Madrid’s Hidden Gem: Museo de América

Museum of the Americas in Madrid (Spain). Building from 1953.

Last month, I had the chance to visit a hidden gem among Madrid’s better-known museums: Museo de América (English: Museum of the Americas). Filled with thousands of pre-Columbian artifacts, treasures, and works of art, the Museo de América explores the languages, religions, and cultures of the Americas — from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del… Continue reading Madrid’s Hidden Gem: Museo de América

The Nabataeans of Ancient Arabia

Known the world over for their hauntingly beautiful cities of Petra and Mada’in Saleh and engineering acumen, the Nabataeans of ancient Arabia were the middlemen in the long distance trade between the ancient Mediterranean and South Arabia. Mysterious and beguiling, their legacy endures across time and space in the Arabic script and in the sophistication… Continue reading The Nabataeans of Ancient Arabia

Samarkand: Recipes and Stories

Filled with ancient, simplified recipes as well as photographs and essays, Samarkand: Recipes & Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus, written by journalists Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, is a love letter to the region and the peoples who left their imprint on its varied cuisine: Turks, Jews, Georgians, Armenians, Azeris, Persians, Afghans, Uzbeks, Kazakhs,… Continue reading Samarkand: Recipes and Stories

The Hellenistic World at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Stretching from the beaches of the Adriatic Sea to the banks of the Indus River, Alexander the Great’s empire was the largest the world had ever seen when he died in 323 BCE. His empire broke into several smaller kingdoms soon after, but his enduring legacy can be found in signs of Hellenistic cultural diffusion in ancient artifacts that survive… Continue reading The Hellenistic World at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sicily: Culture and Conquest

There I stood, the slopes of Mt. Etna rising before me, the glorious Sicilian coastline reflecting the brilliant blue sky. I hadn’t taken a trip to Sicily, but was rather at the British Museum’s latest exhibition, Sicily: Culture and Conquest, gazing into one of the many photographic vistas that adorn the walls. When I first… Continue reading Sicily: Culture and Conquest

Ancient Hairstyles of the Greco-Roman World

​Head of a Man, mid-5th century BCE. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cesnola Collection Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2826). Gods and goddesses in art wear leafy wreaths as hair accessories, as do mortals engaged in sacred rituals or events. Wreaths were worn at festivals, initiations, weddings, and funerals. They were awarded to winners of athletic competitions, which took place in religious sanctuaries. For important occasions or for royalty, they were crafted in gold and silver. Later, in the Roman Empire, military victors wore them and wreaths became symbols of government authority.

From the dawn of civilization to the present day, human hair has seldom been worn in its natural state. Whether cut, shorn, curled, straightened, braided, beaded, worn in an upsweep or down to the knees, adorned with pins, combs, bows, garlands, extensions, and other accoutrements, hairstyles had the power to reflect societal norms. In antiquity,… Continue reading Ancient Hairstyles of the Greco-Roman World

Rediscovering Ancient Colombia’s Rich Past

Despite the popular appeal of the legendary city of El Dorado, our collective understanding of ancient Colombia’s history remains largely obscured by the advanced civilizations of Mesoamerica and the Andes. A new exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, CA, however, reveals that ancient Colombia’s past is far older… Continue reading Rediscovering Ancient Colombia’s Rich Past

What Caused The Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse?

The urge to find a single explanation as the cause for such calamitous events seems to come from a modern human need for an easy explanation as often as possible. The decline of the Late Bronze Age civilizations of the Mediterranean and Near East has puzzled historians and archaeologists for centuries. While many have ascribed… Continue reading What Caused The Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse?

The Power and Pathos of Hellenistic Bronze Sculpture

Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World underscores the power, prestige, and pre-eminence of ancient sculpture during the Hellenistic Era. This blockbuster show, which opened at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy this spring, is the first major international exhibition to assemble nearly 50 ancient bronzes from the Mediterranean region and beyond in… Continue reading The Power and Pathos of Hellenistic Bronze Sculpture