A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

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system1988
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A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

Post by system1988 »

I thought that this article would interest you and thus I bring it to you!

As it is already known, the depiction of the wall painting that lies over the so called “tomb of Philip II” is a hunting scene. Hunters riders and on foot alike are depicted as hunting several preys in a valley with mountains on the background as well as rocky terrain on both sides.

I will not talk here about the great issue of the identification process concerning the hunters themselves. The researchers who feel strong about this being indeed Philip II’s tomb believe that the rider who attacks the lion on the right is Phillip himself and that the central rider is Alexander as a youth.

The two writers of the article that follows believe that the tomb is indeed that of Philip II. Their research was focused around the depiction of the bear rising from the rocky terrain on the far right of the painting. On an earlier research the bear itself had been perceived as a symbol of the Thrace region and thusly as a symbol of the victorious campaign Philip marched over that land.

The presence of the bear has been considered a major issue from the entire scientific community as the beast itself is an extremely rare motive in ancient Greek art. The two researchers hypothesized the following: In many written sources (Aristotle) the words Άρκτος (bear) means North (the largest star that is located at the tip of the Ursa Major constellation tail that almost coincide with the North Pole that, for the last 5000 thousand years remains in the same position) . So the depiction of the bear on the painting is actually a geographical landmark that symbolizes an event that took place in a northern location.

This event cannot be other than the Scythian campaign that started in 342 BC and ended in 339 BC with Philip having added to his domain a vast region seven times larger than the entire Macedonian kingdom before that event. Then the focus of the researchers was centered on the rock formations behind the bear and with the help of Bulgarian counterparts of theirs, they found the same rocks (you can compare the photos I attached it to the post to the ones on the painting) to be quite real and even more important.

They actually are a megalithic solar observatory and also probably a sanctuary in ancient Thrace near Buzovgrad in the Municipality of Kazanluk (you can google it). They are quite sure that these are indeed the same rocks that are depicted in the painting. The shape of the rocks has resulted from natural formations and human intervention. It is very possible for the painter himself to have seen the rock formation in question with his own eyes and then drew a small scetch of the site.

The two researchers go on to say that the megalithic observatory “was already in use from the Bronze Age for reckoning time through observation of the Sun’s orbit, as well as for mystery rites of the worship of the Sun and his Mother, the Thracian Great Mother. The observatory is near the Odrysian capital of Seuthopolis, which was clearly an important sacred place in the period of the Scythian campaign. It would be unlikely that Philip had not visited this sacred spot en route to the North; it is more likely that he visited it as a pilgrim, as there are no indications of rejection in its depiction. (…) The importance of the depiction of this solar observatory on the painting is enormous. By including it in the fresco, the painter illustrated in a unique fashion both a geographical region and simultaneously its inhabitants, for as the bent spear or javelin in her mouth suggests, the bear is a collective symbolic depiction of the defeated enemy. Furthermore it offers compelling evidence of Philip’s interest in astronomical phenomena and the sciences of his era.”

I would also like to add a thought of mine here. If the tomb is indeed Philip’s then there is no question that the painting was created by Alexander’s orders. He would surely like to honor his father’s victory in Thrace. Let us not forget that the painting would soon be covered by the earth...



My sources are

Despina Ignatiadou, John Hugh Seiradakis “The archaeological work in Macedon and Thrace 20 years” Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki 2009, p. 95

Best regards to all!
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agesilaos
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

Post by agesilaos »

The formation looks significantly different to me even in the artist's reconstruction, it lacks the rocks on top, looking at the original as it is, sadly only by enlarging the photo on wikepedia, Vergina I think the amount of reconstruction/invention becomes plain. To me those shapes identified as rocks appear to be distant mountain peaks.
I tried loading it as an attachment but the file was too large. :shock:
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

Post by spitamenes »

At first glance, they appear to be distant mountains. But from what I see, the bear is kinda halfway climbing on the side of the one on the right. So I would think they were rocks. I don't see how anyone could say they are the ones in the photo though. One has a slightly similar shape. And that's about it. Just my thoughts...
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

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lookingat the original I'm hard pressed to even see the bear! Too much of my favorite hobby.....painting wargames figures.
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

Post by spitamenes »

Looks more like a three toed sloth to me. :) Did they have those in Greek artwork? :wink:
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

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I am so sorry that the photos are so bad! This is an issue i have been having with pothos.org; I can never seem to be able to post a decent photo. Anyway you can google the painting of "TombII and the famous hunting scene". There you can see the bear, not a sloth. :D The similarity of the two conical rocks with the real ones is impressive (the above rock fromation is missing indeed but the rest is quite similar). I can understand your reservations for this matter I must admit I have them myself.
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

Post by spitamenes »

System 1988,
When you stated that the painting would soon be covered by earth, what did you mean exactly? Did they themselves cover the entire tomb with earth after the bodies were in place? I don't know too much about this tomb. I have of course run across it many times here and there. I didn't know if they covered it entirely, or if they covered all but, say, the facade and then this would have been filled in by time.. do u know the situation?
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

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There's a rather good photo of the rock sanctuary here although unfortunately it's from the same angle. Try to imagine the view if one were to take a photograph closer and from a little more to the left, and the shape of the rocks do seem to be very similar to those in the painting.

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system1988
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

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amyntoros wrote:There's a rather good photo of the rock sanctuary here although unfortunately it's from the same angle. Try to imagine the view if one were to take a photograph closer and from a little more to the left, and the shape of the rocks do seem to be very similar to those in the painting.

Best regards,
spitamenes wrote:System 1988,
When you stated that the painting would soon be covered by earth, what did you mean exactly? Did they themselves cover the entire tomb with earth after the bodies were in place? I don't know too much about this tomb. I have of course run across it many times here and there. I didn't know if they covered it entirely, or if they covered all but, say, the facade and then this would have been filled in by time.. do u know the situation?
@amyntoros

The photo is amazing as far as clarity is concerned! And yes the similarity can also be described as amazing! Thank you for this photo.


@spitamenes

All Macedonian chamber tombs were covered by a small hillock of earth and the larger part of the structure lies below the ground surface. Such a large piece of work and beautiful art just for that one time. They indeed honored their dead.
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

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Facade_of_Philip_II_tomb_Vergina_Greece.jpg
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Aha, this is how the painting looks now. It was buried before it had fully dried according to Andronikos, the excavator.
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system1988
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

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agesilaos wrote:
Facade_of_Philip_II_tomb_Vergina_Greece.jpg
Aha, this is how the painting looks now. It was buried before it had fully dried according to Andronikos, the excavator.

The painting has been preserved and restored for quite some time thus the clarity of all the figures. So the photo you posted is not that accurate anymore.

However, yes there was kind of a speedy proccess involved in the building and the burying of the tomb and its enterior, even though full of riches, was not that looked after. It seems that someone was really in a rush to finish with the funerals, the rites, the cries as well as the various father figures, what with that someone being busy to start his own glorious life (just kidding)!
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

Post by spitamenes »

system1988 wrote: However, yes there was kind of a speedy proccess involved in the building and the burying of the tomb and its enterior, even though full of riches, was not that looked after. It seems that someone was really in a rush to finish with the funerals, the rites, the cries as well as the various father figures, what with that someone being busy to start his own glorious life (just kidding)!
system, I know u said " just kidding" ,but could there maybe be some truth to that statement?
Im not at home, otherwise I would look it up. But, how long was the time period between Philips assassination and Alexander's departure? Does anyone have a theory as the why it would have been a rushed process to get it covered?
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

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There were almost two years between the one and the other,
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

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My son bought a very expensive and addictive online game and he wants and I quote "leave me be, I want to play Star Wars: The Old Republic!!"

So I will be answering in a few days....
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Re: A solar observatory in the lion-hunt painting at Vergina

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Received today a little booklet from The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, New and Forthcoming Publications 2012. No date for publication yet, but they show "Hunters, Heroes, Kings: The Frieze of Tomb II at Vergina" (AAAC 3) by Hallie M. Franks as forthcoming this year. The booklet shows a lovely painted recreation of the frieze, and the blurb is as follows:
This monograph considers the painted frieze on the facade of the Tomb II at Vergina (ca. 330-280 B.C.) as a visual document that offers vital evidence for the public self-stylings of Macedonian royalty in the era surrounding the reign of Alexander the Great. The hunting scene on the frieze reflects the construction of Macedonian royal identity through the appeal to specific and long-standing cultural traditions, which emerged, long before Alexander's reign, from a complex negotiation of claims to heroic and local dynastic pasts, regional ideals of kingship, and models of royal behavior provided by the East.
I haven't bought many books lately - just too many on my wishlist - but this one will definitely move to the top once it is published.

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