Israeli archaeologists recently uncovered a mikveh (a Jewish ritual bath) in Jerusalem’s Qiryat Menachem neighborhood that dates back to the Second Temple period (538 B.C.E–70 C.E.). Small pools used for ritual cleansing, known as mikva’ot (singular, mikveh), were built to strict specifications: According to the Mishnah, the earliest rabbinic code of law, they must be of a certain size and filled with “living” water—water that has not been transferred from a vessel but has flowed directly into the bath from a river, spring or rainwater collector.
The recently-discovered Jerusalem mikveh features a unique water supply system designed to preserve every possible drop of rainwater collected in the arid Jerusalem environment. Water ran into the mikveh from three collecting basins (otzar) hewn out of the rock on the mikveh’s roof, following kashrut laws dictating that the water be carried in naturally and without human contact. In addition, the mikveh was paved with plaster, following the Jewish law that water from the mikveh not seep into the earth.
While the area was used for quarrying after the mikveh went out of use, Jerusalem archaeologists are working with the neighboring community and the Israel Antiquities Authority to preserve the site of this unique Second Temple period mikveh.
The mikveh from above, showing the three collecting basins hewn into the roof of the mikveh. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.
- 2,000-year-old key found in Jerusalem (vineoflife.net)
- Mikveh and the single girl (blogs.timesofisrael.com)
- Rare Discovery of Mikveh in New England Rewrites US Jewish History (jewishpress.com)
- Jerusalem’s Ancient ‘City of Quarries’ Reveals City-Building Rocks (livescience.com)
Stone Age Cave Painters Were Realists
November 8, 2011 8:40:00 AM
An international team of researchers said Monday they have found the first evidence that spotted horses, often seen depicted in cave paintings, actually existed tens of thousands of years ago.
That means ancient artists were drawing what they saw around them, and were not abstract or symbolic painters — a topic of much debate among archeologists — said the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
By analyzing bones and teeth from more than 30 horses in Siberia and Europe dating back as many as 35,000 years, researchers found that six shared a gene associated with a type of leopard spotting seen in modern horses.
Until now, scientists only had DNA evidence of monochrome horses, such as bay and black.
One prominent example that has generated significant debate over its inspiration is the 25,000-year-old painting, “The Dappled Horses of Pech-Merle” in France, showing white horses with black spots.
“The spotted horses are featured in a frieze which includes hand outlines and abstract patterns of spots,” explained Terry O’Connor, a professor at the University of York’s Department of Archaeology.
“The juxtaposition of elements has raised the question of whether the spotted pattern is in some way symbolic or abstract, especially since many researchers considered a spotted coat phenotype unlikely for Paleolithic horses,” he said.
“However, our research removes the need for any symbolic explanation of the horses. People drew what they saw.”
The team was led by Melanie Pruvost of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research and the Department of Natural Sciences at the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin.
Scientists from Britain, Mexico, the United States, Spain and Russia helped with the genotyping and analysis of the results.
“We are just starting to have the genetic tools to access the appearance of past animals and there are still a lot of question marks and phenotypes for which the genetic process has not yet been described,” said Pruvost.
“However, we can already see that this kind of study will greatly improve our knowledge about the past.”
An Ancient Art Studio Found in Cave In Africa
October 13, 2011 2:23:00 PM
A tiny cave on the South African coast has yielded the earliest evidence of an artist’s studio — a processing workshop where a liquefied ochre-rich mixture was produced 100,000 years ago.
Christopher Henshilwood from the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and colleagues found the ochre-rich mixture stored in two abalone shells at Blombos Cave on the southern Cape Coast, east of Cape Town, South Africa.
Along with the shells, the researchers found tools such as bones, charcoal, grindstones and hammerstones.
The material shows that 100,000 years ago “humans had the conceptual ability to source, combine and store substances that were then possibly used to enhance their social practices,” the researchers write in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.
The ochre was possibly used for decoration, painting and skin protection, said the researchers.
The artefacts were found together buried in sand in 2008, as if someone had stored them with the intention of retrieving them at a later time.
In the past three years the findings underwent detailed analysis and Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating.
“The analysis of the residues in the shell, on the tools and the pieces of ochre has allowed us to reconstruct the function of the tools involved and evaluate the degree of behavioral complexity implicit in the process. We were also able to reconstruct the recipe to produce the pigment,” second author Francesco D’Errico, director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS),told Discovery News.
The researchers believe that pieces of ochre were first rubbed on quartzite slabs to produce a fine red powder.
“Ochre chips were crushed with quartz, quartzite and silcrete hammerstones/grinders and combined with heated crushed, mammal-bone,charcoal, stone chips and a liquid, which was then introduced to the abalone shells and gently stirred,” Henshilwood said.
A bone was probably used to stir the mixture and to transfer it out of the shell as with a painter spalula.
According to Erella Hovers, an archaeologist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the finding confirms the hypothesis that the production and use of ochre were a complex process that involved forethought and planning.
“Bits and pieces attesting to various phases of the process have been found independently and separately in various sites in and out of Africa at comparable ages, but to the best of my knowledge this is the first time that the whole process can be reconstructed,” Hovers told Discovery News.
Most interestingly, the Blombos elaborate ochre processing used a mixture with marrow fat to produce a paint rather than with plant resin to produce a mastic, Alison Brooks, professor of anthropology at George Washington University in Washington DC, noticed.
“This argues strongly for its symbolic function,” Brooks told Discovery News.
For more than 20 years, Blombos Cave has been yelding bone tools and artefacts left by its Middle Stone Age inhabitants. In 2002, researchers found 70,000-year-old blocks of ochre with abstract engravings, suggesting the emergence of abstract thinking and modern human behaviour much earlier than previously thought.
“The recovery of these toolkits adds evidence for early technological and behavioural developments associated with humans and documents their deliberate planning, production and curation of pigmented compound and the use of containers,” said Henshilwood.
“It also demonstrates that humans had an elementary knowledge of chemistry and the ability for long-term planning 100,000 years ago,”he concluded.
Jesuits at Oxford find painting believed to be by Michelangelo
A painting of Christ’s crucifixion believed to be the work of Michelangelo has been hanging in the residence of a small Jesuit community at Oxford for more than 70 years.
Purchased at auction by the Campion Hall community in the 1930s, the painting was believed to be the work of Marcello Venusti, one of Michelangelo’s 16th-century contemporaries. But recent tests revealed that the work was indeed created by the Renaissance painter, reports the National Jesuit News.
The discovery was made by historian and conservationist Antonio Forcellino, who used infrared technology to uncover who he believes is the true creator of the painting.
BBC News reported that the residents were both excited and concerned by the find — excited because they had something very special in their midst, but also concerned that the piece was too valuable to continue hanging on a wall in their residence.
So the work of art has been removed and sent to theAshmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at Oxford University for safekeeping, according to the Jesuits.
Filed under: CNS
A Video Game that Really Gives You the Shivers
May 28, 2011 4:59:30 AM
Digital entertainment is on the road to becoming a fully immersive experience. Last week at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Disney researchers unveiled a project called ‘Tactile Brush’ that will be used to create creepy sensations during movies. The technology makes use of phenomena that have been well established for many decades.
It has long been known that if two vibrating objects are successively placed at different points on the skin, an illusion of motion can be created between the two points. Another illusion known as ‘phantom tactile sensation’ is done by placing vibrating objects at different points on the skin at the same time which creates a tactile sensation between the points.
The ‘Tactile Brush’ uses both of these ideas to produce all kinds of sensations. An array of vibrating coils is placed in the user’s chair and by manipulating the intensity of vibration of different coils, the system can create sensations as powerful as a vehicle making a hard turn or as subtle as a drop of rain trickling down the skin.
This new system is sure to perk up the ears of gamers and thrill enthusiasts the world over. Although tactile feedback systems (Haptic technology) have been around since the 1950’s they have never enjoyed mainstream success in the gaming or entertainment industry. ‘Tactile Brush’ is hoping to change that. Ali Israr, one of the developers of the system, tells New Scientist that this will open up a new untapped realm for digital entertainment. “Two metres squared – that’s the total area of our skin,” he says. “It’s a big area.”
Credit: Daniel Koebe/Corbis
Prepare to be enchanted this holiday season at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. From gorgeous Precolumbian gold objects to Caravaggio’s musicians to the contemporary sculptures of El Anatsui and Katrin Sigurdardottir, our galleries house works of art that will delight every family member and out-of-town guest. At The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, enjoy exquisite medieval art and architecture as well as the beautiful arches of ivy, lady apples, and hazelnuts that grace the Main Hall doorways each December.
Discover the benefits of Membership. Join today.
With warm holiday wishes,
Managing Chief Membership Officer
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image: Annual Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche. Gift of Loretta Hines Howard, 1964 (64.164.1–167).
The Trustees Dining Room invites you to experience a festive holiday tasting menu by Rodolfo Contreras, executive chef at the Guggenheim Museum’s Wright restaurant, for dinner on Friday, December 17, and Saturday, December 18. Dishes from the tasting menu will also be available à la carte during lunch Tuesday, December 21, through Friday, December 24.
Reservations are suggested. For more information, please call 212-570-3975 or see the Members-only section to make an online reservation.
Met Holiday Monday
Select galleries and shops in the Main Building of the Metropolitan Museum will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday, December 27, in honor of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The Trustees Dining Room will be open for lunch at noon with the last seating at 2:30 p.m. See the online calendar to plan your visit.
Please note that The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, the Museum’s branch in northern Manhattan, is not open on Met Holiday Mondays.
For Members beginning at the Family/Dual level
Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart’s Renaissance
Saturday, January 8, at 11:00 a.m. or Sunday, January 9, at 1:00 p.m.
Curator Maryan Ainsworth will explain how Jan Gossart became the pivotal Old Master who changed the course of Flemish art from the medieval craft tradition of its founder, Jan van Eyck, and charted new territory that eventually led to the great age of Peter Paul Rubens. This Members’ free lecture is held in conjunction with the exhibition Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart’s Renaissance.
Holiday Shop with Extended Hours
Shop seven days a week until 7:00 p.m. at our Holiday Shop, located at the Museum’s 81st Street entrance. Extended hours end Thursday, December 30.
Fashion Meets Furniture:
A Conversation with Anna Sui
Friday, January 14, 6:00 p.m. ($25)
Fashion designer Anna Sui will join Joseph Cunningham, author of The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs; Andrew Bolton, curator in The Costume Institute; and Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts, for a lively discussion on how Charles Rohlfs’s work influenced Anna Sui’s fall collection. This event is presented in conjunction with the exhibition The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs.
See Concerts & Lectures for a full listing of events.
As a special privilege for ticket holders, non-Members are welcome to enjoy dinner in The Trustees Dining Room on the Friday or Saturday evening of a ticketed event.
Image: Charles Rohlfs (American, 1853–1936).
Tall-Back Chair from the Rohlfs Home, 1898–99. Princeton University Art Museum, Gift of Roland Rohlfs, Son of Charles Rohlfs.
Planned Giving: The William Society Gazette
The William Society Gazette features stories about different ways friends of the Museum support the Met’s future through planned gifts. See the latest issue (PDF).
The William Society is the Museum’s way of recognizing friends who have included the Metropolitan in their will or estate plan. For more information, please contact us by email at email@example.com or visit us online.
For President’s Circle, Patron Circle, Patron, Sponsor, and Donor Members
Entertain a group of up to eight individuals in the art-filled Patron’s Lounge and enjoy an assortment of classic English tea sandwiches, scones, and special sweets. By reservation, afternoon tea is served Tuesday through Sunday from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. and costs $21 per person.
Additional Patron’s Lounge services for President’s Circle, Patron Circle, Patron, and Sponsor Members include:
• Tea, coffee, espresso, and cocktail service
• Assortments of sandwiches and small plates
• Private coat checking, rest rooms, and telephones
• Wireless Internet
• Special evening events
For more information or to place a reservation for afternoon tea, please call 212-570-3999.
Image: William McGregor Paxton (1869–1941). Tea Leaves, 1909. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of George A. Hearn, 1910 (10.64.8).
Image: Walls of Marrakesh.
Image: John Baldessari (American, b. 1931). Pelicans Staring at Woman with Nose Bleeding, 1984. Gelatin silver prints with oil tint; 30 1/4 x 64 3/4 in. (76.8 x 164.4 cm) overall. Collection of Wendy and Robert Brandow, Los Angeles. © John Baldessari
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