Many conspiracy theorists have the tendency to associate historical objects with what is perceived as modern-day technology – purely by their comparative visual forms. One of the famous examples would of course pertain to the Mayan sarcophagus lid of Pakal that ‘sort of’ looked like an ancient astronaut surrounded by a bevy of contraptions (thus hinting at the inside of a rocket). But in reality, the lid actually portrays a symbolic scene where the person is making his descent into the underworld at the time of his death. Well this time around, the image that is making the rounds in the internet is related to an apparent ‘laptop’ depicted on an ancient Greek grave relief, dating from around 100 BC. Currently displayed at the J. Paul Getty Museum in California, the 37-inch tall marble carving is titled as the Grave Naiskos of an Enthroned Woman with an Attendant.
The depiction in itself pertains to a woman seated on an intricate throne, and she is accompanied by a little girl holding an interesting opened object. Now we call it ‘interesting’ because it is this very artifact that has been touted as a ‘laptop’ by many conspiracy theorists from around the world. And while the visual semblance is uncanny, as usual there is more to this historical scope than what meets the eye. For example, like we mentioned before, a servant holding out an object to his/her master is a familiar trope in Greek funerary art. It probably alludes to a metaphorical ambit where the deceased still longs for materialistic pleasures.
The marble carving in question here showcases a wealthy woman (the deceased) – as can be judged from her intricate snake-shaped bracelets worn along the arm, and the ostentatious throne with lion-paw supports and eagle armrests. The little girl on the other hand is probably a slave, as can be deduced from her hairstyle. And finally coming to the ‘laptop’, the artifact is clearly a flat box or a mirror (or even a wax tablet with a stylus). In fact, the posture of the deceased reaching out for an ‘earthly’ object, is not rare, but rather found in many monuments from Delos (also the origin-place of this marble carving).
Furthermore beyond just visual semblance, there is practicality to consider. To that end, there is no single reference to electricity in ancient Greek sources (except for the jolts acquired from electric fishes), thus making the scenario of having a functional, electric-powered laptop entirely moot. So what exactly are the ‘sockets’ doing on a flat-box? Well the answer treads two possibilities. The first (and the likeliest) one is that this carving originally held some kind of a perishable substance or object, like wood. In that regard, some ancient marble sculptures are also found with holes intentionally poked into them for housing decomposable stuff. Lastly, the second factor points to the fact that how this grave relief was actually a three-sided component; and thus these holes might have been related to the missing pieces, like the wall on the left side.
The entire article was originally published in our sister site Realm of History.