Tristan und Isolde: 11, 000 Years Old And Counting

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 31 May 2021 | 3:23:00 pm

The Ain Sakhri Lovers

It takes little for us to shoehorn another story to become one involving Wagner's work. It's also not that difficult, given how much Wagner used mythic archetypes in his work. But as we emerge from lockdown, hopefully, (as to is this site) and places we love reopen, we are taken again to, one of many, a fascinating artefact found in the British Museum. 

Tarot card archetype, "The Lovers"

More than 11,000 years before Wagner, or indeed perhaps anyone else, externalised the archetype of the lovers - so prominent in Tristan und Isolde and used therein so effectively - someone found a large pebble in the waters of a river in Wadi Khareitoun, Judea, near Bethlehem. Within its shape that early artist must have seen something that reverberated with him or her, just as Wagner must have done as he read the old grail romance of Tristan und Isolde as told in Gottfried von Strassburg's poem. Unlike Wagner, we know nothing of this person, except that they worked on the pebble, using a stone chisel or antler bone, till it became, what we now know as The Ain Sakhri lovers - the oldest known sculpture of a couple making love. 

The Ain Sakhri lovers


This fascinating artefact is easy to miss among so much at the museum, but we really hope, the next time you are there if you get the chance, you take the time to track it down and spend some time with it. Apart from anything else, it is impossible for us to not associate it with act 2 of Tristan.