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The spectacle of gladiatorial combat was initiated by wealthy Romans over 250 years before the birth of Christ as a part of the ceremonies held to honor their deceased relatives. Later, these games became separate events sponsored by Rome's leading citizens in order to enhance their prestige.

With the decline of the republic and the rise of the empire, gladiator games were appropriated by the emperor. The primary purpose of these life-or-death duels was to entertain the multitude of spectators that jammed the arena.

Although some freemen elected to live the life of a gladiator, the majority were slaves, captured during the numerous wars Rome fought to expand its territory. The prospective gladiator received extensive training and became proficient in a particular mode of combat and the use of specific weapons such as the sword, net or the three-pronged spear known as the trident.

The games began early, lasted all day and were usually divided into three presentations. The morning was devoted to the display and slaughter of animals, many of them exotic beasts gathered from the far reaches of the empire. Lions, elephants, giraffes and other rare animals all played a role in a display of butchery designed to advertise the diversity of the far-flung empire and Rome's mastery of Mother Nature.

The morning session was followed by a lunch break in which patrons could leave the arena to satisfy their hunger. Those who lingered were entertained with the execution of common criminals. An attempt was made to match the method of the condemned person's death with the crime committed. Those who had murdered were thrown unprotected to wild beasts. Those who had committed arson were burned alive. Others were crucified. Criminals also provided the fodder for entertainment in the reenactment of historic naval battles in which the arena was flooded and the condemned forced to play the role of the doomed crews of enemy ships.

The afternoon was devoted to the main event - the combat of the gladiators. Typically, gladiators with different specialties were pitted against one another. Much like a modern boxing match, the duels were governed by strict rules and overseen by a referee to assure these rules were followed.

Music provided an accompaniment with the band varying the tempo of its play according to the action in the arena. The crowd would ultimately decide whether the loser would live or die.

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There are an enormous number of musicians and dancers depicted in temples and tombs from all periods of Egypt’s dynastic history. Miraculously hundreds of these instruments have survived and were recovered from their ancient tombs.

These priceless ancient instruments have found homes in museums and private collections around the world. Many of these instruments have survived because they were individually wrapped in cloths and preserved in the same tradition as the mummification of their deceased.

There is evidence of orchestral ensembles and bands in ancient Egypt. These ancient musicians played instruments made of ivory, bones, gold and other fine metals and stones. Four basic types of musical instruments dominated all Egyptian vocal and instrumental compositions.

All Egyptian instruments can be classified into one or more of the following categories: idiophones, membranaphones, aerophones and chordophones. Many of the ancient musical instruments have evolved into many modern day instruments used in orchestras today.

An idiophone is any musical instrument able to produce sounds by rigorous self-vibration. These unique instruments can produce sound not using membranes or strings. Idiophones are percussive instruments that when struck or hit with a hand or a stick vibrate. The idiophones used in ancient Egyptian music were: clappers (two pieces of curved shaped wood with hands carved on the end of each clapper struck or clapped together), sistrum (a metal rod with a hoop supporting small metal disks that produce a tinkling sound when shaken) and cymbals to name a few.

These instruments were played by temple priestesses who led Pharaohs, funerals and temple priests in ritual ceremonies. Additional idiophones used that are more familiar today are: a triangle, bells, claves, African thumb piano, maracas, musical saw, gong, woodblocks, vibraphone and a Jew’s harp.

Instruments classified as membranaphones require the use of animal skin stretched over resonators to produce sound. Ancient Egyptian membranaphones include tambourines and drums of various shapes and sizes. Many of the drums in antiquity included small hand-held drums that were easy for the temple priestess and dancers to play and still move freely. These ancient membranaphones were also played at banquets, temple rituals, as well as religious and military functions.

In the Old and Middle Kingdom tombs are representations of soldiers going to war and marching to the beat of drums. Some membranaphones are capable of producing pitch while others are for rhythmic accompaniments only. Additional membranaphones used in orchestras today are snare and bass drums, bongos, jingles, castanets and timpani.

Aerophones are instruments that require a body of air to produce their sound absent of strings and membranes. Egyptian aerophones are the flute, trumpet, pipes and double reed pipes. Aerophones utilized today day in classical music are the piccolo, clarinet, saxophone, trombone, coronet, French horn, euphonium, tuba, oboe, and bassoon. Other aerophones that are popular to specific cultures are the whistle, recorder, jug, panpipes, single and double reed bagpipes, conch shell, shofar, harmonica and the bugle.

Chordophones in ancient Egypt consisted of three types: the harp, (which were geographically indigenous to Egypt), the lute and the lyre. Chordophones are string instruments whose sound is produced by the vibration of the strings. Resonators pick up the original vibrations of the strings and vibrate them rigorously amplifying the original sound. Chordophones can be plucked, stroked or bowed.

The harp is believed to be the oldest chordophone. Extremely ornate and simple harps are pictured one the wall paintings in ancient Egypt and Samaria. Additional chordophones are the violin, viola, cello, contrabass, guitar, banjo, harpsichord, hammered dulcimer and the piano. 

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Early humans migrating out of Africa adapted to freezing climes more than 800,000 years ago, far sooner than previously thought possible, according to a landmark study released Wednesday.

A trove of flint tools found near Happisburgh in the eastern English county of Norfolk marks Homo sapiens' earliest known settlement in a location where winter temperatures fell below zero degrees Celsius (minus 32 degrees Fahrenheit).

The discovery implies our ancestors some 26,000 generations ago survived climates like those of southern Sweden today, perhaps without the comforting benefit of fire or clothes, the study says.

Until now, almost every archaeological site testifying to habitation across Eurasia during the Early Pleistocene period, 1.8 million to 780,000 years ago, has been below the 45th parallel, suggesting a natural temperature barrier to further northward expansion.

All these sites were either tropical, savanna or Mediterranean in character. The climate boundary cut across southern France and northern Italy, Romania, southern Kazakhstan and Mongolia, as well as northeastern China and the northern tip of Hokkaido Island in Japan.

The only known exception -- a site at Pakefield in Suffolk, southern England -- was occupied by humans during a balmy interlude. But the new research, led by Nick Ashton of the British Museum, has thrown down a challenge to the 45th-parallel rule. It has shown for the first time that our hardy forebears, armed with a few stone tools or weapons, could survive in a challenging, frigid environment.

Source: Discovery Channel
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“When Marduk sent me to rule over men, to give the protection of right to the land, I did right and righteousness in . . . , and brought about the well-being of the oppressed.”

Hammurabi was the first king of the Babylonian Empire, extending Babylon’s control over Mesopotamia by winning a series of wars against neighboring kingdoms. Hammurabi is most remembered for his law code, including 282 laws regulating people’s relationships in Mesopotamia.

Marriage and Family Under the Hammurabi Law Code

Marriages were arranged by the parents for their children. All parties involved signed a contract because without it the couple was not considered legally married. The husbands provided payment to the parents of the bride, in return receiving a dowry from the bride’s family.

Women had very little rights in the marriage and failure to uphold their responsibilities were grounds for divorce. If the wife was not able to bear children or left home to engage in business, her husband could divorce her and did not have to return the dowry.

In the case of divorce, if the man divorced the wife for no good reason, the wife could get the dowry back with just cause. Consequently, if the husband died the wife inherited his lands and would decide which son would receive the inheritance.

Sexual Relations Under the Law Code of Hammurabi

Husbands were permitted to partake in sexual relations outside of marriage, but not wives. A wife that committed adultery, with her lover, was thrown into the river. If one party was pardoned, the other half had to be as well. Incestuous relations between a daughter and her father would result in banishment. Incest between a mother and her son resulted in both being burned.

Similar to many ancient societies, the father ruled the family and his wife with strict authority. No offense was off limits or unpunishable, as the father would embrace the “eye for an eye” aspect of the fundamental system of the Hammurabi Law Code.

Source: Lauren Axelrod at
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