Ancient cultures

Terra cotta general, with emblematic hat and uniform, looks proudly into distance.

Terra Cotta Warriors

Picturing this exhibition of 8,000 clay statues, I imagined tabletop action figures, as far as the eye could see. Toy “army men” fashioned for grown-up royalty. But what was I thinking – royalty gets the royal treatment, after all – this army, whose purpose was to guard China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, during the […]

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Colored head of King Tut gazes into distance.

365 Days of Art: November 4 – King Tut’s Tomb is Discovered, Florence Flood Damages Millions of Artworks

November 4, 1922 Howard Carter discovers King Tut’s tomb. November 4, 1966 The Arno River floods Florence, killing 113 and damaging millions of masterpieces. The scramble to deal with the sheer volume of works, as well as the race against time to avoid further damage by mold, leads to new developments in art conservation.

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Detail of cave painting, a reindeer with antlers near abstract symbols.

365 Days of Art: September 12 – Dog and Teens Discover Lascaux Cave Paintings; Nan Goldin is Born

September 12, 1940 A group of French teenagers chase their dog down a hole and accidentally discover the most awesome cave paintings of all time at Lascaux, France. The prehistoric paintings are at least 15,000 years old, cover the walls and ceiling, and mainly depict animals. The degree of delicacy in these 600+ paintings is

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Paintings of figures on cave walls.

365 Days of Art: April 22 – Scientists Announce Discovery of World’s Oldest Oil Paintings

April 22, 2008 Scientists announce they have proved the world’s first-ever oil paintings were made in caves that were discovered behind, and after the destruction of, two giant statues of Buddha in Afghanistan. Ironically, the dynamiting of the statues by the Taliban in 2001 revealed the caves and art behind them. Scientists discovered that paintings

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Greek marble statuary; some are headless.

365 Days of Art: March 13 – Elgin Marbles and Their Poor Conservation Are Subject of Letter

March 13, 1858 The Elgin Marbles, sculptures taken from the Acropolis in Athens, and their poor conservation were the subject of a letter, written by the superintendent of the “moving and cleaning the sculptures” at the British Museum: I think it my duty to say that some of the works are much damaged by ignorant

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People walk by a large, empty niche in a wall where sculptures used to stand.

365 Days of Art: March 3 – Reconstruction of Dynamited Buddhas Is Discussed

March 3, 2011 Ten years and one day after the Taliban initiated their destruction, UNESCO convened a conference to discuss possible restoration of two 6th century Buddha statues. One result of the conference was a list of 39 recommendations for the site in Bamiyan, Afghanistan where two large niches in the side of the cliff

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The Bamiyan Buddha statues are destroyed by dynamite.

365 Days of Art: March 2 – Taliban Dynamites Historic Buddha Statues

March 2, 2001 The Buddhas of Bamiyan, two 6th century statues of Buddha carved into a cliff in Afghanistan, were dynamited by the Taliban. The total demolition was effected in stages, and took several weeks to complete. I remember the awful anticipation of the clock ticking down on this one. I, and all my friends

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Colored head of King Tut gazes into distance.

365 Days of Art: February 17 – King Tut’s Burial Chamber is Opened

February 17, 1923 King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber is opened by archaeologist Howard Carter. The brouhaha of the traveling Tut exhibition in the late 70s (which was revived with a less newsworthy sequel just a couple of years ago) was a big part of my childhood. I desperately, desperately wanted to see it at the Field

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Sculpture of a bison with sharp, raised spine and easygoing attitude, walking toward viewer

365 Days of Art: February 5 – Ice Age Art (No Artifacts!) Exhibited at British Museum

February 5, 2013 Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind opened at the British Museum. The exhibition presented artwork (not archaeological artifacts) between 10,000 and 40,000 years old, created during the last Ice Age. The distinction between art and artifacts represented humans’ arrival at complex thought, as illustrated by an embrace of abstraction, symbolism,

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