Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Capitoline Wolf a Creation of the Middle Ages?


Major changes are in store for me in the near future, which is why updates were absent last week. Moreover, writing posts ahead of time only works if I remember to bring them to work with me. At any rate. blogging will continue as planned with some irregularity likely over the next couple of weeks as I relocate.

Fairly big news has been reported by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and by the BBC (latter in English). The famed “Capitoline Wolf”, pictured above, has been carbon-dated and shown to date to the Middle Ages, and not circa 500 BC as is previously thought. None of the articles give much detail about the precise technique used, and I haven’t seen the paper, so I cannot elaborate. One doesn’t normally associate C14 dating with bronze but I assume that there were carbon impurities in the alloy which allowed the procedure to be performed.



The wolf is considered a symbol of the city of Rome, as according to myth a she-wolf suckled the twins Romulus and Remus after they were exposed by their father. The wolf was an important symbol to the early Romans, as she appears on Republican coins and according to ancient authors there was a famous bronze statue of the wolf and twins in the city.

The statue in question has long been thought to be that wolf, although the figures of the children were added in the Renaissance. It appears as an example of Etruscan metalwork and sculpture in all the textbooks. If the finding of the Italian scholars hold up, however, those texts will have to be changed.

Doubt was first cast on the statue’s date in 2006, when an Italian scholar published an article arguing that it was produced in a single piece via a wax mold – a technique used on such a large scale only in the Middle Ages. Although the Greeks and Romans knew the lost-wax method, it was mainly used for small figurines, whereas larger statues were cast in pieces then assembled.

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