Thursday, October 18, 2007

Museum Day: Overewhelmed by the Romans in Cologne

I imagine you were expecting a spectacular photo from Cologne, where I headed after I was done sightseeing in Düsseldorf, but I really like this 2,000 year old glass pig. It dates back to the days of the Romans in Cologne. On earlier visits (and Cologne just keeps pulling me back) I had never had time to see the Römisch-Germanisches Museum, which is located next to the great cathedral, the Kölner Dom. I almost got completely worn out--it took most of a day wandering through the exhibits, and there was a lot to see. So much for my preconceived notion that this was a small museum!

The collection started off with pots from the iron age and Roman stone memorials, and moved on to just about every kind of thing that people owned or used a couple of millenia ago, all conveniently found in or around Cologne.

The glass pig pictured above was only one of a collection of intact glass manufactured in Cologne not long after the time of Christ. The fish to the left also seemed very modern, as did much of the extensive collection. I guess people liked knick knacks even back them.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the everyday items. There were pieces of old Roman sewer pipe, items from a manufacturing shoe shop complete with (part of a) sandal, and lots and lots of pottery. Ever since I studied Latin in school, years ago, I wondered what that wax tablet that the Roman children used instead of paper looked like. I had to wait a long time to see one, but the tabula and stylus, pictured to the right, solved something I had wondered about for years.

With all the bad press about unsafe children's toys from China, I thought it would be timely to post up a picture of what Roman children played with, such as the men on horses with wheels to the left. There were some other little games, too, but I particularly liked these toys, though I imagine they could require strong wrists to play with.

The museum also had a lot of pottery, cases and cases of pottery, any kind you could imagine, particularly a lot of wine pitchers and drinking cups. I guess they had more than they could possibly exhibit, as at one point the museum simply noted that Romans stored their pottery on shelves, such as the example to the right, where the museum had placed a great number of objects.

I've been reading lately how the fork is a fairly recent invention, but as you can see at the left, forks date back to at least Roman times, though I must admit that what is pictured in the middle at the left, looks a lot like an olive fork.

If you find yourself in Cologne, I'd recommend this conveniently located museum. A tip, though, don't make the mistake I did and try going on a Monday: it's closed!

All of the pictures here can be viewed in a large size showing more detail simply by clicking on the picture.


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