When I heard the British Museum’s exhibition A History of the World in 100 Objects was coming to Canberra, Australia I could not stop smiling. Since its arrival, I have visited three times and plan more visits in the near future. In this post, I’m going to take you on a short tour of the exhibition, showing off my favourite objects.
Cuneiform is considered the single most significant legacy of the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia. It was developed c. 3500-3000 BCE, is considered the first written language created, and was used for well over 1000 years. The oldest-dated cuneiform tablets mostly contain records of business transactions. However, over the centuries, cuneiform tables covered various different topics such as affairs of state, religion, magic, history, contracts, and were used for personal and professional communication (letters).
In today’s blog post we’ll be looking at Ancient History Reference books particularly five excellent ones which will help any reader to understand the ancient world around the Mediterranean.
The Oxford Classical Dictionary
If there was ever a book that covered just about everything there was to know about Roman and Greek cultures, this is it. This is the 4th edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary and it contains around 75 new additions. Though a weighty tome each student studying the classics should have this as a reference book for their studies!
Buy it here through AHE’s bookstore.
The gods were responsible for teaching humans how to write. Without their divine involvement, it would have been impossible for us, imperfect mortals, to develop such a valuable and powerful skill. This, and other similar explanations, was the way that most ancient societies accounted for the existence of writing.
Itzamná, the Mayan god and ruler of heaven, was the inventor of writing in Mesoamerica, just like Odin in Norse mythology was the god who invented the runes. Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom and scribe of the gods, was responsible for the invention of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Greek god Hermes (the Roman Mercury), related to the Egyptian Thoth by some Greeks, was the creator of the Greek alphabet. Even those Greeks who had a more rational explanation for the origin of the alphabet relied on a legendary figure who although was no god, was still mythical: Cadmus, the founder and first king of Thebes according to Greek folklore (Herodotus, 5.58).
For centuries, Wang Xizhi (c. 303-361 CE) has been revered as the “Sage of Calligraphy” across East Asia. Born in the town of Linyi, in Shangdong, China, during the tumultuous years of the Jin dynasty (265-420 CE), Wang revolutionized and reinvigorated this traditional art through his mastery of all forms of Chinese calligraphy, including the notoriously difficult semi-cursive or “walking script.” A legend in his lifetime, Wang’s works were avidly copied by aspiring calligraphers across ancient China. Over the centuries, original pieces by Wang were lost and only exquisitely traced copies remain. Today, many of these copies are kept in Japan and revered as “national treasures.”
This winter, the Tokyo National Museum, in Tokyo, Japan, celebrates the life and legacy of China’s most admired calligrapher in Wang Xizhi: Master of Calligraphy. Reflecting on Wang’s style and artistic prowess, this exhibition seeks an authentic image of an elusive artist, reevaluating his artistic role and legacy through his influence on successive artists in China and Japan. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Tomita Jun–an expert on Chinese calligraphy and the show’s curator–with regard to Wang Xizhi’s enduring place in art history.