Monday, June 25, 2012

Just a Postcard

Lentoid disk of crystal, Early Neolithic
Just to share something wonderful, a postcard that I received in 2006.  All I know is that it came from Çatal Hüyük in southern Anatolia, modern Turkey, where the most productive strata (now in all the basic art history textbooks) dated to about 6,000 BCE.  The rest we can see.  It has to be a remarkable piece of natural crystal (the region is volcanic), because if far outdates the invention of glass.  It has to have been carefully and knowingly polished to a regularly rounded surface to produce the image we see (I presume that the back side is encrusted or coated) patiently using emery (again, volcanic).  This site even produced a picture that can hardly be anything but a representation of an erupting volcano.  I am from California and sentimentally attached to Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta as well as to the story of Ishi, the last survivor of his tribe in the foothills of Lassen.  These town dwellers of Anatolia, though, are both similar to our native Americans and different, being far older and making some use of copper and representing the human figure in both active (hunting) and cultic depictions, but even for Çatal Hüyük this crystal mirror (photographed over the shoulder, apparently, of a modern girl) is astonishing.  To me, Asia Minor is the most wondrous part of the ancient world.  I wish I could live long enough to understand better how technical and linguistic and social and religious ideas spread from Asia Minor—not to compare Mesopotamia and the other great river valleys in any invidious or belittling way, but we knew about them much earlier owing to Judaeo-Christian interest in Egypt and Mesopotamia, especially.  At the same time, the Book that we have also skewed our point of view.
I want to take time right now to write a Post for Opera Nobilia, but this postcard must be shared.