History: Colors & Meaning

How Colors Got Their Symbolic Meanings

By Natalie Wolchover, Life’s Little Mysteries Staff Writer
27 September 2011 3:12 AM ET
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Colors are imbued with great symbolic power. Even in the modern English-speaking world, wheresuperstitious beliefs have largely faded in the light of scientific knowledge, many colors have retained their ancient associations. Most people know that brides should wear white, that “seeing red” means being angry, and that one can feel “green with envy.” But learning why these connotations exist requires a look back to the beliefs and practices of the ancients

to check it out, go to:   http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/color-symbolism-meanings-2049/

Record of Ancient Pilgrimages Found

Long Pilgrimages Revealed in Ancient Sudan Art

Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 03 November 2011 Time: 08:33 AM ET
Banganarti Upper Church
A 3-D reconstruction of the upper church at Banganarti. Built almost 1,000 years ago this medieval church was one of two that archaeologists excavated at the site.
CREDIT: Bogdan Zurawski

Excavations of a series of medieval churches in central Sudan have revealed a treasure trove of art, including a European-influenced work, along with evidence of journeys undertaken by travelers from western Europe that were equivalent to the distance between New York City and the Grand Canyon.

A visit by a Catalonian man named Benesec is recorded in one of the churches, along with visits from other pilgrims of the Middle Ages, according to lead researcher Bogdan Zurawski of the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

The discoveries were made at Banganarti and Selib, two sites along the Nile that were part of Makuria, a Christian kingdom ruled by a dynasty of kings throughout the Middle Ages

The art there tells stories of kings, saints, pilgrims and even a female demon, said Zurawski, who presented his findings recently at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Inside medieval churches

Zurawski said the most recent of the churches uncovered in Banganarti, built nearly 1,000 years ago, is unique. “It has no parallel in Nubia and elsewhere,” he said. [See images of Banganarti church discoveries]

The church contains 18 square rooms, two staircases and, at its center, a domed area that probably contained holy relics. The team believes the building was dedicated to the archangel Raphael and was used for healing rituals. “The multitude of inscriptions addressed to this archangel are more than suggestive” that the church was dedicated to him, Zurawski said.

Beneath this building lies a structure, built about 300 years earlier, which also appears to have been dedicated to Raphael. This lower church, as the archaeologists refer to it, contains a ninth-century mural depicting “the Harrowing of Hell,” which shows Jesus visiting the underworld to rescue the firstborn. [See images of the lower church]

A Catalonian journey

The team uncovered numerous inscriptions at the two sites, many left by pilgrims visiting the churches in hopes of being healed.

One of the inscriptions at Banganartiis written in Catalonian and appears to have been inscribed sometime in the 13th or 14th century by the man named Benesec. It reads: “When Benesec came to pay homage to Raphael.”

Banganarti Lower Church
In addition to the monograms of Raphael, a prayer to the archangel, written by a King Zacharias, was found inscribed in the ruins near Banganarti.
CREDIT: Bogdan Zurawski

Zurawski told LiveScience that “Benesec” was a very popular name in 13th- and 14th-century southern France. This particular Benesec had probably traveled some 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) from southern France or northern Spain.  The journey took him east across the Mediterranean Sea and far up the Nile into the interior of Africa.

The inscription and a Catalonian playing card found downriver by another team, which may or may not have been left by Benesec, were the only traces found of these visitors from Europe.

Zurawski said Benesec may have been a trader who, along with other Catalonians, received permission from the Mamluk rulers of Egypt to pass through their territory. “The Catalonians were granted trade privileges, trade rights, to exchange goods and to trade with Egypt, and apparently they also came to Nubia,” he said

to read more, go to:    http://www.livescience.com/16854-sudan-yields-medieval-art-signs-long-pilgrimages.html



Unlocking the “Copiale Cypher”

USC Scientist Cracks Mysterious “Copiale Cipher”

Released: 10/25/2011 11:45 AM EDT
Source: University of Southern California


Newswise — The manuscript seems straight out of fiction: a strange handwritten message in abstract symbols and Roman letters meticulously covering 105 yellowing pages, hidden in the depths of an academic archive.

Now, more than three centuries after it was devised, the 75,000-character “Copiale Cipher” has finally been broken.

The mysterious cryptogram, bound in gold and green brocade paper, reveals the rituals and political leanings of a 18th-century secret society in Germany. The rituals detailed in the document indicate the secret society had a fascination with eye surgery and ophthalmology, though it seems members of the secret society were not themselves eye doctors.

“This opens up a window for people who study the history of ideas and the history of secret societies,” said computer scientist Kevin Knight of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, part of the international team that finally cracked the Copiale Cipher. “Historians believe that secret societies have had a role in revolutions, but all that is yet to be worked out, and a big part of the reason is because so many documents are enciphered.”

To break the Copiale Cipher, Knight and colleagues Beáta Megyesi and Christiane Schaefer of Uppsala University in Sweden tracked down the original manuscript, which was found in the East Berlin Academy after the Cold War and is now in a private collection. They then transcribed a machine-readable version of the text, using a computer program created by Knight to help quantify the co-occurrences of certain symbols and other patterns.

“When you get a new code and look at it, the possibilities are nearly infinite,” Knight said. “Once you come up with a hypothesis based on your intuition as a human, you can turn over a lot of grunt work to the computer.”

With the Copiale Cipher, the codebreaking team began not even knowing the language of the encrypted document. But they had a hunch about the Roman and Greek characters distributed throughout the manuscript, so they isolated these from the abstract symbols and attacked it as the true code.

“It took quite a long time and resulted in complete failure,” Knight says.

After trying 80 languages, the cryptography team realized the Roman characters were “nulls,” intended to mislead to reader. It was the abstract symbols that held the message.

The team then tested the hypothesis that abstract symbols with similar shapes represented the same letter, or groups of letters. Eventually, the first meaningful words of German emerged: “Ceremonies of Initiation,” followed by “Secret Section.”

For more information about the method of decipherment, visithttp://stp.lingfil.uu.se/%7Ebea/copiale/

Knight is now targeting other coded messages, including ciphers sent by the Zodiac Killer, a serial murderer who sent taunting messages to the press and has never been caught. Knight is also applying his computer-assisted codebreaking software to other famous unsolved codes such as the last section of “Kryptos,” an encrypted message carved into a granite sculpture on the grounds of CIA headquarters, and the Voynich Manuscript, a medieval document that has baffled professional cryptographers for decades.

But for Knight, the trickiest language puzzle of all is still everyday speech. A senior research scientist in the Intelligent Systems Division of the USC Information Sciences Institute, Knight is one of the world’s leading experts on machine translation — teaching computers to turn Chinese into English or Arabic into Korean. “Translation remains a tough challenge for artificial intelligence,” said Knight, whose translation software has been adopted by companies such as Apple and Intel.

With researcher Sujith Ravi, who received a PhD in computer science from USC in 2011, Knight has been approaching translation as a cryptographic problem, which could not only improve human language translation but could also be useful in translating languages that are not currently spoken by humans, including ancient languages and animal communication.

The National Science Foundation funds Knight’s cryptography and translation research. The Copiale Cipher work was presented as part of an invited presentation at the 2011 Association for Computational Linguistics meeting.

For more information about the video or to arrange an interview with Professor Kevin Knight, contact Suzanne Wu atsuzanne.wu@usc.edu.

from:   http://www.newswise.com/articles/usc-scientist-cracks-mysterious-copiale-cipher?ret=/articles/list&category=life-arts&page=1&search[status]=3&search[sort]=date+desc&search[sub_section]=31&search[has_multimedia]=


Ahh, the Life of a Pirate

Caribbean Pirate Life: Tobacco, Ale … and Fine Pottery

Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 01 September 2011 Time: 10:56 AM ET
A Caribbean pirate ship
Archaeologists researching a site where Caribbean pirates “laid their hats” have found the drunken men not only smoked like the devil but also preferred fine pottery. They were sort of the real “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
CREDIT: KSL Productions LLC / Shutterstock

They smoked like the devil, drank straight from the bottle, annoyed the Spanish and had a fascination with fine pottery.

Oh, and they didn’t use plates … at least not ceramic ones.

Based in 18th-century Belize, they were real “Pirates of the Caribbean” and now new research by 21st-century archaeologists is telling us what their lives were like.

Their findings, detailed in a chapter in a recently published book, suggest that while these pipe-smoking men acted as stereotypical pirates would — drinking, smoking and stealing — they also kept fancy, impractical porcelain in their camps. The fine dinnerware may have been a way to imbue the appearance of upper-class society. [See photos of the pirate loot discovered]

Caribbean pirates

From historical records scientists had known that by 1720 these Caribbean pirates occupied a settlement called the “Barcadares,” a name derived from the Spanish word for “landing place.” Located 15 miles (24 kilometers) up the Belize River, in territory controlled by the Spanish, the site was used as an illegal logwood-cutting operation. The records indicate that a good portion of its occupants were pirates taking a pause from life at sea.

Their living conditions were rustic to say the least. There were no houses, and the men slept on raised platforms with a canvas over them to keep the mosquitoes out. They hunted and gathered a good deal of their food.

Capt. Nathaniel Uring, a merchant seaman who was shipwrecked and spent more than four months with the inhabitants, described them in the book The Voyages and Travels of Captain Nathaniel Uring (reprinted in 1928 by Cassell and Company) as a “rude drunken crew, some which have been pirates, and most of them sailors.”

Their “chief delight is in drinking; and when they broach a quarter cask or a hogshead of Bottle Ale or Cyder, keeping at it sometimes a week together, drinking till they fall asleep; and as soon as they awake at it again, without stirring off the place.” Eventually Captain Uring returned to Jamaica and, in 1726, published an account of his adventures.

to read more and see the photos, go to:    http://www.livescience.com/15866-caribbean-pirates-archaeology.html

Knights in Shining Armor….Oh, My

Heavy Metal: Armor Drained Medieval Knights’ Energy

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 19 July 2011 Time: 07:01 PM ET
Armor locomotion
At the gym: A modern re-enactor walks on a treadmill in a full suit of 15th century armor.
CREDIT: Graham Askew, University of Leeds

As if flying arrows and burning pitch weren’t enough to worry about, medieval knights also had to battle their own armor.

A new study that put armor-wearing volunteers on treadmills finds that wearing a full suit of armor (which might weigh up to 110 pounds, or 50 kilograms), takes more than twice the energy of walking around unencumbered. Even lugging around a backpack of equal weight is less energy-intensive than wearing armor, the study found, because wearing 17 pounds (8 kg) of steel plates on each leg requires no small amount of extra exertion.

On occasion, armor’s weight may have turned the tides of battles, said lead study researcher Graham Askew of the University of Leeds. In 1415, heavily armored French knights advanced across a muddy field toward a lightly armored English force in the Battle of Agincourt.

to read more, go to:    http://www.livescience.com/15128-armor-drained-medieval-knight-energy.html

Origins of “X”

Why Is ‘X’ Used to Represent the Unknown?

By Life’s Little Mysteries Staff
08 July 2011 1:36 PM ET

In algebra, the letter ‘x’ is often used to represent an unknown quantity or variable. Similarly, in English, x represents the unknown, as in X-rays, which baffled their discoverer, and Malcolm X, who chose the symbol to represent the forgotten name of his African ancestors.

This meaning of the letter x traces back to the Arabic word for “thing,” or šay’. In ancient texts, such as Al-Jabr, a manuscript written in Baghdad in 820 A.D. that established the rules of algebra, mathematical variables were called things. (An equation might read “three things equal 15,” for example — the thing being five.)

When Al-Jabr was later translated into Old Spanish, the word šay’ was written as “xei.” This soon came to be abbreviated as x.

to read more, go to:     http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/x-represents-unknown-quantity-variable-1840/

When I get Rich, I Shall Wear Purple

Why Is the Color Purple Associated With Royalty?

By Remy Melina, Life’s Little Mysteries Staff Writer
03 June 2011 4:06 PM ET
Credit: Ayla87 | sxc.huCredit: Ayla87

The color purple has been associated with royalty, power and wealth for centuries. In fact, Queen Elizabeth I forbad anyone except close members of the royal family to wear it. Purple’s elite status stems from the rarity and cost of the dye originally used to produce it.

Purple fabric used to be so outrageously expensive that only rulers could afford it. The dye initially used to make purple came from the Phoenician trading city of Tyre, which is now in modern-day Lebanon. Fabric traders obtained the dye from a small mollusk that was only found in the Tyre region of the Mediterranean Sea.

to read more, got to:    http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/purple-royal-color-1750/






History’s Mysteries

History’s Most Overlooked Mysteries

Tuan C. Nguyen
Disappearance of the Indus Valley Civilization

Credit: harappa.com

With a culture that stretched from western India to Afghanistan and a population numbering over five million, the ancient Indus Valley people—India’s oldest known civilization—were an impressive and apparently sanitary bronze-age bunch. The scale of their baffling and abrupt collapse rivals that of the great Mayan decline. But it wasn’t until 1922 that excavations revealed a hygienically-advanced culture which maintained a sophisticated sewage drainage system and immaculate bathrooms. Strangely, there is no archaeological evidence of armies, slaves, social conflicts or other vices prevalent in ancient societies. Even to the very end, it seems, they kept it clean.


7 Wonders of the Ancient World

Just for fun:

The Seven Ancient Wonders of The World

The Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt

The Great Pyramid at Giza, EgyptCredit: Photo Credit: DreamstimeThe Great Pyramid at Giza is both the oldest ancient wonder and the only one still standing today. It was built as a mausoleum for the pharaoh Khufu around 2650 BC and for over 4,000 years remained the world’s tallest structure.

to see them all, go to:   http://www.livescience.com/11304-ancient-wonders-world.html

UFO’s & American Presidents

fr/ Pravda

UFO for American presidents


UFO for American presidents. 44659.jpegMany U.S. presidents during their terms were seriously interested in UFOs and extraterrestrial intelligence issues, and some of them even had a chance to make contact with aliens. We turn to the recently declassified archives of ufology. Let’s start with 1948, when President Harry S. Truman summoned his Assistant Robert Landry to the Oval Office.

to read more, and see comments, go to:  http://english.pravda.ru/society/anomal/17-06-2011/118232-ufo-0/