Saturday Art: The Oldest Known Bone Flute and the Venus of Hohle Fels UPDATED BELOW

June 16, 2012

Venus of Hohle Fels (photo: wikipedia / fair use)

Nicholas Conard, an archaeologist at the University of Tubingen in Germany led a team of archaeologists who discovered the oldest known flute in the Hohle Fels cave in the Ach Valley in Germany in September, 2008. He was the lead author of a study about the flute and other discoveries published in Nature in June, 2009.

The flute, which is approximately 35,000 years old and recovered in 12 pieces from an area approximately the size of a large dinner plate, was made out of the hollowed out wing bone of a giant vulture and measures nearly 22 centimetres (8.7 inches) long and 2.2 centimetres (one inch) in diameter. There are precise markings next to four of the five finger holes that likely were used to indicate where to place them. Two deep V-shaped notches are carved into the end that the musician blew into.

Marlowe Hood of AFP reported on June 24, 2009,

Fragments from three ivory flutes unearthed at the same site, along with nearby instruments not quite as old, suggest that humans who had then only recently migrated to the Upper Danube enjoyed a rich musical culture.

And a stunning female figurine from the same period found only a couple paces from the bone flute, reported last month, points to a broader artistic flowering.

Indeed, the area within the cave that yielded the flutes reveals a veritable artist’s atelier.

There is debris from the flint tools used to chip the instruments; traces of worked bone and ivory from mammoth, horse, reindeer and bear; and burnt bone, one of the ingredients — along with minerals, charcoal, blood and animal fats — used by Stone Age humans for cave painting.

“We can now conclude that music played an important role in Aurignacian life in the Ach and Lone valleys,” commented Nicholas Conard, a professor at the University of Tubingen and lead author of the study.

Go here to see the fabulous flute.

K. Kris Hirst of About.com Guide describes the female figurine, which is known as the Venus of Hohle Fels:

The Venus of Hohle Fels has no head, like many other examples, but it does have a (partial) ring where the head should be, suggesting that it was suspended from a cord. The figure measures 59.7 x 34.6 x 31.3 mm, and it weighs 33.3 grams.

The figure is short and squat with a visible waist and large breasts and buttocks. Deeply incised lines cover the abdomen to the pubic triangle. These incisions cover the back and, Conard believes, may represent clothing.

The legs are short, pointed and asymmetrical; the buttocks and genitals depicted in anatomically-correct detail.

Ivory working at Hohle Fels is abundantly in evidence, as it is at other sites belonging to the lower Aurignacian of this part of Germany, suggesting that figurine carving was a characteristic of Aurignacian people right from the beginning.

Go here to see views and photomicrographs of the Venus of Hohle Fels.

UPDATE: Jumpin’ Jiminy. Just came across this article in Past Horizons, Adventures in Archaeology and guess what. The bone flute and Venus of the Hohle-Fels are thousands of years older, dating back to 42,000 to 43,000 years ago, which predates a major period of glaciation that began around 40,000 years ago.


Saturday Art: Stone Stele of Siddartha Discovered In Afghanistan

June 9, 2012

Bodiless Buddha in Bodhi tree
Bodiless Buddha in a Bodhi Tree

Photo by James Castle
Creative Commons Flickr

Archaeologists discovered in 2010 a stone stele or free standing stone slab with a carving on one side in an ancient Buddhist monastery in Mes Aynak, Afghanistan, which is approximately 25 miles (40Km) east of Kabul.

Professor Gérard Fussman, a professor at the Collège de France in Paris examined the stele recently and he believes it depicts the young Prince Gautama Siddartha before he abandoned a life of royal wealth and privilege to seek enlightenment. We know of him today as the Buddha, who founded Buddhism.

Live Science reports:

Standing 11 inches (28 centimeters) high and carved from schist — a stone not found in the area — the stele depicts a prince alongside a monk. Based on a bronze coin found nearby, Fussman estimates the statue dates back at least 1,600 years. Siddhartha lived 25 centuries ago.

The prince is shown sitting on a round wicker stool, his eyes looking down and with his right foot against his left knee. He is “clad in a dhoti (a garment), with a turban, wearing necklaces, earrings and bracelets, sitting under a pipal tree foliage. On the back of the turban, two large rubans [are] flowing from the head to the shoulders,” writes Fussman in his new book. “The turban is decorated by a rich front-ornament, without any human figure in it.”

To see the stele and a photograph of the ruins, go here.

Professor Fussman believes the stele depicts the young prince because of the iconography of the stele and the pipal leaves. He also believes the stele was used by a monastic cult that was dedicated to the worldly prince before he achieved enlightenment. According to their monastic code, they transported the stele in a wagon during a procession.

Professor Fussman has published a book about the stele, The Early Iconography of Avalokitesvara” (Collège de France, 2012).


Saturday Art: Mayan Art And Their Remarkably Accurate Calendar

May 12, 2012

Max Chamberlain made an astonishing discovery two years ago while on a dig in the Guatemalan jungle excavating Xultun, the largest city in the Mayan empire. He was an undergraduate student at Boston University working under the supervision of Professor William Saturno, an archaeologist at Boston University.

Although Xultun was discovered in 1915, it had not been professionally excavated by archaeologists. Occasional looters searching for treasure had left their calling cards, however, in the form of many deep trenches that they dug to find and search buildings now located below ground and concealed by dense jungle growth.

During a lunch break, Chamberlain decided to explore a trench to see if he could find any sign of paintings on exposed walls. Saturno assured him that he would not likely find any paintings because they would have disappeared during the intervening centuries due to water, dirt, insects and encroaching tree roots. Professor Saturno was wrong.

While stumbling and crawling through the trench, he found an exposed wall with two red lines.

Brian Vastag of the Washington Post reported yesterday,

A quick excavation revealed the back wall of the building — replete with a mural of a resplendent Mayan king, in bright blue, adorned with feathers and jewelry.

Saturno’s team brushed off the wall and “ta-da!” he said. “A Technicolor, fantastically preserved mural. I don’t know how it survived.” Saturno immediately e-mailed contacts at the National Geographic Society, which agreed to fund a full excavation of the building.

The mural is the first Mayan painting found in a small building instead of a large public space. And it’s also the oldest known preserved Mayan painting.

They also uncovered other figures, including a scribe dressed in orange and three seated black figures wearing white loincloths and white pendants dangling from their necks.

They also found a lunar table showing a 4,784-day cycle of the Moon’s phases and a 7,000 year table showing Venus-Mars alignments. The latter find not only is important for its own sake, but it dispels the notion that the Mayans predicted the world would end this coming December 21st because they were calculating events that would occur long after that date.

The Mayan calendar ends on December 21st because that is the end of their Long Year, not the end of the world.

Please take a moment to look at the exquisite gallery displaying photographs of the figures in the Washington Post article..


Saturday Art: Jury Selection And The Art Of Voir Dire

January 21, 2012

Justice at work

Justice at Work
From Creative Commons at Flickr

Jury Selection And The Art Of Voir Dire

Voir dire means to speak the truth. We use the term to describe two legal processes, the process by which prospective jurors are questioned to select a jury and the process by which certain witnesses are questioned to determine if they are qualified to testify as experts and express opinions. This post will be about jury selection, a subject near and dear to my heart.

Which do you think is most important to win a jury trial?

(a) Jury selection,

(b) Opening statement,

(c) Direct examination,

(d) Cross examination, or

(e) Closing argument?

The correct answer is: (a) jury selection.

Why?

Because, if you do not select the right jury, you will have little chance to win, no matter how strong your case and how proficient you are with the other four skills.

How do you select a jury?

Let us begin with a clarification. Jury selection is a misnomer because each side actually selects the jurors whom they do not want on the jury.

How do you select the jurors whom you do not want on your case?

Hopefully, the panel of prospective jurors has filled out a juror questionnaire that you have had an opportunity to review before you begin to question them. I always prepared questionnaires tailored to the issues in my case. For example, if there had been extensive negative pretrial publicity, which was pretty common given the types of cases that I handled, I would include a short description of the case in the questionnaire and ask the prospective juror to write down what they had read or heard about the case and whether they had formed an opinion about my client’s guilt or innocence. Another example involves rape cases where you want to know whether the prospective juror, or a family member, or close friend has ever been raped.

You question prospective jurors individually using their answers on the questionnaire as a guide and, depending on their answers, you pass or challenge them for cause, or later use a peremptory challenge to get rid of them.

Challenges for cause are unlimited, but you must reasonably articulate a reason why you believe a prospective juror cannot be fair, impartial, and follow the jury instructions that are the law of the case. If your opponent objects to your challenge for cause, your challenge will turn into mini trial with you attempting to discredit the prospective juror whom you have challenged and your opponent attempting to rehabilitate him or her. Ultimately, the judge will decide whether to grant or to deny the challenge.

Warning: Keep in mind that, if you lose the challenge, you are going to have to use one of your limited number of peremptory challenges to get rid of the prospective juror whom you have just insulted in front of all the rest of the panel of prospective jurors by challenging his ability to be fair, impartial, and follow the court’s instructions. If you think you are going to lose the challenge for cause and possibly irritate the other members of the panel in the process, you should seriously consider passing the prospective juror for cause and later use one of your peremptory challenges to get rid of him.

Peremptory challenges are exercised silently by opposing counsel passing a sheet of paper back and forth and striking a prospective juror each time. Finally, delay striking someone whom you think your opponent may strike. If she does, you will have saved a peremptory that could mean the difference between winning or losing the case.

You do not have to explain why you challenged a prospective juror, unless the challenge appears to be systematically based exclusively on race, sex, or religious affiliation. If that appears to be the case and your selection is challenged, you will have to satisfy the judge that you had another reason.

In misdemeanor cases, each side gets 3 peremptory challenges. In felony cases, each side gets 6 peremptory challenges. In death penalty cases, each side gets 24 peremptory challenges.

I used to tell my clients to think of our peremptory challenges as bullets in a gun. We have to use them strategically so that we do not need one after we run out.

So, here is the strategy in a nutshell.

(1) Go through the questionnaire and identify the prospective jurors who appear to have strong personalities who, by reason of education, experience, or occupation appear to be capable of leading the jury. You must get rid of any of them who appear biased in favor your opponent or prejudiced against you or your client. No matter how good you are, you will lose, if you fail to do this.

(2) Identify any other prospective jurors who for any reason appear to be, or might be biased in favor of your opponent or prejudiced against you or your client. You can probably still win your case, if you leave them on the jury, so long as they do not influence other jurors to vote for your opponent’s case. Prioritize getting rid of them according to how likely you believe they will influence others.

(2) Focus on both categories of prospective jurors during voir dire and, if you confirm your initial opinion, try to set them up for a challenge for cause.

(3) Pass or challenge the prospective juror for cause. Occasionally, you will desperately want to get rid of a prospective juror who stubbornly refuses to admit they are prejudiced against you or your client, even though the prejudice is apparent. You will need to use a peremptory challenge to get rid of them, if that happens.

(4) Exercise peremptory challenges after a sufficient number of prospective jurors has been passed for cause, such that there will be enough of them to form a jury, plus alternates, if both sides exercise all of their peremptory challenges.

Selecting a jury is an art form that is not taught in law schools. Very few judges and lawyers appreciate how important it is and only a few of them know how to do it well. I worked very hard on developing this skill and I believe that is why I won approximately 80-90% of my trials.

You have to know your case thoroughly. You have to identify all of the potentially outcome-determinative factual issues before jury selection. Most of them will relate to witness credibility. You do not want jurors who will not believe you and your witnesses. If you are not planning on calling any witnesses — as might happen in a criminal case, if your client decides not to testify — you want jurors who will follow the jury instructions and not hold your client’s silence against him.

Here is an example regarding the presumption of innocence.

Defense counsel: Good morning, Mr. Jones.

Q: I am going to ask you a hypothetical question, sir. Let us suppose that you have to decide whether my client, Sandra Wade, is guilty or not guilty, and you have to make that decision right now, before you have heard any evidence. What would your decision be?

A: Uhm, I don’t know. I can’t make a decision without any evidence.

Q: I understand. I suppose like most folks, you want to be fair and hear both sides before you make a decision, right?

A: Yes, I want to be fair.

Q: Fair to both sides?

A: Yes, of course.

Q: Do you believe it is important to follow the court’s instructions?

A: Yes.

Q: Even if you disagree with them?

A: Yes, the judge told us they are the law of the case and I intend to follow the law.

Q: Even if you disagree with them?

A: Yes.

Q: Since this is a criminal case, the judge has instructed you that my client, Sandra Wade, is presumed innocent, right?

A: Right.

Q: What is your verdict right now, before you hear any evidence?

A: Uhm, Okay. I see what you mean. I guess I’d have to vote not guilty.

Q: Sounds like you aren’t sure. Are you certain you could do that? Because, if you can’t, you probably should not be a juror in this case. Do you understand why I say that?

A: Yes, you’re representing Ms. Wade and protecting her legal rights.

Q: Right. This isn’t personal. I just want to know if you can honestly — and I emphasize the word ‘honestly’ — presume Sandra Wade is innocent, even though she is charged with killing her husband while he was asleep. Lots of folks for one reason or another might not be able to do that and that doesn’t mean they are a bad person. It just means they shouldn’t be a juror in this case. How about you, sir?

Can you look her in the eye and honestly tell her that you presume she is innocent?

A: Yes.

Thank you, sir. Your Honor, I pass Mr. Cameron for cause.

Warning: Eye contact and body language are vitally important indicators that often are more important than the answers people give. For example, if Mr. Cameron had suddenly shifted his body position or been unable to look at my client when I asked him to look her in the eye, I would have known that I had to get rid of him, unless I was satisfied that he would not lead the jury.

INSIDER TIP: When in doubt while questioning prospective jurors during voir dire, ask why they said or did something. This gets them talking and you will find out a lot more about them, if you are listening, rather than trying to impress everyone with how smart and well spoken you are.

Namaste.


Saturday Art: The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

January 14, 2012

Metropolitan Museum Collection. Model of King Sahure's Pyramid at Abusir

Model of Pharaoh Sahure’s Pyramid Complex at Abusir, Metropolitan Museum Collection. By Cornell University Library on Creative Commons at Flickr
Pharaoh Sahure was the Second pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty (2458-2446 BCE)

I recommend to all of you art enthusiasts the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The site is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and it provides you with an interactive timeline of art history.

There are 300 timelines available to peruse at your leisure, so this is a great site to bookmark and periodically return to view.

Each timeline includes “representative works of art from the Museum’s collection, a chart of time periods, a historical overview, a list of key events, and related content.”

The site also presents 900 thematic essays that ” focus on specific themes in art history, including artistic movements and periods, archaeological sites, empires and civilizations, recurrent themes and concepts, media, and artists.” Each thematic essay includes links to related themes and timelines and often demonstrates the cross-fertilization of civilizations.”

You can examine and compare art from any of the ten geographical regions of the world during any of the time periods ranging from 8,000 BCE to the present. The regions are North America, Central America, South America, Africa, Europe, West Asia, Central and North Asia, East Asia, South and Southeast Asia, and Oceania. Just click on any icon exhibiting a small photo of a representative sample and it will enlarge to a splendid close-up photograph of the sample with “supporting material, including when available, links to technical glossaries on CAMEO and artist biographies from Oxford Art Online.” In all, there are 6,000 photographs available to examine.

You also will find a bibliography “comprised of over 3,000 Metropolitan Museum of Art publications” that is “further enriched by other publications whose primary focus is on Metropolitan Museum works of art.”

Cross Posted from my law blog.


Saturday Art: Charles Laughton In I, Claudius, The Greatest Film That Never Was

December 24, 2011

Charles Laughton is one of my favorite actors. He played the Roman Emperor Claudius in the film I, Claudius.

The film is based on the novel of the same name, written by Robert Graves. According to the Wikipedia entry, Graves claimed that Claudius visited him in a dream and told him to write the true story about his life, which Graves proceeded to do.

In 1998, Modern Library ranked I, Claudius as the 14th best English language novel out of 100 written during the 20th century.

Claudius was the 4th emperor of Rome (Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius). In 41 AD, at the age of 49, he succeeded Caligula, who was assassinated by members of the Army.

Wikipedia states:

Historically, Claudius’ family kept him out of public life until his sudden coronation at the age of forty nine. This was due to his disabilities, which included a stammer, a limp, and various nervous tics which made him appear mentally deficient to his relatives. This is how he was defined by scholars for most of history, and Graves uses these peculiarities to develop a sympathetic character whose survival in a murderous dynasty depends upon his family’s incorrect assumption that he is a harmless idiot.

There is an absolutely marvelous scene in the film when Claudius is confirmed as the new emperor by the Senate. It begins with Laughton lounging on the throne looking like an imbecile while members of the Senate openly mock him. I could tell you the rest, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. Watch the master . . .

The film is called the greatest film that was never made because it was never completed. According to IMDB, Laughton was having trouble getting into the role and not getting much help from the director, Josef von Sternberg, when his co-star Merle Oberon was injured in a car accident. He then used her accident as an excuse to quit the film. All of the scenes that were filmed were saved and still exist. If Laughton was having trouble getting into his role, I certainly do not see any evidence of that in this scene.

Here is another scene with the incomparable Charles Laughton from the film, Witness for the Prosecution (1957), directed by Billy Wilder and starring Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, and Tyrone Power. Wilder wrote the screenplay from a mystery novel by Agatha Christie. Dietrich, who also is one of my favorites, is sensational in the scene while Power is relegated to looking back and forth between the two of them.

The scene takes place in a courtroom, presumably the Old Bailey in London. Laughton is the criminal defense attorney, or barrister as the Brits say, He’s cross examining Dietrich about a certain hand-written letter to a man named Max and he has a problem authenticating it. Can he solve the problem? Watch and see . . .

Happy Holidays!


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