In each historic and trendy interpretations, Medusa is usually often known as a monster — a Gorgon with tresses of serpents whose stare turned males to stone. This model sometimes seems in kids’s motion pictures and fantasy thrillers, however her picture hasn’t at all times been so awe-inspiring. In late June, archaeologists in Western Spain uncovered an Historic Roman mosaic ground that depicts Medusa with tiny wings and flowing locks of hair, thought to have been used as a protecting image.
The mosaic was discovered within the metropolis of Mérida’s Huerta de Otero archaeological web site. Historic Romans established a colony there in 25 BCE named Augusta Emerita. Traces of its former inhabitants — together with an amphitheater and a bridge — might be discovered all through the modern-day metropolis. “[The site] is of an distinctive nature as a result of degree of conservation of the ruins and, above all, the decorative components that enhance the well-preserved home: not solely the mosaic of the Medusa but additionally work and sculptural motifs,” stated archaeologist Félix Palma in an announcement.
The Huerta de Otero location was excavated in 1976 however lay untouched for many years. Analysis picked again up in 2019, when the town employed skilled archaeologists and college students from its Barraeca II Skilled College to discover the ruins. Since then, the staff has uncovered an Historic Roman defensive wall, a highway, and the house of a rich household.
The Medusa mosaic adorned the ground of this residence. Depictions of fish, peacocks, and punctiliously tessellated patterns encompass the paintings’s central determine: a human-like Medusa, her gaze turned to 1 facet.
Though this picture diverges from some up to date renditions of the mythological determine, the mosaic’s winged model was common in Historic portrayals of Medusa. Whereas early Greek depictions of the mortal-turned-monster, cruelly punished for being raped by the god Poseidon, present her as grotesque, Medusa’s picture softened by the point of the Historic Romans. Starting within the Classical Greek interval, her face acquired extra human attributes. It began to be rendered with symmetry and youthful magnificence within the following centuries.
Different Historic Roman mosaics that includes the top of Medusa have been found all through Spain. Medusa once more includes the focus of an Historic Roman mosaic in a 115–150 CE work present in Rome, the place she might be seen sporting human curls and a snake round her neck. A 1st-to-2nd-century ornament from a chariot pole exhibits a younger lady with curly locks (though a few snakes nonetheless peer by her tangle of hair).
In Historic Greek mythology, Perseus killed Medusa to keep away from being turned to stone. Medusa, in her early terrifying kind, was used as a protecting image — “a picture of evil to repel evil,” Madeleine Glennon writes in a 2017 essay for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The goddess Athena famously included a illustration of Medusa’s severed head on her protective cloak or aegis. In Historic Rome, her beautified picture was nonetheless employed as a protective image, though the depiction shifted right into a kind extra just like a girl than a monster.