INDIAN HISTORY WONDER IN GREECE (Post No.7367 )

COMPILED BY LONDON SWAMINATHAN    

POST NO.7367

DATE 21 DECEMBER 2019

TIME IN LONDON -13-37

                      Contact – swami_48@yahoo.com

A Bronze Age painting on a Greek island shows a monkey from thousands of kilometres away in Asia. The finding suggests that ancient cultures separated by great distances were trading and exchanging ideas.

The artwork is one of several wall paintings in a building at Akrotiri on the Greek island of Thera (Santorini) in the Aegean Sea. Akrotiri was a settlement of the Minoan civilisation in Bronze Age Greece that was buried by ash from a volcanic eruption in around 1600 BC.

Many of the paintings show monkeys, yet there were no monkeys in Greece at the time. Most of the monkeys have been identified as Egyptian species like olive baboons. This makes sense because Egypt was in contact with the Minoan civilisation, which was spread across several Aegean islands. However, others were harder to identify.

Marie Nicole Pareja at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia teamed up with primatologists to re-examine the mystery monkey paintings. One stood out. “When they looked at this wall painting, they all straight away unambiguously said ‘that’s a langur’,” says Pareja.

The team has identified the monkey as a grey langur (Semnopithecus). As well as its distinctive fur, the monkey was depicted holding its tail in a characteristic S shape.

Grey langurs live in southern Asia in what is now Nepal, Bhutan and India – and particularly in the Indus Valley. During the Bronze Age, the region was home to the Indus Valley Civilisation, one of the most important societies of that time. Although it was past its peak, the Indus Valley Civilisation was still advanced for its time, with large cities and elaborate water supply systems.

Somehow, the artist who painted the monkey picture must have seen a grey langur. But how?

Did Minoan Greeks visit the Indus? “I wouldn’t be surprised if someday in the future we found evidence for that kind of direct contact,” says Pareja, but right now there is none. It is also possible the visit was the other way round, but again there is no evidence.

Instead, it may be that Greece and Indus were connected via Mesopotamia, another Bronze Age civilisation centred on what is now Iraq. Langurs may have been imported to Mesopotamia for menageries, where visiting Greeks saw them.

“It’s evidence of this far-reaching trade, these relationships with these far-flung areas,” says Pareja. Even in the Bronze Age, it seems there was a lot of exchange between seemi



Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2227146-ancient-monkey-painting-suggests-bronze-age-greeks-travelled-widely/#ixzz68kPryWVa

ANOTHER REPORT

Painted Bronze Age Monkeys Hint at the Interconnectedness of the Ancient World

The fascinating “tail” of how Indian monkeys might have ended up in a Minoan painting

Painted Bronze Age Monkeys Hint at the Interconnectedness of the Ancient World

The fascinating “tail” of how Indian monkeys might have ended up in a Minoan painting

The blue monkey fresco at Akrotiri, an ancient settlement on the Aegean island of Thera, or modern-day Santorini (Public domain)

By Katherine J. Wu

SMITHSONIANMAG.COM
DECEMBER 16, 2019

3.9K894

As far as archaeologists know, Asian monkeys weren’t trotting the globe during the Bronze Age. That’s why a millennia-old Greek painting of a gray langur—a primate native to the Indian subcontinent—was surprising enough to stop researchers dead in their tracks.

Archaeologists and primatologists re-analyzing wall paintings found in Akrotiri, a Minoan settlement on Thera (modern-day Santorini) buried by volcanic ash around 1600 B.C., have uncovered evidence that Bronze Age Greek artists knew of—and may have even seen—monkeys whose native habitat was thousands of miles away. Their findings, newly published in the journal Primateshint that ancient cultures were more intertwined than previously thought. Eager to exchange ideas, artists or merchants may have journeyed far from home; eventually, the fruits of these wanderers’ travels were immortalized in paint.

Previous researchers have already noted that some of the Bronze Age artworks unearthed on the Greek islands of Crete and Thera depict monkeys of all shapes and sizes. Based on the animals’ features, as well as close trade relations between the Minoans and the Egyptians, some have been pinpointed as olive baboons, which are native to the forests and savannas of the African continent.

Other painted primates, however, were more mysterious. For instance, sprawled across one of the Akrotiri building’s walls is a fresco populated by blue, rock-climbing monkeys with buoyant, S-shaped tails. The primates remained unidentified until recently, when Marie Nicole Pareja, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, recruited a group of primatologists to re-examine the painting.

“It felt really silly to examine an image of these animals as an archaeologist and art historian without asking for the input of people who look at them every day,” she tells Tom Whipple at the Times.

After snapping photos of the fresco and several other Aegean artworks, Pareja sent them to colleagues around the world. Several confirmed the Egyptian nature of the majority of the monkeys but reported that the Akrotiri painting “unambiguously” contained gray langurs, says Pareja to New Scientist’s Michael Marshall.

According to Whipple, the langurs’ tails gave them away. Flexing skyward, they bore no resemblance to the appendages of African monkeys, which droop downward. Instead, they acted as calling cards for gray langurs, a species most likely hailing from the Indus Valley—then home to its own bustling civilization.

How exactly the artists came across their source material remains unclear. As Whipple reports, the exquisite detail seen in the fresco makes Pareja suspect it’s unlikely the works’ creators simply copied the monkeys secondhand. That means someone, whether human, monkey or both, undertook an arduous crossing of the many thousands of miles that separated the civilizations, or perhaps met somewhere in the middle.

“When you consider the distance of the Aegean to the Indus, compared to Egypt, it is incredible,” says Pareja.

Such cosmopolitan behavior probably wasn’t easy, but “our ancestors were interested in rare and exotic things, just as we are,” Peter Frankopan, a global history expert at Oxford University who wasn’t involved in the study, tells Whipple. “Long-distance trade, and connections between the Mediterranean, Asia and the Indian Ocean are well attested, even in this period, for high value, expensive objects.”

A live langur from a far-flung locale would certainly fit that bill. There’s even evidence from other archaeological finds supporting the idea that foreign monkeys might have made it to Greece: a fossilized skull on Thera, for instance, and an ivory figurine on Crete.

Wherever the primates ended up, they were significant enough for the locals to painstakingly craft into art. Known to archaeologists since the 1960s, the Akrotiri wall paintings feature scenes of daily Greek life in the Bronze Age, illuminating the manners and customs of the time, according to the Thera Foundation. If gray langurs made the cut, it’s unlikely the primates were a one-off thought for the ancient Minoans.

The monkey’s presence also signifies another cultural value that remains a keystone of the human experience: intellectual exchange.

“This is showing us that what people later consider the Silk Roads are working even then, at least indirectly,” Pareja tells Whipple. “We talk about the Minoans, about the Egyptians, about the Indus peoples, all as if they are separate. But they are interconnected.”

–SUBHAM—

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