A pair of golden sandals found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb that shows how Egyptian sandals were made

A pair of golden sandals found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb that shows how Egyptian sandals were made

During the ancient Egyptian period, people mostly traveled barefoot. It is believed that since the temperature in Egypt was very high throughout the year, people gave less importance to wearing footwear.

There is hardly any record to suggest that the Egyptians wore shoes or any other form of footwear.

The ancient Egyptians began wearing sandals during the early years of the New Kingdom rule.

The sandals used by these people were very simple and were made either by using straw, reeds or leather.

The wealthy people wore leather sandals and these lasted for a longer time than the sandals which were made using straw or reeds. The sandals were worn by all people belonging to all the classes except those who were extremely poor. 

The sandals were decorated by using beads, jewels; some also had buckles on the straps made from precious metals. For the most part, the ancient Egyptians walked without wearing sandals or shoes.

Sandals were worn by people on special events. The gold and wood sandals are known to have been made in the ancient Egyptian period.

For researchers, the wow-factor is in the craftsmanship. “The technology employed that’s the most wow thing for us, looking at the detailed, minute, skilled craftsmanship of the Ancient Egyptians is really mind-blowing,” Ikram explained.

“With some of Tutankhamun’s shoes, they used bits of gold, birch bark, bone and maybe even glass inlays to decorate and create luxurious and glamorous footwear.”

Studying how the Egyptians made such luxurious footwear, researchers discovered that the ancient Egyptians adapted and maintained traditional styles and technologies throughout millennia.

“It’s interesting to see that there are not too many advances in the technology, but we do see things that were established and then carried on,” Ikram noted. “For example, there’s skeuomorphism, that is something originally made in one material is translated into something of far more precious material.

Sometimes you have fancy footwear that looks like regular footwear, but it’s made out of gold or it has gold accents.”

During the Middle and New Kingdoms time, the sandals were commonly used. The use of covered shoes by the ancient Egyptians is not very well known. However, some records suggest that shoes were made by weaving palm fiber and grass.

In the Early Middle Kingdom, shoes were a modification of sandals. Shoes had straps between the toes and were joined to the sides at the heel. It also had a leather cover which protected the feet.

The Hittites settled in Anatolian highlands wore shoes with turned up toes. The Egyptians during the New Kingdom period are said to be influenced by the Hittites and began using shoes.


The Story of Yule – How Vikings Did Christmas

Many pre-industrial cultures marked and celebrated the winter and summer solstices (as well as the autumnal and spring equinoxes). This was done both as a way of marking time, and to honor or recognize the gods.

The winter solstice played a very important role in pre-Christian cultures throughout Europe, especially in Scandinavia, where winter makes the days short and the nights very long.

Ceremony of the Yule log in Haute Provence, late-19th century engraving.

Winter solstice festivals in Viking Age Scandinavia (as well as before) were marked by many different rituals, many of which are still around today. The Old Norse festival was known as “Jol”, though it is spelled in other ways.

In modern English, the word is “Yule” and is synonymous with Christmas. Many etymologists, those brilliant people who study word origins and evolution, also believe that the word “jolly” in English has its roots in the Norse “Jol”, as does the French “Joli(e)” which originally meant “festive”. As you might already be able to tell, Norse society played a role in the construction of our Christmas celebrations.

An illustration of people collecting a Yule log from Chambers Book of Days (1832).

Though Christians celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th, most historians believe that the actual date of Jesus’ birth to have been the spring (though many Orthodox churches, especially Russia, celebrate Christmas on January 7th, due to the tradition of following the Gregorian calendar for religious holidays).

‘Christmas with the Yule Log’.

Why the discrepancy? Vikings. Well, and ancient Romans too. To make it easier to convert pagans, the Church first declared the Birth to have taken place during the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, making the transition to Christianity a bit less of a shock.

This also happened to be during the time when the people of Scandinavia celebrated Jol, the winter solstice, which marked the longest day of the year and the slow returning to light.

For Christians, Christmas begins the movement of mankind from Darkness into Light. There were twelve days of celebration for the solstice. There became “Twelve Days of Christmas”. During the Jol celebrations, various plants were used to celebrate the holiday or hold in remembrance events that took place among the Æsir and Vanir, the Norse gods.

The Æsir Against the Vanir (1882) by Karl Ehrenberg.

One of them was the sacrifice and eating of a boar – a sacrifice to Frey, who (along with his sister Freya) symbolized fertility, among other things. Many historians believe the tradition of the Christmas ham has its roots in this Scandinavian practice.

Holiday glazed sliced ham on the dinner table for Christmas.

Jol celebrations included a symbolic fire, which involved the burning of large logs on the central hearth of the longhouse. This symbolized the continuation of light despite the darkness outside, as well as providing warmth. Think of it – the so-called “Yule Log” one sometimes sees burning on obscure cable TV channels actually has its roots in the Viking longhouse.

Yule Goat – Julbock

The Yule Log pastry, often decorated with nuts, cream, or cheese (or all three) is also a symbol of the Yule fire, which before burning was inscribed with runes, and decorated with sprigs of other trees – particularly holly, which stayed green all year – another reminder of the coming of the light.

In the shadowy light of the longhouse and the Yule log, one could often find an evergreen tree, decorated with statues of the gods, runes, pieces of food or bright clothing.

Yule log pastry

In the corners of millions of houses throughout the Christian world (and sometimes even outside of it, in the case of Japan, for example), one finds the modern version of the Vikings’ tree – the Christmas tree, which remains green, reminding people that light will return.

In Norse mythology, a branch of mistletoe, thrown by the god Höđr at the prodding of Loki (the god of mischief), killed the most beautiful and blessed of the gods, Baldr, who was protected by a spell against all weapons – except the overlooked mistletoe.

Loki with a fishing net (per Reginsmál) as depicted on a 16th century Icelandic manuscript 

Some old Scandinavian traditions have it that Baldr’s mother, Frigga, would resurrect her son when her tears stained the red berries of the mistletoe white. Her tears would provide “the kiss of life”.

Incidentally, in recent years, some historians have put forth the notion that Christianity made relatively easy inroads into Denmark, Iceland, Sweden (and later Norway) because it was easy for Vikings to see that Christ’s resurrection was much like that of Baldr, the beautiful and blessed son of the “All-Father”.

Norse tradition had it that their gods frequently came down from Asgard and interacted with people, mostly in disguise. Donning one of those disguises was Odin, who, during the winter solstice, became what we would recognize as “Old Man Winter” — often riding his great eight-legged white steed Sleipnir, whose speed was so great that he could travel the earth in one night.

When the Vikings invaded Christian England in the early Middle Ages, the English turned Old Man Winter into “Father Christmas” aka “Santa Claus”.

Meet Italus, a 1,230-year-old pine tree from Italy who just became the oldest scientifically-dated tree in Europe.

A Heldreich’s pine in Italy is named Europe’s oldest tree at 1,230 years when King Charlemagne lived and the Vikings raided

If you’re looking for the world’s record-breaker when it comes to the oldest tree on the planet, experts say head to the Great Basin National Park in the United States and search for a bristlecone pine with an age determined to be a flabbergasting 5,065 years.

As for the oldest tree in Europe, travel to the south of Italy, in the Pollino National Park.

There a Heldreich’s pine or Pinus heldreichii, nicknamed Italus, has been rising on a mountainous ridge, some two hours’ drive from the city of Naples, for about 1,230 years.

The chances are that there could be older trees in Europe, but as of now, the spotlight is on Italus, which, after an in-depth scientific dating, has been recognized as the oldest tree on the Old Continent.

Rooted in an age-old forest, and still standing with its now whitened trunk, Italus seems to have far surpassed the expectations for its age.

Pinus heldreichii (Serra delle Ciavole). 

The analysis, which was meticulously carried by experts, combining several different methods, proved not only the extreme age of the pine but also that the tree has recently added new rings to its trunk.

To pin down the age of Italus, experts have faced a few challenges, however. As a co-author of the study, Alfredo Di Filippo, told the National Geographic, “The inner part of the wood was like dust—we never saw anything like it.”

Monte Pollino, southern Italy 

Di Filippo, who is a professor at the Italian Tuscia University, said there were at least 7.9 inches of wood missing, which equates to a substantial number of years. In fact, it was the part of the tree that contained the oldest of all rings that were gone.

Which is why the research team, led by Gianluca Piovesan, needed to consider several methods to work out the pine’s age. To see when the tree first started to sprout, the team used radiocarbon-dating on the roots that were exposed, then compared the tree-rings in its roots with those that were sampled from the trunk.

“By joining these two methods, we were able to establish the time frame much more precisely,” says Piovesan

Eventually, an accurate calculation was made that Italus has been in its place since around the year 789. The Pollino National Park was established quite recently in the tree’s long lifetime, in 1993.

The year in which scientists suggest the tree was born was an interesting one. It was the time when King Pepin of Italy captured Istria, when King Charlemagne came to the Baltic, and also just about the time when the first Vikings appeared in England, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

This happened only two years after the first Viking raid in Dorset, the first event of its kind on the British Isles. These are now distant events in history, and Italus, which researchers are confident is healthy enough to enter the 14th century of its life some 70 years from now, has been a silent observer of history ever since.

Heldreich’s pine

And not only history. According to National Geographic, the ancient arbor is also a silent observer and survivor of climate change. Italus would have endured the harsh winters, colder than now, that marked a significant portion of the medieval era, after which it continued its life through times of much warmer temperatures but also severe drought seasons.

An analysis of the tree rings from different periods indicate the tree formed very narrow rings for a couple of centuries, while wider rings are the product of the more recent decades, a signal that it is currently living in a more favorable environment, according to National Geographic.

Map 28. Pinus heldreichii distribution

As the team that worked on the case point out, undertaking research on ancient trees is important for providing scientific knowledge of how trees and forests as a whole may react to climate change in the present.

On being pronounced the oldest scientifically dated tree in Europe, Italus stole the title from another Heldreich’s pine; the previous record holder, named Adonis after the ancient Greek deity of beauty and desire, is rooted in Greece and 1,077 years old.

Its age was determined by scientists in 2016, a process that reportedly progressed much more easily than the latest effort for Italus. Northern Europe can take further pride in being the home of Old Tjikko, a Norway spruce aged some 9,560 years and counted as the oldest individual tree in the world.

The principal reason why this tree has such an unbelievable age is vegetative cloning; the same roots of Old Tjikko have produced new trunks for over nine millennia now. Scientists identified its age after carbon dating only its roots, as the most recently formed trunk is much younger.

Decorated Medieval Leather Found in Northern England

Decorated Medieval Leather Found in Northern England

ENGINEERS from Northern Powergrid have unearthed a highly decorated fragment of leather in York, thought to be from medieval times.
ENGINEERS from Northern Powergrid have unearthed a highly decorated fragment of leather in York, thought to be from medieval times.

The artifact, which features a dragon or other mythical beast design, was discovered on Aldwark as part of the electrical distribution firm’s £300,000 investment in York’s power network.

Mike Hammond, Northern Powergrid’s general manager for the North Yorkshire region, said: “To find a piece of York’s past as we invest in the city’s future is really exciting.

“We’ve been working closely with the York Archaeological Trust as part of our work to replace high voltage cable on Aldwark, Goodramgate, and Deansgate.

The first scheme of work to improve the reliability and resilience of the electricity network but were not expecting to unearth anything quite so interesting.

We are working with the York Archaeological Trust to ensure the restoration and conservation of the leather fragment, which looks like it could be straight out of Game of Thrones, with its medieval dragon design.”

Northern Powergrid has completed the first of four schemes in York two weeks ahead of schedule, which will see some two-and-a-half kilometers of high voltage underground cable replaced across the city center during 2018/19.

The second scheme of work, which will take place on Grosvenor Road, Bootham Crescent and Queen Anne’s Road, has been brought forward and started on Monday ahead of schedule.

Toby Kendall, project officer from York Archaeological Trust, added: “Good early communication with the team from Northern Powergrid and the contractors completing the excavations has allowed us to archaeologically monitor and record the works without causing any delays.

The incredibly well preserved, and fantastically decorated, leather fragment had probably been disturbed from its waterlogged, deeper, burial conditions when the sewers were first installed over 100 years ago.

The recovery of the artifact shows the value of observing the works underway, even though they have not directly disturbed the waterlogged archaeology lower down.”

Source: archaeology.org

Siberian Princess reveals her 2,500 year old tattoos

Siberian Princess reveals her 2,500-year-old tattoos

The intricate patterns of 2,500-year-old tattoos – some from the body of a Siberian ‘princess’ preserved in the permafrost – have been revealed in Russia. 

The remarkable body art includes mythological creatures and experts say the elaborate drawings were a sign of age and status for the ancient nomadic Pazyryk people, described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus.

But scientist Natalia Polosmak – who discovered the remains of ice-clad ‘Princess Ukok’ high in the Altai Mountains – is also struck about how little has changed in more than two millennia.

The Body of Princess Ukok, who died aged 25, had several tattoos on her body, including a deer with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. The tattoos have been perfectly preserved for 2,500 years.

‘I think we have not moved far from Pazyryks in how the tattoos are made,’ she told the Siberian Times ( SiberianTimes.com ). ‘It is still about a craving to make yourself as beautiful as possible.”For example, about the British. 

‘A lot of them go on holiday to Greece, and when I’ve been there I heard how Greeks were smiling and saying that a British man’s age can be easily understood by the number of tattoos on his body.  ‘I’m talking about the working class now.  And I noticed it, too. 

‘The older a person, the more tattoos are on his body.’ Dr. Polosmak added: ‘We can say that most likely there was  – and is – one place on the body for everyone to start putting the tattoos on, and it was a left shoulder. 

Researchers also found two warriors close to the Princess , and were able to reconstruct their tattoos. Here, one is shown with an animal covering the right side of his body, across his right shoulder and stretching from his chest to his back.

‘I can assume so because all the mummies we found with just one tattoo had it on their left shoulders.’ And nowadays this is the same place where people try to put the tattoos on, thousands of years on. 

‘I think its linked to the body composition – as the left shoulder is the place where it is noticeable most, where it looks the most beautiful. ‘Nothing changes with years, the body stays the same, and the person making a tattoo now is getting closer to his ancestors than he or she may realise.

‘The tattoo patterns are from the ancient ‘princess’ who died at around the age of 25 – and from two warriors found on an ancient permafrost burial site at Ukok Plateau some 2,500 meters above sea level close to Russia’s frontiers with modern-day  Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.

Princess Ukok’s hand with marked tattoos on her fingers. She was dug out of the ice 19 years ago, and is set to go on public display in the Altai Republic.

The reconstruction of the tattoos in the images shown here was released to coincide with the moving of the remains of the princess, dug out of the ice 19 years ago, to a permanent glass sarcophagus in the National Museum in Gorno-Altaisk, capital of the Altai Republic.  

Eventually, she will be displayed to tourists. Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, though experts are divided on whether she was a royal or a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman. 

Next to hear body was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold.  And a small container of cannabis, say some accounts, along with a stone plate on which were the burned seeds of coriander. 

‘Tattoos were used as a mean of personal identification – like a passport now if you like,’ said Dr. Polosmak. ‘The Pazyryks also believed the tattoos would be helpful in another life, making it easy for the people of the same family and culture to find each other after death.  

The tattoos of one of two warriors found on the ancient permafrost burial site at Ukok Plateau some 2,500 meters above sea level close to Russia’s frontiers with modern-day Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan
Tattoos are clearly visible on one of the warrior’s shoulders. The designs are similar to those found on the Princess.

‘Pazyryks repeated the same images of animals in other types of art, which is considered to be like a language of animal images, which represented their thoughts.’ The tattoos were ‘used to express some thoughts and to define one’s position both in society and in the world. The more tattoos were on the body, the longer it meant the person lived, and the higher was his position. 

‘For example, the body of one man, which was found earlier in the 20th century, had his entire body covered with tattoos, as you see on the picture of his torso,’ said Dr. Polosmak. ‘Our young woman – the princess – has only her two arms tattooed. So they signified both age and status.’

The Ukok plateau, Altai, Siberi, where Princess Ukok and two warriors were discovered. Their bodies were surrounded by six horses fully bridles, various offering of food and a pouch of cannabis.

The Siberian Times said: “The tattoos on the left shoulder of the ‘princess’  show a mythological animal – a deer with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. ‘The antlers are decorated with the heads of griffons. ‘And the same griffon’s head is shown on the back of the animal.

The mouth of a spotted panther with a long tail is seen at the legs of a sheep. ‘She also has a dear’s head on her wrist, with big antlers. ‘There is a drawing on the animal’s body on a thumb on her left hand.  ‘On the man found close to the ‘princess’, the tattoos include the same fantastical creature, this time covering the right side of his body, across his right shoulder and stretching from his chest to his back. 

‘The patterns mirror the tattoos on a much more elaborately covered male body dug from the ice in 1929 whose highly decorated torso in reconstructed in our drawing here. 

‘His chest, arms, part of the back and the lower leg are covered with tattoos. There is an argali – a mountain sheep – along with the same dear with griffon’s vulture-like beak, with horns and the back of its head which has griffon’s head and an onager, is drawn on it.’