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The Library Lions
Patience and Fortitude, the world-renowned pair of marble lions that stand proudly before the majestic Beaux-Arts building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, have captured the imagination and affection of New Yorkers and visitors from all over the world since the Library was dedicated on May 23, 1911.
Patience, south of the main steps
Called “New York’s most lovable public sculpture” by architecture critic Paul Goldberger, the Lions have witnessed countless parades and been adorned with holly wreaths during the winter holidays and magnificent floral wreaths in springtime. They have been bedecked in top hats, graduation caps, Mets and Yankee caps, and more. They have been photographed alongside countless tourists, replicated as bookends, caricatured in cartoons, and illustrated in numerous children’s books. One even served as the hiding place for the cowardly lion in the motion picture The Wiz.
According to Henry Hope Reed in his book, The New York Public Library, about the architecture of the Fifth Avenue building, the sculptor Edward Clark Potter obtained the commission for the lions on the recommendation of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of America's foremost sculptors. Potter was paid $8,000 for the modeling, and the Piccirilli Brothers executed the carving for $5,000, using pink Tennessee marble. After enduring almost a century of weather and pollution, in 2019 the lions were professionally cleaned and restored.
Their nicknames have changed over the decades. First they were called Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after The New York Public Library founders John Jacob Astor and James Lenox. Later, they were known as Lady Astor and Lord Lenox (even though they are both male lions). During the 1930s, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia named them Patience and Fortitude, for the qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the economic depression. These names have stood the test of time: Patience still guards the south side of the Library's steps and Fortitude sits unwaveringly to the north.
As a tribute to the Lions' popularity and all that they stand for, the Library adopted these figures as its mascots. They are trademarked by the Library, represented in its logo, and featured at major occasions.
To learn more, consult Top Cats: the Life and Times of The New York Public Library Lions by Susan G. Larkin. This publication surveys their history through photographs, cartoons, prints, original drawings, memorabilia, and lively tales. Published by the Library and Pomegranate, Top Cats is available for in-library use at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building or to borrow at select NYPL locations.
Assyria: Palace Art of Ancient Iraq
Музей: The J. Paul Getty Museum
During this time, the kings of Assyria forged the greatest empire the region had known. Its armies conquered lands from Egypt, the eastern Mediterranean coast, and parts of Anatolia (Turkey) in the west to the mountains of Iran in the east.
The Assyrian heartland itself lay astride the Tigris River in Mesopotamia, in what is today northern Iraq. Its original capital was the city of Ashur, but during the empire’s reign, the capital moved successively to Kalhu (Nimrud), Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad), and finally—the grandest city of all—Nineveh. At each of these sites the kings built palaces to glorify their empire.
The reliefs in this exhibition come from the palaces of Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BC) and Tiglath-pileser III (745–727 BC) at Kalhu Sargon II (722–705 BC) at Dur-Sharrukin and the last great Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal (668–627 BC) at Nineveh.
Ancient Fidget Spinner? Nope — That's a Weapon from Mesopotamia
A 4,000-year-old Mesopotamian artifact that looks just like a fidget spinner and that a museum labeled as a "spinning toy" for 85 years is actually — unexpectedly — an ancient weapon, curators told Live Science.
Museum curators noticed the error while enhancing the Mesopotamian Gallery at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, where the triangle-shaped, baked-clay artifact is labeled as a "spinning toy with animal heads" from the Isin-Larsa period of Mesopotamia.
But though the object may look like a modern-day fidget spinner, museum curators recently realized that it was something else entirely: a mace-head. [10 Modern Tools for Indiana Jones]
The artifact dates to between 2000 B.C. and 1800 B.C. and was made in the ancient site of Tell Asmar, located in present-day Iraq. When researchers first published an analysis of the object, in 1932, they suggested it was a plaything, Kiersten Neumann, a curator and research associate at the Oriental Institute, told Live Science in an email.
"The excavators recognized that the object was unique, and they speculated it might be rotated and used in 'astrological divination,' suggesting the animals represented were a bull, [an] ibex and [a] lion," she said.
But several clues, newly reviewed by curators, support the mace-head hypothesis, Neumannsaid.
It's unusual for a mace-head to be made from baked clay typically, they're crafted out of stone. But the object looks like other identified mace-heads, and its location is further evidence of its original purpose, she said.
"That our baked clay example was found in the area of a temple also supports that it is a mace-head, since they were considered weapons of the gods in the second millennium B.C.," Neumann said.
Archaeologists have previously found toy artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, including baked clay rattles, whistles, animal figurines and wheeled carts, but this object was likely not fashioned for the whimsy of children, Neumann said.
So why did museum researchers call it a toy in the first place?
"Our ideas change over time," Jean Evans, chief curator at the Oriental Institute, told Live Science.
The ancient weapon will soon be on display with other objects excavated from Mesopotamian temples, including votive statues, plaques, vessels and other mace-heads, Neumann said. But that hasn't stopped the Twitterverse from getting a kick out of the fidget spinner look-alike.
When the fidget spinner craze took off, people tweeted a picture of the artifact, and just on Monday (July 31), Arielle Pardes, a senior associate editor at Wired, even jokingly tweeted, "Proof that there are no original ideas anymore. "
A Stone Mace Head with Lions - History
PREHISTORIC O WL IMAGERY & MYTH
35,000 YEARS AGO TO RECENT PAST
This article illustrates and describes several examples of prehistoric images of owls that have been engraved on cave walls and sculpted in stone, bone and clay. They show how varied the image of an owl can be, from simple to complex, and still project a strong emblematic image. Owl imagery also has a long history among ancient cultures, as early as 35,000 years ago. Oral and written history of owl related myths in cultures around the world can range from the powerful and fearful to the benign and honorable.
"In almost every part of or world the owl has held a fascination for mankind at one time or another. Sometimes the bird has been worshipped as a lofty oracle. Other times its eerie cries and staring eyes have made it feared as an evil sorcerer." --------1967, Faith Medlin, "Centuries Of Owls, In Art And The Written Word." p. 13.
"As nocturnal predators, owls are linked with the feminine, night, the moon, death, magic, and dreams." ----2006, Hope B. Werness, "The Continuum, Encyclopedia Of Animal Symbolism In Art," p. 303.
"The bones of snowy owls have been found in various caves ( in France ), and more than 1,100 bones from more than eighty large owls have been found in association with Paleolithic tools." ---------2008, Darryl Wheye & Donald Kennedy, "Humans, Nature, And Birds, Science Art From Cave Walls To Computer Screens," p. 24.
"---Paleolithic bird images were not as widely produced ( in French cave sites ) as the megafauna were---." ------2008, Darryl Wheye & Donald Kennedy, "Humans, Nature, And Birds, Science Art From Cave Walls To Computer Screens," p. 2.
" ----2006, Vance T. Holliday & Rolfe D. Mandel, "Geoarcheology Of The Plains, Southwest, And Great Lakes," Handbook Of North American Indians, Vol. 4 Environment, Origins, and Population (Smithsonian), p. 30.
"A man became a shaman from the moment he received a soul in his body. Chebero ( who live on the tributaries of the upper Amazon River ) medicine men were trained in their art by an owl." ----1949, Alfred Metraux, "Religion And Shamanism," Handbook Of South American Indians, Vol. 5, The Comparative Ethnology Of South American Indians (Smithsonian), p. 591.
"Vapor inhalants are employed in some respiratory ailments ( among the Aymara of Peru & Bolivia ) and burning owl feathers are used to cure earache." ----1946, Harry Tschopik, Jr., "The Aymara," Handbook Of South American Indians, Vol. 2, The Andean Civilizations (Smithsonian) p. 569.
"---( among the Yahgan of the southern Andean Mountains ) the call of the owl was supposed to portend a murder or at least a death." ----1946, John M. Cooper, "The Yahgan," Handbook Of South American Indians, Vol. 1, The Marginal Tribes (Smithsonian) p. 102.
"To some of the river plains tribes ( in the central South American continent ), certain birds say, "Danger! White people are near." Another bird sings, "The brethren are coming!" And the big owl says, "Beware" I am bringing spirits to harm you." ----1946, Juan Belaieff, "The Present-Day Indians Of The Gran Chaco," Handbook Of South American Indians, Vol. 1, The Marginal Tribes (Smithsonian) p. 380.
"Among the Sioux, Hin-Han the owl guards the entrance to the Milky Way over which the souls of the dead must pass to reach the spirit land. Those who fail the owl's inspection because they do not have the proper tattoo on their wrists or elsewhere is thrown into the bottomless abyss. On-the-other-hand, among some nations, the owl is a wise and friendly spirit and advisor and warning giver." --------1984, Richard Erdoes, & Alfonso Ortiz, "American Indian Myths And Legends," p. 400.
PREHISTORIC OWL IMAGERY & MYTH
35,000 YEARS AGO TO RECENT PAST
People have been creating images and mythic stories about owls for tens of thousands of years. They have been portrayed in every imaginable form on everything from cave walls to small portable objects. The mystical energy they project most certainly comes from their power of acute vision, silent flight, powerful claws, and, most importantly, they are creatures of the night.
CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGER IMAGE
OWL IMAGES IN STONE, BONE, AND CLAY
ILLINOIS, MISSOURI, OHIO, MISSISSIPPI, COSTA RICA & FRANCE
COMPUTERIZED LIKENESS OF ORIGINAL CAVE ENGRAVING
ENGRAVED OWL ON CAVE WALL
32,000 TO 35,000 YEARS AGO
COMPUTERIZED LIKENESS OF ORIGINAL CAVE ENGRAVING
ENGRAVED OWLS ON CAVE WALL
LES TROIS FRERIS (THREE BROTHERS) CAVE
est. 17,000 YEARS AGO
CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGER IMAGE
POVERTY POINT CULTURE
est. 3,200 YEARS AGO
OWL EFFIGY PENDANT
CAHOKIA MOUNDS SITE
MADISON/ST. CLAIR COUNTIES, ILLINOIS
OWL EFFIGY PENDANT
JACKSON COUNTY, ILLINOIS
CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGER IMAGE
SCOTT COUNTY, MISSOURI
20th Annual Report Of The Bureau Of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, 1898-1899
PAINTED OWL EFFIGY BOTTLE
OWL EFFIGIES MADE FROM CLAY
CAHOKIA MOUNDS SITE
MADISON & ST. CLAIR COUNTIES, ILLINOIS
PHOTO BY BILL FECHT and DENNIS VESPER----CLEM CALDWELL COLLECTION
OWL EFFIGY PLATFORM PIPE
MIDDLE WOODLAND HOPEWELL CULTURE
CALHOUN COUNTY, ILLINOIS
COMPUTERIZED LIKENESS OF ORIGINAL PIPE
"ARTIFACTS," Vol. 7, ISSUE No. 1, 1976
OWL EFFIGY PIPE
HARDIN VILLAGE SITE
COMPUTERIZED LIKENESS OF ORIGINAL PIPE,
JOURNAL OF THE ILLINOIS STATE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY, VOL. 7, NO. 2, 1949
OWL EFFIGY PIPE
COMPUTERIZED LIKENESS OF ORIGINAL BONE CARVING,
BULLETIN OF THE ARKANSAS ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY, VOL. 16, 17, 18
BONE CARVED OWL EFFIGY
PEMISCOT COUNTY, MISSOURI
OWL MACE HEADS
COSTA RICA, CENTRAL AMERICA
est. A.D. 300 TO 1550
1896, Boas, Franz, "Sixth Report On The Indians Of British Columbia, In Report Of The 61st Meeting Of The British Association For The Advancement Of Science, 1891."
1903, Powell, J. W., Twentieth Annual Report Of The Bureau Of American Ethnology To The Secretary Of The Smithsonian Institution, 1898-1899."
1946, Cooper, John M., "The Yahgan," Handbook Of South American Indians, Vol. 1, The Marginal Tribes (Smithsonian).
1946, Tschopik, Jr., Harry, "The Aymara," Handbook Of South American Indians, Vol. 2, The Andean Civilizations (Smithsonian).
1949, Stone, Claude, "Journal of the Illinois State Archaeological Society, Vol. 7, No. 2."
1949, Metraux, Alfred, "Religion And Shamanism," Handbook Of South American Indians, Vol. 5, The Comparative Ethnology Of South American Indians (Smithsonian).
1961, Devereux, George, "Mohave Ethnopsychiatry And Suicide: The Psychiatric Knowledge And The Psychic Disturbances Of An Indian Tribe," Bureau Of American Ethnology Bulletin 175 (Smithsonian).
1967, Medlin, Faith, "Centuries Of Owls, In Art And The Written Word."
1976, ?, "Artifacts, Vol. 6, Issue No., 1," p. 12.
1977, Klinger, Timothy C. "An Exceptional Example Of Carved Bone Technology From The Lower Mississippi Valley," The Arkansas Archaeologist, Bulletin Of The Arkansas Archaeologist Society, Vol. 16, 17, 18, 1975-76-77, pp. 93-98.
1984, Erdoes, Richard, Ortiz, Alfonso, "American Indian Myths And Legends."
1994, (edited by) Mills, Antonia & Slobodin, Richard, "Amerindian Rebirth: Reincarnation Belief Among North American Indians And Inuit."
2001, Gibson, Jon L., "The Ancient Mounds Of Poverty Point."
2006, Werness, Hope B., "The Continuum, Encyclopedia Of Animal Symbolism In Art."
2008, Wheye, Darryl & Kennedy, Donald, "Humans, Nature, And Birds, Science Art From Cave Walls To Computer Screens."
Personal Communication with, Mike Gramly.
A Stone Mace Head with Lions - History
The figures on this seal can be divided into two groups. The first group consists of a robed figure, raising one hand, facing the sun god Šamaš, who holds a saw-toothed knife. Between the two figures is a sun-disc and crescent. The second group of figures consists of a lion-demon, holding an inverted human by the ankles, and a bearded god who holds a scimitar. In the field is a walking bird (or goat-fish?), in profile.
The configurations of figures and motifs on this seal are typical of the Old Babylonian period in Mesopotamia, dating to ca. 2000-1600 B.C.E.
The man with one hand raised is a common figure on Old Babylonian cylinder seal. He is usually depicted in the same position and attire as on this seal, and seems to represent the Mesopotamian king fulfilling his religious duties. The sun god, Šamaš, stands in a position known as “the ascending posture” – extremely common on Old Babylonian seals, both for gods in general and for the sun-god in particular. He is identified as the sun god by his characteristic saw-toothed knife. The object on which his foot rests is usually understood as a mountain. Both of these features – the knife and the mountain – evoke to the Mesopotamian concept of the sun cutting through the eastern mountains to rise every morning – a connection which is made more explicit in the detailed, 3 rd millennium B.C.E. precursors to this seal’s imagery. In other interpretations, the sun god’s knife may be a symbolic tool for “cutting” decisions – a reference to the Mesopotamian sun god’s capacity as the god of justice.
The lion-demon is a Mesopotamian hybrid monster with a lion’s head, donkey-like ears, a human body, a lion’s tail (here hidden by his kilt), and bird’s talons. He is often, in the Old Babylonian period, shown holding a human victim upside down. The object in his left hand is unclear: his expected weapon in such scenes is a mace, but the object in this seal looks more like a bucket or pail, usually held by priests on Old Babylonian seals. The god with a scimitar is another common figure on Old Babylonian seals. He is sometimes referred to as “the warrior god,” and may represent the Mesopotamian god Nergal, a violent god associated with the underworld, devastation, and disease. It is very common for the lion-demon and the god with a scimitar to be shown together, and it is possible the lion-demon represents one of Nergal’s disease-bringing attendants.
The identification of the creature in the sky is uncertain. It appears similar to some birds shown on 2 nd millennium Syrian seals – perhaps to be interpreted as doves. It also bears some resemblance to a goat-fish, a part-goat, part-fish creature that often appears on Old Babylonian seals.
Black, Jeremy and Anthony Green, 1992. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary. London: British Museum Press. 121 135-6.
Buchanan, Briggs, 1981. Early Near Eastern Seals in the Yale Babylonian Collection. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Collon, Dominique, 1986. Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in the British Museum: Cylinder Seals III. Isin-Larsa and Old Babylonian Periods. London: British Museum Publications.
Green, Anthony, 1994. “ Mischwesen. B” Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie 8: 246-264.
Keel-Leu, Hildi and Beatrice Teissier, 2004. The Ancient Near Eastern Cylinder Seals of the Collections “Bible+Orient” of the University of Fribourg. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 200. Fribourg: Academic Press Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Kist, Joost, 2003. Ancient Near Eastern Seals from the Kist collection: Three Millennia of Miniature Reliefs. Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, Vol. 18. Leiden: Brill.
A broken column indicates a life cut short, a memorial to the death of someone who died young or in the prime of life, before reaching old age.
Some columns you encounter in the cemetery may be broken due to damage or vandalism, but many columns are intentionally carved in the broken form.
Whereas: Stories from the People’s House
While the mace, made by New York silversmith William Adams in 1841, intentionally looks like this ancient symbol, aspects of it are unmistakably American. The 13 bundled rods of the shaft represent the original 13 states. Continents are etched into the globe atop the shaft, with the North American continent facing forward. Perched atop the globe is the national bird of the United States, the bald eagle, another symbol of strength.
The mace is a symbol of the authority of the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives. In 1789, the House of Representatives passed a resolution that established the role of the Sergeant at Arms. The resolution stipulated that “a proper symbol of office shall be provided for the Sergeant at Arms, of such form and device as the Speaker shall direct.” The first Speaker of the House, Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, chose a symbol with a long legislative tradition and an even longer tradition as an implement of war. In the Middle Ages, the mace was widely used in Europe as a weapon. However, by 1789, the mace was commonly used as a ceremonial symbol of legislative power. For example, maces were used in the Houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom and the general assembly in colonial Virginia.
When the House of Representatives is in session, the mace is usually placed atop a pedestal to the Speaker's right side. Another booklet about the mace, published in 1940, described it as having played “a silent but important part in the day’s proceedings.” The mace has silently witnessed many significant events of American history. For example, the mace was pictured behind President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 8, 1941, when the President asked a Joint Session of Congress to declare war against Japan.
The next time the House of Representatives is in session, look for the mace.
The ancient origins of the legendary griffin
The griffin is a legendary creature with the head and wings of an eagle, and the body, tail, and hind legs of a lion. As the eagle was considered the ‘king of the birds’, and the lion the ‘king of the beasts’, the griffin was perceived as a powerful and majestic creature. During the Persian Empire, the griffin was seen as a protector from evil, witchcraft, and slander.
Although the griffin is often seen in medieval heraldry, its origins stretch further back in time. For instance, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote
“But in the north of Europe there is by far the most gold. In this matter again I cannot say with assurance how the gold is produced, but it is said that one-eyed men called Arimaspians steal it from griffins. But I do not believe this, that there are one-eyed men who have a nature otherwise the same as other men. The most outlying lands, though, as they enclose and wholly surround all the rest of the world, are likely to have those things which we think the finest and the rarest.” (Herodotus, The Histories , 3.116)
While griffins are most common in the art and mythology of Ancient Greece, there is evidence of representations of griffins in ancient Persia and ancient Egypt dating back to as early as the 4 th millennium BC. On the island of Crete in Greece, archaeologists have uncovered depictions of griffins in frescoes in the ‘Throne Room’ of the Bronze Age Palace of Knossos dating back to the 15 th century BC.
Griffin fresco in the "Throne Room", Palace of Knossos, Crete. Credit: Wikipedia
Interestingly, there are various hybrid creatures that are similar to the griffin. For instance, the Lamassu was an Assyrian mythical creature that had the head of a man, a body of a lion or bull, and the wings of an eagle.
The Lamassu, a human-headed winged bull. University of Chicago Oriental Institute. Neo-Assyrian Period, c. 721-705 BCE. Credit: Wikipedia
Further to the east, a part-man, part-bird creature, the Garuda, served as a mount for the Hindu god Vishnu. Perhaps the fascination with such hybrid creatures is due to the fact that it allows people to combine the best characteristics of two or more creatures into one ’super creature’, allowing meaningful symbolism to be attached to them.
This may hold true for the griffin in the Middle Ages. In European legend of this period, it was believed that griffins mated for life, and that when one partner died, the other would live the rest of his/her without seeking another partner (perhaps due to the fact that there weren’t many griffins around). This has led to claims that the griffin was used by the Church as a symbol against re-marriage. It is unclear, however, whether this was the actual belief, or just a modern interpretation.
Although the griffin might seem like a creature conjured from the imagination of mankind, there might actually be some truth to this creature. One theory suggests that the griffin was brought to Europe by traders travelling along the Silk Road from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. In this desert, the fossils of a dinosaur called the Protoceratops can be found. As these bones, especially the skull, which has a bird-like beak, were exposed on the desert floor, ancient observers may have interpreted them as proof that such a hybrid creature once lived in the desert. Yet, it has been shown that stories of the griffin have been around even before the Silk Road was developed. Perhaps it was stories about the griffin that made the traders interpret the fossils of the Protoceratops as that of the legendary creature.
Regardless of its origins, the griffin has been part of human culture for a very long time and persists today, as seen in various school emblems, mascots, and even popular literature. It is likely that the griffin and other hybrid mythical creatures will continue to play a role in mankind’s imagination for a long time to come.
Featured image: An artist’s representation of a griffin. Image source.
Buffalo Architecture and History, 2009. Illustrated Dictionary of Egyptian Mythology. [Online]
Available at: http://buffaloah.com/a/archsty/egypt/illus/illus.html
[Godley, A. D. (trans.), 1920. Herodotus’ The Histories . Cambridge: Harvard University Press.]