Archive for March, 2011
There have been many reports in the news about Mayan predictions that the world will end in December of 2012. However, there are likely just as many individuals who are arguing about what this means for the world as there are reports to argue about. A great number of people believe that the world will literally end on the date predicted in the Mayan long count calendar. But the actual prediction says something very different.
The Mayan or Mesoamerican Long Count calendar is a complicated system that calculates dates based on the number of days that have passed since the world was created. According to the calendar, this equated to August 11th, 3114 BCE according to a variation on the Gregorian calendar that much of the world follows today. This variation is known as the Proleptic Gregorian calendar. The Long Count calendar was one of several that were used to mark the passage of time. They included the Haab’, a 365-day solar calendar, and a 260-day calendar known as the Tzolk’in.
While the other two calendars could be used to identify days that would happen within a 52 year period. If someone needed to identify a date that would fall outside of that 52 year period, they needed a different way to identify it and, in these cases, the Long Count calendar was used instead. The passage of time could be measured in units of 20. A uinal was made up of 20 days. A group of 18 uinals made a tun, which worked out to 360 days. 20 tuns made a unit of time known as a k’atun and 20 k’atuns made a unit of time known as a b’ak’tun. This equaled 144,000 days. On December 20th, 2012, the 13th b’ak’tun since the creation of the world will end.
However, when the Mayans talked about the end of the world, they were not necessarily talking about the destruction of the planet Earth itself. Instead, they believed that there were a progression of different “world ages” and that we are currently living in the fourth world age. It is this that is supposed to be ending in 2012 and that the time will be one of transformation. There has been some argument over whether or not this transformation will be accompanied by the destruction of the planet or some other great apocalypse.
There have been some Mayan texts found that do mention the end of B’ak’tun 13, the day that correlates to December 20th, 2012. In many of the books, it mentions that great and important events will take place, and in at least one it states that at least one god will return to the Earth to visit his children. There have also been written records that mention dates that take place after December, 2012, something which would be totally unlikely if the Mayans thought the world was ending.
Whether the Mayans’ view of a period of transformation and rebirth, or the modern doomsday beliefs that the world will end will come true remains to be seen. All around the world, people watch and wait to see what the future will bring.
Many people have heard of burial mounds that can be found in many countries around the world. One of the best examples of a burial mound complex can actually be found in the United States. Located near Collinsville, Illinois, the Cahokia Mounds archaeological site has been declared to be the largest earthen construction in the Americas that dates from the prehistoric era. The only prehistoric earthen constructions that are larger are found to the south in Mexico as well as elsewhere in Central and South America.
It is difficult to tell exactly when building began on the Cahokia site. This is because the people who lived in the area and built the mounds did not leave any written records behind. The only examples of their writing consisted of symbols that were found on copper, wood, stone and pottery. These have been found at the site and show that the area was lived in as well as used as a burial site. The city of Cahokia was settled around 600 CE and evolved into a sophisticated city with plazas, stockades and watchtowers. This was not surprising considering the fact that the city was a center for trade and, at one time, was the largest urban center north of the cities in Mexico. There may have been as many as 40,000 people living at Cahokia at the city’s peak.
The main feature that dominates the area is Monk’s Mound. This mound is ten stories or ninety-two feet high. It is a massive nine hundred and fifty one feet in length and eight hundred and thirty six feet long. The mound took several centuries to complete. While it is massive, it is not the only interesting feature that can be found in the area.
One of the most interesting features is actually the Grand Plaza that stretches out from Monk’s Mound. The Grand Plaza seems to be where ceremonies were held by the residents who were living at the mound. Studies have shown that while the landscape was originally undulating, the residents were able to level and fill it in order to make a flat area where they could worship, celebrate and play games. It was one of four large, flat areas that radiate out from Monk’s Mound.
Another example of the site’s sophistication includes the Woodhenge. This was a circle of posts that was used in astronomy. It was made up of a series of posts which were placed so that they marked equinoxes and solstices. The wooden posts served much the same purpose as the stones that made up Stonehenge. Archaeologists were able to prove that not only was Woodhenge rebuilt several times during the past, remnants of another Woodhenge were also found near another one of the area’s burial mounds.
Although Cahokia was home to a sophisticated civilization, it eventually began to decline. This began in 1300 CE and the site was completely abandoned by the time the Europeans arrived in the area although some indigenous tribes did continue to live in the area. There have been many theories as to why the site was abandoned, ranging from disease to over hunting, deforestation and environmental issues that may have caused the area to become uninhabitable.
The role of women in ancient times varies from culture to culture. In some, they rode into battle beside the men. In others, they were expected to remain at home where they would bear their husbands children and keep the household in order. One culture where women were permitted and even encouraged to work outside the home was that of Ancient Egypt.
In Ancient Egypt, there were several examples of women not only working as doctors, but, in some cases, overseeing the work of other physicians. The literary works that they authored on the topic of medicine were, in some cases, being read and studied hundreds, if not thousands of years later.
Of the female doctors who lived and worked in Ancient Egypt, perhaps the best known was Merit Ptah. She lived around 2700 BCE and was believed by many to be the first named female physician in history. She lived and practiced around the same time as Imhotep, who was well known as a healer, architect and builder of the Pyramid of Djoser. Although she was one of the best known female doctors, she was not the first woman to have practiced medicine in Ancient Egypt, and unlike another female doctor, her writings were not studied for thousands of years. She gave birth to a son who later became a High Priest and who gave her the title of “Chief Physician”.
Peseshet was a female physician who lived during the Fourth Dynasty (2613 BCE to 2494 BCE). Some historical records suggest that she may have been a physician and others that she may have been trained and employed as a midwife. Regardless of her training, she was given the title of “lady overseer of the female physicians”. This title is important because it shows that not only were a number of women working as doctors, but that they were also administrated and supervised by a woman as well. It was believed that she may have begun her medical training at a school for midwives that was located at Sais although it is unknown just how far her medical training progressed.
A third woman who was well known as a doctor in Ancient Egypt was Cleopatra (not to be confused with the former Queen and member of the Ptolemy dynasty). In Ancient Egypt, doctors tended to specialize in the treatment of certain diseases or parts of the body. Cleopatra was a doctor who worked in the twin fields of gynecology and obstetrics. In addition to working in the field, she also wrote extensively about her medical specialty and women’s health in general. Her works continued to be the focus of study for more than a thousand years.
Egyptian medicine was a unique mixture of magic and scientific fact. They were able to treat many diseases and injuries much more successfully than doctors could thousands of years later. They showed a need for cleanliness and a knowledge of anatomy and physiology that was very sophisticated for the time and yet, still believed in the need for divine blessings and magic charms.
Although many people tend to concentrate on the men in Roman politics, the women also had an important role to play in many cases. One example of this is Agrippina the Elder, who lived from 14 BCE to 33 CE. She was the granddaughter of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus, who was emperor of Rome from 27 BCE to 14 CE. Her links to the Caesars of Rome did not end with Augustus, however.
Agrippina was married to Germanicus, a general in the armies of the Roman Empire. She was also his maternal second cousin. She bore him nine children, although only six lived past childhood. Two of the best known would have to be her son Caligula, who later went on to rule the Empire, and her daughter, the Empress Agrippina the Younger. Many of her children still had important roles to play in the political life of Rome.
Her husband was a popular military leader and was adored by the common citizens in Rome. While Augustus was in power, everything looked good for Agrippina and her husband. She accompanied him on his military campaigns, which was something quite unusual for the time. It was far more normal for a Roman wife to stay at home with the children while her husband was off on campaign. This was something that earned her a reputation for being a very devoted and heroic wife. She also earned the reputation for being a skilled diplomat as well.
Because her husband was a favorite of Augustus, Germanicus was even considered by Augustus as the heir to the empire. If that had taken place, things would likely have turned out very differently for Agrippina. Unfortunately, her husband was passed over for the position and Tiberius was made Emperor instead of Germanicus.
Her husband died during a trip to the Middle East in 19 CE. Agrippina accused Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, the man who was then governor of Syria, of poisoning her husband and returned to Italy with his ashes. She continued to be active in the political life of Rome and, over time, Tiberius began to suspect her of disloyalty to him. She was arrested, along with two of her sons, in 29 CE and was banished to the island of Pandataria, which is now known as Ventotene. There, she was flogged by a centurion and lost an eye in the process.
Agrippina eventually starved herself to death in 33 CE. Of her three sons, Drusus also died of starvation while imprisoned, and her son Nero died after his trial in 29 CE. Reports state that he was either murdered or that he committed suicide. Caligula, her remaining son, succeeded Tiberius as emperor of Rome.
Although Tiberius tried to slander her name and reputation, he did not succeed. She was known for many positive things such as her courage and her devotion to her husband and her children. She also made it far more easy for women to wield power in Roman politics and showed them that women could indeed have a role in making policies that helped to shape the Roman Empire as a whole.
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