Archive for April, 2011
The Ancient Egyptians were known for mummifying animals as well as humans. Animals that were mummified were often beloved pets or were part of votive offerings. Often, they were one of several different sacred animals. Some of the animals that have been found in mummy form include fish, birds of prey, crocodiles, snakes and baboons. It was known that dogs and jackals were also mummified due to their connection to the god Anubis. This deity had the head of a jackal and was associated with the afterlife as well as with mummification.
Egyptologists found a complex series of catacombs located between ten and twelve meters below the surface of the Saqqara desert approximately one century ago. Saqqara is an area where several important archaeological finds have been discovered. This particular structure was known at the time of discovery as the “Dog Catacomb” and individuals who located the complex found that it was full of the remains of mummified dogs. At the time that it was discovered, it was unknown just how many dogs had been placed in the structure. Now, scientists have returned to the site and have discovered that as many as eight million dogs and other animals were placed in the catacombs. They were placed there at some time between the sixth century BCE and the first century BCE.
The catacomb system is made up of a central corridor with side passages which branch off on either side. In many areas, the piles of mummified remains are up to three feet high. Unlike other animal mummies, which were carefully wrapped and placed in ornamented containers, the dog mummies in the catacombs were often poorly wrapped and were often undecorated. Because they were poorly wrapped, many of them had slowly deteriorated and so were difficult to separate into individual sets of remains.
The dogs were not all adults. Many were puppies and may have only been hours old when they were mummified. It is believed that the animals were bred at puppy mills that were located in the city of Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt. It was believed that the animals could act as an intermediary between humans and Anubis. While the animal that had been mummified was sacrificed in the process, it was the dedication of the mummy that was considered the pious act and not its sacrifice.
When the catacombs were first discovered, a smaller side tunnel was also discovered. It was thought by many that this tunnel was used not to add more mummies to the catacombs but to remove them. Often in the past, animal mummies were sold and ground up as fertilizer. Many were shipped to England and used for such a purpose there.
The dog catacomb is not the only structure of its kind in the area although it is the largest. Several other catacomb structures were found in the same area. Some were dedicated to animals such as baboons, ibises, hawks, cats, cows and bulls.
While the practice of using animal mummies as an offering to various deities was quite common for centuries in Egypt, when the Romans conquered Egypt it slowly died out and eventually ceased sometime after 30 BCE.
A 42 foot (13 meter) statue of Pharaoh Amenhotep III was recently unearthed in Luxor, Egypt. The city, which is located in the southern part of Egypt is the site of two separate temple complexes. Both the temple complex of Karnak and the temple complex of Luxor are located inside the modern city. The city is also located across the river Nile from other important archeological sites such as the West Bank Necropolis, the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. These last two sites are where many ancient Pharaohs and their wives were buried.
Amenhotep III ruled Egypt from 1386 BCE to 1349 BCE. During this time, the country prospered and artistic splendor was allowed to reach its peak. Over 250 statues have been unearthed that depict this pharaoh in addition to large stone scarabs that commemorate everything from his hunting prowess to the creation of an artificial lake that Amenhotep had built for his wife, Queen Tiye. Tiye was only one of several women that Amenhotep married during his lifetime. Many of them were foreign and came from areas such as Babylon and Ammia (which is located in modern Syria). He also married the daughter of several of his allies as well.
The temple where the statue was found was not located in Luxor itself but was actually located on the West Bank of the Nile. Amenhotep had constructed a large funerary temple which was a normal practice for pharaohs at the time. The statue, which is constructed out of seven blocks of quartzite, was originally positioned in front of the northern entrance to the temple complex. Although the statue was missing a head, it was possible to identify it as being that of Amenhotep III.
Two other statues were also unearthed at the same time as the Amenhotep statue. One depicted the Egyptian God Thoth. While this deity is often depicted with the head of an ibis (a long-legged wading bird) the statue unearthed at the temple showed Thoth depicted with the head of a baboon. Thoth was associated with magical arts, writing, science and judging of the dead. A second statue measured six feet in height and depicted the goddess Sekhmet. Sekhmet was a warrior goddess who was also associated with healing.
The temple where these statues were found has recently been the focus of massive excavations. An earlier excavation in 1928 actually unearthed the statue but it was buried again. It is believed that a twin to the Amenhotep statue will be unearthed in future excavations. It is surprising that so many artifacts and statuary can be located in the ruins of the temple due to the fact that the structure was heavily damaged in the past. Both flooding and a massive earthquake in 27 BCE were believed to have contributed to the damage that the temple had sustained.
The temple is one of several that were constructed by pharaohs on the West Bank but of the temples, it is one of the largest and grandest that has been unearthed to date.
One of the most popular places to see in London is the Tower of London. The building has stood since its construction in 1078 CE by order of William the Conqueror. William was both King of England from 1066 CE to 1087 CE and Duke of Normandy from 1035 CE to 1087 CE. As well as having two noble titles, he also had several names. In England, he was known as William I. In Normandy, he was known as William II. Privately, people called him William the Bastard. It was a reflection both of the fact that he was illegitimate by birth, and also that he was not particularly well loved.
In its early days, the tower was actually used as a royal residence and was called The White Tower instead. The English really did not like the fact that the Normans had conquered England and saw the Tower of London as a symbol of that oppression. It was a beautiful residence and was actually a complex of several buildings inside a wall and moat rather than a single tower. Later rulers such as Richard the Lionheart, Edward I and Henry III expanded on the complex.
Although most people think of the beheadings that were held there, the tower was actually used on joyous occasions as well. Monarchs would stay overnight at the tower and then travel from the tower to Westminster Abbey where they were crowned. During the Tudor period, it was used as a royal residence less and less and as a prison on an increasingly regular basis.
The tower gained attention due to some of the prisoners that were kept there. It was usually a place for prisoners who were royalty or who were politically important. Sir Thomas Moore was one of the most famous prisoners. He was sent to the tower after publicly disagreeing with King Henry VIII over his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn herself was kept at the tower prior to her beheading in 1536. Executions were held on the Tower Green and a total of 112 prisoners were executed there during the tower’s use as a prison.
Some of the most famous residents of the tower are not even human. A group of common ravens have lived at the tower for hundreds of years. The ravens living at the tower are connected to a popular legend. It is said that if the ravens leave the tower that the tower will fall. If that happens, it is said that the monarchy will come to an end. The ravens that live at the tower are fed well and tended by the tower guards. Their wings are now clipped so that they cannot fly away. They strut around the grounds and are a popular site with the tourists who visit the tower.
Tower guards take place in a ceremony called the Ceremony of the Keys. This has taken place every night since the 14th century. The ceremony starts with the locking of the tower gate with keys that are held by the Chief Warder of the tower. They are then carried to a building known as the Queen’s House and the last post is played on a trumpet.
Crucifixion was believed to be one of the worst punishments that a person could endure. It was not a fast death nor was it one of the more pleasant ways that someone could die. Many people think that the Romans were the only people to crucify their enemies and that a person was always nailed to the cross but this was not always the case. So why was it so unpleasant and how did the actual practice differ from what you see in the movies?
Imagine that you are a prisoner in the ancient Middle East. It was not the best place to commit a crime. If you were caught stealing, you got your hand lopped off. There were other rather nasty punishments for other unlawful undertakings as well. But, at least they were fairly quick and, if you were lucky, you could recover and continue on with your life. Not with crucifixion.
You would be dragged out and tied to a large wooden cross. Wood was a good thing as far as the Roman Emperor Nero was concerned because it burned well as many early Christians discovered. Nero had a particular love for crucifying the Christians he caught and setting them alight in order to provide Roman streets with illumination. Not the cheeriest of streetlights, but it certainly did send a strong message to other Christians: keep your head low and your mouth shut.
Even if you were not about to be used for outdoor lighting, crucifixion was unpleasant. There was a lot of very warm sun in the Middle East and crucified individuals were simply left out in the elements until they died. They were not given food or water, and the strain on their arms was terrible. If you were nailed to the cross (which was done when the Romans really wanted to make a point), you would have had the nails driven in through your wrists and feet. Often, you were also completely naked, since the Romans wanted to make the experience as humiliating as possible. Finally, victims would simply die. On many occasions, their bodies remained up on display even after death had occurred.
The Romans were not the only ancient people who thought that this was a great way to deal with criminals and political prisoners. Carthaginians, Macedonians and Persians also used this method of punishment and execution. In Carthage, it was a regular method of execution and was even something that was used on generals who had lost major battles. Some rulers such as Alexander the Great were known for crucifying large numbers of prisoners or enemy soldiers as well.
While crucifixion was used by many ancient cultures, there were some that relied on other methods of punishment. The Greeks tended to avoid crucifying their own people although they didn’t hesitate to execute a Persian general named Artayctes who was captured during the second Persian invasion of Greece.
Over time, the Romans moved away from crucifixion and began using other methods of executing prisoners. In fact, it was abolished completely in 337 CE by the Emperor Constantine I, otherwise known as Constantine the Great.