Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Dona Juliana Dias da Costa :A Love Affair That Saved Portuguese from Mughals

Love Affair Between Portuguese Woman & Mughal Prince

This is an unusual love affair between a Portuguese woman and a Indian Mughal prince which describes the intensity of her love that the Portuguese woman by the name Dona Juliana Dias Da Costa had over Shah Alam, the son of Aurangzeb. It is said that she not only assisted in safeguarding the Christian in then Mughal-ruled India but was also responsible in spreading the faith in Portuguese India.

Dona Juliana Dias da Costa was considered to be a woman of Portuguese origin from Kochi in the court of Aurangzeb the Mughal Empire in Hindustan. She became Harem-Queen to the Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah I the son of Aurangzeb who became the monarch in 1707.

 Her family had fled the Dutch conquest of Portuguese Kochi while she herself ended in the court of the Mughal at Delhi serving the family of the prince Shah Alam. She continued to be there till the prince did not find favour with his father and escorted him into exile. She was then rewarded when Shah became the Emperor – Bahadur I after the death of his father and her influence became boundless in the court in spite of being a Catholic in a Muslim state.

Assisted Italian Jesuit Missionary

  It is said that she had galloped on a war elephant with Bahadur Shah during his fights in order to defend his authority and after his death she continued to be greatly considered but with less influence. While Bahadur Shah I had been alive, she was frequently sought out by European powers such as the Dutch, Portuguese, the British and the representatives of the Pope during her period of strongest power.

She was of great help to the Society of Jesus inclusive of assisting the Italian Jesuit missionary Ippolito Desideri in his mission in evangelising Tibet. In appreciation of her various contributions together with services to the Jesuits, she had been recognized as a Patroness of the Society.

Tiwari and Chauhan had come across the diplomatic role of this Portuguese Catholic woman in the 80s, who had spent four years to write disputably the most inclusive documentation of Mughal, Portuguese, British, Dutch and French interaction in India. They have related the Portuguese method for survival with the Mughals with the help of the love affair story between Juliana and Shah.

Proficiency of Skills – Diplomat Par Excellence

From the moment they had a well-known settlement in Hugli through the favour of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, the Portuguese were comfortable being there till they annoyed his son with their misbehaviours which resulted in sacking the settlement in 1632. As a consequence, 4,000 Christians had been taken captives in dreadful conditions to Agra.

As per the book, the parents of Juliana were among the prisoners and Juliana was born in Agra around 1645 wherein her mother by that time had been attached to one of the ladies in the harem of Shah Jahan. After the death of her parents Juliana had been brought up in Delhi by Father Antonio de Magalhanes. According to the authors, Tiwari and Chauhan due to the upbringing under the Jesuit Fathers, together with the years she had spent in Goa, provided her with the proficiency of skills which made her a diplomat par excellence.

She had skills in expertise in languages, international exposure to the happenings all over the world, inclusive of the knowledge of international trade and merchandise, knowledge of medicine as well as surgery since the Fathers had Portuguese doctors from Goa, in their company. Besides that she had all the royal manners and customs which assisted her in gaining great experience

At 17 - Youngest Tutor to Muazzam/Shah Alam

Though Juliana was married, she became a widow at a young age and in 1681-82 paved her way for access to the Mughal court with the help of Father Magalhanes. Tiwari had mentioned that the Aurangzeb had entrusted the education of Prince Muazzam – later Shah Alam, which was his second son, to Juliana.

She had been 17 and his youngest tutor. Muazzam was 18 and was filled with sorrow for the merciless imprisonment of his grandfather Shah Jahan and with this began their lifelong love affair. The book had also provided the Portuguese letters which had been written by the viceroy in Goa to the Portuguese King expressing him of the favour Juliana tends to hold in the Mughal courts.

 Juliana stated that the book moved wherever Shah Alam had been posted by Aurangzeb inclusive to Goa in order to end the threat posed by Sambhaji the Maratha leader. Later on when Shah Alam had been suspected of treason by Aurangzeb and imprisoned, it is said that Juliana had risked her life in making his seven years of imprisonment, comfortable by sneaking in items of luxury to him. Her faithfulness rewarded her when Shah Alam eventually ascended to the throne after the death of his father Aurangzeb.

Worthy Benefactress of the College/Mission of Agra

The book also explains the role of Juliana in assisting Shah Alam in winning the battle to the throne against his own brother. It is said that Juliana got Shah Alam to organize the Portuguese gunners in his artillery and that proved to be a fruitful move.

The book also mentions of her correspondence with the viceroy of Portuguese in Goa as her power rose in the Mughal court under Emperor Shah Alam - `What becomes more than clear from the exchange of these letters to and from Juliana is not only the higher position attained by her at the Mughal court after the release of prince Shah Alam but her continued devotion in making favours to the cause of Christianity from the Mughal territories also’.

In addition to her diplomatic services the book has also recorded the financial help provided by Juliana to the Portuguese. It states that it was around 1707 that she had said to have given the province of Goa a great fortune valued to 40 to 150 contos. When she died in 1734, the Goa Personnel report of 1735 addressed her as the `Worthy Benefactress of the College and Mission of Agra’ in a most strange statement.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

King Tutankhamun Grandmother Statue UnEarthed

Tutankhamun Grandmother

Alabaster Statue of Queen Tiye

At the obituary temple of Amenhotep III, an excavation mission excavated a beautifully carved statue of a woman which could be the grandmother of King Tutankhamum. The enormous statue was located towards the west bank orf Luxor which was the site of Thebes, the ancient city.

The archaeologist had stumbled on the alabaster state of Queen Tiye, accidentally while lifting some section of the colossus of King Amenhotep II which is said to be the first of its kind. Tiye is said to be the wife of King Amenhotep III and the grandmother of the young pharaoh Tutankhamun.

The extraordinary statue was discovered beside the right leg of the colossus of Amenhotep III at the time of exaction of Kom Al-Hittan which the archaeologist doubted that it could be a representation of Tiye. This unusual figure is said to be made from alabaster while all the other depictions of the queen which have been discovered till date have been carved from quartzite.

According to Dr Khaled El-Enany, Minister of Antiquities, it seems to be beautiful, distinguished as well as unique. Dr Hourig Sourouzian leading the excavations has commented that the statue is said to be in very good shape taking into account its age and has also maintained all its ancient colours.
Tutankhamun Grandmother Statue

Lion-Headed Warrior Goddess

As per the Ministry of Antiquities of Egypt, the researchers have been working on restoring the same. The Ministry had revealed that the German archaeological mission had exposed dozens of statues, earlier in the month portraying a lion-headed warrior goddess at the temple of Amenhotep III.

It is presumed that they had been arranged thousands of years back in order to guard the ruler from evil. The intricate arrangements of Tutankhamum family have been one of the greatest mysteries regarding the young king. The identity of his mother had been very elusive while that of his father was known to have been Pharaoh Akhenaten.

The DNA testing in 2010 had confirmed mummy that had been located in the tomb of Amenhotep II which was of Queen Tiya, the chief wife of Amenhotep III, the mother of Pharaoh Akhenanten and Tutankhamun;s grandmother.

A third mummy presumed to be one of the wives of Pharaoh Akhenaten was discovered to be a probable candidate as the mother of Tutankhamun though the DNA evidence portrayed that it was the sister of Akhenaten.

No Evidence in Archaeology/Philology

The analysis of 2013 showed that Nefertiti, chief wife of Akhenaten was the mother of Tutankhamun. But the work of Marc Gabolde, a French archaeologist had recommended Nefertiti was also the cousin of Akhenaten.

This incestuous ancestry could also be helpful in explaining some of the irregularities which the scientists found distressed Tutankhamun. Besides this he had suffered a deformed foot, a slightly cleft palate together with a mild curvature of the spine. His claims, however has been disputed by the other Egyptologists inclusive of Zahi Hawas the head of Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt.

 His research team recommended that the mother of Tut was like Akhenaten, the daughter of Amenhotep II and Queen Tiye. Moreover Hawass added that there has been `no evidence’ in archaeology or philology indicating that Nefertiti was the daughter of Amenhotep III.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Sarah Joe Mystery: Disappearance in the Pacific

Sarah Joe
The Sarah Joe Mystery

We find several stories of various unexplained events in maritime history. Once such event is the Sarah Joe mystery which had started on 11th February 1979 when a group of five friends had boarded a Boston Whaler called Sarah Joe. The vessel is said to be 17 feet in length having an 85 horsepower engine and was unequipped for any main sea voyages. When the vessel had set off from the town of Hana on the Hawaiian island of Maui, its sailing conditions did not appear to be good.

 There was hardly any wind and the surface had been as smooth as glass. Towards noon, which was barely two hours of departure, the local weather seemed to get worse and none of the five members had checked on the local conditions of sailing or the weather reports. Instead they opted in keeping watch on the horizons.

This seems to be the usual practice with amateur sailors who only tend to be out to sea for some few hours. Had they checked on the weather conditions, they would have been aware of a major low pressure system which had been approaching the islands. Had the storm which had hit the town was an indication, then the conditions at sea would have been dreadful and most inappropriate for even the experts at sea.

No Trace of Whereabouts of Five Crew Members

Hurricane force winds together with torrential rain tossed the vessel around like a rag doll Numerous bigger fishing vessels seemed to make it back to port wherein reports recommended that the wells peaked at a height of around 40 feet, Though the hopes were bleak, none of the locals or relatives of the missing boat sat tight without making some attempt in the rescue operation.

 They sent a search along the coastline though the visibility seems to be poor but the weather conditions seemed to be very rough to search further till the storm had subsided. This mystery drove a massive search wherein the day after the disappearance of the vessel, the Coast Guard suggested the mission and over a period of time it developed into a huge fleet of ships, boats together with aircraft.

The search covered 70,000 square miles of ocean for five days though they were unable to trace the whereabouts of the five crew members or the boat. The main issue was that none knew in which direction the group had ventured or where they eventually ended up. Moreover the strong currents of the Alenuihaha Channel seemed to hinder their search.

Family/Relatives not Ready to Abandon Hopes

They also resorted in bringing in homing pigeons that had been specially trained in locating people that had been stranded out at sea. After around a week, the storm experts were of the opinion that the Sarah Joe had wrecked and sank with all on board.

However the family members and friends of the missing men were not ready to abandon their hopes and they combined their resources and cash in order to maintain a search for an additional three weeks. They focussed on some of the most remote islands with a hope of getting some information of the missing vessel though they did not get any trace of the boat or the missing men.

Eventually the search had been called off and the Sarah Joe mystery seemed to be a forgotten event. However years later some of the search party members had been on a routine wildlife mission in the uninhabited islands of the Western Pacific for the National Marine Fisheries Services. The Marshall Islands and the remote Taongi islands are about 2200 miles southwest of Hawaii.

Make-Shift Cross Designed from Driftwood

Biologist John Naughton got himself involved himself in this mystery on 10, September 1988 for the second time. He came across an abandoned fibreglass boat on the coastline while working at Taongi Island and he could only define a portion of the registration of the boat though it was sufficient to learn that it had come from somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands. On investigating further, it had been established that Naughton had solved the mystery of what had taken place with Sarah Joe.

Many queries were raised since there was nothing in and around the vessel and they searched for signs of life, notes or sort of equipment which could provide some clues to the mysterious vessel. Unfortunately there were none and Naughton together with his team took some time to decide on the next thing to be done and decided to search the surrounding area. The team then made another discovery about a hundred yards from the boat wherein a make-shift cross designed from driftwood was seen sticking out of the top of a shallow grave together with a human jaw bone bulging from the direction post of coral and shingle stones.

Blank Pieces of Paper on Skeleton

On examining the grave closely, they envisaged blank pieces of paper on top of the skeleton which were loose though arranged like an open manuscript or book. Between the papers was something which Naughton later described as tinfoil. The pack of 3 inch square papers was about ¾ inch thick and did not have any function according to the biology team.

They jointly decided that any more excavation of the grave would be disrespectful and refrained from further attempts of digging. The jawbone sent to forensic lab for testing revealed that they were indeed of Scott Moorman while the other smaller bones discovered beyond the grave also seemed to match with those of Moorman. No other remains were discovered on the whole island. There seems to be much more on the mystery of Sarah Joe than the disappearance and then the appearance of one man out of the five.

 Since the boat was not well equipped and was designed for only coastal use, it seemed a mystery on how it survived one of the worst storms on record and landed on a desolate island many miles away. According to experts who tend to have a better comprehension state that the drift time between Hawaii and the Marshall Island could have been somewhere in the area of three months.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

La Isabela and the Silver Ore

La Isabela

La Isabela Discovered by Columbus

La Isabela had been discovered by Columbus when he had returned to Spain with stories of the fortune that they were going to locate there if they had little more time, money and people.La Isabela is the name of the first European town which was established in the Americas and had been established during Columbus’s second expedition to the American continents where the town was named for Queen Isabela of Spain.Her first expedition had lasted from 1492-1493.

Columbus had returned to Spain after his expedition of discovering America and had taken gold from the inhabitants of Hispaniola. The gold had convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela to fund a second and a large expedition. In early 1494, Columbus together with 1,500 crew, had returned to Hispaniola and had established the colony. The motive of the expedition was mainly to find and exploit deposits of precious metals. Archaeological indication at La Isabela of silver extractions seemed to show that the expedition had found and tested deposits of silver bearing lead ore in the Caribbean.

Site Excavated in Late 1980 & Early 1990

The site at Isabela had been excavated widely in late 1980s and early 1990s. The town’s buildingscomprised of a citadel built for Columbus to live in, together with a fortified storehouse or alhondiga, to store their material goods, some stone building for different purposes accompanied with a European style plaza. Silver-ore processing station was towards the north of the storehouse and there were 58 triangular graphite-tempered assaying crucibles together with 1 kg of liquid mercury which had been brought from powdered ore by amalgamation, for the extraction of gold.

The mercury is said to have been excavated from the ruins of the alhondiga which was a fortified structured raised for storage as well as protection of royal property. According to a new research, the silver bearing ore which had been discovered by Columbus’s second expedition had not been mined in the Americas.

As per Alyson Thibodeau who had analysed the ore, states that the ore which the researchers had excavated from the settlement, La Isabela had come from Spain.David J. Killick, had informed that `what had appeared to be the earliest evidence of European finds of precious metals in the New World turned out not to be that at all and was a different story.

Columbus Failed Settlement- Not found in Historical Documents

The researchers presumed that the explorers had brought the Spanish ore to La Isabela to utilise it for comparison when examining the new ores they had expected to find. The researchers’ state that towards 1497, the remaining settlers of La Isabela on finding no gold or silver, became desperate to recover something of the value from the futile settlement and were reduced in extracting silver from the galena that they had brought from Spain.

According to a geosciences graduate student at The University of Arizona in Tucson, Thibodeau, `this part of the story of Columbus’s failed settlement is one which is not found in the historical documents and it would never have been figured out without using the techniques of physical sciences to the archaeological artifacts.

A UA associate professor of anthropology, Tguvideay Killick together with his colleagues would be publishing the article `The Strange Case of the Earliest Silver Extraction by European Colonist in the New World’ in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the weeks of February 19.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Zoroaster’s Telescope – Strange Book of Oracle Magic

Zoroaster’s Telescope
Zoroaster’s Telescope is considered to be a strange book of oracle magic which was written by Andre-Robert Andrea de Nerciat, a French author of Libertine genre in 1796. It is unique in the genre with diverse magical methods layouts which are very much in lines with the manuals of occult tradition and features many wood engraved plates, tables and charts together with a large folding plate which is entitle The Urn where the sigla of art is exemplified.

Zoroaster’s Telescope
The text appeared later in a collection of German folk literature which was compiled by Johann Scheible and the translation done in English. Occultism was very active during the 18th century with noted fortune tellers and magicians who were spread all over Europe playing important roles in political as well as historical events.

This was the era during the Count of St. Germain, Cagliostro, Antoine Court de Gebelin, Etteilla, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, Adam Weishaupt and Emanuel Swedenborg who were well known for their magical prowess or accuracy and visionary of the future.

Hepatoscopy and Geomancy – 18th Century

Zoroaster’s Telescope
Ancient divination system like hepatoscopy and geomancy existed during the 18th century which gave way to new forms of occult science like the Odic Light and Magnetism of Baron Carl von Reichenbach and Franz Mesmer.

The Tarot game, Tarocco, from Italy too came up in its own system of fortune telling with the publication of Le Monde Primitif Analyse et Compere avec le Monde Moderne by Antoine Court de Gebelin in 1781 and the publication by Jean Francois Alliette, Maniere de se recreer avec le jeu de cartes nomees Tarots in 1783. Not long after this publication, Etteilla created his own Tarot cards.

 Though Andre-Robert Andrea de Nerciat had a poor view on activities like Tarot and Palmistry, revealed in his text, he seemed to be in favour of his amalgamation of divinatory of Kabbala and spiritual astrology where some of his statements appear as if they would be in direct contrast to the actual Jewish thinking like the day starting with the first ray of light making one wonder what could be his source of ideas.

Kabbala and Magic

Zoroaster’s Telescope
Presented within a divination system of the unusual fusion of religious and mystical ideas, are provided in the text by several woodcuts as well as instructive Tables wherein these woodcuts with their own charms and visual beehive theme are necessary in comprehending the working of the oracle.

 Besides, these woodcuts do have names like The Great Guide, The Great Mirror and The Urn bringing to mind the romantic notion of Kabbala and magic.

The Zoroaster’s Telescope is said to be The Key to the Great Divinatory Kabbala of the Magi where within the text one will find eclectic mix of angel magic, astrology, divination, Zoroastrianism, twenty-eight mansions of the moon, Kabbala, Sacred Geometry, Numerology, MacGregor Mathers reminiscent of the syncretism, employed during Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at the end of the 19th century.

Based on various source of information, Zoroaster’s Telescope is an oracle and divinatory tool bringing the operator closer to the Divine, if one is willing, as a medium or agency in receiving revelation and messages directly from God – Special Providence.

Lycian – Ancient People in Today’s Turkey

The Lycians were ancient people who lived in area which today’s Turkey between the bays of Antalya and Fethiye and is a compact mountainous territory. Ancient Greek admired the Lycians for finding solutions to problem which perplexed the ancient world on how to reconcile free government in the city-state with larger political unity.

They had a deep desire for freedom and independence and this was seen in their sense of federation and unity. When Greek city-states were at war with each other, the Lycian cities were at peace among themselves. They were an important section of the Greek and Near Eastern worlds.

They lived at a point where two cultures got together at an important strategic juncture and came under the twin influence of their neighbours which resulted in the development of a different style of art.

Lycia occupied most of the Teke Peninsula towards the southwest corner of Antolia and is defined as the area of Turkey towards the south of a line drawn from Dalyan to Antalya where nature is lush. It has dense forest and the landscape is mountainous.

Built Amazing Monumental Tombs

The pre-Greek people of Anatolia had built amazing monumental tombs which were associated with some kind of ancestor worship and developed this art to perfection. Their quality of stone masonry is excellent especially significant in the construction of tombs.

Presently one will find the entire landscape is still lined with these fascinating tomb monuments and the most recent ones have been revealed around one thousand and eighty five example which are still intact, rock cut tombs in common form.

Lycia is popular for its great number of tombs and its quality. Six tombs of Lycia on the outskirt of Kaunos are the most picturesque area in the region wherein on standing in the cliff face above the Dalyan River, they can be spotted from miles away and are the finest display of architecture.

Rock Tombs – Burial Chambers for Kings/Queens

Between the 2nd to the 4th century, rock tombs were the burial chambers for kings and queens during that period and behind tall columns which stood near the entrance was the main chamber where the royal were buried along with their possessions.

But sadly over a period of time, all these treasures which were buried along with the royals got stolen which were meant to accompany the death in their afterlife. The Lycians were of the belief that winged creature would carry them to the other world after their death and hence most of their tombs were on high cliff faces or hills.

The high position as well as the lack of safety made it difficult to walk around the tombs, though they still tend to look majestic from a distance. Circular shaped altars which were decorated with inscription or ornamentation were at times placed near the tombs which were used for sacrificial offerings for the deceased.

Moreover, the tombs were also found with bottles of tear collection, terra-cotta statuettes and were buried with their jewellery. Besides this, coins were also placed in the mouth of the dead for payment to Charon.

Monday, March 17, 2014

History of the Oldest Known Doors

A door to a home or public building provides protection from the elements and intruders, or offers privacy to residents. It is hard to imagine some locations without doors. Indeed, doors have been a part of human culture for thousands of years. To some, doors may seem as obvious an idea as the wheel, but the first door was undoubtedly an invention that changed the way early humans lived.

The Mysterious Origins of the Door

The recorded history of the structure known as the door is somewhat vague. The first depicted records of doors are found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. These are depicted as being wood which leads to a theory as to why relatively few ancient doors have been discovered.  Wood is a perfect material for a door because it is easy to shape and much easier to open and close than stone, but it disintegrates easily.
Although Scientists are relatively certain that doors have existed for longer than there are records of them, the following is list of some of the oldest doors known to modern man:

1.King Tut’s Tomb Cover

Egyptian tombs did not have doors in the sense of modern doors. Once a tomb was closed, it was assumed that there would be relatively little foot traffic in and out. Grave robbers did not pay this idea much mind, and most Egyptian tombs are thought to have been ransacked relatively close to the time of the occupants’ burials.

One tomb that was untouched was that of King Tutankhamen. When his tomb was found and the stone slab covering the entryway removed, the past glories of Egypt were revealed to the world.

2.Solomon’s Temple Doors

Unfortunately, these magnificent doors no longer exist but there were several accounts of them before the temple was destroyed by the invading Roman army. The door itself was made of olive wood and was beautifully appointed.

3.Stone Age door discovered in Switzerland

A timber door was recently found in Switzerland by a group of archeologists, and it is thought to be more than 5,000 years old. If the dating is correct, that would make the door one of the oldest if not the oldest surviving example of what modern people would easily recognize as a door.

4.Roman Folding Door

The volcanic tragedy on the island of Pompeii has provided a fascinating glimpse into what Roman cities looked like at the height of its empire. The ash from the volcano buried the nearby village and preserved many artifacts and murals. Along with other fascinating finds are the remnants of a sliding, panel door.

5.Stone Pivot Door

Most of the oldest doors that still exist today are made of stone. In many cultures, giant stone doors were carved for religious temples or sacred sites. The doors could pivot because of two giant pin-bearings on the top and bottom corners. Despite the skill it would take to make and hang such a door, it still likely took many men to open it.

The Future of Doorways

Although not often a topic of heated discussion, doors are becoming more advanced every year. Better security, new materials, and fantastic designs continue to grace the world of door-crafting. Who knows, maybe in another 5,000 years, scientists will be studying the doors that craftsmen are making today.
Please feel free to contact Ella Gray at with any questions or concerns. 

Monday, March 10, 2014


Oxyrhynchus 1

Oxyrhynchus, ancient Egypt, known in the Dynastic period as Per Medjed is a city in Upper Egypt, around 160 km southwest of Cairo, in the governorate of Al Minya, which rose to prominence under Egypt’s Hellenistic and Roman rulers. It was considered as one of the most important discovered archaeological site. During the Hellenistic times, this city was a prosperous regional capital and the third city of Egypt as well as the home town of the sophist Athenaeus.

Oxyrhynchus 2
It became famous for its various churches and monasteries after Egypt was Christianized and presently the village of al Bahnasa covers part of this ancient site. After the invasion of the Arab of Egypt in 641, the canal system was in need of repairs and was abandoned. The inhabitants of this city for over 1,000 years had been dumping garbage at various points of sites in the desert sands beyond the town limits and the town was built on a canal instead of the Nile itself which saved the city from getting flooded every year with the rising of the river unlike the other districts surrounding the riverbank. When the canals got dried up the water level fell and did not rise again. The west area of the Nile did not receive any rain and hence the garbage dump of Oxyrhynchus got gradually covered up with sand and was forgotten over the years.

Oxyrhynchus 3
Since the Egyptian were governed bureaucratically under the Romans and Greeks and being the capital of the 19th Nome, all the material were dumped, which included huge amount of paper, tax returns, accounts, invoices, receipts, census material, correspondence on administrative, military, economic, religious and political issues. Besides these, certificates and licenses of all types which were periodically cleaned from government office were put in wicker baskets and discarded out in the desert. Other citizens also added their own measure of unwanted paper. Since papyrus was expensive, paper was reused often and one would find a document with farm account on one side and a student’s text of Homer on the other side. Hence an Oxyrhynchus Papyri often contained complete record of the life of the people of the town, its civilization and the empires. Over the past year, this site has been repeatedly excavated bringing about huge amount of collection of papyrus text dating way back to the Ptolemaic and Roman periods of Egyptian history. From the discoveries of text recovered at Oxyrhynchus, there are plays of Menander, some fragments from the Gospel of Thomas and from Euclid’s Elements.

Oxyrhynchus 4
The town city of Oxyrhynchus itself had not been excavated since the modern Egyptian town was built over it though it is believed that the city had various public buildings which included a theatre having a capacity of around 11,000 audience, a hippodrome, four public baths together with gymnasium as well as two small ports on the Bahr Yussef. There was also a possibility of military buildings like barracks since the city supported military garrison on various occasions during the Byzantine and Roman periods. Moreover during the Roman and Greeks period, Oxyrhynchus also had temples to Zeus Amun, Hera Isis, Atargatis Bethnnis and Osiris. They also had Greek temples to Apollo, Demeter, Dionyss and Hermes together with Roman temples to Mars and Jupiter Capitolinus. With regards to Christian era, Oxyrhynchus was the seat of a bishopric where the modern towns still have some ancient Coptic Christian churches.

Oxyrhynchus 5
Towards 1882, while Egypt was still part of the Ottoman Empire and under the British rule, the British archaeologist started a systematic exploration of this country and since it was not considered as an important ancient Egyptian site, it was neglected till 1896. It was then explored by two young excavators, Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt, of Queen’s College of Oxford. Their first impression of the site was not favorable where the rubbish mounds seemed rubbish to them though they soon realized the importance of their discoveries. With the combination of climate and circumstances, Oxyrhynchus had an unmatched archive of the ancient world and the findings of papyri soon multiplied in great number. These findings inspired them further to sift through the mountain of rubbish where their efforts were rewarded since they were interested in the possibility of finding the lost masterpieces of classical Greek literature at Oxyrhynchus.

Their discoveries were estimated to over 70% of all the literary papyri with both copies of well know standard works, together with previously unknown works of great authors of antiquity. From the various papyri excavated, only around 10% were known to be literary and the rest consisted of public and private documents, edicts, registers, codes and much more. They found sufficient text of more general interest which kept them going with the hope of retrieving more discoveries. During their first year of excavation, they recovered parts of several lost plays of Sophocles namely Ichneutae besides many other books and fragments including parts of unknown Christian gospel. All these discoveries drew the attention of people’s imagination and the two excavators sent articles together with photos to newspapers in Britain indicating the importance of their work with a request for donation to keep the same going.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

En no Gyōja

En no Gyōja 1
The legendary founder of the Japanese religion, Shugendo when translated means `path of training to achieve spiritual powers’, which is an important Kami Buddha combination sect that blends pre Buddhist mountain worship known as Kannabi Shinko. Their practitioners are known by various names such as Shugenja, Shugyosha, Keza and Yamabushi and these terms are translated into English as ascetic monk or mountain priest.

As a rule, this sect emphasizes on physical endurance as a path to enlightenment where the practitioners perform fasting, seclusion meditation, recite sutras, magical spells and also engage themselves in feats of endurance like standing or sitting under cold mountain waterfalls or in snow. The devotees also have a particular practice of setting up wood or stones markers leaving a trail of their mystical journey up the mountain.

They also need to follow a procedure on entering into any sacred mountain space, where each stage consists of a specific mudra, a hand gesture with religious meaning, mantra, a sacred verbal incantation and waka which is a classical Japanese poem. The honored sage of this sect is En no Gyoja who is also known as En no Ozunu, Ozuno, En no Shokaku and En no Ubasoku where Gyoja means ascetic and En no Gyoja means En the Ascetic.

En no Gyōja 3
Ubasoku according to the Japanese form of Sanskrit upasaka means an adult male lay practitioner or a devotee or a Buddhist layman who is recognized as a father of Shugendo. He is given the title of Shinben Dabosatu which means Miraculous Great Bodhisattva which was bestowed in 1799 to him by the Emperor Kokaku during his reign in 1771 – 1840. En no Gyoja was born in 634 and is honored as a mountain saint and a bodhisattva with several supernatural powers attributed to him. This holy man was a mountain ascetic during the 7th century and like most of the Shinto Buddhist syncretism, his legend is a puzzle with folklore.

As per the Nihon Ryoiki, En no Gyoja was born in Katsuragi Mountains of Nara Prefecture, hailing from the Kamo clan, the family of Kamo-no-E-no-Kimi and his clan had lived for many years in the mountainous regions for generation which was a verdant region with a variety of medicinal plants.

It is believed that he gained wide knowledge of these medicinal plants and also maintained a garden in that area but was forced to give it up in 675 AD during which he had gained a high reputation of a healer. After his father’s death, En no Gyoja prayed that his mother would be bestowed with another child since his intention was to depart to the mountains to pursue his practice and she subsequently gave birth to a son who was named Tsukiwakamaru and he returned to the Katsuragi Mountains at the age of 32 to continue with his ascetic practice. According to the legends, he practiced under the protection of the animals living in the mountains where he discovered valuables deposits of silver and mercury in these mountains.

As per Shugendo legends, in 699, he was wrongly accused by one of his jealous disciple, Karakuni no Muraji Hirotari for evil sorcery and was sent into exile to Itoshima island during the reign of Emperor Monmu. This angered him towards the god of Mt. Katsuragi also known as Hitokoto nushi no Kami and to punish the god he cast spells and confined the deity to the bottom of the valley. Hirokoto nushi in his turn showed his displeasure by possessing Hirotari who lodged a complaint in the capital which lead to him to his exile.

During his exile, it is believed that he changed into a mountain wizard and flew to the kingdom of Silla towards the Korean peninsula and met Dosho, a Japanese Bhuddhist monk. This monk had travelled to China in order to study Buddhism and founded Hosso secto of Nara Buddhism on his return. Though Gyoja’s great abilities remain unknown, he had made a peace treaty with Hiruzen Sarutobi during the Third Shinobi World War and had developed an unusual technique which was capable of destroying an entire village and the Third Hokage proclaimed a kinjutsu due to its power.

En no Gyōja 2
He had two students, one named Hato who was brilliant with remarkable skills in ninjutsu while the second was his very own granddaughter Hotaru. Gyoja blamed himself for the downfall of his clan and made it his duty to restore the clan back to glory but his advanced age hindered him. Before his death, seeing how much his dream meant to him, his granddaughter begged him to seal the kinjutsu in her so that she could continue with his dream.

Being skillful in fuinjutsu he devised a way to seal the clan’s kinjutsu in his granddaughter to safely remove it. Great reverence for En no Gyoja grew as mountain asceticism progressed and Shugendo religion took shape making him its founder. Moreover since he had visions of Zao Gongen deity, her belief also flourished along with veneration of Gyoja and he is linked to sacred mountains all over Japan.

According to some, the final years of Gyoja is a mixture of uncertainty which states that he did not die in 700 but returned to Mount Katsurag when he was pardoned in 701. Here, he captured Hitokoto nushi no Kami and tied him with arrowroot vine and locked him at the bottom of the valley and sometime later returned to the Japanese mountain where he attained Nirvana or probably crossed China.

Others presumed that he was released in 702 after which he either became immortal and flew away or migrated to China with his mother. It is reported that during his lifetime, he traveled widely and established Shugendo sanctuaries in various locations which included Omine mountain range, Mount Kinpusen, Mount Mino, lkoma mountains on the border of Osaka and Nara prefectures and Izu in Japan. Towards 1872, the Shugendu sect got banned as a superstitious belief and the sites became Shinto shrine, losing its heritage or branching off to either Tendai or Shingon Buddhism though Mount Haguro retained a small Buddhist presence and successfully maintained its Shugendo religion.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

History mystery:The Intriguing Roman Tale of Eros and Psyche

A king and a queen, the rulers of an unknown city had three daughters of great beauty while the youngest, Psyche, was born with exceptional beauty who was admired by men both far and near. According to some it is believed that she was the second coming of Venus or the daughter of Venus from an unusual union of goddess and mortal The intriguing story of Eros and Psyche is a folktale of ancient Greco Roman world which is written in Roman style though Psyche retains her Greek name. Psyche according to Greek Mythology, was the deification of the human soul and is portrayed in ancient mosaics as the goddess with wings of a butterfly since psyche in ancient Greek means butterfly and according to Greek word psyche is related to life or animated force, spirit, soul and breath, Eros and Aphrodite are called by their Latin names – Cupid and Venus where Cupid is portrayed as a young adult instead of a child. The story relates the struggle for love and trust between Eros and Psyche and Aphrodite became jealous of the mortal princess’s beauty when her altars were left barren while men worshiped a mere human woman instead and made offerings and prayed to her. Hence she commanded her son Eros who was the god of love, to make Psyche fall in love with the ugliest person on earth.

Eros and Psyche 2
On the contrary, it turned out that Eros himself fell in love with her and was completely mesmerized by her beauty. The two sisters of Psyche who were married were envious of her though Psyche was yet to find the love of her heart. Her father suspecting that they had incurred the wrath of the gods consulted the oracle of Apollo who informed the king that he should not expect a human son in law, but a dragon like creature whose face she would not see. This news was not what her parents had expected and they were very sadden over it, but all the same, they proceeded with the arrangement of the marriage of their daughter with the beast. After the wedding, Psyche could be with her husband only at night and his tenderness and immense love for her, made Psyche extremely happy and her expectations beyond her dreams. She often longed to meet her family and one fine day Eros relented and invited her two sisters to his palace. Psyche confided with her sisters and informed them of the sadness she felt on not seeing his face. The sisters on seeing the sight of the palace and all the richness it contained were filled with envy and maliciously informed her that she was being fooled by her husband and he was a fearsome monster from whose clutches she should escape.

Psyche’s bliss got ruined by the visit of her jealous sisters who caused her to betray the trust of her husband who seemed to be not only an ugly beast but one day would kill her and that she should kill him in order to save herself. It took Psyche some time to get convinced on what her sisters told her since she had not faced any kind of dread or fear at the hands of her husband. Psyche finally decided to take their advice and she decided to betray her husband by plotting to kill him one night. Taking the knife in her hands and an oil lamp she set out with her plan to murder her husband and when the light of the lamp fell on the face of her husband, she sought the face of the handsome god Eros with two white wings.

On seeing him she was not at all afraid but taken by surprise and in confusion, she spilled the oil from the lamp on his face and Eros seeing the knife and the lamp in her hand flies away on his two white wings, informing Psyche that he had been betrayed and wounded by her and that their relationship which is ruined will never be the same again/ Eros leaves his wife Psyche who in turn is very upset over the whole episode and is filled with grief over what she had done. She goes in search of her lost love wandering all over the earth. She is so filled with despair that at one point of time she runs to a river and throws herself in the water but Pan the god of shepherds saves her and pulls her out of the water.

While searching for her lost lover, she is advised to beg Aphrodite who has imprisoned Eros in the Palace for an opportunity to meet him and Aphrodite suggests her three impossible tasks to be performed to prove her love for Eros. With all intent and purpose to meet her lover she fearless undertakes to accomplish the two tasks given to her. The third task to be performed was to go to Hades or underworld and bring along the box with the elixir of beauty back to Aphrodite with the instructions not to open the box but instead of the elixir it was Morpheus, the god of sleep and dreams which was hidden in the box. Psyche being curious opened the box and fell into a deep slumber. When Eros her lover got to know of what had happened he approached Zeus and begged him to save his love Psyche. Zeus in his turn was amazed by their love for one another, relented and permitted them to meet once again. He even went further by making Psyche immortal in order that the two lovers could be together forever.

They are happily joined together once again and together they have a daughter by the name Voluptas or Hedone which means physical pleasure or bliss. This is the story of two unusual beings that come together in an unusual situation and their love story is filled with mysteries which are gradually unraveled bringing about a happy ending of a love that is true though each of them undergo a trail of different form to prove the depth of the love they have for each other.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

History mystery: CONSTANTINOPLE the City of the emperor Justinian -2

This cosmopolitan population was governed by a pyramid-like bureaucracy headed by the emperor. Like many bureaucracies, it was prone to corruption and inefficiency. Denied any democratic institution through which to air its grievances, the seething mob was always ready to show its resentment. With every bad harvest or increase in taxes, turbulent crowds filled the streets threatening insurrection. The population tended to align itself according to four broad groupings, or factions, known as the Blues, Greens, Rose, and Whites. Members wore distinguishing colours on their shoulders. The factions were partly street gangs, partly political groups. In the time of Justinian, the Blues and Greens were dominant. The Greens represented the merchants, democratic in their political leanings and favouring Monophysite beliefs. The Blues were aristocratic and theologically orthodox. The enmity of the two groups set whole districts at each other’s throats. The Hippodrome became a focus for the rivalry. At foot races athletes from the different factions competed against each other, backed by partisan support from the terrace. It was in this cauldron of political ferment that disorders erupted in January 532. In that month the imperial treasury was empty, and Justinian, whose military campaigns needed huge funds, decreed a further increase in taxes. It was the last straw. Rebellion broke out at the Hippodrome. For once, the Greens and Blues united, channelling their outrage against the government. The two factions proclaimed a new emperor. Under the rallying cry of ‘Nika!’ (‘Victory!’), the rioters spilled into the streets, where they set fire to the Sacred Palace and several other buildings. Swarming into the wealthy districts, the uncontrollable mob pillaged the luxury shops along the Mese. Justinian considered flight into Asia, but Theodora restored his courage, declaring that for herself, death was preferable to dishonour. ‘If you wish to protract your life, O Emperor, flight is easy; there are your ships and there is the sea. But consider whether, if you escape into exile, you will not wish every day that you were dead. As for me, I hold with the ancient saying that the imperial purple is a glorious shroud.’ Not for the first time, the bearkeeper’s daughter showed herself more than worthy to share the throne of the Caesars. 

His resolve now stiffened, the emperor set about dividing the rebels by reawakening the eternal animosity between the two main factions, corrupting their leaders with bribes, and making special overtures to the Blues. Meanwhile, 3,000 veteran loyal mercenaries under the command of General Belisarius marched on the mob through an inferno of flames and falling buildings. The rebellion was drowned in the blood of the people. On January 18, some 30,000 corpses littered the steps of the Hippodrome. The Imperial District had been devastated, but the Byzantine Empire was safe. These insurrectionary tendencies were always least in evidence as soon as the spectre of invasion arose. Faced with the threat of conquest by barbarian horsemen from beyond its frontiers, Constantinople would rediscover its unity. Several times the empire’s boundary on the River Danube had been breached and alien hordes – including Asiatics, Avars, Slavs, and Bulgars – closed in on the city. The most serious invasion came in 558, when Asiatics Huns, the successors of Attila, camped under the city’s very walls. The population was panic-stricken, but once again Belisarius, by now retired but ever faithful, came with his mercenaries to the empire’s rescue. They succeeded in repelling the invaders. On November 14, 565, Justinian died at the age of 82.

His grandiose vision of a Holy Empire was going bankrupt. Exhausted by public works and military expenditure, it was now facing a major war against the Sasssanian kings of Persia – a war which Justinian had been unable to prevent. The chaos and violence of the Dark Ages in Europe were drawing near, too – centuries which were to strip Constantinople of its provinces, leaving it as an isolated bastion of culture and learning in an alien universe. It remained a bastion for more than 600 years after Justinian’s death, until it was overrun and occupied by the Franks in 1204. Even after that it retained its retained its imperial status for a time; its last emperor was not overthrown until 1453, when the city finally fell to the Turks. By then, almost 900 years had passed since the death of Justinian.

But the classical heritage was preserved and the Christian tradition protected. The philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, and the distinctive character of Byzantine religious art, were transmitted from the eastern metropolis to palaces and monasteries, shaping the culture of medieval Europe. The city had a particularly lasting influence on parts of Russia, Greece, and the Balkans. Its religious tradition, developed independently from Rome, survives today as the Orthodox Christian Church. Constantinople was a crossroads in space and time. Here, Europe merged into Asia, the classical era into the Middle Ages. From its narrow promontory jutting into the Bosporus, the city witnessed the death of Western civilization, and its rebirth.

Short History of Body Armor

Short History of Body Armor

Protection for the Body has Changed Tremendously Over the Years

Photo by: palindrome6996
Since the first weapons were used, mankind has been trying to come up with ways to protect the body from harm. This started with furs and moved to cured leather and then eventually metals were used. Below is a quick look at the development of personal body armor over the centuries.

Leather Armor

One of the very first types of armor created was made from leather. This protected well against the weapons of the time, but as weapons became more powerful (using iron instead of bronze, for example) leather armor became less and less useful for actually protecting.

Bronze & Copper & Iron

Many other materials were used to make armor over the years, starting with copper and bronze. It was easy to create armor that was lightweight with these metals and they offered good protection against the weapons available at the time. (Starting to notice a trend? The arms race has resulted in a defense race as well over the years.) Gradually, as more became known about metals, stronger and stronger materials were used to create the armor.


Helmet designs underwent a lot of changes during the Medieval period as people learned more about creating with metal, including what combinations and styles worked best to protect people from the main weapons available at the time. Over the years, helmets occasionally became lighter while offering even more protection.

More and More Protection

During the Medieval period, the primary armor of choice was chainmail. It offered good protection but was lightweight and not too hard to move around in. This gradually was replaced by Plate Mail, which is a combination of large, metal plates along with chainmail. As weapons were developed and honed to become even more deadly (especially bows and crossbows), full Platemail was developed.

Age of Firearms

When firearms began to become popular around the world, the usefulness of armor went away. For many years after this, body armor didn't see many changes. Eventually modern body armor was created - something lightweight but that could still stop a bullet if necessary. From flak jackets to bullet proof jackets and vests, modern armor has come a long way since the very first set was created.

What does the future hold? No is certain for sure, but many think that energy shields or even lighter material that protect more will be developed. Whether it's the personal armor made from light that was seen in the Dune series by Frank Herbert or something entirely different, there's definitely going to be more innovations as time marches forward. If you have any ideas on what's coming next, leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Author Bio:
Jarrod has an intense fascination with bullet proof vests and other types of protective armor. He's currently a History major in college in the Midwest and hopes to eventually graduate and work at a museum.

History mystery: Catal Huyuk A Stone Age Settlement -3

It seems likely that the stability of the community at Catal Huyuk, and its links with other communities, owed much to a common religion. The shrines in the houses were elaborately decorated in three ways; with wall-paintings, plaster reliefs (frequently painted), and silhouettes etched into the plaster. The wall-paintings range from simple red panels and geometric patterns to complex designs featuring symbolic figures and human hand shapes. Others depict vultures hovering over human corpses, a man defending himself from a vulture, a man carrying two human heads, a deer hunts, and an erupting volcano with a settlement in the foreground. Two of the shrines show bull-baiting and hunting dances. The plaster reliefs explore a limited number of themes, which are frequently repeated.

The most common figure is that of a goddess shown in the posture of childbirth, with her legs and arms lifted. Birth is a recurrent motif: there is a large female figure giving birth to a bull’s head, and next to it is another female giving birth to a ram’s head. In this second relief, three superimposed bulls’ heads appear below the ram’s head. Whether these represent previous births, or the ‘heraldic’ supporters of the goddess, is still not clear. Bull’s heads appear in a great many of the buildings. In some cases their horns are real; in others they are moulded out of clay and plaster. The bull almost certainly represents the male element which, in the reliefs, is never portrayed in human form. The female element is represented in various forms apart from the figure of the goddess. Some figures are pregnant; others are slim and elegant. One particularly skilful image represents a woman whose arms and legs fit into sockets, like a child’s doll. Many of the figures have no faces, suggesting that masks or headdresses may have been hung on pegs above the heads. The third form of decoration, the silhouette style, depicts bulls, deer heads with antlers in profile, wild boars, and cows. Bulls’ heads also appear with offerings laid beneath them, ranging from precious objects and weapons to cuts of meat and, in one case, a human head in a basket.

An axact interpretation of this religious imagery is impossible. In general terms it seems to celebrate the cycle of birth and death, a theme maintained in ritual objects found at the site. Small statuettes - most less than 20cm (8 in) tall and made of stone, though some are of baked clay – depict gods and demigods. They were found in the shrines, placed in groups, obviously to suggest some kind of connection between each set of figures. Several statuettes represent a bearded man, probably a god of hunting, sitting astride crudely carved animals. But the most remarkable sculpture is of the female deity seated on an animal throne, giving birth to a human child. The richness of the ritual imagery at Catal Huyuk hints at a high level of religious consciousness. Its nameless deities are the prototypes of later Anatolian gods and goddesses associated with birds, leopards, bulls, and deer. So where did Catal Huyuk’s original settlers come from? On the south coast of Anatolia, traces have been found of the late Palaeolithic (Early Stone Age) culture that preceded the civilization of Catal Huyuk.

 In the caves of Kara’In, Okuzlu’In, and the rock shelter of Beldibi, there are wall-paintings and engravings of bulls, deer, ibex, and small human figures which may be the precursors of the art at Catal Huyuk. It is possible that the first builders of Catal Huyuk abandoned these caves and journeyed up to the plateau to found a new settlement. The region continued to prosper for several thousand years. During the Early Bronze Age, there was a great increase in the number of settlements established in the Konya plain. By 3000 BC, cities began to emerge, but by then the descendents of the Catal Huyuk people had moved on to other sites. Strangely, shortly before 2000 BC, the region was virtually abandoned. A tiny race of the Catal Huyuk culture does, however, survive to this day. The simple geometric patterns painted on the walls of the Catal ?Huyuk houses – layers of red panels, with the imprints of human hands – can be seen in six modern villages near Catal Huyuk: a creative idea which, astonishingly, has survived for 9,000 years.

Monday, September 30, 2013

History mystery: Catal Huyuk A Stone Age Settlement -2

Reed matting covered the centre of the floor. On two sides of the room, at the northern end, raised platforms covered with mats served as sofas and workbenches during the day as beds at night. The discovery of traces of material suggests that felt was used to make bedding. The platforms had one further use – they also acted as family sepulchers. The plaster surface of platforms was broken open to allow the burial of bones beneath them, 1.5m to 1.8m (5ft to 6ft) below the surface. The dead were buried with funerary gifts such as armlets, bracelets, copper beads, necklaces, obsidian mirrors, and weapons, as well as a wide variety of baskets and wooden vessels, which suggests a belief in life after death.

Their bodies were laid to rest in a contracted position inside the platform, which was then plastered over again. More than half of the bodies found at Catal Huyuk were of young children. Each platform seems to have been the burial place of a nuclear family. In several cases the latest burial was of a mature adult male whose interment was followed by the abandonment of the house, which probably then became an ancestral shrine. The contents of each house were generally the same: the remains of food and matting; vessels made of pottery, wood, and occasionally stone; and beads, tools, and weapons made of obsidian – a glassy and extremely hard volcanic rock – or more rarely, from flint.

The people of Catal Huyuk kept domesticated dogs to guard their houses and, as one wall-painting shows, for sheep herding and for hunting. Human teeth from the site indicate that meat made up a large part of their diet; there is little evidence of the worn teeth that are prevalent among people who subsist mainly on cereals. The meat came from domestic stock and wild game. The number of bones found suggests that mutton was their main protein, supplemented by other meats and fish. From wall-paintings as well as bones, it is clear that the Catal Huyuk residents hunted wild goats, horses, and cattle, as well as wild boar and deer. Leopards, onagers (a species of wild ass), lions, gazelles, bears, and even wild cats were tracked down and killed for their skins.

Deposits of grain of different types suggest a fairly advanced system of cultivation and a variety of cereal foods. Grain was sometimes made into bread, but was more commonly served toasted, or in soup. The farmers also grew vegetables, and there is evidence that they processed oil from a type of mustard seed called shepherd’s purse. Foods eaten regularly by them included acorns, capers, crab apples, grapes, pistachios, and walnuts, gathered from swampy areas near the settlement and the forests on the edge of the Konya plain. Recent excavations have revealed that tubers were also an important element of their diet, including the marsh Scirpus, a bulrush that grew locally.

Apart from food, the Konya plain had few natural resources beyond reeds and clay. Virtually everything else was imported. Timber – juniper, oak, and pine – was probably floated down the Carsamba river from the Taurus Mountains about 80km (50 miles) to the south, then hauled to the settlement by teams of oxen. Copper and lead also came from the Taurus Mountains. The obsidian used for implements such as arrowheads and knife-blades came from Cappadocia to the north-east. Sea-shells from the Mediterranean were also found at the site, along with Syrian flints, and a fragment of Syrian pottery.

The Catal Huyuk craftsmen used many other materials not available in the local environment – they must have imported pigments such as red and yellow ochre; hard stone for toolmaking; limestone, shale, and aragonite; and minerals such as carnelian and blue and green apatite, which were fashioned into beads. These finds are evidence of trade with faraway places. The discovery of Catal Huyuk pottery in Cilicia, 160km (100 miles) to the south-east, suggests that the cultural influence of the settlement extended well beyond the Konya plain, perhaps even into the mountains surrounding it, across an area that may have been as large as 30,000 km2 (11,580 sq miles).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

History mystery: Catal Huyuk A Stone Age Settlement

A mysterious mound excavated in Turkey in the 1960s was to revolutionize archaeological thinking. For a large community had flourished on the ancient site 2000 years before the onset of civilization in Egypt and Mesopotamia. In 1961 a team of british archaeologists led by James Mellaart traveled to the Konya plain in Anatolia, to site about 320km (200 miles) south of the Turkish capital. The purpose of the expedition was to excavate an artificial mound, known in Turkey as a buyuk, which rose beside the Carsamba river more than 1,000m (3,281 ft) above sea level. As the digging proceeded, it became clear that this man-made hill – Catal Huyuk – was the site of the largest, most important, and most fascinating Neolithic (Late Stone Age) settlement ever discovered in the Middle East. There were substantial dwelling – houses, cult-centres or shrines, and evidence of art and crafts, and of extensive trade – mostly in local produce and artifacts, but also in more exotic articles.

Initially, radiocarbon dating placed the foundation of the settlement between 6250 and 5400 BC. But using a method called dendrochronology, counting rings in tree trunks to double-check radiocarbon dating; it became clear that it was established even earlier-between 7200 and 7100 BC. Catal Huyuk consists, in fact, of two separate eastern and western mounds, divided by a branch of the River Carsamba. Archaeologists have concentrated on the Neolithic eastern mound; the settlement shifted to the western mound in the succeeding Chalcolithic period. Only a small section of the 13ha (32 acre) eastern mound was excavated between 1961 and 1965, but since 1993 a large international team has expanded the investigations. At the time of its discovery, Catal Huyuk was unique. In recent years, similar contemporary sites have been discovered, including Umm Dabaghiyah in northern Iraq, Aagheh in northern Iran, Bouqras and Abu Hureyra in Syria, and Can Hasan, Suberde, and Erbaba in Turkey itself. Nut none of these settlements has shown quite the cultural and technical achievements of Catal Huyyk – the site which gave archaeologists the first, tantalizing glimpse of an early farming settlement whose people cultivated cereals, crafted religious figurines, and traded with distant communities.

Mellaart’s excavations of the eastern mound uncovered one complete block of houses and shrines, part of another, similar block, and part of a third block which contained only houses. To the 1960s team, the shrines - rooms cluttered with relics such as bulls’ horns and statuettes – seemed clearly distinguishable from the houses. But recent investigations have shown that most houses had domestic areas with hearths, beds, and storage bins in their southern section, and ritual features such as elaborate wall decoration in the northern section. Each mud-brick house was surrounded by walls built directly up against its neighboring buildings. It remained detached, though, and so could be demolished and rebuilt easily. Clusters of box-like, rectangular houses formed vast blocks, like cells in a honeycomb, interspersed with courtyards.

A system of gutters moulded from plaster took the rainwater of the roof into the nearest courtyard and kept the house dry. There were no streets, so there were no front doors – houses were entered via the roof. The reasons for using this method of building remain a puzzle. Evidence from other settlements in Iraq, Iran, Syria and elsewhere in Turkey suggests that roof-entry may have been widespread in the Middle East in the 8th and 7th millennia BC. It may have been the best way to protect food and portable property from scavenging animals and light-fingered neighbours. There are 14 known levels of building in Catal Huyuk spanning 800 years of cultural development, yet the basic design of the houses remains virtually unchanged throughout that period. Each house consisted of a main room, generally measuring about 6m (20ft) by 4m (13ft), with a storeroom along one side. On the roof was a small, ramshackle extra storey built of sticks and plaster which served as additional storage space and as a porch. Wooden stairs or a ladder led from the roof of the kitchen area positioned at the southern end of the house. This consisted of a hearth or ovens and a fuel store. Cooking pots were kept in holes in the floor, and smoke escaped through a hole in the roof. Some of the pots contained ancient ‘pot-boilers’ – stones heated in the fire than dropped into the pots to cook their contents.

Friday, September 6, 2013

History mystery: CONSTANTINOPLE the City of the emperor Justinian -4

At the west end was the city’s most splendid entrance, the Golden Gate, set in a defensive wall built by the emperor Theodosius II (408-450) to protect the land side of the peninsula from a threatened attack by the Huns. From the Golden Gate a highway led, via Thessalonica (thessaloniki), to the Adriatic coast. This route across northern Greece was trodden incessantly by merchants, travelers, and soldiers. Known as the Via Egnatia, or Western Road, it was one of the most famous highways of the ancient world. Constantinople was built in terraces on the banked-up slopes of the peninsula’s rocky backbone. The terraces were connected by a network of staircases and steep, narrow streets, climbing and swooping through the hills. Tenement blocks five or six storeys high were squeezed together, crammed full of tenants. Self-contained communities developed within the slumland sprawl. Craftsmen grouped together in districts according to their trades: glassmakers, potters, metal-workers, armourers, and tailors.

 The most crowded districts were those on the waterfront. Constantinople was, above all, a maritime centre, and the coastal districts of the Golden Horn to the north of the city, and Propontis to the south, were strung with harbours. In reclaiming much of the old Roman Empire, Justinian had made the Mideterranean a ‘Roman sea’, opening up markets for Byzantine goods along the coasts of North Africa and Italy as far west as the Strait of Gibraltar. Great Warships and cargo vessels vied for space with little caiques, the characteristic fishing vessels of the Aegean. The Golden Horn offered deep and well-sheltered mornings. Ships entered under full sail to unload their cargoes. An immense class of dockland workers came into existence: sailors, carpenters, caulkers, sail-makers, and porters.

They lived in dark alleys, blocked with carts and rank from the strench of fried fish – part of the staple diet of the people, eked out with bread, vegetables and fruit. For all the people, the street was their front parlour: the place where rich and poor spent most of the day. It was also the stage for a cavalcade of entertainers. Public speakers addressed the crowds from street corners. Jugglers, bearkeepers, and performing monkeys entertained passers-by. The rich rode on horseback, for preference on white steeds richly decked out with elaborate saddlecloths and harnesses. They were escorted by liveried servants, usually armed with cudgels to beat a path through the multitude of pedestrians and the streams of asses, oxen, sheep, pigs, camels, and even elephants being driven through the streets to the market. The noblest figures in the empire were borne in gilded carriages drawn by teams of mules. Though all people might be equal in the eyes of the Lord, social inequality on Earth had been pronounced inevitable – even in Justinian’s perfect state – so the church leaders had condoned slavery. Now and then, shuffling columns of slaves became a feature of the street pageant, along with sinister processions of condemned felons. These prisoners faced death or, more commonly, mutilation; assassins or conspirators were slung onto the backs of donkeys and fogged mercilessly as they passed through the town.

For all the public display of vanity and squaltor, religious feeling ran very deep in the people. That was the paradox of Constantinople. Heated theological discussions were as much a feature of street life as everyday haggling over prices. One major controversy divided Byzantium in Justinian’s time, centering on the person of Christ himself. The orthodox view in the church was that Christ embodied two natures, the human and the divine. A heretical group known as the Monophysites, however, held a different belief which had developed in Alexandria. They maintained that Christ’s divine component was so overwhelming that it obliterated the human element. The Monophysites gained recruits at every social level in Constantinople, but especially among the poor. One Byzantine chronicler wrote: ‘This town is full of craftsmen and slaves who are all deep theologians and preach in the shops and in the streets. If you want a man to change some money for you, he will first teach you in what way the Son differs from the Father; and if you ask the price of bread, he will tell you by way of answer, that the Son is inferior to the Father; and if you want to know if you your bath is ready, the bath attendant will reply that the Son was created from nothing……’ It was the Byzantines, with their passion for argument about religious matters, who brought two Greek words into widespread use – ‘orthodox’ and ‘heretic’. The public disputes reflected the depth of religious feeling. Icons – wooden panels painted with religious motifs – were set up both in churches and in homes. Many people, the poor in particular, venerated them as sacred, even miraculous, objects. It became the practice to carry icons through the city in torchlight processions, for – like almost everything else – the solemn pageantry of religion was celebrated in the streets. The power of the ecclesiastical leader was subservient only to the dictates of the emperor. In the church councils which met to deliberate on key matters of doctrine, any final decision needed the approval of the supreme authority. To Constantinople and its emperor fell the destiny of shaping the world’s first civilization embracing Christianity as a state religion.