In 2010, Sands of Time offered an extraordinary mosaic presented to Alan Bean, the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12.

We are very proud to now offer the second of the three mosaics personally gifted in 1969 by King Hussan II, King of Morocco to the three NASA Astronauts from Apollo 12, the second manned mission to land on the Moon.   

Presented to Richard F. Gordon, the command module pilot of Apollo 12, this exquisite piece shows two pankratiast wrestlers; the wrestler to the left is in what seems to be a control technique by holding and entwining the legs of his opponent who is portrayed in the turtle position.  The full scene is represented against a white background and surrounded by a square red then black border.  Small tesserae are used to create the opponents who are colored in superb earth tones, with shades of browns, yellows, blacks and reds.

Pankratiast wrestling:  The Pankratiast sport is a combination of wrestling, boxing and martial arts.  When two pankratiasts begin their contest, they stood with outstretched arms: the first objective being to gain a favorable position and grip, each trying to make the other stand so that the sun might shine in his face, or other inconveniences that might prevent his fighting with success. Each of the fighters might commence by boxing or wrestling, should he think he would be more successful in one rather than the other. The using of teeth and butting with the head were considered unfair fighting (kakomachein) and contrary to the law of the games (nomos enagonios). Victory was not decided until one of the parties was knocked out, or lifted up a finger, thereby declaring that he was unable to continue the contest either from pain or fatigue (Philostr. l. c.).

Usually one of the combatants, by some trick or other, made his antagonist fall to the ground, and the wrestling that then commenced was called anaklinopale (more commonly known as Kato Pale, ground wrestling), and continued until one of the parties declared himself conquered or was strangled.   Edited excerpt from A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin) at the Perseus Archives.

“Pankratiasts…must employ backward falls which are not safe for the wrestler and grips in which victory must be obtained by falling…They must have skill in various methods of strangling; they also wrestle with an opponent’s ankle and twist his arm, besides hitting and jumping on him, for all these practices belong to the pankration, only biting and gouging prohibited. The Spartans allow even these practices, but the Eleans and the laws of the games exclude them.”  Philostratus, On Gymnastics From Olympic Games Study Guide (4)

In Rome the Pankratiast  (or Roman Pancratium) is first mentioned in the games which Caligula gave to the people (Dion Cass. LIX.13). After this time it seems to have become extremely popular, and Justinian made it one of the seven solemnities which the consuls had to provide for the amusement of the people.

Provenance:  After the Apollo 12 flight, Mission commander Charles “Pete” Conrad, Lunar Module Pilot Alan L. Bean and Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon, together with their wives were invited to spend the night at The White House by President and Mrs. Nixon.

In the evening, after dinner, The President asked the party to visit the leadership of 21 countries around the world, as his direct personal representatives, to relate the story of their moon landing mission. To facilitate this assignment they used Air Force One aircraft with two complete flight crews and a number of State Department coordinators. As representatives of The President of the United States they were treated with much celebration and respect everywhere they went.

In Morocco, King Hussan II presented each astronaut with a fine mosaic panel, Richard Gordan received “The Wrestlers” now offered for sale by Sands of Time Ancient Art


Our featured item for the month is this very fine schist frieze from Gandhara depicting the death of the Buddha, or his transition to Parinirvana; a final deathless state for which he must abandon his earthly body. The composition of the scene is a standard way of representing this event.   Centered in the rectangular panel the recumbant Buddha lies on a couch on his right side; his head, crowned with a nimbus, positioned toward the north and his feet pointing towards the south.  The junior monks were so greatly bereaved by the Buddha’s death that they mourned their loss by wailing and crying. The senior monks, understanding that the Buddha’s death was in fact the achievement of the nirvanic state, remained composed.

The ascetic disciple Mahakasyapa touches the feet of the Buddha for the last time.  The seated figure being pulled aside is Ananda, one of the principle disciples of the Buddha who deeply mourns his passing.  The seated figure with back turned is most likely Subhadra, the last convert to Buddhism during the life of the Buddha who continues his meditation.  The scene is flanked by two sal trees, and from the trees fly aboreal spirits who are joining in the universal sorrow.  Another tall rectangular panel frames the left side of the frieze.  The decoration is mostly lost, but appears to be a figure standing on a large urn against a column.  The parinirvana is the last of the four primary life events. Dying his final death, the Buddha ended his samsaric cycle and passed into nirvana.

The figures are very finely carved with curly hair and large, rimmed eyes.  The draping folds of their robes are beautifully rendered, revealing and accentuating the movement of the bodies.

cf: Ingholt, Harold.  Gandharan Art in Pakistan.  (Pantheon Books Inc, 1957) figure 139. and W. Zwalf, A Catalogue of the Gandhara Sculpture in the British Museum, Vol I & II, (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

From the The Bernice Longazel Collection of Gandharan Art, assembled in the early 1960’s.

A fine Roman iridescent green/blue glass amphoriskos with folded handles,

3rd – 4th century A.D.

The amphoriskos (literally, little amphora) is a miniature of the amphora, a popular shape used throughout antiquity, and was probably used as a storage vessel for oils, perfumes or cosmetics.  This lovely example is elegant in both form and decoration.  The simple form was free blown, a process where molten glass is inflated and then fashioned into a vessel by the artisan without the aid of mold, resulting in a long, graceful body that still retains its fine translucency.   The vessel is decorated with deep aquamarine trailings after the vessel was formed: an applied ring under the rim, a ring around the neck, and most importantly, twin vertical handles that were applied at the shoulders and then pulled up, and out, to continue down the body in undulating ripples.

Condition:   The amphora is intact and in excellent condition overall. Some iridescence is present primarily on the outer surface that appears stable. There is a layer of dirt on both the inside and outside. There is no apparent damage to the flask.

Dimensions: height 7.5 inches (19 centimeters)

Provenance:  From a private San Francisco collection, California.

Louvre Museum

The Diana of Versailles,


On this day, May 6th, the Ancient Greeks traditionally celebrated the birthday of the goddess Artemis, “mistress of animals”.   Proclaimed a Greek holiday in Athens, so began the annual Festival of the Thargelia, a purification ceremony in honor of Apollo, brother of Artemis.  During the festival, thargei, or pots of food (being the first fruits of harvest were offered.

Photo:  The Diana of Versailles, a Roman copy of a Greek sculpture by Leochares (Louvre Museum)

Sicily, Syracuse. Hieronymos AR 10 Litrai


Greek silver coin, Sicily, Syracuse, ca. 215-214 B.C. AR 10 litrai. The obverse diademed head of King Hieronymos facing left; the reverse features the winged thunderbolt of Zeus, a symbol of vigor and power. The Greek inscription is BASILEWS IEPWNYMOY – KING HIERONYMOS in the possessive case.

Reference: SNG ANS 1027, Holloway 994

Condition: Mint

HIERONYMOS–or Hieronymus–succeeded his grandfather Hiero as king of Syracuse in 215 BC when he was about 15 years old. When Hieronymos ascended the throne Rome and Carthage were in the midst of the Second Punic War and Rome was losing badly following Hannibals invasion of Italy (218 BC). Hieronymos consequently courted Hannibal and received two of Hannibals generals, Hippokrates and Epikydes, as ambassadors to negotiate the terms of a treaty between Syracuse and Carthage. Meanwhile the pro-Roman faction in Syracuse was plotting the elimination of Hieronymos, undoubtedly with the assistance of Rome.  While on a visit to the neighboring Greek city of Leontini, the plotters assassinated him in 214 BC, just thirteen months after he had assumed power.

Sicily, Syracuse. Hieronymos AR 10 Litrai reverse


The coinage during Hieronymos thirteen-month reign mirrors the change in allegiance of Syracuse from Rome to Carthage. The coinage at the beginning of his reign, the “coronation” coinage, is in the classic Greek style: refined and idealized. However, toward the end of his reign the “war” coinage is very much in the Carthaginian style: rough and realistic. Hieronymoss hair style also is transformed from the Greek to the Carthaginian styles of his day.

Don’t let Amazon’s dreary front cover defer you from acquiring this exceptional book.  “The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: the History of a Civilisation from 3000 BC to Cleopatra” by Toby Wilkinson (published by Bloomsbury) has just won the 2010 Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History.

Jay Freeman from Booklist writes:  “Egyptologists constitute a relatively small subspecialty among professional historians. Perhaps that is why many express an almost fanatical devotion to and admiration for the culture of ancient Egypt. Wilkinson, an award-winning Egyptologist who teaches at Oxford, provides a fine single-volume history of ancient Egypt that covers more than 3,000 years, from prehistory to the Roman conquest. He uses a conventional chronological approach that inevitably uses archaeological sources to provide examples. Like his colleagues, Wilkinson expresses admiration for the continuity, stability, and relative harmony of pharaonic Egypt. Yet he is strikingly at odds with other Egyptologists in his efforts to present the darker side of Egyptian life. Egyptian rulers created and maintained the first true nation-state. As Wilkinson shows, however, the price of this stability was regimes based on fear, coercion, and, when deemed necessary, violent military suppression. This superbly written survey is ideal for general readers and likely to engender controversy among specialists.”

The book can be ordered through Amazon and for the more technically advanced, yes there is a Kindle edition as well.

The Egyptian Museum issued a final list of more than 50 ancient artifacts, including three gilded wooden statues of King Tutankhamun, which are missing after looters broke into the building in Cairo during anti-government protests in January.  Click the link below to view the present list of missing objects from the Cairo museum, Egypt. 

List of missing objects

Happy Valentine’s Day.  On this day of love, who else should be represented but the god of love himself, Eros (or Cupid as he was later known).  Eros was the mischievous son of Aphrodite and enjoyed shooting arrows of love into the hearts of unsuspecting victims.  In Roman legend, Eros himself falls in love with and woos a beautiful mortal girl named Psyche.

Psyche was once a mortal princess whose astounding beauty earned the ire of Aphrodite when men turned their worship from goddess to girl.  Aphrodite commanded Eros make Psyche fall in love with the most hideous of men, but the god himself fell in love with her and carried her away to his secret palace.  However Eros hid his true identity, and commanded her never to look upon his face. Psyche was eventually tricked by her jealous sisters into gazing upon the face of god, and he abandoned her. In her despair, she searched throughout the world for her lost love, and eventually came into the service of Aphrodite. The goddess commanded her perform a series of difficult labours which culminated in a journey to the Underworld. In the end Psyche was reunited with Eros and the couple wed in a ceremony attended by the gods.

This charming carnelian intaglio shows a small Eros playing his lyre, a magical instrument designed to put any creature that hears it into a romantic mood.  Set in a ring of 18K gold, it is available from Sands of Time Ancient Art.

Start the New Year with Ancient Luck.

What better way to start the New Year than with a piece of ancient Egyptian good luck scarab jewelry.  Representing the sacred desert beetle, scarabs were used by king and commoner alike as amulets of good fortune and prosperity.  In addition to its aura of good luck, the scarab represents eternal life and resurrection.

The ancient Egyptians frequently wore the scarab as jewelry, especially in rings, bracelets and necklaces.

This particularly fine example is beautifully carved from green glazed faience, a material much favoured by the Egyptians.  The base is inscribed with the goddess Ma’at holding the ankh of life and is flanked by the hierogylphs ‘truth’ and ‘goodness’.   It has been mounted in pure 14K gold so you can wear it as a ring.

To wear a scarab today is to invoke the mystery and magic of Ancient Egypt at the height of her grandeur.  It also invites the accumulated good fortune of centuries to smile upon us, as it did upon its ancient owner. 

Now available at  Sands of Time Ancient Art

An Egyptian Votive Wood Ear, Middle Kingdom, ca 2040-1783 B.C.

The Ancient Egyptians believed the  ‘hearing ear’, such as this fine example carved in wood, would aid the gods in hearing prayers such as a thanks offering for some cure, or else the petition for a cure.   Petitions were prayed into the ear and then left in the temple, charged with the prayers. 

Several of the gods were described as “great of hearing” or “of hearing ears” such as Ptah, Amon, Horus, Isis, and Thoth.

Tablets discovered by archaeologist W.M.Flinders Petrie at Memphis provide an explanatory inscription:  “Ptah, listen to the petition made by such a one”.  Very probably the sale of carved or modeled ears was a recognized source of profit to the temple.