Ancient Roman Cinema Projector? I Hae Me Doots Big Time

This has been an aggravating post to get out … first of all, tip o’ the pileus to Richard Campbell for alerting us to this story early this a.m.; a pox on my slow internet connection which prevented me from writing while it was still fresh in my mind. Now I see the story popping up in my Twitter feed and it’s bugging me even more. The story seems to be breaking in Filmaker Magazine, which is a magazine devoted to independent film, in a blogpost with an extremely provocative title: DO ANCIENT ROMAN ARTIFACTS REVEAL THE WORLD’S FIRST MOTION PICTURE PROJECTOR?

After a brief intro to the thing, folks can watch a youtube video which is designed to promote/drum up funds for a project. Here’s the video (and it really should be watched in its entirety … and listen very carefully!):

If you listened carefully, there is a pile of stunning doublespeak about a ‘multimedia installation’ about a ‘speculative archaeological discovery in Zadar’ which ‘may be’ the world’s first cinema projector. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of the phrase ‘speculative archaeology’ before, so alarm bells should be going off. Immediately after telling us that archaeologists are divided about the Antikythera Mechanism (which suggests this guy doesn’t keep up with research) we are told that a coin found ‘nearby’ supports his claim (shades of some Talpiot Tombs, no?). So here’s the coin, supposedly, with one side which says Inventori Lucis (“to the contriver of light” … all pix can be clicked for larger versions):

Screencap from the video

… then they show a shiny new version:

I have never seen this phrase on a coin (not that that means much) but it’s worth mentioning that even Wikipedia mentions its existence not on a coin, but on a phalera (a ‘medal’, for want of a better term) dating stylistically to the Second Century A.D. (there is a reference there to an article by Guarducci, which I am not in a position to track down). The phrase does, of course, refer to Sol Invictus, who was popular among the military set. The other side of this ‘coin’ is similarly Sol-oriented:

Screencap from the Video

… and the shiny new one:

Screencap from the Video

Here we have a reference to Sol Indiges, whose title is pretty controversial as I mentioned years ago before this blogging thing was even thought of. As far as I know, the Sol Indiges thing was largely Republican and so having the ‘Sol Invictus’ on one side and ‘Sol Indiges’ on the other seems kind of strange. I will happily be disabused of this notion, but this medal doesn’t strike me as genuine.

In a similar category are the supposed painted glass panes which — we are led to believe — are Roman in date. Here’s a photo of one of them:

Screencap from the video

I’m sure I’m not the only person who watched this and said, “Hey, that looks just like that Primavera/Flora thing from Stabiae.” In case you’re wondering what I’m referring you, this should give you an ‘oh yeah’ moment:

The dress-off-the-right-shoulder clearly suggests that the ‘glass slide’ was either inspired by or derived from this one. It’s also salutary to point out that the glass slide seems to have a clear border all arond the outside. That’s a giveaway that it was meant either to go in a frame or some sort or that it actually is a Magic Lantern slide from the 1800s (tons of examples on eBay), if it isn’t actually a modern copy. Why would it be modern? Here’s a little quote from the video:

The installation will feature the original archaeological evidence from Zadar, all of which has been fabricated by me …

There’s more info to be had at the Ancient Cinema Project webpage, including more photos that aren’t screencaps. Of particular importance is a quote there which I don’t think is in the video:

Yet another archaeological mystery was recently discovered at a flea market in Zadar: oxidized piece of metal, a cache of hand-painted glass tablets (mostly shattered), a clay lamp, and an unusual coin with the Latin inscriptions “Sol Indiges” and “Inventori Lvcis”. These artifacts form the basis of the installation “Ancient Cinema,” a meta-historical reflection on archaeology and storytelling.

‘Meta-historical’ and ‘speculative archaeology’ with ‘fabricated evidence’. All based on items found at that place where provenance goes to die known as the flea market. Don’t eat that Elmer … there’s nothing ancient Roman here and the double speak being used to raise funds (after a Canada Council Grant ran out??? That’s my tax money!) borders on dishonesty.

[by the way, I am aware of the possibility of Aristotle knowing how the 'camera obscura' worked; this has nothing to do with that]

Classical Words of the Day

minim (Merriam Webster)
vastity (Worthless Word for the Day)

Latinitas:

Greek: