Sunday, March 11, 2007


I'm not much of a jewellery gal. Real jewellery, that is. I tend to take off my jewellery when it bugs me no matter where I am and usually forget where I put it, so I guess you could say that my collection is much more Claire's than Tiffany's, if you know what I mean. And I think that you do. Accessories are usually something I put on before I leave the house in the morning and then don't think about until it's time to get ready for bed and I have to take them off. Since I was about 4 years old, and I met a friend of my parents who always had long, perfect red-painted fingernails and big dramatic hair and sparkly earrings (give me a break - I was 4 and it was 1981) I've been in awe of people who always look perfectly accessorized. I dream of one day joining their ranks, but am pretty sure that thanks to my tomboy roots I'll never quite make it.

This lifelong obsession with accessories is one of the reasons I was so completely amazed with the ROM's newest exhibit, Ancient Peru Unearthed: Golden Treasures of a Lost Civilization.

This exhibit is about the Sicán civilization of Peru (800-1375). The Sicán pre-date the infamous Inca, and were actually around much longer (500 or so years, compared with the 100 or so of the Inca). And let me tell you, these people knew their accessories!

I've never seen so much GOLD in one place before. The exhibit is beautiful, and winds through the 3rd floor of the museum, directly on top of the Samuel Hall/Currelly Gallery. The Sicán were incredible metalsmiths, and there are many examples of their advanced craftsmanship in the show. Their society put great stock in personal ornamentation (mostly relating to status, experts think), and their theory seemed to be - if you can figure out a way to put GOLD on it, do it. They put modern ear-spool wearing kids to shame with their gigantic, ornate ear discs, that's for sure. (These suckers are 12cm in diameter and over a foot long!!)

The Sicán civilization was mostly unknown until about 30 years ago. Because of centuries of grave-robbing and looting, and the Spaniards' incredible lust for all things GOLD, there are very few traces of the Sicán to be found - and the few artifacts that did surface before the 1990s were a mystery to archaeologists. No one knew exactly what their context was, or who to attribute them to. In an amazing stroke of luck, archaeologists unearthed a completely untouched tomb in the early 1990s. The tombs above this one had all been looted, but they think that the looters hit ground water and were prevented from digging deeper to the final tomb, so it was preserved. Inside this tomb was what they call the Sicán Lord, and the incredible contents are what the ROM's exhibit is based around.

Exhibit highlights (if for some reason you need another reason besides the GOLD) include an archaeological "dig zone" for the kiddies, lots of accessible features for people who are vision- or hearing-impaired, and a great video presentation featuring traditional music. The ROM has also created a large amount of digital resources for this show, including a dedicated mini-site with an image gallery, podcasts, lots of info and activities. For the first time, the ROM is also reaching out to the blogging community, which is something I am VERY excited about. Seems to me that "Renaissance ROM" is about much more than the fancy building out front - they really are working to build an actual Renaissance in every aspect of the museum. Torontonians should be very proud to have the ROM in their backyard.

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Blogger Monsieur Bonhomme said...

way to go! In Peru they're the ROMba! I can't wait to see it :-)

10:31 PM  

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