Friday Miscellany: Harwa

HarwaHarwa whose magnificent Funerary Complex in the west bank of the ancient city of Thebes housed the remains of a body-clearing operation created during an epidemic that ravaged Thebes in the third century AD is an enigmatic character in the history of ancient Egypt. He lived in the late eighth and early of the seventy century BC during the XXV Dynasty, when the Nile Valley was ruled by pharaohs from Nubia – an area in Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. He held the office of Grand Steward of the Divine Adorers and was responsible for managing the state’s resources throughout  southern Egypt.

Eight statues of Harwa are housed in museums throughout the world portraying him in various poses. Harwa was not only an officer of great power but served as the real governor – on behalf of the pharaohs. An ushabti (funerary statuette) in limestone discovered in the tomb portrays Harwa with the scourge and the scepter, the insignia of Egyptian kingship.

Harwa and AnubisIn the lower picture, Anubis, the Egyptian God of the dead responsible for preservation of the body and soul in the afterlife, escorts Harwa to the scales of Ma’at, where his heart will be weighed against a feather to prove if he has lived a pure and holy life and is worthy of rebirth or not. and the soul was cast into darkness. If the scales balance, Harwa passes the test and will be welcomed by Osiris into the afterlife. BTW, savvy Egyptians who were concerned about the test could recite a spell from the Book of the Dead and substitute a heart scarab amulet instead of being betrayed by their own heavy hearts.

For more info, Harwa and his funerary monument have their own webpage  HERE.

Next week, Nikki Andrews visits An Author’s Desk & The Plague that almost Destroyed an Empire.



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Egyptian Monument Used to Destroy Plague Corpses

Egypt-epidemic-discovery-1Archaeologists working at the Funerary Complex of Harwa and Akhimenru in the west bank of the ancient city of Thebes uncovered the gruesome remains of a body-clearing operation created during an epidemic that ravaged Thebes in the third century A.D. The epidemic in Egypt was so terrible that one ancient writer believed the world was coming to an end. (The writer – St. Cyprian and Cyprian’s Plague will be featured next week.)

Egypt-epidemic-discovery-coffins used in kilnsThe archaeologists found bodies covered with a thick layer of lime (historically used as a disinfectant). The researchers also found three kilns where the lime was produced, as well as a giant bonfire containing human remains, where many of the plague victims were incinerated.

Egypt-epidemic-discovery-2nd secADcoffinfaceCheck out the pics of the fire pit with skulls and the coffins and coffin fragments that were burned as fuel in the kilns. (So much for living forever. I knew mummies were burned for fuel in Egypt at one time, but really!)

Credit: Photos by N. Cijan.

Tomorrow, All about Harwa


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Wednesday’s Words: Different from, different than, or different to?

False teeth4Sometimes an expression just hits you as wrong, but you can’t say why. A “dentist” in a TV commercial for a popular denture cleanser said “dentures are different to real teeth.” I couldn’t let it pass, so I put on my sleuth’s cap and started sleuthing – much to my eventual dissatisfaction.

The most in-depth source claimed that “different” is not a comparative word, but one of contrast. The word “than” should actually follow a comparative adjective – that would indicate using “different from.” “Different than” cannot be substituted for “different from” but is sometimes useful as an idiom or for beginning clauses if “different from” would be awkward. The construction “different to” is primarily British usage. All that sounds good to me.

HOWEVER, numerous other sources claim there is basically no difference, except for the British origin of “different to.” I can’t stand equivocation! Think I’ll go with “different from.”

Tomorrow, The Gruesome Repurposing of an Egyptian Monument



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A Re-purposed Ancient Egyptian Tomb

egyptian-plague-burial-site-617x416 The Funerary Complex of Harwa and Akhimenru on the west bank of the ancient city of Thebes (modern-day Luxor) in Egypt is our story of the week. The Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor (MAIL) has worked at the Funerary Complex since 1997 under lead investigator Francesco Tiradritti of the Università di Enna Unikore.

The monument  is one of the largest private funerary monuments of Egypt. It had been constructed in the seventh-century BC in honor of Harwa, a powerful Egyptian grand steward. Akhimenru, his successor, also built his tomb there.

Cenotaph of HarwaTiradritti considers the complex a key monument for studying a peak period in Egyptian art known as the “Pharonic Renaissance” that lasted from the start of the seventh century BC until the mid-sixth century BC. During this time, artists created innovative new works that were rooted in older Egyptian artistic traditions.

The monument was used continuously for burial by Egyptians until it was put to a gruesome use in the third-century AD.  More on that Thursday.

Tomorrow, My Rant on “to” vs “than” vs “from”


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An Author’s Desk: Hannah Lokos

I am so pleased to welcome Champagne author Hannah Lokos to “An Author’s Desk.” Hannah will share a bit about herself, Labyrinth of Lies – her debut novel of historical fiction published by Champagne Book Group, and the story behind the book.  BTW, Hannah’s the youngest guest to visit but she’ll tell you all about that. Meet Hannah …


IMG_4946I am a pre-med/biology college student, and as such, I have learned to write in a variety of places at a variety of times.  Honestly, I can write pretty much anywhere.  Sometimes, it’s my dorm room.  Other times it might be the school library, a different library, Denny’s, Starbucks, the stairs, or, if I’m at home, my couch.  I write whenever I have a spare chance, often as a study break from physics or organic chemistry, and often at one o’clock in the morning.   Even though writing and science are both intense and intensely time consuming, I am finding that, surprisingly, different types of insanity can actually work to balance each other out.  This has definitely been true in my case.   The cat in the picture is Chocolate.  She has been my faithful writing companion for the past twelve years.  When I’m writing at home, she often tries to squeeze onto my lap with my computer.

I wrote Labyrinth of Lies when I was eighteen years old. The idea came from an art history class I was taking.  I was already familiar with the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, which basically states that Crete went to war with Athens and won.  The cruel king of Crete, King Minos, demanded that the defeated king of Athens, King Aegeus, sign a peace treaty stating that, every year, he would send fourteen of his nation’s youth to Crete to be fed to the Minotaur, a vicious half-man half-beast that dwelt locked in the labyrinth.  The myth states that Theseus, the son of King Aegeus, eventually decided that enough was enough, so he sailed to Crete, killed the Minotaur, and freed his people.  This was all very well and dandy; nothing earth-shattering. But then I learned something: it was real.

Historical evidence indicates that Theseus may have been a real person.  King Aegeus was nearly certainly real; the Aegean Sea is named after him.  King Minos lived also; you can still tour the ruins of his palace (and see all the frescoes on the walls) at Knossos in Crete.  Crazier still, in the ruins, there was discovered to be a structure that resembled a labyrinth.  This really got me thinking.  We know there can’t be such a thing as a Minotaur.  It just isn’t possible.  Yet, everything else seems to be true.  So why on earth would you need a labyrinth if there was no monster to contain?  Why on earth would you kill fourteen innocent kids if there was no beast to eat them?  What was truly going on all those thousands of years ago?  And that is precisely what my book is about.  Theseus struggles to unwind a massive web of motives and lies to discover what truly lies at the heart of that infamous maze. What happens?  Well (cue maniacal laughter) you’ll just have to read it and find out!

Fun facts about me?  I like needlepoint and baking, but I also enjoy paintball and geocaching.  I have been stung by a jellyfish and I hate Twitter and cheese. Earlier this summer, I spent six weeks working overseas in Togo, West Africa, in a missions hospital.  Now, I’m studying for the MCAT and working on my next novel.  After that?  We’ll see!

DividerBar428x25 LABYRINTH OF LIES

LabyrinthofLies600x900@300dpiSomething foul is afoot in Ancient Greece. Athens is bruised from a previous war with Crete. Worse still, King Minos annually demands fourteen Athenian youths to be fed to the Cretan Minotaur locked inside a maze. When his own beloved, Zosemine, is taken to be fed to the Minotaur, Theseus finds himself at the heart of a web of conflicting motives, with the sense that even those closest to him cannot be trusted. Theseus must navigate the various plots, motives, and secrets through the labyrinth and see past the masks to slay the Minotaur

Buy Links for Labyrinth of Lies: CHAMPAGNE / AMAZON


Thank you for visiting, Hannah. All the best in your bright future.  Rita Bay

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Cover Reveal: The Caretaker’s Lady

This week I received the e-mail I’d been waiting for from Valerie, the Marketing Art Assistant at Liquid Silver Books. Check out the cover for The Caretaker’s Lady, my scorching hot contemporary romance that’s set at a high-end resort in the mountains of North Georgia. I LOVE it. This was my first older hero/heroine story and I was a bit apprehensive about how it would look and market. The artist, Kendra Egert from Creations By Kendra, nailed the hero and heroine perfectly. Kendra delivered with a touch of fall also.  Liquid Silver Books will release The Caretaker’s Lady in September.

Click to read an excerpt.Jasmine Bloom, queen of the bodice rippers for three decades, never thought she would become a victim of writer’s block. When family stress causes Cathy Morrow, who writes as Jasmine Bloom, to miss a deadline, Blaylock Publishing accepts a mysterious invitation for Cathy to visit The Mountain Ridge Resort to revive her muse.

Divorced for two decades with three grown children and two grandsons living in her home, Cathy can’t find the inspiration she needs to write the sizzling-hot romances that gained her fame and fortune. At the resort, Cathy meets a hot maintenance worker who warms the cool nights. Will she be content to role-play his favorite scorching-hot love scenes from her novels then return home to her dull routine?

The caretaker’s job at the resort allows billionaire John Murdock to live the life he loves in the Blue Ridge Mountains and keep a centuries-old family vow. When Cathy Morrow arrives at the resort, she lights a fire he’d banked years ago. Will she look beyond his white hair and menial job to appreciate what he offers—passion with the prospect for love?

Tomorrow, Hannah Lokos visits An Authors Desk




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Friday Miscellany: The “Economics” of Native American Slavery

Diving bell 17th secWhile I was researching the wreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha, I was touched by one report that about half of the treasure was salvaged by the Spanish after the Atocha and her sister ship, the Margarita, sank in a hurricane off the coast of Florida Keys in 1622. Their methods were primitive, but effective. The cost, however, was the loss of life of the Native American slaves.

After the surviving ships brought the news of the disaster back to Havana, Spanish authorities dispatched another five ships to salvage the Atocha and the Santa Margarita which had run aground near where the Atocha sank. While the Spanish never found the Atocha where it sank in approximately 55 feet of water, it would have been difficult for divers to retrieve any of the cargo or guns from the ship. A second hurricane in October of that year made attempts at salvage even more difficult by scattering the wreckage of the ship still further.

Nevertheless, the Spaniards undertook salvage operations of the Santa Margarita for several years using their Native American slaves. They recovered nearly half of the registered part of the rich treasure from the holds of the Margarita. The Spanish used a large brass diving bell with a glass window on one side. A slave would ride to the bottom, recover an item, and be hauled to the surface by the men on deck. It was often lethal, but more or less effective. Dead slaves were recorded as a business expense by the captains of salvage ships.

Unlike the Portugese who supported slavery, the Spanish monarchs abolished “slavery” soon after the Spanish established colonies in the Americas. The traditional slavery was replaced by the encomienda which regulated the use of Native Americans and rewarded individual Spaniards for services to the crown.

In the encomienda system, the Spanish crown granted a person a specified number of natives of a specific community, with the indigenous leaders in charge of mobilizing the assessed tribute and labor. The receiver of the grant was to protect the natives from warring tribes and to instruct them in the Spanish language. In return they could extract tribute from the natives in the form of labor, gold, or other products.

In practice, the difference between encomienda and slavery could be minimal. The natives, whose populations had already been decimated by European diseases, were worked hard and gained little. Natives were forced to do hard labor and subjected to extreme punishment and death if they resisted. The enslaved natives were often displaced and the communities and family units broken up.

The Bishop of Santiago justified the practice in a report in 1544:

In the past the treatment [of the Indians] was very bad; now [it is better] because they are needed, since the Spaniards are supported by their services, and if they are treated harshly, they hang themselves or let themselves die. They do not give much work, especially when they extract gold, since they are given good sustenance and a real [silver coin] every day. If they were free they would just be idle and fight, which would cause the loss of  lives, souls, and the property of the settlers, and Your Majesty would lose the island. Although this does not produce revenue now, it is important to preserve it, and if the Indians were freed, within two years there would be few [settlers] left in the towns of Puerto del Principe, Sanctispiritus, Trinidad, Baracoa, and even Bayamo. Thus the latter and Havana would be the only towns left, and the island would become impassable because the thick-ness of its forests would close the roads, though Your Majesty would not have to pay the governor, bishop, clergy, or officials, since we would all leave.

Bishop of Santiago,

Report on his inspection of Cuba, 1544




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Thursday Redux: Keith Wayne McCoy’s Meet Jess Bennett

Keith Wayne McCoy is my first guest on Thursday Redux , where my favorite authors share their favorite posts. “Meet Jess Bennett” was first published by Keith as a character interview on fantasy author Olga Godim’s Blog on March 10th, 2014.

Meet Jess Bennett, a 78 years old protagonist of The Travelers, an urban fantasy novel by Keith Wayne McCoy.

1. Tell me a little about yourself—your name, profession, where you live, do you have a family, the usual.

My name is Jess Bennett and I am 78 years old. I was born and raised in a flat in London, England. World War II gave me an American GI named James to fall in love with and marry. After the war, we left England and my mother for New York on the ship of our destiny, the QUEEN MARY. We left Southampton with only each other but arrived in New York as a family after a North Atlantic encounter with an otherworldly, desperate mother and her two small children. My life began on that voyage.

2. What happened to you, so you ended up in this crazy adventure the novel talks about?

We began a life in southern Illinois in Jim’s ancestral Victorian farmhouse. It was heaven on earth, and I had never been happier. But when we lost our children just nine months apart, I fell off the path of the living and descended into the deathly world of bitterness and hostility. Losing just one of them would have been pain enough but both was simply too much, like a double amputation. My marriage disintegrated and despair leveled any hope of a normal existence and I became a recluse. Now, decades later, this young black filmmaker has brought Jim and I together again for a final reunion with that poor mother who has returned to shut doors all older mortals contemplate.

3. What is your biggest regret?

I lost the love of my life. I am happy Jim remarried but I absolutely hate his second wife because she has my man. I’ve never been with another man but have no one to blame for losing him except myself. I actually freed him because I knew I would never be the same. It was the hardest choice I’ve ever made, brave I tell myself, but it was necessary. But this young man has given me this final chance to find my way after all these decades and all I need before I die is to see that woman.



The Travelers

In 1947, the Queen Mary transmits a message which is intercepted by extraterrestrial intelligence. This errant radio signal serves as a beacon for a North Atlantic encounter between James and Jess Bennett, a GI and his war bride, and an otherworldly, desperate mother and her two small children.

In the present day, Guy Turner, a melancholy, black filmmaker, finds himself at the center of a supernatural mystery after a haunting prelude with the now elderly mother in a corridor aboard the retired liner in Long Beach, California. Standing at the edge of eternity, the old woman and the Bennetts have the complex task of setting certain aspects of the past in order as the doors to their lives are closing.

Guy is thrust into an unexpected and unwanted voyage of self-discovery as he is solely enjoined to bring the three together one last time.


Thank you for visiting, Keith. The buy info and links for The Travelers and Keith’s webpage and social media contacts are listed below:

Buy The Travelers at any of these sites: Amazon  / Barnes & Noble / Champagne Book Group

Note:  Visit Keith Wayne McCoy’s blog at where he shares some of his magnificent collection of Queen Mary memorabilia. Rita

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Wednesday’s Words: Mel Fisher, Treasure Hunter Extraordinaire

“TODAY’S THE DAY!” (Mel Fisher’s Motto)

Mel Fisher3Mel Fisher (1922 – 1998) spent sixteen years searching for the wreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha (“Our Lady of Atocha”), the most famous of the Spanish ships lost in a hurricane in 1622. It was a royal guard galleon with 40 tons of gold and silver aboard which sank in a devastating hurricane along with others in 1622.

After they found the ship in 1985, in keeping with his “today’s the day!” optimism, Mel commented later:

“I think that perseverance has paid. That’s one of the main things, just hang in there and do your thing and when people try to tear you down or get jealous, just let it go in one ear and out the other and keep on going.”

To learn more about Mel and his family and their enterprise check out their webpage Interested parties can dive one of the wrecks or buy some of the treasures.

(On a personal note, after the treasure was discovered, I attended a tour of the Atocha treasures when it was shown at a jewelry store in Mobile, AL (my home town) .  Kicking self now because I didn’t buy some of the coins which were for sale for MUCH less than they cost today.)

Photo of Mel Fisher from
Tomorrow, Thursday Redux



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The Wreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha

Atoche shipNuestra Señora de Atocha (“Our Lady of Atocha”) was the most famous ship of a fleet of Spanish  twenty-eight ships caught in a late-summer hurricane in 1622. The ship, built in Havana in 1620, was a three-masted galleon of 500 tons constructed of mahogany. She was 113 feet long and carried twenty guns with a crew of one hundred and ten. The Atocha sank off the Florida Keys in approximately fifty-five feet of water, but was never located by the Spanish when they attempted to salvage the sunken fleet.

The ship, named for the parish of Atocha in Madrid, carried copper, silver, gold, tobacco, gems, jewels, jewelry, and indigo. The Atocha had remained in Veracruz longer than planned before rendezvousing in Havana with the vessels of the Tierra Firme (Mainland) Fleet. The treasure arriving by mule to Panama City had been so immense that it took 2 months to record and load the precious cargo.

imagesULU8B9JLAfter more delays, the fleet, including the Atocha, left Havana on September 4th.  Two days out, the Atocha was driven by a severe hurricane onto the coral reefs off the Dry Tortugas – about thirty-five miles west of Key West.  With her hull badly damaged, the vessel sank quickly, drowning everyone on board except for three sailors and two slaves.

When the surviving ships reported the loss, the Spanish attempted to salvage the ships. Over ten years, the Spanish managed to retrieve about half the treasure from the Santa Magarita which had run aground. A second hurricane in October hampered salvage attempts by scattering the wreckage. The loss of the fleet forced Spain to borrow money and sell several galleons to finance the Thirty Years War.

Tomorrow, Wednesday’s Words: Mel Fisher, Treasure Hunter Extraordinaire



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