We are creating a unified UKRI website that brings together the existing research council, Innovate UK and Research England websites.
If you would like to be involved in its development let us know.

Read, Watch and Listen

Changing the Story

A University of Leeds-led project to help young people whose lives have been affected by conflict will showcase how the arts and humanities can help those in need.

Stacey viewing art by German born Marion Boehm.

Marion Boehm settled in South Africa in 2010. Her practice has particular focus on the women living in Kliptown, a suburb of a former township in Soweto, Johannesburg. Upcycling discarded newspapers and sheshwe cloth, materials that speak to township lives, she crafts large-scale textiles pieces.

Stacey interviewing South African born artist Siwa Mgoboza.

Siwa Mgoboza is a leading interdisciplinary artist of his generation. His photographs and mixed media pieces examine contending cultural and political forces within globalized subjects and the societies in which they find themselves by making use of isiShweshe, a South African cloth with a history of appropriation and cultural exchange.

Stacey with artist Yinka Shonibare CBE.

Although the focus of her research is on women, it is crucial that Stacey situates her study in the context of the wider art world. Artists such as Mr Shonibare, who have achieved such phenomenal global success, are a key part of the art world which Stacey is studying.

RIFA 2018- Inspiration Award (Public Category)

This week we’re taking a look at the five films shortlisted for the Inspiration Award – the only category open to members of the public whose films have been inspired by the arts and humanities.

The Parthian Empire at its Greatest Extent (c. 96 BC)

In the early 1st century BC, Parthia’s territory expanded to the River Euphrates. Parthian and Roman envoys met to establish this landmark as the boundary between the two superpowers. At this first meeting, the Roman magistrate reportedly seized the seat of honour, humiliating his Parthian counterpart as the inferior ambassador. In 53 BC, Parthia finally demonstrated its strength by crushing the Roman army at Carrhae. 30,000 soldiers were killed or captured, and several legionary standards were lost to the Parthians.

Alexandra Magub - School of Oriental and African Studies and The British Museum

The Parthian Shot: silver tetradrachm of an unknown king (c. 80-70 BC).

The archer on Parthian coins not only represented the military might of the Parthians, but also their Iranian character. Trousers were considered effeminate clothing in the Roman world; however the folds of material (shown on the coins as horizontal lines) prevented saddle chaffing. These mounted archers were a chilling reminder of Rome’s defeat at Carrhae: the Roman historian Justin recounts how the cavalrymen would gallop in retreat, only to turn in the saddle and fire fatal shots from their bows. 

© Trustees of the British Museum

Silver denarius of Augustus (63 BC–14 AD).

In 20 BC, Augustus, Emperor of Rome, and Phraates IV, King of Parthia, negotiated the return of Rome’s captured standards. While both sides benefited from this treaty, Augustus was quick to portray the event as a personal victory.  On this coin, a Parthian wearing the characteristic trouser suit returns a standard from his knees. Recounting these events, Augustus published the claim throughout his empire, “I forced the Parthians… as supplicants to accept the friendship of the Roman people“(Res Gestae, 29). 

© Trustees of the British Museum

Silver drachm of Phraates IV (c. 37-2 BC).

Parthian kings placed greater emphasis on displaying their God-given splendour (Old Persian, khvarnah) rather than circulating propaganda against their enemies. The khvarnah was an important aspect of the Iranian Zoroastrian religion in ancient times, illuminating the king in celestial splendour and granting him invulnerability in battle. In the Zoroastrian hymns, the Veragna bird delivers the khvarnah and this idea can be seen on Phraates IV’s coinage. A star and crescent moon illuminate him as the holder of this divine splendour.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Golden necklace, said to be discovered at Deylaman in north-west Iran.

This necklace brings to life the magnificent jewellery depicted on Parthian coinage. Made of gold and inlaid with gems, it shows two birds clasping kingship rings in their beaks. They evoke the idea of the Zoroastrian Veragna bird, showing that the khvarnah is firmly held by the wearer. Compared to more austere Roman coin portraits, Parthian kings were depicted with lavish earrings, torques, and richly beaded headdresses. These items also symbolise the exotic wealth held within the King’s vast Empire. 

© Trustees of the British Museum

Gold aureus of Quintus Labienus Parthicus (died 39 BC).

In 40 BC, this Roman general joined forces with Parthia to fight against a shared enemy: Julius Caesar’s successors. Labienus’ portrait is accompanied by a saddled Parthian horse armed with a bow case- an evocative image for Romans and Parthians alike. Roman accounts claim the Parthians used gold exclusively to adorn their war horses and weapons. Similarly, the Zoroastrian victory deity, Verethragna, is said to have incarnated as a horse with golden adornments, and as a warrior with golden weapons.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Silver drachm of Phraataces ("Little Phraates") and Musa (c. 2 BC-4 AD).

At the peace negotiations of 20 BC, Phraates IV received the concubine Musa as a gift from Rome. He was eventually murdered by Musa and their son, Phraataces. The mother-son conspirators reportedly married and ruled Parthia jointly, as shown on this coin. Horrified Roman sources assert that the pair was killed because of this marriage; however, this was not unusual amongst Parthian Zoroastrians. More likely, Musa and Phraataces were perceived to have lost the khvarnah following territorial losses to Rome.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Silver coin of the Armenian king Tigranes (II) the Great (c. 140-55 BC)

Tigranes II was a Parthian hostage until he bought his freedom and took the Armenian throne. Although Armenia was nestled between Roman and Parthian territories, he resisted their encroachments. Tigranes abandoned the Parthian-style domed tiara of his predecessor for a pointed Armenian tiara illustrating the khvarnah with Veragna birds and a star. The Greek city goddess Tyche is shown on the reverse with a river god at her feet. Despite their Greek appearance, they represent the captured city of Antioch-on-the-Orontes.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Silver tetradrachm of Phraates III (c. 70-57 BC).

In a rare alliance, Rome and Parthia agreed to overthrow the Armenian Tigranes II. Phraates III, wearing an impressive Parthian tiara decorated with beads, stags and a horn, wanted to place an ally on the Armenian throne. The coin’s reverse shows the enthroned king holding a Veragna bird while Tyche (representing the Parthian city Seleucia-on-the-Tigris) crowns him. In the coin’s inscription Phraates III arrogantly claims to be ‘divine’. He was eventually murdered by his sons for the disastrous Roman alliance.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Postcard of the royal tombs at Nimrud Dagh in Commagene (modern south-central Turkey).

Like Armenia, the kingdom of Commagene bordered both Roman and Parthian territories. In 62 BC, Antiochus I Theos (‘the Divine’) commissioned his royal tomb at Nimrud Dagh. His colossal statue stood alongside figures of lions, Veragna birds, claimed ancestors from both ancient Persian kings and from Alexander the Great, as well as gods fused together from Armenian, Iranian and Greek pantheons. This unique theology placed the king amongst gods of all nations, and sent a strong message to neighbouring superpowers.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Basalt stela of Antiochus I Theos greeting Verethragna-Herakles-Ares from Nimrud Dagh (1st century BC)

Antiochus I is shown as an eastern king wearing an adapted Armenian tiara with a lion decoration. He shakes hands with the divine Verethragna-Herakles-Ares (shown nude in the Greek fashion) who represents Victory and Strength in Zoroastrian, Greek and Roman traditions. Like the balance of cultures in this religious relief, Commagene was cautious in choosing its political alliances. Although Commagene cooperated with Rome, the statesman Cicero was wary of Antiochus’ loyalty: “…the least trust should be given to that king.”

© Trustees of the British Museum

Silver drachm of Hormizd II (303-309 AD).

This Sasanian king’s crown is adorned with a bird holding an incandescent pearl in its beak, echoing earlier images of the Veragna bird delivering the khvarnah. The coin’s reverse shows a central fire holder with the king emerging from the sacred flames. Fire was considered to be the son of Ahura Mazda and was a sacred symbol of the Zoroastrian religion. During the Parthian and Sasanian periods, a regnal fire was lit when a new king ascended the throne.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Marble statue of Mithras slaying the bull, found in Rome (2nd century AD)

In the 1st-4th centuries AD, the Mithraic Mysteries seeped into Roman culture from the East. This secretive religion was inspired by the Zoroastrian Mithra, divinity of Contract and Oath. This statue displays Roman Mithras in a Parthian-like costume powerfully pinning down a bull for ritual slaughter. It is thought that Mithras appealed to the martial identity of Roman soldiers serving in the East. A Zoroastrian hymn describes an armed Mithra victoriously smashing the skulls of the Daevas or evil spirits.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Painted manuscript showing the hero Rostam piercing an enemy, made in Shiraz in southern Iran (1435-1440 AD).

This illustration shows a scene from the Shahnameh, an epic work that recounts Iran’s historical and mythological past. Elements from Roman, Greek and Zoroastrian sources are echoed in the depicted central hero, Rostam. A feline skin covers Rostam’s helmet and jacket, mirroring the Greek hero Herakles’ famed lion pelt. As seen in Commagene, Herakles was associated with Verethragna, the Zoroastrian divinity of Victory who appeared as a gold-adorned horse and warrior. Golden details also decorate Rostam’s illustrated weapons and armour.

© Trustees of the British Museum

(c) Katarina Kelsey, no title, translation of Auriol's image, 18-25 March 2015:

“I was given some contextual background to Auriol’s translation of Sam’s piece that I initially thought I would base my translation on. However I felt unable to translate her narrative and realised I would only be interpreting it. Ultimately I turned to a material translation to translate some of the key themes of her work. Taking inspiration from translations such as Hölderlin's Antigone and Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, I hope my material translation can convey Auriol’s piece to you.” 
http://katarinakelseybookarts.tumblr.com/

(c) Matt Rowe, no title, translation of Briony's image, 6-13 May 2015:

“My translation into a three-dimensional ceramic object continues the core narrative of the resampling of the environment and the suggested ownership of a natural object. I constructed a chalice-like ceramic vessel and fired it using combustive fuel harvested from the seashore, which leaves a carbon imprint on the body of the ceramic. Within the temple-like structure of the kiln I attempted a reprocessing of materials abundant within the seascape of my hometown Folkestone.” http://mattroweportfolio.co.uk 

Drawing of Ardashir I's investiture relief at Naqsh-e Rostam in southern Iran (224-242 AD), from R. Ker Porter (1821) Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia... 1817-1820 vol. I, pl.23; Longman & Co., London

The rise of the Sasanians in southern Iran brought the Parthian Empire to an end in 224 AD. On this rock relief, the royal crown is passed from the supreme Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda (right) to the new king Ardashir I (left). While the God’s horse treads on Ahriman (the embodiment of Evil), Ardashir’s tramples his defeated Parthian opponent. The horses touch poignantly. The relief establishes which king has been granted the khvarnah and is favoured by the divine world.

The Melancholy Cataleptic

Albert Londe, Clinique des Maladies du Système Nerveux, 1889. This photograph is of a cataleptic patient in the midst of a seizure. Her rigid limbs have most likely been posed in this position by the photographer or an attendant. She looks like a dancer without a partner. The capturing of these images was common in European hospitals in the later nineteenth century and they signify a relationship between doctor and patient of domination and passivity, where the patient is reduced to their medical condition. © Wellcome Library, London. Creative Commons CC-BY.

Peculiarities of Safety

Alexander Morison, The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases, 1838. The epileptic patient above, staring out at the artist, suffered from mania with epilepsy and is pictured in a straightjacket and an oddly thick headband. This item of medical clothing was designed to mitigate head injuries in patients suffering from seizures. The image captures the ambiguities inherent in the relationship between medical technology and humanity. A poignant illustration like this one highlights the very slender but significant differences between intention and experience. © Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF).

Ethics of Research

A. Cartaz, “Du somnambulisme et du magnétisme à propos du cours du Dr Charcot à la Salpêtrière”, 1879. Research with patients was shot through with problems of power, care and responsibility. Here, the leading French neurologist Charcot examines the relation between seizures and sound (perhaps with the same patient photographed in Image 1). The illustration speaks to the particular gender politics of male physician and female patient and to emerging cultures of bodily display, the latest incarnations of which can be found in the ‘body spectacle’ genre of medical television. © Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF).

My Name is Angeline

M. Lannois, “Dermographisme chez des épileptiques atteints d’helminthiase intestinale”, 1901. Look carefully: the woman pictured has her name scratched into her chest and back. The writing was probably done by her physician. Angeline Donadieu was an epileptic patient at the turn of the twentieth century. She is exemplifying a particular condition known as dermographism – skin that retains the imprint of marks traced onto it. Yet the image speaks most powerfully of the relation between medical and personal identity. © Wellcome Library, London. Creative Commons CC-BY.

Seizures in Performance

D. Younger, The Magnetic and Botanic Family Physician, 1887. Employing cataleptics or epileptics to perform particular medical roles shaded into wider performance in the later nineteenth century. Although this image shows a purportedly “scientific” experiment using mesmerism on a cataleptic subject it appears far more like the stage show of a magician. Regarding seizures as material for popular performance shifted them from the realm of medicine into the public sphere and made them subject to industries of entertainment. © Wellcome Library, London. Creative Commons CC-BY.

Ceramic Ware Market

Ceramic vessels and hand-painted ornaments are produced in two villages close to Mapusa. Cheap handmade clay ornaments, clay piggy banks (or elephants, chickens and other creatures) and festive items are popular. The unfired clay drinking cups once ubiquitous on India’s railways have now been replaced by plastic – though there is a move to reinstate them. During festivals the ceramic stalls stock thousands of brightly painted bowls which are filled with oil for burning at devotional shrines.

Chilli Stall

5pm. Spice stall. Chillis are a basic ingredient in Goan cuisine: traditionally, masala spices are ground and mixed daily. Although renowned for its spice stalls, most spices in the market are imported from neighbouring Karnataka. Agriculture is in decline in Goa with land left untended or sold for development. Today, work in the Gulf is more lucrative than farming and Shankar, who begins work when he finishes school, does not see working on his family stall as a life-long career.

Cleaning Troop

7.00am. Municipal market cleaners arrive for work. In Corporation saris, Mapusa’s cleaners present a more positive picture of ‘sweepers’ than in much of India. Traditionally regarded as low-esteem employment, refuse collection remains a largely un-automated industry that struggles to deal with the volume of refuse produced. The job is hindered further by the numerous cows roaming the market ‘processing’ waste. More positively, since the Goa-wide ban on plastic bags in 2013 the blight of discarded plastic is gradually improving.

Drum Seller

12. Drum Seller. During the Ganesh Chaturthi drum sellers appear in the market. The drums are beaten by children as plaster or plastic idols of the god Ganesha are taken to a water body and immersed. A practice that is increasingly causing alarm as the paints used to colour the idols are often toxic and are polluting the waterways.

Fish Market

Fish is a traditional staple of Goan cuisine and the basic ingredient for the classic Goan dish, fish curry and rice. Fishermen work at night in small trawlers or – inshore - unpowered canoes. The catch is landed at Siolim, a few miles from Mapusa market. Traditionally, it is the fishermen’s wives who sell the catch. The old fish market, pictured here, had no electric light and at night was romantically lit up by thousands of candles, illuminating the fish in their bamboo baskets.

Friday Market Day Vendor

8.00am A day vendor arrives with her basket of snake gourds. Every Friday thousands of villagers bring their produce to market. Most are not farmers but bring small quantities of produce grown in their gardens. The research traced their routes into the market. Whilst many are local, others arrive from further afield in the state and even from neighbouring Karnataka or Maharashtra. Goa is a wealthy state with many families receiving money from relatives working in the Gulf and Mapusa Market is a prosperous one and prices are relatively high.

Ganesh Chaturthi

7pm. The Ganesh Chaturthi – the Chovorth is a hugely popular celebration of the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the elephant headed god. In Maharashtra, Chaturthi was reinvigorated at the end of the 19th century by Tilak who recognised Ganesha’s appeal as the ‘God for Everybody’ and popularised the festival to galvanise nationalistic fervour against British colonial rule. In Catholic Goa where Hindus were persecuted under the Inquisition, Ganesh Chaturthi is as popular as elsewhere in South India and often coincides with Christian festivals.

Goan chouriço sellers

Noon. Goan chouriço. Goan culture remains strongly influenced by its heritage of nearly 450 years of Portuguese Catholic rule, Goa is unusual in India in that pork is still widely – and openly – consumed. Goan chouriço is distinctive for combining pork with vinegar, chilli and spices to produce a hot and spicy sausage. Goa is also noted for its bread rolls, pão, which are baked daily and delivered to a bakery section of the market close to the chouriço vendors.