing animal mummies come home!

23 January 2018 by Ashley Cooke

Just before Christmas ten animal mummies were returned to World Museum after 40 years. The excitement all started in late October when I got an interesting message about a box of crocodiles and a cat from Hannah who works on the information desk at World Museum (it was like Christmas come early AND it was actually my birthday that day). Read more…

A taste of Ancient Greece

27 November 2017 by Chrissy Partheni

Travel through time, from prehistoric Crete and the Minoans to the Mycenaean palaces and tombs of the Peloponnese with our Ancient Greek collection.  Through the stories of our diverse range of objects you can discover the different phases of Ancient Greek history, including the sanctuaries of Artemis Orthia in Sparta, Hellenistic Ephesus and even lands as far as the Roman Cyzicus (now in Turkey), as well as learning how the interactions of ancient Greeks with other cultures facilitated the development of new ideas.

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Greece is the word

26 July 2017 by Chrissy Partheni

Curator of antiquities Chrissy Partheni delivering a Greek workshop.

What is a curator’s knowledge and passion if not shared? How important is it that we reach out to communities and make the future generation aware and proud of their heritage?

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Excavating in Kouklia, Cyprus

11 July 2017 by Chrissy Partheni

Manor House now used as the Museum building at Kouklia.

Nothing beats visiting archaeological sites and taking part in live excavations. While working on digitising the material from the Kouklia 1950s excavations in our collections I contacted Professor Maria Iacovou from the University of Cyprus about the Palaepaphos Urban Landscape Project (PULP) and current excavations at Kouklia in Cyprus as part of my documentation. I was delighted when Maria kindly invited me to visit the site and meet members of the team.

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Animals in the ancient Near East

28 June 2017 by Scott Smith

Jug in the form of a kneeling bull

Jug in the form of a kneeling cow or bull

The ancient Near East was a region that roughly corresponds to the modern Middle East (including Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria). World Museum’s Ancient Near East collection contains antiquities from the pre-classical civilisations of the ancient Near East and a selection of highlights from the collections is now available to view online for the first time…

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Revealing classical treasures at World Museum

6 June 2017 by Chrissy Partheni

The classical relief now visible in World Museum’s new cafe. The inscription reads Deus Nobis Haec Otia Fecit: God has given us these days of leisure.

I will never forget my first impression of Liverpool, almost 18 years ago. The impressive architecture of the city with its classical references was definitely an attraction to a Greek. But while it is easy to spot the classical influences on the exterior of Liverpool’s buildings, we often miss their interior decoration. The extension of our brand new café into the Mountford building is an excellent opportunity to view such prime examples and to perhaps think of the reasons why classical antiquity imagery became such an important narrative of civic pride and glory in 19th century Liverpool.

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Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.