3D Model Construction and Viewing, an Update, pt. 1

In my initial post on this subject, I finished by constructing a test house in SketchUp, and importing that into a basic Unity game, with typical FPS (first person shooter) style controls- moving with WASD, jumping with space, and looking around with a mouse. Since then, the project has advanced in both of those ways: the house and the game.

As the entire purpose of this project is to allow the viewer to experience an ancient house and their mosaics, recreating a real ancient house is of utmost importance. However, as no ancient Antioch houses exist beyond their floorplans, any recreation needed to be based on a floorplan recorded by the original expedition. Additionally, not many houses had their mosaics’ positions recorded, so only those few houses can be recreated for our purposes. Finally, several of those specific houses have already been recreated by other scholars in this field, so those couldn’t/shouldn’t be made either. After all of these requirements, one house was found: The House of Menander. The floorplan with the mosaics in place was found in The Fate of Antioch Mosaic Pavements: Some Reflections by Claudia Barsanti in Journal of Mosaic Research 5.

Floor Plan of the House of Menander, with Mosaics inserted in proper locations.

The first step of recreation was to as accurately as possible recreate the floor plan in SketchUp. This was done by taking a screenshot of the floor plan and opening it up in GIMP. Then using the Measure Tool, I measured the length (in pixels) and angle of each individual line segment on the floor plan, and in SketchUp, drew a line segment of the correct length using the Line Tool, and then rotated it to the proper rotation using the Rotate Tool. While this wasn’t completely accurate, I attempted to get within 1-2 pixel accuracy, and within .1˚ accuracy.

The Floor Plan recreated in SketchUp

Once this was done, I turned the project over to Marina to build the floor plan into an actual house so I could focus more on the house viewing program, which I will discuss in my next blog post.


Musings from ArcGIS Mapping: How does one “count” mosaics?

As Maya and I begin uploading our information about the present-day locations of the Antioch mosaics into ArcGIS in our efforts to map their distribution, I was struck by a seemingly simple question I had previously not considered: How does one count mosaics? I do not mean counting in the more abstract and philosophical sense, as what does and does not count as a mosaic. But instead, counting in the more literal and rather mundane sense of how does one physically count (1,2,3, and so on) mosaics and their many fragments (themselves, comprised of thousands of tiny tesserae, but that is perhaps a more philosophical conversation better reserved for another post).

My question developed from the third phase of Maya’s and my project. As Maya detailed in her previous blogpost, we developed a three-phase plan for our mapping of mosaics onto ArcGIS. We completed our first phase of compiling a detailed spreadsheet of all (known) museums and locations currently housing Antioch mosaics. Now, we are in our second and third phases of visually adjusting the map and adding external details like images, links to museum websites, the houses represented in the collection, and potentially including the number of mosaics housed in each collection.

A draft of our ArcGIS distribution map with all the known locations of the mosaics. I am continuing to track down the mosaic, presumably still in Cuba, to add to our map. In the meantime, we have also considered tentatively adding its location and noting efforts for its ongoing search.

When you click on a location, information about the mosaics at this particular location will pop up. While this is just a rough draft, Maya and I are adding external media like links to museum collections as well as images and other information to make it more accessible and user-friendly. We expect to complete our map shortly, but also recognize that it is a living document of sorts, to be updated as new information arises. For example, this mosaic depicting Metiochos and Parthenope, characters from an ancient Greek novel, was sold by Worcester Art Museum to Brummer Gallery, an auction house, in New York. The mosaic was in a 1949 auction by Brummer Gallery, and according to this catalog was sold to Franz Kleinberger Gallery. Much more digging is needed to find its present-day location.    

As I began to compile the number of mosaics housed in each collection, I entered a dizzying, and perhaps, more fittingly, a vertiginous world of fragments and the somewhat futile task of trying to take inventory and count them.  

Take this fragment of a mosaic depicting theater masks from the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. According to this 1981 article, it is counted as two separate pieces–A and B–that comprise one whole.

Screenshot from Frances F. Jones,  “Antioch Mosaics in Princeton,” Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 40, no. 2 (1981): 19.

However, in the collection, the disparate parts are united, and it is pictured (and cataloged) as one mosaic.

Fragment  of a floor mosaic, 3rd Century CE, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, 73 x 48 inches.

This brief discussion and the problems that arise thus returns me to the question I posed in the beginning. How then, is one supposed to count these mosaics? The problem with counting is in no way limited to the above example. In some of the mosaics I have encountered, there are sometimes eight or more fragments that comprise the entire mosaic. In some cases, they are consolidated as one object on the online collection. In other cases, the fragments are counted separately.

My brief foray into counting the mosaics and their fragments quickly devolved into a lesson and perhaps, even a cautionary tale. Due to the complexities of counting the fragments and as a matter of practicality, we will likely no longer include how many mosaics are located in each museum collection on our map. However, it is still very much worth dwelling on the seemingly simple, but deceptively complex question: How does one count mosaics? Or, indeed, any fragment for that matter?


Mapping the Past in the Present: Antioch Mosaics and ArcGIS Online

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, ArcGIS has become a useful tool for tracking the spread of the virus across the world and mapping the number of confirmed cases in each country. Within our own community at Johns Hopkins University, researchers who work at the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) have been using ArcGIS mapping software to create visualizations of COVID-19 in real time. Thus, it seems like now, more than ever, ArcGIS has gained a newfound importance in today’s society. 

In my own personal research and workstream, ArcGIS has become an important tool as well. On Friday, my fellow student investigator Ella Gonzalez and I had a private consultation over Zoom with a member of the Data Services team at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. She first suggested that we use ArcGIS Online instead of ArcGIS Pro for our project as it is less complex and more user friendly, and then went into a detailed presentation of the various tools we can use for visualizing the distribution of the Antioch mosaics. Compared to my first introduction to ArcGIS a few weeks ago, this presentation was tailored to my specific research interests and made me feel a lot more comfortable using the mapping software on my own time. 

After our Zoom meeting, Ella and I decided on a three-phase plan for digitizing the distribution of the Antioch mosaics on ArcGIS Online: the first phase is inputting data into Google Sheets, the second phase is transferring this data to ArcGIS Online, and the third phase is adding external media (i.e., hyperlinks to museum collections, images of mosaics, and potentially the in situ locations of each mosaic).

In the first (and current) phase of our project, we are creating a detailed spreadsheet on Google Sheets that lists each museum in the United States, France, and Turkey that has an Antioch mosaic. Using Google Maps, we will then add the longitude and latitude coordinates of the museum into the spreadsheet, as this will be used within ArcGIS Online to physically map out the museum location. In the second phase of our project, we will be inputting the data from the spreadsheet into ArcGIS Online and adjusting the visual display of our location dots/map in general. In the third phase of our project, we will be adding external media (i.e., links to the museum website, images of the Antioch mosaics) to each location on our map. Depending on how long the first two phases take us, we may want to add links to three-dimensional renderings or floorplans of the houses from Antioch that once contained these mosaics. At the end of the third phase, I hope to publish our map through the University system. Thus, through using ArcGIS Online, I will not only be able to map the past in the present, but also create a graphic that can act as an educational resource for anyone interested in the distribution of the Antioch mosaics.

Continuing to track the distribution of mosaics: ArcGIS and updates on the Cuban mosaic

My research has focused on the distribution of the Antioch mosaics in different museum collections and the politics governing such distribution. Fellow Student Investigator Maya Kahane and I are working on creating a map through ArcGIS Online with the current Antioch mosaics and the various museums in which they are located. With our second ArcGIS training under our belt, our map will tentatively include the museums the mosaics are housed (in the U.S., France, and Turkey), the estimated number of mosaics each collection has, and possibly the different houses and areas of Antioch from which they were excavated represented in the map.

Since there is a vast quantity of mosaics scattered throughout various collections, to approach the distribution, it was my intent throughout this project to use one set of mosaics as a case study to examine the potential elements involved in the broader distribution of the mosaics. I am continuing to research the politics of museums participating in excavations for part of my project, as well as looking into the early collection that comprised the BMA to see if interest in antiquities/building collections and the excavations in any way intersected. I have a call soon with a professor at JHU to discuss these matters, so my research, and consequently, my blog posts, are not necessarily done linearly.

However, I have been able to make good headway on my case study of the Cuban mosaic. The mosaic purportedly in Cuba that I came across a few months ago piqued my interest for several reasons, including the fact that it was from the House of the Buffet Supper, which also has mosaics housed in the Baltimore Museum of Art. Moreover, the initial map of distribution published in Fatih Cimok’s 2005 book, Antioch Mosaics: A Corpus, does not show any other country other than the United States, France, and Turkey as having any of the Antioch mosaics in their respective collections.

Distribution of extant Antioch Mosaics from Fatih Cimok’s Antioch Mosaics: A Corpus

In my previous blog post, I discussed the fact that the mosaics were located at Villanova University, Havana, Cuba. As previously mentioned, Villanova University was founded in Cuba in 1946 by American Augustinian friars with assistance from European Augustinians. However, in 1961, the Castro government expelled the Augustinians from Cuba. As a result, some of the American Augustinians came to Miami and founded Biscayne College, today known as St. Thomas University

Excavation view of central mosaic panel in Room B5, sold in 1956 to Cuba

The Director of the Princeton VRC sent along scans of correspondences related to the transfer of the mosaic from Princeton to Cuba. The letters span from the summer of 1955 to January of 1956 when the mosaic was finally transferred to Cuba. The correspondences are mainly between two men: Richard Stillwell, an archaeologist and former professor at Princeton from 1925-1967 and former Director of the American School of Classical Studies, Athens, and Eugenio Batista, a Cuban architect, professor, and Dean of the School of Architecture at Villanova in the 1950s, and former Master’s student and architecture professor at Princeton.

The correspondences between the two reveal that interest in purchasing the five fragments from the House of the Buffet Supper was spurred when Eugenio Batista spotted the mosaics in the architecture laboratory at Princeton University in the summer of 1954. The five mosaic fragments sold to Princeton, which comprise one larger mosaic, are geometric in design and depict a central panel with vegetal and foliate motifs, including what looks to be grapes, radiating from a vessel. According to the correspondences, some mosaic pieces from the excavation were purportedly kept in storage at Princeton in the architectural shed because of the lack of space to show them properly. 

Stillwell granted a request for Father Lorenzo M. Spiralli, the founder of Villanova University, Father John Kelly, formerly the Vice President and then the President of the University in 1951, and Father Charles Berry, the Director of the School of Architecture for the mosaics. The letters repeatedly mention that they wanted to make this sale highly public, even offering to send pictures of the mosaic and its installation to Princeton. Batista also indicates that he had plans to put the mosaic temporarily against a wall at the entrance to the Library and Museum Building at Villanova and that the mosaic would be set in the vestibule floor when the School of Architecture built its own house.

The letters detail a concern with the finances of the mosaics, namely, the funds involved in transporting the mosaic. According to a letter dated December 1, 1955, the mosaics were going to be transported via the SS Hadrian. A letter from Father Berry confirms the safe arrival of Antioch mosaics to Cuba on January 13, 1956. In this correspondence, Berry mentions that he “will strive to locate it [the mosaic] in a worthy and permanent setting.”

Yet what did become of the five fragments?  

Digitally flipping through Villanova yearbooks and all online correspondences, what I can locate thus far has proved fruitless in terms of finding the mosaic’s current location. However, with the help of friends, especially a colleague in the History of Art Department and connections forged with various institutions, I have continued to contact individuals who might be able to help locate the mosaic. If my search is successful, I can add the location of the Cuban mosaic on the distribution map.


The lion in the East

#the striding lion

When I look at the Striding Lion in the museum’s prominently displayed mosaic, it reminds me of a similar lion on the Ishtar gate, (depicted below) in what was once Babylon. That makes sense, as both Mesopotamia and Syria (the precursor to Antioch) were part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. After Alexander the Great conquered that Empire, he eventually died and his generals divided up his Empire amongst themselves.  The biggest chunk of his Empire went to General Seleucus and included Syria and Mesopotamia, among other things. Seleucus built Antioch in what was then Syria and made it the capital of his Empire, switching it from Seleucia Pieria. After many wars, Antioch eventually became part of the Roman Republic in 64 BC. Then in 27 BC, the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire.

Why did animals feature so prominently in the art of this period?  Like today, animals symbolized many meanings.  The Babylonians said that different animals embodied specific gods. For example, the lion was associated with the goddess Ishtar, the bull with the god Adad and the mushussu dragon was associated with Marduk, the chief god of the Babylonian pantheon. Lions were also said to have protective qualities because the Babylonians viewed them as being strong. There are many examples of statues of lions in front of gates at sites throughout the former Neo-Babylonian Empire, implying that the Babylonians believed that having an image of a lion facing outward near the door could protect the building.  Babylonians also described lions as terrifying by nature, so it was believed that images of lions could scare away demons and evil spirits. A pair of lion statues found near the gate of a temple whose names are listed in a cuneiform inscription as “Dan-Bitim” and “Rašub-Bitim”. meaning “Strong one of the Temple” and “Terrifying one of the Temple” respectively. The names reveal that these animal statues serve the temple with their “strong” and “terrifying” nature.

 After the Achaemenid Persian Empire conquered the neo-Babylonian Empire, they adopted the practice of depicting bulls and lions, but not the mushussu dragon. Even though the Persians didn’t follow the same gods as the Babylonians, they allowed the people living in Mesopotamia to keep believing in them. The Persians also continued the use of the lion as the symbol of strength. Given the large Persian community in Antioch in the Third Century AD and its relative proximity to the border with the Sassanid Persian Empire, anyone from the Eastern half of the Empire who came to Antioch would know what the Striding Lion symbolized.



Twisted Ribbon: Mosaic Collection

The Twisted Ribbon Design & Geometry project will focus on describing and analyzing the Twisted Ribbon pattern, one of the more complex geometric features found throughout the Antioch Mosaics. This blog post will provide an overview of the four mosaics with twisted ribbon patterns that the project will analyze. 

Animal Friendships

Dating back to the 5th century, the large Animal Friendship mosaics depicts natural scenes of large animals confronting each other. The mosaic is currently at the Baltimore Museum of Art in four pieces, each displaying different scenes: Lion and Humped Ox; Lioness, Stag and Bear; Leopard and Goat; and Tigress and Boar. The twisted ribbon border traverses sinusoidally straight across the edges of the entire original scene, with an approximately 8 inch amplitude. The image below is the Lion and Humped Ox scene and twisted ribbon, measuring 89 in by 100 in. 

Bird Rinceau Mosaic

Originating from the House of the Bird Rinceau, the Bird Rinceau Mosaic was created between 526-540 CE. The center of the mosaic is patterned with triangular symbols, surrounded by scenes of birds. Between the two main designs lies a twisted ribbon border that steps up, over, and down around three dimensional boxes. Instead of sinusoidal, this ribbon appears to form three quarter circles winding through the mosaic in a repeated fashion. Pieces are currently located in the Baltimore Museum of Art (Maryland), Worcester Art Museum (Massachusetts), Saint Louis Art Museum (Missouri), Princeton University Art Museum (New Jersey), and the Louvre Museum (Paris, France). The images below depict an overall reconstruction of the mosaic and a close up view of the twisted ribbon.

Other Images

Two more mosaics have been found to contain the twisted ribbon pattern that are not as complete or detailed as the two previous image collections discussed. The first is the remaining half mosaic from the House of Ge and the Seasons in the Yakto Complex. Originally from the 5th century, the mosaic currently resides in the Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey. It depicts a central figure surrounded by four opposing figures, each representing a different season.

Lastly, little information is known about the unnamed mosaic below, currently located at the Hatay Archaeological Museum in Turkey. The Twisted Ribbon pattern appears to travel across the image leading in both directions.

3D Model Construction and Viewing, a Progress

In general, my focus has been on the public-facing side of research. As the website is currently functional, my focus has shifted to our desire to construct a 3D model of an ancient house in Antioch, with its actual mosaics placed properly.

The two necessary components for this project are a program to create the house, and a program to display it. For the first, Sketchup was chosen, both for its free cost, and its focus on architectural 3D modeling. For the second, Unity was, at least for now, chosen. Both for its free cost, as well as my desire to improve the viewing experience. While free 3D model viewers would be by far the simplest option, I don’t believe that viewing a model in that model is conducive towards actually experiencing mosaics as they were designed to be displayed, which is the entire idea of constructing the model. While they may be in the proper places in the house, you still wouldn’t be looking down at them, as instead you’d be zooming and spinning around the model from above. Thus, I feel that the only way to fully see the mosaics in a new way would be to embed the whole house into a more traditional first-person perspective, common in games.

By following some tutorials, this simple test house was constructed in Sketchup Free. The tools available in this program seem adequate for the level of detail we can conceivably get in our model, so from that perspective no other modeling software seems necessary. Some issues did arise when transporting this model into Unity, however:

Because of limitations in Sketchup Free, when exporting the model into Unity, the textures become lost. Thus, unless other solutions are found, we will need to either purchase an upgraded form of Sketchlab, or simply do the texturing within Unity. Unlike Unreal Engine, Unity doesn’t seem to come with built in first-person controls, so those needed to be constructed from scratch (also from a tutorial).

The left image is the code for movement throughout the ‘game’, and the right image is for looking around the ‘game’. Next, a sample terrain, along with a sample stone brick texture were downloaded from the Unity Asset Store, and the result follows:

Finally, this program was built, and imported into this website using the Verge3D plugin. It can be tested, in its extremely prototyped stage, at antiochrecoveryproject.org/gametest.

Next steps: Most importantly for the success of the project is the fixing of the texture issue. As free solutions are always best, I’ll be looking into possible methods of properly importing textures into Unity or learning how to manually import desired textures into Unity for texturing within the program. Also necessary is the construction of the actual model, as true to life as possible, using archaeological drawings as reference.

From Baltimore to Havana: Tracking Down the Distribution of Antioch Mosaics

As I dive deeper into the information surrounding the excavation and distribution of the mosaics, I am struck by the many moving parts and a somewhat dizzying array of people, institutions, and mosaics involved. To begin my research, I first consulted two finding aids prepared by the BMA that are available online: 1. The Antioch Excavation Director’s Reports and 2. the Robert Garrett Diaries and Calling Card. The information contained in the latter two documents not only provides a concise and comprehensive background of the excavations and the key players involved, but also gave me insight into the specific archival materials housed in the BMA’s library which I have very recently begun to consult in person.   

A preliminary examination of the excavation based on the latter two documents indicates that it had its origins in two previous expeditions to Syria, namely those of Count Charles Jean Melchior de Vogue and Dr. Howard Crosby Butler. Vogue published his work from 1865-1877 titled “La Syrie Centrale,” and Butler, who embarked on Princeton’s two-year Abyssinian Expedition to Syria, along with Robert Garrett, a Princeton alumnus and BMA trustee, who helped secure the involvement of the BMA in the excavations. 

The initial idea for the Antioch excavations, however, began with Charles Rufus Morey, the chair of Princeton’s Department of Art and Archaeology, with involvement beginning as early as 1927 when the French Antiquities Service asked if Princeton would be interested in excavating at Antioch. Four campaigns were carried out in Antioch and the suburb Daphne in 1933-36, and the final excavations were carried out in 1939, but were brought to a halt by the outbreak of World War II.

My route to charting a possible path of distribution has first been to identify a set of mosaics to work with, a set that preferably has mosaics distributed to different institutions, particularly institutions not involved in the initial excavations. Frances F. Jones’ 1981 article recommended by one of our colleagues at the BMA, has also been a useful resource at tracking the various locations around the United States in which these mosaics are located. However, given the article’s 1981 publication date, some shifts in acquisition, deaccessioning, etc. have surely occurred. To begin to manage the many moving parts, I first looked at all the mosaics in the BMA and carefully read the labels to see what house or structure they were from. After, I researched all 14 houses/structures in which the mosaics housed in the BMA were from to see the museums and institutions in which other mosaics related to the same site were distributed. I have now landed on two potential structures in which to delve further into: the Hall of Philia (DK-34) and the House of the Buffet Supper. 

All items in the Hall of Philia are in the Baltimore Museum of Art. Unlike all the other houses I examined which had mosaics sent to multiple collections, the Hall of Philia was the only one where all the items were confined to the BMA (though this could perhaps be the case that other museums have all the mosaics belonging to a particular room/site, limiting to one museum will give me a manageable corpus to work with). This makes sense considering that there are only five mosaics and not an unwieldy amount, as is the case in some other sites. However, as I was looking through the mosaics, another item caught my attention: a marble grill found on the mosaic floor. Unlike the mosaics, there is no indication for where this marble grill is currently located, and thus brings up interesting questions about the objects we’ve lost (even if rather mundane or perhaps not desirable for museum collections, like, say, a marble grill) in our preoccupation with the mosaics, an irony considering that mosaics were not what was initially sought after in the initial excavations. Thus, in its entirety, the Hall of Philia presents a good case study for both investigating why these objects were not dispersed to various collections (perhaps simply because of their number) and also reconstructing the context through 3D modeling tools like SketchUp. 

The second structure, the House of the Buffet Supper, presents an interesting case study for more complicated reasons. The House of the Buffet Supper is rich in mosaics and contains sculptures, many of which are seemingly not attributed to any museum repository, thus begging the question of exactly where these objects are and why they are not on display. The more interesting piece in the puzzle comes with where the mosaics from this structure were distributed. The usual players are present: the Hatay Archaeology Museum in Turkey and the Baltimore Museum of Art. However, there is also another, more curious player involved: Villanova University, Havana, Cuba. A find card associated with the mosaics indicates that it was sold to “Villa Nova College, Havana” in 1956. A preliminary Google search does not give much information about this place, and indeed, a cursory look makes it difficult to track whether this was indeed a real location at all. However, based on correspondences with both the director of the Princeton VRC and a fellow History of Art colleague, the university was likely the Universidad Católica de Santo Tomás de Villanueva, founded in 1946 by American Augustinians with the help of European Augustinians, but no longer open. Thus, one of my next steps is tracing this object’s journey. 

Excavation view of central mosaic panel in Room B5, sold in 1956 to Cuba
Find card of mosaic floor of Room B5


Conservation of Antioch Mosaics

After looking at the mosaics presented at the Baltimore Museum of Art, I am interested in pursuing a workstream regarding the conservation of the mosaics. I am interested in understanding the different choices made by conservators as well as the impact it has on the public’s experience with the pieces. It would also be interesting to discuss the intersection between preservation and experience. Limiting the public’s interaction with the mosaics may lengthen their survival, yet it takes away from the intended purpose of the pieces.

The Baltimore Museum of Art currently has a conservator on hand. This provides a unique opportunity to see the mosaics as they are being restored. Currently, from my firsthand observation, I have noticed that there is a mix of many different conservation methods used on the mosaics. Some, such as Europa and the Bull and Peddler of Erotes,have tiles painted on to mimic tesserae.

Portion of mosaic from “Peddler of Erotes” that clearly shows painted on tesserae most visibly on the body of the Eros.
Portion of mosaic from “Europa and the Bull” that shows painted on fragment for conservation. This takes up the bottom half of the image which depicts the bottom half of the bull and the water.

This makes it seem as if the previous conservators were trying to hide or gloss over the fact that there are pieces of the work missing. However, viewers are not distracted by the missing fragments and are able to fully immerse themselves in the image without obstruction. Here also arise questions of how the artist intended for the mosaics to age, which alludes to the next method of conservation I have encountered.

Though not present at the BMA, some of the Antioch mosaics have been displayed in a manner that most resembles their ancient function. At the Worcester Art Museum there is mosaic embedded in the floor with only a small barrier. This allows for viewers to see the mosaic from its intended perspective; however, it limits the viewer’s interaction. There have also been cases where mosaics have been installed in floors where viewers can directly interact with the work by walking over them, such as at Dumbarton Oaks. This creates conflict between those who want to preserve the mosaics as much as possible versus those who believe viewers should be able to experience the works in a way that they would originally be displayed.

Going back to my observations at the BMA, I have also noticed one method distinct from the others. The missing tiles of on the Medallion with Bacchus were painted on, not to look like tesserae, but to look like a continuous image.

Medallion with Bacchus” mosaic with missing fragments painted in to continue the image without mimicking tesserae.

This is interesting because it clearly highlights the missing fragments due to the visible change in texture and color. However, the image is not obstructed, and the viewer can see the whole image without having to draw conclusions on the missing pieces. However, does this take away from the viewers experience with the mosaic and their understanding of its age, history, and imagery? Moving forward I would like to investigate the choices made by conservators and how it impacts the relationship between the works and the viewers. Having the mosaics on hand at the BMA and a current conservation initiative ongoing provides a great opportunity to understand the thought processes behind these choices. Having a background in science, also, spurs my interest in the chemical side of how different methods may lead to different degradation of the work. This is something that is more complex, which I would like to focus on later in my research


Hidden Secret of Rochester

Throughout the year, I spend time on the mostly frigid campus of the University of Rochester, where my boyfriend is a student. At times when I’m doing work at the Rush Rhees Library, I feel as if I have become a student there. I have even found my favorite spot to study in, which is the Art and Music Library. Hidden inside this small and cozy room laden with couches is a mosaic that stands on a metal easel.

Bird and Flowers Mosaic, taken at the University of Rochester Art and Music Library, courtesy of Daniel Pak


With my background in archaeology, I took note of the seemingly ancient-looking mosaic with interest but didn’t examine it with much thought. It was on the first day of ARP class when I suddenly wondered if that mosaic was possibly from Antioch as well. Searching on the Google, I found a blogpost that confirmed my suspicions. The mosaic, called Bird and Flowers, was one of two acquired by the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery in 1942 from Princeton University. Both mosaics came from the nearby coastal town of Daphne.

While the Tethys mosaic displayed at the MAG is found on the Artstor collection, the Bird and Flowers mosaic seems to have been forgotten from academic attention, tucked away quietly for the University of Rochester students to enjoy. The Bird and Flowers mosaic moved to the library in 1981 from the MAG archives where it was collecting dust and has been gracing its presence in the Art and Music Library ever since.

Bird and Flowers Mosaic (close up), taken at the University of Rochester Art and Music Library, courtesy of Daniel Pak


I am interested in speaking with the Head Librarian of the Art and Music Library to ask why she decided to bring the mosaic from the MAG to the UR campus. How are the students interacting with the object? The mosaic’s layered provenance and its current display show the different ways that Antioch mosaics are interacting with the public. At the BMA, the mosaics adorn the Antioch Court, a popular wedding venue, contrasting from the more intimate interactions of the mosaic in Rochester that permeate students’ daily lives.

Weddings at the Antioch Court in the BMA, courtesy of B.O.B. Photography via the BMA website


Along with creating a story map with help from the UR archives, I want to possibly conduct a survey at the Art and Music Library to ask the students about their interactions with the mosaic. From its ancient beginnings in Antioch to a modern library in Rochester, New York, I think the story of this mosaic is an exciting one to explore.