Opening of Tutankhamun’s Tomb

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The Knot To King Tutankhamun’s Tomb

1922: Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon became the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun since the young ruler was buried in 1323 BCE. Below is a four minute video about the discovery. Here’s the famous story of the tomb’s opening:

“Carter returned to the Valley of Kings, and investigated a line of huts that he had abandoned a few seasons earlier. The crew cleared the huts and rock debris beneath. On 4 November 1922, their young water boy accidentally stumbled on a stone that turned out to be the top of a flight of steps cut into the bedrock. Carter had the steps partially dug out until the top of a mud-plastered doorway was found. The doorway was stamped with indistinct cartouches (oval seals with hieroglyphic writing). Carter ordered the staircase to be refilled, and sent a telegram to Carnarvon, who arrived two-and-a-half weeks later on 23 November.

On 26 November 1922, Carter made a “tiny breach in the top left hand corner” of the doorway, with Carnarvon, his daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert, and others in attendance, using a chisel that his grandmother had given him for his 17th birthday. He was able to peer in by the light of a candle and see that many of the gold and ebony treasures were still in place. He did not yet know whether it was “a tomb or merely a cache”, but he did see a promising sealed doorway between two sentinel statues. Carnarvon asked, “Can you see anything?” Carter replied with the famous words: “Yes, wonderful things!” Carter had, in fact, discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb (subsequently designated KV62).”

Ancient Greek Food: Sesame Honey Candy (Pasteli)

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In Greek: παστέλι, pronounced pah-STEH-lee

In markets these days you can find sesame honey bars. The main difference is that the ancient Greeks did not have refined sugar. The sugar used today helps to harden the bars and make them crunchy. The ancient version was chewier, but simple to make with only two ingredients: sesame seeds and honey.

Warning: The quality and taste of the honey will have an effect on the final product.

Pasteli can be eaten as a candy at any time, or as an energy booster, and it is a wonderful accompaniment to tea.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cups honey
  • 3 cups hulled white sesame seeds
  • Optional: 1 strip lemon peel (about 1/4 x 1 inch)

Steps:

  1. In a saucepan, bring honey and lemon peel, if using, to a boil. Add sesame seeds, stirring continuously and continue to cook while stirring to mix completely and thoroughly. When the seeds are fully mixed in and the mixture has boiled again, remove from heat. Remove lemon peel and discard.

  2. Place a piece of baking parchment on a cool work surface and spread out the hot mixture thinly and evenly (about 1/4 inch high).

  3. When the pasteli cools to room temperature, refrigerate on the parchment paper (it doesn’t need to be covered). Chill for at least 2 to 3 hours.

  4. With kitchen shears, cut the pasteli together with parchment paper into small pieces, and serve.

  5. To eat, peel off the parchment paper. Store in the refrigerator.

Ancient Egyptian Bread

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Ancient Egyptian bread was made of barley, millet, and once available, wheat. Though not always combined, sometimes two or all three of these were used in a single recipe. Bread was a very simplistic form. Yeast did not exist in Egypt until well into the Middle Kingdom and was not particularly popular until the New Kingdom era, so loaves were what we would consider today “flat” breads.

Bread consisted of only three simple ingredients:

  • Flour made from barley, millet or wheat.
  • Water
  • Leavening: leavening nowadays means yeast, but Egypt used sourdough starters or spent brewery grains which, unknown to them, had yeast in it.

To this basic recipe, flavorings were often added prior to baking: sesame seeds, honey, herbs, oil, egg washes, fruits and even sometimes bits of leftover chopped meat were added to help spice up these supplementary loaves.

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Ancient Egyptian Bread Recipe:

  • Mix three parts flour to one part water. Mix with your hands until it forms a sticky dough. If needed, add more water. You’re looking for the dough to pull away from the side of the bowl, as in normal bread.
  • Use a sourdough starter or ground brewery grain if available. You can grind brewery grain in a food processor.
  • Let rise for thirty minutes, separate into rounds, place on a baking sheet and insert into a 300 degree oven. If you have an outdoor fireplace that is food safe or barbecue grill these work wonderfully to recreate the same sorts of cooking environments these recipes originally came from.
  • Cook for around 45 minutes. Check halfway through with a knife, when it comes out clean, pull your bread from the oven and let it cool.
  • Slice like a pizza and serve with the accompaniments of your choice.

Temple of Karnak: An Introduction

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The temple of Karnak was known as Ipet-isu—or “most select of places”—by the ancient Egyptians. It is a city of temples built over 2,000 years and dedicated to the Theban triad of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu. This derelict place is still capable of overshadowing many wonders of the modern world and in its day must have been awe-inspiring.

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For the largely uneducated ancient Egyptian population, this could only have been the place of the gods. It is the largest religious building ever made, covering about 200 acres (1.5 km by 0.8 km), and was a place of pilgrimage for nearly 2,000 years. The area of the sacred enclosure of Amun alone is sixty-one acres and could hold ten average European cathedrals. The great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big that St Peter’s, Milan, and Notre Dame Cathedrals would fit within its walls.

Pagan Roots: Saturnalia, Yule and Christmas

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“It’s a mistake to say that our modern Christmas traditions come directly from pre-Christian paganism. you’d be equally wrong to believe that Christmas is a modern phenomenon. As Christians spread their religion into Europe in the first centuries A.D., they ran into people living by a variety of local and regional religious creeds.”

~ Ronald Hutton, Historian at Bristol University in the United Kingdom.

“Christian missionaries lumped all of these people together under the umbrella term pagan.”

~ Philip Shaw, who researches early Germanic languages and Old English at Leicester University in the U.K.

Early Christians wanted to convert pagans, but they were also fascinated by their traditions.  Christians of that period are quite interested in paganism.  It’s obviously something they think is a bad thing, but it’s also something they think is worth remembering. It’s what their ancestors did.  That’s why pagan traditions remained even as Christianity took hold. The Christmas tree is a 17th-century German invention, but it clearly derives from the pagan practice of bringing greenery indoors to decorate in midwinter. The modern Santa Claus is a direct descendent of England’s Father Christmas, who was not originally a gift-giver. However, Father Christmas and his other European variations are modern incarnations of old pagan ideas about spirits who traveled the sky in midwinter.

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The two most notable pagan winter holidays were Germanic Yule and Roman Saturnalia. Christian missionaries gave these holidays a makeover and they are now known to us as Christmas:

Saturnalia was a lawless, drunken time in Rome where literally anything was okay.  This was the original Purge, in which laws were suspended for a brief stretch of time.  Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture, liberation and time, was celebrated at what is perhaps the most famous of the Roman festivals, the Saturnalia, It was a time of feasting, role reversals, free speech, gift-giving and revelry. (i.e.: gender-bending sex, drinking, telling people off, trading gifts and doing whatever you want).  After solstice, the darkest night of the year, the renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on December 25.

Scholars have connected the Germanic and Scandanavian celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht. Yule-tide was traditionally celebrated during the period from mid-November to mid-January.  Nordic countries use Yule to describe their own Christmas with its religious rites, but also for the holidays of this season. Present-day customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from the original pagan Yule, but are used in Christmas celebrations now, especially within Europe.  As leaders were baptized and converted, they shifted their traditional celebrations covertly, as not to upset the Chieftains. Yule was traditionally celebrated three days after midwinter, but shifted to reflect Christian dates.  Modern Wiccans and other neopagan religions often celebrate Yule as well. In most forms of Wicca, it’s celebrated at winter solstice as the rebirth of the Great horned hunter god, who is viewed as the newborn solstice sun. Some celebrate with their covens while others celebrate at home.

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Why this fixation on partying in midwinter, anyway? According to historians, it’s a natural time for a feast. In an agricultural society, the harvest work is done for the year, and there’s nothing left to be done in the fields. It’s a time when you have some time to devote to your religious life. It’s also a period when, frankly, everyone needs cheering up.  The dark days that culminate with the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, could be lightened with feasts and decorations.

“If you happen to live in a region in which midwinter brings striking darkness and cold and hunger, then the urge to have a celebration at the very heart of it to avoid going mad or falling into deep depression is very, very strong.”

~ Ronald Hutton

“Even now when solstice means not all that much because you can get rid of the darkness with the flick of an electric light switch, even now, it’s a very powerful season.”

~ Stephen Nissenbaum, Author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist “The Battle for Christmas”

Without a Biblical directive to celebrate Jesus’s birthday and no mention of it in the Gospels of the correct date, it wasn’t until the fourth century that church leaders in Rome embraced the holiday. At this time many people had turned to a belief the Church found heretical: That Jesus had never existed as a man, but as a sort of spiritual entity.  If you want to show that Jesus was a real human being just like every other human being, not just somebody who appeared like a hologram, then what better way to think of him being born in a normal, humble human way than to celebrate his birth?”

Midwinter festivals, with their pagan roots, were already widely celebrated, and the date had a pleasing philosophical fit with festivals celebrating the lengthening days after the winter solstice.

“O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born…Christ should be born.

~ Thaschus Cæcilius Cyprianus (c. 200 – September 14, 258 AD) Bishop of Carthage

In the 16th century, Christmas became a casualty of this church schism, with reformist-minded Protestants considering it little better than paganism. This likely had something to do with the “raucous, rowdy and sometimes bawdy fashion” in which Christmas was celebrated.  In England under Oliver Cromwell, Christmas and other saints’ days were banned, and in New England it was illegal to celebrate Christmas for about 25 years in the 1600s. Forget people saying, “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  If you want to look at a real ‘War on Christmas,’ you’ve got to look at the Puritans, they banned it!

While gift-giving may seem inextricably tied to Christmas, it used to be that people looked forward to opening presents on New Year’s Day.  They were a blessing for people to make them feel good as the year ends. It wasn’t until the Victorian era of the 1800s that gift-giving shifted to Christmas. According to the Royal Collection, Queen Victoria’s children got Christmas Eve gifts in 1850, including a sword and armor. In 1841, Victoria gave her husband, Prince Albert, a miniature portrait of her as a 7-year-old; in 1859, she gave him a book of poetry by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Let’s take on some of the traditions:

Almost every culture has someone like Santa Claus. He’s primarily based on St. Nicholas, a Fourth Century Lycian bishop from modern-day Turkey. One story says that he met a kind, impoverished man who had three daughters. St. Nick presented all three of them with dowries so that they weren’t forced into a life of prostitution, as dowries were expected to “pay off” families to take on the daughters.  Sinterklaas is the Dutch figure and Odin is the Norse god that Santa resembles. It wasn’t just Santa or men who did the gift-giving in those myths. There’s also the legend of La Befana, a kind Italian woman who leaves treats for children on the “Good” list, and the Germanic Frau Holle, who treats women during Solstice.

While people rarely show any excitement around the fruit-laden cakes these days, they were a real treat in times of yore. The cakes actually have origins in Egypt and were later disseminated by the Romans as they conquered parts of Europe.  Those cakes of Egypt were just about as dense and long-lasting as the brandied, fruit-studded cakes of today. Egyptians placed cakes of fermented fruit and honey on the tombs of their deceased loved ones so that they’d have something to munch on in the afterlife. Romans took similar cakes into battle made of mashed pomegranates and barley. Christians went into the crusades with honeycakes.  Fruitcakes are everywhere, no matter how hard you try to avoid them.

Caroling actually began as the Germanic and Norse traditions of wassailing. Wassailers went from home to home, drunk off of their asses, singing to their neighbors and celebrating their “good health.”  The traditional wassail beverage was a hot mulled cider, spiked with alcohol or fermented.

Mistletoe was considered a magical plant in Europe, especially among the Druids and Vikings, and holds significance in Native American cultures. Mistletoe is no modern quirk of Christmas, even Romans partook in fertility rituals beneath the mistletoe. Mistletoe stood as a neutral ground for feuding Norse tribes, who laid down their weapons in order to negotiate beneath the peace plant. The Druids thought it could protect them from thunder and lightning, as well.  Whether you’ve got the urge to make out, hide from a storm or talk it out, beware as mistletoe is super poisonous.

Romans loved wreaths and decorated everything with Laurel. Holly, ivy and evergreen are the more popular modern options today, and each one holds significance. Egyptians didn’t have evergreens, so they used palm fronds to celebrate Winter Solstice.  Christians love holly because the red berries symbolize the blood of Christ and the pointy leaves symbolize the crown of thorns. However, the advent of holly decor was around long before Christianity. Pre-Christian pagan groups believed that the Holly King did battle with the Oak King. They also thought holly could drive off evil spirits.  Romans, of course, were into laurel wreaths, but laurel was not easily procured throughout the northern reaches of the empire. Instead of laurel, they used evergreens.

All of this gift-giving and revelry, along with the secular embrace of Christmas, now has some religious groups upset. The consumerism of Christmas shopping seems, to some, to contradict the religious goal of celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth. In some ways excessive spending is the modern equivalent of the revelry and drunkenness that made the Puritans frown.   There’s always been a push and pull, and it’s taken different forms.  It might have been alcohol then, and now it’s these glittering toys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave

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Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave

The Allegory of the Cave, or Plato’s Cave, was presented by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work Republic (514a–520a) to compare “the effect of educationand the lack of it on our nature”. It is written as a dialogue between Plato’s brother Glaucon and his mentor Socrates, narrated by the latter.

~ Plato realizes that the general run of humankind can think, and speak, etc., without (so far as they acknowledge) any awareness of his realm of Forms.

~ The allegory of the cave is supposed to explain this.

~ In the allegory, Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire.  Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. Here is an illustration of Plato’s Cave:

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~ Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality. They would think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real; they would know nothing of the real causes of the shadows.

~ So when the prisoners talk, what are they talking about? If an object (a book, let us say) is carried past behind them, and it casts a shadow on the wall, and a prisoner says “I see a book,” what is he talking about?

He thinks he is talking about a book, but he is really talking about a shadow. But he uses the word “book.” What does that refer to?

~ Plato gives his answer at line (515b2). The text here has puzzled many editors, and it has been frequently emended. The translation in Grube/Reeve gets the point correctly:

And if they could talk to one another, don’t you think they’d suppose that the names they used applied to the things they see passing before them?”

~ Plato’s point is that the prisoners would be mistaken. For they would be taking the terms in their language to refer to the shadows that pass before their eyes, rather than (as is correct, in Plato’s view) to the real things that cast the shadows.

~ If a prisoner says “That’s a book” he thinks that the word “book” refers to the very thing he is looking at. But he would be wrong. He’s only looking at a shadow. The real referent of the word “book” he cannot see. To see it, he would have to turn his head around.

~ Plato’s point: the general terms of our language are not “names” of the physical objects that we can see. They are actually names of things that we cannot see, things that we can only grasp with the mind.

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~ When the prisoners are released, they can turn their heads and see the real objects. Then they realize their error. What can we do that is analogous to turning our heads and seeing the causes of the shadows? We can come to grasp the Forms with our minds.

~ Plato’s aim in the Republic is to describe what is necessary for us to achieve this reflective understanding. But even without it, it remains true that our very ability to think and to speak depends on the Forms. For the terms of the language we use get their meaning by “naming” the Forms that the objects we perceive participate in.

~ The prisoners may learn what a book is by their experience with shadows of books. But they would be mistaken if they thought that the word “book” refers to something that any of them has ever seen.

Likewise, we may acquire concepts by our perceptual experience of physical objects. But we would be mistaken if we thought that the concepts that we grasp were on the same level as the things we perceive.

Source: Philosophy 320: History of Philosophy (University of Washington)