Art

Beautiful words and insight from Jake Powning, swordsmith.

Here is another video from swordsmith, Jake Powning. In the video Jake carves a gripping beast into a wooden scabbard and talks a little bit about the techniques he’s using and the folklore that inspires him. At one point in the video (47:07-49:22), a question is asked about the difference between a piece being historically accurate or historically inspired. Jake gives an excellent reply which deals with the philosphy of history and anthropology. It touches on a subject that Erin and I have talked about a lot in our discussions about the past. Namely, that the past doesn’t exist. We can’t access it. All we can deal with are these objects and texts from the past but in the present. We make up stories about them that are internally consistent but might not neccessarily be accurate to how things were.

The stories we make up about these objects all fit together, make sense, and don’t contradict eachother, but that doesn’t mean that’s the way it was. It’s likely we’re right about a lot; but there is so much we’ll never know and probably a lot that we’ve gotten wrong. Watch the video above, but especially the part at 47:07-49:22.

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We’re home! And we’re selling a ton of our books on Amazon!

Erin and I got home safely from Sweden and just decided to sell a bunch of our extra stuff. Less clutter is always good. So we’re selling almost half of our giant collection of books on Amazon! Erin went through and matched the lowest prices for almost all of these books so come check it out and get a deal! We have Art books, Comics, Christian books, Scifi, Classic Literature, Nonfiction, History, Anthropology/Archaeology, Textbooks, etc!  Click on the “Book Sale!” link in the top right corner or just Click Here if you’re lazy. We’ll be updating the page frequently so check back often if you’re interested.


Museums, Mikkeller, and a Christmas market!

Greetings, everyone! Erin, here. 🙂

Mike and I had one of the best days here, so far! We spent 13 hours exploring a different part of Copenhagen, browsing museums, having great conversation in a local craft brew pub, and wandering the colorful grounds of Tivoli (an amusement park done up for Christmas)! [Mike Edit: My feet are telling me it was actually 13 days, not 13 hours.] We began our day at the National Museum of Denmark. We both fell in love with every object! We were especially struck by the Gundestrup cauldron, a ritual cauldron made by the Celts of central Europe. It dates back to around the La Tène culture period, one of Mike’s favorites! [Mike Edit: The La Tene culture was an early celtic culture from Switzerland.] Below is a picture of this beautiful cauldron and others taken at the National Museum of Denmark.

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After we visited the National Museum of Denmark, we wandered around Copenhagen after lunch before meeting my teacher at the Glyptoteket. This museum houses TONS of classical sculptures from Rome, Greece, and France. There was also a temporary Polynesian exhibit. Mike was like a kid in a candy store. Everyone split up from the teacher (after we met with her at the entrance so she could so very kindly grant us free admission 🙂 ), but I had my own teacher with me the entire way! We spent hours browsing around as Mike would see a classical sculpture and tell me exactly who is being portrayed, what is being symbolized, and the mythology behind them. (I need to take this man to Rome, he would be absolutely hypnotized!) Below are a few pictures from Glyptoteket. The first one on the left is one he just quickly glanced at before explaining that it was the muse of tragedy and associated with theatre. Notice her weapon and her holding the “head” as if she had cut it off, and also the “head” being a mask for theatre. [Mike Edit: It doesn’t say that on the plaque, it’s just a guess on my part so take it with a grain of salt. But it seems obvious that the severed head/mask is a visual pun. She’s the muse of tragedy, thus the severed head. But she’s also a muse of theatre so the severed head is a mask.]
I have no background in classical archaeology. Mike was the perfect guide! 🙂

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After our visit to Glyptoteket, we walked to Mikkeller Bar, a local pub specializing in craft brews. Beer geeks everywhere know it! Mike was super excited to be able to drink Mikkeller beers he can’t get in San Diego (without importing it.) It’s a very small place with friendly locals. Who did Mike happen to meet at the bar? A guy who lives in our same complex in Malmö (but different building)! They both enjoyed their fancy beers and talked for a couple hours. 🙂 This was the exact experience we were hoping for when we planned to visit Mikkeller. [Mike Edit: I’ve always wanted to visit that place because they’re known for their amazing craft brews. I never thought I’d be able to until a year or two ago when we decided we were coming to Sweden. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since.]

After we left the pub, we walked to Tivoli, a small amusement park fully decorated for Christmas! Beautiful, colorful lights everywhere! By that time, we were all giddy from such a good day and just browsed around taking a couple pictures before going home. It turns out the gifts were too expensive, so we’ll end up doing our Christmas shopping in Malmö markets. 🙂 Below are a couple pictures from Tivoli.

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All in all, it was a fantastic day! My kind teacher was generous enough to extend the school discounts (free trip, free admission) to Mike. So, on top of all that fun, we saved money! Thank you to my teacher and thank you to Denmark for a great day. 🙂

[Mike Edit: CLICK HERE to see all of the 500+ pictures we took in Copenhagen yesterday!]


Antiquarian Book Fair in Copenhagen

Hello, all! Erin, here. ❤

We hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday. It was nice and calm for us. We will be having our dinner with other exchange students tomorrow. As for today, we visited Copenhagen to see one of the largest antiquarian book fairs with international sellers, book binders, and conservators. It was fantastic! So many gorgeous books from different countries dating back to several centuries ago…Mike and I were hypnotized and we kept envisioning our library we want to put together! There's something about a book on science or religion from centuries ago…it's similar to the affects that archaeological sites and artifacts have on me. I go into this trance and I feel an indescribable connection to the past creators and users. It's nerdy, I know. Everyone gets their kicks in their own ways! 🙂

Here are a few of the pictures from the fair. You can view the entire gallery by clicking this link.

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The fair was held at RundetĂĄrn (The Round Tower), which is a combined church, library and observatory built in 1642. We climbed all the way to the top to find a breathtaking view of Copenhagen and a freezing wind that has a mind of its own…an abusive one, at that. We soaked in the stunning views of the city and went back inside before my body temperature dropped to a painful low.

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Copenhagen was great! We plan on going back a couple more times before we leave. We miss you all! ❤ 🙂


Archaeology Library Fun!

Yesterday while Erin was in class, I got to spend time alone in the Archaeology Library at the university. I spent hours looking through books that were decades or even more than a century old while the rain pattered on the glass and the image of the cobble stone streets outside became distorted. Here are a few of the interesting books I found.

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I assume the title means “History of Art from Antiquity – Assyria” because that’s what the book was. I couldn’t read a word of it but the cover was beautiful.

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A book on runic inscriptions and standing stones in Denmark.

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A peek inside…

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A sketch of a rune stone.

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Viking Jewelry

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Now this is interesting. While looking at a book about the mystery cults of ancient Greece, I found handwritten notes. I don’t know if they were corrections to the book or study notes from a former student, but I could tell they were old because…(Next photo)

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…there was a post card inside. And on the back of the post card…(Next photo)

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…there was a date. 1957.

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This one looked interesting. Perhaps next time.

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For the Biblical archaeology buffs, “Excavation at Ephesus.”

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I found a collection of Latin texts from different countries. Of course I grabbed the one from Switzerland.

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Hm. Interesting. This critiques the handwriting of the Latin texts rather than the texts themselves.

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The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England.” This is the book I actually checked out and brought home.

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And then I saw it…Do you see it? No, probably not. It’s at the very bottom of this stack of drawings, plates, and transcriptions of ancient scrolls. Let me zoom in a bit for you…(next photo)

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This photo is actually upside down. This collection of Egyptian papyri transcriptions and translations was at the bottom of the pile. It took me a while to dig them out.

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In fact, while digging them out, I got distracted by a collection of sketches of Greek scultpures.

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This one in particular caught my eye.

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But I finally managed to dig them out.

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This is a photo of the scroll containing the Egyptian creation story. My note book is there for size comparison but I was also taking notes. No I can’t read Egyptian hieratic texts; I was taking notes on the translation provided a few pages earlier. The story goes like this.

In the beginning, the God Neb-er-tcher, “The Lord to the Uttermost Limit”, “The Universal Lord,” created himself by speaking his own name and then said “I am alone.” There was no ground for him to stand on, only the formless waters of the deep; the primeval ocean, “nu.” He uttered a word of power and created a soul body for himself to work through like a puppet. This makes me wonder if there is any connection with the Gnostics’ belief that God of the Abrahamic faiths is just a demiurge. Meaning they believe he is the creator but that there is a God, Abraxis, above him. The beliefs seem similar. I’ll have to look in to it. Anyway from there, Neb-er-tcher thought or spoke creation into existence by the force of his will. It’s interesting that all of the religions of the middle east have creation stories with similar details. And more interesting still that many cultures around the world have creation myths that start with water. There’s the Egyptians, as we just learned, and the Mesopotamian cultures. Even the Japanese and Viking creation stories begin with water.

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“The Litanies of Seker,” a description of a religious ceremony.

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“The beautiful chapters of the songs which drive away him that is in the water.” Spells for protection against crocodiles?

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A description of a magic spell. The text reads:

The first chapter of enchantment for all kinds of water. It shall be recited by the man in authority, who hath understanding of it, against the Kaiu folk. It is a veritable mystery of the House of Life. “Egg of the water which is poured out upon the earth. Existing One of the Eight Gods of Khemenu (Hermopolis). Chief in the heavens. Chief in the Tuat. Dweller of the Nest. President of Mer-Tchestches.

“I have come forth with thee from the water. I have risen up with thee from out of the divine Nest. I am the god Menu of Qebty (Coptos). I am the god Menu of the Land of Coptos.”

Rubric: This Chapter shall be recited over an egg [made] of dung which shall be placed in the hands of a man [standing] in the fore part of a boat. If anything shall appear on the water, cast the egg on the water.

Hm. No indication of what it’s supposed to do. Not very helpful is it? 🙂

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This is how Erin found me when she came down after her class. Time flew by while I was in the Library on my own. While I was in there, a man came in and opened that roll-up cabinet behind me. Inside it was full of clay, stone, and metal artifacts from who knows how many cultures. I couldn’t believe I had been sitting next to all that history the entire time! After a minute or two he locked it back up and left with a few artifacts. When Erin came down I told her about the man and she said, “Oh? Was he bald with glasses and a black hoodie? Yeah, that was my teacher.” Erin got to touch and hold the artifacts during her class. After all that, I was jealous of her adventure for the day.


Music from the Ancient World: Wardruna

This “Music from the Ancient World” post is bittersweet. Erin and I had the chance to go see this band (probably one of Erin’s all-time favorites) but the travel costs were just too expensive. They are called Wardruna. Here is a video from the very concert in Bergen Norway that we were trying to go to.

While they do play ancient instruments, I wouldn’t say that their music is actually based on ancient music. They don’t get their lyrics from celtic curse tablets like the last band we wrote about, and they don’t get their melodies from real ancient sources like the next artist we plan to write about. Rather I would say that their music is a modern musical interpretation of the Futhark, or the runes. Each song is about a single rune and explores the secret meaning behind each one. For example, the song posted above is called Bjarken which mean Birch. The rhythm for the song is produced by literally banging birch branches together. It’s a creative idea and the result is a very relaxing, beautiful, and meditative sound.

We know that the runic alphabet had a magical, secret, and divinatory purpose to the norse people beyond its practical use as a writing system. But there’s no evidence that the “magical meanings” for the runes that you can find online are anything but a modern invention. There aren’t many ancient, contemporary sources that talk about what the norse people thought the magic behind the runes was supposed to be.


Music from the ancient world

Here’s an interesting song that I haven’t listened to in a while. I nearly forgot about this album. The band is called Eluveitie. Normally they play heavy metal but they came out with one acoustic album and that is where this song is from. What is interesting about them is the subject of their lyrics. They’re from Switzerland and all of their songs are about celtic, pre-Christian central Europe, or Gaul. In fact many of their songs are in the dead celtic language called Gaulish. If that sounds familiar to you it’s because “Dobnoredo” is a Gaulish word as explained at the top of the right column on this page.

Anyway, this song is very interesting and relevant to this archaeology blog because the lyrics are taken straight from an ancient celtic curse tablet in central France. The celts would write curses on lead tablets, perform some sort of ritual, and then bury the tablet to release the curse. This one happens to list a bunch of Roman names as the targets. Anyway, enjoy the song. Lyrics are posted below.

andedion uediĂ­umi diĂ­iuion risun / artiu mapon(on) aruerriĂ­atin
lopites snĂ­ eĂ°Ă°dic sos brixtĂ­a anderon / c lucion floron nigrinon adgarion aemilĂ­
on paterin claudĂ­on legitumon caelion / pelign claudĂ­o pelign marcion uictorin asiatĂ­-
con aĂ°Ă°edillĂ­ etic secoui toncnaman / toncsiĂ­ontĂ­o meĂ­on toncsesit bue-
tid ollon reguccambion exsops / pissĂ­iumĂ­tsoccaantĂ­ rissuis onson
bissĂ­et luge dessummiĂ­is luge / dessumĂ­is luge dessumĂ­Ă­s luxe

The song starts off as an invocation of Maponos, the celtic god of youth.

I invoke the god Maponos auertiis. Through the magic of the underworld gods.

The intense rhythmic section is the list of names of the targets of the curse. What follows after is the curse itself. VERY roughly translated:

[long list of names]…and all those who swore that fake oath.
And for the one who swore first, it will be for him an entire deformation (i.e. his straight bones will become bent). And though blind, I will see. With this tablet of incantation, this will be.

Sounds like someone was trying to get back at some Romans for breaking an oath with them. It’s easy to feel detached from this. It almost seems like an excerpt from a fantasy novel, but keep in mind that these were real people. This really happened. I want to know their story. Did the Romans make a deal with the celts only to break that oath and invade their land? I can’t help but wonder if it was written as a last resort by some desperate celtic woman to try and drive the Roman invaders from her homeland.

History is so interesting!