Wednesday, 23 January 2008

When Thundercats Ruled the Earth

Now, this here article is a peculiar mix of archaeology (actual and animation-related) and geekiness, far away from the semi-political rant of the previous story. Let us first take a look at some facts, shall we?

Around 3000 B.C., a Sumerian artist of the Mesopotamian Era took to cutting away small pieces from a chunk of limestone, then chiseling it with much artistry and care, until the soft stone revealed clenched fists, taut muscles of the forearms, biceps and shoulders, as well as a female leonine head, all hidden within the rough stone and the man’s imagination. The lioness’s semi-humanized face is tight with concentration and annoyance, etching a timeless scowl on her features.

Guennol Lioness - Full View

In 1948, Alistair Bradley Martin purchased the little idol (measuring around 8,3 cm in height) or more appropriately, talisman – for it was fashioned so as to be worn around the neck as a pendant – from an archaeological dig near Baghdad, proceeding to loan it to the New York Brooklyn Museum of Art.

A, heretofore unknown buyer at Sotheby’s Auction House bought, on December 5th, 2007, the statuette for the surreal amount of 57,2 million dollars (which, if you consider the dollar’s plummet by relation to the euro or the British quid, could not have been such a bad deal). It is the largest amount ever paid for a single article of sculpture or ancient artefact at an auction house, beating even the 28,6-million-dolar 2000-year-old bronze “Artemis and the Stag”. It is unknown whether the statuette will be exposed to the public again, or will simply vanish for an unknown amount of time from the eyes of modern man, as it remained for nearly 5000 years.

Archaeologists have two predominant notions as to what purpose the statuette served. The older of the two is that represented by the late Sir Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan (Agatha Christie’s second husband, among other things!) in his book “Early Mesopotamia and Iran” (Thames & Hudson, 1965); according to this view, it was an attempt, by a people much more exposed to the perils of natural environment than any other “archaeologically surviving culture”, to represent nature’s hostility towards man, to capture it in a material form that could be looked in the face and thus, overcome. The more modern view is fairly straightforward: it was a talisman for some ruler, to the end of granting him strength akin to that of lioness protecting her young (much more fierce than a male lion).

Guennol Lioness - Detail

Now, I love archaeology and appreciate this artefact for what it is, the memory of a civilization long since turned to dust, who is able, through the vortex of time to still inspire the modern man, comfortable in his relative safety (at least from animals). However, when my eye fell on the article from the Greek paper “ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΟΤΥΠΙΑ” (December 9th, 2007), even though its archaeological nature was evident I couldn’t help thinking: “Gee, the guy who did the designs on the Thundercats’ Panthro, really was onto something!” Reasonably enough, you will wonder: “what the hell does anyone care?” Well, I for one miss these old, fairly naïve cartoons and their epic feel, Panthro was my favorite character and well, it creates an odd, fuzzy feeling to think that one of my childhood heroes was (well, in way – it’s not a s if they called the thing a Thundercat or anything, though I don’t speak Sumerian; anyone?) venerated by an ancient culture I hold in very high respect, not the least of reasons being their invention of the wheel and beer.

Panthro Character Designs (more
Thundercats designs can be found here)

Just an afterthought, for all you struggling novelists and storytellers like myself: maybe the Thundercats DID come to “this little blue planet, Third Earth” millennia ago, built their Cat’s Lairs and left their ruins for us to find and inspire our cartoons, unleashing our imagination.

Keep dreaming,



RosenRed said...

So... Panthro was inspired by a Lioness?


Speedgrapher said...

Well, female lion head, male body on the statuette (and male panthers' heads have the same shape smartass :p)