Made from iron, lacquer, copper-gold alloy, silver, ivory, silk, and horse hair, this set of Samurai armor (gusoku) features a skirt with red, yellow-green, black, and white silk lacings.

The signature of the craftsman who made the armor appears on the inside of the helmet; it reads “Bamen Tomotsugu living in Eichizan province, Toyohara village.” Complete sets of armor signed by Bamen Tomotsugu—the leading armor craftsman of the Bamen school in the 18th century—are extremely rare. Toyohara, where the armor was crafted, is located within the Okinawa Prefecture. The heraldic badge, formed by three whirling commas, marks the armor as belonging to the Okabe family, the feudal lords (daimyo) of Kishiwada, located in the Osaka Prefecture.

The armor can be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.


Painted in the red-figure style in the fifth century B.C.E by the Leningrad Painter—an ancient Greek artist identified by the characteristic style of elongated figures and archaic patterning in the way the cloth drapes—this vessel measures 12.5 inches high.

Crafted in the shape of a hydria—a Greek water-carrying container—this vessel is distinctive in that it depicts an artisan workshop with both male and female craftspeople; there is some debate as to whether this workshop produced ceramic or metal vessels. Although the scene is not a faithful representation of daily life in the workshop, as the goddesses Athena and Nike are present, the inclusion of the female potter provides possible evidence of female artisans practicing their craft in the ancient Greek world.

Found at Ruvo, Italy, this hydria is currently held in the art collection of the Banca Intesa Sanpaolo at the Palazzo Leoni Montanari in Vicenza, Italy.


Excavated in 1901 from the Adena Mound, this pipe is the oldest known three-dimensional representation of a human found in eastern North America. The Adena culture (800 B.C.E. to 100 C.E.) flourished in southeastern Indiana, southwestern Pennsylvania, the Scioto River and Hocking Valleys of southern Ohio, and the Kanawha Valley near Charleston, West Virginia—well over a millennium before contact with European settlers.

The Adena Pipe—Ohio’s state artifact as of 2013—was discovered in the burial of an adult male. Although tubular pipes were common among the Adena people, the effigy of this pipe is unique. Carved from Ohio pipestone and measuring 8 inches long, the pipe depicts a man (perhaps a shaman or medicine man) wearing a loincloth—decorated with a feather bustle at the back—and ear spools. Mostly hollow, the pipe would have been used to smoke tobacco, a widespread practice among Adena people.

This rare example of Adena craftsmanship can be viewed at the Ohio History Connection in Columbus, Ohio.


This mosaic of Oceanus adorned the Great Palace of Constantinople (the Sacred Palace) that was the main residence of the Byzantine emperors from 330 to 1081 C.E. The palace, originally designed by Constantine I, was located between the Hippodrome and the Hagia Sophia Church and has a long history of destruction and renovations.

The palace was lavishly decorated with mosaics between 450 and 550 C.E. The mosaics feature daily life, nature, and mythology. The mythological element can be seen with this mosaic of Oceanus, the divine personification of the Ocean Sea (Atlantic Ocean). In Greek mythology, Oceanus’s parents are Uranus and Gaia, and he is married to his sister-wife Tethys, with whom he has eight children.

This mosaic and the plethora of others are currently housed in the Great Palace Mosaic Museum in Istanbul.


Carved out of scoria—a type of volcanic rock—this Aztec sculpture of the goddess Chicomecóatl dates to c. 1400–1521 C.E. As a deity of sustenance and corn (maize), Chicomecóatl represented both positive (growth) and negative (famine) aspects of agriculture.

Measuring 16 inches long and 11 inches wide, this piece was found in the Valley of Mexico, a highlands plateau that is now mostly occupied by Mexico City. During the Aztec period, the site was occupied by Tenochtitlan, a large city-state that served as the capital of the Aztec Empire until its destruction by Hernán Cortés in 1521.

This sculpture can be found in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.


Fashioned from limestone more than 8,000 years ago, this female figurine was discovered in one of the oldest cities in the world: Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic settlement located in central Turkey.

Measuring 6.7 inches tall and 4.3 inches wide and weighing just over 2 pounds, this rare figurine was discovered in the summer of 2016. Archaeologists believe it is linked closely to the two graves located near its findspot.

Traditionally, figurines like this (which have been found throughout southeastern Europe, Anatolia, and the Middle East) have been thought to depict fertility goddesses. However, a new theory suggests that they may represent older women who had achieved a special status within their egalitarian agricultural community—with fatness as a sign of prestige and special respected status due to age.

Currently this figure is in museum storage in Konya, Turkey.


Commonly called the “Gorgon Head,” this fearsome image decorated a pediment that marked the entrance to the Temple of Sulis Minerva in the Romano-British town of Aquae Sulis (modern Bath Spa, in the United Kingdom). Carved from local stone, the entire pediment would have stood approximately 49 feet high—an imposing sight to those entering the temple. Discovered in 1790, the pediment (including the head) is believed to have been carved by the Gauls in the later part of the first century C.E.

Snakes adorn the head’s hair and beard—held aloft by female victories (winged goddesses)—while wings sprout above its ears. Scholars have proposed many theories as to whom this figure represents. The two most common are that it is either a Gorgon—a mythical creature killed by the hero Perseus with Athena’s (Roman Minerva) help—or a water god, who is similarly depicted in Roman Britain.

This example of provincial Roman sculpture can be viewed today at the Roman Baths in Bath Spa, United Kingdom.


Measuring approximately 16.5 inches high and 16 inches wide, this gilt copper sculpture of Bhairava—a manifestation of the Hindu god Shiva, revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike—was probably used in ritual worship in Nepal. The 15th—16th-century C.E. sculpture has three heads, each wearing a crown decorated with human skulls, and six hands brandishing five weapons and one lotus flower. Bhairava is depicted with snakes draped about his body, a tiger skin loincloth, and an apron of human bones.

Bhairava (Sanskrit for “frightful”) is the destroyer of evil and the protective deity of the city Kathmandu. He is still celebrated today during the Indra-Jatra festival, which takes place in the city in early fall.

This striking sculpture is housed in the Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, D.C.


This 1.5-inch-long, 1-inch-wide sherd was discovered by Hershel Shanks’s daughter Elizabeth in the early 1970s. Originally part of a pot handle, it dates to the 13th century B.C.E. (Late Bronze Age). The sherd is incised—by cutting into the surface of the clay—with a figure wearing upturned shoes, a short skirt or tunic, and a pointed hat. The figure’s outstretched right hand holds a spear, while his left hand seems to hold another weapon, perhaps an axe, mace, or spear.

When six-year-old Elizabeth discovered this sherd on the ground at Hazor, her father took it to legendary archaeologist Yigael Yadin, who excavated the site for many years. Yadin identified the figure as a Syro-Hittite deity depicted in the “smiting god” pose, a common motif for that era.


Collected in the 1780s by British explorer Captain James Cook, this ceremonial club is one of the oldest and best-preserved artifacts of northwest Canada. Made of yew wood and stone, the club is 10 inches high and almost 10 inches wide. The handle is decorated with black human hair and inlaid with snail shells and sea otter teeth. While the bottom of the club’s handle depicts a stylized double-faced owl, the top bears a striking representation of a Thunderbird—a legendary creature that symbolizes power and strength.

According to the Nuu-cha-nult peoples who fashioned the club, Thunderbird was the most celebrated whaler and taught the dangerous but rewarding practice to humans. Whaling provided valuable resources and was a fundamental aspect of the lives of many communities in northwestern Canada. Today Thunderbird remains a celebrated figure to many native peoples.

The Thunderbird Club can be seen today at the British Museum in London, England.