Precious red coral

Corallium rubrum, or precious red coral, was used both as old apothecary ingredient but also in jewelry. Pharmacists used it as calcium supplement and cure against rachitism, but also as ingredient in several composite medicines, such as the anti-epileptic powders. Due to its preciousness, it is among the few organic materials included in the category of gems. Red coral thus features in the new temporary exhibition entitled "Gold and gems" that opens tomorrow, September 1st, at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca.
19th c wooden apothecary jar for red coral
19th century ceramic jar for red coral

natural red coral


Roman elegance raffle

Part of their "Roman elegance" reenactment event at Camp Virtus, members of the Virtus Antiqua NGO are organizing a raffle with thematic prizes: puzzle with gladiator helmet, crepundia-type amulet/charm necklace and handmade snake-shaped leather earrings. These items, inspired by ancient Roman history and artifacts, are offered by the event's partner, Atelierul de istorie.
Don't miss the event on Saturday, September 3rd, at Camp Virtus in Salicea, near Cluj. 


Linocut for car stickers

The latest product, available online, of Atelierul de Istorie is again targeted for those interested in the ancient Dacian civilization. An original linocut depiction of the Dacian wolf (draco) has been turned into a monochrome car sticker. Though an online survey has indicated demand for large stickers as well, up to one meter long, we have decided to test the small variant first, measuring 15 cm in length.

Dacian war standard as car sticker

Draco auto stickers

original linocut draco by Ana Maria Gruia

The same design has been used for outdoor flags as well, rather successfully! One variant has also been transformed for the logo of the company. See that story HERE.


Roman elegance

Camp Virtus is ready for the next open air reenactment event, to be held on the first Saturday in September. Join us near Cluj for a practical workshop of ancient Roman elegance - smell perfumes prepared according to ancient recipes, try some cosmetic treatments, have you hair done the Roman way (temporarily sewed at the hands of our experienced "cosmetic slave girls"), and take photos in Roman dresses, with lovely jewelry replicas and under a wealth woman's sun umbrella!
The classical workshops will also be opened on this occasion: bow and arrow target practice, the "archaeologist's corner" and Roman board games.
Entry is free, but we do accept small donation to continue building at Camp Virtus.


The bread of our ancestors

While asking for the support of all residents of Cluj with a Facebook profile to vote for our community project entitled "The bread of our ancestors" ("Painea strabunilor" in Romanian) - VOTE HERE - we continued with the research. The project envisages free workshops for kindergarten groups, teaching them how to make fire, make the dough, model bread and bake it in the fashion of the Romans and the Dacians. This envisages the reconstruction of the clay oven at Camp Virtus - a topic tackled before HERE.
We are also doing out homework regarding ancient bread shapes, stamps and bakeries. The best sources are charred and construction remains in Pompeii and Herculaneum, but there are also useful depictions and preserved recipes.
charred bread from Pompeii. source: kitchenboy

bronze bread stamp. source: source: kitchenboy
A view of the millstones and oven of a bakery (Pistrinium) in the Roman town of Pompeii. source: ancient.eu

Drawing of the Average Work Day in an Ancient Roman Bakery. Photograph. Pompeii Nowadays and 2000 Years Ago. Firenze: Bonechi Edizioni- Il Turismo, 1977. 56-57. Print. This shows how a Romran bakery could have looked. Source: pinterest



Gold and gems at the pharmacy

The official poster of the next temporary exhibition at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca is here! The "Gold and Gems" glamorous display focuses on precious materials used as apothecary ingredients, such as gold, silver, pearls, coral, precious and semi-precious stones, but visitors will also be able to learn more about cordial waters, gilded pills, alembics, alchemy and ... gold-lying hens!
The exhibition will be open on September 1st and will last until the end of 2016. See it in Unirii Square 28.


Celtic triquetra leather cuff

The latest product of Atelierul de istorie is an entirely handmade leather cuff bracelet decorated with the Celtic triquetra (triple knot) motif. The term is of Latin origin, from tri- "three" and quetrus "cornered", originally meant "triangle" and was used to refer to various three-cornered shapes. The wristband depicts a series of tooled interlaced knots, ending in vegetal tendrils. In order to stress the interlaced decoration further, all relief parts of the decoration are painted by hand in black against the dark green background. Made of natural vegetable tanned, full grain leather. Dimensions: 17 – 20 cm in length, 3.5 cm. in width.


Vote for the remake of the ancient bread oven

A bread oven was built, as an experimental archaeology initiative, at Camp Virtus, near Cluj, earlier this year. We did bake bread inspired by models from Pompeii and thin pita bread and got the hang of it, but the construction unfortunately proved imperfect. We learned for example that the inner wattle structure leads to cracks and thus should not be used for such constructions; we also figured that the small door should be made BEFORE the oven mouth otherwise it will not fit as it should; and third, and most important perhaps, we learned that the oven should be covered, preferably with a water tight roof beforehand, as otherwise hot sun and rain damage it permanently.
Initiative 131 - C'mon Cluj-Napoca

The reenactors of Virtus Antiqua are thus ready to take up the experiment anew, tear down the old oven and built a new one. You can support their effort by voting the project online HERE, until September the 7th!


Ready for the Dacian Party?

The weather forecast for tomorrow, August 20th, states sun and heat during the Dacian Party in Salicea, so we have prepared a new shed. There will be tents and pavilions as well and some natural shadow, but visitors are advised to wear sun accessories and bring water, as Camp Virtus is located out of the city. Get ready for some historical fun!

Here is how to reach Camp Virtus, ca. 8 km from Cluj-Napoca through Faget. Easily get there by car and bicycle. More info and directions on our website (in Romanian).


Building a Dacian house

Building a reenactment park is no easy business - finding the accurate historical information, getting the appropriate plot, convincing people to get involved. The next step is equally difficult: getting the money to actually start building. Camp Virtus, in Salicea, near Cluj, is at that point in time, thus the recent fundraising event - The Dacian Party. Funds obtained during the event will go for one of the objectives at the camp, namely the Dacian house. Other objectives are generally antique or even outright Roman, as the park is focused on Antiquity in general in present-day Transylvania - a forge, a bread oven, a pottery kiln, a pit house and possibly a long house as well or Roman watchtower and barracks.
The model of the Dacian house will be selected according to available funds from a number of plans and descriptions obtained through archaeological excavations. Graphic reconstruction will also be employed, such as the recent ones published by Radu Oltean.
Feel free to join the party on August 20th, have fun and donate if the project catches your imagination! We are also looking for sponsors and volunteers, so beware, you might be placing the wattling a l'antique soon!

Models of ancient Dacian houses
Chef dacic- the Dacian party

This is the only such initiative in Cluj, but several others seem to be ongoing in Romania, to a relative degree of success and authenticity. Other such "unique" projects are under way in:


Apothecary gold and precious stones

The History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca is preparing for the new temporary exhibition, to be opened on September 1st. It deals with precious metals and gems used in the past for their (presumable) healing properties, but other approached topics are Sennert's Philosophical Hen, Cordial Waters, Avicenna's Gilded Pills and the specific Materia Medica of Early Modern Transylvania. More news to follow soon!


Lost museums

16-28 August 2016 protest exhibition "Lost museums" at the Art Museum (the Banffy Palace, Unirii Square) - about the situation of museums and collections in the area of Cluj, including the History of Pharmacy Museum. Production of RNMR - The National Network of Museums in Romania.
More in Romanian HERE.


New amulet necklaces -crepundia

Roman children wore necklaces with small toys, shiny stones, jingles and a mix of various elements and beads in order to protect them against evil spirits and harm in general. The fashion was based on the ancient belief in the supernatural. Inspired by these unique pieces of jewelry, I have created a series of necklaces with charms, semi-precious stones, shells, glass beads, bone and different parts, asymmetrical and fun, on natural leather, colorful strings.
More can be found at Atelierul de istorie and several are available on Etsy:

cristal bead, glass beads, shell, wood, bronze separators

bronze snake, bone, glass, wood

coconut, bronze snail shell, bronze leaf, glass

bronze leaf, glass beads, green semi-precious stones

camel bone, shell, wood

Lapis Lazuli

shell, glass, bone, and bronze


Historical fun at the Dacian party

The Dacian party announced for the 20th of August at Camp Virtus, near Cluj, envisages lots of fun and competitive outdoor contests. One can shoot with the bow and arrow, try out the ancient sling, compete in arm wrestling while standing, pull the rope or even toss the caber. All activities are free of charge! Join the party to have fun, but also learn about the Dacians and ancient history in Transylvania. The event if family-friendly, as children can use less powerful bows, play ancient board games, or experiment being an archaeologist for the day - discovering mysterious artifacts that they can take home. See you at Camp Virtus next Saturday at midday!



Wrist related things

Creating leather cuff bracelets, I took an interest in similar and connected items on Etsy. My "wrist related things" treasury focuses on such finds, including bracelets, cuff, jewelry and leather accessories alike, but also camera straps, keyboard wrist rests, temporary tattoos and watches. 
See also the previous post on the Celtic knot tooled leather wristband that started the search.


Goddess Gruia in Transylvanian mandorla

The making of Goddess Gruia in Glory - using two matching lino plates
Color variants of the linoprint
Goddess Gruia is the only living goddess from the magic land of Transylvania. Read more about her in the specialized monograph HERE. This cult image shows the goddess surrounded by the cosmic symbols (moon, sun, stars) and the landmarks of her homeland: medieval architecture (mainly the fortified Saxon churches) and beautiful nature (with the typical haystacks -capita).
Buy this pieces of original art from the Etsy temple HERE . The piece of art is a contact relic (has been touched by the goddess) and you will immediately feel the benefices. You will love and accept yourself as you are, you will work hard for small money but you will enjoy your job, you will feel the urge to visit pharmacy museums, you will be peaceful and creative, though not able to draw a straight line, your stove will never malfunction, and the world will generally seem a happier place!


Dacian party near Cluj on August 20th

If no other plans come to mind or if you are interested in ancient history, reenactment and outdoor activities, you could join the Dacian party! The even is organized at Camp Virtus, in Salicea, near Cluj, by the reenactment NGO Virtus Antiqua and includes interactive workshops (target practice with bow and arrow and with ancient-model slings, an adapted variant of the caber toss, skandenberg=arm wrestling standing up), tasting of ancient Dacian recipes, while the young can fly kites and try a bit of archaeology.
The event is a great opportunity to learn about ancient history hands-on. You can meet the Dacians, try their costumes and weapons, train a bit, taste their food, and discover how historians obtain and analyze accurate information of this fascinating civilization.

There are also prizes to be won and money to be donated (all activities are free of charge) - the funds shall be used by the NGO to build a replica of an ancient Dacian, Iron-Age house.
Join the Facebook event CHEF DACIC for updates.
See how to reach CAMP VIRTUS on their website. 



Buffalo skull leather wallet

The most recent listing of the Proper Leather Studio on Etsy is a bi-fold handmade leather wallet with tooled motif - Bucranium (buffalo skull). It is a unique item, entirely made by hand.
We took great care with dying. Outside it is a very dark brown/black hand-mixed dye and saddle tan Gel Antique, creating a naturalistic color effect for the skull. See HERE how it was made. Inside it is black, with six black side pockets for credit cards.

This item is made of high quality Veg-tanned leather. Completely handmade (no machines). Leather dyed and protected with several layers of acrylic finish (Sheene and Resolene). Polished and waxed edges.
Outside: 1.6-2.0 mm (4 to 5 oz) single bend European hide
Inside: 1 mm (2.5 oz) calf hide
Folded measurements: 12 x 9.5 cm / 4.7 x 3.7 inches.

Due to the high-quality leather and craftsmanship, this wallet will last good years of use. Nevertheless, do not submerge it into water and avoid acids and corrosives. Leather is not a waterproof material and if submerged, it absorbs water and might deform of loose some of the color. Cared for, it will only look better in time. Also, it needs to soften through wear a bit, to reach its optimal functions.


Goddess Gruia - a monograph

Writing a monograph is difficult in itself, but when dealing with a very recent, brand-new religious/cultural/artistic phenomenon such as the cult of Goddess Gruia, the task is Herculean. Still, I have taken it upon myself to bring light onto this fascinating goddess as I believe the result to bring happiness and amusement to many people. Here are the first few pages of the monograph in question, or as Google books say, a snippet view of the much-awaited publication.