Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Art of Chinese Painting - Video Summary

Hello! Right now I'm going to make a summary of a video about Chinese Painting. I have been studying Chinese for almost a year now, so I found this video about Chinese culture really interesting and pleasing to watch. I hope you enjoy it and the summary as much as I did!

Part 1/2

Part 2/2

Chinese culture's paintings are one of the oldest and most interesting forms of art. In many different styles, the painters of China have struggled to represent the beauty of their country's landscape through colorful or monochrome paintings. They have created an aestethic which is truly unique to these lands of China. There are lots of Chinese Paintings masterpieces at the Victoria and Albert museum, some of them so rare that they cannot be exhibited to open public. All of these paintings where so innovative that they were centuries ahead of European forms of art. 

The woman of the video went to the Gobi desert to look at some chinese paintings that had been hidden from the world for hundreds of years. In that place, there is more than a millenium of cultural history. Most of the murals are almost intact because of the use of lapiz lazuli. This is the biggest place of buddist art in the world. This technique wasn't seen in Europe until the Middle ages. In similar caves, they found tons of manuscripts, which include the oldest printed book of all. The question is, how did  Chinese painting change over time?

The answer lies in the fact that most of the paintings were done for interior decorations, and they slowly began to adapt to the different ways of court. The woman of the video shows us several paintings showing court life, the empress life style, etc. But there was a change waiting to be completed, one that would change the Chinese Art forever.

It was an emperor who brought this change. He was both artist and ruler, so he began to support artistic progress in China. It is the same way it may happen nowadays: if a president loves cinema, he will support the film industry in his country to be able to enjoy more of it. This is exactly what happened with this emperor. He built a school for painters, so the newly educated painters began to change the way the Chinese people regarded and performed art. They began depicting highly detailed scenes, specially from nature. The Chinese were now firmly on realism. 

A new social class began to rise, one of artists with power: they were known as scholar painters. Calligraphy began to become really important for Chinese people, in a way that they were almost "writing paintings". Until nowadays, chinese artists have to practice Calligraphy. In terms of aesthetics and skill, Chinise painting can not succeed without calligraphy. If you only have basic skills, you are not a true artist, you must dominate them, but that's not enough, you have to be special on your own also. The ones who master calligraphy can paint whatever pleases them. They usually paint landscapes that only exist in their minds. Scholar paintors often went to live in the mountains to reflect on the world around us.

Another important element is black ink. Most people think black ink is only black, but there are 5 different shades of black ink that may represent different things and have different meanings. They are heavy, light, dry, thirsty and white. These shades may cover all colors in nature. They also spread out landscapes to express feelings. They want you to want to look beyond the painting.

Chinese painting is maybe the most deep kind of painting. They are minimalist. They leave some place for your own imagination, for you to complete the image, for you to know or guess what's behind what is actually painted... This is what makes it so interesting.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Believers - The Koran

Welcome back to my blog! In this case, I'm writing  about a Chapter of the Koran titled "The believers" the chapter number is 23. I'm adding a link below to the full chapter. I hope you enjoy it!

         "Blessed are the believers, who are humble in their prayers; who avoid profane talk, and give alms to the destitute; who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them: transgressors are those who lust after other than these); who are true to their trusts and promises, and dilligent in their prayers. These are the heirs of the Paradise; they shall abide in it forever.

This is the openning line of the Koran's Chapter "The Believers". When I read it, I immediately recognized the style, but didn't remember when I had read it before. A while after, I knew where I  had seen those lines ... The Bible:

          "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:3-6)

These two texts are similar in the ways they are written, and may tell us a lot about their corresponding religions if we analyze them well. Since the one that concerns us now  is the Koran, I can say that the phrase which most surprised me is when it speaks about the restraints of carnal desires EXCEPT with their wives and their slave-girls. This speaks about the surprisingly low status of women in this religion which may be an important factor when we analyze cultures.

There are many other similarities with Christian Catholic Bible. For example, the patriarchs are all the same: Noah, Moses... and their stories are also very similar. When the Koran says "And We gave Moses the Book, so that they might be rightly guided", they are presumably speaking about the 10 commandments of the Catholic Church, which were handed to Moses by God. The Koran also makes a reference about Jesus by saying: "We made the son of Mary and his mother a sign for mankind, and gave them shelter on a peaceful hillside watered by a fresh spring". With this, the Koran recognizes Jesus as a prophet and an example to be followed by the Muslim people, instead of recognizing him as the son of God or God himself.

Another thing I noticed in the chapter I read, is the repetitive use of "We". I presume that this refers to all the Muslims, and it surprises me that the Koran is written in first person, or at least this chapter. This is maybe because the prophet Mahoma was the one who wrote most of it, which turned him into the "creator" of Islam and the muslim religion. What I don't understand is why the Koran at the beginning of the Chapter 23 says: "We created seven heavens above you/ We first created man from an essence of clay/ The germ We made a clot of blood," as if "We" were the creators, and then aknowledges god with the phrase "Blessed be God, the noblest of creators."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hadrian's Wall

We all have heard about the great Wall of China and admire the efforts made by these people to protect themselves from other cultures that may try to harm them or invade them. Still, not as many people know about Hadrian's Wall. I found a video that speaks about it, and I'm making a small summary about what I know and learned about Hadrian's Wall. I hope you enjoy it!

Hadrian's wall was a fortification built in Roman England from coast to coast, sea to sea, to protect Roman territory from the northern barbarians. Its name is Hadrian's Wall because of the man who built it: Emperor Hadrian, who ruled from 117 to 138. This Emperor is famous for two buildings: Hadrian's Wall and Hadrian's Villa. Hadrian's Wall wasn't very big or wide, but it was still the most imposing defensive building built by the Roman Empire. Usually, their width and height depended on the material available near it, and also on the landscape. For example, when the wall went through high hills it needed not be to too tall because the cliffs provided extra protection if the wall was to be attacked. The Wall was 75 Roman miles long, and there is a big part of it that remains until today.

It's building was much similar to how we build today. Each rock used as a brick in Hadrian's Wall was handmade by masons, and each one of them took about 20 minutes; masons had to do this thousands of times. An interesting fact shown on the video is that they used tools impressively similar in shape, size and material as those we use nowadays, such as hammers and nails. Another thing that surprised me was how easily they were able to lift several ton stones with a simple grip system consisting of a hole in the rock, three stone sticks pressed against the hole and a stone handle.

But this wasn't everything that archeologists were able to find in Hadrian's wall. Because of the soil conditions it was built in, they were able to find nearly unchanged daily life items, such as leather shoes and boots decorated by artists and other items that may tell us a lot about the lifestyle of all the people who lived in Hadrian's Wall and its surroundings. Most of these settlements were found in the many forts that are all arround the wall. Each fort was heavily garrisoned by about 600 men who kept their wives and children nearby. Also, the wall had about 1000 cavarly units on each side of the wall in case it was attacked.

A few blogs before, I talked about Valyrian Language, which is found in A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. I can also relate this post to the series, because Hadrian's Wall was George's inspiration for creating The Wall, a thousand feet structure that protected Westeros from the barbarians who lived in the north. The Wall also had various forts and went from sea to sea, and was garrisoned by people from all over Westeros. When I think about it, I realize that the whole Westeros is a reproduction of England, and you can see these similarities I talk about in a map.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Imaging the Iliad - Video Summary

The Iliad by Homer is a book which speaks crudely about the Trojan war, specifically about the role the Greek Hero Achilles played in that war. The following video is about a photoshooting they made of the oldest existing complete book of Homers Iliad, Venetus A. I hope you enjoy it!

Venetus A was stored in Marciana Library in Venice for around 500 years. A group of scientists, photographers and scholars decided that it was time for modern technology to tell everybody about it, to let the world see this book and people have free access to it from wherever they are. Their objective was to be able to image the whole book and upload it to the internet, but the "how" was still not completely decided.

After all, they decided that the best way of fulfilling their objective was to keep the book in a completely controlled environment, photographing each page from the same angle, and creating a 3D computer image by using a robotic arm able to "read" 3D objects and replicate them virtually. The camera they used was of the highest definition possible, and all the lighting in the room where the book was held was planned to get the best shots while not damaging the book.

They began working very slowly and they were really  careful trying to avoid  damaging  the book, but eventually they were able to gain confidence and hurry up, because at the pace they were going at first, they would never be able to finish. The temperature of the room and near the book was greatly controlled, while there was an specialist who told when the book could and when it couldn't receive light. When they were about halfway through, they discovered something extremely discouraging, a terrible mistake they had done: their fingerprints could be seen on the pages they had already imaged. They took the news very professionally, and decided that the best way to solve this problem was to use UV light on the book. They explained how UV light would be able to make the ink more readable, in a way you could see every detail of the book as if it had just been written. The specialists had to be very careful when in the room, though, so they had to wear sunscreen FPS50 and solar lens when they were inside.

After all the hard work, they got astonishing results. They created a Google Maps interface for people to zoom in and out of the different book pages, and where able to upload the complete book with  each page's 3D model. Here, you can see things you wouldn't be able to see with naked eye, such as different colors of ink used in the book (enhanced by the UV lights) and the original strokes of the letters. If you want to see the book, you can find it on the next web page, you just need to follow the instructions.

"This is what happens when scholars and scientists work together."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pliny the Younger - Latin Literature

Welcome back to my blog! Today, I'm talking about Pliny the Younger! He was a Roman lawyer, author, and Magistrate, not to be confused with his uncle Pliny the Elder. In this case, we are going to analyze some of the different personal letters he wrote. Below is the link from where I read them.

You may be thinking "Okay, it's just some letters, I can do that. I don't see any sense in analyzing some letters". But if you pay attention, you'll notice something about these letters: They are ALL beautifully written and have special things in common. What do I mean when I say this? Let's see.

The first letter of the web page, the one to Fabatus, is merely speaking about seeing Fabatus again. But when you read "For I cannot tell you how we long to see you, and we shall no longer delay our visit. To that end we are even now getting our luggage together, and we shall push on as fast as the state of the roads will permit" you can only think you are reading Shakespear or an author like that. You'd never think that it is just a letter sent by a normal man to his wive's grandfather.

Another thing that was able to catch my attention was in the second letter. "It is strange how people are flocking to call upon him. Every one detests and hates him, yet they run to visit him in shoals as though they both admired and loved him. To put in a nutshell what I mean, people in paying court to Regulus are copying the example he set." It's speaking about hypocrites. These people have existed since the beginning of times, and it can be shown in this letter by Pliny to Attius Clemens. It is all politics, I think: when you are in public, you have to grieve your own and others' loses, you have to show someone empathy and do everything that is expected from you, even if you despise someone on the inside.  This is something we can all see nowadays, when almost every person has two or more faces for different occasions.

This kind of writing (personal letters) can tell us a lot about how the world and life was back then. Often, when people write history books or epics, they exagerate the facts and change the way things look, as it is said, "History is written by the victor." But when we are able to find personal letters from different people, they can tell a lot about how the times really were. Still, there's obviously some feelings and thoughts that must be hidden in these letters: what would happen if it got caught? For example in the letter 23, to Pomponius Bassus, Pliny begins with: "I have been called in by our excellent Emperor to take part and advise upon the following case." I'm sure he was thinking something more similar to "The dammed Emperor wants me to do his job again..." But, of course, that is something that can't be written! God knows who might stumble upon this letter and show it to the Emperor.

I think this whole genre of writing letters or correspondence to close friends, coworkers and family is a more reliable way of knowing what was really happening, how the different strings in the government and social life worked. Even though there is some modification, as I said in the last paragraph, you don't lie to your close friends the way you can lie to the world itself. This is why Pliny the Younger's letters have much importance when we analyze Roman lifestile and Latin literature. 

As Pliny the Younger always says: Farewell.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Constructed Languages - High Valyrian

Nowadays, there are many constructed languages which may serve for different functions. Some of these languages, like Esperanto, try to create an universal language for all people, while others have entertainment purposes. For example, we have the different languages that were created for a book series, such as the ones in The Lord of The Rings by Tolkien. Now, I'm going to speak about High Valyrian, which appears in A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George. R.R. Martin, also known as Games of Thrones.

In the books and TV series, High Valyrian was the language of Valyria and the Valyrian Freehold. It is no longer widely spoken due to the Doom of Valyria, although there are songs and books still sung and read in it. In Westeros, highborn children, specifically the Targaryens, they are taught Valyrian as a sign of their noble education. Corrupted dialects known as bastard Valyrian are spoken in the Free Cities and Slaver's Bay.

It wasn't actually created by George R.R. Martin, the author of the book, but by David J. Peterson. On the books, very few words are actually written in High Valyrian, but most of the time it is mentioned that a person is speaking a Valyrian Language. For the series, they wanted the actors to speak in High Valyrian those lines, so they decided to hire someone to build the language. The chosen one was David J. Peterson.

Peterson began working with the few words that George had published on the books, the most important ones being "Valar morghulis" and "Valar dohaeris." Peterson used these two phrases, which mean "All men must die" and "all men must serve" to create the whole conjugation of the new language. There are four grammatical numbers in the sistem: singular, plural, paucal and collective. For example, with the word "Man", the nouns are "vala" (man), "vali" (men), "valun" (some men), and "valar" (all men). There are also 4 grammatical genders, but they have nothing to do with biological gender. They are lunar, solar, terrestrial and aquatic.

This is a clip of Daenerys Tragaryen speaking High Valyrian in the TV Series, on the 4th episode of the 3 season. Here is what she says in High Valyrian, you can see the English translation on the subtitles.

Naejot memēbātās!

Nyke Daenerys Jelmāzmo hen Targārio Lentrot, hen Valyrio Uēpo ānogar iksan.
Valyrio muño ēngos ñuhys issa.

Dovaogēdys! Āeksia ossēnātās, menti ossēnātās, qilōni pilos lue vale tolvie ossēnātās,
yn riñe dōre ōdrikātās.
Urnet luo buzdaro tolvio belma pryjātās!



Still, this isn't how it is actualy written in Valyrian. The creator of the Language, Peterson, decided that it was not worth it building the writing system yet, since it was barely used in the series. He says that he is looking forward building a writing system similar to hieroglyphics, even though at one point in the series a woman appears writing it in Latin Alfabet. Peterson mentions it is unfortunate that George R.R. Martin chose the word "dracarys" for dragonfire, because it is based on "draco", the latin word for dragon. Still, George R.R. Martin isn't really interested on the language. When compared to the Elvish language Tolkien constructed for LOTR, George says:

"Tolkien was a philologist, and an Oxford don, and could spend decades laboriously inventing Elvish in all its detail. I, alas, am only a hardworking SF and fantasy novel, and I don't have his gift for languages. That is to say, I have not actually created a Valyrian language. The best I could do was try to sketch in each of the chief tongues of my imaginary world in broad strokes, and give them each their characteristic sounds and spellings."

Friday, February 28, 2014

Classical (Greek and Latin) Influence in Modern Art and Architecture

Hello! On this blog, I'll speak about different examples of modern art and architecture where we can find vestiges of classical Roman and Greek pieces of art. I hope you enjoy them!

The Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago, Illinois

This is the most important library of Chicago's Public Library Program. You can easily see the Greek and roman influence on the architecture of this library. It's easy to understand, because libraries are made for cult and wise people, and the Greeks and Romans are considered to be some of the wisest cultures. The most obvious vocabulary of the building is the Pediment. As you can see in the images above, the pediment (triangular shape of the ceiling) is a modern version of the one in the Parthenon: same shape, but different material. This architectural element, the pediment, is found in classical Greek temples, renaissance and neoclasical architecture, but it was originally developed by ancient Greek civilizaation. The triangular part within  of the pediment, called tympanum,was generally  decorated with reflief sculptures,

"El H. Congreso de la Unión del Estado de Sinaloa," Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico

"El H. Congreso de la Unión del Estado de Sinaloa" is where the legislative power of this federal entity is centered. This is found in my hometown, Culiacan. It's where all the congressmen gather to see what's best for the necessities of the city and the federal entity.  As you can see, the vocabulary imitated from the Classical Roman architecture is the use of columns in the structure of the building. The place you can see in the picture above is Magna de Leptis' ruins in Libya, an important roman city in Cartage. It was constructed during the reign of augustus and Tiberius, and has many of the architectural elements of the roman architecture. We usually see these kind of imitated vocabulary in government buildings, because most of the principles of Democracy come from Ancient Greek and Rome.

"El Angel de la Independencia," México D.F., Mexico

"El Angel de la Independencia" or Independence's Angel, is a monument built in Mexico City to commemorate Mexico's independence. It consists of a 36 mts. column with a 6.7 mts bronze statue of Nike, the Greek Goddes of Victory, also called the " el Angel", located on the top of the column. The Angel has a laurel crown in her right hand, representing victory.And, in her left hand, she holds a broken chain, symbolizing freedom.   The similarity with the column of Trajan is important and visible to naked eye. Trajan's Column also represents victory, and has a human figure on top to represent it and commemorate it.

Percy Jackson and The Olympians Books and Movie

You just have to read the name to know what these books are about. "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" is a book series written by Rick Riordan which talks about what would happen if the Greek Gods were real and they followed the 'most important civilization' which is, according to him, Western (American) civilization. The whole book is about Greek Mythologie, and in it, they mention a lot of different places and buildings that have Greek influence. These  pieces of literature show us how much the Greeks have influenced our lives nowadays. The same author, Rick Riordan, also wrote another series titled "Heroes of Olympus", which not only includes Greek culture, but also Roman culture.

Oakland Stadium, Oakland, California, United States

Oakland Raiders' Home Stadium is definitely based on the Roman Coliseum. As you can see, the similitudes between these two buildings are tremendous. Still, it's not the only stadium inspired on the Roman Coliseum: almost all stadiums copy the architecture, so that more and more people are able to apreciated the show. Back then, the Coliseum was used for watching the Gladiators fight and die, but now the stadiums are used for playing sports or having concerts. You may think it's a big difference, but when you think about it, you discover it's all for entertainment, but the only difference is how people got entertained back then and how they are entertained nowadays.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Trojan Women - Opinion

Hello! I just watched some scenes of The Trojan Women, a tragedy by the Greek playwright Euripides. I'm putting the first part of the three part video and the links to the other parts. I hope you enjoy it!

Now, THIS is a great dialogue. Some would say that the story isn't good enough, that there are much better plays than Euripides's. At first, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't any action. My head had begun to hurt from all the Trojan women's cries, but when the talking began, I was surprised. While the first part of the video is just women fighting, crying, and pleading for water, wanting Helen of Troy to be killed, the dialogue between Helen, the King Menelaus, and Hecuba is amazing.

Since the beginning of the film, we can see the manipulative arts that Helen possesses, being able to get a soldier to give her water while he hadn't given any to the Trojan Women. She is also able to manipulate the women, insulting them by taking a bath fully naked while they didn't even get water for drinking. This insult got the desired effect, because the women went crazy and Menelaus's soldiers had to hurry up and get her out of her confinement, because she would be killed if they didn't. When Menelaus arrives, at first he didn't want to let Helen speak, but Hecuba insisted on it. Then, epicness began.

Helen knew that Menelaus would kill her if she didn't convince him to do otherwise, so she appeals to the best way of convincing a man to do something: seducing. And I don't mean the sexual desire type of seduction, it was more like "Oh! I'm such a beautiful, cute girl that was completely blinded by a goddess, and I need your protection, why do you try to kill this poor little pretty girl instead?" type of seduction. She was appealing to the man's feelings to be able to get what she wanted. I had thought that this kind of behavior was only common nowadays, but it seems women have been tricking men since Ancient Greece's times. Many girls nowadays say things like "I'm not pretty" so men tell them, "Oh, don't say that, you're the most beautiful woman I've ever met." And they know they actually are pretty, but they want to trick men into saying it by martyring themselves. This is similar to the effect that Helen is looking for when she says "If only I weren't so beautiful." She is reminding Menelaus of her beauty, she knows that what she did is TOTALLY wrong and will get her killed, but she's trying to give Menelaus the urge to comfort her, protect her, save her. In the same instant Menelaus left the scene, the poor, suffering, unprotected girl was gone and Helen was again strong and proud, completely despising the Trojan Women.

Menelaus was not a strong man. He knew that he should have her killed then and there, but he couldn't get himself to do it. He was weak, and he was a coward. He fell under the spell of Helen, and told Hecuba that he would take her back to Sparta, where her death awarded. Then, he ordered to kill Hecuba's grandchild, the only left heir to the legacy of Troy's throne. Of course, Menelaus was afraid that the kid would grow up and try to get revenge, so he killed him and ran away from Troy.

The video ends here, but in the stories, it wasn't death what awaited Helen when she arrived back to Sparta, but a throne. She lived some time with Menelaus, ruling beside him. Then, different stories differ on the ending. Some say Helen died and was taken to Olympus, others say Menelaus died before she did... Either way, this is a great example of how women have been able to manipulate men through time to get what they want.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Poetic Meter - I Get Weak - Belinda Carlisle

Welcome back! Today, I'm trying to use poetic meter to analyze a song by Belinda Carlisle titled I get weak. At first, I thought it would be easy to analyze, but it definitely isn't. I'll give it my best try, but I can't assure you it's rightly done.

ˇ  ˉ  ˇ  ˉ
When I'm with you

ˇ  ˉ  ˇ  ˉ
I shake inside

ˇ ˉ  ˇ  ˉ ˇ  ˉ
My heart's all tangled up

ˇ  ˉ   ˇ ˉ  ˇ  ˇ ˉ
My tongue is tied it's crazy

 ˇ  ˉ   ˇ  ˉ    ˇ  ˉ   ˇ  ˉ
Can't walk, can't talk, can't eat, can't sleep

ˇ ˉ  ˇ ˉ   ˇ ˉ  ˇ ˉ   ˇ  ˇ ˉ
Oh, I'm in love, oh I'm in deep 'cuz baby

That's the first two paragraphs from the song, before the chorus. It's kind of mixed, not a single type of metric feet. The first line is a dimeter with two trochaic feet, one after the other. The pattern is repeated on the second line. Then, it changes to a trimeter, with three trochaic feet. The next line is also a trimeter which begins with two trochaic feet, but then changes to an antibacchic foot. The next paragraph is even harder to get, since she sings it very softly, but I think the first line is formed by a tetrameter of trochaic feet. The next line, it's a pentameter with the first 4 feet just as the one above (trochaic feet), but then an anapestic foot is added to complete the line, probably as a transition to the next part of the song. Now, let's analyze the chorus.

ˉ ˉ  ˉ    ˇ ˇ ˇ   ˇ ˉ
I get weak when I look at you

ˉ    ˇ  ˇ  ˇ  
Weak when we touch

ˇ  ˉ   ˇ   ˇ  ˉ ˇ ˇ  ˇ  ˉ 
I can't speak when I look in your eyes

This part was even harder than the first one, but I think I got it. The first line is a trimeter with a molossian foot followed by a tribrachic foot, while the last foot of the line is trochaic. The second line is kind of weird, because it begins with an stressed syllable which is kind of a continuation of the last syllable of the other line. Both "you" and "weak" are stressed and pronounced together. After the stressed syllable, there's a tribrachic foot, and the line is over. The last line is a trimeter. The first two feet are Amphibrachic, while the last one is Anapestic.

I repeat, don't trust me too much on this! It is the first time I try to use the poetic meter, and I'm not really sure it's completely right. Still, I hope you like it!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mummies and the Wonders of Ancient Egypt - King Tut

Hi, again! This time I'm writing a summary about a 1996 documentary titled Mummies and the Wonders of Egypt. I hope you enjoy it!

We have all heard about the Ancient Egyptians. I don't know a person who doesn't know about their great pyramids, sphinxes and hieroglyphic writing. It's every archaeologist's dream to make a new and important finding of an Egyptian King's tomb or palace. One of the archaeologists who was able to do this was Howard Carter. He wasn't a highly studied man, but he is surely one of the greatest archaeologists of all times. Why? Because he was hungry for success and he loved what he did. Lord Carnarvon was the one to finance Carter's projects, who wanted to investigate in the Valley of the Death, which is found near the modern city of Luxor. Carter found different clues speaking about a certain King Tut, who wasn't known by that time. Still, after more than five years searching for the tomb, Carter still wasn't able to find it. Lord Carnarvon wanted to retire from the site, but Carter made an offer he couldn't turn down: Carter himself would finance the next expedition, and everything found would be Lord Carnarvon's. He obviously accepted, and Carter went back to work.

Luckily  for him, it worked. Howard Carter was finally able to make an amazing discovery: King Tut's Tomb. When he first saw that all the seals where intact, he was very excited, because that meant that no robber had entered the tomb before to steal all of its contents, which had happened to most of the tombs discovered. When he entered, and his eyes adjusted to the light of the candle he had brought in, he was able to see gold and treasures, gold and treasures everywhere. He was also surprised by the layout of the tomb, which was really different to other tombs he had seen in shape and size. This meant that his death had been premature and they hadn't had enough time to prepare the tomb. Another clue that his death was premature was that the gloves they found next to him were too small for a grown man. King Tut was a boy king. But if he was a boy, why did he have so much treasures in his tomb? Because he had restored the cult to the other gods after Akenathon's disaster (he wanted to worship just one god). This made the boy king really important.

Then, it was announced that the boy king's body was still inside the tomb. Until that moment, all the objects inside weren't much more than priceless art. There were some gifts and some items that King Tut would need to have in the afterlife for his personal use. But then, the Egyptian government decide to begin to argue about their rights to King Tut's tomb and all the items in it. Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon  began to have different discussions on how to manage the situation, until one day, Carter kicked Lord Carnarvon from his house and told him to never come back. Lord Carnarvon went to live to an island and was bitten on the face by a mosquito. When he shaved, he cut the place where he was bitten and it got infected. He was pronounced  dead a few days later. Many people all over the world attributed his death to a curse that protected King Tut's tomb, but this theory wasn't based on anything at all. A few days after, Carter was able to find the King's coffin, standing majestically in the middle of a newly discovered tomb. The body was inside, and the coffin's lid in the original place.

Still. there was something wrong with the lid. It was partly broken, and it seemed as if it was the replacement of the original lid. It seemed as if King Tut's tomb had been built in a hurry, and the lid had fallen and broken, but they didn't even have time to repair it. When they opened the sarcophagus, they found a perfectly made mummy: King Tut. With him were other mummies, but the most important finding was King Tut's mask. Then, another problem arose: The oils with which the coffin had been sealed didn't let Carter open the mummy to see King Tut's body. Therefore, he had to cut the body into pieces before finally cutting it open, for being able to determine King Tut's age and relationship with other known pharaohs. Also, the oils didn't let him remove the mask, so he had to do it with sharp knives, heavily damaging the face of the King, but at last, it was done. It was the most important archaeological discovery in Egypt, until soon after another finding was made nearby. It was KV5, the tomb of Ramses II and his offspring, which was gigantic. Still, it had already been partially looted.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Greek Mythology Brief Summary

It is said by lots of people that Greek Mythology is the best of Mythologies. Some people even say that other Mythologies, such as Roman Mythology, aren't much more  than cheap copies of the Greek one. On this occasion, I'll try to write a brief summary about  Greek Mythology. Hope you enjoy it!

According to the Greeks, it all began when Uranus and Gaea, Sky and Earth, mated, and Gaea gave birth to the 12 Titans.. They where Hyperion, Iapetus, Coeus, Crius, Mnemosyne, Oceanus, Phoebe, Thethys, Theia, Themis, Cronus and Rhea. Once, Cronus' desire of power made him take a scythe and destroy his own father, Uranus, taking over the universe. Uranus' pieces where thrown all over the world, and Gaea was put to sleep. Cronus became the new ruler, taking Rhea as his wife. Then, other important Titans, such as Prometheus and Atlas, were born. Cronus and Rhea had 5 children (Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Hera, and Demeter) and Cronus ate them all, afraid to be overthrown like he had his father. But Rhea hid their 6th son, Zeus, in the mountains, and gave a Stone to Cronus for him to eat. Zeus grew up and he gave venom to his father in his food, so he vomited Zeus' siblings. Together, and with Prometheus help, they fought and defeated the Titans, throwing them into Tartarus as a punishment. They divided the World, Zeus got the skies and became the King of the Gods, Hades got the Underworld, and Poseidon got the seas. Hera became Zeus wife and Queen, Hestia, the goddess of Home, and Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. A new age began.

Some say it was Zeus, some say it was Prometheus, but man was created similar to the gods. Zeus didn't want to let men prosper, afraid he'd also be overthrown. Still, Prometheus gave men Fire, and with it, the ability to prosper. As a punishment for disobeying him, Zeus decided to tie him to a rock, and every day an eagle came and ate his liver. Since Prometheus was a Titan, his liver grew back again to be devoured the next day.

From this point on, Greek mythology is an interesting novel about how the gods messed with men and the other way around. Most of Greek Mythology's problems were generated by the fact that Zeus couldn't keep it in his pants! He went from here to there having sex with women, animals and goddesses. This never generated something good. Whether it was Hera's wrath trying to destroy Zeus' offspring's life, or the Demigod's (son of a god and a mortal) desire to prove his worth, men suffered a lot from Zeus miss behaviors. Examples of Demigod Myths are the ones about Heracles and Perseus (Zeus and a mortal's sons). Also, some problems were generated by mortals who offended the gods. As an example, we have Medusa. She was a BEAUTIFUL woman who dared to say she was even prettier than Aphrodite, goddess of beauty, and as a punishment she became a gorgon, which is a snakelike monster. Also, some say the whole Trojan War was generated from the Judgement of Paris, when a man had to decide which was the best goddess (Athenea, Aphrodite and Hera).

I know this is just a brief insight to the world of Greek Mythology, but I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! There is much more to it than what I wrote here, and if you liked it, I recommend you to investigate more into the great Greek Mythology. As for myself, I can never have enough of Greek Culture. I am completely amazed by the progress they made in science, by their extraordinary architecture, literature and other arts. Greeks, Romans and Egyptians never fail to amaze me each time I read or see something about them. How was it possible for them to build things or decipher codes of the Universe that still trouble us with modern technologies? I find it so hard to believe... It's truly amazing that there are still remains of these great civilizations, so we can know how they felt, how they thought, how they looked like back then.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Divine Justice

Hello, guys! This is a short story I wrote, trying to imitate ancient Egyptian literature. I hope you enjoy it!!!

The guards came rushing in and took the poor old man by his arms. They dragged him to the punishment stone and put his left hand on it. The man trashed and fought, but age had diminished his strength and the guards had no trouble maintaining him in position. The old man cried and pleaded for mercy, but everybody knew he wouldn’t receive any mercy from the vizier. The vizier was a totally just person that always followed the honorable path of the Law. Some people in the Realm even compared him to Anubis, weighing people’s souls and crimes against their virtues. This time wasn’t an exception: the old man had stolen from the King, and the law punished that conduct with cutting off his left hand. The old man raised his pale blue eyes towards the vizier, crying silently. His strength had run out and he wasn’t screaming anymore. He pledged for mercy with his eyes, but found any in the vizier’s gaze. The vizier gave the order and the khopesh fell on the old man’s wrist. Blood spilled and the man screamed again in agony. The crowd let out a gasp as the hand fell to the ground and the old man fell to his knees, grasping his wrist in pain. The guards took him by the arms again and threw him away, and the show was over...

Khopesh sword

“Justice has been imparted,” announced the vizier. “There will only be one more judgment today, since we are all so tired. Young man over there, you shall come here and tell me what you want from the King’s Justice!”

The young man on whom  the vizier’s gaze was on,walked forward with a selfconfidence strange in those who went looking for the King’s Justice.

“Oh, Great Vizier! I am here seeking for justice, and my case can only be revised by the Great King himself,” said the young man in a strong voice, again full of confidence.

The vizier seemed annoyed. “It is myself who represents the King’s Justice in this place; I assure you that whatever case this is I’ll give you Justice, and if it is important enough, the King shall know.”

The young man remained stubborn. “I repeat, my lord, my case can only be revised by the King Himself. His Majesty is the one to whom my words will be headed.”

“Young man, what makes you so important that you must speak to His Majesty in person? Speak now or be gone, for I am King’s Justice and the King shouldn’t be bothered for nonsense,” asked the vizier, now clearly annoyed.

The young man began again. “I assure you I speak no nonsense, my lord. I have been to faraway lands, with people from other cultures which may be almost as mighty as our Land is; my whole family is dead, my mother and sister were murdered, and my father was killed while trying to protect them. I am the only one who remains from my family’s legacy, the only one who knows the truth about their deaths. They were killed by desert people’s hands, but a greater mind thought of their deaths. I must tell all of this and more to the Pharaoh himself, so justice can be imparted.”

The look on the vizier changed from annoyed to surprised, and conceded the young man entrance to the King’s Palace. He told the Great Pharaoh the situation and was dismissed.

Ra's Chariot

“You say it’s justice what brings you here, but you have never said your name.
 Introduce yourself, young man, and then speak what you must,” ordered the Pharaoh.

“My name is Sehemet, but my name is not what matters, it’s my story what does,” the young man began. “I was born in a loving family, the last of an ancient dynasty. I grew up by the Nile, learning to read and write, to love and fight, to pray and listen to the gods’ guidance. When I reached my 16th year of life, and I was about to get married, unwelcome guests arrived from the desert, I was away preparing everything for the ceremony. These desert people murdered my mother and sister, killed my father in battle, and kidnapped my wife before running away. When I got to the site where all of this happened, I cried, I raged, and I swore to get revenge from these people. I walked for a year in the desert, until I found them. I was taken prisoner and lived in a cage for another year. It was until then that I realized the truth. All my life, I had been trained to be a Pharaoh, to bring back my dynasty to power, to eternal life. And you knew that. It wasn’t the people of the desert who had killed my father. I still wasn’t sure of this, but after 2 years of confinement, they freed me. I spent another year with them, learning their ways, and every day, when Ra brought the morning sun in his chariot, I became more and more confident about my suspicions. The next three years I spent traveling over the world, searching for knowledge, searching for guidance. I went to great cities, I met great people, and I learnt the ways that will never be seen in Egypt. When I felt ready, I went back to the place near the Nile where my whole family had been murdered. My dad’s khopesh and dagger were still lying on the ground. I remembered what I had sworn to myself, what I had sworn to the gods: to get revenge from those who had killed my family. And here I am. I don’t care about power, and I don’t care about becoming a pharaoh. I just care about justice, and not Pharaoh’s Justice, but Divine Justice.”

The king remained silent, without moving. The look on his face was of pure fear.

“May the gods be just with you in the afterlife, Great Pharaoh.” Sehemet took his father’s dagger and stabbed the king three times in the chest, one for every person he had lost because of his command. Then, he took out his father’s khopesh and took the pharaoh’s head off, this time for the life the King had stolen from him.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ancient Floods... Coincidence? I don't think so...

I think we all have heard about Noah's Ark. It seems hard to believe that a flood of that magnitude really happened, but would it mean something if I told you that completely different cultures wrote similar stories?

On the past blog, I mentioned how different civilizations and cultures had really similar characteristics even when it was highly improbable that they had ever met each other. Another example of this, is the repeated pattern of a Great Flood when different cultures try to explain the Creation and Gods' relation to humans. In this case, Mesopotamian people, Jews, Greeks and Hindus agree that there was a great flood to exterminate most of human beings and living things. The stories are found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the story of Noah and the Ark in Genesis, the myth on Deucalion and the Myth of Vishnu and Manu, respectively.

Utnapishtim and the Flood

Decaulion and the Flood

Noah and the Universal Flood

In all of these stories, they speak about how a god wanted to reduce or eliminate humans and all living things, but a special person got his attention in a way that made him want to save them. A fact that surprised me is the repetition of number "7" in the different stories, since "7" was usually a number attributed to God. In all of these stories, the Hero gets a deadline and instructions to save the world. When the deadline is completed, a great storm comes and stays for a long time, flooding the entire world. The instructions in most stories consisted in building a gigantic boat and saving at least two of each kind of living things,a male and a female,  so they could reproduce and repopulate Earth after the Flood. In the stories with one God, He is mad at the humans and wants to destroy them, but there is someone who is loyal to him, so he saves him and gives him the task of saving the animals. In the ones with several  gods, there's usually a god that wants to destroy all beings, and one that warns that special man to save himself and the whole world. But, specifically, what did Utnapishtim, Noah, Deucalion, and Manu did to deserve survival? They main reason is that they were close to the gods and lived under their guidance, but they were also smart and knew how to survive. Another common pattern in some of the stories is the use of birds to check if Earth was habitable again, usually doves.

The place in Mount Ararat where they believe Noah's Ark rested after the flood.

Is it a coincidence that all of these stories speak about the same thing? I really don't think so. Something must have happened that inspired all of these cultures to say the same thing in different ways. Was this great flood real? It is highly possible. Still, I don't really think it was worldwide, we need to remember that in those times, the "world"  was only the parts which they had explored, and that wasn't much. Still, there is even evidence that they have possibly found the place where Noah's Ark rested in Mount Ararat, Turkey. As I also said in the blog before, we will never know the truth, unless we are able to create a window through which we can see, or even better, travel  to the past.