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Origins of Sirens


On October 25th, 2022, I gave a lecture at Metropolitan State University on the Origins of Sirens. In the presentation, I trace how hybrid creatures in art arise in Mesopotamia, and how the creatures evolve in forms and meanings across the Mediterranean within a period of nearly 4000 years. At the end, I discuss the 19th-21st century depictions of mermaids, with an analysis of the current controversy caused by racist assertions that mermaid depictions in movies cannot be of any race except Caucasian.


I am placing the link to the lecture here, for your enjoyment. There is a transcript of the talk, in case you don't want to hear my voice for an hour (It was ragged due to a respiratory infection which has had me coughing for 9 weeks.). I'm including below many of the images I discussed. You can find ones of particular interest to you by scanning the course of the lecture for the image to pop up--they're in the same order as the lecture. I hope you enjoy it!



Here is the link to the lecture video: Origins of Sirens.




Capital, Plaimpied-Givaudin, 12th century



Capital, Musee Augustins, Toulouse, 12th century



Capital, Brioude, 12th century



Scylla, 5th c. BCE, Apuglia, Italy, Matera Archeological Museum (personification of the Straits of Messina)



Mosaic, Triton, 2nd c. CE, Seville Archeological Museum


Mosaic floor, Basilica of San Colombano, Bobbio, 12th century



Wood-carving, Troyes, approx. 16th century




Queen of Night, Southern Iraq, 19th-18thc BCE, British Museum




Bas-relief, Palace of Sargon II, Louvre, 8th c. BCE



Bas-relief, Adapa, servant of Enki/Ea, 7th c. BCE, Ninevah, Penn Museum



Expedition to Lebanon, bas-relief, 8th. c. BCE, Palace of Sargon II, Louvre



Apkallu, bas-relief, 8th.c. BCE, Assyria, Louvre


Tetramorph, 14th century, Parma Baptistry.



The Harpy Tomb, British Museum, 5th c. BCE, Xanthos



Sphynx, 6th c. BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art


Vanth, cinerary urn, Volterra Etruscan Museum, 2nd century BCE



Vanth, or Medusa, 3rd c. BCE, Florence Archeological Museum


Olpe vase, 6th c. BCE, Greece, British Museum



Mosaic floor, 2nd c. CE, Roman, Getty Museum




Cerberus, 6th c. BCE, Italy, Louvre Museum



The Hope Hygeia, 2nd c. AD, Roman, Getty Museum



Harpy, 13th century, Souillac



Harpies, 12th c., Southern France, Louvre Museum



Siren, Sanguesa Iglesia San Maria la Real, 13th century


Mosaic floor, Otranto cathedral, 12th century



Entry at Moissac Abbey, 12th century



Abbey of Vezelay, 12th century




Autun Eve, 12th c., copy in Architectural Patrimony Museum, Paris



Salome, 12th century, Claustro San Pedro el Viejo, Huesca



Sens Cathedral, 12th century



Toledo Cathedral, misericord, 15th century



St. Pierre Cathedral, Poitiers, 13th century



Perrecy-les-Forges, 12th century,



Santa Maria di Uncastillo, 12th century.
















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