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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 spent hours tracing Egyptian hieroglyphs from one of the old books in the Croft family library and, by ... [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 course of the game is a battle-damaged Mongolian tug, a relic of a failed Mongol invasion in 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 as the goddess Kali when she’s feeling particularly wrathful. Both deities are associated ... [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 Gilded Chinthe. Chinthes are mythical leonine creatures (or leogryphs) that can be found at 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 Mediterranean. Let’s start by taking a closer look at the artefact itself. A protome was a type of ... [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 dancers are, in fact, apsaras (often described as “divine nymphs” or “celestial ... [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, perhaps unwittingly, incorporated Maya and Aztec motifs and artefacts in the design of their lost ... [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 wrestlers, which is taken from a funerary relief found at the Kerameikos necropolis in Athens and ... [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 correctly points out, thousands of these coins were issued by the Japanese government in the mid-1800s. ... [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 and decorated with the images of gods and animals. But if you can’t remember it, don’t ... [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 favourite cities and I had the opportunity to re-visit some of its many monuments and ... [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 appearing in art around the 1st century BC; see Greco-Buddhist art). Like the Endless Knot I wrote ... [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 of a pool seen at the start of the Palace Midas level, which appears to be modelled on the famous ... [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 mountains and meditating monks, little more than a real-life Shangri-La. I knew very little about its ... [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 screenshot below. Even at first glance, there’s very little doubt that these statues were ... [Continue Reading]

September 4, 2013 // 11 Comments