Sunday, August 31, 2014

Brahmi Script – Modern Name to Oldest Writing

Brahmi Script
Brahmi is a modern name which is given to one of the oldest writing that had been used in the Indian subcontinent as well as in Asia at the time of the last centuries BCE and the early centuries CE. It represented some of the earliest post Indus corpus of texts together with some of the early historical inscriptions which were found in India and was the ancestor to many of the scripts which were found in South, Southeast and East Asia.

Tamil Script
Some of the best known Brahmi inscriptions are the rock cut edicts of Ashoka found in north central India which dates back to 250 – 232 BCE deciphered by archaeologist, philologist and official of the East India Company, James Prinsep, in 1837. Much debate has been going on about the origin of the script with current Western academic opinion generally agreeing that the Brahmi was the result from or at least influenced by one or several contemporary Semitic scripts though current opinion in India preferred the idea that it was connected to the older and yet to be deciphered Indus script.

The script appeared by the 5th century BCE in India and several local variants in the early texts indicated that its origin was way back in time and that there were several theories based on the origin of the Brahmi script.

Different Theories on Brahmi

Brahmi Script
The first theory was that Brahmi has a West Semitic origin and the symbol for ‘a’for instance resembles Semitic letter `alif’. So also `dha, tha, la’ and `ra’ also appear more or less close to their Semitic counterparts.

Another theory proposes a Southern Semitic origin and the third theory holds that the Brahmi script was from Indus script.The 5th century of the Gupta script is at times called `late Brahmi’, which is diversified into various local variants and have been classified as the Brahmic scripts. Several of the modern scripts that have been used across South Asia have come from Brahmi which has made it one of the world’s influential traditions in writing.

 Some of the earliest Ashoka inscriptions were found all over India besides the Kharoshti writing in northwest which are highly uniform. Regional variants had begun to develop towards the late 3rd century because of the difference in the material used for writing as well as to the structures of the language that was used. 

Brahmi Written from Left to Right

Tamil Script
In South India, the earliest evidence of Brahmi script is from Bhattiprolu in Andhra Pradhes which was written on an urn containing Buddhist relics probably in Prakrit and old Telegu where twenty three letters were identified.

While letters like ga and sa seems same to Mauryan Brahmi, bha and da resemble the modern Telugu script. It is observed that Brahmi is written from left to right and is an abugida which means that each of the letters represents a consonant and the vowels are often written with obligatory diacritics known as matras in Sanskrit except whenever the vowel begins with a word.

 Whenever no vowel is written the /a/ vowel is understood and this default short a” is a characteristic which is shared with Kharoshthi though the vowels may differ in other respects. Vowels which follow a consonant are written or are inherent by diacritics though initial vowels tend to have dedicated letters. The three vowels in Brahmi are /a/, /i/, /u/ and long vowels come from the letters for short vowels though there are only five vowels diacritics as short /a/ is comprehended if no vowel is written.

Special Conjunct Consonants Used

Indus Script
Special conjunct consonants are also used to write consonant clusters like /pr/ or /rv/ and in modern Devanagari, the components of a conjunct is written from left to right whenever possible, while in Brahmi, the characters seems to be joined vertically downwards.It has been observed that the basic system of vowels are common to Brahmi and Kharosthi wherein every consonant is understood, followed by a vowel and this was well suited to Prakrit though Brahmi adapted other languages, a special notation known as the `virama’ was introduced to mark the omission of the final vowel.

During the early Brahmi period, the punctuation marks was not very popular and letter had to be written independently with some space between edicts and words at times. During the middle era, the system seemed to be progressing and the use of a dash together with a curved horizontal line was found while a flower mark was considered to mark the end and a circular mark indicated a full stop with varieties of full stop.

Towards the later period, the system of inter-punctuation marks got somewhat complicated, where for instance, there are four types of vertically slanted double dashes which resemble `//’ to mark the end of the composition. The signs remain a bit simple in the inscription inspite of all the decorative signs which were available at the time of the late period.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias – Cognitive/Tendency to Search/Interpret

Confirmation bias, also known as `myside bias’ is a kind of cognitive bias or tendency to search for, or interpret information which confirms the previous existing beliefs or hypotheses. This bias is displayed when people collect or recall information selectively or when they interpret the information in a biased manner and this effect is much stronger in emotionally charged issues as well as deeply affected beliefs.

For instance if a person is of the belief that left handed people are likely to be more creative than right handed people and when they encounter these individuals, they tend to place more importance on this piece of evidence which supports their already existing belief. Confirmation biases also have an impact on how people obtain information though they also influence how it is interpreted and remember information.

It is human tendency that when people who support or oppose a given issue will seek our information which may support their belief, while they will also tend to interpret and weave new stories which would in a way support their existing belief as well as remember other things which further reinforces these attitudes. The impact is stronger for emotionally charged matters and deeply established position.

Impacts – Process of Information

Confirmation Bias
Confirmation biases are impacts in the process of information which may differ from the behavioral confirmation effects also known as self-fulfilling prophecy, wherein behavior that tends to get influenced by expectation may result in the expectations to be true.

Confirmation bias is often used by some psychologist in referring to the tendency to refrain from rejecting beliefs while looking for evidence and interpreting or recalling them from memory while others restrict the term to certain collection of evidence.

It takes place when individual seek out potentially useful opinions and facts which do not coincide with their preconceived beliefs that tends to affect their perceptions as well as decisions in in all respects of lives causing less than an optimal choice. It would be helpful in seeking people and publication of varied opinions, than our own in overcoming confirmation bias withwell informed decisions.

Wishful Thinking – Limited Human Capacity

Series of researches conduction in the 1960s indicated that people were biased in confirming their existing beliefs and later re-interpreted that these results as tendencies to test ideas in one sided track focusing on one possibility while overlooking the alternatives and in some it can bias people’s conclusions.

 For the observed biases, the explanations would include wishful thinking accompanied with limited human capacity in processing information while another explanation indicates that people show confirmation bias since they are weighed up of being wrong instead of investigating in a scientific and neutral manner. It could also contribute to over confidence in personal beliefs which would strengthen beliefs with regards to contrary evidence.

Due to these decisions, poor decisions have been found in organizational and political sectors. Confirmation bias could also create problems for investors while researching an investment, they may tend to look for information which would support their beliefs on investment and overlook information which would present a better insight.

The outcome would be a one sided view of the situation and thus cause investors in making poor decision in their choice of investments of buying or selling options.

The Twelve Labours of Hercules

The Twelve Labours of Hercules
Labours of Hercules – Greatest Hero of Greek Mythology

Hercules was the strongest man on the earth and the greatest of all heroes in Greek mythology. He had tremendous physical strength, great self-confidence and considered himself to be equal to the gods. Called by the Greeks as Heracles, he was not blessed with much intelligence but his bravery made up for the lack of it.

He would get easily angered with sudden outburst of rage which often affected the innocent people and when his anger would die down, he would be filled with sorrow and guilt for his offences and would be ready to make up for it by accepting any form of punishment for his misdeeds. Hercules was the son of Zeus and Alcmena, the wife of Amphitryon who was a distinguished Greek warrior and heir to the throne of Tiryns.

While her husband was away, one night Zeus disguised as her husband took advantage of her. When Amphitryon returned the next day and did not seem to remember anything about the previous night, Alcmena seemed concerned and consulted the blind prophet Tiresias who informed them that Alcmena would conceive a son from Zeus who would become a great hero. Alcmena later on bore twin boys, Hercules, the son of Zeus and Iphicles, the son of Amphitryon.

Grief/Guilt – Atonement for His Guilt

When the goddess Hera came to know that Zeus had fathered Hercules, she was very furious and being fiercely jealous of Zeus lovers as well as his children, she would harm them mercilessly. She tried to kill Hercules one night by placing two poisonous snakes in his crib but Hera was not successful in her plan since Hercules had grabbed the snakes and strangled them.

Hera continued to torment Hercules who faced many events leading him to great suffering and punishment. Hercules, while he was still young, fought the Minyans, a people who had been forcing Thebes to pay tribute and he conquered them. As a reward, the king of Thebes gave him his daughter, Megara in marriage and Hercules was very devoted to her and his children that she bore him. It was one of those days while he returned home from a journey, that Hera attacked him with a fit of madness in which he killed his children and his wife.

 When he realised his mistake, Hercules was filled with grief and guilt and went to the oracle at Delphi for atonement of his guilt who in turn told him to go to King Eurystheus of Tiryns and accept any punishments given to him. Moreover, the oracle also informed him that if the tasks would be completed, he would become immortal.

The Twelve Labours of Hercules 

The King gave Hercules a series of twelve difficult as well as dangerous tasks to perform which were known as the Twelve Labours of Hercules and his most famous feats.

Hercules and Nemean Lion
His first task was to kill the Nemean Lion, a monstrous beast which terrorized the countryside and which no weapon could kill it. Hercules strangled the beast with his bare hands and made its skin into a cloak.

 Hercules and Lernaean Hydra
His second task was to kill the Lernaean Hydra, a creature having nine heads which lived in a swamp and one of its head was immortal while the others grew back when cut off. Hercules with the aid of his friend Iolaus, cut off the beast’s all eight heads and burnt each would which prevented new heads growing back and since he could not cut off the ninth head, he buried the creature under a mighty rock.

Hercules and Cerynean Hind
The third task was to capture the Cerynean Hind, a golden horned deer which was sacred to the goddess Artemis. Hunting the animal for a year, Hercules managed to trap it and as he was taking it to Tiryns; Artemis prevented him, demanding that he return the deer. Hercules on promising her that the sacred deer would meet no harm was permitted to continue his journey.

Hercules and Erymanthian Boar
The fourth task was to seize the Erymanthian Boar, a monstrous animal which ravaged the land surrounding Mount Eryman-thus. Hercules after forcing the animal from its lair chased it until it became exhausted that he managed to catch it with ease.

The fifth task was to clean the Augean Stables in a day and King Augeas, the son of the sun god Helios had many herds of cattle where the stables had not been cleaned for several years. Hercules managed this task by diverting rivers through the filthy stables.

The sixth task involved driving the Stymphalian Birds, which were a flock of birds with claws, beaks and wings of iron which ate humans and were frightening the countryside. Hercules with the help of goddess Athena forced the birds from their nest and shot them with his bow and arrow.

The seventh task was to capture the Cretan Bull which was kept by King Minos of Crete that was said to be insane and would breathe fire. Hercules wrestled with the insane beast bringing it to the ground and brought it back to King Eurystheus but the king set it free and it roamed in Greece causing a lot of terror wherever it went.

capture the Mares of Diomedes
The eighth task was to capture the Mares of Diomedes, a herd of horses which belonged to King Diomedes of Thrace which ate humans. Hercules completed this task by killing Diomedes and let the mares feed on his flesh. Thereafter he tamed the horses and brought them back to Eurystheus.

The ninth task was to obtain the Girdle of Hippolyte, the queen of the Amazons who greeted Hercules warmly and was prepared to give him the girdle. Hera here caused trouble by making the Amazons think that Hercules had plans to kidnap the queen. They attacked and Hercules killed the queen taking the girdle with him.

The tenth task was to capture the Cattle of Geryon, a monster with three bodies which lived in the far west of the island Erythia. After following a difficult journey by sea and through the desert, Hercules managed to kill Geryon, a herdsman and a big guard dog. He then took the cattle and returned with them to Tiryns.

The eleventh labour was to bring back the golden Apples of the Hesperides, a group of nymphs which lived in the far west and Hercules sought help from Hesperides’ father, the giant Atlas who held up the sky. He offered to take the place of Atlas under the sky in exchange to get the apples from his daughters and Atlas agreed and brought the apples though he refused to take back the sky. Hercules requested Atlas to hold the sky for only a moment to get a pad to ease the burden on his shoulder to which Atlas agreed. No sooner Atlas took the sky back; Hercules grabbed the apples and fled away.

The twelfth and the final task of Hercules was one of the most difficult and dangerous one. He had to go down to the kingdom of Hades and capture Cerberus, the fierce three headed dog which guarded the gates to the underworld. Hades informed Hercules that he could take Cerberus without the use of any weapons to overcome the beast and he wrestled Cerberus into submission or gave him drugged food and thus carried him to Eurystheus.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Black Death

Black Death – Most Devastating Epidemics in Human History

One of the most devastating epidemics in human history which resulted in the death of millionsof people was in Europe in the years 1346 -53. The Black Death is the name given to a deadly plague which is often called bubonic plague and is more likely known to be pneumonic plague. It occurred during the 14th century and was believed to arrive from Asia in late 1348 causing more than one epidemic during that time.

Its impact on the English community from1349 to 1350 was very severe. Medical treatment was not helpful in any way and when the plague struck in England, it had a major impact on England’s social structure which resulted in the Peasants Revolt of 1381.Due to the plague, fields were not ploughed since they were the victim of the disease and harvest could not be done due to lack of manpower resulting in the village facing starvation.

Feudal Law – Feudal System

Black Death
Town and cities face food shortages as the villages which surrounded them could not provide them with enough food. Grain farming became less popular. The consequence of the Black Death was inflation where the price of food increased four times. The survivals of the Black Death were of the notion that there was something special about them and took the opportunity to improve their lifestyle. According to the feudal law, it was stated that the peasants could only leave their village with the lord’s permission and since most of the lords were in desperate need of labor for their land, encouraged peasants to leave the village and work for them.

Black Death
While the peasants agreed to work for them, they were not allowed to return to their original village. The lords were at the receiving end since peasants could demand increased wages and knew that the lords were desperately in need of labor for harvest. The government thus faced the prospect of peasants leaving their villages to get better options, thus upsetting the whole idea of the Feudal System which had been introduced to bind the peasants to the land. In fact, this movement by the peasants was encouraged by the lords with the intention to benefit from the Feudal System.

Aftermath – Series of Religious/Economic/Social Chaos 

Black Death
Though there were various competing theories to the etiology of the Black Death, analysis of the DNA gathered from victims in northern as well as southern Europe which were revealed in 2010 and 2011, showed that the pathogen that was responsible was Yersinia pestis bacterium which was probably the reason of several forms of plague. The Black Death is presumed to have begun in the arid plains of central Asia which then travelled along the Silk Road heading towards Crimea by 1343.

Thereafter it is likely to have been carried by Oriental rat fleas residing on the black rats who were the regular carriers on merchant ships thus spreading throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. The plague reduced the world population from an estimated 450 million down to 350-375 million during the 14th century. Aftermath of the plague thus created a series of religious, economic as well as social chaos leading to profound effects in European history and it took around 150 years for the recovery of Europe’s population with the plague recurring occasionally in Europe till the 19th century.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dendera Light – Technology of Electricity lighting

The term `Dendera light’, is a technology of electricity lighting used to describe an ancient Egyptian electrical lighting which is depicted on three stone reliefs, a single and a double representation in the Hathor temple, located at the Dendera Temple complex in Egypt that resembles some modern electrical lighting systems.

The temple complex of Dendera is one of the most preserved complexes in Egypt and lies around 2.5 km south east of of Dendera which is known to the ancient Egyptians as Iunet or Tantere, the sixth Nome of Upper Egypt. The entire complex is spread across an area of around 40,000 square meters which is surrounded by large mud brick enclosed wall.

The sculpture drew the attention of several historians due to the resemblance of the motifs to some modern electrical light systems though some mainstream Egyptologist considered it as a typical set of symbolic images from Egyptian mythology. The mainstream view among Egyptologist considers the reliefs as a combination of a Lotus flower, a Djed pillar which is a symbol of stability, portrayed by the outstretched arms and a snake coming from the flower through the Nut.

Around the Dendera Light, the inscription support this view, referring to the rising sun which springs out of a lotus flower in the shape of the snake god Semataui.

Small Crypts at the Temple of Hathor at Dendera

Dendera Light
The temple of Hathor at Dendera has some small crypts towards the eastern, southern and western areas where these crypts are presumed to have served as warehouses or treasuries for ritual, sacred and ceremonial equipment and used divine images in celebrating the various feasts and holidays.

Though these crypts are small, it is likely that some served as location for formal rituals while many have plain, undecorated wall. Some walls have limestone instead of the sandstone of the temple that is covered with intricately carved reliefs.

Towards the southern end of the temple are five subterranean crypts placed along a straight hallway and it was in these rooms that most of the valuable statues and objects were placed including two gilt statues of Hathor which were decorated with precious stone. The statues no doubt have been vanished but they are described in the text of Francois Daumas, as one being the height of one cubit three palms and two fingers.

Dendera Light – Major Source of Controversy

Dendera Light
The Dendera light has been a major source of controversy in Egyptian history due to many fringe historians interpreting the depiction as evidence of a modern lighting system which was similar to a Crookes tube. A Swiss archaeologist Erich von Daniken supporting this theory claims that the electrical light would give an explanation to the absence of lampblack deposits in several tombs that were discovered.

Dendera Light
Besides, the Dendera light is also used in a similar context as the `Baghdad Battery’, in assuming that the ancient cultures were more advanced than what we believe today. Scholars point out that there has been no reference in historical text on the use of light or electricity which one would expect to find, if it really was an electrical lamp nor has there been any electrical items uncovered from the various archaeological sites all over Egypt. Speculations are still on regarding the Dendera relief, drawing many across the world who are keen in getting a glimpse of the unusual carving.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mysterious snake appears in painting of Queen Elizabeth I

Mysterious Coiled Snake – Painting of Queen Elizabeth I

Mysterious snake appears in painting of Queen Elizabeth I
An image of a mysterious coiled snake has appeared in a late 16th century portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, as per the National Portrait Gallery. It was revealed that over time and degradation she was originally holding a coiled serpent in her hand and not the innocuous nosegays which she is portrayed holding now. In the original version of the painting, the serpent was shown being clasped in the Tudor monarch’s fingers though it was painted over at the last minute and replaced with decorative bunch of roses.

Queen Elizabeth I
The portrait which was painted by an unknown artist, somewhere in the 1580s or early 1590s was not on display at the National Portrait Gallery since 1921 but the shadow of the serpent can be seen clearly between the fingers and the tail which is coiled above her hand. The symbol was considered to be a symbol of wisdom,prudence and reasoned judgment as the physician’s emblem, the rod of Aesculapius and probably it was from this imagery that the unknown artist got the idea and changed his mind, possibly considering the common association of snakes with the devil and original sin and painted it over with a strange shaped inoffensive little bouquet of roses.

Concealed and Revealed 

Queen Elizabeth I
Infra Red Pic.
As per paint analysis, it indicates that the snake was definitely made at the same time like the rest of the painting and there does not seem to be any varnish between the snake and the flower layers and hence it is presumed that it was painted right over. The image though not on display at the London gallery formed part of an exhibition titled `Concealed and Revealed, The Changing Faces of Elizabeth I from March 13 to September 26.

It was suggested that the removal of the snake could have been due to the ambiguity of the emblem and an artist’s impression created what the snake would have looked like with the help of infra-red technology which revealed the changes in the initial design. According to a statement made from the gallery, it states that the snake is mainly black but has greenish blue scales and was almost certainly painted from imagination.

Unfinished Portrait by Different Artist

Mysterious snake appears in painting of Queen Elizabeth I
A portrait of another woman is seen which is behind the image of the monarch whose identify is not known. X-ray photography shows a female head facing the opposite direction and is in a higher position than the queen and the eyes and nose of the first face is visible where the paint has been faded from the queen’s forehead. The gallery is of the belief that the unfinished portrait could have been done by a different artist which showed how 16th century panels were at times recycled by artists.

Queen Elizabeth I
Moreover the portrait of the unknown woman seems to be wearing a French hood, of the 1570 – 1580s fashion indicating that there could have been a few years before the panel could have been reused to create the portrait of Elizabeth I. The most famous portrait of Elizabeth in a group, the Darnley portrait earlier portrayed the Queen with rosy, pink cheeks and the image of the Virgin Queen made up with white face and hands could turn out to be an artifact with paint that had changed than Elizabeth’s beauty standards.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Doggerland - Landmass in the Southern North Sea


Doggerland, a landmass in the southern North Sea,is connected to Great Britain to the mainland Europe, during and later in the last Ice Age till about 6,500 or 6,200 BC.

It is an area between Northern Scotland, Denmark and the Channel Islands. It gradually got flooded due to the rising sea levels and according to geological surveys, it stretches from Britain’s east coast to the Netherlands and the western coasts of Germany and Denmark.

It was presumed to be a rich habitat of humans during the Mesolithic era and a home to tens of thousands of people before it disappeared under water due to the rising levels which reduced it to low lying islands before it was totally abandoned, followed by a tsunami which was caused by the Storegga Slide.

Its history has been collected and put together by artifacts that have been discovered from the seabed and are displayed in London.

 The Doggerlands’ story is all about a land which gradually got submerged by water between 18,000 BC and 5,500 BC which was organised by geophysicist, Dr Richard Bates at St. Andrews University.

He states that `Doggerland was the real heartland of Europe till sea levels rose to give them, the UK coastline of today’.

Remodel the Flora and Fauna

He further went on to add that for years they had been speculating on the existence of the lost land from bones dredged by fishermen all across the North Sea though it was only after working with oil companies that they were able to re-create what the lost land looked like.

 When the data was first processed, it did not give much useful information but as more areas were unearthed it revealed a vast and complex landscape.

They have now been able to remodel the flora and fauna, build up image of the ancient people which lived there and have begun to understand a few of the dramatic events which changed the land, inclusive of the devastating tsunami and the rising sea level.

The ancient tree stumps, flint that was used by the humans together with the fossilised remains of a mammoth proved to be helpful in forming an image of how the landscape would have looked like.

Investigation Continues for More Evidence

From the findings gathered, it indicated a picture of a land with valleys and hills with large swamps and lakes having major rivers dissecting a complex coastline and as the sea level increased, the hills would have become an isolated archipelago of low islands.

On examining the fossil records it gave some insight on the type of vegetation that grew in Doggerland and which animals were found in that area.

Based on the information they were in a position to get an understanding of the capacity of the land and how many inhabitants could have been there. Rediscovering the Doggerland through scientific research, it indicates a dramatic past featuring massive climate changes. Further investigations are still on by the research team for more evidence of human behaviour which includes the possible human burial sites, standing stones as well as a mass mammoth grave.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Amber Room

The Amber Room – Amber Panels of Gold Leaf and Mirrors

The Amber Room
The Amber Room also known as the Amber Chamber in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg is a complete chamber which is decorated with amber panels of gold leaf and mirrors which were created in the eighteenth century though it disappeared during the World War II but recreated again in 2003.

It is one of the most amazing treasures that have ever been created by man where an entire room has been forged of exquisite amber from its four massive walls to its richly and finely crafted furniture which is also a subject of one among many history’s intriguing mysteries. Before it had disappeared, the Amber room was at times dubbed as `the Eighth Wonder of the World’, due to its amazing beauty. The Amber Room construction was done from 1701 to 1711 in Prussia in order to be installed at the palace which was the home of Friedrich I, the first King of Prussia,

The concept of the Amber Room as well as its design was done by Andreas Schluter, a German baroque sculptor together with Danish amber craftsman, Gottfried Wolfram while in service of the Prussian king who worked till 1707 and then the work was continued by Gottried Turau and Ernst Schacht amber masters from Danzig. Till 1716, the amber cabin was in Berlin City Palace when the same was given by Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm I to his ally Tsar Peter the Great of the Russian Empire.

Originally intended to be installed at Catherine Palace 

The Amber Room
Though the Amber Room was originally intended to be installed at Catherine Palace, the complete panels was installed at Berlin City Palace and the Amber Room was not there for long since it was presented by Friedrich Wilhelm I the first king’s son in 1716 to Peter the Great who admired it on his visit to the palace. With this the Prussian Russian alliance against Sweden was formed. The Amber Room was shipped in eighteen large boxes to Russia and installed in the Winter House in St. Petersburg to be a part of European art collection.

Czarina Elizabeth in 1755 ordered the room to be moved to the Catherine Place and the Italian designer Bartolomoe Francesco Rastrelli then redesigned the room to fit it into its new large space with the addition of amber which was shipped from Berlin. It expanded in Russia and after much renovation it covered an area of 180 square metres containing over six tons of glowing amber together with other semi-precious stones. The amber panels which were backed with gold leaf were estimated by historians at that time to be worth $142 million in present time dollars.

Completed in 1755 and Restored in 1830

It was completed in 1755 and restored in 1830. During World War II, the Amber Room was looted by the Nazi Germany and brought to Konigsberg and no information was available about its whereabouts thereafter. Towards 1979, the Amber was undertaken to be rebuilt and by 2003 after decades of great pain and efforts by Russian craftsmen and financed by donations from Germany, the reconstructed and restored Amber Room was finally inaugurated in the Catherine palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. Over a period of time, the Amber Room was utilised as a private meditation room for Czarina Elizabeth, a gathering place for Catherine the Great as well as a trophy area for amber connoisseur Alexander II

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Human Metropolis - Amazing Discoveries

Human Metropolis
Amazing discoveries have been done in areas of South Africa about 150 miles inland toward the west end of the port of Maputo which is the remains of a huge metropolis measuring about 1500 square miles andis apart of an even larger community that is around 10,000 square miles. It seems to have been constructed from 160,000to 200,000 BCE.

The region is remote and the circles which have been encountered by local farmers arepresumed to be made by some indigenous people in the ancient times though it is not known who could have made them or how old they were. When it was first encountered, the ruins were considered to be of cattle corals made by nomadic tribes such as the Bantu people who moved towards the south and then settled on the land around 13th century.

There is no record of previous history of the ancient civilization on who would have been capable of building this densely populated community. Moreover no efforts were done to investigate and learn about site since the scope of the ruins was not really known. Some people like Cyril Hromnik, Johan Heine, Richard Wade, together with a few others discovered and believed that these stone structures seemed to be the remains of ancient temples and astronomical observatories of lost ancient civilizations which dates back to several thousands of years.

Well Planned Community

Human Metropolis
The circular ruins seem to spread over a large area and can only be appreciated from space or through modern satellite images though most of them have been eroded or have been covered by soil movement due to the weather or farming. Some seem to have survived the conditions to reveal their great size with some original walls still standing almost 5 feet high and more than a meter wide in place.

From observation of the entire metropolis, it indicates that this seems to be a well planned community which had developed by highly evolved civilization and the number of ancient gold mines indicates the reason of the existence of the community in this area. There are roads, which extend a hundred miles connecting the community and terraced agriculture, which resemble those found in the Inca settlements in Peru.

Discovery of Heavy Patina on Rock

Human Metropolis
This was a major discovery in itself with remains of a huge community with around 20,000 people living and working together and dating the site was a big issue. The discovery of the heavy patina on the rock walls indicated that the structures were quite old but the science of dating patina is only just being developed which would make it controversial.

Carbon 14 dating of these things as burnt wood would introduce the possibility of these specimens being from recent grass fires that are common in that vicinity. With thousands of ancient old mines that have been discovered over the past years, it indicates that the people of this civilization probably dug for gold in this part of the world for thousands of years and that this area could probably be connected to gold.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Klaus Dona

Klaus Dona – Art Exhibition Curator, Austria

Klaus Dona
Klaus Dona is from the art world and as an Art Exhibition Curator for the Habsburg Haus of Austria; he has been organising exhibitions all across the globe. His approach to archaeology is unconventional and he has travelled in search of unsolved and unique discoveries all over the world. He is on a mission to bring about discoveries to the people like his discovery on giant bones, crystal skulls, carvings and sculptures, the existence of which had not been revealed.

He seems to be motivated with this unusual vocation since he refuses to retreat in the face of doubt and scepticism and though his funding is on the lower side, he is keen on discovering the real mysteries by going down through the centuries and excavating artifacts which science does not permit, to know the existence of physical proof that had not been surfaced.

Being a specialist in art exhibition and culture, since 1991, he has organized over 30 cultural exhibitions in Austria, Korea and Japan and his attention was drawn automatically to a phenomenon known as `Ooparts’, an out of place artifacts. According to present science, these artifacts should not exist and Klaus Dona has been researching on these types of artefact for more than a decade.

`Ooparts’ Pieces – Unsolved Mysteries 

Klaus Dona
After his prolonged research, he finally set up an exhibition of 470 Ooparts pieces known as `Unsolved Mysteries’, wherein the artifacts come from various places like Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and several other countries and has displayed these artifacts, something which he has achieved since most of the museums bury them in their basements in order to avoid raising queries. Major quantity of these discoveries have been scattered around the world and kept in secret private collection.

Klaus Dona has managed to research over 3500 pieces which has no logical answers to it. Dona has been living in Vienna since 1982 and has been operating from his office from 1987 and for many years has been dedicated to the research of mysterious excavations and discoveries. He believes that the can prove the existence of ancient, global civilization which had built the first pyramids.

Ancient Rock Walls and Formations in Australia

Klaus Dona
Ancient rock walls and formations in Australia were found at a location that was not far off and which is seldom walked near or seen and there seemed to be an extremely unusual tunnel and wall which had been discovered due to Klaus Dona’s guidance,with access to the latest advances in photographs and technology.

The site seems to be a steep slope and to enter to the opening of this site was to straddle a three metre drop and the entrance seems to be a bit unnatural. From observations it was learnt that the tunnel was under pressure and compression from above.

Klaus Dona Artefact

The top part of the platform seemed to be sliding down the slope causing confusion in the tunnel. Some of his exhibition were `Planning and implementation of the Japanese Friendship Festival’, on the Vienna Danube Island, `The Splendor of the Habsburg dynasty’ in Tokyo which triggered the Habsburg boom in Japan, `Planning and coordination for the Japanese series move `Tora-San’, `Unsolved mysteries – The World of the Unexplained’, the world premiere of the exhibition was in Vienna, which was followed by exhibitions in Berlin – D, Interlaken – CH and Seoul – S. Korea.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Saturnalia – An Ancient Roman Festival

Saturnalia, an ancient Roman festival was celebrated in honour of the deity Saturn which is held on the 17th of December according to the Julian calendar which later expanded with festivals all through the 23rd of December.

Saturnalia originated as a farmer’s festival, commemorating the dedication of the templeof Saturn the Roman god of harvest and agriculture.

It originally was celebrated only for a day in Ancient Rome but it became popular and the celebration lasted for a week inspite of Augustus’s efforts of reducing it to three days as well as Caligula’s to five days.

The celebration began with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn the Roman forum together with a public banquet which was followed with a private gift sharing, continual partying as well as a carnival celebration which overturned the Roman social norms.

 Gambling was permitted with masters providing table service for their slaves. It was a time of honour to Saturn, the god of sowing and like Christmas, it was a feast day – dies festus, wherein a public banquet was prepared with an effigy of the god placed in their midst which was probably one of the guest in the crowd.

Festival Time – Temporary Exchange of Roles

According to poet Catullus he termed it as `the best of days’. During the festival it was a time for celebration wherein people visited their friends and indulged in gift sharing especially of wax candles known as cerei and earthenware figurines known as sigillaria.

It was a great moment especially for the slaves which were a temporary exchange of roles wherein masters served meals to their slaves who were given the unaccustomed benefit of leisure and gambling. Clothing was sober which included the peaked woollen cap symbolizing the free slave that looks similar like Santa’s peaked red hat.

The characteristic shout or salutation of the festival used the phrase `io Saturnalia’, which originally commenced after the public banquet on the single day of 17th December. It was a strong emotive ritual exclamation which was used in announcing triumph or celebrating Bacchus and also as a joke.

Saturnalia – Work of Macrobius, Latin Writer

According to Roman mythology, Saturn seems to be an agricultural deity who it is believed to have reigned over the world during the Golden Age. Saturnalia, probably the best known Roman holiday, as a whole, is not detailed from beginning to end in any single ancient record. From modern understanding with regards to the festival, details have been gathered together from various accounts which have dealt with many aspects.

Saturnalia was the work of a Latin writer, by the name Macrobius from late antiquity who is the major source of information regarding the holiday. According to one of the interpretation in Macrobius’s work Saturnalia is a festival of light leading to the winter solstice along with the presence of abundant of candles which symbolises the quest for knowledge and truth.

With the renewable of lights as well as the coming of the New Year, it was celebrated in the later Roman Empire of Sol Invictus at the Dies Natalis as the `birthday of the unconquerable Sun’, on 25th December.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Operation Polo – Military Operation

The code name of the Hyderabad Police Action, `Operation Polo’, was a military operation on 17th September, 1948, which was a black day in human history. It was a day when the Indian Armed Forces invaded the State of Hyderabad and occupied the Hyderabad State through military force, known as `Police Action’, originally known as `Operation Polo’and overthrew its Nizam, annexing the state into Indian Union. The conflict started after Nizam Osman Ali Khan, Asif Jah VII refrained from joining the princely State of Hyderabad to either of the states of India and Pakistan after the partition of India.The defiance for Nizam were backed by Qasim Razvi’s armed militias which were known as Razakars with moral support of Pakistan.Reaching a stalemate position in negotiations between the Nizam and India, there arose mass killing and rape of the Hindu population by the Razakars creating a lot of hostility in the independent state in the centre of India. Sardar Patel, Deputy Prime Minister, then decided to annex the state of Hyderabad and send the Indian army and defeated the Hyderabad State Forces within five days.

British Offered Three Options 

The State of Hyderabad which is located over the Deccan Plateau is in southern India and was established in 1724 by Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah after the fall of the Mughal Indian Empire. The Nizam was a Muslim, which was the case in several Indian royal states, but the majority of the subject population were Hindus and Hyderabad became the first Indian royal state in 1798, to accede to British protection under the Subsidiary Alliance policy which was instituted by Arthur Wellesley. The British, when they finally departed from India in the year 1947, offered the different princely states in the sub-continent with three options, one to merge into Indian Union, or to remain independent or to merge into newly formed Pakistan. The Indian government wanted the Hyderabad State to be merged into Indian union since it was placed between the North and South regions and if the Indian Union would want to rule over the southern region, it wouldbe impossible and hence they wanted to occupy the Hyderabad state in order to include the north as well as the south regions and rule over it.

Decision to Keep Hyderabad Independent 

Nizam, however decided to keep Hyderabad independent and the leaders of the new Union of India were displeased in having an independent state in the heart of their new country and were determined to acquire Hyderabad into the Indian Union even if they were compelled to do so, which was unlike the other 565 princely states which had already acceded voluntarily to India and Pakistan. Under the leadership of the 7th Nizam, Mir Usman Ali, the State of Hyderabad became the most prosperous and the largest of all the princely states in India covering an area of 82,698 square miles, of fairly homogenous territory with a population of around 16.34 million according to the 1941 census, out of which a majority of 85% were Hindus. The State of Hyderabad had its own airline, telecommunication system, army, postal system, railway network, together with currency and radio broadcasting service.On the pretext of subduing communist movement which had spread in the four districts of Hyderabad State, the Indian union in the year 1948 attacked the state and overthrew the Nizam rule which was the Muslim rule and though the police action was intended to occupy Hyderabad state, it was actually due to the police action that the Muslims were killed in very large numbers.

Ulcer in the Heart of India/To Be Removed Surgically 

As the Indian government got the information about Hyderabad arming itself and preparing to take support from Pakistan in any forthcoming war against India, Sardar Patel described the idea as an ulcer in the heart of India, of an independent Hyderabad which needed to be removed surgically. Responding to this remark, Hyderabad’s Prime Minister, Laik Ali commented stating, `India thinks that if Pakistan attacks its country, Hyderabad will stab her in the back and that he was not sure whether he would not do so. This brought about a retaliating comment from Sardar Patel saying that if threaten with violence, swords will be met with swords. Militia leader, Qasim Razvi, Hyderabad, told the supporters of Razakars that death with the sword in hand is preferable to extinction by a mere stroke of the pen and was later described as `the Nizam’s Franskenstein Monster by the Indian government officials. Razvi, in response to reports that India had plans to invade Hyderabad, further stated that if India attacks he would create turmoil throughout India and while they perish, India would be perishing too. According to Time magazine it was stated that if India would invade Hyderabad, the Razakars would massacre Hindus and this would lead to retaliatory massacres of Muslims all across India.

Arya Samaj/Hindu Fundamentalist/Indian Military- Responsible for the Killing

According to official estimate by the Sundarlal Committee appointed by the government of India, around one lakh Muslims were killed by the Indian army and the unofficial estimate was over two lakh Muslims that were killed. The Arya Samaj together with the other Hindu fundamentalist organizations with the Indian military, were responsible for the killing of the Muslims and 17th September became the day of genocide and not liberation day, the after effect of which is felt even in present times.

It was beyond the imagination of the Nizam of Hyderabad State to witness this type of a massacre, since he always considered the Hindus and Muslims as his two eyes and the way the people of the state were targeted due to the Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan’s innocence together with the lack of understanding was very shocking to him and all his dreams laid shattered before his very eyes and he was not in a position to set anything right in the face of this turmoil.

The Goddard Plan 

The Indian army on receiving instruction from the government to capture and annexe Hyderabad code named Operation Polo, came up with the Goddard Plan which was laid out by Lt. Gen. E. N. Goddard, the Commander-in-Chief of the Southern Command. The plan indicated two main thrust, one from Vijayawada in the East and Sholapur in the West with smaller units in the Hyderabadi army all along the border. The entire command was placed in the hands of Lt. Gen Rajendrasinghji, DSO.Sholapur attack was led by Major Gen. J. N. Chaudharicomprising of four task forces namely Strike Force, Smash Force, Kill Force and Vir Force, while the attack from Vijayawada was led by Major Gen. A. A. Rudraand comprised of 2/5 Gurka Rifles, one squadron of the 17th Poona Horse, with troop from the 19th Field Battery, together with engineering and ancillary units. Besides this, there were 4 infantry battalions to neutralize and protect line of communication with two squadrons of Hawker Tempest aircraft for air support from the Pune base.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Devil’s bible – Codex Gigas

Codex Gigas
Codex Gigas known as the Devil’s Bible is the largest and the strangest manuscripts in the world.

 It is so huge that it is said to have taken more than 160 animal skins to make it, needing at least two people to lift it and measures around one metre in length. Gigas in Latin means giant and Codex Gigas when translated mean `giant book’.

It is an appropriate name since the codex is the largest single volume surviving from the 13th century monks.

The medieval manuscript according to legend was created out of a pact with the devil and this is the reason why it is sometimes referred to as the Devil’s bible.

 It is said to be written during the 13th century in Latin in the Benedictine monastery of Podlazice in Bohemia which is modern Czech Republic and though the origin of the manuscript is not known, a mention in the manuscript states that it was pawned at Sedlec in 1295 in a monastery.

Entire Collection Plundered by Swedish Army - 1648

Codex Gigas
Codex Gigas has a complete vulgate Latin translation of the Bible and five other major texts and begins with the Old Testament continuing with Antiquities of the Jews, by Flavius Josephus, Encyclopedia Etymologiae by Isidore of Seville, a collection of medical works of Hippocrates, Theophilus and others, the New Testament and the Chronicle of Bohemia by Cosmas of Prague.

Smaller text have also been included in the manuscript like magic formula, exorcism, images of the Heavenly city together with illustration of the devil which was why the legend was said that the codex had been written with the devil’s help.

 It was during the 30 years’ war in 1648, that the entire collection was plundered by the Swedish army but is now preserved at the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, though not on display. Many have been debating that one man could not have written the complete text alone but a recent investigation team of scholars who had been sponsored by National Geographic, support this claim that the Codex has been the work of one man.

Inked Used from Crushed Insect Nest

Codex Gigas
On research done of the manuscript’s text, investigators discovered that the book used only one kind of ink which was made from crushed insect nest and the style and font of the calligraphy was consistent throughout, leading the investigators to believe that the manuscript was the work of a single scribe instead of many.

The team were also of the opinion that the manuscript could have taken a minimum of twenty five to thirty year to get it completed.

The lettering of the text is believed to be self, due to the lack of sophistication and the pages made from the skins of donkeys. Codex legend indicates that the text sprang from a pact which was made between a doomed monk and the devil.

The manuscript consists of illuminations in blue, green, gold, red and yellow, with capital letters elaborately illuminated, frequently across the whole page.

It has a unified look with no change in the writing, without any signs of age, disease or mood on the part of the scribe which may have led to believe the that entire book could have been written in a short time though scientists are of the belief and researching the theory that it could have taken over years for completion.