Forum: Comments and conundrums

Your observations, your objections, and your opinions on CWA.


Re: ‘Knossos: seeking the labyrinth’ (CWA 118). In researching my forthcoming book Money and Freedom: how Greece and Rome changed the world, I came across another explanation of how the labyrinth worked in Minoan palaces.

This is based on the ‘Plinth and Door’ architecture found in the royal quarters of the palaces. These are rather strange ‘I’-shaped stone footings – see image (below) from Phaistos – that appear to be the settings for elaborate systems of doors.

It appears that these could be arranged either to form one big hall or a number of small chambers, so that – when you went in to see the king – you went in through one arrangement, but when you came out, there was an entirely different arrangement, which was (deliberately) very confusing. Was this the origin of the labyrinth?

Andrew Selkirk (CWA’s Editor-in-chief)
London, UK

Pig fat and pottery residue

I had to laugh out loud as I was eating my lunch and reading my Current World Archaeology magazine #116 (‘DNA, diets, and dealing with the weather’, p.63) when I read, ‘so was there another use for the pig fat?’ Ha ha ha ha! Doesn’t anyone at your magazine ever cook?  

I clearly remember my grandmother Juana, a Cupa Indian from the Pala Indian Reservation in Southern California, making tortillas from masa she’d ground herself on a stone grinder. She even made white-flour tortillas with lard. She cooked everything with lard. It made everything light and flavourful – not bland and heavy as Crisco does. She also kept a coffee can on her wood stove to collect the bacon fat to use in cooking and frying. Lard was a staple commodity in most homes in the old days, before modern advertising and health concerns about cholesterol. Lard was purchased in big buckets with lids and kept in the pantry.  

Those buckets found at Durrington Walls were simply buckets of lard kept in pantries for cooking. I’m absolutely certain that their meals were tasty and delicious, since ancient people were certainly no less competent in their kitchens than modern ones – probably more so, since they didn’t rely on convenience foods. Their breads were probably light and fluffy made with lard.

Next time an archaeologist finds a bucket full of a food substance, think about cooking before jumping to some silly conclusion about greasing the runners of a sled and wasting perfectly good lard.

Thank you for giving me a good laugh today!

Ginny Ith
Lacey, WA, USA

Palmyra’s lost treasures

I was fortunate to travel in Syria in 2009, before the troubles and destruction. It included an overnight visit at Palmyra, so I was also able to see the ruins again in the morning light. At that time there were other tourists – some on horseback, as I recall. It was one of the most impressive ancient cities I have visited. I believe the arch in the photo was destroyed by ISIS. I hope it has been rebuilt and I hope that tourists can one day visit Palmyra again.

Arlan Oftedahl
Atlanta, GA, USA

Please note: letters may be edited; views expressed here are those of our readers, and do not necessarily reflect those of the magazine.