J. Patrick Greene

DISPLAYING POSTS BY: J. Patrick Greene (6)

J. Patrick Greene

Dr J. Patrick Greene is an archaeologist and the CEO of Museum Victoria. 

Mexico in the World Cup

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by J. Patrick Greene
Publish date
30 May 2014
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Patrick is talking about Searching for the Aztecs in Mexico City as part of the Aztecs lecture series.

On 13 June, Mexico kicks off its World Cup campaign with a match against Cameroon in Group A in the group stage. Group A also contains Croatia and Brazil. Chances of a win against Brazil, the World Cup hosts, are not encouraging for Mexico. In three of Mexico’s 14 appearances in the World Cup these two teams have met, with Brazil scoring a total of eleven goals while conceding none. Mexican fans will be pinning their hopes on better results against Cameroon and Croatia. Mexico is lucky to be in the finals at all; after a series of indifferent results against other Latin American teams they scraped into the playoffs in which they qualified by beating New Zealand.

Perhaps the occasion will bring out the best in the Mexican team – and perhaps they will be inspired by a tradition of ball games that goes back to the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican civilisations. A ball game was an integral part of Aztec culture, with specially designed courts (or tlachtlis) placed in prominent locations in sacred and administrative precincts. However, it was not football. The rules required participants to use their hips and upper arms to keep the ball from touching the ground.

tlachti ball and ring Visitors to Aztecs can lift this replica ball - rather like a rubber cannonball - and imagine trying to propel it off their bodies and through the tiny hole in the stone ring.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In the exhibition is a replica of the heavy rubber ball that the Aztecs used. Despite wearing a thick belt around the lower waist, injuries could result. Even worse, the game sometimes ended in human sacrifice. On the other hand, if a player achieved the near-impossible feat of sending the ball through one of the pair of stone rings high on the long sides of the court they were entitled to the pick of the possessions of all the spectators!

On their shirts, the Mexican footballers will wear the crest of the Mexican Federation of Association Football. The crest shows a football in front of the Aztec calendar stone, surmounted by the eagle that was part of the Aztec foundation myth.

When Mexico players have a home match they perform in one of the world’s largest stadiums, the Estadio Azteca. Footballers that play for one of Mexico’s leading clubs, the Pumas de la UNAM, have as their home ground the Olympic Stadium, which has on its exterior a huge sculpture designed by Diego Rivera with Aztec symbolism such as the feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl. Mexicans will be expecting their footballing heroes to rise to the World Cup occasion, inspired by the country’s proud Aztec heritage.

Olympic Stadium in Mexico City Olympic Stadium in Mexico City showing the sculpture designed by Diego Rivera.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Live broadcast of 2014 FIFA World Cup matches at IMAX Melbourne Museum

  • Saturday June 14th @ 8:00am - CHILE vs AUSTRALIA
  • Sunday June 15th @ 8:00am - ENGLAND vs ITALY

More about the Aztec ball game at aztec-history.com

National Geographic: Aztec, Maya Were Rubber-Making Masters?

Culture Shutdown at Immigration Museum

Author
by J. Patrick Greene
Publish date
4 March 2013
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At the 2002 European Museum of the Year awards I described the National Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a "demonstration of the indomitable human spirit". Thanks to sheer dedication and spirit of its staff members, the Museum had survived a chaotic decade of conflict and destruction. Located in Sarajevo, the Museum was involved in many military operations over the course of the conflict and suffered significant structural losses from intensive bombing. Despite having no roof or heating the staff continued to stand by their institution, opening the Museum for a Museum Day while the war raged on around it. Scientists, security guards, curators all took turns standing guard outside the Museum during the conflict and thanks to their gallant effort only 10 per cent of the objects in the Museum's collection were damaged.

Cello player in wrecked building A cello player in the partially destroyed National Library, Sarajevo during the war in 1992. The cellist is local musician Vedran Smailović, who often came to play for free at different funerals during the siege despite the fact that funerals were often targetted by Serb forces.
Image: Mikhail Evstafiev
Source: CC BY-SA 3.0 via wikipedia.org
 

In 2013, the Museum is again under threat. Today marks the six month anniversary of the closure of the National Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina after 124 years of existence. Despite the Museum housing objects of national and international significance, in 2012 wooden planks were nailed over its doors after political debate regarding the funding of national institutions could not be resolved.

doors of the closed National Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The doors of the closed National Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Image: Oslobodjenje
Source: http://www.cultureshutdown.net/
 

In response, cultural institutions across the world have joined together in order to draw awareness of this crisis by symbolically closing off an object on display for three days culminating in the global Day of Museum Solidarity today. I am very proud that Museum Victoria could take part in this action by symbolically 'taping off' an object on the ground floor of the Immigration Museum. The object being 'taped off' is a model double spiral staircase crafted from Brazilwood by Heinrich Munzel in Brazil between 1835 and 1850. This action is now part of a virtual exhibition showing different institutions' solidarity acts from across the globe including the Museum of Contemporary Arts (NSW), Museum of Modern Art Chicago (USA) and the Oslo Museum (Norway).

To visit the virtual exhibition or find out more about the global Day of Museum Solidarity head over to the Culture Shutdown website.

Showcase with tape across it Taped off Model Staircase by Heinrich Munzel at the Immigration Museum.
Image: Emily Kocaj
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Lava on location

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by J. Patrick Greene
Publish date
3 January 2013
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While on holiday recently, I visited Big Island in Hawai'i to see the active volcanoes and lava flows. My interest was sparked by the exhibit in the Dynamic Earth exhibition at Melbourne Museum which includes a large sample of 'ropy lava' that visitors are invited to touch. The name describes the ribbed appearance of the lava that looks like a collection of ropes formed as the liquid lava cooled. The Hawaiian name for this form of lava is pahoehoe.

Ropy lava Ropy lava, or pahoehoe, from Hawai'i's Kilauea volcano.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Patrick Greene
 

I visited the Kilauea volcano which is currently active. In the vast caldera is a crater holding a lava lake. Great quantities of volcanic gases rise from the lava lake and the orange glow from the molten lava is visible. It would be very dangerous to stand downwind of the vog (volcanic fog) as it contains large quantities of sulphur dioxide and other noxious gases.

Volcanic fog rising from lava lake Volcanic gases rising from Kilauea's lava lake.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Patrick Greene
 

Around the caldera are steam vents, where lava flowing through underground tubes heats rainwater seeping though the ground and turns it into steam. Visitors can walk through a large extinct lava tube.

I explored three lava flows that originated in the Mauna Ulu vent on the flank of Kilauea. It is essential to wear sturdy footwear and the tread very carefully, for a fall onto the abrasive, glassy surface can result in serious injury. Each flow was different in character as the mix of lava and gases and form of each eruption varies. The third lava field that I visited produced the most impressive ropey lava, with a smooth shiny surface that glistened in the sunlight. The stream of viscous lava had hardened where it had cooled leaving vivid evidence of the way in which it had flowed from the Mauna Ulu vent. It was fascinating to walk to the edge of the flow to see where the lava had stopped, leaving the trees and other vegetation untouched. Also interesting to see were plants that had managed to gain a foothold on the lava as recolonisation is taking place thirty or forty years after the eruption.

Plants slowly recolonising lava fields. Plants slowly recolonising lava fields.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Patrick Greene
 

I was unable, on this occasion, to visit the active lava flows from another of Kilauea's vents that are flowing into the sea, constantly enlarging Big Island. That's a prospect for another visit!

Links:

Photos: Kilauea Lava Reaches the Sea via National Geographic

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch

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by J. Patrick Greene
Publish date
7 December 2012
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Yesterday we heard the sad news of the death of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, an enthusiastic supporter of Museum Victoria who always took a keen interest in the Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum and Scienceworks. As recently as September this year I received a letter on her behalf thanking me for sending her the Museum's magazine, Six Months, and commenting on the wide range of activities and projects described in it.

  Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Dame Elisabeth at the launch of Ancient Hampi at the Immigration Museum in 2008.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I first met Dame Elisabeth shortly after I took up my post as CEO of Museum Victoria in 2002. Harold Mitchell, then President of the Museums Board of Victoria, had written to inform her of my appointment. She asked to see me and we met in my office. It was immediately apparent that I was in the presence of a formidable but charming woman, who immediately put me at ease by saying how much she wanted to meet "another Greene". She revealed that her maiden name was Greene, and told me about her grandfather who had arrived from Ireland to work as an engineer for Victorian Railways. One of his many projects was the construction of the viaduct that carries the lines into Flinders Street Station. She gleefully told me that The Age had at the time described it as 'Greene's Folly' and her pride that more than a century later it was still performing its task so well – some 'folly!'

A notable occasion was the celebration of the museum's 150th anniversary in 2004 which took place in the Royal Exhibition Building with Dame Elisabeth as the guest of honour. Harold Mitchell discovered that her birthday was just a few days away and spontaneously asked the army trumpeter to play Happy Birthday, which all the guests joined in singing.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Dame Elisabeth arriving at Harold Mitchell's farewell party in 2008.
Source: Museum Victoria

Dame Elisabeth was renowned for her warmth, her ability to remember names and of course her philanthropy. I spoke at a Philanthropy Australia event held in her honour about her contribution to Museum Victoria's activities and was amazed at the range of other causes that she supported. She was a very special person who made a considerable contribution to Victoria.

Mataatua Wharenui

Author
by J. Patrick Greene
Publish date
29 September 2011
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On Saturday I attended a remarkable event in Whakatane, a town on the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand's North Island. I was a guest of the Ngāti Awa people, and the event was the opening of Mātaatua Wharenui (meeting house), a wonderful structure that was originally built in 1875 by the iwi (tribe) despite the devastating effects of colonisation and land confiscations.

Mataatua Wharenui Mātaatua Wharenui back home in Whakatane, New Zealand.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Unfortunately, the building was soon lost to the people who built it as it was dismantled to be taken to be displayed in Sydney and then, in 1880, as part of the New Zealand display at the Melbourne International Exhibition. That was my connection with the event, as Museum Victoria is the guardian of the Royal Exhibition Building constructed for the 1880 exhibition. Charlotte Smith (Senior Curator in MV's History and Technology Department) carried out some research at the request of the Ngāti Awa which revealed that only the carved wooden panels were displayed rather than the complete structure.

  walls within Mātaatua Wharenui. The interior walls of Mātaatua Wharenui have intricate woven panels and carvings. They were restored by Ngāti Awa craftspeople.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Museum Victoria
 

After Melbourne, Mātaatua was taken to England where it was displayed, and remained for several decades. It then went to the Otago Museum, and in 1996, under the Treaty of Waitangi, it was returned to the Ngāti Awa. A team of craftspeople — carvers and weavers — have worked for 15 years to restore the building that had become seriously decayed on its travels.

I was present for the pohiri (general welcome), a series of speeches and songs in which the Ngāti Awa welcomed their guests, who, group by group, responded. As well as other iwi, there were delegations from Hawaii and the Cook Islands. It was a great privilege to part of the ceremony and to witness the oratory that is a treasured part of Maori (and Polynesian) culture, a world away from the sound bites that constitute so much current discourse. The restoration of the building is a triumph: it has been beautifully carried out and the building will stand as a testament to survival of a people and their culture.

Mātaatua: The House That Came Home is a short film that tells the story of the meeting house, courtesy of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa.

Egypt: a fascinating journey

Author
by J. Patrick Greene
Publish date
27 June 2011
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At Christmas I read the biography of Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. In January I followed in his footsteps to Egypt, visiting the pyramids on the Giza plateau, then Saqqara to see the Stepped Pyramid of Djoser, then Luxor and Karnak (ancient Thebes, centre of the worship of the god Amun) and finally, across the Nile to the Valley of the Kings.

  Karnak temple Ornately carved pillars at Karnak temple.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Excavation of Ptolemaic era baths outside the main entrance to Karnak temple. Excavation of Ptolemaic era baths outside the main entrance to Karnak temple.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Museum Victoria
 

To enter the tomb in which Tutankhamun was buried was an extraordinary experience. In 1922 there were over 5000 astonishing objects in the tomb, stacked one on top of the other, that took Carter and his team ten years to carefully remove, record, conserve and then pack for their journey to the Cairo Museum. As I stepped into the burial chamber I felt something of the excitement that Carter had felt as he peered through the sealed blocking wall for the first time. The beautiful sarcophagus is still there, carved with the protective deities with wings outstretched that guarded the young king as he began his journey to the afterlife. So too is Tutankhamun; his mummy has never left the tomb except for a short journey outside for a CT scan a few years ago.

I was lucky enough to have the tomb to myself for ten minutes or so, to absorb the atmosphere and marvel at the paintings on the walls of the burial chamber. Photographs are forbidden, quite rightly, not just to help preserve the pigments of the paintings but also the sense of awe. When some other visitors eventually entered they concluded that the sarcophagus and mummified body were replicas. I was able to reassure them that they were not!

My fascinating journey to Egypt included a visit to the Cairo Museum to see the objects that Howard Carter had so carefully sent down the Nile. Visitors clustered around one object in particular, the famous gold funerary mask that never leaves Egypt. Some of the cases had notes to say that the objects that they normally contained were part of an international exhibition. With pride I knew where they were heading—to Melbourne Museum to be displayed in the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition that opened in April.

  Patrick Greene in front of the Cairo Museum Patrick Greene outside the famous Cairo Museum, where treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun are housed.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I couldn't take photographs in the tomb, or in the Cairo Museum for that matter, but elsewhere I was given access to sites and met with fellow archaeologists making exciting discoveries that I was able to photograph. A selection of my images has now been published by Museum Victoria in a book that is hot off the press. Its title? Egypt: a fascinating journey.

Links:

Egypt: a fascinating journey

Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs

Watch Dr Greene's lecture: 'An Archaeologist Visits Ancient Egypt'

 

 

GIVEAWAY

We have a signed copy of Patrick's book to give away to a blog reader. To enter, leave a comment on this post by noon on Thursday 30 June with your answer to this question:

What fascinates you about Egypt?  

 

UPDATE: Thank you to all the entrants! Patrick has chosen JessB as the winner, saying:

“I was spoilt for choice in deciding the winner of my book.  I had no idea who had written the blog entries as they were shown to me without names attached.  I made a shortlist, and finally chose my winner, which expresses so eloquently the captivating beauty of the artists and crafts people whose creations still speak to us over the distance of time.”

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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