Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Walnuts, An Ancient Symbol of Both Fertility and Infertility

"In the days when it was common for poor folk to eat acorns (glans in Latin), walnuts were called Jovis glans, the nuts of Jove (Jupiter), king of the gods. Later, they came to be known as Juglans regia, or royal nut, and that remains its botanical name. In Roman times they were also known as Persian nuts for they may have been introduced to the empire by way of Persia. "

"In classical times, when it was believed that the shape of a particular food denoted its usefulness, walnuts were considered fodder for the brain. The green husk was likened to the human scalp; the hard nut shell to the skull; the papery partitions to the membrane; and the nutmeat to the two hemispheres of the brain, explained Waverly Root in "Food" (Konecky & Konecky, 1980). "

"According to Roman lore, the gods feasted on walnuts while their lowly subjects subsisted on lesser nuts such as acorns, beechnuts, and chestnuts. Walnuts were thrown to Roman wedding guests by the groom to bring good health, to ward off disease and increase fertility. Young boys eagerly scrambled for the tossed walnuts, as the groom's gesture indicated his passage into manhood. In Rome, the walnut was thought to enhance fertility, yet in Romania, a bride would place one roasted walnut in her bodice for every year she wished to remain childless. "

"Early cultivation spanned from southeastern Europe to Asia Minor to the Himalayas. Greek usage of walnut oil dates back to the fourth century B.C., nearly a century before the Romans."

"To the ancient Greeks, walnuts were karyon basilikon or persikon -- royal or Persian walnut, noted Alan Davidson in "The Oxford Companion to Food" (Oxford University Press, 1999). But he leaves out a delightful tale related in "The Walnut Cookbook": In Greek mythology, Dionysus, the god of wine, fell in love with a maiden named Carya. When she died suddenly, he transformed her into a walnut tree. (There's that wine and walnuts connection again.) "The goddess Artemis carried the news to Carya's father and commanded that a temple be built in her memory. Its columns, sculpted in wood in the form of young women, were called caryatides, or nymphs of the walnut tree -- so the tree furnished the image for a famous Greek architectural form," wrote Toussaint."

See also: Walnuts

Monday, November 17, 2003

Iceni Torq unearted in Norfolk

"An Iron Age torc has been unearthed in a Norfolk field. Norfolk Museums Service expert Dr John Davies said the item dated back to the Iceni tribe, probably a generation before Iceni leader Boudicca lived.

A report by Dr JD Hill of the British Museum revealed that the item, which was made between 200 and 50 BC , survived more than 2000 years intact before suffering recent minor damage from agricultural machinery.

Dr Davies said the electrum torc would have belonged to a prestigious figure in Iron Age Norfolk and Boudicca would have worn similar jewellery."

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Etruscan Art Featuring Demons Indicate Shift in Religious Beliefs

"Etruscan art, made of strange demons and monsters, is emerging in a Tuscan village, in what could be one of the most important discoveries of recent times, according to scholars who have seen the paintings."

"Lurking on the left wall of a 4th century B.C. tomb, the exceptionally preserved monsters have been unearthed during the ongoing excavation of the Pianacce necropolis in Sarteano, a village 50 miles from Siena, Italy."

Vividly colored, the scenes in the tomb reflect a sinister change in the Etruscan concept of death. A fun loving and sensuous people, on the verge of decline they adopted the Greek vision of a demon-infested underworld.

"The figure with red hair is surely a death demon of some kind. This is confirmed by the black figure at her side, used by the Etruscans to characterize demons," chief archaeologist Mario Iozzo, director of the Center for Conservation in Florence and Chiusi's Archaeological Museum, told Discovery News.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Researcher says aqueduct mineral deposits indicate Rome fell 500 years later than believed

Bruce Fouke, a University of Illinois professor studying the interaction of microbes and minerals speculates that the deposits in Roman aqueducts indicate the Empire fell about 500 years later than generally believed.

" When Rome thrived, the Romans gave the aqueduct system a regular cleaning. After the empire began the slip, the maintenance lapsed, and mineral deposits, deposits not unlike those at Yellowstone, built up. Think of the ring that develops in your bathtub if you get lax about scrubbing it."
Fouke, Hostetter and UI geology Professor Craig Lundstrom have been working on dating those deposits, using Lundstrom's expertise in tracing the decay of uranium into thorium, to find out when the water stopped flowing.
"We might be able to start saying some pretty interesting things about the collapse of Rome," Hostetter said.
They might be able to say Rome's collapse, as reflected in the state of its aqueducts, actually happened about 500 years later than believed, a significant revision of the historical record.