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A Paper on the Bronze Head of Augustus

19 Oct

As I have done in the past I am going to put up some of the paper I write for school. I won’t be putting up all of the papers as some of them are either stupid or might be used for cheating (for instance I wrote a paper last weakend for a problem in the Archaeology handbook which would be very easy for someone to turn in as their own.)

With out further ado I present to you a paper I wrote for Roman Archaeology on a bronze “bust” of Augustus found in modern Sudan. (note this paper is as it was when I turned it in and has not been Aurthur edited. Also take into consideration that I am only a freshman)

a PDF is available here

Taken from the British Museum

Taken from the British Museum

The Hisorical and Archaeological Value of the Bronze Head of Augustus

Artifacts are one of the most important, if not the most important, thing which draws visitors to a museum which is why it is important that an artifact be thoroughly considered before being added to a museum’s collection. An artifact of intrest could bring hundreds of new eyes to a museum, but if that artifact turns out to be fake, then it may cause a drop in attendance rather than an increase. The artifact I will be presenting for the consideration of purchase is a Bronze head of Augustus, which at one time was part of a larger bronze statue of the emperor. A few of the areas that must be considered before acquiring a new artifact are What this artifact is,its historic value, the ethics of acquiring it, and its authenticity.

The head of augustus was part of a larger statue that was once located at Qasr Ibrim in Lower Nubia (Bard and Shubert, 1999 p.515). The head extends down to the bottom of the neck where it was broken off during antiquity. The larger-than-life bronze statue of which the head was once a part, was made sometime between 27–25BCE and depicted Augustus as a young man (British Museum N.D.). The bronze has oxidized over the years making the head a grey color; however, the glass and stone eyes are still white (British Museum N.D.).

This piece has much to offer a museum; it is a fragment of one of the most important times in Roman history. Found under the steps of an ancient temple in Sudan, it shows just how far the reach of the Roman empire was (Boatwright, Gargola, and Talbert, 2004 p.282). After Augustus defeated Antony in 30BCE, Egypt was annexed to rome (Boatwright, Gargola, and Talbert, 2004 p.288); between 25BCE and 20BCE the people from the neighboring kingdom of Nubia, modern Sudan, revolted against Roman rule of Egypt and took the head and many other objects as spoils of war (Dowling, 2006 p.313). This artifact gives us not only insight to Rome but to their relation with neighboring kingdoms. When Aelius Gallus invaded Arabia with a portion of the Roman army stationed in Egypt, the Nubians saw their chance to invade (Jones, 1932 p.139). Though they were not successful in driving out the Romans, they did manage to keep some of their spoils, such as this one (British Museum N.D.). The head was then placed under a stairway leading to a temple celebrating the victory over the Romans so that anyone who entered the temple would walk over it, disgracing the emperor (Dowling, 2006 p.313).

Beyond history, the bronze head of Augustus can also tell us something about the political and social-economic atmosphere in the Roman world at this time. On the political side, this artifact is an example of Augustus’ attempt to bring the empire under his control. Augustus had only just become emperor after the defeat of Antony and needed to secure his power and authority through out the whole of the Roman empire to ensure that he wouldn’t suffer the same fate as his adoptive father, Julius Caesar (Boatwright, Gargola, and Talbert, 2004 289). The location of the artifact can tell us something about what it was meant to do; Egypt was a new province of Rome, and Augustus needed to show the power of the Roman empire to his new subjects (Boatwright, Gargola, and Talbert, 2004 289). What does this better than a larger than life statue of a young, strong ruler? Being that Augustus was born in 63BCE (Buchan, 1947 20), at the time of the statue’s construction in 27–25BCE, Augustus could not have been younger than 36; this statue is clearly not a 36 year old man (Boatwright, Gargola, and Talbert, 2004 p.289). This image of eternal youth and power is consistent with Augustan portraiture, and is thus also a good example of this for the museum (British museum N.D.). The socioeconomic significance of this object is obvious, it shows the technology and skill of roman craftsmen; the ability to cast a larger-than-life statue of a man is a testament to their technology not to mention the logistics of it.

No matter how important this peace may be to the history of Rome or what it would add to the museum, the ethics of purchasing this artifact must be taken into consideration. If an artifact does not have a provenience going back to at least 1970, it would be unethical to purchase; however, this artifact is known to have been excavated in Meroe, Sudan in 1910 (Boatwright, Gargola, and Talbert, 2004 page 282); The museum that currently owns the head has had it since 1911, as indicated by its identification number, GR1911.9-1.1 (British Museum N.D.) thus it is perfectly ethical to purchase. Though, another important thing to consider before purchasing an artifact is whether it is real or not. This artifact is in fact very real. The only way to be certain that an artifact is real is to know where it was excavated: the bronze head of Augustus was excavated in 1910 from the former capital of Nubia, Meroe in modern day Sudan (Boatwright, Gargola, and Talbert, 2004 282). The head was found under a staircase leading to a temple in honor of a Nubian victory in a war against the Romans, during which the head was obtained and was then sold to the British museum in 1911 (Dowling, 2006 313). There is no doubt at all as to where this artifact was found or has been for almost the past one hundred years. After considering the value of this piece, the ethics of purchase, and the authenticity, I would strongly recommend that the museum accept MR. Burns’ offer to purchase the bronze head of Augustus

The bronze head of Augustus is in very good condition, thought it is not entirely intact as it was once part of a larger bronze statue of Augustus. However, this gives us a window into the world at the time of its construction: the Nubians rebelled against Roman rule of Egypt and took this artifact, as well as others, to their capital and placed them under the entrance to one of their temples (Dowling, 2006 313). The Romans had only recently conquered Egypt after the civil war that put Augustus in power (Boatwright, Gargola, and Talbert, 2004 p.288). This artifact is direct evidence of Rome’s conquest of foreign lands as well as the great skill of the Roman artisans who made it. The head of Augustus would be an excellent display for any museum, and as it has a provenience going well beyond 1970 (Boatwright, Gargola, and Talbert, 2004 282) and is definitively real, I do strongly recommend that the museum acquire it.

Bibliography

Bard, K.A., & Shubert, S.B. (1999). Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt. Routledge.

Boatwright, M, Gargola, D, Talbert, R (2004). the Romans: From village to empire. New York: Oxford University Press.

Buchan, J. (1947). Augustus. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

British Museum N.D. Bronze head of augustus. Retrieved September 18, 2008, From The British Museum website: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/gr/b/bronze_head_of_augustus.aspx

Dowling, M. B. (2006). Clemency & cruelty in the roman world. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

Jones, H.L. (Ed.). (1932). the Geography of strabo. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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5 Comments

Posted by on October 19, 2008 in Archaeology

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

5 responses to “A Paper on the Bronze Head of Augustus

  1. Justin

    October 19, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    I supposed I should have mentioned what the assignment was. The assignment was to write a report as if to the city museum on weather to accept an artefact from a guy named Mr. Burns. It went like this. This rich dude named MR.Burns wants to buy the museum this artefact; should they accept?

     
  2. selvia

    October 29, 2008 at 2:57 am

    Anyone who does try to plagiarise this essay better rigorously spell check it or they’ll get no marks!

    Interesting though, thanks

     
  3. Justin

    October 29, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    The spelling is not that bad. There are a few mistakes here and there but on a whole its ok. I got a B on the paper.

     
  4. Jackie Branch

    February 2, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Super post. You have brought in a recent reader. Please keep up the great work and I look forward to more of your gripping updates.

     

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