Time Traveler’s guide to Elizabethan England

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Time Traveler’s guide to Elizabethan England, Part I  The Common People

Here is the first chapter of a delightful little BBC series. We are taken through history by a knowledgeable historian, right back to the 1550s. He retraces the everyday lives of the people. It is quite fascinating to explore the “golden age” of England through the perspective of the poor peasant people, to get a glimpse of their miserable lives. The host shows us the very different culture and beliefs of the time. Be prepared for shock as you learn the favorite past time of Elizabethans, Bear baiting… the cruel battle between a chained bear and English mastiffs, for the pleasure of the crowd. Or how beating your children was recommended, or how going to church was required by law…

Times change…. and values have as well. The process is fascinating. The world has changed dramatically since Queen Elizabeth the First, and many of those changes we so easily take for granted.

This documentary is filled with fascinating tidbits and snapshots from nearly 500 years ago.

Time Traveler’s guide to Elizabethan England, Part II  The Rich

Time Traveler’s guide to Elizabethan England, Part III  Brave New World

(Unfortunately All the episodes were removed from Youtube, due to the lovely Copyright infringement bots. Truly a shame, as these were excellent documentaries. I tried tracking it down but to no avail… However, Amazon carries both the original book and audio book the series was based on)

Ice Age Art, the Beginning of Everything

(This is part 1 of 5)

A beautiful documentary from the BBC about ancient art. Fascinating exploration of prehistorical art, with great explications and high, BBC quality.

Very much enjoyed this one. It’s fascinating to see and to try and understand that ancient art. We humans have always been pushed towards creating. One can only wonder why? Why must we seek out aestheticism, beauty and creation?

The documentary touches on an interesting correlation between the advent of art and the beginning of society, associating prehistorical art with the awakening of the human as we now know it. We can theorize that the process of creation might have helped develop the minds of the modern man. A very romantic idea indeed.

Ancient Egypt at the LOUVRE, Final Part

Music

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Scene of a ground breaking ceremony accompanied by a group of musicians. Drawn on a Papyrus scroll found in an Egyptian tomb.

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Tambourines and musical rattles.

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Double flute. (was woven together with string at the mouth piece, but that part deteriorated too badly.)

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Set of beautiful and surprisingly tall harps. Used for accompanying singing and dancing as well as religious ceremonies and private listening sessions in the home.

 

Games and Toys

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Some ancient games were also displayed, such as the Semet sets shown here with the original pawns.

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Some of the pawns used for the Semet game.

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Ancient dice sets, very recognizable, as they are still used today. These could have been used to play a game called 58 holes. In the background you can see a very old ball.

 

 

 

It was delightful to spend some time wondering through these carefully preserved items. It made the Ancient Egyptian people more approachable, and real. Seeing that they were simple people with some of the same concerns as us, food, drink, beauty and pleasure, just makes them seem more alive today. Their art was very distinct and permeated every aspect of their lives, something that some in our modern days have forgotten. Hopefully their legacy will still be preserved for generations to come.

 

Ancient Egypt at the LOUVRE, Part 6

Beauty and Cosmetics

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Beautifully ornate ancient hand mirrors. Unfortunately they have lost their reflective properties. (mostly bronze surfaces)

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The museum had a few sets of jewelery and ornaments. They were set up in such a way that you could almost imagine them being worn.

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Here are some of my favorite pieces. These were elaborately carved spoons. Made of wood, ivory and sandstone. The spoons were stunningly beautiful. The details and decorations were positively stunning. This display was definitely one of my favorite.

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These spoons could have been used for the preparation of black Kohl The Egyptian eye make up. It wasn’t simply a cosmetic fancy, but also helped reduce the desert sun’s glare. Once again it is unsure whether or not these items were actually used, or simply funerary gifts.

Ancient Egypt in the Louvre, Part 5

Furniture and Household Items

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Actual pieces of furniture, put aside for the After-life, so they weren’t actually used but they give us a wonderful glimpse of Egyptian life.

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Here are more of those baskets that impressed me. Used for containers, cheaper and lighter than clay. And still here after thousands of years.

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Here are different models of Egyptian neck/head supports. The ancient people didn’t use pillows but slept on their back with the wooden support holding up their head. Even though I can’t imagine this being in the least bit comfortable. There must have been a practical reason for this.

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Here are a few decorated wooden chests, some were used to hold toiletries or herbal remedies and spices.

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Once again these are beautifully decorated. There were very few plain objects anywhere on display. Everything was decorated. It might be because these where mostly objects found in burials, and therefore more ceremonial than used objects, but I’d like to think that this exhibit shows us a snapshot of the daily life of these people, who wished to surround themselves with beautiful objects during their lives as well as after-lives.

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Delicate glass flask and jars filled this display case. They showed the glass techniques we read about in the book and was quite thrilling to see in real life. It’s bright and colorful and carefully detailed. Shame my photo came out blurry

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Here were some tableware items made of mud and clay. These were simpler and a lot less elaborate than some of the other items. But they were also considerably older. I wished they’d had more explanations on the display, but this was only a temporary addition, because the museum was worried about basement flooding. How sad would it be, that something like this surviving nearly 5000, should be destroyed in a modern day basement flood?

 

 

Ancient Egypt in the LOUVRE, Part 4

Linen and fabrics

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Some of the most impressive pieces were the fabrics, and woven baskets. It was mind blowing to be admiring these fabrics that survived over 3,000 years.

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This pleated linen suit was found in an ancient grave and is of the typical Egyptian style. It was a sign of some wealth, and was apparently worn by a woman.

Ancient Egypt in the LOUVRE, Part 3

What Egyptians Ate

DSCN1432This display shows some of the typical fruits, grains and seeds the Egyptians cultivated and used daily. There are quite a few nuts, barley and flax.

Tepemankh’s Banquet Menu

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I saw this fascinating bas-releif describing the menu for an actual banquet held by the noble man, Tepemankh. It was such a memorable feast that it was engraved onto the wall of his tomb Unfortunately a lot of the names are local delicacies, pastries and cakes that have no modern equivalent. So we will never know half of the wonderful foods on this elaborate menu.

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Producing the Food

DSCN1433Beer was an essential staple in the Egyptian diet. Some scientists speculate that drinking beer daily might have helped prevent disease in the ancient land. The beer making process requires all water to be boiled. Making it safer for general consumption that regular pond or well water. Here we have a clay sculpture of the beer making process.

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Bread was another major staple in most of the ancient Mediterranean world. And still is, to this day. On the left here we have a bas relief depicting two men making bread. One is preparing the dough in a big mixing bowl and the other is watching the bread baking in molds, ready to remove it from the ovens.

Agriculture

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Here we can see the kinds of tools ancient Egyptians used to plow their fields.

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We can see a clay and wood model of the techniques they used. This also shows that the Egyptians had domesticated animals as well.

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Here is another example of the domestication of animals. On this painted wall fragment we can see a heard of Ibex like goats, and their herders, probably leading them to the slaughter actually.

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On this bas-releif we can see a succession of workers carrying the the fruits of the harvest, palms and fruits, as well as some fowl, geese or ducks of some kind.

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Here is a bas-releif of a group of women harvesting either reeds, the main component of papyrus or cotton to later be woven into linen. Not all Egyptian crops were food based.

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On this fragment of painted wall we can see how the men harvested wheat. Also on the bottom register, they are replanting and plowing the field once more. I’m not entirely sure just what is happening in the top register. There’s a cow, and men carrying some kind of reed cages. It’s a bit of a mystery.

Hunting

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Hunting also contributed to the Egyptian menu. On the left we can see a wall painting with three registers, on the top a cow is being butchered, on bottom two we can see a cortege of Egyptians carrying all kinds of different foods, grains fish and fowl birds.

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Just like the photo here, representing a ceremonial parade of women carrying food from the harvests and hunts to the temples. They are carrying fowl and grain.

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We can see ancient quivers and arrows. It’s not visible on the photo but the metal quiver is engraved with a hunting scene of an Egyptian on a chariot letting arrows loose on some kind of gazelle or antelope. The wooden shafts of the arrows actually survived as well. I love how the Egyptians decorated their everyday items. They had a developed sense and love for the aesthetic.

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Here are some daggers and axes. Some or the more elaborate ones were probably reserved for ceremonial uses but we can imagine very similar tools being used during hunting excursions.

Ancient Egypt in the LOUVRE, Part 2

Scribes and Writing

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We talk a lot about Egyptian hieroglyphs, the profession of scribe was highly valued and indispensable. They were responsible for keeping all the records, be they historical or commercial, logistics and taxes. Seeing some of the tools ancient scribes actually used was pretty impressive. (, A scribe sculpture in traditional pose, writing palette containing “calames”, ink pots and a sample of hieratic writing)

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(On the right, two writing palettes, the Alabaster one was for ceremonial use only.)

Ancient Egypt in the LOUVRE, Part 1

While in Paris I was on a secret mission for my art history class back home. I was to find an ancient civilization and do a project relating to their art. There was never any question about which Ancient Culture I would choose to do this project on. For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with Ancient Egypt. But I wanted to find an uncommon approach to this culture, and so I wanted to stay away from any funerary art and not focus on the extensive mortuary culture. Luckily, the Louvre offered great inspiration. Walking through the ancient Egyptian section of the museum, I was surprised to find preserved furniture, baskets and fabrics. It’s a miracle that fragments of these have still survived today. It sparked my interest and I wanted to learn more about the regular everyday life of these people. I saw many beautiful objects that gave a glimpse of what ancient Egyptian life was like. So in this presentation I would like to show pictures of some of these items and share a few of my own thoughts. (By the way I took all the pictures myself so some are a bit blurry and there were a few reflections too.)

Life on the River Nile

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The Nile was of great importance to the Egyptians. It flooded the fields, leaving behind fertile silt, making agriculture flourish. But it was also the main transportation and communication route. This wonderfully preserved model boat was quite impressive to see,  the delicate ties and trellis survived over two millennia.

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Another aspect of the Nile river was the wealth of fish it offered. In the left picture, we see a bas-releif of an Egyptian casting the nets. We can also see an ancient net. It is not a reconstructed piece, but an actual 3,000 net and hooks found in a tomb. The fact that something so fragile survived truly impressed me.

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Here, on the right, is a splendid painted bas-releif. It’s a little tricky to see, especially with the reflection of the glass. But here is a scene with a plethora of fish and aquatic animals in the process of being fished. The colors made this piece quite interesting, despite the damage.

When God was a Girl

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When God was a Girl Bbc Documentary

I watched this documentary last night and found it extremely interesting. It talks about the very beginnings of religions, and how the female aspects of the divine were highly emphasized. It was intriguing to watch since mainstream western religions are so focused on a masculine macho deity. The ancient people recognized the goddess as a strong figure. Females were the givers of life, a creator force. The mother goddess was responsible for the fertility of the land as well as a protector.

What was even more intriguing was the duality found in female deities throughout. They are signs of fertility, birth and protection but also have strong powers over the realms of the dead. This was true in ancient near east cultures, the greeks and romans and even the modern day form of hinduism. The goddess is to be revered, besearched and feared. She is not one to be trifled with.
This was explained by the low survival rate of children. In antiquity, they estimate half of the children died at birth or shortly after. Adding a new dimension to the powers of the mother and the female deities.

This aspect made her especially appealing to the romans. This was surprising to me, since roman society was so bent on masculinity, virility and warfare. And yet in their time of need they turned to a fearsome goddess to protect them.

Then of course, the documentary speaks of how christianity began to take over and the female goddesses became blasphemous and demonic.

This is a series of three. I am greatly anticipating watching the next couple parts.

So take a peek at this series and let me know what you think.

(Once again, Youtube removed this documentary. Copyright is the Bane of my existence…)

Link

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The History of High Heeled shoes and Why men stopped wearing them (link to article here)

For a lover of history and a fan of fashion, this article was fascinating. It touches on a lot of different subjects, explaining how high heels were originally designed as horse riding aids, then became a trend when Europe was infatuated with everything Persian.

There was a quote I liked that claims “One of the best ways that status can be conveyed is through impracticality.” This is apparently how high heels became so wide spread and desirable. The more impractical something is, the posher you look. If you wear something outrageous it just shows that you never have to work in it… or in this case, walk much. I think this statement is true even today. Take a look at our “status” shoes and clothes.

The article continues to explain how heels were the ultimate sign of MANLINESS, and how they only became popular with women during a sort of counter culture fashion trend of women wanting to emulate men.

This whole topic of gender and shoes absolutely fascinated me.

A true MUST read article

An Incredible Book

This National Geographic documentary retraces the history of an incredible manuscript of the 14th century, created by a single man to encompass all of human knowledge. It also contains illustrations of the devil and how to on exorcism, medical cures and botany.

Its a splendid work of art and a great snapshot of the time it was created, but even more interesting his how such a book has survived over 600 years.

Can we say that any of our modern day books will survive that long?

What about e-books? Does having the text of a novel make it enough? Do we loose anything in forfeiting a physical form of a book?