Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall at sunset

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

To my friends and family on this Christmas Eve 2010:

Amidst the bustle and gaiety of this season, I pray that above all you would know the peace of Christ that passes understanding, remembering that He died for us while we were yet still hostile to Him.

He gave everything to redeem us from the pit and place our feet on the rock of His salvation.

In the words of my husband, "If He never did another thing for me, He's already done enough."

May you know the peace and comfort of His unconditional love this Christmas.

Amen.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Waiting. Hope. And Expectation.

Some general advice about blogging is not to blog if you don't have anything to say. Today I have something to say.

When I started this blog in 2009 I wanted to write about history and archaeology and my thoughts on the Christian life. The last couple blog posts I wrote felt uninspired. 2010 has been a rough and tough year for my husband and I.

I was praying yesterday morning, giving everything over to the Lord - a job for my husband, a job for my son, strength for my daughter. Trying to concentrate on all the blessings the Lord has given me and remembering His sovereignty, in which I take great comfort.

At the very end I gave to the Lord (for the thousandth time) my writing "career", the two manuscripts I have written, the difficulty of finding an agent and a publisher.

A few months ago in October, I had an email from a friend. She told me that she had asked a friend of hers who is an acquisitions author at a Christian publisher, to take a look at the two excerpts from my  manuscripts that are published on my website. This woman did take a look and emailed my friend that she was going to ask me to send the full manuscript for one of the books.

When I read this, my heart leapt within me. Talking with the Lord yesterday, I was telling Him how hard it was in those weeks afterward. My expectation was so high. Being a nurse, I saw it like an EKG strip or a stock market graph - a surge of energy, a "spike" of expectation. I was so excited! Maybe this was it! I checked my email a million times in the days that followed.



But gradually, as the request for the manuscript never materialized, that expectation fell back to the baseline of difficult waiting and trying to continue to believe that at some point, my stories will be published. I fought the discouragement, and yesterday morning I once again laid all my disappointment at the Lord's feet.



Then, when I wasn't expecting anything, the Lord dropped a thought and a picture into my head. Joseph, in prison. Just after he interpreted the dream for the chief baker and the chief butler to Pharaoh. Joseph asked the butler to remember him to Pharaoh.

Joseph waited in high hope for Pharaoh to remember him. Surely he had just such a spike of expectation. And then, nothing happened. He waited. And waited some more.

Then, in Genesis 41:1, it states "...then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, Pharaoh had a dream..." No one could interpret it for Pharaoh. And only then did the chief butler remember Joseph, who was then called, interpreted the dream, and was restored to a place of high responsibility  by Pharaoh.

I said, "you know, Lord, it might not be such a good idea to give me such an explicit word like 'two years'. You know how anal I can be."

Do I think it will be two years? No. I've known the Lord long enough not to take the word He gave me that literally. The important thing is that He spoke to me and encouraged me. And it will happen. I just don't know when. And that's OK. My job is to continue to listen, to write, to pray, and be expectant.

So that's what I'm going to do.

Thank you, Lord.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of a group of three pyramids situated in the Giza Necropolis of Egypt near Cairo.

It's also called Khufu's Pyramid or the Pyramid of Cheops (Greek for Khufu), and it was built for the Fourth Dynasty pharaoh about 2560 BC.

The Great Pyramid is the main structure of complex that includes two mortuary temples and smaller pyramids for Khufu's wives.

I've written about this pyramid in an earlier post  - the photograph of the Grand Gallery in the tomb fascinates me. There are three known chambers inside: the King's chamber, the Queen's chamber, and an unfinished chamber.

The features of the Great Pyramid are so large they can be seen from the moon!

One of these day I'm going to see it in person.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Muse

The Random House dictionary defines a muse as "the goddess or the power regarded as inspiring a poet, artist, thinker, or the like".

The original definition of a muse referred to a number of Greek sister goddesses who presided over the arts, such as Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Euterpe (music), Melpomene (tragedy), and Thalia (comedy).

In time, a muse came to be generally known by the first definition.

Do I have a muse? This question came up in a recent conversation. I personally have been inspired by two very different authors: Francine Rivers and Diana Gabaldon.

The writing of Francine Rivers made me realize that I could write historical fiction. And Diana Gabaldon inspired me when I read an interview with her in which she described her writing process: she has an idea and she writes that scene and many more scenes and then she "glues" them all together. That was my Eureka! moment. I didn't have to start on page one.

Since then I have taken writing courses and workshops and read many other author blogs and I have come to understand that everyone has their own writing process and there is no "right" one. The important thing is that you have an IDEA and see the story in your head and then you get it down on paper.

Why am I thinking about muses today? Because for the longest time I have been trying to work on a more recent historical - set in 1848 - on the suggestion of a friend who is an acquisitions editor at a major publisher. If I write it, she will read it - even though I don't have an agent.

So what do I do? I have 11, 000 words - about 13% of a book (Yes, I think in those terms!) I can't seem to get past that point. Instead, the last few days I've been thinking about the characters from my first manuscript, Ciara and  Aedan. I'm realizing that I want to return to their story and see where it leads.

Isn't that crazy? Here I have a friend in the publishing industry who will read a manuscript that is more recent history but I can't seem to stop thinking about the ancient history periods that fascinate me. I beat myself up thinking that if I had just tried hard enough I could have had that recent historical finished by now, but I realize my true love is those earlier time periods. And for the most part, they don't sell well.

So what is an author to do?

I think I've answered my own question. I am going to start working on manuscript #3.

I'm not saying I won't finish the "recent historical". I already have an affection for my main character in that work. I chose the name Bernadine Devane, after my sister, and I call my character "Deanie". Deanie Devane. It has a nice ring to it.

But I think Deanie's story will have be told later. Right now I'm returning to the 5th Century.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are another wonder of the ancient world, built by King Nebuchadnezzar about 600 BC. His wife, Amytis, daughter of the king of Medes, was depressed by the brown sun-baked plains of Mesopotamia and longed for the green hills and fragrant plants of her homeland.

A series of tiers were built, with terraces on every level. The gardens probably didn't actually "hang" but the walls were overhung with cascading vines and plants.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are the only ancient wonder that has not been verified through archaeological means. It is thought that the gardens were destroyed by an earthquake in the second century BC.

I wonder if Amytis was comforted by the site of this artificial green mountain rising from the flat plains?





Sunday, October 3, 2010

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: The Colossus of Rhodes

Alexander the Great conquered much of the known world in the 4th century BC. As a result, visitors from Greece had access to the ancient civilizations of the Egyptians, the Persians, and the Babylonians.

These visitors began to list the various landmarks of these lands. There were several different lists, compiled by various Greeks, but the most well known is the list of Antipater of Sidon, from 140 BC.

The seven wonders were the Lighthouse at Alexandria, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Statue of Zeus on Mount Olympia, the Tomb of King Mausollus, and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.

The Colossus of Rhodes was built nearly 2000 years ago on the lovely Mediterranean island of Rhodes. It was a tribute to their patron god, Helios. The Rhodians believed he had protected from the siege of Demetrios, successor to Alexander the Great.

The statue stood 110 feet tall and took 12 years to build. It stood on a 50 foot marble pedestal at the mouth of the harbor.

Although the statue has been depicted in the past with its legs straddling the harbor mouth, more recent research indicates that it would have looked more like a classic Greek statue. It was nude, wore a spiked crown, and shaded its eyes from the rising sun and carried a cloak over its left arm. See the picture at the right.

Many people have heard of the Colossus of Rhodes but few know of its link to our own Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty was referred to as the "New Colossus", as you can see from the inscription on the dedication plaque.

The Colossus of Rhodes stood proudly at the mouth of Mandraki harbor for 56 years. The statue collapsed when an earthquake hit the city. Pieces of the figure lay along the harbor for years.

In the 7th century, the Arabs conquered Rhodes and the statue was broken up into smaller pieces. The tons of bronze were sold off as scrap metal.

A legend says it took 900 camels to carry it away.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Old Cemeteries, Interesting Epitaphs, Touching Stories


Have you ever listened to Car Talk on NPR radio on Saturday mornings?

At the end of the show, Tom & Ray Magliazzi always say "Well, you've wasted another perfectly good hour listening to us."

I just spent way more than an hour cruising through some interesting online sites. And I know I'm not the only person out there who finds old cemeteries interesting.

Check out www.findagrave.com. Click on "Interesting Monuments" and check out a few. There are some fascinating stories to be found there. I mostly look at the earlier dates, especially the young women and children.

Look up the following names for starters:

Merchant, Christian B.
Poulson, Agnes F.
Warner, William Jr.

Christian Merchant's gravestone has a rather creepy tale that goes along with it. After you check it out on the Find A Grave site, go to www.ghosttoghost.com/htm and read how Ripley's Believe It Or Not featured the story on one of their shows.

The photo above is of Georges Rodenbach's gravestone in Paris, France. It was considered an excellent example of Victorian funerary art at the time. Imagine walking by that one October night when the leaves are falling. I don't know for sure but it must illustrate his belief in an afterlife. Rising from the grave? If you click on the picture you can get an even closer view.

On the Ghost To Ghost site you can read through some of the "Interesting Epitaphs". And I guarantee you will be amused and touched. I especially like the epitaph for Jonathan Pease.

Starting next week, I am going to do a series on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I've always wondered about them (Pardon the pun!)

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Pyramids




I'm writing about the Pyramids today because I need some inspiration and Egyptian archaeology always animates me.

The Pyramids have held a deep fascination for me since childhood, when my Dad brought a home a vividly illustrated coffee table book on the discovery of Tutankhamen's intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

That became my very first blog post. The photo of Tutankhamen's gold and jewel-encrusted burial mask has become an iconic representation of Egypt and is said to equal the worth of England's crown jewels.


Above is the Grand Gallery inside the tomb of Cheops, also called the Great Pyramid of Giza. It leads to the King's burial chamber. Just look at that mysterious staircase, built thousands of years ago. I want to be there!

On a tour to Israel in 1978, our group was to have a day in Egypt. But because we had entered Israel first, the immigration officials wouldn't allow us into Egypt. Instead we had a day in Rome (fabulous!). You might think that one day isn't enough time to see much but believe me, you can pack a lot into one day if you're motivated.

Still, I was disappointed at not getting into Egypt. I have a friend who thinks that we will be in Egypt together one day. Maybe on a dig? Perhaps to promote a book? Hmmm. Sounds good to me!


According to new Flickr.com rules, I need to give photo credits.

The top photo, "Pyramid of Khafre", Adrian Testa Photography.
3rd photo, "Grand Gallery of Cheops", by Templar1307.
Bottom photo, "Dusty Sunset at the Pyramids", by Matt Champlin.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rejected Again!


Last week I received a rejection notice from the agent I'd really hoped was going to be my agent.

It was a very nice letter, and she kindly gave me some thoughts on how I could improve that particular manuscript, which is rare. Because usually you get an formula rejection letter. Or even worse, what seems to be happening most of the time now is that you don't hear anything.

But still. OUCH!

It still hurts each time, especially I had met this agent and spent time with her. So double ouch.

So what did I do?

I ran right out to the bookstore and bought books. Five books to be exact. And an American Bungalow magazine ( my fave). And two Rice Krispie treats at the bakery counter in the store.

I came home and started reading. I wanted to get lost in a story and there's nothing like a good book to take your mind off things. And that's what I've done all this past week. I read all those books and went to the library and got some more.

And now, tonight, I'm ready to plow back into the writing. Because I also want to write the kinds of books that take people away to another place. And all I know for sure is that if I give up now, I will never be published.

So if at first, or for the first 50 times, you don't succeed, try, try again.

Monday, August 2, 2010

E-Books

The advent of the Kindle and the Nook has caused a major sea change in the publishing world.

Last week, one publisher announced that for the first time, the sale of E-books was greater than the sale of hard covers and paperbacks for that month.

Several people have suggested that I put my first manuscript up as an E-book. My friend, Vicki, who is an acquisitions editor at a major Christian publisher, told me that Amazon is looking for authors for E-books.

It's tempting. The actual listing of the book would be easy. I wouldn't have to put out five or ten thousand dollars first, as I would if I wanted a vanity press to run my book off.

But then again, as my friend Vicki points out, my first manuscript is set in the 5th Century. Not exactly the top of the list as far as historicals go. In her words, "it's a hard sell".

I want to hold out for a real live agent. Someone who loves my stories and thinks he or she can sell them. Someone who can advise me and give me feedback. Someone who won't be afraid to tell me when my writing stinks!

I'm going to avoid the temptation and hold out for that agent. Back to work on manuscript #3.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ancient Medicine: Lamb's Ear

We know Lamb's Ear as the soft, silvery-green leaves in a flower garden that are fun to pick and are especially good for children to "pet".

But once upon a time, Lamb's Ear was also known as Woundwort, because the leaves were believed to have healing properties. The fuzzy leaves were used as bandages during the Civil War.

I found another old reference to Lamb's Ear being used as a washcloth. Perhaps for a baby or child? They certainly are soft enough.

And what did people do before the invention of bandaids?

A single Lamb's Ear leaf is perfect to roll around a finger. A long blade of grass or a pine needle could be used as a fastener.

In my first novel, Ciara's Tale, Ciara uses Lamb's Ear to soothe a child's burned finger. Wouldn't that be a novel way to bandage a child's boo boo?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dioscorides - Father of Modern Pharmacology

Pedanius Dioscorides was a Greek physician, born about 30 AD in Asia Minor (now modern Turkey). Two thousand years after his birth he is still remembered for the major contribution he made to medicine and pharmacology.

Dioscorides was attached to the Roman Empire armies of Nero, and in this capacity he traveled extensively throughout Italy, Gaul (France), Spain and North Africa. Everywhere he went, he observed plants in their natural habitat and noted how the local folk used them.

He personally researched each plant and its uses. About 65 AD, he wrote De Materia Medica, "Regarding Medical Matters",on the "preparation, properties, and testing of drugs."  The result was a five volume book on the uses of over 1,000 plants and minerals.

Unlike previous herbals, Dioscorides instead organised his material into therapeutic groupings based on similarities of medicinal action. Originally written in Greek, it was later transcribed into Latin and Arabic.

For nearly 1500 years, De Materia Medica was the supreme authority on medicine and pharmacology in western civilization. No original copy of Diosccorides' work remains, but several copies published in the 16th century are in museums today.

The oldest and most famous copy is an illuminated Byzantine manuscript produced about 1512 for Anicia Juliana, daughter of Flavius Anicius Olybrius, who had been emperor of the western empire in 472 AD. The page above is taken from this manuscript and you can see some annotations in Arabic.

Dioscorides also included some recipes for making perfume in his De Materia Medica. Perfumes in ancient history weren't the liquid perfumes we know today, but instead were manufactured in an oily or buttery waxy base. In my second manuscript, I used Dioscorides' recipe for perfume using yellow flag (iris) root, myrrh, balsam and honey.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ancient Medicine: Comfrey

You may have known that honey could be used as a dressing for wounds, and some of you out there perhaps knew that willow bark contained the main ingredient in aspirin, but I dare say not too many people know the uses of Comfrey.

Comfrey has had lots of other names over the course of history: Blackwort, Knitbone, and Boneset among others. The last 2 names give a hint as to one of the major uses of comfrey in ancient medicine.

The leaves would be ground to make a vivid green poultice for bruises and sprains. For broken bones, the fresh roots would be grated onto a clean cloth and applied over a broken bone. This root poultice would become rock hard and be left over the fracture until the bones had "knit."

Hence the name Boneset or Knitbone. Comfrey contains several different vitamins and minerals, allantoin (aids cell growth) and 18 amino acids. Dioscorides of ancient Greece mentions comfrey in his 1st Century writings. He is quite an interesting character, Dioscorides, and is considered to be one of the fathers of modern pharmacology. I think I will have to do a post on him!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ancient Medicine: The Water-Loving Willow


Another staple of ancient medicine was the water-loving willow tree. The use of willow bark dates back to Hippocrates in 400 BC.

American Indians chewed willow bark to relieve fever and inflammation. Willow bark contains a substance called salicin. Salicin is used to create acetylsalicylic acid. Its better known name is aspirin.

In ancient Greece, the priests of Aesclepius would place willow branches in the beds of infertile women.

The ancient Celts would simmer willow bark, then let it steep and drink the resulting tea. They also believed that the spirit of the dead person would rise up through a willow sapling planted over a grave and retain the essence of the departed one.

In the cold, damp areas of Britain, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, the magical willow-bark tea must have been a precious commodity for people who suffered from rheumatism and arthritis!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ancient Medicine: Honey


Ancient medicine and the use of herbal potions and tinctures play a role in my first 2 books. I gave my character, Ciara, an intuitive interest in the practice of medicine and the curative uses of herbs, roots, and berries. And honey.

Honey has been used for at least 2,000 years as a dressing for wounds and burns. The ancients didn't know that honey has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties but they knew that it worked.

The use of honey reduced healing time and decreased scar formation. Plus it smells good!

When antibiotics came upon the medical scene in the 1940's, the use of honey declined. Now seventy years later, at a time when the overuse of antibiotics has resulted in scary infections resistant to drugs, the use of honey is once again current.

I recently read about a 15 year old boy who contracted meningococcal septicemia. He developed peripheral necrosis (tissue death) of his hands and feet. He had to have bilateral amputations of both legs mid-tibia (shin bone), and also lost most of his fingers. His hands healed well but he had many unsuccessful skin grafts to his legs. The pain was so intense that his dressing changes had to be done under anesthesia.

Finally honey dressings were tried. Within a few days the skin on his legs began to improve. In ten weeks his wounds had healed and he went on to successful rehabilitation.

Something to think about the next time you stir a teaspoon of honey into your tea or sweeten your oatmeal.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Something New


This morning I was fooling around with some new templates that Blogger recently offered.

I changed mine and now I can't get the old template back.

That means more research on the computer today.

Next week I'll get back to history and archaeology. It's much more enjoyable!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Subscriber Button


This is a photo of neurons in a brain. Sometimes I think all my neurons aren't firing the way they should be.

I started this blog in September of 2009. I asked all my friends to be my "followers" as I traversed the long and winding path to publication.

I talked about my blog to people who love history and archaeology as I do.

And all this time I thought that when people signed up to follow my blog, they received an email when I put up a new blog post.

Just recently I discovered that isn't the case. Sheesh.

I spent 2 hours yesterday trying to figure out get a "feed" and how to get a "subscriber" button onto to my blog. And I finally did it, all by myself. (Usually I have to ask my long-suffering husband to help.)

So please, dear readers, check out the new subscribe button on the upper left side of the page. And take pity on my poor exhausted neurons.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bodhran

Another ancient instrument which dates back to the Stone Age and is still used today is the bodhran, or Irish drum.

The bodhran has a narrow wooden frame with an animal skin stretched taut across one side.

Variations of this type of frame drum appear in other ancient civilizations such as Egypt, China and Africa.

The Irish bodhran has one important difference, and that is the way in which it is played. Most methods of playing a drum consist of a stick or a hand beating the skin frame.

A Irish musician playing the bodhran bends their rhythm hand so that the back of the fingers are presented to the skin of the drum. The player swings his hand up and down and uses the middle finger as a beater.

The other hand is inside the drum and is used to alternate or damp the tone of the drum. A two-headed stick is also used to play the bodhran as illustrated in the photos below.

 If you've never heard a Celtic band, you owe it to yourself to hit an Irish pub, have a beer, and enjoy the music.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Links

For my more recent readers, today I have listed some of the websites I visited when writing my 1st manuscript, Ciara's Tale. The setting is ancient Ireland and the story features some of the famous Neolithic tombs and sacred sites.

The Perils of Publishing site belongs to Kelly Mortimer, the agent who hosted the writing conference in California that I recently attended. Kelly Mortimer is going to be my agent. She hasn't signed me yet but she will. Anyone interested in writing will find a wealth of information there.

Pictured above is the magical forest of Kilkenney in Ireland.

Check these sites out and let me know what you think. I like to get feedback!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Crotals

Another ancient musical instrument  that dates to the Bronze Age was the crotal. This was a type of bell shaped liked the testicles of a bull.

The bronze crotal was hollow inside and would contain a stone or pebble that would produce a sound when the index finger was inserted through the ring at the top and then thrust forward from the hand.

Variations of sound could be produced by tapping the bell while lifting some of the fingers holding it.

Most of the crotals known today were found in a single hoard in County Offaly in Ireland. So if you'd like to try something different, maybe a crotal (or two) would suit you!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

To live in the hearts of those you leave behind is never to die.

Robert Orr

On this Memorial Day 2010, we remember those who made "the ultimate sacrifice" in the service of their country.

Take a moment today to think of those men and women who bravely gave their lives so that we could remain free.

And thank God for the freedom we have in America today - and remember that it comes at a price.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Prehistoric Music

I have been feverishly revising my 1st manuscript after the writer's conference I attended last week. It's been fun reading and experiencing my very first story again and I had several thoughts to blog about.

Writing historical fiction is fascinating because I learn so much doing the research. Re-creating an ancient world means learning about everything from medicine to music, clothing, architecture, weapons, food, and more.

In my first manuscript, set in 5th Century Ireland, one character is a blacksmith and a bronzesmith. A bronzesmith would have created the instrument called a carnyx.

A carnyx was a massive rolled tube of bronze in a sort of reverse "S" shape, as pictured in the photo. It would have been heavy and it would have required a strong man to carry and play it.

It's thought that these horns were played as tribes were going into battle and they were also used during royal funerals and solemn ritual occasions.

I discovered a site that is devoted to the study and re-creation of ancient music. It has only been in the last few years that musicians figured out how to play these ancient horns. Reproductions were cast and one brilliant person had the thought that the carnyx might be similar to the Australian didgeridoo.

That proved to be the key. A fascinating website you can check out is http://www.prehistoricmusic.com/. I have corresponded with one of the musicians there, and I have one of their CD's. There was one particular song that I listened to repeatedly while I was writing a funeral scene.

You can listen to some of the music if you go to the site. click on "music" and then click on "sounds" for a sample. I promise you it is unearthly! You will be hearing sounds that until recently hadn't been heard on this earth in thousands of years.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Writer's Conference

I have just returned from a writer's conference in California. Twenty writers. Three men and seventeen women.

I thought I might be the oldest writer there but lo and behold - there were lots of people older than me. All writers. And all deeply interested in getting their writing published.

I made some wonderful friends - Robin, Rae, and Sunny, to name three.

The conference was run by an agent named Kelly Mortimer. What a powerhouse of energy! She does the work of three people at once and she is going to be my agent. (She isn't yet but she will be.) I will have book(s) published. I will affect lives with my writing.

One of the conference sessions was on the power of positive confession. You can see the results of this in the preceding paragraph!

Oh, how wonderful it was to sit and converse with other writers. To talk about the power of words. To sit in the natural hot springs spa and watch the moon through the fronds of palm trees.

Did I say how much I enjoyed the conference? I returned from California with new inspiration, fresh hope and a strong determination to keep pushing forward on this writing journey.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Souterrains

A souterrain is an underground passage, or chamber, found in Ireland, Scotland and other countries such as France.

They could be as small as a closet or they could continue underground for quite a distance. Some archaeologists think they were used for hiding from enemies but the most common explanation is that they were used for food storage.

The underground temperature stays fairly even and in pre-refrigeration days these souterrains would be perfect for salted meat, grain, and wine.

The walls and ceiling of the souterrain were lined with stones.


Here is the entrance to a souterrain in Scotland, placed under a "kerbstone," one of the giant stones at the base of a Neolithic monument.

This is another photo deep inside a souterrain. I found this photo on Flickr and I don't know the man in the picture but he doesn't look very comfortable! Note the water standing in the floor of the souterrain.


Here is another large souterrain. Despite the feeling the photo gives you, souterrains were not usually very deep underground. Those are grass roots hanging down from the ceiling.

A very climactic scene in my first novel, Ciara's Tale, takes place in a souterrain. Doesn't that photo above look creepy? Now just imagine this souterrain by candlight!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sulis Minerva

In Bath, England, lies a great archaeological treasure, the Roman temple of Sulis Minerva or Aquae Sulis, built on the site of hot mineral springs.

Archaeological excavations have revealed that human use of the springs dates back 10,000 years.

Neolithic hunter-gatherer tribes frequented it first, followed by the Celts, who arrived in Britain about 700 BC and built the first shrine.

The Romans arrived in 43 AD and took over the Celtic shrine. "Sul" or "Sol" was a Celtic deity associated with the sun. In time, the Roman goddess Minerva became identified with the shrine, thus the name Sulis Minerva.


The main spring bubbles out of the ground at a rate of a quarter of a million gallons each day and maintains a constant temperature of 120 degrees. It was a sacred site, where man was thought to be able to communicate with the underworld and where people came to worship and seek the goddess for healing.

Archaeological excavations have revealed thousands of objects at the spring's bottom that were sacrificed as votive offerings. It was the custom to sacrifice only a precious and perfect object.

In my first book, one of my characters offers a sword to the gods by ritually breaking it and depositing it into a pool.

More than 12,000 coins were found at the bottom of one of the pools and proves that the custom of tossing a coin into water accompanied by a wish is a very ancient one! Here is one of the Roman altars found at the baths. Offerings of wine and fruit would have been left on the top for the gods.


These stacks of tiles held up the floor of one of the bathing chambers such as the calidarium. Pipes would have run through this area to heat the floor above.

This is one of the original Roman lead pipes that still function today to carry water.


These mirrors are some of the objects found at the bottom of the spring. Most of them have the words "to the goddess Minerva" inscribed on them and the initials of the person offering it. Lead tablets were also deposited into the springs with requests to the goddess.

Bath received its name from the mineral springs associated with it. At least 43 minerals have been identified in the waters.

I haven't yet seen Bath for myself but I hope to one day. Hmmm, maybe a character who finds herself in ancient Bath? Could be fun.





Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bronze armlets

In my second novel, one of the main characters is Coroticus, a Romano-British chieftain who ruled the area of Strathclyde in what is now western Scotland.

When I am writing a story like this one, set in ancient times, I use my archaeological research to drive part of the story.

When I discovered this pair of bronze armlets, I had Coroticus wear them. They are a massive pair, weighing over 3 lbs. each!

Because of this, some archaeologist have suggested that real people wouldn't have worn them but instead they were perhaps intends for large statues.

This sounds plausible but no such statues have been found that could wear them. This pair of armlets presently resides in the British Museum.

They were discovered in 1854 over the entrance to a souterrain (a stone-lined underground cellar used for storage.)

A souterrain played a part in my first novel and I will post about that next.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter


Christ the Lord is risen today!

May the very power that raised Jesus from the dead reside in you.

Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Historic Boston

Location is just one of the many items I have to research while writing my 3rd novel, set in Boston in 1848.

I have several books of old paintings and photos of Boston that help me know which buildings existed when my character lived there.

Boston, of course, is one of the oldest cities in America. The first settler arrived in 1652 and lived alone on what is now Boston Common.

In 1628, the Cambridge Agreement was signed in England and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony arrived in June of 1630 with John Winthrop as their leader.

Historic alley in Boston.


Another historic alley. Note the cobblestone street.

Townhouses on Beacon Street. My character, Deanie, comes to live with her uncle in one of these.


Another view of a historical street.



Boston Common, the oldest park in America. Cows grazed on the Common until 1830. Public executions on the gallows were held here until 1817. British troops camped here before the American Revolution.