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Bust of Five-Headed Shiva, 950

If you could predict the future, would you share your knowledge? In 1933, the archeologist André Parrot uncovered 32 clay tablets shaped like sheep's livers. They document the practice of hepatoscopy, a form of divination where abnormalities in the livers of sacrificed animals were used to foretell coming events. And in the case of this liver, the future was looking grim indeed.

MesopotamiaCuneiformDivinationHaruspex

Divination Liver Model: Omen of siege2000 BCE

Some jokes are worth telling over and over. In 1915 Marcel Duchamp walked into a hardware store, purchased a snow shovel, signed it, dated it, called it In Advance of the Broken Arm and hung it from his studio ceiling. Art! This intentional perversion of artistic creation is called a 'readymade' — claiming a found object as an artwork. Readymades were a popular form of Dadist art, and Duchamp is often cited as the inventor of the idea, however, for all his innovation, we believe it was his much wilder friend Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven who created the first Readymades. 

DadaReadymadeSculpture

In Advance of the Broken ArmMarcel Duchamp, 1915

Jade cong are among the most enimatic Neolithic artefacts. Cong are found ringed around bodies found in China's Liangzhu grave sites. No language remains from the Liangzhu culture, so we don't know what meaning the cong had — but if you look closely, each outer edge is inscribed with rows of stylized faces.

Artifacts

Heavy Jade Cong 琮3300 BCE - 2000 BCE

A five-headed god may be a disorienting concept to western viewers, so let's break it down. Meet Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Shiva is one of the three supreme Hindu gods, the Trimūrti. In this bust, each of Shiva's heads is a metaphor, representing one of his five aspects: Sadyojāta is fearsome face, Vāmadeva the face of healing, Aghora the face of knowledge, Tatpuruṣa the face of soul and meditation, and Īśāna is the face of the cosmos. 

Khmer ArtDeities and GodsShivaTrimūrtiSculpture

Bust of Five-Headed Shiva950 CE

It's hard to overstate the incredible clarity and beauty of traditional Arabic calligraphy. Calligraphy was and is a major element of Islamic design, found on household objects, weapons and armor, and embedded in architecture. Calligraphy, like Egyptian heiroglyphics, was used as both art and communication.

Islamic Dynastic ArtMedieval Persian ArtTypographyCalligraphyVessels

Bowl with Arabic Proverb1000

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