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The Lost-Wax Method

During the third millennium BCE that trade relations between India and Mesopotamia prospered: Burial sites in Mesopotamia had shell-made lamps and cups produced from a conch shell found only in India; Early Dynastic Mesopotamians were consumers of the Harappan carnelian bead. Also the Gujaratis were exporting hardwood and there are even unverified reports of spices from the Malabar coast reaching Mesopotamia. But now there is a debate over if a colony of Indians lived in Mesopotamia —  in a Meluhhan village — at that time[Trading Hubs of the Old World – Part 2]

During this period, texts from Uruk in Mesopotamia mention copper, mainly copper from Dilmun (Bahrain), which originally came from Magan (Oman). In return the Mesopotamians exported barley[1]. The Harappans too used copper extensively. While one copper source was Oman, the other was the Jodhpura-Ganeshwar culture of Rajasthan[2].

Skipping a few millennia, a 10th century BCE copper production center was discovered in the Negev desert and was claimed to be King Solomon’s mines, though there is debate over if there was a King Solomon. One of the artifact from that era is the twin-headed ibex and swords, found in Israel’s Cave of the Treasure.

Ancient artisans — in Mesopotamia, Greece, China — used a technique called the Lost-Wax method to produce works of art, but that technique is not used much any more. One place where this technique still survives is in Tanjavur district – the realm of the Chola empire. It was here, as Vilayannur Ramachandran explains, that Hindu artistes exaggerated feminine beauty to jolt the aesthetic sense of the viewers.

When a picture of the twin-headed ibex and swords was given to the sthapathi in Swamimalai he was able to create the same using a process which has been around for millennia.


References:

  1. Nicole Boivin and Dorian Fuller, “Shell Middens, Ships and Seeds: Exploring Coastal Subsistence, Maritime Trade and the Dispersal of Domesticates in and Around the Ancient Arabian Peninsula,” Journal of World Prehistory 22, no. 2 (June 1, 2009): 180, 113.
  2. Jane R. McIntosh, The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives, 1st ed. (ABC-CLIO, 2007).

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One Response to The Lost-Wax Method

  1. Hari October 8, 2009 at 2:56 pm #

    Very thought provoking video. I was in Swamimalai and Kumbakonnam in July. While looking for a Nataraja bronze, I visited many artisan shops. But I had no idea that they might have been using the lost-wax method.

    The sensuousness of female representations in ancient Indian art has always stunned me. The narrow waist, the flared hips, and a certain idea of abstraction (and it comes out much better in dark colors). This is in stark contrast to the garish detail you see in today’s temples. V. Ramachandran’s insight about the artist consciously trying to jolt the aesthetic of the viewer is very interesting.

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