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The Daily Scroll > The Daily Scroll January 2008
 
 

Week of January 28th

31-jan-2008
Ancient Mass Sacrifice, Riches Discovered in China Tomb— National Geographic News
A 2,500-year-old tomb containing nearly four dozen victims of human sacrifice has been excavated in eastern China, yielding a treasure trove of precious artifacts and new insights into ritual customs during the era of Confucius, archaeologists say.
   The burial chamber was constructed for the patriarch of an aristocratic family and contains 47 dead buried side by side, Xu said.
   Among the most impressive artifacts found in the tomb is a black, gold, and blood-red sword inscribed with pictures of dragons. Xu described it as "the most beautiful and best-preserved sword ever found in this part of China."
   Also discovered among the dead were gold and bronze artifacts, along with elaborate silk gowns.
   But the most startling discovery was that "most of those buried had been sacrificed to accompany their master into the afterlife," said Xu, a scholar at the Archaeology Institute of Jiangxi.
   Some aristocrats arranged for the sacrifice of their servants, their concubines, or others closest to them upon their death so they could travel together into the next life, he said.
   "At that time, some ruling elite believed that they could lead afterlives similar to their lives here on Earth," he explained.
   "According to the pictographs archaeologists have been able to decipher, there were in the Shang era 37 categories of blood and food sacrifices," said Herbert Plutschow, an expert on China's Shang dynasty at UCLA.
   Leaders depended on ritual warfare, sacrifice, and ancestor worship to legitimize their rule, and some forced their retinue of servants to follow them into death.
   "The Chinese premodern state was built upon sacrifice," said Plutschow, "and no theory of Chinese statehood could ever be proposed without reference to sacrifice and sacrificial ideology."

Kevin J. Vaughn, a Purdue assistant professor of anthropology, holds a pottery fragment he discovered at an excavation site in Nasca, Peru. The piece of pottery is from about the 5th century A.D., which is the same time period as other artifacts he uncovered at Mina Primavera.
30-jan-2008
Archaeologist 'Strikes Gold' With Finds Of Ancient Nasca Iron Ore Mine In Peru — ScienceDaily
A Purdue University archaeologist discovered an intact ancient iron ore mine in South America that shows how civilizations before the Inca Empire were mining this valuable ore.
   "Archaeologists know people in the Old and New worlds have mined minerals for thousands and thousands of years," said Kevin J. Vaughn, an assistant professor of anthropology who studies the Nasca civilization, which existed from A.D. 1 to A.D. 750. "Iron mining in the Old World, specifically in Africa, goes back 40,000 years. And we know the ancient people in Mexico, Central America and North America were mining for various materials. There isn't much evidence for these types of mines.
   "What we found is the only hematite mine, a type of iron also known as ochre, recorded in South America prior to the Spanish conquest. This discovery demonstrates that iron ores were important to ancient Andean civilizations."
   The researchers determined that the mine is a human-made cave that was first created around 2,000 years ago. An estimated 3,710 metric tons was extracted from the mine during more than 1,400 years of use. The mine, which is nearly 700 cubic meters, is in a cliffside facing a modern ochre mine.
   Vaughn hypothesizes that the Nasca people used the red-pigmented mineral primarily for ceramic paints, but they also could have used it as body paint, to paint textiles and even to paint adobe walls. The Nasca civilization is known for hundreds of drawings in the Nasca Desert, which are known as the Nasca-Lines and can only be seen from the air, and for an aqueduct system that is still used today.

29-jan-2008
Study says Black Death did not kill indiscriminately — Reuters
   The Black Death that decimated populations in Europe and elsewhere during the middle of the 14th century may not have been a blindly indiscriminate killer, as some experts have believed.
   An analysis of 490 skeletons from a London cemetery for Black Death victims demonstrated that the infection did not affect everyone equally, two U.S. scientists said on Monday.
   While many perfectly healthy people certainly were cut down, those already in poor health prior to the arrival of the plague were more likely to have perished, they found.
   People already in poor health often are more vulnerable in epidemics. "But there's been a tradition of thinking that the Black Death was this unique case where no one was safe and if you were exposed to the disease that was it. You had three to five days, and then you were dead," DeWitte said.
   The plague epidemic of 1347 to 1351 was one of the deadliest recorded in human history, killing about 75 million people, according to some estimates, including more than a third of Europe's population.

28-jan-2008
"In the Name of the King" a royal wreck} — Reuters
   Mention the name Uwe Boll to any film reviewer whose beat includes genre movies, and you'll probably detect immediate signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
   Anyone who has sat through such stupefyingly bad films as "Alone in the Dark" and "Bloodrayne" will understand the reason for the condition and why the director's latest effort, "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale," is only going to exacerbate it. The film opened Friday in wide release, naturally without being screened for the press.
   Boll specializes in adaptations of video games, and such is the case with this film, based on the popular "Dungeon Siege" series. A "Lord of the Rings"-style fantasy adventure, it boasts the filmmaker's largest budget ($60 million) to date as well as a large cast of notable performers who apparently thought reading the script in advance was unnecessary.

28-jan-2008
Worcester Pilgrim} — Birmingham Post
   Back in 1990 a headless corpse was discovered in Worcester Cathedral. All kinds of lurid stories could develop from here, worthy of a good murder mystery. The truth is both stranger and less mysterious than that.
   The body in question was found close to the base of the central tower, in the course of routine investigations of the cathedral foundations. Its headless state turned out to be more by accident than design, because the Victorians, during their perennial work repairing and extending the medieval building, had put a wall where the head and neck ought to have been.
   Into the vaults or under the floor they went with their various regalia of office, their proximity to the high altar and to the saintly relics reflecting their status and need for salvation. This man, however, was different. Instead of some chasuble or fine robes, he was wearing knee-length leather walking boots and comfortable woollen clothes.
   Instead of a mitre there was a wooden staff with an iron tip. The staff itself had been painted with a dark purple dye, a symbol of mourning perhaps, but unusual all the same. The only other items in the grave were bay and willow leaves and a single pierced cockleshell. These objects are now on display in the crypt of the cathedral, close to where they were discovered.
   Forensic archaeology takes us a little further. For one thing the books were well worn and cut open to put back on the dead man's feet. Clearly the boots were close to him, in more ways than one. He might not have died "with his boots on", but he made sure he was buried in them.
   Such symbolism goes back to classical times and was still commonly used in the Middle Ages. The staff and the shell, however, are much more indicative. Both items are closely associated with pilgrimage. The long staff, of course (along with sturdy boots) would be more than useful aids to someone who wished to travel far.

Week of January 21st

27-jan-2008
Grim secrets of Pharaoh's city} — BBC News
Evidence of the brutal lives endured by some ancient Egyptians to build the monuments of the Pharaohs has been uncovered by archaeologists.
   Skeletal remains from a lost city in the middle of Egypt suggest many ordinary people died in their teenage years and lived a punishing lifestyle.
   Many suffered from spinal injuries, poor nutrition and stunted growth.
   The remains were found at Amarna, a new capital built on the orders of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, 3,500 years ago.
   Hieroglyphs written at the time record that the Pharaoh, who was father of Tutankhamun, was driven to create a new city in honour of his favoured god, the Aten, with elaborate temples, palaces and tombs.
   Along with his wife Nefertiti, he abandoned the capital Thebes, leaving the old gods and their priests behind and marched his people 200 miles (320km) north to an inhospitable desert plain beside the River Nile.
   The city, housing up to 50,000 people, was built in 15 years; but within a few years of the Pharaoh's death, the city was abandoned, left to the wind and the sand.
   Painted murals found in the tombs of high officials from the time show offering-tables piled high with food. But the bones of the ordinary people who lived in the city reveal a different picture.
   The population of Amarna had the shortest stature ever recorded from Egypt's past, but they would also have been worked hard on the Pharaoh's ambitious plans for his new capital.
   "The incidence of youthful death amongst the Amarna population was shockingly high by any standard." Not many lived beyond 35. Two-thirds were dead by 20.
   But even this backbreaking schedule may not be enough to explain the extreme death pattern at Amarna.
   Even Akhanaten's son, Tutankhamen, died aged just 20; and archaeologists are now beginning to believe that there might also have been an epidemic here.
   This corroborates the historical records of Egypt's principal enemy, the Hittites, which tell of the devastation of an epidemic caught from Egyptians captured in battle around the time of Tutankhamen's reign. It appears this epidemic may also have been the final blow to the people of Amarna.

27-jan-2008
The Chain Gang} — The Record
   Chainmail has a split personality. The mesh of metal rings is incredibly sturdy, and originally served as armour to deflect deadly weapons. Yet it also has a silky, almost fluid texture.
   Perhaps that's why the medieval craft is evolving to a modern incarnation as beautiful jewelry.
   "It's metal with cloth properties," said Jerry Penner, also known as the Chain Mail Guy.
   Chainmail is gaining popularity as a technique to create intricate necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings.
   "The technology has never really gone away," said Penner, who contributed patterns to a recent book called Chain Mail Jewelry: Contemporary Designs from Classic Techniques.
   "It's just natural to start adding some beauty to a functional product."

26-jan-2008
Rescuing ancient citadel offers a beacon of hope for war-torn Iraq — The Canadian Press
   Towering above the modern streets and buildings of Irbil, the citadel's narrow alleyways and dusty courtyards stand almost deserted. Its mud-brick houses, built atop layers of ancient civilizations stretching back through millennia, are crumbling.
   Irbil's citadel, claimed to be one of the longest continuously inhabited urban areas on Earth, with a history of more than 8,000 years, is in danger. Its slopes are eroding and its buildings are collapsing.
   But authorities in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region have a plan to rescue it. They hope to turn the citadel, and the vast archeological wealth buried within the mound on which it stands, into a world-renowned tourist site complete with hotels, coffee houses, art galleries - and a vibrant, permanent living community.
   Little is known about the early inhabitants of Irbil but the citadel's secret is water - an abundant supply has maintained civilization after civilization.
   The citadel sits atop a roughly 30-metre-high mound formed by layers of successive settlements, including Assyrians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Persians and Greeks.
   The epic Battle of Gaugamela, in which Alexander the Great defeated the Persian King Darius in 331 B.C., is believed to have been fought just 32 kilometres to the north, local authorities say.

25-jan-2008
Medieval Siege Warfare - A book Review by Will — Heroic Dreams
   This book takes a good look at the evolving and changing world of siege warfare during the Middle Ages. But it is not a dry and scholarly look at the subject. It is clearly written in a normal tone and aimed at the average reader. And it comes complete with around 50 drawings and photographs of sieges, castles, siege engines and more.
   Siege warfare is a fascinating topic because during the Middle Ages a real arms race was going on. It was the race between castle builders, weapon builders, and siege engineers. Technology and engineering changed dramatically during medieval times and castles had to change and adapt in order to cope with this growth and keep their inhabitants safe. Both siege engineers and castle builders used many ingenious means and devices to achieve their goals. This book takes a good look at these tactics and techniques and how they changed and evolved over a several hundred year period.
   The art of the siege was more than just ladders and catapults. It was a whole science with an arsenal of weapons for attack and methods for defense; and the book takes a good look at all these variations from tunnel digging to the building of moats and gatehouses and even diplomacy and biological warfare. And it gives solid examples, with pictures, of real castles and how they were built and attacked. It also has many DaVinci like drawings of siege weapons and tactics.
   Some of the best parts of the book are the references to real sieges of real castles throughout history. It gives you short looks at how the sieges occurred and what happened. Some of the famous sieges covered are the first siege of Le Puiset in 1111, the sea-borne attack on Acre in 1189, and the siege of Chateau Gaillard in 1203.
   This book is written for an audience of teens to adults and if you are looking for a good introductory book about the whole subject of the sieging of castles during the Middle Ages this is the perfect choice. It is not too scholarly, has lots of pictures and illustrations, and takes a complete look at the whole subject area.

25-jan-2008
Worship Site Predates Zeus — LiveScience
   Ancient pottery found at an altar used by ancient Greeks to worship Zeus was actually in use at least a millennium earlier, new archeological data suggest.
   The finding, which dates back to 3000 B.C., indicates that the tradition of divinity worship on the site is very ancient and may even pre-date the introduction of Zeus into the Greek world, said David Gilman Romano, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and co-director of the excavation project..
   A rock crystal seal bearing an image of a bull, of probable Late Minoan times (1500 - 1400 B.C.), also was found on the altar, suggesting an early connection between the Minoan isle of Crete and Arcadia.
   Early analysis on various bones recovered from the site has shown they belonged to animals, not humans. Ancient texts had mentioned human sacrifice being practiced at the altar of Zeus, but so far, no evidence of this has been found.
   The mountaintop altar is known as one of the mythological birthplaces of Zeus. A meadow below the mountain featured a racetrack, stadium and buildings once used to host an athletic festival that rivaled the original Olympic games, held at nearby Olympia.

24-jan-2008
Ancient Maya sacrificed boys not virgin girls: study — Reuters
   The victims of human sacrifice by Mexico's ancient Mayans, who threw children into water-filled caverns, were likely boys and young men not virgin girls as previously believed, archeologists said on Tuesday.
   The Maya built soaring temples and elaborate palaces in the jungles of Central America and southern Mexico before the Spanish conquest in the early 1500s.
   Maya priests in the city of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula sacrificed children to petition the gods for rain and fertile fields by throwing them into sacred sinkhole caves, known as "cenotes."
   The caves served as a source of water for the Mayans and were also thought to be an entrance to the underworld.
   Archeologist Guillermo de Anda from the University of Yucatan pieced together the bones of 127 bodies discovered at the bottom of one of Chichen Itza's sacred caves and found over 80 percent were likely boys between the ages of 3 and 11.
   The other 20 percent were mostly adult men said de Anda, who scuba dives to uncover Mayan jewels and bones.
   He said children were often thrown alive to their watery graves to please the Mayan rain god Chaac. Some of the children were ritually skinned or dismembered before being offered to the gods, he said.
   "It was thought that the gods preferred small things and especially the rain god had four helpers that were represented as tiny people," said de Anda.

23-jan-2008
Rare Middle-Class Tomb Found From Ancient Egypt — National Geographic News
Archaeologists have unsealed the intact burial chamber of an ancient Egyptian official, providing a rare glimpse into the burial customs of the Old Kingdom's middle class.
   The relatively modest tomb, belonging to a fifth dynasty priest and politician named Neferinpu, was discovered in 2006 at Abusir, the ancient necropolis of the fifth and 26th dynasties, located near modern-day Cairo.
   Only recently, however, did a Czech team open the tomb's burial chamber, a tiny room about 33 feet (10 meters) below ground packed with offerings and personal effects that had remained undisturbed for nearly 4,500 years.
   Inside the 6.5-foot (2-meter) by 13-foot (4-meter) space, the team found dozens of ceremonial artifacts, including 10 sealed beer jars, more than 80 miniature limestone vessels, a small perfume jug, and plates and cups for symbolic offerings of food and drink.
   Also present were four flat-bottomed vessels known as "canopies," which were used to store internal organs removed during the mummification process.
   Beneath the lid of the sarcophagus, the mummy, which was wrapped long before preservation methods were perfected, was badly decomposed.
   The body was inlaid with hundreds of Faience beads, and the official's walking stick, about 6.5 feet (2 meters) long and decorated at the tip with small pieces of gold, was buried at his side.
   The sarcophagus also contained a wooden scepter, which Neferinpu would have held in his left hand as sign of his seniority, according to Tarek El-Awadi, an official with Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and chief inspector at Abusir.
   According to inscriptions discovered on a false door to the tomb, Neferinpu served in the administrations of two fifth dynasty rulers, Neferirkara (2475 to 2455 B.C.) and Nyuserra (2445 to 2421 B.C.).
   He held dual posts religious priest and administrative aid, perhaps responsible for several building projects as was customary for officials of the era, according to Barta.
   Despite the seeming importance of the occupations, such officials were not part of ancient society's elite class, and their burials were usually humble.

23-jan-2008
Scrap metal was Bronze Age hoard — The Times
   A coach driver discovered Britain's largest hoard of Bronze Age axeheads while waiting for a party of school-children at a Dorset farm.
   Over the next three days Mr Peirce and two other metal detectorists unearthed more than 500 items of Bronze Age metalwork, including 268 complete axeheads. The axes, buried at three separate locations more than 50 metres apart, could be worth tens of thousands of pounds, which Mr Peirce would share with the farm's owner, Alfie O'Connell.
   Axeheads were used as a form of currency during the Bronze Age, about 3,000 years ago, but some experts believe that the hoard may have had some ritual significance such as an an offering to the gods.
   Mr Peirce, from Ringwood, Hamp-shire, who has been metal-detecting for five years, said: When we took them out of the ground some of them were so pristine you would think you had just bought them at B&Q yet they were 3,000 years old.

22-jan-2008
Castells - The Catalan Human Castles — Typically Spanish
   The Catalan tradition of human towers, known as Castells, the Catalan word for castles, dates back to the end of the 18th century in Valls, Tarragona province, and is now an integral part of Catalan culture. They are believed to have originated from human towers which were built by dance groups at the end of 17th and 18th century.
   The intricate process of constructing the towers is carried out by the castellers, who belong to groups known as colles. The teams train to compete against other colles at the local festival, where precise techniques are used to build the highest and most complex castle. It's an amazing feat of not only strength, but also teamwork, concentration and discipline.
   The motto of the castellers is strength, balance, courage and reason.
   There are three main parts to a castell: first, is the pinya, or base of the tower, which forms the bulk of the structure, taking most of the weight and acting as a shock absorber for anyone who may fall. Each casteller in all parts of the castell has his own specific function, and a name for his position.
   Then comes the tronc, or the trunk, which can be made up of a number of levels, with a certain number of people on each storey, depending on the type of castle being built. The last section is the top three levels known as the pom de dalt, and at the very tip, the anxaneta, the young child who climbs the tower and salutes the public from the top.
   Each part of the process is accompanied by its own particular music to mark the stage of construction.

Text from Elis Gruffudd's chronicle
22-jan-2008
Tudor 'correspondent' text online — BBC News
A 16th Century Welsh chronicle charting the history of England and Wales between 1066 and 1552 is now online.
   Writer Elis Gruffudd was born in the parish of Llanasa, Flintshire, and served in the English army in France during the time of Henry VIII.
   His chronicle is described as "one of the most extensive narrative texts" ever written in the Welsh language.
   Maredudd ap Huw, who is responsible for the national library's 30,000 manuscripts dating from the second century AD to 2004, said the chronicle gave an insight into Tudor and medieval life in England from a Welsh perspective.
   While accompanying Wingfield, Gruffudd witnessed important events including a meeting between Henry VIII and King Francis I of France in 1520, on what is known as the Field of Cloth of Gold near Calais.
   It was designed to improve relations between the two countries.
   "We don't have much information about the spoken word or details from Welsh people who lived abroad during that period," said Mr ap Huw.
   "Gruffudd was like our foreign correspondent and he provides us with a view of the political situation in Europe at that time and traces history from the time of William the Conqueror.

21-jan-2008
Maritime Societies of the Viking and Medieval World — Past Horizons's Weblog
   This conference seeks to place Viking Age and medieval Orkney in its European setting by bringing together scholars studying island and coastal societies of the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Irish Sea and the North Atlantic.
   Its emphasis is on how small-scale societies dominated by the sea developed both strong "international" connections and distinctive local identities.
   It focuses on a pivotal time in the creation of the social, economic and political landscape of Europe when small-scale maritime politics had a disproportionate impact on the course of world history.

Week of January 14th

17-jan-2008
Researchers Find Old Mexico Time Capsule — Associated Press
   A time capsule was found atop a bell tower at Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral, where it was placed in 1791 to protect the building from harm, researchers said Tuesday.
   The lead box filled with religious artifacts, coins and parchments was hidden in a hollow stone ball to mark the moment on May 14, 1791, when the building's topmost stone was laid, 218 years after construction had begun.
   Workers restoring the church found the box in October, inside the stone ball base of a cross that sits atop the 200-foot southern bell tower. Researchers spent the next three months opening the airtight box and preserving its contents.
   A perfectly preserved parchment listed the time capsule's contents including 23 medals, 5 coins, and five small crosses made of palm fronds which it said were "for protection from the storms.
Considering the cathedral's history it has been flooded, fought over and damaged as the soft soil it sits on sinks the cathedral may need divine protection.
   A new time capsule with items from this year will be placed into the stone ball when it is closed again, he said, without specifying what it would contain.

Ancient Roman Food - Globuli. These are curds and semolina that are fried in olive oil. They are very tasty when served with honey.
16-jan-2008
The Ancient Roman Food and Diet — The Ancient Rome
   In the Ancient Rome, the caste system caused the ancient Roman food distribution to be very different. From the rich and powerful Roman family lavishly eating luxurious food like roast ostriches and peacock which were very expensive at that time, to the peasant eating home-grown crops.
   Basically, the Romans peasants during that time did not eat meat as much like us today. Instead, they generally consume grain, herbs and grapes such as grapes. Besides, the peasants would collect wild fruits and wild nuts besides eating the grain that they grew at home. Some of the wild fruits were grapes, apples and plums Grape for instance, was used widely at that time to be processed into wine. Wine was used as the daily beverage and for certain ceremonies. During the Ancient Rome period, the Romans could easily find wild nuts like pistachios and walnuts.
   In early times, the Romans ate pork and some domestic fowls such as chickens and ducks. This was because these animals were very easy to breed and rear. On the contrary, even though cow was bred through out the empire, the main purpose of cow was for farming instead for the beef. Cow was only sacrificed for the meat during special festivals. According to histologist, another reason why cow was not eaten widely as the common Roman foods was because the food preservation technology was not being developed to the level that they could preserve such a huge amount of meat. Therefore, the Romans did not include beef in the general ancient Roman food diet to avoid wastage.

14-jan-2008
Search for castle's secret tunnels — icWales
   A NETWORK of secret tunnels could be uncovered under a Welsh town today as archaeologists start to excavate the site of a former castle and prison.
   It is the first excavation in the grounds of Haverfordwest Castle since 1914, when diggers uncovered a sealed jam jar with a message addressed to future explorers rolled up inside.
   During that dig 94 years ago, one worker who struck his pick axe through the ground was met with an upsurge of air which turned out to have come from an underground chamber 17ft high.
   But although the beginnings of other buried passages were found, excavations were abandoned.
   Now, Haverfordwest Town Museum, which is based in the castle's grounds, wants to extend its current building to house a gallery but Cadw have insisted an archaeological exploration takes place first.

Week of January 7th

12-jan-2008
Togas, laurels, chariots and some roast lambs testicles... must be a Saturnalia celebration — icWales
   A WELSH town will be transported back into Roman times today as it aims to maximise its visitor appeal.
   Residents in Llanwrtyd Wells the self-confessed ;wacky capital of Wales will don togas and drape themselves in laurels for a Gladiator-style chariot race.
   The event is to celebrate Saturnalia an annual festival of Roman drinking, food and fun. Jokingly described as a cross between a Roman orgy and a Camra (Campaign for Real Ale) weekend it encourages visitors to live it up like a Roman among the Cambrian mountains, by sampling more than 50 real ales or wine.
   Gordon Green, chairman of Green Events, said the chariot race, to be held this afternoon, will be the main spectacle, but instead of stallions mountain bikes will be used to pull the barrel drum-style chariots.
   He said, Saturnalia was a major festival for the Romans. It was traditionally held on December 25, which is probably why the Christians chose that date to celebrate Christmas.
    Its history goes back thousands of years but we resurrected it as a winter solace and it was a festival of great sporting events held across the whole of Italy. So far we have two pairs of fit cyclists, each pulling one person along in racing chariots. Julia Galvin will be dressed as Queen Boudicca and our gladiators and the crowds will be wearing laurel hats and togas.
   He said visitors can also enjoy a plethora of Roman food, including lumbuli assi ita fiunt better known as small roast lambs testicles.
   He added, I';ve tried them and they are actually very good. We use a recipe book compiled by the Roman Apicus, who made dishes featuring animals from countries the Romans had conquered throughout their empire.

12-jan-2008
Roman bridge put back together again} — JournalLive
   REMAINS of what was one of the biggest Roman bridges to be built in Britain have been reassembled on the banks of the River Tyne.
   The 50ft long and 10ft high reconstruction is opposite Corbridge Roman site in Northumberland and near the spot where the ornate stone bridge spanned the river.
   Excavations rescued stonework from the bridge which was threatened by river erosion.
   The bridge carried Dere Street, the main South-North road, over the Tyne to the important Roman fort and supply base at Corbridge and was built accordingly.
   The excavations revealed that the bridge, built around 160AD, had between six and 10 arches and was probably highly decorated with columns, elaborate parapets, altars and statues of gods and the emperor and his family.
  &nbsp It would have been a magnificent entry point to the Hadrian' Wall area,; said Paul Bidwell, senior manager at Tyne and Wear Museums Archaeology.
    At the point of transition between the civil and military zone, the bridge, like many buildings in the military area, would have been a manifestation of the power of the emperor and would have made it obvious that this was the frontier area.

The Obelisk of Thutmose I at Karnak
12-jan-2008
Egypt's top 10: obelisks — Al-Ahram Weekly
   Obelisks were signs of victory, and the inscriptions carved on them record the titles and achievements of the Pharaohs. The tip of an obelisk, called the capstone or pyramidion, was cased with gold, its brilliant shine connecting it with the sun-god Re. Egypt's obelisks were chosen by the Discovery Channel as one of the top 10 archaeological "discoveries" in Egypt.
   The ancient Egyptians cut small obelisks to place inside the funerary temple associated with each pyramid. The oldest and the largest obelisk still standing, however, dates from the reign of Sesostris I in the Middle Kingdom, about 3,600 years ago. The site of the ancient city of Heliopolis, where this obelisk stands, was the centre for the worship of the sun- god, and temples dedicated to this deity were built here throughout much of Pharaonic history.
   The granite quarry in Aswan was the main source of stone for obelisks. The famous quarry in the heart of the town still holds an unfinished obelisk weighing about 1,164 tonnes and believed to date to the reign of Queen Hatshepsut. From this site we can learn how the ancients cut these heavy monuments and then transported them to the temples of Karnak and Luxor.
   We recently began an important study at the site of the unfinished obelisk, and we were able to add greatly to our understanding of how these huge objects were transported. We found a unique inscription left by Tuthmosis III, which said that he ordered his architect to cut two obelisks for the temple of his father, the god Amun, at Karnak. We also found scenes drawn by the workmen which showed long-necked ostriches and fish from Aswan. Some showed standing obelisks. Others, drawings of the god Bes, the god of pleasure and tunes, would have made them feel happy. Names written in demotic may be those of the workmen, and markings they left show us how they cut the obelisks. We also found several basalt balls which were used to smooth the surfaces of the obelisks. Now, for the first time, people who come to visit the unfinished obelisk can see all these archaeological discoveries, which enrich our knowledge of how the ancient Egyptians crafted these remarkable monuments. We can even see the harbour that connected the River Nile to the site of the granite quarry.

10-jan-2008
Weird Egyptian Statue Cures Diseases and Kills At The Same Time — Onlineweblibrary BLOG
   The Strange Pharaonic statue, presented in the Egyptian Museum «Central Cairo», has become highly controversial among archaeologists and public opinion in Egypt, after the announcement of an official in the Supreme Council for Antiquities, who said that the statue is Enchanted and has the ability to cure diseases, what made the tourists, and workers scared to approach the statue, lest of "The Curse of the Pharaohs"
   The black stone statue is for a Pharaonic priest sitting squat, and all its sides are covered with talisman written in ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic, has been discovered year 1909 north of Cairo
   The statue is covered with talisman written in ancient Egyptian, from the head to the basin, the part that Abu Dahab considered the dangerest part, because this priest used to pour water on his head and the accumulation of water in this basin turns into magic water able to cure diseases, also used in the treatment of scorpions and snakes stings, is also used to protect pregnant women and the protection of newly born babies.

10-jan-2008
[Hadrian statue heads up to wall — BBC News
A bronze head of Roman Emperor Hadrian will travel to both ends of Hadrian's wall ahead of an exhibition dedicated to the leader at the British Museum.
   It will be the first time that the 2nd century head has left the London museum since it was found in the River Thames 200 years ago.
   The head, originally part of a statue, will go on show in Carlisle from February and in Wallsend from April.
   Hadrian: Empire and Conflict opens at the British Museum on 24 July.
   The statue of Hadrian would have been on public display in London in AD 122 to commemorate the emperor's visit to Britain.
   The underwater silts of the Thames, where the head was dumped, protected it and ensured it was well preserved.

Belcourt Castle
10-jan-2008
A Look at Medieval Castles in America — Heroic Dreams
   Castle Building reached a feverish peak all throughout Europe around the 15th Century. This was of course quite a while before the Pilgrims made their way across the Atlantic Ocean and you would think this means the United States missed the whole castle building frenzy. But it didn't. There are quite a few amazing and beautiful medieval castles peppered all across North America.
   During a period of time from the late 18th century to the early 19th century much of the world went through a period of time, in terms of architecture, called the Gothic Revival. This revival was a renewed interest in the architecture and styling of the medieval castles and buildings that were built during the Middle Ages. The focus was on the late period castles that were more of a manor home than a fortress.
   This period of time also matched a period of very high prosperity in the United States and there were many wealthy individuals and organizations that built castles fashioned in this Gothic Revival style. Technically, none of these castles can be called true castles because they weren't built with defense and armament in mind; They were more designed as manor houses but they still incorporated all of the wonderful and impressive architectural stylings that we come to associate with true castles. Many of them remain to this day and have found unique ways to continue to flourish. Some are museums, some are bed and breakfasts, some are wineries, and others are still living quarters. Here is a short list of some of these beautiful structures.

9-jan-2008
Movie review: A history of Europe from the losers' point of view — Washington Post
Python member Terry Jones tries to balance the continent's story
   Leave it to a Monty Python member to make history entertaining.
   Consisting of four episodes that aired on BBC2 in 2006, Terry Jones' Barbarians takes the maxim that history is written by the victors, turns it over and looks at our past through the eyes of the vanquished societies that fell to the might of the Roman Empire. The two-DVD set is available now.
   Traveling throughout Europe and visiting with numerous scholars and researchers, Jones makes the case that if your knowledge of the fall of Rome is colored by images of unwashed hordes screaming at the gates of civilization, you're the victim of Roman propaganda. This is the story of the Celts, Gauls, Germans, Greeks, Persians and Africans from their perspective.
   The show puts forth the idea that, contrary to popular belief, the Romans and their invasions across Europe didn't advance civilization and technology but rather delayed it. For example, women in ancient Rome were essentially the property of their fathers until becoming the property of their husbands. In Celtic society, on the other hand, women could amass their own wealth and even initiate divorce (and leave the marriage with whatever assets they'd brought into it). And the idea that the Romans brought road-building technology across the continent? Rubbish, the show says. The Celts had already built highly engineered wooden roads across bogs in Ireland and mud flats in South Wales.
   It's an interesting view of classical European history. Jones delivers his points entertainingly and in easily understandable ways. Don't expect Pythonesque slapstick, but there are plenty of sly one-liners and witty assessments.
   There's a quiet zeal for giving these long-dismissed societies their due that is engaging. If the show has a fault, it is perhaps that it's so devoted to revising the record that it may sometimes engage in the same sort of one-sidedness shown by Roman historians. But considering how long the historical view has been unbalanced, it's easy to forgive the show for putting a thumb on the scale to help even things up.

9-jan-2008
Rare ancient wooden throne found in Herculaneum — Reuters
   An ancient Roman wood and ivory throne has been unearthed at a dig in Herculaneum, Italian archaeologists said on Tuesday, hailing it as the most significant piece of wooden furniture ever discovered there.
   The throne was found during an excavation in the Villa of the Papyri, the private house formerly belonging to Julius Caesar's father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, built on the slope of Mount Vesuvius.
   The name of the villa derives from the impressive library containing thousands of scrolls of papyrus discovered buried under meters (yards) of volcanic ash after the Vesuvius erupted on 24 August 79.
   Restoration of the throne is still ongoing with restorers painstakingly trying to piece back together parts of the ceremonial chair.
   While other wooden objects have been dug out in nearby Pompeii, experts have never before found such a significant ceremonial piece of furniture. Previously such pieces have only been observed in paintings or made of marble.

Better than a press release: a roundel from the Crusading Window of the abbey of St Denis
8-jan-2008
Book review: Spin doctors of the 12th century — Telegraph
    The First Crusade resulted in the recovery of Jerusalem and the establishment of Christian kingdoms and principalities in the Holy Land. The Third Crusade is remembered in England because of the role played by Richard the Lionheart.   But what of the Second, which lasted from 1145-1199? For all but professional historians it has vanished from memory.   Yet it was perhaps the most ambitious and best-prepared of all, and, though it failed disastrously in its main objective, it nevertheless in other quarters earned the subtitle that Jonathan Phillips awards it: "Extending the frontiers of Christendom".   It did so because it was directed against Muslims not only in Palestine, but also in Portugal and Spain, and against the pagan Wends in what was to be Prussia and is now north-eastern Germany and Poland. These campaigns were successful; Lisbon was captured after a siege and the Second Crusade contributed to the Reconquista in Spain.   Phillips has already written a very good book on the Fourth (and most disreputable) Crusade, which was diverted against the Greek Empire of Byzantium. Constantinople itself was besieged and captured and a Latin empire temporarily established there.   Now he has followed up with an absorbing and scholarly account of one of its predecessors. Some readers, made dizzy by the detail - lists of participants and suchlike - may find it too scholarly. They should press on, skipping passages rather than letting themselves be bogged down. They will find the journey rewarding.   This book will be enlightening for those who still suppose medieval Europe to have been barbarous and lacking in sophistication.

8-jan-2008
Cathedral prepares for 750th anniversary — Salisbury Journal
   A MEDIEVAL fair, a flower festival, and a pilgrimage from Old Sarum to The Close are among the events planned to help Salisbury Cathedral celebrate its 750th anniversary this year.
   A programme of recitals, choral and orchestral concerts, exhibitions and community events is lined up to mark the cathedral's consecration in 1258, culminating in an anniversary service of thanksgiving in September.
   Other highlights include an exhibition tracing the cathedral's history in the cloisters, running from April until September, a patronal festival weekend in April and an open day that month giving people a chance to look behind the scenes at the day to day running of one of the country's most iconic buildings.
   The Mayday bank holiday weekend will see a medieval fair set up in Marsh Close, harking back to the cathedral's medieval origins, and the cathedral will be filled with summer blooms for a flower festival in June.
   In July, a pilgrimage will make its way from the site of the old cathedral at Old Sarum to the new one in Salisbury and Salisbury Civic Society will be devoting this year's heritage open days in September to sites linked with the cathedral.

Hieroglyphic details, including eye and tusk symbols representing the dentistry profession, are chiseled on the entrance to tombs honoring three dentists who served the nobility of ancient Egypt. The chief dentist is pictured on the wall at left.
8-jan-2008
Thieves lead to discovery of Egypt tombs — Associated Press
   The arrest of tomb robbers led archaeologists to the graves of three royal dentists, protected by a curse and hidden in the desert sands for thousands of years in the shadow of Egypt's most ancient pyramid, officials announced Sunday.
   The thieves launched their own dig one summer night two months ago but were apprehended, Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters.
   That led archaeologists to the three tombs, one of which included an inscription warning that anyone who violated the sanctity of the grave would be eaten by a crocodile and a snake, Hawass said.
   A towering, painted profile of the chief dentist stares down at passers-by from the wall opposite the inscription.
   The tombs date back more than 4,000 years to the 5th Dynasty and were meant to honor a chief dentist and two others who treated the pharaohs and their families, Hawass said.
   Their location near the Step Pyramid of King Djoser, believed to be Egypt's oldest pyramid, indicate the respect accorded dentists by Egypt's ancient kings, who "cared about the treatment of their teeth," Hawass said.
   Although their services were in demand by the powerful, the dentists likely did not share in their wealth.
   The tombs, which did not contain their mummies, were built of mud-brick and limestone, not the pure limestone preferred by ancient Egypt's upper class.

Remains of King Minos's temple still stand in Knossos.
8-jan-2008
Did a Tsunami Wipe Out a Cradle of Western Civilization? — Discover
   Europe's first great culture sprang up on the island of Crete, in the Aegean Sea, and rose to prominence some 4,000 years ago, flourishing for at least five centuries. It was a civilization of sophisticated art and architecture, with vast trading routes that spread Minoan goods and culture to the neighboring Greek islands. But then, around 1500 B.C., the Minoan world went into a tailspin, and no one knows why.
   In 1939, leading Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos pinned the blame on a colossal volcanic eruption on the island of Thera, about 70 miles north of Crete, that occurred about 1600 B.C. The event hurled a plume of ash and rock 20 miles into the stratosphere, turning daylight into pitch darkness over much of the Mediterranean. The explosion was recently estimated to be 10 times as powerful as the 1883 eruption of Krakatau in Indonesia, which obliterated 300 towns and villages and killed at least 36,000 people. So extreme was the Thera eruption that many writers linked it to Plato's legend of Atlantis, the magnificent island city swallowed up by the sea. Marinatos's theory was bolstered in 1967 when he dug up the ruins of Akrotiri, a prosperous Minoan town on Thera that had been buried in volcanic ash. Akrotiri became famous as a Bronze Age Pompeii because the ash preserved two-story dwellings, exquisite frescoes, and winding streets almost intact.
   On further examination, though, the ruins did not confirm the theory. It turned out that the pottery on Akrotiri was not from the final phase of Minoan culture; in fact, many Minoan settlements on Crete continued to exist for at least a generation or two after the Thera cataclysm. Archaeologists concluded that the Minoans had not only survived but thrived after the eruption, expanding their culture until they were hit by some other, unknown disaster perhaps some combination of fire, earthquake, or foreign invader. Thera's impact, it seemed, had been overestimated. But startling new evidence is forcing archaeologists to rethink the full fury of the Thera explosion, the natural disaster it may have triggered, and the nature of the final blow to the once-great Minoan civilization.
   A leader of the Palaikastro team, Belgian archaeologist Jan Driessen, contends that the wave of destruction was the tail end of a spiral of instability that the Thera catastrophe set in motion. A steep drop-off in the number of Minoan sites suggests that there had been a famine or an epidemic, one perhaps touched off by the environmental effects of the eruption combined with the later tsunami.
   There may have been a spiritual crisis as well. At Palaikastro, archaeologists found that a shrine had been violently destroyed and a cult statuette deliberately smashed and burned. Driessen suggests there may have been a reaction against the religious cult represented by the statuette, perhaps as part of a populist uprising against the elite in their villas and temple-palaces. The loss of life and livelihood after the eruption may have aggravated problems of class difference and widened the gap between the elite and the commoners, which Driessen says existed already in Minoan society.

8-jan-2008
French City Vows to Return Maori Head — Associated Press
   The city of Rouen pledged Thursday to find a way to return the mummified, tattooed head of a Maori man to New Zealand, despite opposition from France's culture minister and a court ruling that the city lacks jurisdiction over the artifact.
   Rouen's Maori head was given to its natural history museum in 1875. The Normandy city has been trying to return the head to New Zealand for months, but its attempts have angered national officials.
   Some Maori heads were traditionally kept as trophies from tribal warfare.
   Once Westerners began offering prized goods in exchange for the heads, however, some men were killed simply for their tattoos, Rouen museum officials have said.
   Some slaves were forcibly tattooed, then decapitated once their scars healed, to meet the demand, according to the museum.

8-jan-2008
Clues from the mists of time — Los Angeles Times
   The "cloud warriors" of ancient Peru are slowly offering up their secrets -- and more questions. Recent digs at this majestic site, once a stronghold of the Chachapoya civilization, have turned up scores of skeletons and thousands of artifacts, shedding new light on these myth-shrouded early Americans and one of the most remarkable, if least understood, of Peru's pre-Columbian cultures.
   Among the arresting findings: the practice of incorporating the dead into defensive walls; the use of stone missiles to repel invaders; the discovery of gargoyle-like stone carvings; and the civilization's sudden collapse, possibly in a final, purifying conflagration.
   The Chachapoya civilization is believed to have thrived from around 800 to about 1540, the last 70 years or so under the domination of their empire-minded neighbors, the Inca, and then the Spanish. The Chachapoya, historians say, were a loose confederation with settlements spread across a 25,000-square-mile swath of north-central Peru -- an area about the size of West Virginia -- and may have numbered 300,000 people or more at their height.

8-jan-2008
Book review: Cures for the Pharaoh — Al-Ahram Weekly
   The idea of turning the palatial home of a pasha into a Medical Museum was initiated when a grandson of the original owner, himself a doctor, donated his inherited share of the Sakakini Palace to the Ministry of Health. Following lengthy deliberations it was decided to convert it into a museum devoted to the development of medicine from the time of the pharaohs through to the present day. This project is now underway and a book by one of Egypt's most distinguished physicians, Nabil I Ebeid, goes a long way towards explaining what can be expected. Egyptian Medicine in the Days of the Pharaohs, published five years ago by the General Egyptian Book Organisation, is a valuable compendium. A comprehensive yet concise study of pharaonic medicine, it reveals the art of healing in early times and the high levels of perfection it reached. As we shall see, it concerns much more than just mummies.
   The ancient Egyptians, who embalmed their dead so carefully, must have had a profound knowledge of anatomy. This is evidenced in tomb reliefs that show surgeons at work on patients and in famous learned medical texts such as the Ebers and Edwin Smith papyri. These facts, though, do not provide enough information for a synopsis of medical practice in ancient times. Fortunately, Ebeid's book fills in some of the gaps. "We know that the Egyptians were brilliant mathematicians, and were no less advanced in chemistry. It was their knowledge of chemistry that enabled them to discover the materials they needed for embalming, as well as for producing medicines and drugs," writes Ebeid, who is internationally acclaimed for his work in industrial medicine, in the preface to his book. "Technical skills, intellectual capacities, and social values must be passed from generation to generation."
   There is no doubt that there was a firmly established medical tradition at an early date. When Weshptah, builder and friend of the fifth Dynasty Pharaoh Neferirkare, suffered a stroke in the pharaoh's presence, the ruler showed great solicitude for his stricken friend and ordered his officials to consult medical documents for a remedy to help his vizier regain consciousness. Doctors were well paid for their services; in one case the reward was "a false door of limestone for that tomb of mine in the necropolis".
   Cancer, it appears, is not a disease of modern civilisation. There is a paucity of evidence of its incidence in ancient Egypt; nevertheless, some indication of tumours does exist from early times right through to the Ptolemaic period. Ebeid points out in his chapter on surgery that the ancient Egyptians used the scalpel, "and a heated knife or cautery for extirpating the tumours, taking care so as not to bleed afterwards". He quotes Ebers Papyrus 872 which reads: "This [i.e. tumour] is a swelling of vessels, a disease that I treat... then you must perform for it a knife-treatment, it (the knife) is heated in the fire...".
   Ebeid concedes that his book is a trial to explore medical science by reviewing the papyri and other sources of information, and writes that he hopes other scholars will fill gaps in our knowledge of related problems, such as the effect of work and the environment on the health of ancient Egyptians, wartime medicine and the prevalence of addiction.
   In Egyptian Medicine in the Days of the Pharaohs Ebeid explores new horizons in the study of health and health care in ancient Egyptian life. Let us hope the opening of the new Medical Museum in the Sakakini Palace will provide the impetus for further research and study.

January 1st to 6th

6-jan-2008
Book review:Lives of pirates most often short, violent, author says — The Halifax Herald
   If we believe the Hollywood version of life, pirates are handsome Johnny Depp lookalikes with hearts of gold who will always do the right thing. The Pirate Rebel: The Story of Notorious Ned Jordan by Elizabeth Peirce shows what was more likely the grim reality.
   Ned Jordan left Ireland with his family after fighting in the failed 1798 rebellion and with dreams of success, headed to the new world. New York and Quebec proved to be disappointing so in 1808, the Jordans headed to Halifax. There, he lied his way into getting a ship built and that is where his problems started. When creditors became suspicious and sent a representative captain to take over the ship, the situation became deadly for everyone.
   "Yes, it is historical fiction the first half of the book is pure fiction," says Peirce.
   "We dont know much at all about Edward Jordan's early life in Ireland, so I had to imagine it. The second half, about the incident aboard Three Sisters and its aftermath, are, unfortunately, all too true. I made extensive use of the court transcripts from the Jordan trial, now held at the Public archive, as well as Archibald MacMechan's short essay, Jordan the Pirate."
   "I am far from a pirate expert, although my friends have started calling me pirate girl' and greeting me with a resounding "ARGGHHH!' I am most interested in Nova Scotian history, of which piracy plays really only a small part. It's a very high-risk profession!"

Replica of the Portland Vase by John Northwood
6-jan-2008
Old inspires new — Star-Gazette
'Reflecting Antiquity: Modern Glass Inspired by Ancient Rome' will open Feb. 15 at Corning Museum of Glass.
   "This exhibition allows us to demonstrate the relevance of the ancient world in art throughout history, including modern times," said Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.
   The second major exhibit of the year will be "Glass of the Alchemists," which will open June 27 and will run through Jan. 4, 2009.
   Many of the objects that will be on view in "Reflecting Antiquity" rarely travel for exhibition and are being presented in the United States for the first time. Exhibition highlights include rare examples of ancient Roman originals showcased alongside modern works inspired by ancient forms and technologies.
   In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum will present several programs to enhance visitors' understanding of the objects on display.
   At the daily live glassblowing demonstrations, glassmakers will use the techniques of ancient glass artists to reproduce the forms used by Roman glassmakers.
   Visitors also will be offered hands-on activities, including creating designs for their own Roman-style patterns with paper rubbings.
   During the exhibition, visitors may design sandblasted vessels inspired by ancient Roman glass styles.

6-jan-2008
Book review: NAPOLEON'S EGYPT - Invading the Middle East — The New York Times
   In early 1798 the Directory, the oligarchy that was ruling revolutionary France, ordered its top general, Napoleon Bonaparte, to plan the invasion of England. Instead, Napoleon organized and carried out the invasion of Egypt, which became the first modern incursion by the West into the Middle East.
   Most books on the expedition focus on the outsize characters of Napoleon and his staff, men like his towering second in command, Gen. Jean-Baptiste Klber, who was eventually stabbed to death by a fanatical Muslim, or Gen. Jacques Menou, who converted to Islam. But in Napoleon's Egypt, Juan Cole, who teaches history at the University of Michigan and writes a widely cited blog on current United States policy in the Muslim world, mostly ignores these larger-than-life characters to present the invasion and occupation through Egyptian eyes. Cole says his work attends more closely than have others ... to the interplay of the ideas of the French revolutionary period with Ottoman and Egyptian ways of life, and what it lacks in narrative drive and coherence, it makes up for in fascinating quotations, mostly from contemporary memoirs and diaries, and in an analysis that suggests comparisons to the current American adventure in Iraq.
   The Expedition has often been remembered as the starting point for Egyptology or for foreshadowing Napoleon's later campaigns, but the current disaster in Iraq may finally reframe it as the colossal premonitory event it was. Cole notes that only four times in modern history have Muslim clerics come to power in the Middle East: under the republican French in Egypt, under Khomeini and his successors in Iran, under the Taliban in Afghanistan and, it could be argued, with the victory of the United Iraqi Alliance in the Iraq elections of 30 January, 2005 (the U.I.A. was led by Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim). The first and fourth times both took place with Western, Enlightenment backing.
   It's a suggestive point, presented in passing without being developed. That's unfortunate, because Cole is best when he organizes his material around argument and analysis, not storytelling. (He states in the acknowledgments that he aims to produce an intimate history, of what the French Annales school calls "mentalits,' that is, a history of mind-sets.) As a result, his book is more suited to students of the region than to casual readers, and those looking for an exciting, comprehensive narrative history of the whole expedition are advised to hunt down Paul Strathern's book Napoleon in Egypt, which was published in England earlier this year.

5-jan-2008
Recreating a Viking voyage — BBC News
   Six months ago I set out on the most unusual and the wettest journey of my life.
   I was on board a replica Viking longship, the world's largest and most authentic, which was attempting to sail from Denmark to Dublin.
   The aim of the voyage was to test the ship and gain an insight into how the Vikings would have fared when making the same journey.
   One of the first lessons was just how dependent we were on the weather.
   A Viking ship is very poor at tacking (sailing into the wind by zigzagging).
   Using the oars is possible for short distances but getting all the way to Scotland would take hundreds of hours of continuous rowing.
   So the only option was to wait for the wind to change.
   In fact the greatest test the Viking ship faced came towards the end of the voyage when too much wind, rather than too little, was the problem.
   Soon there were waves coming over the side of the ship and we were all ordered into our survival suits.
   We knew the situation was serious when we were suddenly ordered to take down the sail and bring the ship to a halt.
   Overall though, Carsten is very impressed with how the ship performed and is confident it will make it back to Denmark safely. "Basically it works!" he says.

Giza Pyramids; Pyramids text; Egyptian deity; canopic jars
5-jan-2008
Last of the ancient wonders — Al-Ahram Weekly
For thousands of years, the riddle of the Pyramids has puzzled observers. Assem Deif looks to the skies for an answer
   Speaking of Egypt, it is the Pyramids that spring to mind. Their grandeur, their mystery and their architecture have caused more debate than any other structure on Earth. Since the time of Herodotus geographers and historians have tried to solve their riddles. The Great Pyramid of Khufu, in particular, has a design so striking that some thought only a deity could have created it. No wonder it was listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
   Historians and Egyptologists have come up with a unified theory explaining how and why pyramids were built, but they differ on both issues. They cannot explain, either, why they were not erected in one centralised place instead of being dispersed.
   All Egyptologists agree that the pyramids were intended as places of ascension and transformation of the king's soul. Khufu called his pyramid akhet, meaning the place of becoming an akh (spirit) . This is verified in the Pyramid Texts, funerary inscriptions serving as resurrection rituals that adorn the interior of several Old Kingdom pyramids. Egyptologists consider them the oldest collection of sacred texts known to us from ancient Egypt, if not the whole world, and put their number to 800 spells covering some 4,000 lines, according to Maspero who first collected them and Faulkner who translated them in 1969. The passages found in the Pyramid Texts suggest that they eventually evolved into the Coffin Texts and later in the Book of Going Forth by Day, known as the Book of the Dead, which was placed with the deceased. It was remarked that no single pyramid ever contained the whole collection of spells. Altogether there are some 10 pyramids containing Pyramid Texts, the earliest texts being at Saqqara in the pyramids of Unas and Teti where some 227 spells were found in the first pyramid alone. The pyramids built prior to these dates were puzzling monuments, revealing a little information; which led Maspero to announce in 1880, after entering the first to contain texts: "Thus spoke the dumb pyramids."

3-jan-2008
Grisly discovery of headless bodies gives insight into justice Saxon style — Yorkshire Post
   Once they were spectacular resting places to honour the dead. But with pagan Britain's conversion to Christianity, the Bronze Age burial mounds came to be regarded with suspicion as places where devils and dragons lurked.
   The dozen skeletons 10 without their heads were discovered by archaeologists in the late 1960s in a Bronze Age barrow at Walkington Wold, sparking theories that it has been the site of a massacre, a series of executions or even a Celtic head cult.
   But a new study by two Yorkshire archaeologists, involving radiocarbon dating and a re-analysis of the bones, has uncovered gruesome new evidence about how the victims, all men, heir deaths.
   Radiocarbon dating places the cemetery at a date several centuries later than originally thought, in the early 11th century.
   The men would have been tried by a court, their execution excluding burial in consecrated ground.

3-jan-2008
Field Museum's Chinese scroll of Madonna and Child shows Christianity's spread — Chicago Tribune
   As a pair of conservators at the Field Museum slowly unrolled an ancient Chinese scroll, it dramatically revealed how far the Christian faith has traveled since that first Christmas in Bethlehem.
    "I only began to realize how important this thing is when we [recently] had it restored," said curator Bennet Bronson. "Look."
   His finger hovered above the figure of a European-looking Mary holding an infant Jesus with a forelock knotted in the Chinese style. That multicultural iconography witnesses Christianity's ability to cross cultural borders, noted Bronson, an anthropologist.
   In the scroll's lower left corner are two Chinese characters representing the name of a famed artist, Tang Yin, who lived from about 1470 to 1523. Because that was before the Jesuit period, Laufer decided the signature was a forgery, subsequently added to protect the painting's owners during a period when Christianity was suppressed in China.
   Arnold thinks Laufer got it wrong: the signature on the scroll truly is that of a 15th and 16th Century artist. To her mind, it testifies to how quickly China incorporated Christian ideas into its own.

2-jan-2008
Book review:The Secret Middle Ages: Discovering the Real Medieval World — Carla Nayland Historical Fiction {$br}}   The Secret Middle Ages is a survey of the neglected arts and crafts of the medieval period (roughly 1100 to 1600) in Britain and continental Europe including France, the Low Countries and Germany. The author comments that most studies of medieval art present only a partial picture, confined to religious art and the precious objects owned by the elite. His survey, by contrast, sets out to explore what he calls the other half of medieval art, the everyday objects accessible to the bulk of the population biscuit moulds, furniture, cheap lead jewellery, personal seals, floor tiles, woodcuts in books that illustrate contemporary stories and sayings, and decorative carvings in churches such as misericords and carved capitals.
   The book begins by discussing an inventory of 40 biscuit moulds owned by a wealthy businessman in Frankfurt in 1521. Pictorial biscuits were given as seasonal presents, a sort of edible greetings card (Now there's a tradition worth reviving!). Three-quarters of the moulds depict scenes that are non-religious, and about half are concerned with love in its courtly or erotic manifestations. So much for the popular view of the Middle Ages as a repressed society obsessed with religion!
   The Secret Middle Ages is a cornucopia of vivid, fascinating, humorous and frequently surprising insights into the rich and varied world of ordinary life in the Middle Ages. In some ways this world is very different from ours, for example, its evident misogyny is unattractive to modern ideas. In others, such as the conventions of romantic love and the many proverbs and phrases that are still in use today, it is very recognisable. The everyday objects surveyed in this eclectic book do more than much High Art to bring the Middle Ages to life for example, the cheap little lead brooch in the shape of a violet with a romantic caption that was perhaps bought at a fair or from a pedlar by some village boy as a love-present for his girl.

Medieval Pottery Research Group
2-jan-2008
Medieval Pottery Research Group Travel Fund — Past Horizons's Weblog
   This fund was established in 2007 to honour the enormous contribution made by John Hurst to the study of medieval and post-medieval pottery in Britain and Europe.
   It offers a number of travel grants of up to 200 each to members of the Medieval Pottery Research Group who need financial support to carry out their research.
   Preference will be given to applicants whose projects help strengthen links between Britain and the rest of Europe and to students or those at the beginning of their careers.

1-jan-2008
Beer Brewed Long Ago by Native Americans— LiveScience
   Ancient Pueblo Indians brewed their own brand of corn beer, a new study suggests, contradicting claims that the group remained dry until their first meeting with the Europeans.
   Archaeologists recently found that 800-year-old potsherds belonging to the Pueblos of the American Southwest contained bits of fermented residue typical in beer production.
   Many of the tribes living in Mexico and some in Arizona are known to have produced a weak beer called tiswin, made by fermenting kernels of corn, but no evidence has ever been found that the same thing happened in New Mexico.
   "There's been an artificial construct among archeologists working in New Mexico that no one had alcohol here until the Spanish brought grapes and wine. That's so counter-intuitive. It doesn't make sense to me as a social scientist that New Mexico would have been an island in pre-Columbian times," said Glenna Dean, an archaeologist who approached Sandia Laboratories for help with her research, which she conducts through her small business Archeobotanical Services.
   To test her thinking, Dean brought potsherds belonging to ancient New Mexican Pueblos, pots from modern Tarahumaran groups where tiswin is still brewed and pots in which Dean herself concocted the brew to Sandia Laboratories for comparison.
   Sandia scientists analyzed the samples using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, technologies that can identify the presence of organic compounds and are used in national security to detect chemical, biological and other hazardous agents.

Whalebone tools for making nets have been found in Nuvuk burials
1-jan-2008
[Bodies point to Alaska's past — BBC News
    Now known as Point Barrow, the settlement on it was Nuvuk for at least 1,000 years, a spot presumably chosen because of its proximity to the migration path of bowhead whales which would become the cultural and nutritional centre of Nuvuk life.
   The team uncovers about 20 complete burials each year. The methodology now involves digging exploration holes every few metres in a lattice pattern - "Swiss-cheesing", as Laura Taylor calls it - and excavating the newly identified burial sites.
   Most of the bodies were interred in a rough framework made of wood or whale bones, with a piece of driftwood on top; some were also wrapped in animal skin or fur.
   Artefacts have also surfaced, making suggestions about how people lived in Nuvuk. Here, a body holds an ulu, a traditional knife used for taking blubber from whale carcasses; there, a grave gives up weights from a bolus which would have been used to hunt birds.
   There is armour made from whale baleen. Many of the graves also contain flat stones, which presumably have some kind of ceremonial purpose.
   Clearly it was complex enough 1,000 years ago to support whaling, an activity which needs great co-ordination within the community. Crews must organise hunting, villagers must turn out for a swift butchering, meat must be stored, seals caught to make umiaq, and trading enacted to bring in caribou meat and driftwood.

Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life
1-jan-2008
Wanted- volunteer Romans and Tudors! — Thetford and Brandon Times
   A 500-year-old town house is calling on more volunteer Romans, Victorians, Tudors, and world war two characters to come forward to help meet a busy schedule of 2008 events.
   Ancient House Museum, in Thetford, has launched a recruitment drive in a bid to get more residents from the town in costume and involved in their House Alive days.
   Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service has been running a series of popular, fun and informative re-enactment history days at the Grade I listed building, in White Hart Street, since it reopened after a 1.6m refit in 2006.
   Officials now want to encourage more enthusiastic people to volunteer as a 'Thetford Treasures' who might be willing to dress up as Tudor cooks, maids, or ladies and gentlemen.
   Karen-Emma White, from Ancient House, said no experience was necessary to become a House Alive helper and training would be provided.

An archway from the Darb-i Imam shrine, Isfahan, Iran ( built in 1453 ) with two overlapping girih patterns.
1-jan-2008
Medieval Muslims made stunning math breakthrough — Reuters
   Magnificently sophisticated geometric patterns in medieval Islamic architecture indicate their designers achieved a mathematical breakthrough 500 years earlier than Western scholars, scientists said on Thursday.
   By the 15th century, decorative tile patterns on these masterpieces of Islamic architecture reached such complexity that a small number boasted what seem to be "quasicrystalline" designs, Harvard University's Peter Lu and Princeton University's Paul Steinhardt wrote in the journal Science.
   Only in the 1970s did British mathematician and cosmologist Roger Penrose become the first to describe these geometric designs in the West. Quasicrystalline patterns comprise a set of interlocking units whose pattern never repeats, even when extended infinitely in all directions, and possess a special form of symmetry.
   The walls of many medieval Islamic structures display sumptuous geometric star-and-polygon patterns. The research indicated that by 1200 an important breakthrough had occurred in Islamic mathematics and design, as illustrated by these geometric designs.

Thomas Nicholls — 1754
1-jan-2008
Arrr! Real pirates not as Depp-icted, professor says — Deseret Morning news
    Starting in January, Ian Chambers is teaching a course he devised on the real history of piracy, one that includes as much brutish reality as it does swashbuckling adventure.
   There's an awful lot of interest in those grubby men.
   Chambers said it only makes sense to teach a subject that has a "high degree of history coinciding with a high degree of interest." Studying piracy and focusing on the "golden age" of piracy, from the mid-1600s to early 1700s, brings together a lot of different chapters of history that are often taught separately, Chambers said.
    Pirates are generally defined as "mobile thieves on the high seas who flew under no nation's flag," Chambers says. They've been around dating back to the Greeks and Romans, but they flourished along with the colonial ambitions and maritime wars among European countries in the 1600s.
   As commerce and warfare opened up, so did opportunistic piracy. In addition to that, though, was the growth of privateers, ships hired by nations that operated on a freelance basis, under piratelike rules.
   When European nations signed a peace treaty in 1713, there was another boom in piracy, as navy men and privateers looked to stay at sea. Meanwhile, exploration in the Americas was creating new lanes of commerce in the Atlantic, and piracy was also thriving in the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean.
    Pirates have often been considered less wicked than romantic. In the golden age, pirates were typically poor, marginalized people, including African sailors and some women fighting against the established order.
   "These pirates were the poor attacking the rich," Chambers said. "They were Robin Hood-type figures. That's something that's always very romantic."

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