Instead it's been going over the workshops of the past weekend. On Sunday we spent the afternoon at the University's Museum of Ancient Cultures and got to meet and talk to the curator there. He walked us through a couple of the workshops that he would do for younger-aged school groups that would come through the museum and some of his exercises were really thought provoking and incredibly effective. So much so obviously that I'm still thinking about them two days later.
One of the things that he stressed was the danger in simply grouping cultures into a singular concept.
The Egyptians are a fantastic example of this. If I bring up Ancient Egyptians I'm sure many of you, like myself, are immediately picturing hieroglyphics on papyrus paper, faience scarabs, mummies and pyramids. Hell if you're REALLY like me by now you might be humming the Bangels' "Walk Like an Egyptian" in your head!
Essentially, if I showed you this:
And told you it was an Egyptian sarcophagus, you'd probably all nod your heads and agree with me.
Another thing that you might all agree with me on is that this is ancient. We just began the year 2008 C.E. (A.D.) This sarcophagus is dated from 305-50 B.C.E. (B.C.) That's well over 2,000 years ago. Across the timespan from when this sarcophagus was carved to today SO MUCH has changed culturally that it's perhaps difficult for us now to relate to what life was truly like for the person who owned this sarcophagus.
Well, this is also an Egyptian sarcophagus. This sarcophagus is dated to approximately 2625-2500 B.C.E. (B.C.) Can you get where I'm going with this? The difference between this sarcophagus and the previous one is roughly 2,000 years or, to put it another way, this sarcophagus would have been considered ancient to the owner of the previous one! If culture has changed so drastically from 300 B.C.E. to today, it's not far fetched to assume that the culture of 2500 B.C.E. is different, perhaps drastically so, from 300 B.C.E.
One of the most tedious thing about taking an art history class is the endless memorization of dates. I can practically guarantee you that if you were to take a course on art history, no matter what the period or location or style of art the course is focusing on; one of the ways you will be tested on your knowledge is to identify works of art by noting the Title (if it has one), Artist (if they're known), Medium and Date (as precise or approximate as your teacher decides.) There could be more details your requested to remember as well, but Title, Artist, Medium and Date are universal.
Of these four I hear the most complaints (and have complained myself!) about the Date.
But hopefully this gave you a quick understanding on why the date something is made can be so important and should be considered.
Obviously this kind of stuff gets me excited because I deal with it a lot. But how about for you, you wonderful people who decided to click the link and read this far? Have you ever considered dates when visiting a museum or looking at a piece of art? Do you fall into the trap like I do where I make generalizations such as "this piece is ______ (example: Egyptian) therefore the people connected to this object must have looked like/thunk like/acted like/etc. __________."?
Now here's hoping my procrastination streak is at an end. I have way too much work to get done to be slacking off like this!