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.