Saturday, May 31, 2014

Congratulations Elise VanCise - Authorsdb Top 10

Elise VanCise, Author Author Details

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Elise VanCise
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Elise VanCise, freelance photojournalist and award winning author has been published in both print and digital media. Elise is a Florida Cracker, with a love for adventure and historic places.Elise is the NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for Lake County, Florida, Founder of Lake Writers of Lake County, Florida. A member of Authors in the Park, Marketing for Romance Writers, Coffee Time Romance,EPIC, She Writes, and The Book Marketing Network.

Hobbies include getting lost in a museum, watercolor painting, archery, and she still likes to color :)
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Rankings & Awards
Nature of Magic 2010 short story Winner. Featured Author for Lake County Festivals of Reading, Featured Author for Leesburg Library Author Showcase. Listed in Who's Who of women of Publishing and Writing. NaNoWriMo Winner every year since 2006. Awarded the Distinguished Service Award by then Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2000.
Elise VanCise, freelance photojournalist and award winning author has been published in both print and digital media. Elise is a Florida Cracker, with a love for adventure and historic places.Elise is the NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for Lake County, Florida, Founder of Lake Writers of Lake County, Florida. A member of Authors in the Park, Marketing for Romance Writers, Coffee Time Romance, She Writes, and The Book Marketing Network.
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Ancient Lyme Disease Bacteria Found in 15-Million-Year-Old Tick Fossils

By Megan Gannon
This tick trapped in ancient amber from the Dominican Republic is between 15 million and 20 million years old. Before it died, it was carrying the type of bacteria that causes Lyme disease
Photo by George Poinar, Jr

The oldest known evidence of Lyme disease may lie in ticks that were entombed in amber at least 15 million years ago, scientists announced.
The researchers investigated four fossilized ticks that had been trapped in chunks of amber found in the Dominican Republic. Inside the ticks' bodies, the scientists saw a large population of cells that looked like the squiggly shaped spirochete cells of the Borrelia genus — a type of bacteria that causes Lyme disease today.
Bacteria, which arose on the planet 3.6 billion years ago, rarely survive in the fossil record. But amber, the hardened resin from oozing trees, can preserve soft tissues and microscopic cells that would otherwise degrade over time. In recent years, scientists have discovered the 100-million-year-old gut microbes of a termite and 40-million-year-old sperm from an insect-like springtail, both trapped in amber. [Photos: Ancient Life Trapped in Amber]

The newfound bacteria species was dubbed Palaeoborrelia dominicana. The findings suggest illnesses like Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases may have been plaguing animals long before humans ever walked Earth.
Today, ticks are more significant disease-carrying insects than mosquitos in the United States, Europe and Asia, said entomologist George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus at Oregon State University, lead author of the study detailed in the journal Historical Biology last month.
"They can carry bacteria that cause a wide range of diseases, affect many different animal species, and often are not even understood or recognized by doctors," Poinar said in a statement. "It's likely that many ailments in human history for which doctors had no explanation have been caused by tick-borne disease."
Lyme disease, for example, wasn't formally recognized until the 1970s even though it affects thousands of people each year. In 2009, there were 30,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Humans acquire the disease when bitten by ticks that carry Borrelia bacteria. But because it has symptoms that overlap with many other disorders — including rash, aches, fatigue and fever — Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed.
The oldest documented case of Lyme disease in humans comes from the famous 5,300-year-old ice mummy dubbed Ötzi, discovered in the Eastern Alps about 20 years ago. In a 2012 study detailed in the journal Nature Communications, scientists said they found genetic material for the Borrelia bacteria in the iceman.
"Before he was frozen in the glacier, the iceman was probably already in misery from Lyme disease," Poinar said. "He had a lot of health problems and was really a mess." Follow on Bloglovin

In the Midst: Past Home #Writer's Prompt

In the Midst: Past Home #Writer's Prompt: Past Home Writer's Prompt  My childhood home came into view. I was half tempted to turn and run away, fast. I stood perfectl...

Past Home #Writer's Prompt

Past Home

Writer's Prompt 

My childhood home came into view. I was half tempted to turn and run away, fast.

I stood perfectly still looking at the walls that fashioned my past and, ultimately, who I was. Both good and bad memories rushed forward, leaving me breathless.  

The structure beckoned and I moved forward.

I circled around the tree, the swing long gone. The echoes of my cousins’ ghosts cried out, “Tag, you’re it!” And was that a scent of apple pie I smelled? It couldn’t be.

Up the front steps I go. The screen door hung crooked on its hinges. Without bothering to knock, I pushed opened the unlocked wooden door and stepped in.

“Hello, dear. I’ve been expecting you.” 

In that instant, the past I tried to run away from met me in the present, and stole my future.   

Author K. Meador is a mom to two grown sons who are currently pursuing their adult lives outside the home. For the past several years, she has traveled with her job and has now settled down in Oklahoma City area.

She enjoys photography, walking, and visiting with family and friends. 

Please leave a comment on this blog and share if you are so inclined.  

Author K. Meador has six books published which are available in paperback, eBook, and four are on audio.  Thank you. Your support is truly appreciated. Website
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ANYTHING GOES Brenda Perlin 05/30 by BennetPomerantz | Entertainment Podcasts

ANYTHING GOES Brenda Perlin 05/30 by BennetPomerantz | Entertainment Podcasts

Brenda Perlin is an independent adult contemporary fiction author. Brenda evokes emotional responses in her readers by using a provocatively unique writing style. Her latest book, Burnt Promises, captures the soul-wrenching conflicts of a personal struggle for emotional fulfillment.
Ever since Brenda was a child she has been fascinated with writing. She draws her biggest inspiration from Judy Blume. This sparked a passion in Brenda to pursue personal expression through writing. Once she was old enough to go to coffee shops alone, Brenda recalls losing herself in the world of writing, all while documenting her ideas on paper napkins.
"There is really no creative process, I just write," - Brenda Perlin
Brenda's first book, Shattered Reality, was published with Master Koda Select Publishing. Within a short time, the book developed a strong fan base and is continuing to grow as it both entertains its readers and leaves them in a state of profound thought. In the near future, Brenda would like to have Brooklyn Chronicles expanded into a trilogy in order to tell the untold stories of her characters.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

History Trivia - Big Ben rings out over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster

May 31

 1279 BC – Ramses II (The Great, 19th dynasty) became pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.

526 A devastating earthquake struck Antioch, Turkey, killing 250,000. 

1076 The execution of Waltheof of Northumbria ended the 'Revolt of the Earls' against William the Conqueror.

1443 Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII of England, was born.

1495 Cecily Neville, mother of Edward IV of England and Richard III of England, died.

1859 Big Ben, located atop St. Stephen's tower, went into operation in London, ringing out over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London for the first time.
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Caveman Campsite Unearthed at Construction Site in London

A Paleolithic flint found at the site of the new U.S. Embassy in London.
Credit: © MOLA/ Andy Chopping                                                                       
               By Megan Gannon

Construction is underway on the south side of the Thames River in London's Battersea neighborhood on a shiny crystalline cube that will house the new U.S. Embassy. But long before the site was set aside for diplomacy, it may have been a caveman campground.
Archaeologists monitoring the building's construction over the last year uncovered traces of London's distant past — Stone Age tools, the charred remains of campfires, animal bones and a possible fish trap.
"Prehistoric sites in London are extremely rare and to have such a vast horizon preserved is quite significant," said Kasia Olchowska, a senior archaeologist at the Museum of London Archaeology, referring to the large surface area preserved. Olchowska patrolled the construction site from last July through April to examine and excavate any archaeological finds.

The oldest artifact from the site is perhaps a Paleolithic flint. This sharp-sided rock is likely a flake, or a byproduct from the making of a bigger tool, though it also could have been used as a tool itself, Olchowska said.
Found among water-smoothed gravel, the flint was likely swept into place by a river channel. Researchers haven't pinpointed an exact age for the stone tool, because it's been washed away from its original context. Experts who looked at the flint think it was created no earlier than 500,000 years ago, but more likely crafted sometime between 100,000 and 12,000 years ago, Olchowska said. The researchers are hoping to narrow that time frame with further study.
The rest of the prehistoric surface uncovered at the construction site is up to 11,750 years old, carbon dating showed. At that time, the London area was wetter than it is today, with a network of channels that swirled around sandy islands, Olchowska said. The land was likely too wet for a permanent settlement, but the vast, open space may have been a good spot to set up camp for hunting and fishing expeditions.
These crumbling wooden posts may have been part of a fish trap along the Thames more than 11,000 years ago.
Credit: © MOLA
Archaeologists uncovered several patches of scorched ground and burned animal bones, which may be evidence of campfires, Olchowska said.
"We think that [the fires] are potentially marking a spot that people were coming back to seasonally," Olchowska told Live Science.
In the southwestern corner of the site, the team also found two rows of disintegrating wooden stakes stretching over an area 39 feet (12 meters) long. These fences might represent an early fish trap used to round up a catch in a basket or net.
The team found other stone tools, too, including a 12,000-year-old plunging blade, which would have been set in bone or wood and used as a tool or weapon, and handheld Neolithic scrapers that would have been used for woodwork or hide-cleaning.
Near the embassy site, archaeologists have previously discovered other prehistoric archaeological remains, including a Bronze Age jetty and a 7,000-year-old timber structure near the Thames. The new discovery gives archaeologists a chance to reconstruct a wider area of prehistoric London, Olchowska said. She is putting together a history of this period in light of her findings at the embassy. Follow on Bloglovin

Artifacts Ahoy! Old Cannon, Saddam's Gold AK-47 Among Naval Treasures

By Stephanie Pappas

gold plated AK 47 from iraq
A close view of a gold-plated AK-47 captured in Iraq.
Credit: Collection of Curator Branch: Naval History and Heritage Command, distributed under a Creative Commons license

The U.S. Navy is organizing its deep archives — and highlighting bizarre artifacts such as a gold-plated AK-47 assault rifle and a mini-cannon dating back more than three centuries.
The Collection Management Division of the Naval History and Heritage Command is conducting an "artifact baseline reset," a detailed process that involves combing through the entire naval archives to make sure each item is correctly labeled, catalogued and preserved. Most of these items are not on public display, but part of the process includes photographing each artifact and putting nearly every photo online. The result is a fascinating array of items, from guns and ammunition to medals and even model ships.
"Our goal is to see more of our artifacts being used to illustrate stories about the Navy's history and heritage, and to have these images available to the public once they are all digitized," Karen France, the curator branch head of the division, said in a statement
Curious collection
The Navy's collection includes artifacts from many of the country's conflicts, including medals from the Revolutionary War, a case of nastily sharp tools that were used to perform amputations during the Civil War, and even a conch-shell lamp painted with an image of the USS Enhance MSO 437, a mine-sweeping ship that was launched in 1952.
The jewel of the collection, however, is the Navy's set of historic weapons, France said. This collection dates back to the late 1800s, when Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren set up the Navy's first research and development program. Dahlgren liked having an archive of old weapons for reference when inventing new ones.
mini machine gun from navy
Julie Kowalsky holds up an experimental minigun designed by Capt. John A. Dahlgren. This mini-machine gun never went into production.
Credit: U.S. Navy Photo/RELEASED
"We have weapons that are pre-American Revolution to current operations, and that collection also includes weapons made for the Navy, its allies and adversaries," France said.
Among the oldest weapons is "San Bruno," a 6-pound (2.7 kilograms) bronze cannon cast in 1686 for King Charles II of Spain. The cannon was named after an 11th-century monk and scholar, Saint Bruno.
Another oddity in the collection is a gold-plated AK-47 assault rifle from Iraq, likely used in formal ceremonies under dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. forces seized the gun during the Iraq War.
Military experiments
Other weapons in the collection were designed for the Navy itself. These include a .69 caliber percussion rifle designed by Dahlgren himself and an experimental mini-machine gun that never reached the production stage.
Some items in the archive are decidedly low-tech, such as a ceramic grenade taken from Japan during World War II. These grenades were made near the end of the war, when metals were scarce. Artifacts from the Vietnam War include a left sandal, made from an old car tire, which was worn by a Vietcong soldier.
Several items in the collection reflect recent history. The archive holds a crumpled laptop that survived the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon, as well as fragments of stone and window glass from the building. Follow on Bloglovin

Richard III was no 'bunch-backed toad', research suggests

Paper published in Lancet says king's scoliosis probably caused him to be shorter but did not cause major physical deformity

Richard III played by Kevin Spacey
Richard III played by Kevin Spacey. Tudor propagandists, especially Shakespeare, ensured Richard was seen as hunchbacked for centuries. Photograph: P Anastasselis/REX/Rex Features
He was English history's most famous hunchback, but a sharp tailor and a skilful armourer may have disguised the curve in his spine, according to experts who examined the skeleton which has been identified as Richard III's. They could not, however, have hidden how short he looked.
Severe scoliosis in the skeleton found under a Leicester car park less than two years ago – and DNA matches with a distant relative of the Plantagenet king – helped to confirm "beyond reasonable doubt" the identity of the remains. They are now bound for reinterment in the nearby cathedral following a failed legal challenge by descendants who favoured York minster as his final resting place.
But research funded by Leicester University and published in the Lancet medical journal on Friday suggests the king's disfigurement was probably slight because a "well-balanced" sideways curvature in the spine would have meant his head and neck were straight, not tilted to one side.
Although the king's torso would have been short relative to the length of his arms and legs, and his right shoulder a little higher than his left, a good tailor and custom-made armour could have minimised the "visual impact" of his condition, according to the paper.
There was no evidence that Richard would have walked with an obvious limp; his leg bones were symmetric and well-formed. Neither would the disease, which probably developed when Richard was an adolescent, have reduced his ability to exercise.
The researchers have already established that Richard would have been about 5ft 8in (1.7m) tall without his scoliosis, about average for a medieval man, although his condition meant he would have appeared several inches shorter. Tudor propagandists, especially Shakespeare, ensured Richard has been seen as hunchbacked for centuries.
The findings by experts at Leicester, Cambridge and Loughborough universities and the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS trust follow CT scanning of Richard's spine, with 3D reconstructions of each bone being made from the digital model. The team used a 3D printer to create polymer replicas of each vertebra, which were then put together to recreate the shape of Richard's spine during his life. This was photographed from 19 different points and the pictures stitched together digitally.
Jo Appleby, the osteoarchaeologist who excavated Richard's skeleton, said: "Obviously, it was flattened out when it was in the ground. We had a good idea of the sideways aspect of the curve, but we didn't know the precise nature of the spiral aspect of the condition.
"The arthritis in the spine meant it could only be reconstructed in a specific way, meaning we can get a very accurate idea of the shape of the curve. It's good to be able to produce this 3D reconstruction rather than a 2D picture, as you get a good sense of how the spine probably did not cause a major physical deformity."
Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society, which helped fund the dig which found the king's remains, said the research confirmed "the Shakespearean description of a 'bunch-backed toad' is a complete fabrication".
"History tells us Richard III was a great warrior. Clearly, he was little inconvenienced by his spinal problem and accounts of his appearance, written when he was alive, tell that he was 'of person and bodily shape comely enough' and 'the most handsome man in the room after his brother, Edward IV'."
Fighting the recent court case cost the Ministry of Justice, which granted the exhumation licence, £82,000, the city council £85,900 and Leicester University £70,158. The cathedral authorities, as interested parties, paid £7,000. None of them can claim any money from the Plantagenet Alliance, which lost its attempt to force a consultation on the king's next destination. The alliance registered as a non-trading shell company before the court battle to avoid legal costs, a move condemned by the justice secretary, Chris Grayling.
• This article was amended on 30 May 2014. It was originally published online with the correct reference to Shakespeare's Richard III being a "bunch-backed toad". This was changed during the editing process for the newspaper to "hunchbacked toad". This has been corrected.
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Unique Silk Cloth Found in Emperor Henry VII's Coffin

by Rossella Lorenzi
The coffin of Henry VII of Luxembourg as it was opened.

A unique silk cloth has been found in the tomb of German king and Holy Roman emperor Henry VII of Luxembourg (1275-1313), among bones and what remains of his boiled head, Italian researchers announced this week.
Resting in Pisa Cathedral, the remains of Henry VII were exhumed last fall with the aim of getting more insights into the emperor’s physical features and cause of death.
The research is still ongoing, but the opening of the sarcophagus has already revealed a medieval treasure trove.

Photos: Artifacts Revealed in Tomb of King Henry VII

"Along with the emperor's mortal remains, the coffin contained a crown, a scepter and an orb, all made in gilded silver. But the most unexpected find was a large, magnificent silk cloth," Moira Brunori, at the Center for Textile Restoration in Pisa, told Discovery News. "It's extremely well preserved." Brunori said.
As the researchers opened the coffin for the third time since Henry VII's death in 1313 -- previous investigations were carried in 1727 and in 1921 -- they found the emperor's bones wrapped in the silk cloth. The crown, scepter and orb were laid on top of the cloth.
The three objects were commonly associated with the emperor. Indeed a set of contemporary miniatures often show Henry VII wearing them during his journey through Italy.

Royal Pain: 6 Strange Ailments Of Famous Rulers

Celebrated as the "alto Arrigo" (high Henry) in Dante's Divine Comedy, Henry is best remembered for his struggle to reestablish imperial control over the city-states of 14th-­century Italy.
He was crowned King of Germany in 1308 and two years later he descended into Italy with the aim of pacifying destructive disputes between Guelf (pro-papal) and Ghibelline (pro-imperial) factions. His goal was to be crowned emperor and restore the glory of the Holy Roman Empire.
After meeting strong opposition among anti-imperialist Guelf lords, Henry entered Rome by force, and was indeed crowned Holy Roman Emperor on June 29, 1312.
"He who came to reform Italy before she was ready for it," as Dante described Henry VII, died just a year after his coronation, having failed to defeat opposition by a secular Avignon papacy, city-states and lay kingdoms.

Photos: Royals Lost and Never Found

Henry died prematurely at Buonconvento, near Siena, on Aug. 24, 1313. Rumors of him being poisoned began to spread.
The emperor's body was hastily buried; two years later he was reburied in the Cathedral of Pisa.
"Not having enough time to treat the corpse for transportation, the emperor's followers burned his body, detached the head and boiled it. His bones were kept in wine to better preserve them," Brunori said.
Indeed researchers found in the coffin ashes and bones showing signs of burning.
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The Lod mosaics – a carnival of animals

Uncovered in Israel during building work, the Lod mosaics date from AD300 and are exceptionally well preserved. But what do they represent – and where are all the people?

By Christopher Lightfoot

Central panel Lod mosaic.
Detail of the central panel of the Lod mosaic. Photograph: Nicky Davidov/Israel Antiquities Authority.
The pace of construction of new buildings, roads, and infrastructure throughout the world has led to a number of spectacular archaeological finds in recent years. Among the most significant is that of a series of Roman mosaic floors at Lod in Israel, almost the centre of interaction between Roman, Christian, Jewish and Muslim culture, accidentally uncovered during road construction in 1996. Dating from around AD300, the mosaics are a riot of birds, shells, fishes and animals and include one of the earliest known images of both a rhinoceros and a giraffe. Although some of the animals appear to be tearing each other apart, they share seraphic, although slightly sinister, expressions, which one historian went so far as to describe as "erotic".
The Lod mosaics were of such exceptional quality, and in such an excellent state of preservation, that it was decided, wisely, to rebury them until a plan had been formulated to secure their long-term future. It wasn't until 2009 that they were carefully lifted and conserved by specialists from the Israel Antiquities Authority, revealing fascinating details about the way they were laid that included impressions of the feet and hands of the original craftsmen left in the wet mortar. It is highly unusual that such details of the construction process are preserved, and it is to the credit of the Israeli team that they not only documented the markings in situ, but also lifted them so that they can be exhibited alongside the mosaics.
Since 2012, while a permanent home for the mosaics was built in Israel, the collection has been displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York as well as the Louvre in Paris and the Altes Museum in Berlin. Next month it will be on show at Waddesdon Manor, in collaboration with the British Museum, in its only UK exhibition before travelling to St Petersburg and then back to the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Centre.
Lod is ancient Lydda, destroyed twice by the Romans, first during the Jewish war in AD66, then during the Jewish revolt in the last years of Trajan's reign (AD98-117). Refounded by Hadrian as Diospolis, it remained in Roman hands until becoming a Christian city and eventually succumbing to Arab conquerors in AD636. More recently, between 1943 and 1948, Lod was home to RAF Lydda, which later formed the nucleus of Ben Gurion airport.
Little survived of the architecture of the building that housed the mosaics, so it has proved difficult to identify its use and, indeed, its date. However, it is attractive to speculate that the series of large rooms, sumptuously decorated with mosaics and probably intended for receptions and meetings, was constructed in the early third century AD, as a result of Lod's increased wealth and status after the city was promoted to the rank of Roman colony by the emperor Septimus Severus (r AD 193–211).
The main panel of the largest mosaic is divided into a series of smaller squares and triangles in which various birds, fish and animals are depicted. These surround a larger octagonal space populated by ferocious wild animals – a lion and lioness, an elephant, a giraffe, a rhinoceros, a tiger, and a wild bull – with a mountainous landscape flanking a ketos, a mythical sea creature. One adjoining panel of animal scenes clearly echoes the design and subject matter of the main panel, but the other is completely filled with a lively marine scene. Fish and dolphins are shown swimming in a transparent sea, accompanied by shells and two large merchant ships facing in opposite directions, one shown with billowing sails, the other with its mast and sails lowered.
marine panel Surprisingly naturalistic … the marine panel Photograph: Photograph: Nicky Davidov/Israel Antiquities Authority
Viewers in antiquity were encouraged to walk around and, indeed, over a mosaic to see scenes orientated in various directions. As a result, figures can be depicted as floating against a minimal background, which is ideal for heavenly divinities or sea creatures. Another feature of mosaics is that shapes and scenes are created not out of painted or carved lines but by the painstaking arrangement of individual tiles, or tesserae. The result is a surprisingly naturalistic trompe l'oeil effect, unexpected in this medium.
The Lod mosaic panels display much charm with their brightly coloured figures and lively scenes. Several of the creatures appear to have smiles on their faces, even though they are often engaged in ferocious life-and-death struggles. But what makes the mosaics so special is that their subject matter is both familiar and yet also very odd. Marine and hunting scenes are both common on Roman mosaics, but they invariably contain human or semi-divine figures such as cupids who are depicted as hunters or fishermen.
There are no people on the Lod mosaics at all, not even sailors manning the two Roman cargo ships on the marine panel. And yet the creatures shown are not outside the inhabited world – the fish are recognisable as species that could be caught in the Mediterranean (and, indeed, in one small hexagonal panel they are shown loaded into a basket ready for market); the birds, too, are familiar; the dog in one square appears to be wearing a leash, and even the exotic animals would have been known to those who frequented the games and wild beast shows in the amphitheatre. Finally, on the main axis of the central panel is another square containing a large golden krater (a large vase for holding wine and water). A pair of female panthers cling to the vase, and serve as handles. Remarkably, at least three such vessels are known to have actually existed – one is a purple-veined marble vase that was found in the ruins of the Byzantine church at Petra in Jordan. Significantly, perhaps, the other examples of panther-handled vessels are dated to the late second and early third century AD.
The panthers and the krater point to the pagan cult of Dionysus, known as the god of wine and ecstasy. Many depictions of his triumphal procession in ancient art include panthers, tigers, lions, elephants, and giraffes, all consorting peacefully together, as on the Lod mosaics. On the other hand, the inclusion of a rhinoceros and a wild bull in the central panel would bring to mind – at least to an educated Roman viewer – descriptions by the poet Martial (AD40–102) of the inaugural games at the Colosseum in AD80, in which one of the main events was a contest between a bull and a rhinoceros. The latter animal, never before seen in the Roman world, would have been brought all the way from the plains of east Africa, presumably via the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, and it caused such a stir that contemporary bronze coins minted in Rome feature a rhinoceros on their obverse.
Lion and antelope Romans would recognise wild animals from triumphal processions and displays at the Colosseum.
Despite the apparent pagan and very Roman imagery, arguments can also be made for seeing the Lod mosaics as a product of Jewish society. Although not universal, a ban on human representations was a common feature of more orthodox communities, and Lod was known in antiquity as a centre of Jewish scholarship. In addition, the idea of a peaceable kingdom comes from the Book of Isaiah (11:6-9) and forms part of the messianic prophecy of a time when not only humans, but all God's creatures, would live together in peace and harmony. Likewise, the Jewish word for the sea monster in the Book of Jonah (1:17) is translated in the Septuagint as the Greek ketos. On the Arch of Titus in Rome, the creature appears on the base of the seven-branch menorah that was taken as part of the spoils from the temple after the sack of Jerusalem in AD70. It is also interesting to note that during the Jewish revol, Lod was again besieged and sacked by the Romans, commanded by the general Lusius Quietus, whose name, corrupted to Kitos, later gave the conflict the title the Kitos war. The appearance of a mythological ketos in the central panel of the Lod mosaic, flanked by a lion and lioness, and in the incongruous company of other real-life creatures, may therefore have had some significance and hidden meaning for Jews living in Lod during the third century.
Without hard evidence about the person who ordered the mosaics or about the nature of the building in which they were found, it is impossible to offer a definitive interpretation of the Lod mosaics. They remain an enigma, but one that still delights and attracts admiration – even though the modern viewer may see them principally as a tour-de-force of decorative art. Indeed, the mosaics were always meant to impress with their scale, costliness and permanency – true symbols of the Roman world that produced them.
• Christopher Lightfoot is curator of Roman art at the the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Predators and Prey: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel is at Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, from Thursday until 2 November.
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Volcanic Evidence Opens New Maya Mystery

By Becky Oskin
Temple in the Kingdom of Tikal, one of the most prominent of the Classic Period.
Temple in the Kingdom of Tikal, one of the most prominent of the Classic Period.
Credit: © Science/AAAS
Tough and tiny zircon crystals have helped researchers rule out an enormous volcanic blast as the source of ash used to make Maya pottery, deepening this long-running archaeological mystery.
"While we're a little sad not to have solved the mystery, we're really confident we can say the most likely source quite conclusively isn't a match," said lead author Kevin Coffey, a geology master's student at the University of California, Los Angeles.
However, the results did a reveal a tantalizing new pottery puzzle for scientists to solve — whether the Maya's ash came from one volcano or many spewing cones.
"Every time I turn another leaf in this thing, it opens up a new problem," said study co-author Anabel Ford, director of the MesoAmerican Research Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Volcanic VIPs
Potters at Maya cities on the Caribbean side of Central America fused volcanic ash with local limestone to form household and ceremonial pottery, because the ash made their ceramics easier to fire. The distinctive recipe was a hallmark of the Late Classic Period from A.D. 600 to 900, Ford said.
With thousands of people living in cities such as El Pilar and Tikal, the Mayan potters burned through several tons of volcanic ash every year, Ford has estimated. But no one can figure out where the ash came from.
The mystery begins with the fact that there just aren't any volcanoes in eastern Central America. Nor have archaeologists found evidence the Maya mined ash locally.
They could have hauled in the ash from the many volcanoes in what is today's El Salvador and Guatemala. But the Maya carried loads on their backs, eschewing roads or pack animals, Ford said. She thinks a convenient quarry makes more sense than hauling tons of ash overland every year. However, other archaeologists think a long-distance trade network was possible.
So how about big volcanic explosions? Maybe ash drifted in by air. The new study explores this option.
Under a microscope, the pottery ash looks fresh, with sharp edges, which does suggest the volcanic source was a recent eruption. (In the moist jungle, volcanic ash quickly breaks down.)
Coffey zeroed in on Ilopango volcano in El Salvador as a likely source. A devastating eruption from Ilopango destroyed and buried nearby Mayan cities in the fifth century, similar to Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, and coated Central America in ash. [Preserved Pompeii: Photos Reveal City in Ash]
Coffey compared zircons from the Ilopango ash to zircons from three El Pilar potsherds. Zircons can survive just about any scorching heat on Earth's surface, from a meteorite impact to a volcanic disaster to a potter's kiln.
But instead of solving the mystery, the researchers' findings ended up eliminating Ilopango from the list of sources.
Nope, not this one either
Maya ash zircon
A zircon crystal surrounded by volcanic ash in a Maya potsherd.
Credit: Kevin Coffey
Zircons in volcanic ash and lava start to crystallize in the underground magma chamber, before the volcano erupts, so some are older than the actual blast. Some of the Ilopango crystals are as young as the eruption, while others are up to 250,000 years old.
The El Pilar potsherd zircons were much older; none were younger than 1 million years old, and one crystal was more than 1 billion years old. These ages present a new riddle for researchers to investigate: Where did this old ash come from? "It's very puzzling, because [the zircons] suggest these are much older volcanic deposits," Coffey said. "It's hard to preserve volcanic ash in the jungle," he added.
Though the researchers tested only a handful of pottery fragments, the chemical signature of the zircon crystals also differs among pots, hinting that the ash came from at least two volcanoes.
"Each time the volcanologists say this will nail it, but we still aren't any closer," Ford said.
A previous study tried to match chemical signatures from the El Pilar potsherds to Mexico's explosive El Chichón volcano, about 233 miles (375 kilometers) away. Instead, the results also ruled out El Chichón.
The UCLA team hopes to test more candidate volcanoes from the Pacific coast, and search for hidden ash deposits on the Yucatan Peninsula. There are 11 potential volcanoes lined up along western Central America. Analyzing more potsherds could also provide new clues to the origin of the ash, Coffey said.
"What we found was pretty surprising," Coffey told Live Science's Our Amazing Planet. "The mystery has gotten all the more mysterious."
The findings were published May 22 in the journal Geology. Follow on Bloglovin


Ngaire Elder: BIG FUNDRAISER FOR BORN FREE'S BIG CAT NAP WEEK!: As you know Cecilia Spark supports animal protection and conservation and is a massive fan of elephants, lions and tigers, to name...


As you know Cecilia Spark supports animal protection and conservation and is a massive fan of elephants, lions and tigers, to name but a few! She wanted to do something for charity and had a wee chat with me. Cecilia Spark came up with a fantastalistic idea.

Here is what she suggested:

All profits 
from the sale of my children's books
 bought during the month of 
June 2014
will be 
donated to the 
Born Free Foundation 
in support of their 
2014 BIG CAT NAP Campaign. 

The following books qualify:

The Adventures of Cecilia Spark: Brimstone Forest
The Adventures of Cecilia Spark: the Mystical Mountains of Terra
The Adventures of Cecilia Spark: Dragon's Star
My Nature Friends

All sales count - ebook, audiobook or paperback.
Did you know:

There are probably less than 30,000 lions left in the wild, chiefly threatened by human-lion conflict and ineffective wildlife management. The situation is particularly serious in West and Central Africa, where the unique regional sub-species is vanishing. Dr Hans Bauer, a lion biologist working for WildCRU at the University of Oxford, supported by Born Free, is working with governments in the region to protect these highly endangered lion populations.

Born Free Foundation
How your money could help:
  • £5 could buy a vitamin boost for a rescued lion
  • £7 could fund a tiger protection officer for a day
  • £10 could feed a rescued cheetah cub for two days
  • £25 could buy binoculars to help a warden protect wild tigers
  • £40 could buy a rescued lion’s food for a week
A message from Born Free about the Big Cat Nap:

"The Big Cat Nap is an awareness and fundraising week for our work with big cats, those that are in danger in the wild plus those that need to be rescued and given a lifetime of care."

Why not take a photo of yourself reading one of Cecilia Spark's books and share it with us and your family and friends on FacebookTwitter and Instagram using the #BigCatNap hashtag?  We will select our favourite one to use to promote next year’s Big Cat Nap!
Sign Up @ Born Free


LINKS FOR PURCHASING my children's books:


If you want to find out more about Born Free's fantastic conservation work visit their website.
I will let you know how much money we raised for Born Free's BIG CAT NAP.
Thank you for your support and for visiting my blog,
Ngaire x

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