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  • Ankhsenamun › Origins
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Ancient civilizations › Historical places, and their characters

Anjar › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Fatema AlSulaiti

The city of Anjar stands as the single Umayyad site in Lebanon, located near the Litani River and 58 km from the capital of Beirut. Anjar was founded during the Umayyad period under Caliph Walid ibn 'Abd al-Malak (r. 705-715 CE) and takes its name from the Arabic term 'ayn al-jaar, meaning water from the rock - a reference to the streams that flow from adjacent Lebanon and the anti-Lebanon mountain range.


The city prospered over a relatively short period of 20-30 years, continuing under Walid's son, Caliph Ibrahim (r. 744 CE). It was in 744 CE that the Abbasids, expanding their power in a takeover of the Islamic caliphate, defeated Ibrahim and overran the city. The raid left Anjar devastated, ushering in a long period of disuse and abandonment.
The ruins of Anjar provide testimony to the Umayyad civilization, as they are precisely dated in inscriptions found throughout the enclosure. The site reveals a long period of early occupation by the Greeks and Romans reflected in early Christian buildings which date back to c. 395 CE.
Anjar was an inland commercial centre at the crossroads of two important routes: one which led from Beirut to Damascus and the other which crossed the Bekaa valley, leading from Homs to Tiberiade. It prospered as a trading city, as it was strategically situated at this crux between the north-south and east-west trade routes of the Arabian Peninsula.
The city of Anjar, while never built up to its fullest potential and rather, abandoned by the Umayyads after a nascent 30 years, saw only a brief golden-age. At its peak, Anjar housed more than 600 market arcades separated by columns in the typical Roman -style, as well as bath houses, two palaces, and a mosque.

Arch, Anjar

Vestiges of the city of Anjar constitute a unique example of 8th century CE urban planning carried out at the beginning of the Islamic period. The nature of its ruins marks an evolution over time from a proto-Byzantine culture to the early development of Islamic art - evidenced through the presence of various construction techniques - and architectonic and decorative elements captured in its monuments.


Anjar is a fortified city surrounded by walls and forty towers spread across a rectangular area of 385 x 350 metres. The city structure is dominated by gates flanked by porticos, and is divided into four equal quadrants by a north-south axis and a shorter east-west axis superposed above the main sewage collectors.

General View, Anjar

Public use and private residential buildings are laid out according to a structured plan: the mosque and the palace of the Caliph in the southeast quarter occupies the highest elevated part of the site, while the small palaces (harems) and bathhouses are located in the northeast quarter, facilitating the proper evacuation of wastewater. Special service, craft areas, and living areas are distributed in the northwest and southwest quarters.
The ruins reveal spectacular vestiges of a monumental tetrapyle (four arch way), as well as by the walls and colonnades of the Umayyad palace, three out of four levels of which have been preserved. These structures incorporate decorative or architectonic elements of the Roman era, but are also noteworthy for the exceptional embellishing techniques of contemporary decor within the construction.

Ankhsenamun › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Joshua J. Mark

Ankhsenamun (born c. 1350 BCE and known as Ankhesenpaaten in youth) was the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. She was married to her father and may have borne him one daughter, Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit (`Ankhesenpaaten the Younger'), before she was thirteen years old. While still a young girl, and possibly already married to Akhenaten, she was betrothed to her half-brother Tutankhaten who is better known as Tutankhamun. She survived both her father and her husband and is the first Egyptian woman of royal blood known to have tried to marry a foreign prince and make him pharaoh. Her attempt failed, however, and what became of her afterwards is unknown, as is the year of her death.


Akhenaten, possibly through religious conviction but probably for political reasons, outlawed the traditional religion of Egypt and suppressed religious practices. The popular worship of the god Amun was especially targeted for persecution because the priests of the temple complexes of Amun had grown in wealth and power to rival that of the royal house. Land was the source of wealth in ancient Egypt and, by the time of Akhenaten's religious reforms, the priests owned more land than the pharaoh. In place of the traditional polytheism the Egyptians had always known, Akhenaten instituted a strict monotheism centered on the one supreme god Aten, represented by the sun disk.
Akhenaten moved the seat of power from the traditional palace at Thebes to a newly constructed complex at a city he founded, Akhetaten, (later known as Amarna ) and it would have been here that Ankhsenamun grew up as a child-bride of her father and then the betrothed of her half-brother Tutankhaten. The Egyptologist Zahi Hawass notes that,
the two children must have grown up together and perhaps playing together in the palace gardens. The royal children would have had lessons from teachers and scribes, who would have given them instruction in wisdom and knowledge about the new religion of the Aten (50).
At some point, exactly when is not clear, she would have given birth to her daughter but it is possible that Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit was not her child but the daughter of Akhenaten and his lesser wife Kiya (Tutankhamun's mother). Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit is only known from damaged inscriptions which make determining her mother problematic. How long the child lived or when she died is unknown.


Akhenaten died in 1336 BCE and his son took the throne. Shortly after this, the boy-king known as Tutankhaten repealed his father's religious proscriptions and re-instated the traditional religious practices of Egypt. The temples were re-opened and the rites were again performed in accordance with tradition. The Egyptians considered balance and harmony the most important aspects of life and honored those concepts through an eternal law known as ma'at (harmony). To the Egyptians, Akhenaten's monotheism and persecution of religion had upset ma'at and it was the duty of the new king to restore order and balance.Tutankhaten and Ankhesenpaaten were married in a royal wedding and, as their first step in returning balance to Egypt, changed their names to Tutankhamun and Ankhsenamun; he was eight or nine years old at the time and she was 13 or 14.
Tutankhamun moved the government back to the traditional seat at Thebes and Memphis and set about trying to repair the damage his father's edicts had caused. With his advisors Ay and Horemheb to guide him, Tutankhamun re-built temples and refurbished the old palace. Hawass notes that,
At the major temples, Tutankhamun and his queen would have had a small ceremonial palace, complete with a reception area, throne room, and private chambers, including bathrooms for royal use. The `golden king' would have used his palace at Thebes for important religious festivals, and various rest-houses scattered around the country for hunting trips (54).
It would seem, from paintings and inscriptions, that Ankhsenamun was his almost constant companion on these trips. Hawass writes,
To judge from their portrayal in the art that fills the golden king's tomb, this was certainly the case [that they loved one another]. We can feel the love between them as we see the queen standing in front of her husband giving him flowers and accompanying him while he was hunting (51).
They seem to have been inseparable until Tutankhamun died suddenly in 1327 BCE around the age of 18.



Horemheb, as commander-in-chief of the army, was campaigning against the Hittites in the north when Tutankhamun died and so Ay assumed the traditional role of successor in burying the dead king. For his role to be recognized the king's widow would have to be ceremonially betrothed to him for the funeral service and it seems this is what happened. Ay and Ankhsenamun officiated at the burial of the king but do not seem to have been actually married. It was assumed, however, that Ay, as successor, would take Ankhsenamun for his royal bride to legitimize his rule.
The twenty-three year old queen, however, had different plans in mind. She did not want to marry Ay, who was much older (and quite possibly her grandfather) and so she wrote to the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I asking for help. In her letter she states:
My husband has died and I have no sons. They say about you that you have many sons. You might give me one of your sons to become my husband. Never shall I pick out a servant of mine and make him my husband.
This unprecedented request from an Egyptian queen made the Hittite king suspicious and he sent an emissary to Egypt to meet with her. The man returned with another letter which read:
Had I a son, would I have written about my own and my country's shame to a foreign land? You did not believe me and you have said as much to me. He who was my husband has died. A son I have not! Never shall I take a servant of mine and make him my husband. I have written to no other country; only to you have I written. They say your sons are many; so give me one of your sons. To me he will be husband, but in Egypt he will be King.

The Tomb of Horemheb

Suppiluliuma, once assured of the legitimacy of the offer, sent his son Zananza to Egypt to marry Ankhsenamun but the prince was killed before reaching the border. His murder has long been understood to be the work of the general Horemheb, possibly with the support or collusion of Ay. Hawass writes:
Perhaps Ay told the commander of the army, Horemheb, what the young queen had done, or perhaps Ay and Horemheb were themselves involved in a struggle for the throne. Perhaps the two men decided together to stop the Hittite prince, because it would have brought shame on the nation for an Egyptian queen to marry a foreigner - such a thing would have reversed the proper order of things. Perhaps it was Ay, or his successor, Horemheb, who had the Hittite prince killed; and perhaps Ankhsenamun was forced, after all, to marry the aged Ay. In fact, we do not have any clues to her eventual fate. Her name is not mentioned in Ay's tomb, which is located in the Valley of the Kings, where we see only the name of his principal wife, Tiye (68).


No more is known of Ankhsenamun after this incident. Ay ruled for three years but no mention is made of her as his wife nor in any other capacity except for a ring which might indicate she was married to Ay. The ring is considered inconclusive evidence, however, as it may simply reference the ceremonial marriage for Tutankhamun's funeral and not an actual marriage. When Ay died, Horemheb took the throne and, to legitimize his rule, instituted religious orthodoxy, claiming that the old gods had chosen him to return the country to traditional values and to erase the name of the heretic king's family from history. All of the public monuments raised by Akhenaten were destroyed or defaced and Horemheb also tried to eliminate all trace of Tutankhamun.The young royal couple had ruled for ten years and, in that time, tried to restore Egypt to the glory it had known before Akhenaten's monotheistic reforms. It is very likely that there were inscriptions and stele erected which recorded the accomplishments of their short reign but these would have been destroyed under the edicts of Horemheb.
It is possible that Ay, or Horemheb, also had Ankhsenamun murdered for her daring to contact the Hittite king but, like everything else in her later life, this cannot be confirmed. All that is clearly known is that, after her letters to Suppiluliuma I, Ankhsenamun vanishes from history. It has been speculated that one of the two female mummies, found in KV 21 (tomb 21 of the Valley of the Kings), is Ankhsenamun based upon DNA testing in 2010 CE which matches this mummy's DNA to that of the two still-born children of Tutankhamun and Ankhsenamun found in Tutankhamun's tomb; but the findings are inconclusive.Akhenaten's mummy has been positively identified and his DNA does not match that of the mummy thought to be Ankhsenamun's. It is also certain that Ankhsenamun was the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. As Tutankhamun was not known to have had any other wife, scholars are at a loss to explain who the KV21 mummy might be. The two conclusions the DNA presents are that either Ankhsenamun was not Akhenaten's daughter or Tutankhamun had another wife who is missing from the historical record. Neither of these possibilities seems plausible based on current information and so the final fate of Ankhsenamun remains a mystery.

Food & Agriculture in Ancient Japan › Origins

Ancient Civilizations

Author: Mark Cartwright

The diet of ancient Japan was heavily influenced by its geography as an archipelago, foodstuffs and eating habits imported from mainland Asia, religious beliefs, and an appreciation for the aesthetic appearance of dishes, not just the taste. Millet was replaced by rice as the main staple food from c. 300 BCE and seafood was preferred to meat, both for its abundance and because Buddhism, introduced in the 6th century CE, largely prohibited the killing of animals and birds. A wide variety of fruit and vegetables were available while tea and sake were the popular drinks, at least for the aristocracy.

Japanese Food


The geography of Japan is varied and so, therefore, is each region's capacity for agriculture. The Inland Sea basin between Honshu and Shikoku benefits from heavy rains during the growing season and sunny, dry days of subtropical temperatures prior to harvest, while late Autumn rains coming in with the Pacific Ocean winds and mild winters help winter crops. Delayed rains or early typhoons can destroy crops. In contrast, the north-west of Honshu receives icy winds and snow sweeping in from Asia.


Given the fickle whims of Nature and the real possibility of devastating weather phenomena which could wipe out crops, it is not surprising that the ancient Japanese conjured up deities to protect their interests.
Food ( shokumotsu ) could have its own gods. There was a general and ancient food goddess from Ise, and Inari was established as the national rice god long after local rice gods had already been protecting farmers and promising them a good harvest when they received suitable offerings. Even rice fields had their own protective Shinto spirit, ta no kami. An important part of agriculture were religious ceremonies and rituals, especially around sowing and harvest time, which were meant to ensure a good crop and protect it from disasters. Ceremonies involving rice were particularly important and involved the emperor. Famine, too, was represented in mythology as an old crone who had set fish traps to deprive the people of salmon but who was eventually killed by the hero Okikurmi. Buddhism also featured food-related figures, notably Iorin, a manifestation of Kannon, who is the patroness of fishermen, and Ida-ten, the god of the meal in Zen sects. The latter is prayed to before meals and watches for any excess of appetite.


Agriculture ( nogaku ) in ancient Japan, as it remains today, was largely focussed on cereal and vegetable production, with meat only being produced in relatively limited quantities. Early food sources during the Jomon Period (c. 14,500 - c. 300 BCE or earlier) were millet and edible grasses. The first traces of crop cultivation date to c. 5700 BCE with slash-and-burn agriculture. Farming of specific and repeated areas of land occurred from c. 4,000 BCE.
By far the most important staple food was rice. There is evidence of rice c. 1250 BCE, introduced to Japan via migrants from mainland Asia in the late Jomon Period, but its cultivation was likely not until c. 800 BCE. The first evidence of growing rice in wet fields dates to c. 600 BCE when the technique was introduced, again by migrants from Asia, during the transition from the Jomon to the Yayoi Period. The earliest paddy fields appeared in the south-west and then spread northwards. Yayoi immigrants also brought azuki beans, soybeans, wheat, and, from China, what has become the Japanese dish par excellence, sushi.

Japanese Stoneware Offering Vessel

Agricultural was slow to develop, and it was not until the introduction of iron tools and techniques from Korea in the Kofun Period (c. 250 - 538 CE) that progress was made in efficiency. Even during the Nara Period (710-794 CE) agriculture still depended on primitive tools, not enough land was prepared for crops, and irrigation techniques were insufficient to prevent frequent crop failures and outbreaks of famine (notably in 730 CE and c. 1180 CE). There was some state support in the form of loans of seed-rice in the 9th century CE, but the interest rates were between 30 and 50%. Only the Kamakura Period (1183-1333 CE) and medieval times would see such techniques as double-cropping, better seed strains and a wider use of fertiliser.
Given this unreliability, most small farmers preferred the greater security of working for landed aristocrats on their large estates ( shoen ). Only these estates were properly irrigated, and small independent farmers had to do with rainfall or natural underground sources, and so settle for dry field crops like millet (and hemp) as well as barley, wheat, and buckwheat. Rice, when grown in such conditions, was reserved to pay taxes. Other crops included barley and mulberry, the latter needed for the production of silk.


As Japan is a collection of variously sized islands, seafood was easily acquired and was much more popular than meat, animal husbandry being a more costly and time-consuming source of food. Examples of seafood eaten are shellfish, seaweed, sea cucumber, bonito, bream, sea bass, eel, carp, mackerel, sardine, salmon, trout, shark, prawns, squid, jellyfish, and crab. Fish, if not eaten fresh and on site, was transported inland dried.

Japanese Persimmon

When Buddhism was introduced into Japan in the 6th century CE and then officially adopted and sponsored by the state, the religion, with its avoidance of killing animals and birds, provided another reason for seafood and vegetables to dominate the Japanese diet. Buddhism did not prohibit the eating of all types of meat, with wild boar and venison being exceptions to the rule. Pheasant was another meat which maintained its popularity. It is also true that some Buddhist sects were stricter and required their followers to eat a vegetarian diet.
They send cormorants forth
Over the upper shoals,
They cast dipper nets
Across the lower shoals.
Mountain and river
Draw together to serve her -
A god's reign indeed!
Manyoshu poem by Kakinomoto Hitomaro on Natures bounty for Empress Jito (Ebrey, 150).
The best-known period regarding Japanese diet is the Heian Period (794-1185 CE) when literature flourished and references to eating practices can be found amongst the court intrigues and romantic interludes. Our knowledge is largely restricted to that of the aristocracy as they were the ones who wrote the literature and they concentrated on their own lavish dinner parties held in their pleasure palaces of the capital Heiankyo (Kyoto). We can imagine that the diet of the ordinary population was much less palatable, although it might have been healthier as many a noble court writer alludes to the boils and other maladies related to malnutrition which plagued the imperial court.
Aristocrats had two meals a day - one at around 10 am and the second at 4 am but, again, we can imagine that labourers and farmers probably ate early and late in the day so as not to interfere with their work. People would have eaten snacks, too, of fruit, nuts, or rice cakes, for example.
Rice, the staple, was boiled, steamed, or cooked and then dried. It was mixed with vegetables to make rice cakes or made into a thick porridge and spiced up with vegetables or other cereals. Popular vegetables included the versatile soybean which could be made into a flavouring paste ( miso ), tofu (bean curd), or soy sauce. There were red beans, Japanese sweet potatoes, bamboo shoots, aubergines, cucumbers, burdock, onions, spring onions, yams, and radishes. They were eaten raw or boiled, steamed or pickled. Food was seasoned using salt, ginger, mint, garlic, vinegar, and fish broth. A sweeter taste was achieved by adding honey, a rice jelly, or a liquid known as amazura which was pressed from wild grapes. Another way to add extra taste was cooking using walnut or sesame oil.
Fruit available included peaches, the Japanese orange, tangerines, persimmons, loquats, plums, pomegranates, apples, raspberries, and strawberries. There were also nuts such as chestnuts, walnuts, and pine nuts. Fats were provided (probably in insufficient quantities) by eggs, milk and butter products.
Such quintessential Japanese dishes as tempura and sukiyaki were introduced to the islands much later - tempura via the Portuguese in the 16th century CE and sukiyaki in the early 20th century CE after beef was made fashionable there by western Europeans.

Genji Viewing Snow from a Balcony

Tea ( cha ) was another popular introduction from China (6th-7th century CE), and according to tradition it first grew from a bush which grew from the discarded eyelids of the sage Daruma (aka Boddhidarma), the founder of Zen Buddhism. Also from China came better tea plants and the elaborate ceremony involved in its preparation ( chanoyu ). Tea drinking was first adopted by Zen Buddhist monks as it was thought to aid meditation and ward off sleep. The drink was also considered to have medicinal qualities. The tea was prepared by pounding the leaves and making a ball with amazura or ginger, which was then left to brew in hot water. Eventually, from 1200 CE, specialised tea schools were opened, people drank in dedicated tea rooms ( chashitsu ), and people's finest porcelain was reserved for tea drinking.
Finally, one important drink which, again, remains a quintessential symbol of Japan is sake or rice wine. In mythology, the drink comes from Tokyo, a gift from Sukunabikona, the god of magic and healing. Sake was and is a common offering to the gods of Shinto shrines. Finally, illustrating the antiquity of sake and its importance in Japanese culture, Otomo no Tabito (665-731) famously composed 13 poems praising the drink, and here is one of them:
Instead of fretting
Over things of no avail,
It would seem better
To drink a cupful
Of clouded sake.
(Keene, 137)
This article was made possible with generous support from the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.


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with permission from the Website Ancient History Encyclopedia
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