Friday, June 28, 2013

History mystery: Pompeii The resurrection of a city -2

Pompeii’s other main features included the Temple of Venus (8), the Temple of Apollo (9), the Basilica (10), the Temple of Jupiter (11), the Civil Forum (12), the Building of Eumachia (13), the Forum baths (14), the central baths (15), the Stabian baths (16), the Triangular Forum (17), the theater (18), the gladiator’s barracks (19), the Odeon (20), the palaestra (21), and the amphitheater (22). Homes included the House of the Faun (23) and the House of the Vettii (24), both in the city’s north-west sector. The pictures on the walls and sophisticated paintings, the bawdy graffiti and dignified inscriptions engraved in marble, all materialized before the eyes of the archaeologists. Even the streets still bear the track marks of carts. A vivid picture of daily life began to emerge simply from the insults and proverbs scrawled on walls – ranging from ‘Figulus loves Idaia,’ to the more lyrical, ‘you could as soon stop the winds from blowing and the waters from following as stop lovers from loving.’ Election posters illustrated the vitality of political life in the city: ‘Vote for Maurus Epidius Sabinus as administrator of justice. He is a respectable man, considered by trustworthy judges to be capable of defending the citizens.’ Every one of Pompeii’s excavated buildings gives the historian an insight into the city’s public and private life, yet surprisingly little is known about its early history.

The uncovering of a Doric temple proved that the town existed in the 6th century BC and that it was subject to Greek influence. It was probably a settlement of the local Ausonian people, thriving as a free port used by both the Greeks whop had settled on Italy’s west coast and the Etruscans to the north. Its economy was based on the production of wine and oil and supplemented by a flourishing commerce in wool and woollen goods. The coming of the Romans around 80BC opened new vistas of economic enterprise. The neighbouring town of Puteoli (Pozzuoli) became Italy’s principal port and Roman traders began to flood the eastern Mediterranean.

Pompeii prospered not only as a market town and port, but also as an immensely popular resort. Every summer thousands of Romans flocked to the city to take advantage of its climate and its beautiful position in the Bay of Naples. The orator Cicero was one of the many who acquired a holiday home in Pompeii. As the fashion caught on, the area became a playground for the rich. Then, in AD 62, an earthquake struck. The drama is depicted in the bas-reliefs which a wealthy banker, Caecilius Jucundus, had sculpted in the hallway of his house. Buildings tilt, arches and monuments crash to the ground – all evoked with rude vigour. The banker probably commissioned the reliefs to give thanks to his household gods for his survival. Pompeii reacted to the ravages of this catastrophe with a frenzy of building that was proof of the city’s prosperity.

The art collection of a local politician, Julius Polybius, was found stored in the room of his house to keep it safe from the building work, still in progress when Vesuvius erupted 17 years later. The largest public buildings stood in the south-west corner of the city, where the first settlers of Pompeii had made their homes. Here, clustered round the Civil Forum, stood the Temple of Apollo, the most ancient of all the buildings in Pompeii- proved by the discovery of Greek pottery dating back to the early 5th century BC. Next door the Basilica, A combined market hall and law court, is the best preserved of the city’s buildings. Thanks to graffiti on the walls, it can be dated to the 2nd century BC. Its main hall, surrounded by a colonnade, testifies to the commercial might of the city. At the end was a tribunal where justice was administrated. Graffiti covers the walls. ‘Lucius Istacidius,’ wrote a citizen, ‘who did not invite me to share his meal, is a barbarian!’ On the opposite side of the Forum stands the Building of Eumachia. Inscriptions inside describe how Eumachia, a public priestess, paid for the construction of the building and how she dedicated it to the ‘Peace and Harmony of Augustus’.

 The Macellum, or general market, stood at the north-east corner of the Forum. The rows of stalls which encircled the main building can still be seen, as can the remains of the various cereals and fruits that were being sold on the fateful August day in AD 79. A drain full of fish bones marks the position of a fish stall. Nearby stand the public baths of the Civil Forum. The second area of ancient public buildings clustered round the Triangular Forum, with Pompeii’s public entertainment district spread out along its eastern side. The city’s largest theatre could accommodate an audience of 5,000 in the open air. The Romans were passionate theatre-goers; its repertoire would have included classical drama, comic mime, and low burlesque, interspersed with clowning, dancing, and acrobatics. For lavish marine spectacles, the stage could be flooded with water, and in the heat of the Mediterranean summer a sprinkling device showered perfumed water on the audience.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

History mystery: Pompeii The Resurrection of a City -1

Almost 2,000Years ago a provincial city in Italy was buried beneath a thick layer of volcanic ash. Hundreds of years later Pompeii was discovered – a miraculously preserved mausoleum which provides a vivid record of the life of a Roman city? ON THE MORNING OF AUGUST 24, AD 79, Carts and mules jostled their way through the streets of Pompeii. Peddlers hawked their wares from wayside stalls. Girls gossiped lazily at a corner fountain. In a wine shop, a customer had just put his money down on the counter for a drink. But the barmaid had no time to pick up the coins. For suddenly, a terrifying noise ripped through the air. Vesuvius (Vesuvio), the volcanic mountain which dominated the town, had erupted. Under pressure from the gases inside, the plug of lava that blocked the opening of the volcano had burst, releasing a great mass of red-hot lava. Solidifying into balls of stone as it cooled, the lava rained down on the houses and blotted out the sun. By nightfall on August 25, Pompeii was buried beneath about 6m (20ft) of lava, dust and ashes. It happened too quickly for many of the inhabitants to escape. Asphyxiated by gases and crushed beneath tumbling buildings, they fell in the streets or met death in their homes and cellars.

Before he died, one of them recalled the terrible fate that had befallen two Old Testament cities by scratching ‘Sodom and Gomorrah!’ on a whitewashed wall. Fortunately for us, the modern world has an eyewitness account of the fall of Pompeii. The two letters which the Roman writer Pliny the Younger sent to the historian Tacitus are exceptionally vivid. Pliny the Younger was staying with his uncle, Pliny the Elder, at Misenum, 30km (19 miles) from Pompeii. This is what he saw as he made his escape: ‘Ashes were already falling,’ he wrote, ‘not as yet very thickly. I looked round: a dense black cloud was coming up behind us, spreading over the earth like a flood…. ‘Darkness fell, not the dark of the moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a closed room. You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, other their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying.  ‘Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the Universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.’

 At the time Pliny the Elder (a Roman administrator and himself a profile writer) commanded the Roman fleet at Misenum. When the eruption first started, he went by boat to Stabiae to rescue a friend and get a closer view. After spending the night there, he ‘decided to go down to the shore and investigate the possibility of any escape by sea,’ wrote his nephew, ‘but he found the waves wild and dangerous. A sheet was spread on the ground for him to lie down, and he repeatedly asked for cold water to drink. Then the flames and smell of sulphur which gave warning of the approaching fire drove the others to take flight and roused him to stand up. He stood leaning on slaves and then suddenly collapsed, I imagine because the dense fumes choked his breathing. When daylight returned two days after the last day he had seen, his body was found intact…..still fully clothed and looking more like in sleep than death.’ Embalmed in lava, Pompeii remained undiscovered for nearly 1700 years. It was not until 1748 that Joaquin de Alcubierre, engineer to the King of Naples, chanced upon its business quarter. In order to inspect an old water tunnel, he sank pa shaft into the ground and unearthed a brilliant wall-painting. Next, he came upon the body of a Pompeiian clutching a fistful of gold.

No one will ever know whether this man as a thief or was just trying to flee with money he had saved over the years. Alcubierre went on excavating the site. It was another 100 years before the Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli introduced the policy of moving forward slowly, house by house, to make sure that nothing was lost in the excavation. He also devised the technique of pouring plaster into the cavities left by the bodies, so that they reappeared as they were at the moment of death. As the city was disinterred, it seemed to come back to life. Vesuvius, the cause of Pompeii’s destruction, looms to the north of the city. Pompeii’s chief north-south through fare was the Via di Stabia (1), running between the Vesuvius Gate (2) and the Stabian Gate (3). Running east-west were the Via di Nola, from the Nola Gate (4) across to the west side of the city, and the Via dell’ Abbondanza, between the Samus (5) and Marine (6) gates. The gate in the north-west corner of the walls (7) led to the neighbouring city of Herculaneum.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

History mystery: Monks who mummify themselves alive!

While talking about Mummies we immediately remember about mummies of Egypt, but actually in some part of India, Japan mummifying them self was practiced as an enlighten ritual. In India a sect of vishnavite namely Madava saints called this practice as Brindavana Pravesha and in Jain customs also, fasting unto death for enlightment was practiced and it was called as Sallekhana. But the one practiced in Japan monks is a wired. Shingon is a sect of Buddhist monks in Japan who practiced mummifying themselves, and those succeeded in getting Enlightment was called as Sokushibutsu. This was practiced by monks of Tohoku region of Honsu islands Japan. Most of the monks of Shugendo sect of Buddhism only followed this kind of self mummifying called Sokushibutsu. Sokushibutsu is a process of mummifying; which is entirely different from Brindavana Pravesha or Sallekhana. In Sokushibutsu the Monk he himself undergoes mummifying process for ten year and in the final stage of process for enlightment he himself entombed alive. In Sokushibutsu the first three years the monks plans their diet to lose weight. For that they ate only some berries and nuts. This kind of diet removed the unwanted fats from the monk’s body and this process continues for three years.

 In the next three years the eats only the bark and roots of some specific plats to remove excess moisture from his body so that the mummifying process will be easy ( Point to Ponder : If moisture is more in the body the body will decay soon and mummifying process will not be successful after death). And they are allowed to eat lesser amount of some fruits and berries. The monks lead a very rigid and disciplined life during these period and they under take more physical activity to lose more fat. The Sokushibutsu monk induces vomiting to lose large scale body fluid. In the third phase of the rituals the monks drink special tea made our of Urushi tree. This herbal tea is poisonous and has lacquer property. Consuming this tea causes the person to vomit more and restrict the ability to get more nutrients from diet, lacquer bowls and restrict the more the body fluid (Point to Ponder: This poisonous tea make his body a hell for bacteria and maggots so that the body will not decay after his death.).

At this end of this second phase that is after six years and more the monk is little more than bones and skin and if the monk survived this stage he will move on to the third stage. At this stage the monk himself will sit in a small stone tomb that exactly fit him in. He enters the tomb and sits in Padmashana (sitting in lotus position). In this position of sitting he could not move himself until his death. Once he seals himself in the tomb holes are made and bamboo pipes are inserted for breathing and for a bell. The monk has to ring a bell on the daily basis so that his fellow monks could know that he is alive. If the monk didn’t ring the bell it is assumed that he is no more and the vent for breathing and the bell will be removed and the tomb will be sealed for the final thousand days rituals. At the end of the thousand days rituals the tomb will be opened to see whether the monk was successfully mummified himself and his preserved body will be put on display in temple and the monk will be declared as Buddha and revered. Thousands of monks were tired this ritual in Yamagta Province and only 24 succeeded in their effort. Most of the historians believed that this practice was originated from Tang region of China and Kukai who is the founder of Shingon sect only introduced this self mummification. In later stage; at the end of 18th century the Japanese Government banned Sokushibutsu- self mummification process (a ritual suicide?).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

History Mystery: Pazyryk The frozen tombs of Altai -3

The grave-robbers of Pazyryk carried off much of its jewellery. But there was one kind of adornment that they did not consider valuable. The arm, legs and torso of one man were covered with fantastic tattoos. He had pronounced mongoloid featured. Though this was unusual at Pazyryk, where most were of a European type, there must have been a Mongol presence on the eastern fringes of the Altai. The man was about 60 years old and fairly stout. The tattoos had obviously been applied while he was young, for they were faded or distorted over the areas where he had gained weight. An entire bestiary of weird and wonderful animals hugged the curves of his musculature: stags with antlers teeming with the heads of birds, and winged feline creatures with pointed teeth. A fish had been traced between ankle and knee, and four wild sheep ran up the inside of his leg. The head of a lion-griffin had been positioned exactly over his heart. The creature’s curving back wound round the man’s torso up to the shoulder blade, where the coiled whorl of the tail ended. This ‘Lionheart’ had died in battle. His skull had been smashed and the scalp removed – scalping was referred to by Herodotus as a way of appropriating the enemy’s vital force. To compensate for the deformity of the skull, before the burial the man’s comrades had sewn on a wig.

A false beard of horsehair, dyed jet black, had been fixed under his chin. The practice of tattooing was, like scalping, referred to by ancient writers as one of the more extraordinary habits of the barbarian nomads. The Greeks associated the markings with the degrading stigmata used to brand slaves. But the wearers bore their embellishments with pride. Tattoos are still worn as sings of bravery and nobility by the Kyrgyz of central Asia. The tattooist’s art may have had practical uses, as well as an aesthetic and spiritual resonance. One man found at Pazyryk wore tattoo marks on his ankle and at key points along his spine. The points are well known in acupuncture, a practice widespread among the Asian peoples of his time. The decoration on the skin, clothes, and household items of the people of the Altai reflects the fact that they lived in intimate contact with animal world. The piercing eyes and beak of the eagle, the supple spine and sharp teeth of the wild cat, are rendered with expressive simplicity and accuracy. It is as though, by depicting an animal in art, its particular qualities were magically appropriated. When death came to an important member of the tribe, the nomads exercised their skills in a different form of handiwork, creating burial mounds using rough wooden tools.

 Samples of these tools survive, including wedge-shaped wooden stakes, their ends hammered flat by mallet blows. The stakes must have been used to break up the ground before the digging began. All the kurgans were built in roughly the same way, beginning with the construction of a rectangular pit, and inside it a chamber of larch logs to receive the body or bodies. It had a ceiling and plank floor and often doubles walls. The tombs were then ready for the funeral. Little is known about the religion of the people of the Altai. Writing of the Scythians to the west, Herodotus noted that ‘it was not not their custom to raise cult statues, altars, or temples’. No places of worship have been found in the Altai. Since the nomads had no writings, there are no texts to shed light upon their beliefs. Evidence of ritual practices has been found at Pazyryk – a leather bag containing fingernails and hair, which may relate to some obscure ceremony. There are other indications of practices similar to shamanism, widespread in Mongolia and Siberia. The shaman was a priest, sorcerer, and healer, the mediator between the natural and supernatural worlds. To reach the spirit world, the shaman would don a stag’s head or antlers and enter into an ecstatic trance induced by drugs and music. Shamans are likely to have presided over the burials at Pazyryk. From evidence at the site, some aspects of the funeral ceremonies can be reconstructed.

They probably took place in the summer, the only time of year when the ground was not frozen. The bodies of the dead were embalmed, the muscle tissue removed through incisions in the skin and the cavities stuffed with grass. The incisions were then sewn up with sinews. The coffin containing the embalmed bodies, perhaps of the chieftain and his wife, was placed inside the larch-log chamber with the possessions that had been chosen to accompany them into the afterlife: fine carpets and hangings, and vessels of food and drink. The resplendent horses were screened from the coffin area by a wooden partition. The arrangement of the chamber seems to have been followed by a feast and a ritual fumigation using narcotics. Two of the Pazyryk tombs contained equipment for smoking hashish: small bronze cauldrons which held carbonized seeds of hemp and stones. A framework of sticks supported a miniature felt tent which could have retained the smoke for better inhalation. Herodotus recorded how the Scythains performed fumigations after funerals, describing it as a ‘vapour bath’. The details fit in remarkably well with the evidence that has been found at Pazyryk: ‘On a framework of three sticks, meeting at the top, they stretch pieces of woolen cloth, taking care to get the joins as perfect as they can. Inside the little tent they put a dish with red-hot stones on it. Then they take some hemp seed, creep into the tent, and throw the seed onto the hot stones. ‘At once it begins to smoke, giving off a vapour unsurpassed by any vapour bath one could find in Greece. The Scythains enjoy it so much they howl with pleasure . . .’ Music almost certainly contributed to the sacred ceremonies of death. Drums made of a membrane stretched across a horn body have been found in the tombs, and are similar to items that are still used in Tibet, Afghanistan, and Iran. After the last rituals had been performed, the pit was covered with birch bark and twigs, followed by layers of lorch logs. The earth dug out earlier was heaped on top, and covered with a pile of stones up to 4.5m (15ft) high. As the centuries passed and the nomads disappeared from the Altai, the stone mounds remained as the only visible testament to their civilization.

The True Value of a Cleanroom

clean room valueIn this article, we are going to be looking at cleanrooms, and how various companies can benefit from having one installed within their facilities. Just in case you are unsure of what a cleanroom is, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it thus: a room for the manufacture […] that is maintained at a high level of cleanliness by special means.

Although they are mostly used for the manufacture of things (usually objects requiring precision manufacture, such as microchips and the like), cleanrooms can also be useful for research.

It is difficult to evaluate exactly how valued cleanrooms are in the industry, as they have become completely inextricable from the process – they have been used for a long time, and the technology driving them has evolved alongside the industry as a whole.

To try and work out the “true” value of a cleanroom, in isolation, we are going to have to look at a case study performed by Life Science. For the full study, you can click here, but a summary will follow.

The Beginnings of the Case Study

Working in a major IVF facility, the case study commenced with the design and construction of a cleanroom to be used in the process of transferring the embryo. IVF facilities usually work out of normal laboratories, with the fertilisation taking place in a biosafety cabinet, and the embryo developing in temperature-controlled incubators.

A human embryo is, of course, an immensely delicate object. Taken outside of its natural environment (the human body), an embryo has no protection against any contaminants, as it has been refined over thousands of generations to survive in the ultimate controlled environment.

To keep the embryo safe outside the body, you’re going to need a similar environment, one which is as close to perfectly-controlled as possible. We couldn’t imagine a better place than a cleanroom, so set about performing the case study.

The new cleanroom was to use an ISO-7 environment for the fertilisation and growth, while the embryo implantation was to be in an ISO-8 one. You can find out more about cleanrooms by clicking here, and get more information about cleanroom standards here.

The Results of the Case Study

Of course, the pregnancy success rates did not simply and instantly rocket upwards – no one was expecting them to; IVF implantations are not that straightforward. At first, the rates of success were about the same as they had been prior to the installation of the cleanroom.

However, as time passed by, the doctors and nurses soon began to see an upward tick, and they reported that the variability of the success rates had reduced by a significant amount.

These results only continued to improve as the staff members got used to working within the cleanroom environment, and as they adapted to the different practices used in a cleanroom. This showed that the initial stalling of positive results was perhaps due to unfamiliarity with the environment.

The new cleanroom allowed staff to be more responsive to issues, as and when they arise, as they could now both monitor and evaluate cleanliness, maintenance, and operator methods, meaning they could continue to improve their technique.

In all, it was the cleanroom that caused these positive results.