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Guess what our post is about!

Let’s play a little game. We will describe a scene and you will guess what topic our final blog post is going to be about! Game on!  

It is the year 1964. Ahmed Moussa, an Egyptologist, has just discovered the tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum who had been ancient royal servants in an ancient cemetery. In the Palace of King Niuserre during the 5th Dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, both Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum had shared the title of Overseer of the Manicurists and as a result, had been buried in their joint tomb. However, was that the only reason? A close inspection of all the tombs in the ancient cemetery showed that this was the only tomb that had images of men embracing and holding hands!


Another interesting tidbit would be the names of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum. Khnumhotep means “joined to the blessed state of the dead” while Niankhkhnum means “joined to life”. A combination of their names therefore, bring about the meaning of “joined in life and joined in death”. They had worked together in life and had been united in death as well. How romantic! Within the tomb, these two men are also depicted in an embracing posture while their noses are touching (which is basically a kiss in ancient Egypt). This is actually the most intimate pose that one can find on Egyptian art!


So, have you guessed what we are going to be talking about?

It is about homosexuality in ancient civilisations! As years have gone by, homosexuality has been an increasingly controversial topic that has been debated on a global level. Although the term “homosexuality” had only been invented in the 19th century, homosexual behavior exists in all cultures and has existed in all periods in history. Even in one of our UGC111 classes in the first half of the semester about Greece, homosexuality had been briefly mentioned as something that was the norm amongst men who sought after each other for companionship. Therefore, we decided that we shall expand on that topic and shed more knowledge about homosexuality in Greece.


Fun fact: Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum are seen as the first homosexual couple known to mankind!


The Ancient view

In Ancient civilisations, homosexual sex had been seen as innocent and safe if it was consensual. Similar to sex between heterosexuals, it was viewed as a symbol of love.



As we had learned in class, men in Greece had seeked companionship with other men which could have been either a friendship or a romantic relationship. However, did you know that there was another term given to homosexuality? “Paiderastia” which meant “boy love” when it had been directly translated was the most common form of homosexual relationship between humans seen in Greece. This was a relationship between two males - one is normally an adult, while another is an adolescent. Slightly disturbing, isn’t it?


You may now begin to wonder, ''What was the reason behind this pederasty?'' To give you some context about when this had started, it was actually before the rise of poleis in ancient Greece. The Greeks had been organised according to age groups into different tribal communities and as each male progressed from one age group to the next, he was accompanied by an older man for some time in order to smoothen the transition between age groups which was seen as a rite of passage. The older man would educate his youth about the ways of the Greek life and the responsibilities of adulthood which over time, evolved into pederasty.


The rise of poleis further elevated pederasty as instead of leaving the confines of their community, boys began to pair up with older men within their polis who played the usual educational and instructional role that they used to in the tribal communities while sharing a sexual relationship with these boys. You will be relieved to know that this had an age limit; boys had to be above 12. However, no evidence of legal punishments for engaging with boys younger than 12 can be found either. These relationships normally lasted from when a boy was 12 to when he was 17 as males were considered adult men when there is widespread growth of body hair. In Ancient Greece, men who adopted the passive role within a homosexual relationship were often stigmatised and feminised within society and even shamed! Examples of such relationships would be Pausanias of Athens and the tragic poet Agathon as well as Alexander of Macedon and his childhood friend, Hephaestion.


Art in ancient Greece also reflected homosexuality. A female poet, Sappho, from the Island of Lesbos had written almost 12,000 lines of love poetry to women and girls and in some cases, her love had not been requited. Sappho and her island have, therefore, become the emblem of love between women, hence, the term ''lesbians''.

Some of you curious readers may like to find out more about homosexuality in other ancient civilisations as well! Other ancient civilisations include Ancient Rome, Ancient Persia, Medieval Europe and Ancient China.


Kiki, Shankari, Siti Hafizah

Pretty Hurts (Seriously you can die...)

One of the biggest profit-generating industries in the world today is the fashion and makeup industry, and this is probably due to the long-standing obsession humankind has with beauty. Throughout history, people of different cultures have practiced painful traditions such as foot binding, neck lengthening, and ear enlarging, all in the name of beauty. However, the simplest (and least painful) form of alteration that is still used by people all over the world is through the use of makeup.   

Way back then, people did not have the technology and sophisticated machinery to produce the variety of makeup products we have available today. In comparison to modern makeup, ancient forms of makeup were actually potentially dangerous and so much less convenient to use!

So what kinds of products were used back then?



white lead

make up

In place of the foundation and concealer we use today, normal Ancient Roman women used chalk, orris root, and fat to create a thick layer over the skin that hid and evened out imperfections, while the wealthier women used white lead paste. White lead paste was popular as back then, pale skin was considered beautiful and white lead paste did an excellent job in whitening skin; though on the down side, frequent application meant a higher chance of death due to lead poisoning (lovely way to die isn’t it). 




While not as widely used in modern Western countries, a product that is extremely popular in Asian countries is “enlarging contact lenses”. These contact lenses come in a variety of colours and they mimic the appearance of a dilated pupil and larger iris to give the effect of larger and “cuter” eyes. Similarly, medieval European women tried to enlarge their pupils to gain a more seductive look – with the employment of way more dangerous methods of course. Atropa Belladonna, more commonly known as deadly nightshade, was prescribed in the form of eyedrops by physicians, and when applied to the eyes, made pupils dilate and appear more aroused and seductive. The danger of Belladonna is that it contains toxic tropane alkaloids, and an accidental overdose or prolonged exposure to it could induce hallucinations, vomiting, vision loss, delirium, and death. 




Another popular eye product used today is eyeliner, it is commonly used to define eyes as well as make them appear larger. The olden day counterpart of eyeliner – kohl – is in fact still used today. Kohl was mainly used by the ancient Egyptians and it was made through the combination of burnt almonds, ochre, oxidized copper, malachite, lead, and crushed antimony, producing the black powder known as kohl. To apply the Kohl, the Ancient Egyptians would use a stick, dip it in the Kohl and line their eyes with it to define their eyes to make them seem more almond-shaped. And though it does not have much scientific backing, ancient Egyptians also believed that Kohl could help shield their eyes from the harsh Egyptian sun.



Rosy cheeks have always been considered beautiful as they are a sign of health and liveliness, and in order to achieve this rosy glow, modern women use powder or tinted blushers. 



Interestingly, medieval European women used a very similar formulation to the powder blushers of today. Their version of powder blushers was known as “rouge” and it was produced through the combination of the dried leaves of angelica archangelica, and the dried flowers of the safflower carthamum tinctorius. They also seem to have their own version of tinted blushers as Gilbertus Anglicus, a physician in medieval times, notes in one of his works from 1240, the practice of soaking brazilwood chips in rosewater to obtain a clear, pink dye which could be rubbed on the cheeks to mimic rosy cheeks.



perfume 1

perfume 2

Majority of us strive to smell nice, or at least not-smelly for obvious reasons of wanting to feel good about smelling good, boosting sex appeal, and not wanting to cause discomfort for others. In order to keep smelling fresh and delicious throughout theay, we employ the use of perfumes and deodorants to cover up undesirable smells, which was also a common practice inancient.The Ancient Chinese people such as those from the Tang, Song, and Han dynasty carried around fragrant spices in little sachets so that they would give off a pleasant scent. 




  The Ancient Egyptians on the other hand, took it to the next level by inventing the perfumed bath, and on top of placing scented wax that would melt throughout the day to give off a pleasant scent, they also attempted to use carob, incense, and even porridge as deodorants. 



Thus, this consistency in the way beauty is viewed and achieved is perhaps indicative of the underlying connection amongst humankind that transcends both time and space (geographical space that is) and we think that that’s amazing!

Hello (from the other side~)

With phone-related songs like "Hello" by Adele and "Hotline Bling" by Drake in-season now, we thought we'd give that topic a little spin.

So let's travel way back in time again. No cell phones, no land-lines, no telegram, no electricity. How did people communicate over distances?



fire evil elmo

Or, more specifically, beacon fires.

Beacons are fires made at prominent or high altitude locations. Typically, they were used to signal the arrival of impending enemy forces. This was called defensive communications.

One of the most famous examples in England were the beacons used in Elizabethan England (period). They alerted the people about the oncoming Spanish Armada. There were so many of these beacons peppered around England that many hills were named Beacon Hill in different territories thereafter.

There is nothing more dramatic than Lord of the Rings to portray our point. You are welcome!!!


In ancient Babylon, messengers (runners) were commonly used to pass messages from one place to another. Sometimes it is not a lone messenger, but a relay system. Messengers would pass the messages along the route. However, there were reports of messengers being attacked on the way. As such, imperial guards were placed along the relay checkpoints and were given fire beacons. This allowed simple warning messages to be disseminated rapidly along the route without requiring the runner’s assistance.

This statement holds true here:

Fun fact: Bill Gates did not actually say that, although the Internet makes us believe so... because if it's on the Internet it must be real, right?



anime pokemon smoke my awful cyndaquil

Synthesized from here

In Ancient China, soldiers positioned along the Great Wall would notify one another of incoming enemy attacks by signalling from tower to tower. Their messages were able to reach areas as far away as 750km in just a few hours. Apart from the actual lit fires, the smoke signals were more visible for long distances.

Smoke signals aren't just lit fires giving off ash. There was a particular system in place for communicating meaning. One would use a blanket or large piece of material to cover the fire, creating puffs of smoke or designs in smoke to relay certain messages.

North American Indigenous people also used smoke signals. Individual tribes had their individual signalling system and understanding.

The location of the smoke also expresses a different message. If it came from halfway up the hill, it means everything is fine, if it came from the hilltop, it would mean danger.



check dude downvote mail

Synthesis of sources from: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

After writing went from carving on walls, stones or tablets to something more portable, the practice of delivering letters, archives, excerpts and critical documents were introduced.

Before the beginning of formal postal systems however, courier messenger services were used for the widespread distribution of written documents.

The ancient Egyptians was the first known civilization to use a courier messenger service. This was evident during ancient Egypt where Pharaohs employed couriers to hand deliver important messages, news, and laws to people in every corner of the land.

The oldest surviving piece of mail is also Egyptian, dating back to 255 BC.

The main objective of the courier service in ancient Egypt was to connect the royals and government officials with military posts dispersed throughout the country.


Now over in (ancient) PERSIAthe real postal system was developed in Assyria during the period of 550 BC to 521 BC.

The person who's responsible for the invention however, was often debated whether it was the Persian King Cyrus the Great or his successor, Darius I of Persia.

Cyrus constructed the groundwork of a courier/mail system. He ordered that every province in the kingdom should be arranged with a reception and delivery of posts to each of its citizens. Negotiation with neighbouring countries were also operated, hence, building roads from the city of Post in Western Iran all the way up to the city of Hakha in the East.

Darius I, on the other hand, extended a communication network of roads that connected most of the Persian empire. A 1,677-mile-long (2699 km) road, known as the Royal Road, was built from Sardis to Susa, one of the administrative capitals. This enables the information and troops to move with better and astounding speed. Along this road, the riders would stop at regularly placed post-houses or stations called Chapar-Khaneh to get a fresh horse or to pass on their packets of dispatches to another messenger, or called Chapar, for the remainder of the distance.

Shown above: a Chapar and his horse.


And then there's India (ancient India, that is), where  the development of an organized postal service was found during the rule of Chandragupta Maurya (322-298 B.C.). Foot messengers and pigeons were used, and the men who travel on their foot from one place to another are called “Dak Harkaras”, where their sole objective was ‘service to king’ before ‘service to self’

However, the efficacy of the system (foot messengers and pigeons) took a downturn and fell through after the death of Chandragupta Maurya. Fortunately, Emperor Ashoka revived the postal system by devising the use of camels, where they were used to carry mail in most parts of Eastern India, and chariots called “dagana”, where the riders carried mail throughout India.

We thought this was funny if you want to know how the current communication stacks up against pigeon usage:

Pigeon Flies Thumbdrive Faster than South African Broadband

So there we go, we hope you've learnt a little something. The next time you pick up your phone to text, call, or post your selfies, remember that the good folks in ancient times were kind of trying the same thing too.

adele music video hello

And that's all, folks.

p.s. this holds true:

Determining Pregnancy & Fertility in Ancient Times

Everyone knows how to test for pregnancy or fertility in modern times. An appointment with your doctor can determine your fertility. A trip to the pharmacy store, pay some money and you get a test kit, pee on it and magic happens! That’s about the easiest, fastest and most accurate method you can rely on to determine pregnancy and if you are fertile enough to conceive or not. Pregnancy Test Kit. (Image from Google)


But, how about women in the ancient times – Egypt & Greece? How are they supposed to know if they are pregnant or not? How will they ever know if they are fertile?


On behalf of the ancient Egyptians & Greeks, this post will be answering these 3 questions:

  1. How do women in ancient times determine or confirm their pregnancy?
  2. How to determine fertility in women in ancient times?
  3. Are the methods/tests for pregnancy & fertility scientifically reliable?




One of the earliest written forms of records from the Berlin Medical Papyrus in 1350 BCE suggests that Egyptians women should do a urine-based pregnancy test. It is stated that a woman who suspected herself to be pregnant should pee on wheat or barley seeds for several days. If both seeds did not grow it means that the woman is not pregnant. However, if the barley seeds grew, it means that the woman is expecting a male child. If the wheat grew, it means the woman is expecting a female child.


Barley & Wheat. (Image from Google)

Sounds absurd? Maybe not! Scientists and researches did a testing in 1963 and found that the pregnant women urinating on barley and wheat had indeed promoted growth and it had 70% accuracy in determining pregnancy. That is oddly high. Scientist thought that the elevated growth of the barley and wheat had something to do with one of the components found in pregnant women urine. However, it is not proven that the barley or wheat can determine the gender of the child so that part of the pee test is untrue!


There were 2 other methods named in the same papyrus to determine pregnancy. One of the methods was drinking the breast milk of a mother who had a son and if the woman vomited, she is pregnant. Another method was to get the woman to sit on a pile of mashed dates and beer and if she vomited, she is pregnant.


Is this scientific? NO! Maybe all those vomiting may detect early signs of pregnancy – morning sickness. But then again, the tests are all pretty gross that even men could vomit from them!



The Greeks had a less gross test for pregnancy! It is the Honey Test. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician (460-370 BC) believed that beverages made with honey could determine whether a woman is pregnant. Women were asked to drink a beverage made with honey before sleeping. If she had a bloated stomach or cramps at night, she is definitely pregnant.


Honey. (Image from Google)

So how scientifically sound is the honey test? Not sound at all. Some people just have a bad stomach or weak digestive system. Men can go to bed feeling bloated or cramped after a honey drink too, this shows that the honey test is inaccurate in determining pregnancy!


This brings us to the final question of how the ancient Egyptians and Greeks determined whether a woman is fertile enough to be pregnant?


Both the Egyptians and Greeks believed in the same fertility test. The fertility test involved inserting a clove of garlic or an onion into a woman’s vagina.

Wait...What? (meme image from google)

If the woman’s breath reeked of garlic/onion then she must be fertile! The Egyptians and Greeks logic behind this test is simple. They assumed that every part of the human body is linked, so if the breath smells, it means that there is no blockage at the womb, which allows the smell to travel from the vagina all the way up to the woman’s mouth.


Garlic & Onion

So, how accurate is the garlic/onion fertility test? No scientific basis, every person’s breath differs and the smell of garlic/onion breath could be acquired through food. This means that a man or a woman that is not pregnant can have garlic/onion inserted into the anus (for men) or vagina (for women) can also have garlic/onion breath from the food they ate last night. It does not mean that men could conceive or women wombs were unblocked or blocked. IT DOES NOT DETERMINE ANYTHING ABOUT FERTILITY CASE CLOSED.



To conclude, I thank technology for its advancement that I do not have to wait several days to determine my pregnancy unlike the Egyptians (Need to wait for the Barley/Wheat to grow out) or go through horrid and disgusting tests to determine my fertility. (Nobody wants to have an onion/garlic inserted into their body other than the mouth.)








Having watched John Green’s crash course world history videos for the upcoming lessons, I’m sure all of us are pretty familiar with the Mongols by now. Before we move on to our topic proper, let us introduce and briefly share the history of the Mongols with you!

Often portrayed as being backward and barbaric by many, and the Mongols numerous successful conquests have often been depicted as savage assaults. However, is that true? The man behind the vast and powerful Mongol Empire is none other than the famous, Genghis Khan. But, who is he exactly?


Born under the name of Temüjin, Genghis Khan (c.1167-1227) was the founder and ruler of the Mongolian Empire. However, it was only after he proved supreme through his formidable military and conquest tactics, that he was bestowed the title of Genghis Khan in 1206. His new title carries the meaning of "Universal Monarch." Known as a ruthless warlord, Genghis Khan was responsible for the deaths of as many as 40 million people. This probably explained why upon the arrival of Genghis Khan, many neighbouring territories would rather surrender out of fear, than go through fierce battles and struggles.

Despite all those singular stories of him only being a fierce warrior and merciless conqueror, Genghis Khan was also a skillful ruler and administrator, creating the largest empire in history by ruling Eurasia from China to the Middle East and Russia. His many achievements during his rule were well received, and he was bequeathed a glorious description by the Chinese 一代天骄 yí dài tiān jiāo — a great son whom the sky is proud of”.

Now that we have introduced Genghis Khan, we must not forget his people too, and they are the Mongols. 

The Mongols were well known for their impressive bow and arrow skills as well as horse-riding skills.  

As the Mongolians lived a wandering life, it was often difficult for them to communicate efficiently with their leaders. So what did they do? Let us introduce you to….


Not this yam of course..

But the Yam system.

Mongal Empire

Mongolian Empire

As mentioned earlier, Genghis Khan had accomplished many achievements during his rule. Of them, one of the most influential was the Yam system. Under his reign, the Mongols developed a postal system called Yam (or Örtöö, meaning “checkpoint”), which allowed them to boost communication effectiveness among various parts of the Mongolian Empire.

So how did it work? The Yam was a series of stations that were placed about 24-64 kilometres from each other, and messengers would travel from one station to another to deliver mail, pass intelligence reports and vital news.


With 50,000 fresh horses at their disposal and dedicated riders, this pony express-like system of weigh stations relays information swiftly.

What was the main function of the Yam?

You may think that the Yam was for merchants to sell their goods and engage in trade. However, the main function of the Yam was actually to allow Genghis Khan to deploy merchants, ambassadors, representatives, etc to the rival lands to extract information.


The Yam system expedited the transfer of intelligence communiqués, improved the Mongol’s intelligence gathering capabilities, and created a security system. For the convoys to clear security, and be handed incoming goods, they had to possess the appropriate paiza (tablet of authority). The paiza was an inscribed metal plaque, which not only functioned as a passport, but was also a symbol of Mongol authority. Each paiza varied in its composition materials and illustrations, according to the rank of the person.

Working Title/Artist: Mongol passport Department: Asian Art Culture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: Working Date: 13th century photography by mma, Digital File DT7051.tif retouched by film and media (jnc) 7_14_10

The paiza illustrated here is a passport, made of iron with inlay of thick silver bands forming characters in the Phagspa script

Both messengers and station operators enjoyed extended privileges. This vast communication network allowed goods and information to be transmitted swiftly and efficiently, and was essential in allowing Genghis Khan to “maintain contact with his extensive network of spies and scouts”, as well as receiving intelligence of the “military and political developments” of his neighbouring enemies.


Even Marco Polo, an early Venetian explorer, witnessed and confirmed the efficiency of this early yet greatly intelligent invention of the Yam postal system. Thanks to the ease of communication and movement, Genghis Khan and his successors were therefore able to govern their vast empire more effectively, giving rise to economic and political stability.

The Yam system built by the Mongols is astounding as it challenges our impression of the Mongols as simply being uncivilised barbarians. The construction of the Yam system demonstrates to us that Genghis Khan possessed great foresight. Knowing that he needed to acquire intelligence of other kingdoms for the planning of attacks and conquests, Genghis Khan came up with elaborate strategies, and schemes. Such vision and planning allowed the Mongolians to conquer vast territories, and construct a powerful empire, creating one of the largest empires in the whole of human history.


Just an interesting nugget.

You can read about Genghis Khan's contributions to the climate here!

The Mongols are complex, and they have no singular, defining story. We hope that our blog post is able to shed some light, and hopefully, challenge your initial perceptions of the Mongols (:


Dear all, Here's a "web-Instagram" post on our final blog topic. To navigate the sections, simply click on the respective pictures in the photo collage. Have fun reading! :)

If you're unable to view the doc below, do click on this reference link Cover Page.

[google-drive-embed url="" title="Cover Page.pdf" icon="" width="400%" height="1100" style="embed"]


All sources in their respective sections are found in this link: Reference Links

By: Anastasia, Renuka, Sherilyn

Vikings, Untold  

Gothan Dag!


I am the ghost of Ragnar Lodbrok, not Lothbrok, probably the most famous Viking alive. I have come to hear of the moving picture series called Vikings depicting my people and their ways. Honored I am, to see that I am the main character of the show, as all things should be. However, there are stories told within this moving picture timeline that is of utter myki, or in your language, bullshit (metaphorically of course). Now let me, the King of Kings, explain to you our beginnings, our culture and how we waged war.




Well, to start things off, we were of the Germanic Norse descent and our language is known as Old Norse. We were generally sea-borne raiders from Scandinavia during the early medieval period, from the late 8th to late 11th centuries. This will in time come to be known as the Viking Age, stunning period for my people I must say. We flourished under my leadership and under the leadership of my many sons, who were to become indisputable leaders themselves.

We started off as full-time fishermen and farmers, fairly domesticated, where men, women and children all contributed to the survival of the household as well as the tribe we were in. This may come as a disappointment, but most Viking men brandished scythes, not swords. It was only in Summer, that we would rally to the call of our leader, namely me: Ragnar Lodbrok, and venture across the sea to raid, trade or seek out new lands to settle down into. Yet, the vast majority peacefully sowed barley, rye and oats—at least for part of the year. They also raised cattle, goats, pigs and sheep on their small farms, which typically yielded just enough food to support a family.


Our society was divided into three socio-economic classes: Thralls, Karls and Jarls. Thralls were the lowest ranking class and were slaves. Slavery was of vital importance to Viking society, for everyday chores and large-scale construction and also to trade and economy. Thralls were used as servants and workers in the farms and larger households of the Karls and Jarls and they were used for constructing fortresses, fortifications, ramps, canals, mounds, roads and similar hard work projects.


Karls were free peasants, who owned farms, land and cattle, they engaged in daily chores like ploughing the fields, milking the cattle, building houses and wagons, but employed the lower thralls to make ends meet. Other names for Karls were 'bonde' or simply free men.


Jarls were the aristocracy of our society, like me before I became the King of Kings. We were wealthy and owned large estates with huge longhouses, horses and many thralls. Jarls engaged in administration, politics, hunting, sports, paid visits to other Jarls or were abroad on expeditions. When a Jarl dies, his household thralls were sometimes sacrificially killed and buried next to him, as many excavations conducted by your people have revealed.




Moving on, religion-wise, my people and I were of the Ásatrú religion. Freyr was the god of fertility, Týr represented bravery and could grant men victory in battle. Loki the Crafty played many nasty tricks on the other gods and was, amongst other things, to blame for the death of Baldur, the white god. But the greatest of all the gods was Óðinn. He was the god of poetry and the god of sorcery and rune craft. He was also the god of the dead and of war. The symbols of Óðinn included two ravens and a spear. Plus the fact that he only had one eye, having sacrificed his other eye for wisdom. Clearly, this was the only perception of us that you got right. I must add though, Odin was our greatest deity, but we also had other gods who we dedicated our time to.


The gods were in constant struggle against the giants living in Jötunheimar (the Giants’ Land). Amongst them there were various monsters, such as the Miðgarðsormur (the Middle Earth Serpent) which lay in the ocean around the world biting its own tail, and Fenrisúlfur (the Monster Wolf), who showed mercy to no-one. In the end, the giants united in an enormous campaign against the gods. There followed a great battle in which most of the gods fell and the giant Surtr (the fire giant) burned down the entire earth. This is the history of the gods and the world of our people, also known as Ragnarök (the fate of the gods). But after the world fire, the earth rose a second time, fresh and green out of the sea. From then on, the best gods and people lived in the ancient homelands of their forefathers, that is the world as it was in my time and now in yours.


Ships were an integral part of our culture, because they facilitated everyday transportation across seas and waterways, exploration of new lands, raids, conquests, and trade with neighboring cultures. To my people, ships were of utmost religious importance. People with high status were sometimes buried in a ship along with animal sacrifices, weapons, provisions and other items.


Another misconception is that my people were dirty, and according to you, dirty to the point where we stank to the point of high Valhalla. MYKI! Our people actually made tweezers, razors, combs and ear cleaners from animal bones and antlers. We also bathed at least once a week, much more frequently than other Europeans of our day, and enjoyed dips in natural hot springs.


Farming and raiding were not the only things we did with our time. We were people as well and we needed our own entertainment. We had indoor board games and sports. The consumption of alcohol was in our blood, in our nature, so naturally drinking alcohol were one of the games we had. The game consisted of pairs of men trading drinks and verbally sparring. With each drink, the participants were expected to compose and recite a verse of poetry, boosting their own reputation and ego while distracting their opponents (with taunts of cowardly or womanly behavior). As the drinking progressed, the intensity of the taunts increased as the players became drunk. The goal was to maintain their speech throughout the game without showing the effects of the alcohol.

viking tug of war

We also had a sport that tests strength called toga hönk, in your world it is called tug-of-war. An equal number of men would sit on the floor on opposite sides facing each other, pulling a piece of rope toward whichever side. This rope was marked with a tag, and the game mimics the rowing in one of our majestic boats, genuinely testing the strength of a true Viking. The game is won when either man that faces each other, nearest to the tag is pulled over to the other side.


War Tactics:


Swords – The weapon that I used in my battles was the sword, which was also the weapon of choice of the wealthy warriors and the aristocracy of the Viking Age. The sword was a slashing weapon, not generally used for thrusting. Constructed in the early period by "pattern welding", the central section of the blade is made up of twisted rods of iron, beaten together to form a strong and pliable core, and also leaving the pattern of the twisted rods in the blade. A harder (but more brittle) edge was then welded to the core.

Axes - The weapon that most of my people use, the axe is found in many burials and is shown on several carved stones. It was to be wielded in two hands, which could behead horses with one stroke.

Spears – This is the most common weapon found in graves that we dug in Scandinavia. Shorter spears were used as javelins, where the opening rounds of a battle in would involve a salvo of missiles as the lines closed. These could also be used as a single-handed weapon with a shield, providing the reach of a spear while retaining the defence of a shield.

Archery – We also had bows of varying sizes which were used extensively in hunting, and in battles, particularly at sea. An arrow shot from a Viking bow would almost certainly pierce a mail shirt at short range, but at longer ranges could only threaten unarmored warriors unless a lucky shot hit an exposed area. The bows were made of yew or ash, with some late examples found of composite bows, strengthened with horn or iron. Quite advanced technology for ‘barbarians’ eh?

Shields - round and traditionally made of linden (lime) wood (although the available evidence suggests that in fact most were made of more common woods, such as larch, beech, oak, or even pine), most shields would be relatively thin, lasting no more than one battle. Shields were made from planks of wood, held together by a wooden or iron bar running from top to bottom of the shield. In the centre, a cutout hole allowed the shield to be gripped with the hand covered by an iron boss of hemispherical or conical shape.

Armor - the most common armor of the period was the mail shirt, referred to as a byrnie for most of the period. Made from iron rings which were individually punched from plates or wound from drawn wire, each ring was linked to four others. In later examples, every second ring was solid, with the split rings being linked into the shirt and then riveted closed.

Unlike the Anglo-Saxons, the miserable people who underestimated our might, we did not have a professional standing army like they did, and tactics and discipline were fairly rudimentary. We did not fight in regular formations, although the bonds of loyalty between my men and I gave them some form of cohesion. Weapons training would begin in youth in hunting and raiding. Those who aspired to be warriors sought armed service under me, for which they hoped to be rewarded with weapons and fame of their own. Therefore, I had to find an outlet to wage war frequently in order to keep my following and maintain my power against rivals, which in my time were Anglo-Saxons, like King Aelle. On a side note, this was the rotinn (rotten) man who ended my life by throwing me into a snake pit.

In preparation for battle the younger warriors would draw up in line, with their shields overlapping in a 'shield-wall' for better protection; and where I was well defended by a close bodyguard. The older, veteran warriors like my brother Rollo would form up in support behind them, or at least he was supposed to be. Battle would then begin by throwing a spear over the enemy line to dedicate themselves to Odin, where a shower of spears, arrows and other missiles followed this.

What would have won us battles could have been attributed to our famous ' berserkrs', who only wore bearskins into battle, and we believed that Óðinn gave them both protection and superhuman powers so they had no need of armor. Of which my brother Rollo, belonged to this group of fearless warriors. They would work themselves into a battle frenzy by drinking large amounts of alcohol before a battle, so intense they bit on the edges of their shields, and ignore the pain of wounds.

All in all, the moment we discovered that there were kingdoms to the West of our settlements, we would continue to raid them through and through. Such is the fate of the Kingdom of Northumbria. We were a clear threat to them, as supposedly a more stable, powerful kingdom.


Well well, it seems Valhalla yearns for my return. I truly apologize for such an abrupt departure, but the Gods are calling. I hope after hearing the words I have spoken, you would now understand the truth of my people and I. FAR VEL!




Oh, I apologize once again; in your language it would be FAREWELL!

Chronicles of a Geisha: Mayuru

Welcome to our last episode of Adventure to Seek, where we speak to various people from different cultures sharing about their lifestyle. In this episode, we have Mayuru joining us talking about her life as a geisha. Due to professional reasons, Mayuru would not be able to reveal her face. Hope this gives you a better understanding about the life of a geisha!


Search on Youtube: The Incredible Truth About Japan's Geishas

BY: Praveena Devanathan & Hemapriya Navaindran

Rise and Fall of the Kingdom of Ghana

Introduction The Ghana Empire, also known as the Kingdom of Ghana or the Wagadugu Empire was situated in what is now South-Eastern Mauritania, Senegal and Mali, it was a booming empire that existed around the 6th century up until the 11th century, with the kingdom’s golden age starting around 800 CE and lasted for nearly three centuries. At its peak of power, it is known as one of, if not the richest Kingdom as compared to surrounding kingdoms in both Africa and Europe, reports stating that even its dogs wore golden collars, and its horses, which were adorned with silken rope halters, slept on plush carpets is a major indicator of its amazing wealth. Adding to account of the economic and cultural deterioration of Europe during the same period, known as the Dark Ages.

Rise of Ghana’s Golden Age

The start of this Empire was credited to its strategic and economically competitive location, which allows trade to flourish from the numerous travellers, merchants and traders that travelled through the area, to further give interest to travelling merchants, Ghana’s location was a “gold mine”. The Soninke people was the first to notice the potential and took advantage of this location and thus created Ghana, its abundance of Gold and Iron was a precious commodity at that time, added with the availability of kola nuts (the latter “secret ingredient” of Coca-Cola), and ivory to cities along the Mediterranean, which caters for Ghana’s high demand in salt. During that time, a breakthrough in transportation of goods occurred with the success of people taming camels that are suited to life throughout the Sahara desert and able to carry a sizeable amount of trading goods.

Ghanaian Politics

The leader in Ghana was the king, whom, notably was also known as the ghana, or war chief. His every word was law. He served as the commander in chief of a highly organized army to protect Ghana and its flourishing trade. The king was also in charge of controlling all trade activities, and the head administrator of justice. While mayors, civil servants, counsellors, and ministers were appointed by the king to assist with administrative duties, the king was still the man in charge.

Each day, the king is stated to hold a court to address the complaints of the citizens. Small conflicts such as neighbour dispute or cases of violation rights were all a part of the court. And the daily event is stated to be a peaceful one, most of the time, violence may happen when issues of criminal nature takes place, and two of the most serious criminal offenses were the denial of debt and the shedding of blood.

Ghana was also an influential figure itself towards many of its smaller neighbours, as the king appointed governors in order to control the conquered lands there, little went unreported to the king. In areas where order and obedience prevailed, and taxes were properly paid, autonomy was granted. But governors are always keeping a close eye on lands that were struggling for independence and defied the king’s laws.

Muslim influence in Ghana

With the growth in trade, comes foreign influence, which includes the Muslim influence that arrives from traders from the North. The king of Ghana welcomed Muslim traders, in fact they encouraged it by allowing them to establish their own Muslim towns, however, they did not adopt the Muslim religion.


Fall of Ghana

The fall of Ghana was contributed towards the military attacks by the Berbers in the north, the Berbers were a poor society at that time that is aiming to gain a piece of Ghana’s trade access. But it took a religious turn when a religious movement named the Almoravids emerged during the 1050’s, they waged war on all non-Muslims. In 1076, the Almoravids launched a military offensive against Ghana and successfully captured its capital, forcing the people of Ghana to convert to Islam or face execution. Almoravid control over Ghana lasted only around ten years, sadly, the Empire of Ghana never recovered to its former glory.


Ghana’s rise and fall was an indication of the war between economic and religious movement, the demands of trade sparked a great empire and the hunger for religious righteousness decimates a great empire.



Not That Dark for the City of Canals

Remember we learned in class that the Dark Ages were not always dark? It depends on the context and the country itself. Venice, also known as the “City of Canals”, actually prospered during the Dark Ages, then faced some setbacks during the Renaissance period when it lost some territories and faced competition in trade, before being defeated by Napoleon in 1797. Just like Singapore, the Republic of Venice (as it was known during its heyday) is a city-state. Although Venice is about half the size of Singapore, yet it had a great maritime power and a flourishing arts scene.

Venice was founded in the 5th century A.D. and comprises of 118 islands. when barbarians from the north such as the Germanic and the Huns, attacked the former territories of Rome. In order to escape these attacks, the inhabitants of Roman cities near the coast escaped to the nearby, low-lying islands in the Adriatic, such as Torcello, Jesolo and Malamocco. These islands were protected by the sea, and the people also had access in their boats and barges to the river mouths that led to inland cities. During that period, Venetians were mainly peasants or fishermen.

Venice’s place on the Adriatic Sea made it possible for it to develop a strong and nearly unbeatable naval force and trade systems with other city states and countries. This navy eradicated pirates along the east coast of the Adriatic, making Venice into one of the most flourishing trade cities on the Mediterranean between Western Europe and the growing Ottoman empire.

In 1081 CE, the Normans tried to besiege the city of Durazzo. The Byzantium Emperor, Alexius I Comnenus, sought help from the Venetians, which the Venetians managed to defeat the Normans at sea by shooting missiles and throwing stones at the Normans in order to capsize their ships. In 1082 CE, Alexius I thus rewarded the Venetians with a Golden Bull for their victory. This allowed the Venetians to be exempted from tolls and tariffs in the Byzantium Empire. They could also enter and leave all Byzantium ports and transfer cargo for free in cities such as Durazzo and Constantinople. The Venetians were also allowed to maintain commercial docks and warehouses at Constantinople. As such, Venetians had an advantage over other nations in terms of trade and commerce.

Before the 13th century, the Republic of Venice conquered many territories mainly for trade reasons; they needed raw materials to manufacture items and also to gain easier access to overland trade routes. By the end of the 13th century, Venice had conquered some territories to the north and many islands in the Aegean and Adriatic seas such as Crete and Cyprus.

Venice was involved in the trade of glass, silk, spices, sugar, book production, and other goods with Asia and Europe. However, Venice's trade was later impacted by Portuguese production of sugar and spices, and also trade restrictions imposed by the Ottoman Empire.

Overland trade routes (p. 227)

In 1204 CE, the Venetians and the crusaders captured Constantinople. Most of the plunder and riches of Constantinople were brought back to Venice, including bronze statutes of horse from the Hippodrome of Constantinople. After the fall of Constantinople, the Venetians and the European crusaders established the Latin Empire. The Latin Empire was the division of the city of Constantinople and the rest of the Byzantine territories throughout the Mediterranean region among the Venetians and the other crusader-nations. The majority of territories in the Latin Empire were held by the Venetians, and the ports that could continue trade throughout the Latin Empire also came under Venice’s control.

However, in 1347, Venice was hit by the plague. The Great Council of Venice tried to minimise damage by closing down the city’s waters, isolating incoming ships, until they could be certain that its passengers were healthy, and affected victims were quarantined on an island, Lazzaretto Vecchio, Still, 60% of the population died within an 18 month period (p. 48).

Despite being hit by the plague, facing competition in trade, and losing and gaining some territories over the next few centuries, trade such as glass was still exported to Germany, Dalmatia and other places (p. 175). Venetian art and music also started to flourish during the Renaissance.


Murano Glass


Skip to 2:36 and 7:48 to see how Murano glass is made, and 12:01 for Murano glass for sale in shops.

Glass that is made on the Venetian island of Murano are highly prized and contributed to Venice's economy. As such, glassmaking techniques were closely guarded and were only restricted to the elite (p. 176), and glassmakers held a high status in society (p. 144). The glass furnaces are on the island of Murano instead of Venice itself because in 1291, the Great Council feared that a fire would occur and cause destruction to Venice. Hence, they ordered all glass production to occur on Murano (p. 175).

Women were not allowed to be master glassmakers not only because it was a high status job, but also because glassmakers are usually assisted by male apprentices. To allow males to be subordinate to female glassmakers would mean a threat to gender hierarchy. Instead, women tend to be involved in bead manufacturing or stringing (p. 144).


Venetian School of Art and Music (15th Century onwards)

Since this happened after the Dark Ages, I'll just provide a brief explanation.

Due to venice's location as a cluster of islands away from the mainland, the Art and Music that developed in Venice is so distinct from other places that it is called "Venetian School".


The Bellini family: Jacopo, the father, Giovanni and Gentile, his sons, and Andrea Mantegna, a brother-in-law, are the most prominent painters during the Renaissance in Venice.

Venetian painters make use of oil and expensive pigments to achieve paintings that have subtle gradation in colour and can reflect light. The Venetian School later influenced Spanish art, especially in the area of colors.


Music also started to grow and become an art form that is unique to Venice, such as the Polychoral style. It started when, in the 1540s, Adrian Willaert, a composer and choirmaster of St. Mark's Cathedral, wrote antiphonal music where opposing choirs would sing successive, often contrasting phrases of the music. By placing choral members in various positions across the chapel, the Venice choirs created the first ‘surround sound’ experience.

That's all for this post! I hope you enjoyed reading about Venice and know that it was not entirely a dark period during the Dark Ages and even continued to prosper after that!