Tag Archives: ancient history

Looking for Natural Skin Care Tips? Ancient Chinese Empresses and Concubines Share their Recipes

1862 advertisement for Laird’s Bloom of Youth, claiming to preserve and beautify the complexion and skin. Source: Cosmetics and Skin.

1862 advertisement for Laird’s Bloom of Youth, claiming to preserve and beautify the complexion and skin. Source: Cosmetics and Skin.

Beautiful skin–we all want it.  That luminously smooth complexion that reflects youth and vitality, whatever the age.

The quest for a youthful glow goes back thousands of years and was evident in many cultures.  For example, some ancient empresses and concubines had very unusual regimes to maintain flawless complexions.  Zhang Lihua, favored concubine of Chen Shubao (553- 604), last emperor of the Chinese Chen Dynasty, used a facial mask made from egg-white and vermillion that was mixed in an eggshell and replaced back into the hen’s womb to incubate.  The resulting jelly was said to whiten skin.

While you may not want to attempt Lihua’s unique mask, many recipes from the ancient empresses and concubines can still be used today. Continue reading

Happy New Year!…Trick or Treat?

Imagine celebrating the New Year on Halloween. Ghosts, costumes, candy, parties, fortune tellers, bonfires- and champagne toasts at midnight!  Our modern Halloween was not always about trick or treating and carving pumpkins. It was influenced by numerous other traditions, including the celebration of the Celtic New Year.

Celtic Influence

Modern day offerings for the Samhain festival. Image courtesy of Avia Venefica on Flickr.

Modern day offerings for the Samhain festival. Image courtesy of Avia Venefica on Flickr.

The largest influence on our modern Halloween is Samhain: the Celtic New Year celebration that fell roughly on October 31st – November 1st.  Celts believed that on the evening of the New Year souls of the dead could return to Earth.   Continue reading

Recent Archaeological Discovery Reveals That in Antiquity Thin Was Out and “Stylishly Plump” Was In

Image courtesy Krzysztof Grzymski

Image courtesy Krzysztof Grzymski

It is resolution time! Popular culture and media are booming with ideas for weight loss– Dr. Oz’s green shakes, CNN’s stories of inspiration, The Biggest Loser’s dedication to stopping childhood obesity and countless advertisements for gym memberships. According to the website Statistic Brain, resolutions to lose weight ranked number one on a list of top resolutions in 2012 and it is safe to assume 2013 will be no different. Continue reading

Hot Chocolate: Making Kids Happy for More Than 1,000 Years!

Image courtesy of anka @ happyhangaround

Image courtesy of anka @ happyhangaround

Do you love a cup of hot chocolate with lots of sweet marshmallows? Did you know that kids just like you drank hot chocolate over a thousand years ago?

The Maya people in Northern Belize were drinking hot chocolate as far back as 600 BCE.  Although many people think that the Mayas discovered chocolate, the Olmec people who lived in Mexico from 1500-400 BCE were actually drinking a chocolate concoction even earlier. Do you enjoy your food with some extra zing? In their book The History of Chocolate, Sophie and Michael Coe describe how  the Olmec crushed the cacao beans, mixed them with water and spices, and then added chilies and herbs for a spicy drink. Or maybe you would have enjoyed some of the other things the Olmec added to their chocolate, such as honey for a sweeter drink and also flavorings from flowers and vanilla.

But guess what.  Some people say chocolate was being enjoyed even before the Olmec. In 2007, a researcher named Terry G. Powis found some leftover cocoa in ceramic dishes at the Mokaya Archeological site at Paso del la Amada, in Chiapas, Mexico. This site dates back to 1900 BCE—placing the discovery of cocoa far earlier than anyone ever imagined!

Chocolate: so many possibilities!

Mayan nobleman offering cocoa paste. Image courtesy of Yelkrokoyade,

Mayan nobleman offering cocoa paste. Image courtesy of Yelkrokoyade,

What is unique to the Mayas was the fact that chocolate was so central to their lives, and how they used chocolate in so many different ways. They served chocolate drinks at weddings and other special events, although Royal Mayas regularly drank these drinks whenever they wanted. The Mayas used cocoa beans as money so they could trade with their neighbors. Most importantly, cocoa beans were very important in their religion.  They made offerings of cocoa to their gods so they would bless their marriages, births, animals and crops. In fact, the name of the cocoa bean itself—Theobroma cacao—means, “food of the gods.”

So, how did the Maya eat their chocolate? They didn’t have Hershey’s or other kinds of candy bars like we do today. They had to harvest cocoa beans from the cacao tree, and then dry the beans for about a week, before pounding them into a paste, which was used to make several types of beverages and gruel. Cocoa by itself is very bitter, so the Maya, like the Olmec, flavored their hot chocolate with spices, chili peppers and later honey from their beehives. They never mixed the cacao bean paste with milk to make hot chocolate the way we do today. Instead, they used hot water to mix a cocoa drink that could be served hot or cold and was usually bitter.

The Maya even used chocolate as medicine. They believed that cocoa could improve your health. Today we know that cocoa powder and dark chocolate contain powerful antioxidants that build up our immune systems and can even help protect us from high blood pressure.

You can enjoy Maya hot chocolate today!

Maya hot chocolate recipes have been passed down through generations. You can find a delicious recipe here, along with several other Maya recipes including a frozen version of Maya hot chocolate. Don’t forget the marshmallows!

Download and print these fun Activities to review what you learned about chocolate!

Why January 1st?

Free-New-Years-Clip-ArtDid you celebrate the New Year with fireworks and champagne this year or did you take a polar bear plunge into a freezing body of water? No matter how you celebrated, you probably did it on January 1st. While there are many different cultural celebrations of the New Year, our globalized world generally agrees that the New Year starts on January 1st. It may seem common to us now, but this date was not always standard.

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Hot Chocolate: Gift of the Gods Since 1900 BCE

Image courtesy of masatoshi_'s Flickr photostream

Image courtesy of masatoshi_

If you think hot chocolate is just a modern day treat, you may be surprised to discover that the Maya people in Northern Belize were drinking hot chocolate as far back as 600 BCE, and even more intriguing, other evidence supports the use of chocolate much earlier than that.

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What’s That Baby T-Rex Doing in My Birdcage?

Copyright © 2005 David Monniaux, Peter Tan on Flickr

Image credit left: Copyright © 2005 David Monniaux, Image credit right: Peter Tan on Flickr

You may not think your beloved family parakeet resembles a giant, meat-eating reptile, but according to a study published in the Nature journal, the two actually have a lot in common. Modern birds retain the physical characteristics of baby dinosaurs. Specifically, the skulls of modern birds and juvenile dinosaurs are remarkably similar.

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From Ancient Graffiti to Modern Street Art: Our Need for Self Expression Through Time

Graffiti in Pompeii

In Pompei, graffiti on the walls often depict popular gladiators, such as these two thraeces, M. Attilius and L. Raecius Felix.

Graffiti is often the scourge of local law enforcement, but when found in an ancient town or city we view it as a valuable tool for learning about the culture, language and pastimes of the inhabitants.  Preserved ancient graffiti gives us a peak at daily life hundreds of years ago and demonstrates the basic need for human expression.  Like it or not, modern graffiti is probably here to stay for those same reasons.

The preserved Graffiti of Pompeii shows us how Latin was used in everyday language, and gives us colorful Roman insults and magical incantations. [“Graffiti: The Use of the Familiar,” Jessie L. Whitehead, Art Education , Vol. 57, No. 6 (Nov., 2004), p. 26, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27696041 ]. Continue reading