Sunday, October 31, 2021

Time Travelling with a Very Old Computer

15th century Incan agricultural research
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

The Incas and other Andean cultures had no alphabetic writing system – they used the quipu to keep records and communicate information.  This device, composed of knotted string, was truly ingenious, easily carried, and surprisingly accurate and flexible – though calling it a computer is a bit of a stretch. It was widely used throughout the Andean region from 1400 CE until 1532, when Spanish writing systems took over.

The colourful quipu above was overlaid on a painting of the Moray Agricultural Terraces, a location developed by the Incas. The terraces simulated a broad range of microclimates and were used to find the ideal strains of vegetables for different mountain regions.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Time travelling again

Akrotiri, Santorini
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

Santorini, one of the most important archaeological sites in the Greek Cyclades, changed suddenly with the volcanic eruption of the island in about 1600 BCE and more gradually, but completely, in the 3650 years since, as shown in the painting on the left.

The top portion shows present day Santorini, looking north from Akrotiri to the densely populated cliff-top town of Oia.  The lower portion shows the ash-covered ruins of Akrotiri, the excavation of which began in 1967. The landscape painting pulling the two views together is based on one of the Akrotiri frescoes which were carefully removed from the site and are now on the display in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.





Sunday, October 17, 2021

Time Travel with a bag of crayons

Diptych in the fourth dimension
Watercolour and crayon
©2013 Charlene Brown

This is the beginning of one of the projects in my ‘Plan for 2021’   Creative archaeology: reinterpreting some of the photos and sketches I accumulated in past archaeology-related travel with the University of Victoria travel study program.

I’ll be painting some new pictures, and recycling some old ones, such as ‘Diptych in the fourth dimension’ using one of my favourite sketching techniques: Drawing with crayons as a resist before painting with watercolour.  I’m going to call this series ‘Time travel with a bag of crayons’ because there are usually at least two different time periods combined in each picture.

If you’re interested in the detail of this diptych The right panel is based on a photograph I took on a UVic trip to Egypt in 2008. It shows a relief sculpture (reassembled from shards) on a wall in Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahri, across the river from Luxor. The mural illustrates an expedition to the Land of Punt, an exotic country on the Red Sea coast in what is now Northern Sudan. Because I think any picture of the Upper Nile has to include the pyramids of the Black Pharaohs, they are shown on the left side. They are smaller, more sharply pointed and far more numerous than the more famous pyramids near Cairo. The fact they were built in about the 5th century BCE nine hundred years after the gardens of Punt were sculpted at Deir el-Bahri in the 14th century BCE, and are near the Nile, rather than the Red Sea, stopped me briefly…  until I thought of presenting the time/space divide as a diptych.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The last missing Second Millennium BCE painting


Tamgaly Petroglyphs
Watercolour and crayon
Charlene Brown

There are thousands of Bronze Age petroglyphs of animals, sun gods, and warriors in the Tamgaly Gorge, about 170 km northwest of Almaty, in Kazakhstan. This watercolour sketch is a composite of several of these rock paintings, some of which are about 3500 years old. Found in 1957, the gorge was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

This is the fourth site highlighted in the design timeline for the second millennium BCE, below.

Click on image to enlarge


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Another missing Second Millennium BCE painting

Olmec basalt head
©2021 Charlene Brown

I’ve finish another of the paintings of archaeological artifacts from the second millennium BCE that I mentioned in a September blog post

The Olmecs, believed to be of  West African origin, were the earliest known major meso-American civilization.  They lived on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the area now in the states of Veracruz and Tabasco.  The colossal heads the Olmec people carved, 17 of which have been un-earthed so far, ranged in height up to almost three and a half metres. They were made from volcanic basalt boulders transported some distance from the Sierra de los Tuxtlas mountains.