Thursday, 17 January 2019

Inside The Terrifying But Necessary Job Of A Medieval Plague Doctor

Plague Doctor Rendering
The plague doctors uniform was designed to protect them from contamination…too bad it didnt.

The Black Death was the deadliest epidemic of bubonic plague in history. It wiped out some 25 million Europeans alone in just a few years. Out of desperation, cities hired a new breed of physician, so-called plague doctors, who were either second-rate physicians, young physicians with limited experience, or who had no certified medical training at all.

What was important was the plague doctor was willing to venture into plague-stricken areas and tally the number of dead. After more than 250 years fighting the plague, hope did finally arrive with the invention of the 17th-century equivalent of a hazmat suit. Unfortunately, it didn’t work very well.

Flawed Science, Flawed Suit
The primary responsibilities of a plague doctor, or Medico della Peste, were not to cure or treat patients. Their duties were more administrative and laborious as they kept track of casualties, assisted in the occasional autopsy, or witnessed wills for the dead and dying. Unsurprisingly, this meant that some plague doctors took advantage of their patient’s finances and ran off with their final will and testament. More often than not though, these bookkeepers of the plague were revered and sometimes even held for ransom.

Hired and paid by the city, plague doctors saw to everybody regardless of their economic status. Though they did occasionally invent their own cures and tinctures which they included with a fee to wealthier patients.

It was not immediately obvious to doctors and victims alike how exactly plague spread. By the time of 17th-century though, physicians had subscribed to miasma theory, which was the idea that contagion spread through foul-smelling air. Prior to this time, plague doctors wore a variety of protective suits but it wasn’t until 1619 that a “uniform” was invented by Charles de l’Orme, the chief physician to Louis VIII.

Plague Doctor
The two nostril holes in the mask certainly did little to protect the doctor.

De l’Orme wrote of costume that “The nose [is] half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume… Under the coat, we wear boots made in Moroccan leather (goat leather)…and a short-sleeved blouse in smooth skin…The hat and gloves are also made of the same skin…with spectacles over the eyes.”

Because they believed that smelly vapors could catch in the fibers of their clothing and transmit disease, de l’Orme designed a uniform of a waxed leather coat, leggings, boots, and gloves intended to deflect miasmas from head to toe. The suit was then coated in suet, hard white animal fat, to repel bodily fluids. The plague doctor also donned a prominent black hat to indicate that they were, in fact, a doctor.

The doctor also carried a long wooden stick which he used to communicate with his patients, examine them, and occasionally ward off the more desperate and aggressive ones. By other accounts, patients believed the plague to be a punishment sent from God and requested the plague doctor whip them in repentance.

Foul-smelling air was also combatted with sweet herbs and spices like camphor, mint, cloves, and myrrh, stuffed into a grotesque mask with a bird-like beak. Sometimes the herbs were set aflame before they were put in the mask so that the smoke could further protect the plague doctor.

They also wore round glass goggles. A hood and leather bands tethered the goggles and mask tightly to the doctor’s head. Besides the sweaty and horrifying exterior, the suit was deeply flawed in that it had airholes poked into the beak. As a result, many of the doctors contracted plague and died.

German Costume
17th-century German plague uniform.

Though de l’Orme was lucky enough to live to an impressive 96, most plague doctors had a very short lifespan even with the suit, and those who did not get sick often lived in constant quarantine. Indeed, it could be a lonely and thankless existence for the plague doctors of yore.

Plague Doctors’ Horrific Treatments
Because plague doctors were confronted only with the horrific symptoms and not an in-depth understanding of the disease, they often were allowed to conduct autopsies. These, however, tended to yield nothing.

Plague doctors consequently resorted to some dubious, dangerous, and debilitating treatments. Remember plague doctors were largely unqualified, so they had less medical knowledge than “real” physicians who themselves subscribed to incorrect scientific theories. Treatments then ranged from the bizarre to the truly horrific.

They practiced covering buboes — puss-filled cysts the size of an egg found on the neck, armpits, and groin — in human excrement which probably spread further infection. They also turned to bloodletting and lancing the buboes to drain the puss. Both practices could be quite painful, though the most painful must have been pouring mercury over the victim and placing them in an oven.

Not surprisingly, these attempts often accelerated death and the spread of infection by opening festering burn wounds and blisters.

Today we know that the bubonic and subsequent plagues like pneumonic were caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis which was carried by rats and common in urban settings. The last urban outbreak of plague in the United States occurred in Los Angeles in 1924 and we since have found a cure in common antibiotics.

This early hazmat suit and those horrific treatments remain thankfully in the past, but the willingness of plague doctors to separate the sick from the healthy, to burn the contaminated, and experiment with treatments, has not been lost on history.

These Old Photos Were Cleverly Edited Without The Help Of Photoshop... 150 Years Ago!

In a time when Photoshop and photo editing software were still too futuristic to even imagine, it's impressive how photographers managed to manipulate reality, amuse and entertain the masses, and voice out political and social issues by manipulating photographs which we can safely assume were laboriously done.
Just look at these 11 old photographs manipulated to tickle our fancy. They're more mind-blowing now that I know they weren't edited with Photoshop.
Aberdeen Portraits No. 1
George Washington Wilson, 1857

before photoshop 5
photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art │ via Brain Pickings
Man Juggling His Own Head
Unidentified French artist, Published by Allain de Torb├ęchet et Cie.,
ca. 1880

before photoshop 9
photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art │ via Brain Pickings
The Vision - Orpheus Scene
F. Holland Day, 1907

before photoshop 4
photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art │ via Brain Pickings
A Powerful Collision
Unidentified German artist, 1914

before photoshop 3
photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art │ via Brain Pickings
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model
Maurice Guibert, ca. 1900

before photoshop 8
photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art │ via Brain Pickings
Man on Rooftop with Eleven Men in Formation on His Shoulders
Unidentified American artist, ca. 1930

before photoshop
photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art │ via Brain Pickings
Dirigible Docked on Empire State Building, New York
Unidentified American artist, ca. 1930

before photoshop 2
photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art │ via Brain Pickings
Room with Eye
Maurice Tabard, 1930

before photoshop 11
photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art │ via Brain Pickings
Two-Headed Man
Unidentified American artist, ca. 1930

before photoshop 10
photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art │ via Brain Pickings
Hearst Over the People
Barbara Morgan, 1939

before photoshop 12
photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art │ via Brain Pickings
Dream No. 1: Electrical Appliances for the Home
Grete Stern, 1948

before photoshop 13

What Divers Found Deep In The Mediterranean Sea Seems Like Out Of Science Fiction

Underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio and his diving team were searching for shipwrecks when they chanced upon some relics, which led to one of the greatest finds of the 21st century: Egypt's sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion.
The 1,600-year-old city had been mentioned by 5th century BC historian Herodotus, describing it as an extraordinary city of ‘great wealth.’ Then around 1,200 years ago, the city vanished.
For centuries, Thonis-Heracleion was thought to be just a legend when... lo and behold!
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Head of a gigantic statue made of red granite (5.4 meters) representing the god Hapi, which decorated the temple of Heracleion.
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Many more statues and fragments are fished out to the surface, still in excellent condition. Some of them dating back as early as the 2nd century BC.
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Greek text engraved in a gold object.
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Bronze statue of Osiris, the assassinated and resurrected king-god.
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Diver measures the feet of a colossal red granite statue.
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Bronze oil lamp, about 2nd century BC.
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Franck Goddio with the still intact and inscribed Heracleion stele. This is identical to the Naukratis Stele in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. This one was commissioned by Nectanebo I, 378-362 BC.
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Goddio inspecting a stone with gold fragments.
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
A gold vessel, Phiale
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
A Ptolemaic queen statue
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
A reg granite colossus of a Ptolemaic queen, which measures 490 cm in height and weighs around 4 tons.
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
The 5-meter head of a pharaoh statue is raised to the surface.
Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation
Bronze statuette of pharaoh of the 26th dynasty

“We are just at the beginning of our research," Franck Goddio said. "We will probably have to continue working for the next 200 years for Thonis-Heracleion to be fully revealed and understood.”

Man Accidentally Uncovers A 50,000-Year-Old Archaeological Site When He Went To Pee In The Woods

Adnyamathanha country can be found at the northern end of the Flinders Ranges in Australia. It was here that one of the country’s most major archaeological find was made...purely by accident.
Clifford Coulthard and another researcher, Giles, ventured deep into Australia to study ancient aboriginals, but they weren’t having any luck. Then, Clifford wandered away from the group to answer “nature’s call” and this is when he found something amazing completely by accident...
Looking for a private area where he could relieve himself, Clifford walked up a narrow path where he found a spring surrounded by spectacular rock markings. Curious, he followed the trail of artwork—and what he found was a 50,000-year-old archaeological wonder.
It was an aboriginal rock shelter! Clifford noticed that the walls of the shelter were black from smoke—a sign that humans had, indeed, made this their home. Excited, he rushed back and alerted Giles. Once Giles saw the site, he agreed that it was certainly something special.
The excavation began in 2011, and it was determined that it was the oldest inland aboriginal site in Australia. The shelter was occupied for around 40,000 years before it was finally abandoned around 10,000 years ago.
The archaeologists found a veritable stash of ancient goods and layer after layer of animal bones, charcoal, ash, egg shells, plant material, and ceremonial paints. 
The tools the archaeologists unearthed almost proved to be another major historical first. The axes and awls found were between 33,000 and 40,000 years old - making them the oldest example of these types of tools in Australia and Southeast Asia.
Also uncovered were bones from the remains of 16 different types of mammals and one type of reptile. The most remarkable discovery were the bones of a Diprotodon optatum, a prehistoric wombat-like marsupial that was as big as a rhino!
Finding this mammal’s bones in the shelter was proof that this creature served as a major food source for the ancient aboriginals. There was no way for a creature of this size and shape to get into the cave on its own. This meant that the animal was hunted and carried to the shelter.
One of the most important part of this find was learning that caves and shelters like these were only used sporadically, probably when the weather made living in exposed conditions impossible. It taught archaeologists that ancient aboriginals mostly lived a nomadic life.

The Mysterious Medieval Carvings of Women Exhibitionists

Sheela-na-gigs are medieval stone figures of a naked woman spreading her legs. She is shown using her hands to pull open and proudly display her exaggerated genitals.
What makes these figures so puzzling is the fact that they occur predominantly in medieval religious buildings, such as churches and monastic sites. They are not something you would expect to see in a church. But a sizable number of them have also been found in castles, holy wells, bridges, culverts, and pillars.
These figures usually occur in isolation, unattached and freed from any background that could establish their provenance. Their origin and significance remain a mystery.
When these carvings first came to scientific attention two centuries ago, they were considered too vulgar, lewd, and repulsive for serious study. It was only in the last few decades that academics have turned their interests to these curious carvings.
While the sheela-na-gigs appear to be erotic in nature, they are believed to be pagan symbols of fertility or warnings against lust. Some theorized they might also have been used as protection against evil, hence their positions over entranceways.
In the Romanesque art of the mediaeval period, lust was often portrayed as a naked woman with snakes and toads eating her breasts and genitals. Church buildings along many pilgrimage routes depicted a range of exhibitionist figures, both male and female, to alert the faithful to the dangers of the sin of lust. The emphasis was always on the genitalia, which were made disproportionately larger. These Romanesque female exhibitionist carvings might have given rise to sheela-na-gigs.
Sheela-na-gigs can be found all over western and central Europe, but Ireland and Britain have the highest number of surviving sheela-na-gig carvings. The Heritage Council of Ireland has identified at least a hundred examples across the island. There are also about forty-five carvings in Britain.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Thermopolia: The Take-out Restaurants of Ancient Rome

The concept of take-out food can be traced back to Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, it was common for people to buy prepared food from market and roadside stalls.
In the ancient Greco-Roman world, poor people could not afford a private kitchen in their house, so eating, or at least cooking, at home was highly uncommon. Poor people usually ate outside and would purchase their food from the local thermopolium.
The thermopolium was an ancient form of a take-out restaurant, an outdoor service counter that offered ready to eat food. The word thermopolium literally means “a place where something hot is sold”. It consisted of a small room with a stone counter at the front, in which several terracotta jars called Dolia were embedded.
These jars were usually used to store dried food like nuts, because hot food would have required cleaning out the dolia afterwards which would have been very awkward. The fancier thermpolia were adorned with traditional frescoes.
Over the years, archaeologists have discovered a number of thermpolia in Pompeii and Herculaneum, two towns that were destroyed (and preserved) by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
In one thermopolium, the remains of cloth bag containing around thousand coins was discovered in one of the dolia; this almost certainly demonstrates the popularity of the establishment.
One of the most complete examples of a kind of establishment in Pompei is The Thermpolium of Asellina, which was discovered with complete jugs and dishes on the counter, along with a kettle filled with water.