Friday, June 14, 2019

Why are the skulls from Jericho important?

Jericho, Skulls, c8,000-7,000 BCE Neolithic, Near East, (Palestine)

There were seven skulls found at a burial site in the Neolithic city of Jericho located now in referred to as Palestine. Probably, the most important things about studying these skulls is not necessarily the skulls themselves but the context surrounding the discovery of these skulls.

In 1953 and archaeologist named Kathleen Kenyon was excavating a “Tell” which is a large mound or hill, called Tell es-Sultan. You will see the term “Tell,” used to describe various archaeological sites throughout the ancient world such as a place called Tell Asmar.  Kathleen Kenyon, who is one of the first archaeologists, and also has the distinction of being one of the first female archaeologists, was excavating in the ancient site of Jericho mainly to prove that the Bible could be considered an accurate historical document. This is also the motivation for many of the excavations and archaeological studies that began in the early 20th century and late 19th centuries.  The main thesis for many archaeologists was to prove that the Christian Bible was inaccurate document and they were searching for historical artifacts to prove that.

The story of Jericho from the Old Testament or Hebrew Torah is probably based in an oral history that notes or describes some of the major landmarks from the Neolithic city of Jericho. For example, the biblical story describes how Joshua laid siege to the town of Jericho and for three successive days marched around the tall thick walls surrounding the city. On the third day, Joshua sounded the horn whose vibrations or sound shook the walls of Jericho and make them fall. Excavations have found large thick walls built and rebuilt over various centuries surrounding the town of Jericho. Some of the walls are simple stone and brick while others, later in their periods were made with herring bones of brick. Early archaeologists assumed that the location of the city as well as the evidence of the walls were evidence that this was the ancient site described in the Bible.

Another motive that Kathleen Kenyon had for excavating the site was that she was an advocate for training historians and archaeologists in a new scientific method that is referred to as stratigraphy. In stratigraphy, archaeological sites are divided up into grids that are both on the surface of the site and extend down into the layers beneath the site. Basically, archaeologists started using a more scientific method of graphing out and documenting the exact layer, stratum, and place where various artifacts were discovered. This detailed record allowed and allows archaeologists to be able to create a more complete record of the places where the objects were found as well as providing an accurate chronology or date as to when the objects were created and buried. Kenyon, would take students to Jericho and train them in this method. In the last stages of an excavation one of these skulls, which the excavator spotted first was a piece of pottery sticking out of the side of one of the walls of their dig was a piece of pottery. After further examination they excavated into that quadrant and discovered seven more skulls.

the branch of geology concerned with the order and relative position of strata and their relationship to the geological time scale.
the analysis of the order and position of layers of archaeological remains.
the structure of a particular set of strata.
"you can find materials at the surface which are samples from the deeper stratigraphy"

Kathleen Kenyon described these skulls is being placed in an important part of an early dwelling. Later on, the site collapsed and another later structure was built atop it. It’s possible that Kenyon’s observations are accurate, however, it is not conclusive evidence of how and where the skulls were placed so we’re not necessarily able to use the placement of the skulls to interpret what they might’ve meant.  Other skeletons and skulls were found in the same area. It seems as if some of the skeletons had skulls that were altered or had their lower mandibles remove and often the skeletons were dis-articulated. This also led Kenyon and other archaeologists to believe that these bodies and skeletons were preserved for honorific reasons, however, none of the other skulls or skeletons found were plastered over. Further evidence, that the skulls were used for honorific purposes seems to be that other skulls were found arranged in circles in other structures from an earlier date on the site.

The skulls physical properties are possible clues or evidence which may aid in our interpretation of the skulls use or purpose in Neolithic society.

Each skull was covered in a type of skin of plaster that roughly resembles a human face. The eyes were covered with seashells and the interior of the skull was stuffed with grasses and vegetable matter. There are no other objects associated with a layer or level that is nearby the skull, however, most of the artifacts found in Neolithic Jericho from this era, were made from stone. The Neolithic people of Jericho did not have clay pots or implements made from clay.


We are only able to guess or extrapolate some theories as to why the skulls were made and how they were used by comparing similar effigies or sculptures from other cultures. Similar skulls to this were found at a later site called Catal Huyuk which is located in modern Turkey. Another site called Tell Ramad in South Syria. 

Other examples of human heads and effigies of people can be found in ancient Rome in the first two or three centuries as well as in Africa as late as 1600 common era. The uses of effigy heads like this were basically to honor and remember ancestors. This is probably what these heads represented. Further evidence for this could also be the fact that they were well preserved and well-crafted. If they were trophies of enemies’ heads they most likely would not have taken the time to sculpt them and preserve them. 

A good source for more detailed info.

I Want to Break Free, 11x14 inches oil on canvas panel by Kenney Mencher

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Jobs related to "studio art" found 7 new jobs.

Jobs related to "studio art" found 7 new jobs.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Art History: How to Analyze or "Break Down" a work of art or what are the main characteristics of a work of art?

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What are the main characteristics of a work of art?

I think that there are three major themes that a work of art can be analyzed.
The physical or tangible, or formal characteristics which are in physical properties. This includes size, color, texture, what it is made of. In general formal analysis is how it looks and feels.
The second characteristic has to do with the work’s meaning and what it represents. This has to do with the story it tells and how people interpret the meaning of the painting. Some times this is referred to as iconography.
The third category or characteristic has to do with a history, geography, and how it was produced. Who bought it or asked for it to be made? Where was it sold? What was the city or culture like that made it? When in history was it made? The context that surrounds the work.
Formal Analysis
(1) : orderly method of arrangement (as in the presentation of ideas) : manner of coordinating elements (as of an artistic production or course of reasoning)
(2) : a particular kind or instance of such arrangement
c : the structural element, plan, or design of a work of art -- visible and measurable unit defined by a contour : a bounded surface or volume
(3) The literal shape and mass of an object or figure.
(4) More general, the materials used to make a work of art, the ways in which these materials are used utilized in terms of the formal elements (medium, texture, rhythm, tempo, dynamic contrast, melody, line, light/contrast/value structure, color, texture, size and composition.)
Form consists of the physical properties of the work. Whether we look at a sculpture's size, mass, color, and texture or a poem's order of elements and composition, all are part of the work's form. When you are doing a formal analysis, you describe the way that the work looks, feels, and is organized. The next passage is a formal analysis of a work of art; the Augustus of Primaporta is a statue from the first century BCE.
The statue stands six feet eight inches tall and is made of white marble. It depicts a male figure wearing armor and some drapery, with his right arm raised. The figure carries a bronze spear or staff in his left hand. The texture of the hair and skin mimic the texture of real hair and skin. Augustus stands in contrapposto, appearing to be stepping forward with most of his weight resting on his right hip. Attached to his right leg is a small dolphin with a winged baby on its back.
One of the more important elements concerning form is the idea of composition. Composition can include how things are laid out in two dimensional space or how the picture plane is organized.
For example, the top two images in this illustration are asymmetrical. The blue circles are not evenly distributed through out each rectangle.
The bottom two most images are symmetrical. There are balancing elements on each side of the blue sphere in the lower left hand image. Even though one of the objects is a square and the other a circle, they take up about the same amount of space and have the same visual weight.
The boxes on either side of the tall white rectangle are mirror images of each other and this can be referred to as symmetrical too. Since you could draw a vertical line down the center of the center rectangle and on each side of this imaginary line it would be a mirror image, this is called bilateral symmetry.
The "Whirling Logs" textile on the left is arranged in a bilaterally symmetrical fashion because we could draw cut the design in half and the left and right sides are nearly a mirror image of each other. Nevertheless, for all its symmetry, this textile appears kind of flat looking.
Composition also has to do with the creation of the illusion of space. When we look at pictures (as opposed to sculptures as the Augustus above) we often think of the picture as an imaginary window. The front of the window, or the glass, is the picture plane that we look through.
In order to create space artists conceive of the picture plane as having three planes that recede back. In order to create space in the picture plane and the appearance of a foreground, middleground and background we can overlap objects to give this illusion. If there is nothing overlapped then we can say that there is no real illusion of space in the picture.
These two pictures demonstrate this idea. If you look at the one on the left, there is very little overlapping in the picture plane and the figures seem to be pressed against this imaginary window. While the one on the right has some overlapping and we can tell that some figures are in front of others. This overlapping gives us a sense of space.
These two sculptural friezes demonstrate these ideas in a three dimensional form. If you look at the one on the left, there is very little overlapping in the picture plane and the figures seem to be pressed against this imaginary window. While the one on the right has some overlapping and we can tell that some figures are in front of others. This overlapping gives us a sense of space.
Here is an example of a formal analysis of the Greek tragedy The Bacchae written by Euripides in 406 BCE. You can use a similar format of analysis when examining a work of art.
The Bacchae is play written in a chant form called dithyramb. Musical instruments, especially the drum, were used to keep time in the performance of the play. Approximately eighty percent of the play is dialogue while only a small portion is devoted to action on the stage. The order of the narrative is predictable and therefore symmetrical because there is a continuous cycle of basic components that are repeated throughout the play. These components are known as the prologos, parados, episode, stasimon, and exodos. The repeated sections are the three central components of the parados, episode, and stasimon, which are retold in predictable form as many as five times in the typical Greek tragedy.
Another look at schema and correction:
Summary of Gombrich
Renown art historian Ernst Gombrich developed a theory to explain these adaptations and changes and refered to it as schema and correction. If we were to look at the Archaic period's art and architecture as the plan or schema, we can see how the later Classic period might have taken the archaic art as its schema and updated it in order to make the designs more pleasing according to the later tastes. These changes are referred to as the correction.
The next update or correction occurs when the same pose and musculature from the Doryphoros were adopted and adapted for use by the Romans in the portrait of Augustus.
To understand his theory called "schema and naturalization," or "schema and correction." To understand it you basically just need to know the definitions of three words.
  • Schema is the cultural code through which individuals raised in a culture perceive the world. For example, we recognize stick figures to be humans.
  • Correction is where you take that schema and you compare it to what your senses tell you about the world and then you make it more accurate.
  • Mimesis is the process of correcting your schema.
Gombrich's idea can be expanded to looking how later groups can take the earlier work of art and mimic it (mimesis). This is a kind of Darwinian theory kind of like Darwin's theory of the "survival of the fitest."
Read some more stuff by Gombrich if it interests you!
Some interesting ideas that might help you to understand the terms "civilization" and "period" occur when studying the concept of "schema and correction." Both of these works of art come from the Ancient Greek civilization. Even though we use the term "ancient" what we are saying is that the Greek civilization occurred a long time ago. Within the Ancient Greek civilization, is tied to the region of land we now call Greece. The civilization lasted between circa (approximately) 1000 BCE to about 100 BCE but we divide the Greek civilization into various periods that are defined by the style of art they produced. For example, the Kouros from Attica, comes from a period we refer to as the Archaic period, which lasted from around 600-480 BCE. The style associated with this Archaic period is that the sculpture is a bit unrealistic and slightly stylized in a geometric way. This means that the style of the Archaic period was to make the sculptures look kind of "blocky" and unrealistic. A later period that occurred during the Ancient Greek civilization is the "Classic Period" which lasted from circa 500 BCE -350 BCE. The main characteristics are that the sculptures look lifelike or realistic. So both the "periods" belong to the Ancient Greek Civilization. The main difference between period and civilization is that period is a kind of style that is a subset of a civilization. Civilizations go through many periods of development and a civilization is located in one geographic region and spans a longer time.
The next passage is a contextual analysis of the Augustus of Primaporta.
The portrait of Augustus of Primaporta is work of political propaganda. Augustus waged an extremely profitable series of wars and was able to extend the Roman Empire's borders. His ability to control the Senate maintained his status of unchallenged power within the Roman city as well. The unnaturally tall height of the statue is symbolic of the god-like status of Augustus because the average height was around five feet. The statue of Augustus is a correction of an even earlier sculpture called the Aulus Metellus.
Augustus's raised right arm symbolic of his abilities as a master orator and refers and builds on the iconography of Etruscan portrayals of great statesman such as depicted by the Aulus Metellus. The raised arm, a symbol of rhetorical power as a speaker is combined with the bronze staff and armor are references to the abilities that any Roman leader should possess. In some ways, this is the originating idea of our conception of the "Renaissance Man" of the 1500's. The references to the Aulus Metellus statue, the contrapposto pose (invented by the classical Greek culture) and the Cupid (representing Augustus as a descendent of the gods) grant both the Augustus Primaporta, and Augustus himself, an authority based in time honored traditions.

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