Object as History

WEEK 1
Family Heirloom

Every fortnight on a full moon day, my entire family assembles at 8 in the morning, in front of the picture of Lord Satyanarayan, who is a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu.The photograph is in hues of green and yellow,and it has a thick red border all around. It is framed with golden borders with intricate designs carved on it.
My grandfather reads stories, few lines of which we can now recite as we have heard the same stories a million times now.
Post which we offer prayers and eat ‘prasad’. This is a tradition that we have grown up seeing. And yet when my professor asked me which 100-year old object I have at home, it didn’t come to my mind.

I thought of the beautiful gold ring which connects to a bracelet with intricately carved designs of flowers, that my grandmother got from her mother.

My father’s briefcase full of his stamp collection suddenly came to mind. It was his prized possession as he went around collecting stamps as a kid. It was this, which had inspired me to start a key-ring collection as a 7 year old!

My grandmother’s treasury has some really old coins, which she collected when they went out of circulation.

While these tangible objects are expensive and beautiful, The picture of Lord Satyanarayan is more than a 100 years old, and along with it, is the tradition of the entire family coming together to pray to him every fortnight.
While my mother always said that ‘A family that prays together, stays together’. I understand the significance of this tradition only now.

The prayer was the only time that my extended family sat down together, with everyone forgetting their busy schedules.

This picture and tradition that is 100-years old, has managed to keep us together! And what could be a better thing to pass on to the future generations, than a tradition that keeps the family bonded together!

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WEEK 2
Mold Gold Cape

STEP 1: Gathering Information

While browsing through the websites of various museums, I was intrigued by an artefact called the ‘Mold Gold Cape’ in the British Museum. I gathered information regarding it from various sources and these are as follows:

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STEP 2: 500 word Essay (Draft 1)

The Mold Cape is a unique ceremonial cape of gold, made during the Early Bronze Age, around 3,700 years ago from a single gold ingot beaten to an extremely thin sheet.

The cape is regarded as one of the finest pieces of Bronze Age craftsmanship and gold-working technique in Europe.

The cape also tells us of the wealth, influence and identity of the Early Bronze Age farming and metalworking communities who lived in north-east Wales. When this gold cape was made people in Britain did not live in permanent villages, nor did they build cities or palaces. They moved around places with their herd and buried their dead in barrows.
And yet they were able to make sophisticated objects like the Mold Cape.

The gold cape was found in 1833 by workmen during the filling of a gravel pit. The cape was within a Bronze Age burial mound in a field named Bryn yr Ellyllon, the Fairies’ or Goblins’ Hill. The cape was badly damaged, and an estimated 300 amber beads were lost with only a lone survivor presently.

The cape is thought to have formed part of a ceremonial dress, perhaps with religious connections. It is housed at the British Museum in London.

The cape’s breadth is just over 18 inches. It was designed to fit someone of a very slight build and although the gender of the person buried in this grave remains unclear, it was more likely worn by a slim woman or child.

The golden cape is oval in shape and was designed to cover the shoulders, upper arms, and upper chest of a person of slight built.

It was beaten out of a single ingot of gold, a task which would have taken considerable time and skill. It was then decorated with concentric rings.

Perforations along the upper and lower edges suggest it may once have had a lining attached, perhaps leather, which has since decayed.

However, when worn, it would have severely restricted upper arm movement, which suggests that the cape was only used for special occasions. This led to the simple conclusion that the cape was ceremonial, perhaps with religious connections.

References

Ancient Origins. (2018). Mold Gold Cape is the finest piece of prehistoric gold-working in Europe. [online] Available at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-europe/mold-gold-cape-finest-piece-prehistoric-gold-working-europe-001524 [Accessed 15 Jan. 2018].

WEEK 4


STEP 3: 500 word Essay (Final)

The Mold Cape is a unique piece of work made from a single sheet of gold, 3700 years ago.

This piece from the Early Bronze Age {1900BC-1600BC (circa)}, piqued my interest since it was an object of grandeur during times when the community in Britain hadn’t settled and had a nomadic lifestyle.
Also since it shows great craftsmanship skills when most of the community mainly consisted of farmers and herders.

The cape is regarded as one of the finest pieces of Bronze Age craftsmanship and gold-working technique in Europe.

The cape was found in a burial site in United Kingdom in a field named ‘Bryn yr Ellyllon’,(the Fairies’ or Goblins’ Hill).The gold cape was found on 11th October 1833 by workmen, quarrying for stone in a burial mound.

goldy mApMold and District Civic Society.”The Bronze Age Gold Ceremonial Cape From Mold.”, accessed 30th January 2018, http://moldcivicsociety.org.uk/journal/the-bronze-age-gold-ceremonial-cape-from-mold/
The cape was in a fragile state during recovery. It’s fragments were dispersed among various people.
The British Museum retained a greater portion, yet small fragments came to light over the years and the cape was restored by the British Museum, where it rests today as one of their most famous artefact. It’s accession number is 1836,0902.1 It was donated to the museum by Rev George Rushleigh in 1836. Four gold sheet fragments from the cape were presented to the Grosvenor Museum, Chester by Mr George Lowe in 1953. They were loaned to the British Museum 1966-1987.
It’s full form was only revealed post this. It was earlier thought to be a chest ornament for a horse. The restoration of the cape in 2002, finally filled in all the missing shapes and revealed it as a fitting adornment for the breast.
There is still ambiguity over a smaller object matching the embossing style of the cape being present in the grave.

gold.jpgThe British Museum.”The Mold Gold Cape” Accessed 30th January 2018.http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=20023001&objectId=808751&partId=1#more-views

The remains of a skeleton was also found near the cape. Although the gender of the person who wore the cape remains uncertain, it is assumed that the cape belonged to a skinny woman or child, given the size of the cape.

The cape has intense decorations of bead-like embellishments and has perforations, which suggest the presence of a lining of leather, which has since decayed. There are bronze strips which were supposedly used to strengthen the cape.

The golden cape is oval in shape and was designed to cover the shoulders, upper arms, and upper chest of a person of slight built. The structure of the cape is one which restricts upper arm movements, which is why it is assumed that it was not worn daily, but on special occasions. This also adds a speculation to it of being adorned during religious ceremonies.

This centuries-old object tells us of the wealth, influence and identity of the Early Bronze Age farming and metalworking communities who lived in north-east Wales. It also speaks volumes about their refined craftsmanship skills.

When this gold cape was made, people in Britain did not live in permanent villages, nor had they built cities or palaces. They moved around places with their herd and buried their dead in barrows.
And yet they were able to make sophisticated objects like the Mold Cape.

As the cape was badly damaged, an estimated 300 amber beads were lost, with only one bead remaining in the British Museum today.

The cape’s Length is 465 millimetres, it’s width is 280 millimetres and it’s height is 235 millimetres. It weighs 560 g.

The British Museum.”The Mold Gold Cape” Accessed 30th January 2018.http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=20023001&objectId=808751&partId=1#more-views

WEEK5


STEP 4: #Instagrampost 

The British Museum.”The Mold Gold Cape” Accessed 30th January 2018.http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=20023001&objectId=808751&partId=1#more-views

This unique piece of work was made from a single sheet of gold, 3700 years ago! It’s called the ‘Mold Gold Cape’ and was found in a burial site around a skeleton in Britain!  Since it was fragmented, it was earlier thought to be an ornament for a horse.It is assumed that this was worn by a woman or a child during religious ceremony.
#gOLD #BritishMuseum #Bronzeage  #1900BC-1600BC #Wales #United Kingdom #artefact #attraction #damaged #restoration #assembled #beautiful #singlegoldsheet #craftsmanship #detailed #amber beads #religious #whoworeit? #mystery

saach

STEP 5: Twitter post

citeThe British Museum.”The Mold Gold Cape” Accessed 30th January 2018.http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=20023001&objectId=808751&partId=1#more-views

This is the Mold Gold Cape, and was made from a single piece of gold, 3700 years ago! Made in the bronze age, this historically significant artefact rests in British Museum today. It was found in Wales, UK at a burial site by workers. It’s broken pieces have been restored and assembled over time to reveal it’s true form. It is assumed that it was worn by a woman or child, during religious occasions. #whoworeit? #mystery
Since it’s structure restricts hand movements and it was made of gOLD, it is assume d that it was worn during religious ceremonies. #anybetterideas?
Despite being ‘shrouded’ by various mysteries, we can all agree on it’s beautiful craftsmanship! #BritishMuseum #BronzeAge #Wales #damaged #restored #assembled #amberbeads #lostnotfound #singlegoldsheet #detailing #artefact #attraction #caniwearit? #beautiful #bling #toomuch #priceless



WEEK 6

We discussed the painting ‘Jahangir Holding the Picture of Madonna’. It had golden borders called ‘Hasiah’ all along the painting, with calligraphy with black ink. The highly ornamented borders are a unique style of Mughal miniature paintings, and are inspired from Persian paintings. Jahangir’s face is in a side-profile, and he has a halo around him, showing self-gratification.

Zazzle,”Jahangir Holding a picture of the Madonna” Accessed 7th March 2018.https://www.zazzle.co.uk/jahangir+holding+a+picture+of+the+madonna+inscrib+gifts

We were to visit the exhibition ‘India and the world’ as a part of our study for this class.
India and the World: A History in Nine Stories will showcase some of the most important objects and works of art from the Indian subcontinent in dialogue with iconic pieces from the British Museum collection. The exhibition will bring together around 200 objects  from the collections of the British Museum, London; CSMVS, Mumbai; and National Museum, New Delhi. The aim is to show the interaction of ideas and influence between India and the rest of the world.

I liked the exhibit of the soul house. The fact that the clay model of the houses were made as a means to bury it with the dead so that they have shelter in the afterlife was fascinating !

Soul House

IMG_8056

Twitter post

This is a clay model of an Egyptian house. These clay-fired models were kept in burial sites as if to provide shelter in after life. Thus the model is called the ‘soul house’. It shows a courtyard where food offerings(bread, fish, vegetables and meat) are depicted. There is an entrance arch, window and terrace, which is connected by a staircase.

#BritishMuseum #12thDynasty #MadeinEgypt #Afterlife #SoulHouse #Clay #Sculpting #Detailing  #LiveClayModelling #RecordingArchitecture #Miniature house #MadeToBury #ArtForTheDead #RIP #Tradition #HomeNotHouse!

WEEK 7

As we discussed various topics in class. We discussed the works of  British-Italian photographer Felice Beato and the German neoclassical painter Johan Joseph Zoffany, in class.
ASSIGNMENT:

We had to select a household object and then study its evolution through the earliest times it can be traced back to.

WHY COSMETICS:

I looked at cosmetics and lipsticks in particular; since i wanted to know when and why women decided to paint their lips and forego their natural looks.

I also wanted to see why it was only women who applied make-up and not men too.

ELUXE MAGAZINE,”IS LIPSTICK TOXIC? WATCH YOUR MOUTH!”,Diane Small, Accessed 7th March 2018.https://eluxemagazine.com/beauty/is-lipstick-toxic/

EVOLUTION OF LIPSTICKS:

 MESOPOTAMIA

(c. 4500 – c. 1900 BC)
In ancient civilizations, makeup was a status symbol and both men and women indulged in applying makeup.
People from Sumerian civilization can be credited as the earliest users of lipsticks.
The stain was procured from naturally occurring substances like fruits, henna, clay rust, and insects.

Mesopotamian women  used ground precious jewels to add color and shimmer to their lips.

EGYPTIANS

Egyptians, perhaps, were the first real lipstick lovers. Striking shades like purple and black were common.They derived color from carmine dye that was derived from grounded cochineal insects.

The phrase “Kiss of Death” came from the dangerous mixture of fucus-algin, iodine and bromine mannite which the Egyptian women used in their lipsticks.  It was a highly toxic combination which often led to serious illnesses and also death.

JAPAN

In Japan also women wore thick makeup and dark lipsticks derived from tar and beeswax.

ARAB STATES

Somewhere in 9 AD, an Arab scientist, Abulcasis invented the solid lipstick. He initially made a stock for applying perfume which could then be pressed into a mold. He tried the same method with colors and invented solid lipstick

BRITAIN

Around 1770 the wearing of lipstick in Britain, signaled the wearer was a prostitute!

In 1650 a bill was proposed to ban the wearing of lipstick, however it did not pass.

A British law was proposed in the Parliament that would annul a marriage if the woman wore lipstick  before her wedding day.  The British Parliament had had its rendezvous with lipsticks earlier in 1650 as well when a bill .  Intriguingly, it didn’t pass.

UNITED STATES

(Mid-1940s) wearing a lipstick in the US was still associated with prostitution.  Teenage and young girls were discouraged and barred by their parents from wearing lipsticks.

Lipsticks became popular during WWII when it became glamorised in Hollywood films. Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor made it further popular.

CLEOPATRA USED INSECTS TO MAKE LIPCOLOUR

History, the glaze,”History of Lipstick: Prostitution, Sexuality and its Popular Acceptance”, Desh Kapoor, Accessed 7th March 2018. http://drishti.co/2015/07/15/history-of-lipstick-prostitution-sexuality-and-its-popular-acceptance/

LIP

GEORGE WASHINGTON USED TO APPLY LIPSTICK

Booksy,”The power of red lipstick”, Accessed 7th March 2018. https://booksy.net/blog/en-us/the-power-of-red-lipstick

WEEK 8 & 9

2018

EJ is a 130 year old manhole cover manufacturing company based in United States. It manufactures manhole covers of various varieties. They keep innovating the covers based on the needs and make customised covers as well. They have a R&D team, and use modern technology and engineering.

CURRENT USAGE OF MANHOLE COVERS:

All manhole assemblies (the covers and the frames that surround them) meet three basic needs:

  • They offer access to maintain the utilities essential for modern life.
  • They protect the public from noise, fumes and gases, as well as heat, high voltage and explosions.
  • They restrict and secure access to those vital supporters of modern life.

Wanderarti,”Creative Communities: the Colourful, Unusual Manhole Covers of Japan”, Lizzi Davey, Accessed 7th March 2018. http://www.wanderarti.com/creative-communities-the-colourful-unusual-manhole-covers-of-japan/

The Kathmandu Post,”Japan sewers clean up their act with manhole art”, Accessed 15th January 2018. http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/printedition/news/2018-01-15/japan-sewers-clean-up-their-act-with-manhole-art.html

MATERIALS USED:

Cast iron, concrete

SHAPE:

Today, most manhole covers are round in shape. It is so because they have less surface area than square ones. This leads to lesser use of material.The round shape also does not fall through and can be easily locked with a quarter turn.

Previously, manhole covers were square in shape.
However, a round manhole cover cannot fall through its circular opening, whereas a square manhole cover could fall in if it were inserted diagonally in the hole.

Shizuoka Tourism,”MANHOLE COVERS IN SHIZUOKA PREFECTURE 15: YAIZU CITY”, Dragon Life, Accessed 7th March 2018. https://shizuokatourism.com/2013/12/23/manhole-covers-in-shizuoka-prefecture-15-yaizu-city/

WEIGHT:

50 kg
Manhole covers are heavy so to prevent unauthorised access. It can be opened only with tools.
Also since vehicles pass over it, the weight helps it to stay in place.

PATTERN

Patterns and descriptions are embossed. The Company name is usually embossed. Today manhole covers are considered a part of street art and thus manhole covers are even ornamented and coloured.

1894
Patent for manhole cover was filed by Thomas P Greger.

1885
Ventilating manhole covers were used.

STINK SUMMER OF 1858-LONDON

River Thames was highly polluted with human waste, and the stench was carried by winds throughout the city. The condition was so bas that ministers in the Parliament had to cover their noses and move inside inner chambers of the Parliament, as the smell was unbearable.

This led to the proper development of sewage systems and thus manhole covers were put in place.

Today there are ornate manhole covers on the streets of Berlin, London.


Picsis.TV,”Künstlerische Gullideckel“, Accessed 7th March 2018. http://www.picsis.tv/kunst/kunstlerische-gullideckel.html

Ipernity” teddy bear manhole cover”.Accessed 7th March 2018. http://www.ipernity.com/doc/isisbridge/34444527

Following experiments at Thornton Hill in Wimbledon, by  William Santo Crimp (1853-1901) came up with the idea to make perforations to allow escape of gas from sewers to avoid the build up of pressure and chance of explosion of the manhole cover.

1st-4th Century CE

Roman Empire sewer cover with stones with decorations on top.

3500 BCE – 1750/1850 CE

Slabs of stone or pieces of wood were used that allowed access to covered trenches that carried sewage

WEEK 10

MANHOLE COVERS

Manhole covers are the opening lids on a road or a lane that mostly lead to underground passageways or sewers. Manhole covers have varied purposes such as inspection and cleaning to check the sanitation of the underway, ventilation, for safety reasons to avoid damages and protect the public from noise, fumes, explosions and gases.[1]

Today, a majority of the manholes are circular in shape for the simple reason of the surface area, the round lid occupies less surface than a square one. This results in lesser use of the material.
The round shape also does not fall through and can be easily locked with a quarter turn. Initially the manhole covers were squarish but they would often fall through from the openings if they tilted diagonally.
Manholes approximately weigh 50kgs. They are heavy in order to prevent unauthorized access as using specific tools can only open it. They are designed to be heavy as vehicles pass over them, and the weight helps to keep the manhole covers intact and prevents them from falling through. To build on the weight, strong materials are used such as cast iron and concrete.

Manholes are classified into three categories namely, shallow manholes, normal manholes and deep manholes. Shallow manholes are for places that are not prone to heavy traffic, normal manholes for places that accommodates a lot of traffic and deep manholes are those manholes that have stairs for accessing and can support heavy traffic.[2]

In some cultures it is believed that stepping over or walking over a manhole is considered to be unlucky, however today manholes are increasingly becoming a part of street art, and are highly ornamented.

Manhole covers generally have patterns and descriptions embossed on themselves. Generally the manhole covers have the company’s name embodied on it to easily distinguish from the other brands in the industry. Today these precautionary covers have been expanded in their utility to provide aesthetic relief. This street art is achieved by ornamentation and adding colour to manhole covers. Japan used this form of adornment to enlighten people about the high-priced sewage projects and to make an effort to make them feasible for the citizens, which turned out to be a huge success.[3] Anime characters, cartoons, nature etc. have been designed on these covers.

EJ, a 130 year old US based company that manufactures manhole covers, produces a wide range of manhole covers. They keep innovating and improvising the covers on the basis of the needs of the people. They even make customized manhole covers. They accumulate all the required data through the Research and Development Team. EJ has modernized and evolved with patterns, designs and technology. The technology and engineering facilities are up to date. EJ has followed up with ergonomy, the study of the relation of a human to his surroundings while applying the knowledge of anatomy, physiology and engineering to the problems[4], to make it easier for workers to remove and replace the heavy covers.

They also redesigned the age-old manhole cover to solve the problem of theft of the covers by the robbers to sell them as scrap. They used compound materials that have a negligible resale charge. They have also come up with manhole cover assemblies with a variety of locking mechanisms.

However the basic design of manholes hasn’t changed much in the past few years, they have just gained aesthetic value nowadays. In 1894 Thomas P. Greger, a US citizen from Philadelphia, filed a patent for the manhole cover. Manhole covers for the purpose of ventilation were invented in the year of 1885.

The proper development and implementation of sewage systems was needed in the year of 1858 in London. The year of 1858 is termed as the ‘Stink Summer’ as River Thames was filled with human waste, which added to the pollution in London. The stench caused by the pollution spread throughout the city. The condition had worsened to such an extent that the ministers of the Parliament had to cover their nose and move inside the inner chambers of the Parliament as the smell was unbearable. This resulted in the enactment of a well-maintained sewer system and thus the use of manhole covers. Today the streets of Berlin, London consists of ornate manhole covers that have intricate designs and inscriptions.

Manhole covers are also important since they are coherent with the architecture of the particular period in which it is manufactured.
For example, the manhole covers or ‘coal holes’ as they are called in London were in-line with the Victorian era aesthetic, despite their industrial-era root.

Construction began on the Chicago sewer system in 1856. New York City had only 320 km of sewer line laid by 1870, compared to 10,000 km today.

In the year of 1853, William Santo Crimp executed some experiments at Thornton Hill in Wimbledon and came up with idea of making perforations to allow gas to escape from sewers in order to avoid the build of the pressure and the chance of explosion of the manhole covers.

In 1st to 4th century CE the sewer of the Roman Empire were covered with stones topped with decorations for adornment. Many manholes of Rome had the inscription of the letters ‘SPQR’, for Senatus Populusque Romanus that stands for the Senate and the citizens.[5]

3500 BCE to 1750-1850 CE was the time period where the manhole covers was made up of materials like slabs of stones or pieces of wood. These materials were used to cover the trail or hide the trail of the trenches that carried the waste and sewage.

As cities began to form, the problem of where to dispose human waste became a problem. Originally the human excreta used to be thrown in rivers, however this led to diseases, deaths and unbearable stench.
Thus Roman civil engineers invented the underground sewer. They dug by hand and lined with brick and collected the waste which was deposited downstream. Access to these sewers were created to allow for periodic cleaning. The stone manhole covers are still seen in the Roman city of Jerash, Jordan.

The first manholes with covers were probably constructed in the early 19th Century, not for sewers but for water or town gas pipelines. However, none of the covers for these manholes are known to survive to the present.

[1] “Purpose and Design: Manhole Covers” , Accessed 7th March 2018. https://exaquarium.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/origin-of-manhole-covers/

[2] manhole-rothengaranparse, Accessed 7th March 2018.https;//www.rothengaran.com/uploads/manhole-rothengaranparse.pdf

[3] Johnny Strategy, The Beauty of Japan’s Artistic Manhole Covers, Colossal website, 21st march 2014,Accessed 7th March 2018. http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/03/the-beauty-of-japans-artistic-manhole-covers/

[4] The Free Dictionary,”Ergonomy”,  Accessed 7th March 2018. https;//www.thefreedictionary.com/Ergonomy

[5] “Rome, The second”, Accessed 7th March 2018. romethesecondtime.blogspot.in/2009/07/manhole-covers-art-and-politics.html

BIBLIOGRAPHY

[1] “Purpose and Design: Manhole Covers” , Accessed 7th March 2018. https://exaquarium.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/origin-of-manhole-covers/

[2] manhole-rothengaranparse, Accessed 7th March 2018.https;//www.rothengaran.com/uploads/manhole-rothengaranparse.pdf

[3] Johnny Strategy, The Beauty of Japan’s Artistic Manhole Covers, Colossal website, 21st march 2014,Accessed 7th March 2018. http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/03/the-beauty-of-japans-artistic-manhole-covers/

[4] The Free Dictionary,”Ergonomy”,  Accessed 7th March 2018. https;//www.thefreedictionary.com/Ergonomy

[5] “Rome, The second”, Accessed 7th March 2018. romethesecondtime.blogspot.in/2009/07/manhole-covers-art-and-politics.html

WEEK 11

Each of us presented the object we had taken. We spoke about it’s history, change in use, dimensions etc.

We were given suggestions by our faculty, on how to modify our research paper to make it better.

We saw how the entire class taken a wide variety of objects and each object has a rich history behind it, which we never realise. The significance of everyday objects lies in the history of manpower gone behind evolving it, for decades.

WEEK 12-14

In the coming weeks, we worked on our final assignment. We had to design a new product that is symbolic of our times and would be relevant even 200 years from now.

I chose to design a product that would disrupt the fashion industry and change the act of buying clothes altogether. This assignment was exciting and with it we covered the past, present and future of objects.

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