Saturday, November 17, 2018

Cleopatra’s Alexandria

Alexandria was founded around 332 BC by Alexander the Great. It became an important center of Hellenistic civilization and remained the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt and Roman and Byzantine Egypt for almost 1,000 years, until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in AD 641.

Alexandria was best known for
  • the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; 
  • its Great Library (the largest in the ancient world; and 
  • the Necropolis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages.

Alexandria was at one time the second most powerful city of the ancient Mediterranean region, after Rome.

Alexandria Today

Sunken Treasure

In 1998 a French archeologist, Franck Goddio found the remains of the ancient city and Cleopatra’s spectacular palace at the lost, sunken island of Antirhodos.

Why was Cleopatra’s palace submerged?
Scientists believe a few centuries after Cleopatra’s reign (1400 years ago) there was a terrible earthquake and a huge tsunami in Egypt, which hit the coast of Alexandria. It is this natural disaster, they believe, which resulted in the island of Antirhodos sinking with the, once great, royal harbor, palace and lighthouse.

Further Info

Friday, November 16, 2018

Black Drink - Ilex vomitoria

Long before Europeans arrived, Native Americans made a caffeinated beverage, known as the Black Drink, from toasted leaves of the yaupon holly plant.  The drink was typically used in rituals promoting purity, peace and friendship. The leaves were traded with tribes outside the plant's natural range. It was offered to former enemies during peacemaking ceremonies.  While the recipe can vary between tribes, the full formula was not given to outsiders.
Native American Black Drink - Preparation/Ceremony

It is speculated that the black drink may have contained emetic herbs in addition to yaupon leaves, since rituals often, but not always, included vomiting.  Although the scientific name for yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria, refers to vomiting, the leaves do not cause vomiting.

Yaupon Holly

Ilex vomitoria - The plant is the only known indigenous plant to North America that contained caffeine.The Latin name comes from an incorrect belief by Europeans that the plant caused vomiting in certain ceremonies.
Ilex vomitoria - Yaupon Holly

Cassina or yaupon tea

After European contact with tribes in what is today the Southeastern United States, colonists began using the charred leaves of the yaupon holly to make a tea similar to the black drink, but without the ritual of vomiting.

During the Civil War, yaupon tea was used as a substitute for coffee and tea throughout the South.