Galerie Alte Römer

Western Asiatic cylinder seals from Uruk to Akkadian period

Dear valued customers,

As of today our online shop features three Western Asiatic cylinder seals. They date between Uruk period and Old Akkadian and boost typical motives. The older seal stands out by its high degree of abstraction. Today we would label it abstract art. The scene on the younger seal is naturalistic. The balance and detail of the scene is an impressive demonstration of the Akkadian seal engraver's skill.

Egyptian sacrificial plate

The ancient Egyptians placed food at tomb entrances to nurture the deceased with bread, milk, wine and beer etc. The provisions perished fast and today’s archaeologists can at best detect some traces in a laboratory. But the sacrificial plate shown here survived and is a testimony to Egyptian death rituals. It was made during the Middle Kingdom, at the beginning of the 2nd Millennium BC. Drinks were poured on the tray and the liquid drained off via the grooves. Solid food was decomposed by bacteria and fungi. However, the ancient Egyptians sure deduced other theories from the invisible consumption of the food. This sacrificial plate is an exciting reminder of a distant belief.

Sphinxes on ancient Egyptian scarabs

A sphinx is a mythical creature deeply rooted in the culture of Ancient Egypt. The body is that of a lion, the head can be of a human, falcon or ram. Before the Greek adaption of the myth sphinxes were mostly depicted without wings (for an early example with wings see e.g. the scarab from the time of Hatshepsut in Petrie, Historical Scarabs, fig. 29, 889). In art, sphinxes are shown standing, seated or walking. The origin of the myth is not known.

Earliest known sources suggest the sphinx represents royal status and power of the Egyptian pharaoh.  As a motive on scarabs, the creature was made popular by the Hyksos. During the New Empire, it was already a mass product with countless variations of the main theme. Two main scenes can be distinguished. A sphinx facing and fighting evil, e.g. in the symbolic form of a cobra. Or a sphinx facing and representing good, e.g. in the form of the Ankh symbol of life. In both cases, the scarab amulet should magically protect the one owning or carrying it.

Bronze Age Idols - an old ideal for modern art

Stone idols spread across the eastern Mediterranean during Bronze Age. There are various different types. But they all share a strong abstraction of the human characteristics. That is why they have been widely ignored as “primitive art” during the 19th century. But with the rise of Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th century Bronze Age idols have been declared an ancient ideal for Modern art.

Here is an example from ancient Anatolia, the modern state of Turkey. The so-called Kusura type idol dates to the 3rd Millennium BC. It is made of white, finely crystalline limestone. The famous archeologist Heinrich Schliemann had one of those idols in his collection as early as the late 19th century.

Media Label
Kusura-type idol

Roman whistles

Did you ever come across archaeological objects attributed as Roman military whistles?
Actually, the attribution is not that simple. Roman whistles are historically very interesting objects that still hold many mysteries for us.

The use of whistles by the Romans is documented in many archaeological finds. Excavations at legionary encampments suggest a military use of the types of whistles found there. But the exact function is not clear and much disputed among archaeologists and collectors alike. Whistles might have been used to transmit commands on the battlefield or just for training purposes. It is also speculated that they were used for the hunt, for sports, music or rituals. Long story short, the use of whistles in Roman times is not fully understood.

Here is an example of a Roman military whistle:

Pfeife des römischen Militärs
(Roman military whistle, 1st to 2nd cent. AD)

New objects from Egypt, Rome and Byzantium

In the past week many fascinating objects have been posted in our online shop. Among them is an Egyptian new year flask with wishes for Ptah and an amulet of a lion headed goddess. From the Roman empire there is a nicely preserved Galba denarius, medical instruments, glasses from a shipwreck find and skillful intaglios. Two byzantine pieces of jewellery are a testimony to the early christian art of the eastern Mediterranean.
Our personal highlight is a double spiral pendant from the Middle Bronze Age. Being a Munich based gallery we see it as the Bronze Age version of the traditional Bavarian “Charivari” (a costume jewellery).

Luristan bronze standard with panther heads

This type of object is often called master-of-animals sceptre by dealers, archeologist and museums, but actually, no one knows what it is or what it has been used for. The archeologist Roger Moorey speculates that it might have been a household god figurine. Like the ones mentioned in the Old Testament and called teraphim there.

Luristan bronze standard with panther heads: Media Label

Authenticity and guarantees in the ancient art market

What is a guarantee of authenticity?

Buying ancient art and artefacts is a matter of trust. Thus, every time when you want to buy an artefact, the following question might arise: Is the item genuinely ancient? What do statements such as “guaranteed genuine” or “guarantee of authenticity” mean when acquiring antiquities?
A “guarantee of authenticity” grants you as a customer the right to return an allegedly ancient artefact, in case serious doubts arise regarding the authenticity of the item. But be mindful, there are some "black sheep" out there. Sometimes, the most blatant fakes come with the most colourful "certificates of authenticity".
Nevertheless, ask your gallery for a non-expiring guarantee of authenticity for all purchased items. Reputable sellers will not hesitate to grant you and every customer such an assurance.

How can someone tell something is authentic?

Purchasing genuine antiquities from the classical era is a major challenge for collectors. This is the case for over a century. The so-called "Grand Tour" souvenirs from late 19th century flooded the international art market not only with genuine antiquities but also with their fake counterparts, making it difficult for non-experts and even for experts to distinguish between them. Nowadays, archaeometrical analyses can be applied to distinguish between a well-made reproduction and the original. However, an experienced eye is remaining crucial and more important than ever.
Start small, choose a certain group of items and learn about them. Look at real specimen in museums and in literature. If you encounter a suspected fake, study it. Only by experience can you learn. As you will not become an expert right at the start and you can never be knowledgeable about an arbitrarily wide range of items: choose a reliable partner to support you with his expertise! This could be a trusted antiquities dealer or a curator from a public museum, someone who is seeing first hand a wide range of classical antiquities - real and fake alike.

The new Alte Roemer Gallery website is online

Welcome to our new web pages! We are hoping you will get used to them fast and that you will come to appreciate the extended search filters in our online shop. To celebrate the website re-launch we have listed numerous artefacts. Among them are beautiful finger rings and bracelets from Antiquity to Late Antiquity, as well as elaborate fibulae from the Migration period. We are looking forward to your frequent visits to our online gallery.