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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Ancient History:

The Louvre Doll
The Louvre Doll is a 4th century clay figure impaled with thirteen bronze needles. It was discovered within a terracotta vase alongside a lead curse tablet engraved with a binding spell - a type of curse in which usually someone has asked the gods to do harm to another. The figure, with its hands bound behind its back, represents the intended target.

The Louvre Doll

The Louvre Doll is a 4th century clay figure impaled with thirteen bronze needles. It was discovered within a terracotta vase alongside a lead curse tablet engraved with a binding spell - a type of curse in which usually someone has asked the gods to do harm to another. The figure, with its hands bound behind its back, represents the intended target.

(Source: commons.wikimedia.org)

Baby Brothel Burials

In 1912 a group of archeologists were somewhat perturbed when, whilst excavating an Ancient Roman villa in Buckinghamshire, they uncovered the remains of some 97 infants. By measuring the bones of the skeletons it was determined that each had died at around 40 weeks gestation, that is, shortly after birth, suggesting systematic infanticide, as opposed to disease, which would have effected the children at different ages. Meticulous records from the dig, maintained by naturalist and archaeologist Alfred Heneage Cocks, show how the remains were found under walls and close together under courtyards. No other site has ever been found which yielded this quantity of infant skeletons.

These curious circumstances lead towards one plausible yet unfortunate conclusion: the babies were the unwanted children of prostitutes, and the building in which they were found was an Ancient Roman brothel. With no effective contraception, unwanted pregnancies were inevitable and frequent in the Roman era, whilst evidence suggests that children were not considered to be ‘full’ human beings until the age of two and, as such, were not buried in cemeteries. 

[Sources: BBC News | Thanks to Vintage-Royalty]

Butter Sculptures

Butter sculptures often depict animals, people, buildings and other objects. They are best known as attractions at state fairs in the United States as lifesize cows and people, but can also be found on banquet tables and even small decorative butter pats. 

The history of carving food into sculptured objects is ancient. Archaeologists have found bread and pudding moulds of animal and human shapes at sites from Babylon to Roman Britain. During the Renaissance and Baroque periods moulding food was commonly done for wealthy banquets. It was during this period that the earliest known reference to a butter sculpture is found. In 1536 Bartolomeo Scappi, cook to Pope Pius V, organised a feast composed of nine scenes elaborately carved out of food, each carried in episodically as centerpieces for a banquet. 

The earliest butter sculpture as public art and not a banquet centerpiece can be traced to the 1876 when Caroline Shawk Brooks [Image Four], a farm woman from Arkansas, displayed her Dreaming Iolanthe, a bust of a woman modeled in butter [Image One]. The heyday of butter sculpting was from about 1890 to 1930. During this period refrigeration became widely available, and the American dairy industry began promoting butter sculpture as a way to compete against synthetic butter substitutes like margarine. Image Two depicts a 1925 butter sculpture of Edward VIII when Prince of Wales, about which you can read more here.

[Thanks to Vintage-Royalty]

(Source: Wikipedia)

Tintinnabulum
In ancient Rome, a tintinnabulum was a wind chime or assemblage of bells. A tintinnabulum often took the form of a bronze phallic figure with wings, or fascinum, a magico-religious phallus thought to ward off the evil eye and bring good fortune and prosperity. It was hung outdoors in locations such as gardens, porticoes, houses, and shops, where the wind would cause them to tinkle. The sounds of bells were believed to keep away evil spirits [From Wikipedia].

Tintinnabulum

In ancient Rome, a tintinnabulum was a wind chime or assemblage of bells. A tintinnabulum often took the form of a bronze phallic figure with wings, or fascinum, a magico-religious phallus thought to ward off the evil eye and bring good fortune and prosperity. It was hung outdoors in locations such as gardens, porticoes, houses, and shops, where the wind would cause them to tinkle. The sounds of bells were believed to keep away evil spirits [From Wikipedia].

(Source: revoada.net)

Relic of the tooth of the Buddha
The Relic of the tooth of Buddha is venerated in Sri Lanka as a relic of the founder of Buddhism having come to be regarded as a symbolic representation of the living Buddha. According to legend, when Buddha died in BC 543, his body was cremated in India and his left canine tooth was retrieved from the pyre and given to King Brahmadatte for veneration.
A belief grew that whoever possessed the Tooth had a divine right to rule. Wars were fought to take possession of it and 800 years after Buddha’s death it came into the possession of King Guhaseeva of Kalinga, who began to worship it. This caused discontent among his citizens who told King Paandu that Guhaseeva had stopped believing in god and had started worshipping a tooth. Paandu decided to destroy the relic, and ordered it to be brought to the city. It is said that, as the tooth arrived at the city Paandu miraculously converted to Buddhism.
When King Ksheeradara heard of this, he went with his army to attack Paandu. The invaders were defeated, and Ksheeradara died. Prince Dantha from the city of Udeni came to worship the sacred tooth. Guhaseeva was pleased with him, and let him marry his daughter, Hemamala. When Ksheeradara’s sons heard their father had died in war, they raised a large army to attack Guhaseeva and destroy the relic. They entered the city, but King Guhaseeva secretly sent away Dantha and Hemamala with the relic.
Hemamala hid the relic in her hair ornament and the couple disguised themselves to avoid discovery. They set sail for Sri Lanka as it is said that Sri Lanka was chosen as the new home for the tooth relic because the Lord Buddha had declared that his religion would be safe in Sri Lanka for 5000 years.
At the time, King Kithsirimevan ruled and was overjoyed when he heard the news and warmly welcomed the couple and received the Sacred Tooth Relic with great veneration. He built a beautiful palace within the royal palace itself and enshrined the relic in it. As time went on the land was threatened with invasions and the capital was moved numerous times, and with change a new palace was built to enshrine the relic. Finally, it was brought to Kandy where it is at present, in the Temple of the Tooth.

Relic of the tooth of the Buddha

The Relic of the tooth of Buddha is venerated in Sri Lanka as a relic of the founder of Buddhism having come to be regarded as a symbolic representation of the living Buddha. According to legend, when Buddha died in BC 543, his body was cremated in India and his left canine tooth was retrieved from the pyre and given to King Brahmadatte for veneration.

A belief grew that whoever possessed the Tooth had a divine right to rule. Wars were fought to take possession of it and 800 years after Buddha’s death it came into the possession of King Guhaseeva of Kalinga, who began to worship it. This caused discontent among his citizens who told King Paandu that Guhaseeva had stopped believing in god and had started worshipping a tooth. Paandu decided to destroy the relic, and ordered it to be brought to the city. It is said that, as the tooth arrived at the city Paandu miraculously converted to Buddhism.

When King Ksheeradara heard of this, he went with his army to attack Paandu. The invaders were defeated, and Ksheeradara died. Prince Dantha from the city of Udeni came to worship the sacred tooth. Guhaseeva was pleased with him, and let him marry his daughter, Hemamala. When Ksheeradara’s sons heard their father had died in war, they raised a large army to attack Guhaseeva and destroy the relic. They entered the city, but King Guhaseeva secretly sent away Dantha and Hemamala with the relic.

Hemamala hid the relic in her hair ornament and the couple disguised themselves to avoid discovery. They set sail for Sri Lanka as it is said that Sri Lanka was chosen as the new home for the tooth relic because the Lord Buddha had declared that his religion would be safe in Sri Lanka for 5000 years.

At the time, King Kithsirimevan ruled and was overjoyed when he heard the news and warmly welcomed the couple and received the Sacred Tooth Relic with great veneration. He built a beautiful palace within the royal palace itself and enshrined the relic in it. As time went on the land was threatened with invasions and the capital was moved numerous times, and with change a new palace was built to enshrine the relic. Finally, it was brought to Kandy where it is at present, in the Temple of the Tooth.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Ancient North Korean Unicorn Lair
North Korea[n] historians have allegedly announced that they have unearthed a unicorn lair. A report released by the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences claims that archaeologists discovered the lair of the mythical animal just outside a temple in the capital Pyongyang.
In what appears to be a suggestion of superiority over nearby enemies South Korea, the report says:

The discovery of the unicorn lair, associated with legend about King Tongmyong, proves that Pyongyang was a capital city of Ancient Korea as well as Koguryo Kingdom. A rectangular rock carved with words “Unicorn Lair” stands in front of the lair. The carved words are believed to date back to the period of Koryo Kingdom (918-1392). The temple served as a relief palace for King Tongmyong, in which there is the lair of his unicorn.

Jo Hui Sung, director of the Institute, told KCNA, the state news agency, that the findings is in keeping with the country’s history.

Ancient North Korean Unicorn Lair

North Korea[n] historians have allegedly announced that they have unearthed a unicorn lair. A report released by the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences claims that archaeologists discovered the lair of the mythical animal just outside a temple in the capital Pyongyang.

In what appears to be a suggestion of superiority over nearby enemies South Korea, the report says:

The discovery of the unicorn lair, associated with legend about King Tongmyong, proves that Pyongyang was a capital city of Ancient Korea as well as Koguryo Kingdom. A rectangular rock carved with words “Unicorn Lair” stands in front of the lair. The carved words are believed to date back to the period of Koryo Kingdom (918-1392). The temple served as a relief palace for King Tongmyong, in which there is the lair of his unicorn.

Jo Hui Sung, director of the Institute, told KCNA, the state news agency, that the findings is in keeping with the country’s history.

Flying Penis
Another oddment courtesy of the Romans:
This penis is made out of animal bone and has wings on it. Phallic symbols, including versions with wings, are commonly seen throughout the Roman Empire. [Source]
Apparently, these Roman genitalia carvings were meant to protect the possessor from evil. John Pearce, a lecturer in archaeology at King’s College London, analyzed some of the Roman artifacts [found along with this penis] and concluded:

"One theory is that those scenes that show sexual activity have an apotropaic power, because they make you laugh so that wards off the evil eye." [Source]





I’m no expert but I would have said they might have been fertility charms.

Flying Penis

Another oddment courtesy of the Romans:

This penis is made out of animal bone and has wings on it. Phallic symbols, including versions with wings, are commonly seen throughout the Roman Empire. [Source]

Apparently, these Roman genitalia carvings were meant to protect the possessor from evil. John Pearce, a lecturer in archaeology at King’s College London, analyzed some of the Roman artifacts [found along with this penis] and concluded:

"One theory is that those scenes that show sexual activity have an apotropaic power, because they make you laugh so that wards off the evil eye." [Source]
I’m no expert but I would have said they might have been fertility charms.
I keep seeing this fact about a female serial killer being raped by a giraffe as a punishment and finally decided to do some research on it. I've come up with this article by foghorn magazine until article "Why I shouldn't read books". Apparently not only is it true but there were people trained to do it AND Roman women actually volunteered to be raped by wild animals to make money for their families. but wasn't sure if you knew more about this? asked by uncannysaudade

Actually, this is the first I’ve heard about it but my God is it fascinating! I presume the female serial killer you refer to is Locusta:

Born around the first century C.E., Locusta grew up to become one of the preeminent poison masters in all of Rome. It is said that Empress Agrippina and Locusta conspired together to poison Claudius with a batch of poisoned mushrooms so that Agrippina’s son Nero could become the Emperor.After this Locusta came under Nero’s employ, helping to poison Britannicus, Claudius’s son by an earlier marriage. With Emperor Nero as one of her satisfied customers, Locusta enjoyed a growing reputation. The emperor lavished her with land, money, gifts, and a full pardon for all the poisonings she had been charged with over the years. There were many imperial referrals and more assignments. Locusta was very busy with her contract work in poisonings-for-hire, and even opened a school where she taught others her knowledge of herbs and toxins.

Locusta was riding high, until the Roman Senate decided to off Nero. It is said that Locusta had thoughtfully furnished Nero with a poison kit for himself when it was known that his end was near, but in the confusion of the moment, Nero left the kit behind. Before he could be brought before the Roman Senate to stand trial for his many “crimes,” Nero killed himself with his own dagger. However, this seems like a pleasant end when compared to Locusta’s own death. It is said that Locusta was publicly raped by a specially trained giraffe [some sources say llama], then torn apart by wild animals. [Source]

There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that this is true, and animals were commonly used as a method of execution in ancient Rome. As for women volunteering to have sex with animals, according the this website:

Bestiality was a common form of entertainment in the Roman arena - in the words of R. E. L. Masters in “The Prostitutes In Society”, mass bestiality, as public display in Rome, was “a phenomenon unique in all of history”. Beasts were specially trained to copulate with women: if the girls or women were unwilling then the animal would attempt rape. A surprising range of creatures was used for such purposes - bulls, giraffes, leopards, cheetahs, wild boar, zebras, stallions, jackasses, huge dogs, apes, etc. The beasts were taught how to copulate with a human being either via the vagina or via the anus. In the modern world occasional shows are staged where an animal copulates with a woman but there has never been anything comparable to what was seen in the Roman arena.

and certainly Roman civil law said nothing against bestiality. 

History is absolutely bonkers sometimes! Thanks for sharing this with me!

Crushed Skull
I was hanging about at the British Museum today when I happened upon this - the crushed skull of a guardian of the ‘King’s Grave’:

This skull comes from the ‘King’s Grave’ in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. The main tomb was in a rough stone chamber at the bottom of a large pit. The bodies of six soldiers wearing copper helmets and carrying spears lay at the foot of the ramp which descended to it, over eight metres below the modern surface. The helmets were broken and crushed flat by the weight of the soil which had been thrown back into the grave during the burial.
The soldiers were presumably intended to be the guardians of the tomb for eternity. If so, they failed in their duty because the central tomb had been robbed in antiquity. Including the six soldiers, sixty-three victims in total, most richly adorned, filled the floor of the pit.
The soldiers’ helmets closely resemble those worn by the soldiers on the Standard of Ur.

Crushed Skull

I was hanging about at the British Museum today when I happened upon this - the crushed skull of a guardian of the ‘King’s Grave’:

This skull comes from the ‘King’s Grave’ in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. The main tomb was in a rough stone chamber at the bottom of a large pit. The bodies of six soldiers wearing copper helmets and carrying spears lay at the foot of the ramp which descended to it, over eight metres below the modern surface. The helmets were broken and crushed flat by the weight of the soil which had been thrown back into the grave during the burial.

The soldiers were presumably intended to be the guardians of the tomb for eternity. If so, they failed in their duty because the central tomb had been robbed in antiquity. Including the six soldiers, sixty-three victims in total, most richly adorned, filled the floor of the pit.

The soldiers’ helmets closely resemble those worn by the soldiers on the Standard of Ur.

Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.

In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach,

Naked except for
The cap, noose and girdle,
I will stand a long time. - From ‘The Tollund Man' by Seamus Heaney.

Bog Bodies

Image One: Hanged with a leather cord and cast into a Danish bog 2,300 years ago, Tollund Man was probably a sacrifice. Like other bodies found preserved in Europe’s peat bogs, he poses haunting questions. How was he chosen? Who closed his eyes after death? And what god demanded his life?

Image Two: Oldcroghan Man was found without a head or legs at the foot of a hill that has marked a border in Ireland since ancient times. Today two townlands come together at that spot, west of Dublin. Two thousand years ago it served as the boundary of two kingdoms—the territories of Tuath Cruachain and Tuagh na Cille. Eamonn Kelly, keeper of Irish antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland, believes Oldcroghan Man was sacrificed to a fertility goddess at the inauguration of a new king, then dismembered and sown in pieces along the kingdom’s border to bring protection and prosperity. 

Image Three: Some 1,600 years after his death, “Red Franz” still has much of his hair and beard, though the bog waters have dyed it red. From deformities in his bones, it appears that he spent much of his life on horseback. Recent studies of his body, found a century ago in Germany, have determined that he survived an arrow wound and a broken shoulder and was killed when someone slit his throat.

Image Four: Mutilated by the iron rods of workers dredging peat from a Dutch bog, Yde Girl’s body offers clues to her death. The band of fabric around the 16-year-old’s throat suggests she was strangled. She may have been chosen for sacrifice because of a deformity revealed by a CT scan: a curvature in her spine.

(Source: National Geographic)

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