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Art History

This Warty Pig Painting Is Thought To Be the Oldest Cave Art in the World

January 14, 2021

Grace Ebert

Deep within Leang Tedongnge, a cave tucked away on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, archaeologists discovered this mulberry-hued painting of a warty pig and two hand silhouettes potentially belonging to the artist, which is now believed to be the oldest figurative work in the world. A study published in Science Advances this week says the impeccably preserved rendering is at least 45,500 years old, which predates previously discovered depictions of mythical creatures in the region. Those prior findings date back about 43,900 years.

Questions remain about the exact age of the work and who made it. Archaeologists from Griffith University, who helmed the mission, utilized uranium-series dating to determine how old the speleothem, or mineral deposits, of the cave is rather than the actual painting. There’s also debate about whether modern humans are responsible for the renderings, a question that’s complicated by the fact that the only skeletal remains that date back at least 45,500 years in Sulawesi belong to early hominins.

Dr. Adam Brumm, who co-authored the study, told The New York Times that researchers expect to discover similar artworks in the region, although the cave paintings are deteriorating at a rapid rate and could fade before they’re ever uncovered. “It is very worrying, and given the current situation the end result is likely to be the eventual destruction of this ice age Indonesian art, perhaps even within our lifetime,” Brumm said.

 

 

 

 



Food History

Archaeologists Have Uncovered an Impeccably Preserved Food Stand in Pompeii

December 28, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images via Pompeii sites

Mallard to go, anyone? Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient thermopolium—aka the Roman equivalent of a street food vendor—at the Regio V site in Pompeii. The well-preserved stand is decorated with multiple frescoes featuring a nereid (nymphs of Greek mythology) riding a sea horse, tall jars with two-handles that commonly were used for storage, and some of the formerly available fare, like mallards and chickens. A rendering of a muscular dog adorns another side of the stand with the insult, “Nicia cineadecacator,” scribed nearby. Various food-based remnants were found, as well, including duck bones, fava beans, wine, and a paella-style dish of pork, goat, bird, fish, and snail, alongside cooking dishes, flasks, and storage vessels.

This thermopolium is thought to be one of about eighty in the Italian city, and excavation on the site began in 2019. When archaeologists discovered that the counter was still in-tact, they extended the project to uncover more of the area. Additional findings now include a small dog’s skeleton and two sets of human bones from people who were trapped when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Although the remains were disassembled by scavengers who dug up the site in the 17th Century, there’s evidence that one of the individuals was about 50 years and lying down on a bed when the volcano buried the area.

The site is slated to open to the public in the spring of 2021 and is just one of the impressive discoveries in Pompeii during 2020. Watch the video below, which is in Italian, to see the excavation process. (via designboom)

 

 

 



Art History

New Photos from the ‘Sistine Chapel of the Ancients’ Reveal Details About Prehistoric Amazonian Life—Like a Fondness for Bungee Jumping

December 4, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © José Iriarte, shared with permission

Who knew people have been flinging themselves into open air since ancient times? Earlier this week, we reported on a massive collection of prehistoric art deep in the Colombian Amazon, and new photographs of the findings reveal early humans bungee jumping just like modern adventurers.

Spanning nearly eight miles, the paintings date back about 12,500 years when people first arrived on the continent. Thanks to José Iriarte—who is a professor of archaeology at Exeter University and an expert on the Amazon and pre-Columbian history—we’re able to share up-close images of the terracotta-colored renderings. Scroll down to see a range of extinct animals, oversized armadillos and sloths, and group ceremonies that make up the 100,000-plus individual paintings, which will be part of a documentary titled Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon airing this month.

Update: This article originally framed the prehistoric art as a discovery, which was inaccurate considering Colombians and Indigenous peoples have known about and studied the area for decades. Patricio von Hildebrand, Thomas van der Hammen, and Carlos Castaño-Uribe have made significant contributions, in addition to researchers at the National University of Colombia and the University of Antioquia. We regret the error and erasure.

 

 

 



Art History

'Sistine Chapel of the Ancients': A Remote Area of the Amazon Boasts Tens of Thousands of Ice-Age Paintings

December 2, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images via Marie-Claire Thomas/Wild Blue Media/Channel 4

New photographs reveal an enormous collection of prehistoric art that spreads across a nearly eight-mile-long cliff within the Amazon rainforest. Now dubbed as the “Sistine Chapel of the ancients,” tens of thousands of paintings depict humans and animals like sloths, horses, and the now-extinct palaeolama and mastodon. The latter creatures haven’t occupied regions in South America for almost 12,000 years, which has provided the British-Colombian archaeology team with a timeline for the artworks’ origins.

The collection has been known to Colombians and Indigenous peoples for decades and now will be presented as part of a Channel 4 documentary titled Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon, which airs this month. Archaeologist Ella Al-Shamahi, who is leading the television series, told The Guardian that the site, which is located in the Serranía de la Lindosa, required a two-hour drive from San José del Guaviare and an additional four-hour trek on foot to reach. “When we entered Farc territory, it was exactly as a few of us have been screaming about for a long time,” Al-Shamahi said. “Exploration is not over. Scientific discovery is not over but the big discoveries now are going to be found in places that are disputed or hostile,” noting that Colombia has been ravaged by civil war for decades.

Because of the breadth of the paintings—some are so high on the cliff that they only can be studied with drones—these researchers believe they will take generations to study. So far, though, they’ve found traces of ochre pigments, in addition to renderings of hallucinogenic plants and depictions of people who appear to be bungee jumping.

Update: This article originally framed the prehistoric art as a discovery, which was inaccurate considering Colombians and Indigenous peoples have known about and studied the area for decades. Patricio von Hildebrand, Thomas van der Hammen, and Carlos Castaño-Uribe have made significant contributions, in addition to researchers at the National University of Colombia and the University of Antioquia. We regret the error and erasure.

 

 

 



Design History

Contemporary Elevation Data and Historical Maps Merge in Scott Reinhard's Digital Works

November 19, 2020

Grace Ebert

1966 Allen’s Creek, Indiana. All images © Scott Reinhard, shared with permission

By day, Scott Reinhard designs graphics for The New York Times. Recently, he created a United States map detailing where city-dwellers fled during the pandemic and another showing how the Pantanal wetland in Brazil has transformed into a massive inferno. Incorporating an ever-growing swath of data, his daily tasks are connected to the fluctuations of news cycles.

But in his off-hours, the Brooklyn-based designer takes a broader look at the state of the nation. He merges vintage maps and contemporary elevation data, creating stunning digital works that flatten the differences of time and space into hybrid objects. While his graphics for The Times are rooted in the ever-changing present, his personal work is nestled within historical contexts.

 

1962 Demotte Park

Reinhard’s interest in data and map-generation grew while he was pursuing a master’s degree in graphic design at North Carolina State University, particularly during an introductory course centered around geographic information systems. “I basically became aware of all these cartography tools that I had no idea about. Because I wasn’t coming from that background, I was free to play around… and approach visualizing geographic data in new and interesting ways,” he says.

That experimental period spurred Reinhard’s ideas of fusing historical maps and contemporary land elevations, and he began exploring filtering, a cartographic method that calculates a theoretical sun and provides data about corresponding landscapes. “It’s pretty crude, but it really fascinated me that from a flat, black-and-white image, which is basically what elevation data looks like, you could interpolate this scene,” he shares, noting that he began to work with 3-D renderings around the same time. “That data that’s stored in a paper map can still be activated.”

 

1928 Los Angeles

Since 2019, Reinhard has refined his focus and shifted to larger series. “I’m still interested in these USGS (United States Geological Survey) maps as graphic objects and as really beautiful works of graphic design. What I’ve really been enjoying is to build these out,” he says. The more comprehensive collections have included studies of Alaskan maps from the 1950s, one series focused on the Oregon coast, and another considering south-central Indiana where he was raised.

A macro-view captures the intricacies and histories etched into the landscape of a region, showcasing glacial formations, seismic activity, and how a mountain range emerged during a period of years. “I realized once I started visualizing the landscape that, on a day-to-day standpoint when you look around you, you see elevation changes, but you don’t really see patterns. We’re just a little too small,” he says. Because USGS maps utilize coordinates, they also circumvent more political orientations found in documents outlining territories or other cordoned-off areas, offering an opportunity to correct false narratives that have been perpetuated by cartographic objects in the past. The historical maps hold additional information on trends and periods in design, which manifest in aesthetic choices like style and color.

Reinhard currently is working his way through producing a collection of USGS-recommended maps from the 1950s, a novel project that’s rooted in exploration and curiosity. “All maps are exaggerations, to some extent,” he says. “You can push and pull what the map says and what the map tells you.” Explore Reinhard’s extensive collection of digital works on Instagram and his site, where he also sells an array of prints.

 

1948 Cordova, Alaska

1928 Topanga

1962 Vishnu Temple

1963 Anchorage, Alaska

1951 Menan Buttes

1950 Strasbourg

 

 



Art History

Dive into Van Gogh Worldwide, a Digital Archive of More Than 1,000 Works by the Renowned Dutch Artist

November 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat,” September – October 1887, Paris, 4.5 × 37.2 centimeters, Van Gogh Museum

A point of levity during the temporary shutdowns of museums and cultural institutions during the last few months has been the plethora of digital archives making artworks and historical objects available for perusing from the comfort and safety of our couches. A recent addition is Van Gogh Worldwide, a massive collection of the post-impressionist artist’s paintings, sketches, and drawings.

From landscapes to self-portraits to classic still lifes, the archive boasts more than 1,000 artworks, which are sorted by medium, period, and participating institution—those include the Van Gogh Museum, Kröller-Müller Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands Institute for Art History, and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Each digital piece is supported by details about the work, any restorations, and additional images.

In his short lifetime that spanned just 37 years, the prolific Dutch artist created thousands of works, many of which he finished in his final months. His thick brushstrokes are widely recognized today, particularly in masterpieces like “The Starry Night,” although his sketches, drawings, and prints offer a nuanced look at his entire oeuvre.  (via My Modern Met)

 

“Soup Distribution in a Public Soup Kitchen,” March 1883, ‘s Gravenhage, drawing, 56.5 × 44.4 centimeters, Van Gogh Museum

“Montmartre: Behind the Moulin de la Galette,” late July 1887, Paris, 81 × 100 centimeters, Van Gogh Museum

“Terrace of a café at night (Place du Forum),” c. 16 September 1888, Arles, painting, 80.7 × 65.3 centimeters, Kröller-Müller Museum

“Head of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette,” 18 January 1886 – early February 1886, Antwerpen, painting, 32.3 × 24.8 centimeters, Van Gogh Museum