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Arte-Factual

Arte-Factual: Lara’s Hieroglyphics Worksheet

The recently-released Blood Ties DLC gave Tomb Raider fans a glimpse into Lara Croft’s childhood and her family history. Not only did we get to learn a little more about her enigmatic parents, we also got to find out what the younger Croft used to do in her spare time. One of the collectible documents found within Croft Manor is Lara’s old hieroglyphics worksheet, which proved useful for deciphering one of the manor’s safe combination codes. As a child, Lara apparently ... [Continue Reading]

October 23, 2016 // 2 Comments

Arte-Factual: Mongolian Tug (Rise of the Tomb Raider)

Spoiler warning: This article does not contain any plot or location spoilers for Rise of the Tomb Raider. However, I leave it entirely up to the reader to decide whether they wish to continue scrolling down or not… In her quest to find Kitezh in the frozen hinterlands of Siberia, Lara Croft stumbles upon the remains of the ancient armies and intrepid explorers who have tried (and failed) to conquer this once-glorious and remote city. One of the artefacts Lara discovers throughout the ... [Continue Reading]

February 7, 2016 // 2 Comments

Arte-Factual: Golden Trident (Relic Run)

In the mobile adventure Lara Croft: Relic Run, gamers have the chance to collect a number of South-East Asian artefacts in the game’s Jungle Temple level. One of these is the Golden Trident, a religious symbol commonly associated with the Hindu god Shiva. The Golden Trident is better known by its Sanskrit name trishula, which means “three spears” or “three blades”, and can often be seen wielded by the Hindu god Shiva and his consort Durga, who manifests herself ... [Continue Reading]

August 26, 2015 // 2 Comments

Arte-Factual: Gilded Chinthe (Relic Run)

With Rise of the Tomb Raider still months away from release, the endless-runner mobile game Lara Croft: Relic Run has provided Tomb Raider fans with their much-needed fix of Crofty goodness. Relic Run has not only provided me with hours of entertaining gameplay and amusing ragdoll deaths; it’s also offered me a whole new selection of artefacts to feature on this blog. So let’s kick things off by looking at one of the 20 relics from the game’s Jungle Temple level, the ... [Continue Reading]

June 10, 2015 // 5 Comments

Arte-Factual: Griffin-Head Protome (Tomb Raider: Anniversary)

One of the two relics Lara discovers amongst the ruins of Midas’ Palace in Tomb Raider: Anniversary is the griffin-head protome, a bronze decorative piece that she correctly surmises was once fitted onto an Ancient Greek cauldron or drinking vessel. What Lara’s declaration doesn’t tell us, however, is where such an artefact would have been produced or what the use of a griffin motif tells us about Ancient Greece’s cultural links with its neighbours across the ... [Continue Reading]

April 21, 2015 // 10 Comments

Arte-Factual: Apsaras, the Celestial Dancers of Hindu Myth (Tomb Raider 3)

It recently came to my attention that, despite having launched this blog almost two years ago, I still hadn’t written any articles on the Core Design classic Tomb Raider 3. So it’s time to set that right. Introducing new vehicles and a less linear globe-trotting adventure, Tomb Raider 3 also featured some stunning artwork from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, such as the dancers motif seen in the screenshot below and throughout the game’s India levels. The ... [Continue Reading]

October 15, 2014 // 3 Comments

Arte-Factual: Aztec Maize Goddess (Tomb Raider 1)

When I first played Tomb Raider 1 back in 1996, I never realized how many real-life Pre-Columbian (and other) artefacts could be spotted throughout the game’s Peru levels. Some of them, such as the Chimú bird carving, were already familiar to me as I had done some research on Peruvian art and archaeology for a GCSE Art project. But it wasn’t until I started working on this site and replaying this 1996 classic that I began to notice that the game’s graphics artists had also, ... [Continue Reading]

July 11, 2014 // 0 Comments

Arte-Factual: Ancient Greek Wrestlers (Tomb Raider 1)

If you’ve been following my antics on Twitter, you’ll probably know that I’ve recently been revisiting the Greece levels of Tomb Raider 1, sniffing out material for a  new edition of Arte-Factual. It had been years since I last played the 1996 classic so I’d almost forgotten how much real-life art makes an appearance throughout the game. One of the artworks that caught my eye while exploring the Colosseum level earlier this week was this depiction of Ancient Greek ... [Continue Reading]

May 12, 2014 // 3 Comments

Arte-Factual: 100 Mon Coin (Tomb Raider 2013)

It’s been a while since I last wrote about one of Tomb Raider 2013’s collectible relics and since it’s been a year since the game was released, what better time than to examine one of the ancient coins Lara finds inside the Cliffside Bunker on Yamatai? The 100 mon coin, also referred to as a “Tempō Tsūhō” (天保通寶), is one of the two Japanese coins Lara finds inside the cliffside bunker (the other being the “2 sen coin“) and, as Lara quite ... [Continue Reading]

March 13, 2014 // 4 Comments

Arte-Factual: The Dendera Zodiac (The Last Revelation)

It seems that everyone is going crazy for Katy Perry’s latest music video, Dark Horse, which presents a very colourful, if somewhat inaccurate, view of Ancient Egypt. So I thought I’d jump on the latest “Egyptomania” bandwagon and look at a famous sculpture that can be seen in the Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation level, Cleopatra’s Palaces. Perhaps you may recall seeing a large blue disc painted on (or carved out of) the ceiling of one of the rooms in the palace ... [Continue Reading]

February 26, 2014 // 8 Comments

Arte-Factual: The Mouth of Truth (Tomb Raider Chronicles)

Tomb Raider Chronicles was possibly my least favourite game of the Tomb Raider series. Sure, it had fewer glitches and better controls than its ill-received successor Angel of Darkness but it offered nothing new in terms of gameplay aside from a couple of new moves and its short, episodic nature made it feel more like an expansion pack than a standalone game. Having said that, Chronicles did have one major redeeming factor: the fact that three of its levels were set in Rome. Rome is one of my ... [Continue Reading]

January 12, 2014 // 1 Comment

Arte-Factual: Buddhist Symbols of Barkhang Monastery (Part 2)

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for another edition of Arte-Factual! And this time around, we’ll be making the trek back to Barkhang Monastery to look at some of the other Buddhist symbols that can be found throughout the fictional monastery. The Wheel, or “Dharmachakra”: The Buddhist wheel, or dharmachakra, is one of the oldest and most recognizable motifs in Buddhist art and was once used to represent the Buddha himself (human depictions of the Buddha only started ... [Continue Reading]

November 24, 2013 // 2 Comments

Arte-Factual: Minoan Dolphin Fresco (Tomb Raider 1)

Time for another blast from the past as we return once again to the original 1996 Tomb Raider for this edition of Arte-Factual! If you’ve ever played the original game, you may have noticed that the game developers drew inspiration from real-life artworks and artefacts, such as the Toltec pillars at Tula in Mexico, the Gayer-Anderson cat statue, and the Chimú bird motifs that adorn the adobe walls of buildings at Chan Chan in Peru. This time around, we’ll be looking at the walls ... [Continue Reading]

October 7, 2013 // 12 Comments

Arte-Factual: Buddhist Symbols of Barkhang Monastery (Part 1)

Those of you who have known me for a while will probably know that Tomb Raider 2: The Dagger of Xian is (and most likely always will be) my favourite Tomb Raider game. You might also know that I was interested in archaeology and ancient civilizations long before Ms Croft appeared on the game scene in 1996. But did you know that my interest in Tibetan culture was triggered by Tomb Raider 2? Before TR2 was released, Tibet was, in my younger, uninformed mind, a semi-mythical land of snowy ... [Continue Reading]

September 18, 2013 // 19 Comments

Arte-Factual: Anubis Shrine (The Times Exclusive)

In the last edition of Arte-Factual, I wrote about the Metal Inrō from Tomb Raider 2013 and explained how these cases were used in pre-modern Japan. This time around, I will be taking a look at a well-known Ancient Egyptian artefact that makes an appearance in The Times Exclusive Level, a stand-alone level that was released in December 1999 and developed in conjunction with The Times newspaper.** The artefact in question is the Anubis statue (or rather, statues) which can be seen in the ... [Continue Reading]

September 4, 2013 // 11 Comments

Arte-Factual: Metal Inro (Tomb Raider 2013)

It’s been a while since I last wrote about an artefact from Tomb Raider 2013. Over a month, in fact. So without further ado, it’s time to examine one of the many collectible items hidden throughout the Shanty Town: the Metal Inrō. Inrō are small cases that were once used by Japanese men and women to carry identity seals (hanko), herbal medicine, tobacco, acupuncture needles, or other small personal effects around with them, not unlike a modern-day wallet or pouch. These cases, ... [Continue Reading]

August 25, 2013 // 15 Comments

Arte-Factual: Athenian Owl Figurine (Tomb Raider: Anniversary)

In the last edition of Arte-Factual, I wrote about the Gayer-Anderson cat statue and its virtual counterpart seen in the original Tomb Raider. This time around, I will be looking at an artefact that depicts one of my favourite animals: the Athenian Owl Figurine. The Athenian Owl Figure is one of the collectible relics found in Tomb Raider: Anniversary and, as its name suggests, is a depiction of the owl normally associated with the Greek goddess Athena and the ancient city-state of Athens. ... [Continue Reading]

August 18, 2013 // 9 Comments

Arte-Factual: Egyptian Cat Statue (Tomb Raider 1)

Yesterday was World Cat Day so I thought I’d celebrate it (albeit belatedly) by writing a post about one of the most easily recognizable artefacts seen in the original Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider Gold: Unfinished Business, the Gayer-Anderson cat statue. A replica of this famous and much-loved statue could be found in the City of Khamoon and was apparently so appealing that Lara returned to the site in Unfinished Business to add the statue to her growing collection of looted, ahem, ... [Continue Reading]

August 9, 2013 // 15 Comments

Arte-Factual: Kansu Burial Urn (Tomb Raider 2013)

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for another edition of Arte-Factual! Last time, we looked at the killer whale bottle from Tomb Raider: Anniversary and learnt a little about the Nasca, their beliefs, and their art. This time we’ll be taking a close look at one of the many collectible items found in Tomb Raider 2013: the Kansu burial urn. The “Kansu burial urn” bears a striking resemblance to a ceramic jar in the Asia Society’s collection, a Banshan type storage ... [Continue Reading]

July 10, 2013 // 11 Comments

Arte-Factual: Killer Whale Bottle (Tomb Raider: Anniversary)

In the last edition of Arte-Factual, we looked at the Golden Mask of Tornarsuk and learnt a little about Inuit culture and mythology. In this edition, we will be turning our attention to one of the collectible relics found in Tomb Raider: Anniversary: the Killer Whale Bottle. Like many of the artefacts and relics that have appeared in the last few Tomb Raider games, the Killer Whale Bottle is modelled after a real-life artefact. In this case, a Nasca polychrome ceramic effigy vessel which is ... [Continue Reading]

June 25, 2013 // 14 Comments

Arte-Factual: Mask of Tornarsuk (Tomb Raider 2: Golden Mask)

In this edition of Arte-Factual, we turn our attention to the Golden Mask of Tornarsuk, an artefact that makes an appearance in Tomb Raider II: The Golden Mask, a five-level mini-adventure that was created for the 1999 “Gold” edition re-release of Tomb Raider II. According to Inuit mythology, Tornarsuk (also known as Torngarsuk) is a god, or supernatural being, who is usually depicted in either polar bear or human form and is the leader of the tornat (or tuurngait), nature ... [Continue Reading]

May 24, 2013 // 8 Comments

Arte-Factual: Gunbai War Fan (Tomb Raider 2013)

In the last edition of Arte-Factual, we looked at the history and context of the Ban Chiang vase, one of the many collectable relics Lara stumbles upon in Tomb Raider 2013. This time, we will look at one of the relics Lara finds in the Mountain Temple: a Gunbai war fan. Gunbai fans, also known as gunbai uchiwa (軍配団扇) in Japanese, were once part of a samurai military commander’s standard command equipment and were used to direct troops in battle as well as offer the commander ... [Continue Reading]

May 3, 2013 // 7 Comments

Arte-Factual: Ban Chiang Pottery (Tomb Raider 2013)

The last two editions of Arte-Factual dealt with the art and archaeology of the very first Tomb Raider game. In this latest edition, I’ll be writing about one of the many collectable relics Lara comes across in the 2013 reboot: a Ban Chiang vase. We don’t really know how this ancient vase ended up on the island but Lara correctly identifies it as being from Thailand. Perhaps she had seen a similar vase in a museum or had visited the Ban Chiang archaeological site in ... [Continue Reading]

April 15, 2013 // 8 Comments

Arte-Factual: Chimú Bird Carving (Tomb Raider 1)

In the last edition of Arte-Factual, I looked at the Toltec Atlantes pillars that could be found in and around Qualopec’s tomb in the original Tomb Raider. In this edition, I will re-visit Qualopec’s tomb and examine another Pre-Columbian motif that can be seen on the walls of the fictional Atlantean king’s tomb: a Chimú bird carving. When the first Tomb Raider came out, I was studying Peruvian pottery and iconography as part of a GCSE art project, so I got some pleasure ... [Continue Reading]

April 11, 2013 // 13 Comments

Arte-Factual: Toltec Warriors (Tomb Raider 1)

Sharp-eyed gamers may have noticed that the same colossal sculptures appear repeatedly throughout the Peruvian levels of the original Tomb Raider (1996), most notably in the Tomb of Qualopec. These sculptures are, in fact, based on the real-life Atlantes, or Atlantean pillars, found at Tula, a Postclassic archaeological site in the Mexican state of Hidalgo.** The four Atlantes of Tula are basalt pillars carved in the form of Toltec warriors and are thought to have once supported the roof of ... [Continue Reading]

April 3, 2013 // 10 Comments