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GhostOfClayton

What does this shape represent?

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tn_gallery_3894_174_7124.jpg

 

You see this shape (ignoring the text) and variations on it everywhere in the Roman world. You also see it quite often in post-western empire, early Christian contexts.

 

It's so ubiquitous that it must have some meaning, but what?

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I did a quick search but couldn't find any appropriate images to reference but an 'off the top of the head' thought is could there be a possibility that originally it was intended to represent an open scroll?

 

Later inscriptions could have followed the original patterns without necessarily realising what it was intended to represent. If I'm correct in this guess then by a stretch of imagination it may even have indirectly led to the development of the Jacobean 'linen fold' carving technique.

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I know that this shape is called "tabula ansata" and when looking for button for my homepage I searched Google images and found quite many tabulae ansatae, and not all dating to Christian times but also earlier.

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tn_gallery_3894_174_7124.jpg

 

You see this shape (ignoring the text) and variations on it everywhere in the Roman world. You also see it quite often in post-western empire, early Christian contexts.

 

It's so ubiquitous that it must have some meaning, but what?

 

When I was in the Roman Baths recently I saw something a bit like this but a bit more square. I think it was a lead inscription. If I remember rightly the bits that stuck out were described as representing ears and were supposedly to be telling the reader to take note. It was not as neat at the picture you show but maybe that might be the general meaning??? Just a thought.....

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I know that this shape is called "tabula ansata" and when looking for button for my homepage I searched Google images and found quite many tabulae ansatae, and not all dating to Christian times but also earlier.

 

I think you've nailed this one, Medusa. Today's spotters badge goes to you. Also, there's a wikipedia entry on "tabula ansata". Fairly short, but with quite a few good references.

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I just did a search and one suggestion made on Roman Army talk (about 4-5 years ago) was that they were intended to represent the standard notice boards which were nailed up to make announcements since these 'tabulae were fixed at the walls of public buildings like templa, fora, etc.'

 

The decorative patterns in the centre of the 'wings' are therefore probably originally intended to show where the nails were placed.

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Today I was reading in the exhibition catalog about the exhibition in Bliesbruck "Mercure & Cie. - Culte et relgion dans une maison romaine" that they found a tabula ansata in Vindonissa which is dedicated to the god of war Mars and was made by a Gaius Novellius Primus, a veteran of the 11th Legion. (Unfortunately I couldn't find any picture of this on the internet).

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