Predynastic Egyptian art

With the mention of ‘Egyptian art’, most people’s minds would probably immediately jump to the famous, distinctive art of ancient Egypt. The art of prehistoric/ Predynastic Egypt (one of, if not my favourite period of art history) is usually overshadowed by the art of the glamourous period it is succeeded by. With the huge amounts of interest ancient Egypt has gathered, the relatively little interest paid to their prehistoric ancestors, the ‘roots’ of ancient Egypt, is perhaps surprising. 

Egypt’s late Neolithic period is known as the Predynastic period, which began in the sixth millennium BC. This long period of time is usually divided into two subgroups: the Naqada I period (4000-3500 BC) and the Naqada II period (3500-3100 BC). Predynastic Egypt ends with Upper and Lower Egypt’s unification under one king, which ushered in the great historical ‘ancient’ period. 

Pictured here are 5 comb remains, depicting a giraffe, wildebeest, antelope, ostrich and a pair of ducks. These combs date from the Late Naqada l–Naqada II period (ca. 3900–3500 BC). See also this Predynastic female figure from the Brooklyn Museum I posted a while back. 

The art of Predynastic Egypt progressively became more similar to the art style that we would typically associate with ancient Egyptian art. The ‘Scorpion King’ Mace head at the Ashmolean Museum is a key example of this. Dating to 3100 BC, this famous ceremonial mace head was created in the period immediately before the unification of Egypt. We can notice a number of key characteristics that will become the foundations of ancient Egyptian art, for example: the size of the figures reflecting their relative status, and the beginnings of the register system.

Shown artefacts courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Via their online collections:  23.2.523. & 23.2.3.

5 Things We Can Do to Reclaim Cinco de Mayo

It’s pretty much official. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become the Mexican version of St. Patrick’s Day.

Multinational corporations like Budweiser and Kraft have effectively turned it into a pseudo-ethnic holiday used as another excuse to get drunk and consume. La Batalla de Puebla is hardly mentioned, including by many Mexicans.

Still fresh in our community’s collective memory, however, is a time before corporations even seemed to care about Mexicans and our traditions, and when Cinco de Mayo was a day of community and cultural affirmation. Kids would dress up as China Poblanas and charros, folklórico and Danza Azteca groups would perform, grills would be ablaze, and maybe a parade and car show would entertain families on this day.

Of course, these traditions are still very much alive and being observed every year in our communities — as the photo above shows. The big difference is that today there are entire events posing as Cinco de Mayo festivals that are actually corporate festivals held to promote products and brands.

Can we take back from multinationals something that has belonged to us for decades?

Can we reclaim Cinco de Mayo as a day that celebrates Mexico’s heroic victory for democracy and freedom over French imperialism in the Batalla de Puebla?

Of course we can!

Here are 5 things we can do to make it happen:

1. Support events hosted by and for the benefit of local non-profits and community-based organizations.

2. Don’t go to corporate Cinco de Mayo events. No matter how much free shit they give away.

3. Remind white people Cinco de Mayo celebrates the killing of white people!

4. Know the history of Cinco de Mayo and La Batalla de Puebla.

5. Promote Mexico making Cinco de Mayo a national holiday, removing the silly claim that it’s only celebrated in the US.


Photo credit: J.L. Sousa of the Napa Valley Register

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May 3rd 1469: Niccolò Machiavelli born

On this day in 1469, the Italian thinker Niccolò Machiavelli was born in Florence. He went on to become a central figure of the Renaissance that coloured Florentine life during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Machiavelli was involved in city politics, especially during the fourteen years when the powerful Medici family were exiled from power when he was a diplomat. Upon their return, Machiavelli was dismissed for his opposition to their rule and thus occupied his time writing what has become considered his magnum opus: The Prince. This book is often considered a kind of handbook for ruthless politicians, as it detailed how one must be prepared to use any means to preserve political power. However, some scholars have suggested that the work was more of a satire than prescriptive guide. Machiavelli died on June 21st 1527, aged fifty-eight, and was buried in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence.

“Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”

“I’ve been praised by the press and I’ve been criticized. But the audiences have taken to the production with delight, enthusiasm, and joy. Isn’t that the highest reward for my stubbornness, faith, fanaticism, and conviction?”-I, Maya Plisetskaya

Rest in Peace Maya Plisetskaya

November 20, 1925-May 2, 2015

Phyllis Latour Doyle

From “A Mighty Girl” on Facebook: Source

Why She Kicks Ass:

At age 23, British secret agent Phyllis Latour Doyle parachuted into occupied Normandy in May 1944 to gather intelligence on Nazi positions in preparation for D-Day. As an agent for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), Doyle secretly relayed 135 coded messages to the British military before France’s liberation in August. For seventy years, her contributions to the war effort have been largely unheralded but, last week, the 93-year-old was finally given her due when she was awarded France’s highest honor, the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.

Doyle first joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force at age 20 in 1941 to work as a flight mechanic but SOE recruiters spotted her potential and offered her a job as a spy. A close family friend, her godmother’s father who she viewed as her grandfather, had been shot by the Nazis and she was eager to support the war effort however she could. Doyle immediately accepted the SOE’s offer and began an intensive training program. In addition to learning about encryption and surveillance, trainees also had to pass grueling physical tests. Doyle described how they were taught by a cat burglar who had been released from jail on “how to get in a high window, and down drain pipes, how to climb over roofs without being caught.”

She first deployed to Aquitaine in Vichy France where she worked for a year as a spy using the codename Genevieve. Her most dangerous mission, however, began on May 1, 1944 when she jumped out of a US Air Force bomber and landed behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Normandy. Using the codename Paulette, she posed as a poor teenage French girl. Doyle used a bicycle to tour the region, often under the guise of selling soap, and passed information to the British on Nazi positions using coded messages. In an interview with the New Zealand Army News magazine, she described how risky the mission, noting that “The men who had been sent just before me were caught and executed. I was told I was chosen for that area (of France) because I would arouse less suspicion.”

She also explained how she concealed her codes: “I always carried knitting because my codes were on a piece of silk – I had about 2000 I could use. When I used a code I would just pinprick it to indicate it had gone. I wrapped the piece of silk around a knitting needle and put it in a flat shoe lace which I used to tie my hair up.” Coded messages took a half an hour to send and the Germans could identify where a signal was sent from in an hour and a half so Doyle moved constantly to avoid detection. At times, she stayed with Allied sympathizers but often she had to sleep in forests and forage for food.
During her months in Normandy, Doyle sent 135 secret messages – invaluable information on Nazi troop positions that was used to help Allied forces prepare for the Normandy landing on D-Day and during the subsequent military campaign. Doyle continued her mission until France’s liberation in August 1944.

Following the war, Doyle eventually settled in New Zealand where she raised four children. It was only in the past 15 years that she told them about her career as a spy. In presenting the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour to Doyle last week, French Ambassador Laurent Contini commended her courage during the war, stating: “I have deep admiration for her bravery and it will be with great honor that I will present her with the award of Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest decoration.”
To read more about Phyllis Latour Doyle’s incredible story, visit The Telegraph at http://bit.ly/1I1nvi2

The stories of women heroes of WWII are unfortunately rarely told but an incredible recent book makes it easy to introduce a new generation to these extraordinary women: “Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue,” recommended for ages 13 and up, at http://www.amightygirl.com/women-heroes-of-world-war-ii
A complementary book telling the stories of heroic women of WWI was also just released: “Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics” at
http://www.amightygirl.com/women-heroes-of-world-war-i  To browse our entire collection of stories of girls and women living through the WWII period, including numerous stories related to the Holocaust, visit our “WWII / Holocaust” section at http://www.amightygirl.com/books/history-biography/history-world?cat=186

Submerged in its tank, the Hunley submarine slowly releases an accumulation of salt that would destroy it, if the ship were left exposed to air. H. L. Hunley was the first combat submarine to sink a warship. 1864 [1200x1800]

Unknown Artist

St. Benedict of Palermo

Portugal (c. 1650s)

Polychromed wood, 62 cm.        

Chapel of Our Lady of Conception, Aradas, Portugal

Though monumental in conception, the robust figure of the black saint stands only about 2 feet high. It is carved of wood, then gilded and painted. Pupils of glass complete the effect of living faith. He stands on the altar of a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Aradas, a small town located in the north-central coastal region of Portugal.

Read More at TheRoot.com