Capricorn Risen from the Dirt

Sorry about that headline; there’s some sort of pun trying to get out of there … from the Weston Mercury:

A RARE Roman figurine, believed to be almost 2,000 years old, has been found in North Somerset.

The ‘exceptional solid bronze’ Capricorn statue was found in Burrington using a metal detector and is being transferred to the Museum of Somerset in Taunton.

The 21cm tall statue weighs nearly a kilogram and is believed to date back to the first or second century AD.

The statue of Capricorn, a mythical creature with the head of a goat and the body and tail of a fish, was found near a known former Roman military base.

David Hall, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member responsible for heritage, said: “Roman Capricorn figurines are extremely rare, and this one is unique in Europe because of its quality and size.

“We are delighted to acquire it and display it in the museum for all visitors to enjoy.“

The article is accompanied by an okay photo, but there’s a better one at the Portable Antiquities Scheme database and a great description:

The figurine is in very good condition, missing only his horns. The breaks are well patinated. The hoofs and muscles of the legs are well moulded with incised curved lines on the front half suggesting hair. He has a pointed “goatee” beard which links to the front right ankle. The mouth is a straight incised line, with detailing of the hair on the snout shown with short incised lines. The nostrils are depicted by a pair of short but wide incised lines. The eyes are moulded lentoids with rounded eyebrows and a raised pointed oval eyeball, depressed iris and raised pupil. A band of thicker hair across the top of the head is moulded. The ears are sub-triangular and have a moulded hollow inside. The edge of this is decorated with radiating incised lines representing the hair. Behind the shoulders, the lines depicting hair turn to U shaped scales. The tail has moulded ribs separating the three fins, and moulded rippled lines representing the structure of the fins.

Not So Peaceful Minoans

The incipit of a piece from LiveScience … I don’t think this was part of the AIA/APA thing:

The civilization made famous by the myth of the Minotaur was as warlike as their bull-headed mascot, new research suggests.

The ancient people of Crete, also known as Minoan, were once thought to be a bunch of peaceniks. That view has become more complex in recent years, but now University of Sheffield archaeologist Barry Molloy says that war wasn’t just a part of Minoan society — it was a defining part.

Logo of the University of Sheffield
Logo of the University of Sheffield (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Ideologies of war are shown to have permeated religion, art, industry, politics and trade, and the social practices surrounding martial traditions were demonstrably a structural part of how this society evolved and how they saw themselves,” Molloy said in a statement.

The ancient Minoans

Crete is the largest Greek isle and the site of thousands of years of civilization, including the Minoans, who dominated during the Bronze Age, between about 2700 B.C. and 1420 B.C. They may have met their downfall with a powerful explosion of the Thera volcano, which based on geological evidence seems to have occurred around this time.

The Minoans are perhaps most famous for the myth of the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull that lived in the center of a labyrinth on the island.

Minoan artifacts were first excavated more than a century ago, Molloy said, and archaeologists painted a picture of a peaceful civilization where war played little to no role. Molloy doubted these tales; Crete was home to a complex society that traded with major powers such as Egypt, he said. It seemed unlikely they could reach such heights entirely cooperatively, he added.

“As I looked for evidence for violence, warriors or war, it quickly became obvious that it could be found in a surprisingly wide range of places,” Molloy said.

War or peace?

For example, weapons such as daggers and swords show up in Minoan sanctuaries, graves and residences, Molloy reported in November in The Annual of the British School at Athens. Combat sports were popular for men, including boxing, hunting, archery and bull-leaping, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Hunting scenes often featured shields and helmets, Molloy found, garb more suited to a warrior’s identity than to a hunter’s. Preserved seals and stone vessels show daggers, spears and swordsmen. Images of double-headed axes and boar’s tusk helmets are also common in Cretian art, Molloy reported. […]

We mentioned a couple of years ago how dispelling the “flower children” image of the Minoans seems to be an incipient topic of research (Questioning the Pax Minoica?). In case you miss it, Dr Molloy’s ABSA article is up at Martial Minoans: War as social process, practice and event in Bronze Age Crete

Classical Words of the Day