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Himalayan Objects on Tour!

16 August 2018 by Alex Blakeborough

Part of the ongoing work we do here behind the scenes at World Museum involves dealing with loan requests from other museums. This usually happens when a museum is putting on an exhibition and they need extra objects from other collections to help tell their exhibition’s story. Read more…

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 >

A blood moon is coming!

25 July 2018 by Patrick Kiernan

Total Lunar eclipse. Image c/o alfredogarciajr via Flickr

This Friday 27 July we get the chance to see one of the wonders of the night sky: a total eclipse of the moon!

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Museums accessibility success

24 July 2018 by Tracey McGeagh

Visitors at the Museum of Liverpool.

We were delighted to find three of our museums listed in a piece about accessibility in the Liverpool Echo recently. Respected website Euan’s Guide includes World Museum, the Museum of Liverpool and Merseyside Maritime Museum in the top ten accessible attractions in Liverpool. Read more…

Adiós! Our Roman sculpture collection heads to Mexico

10 July 2018 by Chrissy Partheni

Over the last two years we have been preparing some of our collections of Roman sculpture for the exhibition, ‘Age of Reason’ at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

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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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Late night openings for Terracotta Warriors exhibition

26 June 2018 by Jennifer Grindley

Terracotta Warriors at World Museum. Image © Gareth Jones

Since our landmark exhibition China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors opened in February, we’ve welcomed over 300,000 visitors from across the country and around the world. For many, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see some of the incredible life-size figures from the burial site of China’s First Emperor. Read more…

Dragons in China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors

16 June 2018 by Joe

This weekend marks the Chinese holiday of the Dragon Boat Festival, an ancient celebration where boats are decorated in the form of dragons and raced in towns and cities across the country. To commemorate the festivities, we are exploring some of the dragon-themed objects on display in our landmark exhibition, China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors.

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New resources and quiet sessions for visitors with Autism and learning difficulties

10 May 2018 by Ann

Welcome guides for World Museum, Museum of Liverpool and Merseyside Maritime Museum

National Museums Liverpool, working with partners Autism Together, has signed up to the Autism Charter to help make our museums and galleries more autism-friendly for visitors, families and colleagues living with autism and learning difficulties.

We have produced a new range of Welcome guides for the museums and will be rolling out new guides for the galleries later in the year.  We’d love you to take a look and let us know what you think of them.  We hope they will help visitors prepare for a visit and answer many of your questions during a visit.  They can be downloaded from our website or copies can be borrowed from the information desks at World Museum, Museum of Liverpool and Merseyside Maritime Museum.

Read more…

China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors in numbers

4 May 2018 by Jennifer Grindley

From the tender age Qin Shi Huang first became king to the enormous terracotta army built to protect him for eternity, we delve into some of the astonishing numbers that make up the story of China’s First Emperor and his world-famous burial site.

Qin Shi Huang, China’s First Emperor

Qin Shi Huang, China’s First Emperor

 1974

Shaped like a pyramid and clearly visible above ground on the outskirts of China’s ancient capital Xi’an, the tomb mound of China’s First Emperor has been well-known for more than 2,000 years. Almost everything we think we know about it comes from the historian Sima Qian, writing a century later in the early Han Dynasty. Curiously though, his writings contain no mention of the vast terracotta army guarding the Emperor’s tomb and so their chance discovery on 29 March 1974 surprised the world.

13 years

The future First Emperor – then a prince named Ying Zheng – was just 13 years old when he became King of the Qin state in 246 BC. Remarkably, in just over a decade he overpowered the six remaining independent kingdoms of the Late Warring States Period (the Han, Zhao, Wei, Chu, Yan and Qi), declaring himself Qin Shi Huang, First Emperor of China, in 221 BC. According to Sima Qian, construction of the Emperor’s mausoleum began soon after he ascended the throne as King of Qin, whilst modern archaeological surveys suggest the scale and complexity of the site grew considerably when he became First Emperor.

A visualisation of Qin Shi Huang’s tomb mound. Image courtesy of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Museum.

5,000 kilometres

Stretching about 5,000 kilometres, the Great Wall of the Qin Dynasty was one of many ambitious construction projects completed during the First Emperor’s reign. Made of compressed earth, the wall connected, lengthened and fortified the pre-existing walls built by individual states during pre-unified times to create a single defensive system against northern tribes. With some sections remaining today, the wall was extended in later dynasties to become the Great Wall of China and stretches over 20,000 kilometres.

200 times bigger

Spanning 56 square kilometres, Qin Shi Huang’s burial site is the biggest-known on earth and is almost 200 times bigger than the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Poised for battle to protect the Emperor in his afterlife, the terracotta warriors are buried in three pits to the east of the Emperor’s mausoleum. A fourth pit has been left empty, suggesting the Emperor died before his immortal army could be completed.

General Qin Dyansty (221-206 BC), Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum. Image © Mr. Ziyu Qiu.

1.8 metres

Standing at an average of 1.8 metres, the life-size terracotta warriors are far taller than an average citizen of the Qin Dynasty would have been. Incredibly, each warrior also weighs between 110 and 300 kilos. Not surprising then, that archaeologists estimate the creation of the warriors alone – who are thought to number almost 8,000 – would have taken at least 10 years to complete.

 600 pits

The scale of the terracotta army is even more impressive when you consider it is only a small part of the First Emperor’s grand preparations for the afterlife. Designed like a microcosm of his earthly world, more than 600 pits to date have been identified across the burial site. Only a tiny number have been excavated so far, revealing a trove of riches including armour, chariots, terracotta musicians, cauldrons and weapons so that in death, as in life, the Emperor had everything he needed to rule.

700,000 labourers

In a monumental feat of engineering and organisation, an estimated 700,000 labourers from all corners of the Empire toiled for almost 40 years to construct the Emperor’s tomb complex. Work even continued after the Emperor’s unexpected death at the age of 49 in 210 BC. In the 1980s, 42 mass graves were uncovered near the mausoleum, and archaeologists believe these belong to the workers who were buried to keep the secrets of the First Emperor’s underground kingdom once it was completed.

15 years

For all the elaborate preparations the First Emperor made to rule eternally, his Qin Dynasty collapsed after only 15 years following a period of civil war. The popular revolt was finally quelled in 206 BC, and Liu Bang was proclaimed Emperor of the Han Dynasty. This makes it by far China’s shortest ruling dynasty. Despite its brief tenure though, the Qin Dynasty’s political, social and cultural achievements were immense and laid the foundations for the China we know today.

See incredible finds from this eighth wonder of the world at our blockbuster exhibition, China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors that runs until Sunday 28 October 2018.



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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.