The single best work of glyptic art from the Aegean Bronze Age

Charles Baily

Thursday, March 21 2019 at 7:30PM

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60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Charles Baily

What's the talk about?

Sadly, the speaker we had booked for this month had to withdraw so, to save wasting good drinking time, we are offering a home-grown topic.

In 2015, a team of archaeologists from Cincinnati University, discovered and excavated, just a few hundred metres from the so-called Palace of Nestor at Pylos in southwest Greece, a hitherto unknown princely tomb. Like the Palace, it dates from the Mycenaean period, the late Bronze Age, about 1450BC.

Uniquely for the period, it contained no pottery at all – all the grave goods were of metal, precious and otherwise, or gemstones. This was a very high status burial indeed.

Most of the objects recovered were published in 2016. But there was one that was so heavily encrusted with limescale, and merited such careful cleaning, that it did not go public until 2017, and such was its quality that it attracted a lot of attention, from scholars and laymen alike.

What distinguishes it, among other things, is a level of realism in anatomical portrayal that is not seen again until the Hellenistic period, a full thousand years later, and then, following the arrival of Christianity, not again until the Renaissance.

This talk will describe its recovery and put it into the context of its time and place; and – because the discovery of any such freakish artefact always invites scepticism (aha!) about its authenticity – consider the possibility that it could be a fake.

Charles chairs Bedfordshire Humanists and is an organiser of Bedford Skeptics in the Pub. He studied the archaeology of the Aegean Bronze Age as part of his degree course, and has followed developments in the field with close attention for the last 50 years. He is involved with local archeeological digs and museums.

As this is a replacement topic, we may even forego the customary contribution buckets!