Sunday, August 23, 2009

Terra cotta mask at Noviomagus

This Saturday, I visited museum Het Valkhof, at Oppidum Batavorum or Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum. The museum has an excellent collection on display, of which you can find some pictures here.

Until now there are no traces of a theater at Noviomagus, although several finds relates to theatrical performances. Like the image at the oillamp, shown above. A beautiful find is a terra cotta mask, which has been found in Noviamagus, shown below. Specific personal features were painted and, while wearing it, you could breathe, see and speak. It was also possible to wear a wig. In Noviomagus six terra cotta masks have been discovered. The mask which is shown here, is probably presenting 'Manducus'. One of the characters of the popular Fabulae Atellanae, stand-up comedies, which were performed far into the 2nd century.

The masks which have been found in Noviomagus (Kops Plateau) are made in Cologne (Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensum [CCAA]) and Trier (Augusta Treverorum). Most of the masks in the Netherlands and Germany, were found in a military setting. It is suggested that they belonged to lixae, citizens travelling with soldiers or living in the direct proximity of military settlements. Probably, they performed on improvised stages. While various masks, like those in Trier, are found in consecrated houses or environments, it is also suggested that they were worn during cultustheater. Those in Lyon, were part of the roof gutter, and supposed to deter bad ghosts while moving in the wind.
Martialis wrote the epigram 'persona Germana', as a joke of the ceramist. 'Sum figuli lusus russi persona Batavi / Quae tu derides, haec timet ora puer', or: 'Ik ben een grapje van een pottenbakker, een masker van een roodharige Bataaf. Het gezicht waar jij om lacht, daar is een kind bang voor'.

Near the military basement an amphitheater has been discovered. The oval arena was digged out and measured 58 by 46 meter. The Valkhof Museum possesses a great collection of Roman military masks and helmets. Some unique pieces can be seen here!

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