The images you'll see as you scroll down to the current text are all part of the story telling in my novel, Realms of Gold:Ritual to Romance.

Bianca Caldwell, pen name, Bianca Fiore, is a writer for an art magazine. In each of her monthly stories she describes an object used in ancient ritual.

From "survivor" to "dowager duchess" Lady Mei

Depiction of ancient Chinese concubines
A tomb that tells the remarkable story of a Ming Dynasty 'superwoman' has been uncovered in Nanjing, China.

The 500-year-old burial chamber contains two stone epitaphs revealing the life of Lady Mei, a former concubine described as an 'unwashed and unkempt' woman.

Later in life, she overcame her background to become an influential adviser to her son, a provincial duke, and a favorite of the Chinese emperor.

The 500-year-old tomb contains two stone epitaphs revealing the life of Lady Mei.

The epitaphs, found inside the brick tomb, reveal that Lady Mei was a 21-year-old "unwashed and unkempt" woman who "called herself the survivor." Later she became the mother of a duke who ruled a province in southwest China. Lady Mei came to wield much power, providing her son with "strategies for bringing peace to the barbarian tribes and pacifying faraway lands," according to the epitaphs, which were translated from Chinese.

A Ming Dynasty tomb contained gold treasure. The treasures in her more than 500-year-old tomb include gold bracelets, a gold fragrance box and gold hairpins, all inlaid with a mix of gemstones, including sapphires, rubies and turquoise. See Images of Lady Mei's Tomb and Gold Treasures.

A fragrance box with gold chain. It is decorated with lotus petal decorations and seven characters written in Sanskrit. The remaining gems include four sapphires, five rubies and one turquoise. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

A gold hairpin in the shape of a chrysanthemum (flowering plant). It has a large ruby at center and a mix of smaller sapphires and rubies on its petals. The diameter at the largest point is 11.7 centimeters (4.6 inches). The total weight of the artifact is 218.2 grams (more than 7.5 ounces). (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

Two gold hairpins with branches and tendril patterns. The hairpin at left has three sapphires, three rubies, one crystal and one turquoise. The one at right has two sapphires, four rubies and one cat’s eye stone. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

A gold hairpin with a seven petal lotus design. A large ruby gemstone is still preserved at center. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

This gold hairpin is decorated with a mix of sapphires and rubies. The hairpin is 14.2 centimeters (5.6 inches) in width and its weight is 148.7 grams (more than 5 ounces). (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)

A pair of gold bracelets found in the tomb. Both of them are about 7 centimeters (2.8 inches) in diameter. The bracelets have flower designs and the gemstones are a mix of sapphires, rubies and turquoise. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics)


 Gold Hairpin with the Flame Design

Gold Earrings
Archaeologists from Nanjing Municipal Museum and the Jiangning District Museum of Nanjing City excavated the tomb in 2008, and their findings were recently translated into English and published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics. Lady Mei's coffin was damaged by water, but her skeletal remains were found.

From "survivor" to "dowager duchess"

Researchers say that Lady Mei was one of three wives of Mu Bin, a Duke of Qian who ruled Yunnan, a province in southwest China on the country's frontier.

Born in 1430, she probably would have been about 15 years old when she married the duke, who would've been more than 30 years older than her, researchers say.

She probably didn't enjoy the same status as his other two wives. "Lady Mei was probably a concubine whom he married after he went to guard and rule Yunnan," wrote researchers in the journal article.

But while Lady Mei was a concubine, her own family appears to have had some wealth: Her great-great grandfather "Cheng" was a general who "won every battle" and was granted a fiefdom over "1,000 households," read the epitaphs.

Lady Mei's life changed when she gave birth to the duke's son, Mu Zong, who was 10 months old when the duke died. The newly widowed Lady Mei "was only 21 years of age. She was unwashed and unkempt, and called herself the survivor," the epitaphs say.

She took charge of Mu Zong's upbringing, grooming him to be the next duke.

"She raised the third-generation duke. She managed the family with strong discipline and diligence, and kept the internal domestic affairs in great order, and no one had any complaint," the epitaphs read.

Lady Mei "urged him to study hard mornings and evenings, and taught him loyalty and filial devotion, as well as services of duty."

When Mu Zong came of age, he and Lady Mei traveled to meet the emperor, who charged him with controlling Yunnan, the province his father had ruled. The emperor was pleased with Lady Mei and, sometime after the meeting, awarded her the title of "Dowager Duchess," according to the epitaphs. [Photos: Ancient Chinese Warriors Protect Emperor's Secret Tomb]

As Mu Zong began his rule over Yunnan, he relied on his mother for advice.

"Every morning when the third-generation duke got up, after taking care of official business, he returned to pay respect to the Dowager Duchess in the main hall," the epitaphs read.

"The Dowager Duchess would always talk to the third-generation duke about her loyalty to the emperor, and kind concerns for the people under the rule of the departed former duke, and strategies for bringing peace to the barbarian tribes and pacifying faraway lands."

Lady Mei's death

Lady Mei died at age 45 in the year 1474. The epitaphs say that she passed away of illness in southern Yunnan and was brought to Nanjing for burial.

"On the day of her death, the people of Yunnan, military servicemen or civilians, old and young, all mourned and grieved for her as if their own parents had passed away," the epitaphs read.

"When the obituary reached the imperial court, the emperor sent out officials and ordered them to consecrate and prepare for the funeral and burial."

The epitaphs praise her role in nurturing the young duke and preparing him for the responsibilities of ruling Yunnan. "Using her love and her hard work, she raised and educated the child, and brought him up to be a man of ability and good moral character …" the epitaphs read.

First uncovered in 2008, the epitaphs have now been translated and published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics. Inscribed on the stone epitaphs are Chinese figures revealing she died in the year 1474 at the age of 45.

"Why did heaven bestow all the virtues upon her, while being so ungenerous as not to give her more years to live?" the epitaphs ask. "Although the will of heaven is remote and profound, it needs to be spread among millions of people."

The reason why Lady Mei was buried in Nanjing, instead of the province which she helped rule, could be because Nanjing was the first capital city of the first Ming emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang. Nanjing is also considered by many to have a particularly good feng shui orientation.

The team's report was initially published, in Chinese, in the journal Wenwu. The excavation crew chief was Haining Qi.

Sources Live Science and Daily Mail 

Ancient Celtic jewelry.

A gold fibula, decorated with the figure of a naked warrior, wearing a Celtic helmet, with a scabbard suspended from his waist and carrying a sword (scabbard and pommel are both of La Tene type). The hunting dog jumps up to him. The eyes of both figures were originally inlaid with enamel. The arched bow has eight curls and the side panels are elaborated with running spirals and loops, also originally inlaid with blue enamel, the British Museum.

Treasures of Vix

The kylix was used by ancient Greeks in  the symposium (drinking party) is one of the Treasures of Vix. The painting is of Amazons fighting Greek foot soldiers.

Included in the grave of the Celtic princess was this (510 B.C.) Greek ceremonial drinking cup, a kylix painted with a design of Amazons in battle with Greek foot soldiers. Because Amazons were said have inhabited the northern shore of the Black Sea, this was a popular subject in that region.

It's somewhat of a mystery why this kylix, of no intrinsic value, was placed by the great Krater, along with valuable jewels and a silver drinking cup. Ceramic utensils like this kylix, were placed in graves, as substitutes for the real thing-- gold or silver. Could that be the case with the Kylix -used as a stand-in for a gold cup? Somehow I doubt it. In my novel. Realms of Gold I weave a story around this kylix and its significance to the protagonist.

Pottery, in various shapes and sizes, was also used in feasting, and, like our disposable picnic ware, it wasn't valuable, according to ancient inventory lists Various shapes and sizes of painted pottery was also used in feasting, and, like our disposable picnic ware, it wasn't valuable, according to ancient inventory lists.
One of most costly items on the list was a horse, 1500 drachmae, about $5000 in today's money.   Painted pottery was very inexpensive.  For instance, a red figure pelike attributed to the Achilles painter cost 0.15 of a drachmae, equal to fifty cents. 

While the beauty of the painting must have been appreciated, it seemed to have contributed nothing to the value of the cup. For the ancient Greeks, major luxury items were gold, silver, ivory and purple.
It was in the late 18th century ancient that Greek pottery began to be appreciated as art.
The pelike below is the from the late 6th century B.C. 

A black-figure pelike, like the one pictured below, by an unknown painter sold for over $22,000 at Christie's, London. If it had an Achilles painter attribution, the price would have been much higher because the works of the Achilles painter are  rare.

The pelike is an example in the text to show that these pots were not considered works of art by the Greeks,--cost in today''s money. 50 cents