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Unearthing a masterpiece: a rare Minoan sealstone (2017) (uc.edu)
76 points by diodorus 57 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments



> “Some of the details on this are only a half-millimeter big,” said Davis. “They’re incomprehensibly small.”

pretty impressive given they didn't have magnifying glasses in 1500 BCE. i guess the artisan had excellent vision.


maybe they did? glass working is pretty ancient.


“a normal eye with regular vision and unaided by any other tools can see objects as small as about 0.1 millimeters.”


>i guess the artisan had excellent vision.

Not being in front of a computer or mobile screen all day helped!


Back in the mid-20th-century, they used to blame nearsightedness on reading in bed.


Nearsightedness would actually help quite a bit with fine work like this. Before presbyopia took hold with me, I could easily focus on my own nose, while things started getting pretty blurry about three feet/one metre out. (These days, I have about a 10cm clear vision range uncorrected at an utterly useless distance, just at the limits of an arm's reach.)


It's only 3.6cm in height, the detail is incredible.


Wow. Nothing ever before or for a thousand years after with that level of aesthetic beauty -- realism and style.


> Nothing ever before or for a thousand years after

There's quite a history in premodern-to-modern times of something being attributed as "first appearing" in the classical period, and then everyone being surprised to discover a much, much earlier example.

Heck, an instance of this which was falsifiable all along was the idea that Archimedes invented the Archimedes screw. Why else would it be named after him? Well, he visited Egypt and wrote about the water screws he saw in use there. They'd been there, as far as he knew, forever.

We know a good amount of what was going on in the classical period because there was only a moderate amount of disruption between then and now. But the fact of something's existence is entirely unrelated to whether we've noticed it. The odds are overwhelming that there was a lot of material comparable to this ring before and after 1500 BC. We just don't know about it.


> The odds are overwhelming that there was a lot of material comparable to this ring before and after 1500 BC.

"A lot" is a fairly vague quantifier, but I'd wager you're wrong regardless of how you define it.

We've now collectively spent about a century excavating all of the most interesting sites that we can find, and still this artifact is unique enough that the archeologist in charge of this excavation is quoted as saying:

> This seal should be included in all forthcoming art history texts, and will change the way that prehistoric art is viewed.

Are there other artifacts like this one from the same time period? Almost certainly. But apparently they're rare enough that we're finding them at the rate of about one per century.


It truly is stunning to realize that artifact is 3,500 years old.

Quite an impressive job cleaning it off, too! Can’t believe the intricate details would survive so long underground. Almost makes me wonder if it was “enhanced” in any way during the cleaning process.


We just need two more to get into Atlantis


For those who didn't know, its widely believed by scholars that Minoan civilization is the source of the story of Atlantis as recorded by Plato.

The Minoans' trading hub on Thera (present day Santorini) largely disappeared into the Aegean after a massive volcanic eruption in the 1600s BCE.

Bettany Hughes has the full story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VJqnTlbCS0


I was making an apparently super obscure reference to the LucasArts game “Indiana Jones and the fate of Atlantis”




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