4th century ad

2

.Ancient Roman Lawn Darts,

The plumbata was basically a large dart used in combat in the ancient world.  A simple weapon, it consisted of a wooden shaft with fletchings to stabilize them in flight, with an iron head and lead weight to ensure they always landed head first.

While they were originally used by the Greeks as early as 500 BC, it was the Romans who would put them to the most use.  By the later 4th century AD, many Roman legions had traded in their throwing javelins (pilum) for plumatae for several reasons. They were lighter, easier to carry, and could be carried in greater numbers.  Often they would be clipped to the inside of a Roman soldier’s shield for easy access. They were also much more cheaper than javelin’s, certainly an important factor for a cash strapped empire that was slowly deteriorating.  After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the plumata continued in use with armies of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.

Roman Silver Snake Ring and Bracelet Set, 1st-4th Century AD

Roman Imperial, probably from Roman Britain or another far province.

The snake was one of the most popular motifs in Roman jewelry, symbolizing fertility and used to ward off evil. The simple, flattened style, with round eyes, suggests a Celtic influence, as much Roman art in Britain had.

4

Mỹ Sơn Temple complex, Vietnam
Quảng Nam Province, Central Vietnam (via wikipedia)

Mỹ Sơn is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD by the kings of Champa.
The temples are dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva, known under various local names, the most important of which is “Bhadresvara”.

3

Clay effigy of a woman from the 4th century AD, found in Egypt. She was pierced with 13 bronze needles and buried inside the terracotta vase along with a lead curse tablet or defixione. The Louvre, Paris

2

Bronze Bust of Sassanid King (Shapur II), Persia, 4th Century AD

The Sassanid King Shapur II is represented by a cast bronze torso which originally belonged to a composite statue that showed him majestically enthroned, his finely articulated hands resting on a sword (cast separately and now lost). He wears a high, crenellated, tripartite crown with ribbons attached at the back and his forehead is encircled by a diadem adorned with two rows of pearl beads. He wears a tight-fitting, long-sleeved tunic marked by sinuous rills; over this, he wears a belt and halter, both double-beaded with pearls and clasped at the waist with a large circular medallion bordered with the same gems. He is richly outfitted in large bead-and-pearl earrings, pearl bracelets, and a heavy pearl necklace with two round jeweled pendants, one intact, the other preserving traces of a sun disc.  

The Sassanids were a Persian dynasty originating in Fars, who established a powerful empire that extended throughout the Iranian plateau between AD 224-226 and AD 651, making their capital at Ctesiphon. In western chronicles, the most celebrated event in Sassanid history was King Shapur I’s victory in AD 260 over the Roman emperor Valerian, who was taken prisoner along with several thousand of his soldiers. Comparison with similar stepped, crenellated crowns on coin portraits supports the identification of this bust as that of Shapur II (reigned AD 309-379) whose glorious seventy year tenure fortunately had a Roman eyewitness, the historian Ammianus Marcellinus, an officer in the army of Emperor Julian the Apostate.

The Rosetta Stone

A valuable key to deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the inscription on the Rosetta Stone is a decree passed by a council of priests. It is one of a series that affirm the royal cult of the 13-year-old Ptolemy V on the first anniversary of his coronation (in 196 BC).

In previous years the family of the Ptolemies had lost control of certain parts of the country. It had taken their armies some time to put down opposition in the Delta, and parts of southern Upper Egypt, particularly Thebes, were not yet back under the government’s control. Before the Ptolemaic era (before about 332 BC), decrees in hieroglyphs such as this were usually set up by the king. It shows how much things had changed from earlier times that the priests, the only people who had kept the knowledge of writing hieroglyphs, were now issuing such decrees. The list of good deeds done by the king for the temples hints at the way in which the support of the priests was ensured.

The decree is inscribed on the stone three times, in hieroglyphic (suitable for a priestly decree), demotic (the native script used for daily purposes), and Greek (the language of the administration). The importance of this to Egyptology is immense.

Soon after the end of the 4th century AD, when hieroglyphs had gone out of use, the knowledge of how to read and write them disappeared. In the early years of the 19th century, scholars were able to use the Greek inscription on this stone as the key to decipher them. Thomas Young (1773–1829), an English physicist, was the first to show that some of the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone wrote the sounds of a royal name, that of Ptolemy.

The French scholar Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832) then realised that hieroglyphs recorded the sound of the Egyptian language and laid the foundations of our knowledge of ancient Egyptian language and culture. Champollion made a crucial step in understanding ancient Egyptian writing when he pieced together the alphabet of hieroglyphs that was used to write the names of non-Egyptian rulers. He announced his discovery, which had been based on analysis of the Rosetta Stone and other texts, in a paper at the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres at Paris on Friday 27 September 1822. The audience included his English rival Thomas Young, who was also trying to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs. Champollion inscribed this copy of the published paper with alphabetic hieroglyphs meaning ‘à mon ami Dubois’ ('to my friend Dubois’). Champollion made a second crucial breakthrough in 1824, realising that the alphabetic signs were used not only for foreign names, but also for the Egyptian language and names. Together with his knowledge of the Coptic language, which derived from ancient Egyptian, this allowed him to begin reading hieroglyphic inscriptions fully.

Soldiers in Napoleon’s army discovered the Rosetta Stone in 1799 while digging the foundations of an addition to a fort near the town of el-Rashid (Rosetta). On Napoleon’s defeat, the stone became the property of the British under the terms of the Treaty of Alexandria (1801) along with other antiquities that the French had found.

The Rosetta Stone has been exhibited in the British Museum since 1802, with only one break. Towards the end of the First World War, in 1917, when the Museum was concerned about heavy bombing in London, they moved it to safety along with other, portable, 'important’ objects. The Rosetta Stone spent the next two years in a station on the Postal Tube Railway 50 feet below the ground at Holborn.

Find out more in this BBC podcast about the Rosetta Stone.

2

Rare Roman Glass Flask with Handles, 3rd-4th Century AD

With footed base ring, with four applied handles in blue, three of them connecting the lower neck to the body, and one connecting the rim to the body. The flaring rim decorated with blue trail underneath the lip.

Of exceptional quality and very rare: This is the only known example having one of the handles connecting the body and the rim.