Category Archives: Friday Miscellany

Secret Cravings Winter Release Party!

Secret Cravings Publishing Winter Release Party starts at 9am. Visit SCP authors every half-hour for games, giveaways, and fun as we share our new releases. I’m up at 4pm but plan to visit throughout the day. Stop by for a chance to win a copy of my new SCP release, The Twelfth Night Queen. Click graphic to visit.

WinterRelease

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Friday Miscellany: Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD,  is located close to Naples, Italy. It has a large cone created by the eruption in 79 AD that is surrounded by a steep caldera which is a cauldron-like cavity created by the collapse of an earlier, higher structure – Monte Somma about 18,000 years ago.

900px-Vesuvio_landscape

Vesuvius was formed as a result of the collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates. A chain a volcanos, most of which are underwater and extinct was formed when the African slid underneath the Eurasian plate. The mountain is composed of lava, volcanic ash, and pumice. Prior to 79 AD Vesuvius was a pastoral haven that was planted with vineyards that produced a popular wine shipped around the Roman world.

The slopes of the mountain are scarred by lava flows but are heavily vegetated, with scrub and forest at higher altitudes and vineyards lower down. Vesuvius is as an active volcano which last erupted in 1944 during World War II. , although its current activity produces little more than steam from vents at the bottom of the crater.

Sunday, Jamie Salisbury Visits an Author’s Desk

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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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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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FRIDAY MISCELLANY: THE CAPUCHIN CATACOMBS OF SICILY

 Capuchin-Catacombs-670x472Catacombs are underground cemeteries with subterranean galleries with recesses for interments. They are spread over Western Europe. Some are religious; some are in cities that can no longer provide burial space for its residents.

Capuchin-Catacombs-The catacombs of Palermo were created in the 16th century by the Capuchin Monastery to house the deceased monks. In 1599 the monks mummified the first of their brothers and put him in the catacombs. Most of the monks were interred standing in their robes. Unlike little Rosalia – the expertly embalmed last resident to be interred, the standard method of preservation was to open up the corpse shortly after death and remove all the vital organs. The body would be stuffed with hay, and left in the sun to dry up. Some corpses, though odorless, have hay poking through their necks and falling out of holes in their skin.

crypt-capuchin-mummies_2945_600x450Centuries later, area citizens paid to be interred in the catacombs. Some even asked that their clothes be changed periodically. Most are arranged in galleries, either standing or reclining on shelves. A few or stored in trunks. Of the 8,000 inhabitants of the catacombs, just about 1,000 have been identified, with both their dates of birth and of death.

Horror-TourA personal note: I’ve visited a monastery in Southern Italy where most of the brothers’ bones have been used to create designs on the wall and ceiling. One brother spent most of his life creating the  “artwork.” To be honest, the monks still wearing their clothing and praying were more macabre.

Monday, Treasure Ship: Nuestra Señora de Atocha

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