Archive for May, 2007

The Epitome of Antique Jewelry (ca. 90,000 BC)

By: The Scribe on May, 2007

antique jewelryFrom the slopes of Mount Carmel in Israel and the site of Oued Djebbana in Algeria, it appears that archaeologists have discovered the oldest examples of jewelry in the world. The three shell beads date to between 90,000 and 100,000 years old, predating other ancient jewelry finds by 25,000 years.

The shells are all very small, and come from a genus of marine mollusk similar to the Nassarius, and it is believed that they were selected because of their small size and thin fabric that can be easily pierced by a sharp tool. These three shells each have one hole, made by a sharp flint tool, which would have allowed them to be strung together as a bracelet or necklace.

Speculation is that these pieces of shell jewelry had some sort of social meaning, possibly representative of some symbolic behavior or assertion of status. It may be one of the earliest examples of modern behavior by humans of the ancient past, since previous evidences have not been identified as earlier than 50,000 years ago. Something like creating and wearing jewelry is an example of thoughtful creativity, and in the case of these shell pieces, there is no doubt that some forethought went into creating the items.

Namely, the sea isn’t anywhere near Mount Carmel – and in Algeria, the closest shoreline to Oued Djebbana is 200 kilometers away. The shells would have had to be located, gathered, and transported here by people either migrating into the area or perhaps simply brought as items gathered on a seasonal expedition. Either way, the minute size of the shells and the precision of the holes indicate a significant leap in human creativity for which scientists have had no previous evidence.

Want to read more?

A History of Ancient Israel and Judah

Tomorrow: A coal miner’s rain forest

Maybe Choose Dry Cleaning for 2,700-Year-Old Fabric? (ca. 700 BC)

By: The Scribe on May, 2007

During excavations at the town of Argos in Greece, archaeologists discovered a 2,700-year-old copper urn inside of a burial. The burial was oddly reminiscent of the elaborate cremation rituals for soldiers as described in Homer’s Iliad, but it was what they found inside of the urn that was the most shocking: a yellow, brittle material which could be nothing other than a piece of ancient fabric.

In places like Egypt and the Near East, it is quite common to find fabric from thousands of years ago, due to the dry climate which prevents humidity from causing organic fibers to decompose. However, in places like Greece and along the Mediterranean coast, organic material decomposes very easily, due to the high levels of humidity. Very few organic artifacts have been found in the past in Greece, making this small piece of fabric of enormous historical value.

Conservation experts explained that because the fabric was placed inside a copper burial container, which began to corrode over time, copper oxides from the urn were able to kill the microbes that normally destroy fabric. In order to learn as much as possible from this find, the fabric is scheduled for testing that will determine the what kind of fabric it is, and what weaving techniques were used.

The fabric was not the only item inside the urn – there were also dried pomegranates, ashes, and charred human bones. The actual burial itself is also unique, because cremation was not a normal practice in Argos during this time. Of the six burials that

were closely grouped together on this same plot of land, the urn was the only cremation burial. One possible explanation for this is that the person in charge of this burial had a personal desire to imitate the ‘heroic’ funerary custom as described in the Iliad, for the purpose of making this burial stand out among the others.

Since Argos is one of the cities mentioned in the Iliad as the home of a the great Mycenaean warrior-king Agamemnon, it is possible that the individual buried here thought himself associated with the legendary ruler in some way.

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The Iliad of Homer

Tomorrow: Ancient Jewelry

The Duchess Who Loved Her Father… a Little Too Much – Part 2/2 (1695-1719)

By: The Scribe on May, 2007

Perhaps not surprisingly, Marie’s third pregnancy also ended early, and the child died only 12 hours after the birth. This was the final link to whatever small remaining amounts of self-control and sanity she had, and from that point on, Marie became devoted to one thing only: indulging herself in excess.

Only a year later, the Sun King of France died, leaving Luxembourg Palace in the hands of Philip II. Marie asked her father for the palace, which he granted her, and she promptly kicked her mother and grandmother off the property. She began joining her father as he indulged in his excesses, and soon she developed a repertoire of her own vices. She gambled away family money, became a raging alcoholic, and often took meals with her father’s mistresses. On other occasions, she would attend her father’s private parties, featuring nude dancers who staged orgies to ‘recreate historic moments’ from the Classical era.

By the time she was 20 years old, Marie had earned herself the nickname “Princess Chubby” – she woke up at noon and would eat until three, rest for an hour, and then eat creams and salads again at four. In fact, the only exercise she ever did was hunt, and tended to simply lie around during the day. There is speculation from some historians that Marie suffered from bulimia, which may have been brought on by the excessive year of dieting before her marriage. She became morbidly large due to her binge-eating habits, however it was only a matter of time before she once again fell in love.

In 1716, Marie married her lieutenant, the Count of Riom. They were married in secret, and it didn’t take long before the obnoxious princess’ behavior took a drastic turn – the Count began to control his new wife’s behavior, even down to the clothes she wore. She became increasingly neurotic, experienced extreme mood swings, and by all outward appearances had returned to the church as a devoted follower – the truth was, she often returned to her previous indulgences, then became guilty and fasted, prayed, and visited nuns, only to once again return to the excesses in a vicious cycle.

Although the Count wished to make their marriage public, Philip II forbade it. In 1718, Marie became pregnant for the fourth time, and because she did not change her behavior even while pregnant, she became extremely ill in early 1719. The child was stillborn that spring, and her health never recovered. By July of that year, she died just before her 24th birthday – pregnant for a fifth time, and with what her physicians called a “deranged brain”. Though Marie’s mother hadn’t bothered to visit her while she was ill, her father, overcome with grief, died only four years later.

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Unruly Daughters A Romance Of The House Of Orleans

Tomorrow: Maybe Choose Dry Cleaning for 2,700-Year-Old Fabric?

Who Loved Her Father… a Little Too Much – Part 1/2 (1695-1719)

By: The Scribe on May, 2007

MarieMarie Louise Elizabeth of Orleans, better known as “La Duchesse du Berry”, was a young woman who spent the majority of her life indulging in court pleasures, hiding behind the façade of joie de vivre to conceal her true psychological and emotional trauma. Born to Philip II of Orleans and the Lady Francoise Marie, Marie Louise’s mother ignored her from birth, causing Marie to grow up much more quickly than any child should.

When she was six years old, Marie became so gravely ill that the royal doctors believed she was basically dead and refused to attend to her any longer. Instead, her father Philip II nursed Marie back to health with his own hands – and being grateful that she was still alive, he proceeded to spoil her in every way possible, even giving her a little court of ladies for her own when she was only 14 years old. Her mother, seeing a way to consolidate power, arranged a marriage for Marie to the 23-year-old Duke of Berry and forced her to spend a year losing weight to ensure she was ‘able to conceive when married’.

Even after the marriage, Marie Louise did not like her husband, Prince Charles, and often acted rudely toward guests at court. When she was 15, Marie had her first pregnancy, which caused her to become extremely irritable – and since her husband wasn’t able to be of any comfort, Marie’s father often spent several hours with her each day. This gave rise to rumors about a possible love affair between daughter and father, which would haunt the family for years to come.

In the later stages of her first pregnancy, Marie was involved in a boating accident that caused her to give birth early – the child died only hours later. In 1712, she experienced her second pregnancy, though she went into labor early for a second time: the baby died only two weeks later. Although her husband did everything he could to try and love her, Marie developed a violent temper and often spent hours alone with her father. On one occasion, her father put his painting talents to use by painting his daughter in the nude, which did nothing but increase the swirling rumors of incest.

During mealtimes – which were apparently quite frequent for Marie – one historian wrote that Marie Louise would often drink to excess and eat so much that she would promptly throw up in the middle of dinner. She engaged in numerous affairs, and made no effort to conceal them from her husband.

Eventually, Prince Charles gave up his attempts to care for his wife, and the two engaged in a battle of affairs to try and out-do each other. They began to fight in public, and on several occasions were reprimanded by the king; on one occasion, it was reported that Charles kicked his wife and threatened to send her off to a convent. In 1714, Charles unfortunately fell from his horse while hunting, leaving his wife to become a widow at the young age of 18 – and in addition, Marie had just announced her third pregnancy. Ordering her room to be decorated completely in black, she remained in bed for months before the baby was born.

Want to read more?

Unruly Daughters A Romance Of The House Of Orleans

Tomorrow: Would this child be the one to live, changing Marie for the better? Find out tomorrow…

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