Friday Five: Old School

These Egyptian figurines are some of the many items from the ancient world on display at the Vatican Museums. I photographed them there in 2012.

I don’t officially participate in Friday Five, a blog prompt that provides a list each week of five questions on one theme. But every now and then I hear about the questions and find them interesting. This is one of those times! These questions were the prompt for a few weeks ago. The topic: Things That Are Old.

1) What is the oldest thing you own? I have a coin from the 1860s, which we found behind the molding in our former home. I guess that’s the oldest manufactured thing. But I suppose the very oldest is quite a bit older: some Petoskey stones, which are fossilized coral from the Devonian period, which makes them roughly 400 million years old. Old enough?

2) What is the oldest home you’ve lived in? That one’s easy. My last year of college I lived on The Lawn, the oldest, most historic student residence at the University of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson — who founded the University about 10 years after he left the White House — designed the Lawn rooms himself. They date to 1819 and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And what an honor it was to live in such a beautiful and important place!

3) What is the oldest book you’ve read? I’ll assume this refers to when the book was written, not when the particular edition was published. The oldest I can think of that I have read would be Gilgamesh, which dates from 2100 BC.

4) What is the oldest electronic device that you still use? We have quite a few gadgets around that are considered old for electronic gizmos, but I couldn’t tell you just how old they are. (We also have some that are considerably older, but I can’t claim to actually use those still.) Probably a CD or DVD player from the 1990s. I also do have some electric things, like lamps, that are antiques, but I’ll assume we’re talking higher-tech.

5) What is the oldest work of art/architecture that you’ve seen? I’m not even going to try to pick just one here. I have seen various artifacts from Egypt and other parts of the ancient world, including at museums here in Washington, D.C., and New York, Rome, and London. The photo above shows a small part of the Ancient Egyptian collection at the Vatican Museums. I’m not going to do the research to determine what was the oldest single item I’ve seen there or at any museum or historic site; those little figurines will have to stand in for all the ancient items. Don’t they look a bit like an array of foil-wrapped chocolate Santas?

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