Archive for the ‘History’ Category
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which regulates cosmetics in the United States defines cosmetics as: “intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting the body’s structure or functions.” Interestingly, the definition of cosmetics really hasn’t changed much since its first usage in Egypt around 3500 BC, but (luckily) the ingredients certainly have.
Besides the Egyptians, the ancient Greeks and Romans also used cosmetics. The Romans and Ancient Egyptians used cosmetics containing poisonous mercury and often lead. The ancient kingdom of Israel was influenced by cosmetics as recorded in the Old Testament—2 Kings 9:30 where Jezebel painted her eyelids—approximately 840 BC. The Biblical book of Esther describes various beauty treatments as well. Women have used burnt matches to darken their eyes, berries to stain their lips and young boys’ urine to fade their freckles. They even swallowed ox blood in some misguided attempt to improve their complexions.
However, they have also put their health at risk with many of their homemade cosmetics. In some cultures, for example, women used arsenic, lead, mercury, and even leeches to give themselves the pale appearance deemed beautiful in the old days. A popular fad for women during the Middle Ages was to have a pale-skinned complexion, which was achieved through either applying pastes of lead, chalk, or flour, or by bloodletting. Women would also put white lead pigment that was known as “ceruse” on their faces to appear to have pale skin. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way from the days of using toxic and deadly mixtures to enhance our looks. But it makes you wonder if all of the products we slather on our faces on a daily basis are as benign as we think they are.
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Fondue. Watches. Chocolate. Army Knives. Ricola. Neutrality. Chocolate. Banking. Chocolate. This is pretty impressive for a tiny, landlocked country that is dwarfed by its larger and more densely populated neighbors. Despite these relative disadvantages, Switzerland has managed to become one of the world’s wealthiest countries, largely through its banking industry. This can partially be attributed to its central geographical position in Europe, as well as its unwavering position of studious neutrality, which has given it the access and political stability to inspire trust in the banking industry. However, there is another reason that Swiss banking has been so successful-namely, its strict adherence to bank secrecy for its account holders.
Swiss bank secrecy has had a long history in Switzerland, dating back over 300 years. It all started when French kings began to safeguard their loot by stashing it in nearby Switzerland. Unsurprisingly, these regents demanded absolute secrecy and possessed the volume of funds to request pretty much anything they wanted. Plus, kings could always afford to pay back their loans. Thus began Switzerland’s long reputation as a safe haven for funds for noblemen fleeing the Revolution and others seeking financial asylum.
The protections afforded under Swiss law are similar to confidentiality protections between doctors and patients or lawyers and their clients. But with secrecy comes abuse, and the country has come under fire for enabling dictators, tax evasion, criminals and money laundering, to name a few.
The most damning allegations stem from its actions towards Jewish account holders after World War II, and because the spoils that German Nazis plundered from defeated countries and their prisoners was held in Swiss banks. According to a report by Stuart Eizenstat on Nazi theft of Jewish assets, during WWII “between January 1939 and June 30, 1945, Germany transferred gold worth around $400 million ($3.9 billion in today’s values) to the Swiss National Bank in Bern.” It is believed that much of this gold was stolen from Jews and sent to Switzerland to be melted down and used to finance the war.
For better or for worse, a Swiss bank account no longer offers the ironclad protection it used to. Embarrassed by its image as the banker of choice for Third World tyrants and organized criminals, over the past decade Switzerland has introduced a raft of legislation designed to clean up its status as a financial haven, including anti-money-laundering laws that are among the toughest anywhere. Most recently, Switzerland put its money where its mouth is and froze all of Mubarak’s assets that were held in the country. Phew!
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Cashmere wool, usually simply known as cashmere, is a fiber obtained from Cashmere and other types of goats. Garments made of cashmere were once only available to royalty because the rarity of the wool increased its value. Napoleon is said to have popularized the use of cashmere as shawls or wraps when he gave his second wife, Empress Eugenie, seventeen of them. Victorian England prized the famous “ring shawls” woven in the Indian State of Kashmir.
Despite the glamour associated with cashmere, it hails from humble beginnings. Cashmere is the wool or fur of the Kashmir goat. Kashmir goats are primarily raised in Mongolia, but many are bred in Iran, Tibet, India and China. American herders have also joined the international cashmere production market in recent years.
Cashmere is harvested from the goats during their annual molting season through the shedding or the shearing of their down. In the frigid high desert climates where most of the goats are raised, the dense inner coat guards against harsh winter weather, but once seasons change, goats begin to lose the protective layer of down.
There are five primary steps to cashmere production:
• Sorting, scouring
• Weaving or knitting
The finest cashmere comes from the underbelly and throat of the goats, but a lesser grade is also taken from the goats’ legs and backs. Longer fibers from the belly and throat area make the wool especially soft and cause less “pilling” when the fibers are woven into garments such as sweaters, shawls, capes, dresses, and coats for both men and women. The shorter fibers from the backs and legs are heavier and less expensive, making it easier to afford a luxury garment. Cashmere comes naturally in white, gray and brown, but the wool is easily dyed, which explains all of those Ann Taylor cardigans in assorted Easter egg colors.
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Labyrinth is a word of pre-Greek (“Pelasgian”) origin absorbed by classical Greek, and is apparently related to labrys, a word for the archaic iconic “double axe”, with inthos connoting “place” (as in “Corinth”). In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos. Its function was to hold the Minotaur, a creature that was half man and half bull and was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus. Daedalus had made the Labyrinth so cunningly that he himself could barely escape it after he built it. Theseus was aided by Ariadne, who provided him with a skein of thread, literally the “clew”, or “clue”, so he could find his way out again.
THE earliest structure of any kind to which we find the word labyrinth applied was a huge building situated in the North of Egypt, a land always noted for its stupendous monuments, and was probably constructed more than 2000 years before the commencement of the Christian era. The Hopi Indians of North America had a symbol for Mother Earth known today as the “Classical Seven-Path Labyrinth.” It was this symbol of the Mother which identified the sacred in nature – the spiriling form found throughout nature. Labyrinths were woven into objects to personify man’s connection to his source and were often placed at sacred places in nature to remind him of this union. When one walks the labyrinth it is in recreating this very ancient expression of thanks and remembrance of the divine in all things.
In colloquial English, labyrinth is generally synonymous with maze, but many contemporary scholars observe a distinction between the two: maze refers to a complex branching (multicursal) puzzle with choices of path and direction; while a single-path (unicursal) labyrinth has only a single, non-branching path, which leads to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not designed to be difficult to navigate.
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Beer is the most widely consumed, and probably the oldest, alcoholic beverage in the world. Although we are not sure exactly when beer was first invented, we do know that it was one of the earliest products made as man began converting from nomadic lifestyles to agriculture.
The earliest evidence of beer comes to us through an ancient Sumerian tablet about 6,000 years old. The tablet depicts a group of individuals drinking beer from a communal bowl (and having a great time while they were at it). However, in ancient times beer was not nearly as tasty as it is today, and straws were frequently used to keep from tasting the bitter and acrid brewing residue.
Amazingly, some of humanity’s earliest known writings refer to the production and distribution of beer: the Code of Hammurabi included laws regulating beer and beer parlors. Hammurabi set up a daily beer ration for the people of Babylon: 2 liters for workers, 3 for civil servants and 5 liters for administrators and high priest. The Code also prescribed harsh punishment for tavern keepers who attempted to cheat their customers.
One of the earliest beer-making recipes now known dates from about the same time: “The Hymn to Ninkasi”, a prayer to the Mesopotamian goddess of brewing, served as both a prayer and also provide the earliest recipe for beer.
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Known as “The Heretic Pharaoh”, Akhenaten not only led a reform on the Ancient Egyptian religion, he also revolutionized Egyptian art. He broke the conventions of Egyptian art by showing himself in warm family scenes with his wife and children, in a much more human and naturalistic manner than any of his predecessors had. Unlike most pharaohs, Akhenaten portrayed himself less like a god and more like a human.
The most peculiar result of this art reform, however, was the portrayal of the physical characteristics of the pharaoh himself. In sculptures and paintings of Akhenaten, he is shown as having a long, slender neck, a long face with a sharp chin, narrow, almond-shaped eyes, full lips, long arms and fingers, rounded thighs and buttocks, a soft belly, and enlarged breasts. His odd appearance was particularly prominent in art from the early part of the reign. One early statue portrays the king in the nude and without genitalia of any kind. He looked more feminine then masculine.
These features have puzzled archaeologists since Akhenaten was first discovered in the early nineteenth century, and people have offered many explanations as to why he looked this way.
One of the early theories was that Akhenaten was actually a woman disguised as a man, and was following in Queen Hatshepsut’s footsteps, but this idea has been abandoned. The theory that is most in favor at this time is that Akhenaten suffered from some kind of illness or syndrome, which caused his odd appearance.
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The famous Sun Dagger site, on Fajada Butte was discovered and named by Anna Sofaer in 1977.
This phenomenon consists of a dynamic interplay of solstice and equinox sunlight on rock petroglyphs resulting in a solar calendar. Fajada Butte, large butte standing 135m(443 feet) above the ground at the south entrance to the Chaco Canyon, has a series of parallel sandstone slabs reaching 3 meters in height, which serve as the stage for this performance of light on art. On the rock cliff face is carved a large spiral petroglyph, and next to it on the left is a smaller one which some consider a coiled snake petroglyph.
During the period 900-1130 AD, the Chacoan culture built numerous multistoried buildings and extensive roads throughout the 80,000 sq km of the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico. Chaco Canyon was the center of the culture. Recent archaeological interpretations suggest that several of the large central buildings, including Pueblo Bonito, were used primarily for ceremony and that Chaco Canyon served as a ceremonial center for outlying Chacoan communities.
Its secret was lost around 1250 AD, when the ancient people abandoned Chaco Canyon. Then in 1979, an artist was studying petroglyph art at Chaco when she noticed that a slender beam of sunlight passing between two rock monoliths bisected the center of a spiral-shaped symbol on the exact day of the summer solstice.
At the summer solstice, the center of the large spiral is bisected by a vertical shaft. The process is as such:
- 11am Local Solar Time (lst)- Light spot appears above spiral, lengthening downwards into a narrow downward pointing dagger shape of light.
- 11.05 am lst – The dagger grows and moves down as the sun moves up.
- 11.15am lst – The dagger bisects the upper half of the spiral sharply. The overhang above the petroglyphs casts a shadow on the slabs forming a defined dagger shape.
- 11.18am lst – The dagger is now moving down the lower half of the spiral without changing shape.
- 11.20am lst – The light dagger has slipped off the cliff face.
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