Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Antiquities’

Gold and Memory: Unlocking our collective amnesia

August 18, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, History No Comments →


In the heart of the financial district of Makati and in a basement at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas complex sits what may be the most valuable tangible heritage of the Philippines: gold objects believed to be a thousand years old. There are gold bangles inlaid with semi-precious stones and arm ornaments of hammered gold. There are belts of woven gold weighing over half a kilogram, and finely wrought ear ornaments. There are death masks, cutwork diadems, ritual vessels and elaborate headdresses. There is a gold halter weighing nearly four kilos that can choke the most avaricious fashion victim.

There are well over a thousand artefacts at the Ayala Museum and at the Bangko Sentral, all of them found in the Philippines, all of them dating back centuries before the Spanish conquest. The intricacy of the designs and the painstaking labor that went into their production point to a sophisticated culture with a high-level of gold and metal-working technology. The number of funerary masks and other grave goods hints at a culture that believed in an afterlife. Recurring Hindu motifs such as the Upavita and the kinnari suggest that the owners of the gold traded with the kingdoms of Southeast Asia or were even part of such a kingdom. Point to, hint at, suggest — meaning we don’t know for sure. It is characteristic of our unawareness of our own history that we do not know who made these objects.

Read our essay Gold and Memory at BusinessWorld.

What did the rest of the outfit look like?

September 18, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Cats, History, Places No Comments →


1,500-Year-Old Claws Intrigue Archaeologists in Peru
By Alan Boyle

Archaeologists in Peru say they have unearthed the previously unknown tomb of a nobleman from a pre-Inca civilization known as the Moche. The tomb contained the remains of an adult male, plus artifacts indicating the man’s elite status, according to the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio.

Among the most intriguing artifacts are ornamental metal pieces fashioned to look like feline paws with claws. The paws may have been part of a ritual costume used in ceremonial combat, El Comercio reported. The loser would be sacrificed, while the winner would get the costume.

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We need those gloves in order to level the playing field in our household. Maybe our cats will take us seriously and stop treating us like their serf. Not likely.

Noah, Gilgamesh, and getting hammered

April 11, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Books, Current Events, Movies 5 Comments →

The building of the ark, from the Nuremberg Chronicles

We’ve already seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier thrice, and we wouldn’t mind seeing it again but one must try to get a life. So we thought of watching Darren Aronofsky’s epic Noah, only to find that it’s not showing yet, nor is it on the roster of coming attractions. Hmmm. This wouldn’t have something to do with the protests about the movie version differing from the biblical version, would it? (According to InterAksyon, the delay in the screening is due to a dispute over distribution, not religion.)

Apparently American viewers have complained about Noah’s drunkenness—an episode we remember having read about, most recently in the David Rosenberg translation of the Book of J. From the King James Bible, Genesis 9:

20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

Which was harsh, considering Noah was the one who got so hammered, he passed out naked. (In his defence, he was about 600 years old at the time, reason enough to be cranky.) You think Ham wanted to see what he saw?

Here’s one of the likely sources of the story of The Great Flood, Tablet XI of the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh.

Read the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Every movie we see #22: 300 Rise of An Empire is 102 minutes of slow-motion blood spatter

March 07, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, History, Movies No Comments →

When last we saw Leonidas and his brave Spartans at Thermopylae, they looked like this. (Is that Michael Fassbender on Leonidas’s right?)


Two hundred ninety-nine lay dead, one returned to Sparta to report their mission accomplished (It was a suicide mission, Spartans wanted a glorious death). We rejoin them shortly after the events at the Hot Gates, with Leonidas’s Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey, who specializes in warrior queens) leading the Spartans into battle against the Persians. She tells us why Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) has it in for the Greeks: apparently the Athenian leader Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) personally killed Xerxes’s father, King Darius. Xerxes used to be human so we get to see Rodrigo looking like himself at first—but then Darius’s naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green) fans his hatred of the Greeks. She kills everyone who might talk sense into Xerxes, and then makes him undergo a ritual that turns him into this.


Aaaaaaaaaaaa his eyebrows are trying to kill us! Help, he’s going to audition for the Village People in 480 BC!

Then the Persians attack the Greek city-states with a huuuge fleet. Themistocles tries to mount a proper defence, but Athens has just invented democracy and everyone gets an opinion, so he and his men are on their own. Themistocles is played by Sullivan Stapleton, who is not a bad actor but lacks the heroic heft for this stuff—he makes Gerald Butler look like Daniel Day-Lewis.

His small fleet has to battle the huuuge navy led by Artemisia, who divides her time between slaughtering men and changing her goth-metal costumes. Why isn’t Eva Green in more movies? Here she plays a ferocious warrior who wields two swords at the same time, and she doesn’t even need them because she can castrate men with a look.


The movie is Rated R-16 because every ten seconds someone gets hacked with a sword, then his blood spurts in slow motion for another ten seconds. The screenplay for this movie must be three pages long, most of it Lena Headey’s voice-over. 102 minutes of men disemboweling, beheading and vivisecting each other, and you know what was cut from this R-16 version? A sex scene. Because Eva Green’s breasts are more dangerous than men impaling each other with swords. Just say no to heterosex.

300: Rise of An Empire must be an advertisement for the color red. After three minutes of carnage we had the overwhelming urge to eat the bagnet dinuguan at Wooden Spoon (We went afterwards and they were full, as usual). Speaking of food, if you go to Hossein’s Persian Kebab, don’t even mention 300 or its sequel to Mr. Hossein because he gets furious. However, if you are doing a history report on the Achaemenid Empire and the Greek Alliance, better talk to Mr. Hossein because if you get your information from 300: Rise of An Empire, you will flunk the class and deserve it.

Watch: If you want to see rippling musculature. And live actors made to look like visual effects.

Reading year 2014: A History of the World in 100 Objects is a crash course in civilization

March 06, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Art, Books, History No Comments →


If you’re into history, archaeology, and art, this book is an absolute delight. If you know nothing about the history of the human race, this book will save you from ignorance.

British Museum director Neil MacGregor has chosen 100 artifacts from different periods in history to create revealing snapshots of how people lived in those times.

standard of ur
The Standard of Ur, a wooden box inlaid with mosaic, dates back to 2600 BC. Archaeologists thought it was a standard, a sign carried into battle on top of a pole. They still don’t know exactly what it’s for, but most likely it’s a box to keep precious objects in. The mosaic carved in shell, red stone and lapis could be the first comic strip, portraying life in the ancient city of Ur in Sumer in Mesopotamia. You see the king ruling his subjects, and leading them in wartime. Note the chariots: as early as 2600 BC, artists had figured out how to render movement graphically.

holy thorn reliquary
This reliquary made in Paris in 1350 or so is made of solid gold and encrusted with sapphires, crystals, rubies and pearls. Look closely: there are angels blowing their trumpets and people rising from their coffins and raising their hands. It’s a scene from the Last Judgement. The reliquary contains a single thorn purportedly from the Crown of Thorns that was placed on Jesus’s head. In the Medieval Ages there was a booming trade in holy relics: saints’ fingers, skulls, bits of bone.

throne of weapons
From Mozambique in 2001: A throne built from decommissioned weapons from various wars, monument to all who suffered in the civil war in Mozambique. (Is it possible that they got the inspiration from the Iron Throne in George R.R. Martin’s epic?)

A History of the World in 100 Objects is available at National Bookstores, Php1195.

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The Philippines: Archipelago of Exchange exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris

April 22, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Places 2 Comments →

Loosely translated: This exhibit on the Philippines ranges from the Cordillera in the North and travels to the South to Mindanao and shows considerable archaeological treasures from very ancient times.

One part of the exhibit focuses on the Land—the highlanders who sculpted ancient carvings way before European contact. The other part focuses on the Sea—the people of Mindanao who were organized in sultanates, engaged in great commerce and produced works of art oriented to the sea.

This is an exhibit that is very poetic and elegant, and allows us to discover an entirely unknown world.

Thanks to Jomari for the translation.

This is the first major exhibition in France in the last twenty years devoted to the Philippines.

Visit the museum website.