Mogou and the Qijia Culture

Today I am bringing you a very quick update on something I don’t tend to write a lot about -Asia- even though I’d love to learn more and more about it. Nevertheless, I found about this earlier on the year and I thought it was a pretty interesting discovery to share with you all and give you something to ponder about.

Recent excavations in the site of Mogou, north-west China, have revealed a prehistory cemetery from around 4000 years ago. The work on the site has unearthed over 300 tombs from 2008 to 2011. The original report was published in the Chinese Journal Wenwu, however an English translation is available in the most recent volume of Chinese Cultural Relics. The burials grounds present all types of goods accompanying the dead to the afterlife. Among the most abundant items, the archaeologists at Mogou have found finely craft pottery, with a peculiar ‘O’ pattern. In addition, some weapons and pieces of jewellery appears frequently. Moreover, they have also discovered bones and items used for what presumably would have been divination and other ways to predict the future. The settlement seems to coincide with the Qijia culture, which occupied the area of the upper Yellow River valley. Perhaps what has raised questions about this site and its function is the numerous burials which sometimes seem to include entire families. Some have ventured to sustain the idea that these burials in fact contain the remains of ritual sacrifices. Honghai believes that these could have been slaves or people who the Qijia conquered and then sacrificed, but this is not for certain.

About the Qijia culture we know that is regarded as one of the earlier Bronze Age cultures in China, and probably the world, inhabiting the land between 2400BC and 1900BC . Honghai states that archaeological evidence in other areas suggest they lived in modest settlements, where their houses would have been partly buried in the ground. These buildings would have been squared or rectangular. The first site belonging to these people, Qijiaping, was discovered by Johan Gunnar Anderson in 1923. The Qijia are also well-known for the early fabrication of bronze and copper mirrors, and their extensive use of horses as domestic animals. Some other interesting artefacts found in Qijia sites include the oldest noodles unearthed! This was reported in 2002 on the BBC news. The discovery constituted around 50cm of noodles, made with different techniques and materials than those we are used to nowadays. In fact, scientists believed this would have been made with millet grass, based on the evidence from Lajia. But despite the fact that this was a dominating culture and the multiple sites such as Mogou, Lajia, Huangniangniangtai or Dahezhuang, show their widespread settlements and domain, it seems that towards the 1900BC they suffered a sudden diminishing of numbers and they retreated from their lands in western China. What happened to the Qijia after that is still unclear. Some evidence from Lajia again suggest that the settlement may have been abandoned after the effects of a seemingly devastating earthquake and possible flooding, as reported in 2011 by Maolin Ye and Houyuan Lu.  Many experts support the theory that the Siwa culture took over them and developed this inheritance. Other theories suggest that the Qijia perhaps did not fully retreat from the west, but instead a branch of them, later known as the Kayue culture populated the area.

To be truthful, we do not know an awful lot about this culture, or many of these Bronze Age cultures as our main way of finding out about them is through archaeology. In addition, the same problem that I encounter with the Meso/Southamerican history occurs: the lack of materials in English. And unfortunately, in the Western world, is more common for someone to learn Spanish than Chinese. So I think we are missing the trick in here, and ignoring certain fields with a lot of potential and new grounds to explore…Just a thought.

The Last Tsar of Russia


Born in 1868, Nicholas II of Russia is most famously known as the last Tsar of Russia and of his abdication underlining a new era in Russian history. Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, he and was forced to abdicate, and only the following  year was executed by the Bolsheviks who had overthrown him.

Nicholas was related to many European monarchs at the time – George V of the United Kingdom was his cousin and King Frederik VIII of Denmark his uncle. His accession to the throne was unexpectedly too early, at the age of twenty-six, due to his grandfather’s assassination and father’s early death. He felt unprepared for the role, and was noted as being a shy and reserved leader. He was married to Alexandra of Hesse-Darmstadt in November 1894, after having proposed twice due to Alexandra’s initial refusal to convert from Lutheranism to Russian Orthodoxy. He was an unpopular figure – anti-Semitic, involved in Bloody Sunday of 1905 (when peaceful demonstrators marched to the Winter Palace were shot at, and nearly 100 were killed) and was seen as responsible for Russia losing badly to Japan in 1904, his role in the First World War was not the only reason his reign was the last over Imperial Russia.

Engagement photo of Nicholas and Alexandra (taken from

Engagement photo of Nicholas and Alexandra (taken from

During Nicholas’s reign, the landscape of Russia changed – from one of the strongest imperial powers in the world, his reign saw the end of the Royal regime, military collapse and economic failure. Already unpopular, the tipping point came when, in 1915 he took direct control of the Russian armies. As a result, every military defeat was linked to him and public opinion was further affected due his long absences, in which the country was damaged by the heavy losses of the war through high inflation and severe food restrictions. Russia under his rule was brittle, and the First World War, though not the only and by no means the first reason for discontent, was the catalyst that made it go bang.

Nicholas was often away at a remote location in Mogilev, which often meant he was secluded from direct governance of Russia. His seclusion from governance and the country meant that when revolution broke out he couldn’t respond fast enough. Not only this but Nicholas’s seclusion meant he was cut off and unaware of the growing unpopular opinion surrounding the Russian Royal family. Duties back home had been left to Alexandra, who was German and accused of being sympathetic to the opposing side of the war and, therefore, was seen as a traitor to the country. Nicholas’s absence mounted to the rising discontent, as he was seen as not taking the issue under control and especially to not tackling domestic issues alongside those of the war.

Mounting discontent, anger and violence resulted in a series of revolutions from February to October of 1917 and by the end,  Nicholas II Romanov became the last Tsar of Russia with his forced abdication. Desperately seeking asylum, he sought to escape to the United Kingdom, but was turned down by cousin King George V, who feared if he did a similar uprising would occur in the UK as well – not an issue he, in the aftermath of the First World War, could afford in any chance of its possibility. On July 17 1918, Nicholas and his family were executed – the Romanov dynasty came to an end and the resulting new era of Russia would dominate the twentieth century.

Somerset House (London): One Morning, 2 Exhibitions

Hello again. Here I come to tell you some more about my trip to London during the August bank holiday weekend, packed with culture. So on Saturday 29th me and my dad stopped by Somerset House, a nice Neoclassical building on the Strand in London – just crossing the river from Waterloo train station. As it happens, Somerset house is free, and as we had never stopped by, we decided to go and see what it could offer. Turns out that week they had several temporary exhibitions going – the building is generally speaking an arts center and it works as a gallery/museum. As we were a bit short of time, we focused on 2 of the collections they were presenting- Unseen Waterloo: The Conflic Revisited, and Out of Chaos. Both of them I would recomend if you have the chance or come across them (the first one ended on August 31, but Out of Chaos should be there until December 13 2015). I will not go in too much details or give too much of a long overview, as both of them were based on art works, I swear I could spend ages on each piece…So I will try to give you a general idea of what both exhibitions presented and why they are worth while.

Unseen Waterloo: The Conflict Revisited

Exhibition Cover Image including one of the re-enactment drummers at Waterloo

Exhibition Cover Image including one of the re-enactment drummers at Waterloo

Obviously, you will remember earlier on this year Michael did a post in commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo 1815. However, this exhibition is not so much about the actual conflict, but the representation of itself. This is a collection of portraits produced by the artist Sam Faulker. He has been travelling to the site of the re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium since 2009 and taken pictures of the people taking part in the event. A few details about the photographer may come in handy. Sam Faulkner grew up in Norwich and graduated with a philosophy degree from king’s College london in 1994. He then became a reporter and photographer, which has driven a lot of his work to be related to warfare – he was in Afghanistan. Effectively, Faulkner has replaced the traditional artist drawing portraits of the soldiers on the spot, by taking pictures of these in full historical custom. These garments are created by the individuals, as accurately as possible from period paintings available and known to the public. In total, the exhibition presents 70 images, which are displayed on walls covered by Hainsworth fabric: the red woollen cloth that they used to dress the “red-coat” soldiers in 1815. ( And the cloth that still nowadays creates the garments of the Royal Guards). I thought this was a very nice detail; as all the pictures are portraits with a black background the red makes a nice visual break, and contextualises all the images in an actual physical way. The portraits include a variety of soldiers from different nationalities (British, French, German, Prussian, Dutch), including different regiments and ranks-from grenadiers to dragons, drum players and marechals. It truly brings alive the diversity amongst the troops and the kind of people who would take part in the war. It is a very original way of exploring warfare and its human face, while using modern techniques! Fresh and innovative.


Another example of the profiles this photographer was looking at and creating.

Another example of the profiles this photographer was looking at and creating.

Out of Chaos“Exploring a century of emigre history in London through the hidden treasures of the Ben Uri Collections”

Exhibition leaflet

Exhibition leaflet


They are currently holding this in the Indigo rooms, so the exhibition entrance is at the top and the you go downs the stairs for the display. This is also an art exhibition, so you will find paintings, portraits, but also carvings, and even more modern media – posters, film, etc. The exhibition is constituted of a main hall as you go in, followed by a brief introduction of what the project is about, a history timeline regarding Jewish movement and migration, then the topic of immigration in general, with a focus on the Jewish community, and finally the archive section at the end of the hall. In addition, there are 5 lateral rooms where the specific themed discussions take place.  The first room on the left discussed integration and introduction, so this is developed through the art works of the Yiddish artists settling in the East End of London and how they incorporated themselves to British society. The work displayed includes several artists such as Simeon Solomon, Lily Delissa and Alfred Wolmark. Then we move into the second room which goes through the time of conflict – First World War- and how this affected the Yiddish community. This is the section where they speak about the ‘Whitechapel Boys’, and their contribution to British modernism, with the works of David Bomberg, Mark Gertler and Isaac Rosenberg amongst others.

The third room drop us into the issues of Jewish identity and the rise of the Nazi regime. It also explores the subsequent movement of people from central/easter Europe into the western areas of the continent, particularly the UK. The works display are from Max Liebermann, Josef Herman and Emmanuel Levy and a few more. The fourth room on out left still covers the Yiddish community in the post-war period and its artistic development. This is a period for the bloom of abstract and conceptual work, and some of the pieces, I found quite interesting, perhaps even naive in a way. Look out for Leon Kossoff, Eva Frankfurther and Bernard Cohen. Finally the last room, (5) is at the end of the corridor on the right hand side. It is entirely dedicated on the new art, particularly since the recent turn of century. They also play a film about Ben Uri as a way of contextualising the room, the exhibition and what they believe to be the future of Yiddish art and its community in the UK.

What I thought was great of this exhibition, which perhaps the other one lacked, was the degree of interaction with the information displayed. I mean, you cannot interact a lot with a painting – apart from looking at it…- but they had incorporated some digital devices as well where you could explore further paintings in context of the ones in display, or where you could look into the artists with a bit more of detail. I thought that was useful. They also had several books around for the same purpose that you could used as a reference. In addition, we missed it but they did have talks and tours around the gallery, and evening events, so it was quite a dynamic environment.

One thing I found incredibly disappointing was the amount of people visiting either of these exhibitions. Morning/Lunch time on a saturday, bank holiday weekend, with bad weather, the city plagued with people everywhere, and I am sure we were alone at stages, at least in the Waterloo portraits, and with not much more company in the Ben Uri gallery. Considering that they were both free, small so not overwhelming at all, I thought they would deserve more attention! But in any case, they were enjoyable. If this has instigated you to go have a look, I will at least be pleased.

Roots of the British Navy

In this latest post, I aim to put forward the argument that the British navy saw its rise during the seventeenth century during and after the English Civil War. Much historical writing has been done on the British navy during the century after, but due to the formation of the navy coming from one of Britain’s most embarrassing defeats, it can be see why the seventeenth century has been left alone by British historians. I will briefly mention the historical context as well as talk about the tactics developed and mention some of the admirals during this time period, arguing that they may be or could be argued to be greater than Nelson himself.

The seventeenth century is home to perhaps one of the least remembered conflicts in British public history, the Anglo-Dutch Wars of 1652-72. In the three wars that take place in the space of 20 or so years, both the English and Dutch fleets engaged to huge battles of over 80 plus ships on each side. The battles were fought just off the English and Dutch coasts, or even around the Isle of Wight, so extremely close to home. Thousands of sailors would die a horrible death whilst in the service of their countries navies. The causes of such a war deserve its own blog discussion so stay tuned!

So where are the roots of the English navy? Well Cromwell’s decision to expand the navy, and to also create the forerunners of the marines, ensured that the navy was fit enough to take on the Dutch and win. This was the end of the era of the national navy hiring private ships to fight their own battles. After the first Anglo-Dutch Wars of 1652, the English navy, bought and made its own men of war, to fight with a large number of guns to do the most damage. The navy admirals were land generals, with Blake and Monke coming from the English Civil War, however they did surprisingly well and it due to these men that the tactic of sailing in line came about, which would remain with us until Nelson broke line during the battle of Trafalgar. Blake was stubborn, he always fought, even if he was completely outnumbered, he would stand, and his naval tactics were no different in this. I would argue that he was a genius and it was down to his stubbornness and general ideas that won him the battles and the First war. Sadly he would die before the Second Anglo-Dutch War, and this is where the changes happened.

By the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, there could be seen drastic faults in the navy structure; it was corrupt and too factional. Thanks to Pepy’s diaries we now know what exactly happened and how it was restructured. If you want to know more about Pepy’s, then you can get plenty a book on the man or maybe they’ll be a blog post in the future about what he did and how important he was, then and now.

The sum up the British sailing tactics in this period, is to say they preferred big ships, big guns and iron discipline to rule to waves. It was a tactic that would remain for over a century. But the Anglo-Dutch War shaped how the navy thought, how it was organised, how it was led, and how it won. So for a war where we lost drastically, (Raid on the Medway for starters),it changed Britain, and it made England one of the greatest sea powers. The 17th century, a military revolution?

The Great Gatsby: Class, Society and the American Dream


Possibly one of the most well loved American novels, one of the most read and the most famous, Fitzgerald’s story of the booming ’20s in New York was the definition of a sleeper hit. Fitzgerald himself was long dead before he could see it appreciated and  its legacy is still being debated today. At its beginning, it seems like a celebration of the American Dream, but stick with the story a little longer and the paint starts to blister. Read over the beginning again and, beneath the surface of celebration, is also a deep criticism of American society in the 1920s. Due to its social commentary, the book feels incredibly like a warning prelude to the 1929 Wall Street Crash, which brought the decadence of the 20s to a bitter and detrimental end. However, Gatsby was published in 1925 and was very much a commentary of the time, yet strangely prophetic. Fitzgerald’s critique is of the “careless people” who “smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money”. His criticism of their self-indulged, over-the-top lives has stood the test of time, but what can it really tell us about class and society in 1920s America?

Set in 1922, The Great Gatsby follows the story of Nick Carraway, a veteran of World War I who has moved East in the search of a new life and, of course, the American Dream. This book has fascinated me from my first reading and one description of it I was given of it was that “it’s a book about rich people and their [unimportant] problems”. And this is exactly why this book, from a social commentary perspective, is so interesting. The U.S. experienced a very large economic boom in the 1920s, with expansion of business, innovation and – for those who could afford it – an increased standard of living. One big, decade long post-war celebration, which in reality left many poor and non-white citizens trailing behind. The need to fulfil the ‘American Dream’ – to achieve wealth and prosperity, no matter where you came from – was the aim of many, and the upper classes found themselves divided: those who had inherited wealth from a long line of ancestors, and those who’d found their new wealth through prosperous business ventures and stock market investments. In Fitzgerald’s novel, these two groups are distinctively divided: Daisy and Tom Buchanan are Old Money living in the village of East Egg; Nick and Gatsby and their New Money live over in the West Egg. It’s Fitzgerald’s metaphor for New Money’s incapability to live amongst the Old – the villages are both as extravagant, as affluent and as wealthy – they can look across the bay at one another. But for the West Egg inhabitants, East Egg is an allusive dream, in reach but unreachable.

However, another metaphor for the lack of opportunity – the real truth of the ‘American Dream’ – is underlined by Fitzgerald’s description of the Valley of Ashes, a dumping ground between the high-living, party-going upper classes of Long Island and the vibrant, blooming, economic centre of New York City. This dumping ground is, literally, what sits beside the rich and their pleasures, only passed through and given any attention because of necessity – the wasteland it has become means nothing to the upper classes who have bigger things to do and better places to be. Can the American Dream, Fitzgerald asks, be achieved by the people in the Valley of Ashes – can you really achieve the highest goals no matter what background you come from?

Fitzgerald wrote Gatsby in a time of change, a time when many were climbing social ladders. In reality, it was a time of eugenics and white supremacy. Race is an issue in his novel, and not just in the commentary of white rich people enjoying the riches of Black jazz music. Tom Buchanan acts as the voice of racism in Gatsby, which is evident from the very beginning of the novel when he claims, “it’s up to us [white people], who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control over things”. Tom embodies the ideals of white intellectual superiority and fears that other races take more control. Through this Fitzgerald suggests this was not an uncommon fear among upper-class white Americans. In one heated argument with Gatsby, Tom exclaims “Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.” At first, it could seem like another racist line from a very racist character, but it’s a point he’s trying to make – and a point he seems to be making against Gatsby. Theories of Gatsby’s race have been discussed, and arguments of him being a white-passing black man have been put forward. When Tom says this, Jordan Baker, a character known for being a liar, retorts, “We’re all white here.” Gatsby as a black man, in Fitzgerald’s world, would in all respects make complete sense. The Old Money of East Egg are not just suspicious of Gatsby because of suspicions he’s a bootlegger or because he was once poor and somehow climbed into the Upper Class, but because of doubts about his race. With Gatsby, Fitzgerald truly underlines the impossible nature of equality in opportunity. Gatsby is the definition of New Money and he fails in every effort: to marry the woman he loves, to be considered respectable by the Old Money, to have any one turn up to his funeral. The achievement of wealth and prosperity was not a sign  of its openness to all, Fitzgerald is saying, but a sign of ever-increasing inequality within even New York alone.

This book is about rich people and their “unimportant problems”, and those “unimportant problems” underline other issues of 1920s America that Fitzgerald puts alongside them. As the hundreds enjoy Gatsby’s raucous parties, the Valley of Ashes lies not so far away, left to be destitute. As the rich enjoy their bootlegged alcohol in a time of prohibition, they condemn Gatsby for making money from it – they condemn the bootleggers who are getting rich off crime, while simultaneously indulging in it. As Tom Buchanan rages on about how other races will try to control the white population, the other races live without any rights, while their music and culture is appropriated by the upper classes who can afford to. As Jay Gatsby stretches out and tries to reach across to East Egg – a society that will never accept him on any more than a surface level – he is killed, and that gives away precisely what Fitzgerald thought of the American Dream that dominated the 1920s: a dream which could only be half achieved and at the expense of others. Fitzgerald’s novel gives an incredibly interesting insight into 1920s American society and how it should not just be seen as a period of economic prosperity and parties.

The Angel of Auschwitz: Gisella Perl

Gisella Perl was one of the several million Jews to be sent to a concentration camp during the Second World War. She was one of the lucky few to survive unlike the majority of her family. Despite the death and horrors of the camps, Perl managed to save many of the lives of her female camp mates. Yet Perl’s name is largely unknown. Why? The likelihood is how she saved many of these women’s lives, by providing them with abortions.

Gisella Perl was born in Romania in 1907, graduating first in her high school as the only woman and the only Jew. Her father was initially reluctant to allow her to enrol in medical school fearing she would lose her faith, but when he relented Perl learnt the skills that saved hers and countless of others’ lives. After graduating she became a gynaecologist in Sighetu Marmației.

However her work was interrupted when the Nazis invaded this part of Romania, illegally, via Hungary. Originally placed in a ghetto, Perl and her family, barring her daughter who was sheltered by a non-Jewish family, were sent to Auschwitz in March 1944. Due to her medical training she was selected to work for the camp hospital under the notorious Joseph Mengele.

While called a hospital, it lacked the proper equipment and resources that a hospital required and could be almost as dangerous as the gas chambers. Even basic resources like anaesthesia and drugs were not available. This along with poor nourishment, and hygiene due to a lack of toilets, all made the job of staff much harder. Perl began to rely on her voice as a treatment, hoping she could at least give her patients some kind of relief:

”I treated patients with my voice, telling them beautiful stories, telling them that one day we would have birthdays again, that one day we would sing again. I didn’t know when it was Rosh ha-Shanah, but I had a sense of it when the weather turned cool. So I made a party with the bread, margarine and dirty pieces of sausage we received for meals. I said tonight will be the New Year, tomorrow a better year will come.”

However Perl, like many in the camps, did not realise the true extent of Mengele’s experiments until too late. Mengele had told Perl to send pregnant women to him, telling her they would be sent away for better nutrition. Many women upon hearing this themselves would approach Mengele telling him they were pregnant. Perl then found out that these women were used as guinea pigs in Mengele’s twisted experiments:

“…two lives would be thrown into the crematorium. I decided that never again would there be a pregnant woman in Auschwitz.”

Perl, due to her beliefs had not performed abortions prior to the war and under her own admission struggled greatly with this decision. However she believed it was better to save the life of the mother by performing an abortion before a woman could be sent away where they would die along with their foetus. Perl hoped these women would one day be able to give birth in safer conditions. Such abortions were made harder as Perl was forced to perform these with her bare hands, in the filthy barracks at night without any pain relief. It has been estimated that around 3000 abortions were performed by Perl, giving the women she performed them on a chance continue working, which in turn saved them at least temporarily from death.

Perl ended the war in Bergen-Belsen, moved with the surviving Auschwitz prisoners as part of the desperate attempts of the Nazis to mask what they had done from the oncoming Allied troops. As the camp was liberated she was delivering a baby, the first to be born not under threat of death. Perl had saved countless lives not just through abortions but her care to her fellow inmates, spending many of her nights treating them for the lacerations they suffered from whips brandished by guards. The testimony from her fellow inmates saved her from being accused of collaboration. However the death of her family in the camps; her husband, son and her parents drove Perl to attempt suicide whereupon she was placed in a convent to recuperate. Perl then moved to the US and eventually managed to open a new practice before moving to Israel. Upon entering the delivery room every time she prayed:

“God, you owe me a life – a living baby.”

Perl would go on to deliver around 3000 babies before her death in 1988. Over a hundred mourners attended her funeral with the Jerusalem Post bequeathing the title of “the angel of Auschwitz” on her.

The choice that Perl made has been subject to some debate, some have been inflexible on the position on the morality of abortion. These people believed no matter the circumstances there was no justification such as David Deutschman who said:

“there is no rational or moral justification for . . . wholesale slaughter of infants . . . whether it was done by the brutal Nazis, or by a sentimental and well-meaning female medical personality.”

However many, even those who may generally not approve of abortion, have defended Perl such as Hans Meyerhoff who said:

“[She] risked death and eternal damnation . . . and came to be hailed on behalf of ‘simple humanity’ at the price of thousands of lives which might have been, but never were and never will be. [She] was right in being what she was by committing this enormous wrong.”

Such supporters of Perl believed that she was faced with a choice of preserving the life of the mothers or losing both, Perl did her best to save as many lives as possible, which under the circumstances was only possible through the termination of the foetus. However more important than any moralist’s opinion on Perl’s actions, was the opinion of Perl’s patients who considered her to have saved their lives. One anonymous patient proclaimed:

“Without Dr. Perl’s medical knowledge and willingness to risk her life by helping us, it is would be impossible to know what would have happened to me and to many other female prisoners”.

In the opinion of this writer, whilst I am pro-choice and in support of abortion under circumstances in cases much less horrific than this, I find it hard to see how those who did not suffer under such circumstances, those who faced a choice between abortion or the death of themselves and their foetus, to judge the actions of a doctor who was just doing her best to save as many lives as possible.

Live from a failure. Last acts of heroism and nonsense from Gallipoli.

So, this is R.Cespedes reporting live for History News from the center of the Gallipoli battle, here at the Suvla Bay landing beaches. We hear reports about things going quite badly: the landing spots missed in several cases, as it has been usual along the last months. But, at least, reports from the front say that opposition seems to be weak and some gains could be easily made. Back to the studio now.

Thanks, R. Now we are switching to the Sari Bair area, where a diversion attack has been on its way for some days now. R. is reporting…

Yes, hello, R. I’m now alone, amidst what once was the lines of the ANZAC Corps but right now is, frankly, a complete mess. No one seems to be really sure of what is going on here or further South at Cape Helles, where another diversion has taken place. Allegedly, the attempt to take the ANZAC out of the cove has gone terribly bad, not because of any lack of courage or combativeness, but because of poor intelligence and serious lack of leadership. We have been told by some privates that it has been a Tennyson’s poem all over again. A Light Cavalry Brigade was sent against a well entrenched enemy at Russell Heights, north of the Lone Pine (06/08/1915) position which has been hotly disputed these last days. From earlier reports, we reckon that the amount of casualties is soaring, at about a 75% rate. We have been trying to interview one of the survivors, but they are so few and went so badly mauled that, up to this minute, it has proven to be an impossible task. Tales of great endurance and courage by the troopers and soldiers have reached our ears, some Victoria Crosses already on their way, one may assume. Seven, in fact, if our informants are right and the rumours spreading through the ranks to be confirmed.

Now everything is dust and flies in the scorching heat of August here at Sari Bair. And the ANZAC is still bottled and going nowhere despite all efforts.

Thank you R. We are going back to the main attack site at Suvla Bay, with an update on the situation. What is going on in there, R? Is the attack finally going forward?

Well, I’m afraid it is not, R. For some reason, neither Gen. Hamilton, commander-in-chief, nor Gen. Stopford, at command here at Suvla Bay, are near the action. We have been told, confidentially, by some officers and privates that no one, even Hamilton, thought Stopford was fit for the job, having seen very little action, if any. But he was Kitchener’s choice…We’ve also been told that some units have reached out of the beach-head finding a strong opposition but from what has been considered “small enemy units”. There have been voices claiming for an immediate onslaught but, at this time, nothing has been ordered yet in that sense.

Excuse me, R. How is the morale there at the beaches, right now?

Well…It is hard to say. The willingness to attack is out of any question here but, as the orders to proceed do not arrive, morale is going quite low at the moment. Rumour and hearsay is widespread, and it has it that Gen. Stopford is on board a ship with a sprained ankle or something of the kind, which in turn is heading to rude comments and disbelief among the rank and file. We will have to wait and see what is next.

And now, back in the studio, we have with us Mr. Selim R., senior Middle East analyst in a well-known think tank. Selim, what do you think we can expect from the Turks?

Well, R, I think they must be very worried right now. Even if they have stopped the assault on Sari Bair and Suvla seems to be under control right now, Gen. Von Sanders must know that reinforcements will take perhaps too much time to get there, help putting the invasion back to sea. That must be his bigger concern at this moment. But, you know, Von Sanders is always struggling against the Government. Enver Pasha considers himself a military genius of sorts, and his selections for commanding positions are not always to Sanders liking, to say the least. I believe the German is willing to go at it fast and strong, and he will probably consider to put Mustafa Kemal in command if he feels any hesitation among the senior officers. Kemal has been tough and resolute. And Von Sanders needs that desperately right now.

Thank you, Selim. This just in (09/08/1915): new developments in the Suvla Bay area. General Hamilton himself has finally landed and he is now ordering an advance along the whole front. Would be late, R?

Hello again, R. It has been somewhat quite strange; a full army waiting to dislodge what appeared to be not a particularly strong enemy force. And after some phony days, when the order finally arrives it seems, the devil know how, that Von Sanders has managed to gather more and more units, send them here and launch them into the fight viciously. I don’t want to play the pessimist here, but I think we are heading straight into another stalemate…and troops may well be tired of this. I surely am.

All right, R. I see this fight is getting into you. Back in the studio…do you think Von Sanders got his reinforcements just in the nick of time, Selim?

Yes, for sure. And I have just received a text message from Istanbul. It seems that Feizy Bey, Enver’s protegée, has refused to attack and an enraged Sanders has dismissed him right on the spot, promoting at the same time Colonel Kemal to Commander General. R, if Kemal is in command here, this will become much tougher. We saw that already in the early stages of the battle, months ago.

Now, R. de R., our Home Front analyst. Do you think Hamilton will counteract this? Nobody seems to feel much respect for Stopford…

Hummm. R, you may be right. But he is Kitchener’s choice, after all. And Hamilton himself is not famous for his decisiveness either. So I think, now that Stopford has his orders, injured leg or not, he will have to attack…and we will have to wait and see… see how the offensive goes, see how the lads behave, see what the Turks are made of. Let’s give them all a little time.

All right. This is R., reporting live from Suvla Bay. 18000 casualties so far had just been confirmed by the Army when, suddenly, Gen. Stopford has called for a stop and issued orders for the entrenchment of the men. Scenes of tremendous disappointment and outrage have crossed the Allied lines. Rumour has it that a strong counter-action from the Turks is feared any moment now. Yet, a Headquarters font has made open to us that new operations are expected “sooner or later”.  

You’re now watching History News, and I’m R.R. We are now connecting by secure telephone line with R. Cespedes right in the middle of the fight in Suvla Bay. R., it seems something big is going on in there, isn’t it?

Well, yes, it is. After two more weeks of mistakes, lack of leadership, casualties mounting, poor intelligence and poorer territorial gains, General Hamilton has made up his mind and, we’ve been told, politely asked Kitchener’s permission to get rid of Stopford. Allegedly, permission has been granted despite the fact that, in the last days, the beach-heads at Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay have finally been united. Bad weather conditions, fog and storms, have come to make the soldiers’ lives a little more miserable. And another kind of mist has seemingly descended on British officers’ wits, so to speak. At least two senior officers, Gen. Hammerley and Mahon, are reportedly refused to serve under newly confirmed Commander in the area, Gen. de Lisle, on the grounds of seniority issues.

Anyway, 29/08/1915 Hill 60 has been taken and the union of both beach-heads is now certain, and that’s the good news. Pity, though, that the Allied troops are still surrounded by the Turks that have made such a statement of not giving any ground apart from the beaches. It seems to me, after all these months and with such little gains, that this action should be more than over. But we are still here, with Kemal and his tough guys up there on the ridges, and the sea at our backs. It is probably about time to put this to an end…

History News reporting. This just in: as a result of Bulgaria entering the war on the Central Powers side and overwhelming assault on Serbia, troops would be diverted from the Gallipoli area and sent further up the Balkans to provide relief and support for the Serbian Army. Whether this means the effort against the Turks is to be abandoned soon, or not, is still undisclosed. Yet, pressure is mounting on, as some prestigious press colleagues such as K. Murdoch and E.Ashmead-Bartlett are strongly reporting against Australia’s Prime Minister and, generally speaking, the course of action during these long, disappointing months. A conclusion must be reached to this action. And it better be soon, or the political implications could be devastating.



11/10/1915-History News reporting. This just in: after a month lull, word has spread that Lord Kitchener has asked the Staff senior officers to provide intelligence and assessment for an evacuation of the Gallipoli area. Officials from the Government and the Army have shared with us no comments on this particular issue.

15/11/1915-History News reporting. This just in: Winston Churchill has just resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty. The Gallipoli failure has been too big a pill to swallow for the young and ambitious politician, who is now marked as responsible for the ill-planned operations and the appalling loss of lives. His political career from now on is, at least, compromised.

History News reporting. This just in: evacuation from the Gallipoli area expected for Christmas. Long awaited, we just hope it will be better planned and executed than the attack. At least, after all the suffering, get the spirit of the season and give some comfort to those brave soldiers stranded there, those “cavers”, as they are now famously called, that risked their lives and, in too many a case, lost them, for what has been from the very beginning one of the worst conducted campaigns in military History. Following Kipling…”Lest we forget, lest we forget”.

The British Museum – through the Lens of a Camera pt. 3

Finally, my last batch of pictures taken at the British Museum on the 31st August 2015. These do not only follow some of these themes I have previously captured in the other images, but you may notice they insist on a topic I have been quite fond of as of late: the pre-Columbian cultures. As we know so little about them, what a better way that enlightenment through the few pieces of material culture that they left behind? Therefore, here you have my last update regarding these images.

Pre-Columbian artefacts

“Stone sculpture of female deities”, Huaxtec, AD 900-1450.


(the rest of the Huaxtec female deities, AD 900-1450)

(the rest of the Huaxtec female deities, AD 900-1450).


Xiuhcoatl, the fire serpent, Aztec basalt sculpture c. 1300 AD

Xiuhcoatl, the fire serpent, Aztec basalt sculpture c. 1300 AD.


Maya lintel 16, c. 755-770 AD - Depicting the ruler Bird Jaguar.

Maya lintel 16, c. 755-770 AD – Depicting the ruler Bird Jaguar.


Maya lintel 15 c.770 AD. From the Yaxchilan Structure 24, depicting the Bird Jaguar King.

Maya lintel 15 c.770 AD. From the Yaxchilan Structure 24, depicting the Bird Jaguar King.


Maya lintel 24 c.725. From Yaxchilan Structure 23 - Depicting Lord Shield Jaguar and his principal wife Lady Xoc, in what has been understood as a bloodletting ritual.

Maya lintel 24 c.725. From Yaxchilan Structure 23 – Depicting Lord Shield Jaguar and his principal wife Lady Xoc, in what has been understood as a bloodletting ritual.


Maya lintel 25 c.725. From Yaxchilan Structure 23. Blood offering ritual and the manifestation of Yat Balam, founder of the Yaxchilan dynasty.

Maya lintel 25 c.725. From Yaxchilan Structure 23. Blood offering ritual and the manifestation of Yat Balam, founder of the Yaxchilan dynasty.


"turquoise mosaic mask", Mixtec-Aztec, AD 1400-1521.

“turquoise mosaic mask”, Mixtec-Aztec, AD 1400-1521.


"turquoise mosaic mask", Mixtec-Aztec, AD 1400-1521.

“turquoise mosaic mask”, Mixtec-Aztec, AD 1400-1521.


Turquoise mosaic representing a double headed serpent produced by the Mixtec-Aztec culture 1400-1521. These pieces have been understood as potential remains of lapidary art.

Turquoise mosaic representing a double-headed serpent produced by the Mixtec-Aztec culture 1400-1521. These pieces have been understood as potential remains of lapidary art.


Ceremonial shield, Mixtec-Aztec AD 1400-1525.

Ceremonial shield, Mixtec-Aztec AD 1400-1525.


"Turquoise mask of Tezcatlipoca". Mixtec-Aztec AD 1400-1521. Tezcatlipoca was one of the four most powerful gods in the Aztec pantheon.

“Turquoise mask of Tezcatlipoca”. Mixtec-Aztec AD 1400-1521. Tezcatlipoca was one of the four most powerful gods in the Aztec pantheon.


"Cast of Stela H" from the Great Plaza of Copan, Honduras, AD 400-800. The cast was made in the 19th Century by Lorenzo Giuntini.

“Cast of Stela H” from the Great Plaza of Copan, Honduras, AD 400-800. The cast was made in the 19th Century by Lorenzo Giuntini.


Cast from the Temple of the Cross at Palenque (Mexico). Made in the 19th Century by Lorenzo Giuntini.

Cast from the Temple of the Cross at Palenque (Mexico). Made in the 19th Century by Lorenzo Giuntini.


…And I thought it would be fitting closing this update with a Northern American totem…


Totem in red cedar from British Columbia, 19th Century. Collected by Edmund Verney.

Totem in red cedar from British Columbia, 19th Century. Collected by Edmund Verney.

Gnadenhutten massacre

This post will be about a massacre that occurred during the American Revolutionary war, the Gnadenhutten massacre. The Gnadenhutten massacre is also known as the Moravian massacre and occurred in the village of Gnadenhutten. Gnadenhutten was a Moravian missionary village. The term Moravian means it is a Protestant denomination of Christianity from Moravia, currently in the Czech Republic today.

The actual massacre itself was perpetrated by the colonial American militia on 8th March 1782. This militia was from Pennsylvania. The victims were the Lenape tribe. The Lenape tribe traditionally come from the Delaware region of the United States and along the Atlantic coast. However by the eighteenth century many were displaced by the expansion of the Europeans heading westwards. This occurred increasingly at the time of the American revolutionary war and many settled in Ohio. However it should also be acknowledged that they also headed further west not only from this reason but also because of the threat of the neighbouring tribe the Iroquois. The Lenape and Iroquois did have frequent tensions.

Some of the Lenape converted to Christianity, the Moravian branch and some of them sided with the American colonials whilst others were against them. After a while some of the tribe returned to their original areas as they were hungry in order for harvest. However a raid party of frontiersmen from Pennsylvania under Colonial David Williamson wanted to raid this areas after they were left abandoned and to prevent them being used by war parties for the ongoing revolutionary war. Interestingly there was no official course of action that was ever authorised for this.

Eventually the frontiersmen reached Gnadenhutten on the 7th March. At first their arrival seemed innocent in the sense that they wished to protect the Christian Lenape tribe and remove them to safety to nearby Fort Pitt, a fort built by British Colonialists in Pennsylvania. However they were later found to be accused of taking part in raids in Pennsylvania. The Christian Lenape tribe were very passive and denied all charges held against them. In spite of this Williamson and his men attended a council in order to discuss the matter about whether or not the Christian Lenape tribe had been involved in raids. The penalty was death and the majority voted for it as punishment. The Lenape upon hearing this prayed to God and that they knew they would be with God the following day.

The following morning the militia brought and concentrated the Christian Lenape to a ‘killing house’. The women and men were slaughtered in different buildings whereas the infants and elderly were massacred. Their bodies were thrown into the abandoned mission buildings.

It is said that two Christian Lenape boys who were involved in this massacre, miraculously survived it and lived to tell the tale. Many Americans disapproved of this act, whereas some hailed the Pennsylvanian frontiersmen who did this as heroes at the time.

Today a 11m monument stands tall at the site where this brutal act occurred, commemorating all that had died next to a reconstructed mission house similar to the ones that were used in the Moravian villages. The monument was erected on 5th June 1872, one hundred years after stating:

“Here triumphed in death ninety Christian Indians, March 8, 1782”

The British Museum – through the Lens of a Camera pt. 2

This is a continuation of my blog update from yesterday. The images you will see here are taken my by myself-probably very clumsy, in my walk around the British Museum on the 31st August 2015.

Through Asia: Oriental Cultures in the British Museum

So here I have gone around the rooms regarding China, Korea, Japan, and the India. I have taken pictures of several deities, heavenly guardians and other protective spirits, following the pattern that I had accidentally promoted through my Assyrian images. The are a couple of things that are included such as the crown that do not quite fit in with the theme – but what cultural historian with an art background in depictions of power would I be if i neglected that gilded silver beauty… When fitting I have taken pictures of things that perhaps we have catered for in the blog this year-like the japanese picture below. So have a look and enjoy it.

Louhan: in glazed stoneware from the Hebei Province, China (907-1125 AD)

Louhan: in glazed stoneware from the Hebei Province, China (907-1125 AD).


(Another glazed stoneware Chinese figure)

(Another glazed stoneware Chinese figure).


Ming dinasty stoneware figure from judgement group - 16th Century

Ming dynasty stoneware figure from judgement group – 16th Century.


Ming dinasty stoneware figure from judgement group - 16th Century

Ming dynasty stoneware figure from judgement group – 16th Century.


"Painted pottery tomb guardian", North China, tang dynasty 7th-8th Century AD

“Painted pottery tomb guardian”, North China, tang dynasty 7th-8th Century AD.


Glazed pottery group from North China during the Tang dynasty, 8th Century AD

Glazed pottery group from North China during the Tang dynasty, 8th Century AD.


"Sandstone figure of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara" Northern Qi dynasty, AD 550-577

“Sandstone figure of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara” Northern Qi dynasty, AD 550-577.


Brahma, South India, Tamil Nadu AD 1001-1050

Brahma, South India, Tamil Nadu AD 1001-1050.


Gilt silver crown from the late Ming early Qing period (17th Century)

Gilt silver crown from the late Ming early Qing period (17th Century).


Shiva dakshinamurti, South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola dynasty, late 10th Century

Shiva dakshinamurti, South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola dynasty, late 10th Century.


"Ambika, the Jain Mother Goddess" Dhar, Paramara dynasty (CE 1084)

“Ambika, the Jain Mother Goddess” Dhar, Paramara dynasty (CE 1084).


Vahara, the boar god - Vishnu's incarnation 12th Century

Vahara, the boar god – Vishnu’s incarnation
12th Century.


"Shiva and Parvati", Orissa, 12-13th Century

“Shiva and Parvati”, Orissa, 12-13th Century.


"Amitabha Buddha" - the buddha of infinite light- statue in marble, found in the Hebei Province (China), from the Sui dynasty from AD 581-618.

“Amitabha Buddha” – the buddha of infinite light- statue in marble, found in the Hebei Province (China), from the Sui dynasty from AD 581-618.


"cloisonne enamel figure of a Tibetan Lama, seated on a lotus base" Qing dynasty, early 19th century

“cloisonne enamel figure of a Tibetan Lama, seated on a lotus base” Qing dynasty, early 19th century.


Statue of Kudara Kannon, from Japan. Copy from the original statue by the temple of Nara made for the British Museum in 1930. (the original statue is from the c.600 AD).

Statue of Kudara Kannon, from Japan. Copy from the original statue by the temple of Nara made for the British Museum in 1930. (The original statue is from the c.600 AD).



“Entertainers in Niwaka Festiva”l by Kitagawa Utamaro (c. 1753 – 31 October 1806). Colour print from 1793.

Depiction of the guardians of the Buddhist realm. Joseon period, Korea, 1796-1820.

Depiction of the guardians of the Buddhist realm. Joseon period, Korea, 1796-1820.


Polynesia & the Barkcloth

As we were walking by, my father made me aware that they had brought some items from Polynesia, including the Barkcloth for a little while to the BM…And obviously we had to go have a look! Here are some pics of the items I found most interesting. The masks are particularly awesome!


pa'u (woman's skirt) an example of barkcloth decorated with ula'ula, or red plant dyes

pa’u (woman’s skirt) an example of barkcloth from Hawaii decorated with ula’ula, or red plant dyes.


Kovave mask - worn by male initiates from the Elema people from the Gulf region of Papua New Guinea, and used to call out the spirits of the bush. Early 1880s - in barkcloth too!

Kovave mask – worn by male initiates from the Elema people from the Gulf region of Papua New Guinea, and used to call out the spirits of the bush. Early 1880s – in barkcloth too!


Kavat from the Baining people (New Britain, Papua New Guinea). Mask to attract the spirits of the forest that this people depended on for harvesting, hunting and war. 1970s.

Kavat from the Baining people (New Britain, Papua New Guinea). Mask to attract the spirits of the forest that this people depended on for harvesting, hunting and war. 1970s.


Barkcloth headdresses used by the warriors of Papua New Guinea

Barkcloth headdresses used by the warriors of Papua New Guinea.


Kua'ula - use for men's loincloth in the 1700s (Hawaii).

Kua’ula – use for men’s loincloth in the 1700s (Hawaii).


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