A collection of 40 ancient bronze statues and artifacts on loan from the Buffalo Museum of Science in New York arrived at Kennesaw State University last fall.
KSU art history and archeology students have been photographing and drawing their details to aid archaeologists and art historians decipher the significance of the works.
The artifacts are now part of KSU’s Discovering Bronzes exhibition, which had an opening reception on April 12. The exhibit will be on display through the end of the year at the Bentley Rare Book Museum, which is located on KSU’s main campus on the ground floor of the Sturgis Library.
The exhibit pairs students’ archeological illustrations with literary works from the Bentley Museum’s permanent collection to provide visitors with context to better appreciate the bronzes.
“Our students are performing the first-ever scientific and scholarly investigation of these artifacts,” said Philip Kiernan, assistant professor of art history in the College of the Arts. “They are taking the lead in the project, and they are doing a remarkable job.”
The pieces, some of which date to the second millennium B.C., were acquired by the Buffalo Museum between the early 1900s and 1940s, and almost none have been on public display in 70 years.
“There is so much they can tell us about past civilizations,” Kiernan said. “What they tell us about the ancient world is varied, about religious beliefs, ancient technologies, artistic ideas and societal preferences.”
Kiernan, who is an art historian and an archeologist, explained that bronze was a common metal used in ancient cultures for a diverse range of objects.
“Bronze develops a patina that changes in color over time, but bronze doesn’t degrade like organic materials,” he said. “It’s left behind a good bit of data from the ancient world for us to discover.”
For Kiernan, an important part of this project is that it has resulted in concrete research by his students that will add to the body of knowledge in the field. Last year, two students who had the opportunity to study the bronzes in Buffalo presented their findings at the XXth International Congress on Ancient Bronzes in Tübingen, Germany. Students are rarely invited to present at the congress, which is primarily for well-known scholars and curators.
One of those students was Savannah Winn, a graphics communications student, who applied archeological illustration skills she honed during one of Kiernan’s classes to draw a detailed illustration of a mirror depicting the Greek mythological figures of Medusa and Perseus, which is now on display at the Bentley Museum.
Katie Kennedy, who graduates next month with a degree in art history, worked with three artifacts from Luristan, a province in Iran. She presented on the topic during last week’s National Conference on Undergraduate Research.