Archive for March, 2007

Otzi the Iceman – Part 2/4: Frozen Fritz’s Final Feast (ca. 3300 BC)

By: The Scribe on March, 2007

Otzi  the IcemanIt seems that Europe’s oldest known mummy – Otzi the Iceman, or ‘Frozen Fritz’ – was so well preserved during his 5,300 year frozen stay inside an Alpine glacier, that scientists were able to analyze the contents of his stomach and determine exactly what Fritz ate for a final meal!

Evidence from his intestinal tract revealed that shortly before his death, Fritz probably ate venison and ibex meat, an unusually rich meal for a people who normally ate very small amounts of meat from rabbit, rat or squirrel. In fact, evidence shows that he ate two meals on his journey up the slopes: for his first meal, Fritz dined on the ibex meat as well as cereals and plants, and for his second – before his death at 3,200 metres above sea level – an unusual amount of deer.

Before the latest evidence, there were speculations that Otzi had been killed as a part of some ritual sacrifice, which may have explained why the diet of his final days was superior to that of the typical hominids of the time… however, it is now known that Otzi’s death was, perhaps, not of his own accord…

Otzi's last meal

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Tomorrow: Frozen Fritz’s fatal confrontation…!

Otzi the Iceman – Part 1/4: Frozen Fritz’s Footwear

By: The Scribe on March, 2007

Oetzi's shoe
Although the ancient footwear you see here may look uncomfortable, the truth is that these shoes were designed to outlast a near infinite amount of stress and wear – in fact, the ancient Europeans used these shoes to hike up the treacherous pathways of the Austrian alps… even past elevations of 10,500 feet.Europe’s oldest known mummy, Otzi the Iceman (or more affectionately known as ‘Frozen Fritz’), was discovered in a glacier of the Otztal Alps between the Austrian and Italian border, and was quite literally still wearing his shoes.

These wide, waterproof shoes seem to have been designed specifically for walking across snow, and though some have speculated that they may have been used as the tops of snowshoes, this remains under debate. The outer layer of the shoes was made of deer and bearskin, while inside was sewn a tree-bark netting. To keep the feet warm, grass was placed around the foot, forming a kind of ‘ancient sock’. In fact, these shoes were even recreated and tested by a Czech shoe expert named Petr Hlavacek, who hiked up to 8,200 feet – more than 25 miles in frigid, mountainous Alpine conditions – and only stopped due to personal reasons of recent surgery! In fact, the shoes functioned so well – and so much better than modern outdoor footwear – that these 5,300 year old pieces of footwear are now being studied for commercial production.

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Tomorrow: The Iceman’s intestines reveal his final meal!

The King Who Was a Goat (556-539 BC)

By: The Scribe on March, 2007

Nabonidus the Babylonian Goat KingThe last king of Babylon, Nabonidus was a monarch who truly wished that he had been born into another family – he simply was not interested in the job. Passionate about the ancient history of his own time, Nabonidus had a reign characterized by a lack of interest in the politics of his own kingdom, as well as the rejection of the traditional Neo-Babylonian religious practices.

A scholar and a recluse, Nabonidus decided that instead of worshiping Marduk, he would build a temple to the moon god Sin, and give his mother and daughter the jobs of temple priestesses… after which he went into self-imposed exile at the Oasis of Tema in the Arabian desert, making himself absent for about 10 years from the city he was supposed to be ruling!

According to writings in the Dead Sea scrolls, the accounts in the Hebrew scriptures which suggest that the previous king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, was mentally unstable, may have in fact been referring to Nabonidus, whose reign followed that of Nebuchadnezzar. In the Hebrew scriptures, the tale talks of the king “imagining he was a goat” and that he “ate grass with the cattle”, after being cursed by God for not following Him. However, this may have been a reflection of Nabonidus’ refusal to conform to the traditional Babylonian religious practices, and perhaps somewhat reflective of his demeanor after his rather lengthy seclusion in the middle of the desert – alone… in the sun… – for so many years…

Indeed, upon hearing reports of the Persian army encroaching upon Babylon, Nabonidus returned to the city, but it was too late. Babylon was sacked and conquered in 539 BC by the Persians and their famed leader, Cyrus the Great.

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Tomorrow: All about Otzi

The Origins of Angkor Wat (12th C AD)

By: The Scribe on March, 2007

Angkor Wat
Built in the 12th century for King Suryavarman II of the Khmer Empire, Angkor Wat was a Cambodian temple to the Hindu god Vishnu, and has been described as a rival to the splendor of the ancient temples in Greece and Rome. It was designed to reflect the home of the gods in Hindu mythology, containing a moat to represent the ‘cosmic ocean’, and an outer wall 3.6 km long that surrounds the temple complex.

In the middle of the temple, there is a ‘quincunx’ of towers – that is, five towers to represent the five mountains of the gods. There was extensive bas-relief decoration in three temple galleries and around the walls, though much of it has now been cut away and sold on the black antiquities market, making the interpretation of the scenes much more complex.The remaining panels we have depict various scenes from Hindu mythology, such as thoseAngkor Wat from the sky from the Sanskrit epic poems Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Other panels show battle scenes, historical scenes of the king, as well as images of the 37 heavens and 32 hells of Hindu mythology. One of the most impressive features of the complex is also a causeway, leading to the enormous entrance, along which are balustrades in the shape of giant serpents. These were likely intended to be representations of the divine nature of fertility.

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Tomorrow: The Babylonian Goat King

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