Thursday, February 21, 2013

History Mystery: Mari The Lost City Of Mesopotamia! -1

      When a large, headless statue was unearthed in Syria early in the 20th century, it turned out to be the first of startling series of archaeological discoveries. A palace and temples followed and soon an entire city was brought to light. TELL HARIRI lies on the west bank of the river Euphrates in Syria, 12 Km from the border with Iraq. In the early 20th century, the ruins at the site were considered to be to little interest there were scores of similar sites, or tells, throughout the lands of the Middle East. But in the 1930s, while Syria was a French mandate, a Bedouin foraging among the ruins for a suitable gravestone discovered a headless statue. The statue bore an inscription in cuneiform ancient, wedge shaped writing. Casual digging at the site was hurriedly stopped by the local authorities, and the French archaeologist Andre Parrot was sent to explore the tell. Parrot unearthed a large number of alabaster statues of the period known as early Dynastic III, most of them priests. One bearing a dedication to the goddess Ishtar was inscribed with the name of the king of Mari- a find that unlocked the secrets of the site. Tell Hariri stood on the ruins of the lost city of Mari. The name Mari had already cropped up in the records of the great Mesopotamian civilization of Sumer, discovered by earlier archaeologists. Sumer was centered on the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where great cities such as Uruk, Nippur, Eridu, and Ur flourished some 3000 years before the birth of Christ.

      Its people invented writing, and in early texts now known as the king list, they named Mari as one of the dozen or so city states struggling for supremacy between about 3000 and 2300 BC. But Tell Hariri was a long way from the known centers of Sumerian civilization and its discovery revolutionized thinking about ancient Mesopotamia. Clearly its culture had been shared by other peoples living much farther up the Euphrates than had been imagined. While working on the site in 1934, Parrot was visited by Henri Frankfort, a Duch archaeologist then exploring Tell Asmar and Khafajeh, some 400 Km to the east. His findings were strikingly similar to Parrot’s, suggesting that a single civilization spanned the entire breadth of Mesopotamia. Parrot went on to reveal the true grandeur of the ancient Mari. He discovered two royal palaces, one on which fated back to 2500 BC – the time of the Early Dynastic Period- and a haul of inscribed tablets, which helped to build up a vivid picture of the city’s history.

     Mari’s importance stemmed from its key position on the trade route linking Mesopotamia with Syria to the North West. The Sumerian settlements of the delta were rich in agricultural produce, but they needed crucial raw materials from Syria to sustain their city culture. Sumer exported corn, leather, and wool in exchange for scarce building materials such as tone and timber. Silver and lead were brought down fromm the Syrian hills to supply Sumerian metal workers. Copper came from as far away as the Taurus Mountains in Asia Minor, and from Magan in the Persian Gulf. As trade expanded, military and diplomatic missions were sent to Mari to maintain links with its supply lines. During excavations of the Early Dynastic places, Andre Parrot discovered a cache of objects, including several cylindrical seals, presented to the local ruler by Mesannepadda, king of the Sumerian city of Ur. The evidence indicated that an important diplomatic mission was sent to Mari in around 2500 BC.

       Mesannepadda’s envoy was a scribe, with him, the king sent a message of friendship to Mari’s ruler, an offer of alliance, and rich gifts, including a magnificent blue Anzu bird pendant of lapis lazli imported from beyond the Iranian plateau and inscribed with the royal sender’s name. The Journey was not difficult, for Ur at that time dominated many of the other Sumerian cities and nobody would have obstructed the Caravan’s progress. As it made its way up the valley of the Euphrates, the envoy would have noticed linguistic changes. But understanding the Semitic tongue was not a problem to Sumerian scholar: Bedouin herdsmen often drove their cattle up and down the valley, and mixed freely with the city dwellers in south. Their language was understood in Ur.

     In the dry uplands of the Euphrates, Mari loomed like an oasis, irrigated by networks of canals leading off the great river. A dyke protected the city from flooding, and ramparts of unbaked brick fortified its walls. The envoy was greeted at the gates by royal officials and conducted to the newly erected palace. In the great visitors’ courtyard, the envoy awaited an audience. At the appointed time, a grouped of dignitaries arrived scribes, army officers, and relatives of the king- followed by the king himself. The king’s costume was no different from that of his entourage, consisting mainly of goatskin from waist to ankle, but he was distinguished by the arrangement of his long hair, plaited in a diadem around his head with a double bun above the nape of the neck.


Monday, January 28, 2013

History Mystery: The Extraordinary Creatures of Myth and Legend

The Sphinx and the Minotaur, Centaurs and Gorgons, dragons and unicorns- ancient mythology and medieval fables are teeming with strange creatures. Who created the often terrifying and repellent beings that haunt our dreams, and why? Where does the Sphinx come from? How did the Sirens and centaurs come into being, and how was the Hydra created? How are the Gorgons and the Minotaur related? And why did our distant ancestors invent such bizarre creatures?

The origins of many of these mythological creatures lie with the wealth of stories told by the Sumerians, Babylonians and Egyptians. We owe their survival largely to the Greeks, who included these fabulous tales in the mythological structure of their world and passed them on to Western civilization. The creatures that feature in these stories all have one thing in common: each is a hybrid, or a creature born out of the union of two different beings. What is unthinkable in nature is made possible through the divine origin of their creators.

Greek mythology is full of such hybrids, who were conceived by the various deities or by their descendants. Thus the old sea god Phorcys and his sister, the sea monster Ceto, produced Echidna, a creature half nymph and half serpent. Echidna herself gave birth to other monsters: the three headed dog Cerberus, who guarded the gats of the underworld; the Hydra, a nine headed water snake with the body of a hound, who lived in the swamps of Lerna; the Chimaera, a fire spitting monster, part lion, part goat and part snake; and the Sphinx, who, unlike the celebrated stone Sphinx of Egypt, was a female creature with the face of a woman, the body of a lion and bird’s wing. Certainly no less horrible were Echidna’s three sisters, the Gorgons the most famous of who was Medusa. The Gorgons had golden wings and hands of bronze; each had a long red tongue handing from her mouth and their canine teeth resembled those of a wild boar. Instead of hair, a repulsive nest of living snakes writhed around their heads and anyone who gazed upon their grotesque faces was instantly turned to stone.

The ancient Greeks regarded the Sirens maidens with the bodies of birds, who are enticing singing lured seamen to their doom, as the three daughters of the river god Achelous and one of the three Muses. The centaurs, which combine the upper body of a man with a horses’ torso and legs, were fathered by Apollo’s son, Centauros, with the obliging co operation of a herd of mares. According to myth, human beings have played an important role in the procreation of hybrid creatures. Thus, the famous and feared Minotaur, a human with the head of a bull, was born out of the union of Pasiphae, the wife of the Cretan King Minos, and a white bull sent by the sea god, Poseidon.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mauritius Holidays

Life is full of hectic schedules and occasionally one need to take a break from these routines of life and the best way is by taking a holiday with family or friends at some peaceful destination. mauritius holidays makes an excellent option and tourist can have a memorable stay at this magnificent destination nestling amidst a tropical paradise setting, a perfectly naturally formed Indian Ocean gem giving the traveler of feeling of being in Paradise. Mauritius has a lot to offer visitors coming to this place with interesting sites to explore memories to cherish and their cuisines to relish. The four remarkable resorts namely Sugar Beach, La Pirague, One & Only Le Saint Geran and Le Touessrok are situated between cool green forest and shimmering horizons. Tourist can discover the beauty of underwater thrills, water ski Para sail etc at all Mauritius Resort either individually or with a team. All their hotels maintain a high standard of accommodation offering friendly service with a smile to one and all their tourists. They have superb beaches which are more than a hundred miles of pure white sand surrounded by reef protected waters. They also have excellent diving centers and golf course and for water sports, the most popular spots is the offshore island of the lle aux Cerfs, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in Mauritius. At Port Louis the capital city of Mauritius, travelers can engage in a shopping expedition from Caudin Waterfront complex, the colorful Central Market right to China Town and can also indulge in health and beauty treatments Tourist can have a glimpse of the oldest sport in Mauritius on their visit to the Champ du Mars horse track which is an amazing experience. Visitors could also try their cosmopolitan cuisines made up of Chinese, Indian, Creole, French and British flavors as well as the Eastern spices which can tickle the taste buds mingled with the exotic atmosphere that surround them. With the cool beaches and lush green atmosphere, one can experience the richness that nature can offer and enjoy a awesome vacation at this remarkable destination.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The End Of The World

During the Middle ages, great anxiety surrounded the approach of the year 1000. Many people feared that the new millennium would mark the end of the world – just as it had been described in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. How did the people of the time deal with this fear? And what was it about the year 1000 that made them think it would bring the end of human kind?

In 1890s, a number of historians observed that the approach of the year 1000 in Europe had been accompanied by fears about the end of the world. These fears were fed by the Church, which apparently wanted Christians to believe that they could secure their places in paradise by transferring their property to the clergy. Many Christians did so, there by securing the church’s power base for years to come. It is not difficult to imagine that this caused a sensation, and that the Church angrily denied that anything of the kind ever took place.

 We know that the level of anxiety among the medieval population rose as the year 1000 drew nearer. Naturally, they looked to their priests and to the Bible for guidance. The bible gives a detailed description of number of catastrophes and plagues that would lead to the end of the world. This would fulfill god’s will, and the New Jerusalem would descend from heaven. The problem was that the Holy Scriptures did not give an exact date, but some scholars estimated that the period around the new millennium would be the likeliest time. This leads to proclamations such as that of Parisian cleric, who announced around 975; ‘the Antichrist will come at the end of the year 1000 and the Last Judgment will follow shortly thereafter’. Many people believed such statements in part because a string of natural disasters that took place towards the end of the 10th century led them to fear for the future. In the year 987, parts of western and central Europe were stricken by torrential rains; a severe drought followed in 990; and shortly afterwards storms again devasted these regions. France in particular was badly hit by natural disasters; in 997, a terrible epidemic claimed countless lives, while in Burgundy, a severe famine even produced out breaks of cannibalism.

 Faced with the sign of imminent chaos, it was easy for people to believe in the legends that ‘the end of mankind is at hand’. The appearance of a comet in 1014, and a solar eclipse in 1033, were both interpreted as harbingers of further horrors.

 All these events were meticulously recorded by the monks, who were the chroniclers of history during the Middle Ages. The various disasters and strange celestial occurrences certainly seemed to confirm the apocalyptic predictions of the Church. Raoul Glaber, a monk from the abbey of Cluny in central France, wrote around 1050; ‘ After all the signs and wonders which occurred before or after the year 1000 of our Lord, there was no shortage of innovative people who predicted no less important events for the thousandth return of the passion of the Lord. And indeed there is no doubt that signs were manifest… they fulfilled the prophecy of John, which states that Satan shall be let loose after a thousand years’

The expectation of the thousand year reign of Christ on earth before the end of the world is known as Chilism and was a wide spread belief in the first centuries of Christianity. According to this doctrine,, the souls of the just will be resurrected and will rule with the Messiah, then, Satan will be freed for a short time, and the end of the world will follow.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Birth of Physics and Newton’s Apple -1

Newton and the aloe: it’s an image as enduring as any in history. As the story goes, the 23 year old Isaac Newton was sitting in his garden in his home in woolsthorpe, England, when he noticed an apple fall to the ground. A moment’s pondering, and he was inspired to postulate the law of universal gravitation.

Newton himself never put this story in writing, though he did recount it to his friend and biographer, William Stukeley, one evening in 1726, one evening in 1726. Yet, two other biographers of Sir Isaac his physician Henry Pemberton and mathematician William Whiston- interviewed Newton extensively about the origins of his theory of gravity, and neither mentioned the apple.

The story comes to us through Voltaire, who recounted it in Elements de philosophie de Newton, claiming he had heard it from Newton’s niece, Catherine Barton Conduit, who lived with Newton and managed his house hold for 20 years. Some historians speculate that Catherine may have been telling the truth- but she mistook an example her uncle had used to explain gravity for an actual occurrence. Carl Friedrich Gauss, the great 19th century mathematician, dismissed the entire story as an absurd insult to Newton’s genius.

 Whether or not the story is true, the impression it leaves- that Newton formulated his theory in isolation- is certainly misleading. In the late 1670s, Newton was already famous for his theories about light, his experiments in optics, his formulation of calculus and his invention of the reflection telescope. He climbed the academic fame quickly but found himself enrolled in several disputes over who had thought of what scientific theory first. Newton had little patience for such squabbling and resigned from the Royal Society, calling science ”a litigious lady.”

But then, in 1679, one of Newton’s earlier rivals, Robert Hooke, became secretary of the society. Hooke was stymied by several problems in mechanics and believed Newton was the only man who could help. So in November of the year, Hooke wrote a gracious letter to Newton inviting him to correspond on subjects in physics of mutual interest. Newton accepted the invitation, but soon regretted doing so, And the reason? Hook made public some of Newton’s erroneous speculations, much to Newton’s embracement.

 It was in one of Hooke’s letters, however, that Newton first heard the idea that the motion of an object under the influence of a force could be broken up into to composite motions; one I the direction of the force and changing in accordance with Newton’s second law and the other perpendicular to the force and moving uniformly in accordance with the Newton’s first law. Unbeknownst to Hooke, this was the breakthrough idea that Newton needed.