Thursday, 23 March 2017

Evolution of Lipstick

While there is no evidence, historians say it’s likely that lipstick, like humans themselves, evolved from prehistoric times when they started to smear plant juices on their faces for religious ceremonies — and perhaps just to make themselves more attractive to that cute Neanderthal next door.

As early as 2500 BC, and certainly by 1000 BC, Sumerian men and women in southern Mesopotamia invented and wore lipstick. They are thought to have crushed gemstones and used them to decorate their faces, mainly on the lips and around the eyes. Egyptians also adopted this fashion craze. According to records, they mixed a red dye extracted from seaweed with iodine and bromine mannite, which can be highly toxic. Over time a safer lipstick made from crushed carmine beetles and ants was used.
In ancient Greece only prostitutes were allowed to flaunt scarlet lip paint. This led to the first known law related to lipstick, which dictated that prostitutes could be punished for improperly posing as ladies if they appeared in public without their designated lip paint. In ancient Rome both genders used lipstick to distinguish social class and rank. Around 1000 AD famed physician and chemist Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi perfected a formula for solid lipsticks, and these perfumed sticks became the basis for today’s cosmetics.
For the next 1,000 years lipstick was both revered and despised. During the Middle Ages religious groups condemned makeup for “challenging God and his workmanship.” In the 1500s, English pastors denounced lip painting as “the devil’s work,” but that didn’t stop Queen Elizabeth I from using a mix of cochineal, gum Arabic, egg white and fig milk to produce crimson lips that became the rage. In 1770, Britain passed a law that condemned lipstick on the grounds that “women found guilty of seducing men into matrimony by cosmetic means could be tried for witchcraft.”
It wasn’t until the late 1800s that lipstick started coming out of the closet. Famed actress Sarah Berhardt shocked the world by daring to apply lipstick in public. By 1912, suffragettes marched down the streets of New York proudly wearing their bright red lipstick. Red lipstick became the 'it' symbol of female rebellion.

According to various studies and surveys, the average woman today will use 9 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime and nearly half say they own more than 20 at any given time. Lipstick had truly arrived.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Napoleon's Treasure

In October, 1812, Napoleon’s troops were leaving Moscow. Five weeks before that, they had been looting not only the citizens’ private houses but also the Kremlin and Moscow’s churches.

The French even removed the gilded cross from the Russian capital’s famous Ivan the Great Bell Tower. When leaving Moscow, each of Napoleon’s soldiers was loaded with stolen valuables.
October 25th 1812 became the first day of Napoleon troops’ genuine retreat. Over 14,000 mounted cavalry, nearly 90,000 boot-borne troops and some 12,000 non-combatant and ill soldiers passed through the Kaluga Gate - a total of 116,000 people and 569 hardware items.
Bonaparte ordered his troops to blow up the Kremlin in revenge for the three unsuccessful offers of peace to Russian Emperor Alexander I. As a result, several Kremlin towers were ruined, as well as some of its walls, the Arsenal’s building, the Assumption Belfry and the Filaret Annex next to the Ivan the Great Bell Tower.

The transportation of the emperor’s loot required 200 horse-drawn wagons. Napoleon had two wagon trains: the so-called “golden train,” carrying valuables looted from the Kremlin; and the iron train, full of ancient weaponry. As they retreated, Napoleon's exhausted army was forced to abandon their spoils.

Historians believe the valuables were thrown into one of the lakes west of the Smolensk Region.
Over the years there have been many attempts to find the abandoned loot.

The lakes around Smolensk in particular is among the most popular destination for seekers of the lost Napoleonic hoard.
Archaeologists excavated a mass grave in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2015. The jumbled bones, haphazardly oriented, were punctuated with finds of shoes and clothing. Buttons revealed the identity of the dead: over 40 different regiments were represented, all from Napoleon’s Grande Armée.

Archaeologists had found the final resting place of over three thousand men who perished during Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in 1812.
About 675,000 men of Napoleon's Grand Army set out for Moscow to conquer Russia in June 1812.

By the time of the retreat from Moscow, the army, which had swelled to 900,000, was reduced to 100,000.
When the retreating troops finally reached Vilnius in Lithuania, Napoleon's Grand Army was not so grand: they had been reduced to about 50,000 vermin-bitten, diseased, cold, and starving men.
As the European soldiers died of starvation, disease and the cold, locals burned the bodies. But the stench was so great that the locals started burying them en masse, using trenches the soldiers had dug on their way to Russia as graves.

In 2007 one of Napoleon's swords was sold for more than US$6.4 million. The sword, used in battle some 200 years ago, is believed to be the last of Napoleon's blades in private hands.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Gold hoard found stuffed in old piano

An old piano, made by Broadwood & Sons in London in 1906 contained far more than the new owners bargained for ... a hoard of gold coins dating from 1847 to 1915.


The oldest coin in the hoard dates back to 1847, and bears the face of Queen Victoria. The hoard's true value is unknown but is described as a 'life-changing sum of money’.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Ancient Egyptian statue exported from UK

A 4,000-year-old Egyptian statue, controversially sold by a local council for £15.76m, had been blocked from export by the government in the hope it could be kept in the UK.

The statue of Sekhemka, a limestone figure 75cm high, was given to Northampton Museum by the Marquess of Northampton in the late 19th century. There was outrage when Northampton borough council sold it at auction through Christie’s in London last year to an unidentified overseas buyer. It went for almost £10m more than the guide price, breaking the record for ancient Egyptian art at auction. The statue is now believed to be in the U.S.

The culture minister, Ed Vaizey, announced a four-month temporary export bar on the figure, which dates from c2400BC and is considered the finest example of its kind anywhere in the world and of “outstanding aesthetic importance”. Arts Council England said the ban would be extended for a year until March 2016 “if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the statue is made”.

The Sekhemka statue is a tomb model of a high official, wearing a short kilt and tight-fitting wig, surrounded by his wife, son and seven offering-bearers. He holds a papyrus on his knees on which are inscribed a list of offerings designed to serve the needs of the dead, including beer and cakes.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Sekhmet 'The Powerful One'

Archaeologists have discovered 66 fragments and statues of Sekhmet believed to have been warding off evil from Amenhotep III’s temple. Amenhotep III’s reign, between 1386 to 1349 BC, is regarded as the peak of Egypt’s prosperity, power and splendour.
A toppled black granite statue of Amenhotep III was also found at the site.
The statue of Amenhotep shows the king as a young man and is thought to have been commissioned during his reign. Pharoah Amenhotep III became a king at the age of 12, when he inherited an empire spanning from Euphrates to Sudan.

His temple is being preserved and rebuilt as part of a government approved renovation project which began in 1998.
Sekhmet, often called “the powerful one” is the daughter of Egyptian sun god Ra and was believed to ward off evil and ill health. Her influence was powerful on the Egyptians. Some statues depict her standing and holding the symbol of life – a sceptre made of papyrus.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Roman road unveiled beneath McDonald's restaurant

Two thousand years after legionaries tramped along its well-worn paving stones, an exceptionally well-preserved stretch of Roman road has been opened to the public – beneath a McDonald’s restaurant. The 150ft-long stretch of basalt road has been cleared, cleaned and made into a permanent attraction at Frattocchie, south of Rome.

Customers in search of a little cultural heritage along with their Big Macs and fries can descend underground and view the Roman road, as well as three ancient skeletons. The bodies are believed to have been buried in the period after the road was abandoned. The skeletons belong to three men, the oldest of whom was aged 35-40.

McDonalds customers view the Roman road, as well as three ancient skeletons that were found buried in the culverts either side of it.
The find came to light in 2014 when the area was being excavated for a new McDonald’s restaurant. Archaeologists were summoned and the US fast food chain contributed 300,000 euros to the three-year restoration of the site. Experts say the paved road connected with the Appian Way.

Named after the Roman official who conceived it, Appius Claudius Caecus, it became known as the “regina viarium” or queen of roads.

The stretch of road is about 150ft long and more than 7ft wide. It was built in the 2nd century BC but fell into disuse by the 3rd century AD and remained buried for more than 1,700 years.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Monster of Troy

A strange, menacing creature lurks on one of the ancient Greek vases in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The scene is painted on the vase ... a Corinthian black-figure krater dating to between 560 and 540 B.C. It is the oldest illustration of the ancient legend of the Monster of Troy.
In Greek myth, a terrible sea monster suddenly appears on the Trojan coast, where it causes great destruction. To appease the giant beast, the king of Troy, Laomedon, sends his daughter Hesione as a sacrifice. At the last moment Hercules arrives to slay the monster and rescue the princess.

The vase shows Hesione and Hercules fighting the monster. Hesione throws rocks from a pile at her feet. Hercules shoots a volley of arrows, one of which has hit the monster’s chin.
Some have suggested that the Monster of Troy resembles a Plesiosaur, a Mesozoic marine reptile. Plesiosaurs are amoung the largest marine apex predators in the fossil record.