Minerva Magazine 189

Cover Story

Thomas Becket: Canterbury Tales In 1170, Archbishop Thomas Becket was killed in his cathedral by knights linked to his former friend King Henry II. But how did Becket become a revered saint and protector of the king?


Epic Iran: Persian splendours A major exhibition delving into 5,000 years of art and design in Iran is set to open in London in May. Lucia Marchini speaks to curator John Curtis for a…
Rosetta Stone: paper, paste, and prepositions The Rosetta Stone was the key to unlocking the secrets of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The results of Jean-François Champollion’s work on the Stone’s inscription may be well known, but other scholars…
Brescia: Wings of Victory After it was discovered hidden in a Roman temple with other works of art, a bronze statue of Victory attracted the attention of rulers and writers, who praised and sought…
The lost city of al-Qata’i‘ Just decades after it was founded, ibn Tulun’s capital al-Qata’i‘ was razed to the ground. The Great Mosque of ibn Tulun, the oldest mosque in Africa to survive in its…


A wealth of Viking finds Dated to c.AD 950 on stylistic grounds, the hoard contains three significant pieces of jewellery deposited in a single event, possibly by a wealthy individual.
New dating for Australia’s ancient paintings While the kangaroo is the oldest known painting in Australia so far, there may even be older paintings yet to be discovered.
Discoveries in the desert Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s, the caves - which have preserved fragile objects like the scrolls – have been the target of looters.
Pompeii’s VIP Vehicle Excavations at the Roman villa of Civita Giuliana have uncovered a remarkable four-wheeled ceremonial chariot.


Athanasius Kircher (c.1601-1680) From: People 'In 1638, Kircher was lowered into an awakening Vesuvius to advance his geological knowledge.'
Palmyra, 1864 From: The Picture Desk What remains of Palmyra’s substantial ruins, stretching across 3km, gives a sense of the city’s prosperity and grandeur, especially between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD.


Art and Curiosity Cabinets of the Late Renaissance: A Contribution to the History of Collecting When, in 1908, Julius von Schlosser published Art and Curiosity Cabinets of the Late Renaissance (originally Die Kunst- und Wunderkammern der Spätrenaissance), he had been working for more than 15…
The Rood in Medieval Britain and Ireland, c.800-c.1500 The cross is ubiquitous in medieval Christian iconography. As it was on the cross that Jesus died, bringing believers salvation, it is a critical component of the religion. But, despite…
Deciphering Aztec Hieroglyphs: A Guide to Nahuatl Writing A leading handbook of scripts and writing that runs to almost a thousand pages, The World’s Writing Systems (1996), edited by Peter Daniels and William Bright, contains scarcely any reference…

From the editor

In some stories of the dramatic events that took place in Canterbury Cathedral
on 29 December 1170, King Henry II uttered the words ‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?’ – or some variation thereof – prompting a gang of knights to head to the cathedral and kill the archbishop. The murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in his church was soon followed by posthumous miracles, sainthood, and his subsequent adoption as a saintly protector of the now penitent king he had a fatal falling out with. For our cover feature, Lloyd de Beer and Naomi Speakman, curators of a new British Museum exhibition on Becket, explore the impact of the murder, and the tales told on spectacular stained glass, enamelled caskets, and in illuminated manuscripts.

From medieval Canterbury, we head to medieval Cairo and a different place of worship: the Great Mosque of ibn Tulun. Inspired by an architectural marvel in his home of Samarra, ibn Tulun built his mosque with a magnificent spiralling minaret and ornate stuccowork. As Nigel Fletcher-Jones explains, the surviving monument offers a chance to encounter ibn Tulun’s Egyptian capital, which was largely destroyed just decades after it was built.

Next, we immerse ourselves in the art of ancient Iran. From humble cuneiform tablets to stunning metalwork made for Elamite, Achaemenid, and Sasanian kings, a range of artefacts will be on view in an exhibition of 5,000 years of Iranian art opening at the V&A. We speak to John Curtis, one of its curators, to learn more about the cultures who created them.

The north Italian town of Brescia boasts some ancient masterpieces of its own, notably a bronze statute of a Winged Victory, which has gone back on display in a Roman temple in the city. Dalu Jones explores its discovery and reception in the 19th century, and its recent conservation.

In our final feature, Jed Buchwald and Diane Greco Josefowicz look at another 19th-century discovery, as they investigate the intricate workings of Thomas Young and Jean-François Champollion as they attempted to decipher the Rosetta Stone in the 1810s and 1820s.