Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Finding a Place to Stay When on Holiday

Many people would love nothing more than to spend an adventure abroad. Fear of language barriers, custom differences, and finding a place to stay, however, often keep the would be traveler at home. If you're willing to try something a little more daring than the local Mariott or Holiday Inn, sometimes finding what you want can be a frustrating experience. So here are a few websites that I use to find bed and breakfasts and apartments that I've stayed at in Europe.
This site lists hotels, bed & breakfasts and apartments around the world. If you're looking for somewhere a little more authentic to stay than the local Mariott or Holiday Inn, this is your site. You can browse the reviews or post your own once you've gone on your trip.

This site specializes in hotels and guest houses in the UK, however offers the ability to find them worldwide. Contact information for the properties are listed and you can press a single button to send an email to the owner.

This site is a brand and was founded in Cambridge, England to be a site specializing in hotel reservations catering to those from Europe. Availability is shown up-to-the-minute, and the reviews and ratings are particularly helpful.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Traditional Cretan Dancing: The Pentozalis

One of the most enjoyable things about having a blog is finding new topics to learn about and then share. Archaeology Magazine's website directed me to this video on YouTube showing The Labrys Dance Group performing the Pentozalis, a traditional war dance done on Crete. It is believed that this danced descended from a much earlier Minoan or Kourite version where the dancers were protecting Zeus from his father Cronus.

The dance is traditionally high-spirited and involves very timed rhythmic movements accompanied by jumping. Men and women both perform this dance, though men are able to move much more freely in trousers and thus handle the more high-energy portions of the dance.

View The Labrys Dance Group's presentation of the Pentozalis here.

View information on the Pentozalis and other traditional Cretan dances on the Cretan Music website here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Alexander the...Sexy?

Alexander the Great has now become Alexander the Sexy, according to a new find in Israel this week which shows a young, virile Alexander portrait carved into a brilliant red gemstone. This gemstone is a rare find, for while Alexander used his image as a marketing tool, the gemstones have habitually popped up at auctions and in people's "junk" collections, making their authenticity questionable.

Read about the exciting new find courtesy of Discovery News here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pirates: Go On and Talk Like Them Today

September 19th was dubbed "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" by an enterprising couple of louts (John Baur and Mark Summers) playing racquetball one sunny afternoon who eventually enlisted the help of syndicated columnist Dave Barry. But what were Ancient Roman pirates like? Who did they target?

The much quoted Piracy Law of Ancient Rome was a 100BC document in the form of a tablet inscription at Delphi. It reads that Roman citizens should be able to "conduct, without peril, whatever business they desire". This was sent to Rome's allies (notably Egypt, Cyprus, and the like) with the order that pirates shall not use those countries as a home base. There were many attempts to reduce the number of pirates on the Mediterranean, but many were half-hearted and most met with only a limited amount of success. Even if the Senate managed to calm piratical activity, during the many wars that Rome embroiled herself in, pirates became bolder and more numerous.

Read more about Ancient Roman pirates as well as tidbits of pirate history on the Pirates! website here.

As a side note, if any of you have access to Minerva - The International Review of Art and Archaeology, try to pick up a back issue of the May/June 2009. They did an excellent review of ancient piracy, complete with comparing it to the Somalian pirates of today.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

King Tut's Tomb - Closed Forever?

I should have seen this article a few weeks ago when it came out on Discovery News. When visiting the Valley of the Kings we were told that only a handful of tombs were ever open to the public at any given time. Going into King Tut's tomb in particular is an additional fee that you pay when going through the gates. However, due to the humidity and fungus eating away at the carvings and decorations, these tombs are scheduled to be closed.

When, you ask? That has yet to be determined. Currently experts are using laser technology in order to build replicas that would be open to tourists. So if you've always wanted to step inside the cursed chambers of King Tut, you had better head to Egypt quickly.

See the entire article here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon by Stephen R. Wilk

Stephen R. Wilk set out with a daunting task, to solve the mystery of the gorgon: how it has been portrayed through the centuries and across cultures, to more importantly, where the myth originated. The structure of this book makes it an easy read, even for those without knowledge of Greek mythology. Wilk begins with a retelling of the myth of Perseus and Medusa as it is commonly known today and then delves deeply into multiple cultures around the world to present parallels. One of the most entertaining portions of this book is his discussion of the current theories surrounding the gorgon (including the belief that the gorgon was an octopus). I had no idea that so many theories existed, much less how diverse they were. Wilk patiently discusses them, and respectfully talks about which points he agrees with, and which points he does not, taking the time to point out why. From there, he leads the reader through enough astronomy to make anyone who has a telescope immediately toss it in their front yard. He also includes a treatise on ancient building techniques, including the history of gargoyles, before finally landing at his hypothesis. Since this book functions as a non-fiction detective novel, I do not wish to spoil his hypothesis, but I will offer that regardless of whether or not you believe with Wilk's conclusion, he offers enough supporting evidence to make it an entirely believable and acceptable. He then takes time to visit Medusa today by taking a brief foray into Medusa's rise to a figure of female rage and power, and movies/comics/pop culture. For a book which took a glimpse into many facets of the gorgon and Medusa myth, he then brilliantly wraps-up his book as well as twenty years of his love and research in a single chapter entitled "Synthesis".

A must for those interested in mythology, astronomy, or those interested in comparative ancient history.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Joy of Ligurian Farinata

Liguria, home of pesto and Christopher Columbus. Home of one of the largest aquariums in the world. Home to some of the most sparkling blue-green water I have ever laid my eyes upon. But most importantly home to farinata, a cross between a pancake and a pizza made predominantly of chickpea flour. Farinata can have many toppings, but the most common are pesto, rosemary, and fresh ground pepper. After tasting this delicious food while walking the cliff-side paths of Cinque Terre, I tried making it for myself. Simple to make, it's a nice accompaniment to any Italian meal, and also delicious served up as a snack. Try my recipe below and try substituting olives, rosemary or your other favorite ingredients.

Sun-Dried Tomato Farinata
1 cup chickpea flour (ceci or garbanzo bean flour are other names for this ingredient)
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
2 Tablespoons + 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes

1. Combine the chickpea flour and water. Whisk until smooth.
2. Add salt, olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes. Stir.
3. Cover and let sit one hour.
4. Oil a 12-inch pizza pan and preheat the oven to 425 F with the pan inside.
5. When the oven is ready, remove the pan, and spread the batter onto the pan in an even layer.
6. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Archaeology News Tid Bits - September 1-8, 2009

The past few days have yielded a large amount of impressive discoveries for the human race, from a double-edged stone axe in Spain, to a Colossal Apollo statue in Turkey. Since most of us only have a few minutes to search the web, here's a few links to some of the highlights.

Colossal Apollo Statue Unearthed in Turkey from Discovery News
Colossal statues are rare indeed; only a dozen exist to our knowledge, and now we have a new one to add to our collection.

Fossil Find in Georgia Challenges Theories on Early Humans from
Early humans may have taken a quick jaunt into Eurasia before traveling to Africa.

Giant Statues Give up Hat Secret from BBC News
Anyone loving the mysterious statues from Easter Island should appreciate that the statues were an ancient equivalent of the red hat society...

Europe's Oldest Stone Hand Axes Emerge in Spain from ScienceNews
Although arguments ensue as to the actual age of these hand axes, it is agreed that these hand axes may be the oldest ever found in Europe.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Taking Ancient History Too Far

I am certainly the last person to rebuff someone for having hobbies that are a tad bit eccentric. Historians and history buffs beware, however, before you take your hobbies a bit too far.

Read the story as reported by Tom Phillips for on Friday below or click here.

History buff fires cannonball into neighbour's house
By TOM PHILLIPS - Friday, September 4, 2009
A Pennsylvania history buff who recreates firearms from old wars accidentally fired a two-pound cannonball through the wall of his neighbour's home.

Fifty-four-year-old William Maser fired a cannonball on Wednesday evening outside his Uniontown home - which then ricocheted and hit a house 400 yards away.

The cannonball, about two inches in diameter, smashed through a window and a wall before landing in a closet. Authorities say nobody was hurt.

State police charged Maser with reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.

Maser told local news station WPXI-TV that recreating 19th century cannons is a longtime hobby of his. He added that he is sorry, and he will now stop shooting the cannons on his property.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Irish Butter: An Ancient Food Source

Ah, Irish butter. Rich and creamy (and loaded with calories), there are few substitutes as a toast topper for your breakfast. Apparently the ancients thought so too, and a recent article in Discovery News may put an end to the age-old question of how butter should be stored, and should it be refrigerated, or merely buried in the local peat bog?

A 3000 year old oak barrel has been discovered in Ireland containing what appears to be fairly well-preserved iron age butter. Found buried in a peat bog by peat farmers John Fitzharris and Martin Lane, the butter has since turned to what could only be described as a white wax. When asked what to do with the barrel, the two men told reporters:

"It's a national treasure. You can't be going hacking bits of it off for your toast."

Read the entire article here.