Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Yes, We Have No Bananas

The sweet yellow banana found in our super markets is the descendant of a mutant plant that was found growing in a Jamaican plantain field, in 1836. The new banana could be eaten without cooking. Jean Francois Poujot, the owner of the field, quickly began propagating the new banana.

The new banana strain grew in popularity. It was a favorite at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, selling for a hefty ten cents each.

Romans ate bananas, but they were lost to Europe when trade with Africa collapsed with the fall of the Roman Empire. Bananas were one of the things that 15th Century Portuguese explores brought back to Europe, reestablishing the African trade in bananas. Soon they were being cultivated in the New World.

All the banana's in the supermarket are of one strain--the Cavendish. The 1923 song, "Yes, We have No Bananas" was written when the Gos Michel (Big Mike) banana was being lost to a fungus that spread through the worldwide mono-culture fields of the Gros Michel. The same fungus, the Panama Disease, is now destroying the Cavendish fields. The fate of the banana is yet to be known. Will science win this round or will it once again be "Yes, We Have No Bananas."

Friday, September 14, 2012

GI Joe & The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Did you know that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches served on machine sliced bread was a staple of WWII military meals? It provided a fast and nutritious meal, with a sugar boost, in cold camps. Many of the soldiers liked the sandwiches so much that they continued eating them when they returned to the states after the war.

Next time you have a PB&J sandwich, take a bite as a salute to the men who served as WWII soldiers.

Pancakes a Favorite for 9,000 Years

Call them pancakes, griddle cakes, or flapjacks; this mixture of flour, milk, eggs, and oil has been a pipping hot, mouthwatering favorite since the first days of farming. The mixture is a tasty way to utilize the resources generated by farming. Archaeological evidence proves we humans have been eating pancakes right from the beginning of farming 9,000 years ago.

The word flapjacks may conjure up an image of a chuckwagon and cowboys breakfasting, on a summer prairie morning with cows lowing in the background, in your imagination, but you would be wrong. Flapjacks are a name first applied to griddle cakes in Tudor times. Shakespeare mentions them in his plays. The Greeks ate pancakes they called tiganites over 2,600 years ago. Nearly every culture has a similar recipe. The pancakes spread along with farming.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dogs and Cats or Puppies and Kittens

Ever wonder why the young of cats and dogs are called kittens and puppies, or why a young swan is a cygnet? After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the French language of the conquering Normans began to mix with the Germanic language of the conquered Anglo-Saxon population. In the case of animals kept as pets, when there were two words for the same animal, the French word gradually began to take on the exact meaning of the young of the animal, while the Germanic word gradually came to denote the adult animal, making for a more specific method of speaking of the animal at different stages of its life. English became such an exact language because of this differentiation process, as new words entered English from other languages.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Of Books and Underwear

It is perhaps a strange link, but books, and the paper they were made of, could not becomes widely available until the wearing of underwear became commonplace. Inexpensive paper was made of cotton and linen rags, cut into small pieces and pounded into pulp by waterwheel powered trip-hammers. Worn out underwear was purchased by the rag and bone man and sold on to the paper mills.

Underwear began to be more widely worn, as trade revived and clothing began to be made of richer fabrics colored with exotic dyes, during the Renaissance. The cotton and linen underwear protected the expensive clothing from sweat stains and odors, in an era before detergents and chemical dry cleaning.

It is an odd thing, but the pages of that rare Renaissance book were probably a bra, undershirt, or petticoat in their first life.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Royal Flush

The royal family of France lived in absolute splendor in the Palace of Versailles, from 1682 to 1789. There was a room with a bath for the king and another for the queen. There wasn't a single toilet, only chamber pots. These were in such short supply that soon even the most tidy men began to urinate on the palace stairs.   Lots of grandeur, but not enough planning for a large court.

In contrast, Queen Elizabeth had a flush toilet before 1600. Though chamber post were preferred by most until the Regency, when plumbing improved.

Pardon My Flemish

When one of those four letter words slips out at a bad moment, people often say, "Pardon my French." The truth is that most cuss words and certainly the f#@* word is of Flemish origin. The words entered English from Flemish sailors. Cuss like a sailor is right. They were taking wool from England to be dyed and woven in Flanders (currently known as Belgium), in such cities as Bruges. The woolen cloth would then be sold to other countries, including England. Wool was long the major product of England.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Sands of Time

The Great Sphinx measures 241 feet long, 20 feet wide, and over 66 feet high. The Great Sphinx is one of the world's largest and oldest statues. Would you believe that it was completely forgotten more than once in the 4.5 thousand years it has been crouching on the Giza plateau? It truly has been forgotten over and over again.

Archaeological evidence points to the Great Sphinx being built as a part of King Khafra's funerary complex along with the second pyramid, built in 2500 B.C., on the Giza Plateau. It seems to be related to a sun worship cult and has a roofless temple, standing in front of the Sphinx, made of 200 ton blocks of limestone cut from around the Sphinx, with Steele that mark the hours of the day and niches that mark the change of seasons. The Great Sphinx and the side of the second pyramid also line up with the sun in the spring and fall.

In the 1390's B.C. King Thutmose IV excavated the buried and neglected Sphinx, after resting in the shade by the mostly buried statue. While napping the then prince dreamed that the Sphinx would make him king if he caused the encroaching sand dunes to be carted away.

Ramesses II the Great also removed sand dunes to reveal the almost buried Great Sphinx in the late 1200's B.C.

No mention is made of the Great Sphinx by Greek travel writer Herodotus, who visited Egypt just after 454 B.C., presumably because the large sculpture was completely buried in sand and unknown by his Egyptian guides.

In 1817, explorer Giovanni Battista Caviglia again cleared away sand dunes that had mostly covered the large sculpture.

 The Great Sphinx has been lost and found many times, it is a link to an unimaginably distant past. However, it was probably built to mark the coming of Spring and Fall, something we still mark today.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lions and Bulls and the Olympics

When you look at ancient sculptures such as the sphinx and the bulls with men's heads from Babylon, what do you see? Just mysterious monumental sculptures. Here is a secret that will help you better understand those ancient minds.

When you see a lion, think the sun. The lion is the symbol of the sun, with the lion's mane the emblem of the sun's corona. Look for sun connections in the sculpture. The Great Sphinx and the Great Pyramid mark the sun's position on the Spring and Fall equinoxes. These sculptures also try to capture heavenly power for the kings of ancient lands. That is why the Great Sphinx has the face of a king of Egypt--probably Khafre. The Great Sphinx faces East to capture the power of rebirth as shown by the sun's daily birth and death at sunrise and sunset.

When you see a bull, think the moon. Gilgamesh and his friend incurred the wrath of a goddess by slaying the bull of heaven. Perhaps this refers to a lunar eclipse. Moon worship was important in Ancient Mesopotamia. Several of the ziggurats are dedicated to the moon and springs were sacred to the moon. The ancient city of Ur was dedicated to the moon. The bull associated with Mardi Gras, which is a vestige of ancient fertility festivals, is even white like the moon. Bull horns have been associated with the crescent moon since the Stone Age. The bull leaping on ancient Crete probably had something to do with a moon and fertility cult.

Every 8 1/2 years the lunar calendar and solar calendar align so that the new moon falls on the winter solstice and the full moon falls on the summer solstice. Keep in mind how important the sky was to early man in telling time. He told off daylight hours by the position of the sun in the sky and the month by the phases of the moon. These alignments fit in well with the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur with the tribute of 7 youths and 7 maidens paid each Great Year. The full moon falls on the 14th day of the lunar month, thus the 7 and 7 tribute for the special full moon of the summer solstice on the Great Year. The 8 1/2 year Great Year was made up of 2 time periods of about 4 years each called the Olympiad. We still reckon the time for the Olympics by this Bronze Age calendar.

Roman Months

Did you know that the month of July is named for the Roman general Julius Caesar? In fact, the names of the months of the year are all of Roman origin. There is an oddity. September comes from the Latin word for 7. October from the Latin word for 8. November from the Latin word for 9. December, the 12th month, comes from the Latin word for 10. How did the months get moved by 2 places? Julius Caesar and his nephew each stuck in a month named for themselves. July for Julius and August for the title awarded to Octavian so that he was called Augustus Caesar. The August means of an origin relating to the gods. Their family claimed descent from Venus.

January is named after Janus, a two faced god of beginnings and endings. February takes its name from a Roman ceremony of atonement and purification held at that time of year. March is the month of Mars. In the warm southern climate of Italy, March is the beginning of spring and of the time of year for military campaigns. It is thought that April refers to the blooming of flowers. May probably comes from the Greek fertility goddess Maia, who symbolized the growth of crops in the field and maturation of livestock, but might also come from the Roman word for adult--majores. June is probably named for the Roman goddess Juno.

Saying the names of the months is a bit like running across a Roman mile marker in a modern city of ancient origins, like Rome or London. Our language holds many relics from its long history.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Origin of the Foods in Your 4th of July Cookout

When you sit down to eat a traditional 4th of July cookout meal, on Wednesday. Take a look at each of the foods on your paper plate. The origins of this all American meal might just surprise you! 

While you are munching that sweet juicy slice of cold watermelon, consider this. Watermelons come from South Africa. By the time King Tutankamun was buried in 1323 B.C., watermelons were under cultivation in Ancient Egypt. Watermelon must have been a favorite of the young Egyptian King. The seeds were sent into the afterlife with him.

Your delicious corn on the cob was domesticated in the Americas, probably in Mexico, and the cultivation of corn soon spread to North America. The Spanish carried corn seeds back with them from the New World in the 1500's. The Pilgrims were taught how to cultivate corn by the Native Americans of the Northeast.

Potato salad is a 4th of July staple. The potatoes in your helping of potato salad come from Central America, where the Maya domesticated them. The Spanish also carried them back to Europe in the 1500's. The mayonnaise and mustard in the potato salad both originated in France and the recipes were carried to England by refugees from the French Revolution in 1784. The cucumbers for the relish ingredient come all the way from India. Their cultivation was spread by the Romans. Pickling is an ancient art, with recipes found in Ancient Mesopotamia. The word pickle comes from the Dutch pekel, meaning brine. Eggs of course come from chickens. Chickens originated from Jungle Fowl in Southeast Asia. They were traded to Mesopotamia from Mohenjo-Daro in India. Chickens were introduced to England by stone age traders. The Romans brought improved chicken breeds, such as the Sussex.

A hamburger steak sandwich was on the menu of the Tylorean Alps Restaurant at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Hamburger referred to a style of meat preparation from Hamburg, Germany. Walter Anderson, a cook at White Castle, invented the hamburger bun. White Castle was the first to sell the hamburger as we know it, beginning in 1921. 

Enjoy your 4th of July Cookout! Those well known, traditional cookout foods have a lengthy history of their own that is far older than the 236 years that our country has been around. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

History Trivia, Not Trivial History

This blog is a good starting point for lessons in the classroom or for home school. It is also a great fix for those of you who love trivia. The focus of the blog is the origin of the objects around us and the whys of names and how things are done. For example: Why is cotton fabric sold in 44 inch widths? It is the length of a cotton thread spun from large upland American cotton boles. Why is some fabric made in 36 inch widths? A yard is the length of a linen fiber from a flax plant that has been pulled up by the roots in order to harvest all the fiber length. Linen is a fiber derived from fibers in the plant stalk, rather than a product produced in connection with seed production as cotton is. There are a number of posts to read and more are planned for the future.

The Garden of Time

Take a walk through a flower garden and walk through, see, and smell time. Each of those well known flowers has a story that takes their introduction to the garden back to a specific time and place. If you know their history, a walk through a flower garden is a walk through time.

The tall hollyhocks returned from the Crusades in the saddlebags of knights in the mid 1100's A.D. In fact, Eleanor of Aquitaine may have brought back hollyhock seeds from the second Crusade, which she went on while queen of France. 

The word tulip comes from a Persian word meaning turban. Tulips arrived in Europe in the 1500's as gifts carried by Turkish ambassadors. They are natives of the Persian mountains and were domesticated by gardeners there.

Nasturtiums were introduced to Europe from South America in the 1500's. They were first used in salads, rather than as a garden flower.

The Aztecs planted golden marigolds in their gardens, in Mexico. The Spanish carried marigold seeds back to Europe in the 1500's.

Geraniums came back to Holland on Dutch trading vessels that had stopped at the South African port on the Cape of Good Hope, on their voyage out to the Spice Islands and India and on their return trip back to Amsterdam, in the 1600's.

The large roses we send on Valentine's day are expensive, but they were once a gift only an empress could afford. They were imported by Empress Josephine for her garden, during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800's.

Pansies were developed through crossbreeding violas, to obtain larger more colorful flowers, by an English woman Lady Elizabeth Bennet in 1812.

Perhaps you will take a second look and have a thought for history the next time you walk past those common garden flowers at your local store.

Magic Number 7

Have you ever wondered where all those references to a magic or important number 7 come from--seven days in the week, 7 wins in dice games, 7 rungs on the Alchemist's ladder? Seven is the number of heavenly bodies in the sky that move about quickly on a regular basis--the sun, moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury. In fact, the word planet is derived from the Greek word meaning wanderer.

When it comes to the days of the week, Sunday for the sun and Monday for the Moon are obvious. Saturday for Saturn is not much of a stretch, but the others are less obvious. With the German barbarian invasion of Rome, Thursday came into play as Thor's Day with his thundering hammer, replacing Jupiter with his lightening bolts, as the symbol for that day. Friday comes from Freya, replacing Venus as the symbol of that day. Tuesday comes from the Germanic god Tiw or Tyr, the god of single combat, replacing Mars as the day's symbol. Wednesday comes from the Germanic god Woden, replacing the Roman Mercury.

Furthermore, each of the heavenly bodies is linked to a metal and appears as a rung on the alchemist's ladder. The top rung is gold for the sun, the second rung is silver for the moon, lead for Saturn, tin for Jupiter, iron for Mars, copper for Venus, and mercury for the planet Mercury.

When you think of the 7 days of the week, I hope you will have a new more historic take on them. It turns out they are heavenly days. As the dice players say, "Come on seven!"

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Music Man

Creating music seems to be one of the hallmarks of our humanity.

Bone flutes have been found in European caves that date from 42,000 B.C.E. The flute played the modern diatonic scale. Also, caves have been shown to have the best acoustical spots marked--band over here; )

Excavations at Ur unearthed harps dating from as early as 2,750 B.C.E. A cuneiform tablet found at Nippur gives instructions on how to play a harp song that is made up of harmonies of thirds on the diatonic scale.

Songs and instruments have been found in the digs of all ancient cultures including:  the Indus River valley culture, Mesopotamia, Egyptian, Minoan, and Chinese.

Viking Ireland

Dublin, Ireland was founded in 841 B.C., at the mouth of the River Liffey, by Viking invaders as a port and trade center. Dubh Linn means black pool in Old Norse. Many captured Irish became slaves on Viking farms. Genetic traits such as red hair found in Ireland and Scotland actually come from the Vikings. 

The town had timber sidewalks like American frontier towns.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Common Places

The word bungalow, describing a small house of one to one and a half story with a large veranda, came from the Hindi word "Bengali" meaning a house in the style of the Bengal region. The term was first used in an English document in 1696, to describe houses built for English sailors, working for the East India Company in India.

The shotgun style house comes from a house style originating in Africa, with the Yorba Tribe. The long narrow house with, generally 3 rooms in a row, opening into one another, allowed air to pass through the length of the house and cool the rooms. Slaves brought this style to America.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Celery: a History

King Tutankhamen's mummy was adorned with a a garland of willow and olive leaves, wild celery, lotus petals, and cornflowers. Homer speaks of the horses of Troy feeding on celery. Celery is an ancient Greek word that came to English from French. It grows wild in marshy areas in Europe and the Near East.

Your Hamburger: 5,000 Years in the Making

Let us take a look at the hamburger with all its garnishes. Where did they all come from?

The Roman's were already serving meat patties at street side shops, with chopped garlic added. A hamburger steak sandwich was on the menu of the Tylorean Alps Restaurant at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Hamburger referred to a style of meat preparation from Hamburg, Germany. 

Walter Anderson, a cook at White Castle, invented the hamburger bun. White Castle was the first to sell the hamburger as we know it, beginning in 1921. 

Lettuce was domesticated in Egypt and was under cultivation by the mid-Bronze Age. You could have stood in a lettuce field and watched The Great Pyramid rise in the distance. The Romans spread cultivation of the plant.

Tomatoes come from Peru, as does the potato for French Fries. Spanish explorers brought them back to Europe in the 1500's.

Ketchup is based on a Malay sauce. The tomato and sugar were added to the recipe here in America. A recipe similar to today's sauce appears in a cookbook written by Thomas Jefferson's cousin. The Heinz company began to produce ketchup in 1876.

Onions probably were domesticated in Mesopotamia. They were probably an early root crop, since they store well.

Pickle comes from the Dutch word pekel, meaning brine. The word pickle is first used in English in 1400 C.E. Cucumbers were traded from India to Mesopotamia, in the Bronze Age, between such cities as Mohengo Daro and Uruk.  Pickles were first made in Mesopotamia over 4,000 years ago. When Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, he reopened the trade with India. Cucumber seeds traveled along the trade route. Their cultivation was spread to many countries by the Roman Empire. The Dutch connection with Malaysia spread spicy sauces and pickling techniques in Europe during the Renaissance.

Enjoy your hamburger. It took 5,000 years for all the ingredients to come together on your plate.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Casting a Volcanic Shadow Over History

There are strong links between the human race and volcanic eruptions. About 75,000 B.C. an eruption of  Toba volcano, Sumatra, which resulted in a decade long volcanic winter, is linked to a bottleneck in human evolution and the formation of trade connections.

Around 43,000 B.C., a cold snap due to the eruptions of  Campi Flageri in the Naples area volcano is linked to the extinction of Neanderthals. Modern humans also have a gene mutation that increases the time for neural wiring--making us more intelligent.

In about 1600 B.C., the massive eruption of Santorini on Thera and subsequent tidal wave brings down the Bronze Age superpower located on Crete. It also engenders the tale of Atlantis. A cluster of volcanic activity including Hekla on Iceland ends the Bronze Age, throwing civilization into a dark age.

Around 400 A.D., a flurry of volcanic activity, including the eruption of Krakatoa, freezes the Rhine, spreading famine and bringing about the end of the Roman Empire.

Volcanic activity in Iceland in 1783, caused the cold winter that froze over ports as far south as New Orleans and drove the French people to the Revolution.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Viking Cats

A marmalade tabby cat's coat color is the result of a mutation that shuts off the regular black and brindle tabby coloring. The mutation first occurred in Denmark. Since many people there have red hair, they liked the new coloring and favored the cats with extra food and a place by the fire. When Norse conquered and settled land in Northeastern England, they brought the orange tabbies with them. There are still more cats with that coloring in the North of England.

Viking Ships

Sleek Viking longships had a shallow draft so they could navigate rivers and sail at fast speeds. They sailed at 5 to 10 knots, but could reach speeds of 15 knots with a brisk, favorable wind. Their long and narrow construction made the ships fast and maneuverable, but they could also haul large amounts of cargo. The long ship had a tent like covered area called a tilt. The square sail was made of tightly woven wool rubbed with horse fat to make the fibers swell and hold the wind. The fat would also prevent over-wetting in a storm. If the sail became too wet and heavy it might roll over into the sea, capsizing the ship. Imagine sailing along on a fine sunny day, with their sail stinking of rancid animal fat, no wonder those Vikings were in such a bad mood.

Coloring Time

Before chemical dyes were invented in Victorian Times, clothing was dyed with colors derived from plants, insects, and snails. These dyes were often obtained by labor intensive methods, which made them very expensive. Red clothing, seen in paintings from the 1600's through early 1800's, was colored with a dye obtained from insects--Cochineal or Kermes. Purple came from the Murex snail, one drop per snail. No wonder Roman Senators only wore a toga bordered in purple while only the Emperor dressed completely in purple. A purple garment was worth a fortune. Woad and indigo plants produce blues. Logwood made black. The Lincoln green, of Robin Hood fame, involved over-dying cloth dyed blue with woad with yellow dyer's broom.

As much money in dyes was exported from South and Central America by the Spanish as was in gold, silver, and emeralds. The British army wears red coats, because the Earl of Essex captured a Spanish treasure ship full of Cochineal red--dried insect dye.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dinner for a Civilization

Many of the flowers in our gardens, including roses, originated in China. Other flowering plants include most of our food sources, from wheat and corn to fruits. Nova presents a program on this subject.-- First Flowers. Staple crops have nourished man, and farming with a plow allowed the surpluses necessary for cities to arise.

Wheat comes from the mountains of Turkey near the ancient site Gobekli Tepe. Bread yeast seems to have arisen from beer brewing in ancient Egypt. Chickpeas originated in Turkey. Chickpeas traveled through trade and are found in the deep layers of the ancient city of Jericho. Corn came from South and Central America. Soybeans and rice hail from central China. Each cooked with a recipe that could feed multitudes, provided for the rise of one of the world's civilizations.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Colossal Victory

The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the 7 ancient Wonders, was built from the melted down bronze weapons and armor of the troops who tried to conquer the island in 305 B.C., under Demetrius Poliorcetes. Rhodes had made an alliance with Ptolemaic Egypt. This basically created a trade monopoly, angering King Demetrius of Macedon, who had been left out. Poliorcetes means besieger of cities. In spite of bringing a larger number of troops than Rhodes could field and advanced siege weapons, Rhodes defeated the Macedon forces. They built the colossal statue of the sun god patron of their island as a celebration of their victory.

Friday, May 25, 2012

By the Book

Bible and all other related words, such as bibliography, had the literal meaning of "paper" or "scroll" and came to be used as the ordinary word for "book". It comes from the Greek bublos, "Egyptian papyrus",  from the name of the Phoenician port Byblos (also known as Gebal) from whence Egyptian papyrus was exported to Greece. 

Byblos was also the port closest to the mountain cedar forests of Phoenicia (current Lebanon), so it was the port through which cedar exports flowed. In a list of the accomplishments of Pharaoh Snefru, who reigned over Egypt in 2600 B.C., is the notation, "he brought 40 ships filled with cedar logs." Pharaoh Snefru is better known as the Egyptian king who had the bent pyramid constructed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Canaanites

Those great maritime traders of ancient times, the Phoenicians, called themselves Canaanites. They are the people of modern day Lebanon. The word Phoenician comes from what the Greeks called them--The Purple People. Makes one think of the silly old song about the Purple People Eater. The Greeks were referring to the purple dye Tyrian Purple derived from Murex snails, which these people produced and traded.

The famous historic cities Tyre, Sydon, and Carthage were Phoenician cities. Historic figures Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great conquered Tyre. Rome fought Carthage for domination of the Mediterranean. The Phoenician founded such cities as Cadiz, as trade outposts. They sailed as far as Cornwall to trade for tin and began the Irish linen industry. A simple alphabet, invented by the Phoenicians, to keep track of trade goods is the source of our alphabet.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Talk Like an Egyptian

Very few Egyptian words made their way into English. Ebony, ivory, and the girl's name Susan are all Egyptian. Susan means Water Lilly in ancient Egyptian. Those exotic African trade goods ebony and ivory retained the name given to them by Egyptian merchants.


Have you ever heard a town called a backwater? Ever wonder what it means? The term was coined during the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It refers to a town located in the near upriver area behind a mill dam. The millpond prevented the water in the river from having enough drop or current to turn a mill wheel, so there could not be a mill wheel to power manufacturing in that town. It was in the backwater of the nearby industrialized town, so it could not have the industry or growth associated with the power supplied by a mill wheel.

Its All Greek to Me

If you check the word origin of the names for Egyptian structures, such as sphinx, pyramid, and obelisk, you will find that the words are of Greek origin. This is because the first person to describe them was Greek history and travel writer Herodotus, writing in the 5th century B.C. He traveled to Egypt and described all he had seen there in a book written in Greek for a Greek audience.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Timeless Zodiac

The oldest surviving depiction of the night sky / Zodiac is the Dendera Zodiac, on display at the Louvre in Paris. It came from the Chapel of Osiris in the Temple of Hathor in Dendera, Egypt. The star alignment dates from 50 B.C. Look closely, most of the Zodiac symbols are the familiar ones we know today. Taurus the Bull is of very ancient origins, perhaps dating from the Stone Age.

Dendera Zodiac

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Chesapeake Bay: The Crater

Did you know that Chesapeake Bay was formed by a major meteor impact 35 million years ago? There was also a second smaller impact on the continental shelf just off New Jersey. Scientists assume that a piece broke off a larger body during atmospheric entry.

Chesapeak Bay impact crater

Friday, May 11, 2012

Count Like A Babylonian

The Babylonians used a base 60 number system. Vestiges of this system still remain in the 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 360 degrees in a circle. With a base 60 system, divisions are all nice whole numbers: one-half is 30, one-third is 20, one-quarter is 15 etc. The Babylonians also had an ingenious method of counting on their fingers. By counting off the finger bones of the four fingers of one hand, totaling 12, by counting 12 five times using the four fingers and thumb of the other hand; you get 60.

Great Pyramid Ramp

French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin theorizes that the Great Pyramid was built using a spiral internal ramp similar to those in a parking garage. The grand gallery has such a high ceiling so that it could be left open to hold counterweights set on rollers until near the end of the project.  See an exploration of supporting evidence in National Geographic: Unlocking the Great Pyramid

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cleopatra: The Rest of The Story

Have you discovered Top Documentaries? Many history and science documentaries are available for free online at this website. Great for home school or for anyone who loves history. I particularly want to recommend  Cleopatra: Portrait of a Killer. Did you know that Cleopatra sealed her alliance with Mark Antony by having his men kill her younger sister Arsinoe in the sanctuary of the Temple of Artemis. This act of desecration caused outrage throughout the Roman world. If you enjoy this documentary, you may also enjoy Steven Saylor's novel's Judgement of Caesar and Triumph of Caesar. Saylor has a new book coming June 5th --The Seven Wonders. In the book, the 18 year-old Gordianus embarks on a tour of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World and finds his career as a finder (detective).

Free Kindle Reader for PC

A number of my stories will be available free on Amazon Kindle over weekends this month. If you do not own a kindle, you can get a free kindle reader app to download for your windows OS computer or Mac computer.
I hope you enjoy / enjoyed the stories.

Civilization: A Close Shave

Catalhoyuk, one of the earliest cities, inhabited from 7,500 B.C.E. to 5,700 B.C.E., was a center for the obsidian trade. The volcanic glass was used to make knives, razors, and mirrors. It seems trade in luxury items like razors may well have led to civilization.

Speaking of luxury items used in grooming, tweezers date from the stone-age, when they were carved from clam shells. By 3,000 B.C. E., Egyptians were using a metal variety nearly indistinguishable from today's tweezers. The word tweezers originates from the Old French word Etui, which was a small case used to carry a variety of grooming aids.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Glitter Eyeshadow

Ancient Egyptians, as early as the Mid-Bronze Age c. 3100 B.C., added sparkly silver antimony flakes to their kohl ( Ancient Egyptians burned frankincense, as incense also known as Olibanum [probably oil of Lebanon], and ground the charred resin into a powder used as eye makeup; they called kohl. ) eye makeup, making a black eye shadow with tiny shining silver stars, like the night sky.

The Art of Medieval Tombs

A link to Eleanor of Aquitaine's tomb effigy.

In my time travel romance Not a Ghost of a Chance, I mention that art that actually resembles the individual, instead of merely portraying their station in life, true portraits and sculptures began with tomb effigies. At the end of the story, the knight's tomb has changed to a tomb of a Lord and Lady holding hands. Here is a similar tomb: The Tomb of the Earl and Countess of Arundel

Dressed for The Castle

Here is a link to a website which discusses Medieval women's clothing:

Women's clothing in the Middle Ages

Horsing Around

Here is a great website for the trappings used on a Medieval knight's horse:

Horse Trappings

Medieval Romances

Since we are on the topic of Medieval times today, I want to list my favorite Romances with Medieval settings:

The Wise Virgin by Jo Beverley in A Bride by Christmas

Lord of Midnight by Jo Beverley

Not A Ghost of A Chance

In my story, Not a Ghost of a Chance, I focus on the period when Eleanor of Aquitaine first met Henry. Little is know about how their romance began, which leaves their interactions open to speculation and drama. My story centers around her desire to leave her arranged marriage for a man she chooses and a note to be delivered on a fateful night.
Not A Ghost of A Chance

Read more about:
Eleanor of Aquitaine

Seeing The Light

Abbe Suger and Stained Glass Windows

This is a link to an interesting article on the connection between stained glass windows and the religious philosophy behind the many windows in Gothic cathedrals.


A stained glass window serves as a link between two times in the story Not a Ghost of a Chance. Stained glass windows have often been credited with miracles. This has to do with the same philosophical movement that gave rise to soaring Gothic cathedrals. The brilliant light of the sun was seen as the nearest thing to heaven that we on Earth can see. In fact, looking directly at the sun for a long period will blind. This is glory. Splendor is the light hanging in the air and shining through stained glass windows and reflecting from incorruptible gold. Since gold does not oxidize, it is also considered to be a heavenly thing here on Earth that is meant to show man the splendors of Heaven.

Not A Ghost of A Chance