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Article

Elizabeth P. Benson

Pre-Columbian Maya site in Retalhuleu, in the Highland Maya region, near the Pacific coast of Guatemala. It is best known for its monumental stone sculptures, some of which were recorded in the 19th century. The site lies partly on the Finca San Isidro Piedra Parada, and it was known by this name when Eric Thompson published a description of some of the sculpture in 1943. ‘Abaj Takalik’ (‘standing stone’) is a translation of ‘Piedra Parada’ into Quiché Maya. It was occupied during the Pre-Classic (c. 2000 bcc. ad 250) and Classic (c. ad 250–c. 900) periods. The site lies on a fertile slope between the mountains and the sea; there are remains of steep, manmade earthen terraces on which its structures were built. The earth removed to create the terraces may have been used to construct the various mounds at Abaj Takalik, a number of which were faced with stone cobbles. Adobe bricks were also used, and local volcanic material provided flooring. The site was covered in ...

Article

Abaneri  

Walter Smith

[anc. Abhānagari]

Temple site in north-eastern Rajasthan, India. It contains the fragmentary remains of two major monuments of the 8th century ad. The Chand Baori, a stepped ritual bathing tank c. 19 m deep, was probably built by Raja Chandra, from whom its name derives; an enclosing verandah dates to the 17th century. Although the Harshatmata Temple also dates to the 8th century, or early 9th, according to some scholars, a modern temple has been built over the original foundations, which include a broad platform and the lower walls of the original monument. A remarkable sequence of sculptures, showing primarily secular scenes, survives. These include kings with courtiers, musicians and couples (see Indian subcontinent, fig.). The figural scenes are framed by pilasters carved with floral motifs and capped by elaborate interlaced pediments employing the gavākṣa (Skt: ‘cow’s-eye’) motif.

The sculpture of Abaneri extensively illustrates a phase of sculptural development midway between the Gupta style of the Mathura region and the abstracted linearized style adopted in northern India from the 10th century. Its style, often referred to as naturalistic, renders the figure with an energetic elasticity conveying both potential and actual movement. The profuse details, including facial expressions and gestures, are carved with great delicacy, and the high relief utilizes deep undercutting. Several of the ancient sculptures have been embedded into the walls of the modern temple, and numerous fragments—possibly from other temples no longer extant—lie about the site. Other pieces, including images of deities such as Ganesha, Durga and Gaja-Lakshmi and scenes from the life of Krishna, have been removed to the Archaeological Museum in Amer....

Article

Abbasid  

Robert Hillenbrand

[‛Abbasid]

Islamic dynasty that ruled from several capitals in Iraq between ad 749 and 1258. The Abbasids traced their descent from al-‛Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, and were thus able to claim a legitimacy that their predecessors had lacked (see Umayyad, §1). The Abbasids rose to power in north-east Iran by channelling disaffection with Umayyad rule, but they soon established their capitals in a more central location, founding Baghdad in 762. Although they initially encouraged the support of Shi‛ites, the Abbasids quickly distanced themselves from their erstwhile allies to become champions of orthodoxy. Upon accession, each caliph adopted an honorific title, somewhat like a regnal name, by which he was later known. For the first two centuries, the Abbasids’ power was pre-eminent, and their names were invoked from the Atlantic to western Central Asia. From the middle of the 10th century, however, real power was transferred to a succession of Persian and Turkish dynasts (...

Article

Peter Grossmann

[Abū Mīnā]

Site of a Christian city and pilgrimage centre in the Maryūt Desert, c. 45 km south-west of Alexandria, Egypt. It grew up around the shrine of St Menas, who was martyred during the persecution of the Christians instigated by Diocletian (reg 285–305). The ancient name of the site is not known, and the position of the saint’s grave had been long forgotten until, according to legend, several miracle cures led to its rediscovery. The place then quickly developed into an increasingly major centre of pilgrimage where, among other things, the so-called Menas ampules were manufactured as pilgrim flasks and achieved particular renown. The first excavations of the site were undertaken by Kaufmann in 1905–7. Further excavations have been directed successively by the Coptic Museum in Cairo (1951), Schläger (1963 and 1964), Wolfgang Müller-Wiener (1965–7) and Peter Grossmann (since 1969).

The earliest archaeological remains date to the late 4th century, although the grave itself was in an older hypogeum. The first martyrium basilica erected over the grave dates to the first half of the 5th century and was rapidly enlarged by various reconstructions and extensions. Around the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries, the Great Basilica was added to the east in the form of a transept-basilica, making it the largest church in Egypt (...

Article

T. I. Zeymal’

Buddhist monastery of the 7th century ad to first half of the 8th, in the valley of the Vakhsh River, 12 km east of Kurgan-Tyube, southern Tajikistan. During this early medieval period it belonged to Vakhsh (U-sha in Chinese sources), one of the 27 domains of Tokharistan. Excavations between 1960 and 1975 by the Academy of Sciences, Tajikistan, and the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, exposed the entire site; most of the finds are on loan to the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. The buildings, which covered an area of 100×50 m, were constructed of mud-bricks (c. 490×250×110 mm) and rammed earth, with walls surviving to a height of 5.5 to 6.0 m. The site comprised two square complexes linked by an enfilade of three rooms (see fig. (a)). The south-eastern complex or monastery (b) had domed cells (c) for monks, a hall or refectory (d), service quarters, store-rooms and a small sanctuary (e). An open courtyard in the centre had a fired brick path across it, linking the enfilade to the sanctuary. A corridor around the perimeter of the courtyard was divided into four right-angled sections by a deep iwan, or vestibule, in the middle of each side. One of these vestibules led into the sanctuary, the second into the meeting-hall, the third into the enfilade and the fourth to the monastery exit (j) and also on to a vaulted ramp (k) that originally gave access to the roof and the now lost second storey....

Article

[Æthelwold; Ethelwold]

(b Winchester, c. ad 908; d Beddington, Surrey, 1 Aug 984; fd 1 Aug). Anglo-Saxon saint, Church leader, reformer and patron. With Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury (reg 959–88), and Oswald, Archbishop of York (reg 972–92), he was the moving spirit behind the English monastic revival of the late 10th century.

Aethelwold’s career began at the court of King Athelstan (reg 924–39). After ordination he joined Dunstan’s reformed monastic community at Glastonbury. About 954 he established his own monastic house at Abingdon. According to later tradition, he was a skilled worker in metals and personally contributed to the embellishment of the abbey church. Appointed Bishop of Winchester in 963, he introduced reformed communities into both Old and New Minsters and established a regular monastic life in several other centres, notably Ely, Peterborough and Thorney. He was an enthusiastic patron: the masterpiece of the Winchester School of illumination, the ...

Article

Lucien Golvin

Islamic dynasty that governed Tunisia, Algeria and Sicily from ad 800 to 909. The province of Ifriqiya, roughly corresponding to modern Tunisia, had been administered from Kairouan since the Islamic conquest in the 7th century by governors named by the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. The caliph authorized one of these governors, Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab (reg 800–12), to appoint his own successor, thereby engendering a dynasty that maintained its position by paying the caliph an annual tribute. Ibrahim immediately built a satellite city, which he named al-‛Abbasiyya, with a palace, known as the Qasr al-Abyad, and a congregational mosque. His sons ‛Abdallah I (reg 812–17) and Ziyadat Allah I (reg 817–38) continued to put down insurrections, and Tunis was temporarily outside the authority of the Aghlabid amir in Kairouan. The conquest of Sicily (827) was conducted like a holy war against the Byzantines, and the troops, encouraged by indoctrination in fortified convents (Arab. ...

Article

Lucy Der Manuelian

Island on Lake Van in south-eastern Turkey. It is the site of the church of the Holy Cross (Sourb Khatch), which was built in ad 915–21 as the palatine church of the Ardsruni king Gagik (reg 908–c. 943) of the Armenian kingdom of Vaspurakan. The church is of singular importance for the history of medieval art because of the form, content and iconography of its sculptural reliefs and wall paintings. It is the oldest surviving church almost entirely covered on the exterior with figural relief in stone (see Armenia, fig.).

According to information in a text of the late 18th century or early 19th and an inscription on the building’s façade now hidden by a gavit’ or assembly hall (1793; see Armenia, Republic of, §II), the church was built by the King’s Armenian architect Manuel (Lalayan, 1910). An anonymous continuator of the 10th-century ...

Article

Colin McEwan

[anc. Salangome]

Pre-Columbian site in Manabí Province, Ecuador, 8 km inland in the Buenavista River Valley. It was a principal town, controlled by a lord, of the powerful indigenous polity of Salangome, recorded in 1528 by the navigator of the Spanish explorer and conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Human occupation at Agua Blanca spanned at least 5000 years and included components of all the principal ceramic-using cultures identified along Ecuador’s coasts. The ceramic sequence began with Valdivia wares in the early 3rd millennium bc, and continued uninterrupted during the Manteño culture (c. ad 800–c. 1500) encountered by the Europeans in the 16th century.

The visible archaeological remains at Agua Blanca are of Manteño date. They comprise the wall foundations of several hundred domestic structures, storehouses, temples, and other public buildings, which together make the site the largest and best-preserved of all surviving Manteño towns. The orientations of some buildings were clearly governed by astronomical considerations. The long axis of the principal temple, for example, is directed towards the point of sunrise on the December solstice, and this alignment determined the east–west axis of many buildings at the site. A secondary or derived axis, at right angles to the first, determined the layout of other structures. In still other areas, buildings were arranged radially around a central mound, a practice resembling the principles of spatial organization expressed in the earlier dated ...

Article

Ahenny  

Roger Stalley

Site of an obscure Early Christian settlement formerly known as Kilclispeen (St Crispin’s Church) in Co. Tipperary, Ireland. The only remains are two outstanding stone crosses and the base of a third (c. 750–900), which are situated in a graveyard below the village. The crosses belong to a well-defined regional group and were constructed of three characteristic elements: a square base with sloping sides, a shaft with an unusually wide ring and a peculiar, rather ill-fitting, conical cap (the latter missing on the south cross). With its capstone, the north cross measures 3.7 m in height. The form of the Ahenny crosses is emphasized by a bold cable ornament along the outer contours. Projecting from the main faces are sculpted bosses, the most prominent feature of the ‘Ahenny school’. The ring and shaft of the crosses are covered with dense patterns of carved ornament, including interlace, spirals, frets, entangled beasts and interlocking men. Much of this decoration can be compared with the metalwork and manuscript illumination of the period, and it appears that the sculptors were in effect transposing altar or processional crosses into stone. With the addition of pigment, the analogy with metalwork would have been complete. In contrast to the shafts and rings, the bases bear figure sculpture in low relief. That on the north cross is best preserved and represents Adam and Eve with the animals in the Garden of Eden, a chariot procession (a theme repeated on other Irish crosses), seven ecclesiastics (possibly symbolizing Christ’s mission to the Apostles) and an enigmatic funeral procession with a headless corpse....

Article

Gregory L. Possehl

[Ahicchatra; Adhicchatrā]

Fortified site in Bareilly District, Uttar Pradesh, India. It flourished from c. 500 bc to ad 1100, and it was identified by Alexander Cunningham as the capital of North Panchala, an early kingdom mentioned in the Mahābhārata epic of the 1st millennium bc. The fortifications of the site measure 5.6 km in circuit, and the mounds within stand 23 m above the surrounding plain. Early visitors such as the 7th-century Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang noted a number of Buddhist stupas; although these can no longer be located, Cunningham’s excavations of 1862–5 produced a reliquary casket at one stupa site. Some years later A. Führer undertook the excavation of a temple without much result. However, the principal excavation of Ahichchhatra was carried out between 1940 and 1944 by the Archaeological Survey of India under the direction of Rao Bahadur K. N. Dikshit, assisted by Amalananda Ghosh. This yielded evidence of nine successive periods of occupation in the western sector of the city dating from ...

Article

Aihole  

Gary Michael Tartakov

[Aihoḷe, Aivalli; anc. Āryapura, Ayyāvoḷe]

Temple site and city in Karnataka, India, that flourished c. ad 525–1200.

An important centre of the early Chalukya dynasty (see Chalukya, §1), Aihole is situated, like the nearby sites of Pattadakal and Badami, near the Malaprabha River. Little is known of the ancient urban complex, but there are remains of a massive city wall with bastions and fragmentary crenellations. Inscriptions indicate that Aihole was a prominent commercial centre and the home of the ‘Ayyavole Five Hundred’, a corporation of traders and craftsmen. The remains of about 150 temples (in diverse styles) are preserved at the site. The oldest date to the mid-6th century and later examples to the time of the Rashtrakuta dynasty (c. 752–973) and Chalukyas of Kalyana (973–1189; see Chalukya, §2).

The temples at Aihole were first photographed and published in the mid-19th century by Col. Thomas Biggs, Bhau Daji and ...

Article

V. D. Goryacheva

[Ak-Peshin]

Site in the eastern Chu River Valley, near Tokmak, northern Kyrgyzstan. It has been identified as the Silk Route merchant city on the Su-ye River visited by Xuanzang (ad 600–64) in 629, and as Suyab (Sughati), capital of the western Turkish khanate of the Türgesh (c. 700–39) and subsequently of the Qarluq dynasty (8th–10th century). The site has been investigated by M. Ye. Masson (1927), A. Terenozhkin (1929), A. Bernshtam (1938–40), P. Kozhemyako (1953–4) and L. Zyablin (1955). Finds are in Bishkek (Kirgizstan Hist. Mus.) and St Petersburg (Hermitage). The site (96 ha) comprised two town centres and a citadel, surrounded by buildings varying in density and plan, and encircled by a fortified wall 16 km in length. Following the Islamization of the country in the 10th century, the Qarakhanid Turks founded a new neighbouring capital, known as Kuz-Ordu (also Balasaghun; ...

Article

Aksum  

Francis Anfray

[Axoum; Axum]

Capital of the ancient kingdom of Aksum, in the modern Tigray Province of Ethiopia, c. 600 km north of Addis Ababa. It flourished between the 1st and 8th centuries ad. The modern town occupies part of the site, which faces south over a fertile plain at the foot of a flat-topped hill, Mt Beta Giyorgis. The ancient city’s importance is attested by the many monuments scattered throughout the modern town, including huge stelae and throne bases, broken pillars, inscriptions and royal hypogea. The first extensive investigations were undertaken in 1906 by a German team under E. Littmann. During the 1960s and 1970s French, British and Italian teams carried out further excavations, led by Francis Anfray, Neville Chittick and Lanfranco Ricci, respectively.

From the 5th century bc the surrounding region was ruled by a local monarchy with a major centre of Yeha, less than 50 km north-east of Aksum, with close ties to the kingdom of Saba in southern Arabia. Elements of this strong southern Arabic influence survived in the culture of Aksum and its kingdom, which was founded in the 1st century ...

Article

Alampur  

Gary Michael Tartakov

[anc. Alampūra, Hatampura]

Temple site in Karnataka, India. It flourished c. ad 650–1140 and is notable for its well-preserved 7th- and 8th-century temples. Alampur is located on the west bank of the Tungabhadra River, near its confluence with the Krishna, in the western part of the Andhra region of southern India. A number of copperplate grants show that Alampur was a centre of the early Chalukya dynasty known as the Chalukyas of Badami (reg mid-6th to mid-8th century; see Chalukya §1).

The main group of temples, known as the Nava Brahma, was begun sometime before ad 713, the date inscribed on an enclosing wall (Skt prakara) once surrounding a part of the complex. All the temples are dedicated to the god Shiva. They exhibit a local variation of the north Indian style of architecture and are especially important as contemporary versions of forms that have not survived elsewhere. The earliest is the modest Kumara Brahma, probably begun in the later 7th century. It was followed by the Bala Brahma, now encrusted in later accretions, though particularly notable for its magnificent sculpture of the seven mother goddesses (...

Article

Judith McKenzie, Gordon Campbell, R. R. R. Smith, Wiktor A. Daszewski, A. H. Enklaar, Dominic Montserrat, C. Walters, Wladyslaw B. Kubiak, Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

Egyptian city situated on the Mediterranean coast west of the delta of the River Nile, capital of Egypt from c. 320 bc to ad 642, seaport and centre of ancient Greek culture.

Judith McKenzie

Alexandria was founded in 331 bc by Alexander, on the site of the small Egyptian settlement of Rhakotis. Its location, with access by canal to the River Nile, enabled it to become an important and highly prosperous trading centre, and by c. 320 bc Alexandria was the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt. During Ptolemaic times (304–30 bc) it became a major centre of learning, with famous scholars of literature, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and geography, and it played a major role in the transmission of Greek culture to the East.

With the defeat of the last Ptolemaic monarch, Cleopatra VII (51–30 bc), by Octavian (later called Augustus) at the Battle of Actium in 30...

Article

David A. Hinton

Anglo-Saxon jewel made of gold, rock crystal, and enamel (Oxford, Ashmolean), made in the reign of King Alfred (reg 871–99) and found in Somerset in 1693. The crystal is a teardrop-shaped polished, flat slab, with bevelled sides, set in a gold frame. Below the crystal, there is a cloisonné enamel figure of a seated male figure, apparently holding two flowering plants. Behind the enamel is a gold plate, engraved with a different plant. The frame is soldered to a sheet-gold beast’s head, its jaws holding a short tube with a rivet through the end. Soldered to the head and the sloping-sided frame are plain, beaded, and twisted gold wires, and gold granules. Cut into the frame are openwork Old English letters reading AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWRYCAN (‘Alfred ordered me to be made’).

Although no royal title is in the inscription, the Jewel is usually assumed to have been made for Alfred the Great, King of Wessex (...

Article

Algarve  

Kirk Ambrose

Southern-most region of mainland Portugal. Its name is derived from ‘the West’ in Arabic. This region has relatively few medieval buildings: devastating earthquakes in 1722 and 1755 contributed to these losses, though many buildings were deliberately destroyed during the Middle Ages. For example, in the 12th century the Almoravids likely razed a pilgrimage church, described in Arabic sources, at the tip of the cape of S Vicente. Mosques at Faro, Silves and Tavira, among others, appear to have been levelled to make room for church construction after the Reconquest of the region, completed in 1249. Further excavations could shed much light on this history.

Highlights in the Algarve include remains at Milreu of a villa with elaborate mosaics that rank among the most substantial Roman sites in the region. The site further preserves foundations of a basilica, likely constructed in the 5th century, and traces of what may be a baptistery, perhaps added during the period of Byzantine occupation in the 6th and 7th centuries. The period of Islamic rule, from the 8th century through to the 13th, witnessed the construction of many fortifications, including examples at Aljezur, Loulé and Salir, which were mostly levelled by earthquakes. Silves, a city with origins in the Bronze Age, preserves a substantial concentration of relatively well-preserved Islamic monuments. These include a bridge, carved inscriptions, a castle, cistern and fortified walls, along which numerous ceramics have been excavated. Most extant medieval churches in Algarve date to the period after the Reconquest. These tend to be modest in design and small in scale, such as the 13th-century Vera Cruz de Marmelar, built over Visigothic or Mozarabic foundations. The relatively large cathedrals at Silves and at Faro preserve substantial portions dating to the 13th century, as well as fabric from subsequent medieval campaigns. Renaissance and Baroque churches and ecclesiastical furnishings can be found throughout Algarve....

Article

Phil C. Weigand

Site of Pre-Columbian culture near Chalchihuites, Zacatecas, northern Mexico. It was explored by Gamio in 1910 and by Kelly in 1971 and 1976. Its chronology is still uncertain, but the most important occupation was during the Classic period (c. ad 250–c. 900). Alta Vista was a small, highly developed ceremonial centre that exploited a massive mining complex for malachite, azurite, haematite, limonite, coloured chert, galena, cinnabar, rock crystal, and other semi-precious materials. More than 800 mines, some of them over 1 km in extent, have been surveyed (Weigand); they are made up of chambers, adits, shafts, tunnels, internal spoil heaps, and external spoil heaps comprising millions of tons of residue. Because far more material was produced than could possibly have been used regionally, there is a strong argument for central Mexican sponsorship, possibly even control, of the mines by Teotihuacán.

The ceremonial centre comprises a complex series of interrelated buildings whose overall effect is monumental. The main compound is a square plaza surrounded by a banquette topped by platforms. On the north side there is a small pyramid covering a crypt, which contained three high-status burials. Adjacent to the plaza is a structure, once roofed, known as the Hall of Columns, which also contained prestige burials. At an angle to the Hall of Columns is an ‘observatory’ structure, which, because of its placement on the Tropic of Cancer, clearly had special meaning for Mesoamericans. It may have been coordinated with the pecked, double calendar circle at Cerro de Chapín, a nearby site to the south. Other architectural features include a colonnaded entrance fronting a road to the mines, a palace-like court with a skull rack (...

Article

Elizabeth P. Benson

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya ceremonial centre in the Río Pasión drainage, near the source of the Usumacinta River, El Petén, Guatemala. It was occupied nearly continuously from the Middle Pre-Classic period (c. 1000–c. 300 bc) into the Early Post-Classic period (c. ad 900–c. 1200). Known since 1883, the site was explored early in the 20th century and excavated by Harvard University of Cambridge, MA, during 1958–63, particularly because it was hoped that it would shed some light on problems of the Classic ‘Maya collapse’ of c. ad 900. The site is strategically located on a major river system, between highlands and low country on the southernmost edge of the Lowland Maya region, and the ceremonial centre consists of three architecturally independent groups. The North Plaza has the largest mounds and most of the stelae.

The corpus of stone sculpture includes: 26 circular altars, most of them plain, although 7 are carved with hieroglyphs; 21 stelae carved with glyphic panels and rulers holding symbols of office; 3 ‘censer’ altars (basins behind deity masks); and various panels and obelisks. The earliest known monument is Stele 10, with a date of ...