Book Curses

image2If you love reading as much as I do, you might be like me—reluctant to let anyone borrow a book that you’ve bought. It’s always a risk because you can never be absolutely sure that the borrower—even a close friend—will take proper care of it. Many years ago when I was in fourth grade, I let a classmate borrow my favorite hardback book of scary stories. Naively, I thought everyone respected books as much I did. After weeks of repeatedly asking for it back, I escalated to a threat to have my mother call her mother. The next day my book was returned. The cover was torn off, some pages had been ripped out, and the remaining pages had been scribbled on. It had suffered a horrible, demeaning death at the hands of a book murderer! A difficult lesson to learn at such a tender young age, that day I discovered I shouldn’t trust just anyone with my most valuable possessions.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. A Persian warrior’s curiosity is ignited when he leads an invasion into Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world draws the warrior deeper into layers of mysteries as its princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


book-thiefYears later I loaned a book to a friend of mine. I had known her for a long time, we had socialized at each other’s homes, I thought she was a fine, upstanding person. A few weeks passed and I asked if she had finished the book. She cheerfully gushed that it had been a great read and then she told me she had donated it to charity along with a few dozen other books she had read. I was dumbstruck. In my assessment of her worthiness to borrow my book, it never occurred to me to question her understanding of the word “borrow.” How did she come to the conclusion that I had given her my book to do with as she pleased after she read it? Let’s just say that, due to a plethora of reasons that include her insensitivity to property rights, she is now an ex-friend.

doctor-strange-benedict-cumberbatch-benedict-wongWhen I saw Marvel Comic’s Dr. Strange movie last year, I was ready to enjoy Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. It was a great movie, filled with mysticism, excellent imagery, and just the right amount of humor. But the part I liked best was the library. The ancient tomes were so valuable and their contents so dangerous they were kept chained to the shelves so no one could steal them. This makes a great plot point in a movie, but the fact is, chaining books to shelves was a fairly common practice in medieval libraries.

imageBefore Gutenberg started a printing revolution, books were laboriously hand-copied by scribes, back-breaking, tedious work that made every bound text precious and expensive. Chaining books to shelves and keeping them locked up helped deter thievery. But long before books were made of sheets of parchment or paper either hand copied or mass produced, there was a technique used to add a layer of special protection to the readable work: book curses.

clay_tabletPop culture has made us all familiar with curses written on mummy’s tombs and bewitched books of spells. Did you know that the oldest known library routinely inscribed its books with elaborate curses to prevent theft? Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria from 668 to 627 BCE, assembled his library at Ninevah. He had scribes include various curses on the tablets invoking the wrath of ancient deities for anyone who would steal or damage them:

I have arranged them in classes, I have revised them and I have placed them in my palace, that I, even I, the ruler who knoweth the light of Ashur, the king of the gods, may read them. Whosoever shall carry off this tablet, or shall inscribe his name on it, side by side with mine own, may Ashur and Belit overthrow him in wrath and anger, and may they destroy his name and posterity in the land.

bookplatecWhoever removes [the tablet], writes his name in the place of my name, may Ashur and Ninlil, angered and grim, cast him down, erase his name, his seed, in the land.

Ashurbanipal made allowances for those who wanted to borrow, not steal. He who fears Anu, Enlil, and Ea will return it to the owner’s house the same day, and He who fears Anu and Antu will take care of it and respect it.

As books evolved from clay tablets to something a little more portable, the tradition continued. In medieval times monks and scribes often appended their own colorful curses to the works they produced. Like Ashurbanipal, they called upon a wrathful God to strike down the book thief and frequently recommended excommunication from the church.

PrintThis book is one, And God’s curse is another; They that take the one, God give them the other.

To steal this book, if you should try, It’s by the throat that you’ll hang high. And ravens then will gather ’bout To find your eyes and pull them out.

From a Bible in 1172: If anyone take away this book, let him die the death; let him be fried in a pan; let the falling sickness and fever seize him; let him be broken on the wheel, and hanged. Amen.

PrintFrom a 13th Century Vatican document: The finished book before you lies; This humble scribe don’t criticize. Whoever takes away this book, May he never on Christ look. Whoever to steal this volume durst, May he be killed as one accursed. Whoever to steal this volume tries, Out with his eyes, out with his eyes!

Some medieval book curses got right to the point, like this one from 1461: Hanging will do for him who steals you.

PrintThese days, a lot of serious bibliophiles like bookplates. Fancy or plain, exotic or traditional, they offer a personalized way to identify the book’s owner that goes beyond merely writing a name inside the cover. If you want to remind a borrower how serious you are about books, you might even want to incorporate a whimsical book curse in your bookplate. It’s too late to recover the  book my ex-friend gave away, but now when I loan one out, I make a point of showing the borrower I’m serious about getting it back.

Click here to download my printable bookplates. Some of the designs are featured above.

Sources:

http://bookbindersmuseum.org/you-have-been-warned-book-curses-and-cursed-books/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_curse

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/protect-your-library-the-medieval-way-with-horrifying-book-curses

http://www.medievalists.net/2015/09/top-10-medieval-book-curses/

https://medievalbooks.nl/2015/07/10/chain-chest-curse-combating-book-theft-in-medieval-times/

Writings from Ancient Egypt

translated-ancient-egyptian_2Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics are as easy to recognize as the Great Pyramids or King Tut’s infamous Death Mask. They became recognizable to most of us because popular culture was fascinated by wild stories of ancient curses. Those spine-chilling tales found a perfect medium in motion pictures, spawning a long list of terrifying (and sometimes amusing) films featuring a reanimated corpse wrapped in dusty bandages. But without the wise old Egyptologist scholar character to translate the strange hieroglyphics and tell the story of how the Mummy came to be cursed, the story wouldn’t be half as interesting.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. A Persian warrior’s curiosity is ignited when he leads an invasion into Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world draws the warrior deeper into layers of mysteries as its princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


illustration-of-hieroglyphicsSerious Egyptologists are too busy with the real-life challenges of studying an ancient, difficult-to-decipher language to lament the popularity of iconic movie monsters presenting a distorted image of a complex and fascinating advanced culture. The key to cracking the code of hieroglyphic script was the Rosetta Stone. Discovered by French soldiers in 1799, the Rosetta Stone contains text written in Greek, Demotic, and hieroglyphics by Egyptian priests in 196 B.C.E. to honor the pharaoh. But it wasn’t until 1822 that Jean-François Champollion made the first significant breakthrough, setting the stage for later scholars and linguists to gradually unravel the mysteries of the pictorial written language.

egyptianhieroglyphicsThe last two centuries have seen steady progress in scholarly understanding of the texts that cover the walls and monuments of ancient Egypt. And yet, the general public is still much more familiar with ancient Greek and Roman culture through the study of their mythologies and the writings of their scholars. Who doesn’t know at least a little about Hercules, Socrates, Plato, Aesop’s fables, Julius Caesar, Emperor Nero, the destruction of Pompeii, and countless other peoples and events of antiquity? These have also found their way into our popular culture, but we have a general understanding of the daily lives of those people that we don’t have of the ancient Egyptians.

51hlbldoidlEgyptologist Toby Wilkinson, a fellow of Clare College at Cambridge University, has published Writings from Ancient Egypt, the first literary English translation of some of the texts that cover thousands of square feet of monuments and tomb walls. Wilkinson’s book explains that hieroglyphs are a complex collection of symbols that represent a mixture of objects, ideas and sounds, telling stories just as compelling and layered as any written by the Romans, not merely decorations to be used as wallpaper.

Wilkinson hopes his collection of stories will make the Egyptians accessible to modern readers. Some of the texts he included are familiar to a few specialists, but the original translations from more than a century ago make them stilted and difficult for today’s readers. He hopes his new translations can convey the complexity, subtlety and poetry found in hieroglyphics. “What will surprise people are the insights behind the well-known facade of ancient Egypt, behind the image that everyone has of the pharaohs, Tutankhamun’s mask and the pyramids.”

Tales of shipwreck and wonder, first-hand descriptions of battles and natural disasters, songs and satires are included in the anthology. Filled with metaphor and symbolism, they reveal life through the eyes of the ancient Egyptians. Writings from Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson is available on Amazon.com.

Sources:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ancient-egyptian-stories-will-be-published-english-first-time-180960244/

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/ancient/for-the-first-time-youll-be-able-to-read-ancient-egyptian-literature-in-english/

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/aug/23/ancient-egypt-written-works-published-book-english-first-time

http://www.rawstory.com/2016/08/finally-you-can-the-stories-of-egypts-ancient-hieroglyphics-in-english/

http://mentalfloss.com/article/85401/first-time-ancient-egyptian-texts-available-rare-english-translations

Adventures at the Concession Stand

I originally posted this back in January of 2012 after attending a matinee with a friend. I still go to the movies an awful lot, and sometimes I am reminded of this incident. It makes me giggle every time.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeySet in the third century, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. A Persian warrior’s curiosity is ignited when he leads an invasion into Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world draws the warrior deeper into layers of mysteries as its princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


The friend who accompanied me had a coupon for a five-dollar discount at the concession stand. I insisted on paying for the snacks as it was her gift card that had bought our tickets.

snack-standWe scanned the menu board, deliberated momentarily, and then decided that a medium bag of popcorn to share and a couple of small sodas would prevent us from starvation until we could exit the theater in search of some dinner. The total charge for this three cents’ worth of popcorn and twenty cents’ worth of soda came to an even 14 dollars. I didn’t feel any less ripped off knowing that the coupon reduced that total to a mere nine dollars. It still felt like $8.77 too much. Alas, I am accustomed to that feeling when I go to the movies. I do manage to hold my tongue in check, usually, except for the odd occasion when I feel compelled to tell the clerk behind the counter that “those prices are so ridiculous that someone will surely be hell-bound for it. Not you, young clerk, but someone.” I smile when I say it, so hopefully they take it as a joke. I’m just not entirely sure I mean it as a joke.

The young gentleman who was clerking at the concession stand that afternoon was tall, good-looking, friendly, polite, and had certainly not set the exorbitant prices for the snacks, so it did not occur to me to let loose with my standard movie concession-counter quip. I handed him the five-dollar-off coupon and a ten-dollar bill. To those who understand basic math, simple addition, that is equivalent to fifteen dollars.

This polite, good-looking, tall young man accepted both the coupon and the bill and looked at us with a faintly worried expression as he said, “I’m sorry, but you know I can’t give back any change when you use a coupon.”

popcorn-600x484I looked at him. I looked at my friend. I looked back at him. “Why is that?” I asked calmly. The bag of popcorn and two sodas had already been served up and were sitting on the counter right in front of us. As far as I was concerned, they were already ours. When I had said “Why is that?” what I actually meant was “OH NO YOU DIDN’T!” Prices being what they are in a theater, the inability to produce a single dollar in change just because we had used a coupon seemed incredibly stupid to me. I wanted the popcorn and sodas but I also wanted the dollar in change that I was due.

The young man said, very politely, “It’s theater policy. I’m sorry, but I can’t give back any change when a coupon is used.” He was entirely sincere, both in his sympathy for our difficulty and in his determination to uphold “company policy.” This fellow did not present any outward physical sign of mental defect. He was not being rude, impatient, or cocky about anything. He looked like a college student, someone old enough to have learned how to add and subtract round numbers. As I started calculating how much time we had left to get settled in our seats before the movie and estimating how long it would take to get a manager to the concession stand, something clicked in place. I had an “ah-ha!” moment.

I reached for the money and the coupon, taking them both out of his hand. At that point, I suppose both he and my dear friend were assuming that I would refuse to close the transaction, causing the senseless waste of all three cents’ worth of popcorn and twenty cents’ worth of soda. However, that was not my intention.

I looked the clerk squarely in the eye and said, “Our total is fourteen dollars, right?” He nodded in agreement. I handed him the coupon and said, “This five-dollars-off coupon brings the total down to 9 dollars, right?” He nodded again, looking slightly puzzled. I then held the ten-dollar bill out to him and said, “Then when I give you this ten-dollar bill, you owe us one dollar in change. Right?”

For just a heartbeat, the three of stood there like cowpokes in an old western who are waiting to see which one would try a quick-draw of his pistol and start shooting first.

“Oh! Of course – I’m sorry.” He shook his head in embarrassment. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today. Here’s your change.” He politely handed me the dollar that had become the single most critical issue in the universe to me over the course of the previous ninety seconds.

movie-theaterWhat’s wrong with him, indeed, I thought. He could have been dropped on his head as a child, accidentally ingested lead-based paint, stayed up too late and gotten too drunk the night before, had one too many doobies before his shift started, was preoccupied with the crushing debt he was accumulating in student loans, was worried that his bloodwork for the AIDS test might come back positive – any number of things that were none of my business in the first place.

I should have replied simply, “Oh, that’s okay. We all have off days.” I couldn’t help myself, though, the words just burst out of me without any hope of being swallowed before they left my tongue: “You aren’t a rocket scientist, are you.” This came out in the form of a statement, not a question. I was immediately almost sorry for having uttered the sarcasm, but since I was smiling I thought it might be okay.

“No,” he said. “But you know, my brother is an engineer and sometimes he has trouble with the simplest things, too.”

We closed the transaction with smiles all around, no animosity, just a brief, friendly encounter. But I’ve been wondering ever since if his brother the engineer had been dropped on his head as a child, accidentally ingested lead-based paint, was prone to binge drinking… or if it is something that just runs in the family.

The Lost Kingdom of Rheged

lost-kingdom-rheged-discovered-britain_3

Pictish carvings

Archaeologists studying ancient Pictish carvings began excavations at Trusty’s Hill in Galloway, Scotland in 2012. While the study of such symbols is both a fascinating and important endeavor, research at the Trusty’s Hill site has revealed something even more astonishing: the long-lost kingdom of Rheged. The dominant kingdom in northern Britain until the seventh century, Rheged’s actual location has been disputed for centuries.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third century. Older and more mysterious than ancient Egypt, the strange kingdom of Dodrazeb ignites a Persian warrior’s curiosity when he leads an army to conquer it. Mesmerized by Dodrazeb’s puzzles, the warrior is determined to peel back its layers of secrets as its desperate princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What have they been hiding from the rest of the world for thousands of years? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Researchers initially chose the Trusty’s Hill site because Pictish symbols were carved into a rocky outcropping near its entrance. Such Pictish carvings are more common further north, but quite rare as far south as Galloway. The Picts were a loose confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in what is now northern and eastern Scotland during Roman occupation of the British Isles. While their exact origin is unknown, the Picts were eventually absorbed by other Gaelic cultures of the region.

trustys-hill

Fortification at Trusty’s Hill, dating to around 600 CE

Archaeologists discovered timber and stone fortifications, a royal hall, and a blacksmith’s workshop. This type of structure is known as a “nucleated” fort, a stronghold from which the local royals would have ruled the surrounding countryside. Dating to around 600 CE, the fort had numerous defensive reinforcements and enclosures in the same style as other high-status settlements of the period in Scotland.

In fact, this was not a simple farming village, but a far more important regional center that managed the surrounding farms and natural resources on a large scale. There is also evidence of leatherworking and wool spinning operations at the site, along with a metal workshop that produced high-quality objects in gold, silver, iron, and bronze. Archaeologists studying the site believe that the Pictish symbols flanking the entrance indicate that royal ceremonies took place at the fort.

Ronan Toolis and Christopher Bowles tell the story of the amazing discovery in their book The Lost Dark Age Kingdom of Rheged (Oxbow Books, 2016). Bowles said, “This was a place of religious, cultural and political innovation whose contribution to culture in Scotland has perhaps not been given due recognition. Yet the influence of Rheged, with Trusty’s Hill at its secular heart…and Urien its most famous king, has nevertheless rippled through the history and literature of Scotland and beyond.”

Rheged and its powerful warrior king, Urien, inspired some of the earliest medieval poetry composed in Britain, by the poet Taliesin. Some Arthurian legends say that Urien married Morgan Le Fay, King Arthur’s sister, but the marriage was not happy. In one version of the story, Morgan plotted to use the sword Excalibur to kill Urien and Arthur and take the throne herself with her lover.

untitled-2

Location of Trusty’s Hill in Galloway, Scotland

Previously, historians thought Rheged might have been located in Cumbria, a county in northwestern England. Surviving early medieval historical records show King Urien’s dominance in southern Scotland and northern England before a rival group wiped out the settlement in the early seventh century. The site was destroyed by fire, suffering sustained burning for weeks or even months as evidenced by many sections of the timber-reinforced stone rampart found to be fused together. As the researchers concluded, “The deliberate and spectacular destruction of Trusty’s Hills is a visceral reminder that the demise of this kingdom in the early seventh century AD came with sword and flame.”

http://preview.history.com/news/lost-dark-age-kingdom-discovered-in-scotland

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lost-dark-age-kingdom-kingdom-of-rheged-hidden-1400-years-scotland-discover-ronan-toolis-christopher-a7543541.html

http://www.realmofhistory.com/2017/01/25/lost-kingdom-rheged-discovered-britain/

http://www.livescience.com/57591-lost-dark-ages-fort-found-scotland.html

http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2017/01/lost-dark-ages-kingdom-of-rheged-possibly-found-in-scotland/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rheged

http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/KingListsBritain/BritainRheged.htm

http://www.scotsman.com/news/lost-dark-age-kingdom-discovered-in-galloway-1-4342467

Ruby: The Love Gem

rubySince ancient times, the color red has been universally associated with the most intense emotions—love, anger, passion, and fury. A perfect expression of love for Valentine’s Day, the ruby (from the Latin “rubeus,” meaning red) is a gemstone associated with love, passion, power, and energy.


BetweenWallFire_thmbA young man confronts wizardry and deceit when he tries to rescue an entire village – and one pretty girl in particular – from starvation and despair using only his wits and determination. A Ruby for Dyree is one of my Treasures of Dodrazeb short stories featured in the sci-fi/fantasy anthology Between the Wall and the Fire.  Get your copy on Amazon.com!


ruby-stilettos-1-6millionRevered throughout human history, the ruby has attained a special place in modern popular culture. Dorothy’s “ruby slippers” both protected her from evil and had the power to transport her back home to Kansas. The Sorcerer’s Stone that gave Harry Potter such a hard time was blood red in color and resembled a lumpy uncut ruby with the power to restore and prolong life. Powerful dragons are often depicted with glowing red eyes, a trait that signifies their ability to breathe fire.

71243_1231911875Cherished today as the ultimate symbol of love and passion, the ruby was valued in ancient times for various enigmatic properties. Many medieval Europeans wore rubies to guarantee health, wealth, wisdom, and success in love. In addition to their protective powers, they reputedly helped control evil thoughts, dispel anger, and resolve disputes. In some cultures, it was said that a ruby gives its wearer the strength of a lion, the fearlessness of an eagle, and the wisdom of a snake.

21-43ct-rubyKnown in many ancient cultures as the “stone of kings,” ruby symbolism and lore are closely associated with power, wealth, and protection. People believed wearing the stone on the left, the heart side, would allow the wearers to live peacefully. They also thought the blood-colored stone would preserve them from all perils, including keeping their homes safe from storms. The Burmese regarded the ruby as the stone of soldiers. They believed inserting rubies into their flesh bestowed invulnerability, keeping them safe from wounds in battle.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third century. Older and more mysterious than ancient Egypt, the strange kingdom of Dodrazeb ignites a Persian warrior’s curiosity when he leads an army to conquer it. Mesmerized by Dodrazeb’s puzzles, the warrior is determined to peel back its layers of secrets as its desperate princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What have they been hiding from the rest of the world for thousands of years? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


<https://martinkatz.com/ruby-the-king-of-gems/

http://www.jewelsforme.com/ruby-meaning

http://www.turleyjewelers.com/blog/16-facts-about-rubies-and-their-folklore

https://www.crystalvaults.com/crystal-encyclopedia/ruby

https://www.alluringbody.com/pages/ruby

https://www.gemsociety.org/article/history-legend-rubies-gems-yore

https://www.gia.edu/ruby-history-lore

http://www.gemsbrokers.org/gemstone/gems_and_gemology/ruby_myths.htm

http://www.jewels-empire.com/gems_myths_and_legends_page2.html

Truth About Trousers

Trousers have been around for a really long time. Why do we wear them? Or pants, as we call them in North America? How did pants/trousers come to replace loincloths, tunics, robes, togas, dresses, and other legless attire? Who invented them?

ancient-clothingWhen simple clothing that hangs loosely from the shoulders is sufficient for comfort, modesty, and a sense of fashion style, why bother with fitted garments designed to cover from the waist down? Before trousers, everyone—men and women—wore relatively shapeless clothes. Clothing was long or short and covered a certain amount of legs and arms depending on the weather of the region and what was considered appropriate for males or females. The easiest way to clothe the human body is to drape cloth around it. Wrap a long fabric rectangle attractively, tie it or secure it with pins or belts to hold it in place, and you’re good to go!


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third century. Older and more mysterious than ancient Egypt, the strange kingdom of Dodrazeb ignites a Persian warrior’s curiosity when he leads an army to conquer it. Mesmerized by Dodrazeb’s puzzles, the warrior is determined to peel back its layers of secrets as its desperate princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What have they been hiding from the rest of the world for thousands of years? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


So what’s the big deal about pants? Have you ever gone in search of a great-fitting pair of jeans but had to admit defeat after trying on hundreds of combinations of brands, sizes, washes, fits, and colors? Only to scream in delirious delight when you finally found the perfect pair—the jeans that seemed to be made just for you—that enveloped your lower half with unbelievable comfort and made you feel like you were ready to conquer the world? No one gets that feeling from a toga. From a toga you may feel a little breezy, but that’s about it.

patternAnyone who has ever sewn their own clothing can attest to the fact that getting all the various pieces of fabric stitched together correctly is not easy, and pants can be particularly difficult. Crotch depth, butt size, leg length, waist and thigh circumference—each of these measurements are critical to creating trousers that fit well. And then there is the issue of accessibility for, uhm, relieving oneself. It’s incredibly easy to lift a skirt, or toga, or robe, or tunic to take a quick bathroom break. It’s a different matter entirely when you have to peel off leg coverings and then put them back on without the benefit of zippers, buttons, or stretchy fabric. Trousers are complicated, so why did ancient cultures bother to perfect them?

1-31314fbf56Early adopters of the bifurcated garment worn on the lower body needed something that would be functional when riding a horse. Right after humans domesticated and started riding horses about 4,000 years ago, they decided that comfort for the nether regions was highly desirable. Unsurprisingly, trousers were ideal to prevent chafing when astride a horse. What naturally followed was the rise of cavalry riders in armies of conquest, as mounted soldiers have a lot of advantages over infantry. That’s right—pants changed the course of history because they made it easier for soldiers to fight from horseback.

Ancient Greeks derided Eastern cultures where trousers were worn, believing them to be a ludicrous form of attire. They just couldn’t handle the fact that both men and women wore them, allowing them to participate equally in the same activities such as horseback riding and warfare. Likewise, Romans were great admirers of the draped clothing worn by Greeks and thought of trouser-wearing people as barbarians. Well, the Romans changed their minds when they kept getting trounced by trouser-wearing enemies and the style was eventually popularized across their vast Empire.

ancient_trousers-patternArchaeologists discovered a pair of well-preserved burials in Yanghai in western China that support the idea of trousers being created for comfort while riding horses. The two men, each about 40 years old, were buried about 3000 years ago wearing trousers. Evidence indicates they had likely been warriors as well as herders. One man was buried with a decorated leather bridle, a wooden horse bit, a battle-ax and a leather bracer for arm protection. Objects placed with the other body included a whip, a decorated horse tail, a bow sheath and a bow.

Each pair of trousers was sewn together from three pieces of brown-colored wool cloth, one piece for each leg and an insert for the crotch. No cloth was cut to form these pants. Instead, each of the three sections was shaped on a loom in the final size. These pants included side slits, strings for fastening at the waist and woven designs on the legs. For these two men, trousers were not a mere fashion statement—they were a necessity for daily life. Just like my favorite pair of jeans.

Sources:

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/first-pants-worn-horse-riders-3000-years-ago
http://www.livescience.com/34077-wearing-pants-horse-riding.html
http://www.academia.edu/8737411/Who_Invented_Trousers
http://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/clothing-types-styles/trousers-through-history
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_clothing_and_textiles
http://www.historyofclothing.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trousers
https://bellatory.com/fashion-industry/A-History-of-Trousers-and-Pants-in-Western-Culture

Orichalcum: The Red Metal of Atlantis

While it isn’t proof that legendary Atlantis ever existed, the discovery of a large quantity of metal bars in an ancient shipwreck is a figurative gold mine for archaeologists.

orichalucum-ingots

Metal bars recovered from a sixth century BCE shipwreck.

The ingots discovered by marine archaeologists in 2015 were determined to be an alloy of 75 to 80 percent copper, 15 to 20 percent zinc, and small percentages of nickel, lead, and iron. Professor Sebastiano Tusa, an archaeologist on the team recovering artifacts from a shipwreck dating to the early sixth century BCE off the coast of Sicily, claimed an X-ray fluorescent analysis of the metal had confirmed that it was orichalcum. Orichalcum is a highly prized and possibly mythical reddish metal said to have been mined on Atlantis.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeySet in the third century, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. A Persian warrior’s curiosity is ignited when he leads an invasion of Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that knows something about islands disappearing into the sea. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world draws the warrior deeper into layers of mysteries as its princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


archaeology-dive-team

Dive team that recovered the ingots and identified them as orichalcum.

While most scientists believe the island of Atlantis never really existed, others insist it may have been based on a real place that was swallowed by rising sea levels or destroyed by a tsunami. What we know about Atlantis comes from the Greek philosopher Plato, who may have invented the myth to illustrate his theories about politics. He tells us that orichalcum was so plentiful in Atlantis, it flashed with the dazzling “red light” of the metal. Highly prized and second only in value to gold, Plato says orichalcum was mined in the mythical island.

The existence of orichalcum and its composition has been widely debated. Ordinary brass is made from copper and zinc. Though it is not known for certain what orichalcum was, it has variously been describd as a gold-copper alloy, a copper-tin alloy, or copper-zinc brass, or a metal no longer known. The copper content in orichalcum is thought to be responsible for its red color.

shipwreck_found_1_000_feet_off_shore

Location of the shipwreck off the coast of Sicily.

Some archaeologists believe that when the ancients referred to orichalchum, they actually meant amber. During the Late Bronze Age, the yellowish fossil resin was one of the main products traded through the Mediterranean along with other materials like silver, bronze, or tin. It makes more sense that orichalcum was amber if it was mined rather than created as an alloy of various metals.

Even if Atlantis is merely a myth, orichalcum could have been a real type of metal used by the ancients. If a metal with a particular reddish tint was highly desirable, large percentages of copper in the alloy could have achieved that result. And if the process used to create such a reddish metal was inordinately complicated, it could have been rare and as valuable as gold. Regardless, the discovery of the ingots and the continuing investigation of the shipwreck will yield valuable information about ancient artisan workshops.

Sources:

http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/rare-orichalcum-metal-shipwreck-legendary-atlantis-020158

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2901795/Does-strange-metal-2-600-year-old-shipwreck-prove-Atlantis-DID-exist-Mythical-red-alloy-said-lost-island-discovered-coast-Sicily.html

http://www.iflscience.com/chemistry/mysterious-metal-atlantis-found-shipwreck-sicily/

http://www.seeker.com/atlantis-legendary-metal-found-in-shipwreck-1769435405.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orichalcum

http://www.livescience.com/49354-atlantis-legendary-metal-found-in-shipwreck.html

http://www.ancient-code.com/legendary-atlantis-metal-found-shipwreck/