Written in gold: exploring golden manuscripts from around the world

Some of the most significant texts from around the world have been given very special treatment, with words of holiness and of diplomatic value written both in and on gold. Annabel Teh Gallop, Eleanor Jackson, and Kathleen Doyle investigate the indelible importance of the precious metal in luxury manuscripts.…

The Changing Faces of Olympia

One of the most celebrated works of ancient Greek sculpture, Phidias’ statue of Zeus, was once housed in a temple at Olympia. Though this lost wonder was much admired by ancient visitors, it was not the only attraction at the site, for centuries the home of great panhellenic games. A…

Spiro: renewing the world

Vast quantities of artefacts were found in a mound in Oklahoma in the 1930s. Together they tell an intriguing story of ritual and cosmic renewal. As an exhibition reuniting some of these objects travels to Texas, Lucia Marchini speaks to Michelle Rich and Eric Singleton to find out more.…

Minerva Magazine 195

• Spiro: a climate crisis in the Mississippian world
• Hisham’s Palace: mosaics in the desert
• Olympia: monuments to victory (available 27 April on The Past)
• The Museo Barracco in Rome
• Sir John Soane’s architectural drawings
• Exploring ‘trench art’…

The Palace in the Desert

Last year, the restored mosaics of the lavish audience hall and bathhouse of Hisham’s Palace near Jericho were opened to the public. Marie-Louise Winbladh explores the early Islamic art that embellished this Umayyad winter resort, built not by Hisham, but by his nephew al-Walid.…

The Idea of Marathon: Battle and Culture

Review by David Stuttard. On an August morning just over two and a half millennia ago in 490 BC, a numerically inferior army of democratic Athenians, their liberated slaves, and Plataean allies won an overwhelming victory over Persian invaders on the plain of Marathon. The battle has been seen as…

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Paper worlds and hidden masterpieces

A small selection of the thousands of drawings compiled by Regency architect Sir John Soane have gone on display in London, among them exquisite works that bring us visions of ancient monuments abroad and of unrealised splendour in England. Lucia Marchini takes a look.…

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Museo Barracco: a head for sculpture

Having brought together ancient Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian artefacts to create a museum of comparative sculpture, Baron Giovanni Barracco gave his collection of antiquities to the city of Rome in 1902. Now housed in a 16th-century palace in the Italian capital, the little-known Museo Barracco showcases ancient artistry and…

Persepolis, 1935

Persepolis paintings perfectly glorious’ was the verdict Prentice Duell cabled from Egypt to James Henry Breasted, founder of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (OI). He had just seen the work American artist Joseph Lindon Smith (1863-1950) created at the ancient Persian city. Founded by the Achaemenid king…

H of H Playbook

Review by Lucia Marchini. The myth of Heracles, his heroic strength and ability to meet seemingly insurmountable challenges, has proven an enduringly popular one. Emperors and kings made use of his mighty image, and he was even the subject of an animated Disney musical in 1997. Such adoptions of this…

The Greatest Invention: A History of the World in Nine Mysterious Scripts

Review by Andrew Robinson. All academics would presumably regard writing as one of the world’s great inventions, perhaps even the greatest invention. Philologist Silvia Ferrara certainly does. An expert on the undeciphered Cypro-Minoan script, she is the founder of a research group focused on the invention of writing, INSCRIBE (Invention…

Trench Art: the Art of War

From buttons to artillery shells, a range of items from battlefields have been transformed – often by soldiers – into powerful and personal pieces of ‘trench art’. Nicholas J Saunders explores some of the human stories of life and death sealed within these creations.…

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