Friday, September 29, 2006

Freud's affair with pagan splendour source of new exhibit in Leeds "Among the secret passions the father of psychoanalysis kept to himself was an overpowering urge to collect antiquities. Janine Burke investigates.

FREUD WAS NOT ALONE when he entered the sea of dreams; his companions were the gods of Egypt, Greece and Rome. In the late 1890s, while writing The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud became an art collector, developing an obsession with antiquity, beauty, myth and archaeology that led him to amass a brilliant private museum of more than 2000 statues, vases, reliefs, busts, fragments of papyrus, rings, precious stones and prints. In Freud's study at Berggasse 19, Vienna, every available surface was so crowded with antiquities that he barely had room to move.

Despite Freud's modest assertion that he was 'no connoisseur in art but simply a layman', his taste was precise and discerning, making his collection an intriguing catalogue of world civilisations where objects rare and sacred, useful and arcane, ravaged and lovely are on display: neolithic tools, delicate Sumerian seals, a great goddess of the middle bronze age, Egyptian mummy bandages inscribed with magical spells and stained with embalming ointment, superb Hellenistic statues, images of the sphinx, erotic Roman charms, luxurious Persian carpets and Chinese jade lions no bigger than a baby's fist.

The popular image of Freud as austere, remote and forbidding is contradicted by the collection, which reveals a very different personality: an impulsive, hedonistic spender, an informed and finicky aesthete, a tomb raider complicit in the often illegal trade in antiquities, a tourist who revelled in sensual, Mediterranean journeys, a generous fellow who lavished exquisite gifts on his family and friends, and a tough negotiator for a bargain."

The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds will be exhibiting a number of his collected objects in early 2006, where for the first time visitors will be able to view the objects from the same perspective as Freud.

His bronze, wood and marble sculptures were gathered from Egypt, China, Greece and Rome and have until now been exhibited behind barriers at the Freud Museum in London.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Silver anomalies found in Jerusalem pottery hint at wealth during second Temple period

Silver anomalies found in Jerusalem pottery hint at wealth during second Temple period: "Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Bar-Ilan University have discovered unusually high concentrations of silver in samples of many different types of pottery from excavations in Jerusalem of the late Second Temple period, the first century BCE (Before the Common Era) through 70 CE (Common Era). This is the first study ever conducted on silver in archaeological ceramics.

The major finding is that samples of pottery from Jerusalem during this era showed anomalously higher concentrations of silver, as compared to samples from all other non-urban sites dated to the same period of time. Many of the samples from Jerusalem and other sampled sites were otherwise indistinguishable in date, shape and chemical composition. High silver abundances were also detected in pottery found at other urban sites. But many of the Jerusalem samples had higher silver values than any of the samples from the other cities.

"Because pottery samples containing higher amounts of silver were all recovered from sites in cities, and because the cities were distant from one another," says Asaro, "we concluded that the silver anomalies are associated with human activity." Natural causes do not explain the geographical distribution of samples with high silver content. The researchers also concluded that silver was washed into the pottery through the action of groundwater.

"One of the most important results of our silver work is that our findings suggest that the measurement of silver in pottery may be a useful tool for evaluating archaeological remains and patterns of urban contamination in antiquity," says Adan-Bayewitz."