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Travel

Zurich’s Great Museums

On a recent business trip to Zurich, I had the opportunity to tour two of the city’s great repositories of Swiss history and culture: the Museum Rietberg and the Landesmuseum Zürich (English: Swiss National Museum). Both house sumptuous works of art and special rotating exhibitions.

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Exhibitions

Sunken Cities at the British Museum

When you visit the Sunken Cities exhibition at the British Museum, you feel as if you are diving beneath the waters of the Nile River. You pass through a corridor illuminated by blue light and into galleries painted in a navy blue. There are dappled lighting effects to imitate water – it’s a wonder they don’t hand out snorkels to complete the illusion. The idea works, however, and you feel just like the archaeologists whose work has formed the basis for this display. It is as if you are discovering a world that has been hidden for more than a thousand years.

Pink granite garden vat. Thonis-Heracleion, Egypt, Ptolemaic Period, 4th–2nd century BC. Photo © Christoph Gerigk and Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation. Sunken Cities exhibition.
Archaeologists investigate a pink granite garden vat from Thonis-Heracleion, Egypt, Ptolemaic Period, 4th – 2nd century BCE. Photo by Christoph Gerigk; © Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation.
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Photos

Assyrian Wall Reliefs from the Sulaymaniyah Museum

Most, if not all, of our readership knows about the intentional destruction of ancient artifacts, buildings, mosques, shrines, and the contents of Mosul museum contents by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Governorate of Mosul in Iraq is the site of several ancient Assyrian cities (Nimrud, Kouyunjik, and Dur-Sharrukin), in addition to Hatra. The 3,000 year old ancient city of Kalhu (modern-day Nimrud; Biblical Calah) received the bulk of the blow, and a propaganda video issued by ISIS in April 2015 showed the dramatic and shocking explosion of the northwest palace of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II.

The in situ artifacts of Nimrud were composed of palace wall reliefs, mainly from the northwest palace of Ashurnasirpal II,and few lamassu, which are mythical human-headed and winged bulls or lions. Thanks to the great work and excavations conducted by archaeologists from many parts of the world, in addition to Iraqis, artifacts from the Assyrian city of Nimrud are now displayed to the public in many museums and private collections all around the globe.

Detail of a gypsum wall relief from the North-West at Nimrud. What has survived is a left hand of an Apkallu (Akkadian, which means sage). The hand grips on the handle of a buckle. The buckle is supposed to contain a fluid (?water for purification). The cuneiform text of the so-called "Standard Inscription" of Ashurnasirpal II runs over the relief. At the right upper angle, part of the "Sacred Tree" appears. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
Detail of a gypsum wall relief from the northwest at Nimrud. What has survived is the left hand of an apkallu (Akkadian word meaning “sage”). The hand grips on the handle of a buckle. The buckle is supposed to contain a fluid, perhaps water for purification. The cuneiform text of the so-called “standard inscription” of Ashurnasirpal II runs over the relief. At the right upper angle, part of the “sacred tree” appears. From the northwest Palace at Nimrud (room and panel numbers are unknown). Northern Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq. Assyrian, 865-860 BCE. On display, the Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
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Exhibitions Photos

Visiting the Erbil Civilization Museum

I was attending a neurology event in Erbil (the ancient city of Arbela also known as Hawler in Kurdish), which is the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan. The last time I had visited the Erbil Civilization Museum (Kurdish: موزه خانه ي شاره ستاني هه ولير  ; Arabic: متحف أربيل الحضاري) was in September 2014. In comparison to the Sulaymaniyah Museum (the other archaeological museum in Iraqi Kurdistan), this museum is much smaller in terms of size and number of displayed antiquities. However, it has a considerable collection of interesting artifacts to view. The following is a tour of some of the museum’s highlights, which are little-known outside of Iraq.

Erbil Civilization Museum, Hawler City, Erbil Governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
Erbil Civilization Museum, Erbil Governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
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Travel

Mosaics of Spain’s Roman Baetica Route: Archaeological Museum of Seville

On a recent trip to southern Spain, I travelled along the Roman Baetica Route and visited many of the archaeological sites and museums that Andalusia has to offer. Among the plethora of ancient treasures to be found in the region, I was particularly impressed by the incredible mosaics I came across.

The Roman Baetica Route is an ancient Roman road that passes through fourteen cities of the provinces of Seville, Cadiz, and Córdoba, which correspond to modern-day Andalusia. It runs through the most southern part of the Roman province of Hispania and includes territories also crossed by the Via Augusta. The route connected Hispalis (Seville) with Corduba (Córdoba) and Gades (Cádiz). The word Baetica comes from Baetis, the ancient name for the river Guadalquivir.

The Roman Baetica Route

 

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Exhibitions Photos

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

Leiden, Netherlands is not exactly the first place that comes into mind when you think about ancient history. Even if you are in the city, you would most likely walk past the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities) without noticing it. Hidden in an unremarkable building in the historic city center, it’s nothing like entering the magnificent building of the Louvre or the British Museum. Yet, judging the book by its cover would be a huge mistake. Once inside, right in the middle of the entrance hall, you are greeted with an actual Egyptian temple, built c. 2000 years ago, originally dedicated to Isis and later used as a Christian church, transported to the museum stone by stone from Taffeh, Egypt.

Temple of Taffeh
A real 2000-year-old Egyptian temple from the village Taffeh in the National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden. Photo © Ibolya Horvath

Categories
Exhibitions Travel

Visiting the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

During my last visit to London, I resided in a hotel at Gower Street of Bloomsbury. By chance, I discovered a hidden gem within the heart of University College London while surfing Google. It was located just few minutes away from me: the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. The Museum lies at Malet Place, hidden away from the main streets.

The Museum’s building and façade do not convey any message to the public that this is one of the most important museums in the world, housing more than 80,000 ancient Egyptian objects and artifacts! Actually, it ranks fourth, after the Cairo Museum, the British Museum, and the Egyptian Museum of Berlin in terms of the number of quality of ancient Egyptian objects. I emailed the Museum, requesting permission to take no-flash photos of the objects. Ms. Maria Ragan, the manager of the Museum, kindly replied and granted me permission. OK, let’s go!

The facade of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London, Malet Place London. The entrance door is just behind the walking women (with the blue dress). It will take you to the upper floor where the Museum's rooms are located. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
The facade of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London, Malet Place
London. The entrance door is just behind the walking women (with the blue dress). It will take you to the upper floor where the Museum’s rooms (halls) are located. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
Categories
Exhibitions

A Visit to Rome’s Centrale Montemartini Museum

During a recent trip to Rome, I paid a long overdue visit to the Centrale Montemartini, an annexe of the Capitoline Museums located on the Via Ostiense just beyond Porta San Paolo.

Centrale Montemartini was Rome’s first electrical power station when it opened in 1912, and was later converted into a museum of ancient Roman art in the late 1990s. Like the Tate Modern in London, Centrale Montemartini places art in an industrial setting but, unlike the Tate, the imposing machinery has not been moved out. The engines’ grey mass provides a stark contrast to the white marble and offers a unique backdrop for classical art.

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.

Centrale Montemartini has a collection of about four hundred sculptures, reliefs and mosaics dating from the Republican to the late Imperial era. The works of art, exhibited in chronological order, are part of an outstanding collection of classical sculptures from the excavations carried out in Rome between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. The masterpieces were moved here during the reorganisation of the Capitoline Museums in 1997 to create space in the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Museo Nuovo. The Montemartini power plant’s outstanding space made it possible to display monumental sculptures and reconstructions of architectural structures, such as the pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus and the huge mosaic of hunting scenes from Santa Bibiana.

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.

The museum is divided into four areas. The atrium on the ground floor has information panels that illustrate the history of the building. They also examine the characteristics of the main machines used inside the plant.

Column Room

The next room is the Column Room which displays a rich collection from the Republican era. Exhibited here are architectural decorations, a group of sculptures in Peperino tufa (a grey volcanic stone from the Albani Hills), beautiful mosaics with seascapes and a series of portraits dating to the 1st century BCE.

Pediment with Triton, 1st century BCE, from a funerary building on the Via Salaria Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum.
Pediment with Triton, 1st century BCE, from a funerary building on the Via Salaria Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Pediment with Triton, 1st century BCE, from a funerary building on the Via Salaria, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Pediment with Triton, 1st century BCE, from a funerary building on the Via Salaria, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Statue of Orpheus charming the animals in Peperino, 2nd century BCE, from the Via Tiburtina, Via Tiburtina Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Statue of Orpheus charming the animals in Peperino, 2nd century BCE, from the Via Tiburtina, Via Tiburtina Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Mosaic with maritime scenes, from the Via Panisperna in Rome, late 2nd - early Ist century BC, it once decorated the pool of a Roman bath, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Mosaic with maritime scenes, from the Via Panisperna in Rome, late 2nd – early 1st century BCE, it once decorated the pool of a Roman bath, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The so-called Togatus Barberini group, a funerary statue depicting a Roman senator holding the imagines (effigies) of deceased ancestors, late 1st century BC, head (not belonging) middle 1st century BC Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The so-called Togatus Barberini group, a funerary statue depicting a Roman senator holding the imagines (effigies) of deceased ancestors, late 1st century BCE, head (not original) middle 1st century BCE
Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Portrait of Marcus Vispanius Agrippa, Augustus and of a a political personality (possibly Mark Antony), Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Portrait of Marcus Vispanius Agrippa, Augustus and of a a political personality (possibly Mark Antony), Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.

Engine Room

On the second floor, the Engine Room is the largest and most impressive room. Here, a series of exquisite marble statues and rare Greek originals are arranged around two huge diesel engines and a steam turbine.

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome
The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Statue of the so-called Athena of Castro Pretorio, Hellenistic statue (mid 3rd century BC) based on 6th century BC models, from the Via Mentena & Statue of bearded Dionysus, copy after Greek original of the 2nd half of 4th century BC, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Statue of the so-called Athena of Castro Pretorio, Hellenistic statue (mid-3rd century BCE) based on 6th century BCE models, from the Via Mentena & Statue of bearded Dionysus, copy after Greek original of the 2nd half of the 4th century BCE, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Statuette of Asklepios, small-scale copy after a 5th century BC original attributed to Phidias or Alkamenes & Discophoros (disk-bearer), Roman copy of a Greek original of the late Classical period attributed to Naukydes of Argos, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Statuette of Asklepios, small-scale copy after a 5th century BCE original attributed to Phidias or Alkamenes & Discophoros (disk-bearer), Roman copy of a Greek original of the late Classical period attributed to Naukydes of Argos, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.

The Engine Room also houses two sculptures of exceptional artistic quality that were found in 1885 on the Caelian Hill during excavations. The two fragmented pieces were found inside a late-antique wall where they were reused as material construction. The restorers of the 19th century reassembled the two statues. The first one is a statue in basanite of Agrippina the Younger represented in the act of praying. The head is a moulded copy of the statue on display in the Ny Carsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen (see image here). The second statue, made in dark grey marble (bigio antico), is known as the Victory of the Symmachi (an aristocratic family of the late Roman Empire). It is considered to be a work dating to the late Republican, most probably representing a dancing woman like the one from Perge in the Antalya Museum (see image here).

Basanite statue of Agrippina the Younger & statue in made in dark grey marble known as the Victory of the Symmachi, probably representing a dancing woman. Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Basanite statue of Agrippina the Younger depicted as a priestess, discovered during the excavations in 1885 of the military hospital that was build over the villa Casali, 1st century CE & Statue in made in dark grey marble (bigio antico) known as the Victory of the Symmachi, probably representing a dancing woman, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.

A whole gallery of Imperial portraits as well as splendid Roman copies of Greek originals come from a private residence of the 1st century CE and restored in the 2nd and 3rd century CE. The house was brought to light during excavations for the creation of the Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Part of a statue of Antinous depicted as Apollo, 130-138 CE, from the Via dei Fori Imperiali Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Part of a statue of Antinous depicted as Apollo, 130-138 CE, from the Via dei Fori Imperiali Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Portrait of Lucilla, daughter of Marcus Aurelius and Faustia / Head of Silvanus crowned with pine / Head of Apollo crowned with a laurel wreath, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Portrait of Lucilla, daughter of Marcus Aurelius and Faustia / Head of Silvanus crowned with pine / Head of Apollo crowned with a laurel wreath, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.

Temple of Apollo Sosiano Reconstruction

Occupying the other end of the room is a reconstruction of the pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosiano, a temple dedicated to Apollo in the Campus Martius, next to the Theatre of Marcellus. The marble sculptures are rare Greek originals (dated to c. 450 – 425 BCE), brought to Rome in the Augustan period to decorate the temple whose remains are still visible today (see images here). The temple’s main pediment was decorated with sculptures narrating the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons (Amazonomachy) in which the figures of Hercules, Theseus, Athena and Nike take centre stage.

The reconstructed pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus with sculptures narrating the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, sculptures are Greek originals (c. 450 - 425 BCE), brought to Rome in the Augustan period Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The reconstructed pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus with sculptures narrating the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, sculptures are Greek originals (c. 450 – 425 BCE), brought to Rome in the Augustan period Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The reconstructed pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus with sculptures narrating the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The reconstructed pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus with sculptures narrating the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.

The cella’s interior walls were decorated with a frieze representing a triumphal procession interpreted as the representation of Octavian’s triple triumph held in 29 BCE and celebrating the Dalmatians wars, the Battle of Actium and the victory over Egypt.

The Battle of Actium, Rome museum

The Boiler Room, named after the huge steam boiler dominating the room, is home to a number of beautiful statues and decorative sculptures that once adorned the gardens of sumptuous imperial residences (Horti Sallustiani, Horti Liciniani, Horti Lamiani, Horti Caesaris). Funerary monuments from the Ostiense Necropolis are also on display in this room.

The Boiler Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The Boiler Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The Boiler Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The Boiler Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.

Among the highlights here are a sculpture group depicting a Satyr and a Nymph, a head of Priapus, a wounded Niobid, a statue of a seated girl and another one of the muse Polyhymnia as well as an exquisite statue in red marble of Marsyas and a large mosaic of a hunting scene.

Seated girl / Group with Satyr and a Nymph / Head of Priapus, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Seated girl / Group with Satyr and a Nymph / Head of Priapus, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Statue of one of Niobe's sons who were killed by Artemis and Apollo, Roman copy after an early Hellenistic statue belonging to a sculptural group, from the Horti of Caesar in Trastevere Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Statue of one of Niobe’s sons who were killed by Artemis and Apollo, Roman copy after an early Hellenistic statue belonging to a sculptural group, from the Horti of Caesar in Trastevere Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Statue of a Muse (Polyhymnia?) & 2nd c. AD statue in red marble of Marsyas, a satyr who dared challenge Apollo to a music contest, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Statue of a Muse (Polyhymnia?) & 2nd c. CE statue in red marble of Marsyas, a satyr who dared challenge Apollo to a music contest, Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Mosaic with hunting scenes, from the Horti Liciniani, early 4th century CE Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
Mosaic with hunting scenes, from the Horti Liciniani, early 4th century CE Centrale Montemartini, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato.

Centrale Montemartini is definitely one of Rome’s most striking exhibition space. It offers a unique museum experience and it is often so empty that you will likely have the place to yourself.

The museum is located on the Via Ostiense, 106. Take the Metro to Garbatella, cross over the tracks and walk through a car park to the Via Ostiense. You will see the museum across the Via on your left. You can also walk from the Pyramid Metro Station down the Via Ostiense.

The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome museum. Photo © Carole Raddato.
The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Opening hours:

Tuesday-Sunday: 9.00 – 19.00;
24 and 31 December: 9.00 – 14.00;
Last admission 1/2 hour before closing time.

Regular Fees:

Adults € 7,50
Concessions € 6,50
Roman Citizens only (by showing a valid ID):
Adults € 6,50
Concessions € 5,50

Capitolini Card (Capitoline Museums + Centrale Montemartini – valid 7 days)

Adults € 16,00
Concessions € 14,00
Roman Citizens only (by showing a valid ID):
Adults € 15,00
Concessions € 13,00
Website: http://en.centralemontemartini.org/

Originally published at Following Hadrian, republished with permission.

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Travel

Exploring Verulamium, the Roman City of St Albans (UK)

Anyone with an interest in Roman Britain should have St Albans on top of their list of places to visit. I myself visited St Albans twice and enjoyed it on both occasions. A short train ride north of London, St Albans is a must-see site. There are a few remains of the Roman town still visible (Verulamium), such as parts of the city walls, a hypocaust in situ under a mosaic floor, but the most spectacular are the remains of the Roman theatre.

In its heyday Verulamium was the third largest city in Roman Britain. The city was founded on the ancient Celtic site of Verlamion (meaning ‘settlement above the marsh’), a late Iron Age settlement and major center of the Catuvellauni tribe. After the Roman invasion of 43 AD, the city was renamed Verulamium and became one of the largest and most prosperous towns in the province of Britannia. In around AD 50, Verulamium was granted the rank of municipium, meaning its citizens had “Latin Rights”. It grew to a significant town, and as such was a prime target during the revolt of Boudicca in 61 AD. Verulamium was sacked and burnt to the ground on her orders but the Romans crushed the revolt and Verulamium recovered quickly.

Verulamium about 300 AD showing large town houses surrounded by gardens (Artist impression of Verulamium by John Pearson)
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Photos

7 Roman Wonders from the Corinium Museum in Cirencester (UK)

Each year Twitter has an event for international Museum Week (#MuseumWeek), which celebrates the many museums, galleries and cultural institutions that make valuable contributions to the arts, history and culture around the world. More than 2,200 museums, galleries and cultural institutions from over 64 countries come together on Twitter for #MuseumWeek including the Corinium Museum in Cirencester in the UK (@CoriniumMuseum).

I re-visited the recently refurbished and extended Corinium Museum earlier this year, and today I invite you to discover 7 ancient Roman treasures from Cirencester (named Corinium Dobunnorum in Roman times), once one of the most important places in Roman Britain, second only to London.