Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Minoan Larnax in the Michael C. Carlos Museum

I am much enjoying Adam Nicolson's The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters (London: William Collins, 2014). I love the weaving of the literary landscapes and the application of Homer's works to contemporary society. And I am about to move from "Grasping Homer" to "Loving Homer".

The book has a series of "Homeric" (broadly speaking!) colour images: a gold mask from the shaft graves at Mycenae; inlaid Myceanean daggers; representations of the Homeric narratives on Athenian black- and red-figured pottery; a writing tablet from the Ulu Burun shipwreck; the walls of Tiryns; the "Homeric" cup from Ischia; an Egyptian ivory cosmetic container; the Kypselid gold phiale from Olympia.

And I wait to see how this diverse group of objects are woven into Nicolson's narrative.

But I am not writing a review. Readers of LM can always get a copy of the book for themselves. [ |]

So why am I writing about this book?

One of the colour plates shows "A Cretan bath from the mid-fourteenth century BC, one of the elements of Mediterranean civilisation most greedily adopted by Homeric Greeks".

The credit is "© Carlos Collection of Ancient Art, Emory University".

But wait. Is this the Minoan larnax that was acquired in 2002? Is this the Minoan larnax that appears in the Becchina photographic archive? Is this the Minoan larnax that the Greek authorities asked the Michael C. Carlos Museum to return back in 2007? Is this the larnax that was featured on LM back in 2008? (And see the museum's press release issued back in 2008.)

And we need to remember that part of Becchina's holdings was revealed in a major publicity event in Rome earlier this year. And this has implications for the Michael C. Carlos Museum.

Nicolson's book is a good reminder of why the museum staff at Emory University need to be contacting the Greek authorities as a matter of urgency. This case needs to be resolved not ignored. (See also the professional responsibilities for the museum.)

And of course the fish on the cover of the book (and elsewhere in the volume) rather evoke the fish on the Minoan larnax. So every time that I pick up this book I will be reminded of the larnax. And if readers of LM take up my suggestion, they too will be reminded of the larnax.

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