How do we make sense of old and ancient artworks depicting laptops with USB ports, smartphones, spaceships, astronaut suits, and wrist watches? Historians say it is easy and that every one of these seemingly bizarre and puzzling images have a perfectly logical explanation!
A Native American using an iPhone? Or, an indigenous person curious about a mirror brought by the Europeans? Mr. Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield by Umberto Romano, 1937 depicts the English colonist’s arrival in 1636 at what was to become Springfield. Credit: U.S POSTAL SERVICE
This Assyrian relief panel, 883 – 859 BC, from the Northwest Palace at Nimrud appears to depict a winged supernatural figure wearing a wrist watch . However, experts say it is a bracelet with a large central rosette symbol, associated with divinity and perhaps particularly with the goddess Ishtar. ( Metropolitan Museum of Art / Public Domain)
This painting from 1860, called ‘The Expected One’ by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller ( Public Domain ) appears to show a woman strolling along a path while scrolling on a smartphone. Experts say it is just a prayer book.
The magnificent sarcophagus lid of Maya ruler Pakal the Great in Palenque, Mexico. ( BY-SA 2.0 / CC BY-SA 1.0 ) Sideways it looks like Pakal is operating a complex series of controls in a spaceship. Historians say it shows a series of Maya symbols, including the king descending into the underworld and symbols of his rebirth, planets, constellations and more.
Close-up of a red figure vase by Greek painter Douris (c. 500 BC) appears to depict a figure holding a laptop with a stylus. Historians say it is just a wax tablet. ( Pottery Fan / CC BY-SA 3.0).
This figure from Guatemala, 500-850 AD, has been described as an ancient astronaut with oxygen tank and equipment. Historians say he is a ballplayer from the Peten region of Guatemala. ( Public Domain )
Is this ancient Greek woman checking Facebook on her so-called laptop, complete with cable ports? Grave Naiskos of an Enthroned Woman With An Attendant dates from around 100BC (Image credit: Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program)
This 350-year-old painting appears to show a man looking at his smartphone, but by the painting’s title, it seems to be nothing more than a letter. ‘Man Handing a Letter to a Woman in the Entrance Hall of a House’ by Pieter de Hooch (c. 1650). Public Domain
Top image: Grave Naiskos of an Enthroned Woman With An Attendant dates from around 100BC. Source: Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program
By Joanna Gillan