The Berkeley Plato: From Neglected Relic to Ancient Treasure : an Archaeological Detective Story

The Berkeley Plato: From Neglected Relic to Ancient Treasure : an Archaeological Detective Story

The Berkeley Plato: From Neglected Relic to Ancient Treasure : an Archaeological Detective Story

The Berkeley Plato: From Neglected Relic to Ancient Treasure : an Archaeological Detective Story

Synopsis

This book explores the provenance of the so-called Berkeley Herm of Plato, a sculptural portrait that Stephen G. Miller first encountered over thirty years ago in a university storage basement. The head, languishing since its arrival in 1902, had become detached from the body, or herm, and had been labeled a fake. In 2002, while preparing another book, Miller--now an experienced archaeologist--needed an illustration of Plato, remembered this piece, and took another look. The marble, he recognized immediately, was from the Greek islands, the inscription appeared ancient, and the ribbons visible on the head were typical of those in Greek athletic scenes. The Berkeley Plato, rich in scientific, archaeological, and historical detail, tells the fascinating story of how Miller was able to authenticate this long-dismissed treasure. His conclusion, that it is an ancient Roman copy possibly dating from the time of Hadrian, is further supported by art conservation scientist John Twilley, whose essay appears as an appendix. Miller's discovery makes a significant contribution to the worlds of art history, philosophy, archaeology, and sports history and will serve as a starting point for new research in the back rooms of museums.

Excerpt

The reader deserves an introduction to the author and an explanation of why he has written this book.

I am a dirt archaeologist who has excavated in ancient Greek lands an average of three months each year for the past forty years. As such, I sometimes feel that my knowledge is broad, but only rarely deep, and it must surely be admitted that I am not an art historian, that I am not a specialist in Greek sculpture, and that I have never worked in depth with Greek portraiture. So why am I publishing a portrait of Plato?

The basic answer is one of time and place. When I first saw the Berkeley Plato in the basement of the Hearst Women’s Gymnasium on the university campus more than thirty years ago, I was told that it was a modern fake. My ignorance at that time was so great and my experience so limited that I had no reason to question the statement, and my work in the university’s excavations at Nemea assured that I would not have the leisure to think about the Berkeley Plato. Indeed, I probably never would have thought about him again had it not been for another development in my career.

In 2002, as I completed my Ancient Greek Athletics, I was looking for a portrait of Plato to help illustrate, together with a portrait of Aristode, the final chapter, which dealt with athletics as an agent of education and . . .

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