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

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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/

The Boy King’s Space Blade

Here’s some history that even fans of futuristic space operas can appreciate—one of the daggers buried with King Tut was made of extraterrestrial metal.

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King Tut’s burial mask

King Tut occupies a unique place in popular culture. Ancient Egypt’s “Boy King” was made famous in 1925 when archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the undisturbed tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, and Tut has been making headlines ever since. Scholars have written enough books to fill the Great Pyramids of Giza concerning the circumstances of his youthful ascent to the throne, political intrigue during his brief reign, and the conundrum of his untimely death more than 3,300 years ago. Less scholarly, but more popular, are the lurid tales of a mummy’s curse that captured the public’s imagination with a death grip that has continued to tighten with recent CG-enhanced big-screen spectacles.


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 reveal its many 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.


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Interior of King Tut’s tomb

Every few years, scientists apply some new advanced technique to Tut’s mummy and artifacts to try to solve the enduring mysteries that swirl endlessly around his story like the thick curtain of a desert sandstorm. The latest headlines inspired by King Tut are really something out of this world. A study published in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science declares that Tutankhamun’s blade is not made of iron from Earth, but from a meteorite that fell from space.

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The space dagger, crafted from meteoritic iron

Two daggers were placed in the folds of material used to wrap Tut’s mummified body. One was made of gold. The other had an iron blade with a decorated gold handle ending in a round crystal pommel, encased in an ornate gold sheath decorated in a pattern of feathers, lilies, and the head of a jackal. As property of the Pharaoh, though likely ceremonial, both daggers would have been extremely valuable, crafted from rare and precious materials.

The ancient Egyptians of Tut’s Bronze Age era referred to meteoric metal as “iron from the sky,” and considered it more valuable than gold. Most archaeologists agree that the few iron objects dating to Egypt’s Old Kingdom (third millennium B.C.E.) were probably produced from meteors as iron smelting was not introduced to the Nile Valley until thousands of years later.

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Close up of an iron meteorite

Observing that the dagger’s metal had not rusted and knowing that ironwork was rare in ancient Egypt, scientists have been intrigued by the remarkable gold-handled dagger with a crystal knob for decades. The Egyptian and Italian research team, led by Daniela Comelli of the Polytechnic University of Milan, analyzed the blade with an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. They found that its nickel and cobalt content are consistent with an extraterrestrial origin.

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The Chinese Nangan meteorite, similar to the Kharga meteorite

With their spectrographic analysis complete, the research team set out to identify exactly which meteor provided the iron used to create Tut’s dagger. They found one whose composition was nearly identical to the iron in the blade: the Kharga meteorite. It was found in the year 2000 on a limestone plateau in Mersa Matruh, a seaport west of the city of Alexandria.

The scientists who made the breakthrough hope that their findings will provide further insight into the use of meteoric iron in Tut’s era and help archaeologists understand the evolution of metalworking technology in the region.

Sources:

http://www.iflscience.com/space/king-tuts-burial-blade-was-forged-iron-meteorite/

http://nypost.com/2016/06/02/king-tuts-dagger-came-from-outer-space/

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/06/space-dagger/486185/

http://www.history.com/news/researchers-say-king-tuts-dagger-was-made-from-a-meteorite

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/02/africa/king-tut-dagger-meteorite/

http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-06-02/why-king-tut-had-awesome-dagger-outer-space

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/maps.12664/abstract

The Glorious Ruins of Ani

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The ruined church of the Holy Redeemer.

Location, location, location… As history teaches, any ancient settlement that survived and flourished for a significant period of time did so because it was located in a strategically defendable spot that provided easy access to water, fertile land for growing crops, space for herding livestock, and other amenities that attracted large numbers of people to live together. But in ancient times there were downsides to developing a thriving city in a great location as well. A bustling center of commerce attracted hostile invaders looking to plunder. A strong, established, and prosperous city invited unwanted attention from political rivals seeking to expand their influence and territory.


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


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The Monastery of the Hripsimian Virgins, thought to have been built between 1000 and 1200 AD, near the height of Ani’s importance and strength. The Akhurian River below acts as the modern border between Turkey and Armenia.

The Armenian city of Ani in present-day eastern Turkey is a prime example of a magnificent medieval city that fell into ruin over the centuries. At the height of its prominence, Ani boasted numerous palaces, places of worship, and military fortifications that were some of the most technically and artistically advanced structures anywhere. The city is located on a triangular site at an elevation of 4,390 feet, protected on the east by a deep ravine and the Akhurian River, and on the west by the steep Bostanlar valley.

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A gate in the medieval walls of Ani.

Unlike many other prominent ancient cities, Ani did not spring up along any established trade routes. It was Ani’s size, power, and wealth that made it an important trading hub, attracting business from the Byzantine Empire, the Persian Empire, the Arabs, and smaller nations in Russia and Central Asia. Ani is first mentioned in the 5th century by Armenian writers who referred to it as “a strong fortress built on a hilltop and a possession of the Armenian Kamsarakan dynasty.”

As the Armenian Bagratuni Dynasty expanded, they acquired Ani. Between 953 and 977, King Ashot III transferred the capital there from Kars. In 992, The Armenian Church moved its seat to Ani. By the beginning of the 11th century, Ani was renowned as the “City of Forty Gates” and the “City of a Thousand and One Churches.” Its population was well over 100,000 and it housed the royal mausoleum of Bagratuni kings.

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Ani cathedral with Armenia’s Little Ararat in the background.

Ani’s downfall began soon after it achieved its apex of power. A quarrel between two sons of King Gagik I (989-1020) left one brother in control of Ani while the other ruled over other parts of the Bagratuni kingdom. Decades of escalated disputes led to attempts to capture Ani, but the city repulsed several attacks by Byzantine armies. In 1046 Ani surrendered to the Byzantines, spurred by many pro-Byzantine citizens among its cosmopolitan population. Then in 1064, an army of the Turkish Muslim Seljuk Empire attacked Ani. After a 25-day-long siege, they captured the city and killed many citizens.

In 1072, the Seljuks sold Ani to the Shaddadids, a Muslim Kurdish dynasty, who were tolerant of the city’s overwhelmingly Armenian and Christian population for several decades. But eventually the Shaddadid governance became too rigid, and the population appealed to the Christian Kingdom of Georgia for help—more than once. The Georgians captured Ani five times: in 1124, 1161, 1174, 1199, and 1209. During brief periods of peace, prosperity returned to Ani and its defenses were strengthened and many new churches were built.

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The Ani Cathedral, in the Turkey-Armenia border province of Kars, Turkey.

The Mongols tried to capture Ani in 1226, but didn’t succeed until 1236. When they captured and sacked the city, the Mongols also massacred large numbers of its population. Later ruled by many different Turkish dynasties, Ani was devastated by a massive earthquake in 1319. No longer the grand and important city it had once been, control of Ani passed through many hands as its population shrank. Reduced to a small town of no particular consequence, it became a part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1579. The site was abandoned by 1735 when the last monks left the monastery in the Virgin’s Fortress.

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Damaged frescoes of the church of St Gregory of Tigran Honents.

Eager to share their discovery, European travelers in the first half of the 19th century described the ruins of Ani in popular travel and academic journals. By then most of the structures were nothing but piles of rubble, but the grand public buildings and portions of the city’s double wall had survived. In the early 20th century, archaeologists professionally excavated large sectors of the city. Buildings were uncovered and measured, the whole site was surveyed for the first time, and emergency repairs were undertaken on buildings that were most at risk of collapse. A museum was established to house the tens of thousands of items found during the excavations. In 1918, during World War I, archaeologists saved thousands of the most portable items from the armies of the Ottoman Empire fighting their way across the region. Everything left behind was later looted or destroyed. Ani reverted to Armenian control when Turkey surrendered at the end of World War I, but Turkey recaptured it in 1920.

The archaeological site of Ani was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 15, 2016.

Sources:

http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2014/01/the-ancient-ghost-city-of-ani/100668/

http://www.kuriositas.com/2011/01/ani-ghost-city-of-1001-churches.html

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/five-towns-abandoned-after-disasters

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