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Curiosity Capsule

Welcome to my cabinet of curiosities, where I sporadically share

souvenirs from my travels, tools and figments of my mind.

Contact me to  share your curiosities!

During my travels, I've sketched an array of captivating figures and faces, each with its own tale to tell. In this blogpost I'd like to introduce them to you.

Note to self: remember to document any given information. Retroactively uncovering the original purpose and significance, especially without detailed museum descriptions, is challenging.

Škoromat, Ljubljana

Encountering the life-sized Škoromat at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum in Ljubljana was quite an experience. Even as a stationary mannequin, the costume was quite scary. The Škoromat is a mischievous character from the Slovenian Shrovetide Carnival, a tradition dating back to the 14th century. They roam around, loudly ringing cowbells, and assist Škopiti - a frightening creature with a broad hat and clattering tongs - in catching children, especially young girls.

Here you can see them in action!

Happy guy, Viuz- Faverges

This terracotta statuette greets every visitor of the archeological museum of Viuz-Faverges with a smile. It is unclear why it was created in the 2nd century - is it a representation of a domestic deity? Or a bored potter's whimsical creation?

Either way, he's just happy to be here.

Dogū Mask, Oyu

"What is this place!?" Dogū is understandably experiencing a culture shock: she travelled from Japan in the Jomon period (14,000 - 300 BCE) to present-day UK.

Likely an earth goddess or spirit, she was ritually beheaded and scattered around a stone circle in a fertility or healing ceremony.

Mystery figure, Viuz- Faverges

This enigmatic silhouette adorns a bronze scarf-pin dating from the first to third century. Without a clear description, its identity remains a mystery. My guess? A symbol of fertility, not unlike Artemis of Ephesus with its numerous protuberances.

Two weary travelers from Mesopotamia, Viuz- Faverges

On the left, an unidentified bearded man. Possibly representing a god, king, scholar, or guardian.

On the right, a

worn-down Ishtar, the goddess embodying love, beauty, fertility, and war,

often linked with the planet Venus.

Jesus, Mary and death, Viuz- Faverges

This three-faced ivory rosary bead, discovered in 17th and 18th-century graves at the Church of Vuiz, ironically urges spiritual introspection and preparedness for death.

The combination of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and a skull symbolizes 'Memento Mori', a reminder of the inevitability of death and the importance of spiritual life.

It's quite dark to think about someone using this rosary as they faced the end.

Did the owner know that their time was near while holding this symbol?


Updated: Jan 8

The Nebra Sky Disk is a unique object measuring about 30 cm in diameter. Adorned with gold illustrations on its greenish surface, this disk showcases an array of celestial bodies. Created around 1750 BC, it was buried as an offering approximately 150 years later.

The artefact resurfaced in 1999, dug up by treasure hunters alongside a collection of Bronze Age weaponry. Initial doubts about its authenticity have given way to scientific consensus that it's indeed a Bronze Age artefact.

With its golden stars, sun and moon, the Nebra Sky Disk stands as the oldest known realistic representation of astronomical phenomena. Unlike symbolic drawings of gods or mythical creatures, it shows stars as actual shining points. It was likely passed down through generations, with each version becoming more detailed.

Notable additions include golden arcs along the bottom and sides, one of which has fallen off. The objects on the sides are thought to mark points where the sun rises and sets during solstices. The bottom arc, with carved lines, could be a solar boat, a rainbow, the Aurora Borealis, or a comet. Back then, people believed the sun and moon were moved by a boat, as seen in other rock carvings and bronze artefacts.

Since there are no written records from its time, the purpose of the Nebra Sky Disk is a calculated guess. Most experts believe it served as an astronomical calendar. Its ceremonial burial transforms the disk from a mere tool into a religious symbol. People in ancient times aligned their monuments with the sun and moon, suggesting the disk combined these symbols into a visual representation of sacred knowledge.

Regardless of its exact role, the disk offers a valuable look into early human understanding of the night sky, revealing insights into the movements of celestial bodies during the Bronze Age.

While I initially found the Nebra Sky Disk fascinating, I didn't fully grasp its significance. Wouldn't there have been more decorative depictions of stars? Learning about the extensive sky observations needed to create an accurate calendar shifted my perspective on prehistoric knowledge transfer. For some reason, I had always pictured prehistoric society as isolated groups of people, unaware of other tribes or generations.

A good example of meticulous prehistoric knowledge transmission is found in the Iliad. Spanning centuries between the Trojan War and Homer's composition of the narrative, the epic vividly portrays Bronze Age warriors and their technology with remarkable accuracy.

“How Homer could have had so clear a picture of bronze tool-making and armoury can only be explained by precise and well-remembered oral transmission over a very, very long time.” - Stephen Fry, Troy, 2020


Updated: Jan 8

The "Dial of Destiny" in the new Indiana Jones movie is a fictionalized version of the Antikythera mechanism. Although the original object isn't as advanced as portrayed in the film, its prochronistic mechanism sparks thoughts about time travel.

The Antikythera Mechanism is considered the first known analogue computer. It was used to predict the positions of the moon, sun, and five then-known planets.

It's unclear exactly when the mechanism was built, estimated to be around the late second or early first century BC. It's believed to be the work of the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, as it employs his theory for the motion of the Moon. The Antikythera mechanism was discovered on a sunken Roman cargo ship near the island of Antikythera, having likely originated from Rhodes.

The ship and its contents remained underwater for two millennia before being discovered by sponge divers in 1900. Among the treasures, the mechanism initially went unnoticed due to its corroded state.

In 1902, archaeologist Valerios Stais identified the object as an astronomical clock, but the idea was dismissed as it seemed too complex for its time - machines with similar complexity did not appear until the fourteenth century. Not until 1951, when Professor Derek J. de Solla Price examined the mechanism using X-ray and gamma-ray images, was it confirmed as a planetary computer.

Working with only the surviving one-third of the mechanism, researchers speculated on how the machine would have worked. In 2021, scientists at London's University College made significant progress, using X-ray scans to create a working computer model that can predict celestial positions and even athletic game timings.

In the movie "Indiana Jones - Dial of Destiny," the Antikythera mechanism becomes a time-traveling device. This doesn't require much imagination, as questions about the true origins of the Antikythera Mechanism have arisen since its discovery. The artifact seemingly exists in a vacuum of invention: such a complex machine couldn't have been designed without precursors, yet no other comparable mechanisms from the Greco-Roman period have been found. Has the machine been send back in time? Does it holds more secrets yet to be uncovered?


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