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7 Influential African Empires
Though often overshadowed by its Egyptian neighbors to the north, the Kingdom of Kush stood as a regional power in Africa for over a thousand years. This ancient Nubian empire reached its peak in the second millennium B.C., when it ruled over a vast swath of territory along the Nile River in what is now Sudan. Almost all that is known about Kush comes from Egyptian sources, which indicate that it was an economic center that operated a lucrative market in ivory, incense, iron and especially gold. The kingdom was both a trading partner and a military rival of Egypt—it even ruled Egypt as the 25th Dynasty𠅊nd it adopted many of its neighbor’s customs. The Kushites worshipped some of the Egyptian gods, mummified their dead and built their own types of pyramids. The area surrounding the ancient Kushite capital of Meroe is now home to the ruins of over 200 pyramids—more than in all of Egypt.
Ancient civilizations observed astronomical bodies, often the Sun and Moon, to determine time.  Stonehenge is likely to have been an astronomical observatory, used to seasonal and annual events such as equinoxes or solstices.  As megalithic civilizations left no recorded history, little is known of their timekeeping methods.  Mesoamericans modified their usual vigesimal counting system when dealing with calendars to produce a 360-day year. 
The Aboriginal Australians understood the motion of objects in the sky well, and used their knowledge to construct calendars and aid navigation most Aboriginal cultures had seasons that were well-defined and determined by natural changes throughout the year, including celestial events. The phases of the moon were used to mark shorter periods of time the Yaraldi of South Australia were one of the few people recorded as having a way to measure time during the day, which was divided into seven parts using the position of the Sun. 
Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia Edit
All timekeepers prior to the development of the escapement relied upon methods that used something that moved continuously. No early method of keeping time changed at a steady rate.  The oldest known timekeeping devices were made in Ancient Egypt, since when the devices and methods for keeping time have improved continuously through a long series of new inventions and ideas. 
The first devices used for measuring the position of the Sun were shadow clocks, which later developed into the sundial.  [note 1] Ancient Egyptian obelisks, constructed c. 3500 BC, are also among the earliest shadow clocks.  The oldest of all known sundials dates back to c. 1500 BC (during the 19th Dynasty), and was discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 2013.  Ancient dials were nodus-based with straight hour-lines that indicated unequal hours—also called temporary hours—that varied with the seasons. Every day was divided into 12 equal segments regardless of the time of year thus, hours were shorter in winter and longer in summer. Each part was further divided into more precise parts.  
Obelisks functioned in much the same manner the shadow cast on the markers around it allowed the Egyptians to calculate the time. The obelisk also indicated whether it was morning or afternoon, as well as the summer and winter solstices.  A third shadow clock, developed c. 500 BC, was similar in shape to a bent T-square. It measured the passage of time by the shadow cast by its crossbar on a non-linear rule. The T was oriented eastward in the mornings, and turned around at noon, so that it could cast its shadow in the opposite direction. 
Although accurate, shadow clocks were useless at night and in cloudy weather.  The Egyptians therefore developed other timekeeping instruments, including the water clock, and a system for tracking star movements. The oldest description of a water clock is from the tomb inscription of the early 18th Dynasty (c. 1500 BC) court official Amenemhet, now lost, identifying him as its inventor.  It is assumed that the object described on the inscription is a classical Egyptian water clock, i.e. a bowl with small holes in its bottom, which was floated on water and allowed to fill at a near-constant rate markings on the side of the bowl indicated elapsed time, as the surface of the water reached them.  The oldest known water clock was found in the tomb of pharaoh Amenhotep III (c. 1417–1379 BC). 
Another Egyptian method of determining the time during the night was using a type of plumb-line called a merkhet. In use since at least 600 BC, two merkhets were aligned with Polaris, the north pole star, to create a north–south meridian. The time was determined by observing particular stars as they crossed the meridian. 
Water clocks and sundials were known from classical antiquity  a clay tablet from the late Babylonian period describes the lengths of shadows at different times of the year.  There are no recognised examples in existence of outflowing water clocks from ancient Mesopotamia of outflowing water clocks, but written references have survived.  The text in a tablet in the British Museum describes a water clock used by astronomers (who also worked as celestial diviners), that measured time using weights of water. It "explicitly describes a ratio of the longest to the shortest night as 3:2 in terms of weight". 
Ancient Greece and Rome Edit
The Babylonian writer Berossos (fl. 3rd century BC ) is credited by the Greeks with the invention of a hemispherical sundial hollowed out of stone, which was designed so that the path of the shadow was divided into 12 parts as a way to mark the time.  Greek sundials evolved to become highly sophisticated Ptolemy's Analemma, written in the 2nd century AD, used an early form of trigonometry to derive the position of the sun from data such as the hour of day and the geographical latitude. The Romans borrowed the idea of the sundial from the Greeks.   [note 2]
The Greek philosophers Anaxagoras and Empedocles both referred to a simple form of water clock, of which two kinds were known—vessels that were used to enforce time limits, and others that marked the passing of time.   The Athenian philosopher Plato is supposed to have invented a form of alarm clock to wake his students,  that might have consisted of lead balls in a floating vessel. The lead balls cascaded noisily onto a copper platter after the floating vessel reached the top of its container of water.  [note 3]
The Greek astronomer Andronicus of Cyrrhus designed the Tower of the Winds in Athens in the 1st century BC there is evidence that it once had eight sundials, a water clock, and a wind vane.  In Greek tradition, clepsydrae were used in court later, the Romans adopted this practice, as well. There are several mentions of this in historical records and literature of the era for example, in Theaetetus, Plato says that "Those men, on the other hand, always speak in haste, for the flowing water urges them on". 
Although still not as accurate as sundials, Greek water clocks became more accurate around 325 BC, and they were adapted to have a face with an hour hand, making the reading of the clock more precise and convenient. One of the more common problems in most types of clepsydrae was caused by water pressure: when the container holding the water was full, the increased pressure caused the water to flow more rapidly. This problem was addressed by Greek and Roman horologists beginning in 100 BC, and improvements continued to be made in the following centuries. To counteract the increased water flow, the clock's water containers—usually bowls or jugs—were given a conical shape positioned with the wide end up, a greater amount of water had to flow out in order to drop the same distance as when the water was lower in the cone. Along with this improvement, clocks were constructed more elegantly in this period, with hours marked by gongs, doors opening to miniature figurines, bells, or moving mechanisms.  One problems associated with water clocks that meant they did not work well was the effect of temperature on liquid water. Water flows more slowly when cold, or freezes, and the rate of evaporation from the surface is temperature-dependent. 
Between 270 BC and AD 500, the Hellenistic mathematicians Ctesibius, Hero of Alexandria, and Archimedes, and Roman horologists and astronomers began developing more elaborate mechanized water clocks. The added complexity was aimed at regulating the flow and at providing fancier displays of the passage of time. For example, some water clocks rang bells and gongs, while others opened doors and windows to show figurines of people, or moved pointers, and dials. Some even displayed astrological models of the universe. [ citation needed ] The Greek engineer Philo of Byzantium (fl. 3rd century BC ) described how liquid was used to slow down the speed of a water clock in his technical treatise Pneumatics (chapter 31) where he likens the mechanism of a washstand automaton with those as employed in (water) clocks. 
Although the Greeks and Romans did much to advance water clock technology, they still continued to use shadow clocks. The mathematician and astronomer Theodosius of Bithynia is said to have invented a universal sundial that was accurate anywhere on Earth, though little is known about it.  The obelisk from Campus Martius was used as the gnomon for Augustus's zodiacal sundial.  The Roman military commander and naturalist Pliny the Elder records that the first sundial in Rome arrived in 264 BC, looted from Catania, Sicily according to him, it gave the incorrect time until the markings and angle appropriate for Rome's latitude were used—a century later. 
Chinese water clocks Edit
British historian of Chinese science Joseph Needham speculated that the introduction of the outflow clepsydra to China, perhaps from Mesopotamia, occurred as far back as the 2nd millennium BC, during the Shang Dynasty, and at the latest by the 1st millennium BC. By the beginning of the Han Dynasty, in 202 BC, the outflow clepsydra was gradually replaced by the inflow clepsydra, which featured an indicator rod on a float. To compensate for the falling pressure head in the reservoir, which slowed timekeeping as the vessel filled, Zhang Heng added an extra tank between the reservoir and the inflow vessel. Around 550 AD, Yin Gui was the first in China to write of the overflow or constant-level tank added to the series, which was later described in detail by the inventor Shen Kuo. Around 610, this design was trumped by two Sui Dynasty inventors, Geng Xun and Yuwen Kai, who were the first to create the balance clepsydra, with standard positions for the steelyard balance.  Needham stated that:
. [the balance clepsydra] permitted the seasonal adjustment of the pressure head in the compensating tank by having standard positions for the counterweight graduated on the beam, and hence it could control the rate of flow for different lengths of day and night. With this arrangement no overflow tank was required, and the two attendants were warned when the clepsydra needed refilling. 
In 721 the Tantric monk and mathematician Yi Xing and government official Liang Lingzan regulated the power of the water driving an astronomical clock, dividing the power into unit impulses so that motion of the planets and stars could be duplicated.  The liquid in water clocks was liable to freezing, and had to be kept warm with torches, a problem that was solved in 976 by the Chinese astronomer and engineer Zhang Sixun. His invention—a considerable improvement on Yi Xing's clock—used mercury instead of water. Mercury is a liquid at room temperature, and freezes at −38.9 °C (−38.0 °F), lower than any air temperature normally found on Earth.   A water-powered astronomical clock tower was built by the polymath Su Song in 1088,  which featured the first known endless power-transmitting chain drive in horology. 
Chinese incense clocks Edit
Incense clocks were first used in China around the 6th century in Japan, one still exists in the Shōsōin,  although its characters are not Chinese, but Devanagari.  Due to their frequent use of Devanagari characters, suggestive of their use in Buddhist ceremonies, American sinologist Edward H. Schafer speculated that incense clocks were invented in India.  As they burn evenly and without a flame they are accurate and safe for indoor use. 
Several types of incense clock have been found, the most common forms include the incense stick and incense seal. An incense stick clock was an incense stick with calibrations some dropped weights at even intervals.  Incense with different scents was used, so that the hours were marked by a change in odour as the sticks burnt away.  Incense sticks could be straight or spiralled the spiralled ones were intended for long periods of use, and often hung from the roofs of homes and temples.  In Japan, a geisha was paid for the number of senkodokei (incense sticks) that had been consumed while she was present, a practice which continued until 1924. 
Incense seal clocks were used for similar occasions and events as the stick clock while religious purposes were of primary importance,  these clocks were also popular at social gatherings, and were used by Chinese scholars and intellectuals.  The seal was a wooden or stone disk with one or more grooves etched in it  into which incense was placed.  These clocks were common in China,  but were produced in fewer numbers in Japan.  To mark different hours, differently scented incenses (made from different recipes) could be used.  The length of the trail of incense, directly related to the size of the seal, was the primary factor in determining how long the clock would last to burn 12 hours an incense path of around 20 feet (6.1 m) has been estimated. 
While early incense seals were made of wood or stone, the Chinese gradually introduced disks made of metal, most likely beginning during the Song dynasty. This allowed craftsmen to more easily create both large and small seals, as well as design and decorate them more aesthetically. Another advantage was the ability to vary the paths of the grooves, to allow for the changing length of the days in the year. As smaller seals became more readily available, the clocks grew in popularity among the Chinese, and were often given as gifts.  Incense seal clocks are often sought by modern-day clock collectors however, few remain that have not already been purchased or been placed on display at museums or temples. 
One of the earliest mentions of a candle clock is in a Chinese poem, written in AD 520 by You Jianfu, who wrote of the graduated candle being a means of determining time at night. Similar candles were used in Japan until the early 10th century. 
Ancient and medieval Persia Edit
The use of water clocks by the Persians dates to 500 BC, the time of the Achaemenid Empire. According to the Greek historian Callisthenes, farmers used a water clock (called a fenjaan) in 328 BC to ensure a just and exact distribution of water from qanats for irrigation. A bowl with a small hole floated in a large pot of water. As soon as the bowl had sunk, the manager (called the khaneh fenjaan) emptied it and put it on the top of the water again. Stones were used to record the number of times the bowl sank. More than one manager—usually a wise elder—was needed to be in charge of continuously keeping the time using the fenjaan. [ citation needed ]
The place where the clock was situated, also called a khaneh fenjaan, would usually be the top floor of a building, with west- and east-facing windows to allow the times of sunset and sunrise to be viewed. The fenjaan was also used determine the days of pre-Islamic religions, such as the Nowruz, Chelah, or Yaldā—the shortest, longest, and equal-length days and nights of the years. Water clocks were at that time one of the most practical ancient tools for timing the calendar. [ citation needed ]
Other early references to timekeeping Edit
A sundial is referred to in the Bible, when Hezekiah, king of Judea during the 8th century BC, was healed by the prophet Isaiah. After the king asked for a sign he would recover, the Old Testament reads: 
And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.
Candle clocks Edit
In the 10th century, the invention of the candle clock was attributed by the Anglo-Saxons to Alfred the Great, king of Wessex. The story of how the clock was created was narrated by Asser, the king's biographer, who lived at Alfred's court and became his close associate.  Alfred used six candles, each made from 12 pennyweights of wax, and made to be 12 inches (30 cm) high and of a uniform thickness. The candles were marked at intervals of an inch. Once lit, they protected from the wind by being placed in a lantern made of wood and transparent horn. It would have taken 20 minutes to burn down to the next mark the candles, burning one after the other, lasted for 24 hours. 
The 12th century Muslim inventor Al-Jazari described four different designs for a candle clock in his book The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (IKitab fi Ma'rifat al-Hiyal al-Handasiyya).   His so-called 'scribe' candle clock was invented to mark the passing of 14 hours of equal length: a precisely engineering mechanism caused a candle of specific dimensions to be slowly pushed upwards, which caused an indicator to move along a scale. Every hour a small ball emerged from the beak of a bird. 
According to the German historian of astronomy Ernst Zinner, during the 13th century sundials were developed with scales that showed equal hours, whilst the first based on polar time appeared in Germany c. 1400 an alternative theory proposes that a Damascus sundial measuring in polar time can be dated to 1372.  The modern sundial first appeared following the Copernican Revolution and the adoption of equal hours. 
European treatises on sundial design appeared c. 1500.  In 1524, the French astronomer Oronce Finé who wrote a treatise, and constructed an example of a sundial made of ivory, now in the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan. The instrument, intended for the court of Francis I of France, was in the shape of a shipl: when oriented correctly, a plumb line cast a shadow on the dial. The hours and two zodiacal scales are engraved on the hull, while the signs of the constellations appear along the mast. 
Since the hourglass was one of the few reliable methods of measuring time at sea, it is speculated that it was used on board ships as far back as the 11th century, when it would have complemented the magnetic compass as an aid to navigation. However, the earliest unambiguous evidence of their use appears in the painting Allegory of Good Government, by the Italian artist Ambrogio Lorenzetti, from 1338.  From the 15th century onwards, hourglasses were used in a wide range of applications at sea, in churches, in industry, and in cooking they were the first dependable, reusable, reasonably accurate, and easily constructed time-measurement devices. The hourglass also took on symbolic meanings, such as that of death, temperance, opportunity, and Father Time, usually represented as a bearded, old man.  The Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan used 18 hourglasses on each ship during his circumnavigation of the globe in 1522.  Though also used in China, the hourglass's history there is unknown,  but does not seem to have been used in China before the mid 16th century,  and the hourglass implies the use of glassblowing, which appears to be an entirely European and Western art. 
Gears in clocks and astrolabes Edit
The first innovations to improve on the accuracy of the hourglass and the water clock occurred in the 10th century, when attempts were made to use weights or friction to slow the rate of flow of the sand or water.  The first geared clock was invented in the 11th century by the Arab engineer Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi in Islamic Iberia it was a water clock that employed both segmental and epicyclic gearing, capable of transmitting high torque.  Islamic water clocks, which used complex gear trains and included arrays of automata, were unrivalled in their sophistication until the mid-14th century.   They developed a liquid-driven mechanism (using heavy floats and a constant-head system) to cause water clocks to descend at a slower rate. 
A striking clock outside of China was the Jayrun Water Clock, at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, which struck once every hour. It was constructed by Muhammad al-Sa'ati in the 12th century, and later described by his son Ridwan ibn al-Sa'ati, in his On the Construction of Clocks and their Use (1203), when repairing the clock.  In 1235, an early monumental water-powered alarm clock that "announced the appointed hours of prayer and the time both by day and by night" was completed in the entrance hall of the Mustansiriya Madrasah in Baghdad. 
Contemporary Muslim astronomers constructed a variety of highly accurate astronomical clocks for use in their mosques and observatories,  such as the astrolabic clock by Ibn al-Shatir in the early 14th century.  Sophisticated timekeeping astrolabes with geared mechanisms were made in Persia, built by the polymath Abū Rayhān Bīrūnī in the 11th century and the astronomer Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr al‐Farisi in c. 1221.  
The brass and silver astrolabe made in Isfahan by Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr al‐Farisi is the earliest machine with its gears still intact. It is both an astrolabe and a calendar. The design originates from a text by Abū Rayhān Bīrūnī, but the gearing has been simplified. Openings on the back of the astrolabe depict the lunar phases and gives the Moon's age within a zodiacal scale are two concentric rings that show the relative positions of the Sun and the Moon. 
A sophisticated water-powered astronomical clock was described by Al-Jazari in his treatise on machines, written in 1206.  This castle clock was a complex device that was about 11 feet (3.4 m) high, and had multiple functions alongside timekeeping. It included a display of the zodiac and the solar and lunar paths, and a pointer in the shape of the crescent moon which travelled across the top of a gateway, moved by a hidden cart and causing doors to open, each revealing a mannequin, every hour.  It was possible to reset the length of day and night in order to account for the changing lengths of day and night throughout the year. This clock also featured a number of automata including falcons and musicians who automatically played music when moved by levers operated by a hidden camshaft attached to a water wheel. 
The English word clock first appeared in Middle English as clok, cloke, or clokke. The origin of the word is not known for certain it may be a borrowing from French or Dutch, and can perhaps be traced to the post-classical Latin clocca ('bell'). 7th century Irish and 9th century Germanic sources recorded clock as meaning ‘bell’. 
Judaism, Christianity and Islam all had times set aside for prayer, although Christians alone were expected to attend prayers at specific hours of the day and night—what the historian Jo Ellen Barnett describes as "a rigid adherence to repetitive prayers said many times a day".  The bell-striking alarms warned the monk on duty to toll the monastic bell. His alarm was a timer that used a form of escapement to ring a small bell. This mechanism was the forerunner of the escapement device found in the mechanical clock.  
Large mechanical clocks were invented which were mounted in towers to ring the bell directly. The earliest known are the tower clock of Norwich Cathedral (constructed c. 1321 –1325), the clock at St Albans Abbey (completed c. 1360), and an astronomical clock designed and built by Giovanni Dondi dell'Orologio that was completed in 1364. [note 4] None of these early clocks have survived.  During the 14th century, striking clocks appeared with increasing frequency in public spaces, first in Italy, slightly later in France and England—between 1371 and 1380, public clocks were introduced in over 70 European cites.  The first professional clockmakers [ when? ] came from the guilds of locksmiths and jewellers.  The weight-driven mechanism is probably a Western European invention, as a picture of a 13th-century clock shows a weight pulling an axle around, its motion slowed by a system of holes that slowly released water. 
At around the same time as the invention of the escapement mechanism, the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri used clock imagery to depict the souls of the blessed in Paradiso, the third part of the Divine Comedy. It may be the first known literary description of a mechanical clock.  Giovanni da Dondi, Professor of Astronomy at Padua, presented the earliest detailed description of clockwork in his 1364 treatise Il Tractatus Astrarii.  This has inspired several modern replicas, including some in London's Science Museum and the Smithsonian Institution.  Other notable examples from this period were built in Milan (1335), Strasbourg (1354), Rouen (1389), Lund (c. 1425) and Prague (1462).  Early clock dials showed hours a clock with a minutes dial is mentioned in a 1475 manuscript.  By 1577 the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe had obtained the first of four clocks that measured in seconds. 
Salisbury Cathedral clock, dating from about 1386, is one of the oldest working clocks in the world, and may be the oldest it still has most of its original parts.  [note 5] Wells Cathedral clock, built in 1392, is unique in that it still has its original medieval face, showing a model of the pre-Copernican, geocentric universe. Above the clock are figures which hit the bells, and a set of jousting knights who revolve around a track every 15 minutes. [ citation needed ] [note 6] Similar astronomical clocks, or horologes, survive at Exeter, Ottery St Mary, and Wimborne Minster. [ citation needed ] Clock towers in Western Europe in the Middle Ages struck the time. The most famous original still standing is possibly St Mark's Clock on the top of St Mark's Clocktower in St Mark's Square in Venice, assembled in 1493 by the clockmaker Gian Carlo Rainieri from Reggio Emilia. In 1497, Simone Campanato moulded the great bell on which every definite time-lapse is beaten by two mechanical bronze statues (h. 2,60 m.) called Due Mori (Two Moors), handling a hammer. Possibly earlier (1490) is the Prague Astronomical Clock by clockmaster Jan Růže (also called Hanuš)—according to another source this device was assembled as early as 1410 by clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň and mathematician Jan Šindel. The allegorical parade of animated sculptures rings on the hour every day.
The Ottoman engineer Taqi al-Din described a weight-driven clock with a verge-and-foliot escapement, a striking train of gears, an alarm, and a representation of the moon's phases in his book The Brightest Stars for the Construction of Mechanical Clocks (Al-Kawākib al-durriyya fī wadh' al-bankāmat al-dawriyya), written around 1556. 
Mayan religion gods
When scholars decipher Mayan writings or uncover religious artifacts, they typically pass their findings along to locals, who add the lost traditions into their religious practices
Photo by Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images.
Residents of Merida, Mexico, many of whom trace their ancestry to the ancient Maya, say their forefathers’ religion does not predict an apocalypse this Friday, contrary to Internet rumor. Do people still practice the religion of the ancient Maya?
Sort of. In a modern Mayan religious ceremony, the faithful typically scatter the floor with pine needles and burn incense, filling the air with fragrance. A holy man—known as a “day keeper” for his knowledge of the significance of various days in the 260-day Mayan calendar—recites incantations to the gods of the earth and sky. Lay people do not typically participate in the recitation but stand or kneel around an altar. The faithful place a variety of offerings to the gods on an altar, including chocolate, candles, perfumes, and alcohol. At the end of the ceremony, participants usually pass around a container of corn- or sugar-based liquor.
Whether these rituals are authentically Mayan is debatable. A religious ceremony during the classical Mayan period, ending in the ninth century, would have looked different. During that era, thousands gathered around massive temples and a god-king presided. The offerings would have included chocolate but also the occasional sacrifice of a prisoner. Even more often, a member of the royal circle would have offered a sampling of his or her own blood to appease the gods. Archaeologists have uncovered paintings of women who raked spikes across their tongues and men who pierced the foreskin of their penises as blood offerings.
Although chicken sacrifices still occur, sacrifices of human blood have disappeared from Mayan religious practice—a change that represents more than evolving views on the value of human life. Many scholars believe that the Maya had a somewhat mechanistic view of their relationship with the gods: One could stave off death by offering a worthy substitute, but the gods didn’t care about your sincerity. Modern practice seems more interested in the ardor of prayer and a personal understanding between human and god, a development that may be attributed to the influence of Christianity.
The penetration of Catholicism into Meso-America has had other more noticeable impacts on traditional religious practices. In many modern rituals, the day-keeper will pray to not only the Mayan gods but also Jesus, Mary, and a list of Catholic saints. (Mayan religion has crept into Meso-American Catholicism as well: In some Christian churches, Nativity scenes include two babies, representing the two sons who brought the Mayan maize god back to life.) Christian monotheism may also have led to claims by modern Mayan theologists that their gods are all manifestation of a single deity, even though they have unique personalities and stories that resemble the pantheon of ancient Greece and Rome.
It’s important to note that Christian missionaries aren’t the only forces influencing modern Mayan religion. Scholars from the United States and Europe have descended on Guatemala and Mexico in droves in recent decades. When they decipher Mayan writings or uncover religious artifacts, they typically pass their findings along to locals, who add the lost traditions into their practice. It has become popular to use Mayan relics as altars, and day-keepers sometimes paint Mayan images onto rocks based on illustrations they received from archaeologists. Academics argue over whether the reincorporation of extinct traditions makes for a more authentic practice or interferes with the evolution that all religions experience.
Four Elements Symbolism
The ancients believed the World to be composed of 4 basic elements – Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. These were considered the critical energy forces that sustained life. All of these elements are integral parts of matter or the physical universe, and the human body is a physical creation existing in the material realm. Therefore, the human beings were seen to be made of and governed by the four elements. Maintaining a balance between these elements was advocated to ensure physical as well as psychological well-being.
Everything in the physical World was observed to have a combination of four principal qualities – hot, cold, dry and moist. A combination of hot and dry produced Fire, hot and wet resulted in Air, cold and dry gave Earth, and cold and wet combined to produce Water. Furthermore, these four elements combined to create life, but only together with the quintessential fifth element, the life force, the ‘aether’, ‘spirit’ or ‘prana’.
Almost all cultures across the World accorded great importance to the 4 elements and the elements came to acquire powerful symbolism.
This element is considered to be the first element that was born when the universe was created. Fire is attributed to transformational and purifying powers. It can give warmth and enable life, and it can also burn and destroy. In the spiritual plane, Fire stands for Light and in the physical plane, it is the Sun or Flame. The element symbolizes incredible energy, activity, creativity, passion, freedom, power, love, vision, anger, strength, will, assertiveness, courage, and dynamism.
It is associated with the Summer season and its corresponding direction is South. The symbolic representation of Fire is a triangle pointing upwards.
Water is accorded cleansing power. It is symbolic of dreaming, healing, flowing, fluidity, purification, regeneration, stability, strength, change, fertility, devotion, receiving, and unconditional love. It symbolizes death as well as rebirth. It is life-giving, but can also be destructive. Fresh Water stands for life and good health, while polluted/stagnant Water is symbolic of bad health.
It is associated with the Autumn season and the West direction. An inverted triangle is the symbolic representation of the Water element.
It is associated with the breath of life and attributed to cleansing power. Air symbolizes communication, intelligence, perception, knowledge, learning, thinking, imagination, creativity, harmony, and travel. This source of life can also, at times, become a force of terrible destruction.
Air is associated with the Spring season and its corresponding direction is East. The Air symbol is an upright triangle with a horizontal line going through it.
The Earth element has cleaning power. It symbolizes prosperity, fertility, stability, orderliness, groundedness, sustenance, creativity, physical abundance, nourishment, solidity, dependability, security, permanence, intuition, introspection, and wisdom.
The season related to Earth is Winter and the associated direction is North. The element is symbolically represented by an inverted triangle with a horizontal line running through it.
The Masculine and Feminine symbolism of the Four Elements
The Earth and the Water are the heavier elements and have a downwards direction. Therefore, they came to represent the feminine archetype, the intuitive function, the passive state and the Chinese Yin attributes. These two elements are related to the symbolism of the Mother Earth.
On the other hand, the Air is above the Water & Earth and has a natural upward movement, while the fiery Sun, stars, and heavens are above even the Air. Both of these elements have a masculine archetype and symbolize the thinking function, the active state and the Yang attributes. They are associated with the Sky Father.
The Four Elements and Astrology
The four elements are believed to rule the 12 zodiac signs. The different elemental properties have been associated with behavioral attributes and personalities of individuals persons born under a particular zodiac are believed to have characteristics similar to that of the elements governing the sign. As such,
The four essential elements exist in all of us and their unique combinations determine our distinct personalities. These elements represent energy and symbolize different facets of human life. They all come from nature. Consequently, by connecting with them and understanding their presence in us, we become aware of our connection with nature and our relationship with the divine.
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Mexican Pottery is the most prolific and versatile type of Mexican Folk Art. Its variety shows the cultural, historic and geographic diversity of this country.
The oldest pottery pieces found in Mesoamerica are 4500 years old this is the time when the population became sedentary. The clay pieces found from that period are gourd shaped and were probably used to carry water.
Mesoamerican pottery was hand-coiled and low-fired, often slipped or burnished and sometimes painted with mineral pigments.
Every region developed its own pottery styles and techniques. Ceramic was used for domestic, ceremonial, funerary and construction purposes.
Mesoamerican civilizations' pottery production was such an integral part of their culture that many techniques survived the Spanish colonization.
Pottery During Colonial Times
Throughout the colony, the Spaniards introduced the potter's wheel, the enclosed kiln, lead glazes, pigments extracted from metal oxides and shapes such as the tile, the candle holder and the olive jar.
The New Spain was part of the commercial route between the Philippines and Spain. Spanish galleons sailed from Manila to Acapulco full of Asian goodies, including Chinese porcelain. From Acapulco the merchandise was carried by land to Veracruz, the main port in the Gulf of Mexico, and shipped to Spain.
Many of these goodies stayed in Mexico and significantly influenced the local artisans. Mayolica ceramic production, started in Puebla, is an example of this influence.
Contemporary Mexican Pottery
Contemporary Mexican Pottery reflects the cultural background of Mexican history.
The Spanish techniques, especially the glazing and firing the Native shapes, colors and patterns the Arabic influences brought in by the Spaniards and the colors and shapes from China, can be seen in many pottery styles throughout the country.
Handmade domestic wares have been replaced by mass produced cheaper ceramic. In order to survive, most Mexican pottery styles have shifted to decorative pieces.
The most popular and successful Mexican pottery styles today are:
Oaxacan Black Clay
The Black Clay (Barro Negro) from San Bartolo Coyotepec in Oaxaca had been used by Zapotecs since pre-Hispanic times, but it was Rosa Real de Nieto, aka Doña Rosa, who discovered how to give the clay its now typical shiny black color.
Multicolored Clay from Izucar de Matamoros
The Multicolored Clay (Barro Policromado) from Izucar de Matamoros, a small community with an extensive pottery tradition, is widely appreciated for its delicate drawings and bright colors the town's pottery became internationally known thanks to Alfonso Castillo Orta's expertise and creativity. Among the most representative models in this style are the incense burners and the tree of life candle holders.
Painted Clay from Guerrero
Nahuatl folk painting can be fully appreciated in the Barro Pintado colorful birds, flowers, landscapes and everyday town activities. Boxes, plates, and animal figurines portray the Mezcala's people stories and costumes.
Clay Figurines from Tlaquepaque
In the beginning of the 20th Century Pantaleon Panduro revolutionized Tlaquepaque's pottery making with his incredible sculpting talent. This village near Guadalajara has a clay working heritage dating back to prehispanic times.
Pantaleon became internationally known for his clay busts and figurines and created a tradition that lasts till today. With their clay effigies and nativity scenes Panduro and his descendants enriched Tlaquepaque's pottery heritage.
Pottery from Capula
Capula is a small village in Michoacan state with a pre-Hispanic pottery tradition. Clay tableware delicately decorated with flowers and fishes, kitchen plates painted with the town's unique dotting style and most recently clay Catrinas award Capula Pottery international reputation.
Mexican majolica pottery was first made in Puebla in the 16th Century spreading later to Guanajuato and Aguascalientes. Nowadays the most recognized Majolica workshops are "Gorky Gonzalez", "Capelo" and "Ceramica Santa Rosa".
Two legitimate talavera workshops are "Talavera Uriarte" who keeps with the traditional designs and "Talavera de la Reyna" sought after for its contemporary styles.
Talavera Uriarte Building
Mata Ortiz Pottery
Mata Ortiz, a small town located near the remains of the ancient city Paquime, has become internationally recognized thanks to its ceramic production.
Artisans from the village, located in Chihuahua state, have successfully reproduced the delicate hand coiled and elegantly painted vases and bowls made by the unknown early inhabitants of Paquime.
Clay figures from Metepec
In Metepec, a town in the Toluca Valley, pottery making is a tradition since pre-Colonial times. They specialized in, sun faces, and green tableware until 1940 when Modesta Fernández Mata began making the Tree of Life.
Today Metepec is internationally known for these sculptures and Modesta's descendants, the Soteno family, have been repeatedly awarded for their incredibly detailed creations.
Tonala's Burnished Clay
This clay style from Tonala includes necked jugs decorated with twisted animals, such as rabbits, birds and cats. Frequent color combinations include delicate tones of rose, gray-blue and white on a background of brown, light gray, green or blue.
The Barro Bruñido pieces are rubbed with a rock until their surface is so polished it looks as if they were glazed.
Ancient Greek Clothing - What Did the Ancient Greeks Wear?
Clothing in Ancient Greece consisted of lengths of rectangular linen or wool fabric. The Greeks wore light clothes as the climate was hot for most of the year. Their garment usually consisted of two main parts: a tunic (either a peplos or chiton) and a cloak (himation). Clothes were secured with ornamental clasps or pins at the shoulder and belt, sash, or girdle at the waist. Length of clothing differed between men and women. Women clothing was to their ankles while men wore their robe to the knees.
Inner tunic that was worn by women was a “peplos”. It was made of wool and had clasps at shoulders. The upper part of the peplos was folded down to the waist and formed so-called apoptygma. Chiton was lighter tunic, often pleated, made of linen and worn by both genders and all ages. Chitons also had knee-length for men and ankle-length for women.
The undergarment that women wore around the mid-portion of the body was called strophion while the shawl that they wore over the tunic was called epiblema. Some women wore a loose veil as well while at public places. The women also wore necklaces, made of gold and silver, and had earrings and bracelets.
A rectangle, woolen, blanket-sized robe that men wore was called chlamys. It was a typical Greek military attire and when it was not used as a robe it was wrapped around the arm and used as a light shield in combat.
During winter, Ancient Greeks wore the himation -a larger cloak worn over the peplos or chlamys. Over time, himation was made from lighter materials and was worn in every weather.
Footwear was not used very often and Greeks mostly walked barefoot, especially in the house, but in case they needed one, they wore leather sandals or leather boots. Most Greeks could go their entire lives without wearing shoes.
To protect themselves from the summer heat, Greek men wore petasos, a type of a wide-brimmed hat. It was mostly used for traveling. Women also wore hats with high-peaked crowns.
Fabrics were dyed by natural plants. The most common colors used for dyeing the clothing were violet, green and grey while materials were decorated in checks, wavy lines, stripes and flowered designs. Colored clothing was always more expensive than plain.
Wool was very expensive at the time, because it was imported from India which made clothing also expensive. Wealthy people could afford to by clothing while poorer had to make their own. Women and slaves were the one that made clothing in Ancient Greece.
Water in Bladders of Dead Animals or Animal Horns
In prehistoric times, water may have been carried in bladders of dead animals stitched together, animal horns or plant shells such as coconuts. Later, clay or mud was used to seal wicker baskets for carrying water.
The ancients began using pottery to carry water in 5000 BC. The pottery underwent light fire treatment to seal and strengthen the clay.
Over the next three millennia, people learned to fire treat their pottery differently creating sturdier, more resilient containers that resembled porcelain pots or stoneware – as depicted in ancient Egyptian art. Artisans first began forming glass in 2000 BC. The first glass bottles appeared in 1600 BC.
Historians believe the first hollow glass container may have been formed in 1500 B.C. by coating sand with molten glass. The more popular method of glass blowing later took the replace of the sand approach.
Engineers may have begun contemplating ways to transport water to homes during the Roman Empire. Vast aqueducts were built to move water closer to cities. Containers were made from clay, fibers and animal pelts to haul smaller quantities of water.
Glass-making faded temporarily into history with the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century. Glass making underwent a resurgence during the renaissance in the 15 th century. The bottles were initially used to store wine and the new medicine of gin.
The first plastic bottles were used in 1947, but the cost was high until the introduction of high-density polyethylene in the early 1960s.
With comparably low manufacturing and production costs, plastic bottles for water and food gained rapidly in popularity and eventually became the staple of modern times.
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The longest suspension bridge from 7th century till 1377
The Maya city state of Yaxchilan was founded in fourth century AD and with time it became a major Maya kingdom which challenged Palenque in the region. It is located on the bank of the Usumacinta River in present day Chiapas, Mexico. The Usumacinta River flooded for six months during the rainy season and isolated the city from access to its domain across the river. In order to survive as a viable urban center, Yaxchilan required a dependable year-round way to cross the river. It has been speculated that Maya engineers of Yaxchilan constructed a more than 100m long suspension bridge across the Usumacinta River in the 7th century. If true, the 62m (203ft) center span of the Maya Bridge at Yaxchilan remained the longest in the world until the construction of the Italian Trezzo sull’Adda Bridge in 1377. Engineer James A O’Kon carried out forensic engineering investigations, remote sensing and computer remodelling to digitally re-construct this bridge. The results were published in the pages of National Geographic magazine in 1995.