Ataskada: The Fire Temple in Ancient Zoroastrianism

Fire temples were firmly established by the time of the Parthian Empire. Introduction Fire Temples are places of worship in the Zoroastrian religion. They were known as ataskada (“house of fire”) by the Persians but are best known today by the name given them by the Greeks from their word pyratheia (fire temple). They are[…]

Ancient Mycenaean Civilization, 1700-1100 BCE

The Mycenaeans were indigenous Greeks who were likely stimulated by their contact with Minoan Crete and other Mediterranean cultures. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Mycenaean civilization (c. 1700-1100 BCE) flourished in the Late Bronze Age, reaching its peak from the 15th to the 13th century BCE when it extended its influence not only throughout the[…]

A Flair for the Dramatic: Baroque Architecture in Early Modern Europe

The period was characterized by a fluidity of design accented by a sense of drama. Introduction The seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries marked the Baroque period in Europe and the Americas. The period was characterized by a fluidity of design accented by a sense of drama. The architecture of the period departed from the traditionalist[…]

A History of the Italian Renaissance

The Italian Renaissance began in Tuscany, centered in the cities of Florence and Siena. Introduction The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the fourteenth century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and[…]

Temple of Liberty: Building the Capitol for a New Nation

All the participants recognized they were creating America’s most important public building. Introduction George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were determined that the United States Capitol be a meaningful expression of America’s new political and social order. The Constitution, ratified in 1788, had given the country its governing structure; the Capitol, begun three years later, was[…]

Ancient Persian Art and Architecture

Persian art and architecture was influenced early on by the older civilizations of Elam and Susiana. Introduction Persian art and architecture in the present day is associated with the nation of Iran and usually designated as beginning with the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE) but has an even longer history with its origins dating back[…]

Art and Architecture of Japan, Medieval to Renaissance Periods

There was new development toward life-likeness and a form of idealized realism. Kamakura Period (1185-1333): New Aesthetic Directions The Insei rule gave way to an extra-imperial, although imperially sanctioned, military government, known in Japanese as bakufu. Military leaders—called shōguns—first came from the Minamoto family (whose headquarters in Kamakura gave the name to the period), then power[…]

Art and Architecture of Japan, Ancient Jomon to Medieval Heian Periods

The arts of Japan are profoundly intertwined with the country’s long and complex history. Introduction Japan’s arts are often in dialogue with artistic and cultural developments in other parts of the world. From the earliest aesthetic expressions of the Neolithic period to today’s contemporary art—here is a brief survey to get you started. Please note[…]

Art and Architecture of South Asia, Prehistory to 500 CE

Art is a wonderfully tangible pathway to past cultures. By Dr. Arathi Menon Introduction Art is a wonderfully tangible pathway to past cultures. In the large collar of a tiny terracotta dog from Harappa, in present-day Pakistan, we learn about people and their dogs four thousand years ago. In beds made of stone inside rock-cut[…]

Medieval Castles, Caves, and Rock Shelters

A medieval world where caves and underground shelters provided refuge from raiders, allowing a threatened civilization to flourish. Introduction Southwest Georgia, close to the borders with Turkey and Armenia, is dotted with the remains of ancient defences. Many of these structures – great and small, highly visible or hidden away – reflect the near-constant conflicts[…]

Architecture of the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

The Achaemenid Empire was a period of artistic growth that left an extraordinary architectural legacy. Introduction Achaemenid architecture includes all architectural achievements of the Achaemenid Persians manifesting in construction of spectacular cities used for governance and inhabitation (Persepolis, Susa, Ecbatana), temples made for worship and social gatherings (such as Zoroastrian temples), and mausoleums erected in[…]

Key Elements of Persian Architecture since Ancient Mesopotamia

Iran has inherited numerous architectural traditions over the course of history. Introduction From the Islamic period the architectural achievements of the Seljuq, Il-Khanid, and Safavid dynasties are particularly noteworthy. During that time Iranian cities such as Neyshabur, Isfahan, and Shiraz came to be among the great cities of the Islamic world, and their many mosques,[…]

Sumerian Temple Architecture in Early Mesopotamia

This period is characterized by major cultural and political changes. Historical Overview During the Early Dynastic period (2900–2350 BCE) (fig. 1), southern Mesopotamia was split into two regions, Akkad in the north and Sumer in the south. The Early Dynastic (ED) period can be divided into four phases: EDI (2900–2700) EDII (2700–2600) EDIIIa (2600–2450) EDIIIb[…]

Sacred Space and Symbolic Form at India’s Medieval Lakshmana Temple

The temples at Khajuraho, including the Lakshmana temple, have become famous for their amorous images. Ideal Female Beauty Look closely at the image above. Imagine an elegant woman walks barefoot along a path accompanied by her attendant. She steps on a thorn and turns—adeptly bending her left leg, twisting her body, and arching her back—to[…]

The Bronze Bells of Ancient Korea

Bronze bells were first made in Korea in the Bronze Age. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The metalworkers of ancient Korea were highly skilled artists and some of their finest surviving works are the large bronze bells cast for use in Buddhist temples and monasteries. Both the Unified Silla kingdom and Goryeo kingdom produced bells, but[…]

Dolmens of Bronze Age Korea

They were constructed as tombs for elite members of the community. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Dolmens (in Korean: koindol or chisongmyo) are simple structures made of monolithic stones erected during the late Neolithic period or Korean Bronze Age (1st millennium BCE). In ancient Korea they appear most often near villages and the archaeological finds buried[…]

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – Digitally Reconstructed

Six of the ancient wonders have vanished – and that’s if they existed in the first place. By John Cole The Wonders of the Ancient World remain cornerstones of human culture, and the concept is regularly referred to in casual conversation as well as in the academic sphere. But how many people can actually name[…]

Strangers in the City: The Cosmopolitan Nature of 16th-Century Venice

Othello shows us the cosmopolitan nature of renaissance Venice. Of all Shakespeare’s plays, it is Othello which reflects most vividly the multi-ethnic character of the Mediterranean basin in the 16th century. The Venetian army led by Othello, an African Moor, consists also of a Florentine (Cassio) and perhaps a Spaniard as well: the name ‘Iago’[…]

The Zvartnots Cathedral of Medieval Armenia

Zvartnots Cathedral was constructed at a time of much chaos in Near East. Introduction The ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral are located on a flat plain within the Ararat Plateau between the cities of Yerevan and Etchmiadzin in Armenia’s Armavir province near Zvartnots International Airport. Built in the middle of the 7th century CE, under the[…]

Classical Architecture in Viceregal Mexico

In the sixteenth century, cities were considered to embody an ideal of sophisticated and refined living. The Renaissance – Not Just in Italy The term “renaissance” generally invokes images of Italian cities, buildings, and artworks, rather than images of American ones. However, the renaissance had tremendous repercussions on the American continents, and its influence can[…]

Azulejos: The Visual Art of Portugal

Traditional tile art tells the stories of Portugal’s proud seafaring history. By Kim MartinsHistorian Introduction Glazed blue ceramic tiles or azulejos are everywhere in Portugal. They decorate the winding streets of the capital, Lisbon. They cover the walls of train stations, restaurants, bars, public murals, and fountains, churches, and altar fronts. Azulejos can be seen[…]

Visiting The Ruins of Lisbon’s Ancient and Medieval Past

Lisbon was the capital of the Portuguese Empire, a nation of explorers, seafarers and conquerors. By Wanda MarcussenHistorian Introduction Visiting the vibrant and colorful city of Lisbon, on the banks of the river Tagus and the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, what is most showcased is one episode of the city’s and country’s glorious past:[…]

2,000-Year-Old Street Built in Jerusalem by Pontius Pilate Discovered

The excavation revealed over 100 coins trapped beneath paving stones. An ancient walkway most likely used by pilgrims as they made their way to worship at the Temple Mount has been uncovered in the “City of David” in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. In a new study published in Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute[…]

The Bizarre Social History of Beds

Today’s beds are thought of as bastions of privacy. But not long ago, they were the perches from which kings ruled and places where travelers hunkered down with complete strangers. Introduction Groucho Marx once joked, “Anything that can’t be done in bed isn’t worth doing at all.” You might think he was referring to sleeping[…]

Exploring Ancient Mosaics

We can see how the world once was and glimpse now lost landscapes, flora and fauna. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Mosaics, where designs and images are created using small pieces (tesserae) of stone or other materials, have been used to decorate floors, walls, ceilings, and precious objects since before written records began. Like pottery, mosaics have[…]

Krak Des Chevaliers: A Crusader Castle in Medieval Syria

Considered virtually impregnable, it was the largest Crusader castle in the Middle East. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Krak des Chevaliers (also spelt Cracs des Chevaliers, and known in Arabic as Hisn al-Akrad) is a castle in Syria originally built for the Emir of Aleppo in 1031 CE but acquired and extensively rebuilt by the Knights[…]

Hoysala Architecture of Medieval India

The most remarkable accomplishment of this era lies, undoubtedly, in the field of architecture. By Dhruba RC Introduction The Hoysala era (1026 CE – 1343 CE) was marked by illustrious achievements in art, architecture, and culture. The nucleus of this activity lay in the present day Hassan district of Karnataka, India. The most remarkable accomplishment[…]

The Mongolian Yurt

The yurt tent has been used by nomadic pastoralist peoples of northern East Asia since before written records began. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction A yurt (ger in Mongolian) is a large circular tent made of wool felt stretched over a wooden frame used by nomadic peoples of the Asian steppe since before written records began.[…]

Questions Answered about Ancient Palmyra, Syria

Getty Curators Frances Terpak and Peter Bonfitto answer questions about how the ancient site was recorded and how it has changed. Frances Terpak and Peter Louis Bonfitto, co-curators of the Getty Research Institute’s first online exhibition The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra, took your questions on Instagram last week. Both are passionate about the value of scholarship and the[…]