There’s a Complex History of Skin Lighteners in Africa and Beyond

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skin lightening aka skin bleaching is often used in Africa
A woman from Uganda, Africa. Credit: youngrobv / CC BY-NC 2.0

A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that four out of 10 women in Africa use skin lightening products, a risky process that dates back to ancient times.

By Lynn M. Thomas

Somali-American activists recently scored a victory against Amazon and against colourism, which is prejudice based on preference for people with lighter skin tones. Members of the non-profit The Beautywell Project teamed up with the Sierra Club to convince the online retail giant to stop selling skin lightening products that contain mercury.

After more than a year of protests, this coalition of antiracist, health, and environmental activists persuaded Amazon to remove some 15 products containing toxic levels of mercury. This puts a small but noteworthy dent in the global trade in skin lighteners, estimated to reach US$31.2 billion by 2024.

What are the roots of this sizeable trade? And how might its most toxic elements be curtailed?

The online sale of skin lighteners is relatively new, but the in-person traffic is very old. My new book explores this layered history from the vantage point of South Africa.

As in other parts of the world colonised by European powers, the politics of skin colour in South Africa have been importantly shaped by the history of white supremacy and institutions of racial slavery, colonialism, and segregation. My book examines that history.

Yet, racism alone cannot explain skin lightening practices. My book also attends to intersecting dynamics of class and gender, changing beauty ideals and the expansion of consumer capitalism.

A deep history of skin whitening and lightening

For centuries and even millennia, elites used paints and powders to create smoother, paler appearances, unblemished by illness and the sun’s darkening and roughening effects.

Cosmetic users in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome created dramatic appearances by pairing skin whiteners containing lead or chalk with black eye makeup and red lip colourants. In China and Japan too, elite women and some men used white lead preparations and rice powder to achieve complexions resembling white jade or fresh lychee.

Skin lighteners generate a less painted look than skin whiteners by removing rather than concealing blemished or melanin-rich skin. Melanin is the biochemical compound that makes skin colourful.

Active ingredients in skin lighteners have ranged from acidic compounds like lemon juice and milk to harsher chemicals like sulfur, arsenic, and mercury. In parts of precolonial Southern Africa, some people used mineral and botanical preparations to brighten – rather than whiten or lighten – their skin and hair.

During the era of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, skin colour and associated physical difference were used to distinguish enslaved people from free, and to justify the former’s oppression. Colonisers cast melanin-rich hues as the embodiment of ugliness and inferiority. Within this racist political order, some sought to whiten and lighten their complexions.

By the twentieth century, mass-produced skin lightening creams ranked among the world’s most popular cosmetics. Consumers included white, black, and brown women.

In the 1920s and 1930s, many white consumers swapped skin lighteners for tanning lotions as time spent sunbathing and playing outdoors became a sign of a healthy and leisured lifestyle. Seasonal tanning embodied new forms of white privilege.

Skin lighteners became primarily associated with people of colour. For black and brown consumers, living in places like the United States and South Africa where racism and colourism have flourished, even slight differences in skin colour could carry political and social consequences.

The mercury effect of skin bleaching

Skin lighteners can be physically harmful. Mercury, one of their most common active ingredients, lightens skin in two ways. It inhibits the formation of melanin by rendering the enzyme tyrosinase inactive; and it exfoliates the tanned, outer layers of the skin through the production of hydrochloric acid.

By the early twentieth century, pharmaceutical and medical textbooks recommended mercury – usually in the form of ammoniated mercury – for treating skin infections and dark spots while often warning of its harmful effects. Cosmetic manufacturers marketed creams containing ammoniated mercury as “freckle removers” or “skin bleaches”.

When the US Congress passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act in 1938, such creams were among the first to be regulated.

After World War II, the negative environmental and health impact of mercury became more apparent. The devastating case of mercury poisoning caused by industrial wastewater in Minamata, Japan, prompted the Food and Drug Administration to take a closer look at mercury’s toxicity, including in cosmetics. Here was a visceral instance of what environmentalist Rachel Carson meant about small, domestic choices making the world uninhabitable.

In 1973, the administration banned all but trace amounts of mercury from cosmetics. Other countries followed suit. South Africa banned mercurial cosmetics in 1975, the European Economic Union in 1976, and Nigeria in 1982. The trade in skin lighteners, nonetheless, continued as other active ingredients – most notably hydroquinone – replaced ammoniated mercury.

Meanwhile in South Africa

In apartheid South Africa, the trade was especially robust. Skin lighteners ranked among the most commonly used personal products in black urban households. During the 1980s, activists inspired by Black Consciousness and the sentiment “Black is Beautiful” teamed up with concerned medical professionals to make opposition to skin lighteners part of the anti-apartheid movement.

In the early 1990s, activists convinced the government to ban all cosmetic skin lighteners containing known depigmenting agents – and to prohibit cosmetic advertisements from making any claims to “bleach”, “lighten” or “whiten” skin. This prohibition was the first of its kind and the regulations immediately shuttered the in-country manufacture of skin lighteners.

South Africa’s regulations testify to the broader antiracist political movement from which they emerged. Thirty years on, however, South Africa again possesses a robust – if now illicit – trade in skin lighteners. An especially disturbing element is the resurgence of mercurial products.

South African researchers have found that over 40% of skin lighteners sold in Durban and Cape Town contain mercury.

The activists’ recent victory against Amazon suggests one way forward. They took out a full-page ad in a local newspaper denouncing Amazon’s sale of mercurial skin lighteners as “dangerous, racist, and illegal.” A petition with 23,000 signatures was hand-delivered to the company’s Minnesota office.

By combining antiracist, health, and environmentalist arguments, activists held one of the world’s most powerful companies accountable. They also brought the toxic presence of mercurial skin lighteners to public awareness and made them more difficult to purchase.

*Lynn M. Thomas is an History Professor, University of Washington. The article was published at The Conversation and is republished under a Creative Commons License.

Ancient Greek Necropolis in Croatia Dates Back to Fourth Century AD

Hvar necropolis
Remains and jars just found in a necropolis on the Croatian island of Hvar date back to the fifth or fourth century AD, when Greeks living in the Roman Empire lived in the area. Credit: Facebook/Kantharos Hvar

The gardens of a seventeenth-century Croatian palace were the unlikely setting for the recent discovery of an ancient necropolis, where human remains were found buried in ceramic jars.

Earlier in June, archaeologists unearthed a vast ancient necropolis, or burial ground, which dates back to sometime between the fourth and fifth centuries AD, when the area was still populated by Greeks who had settled there, after having come under the control of the Roman Empire some time prior.

The beautiful Croatian island of Hvar has been continuously inhabited since the early Neolithic period. Greek settlers were the first to have founded colonies there, as far back as 385 BC.

Pithoi burial
The giant pithoi, or earthenware amphorae, used as graves in the newly-uncovered necropolis on the Croatian island of Hvar. Credit: Facebook/Kantharos

The Roman Empire had control of the area by the year 219 BC. Several hundred years later, in the seventh century, Slavic peoples who were fleeing the mainland arrived on Hvar.

Croatia Week, a local news outlet, reported earlier this week that the team of archaeologists discovered the burial ground in the front garden of the Radošević Palace, an imposing 17th-century Baroque-style building on the western part of the island.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the archaeological consulting company called Kantharos Hvar was in charge of the dig. They have spent the last two months examining the site as a result of the studies that must be undertaken before the construction of a new library and reading room can be started at the Palace.

Hvar burial excavation
Recent excavations at the Hvar necropolis in Croatia. Credit: Facebook/Kantharos

The researchers stated in an announcement that they had discovered a total of 20 graves in the necropolis, along with the skeletal remains of 32 individuals, in an area measuring 700 square feet.

In the course of their dig in the Palace gardens, archaeologists also uncovered a fragment of a stone wall dating back to the second century AD and a city gate which they believe is from the late fifth century.

Some other spectacular findings include amphorae for transporting wine and olive oil, along with ceramic jugs and lamps, and even glass bottles and containers. Some coins were also uncovered at the site.

Hvar grave goods
Grave goods found at the necropolis just unearthed in Hvar, Croatia. Credit: Facebook/Kantharos

Kantharos says that these discoveries have prompted researchers to believe that the palace is “the most important and richest site” on the island of Hvar.

The Radošević palace was constructed between 1670 and 1688, built for a wealthy family, according to Ambroz Tudor, who was part of the Kantharos team in charge of the dig, in his 2011 study of the site.

Its ornate stone balconies and “lavishly decorated façade openings” make the structure a stunning example of Baroque architecture on the island, Tudor states.

Pithoi burial
A skeleton found buried in an amphora, found in the necropolis at Hvar in Croatia. Credit: Facebook/ Kantharos

Experts found tombs ranging from simple structures to elaborate buildings which even had their own with roof tiles, according to an article in the publication ARTnews, published this week.

As seen in a great many necropolises in Greek antiquity, the remains on the island of Hvar were exceptionally well preserved, with some of the skeletons interred in large jars, or pithoi, alongside a wealth of grave goods.

One tomb that contained 12 skeletons was completely encased in stonework. The archaeologists state that further research is required to provide yet more details on funerary customs from the 2nd to the 5th centuries, and the team does plans to conduct radiocarbon dating on the various layers of human remains, enabling them to pinpoint their exact dates.

Amphora Hvar
A perfectly-preserved amphora recently uncovered in the Hvar necropolis in Croatia. Credit: Facebook/Kantharos

Kantharos noted in its statement that the blockbuster findings on the Croatian island provide new insight into “ceramic production as well as trade connections, through documented imports, some of which were first recorded on the Adriatic.”

The archaeologists, including Eduard Visković, Joško Barbarić, Marko Bibić, and Jure Tudor, who worked with Tina Neuhauser Vitaljic, Marine Ugarković, and Joseph Barack Perica, also discovered ramparts with a city gate that dates back to the 5th century AD, and the stone wall that was built in the second century AD.

Although the exact ages of the individuals who were buried inside the pithoi are unknown at present, scholars say they are unsure exactly why ancient burials were conducted in this way.

Amanda Morrow of Radio France Internationale, describing a similar find made on the Mediterranean island of Corsica earlier in 2021, noted that such burials were generally reserved for infants or children.

It is not only the Greek people who used such burial practices, however, according to archaeologists. Yoav Arbel, an archaeologist who was part of a team that discovered a baby buried in a jar in the Israeli city of Jaffa, told Live Science’s Laura Geggel in December of 2020 “You might go to the practical thing and say that the bodies were so fragile, [maybe] they felt the need to protect it from the environment, even though it is dead.

“But there’s always the interpretation that the jar is almost like a womb, so basically the idea is to return (the) baby back into Mother Earth, or into the symbolic protection of his mother.”

The Croatian news outlet Dalmacija Danas states that one of the last finds made during the dig at the Radošević palace was the second-century-era wall, which was hidden in the very deepest layers of the site.

Although the archaeologists in charge of the Hvar dig plan to conduct additional research to learn more about local burial customs, their statement notes that their preliminary findings already shed new insight on ceramic production and trade networks in the area.

The findings made this month represent the second similar discovery in Croatia. Archaeologists unearthed a Roman necropolis containing at least 18 graves in the Croatian harbor town of Trogir in 2016.

Just last year, another team discovered two well-preserved, 2,000-year-old shipwrecks containing amphorae and pottery off the coast of Hvar, placing those sites firmly within the time of Greek settlement there.

Pithos burials found all across Ancient Greek world

Pithos burials have even been discovered as far away from Croatia as the ancient city of Antandros, on the skirts of the Kaz Mountains, in western Turkey.

Along with their primary use as giant containers for wine and oil, they are known to have been used as graves in that particular region since the sixth century BC. Locals in the region today call them “cubic tombs.”

Professor Gurcan Polat, an archaeologist at Ege University who was the head of the Antandros excavations, told Hurriyet that the Antandros necropolis served from the eighth century BC to the first century AD. The pithos tombs were among the burial types discovered in the area, he said.

“We have found two pithos burials used by the Greeks. Pithos burials are big potteries used to preserve the dead before inhumation and cremation. But none of them were made to be used as graves. They are normally used for storage. But they were used as graves from time to time,” he said.

“They were sometimes used as family burials. Two or three members of the same family were buried in these cubes. In one of these burials, we found the skeleton of a dog. I think a local of Antandros loved his dog so much and found this cube when trying to find a place for its body,” the professor said.

Jason Mantzoukas Joins Cast of “Star Trek: Prodigy”

Jason Mantzoukas The House
Jason Mantzoukas in “The House.” Credit: New Line Cinema

Greek-American actor and comedian Jason Mantzoukas has just joined the cast of the movie “Star Trek: Prodigy.”

The new series is an animated show set in the wider Star Trek realm. It follows a group of six young aliens who take over an abandoned Starfleet ship and use it to explore the universe.

Jason Mantzoukas’ Character in “Star Trek: Prodigy”

Mantzoukas will be lending his voice to the character of Jankom Pog, a 16-year-old Tellarite in this version of Star Trek.

He will be joined by Ella Purnell, Dee Bradley Baker, Brett Gray, and Angus Imrie. Kate Mulgrew, who previously played the character Kathryn Janeway on “Star Trek: Voyager,” will also be in the series. She will be playing an emergency hologram training program of her character in the previous Star Trek show.

“Star Trek: Prodigy” will premiere on the new streaming service Paramount+. Kevin and Dan Hageman created the show. Their previous work includes the animated shows “Trollhunters” and “Ninjago.”

Mantzoukas is usually known for his over-the-top, frequently angry or kooky characters. He has played major roles in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “The Good Place.” Before he signed on to this Star Trek animated series, Jason Mantzoukas also had a large role in the animated show “Big Mouth.”

This also won’t be the first time Mantzoukas is appearing on the Paramount+ streaming service. He plays a character known as the Artisan in the movie “Infinite”, also on Paramount+. The movie stars Mark Wahlberg and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The Rise of Paramount+

The CEO of Paramount, Greek-American Jim Gianopulos, started the studio’s streaming service on March 4, 2021. Though many did not expect it would compete with streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu, the service racked up over 40 million subscribers in three months.

With the rise of Paramount+, Disney, NBC’s Peacock, and other competing streaming services, many industry insiders believe some streaming giants will be pushed out of the market altogether.

Mantzoukas’ Star is Rising

Mantzoukas’ career has been rising quickly over the past few years. Besides high-profile characters on TV shows, he has been a voice actor in five different shows in the last two years. These include “HouseBroken,” “Invincible,” “No Activity,” “DuckTales,” and “Close Enough.”

He has also broken out of his genre, playing a support part in “John Wick 3” starring Keanu Reeves.

To podcast fans, he is best known for hosting the hit series “How Did This Get Made?” along with Paul Scheer and June Diane Raphael. Each podcast episode focuses on critically-panned or otherwise bad movies, and the hosts plus guest comedians discuss what went wrong.

Many of the shows are now staged in front of live audiences on stages in Los Angeles and New York.

“Star Trek: Prodigy” will premiere late in 2021, although Paramount+ has not yet publicized an exact date.

A Drought May Be Behind the “Bronze Age Collapse”

Bronze age collapse
Lion’s Gate, Mycenae. The Mycenaean Civilization was destroyed during the Bronze Age Collapse. Credit: Andreas Trepte/CC-BY-SA-2.5

Archaeologists and historians have long debated the cause of the “Bronze Age Collapse,” or the period when multiple, distinct ancient civilizations all collapsed one after the other around 3,200 years ago.

New research published in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that a 300-year-long drought may be the cause of the collapse of multiple cultures of the Bronze Age, including those of ancient Greece.

During the time preceding the period, vast civilizations of the Bronze Age in the Mediterranean, Levant, and North Africa — including the Hittites in Anatolia and the Mycenaeans in Greece — were either destroyed or weakened significantly.

Causes of the Bronze Age Collapse

The period was marked by destruction of trade routes between civilizations, a loss of literacy, invasions by mysterious “Sea People,” and the loss of some of the Mediterranean’s most important cities — many of which were never inhabited again.

The cause behind this massive fall of civilizations has been hotly debated for decades. Some argue that environmental factors, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, are to blame for the Bronze Age Collapse, while others believe that economic factors played a larger role.

Others have put forward the theory that a drought brought about the collective cataclysmic event, but until recently, the evidence archaeologists gathered only attested to droughts that lasted for a very short period, which would not be catastrophic enough to bring down multiple civilizations.

New research based in Cyprus, however, shows that a drought lasting 300 years afflicted the region, possibly causing massive famines that brought about the collapse of some of the period’s most powerful civilizations.

Sedimentary evidence shows long period of drought

The evidence was found at the Larnaca Salt Lake near the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque in Cyprus. Cyprus was home to a thriving, powerful civilization during the Bronze Age.

Researchers extracted ancient sediment cores from the lake, which was once part of the sea but became landlocked throughout the years.

The sediment showed a marked decline in marine plankton and pollen from marine sea grass starting around 1450 BC, until the lake, which was connected to the sea, became landlocked just 100 years later.

This indicates an extreme lack of rainwater during that period. Sediment from the lake also showed that by 1,200 BC, the period of the Bronze Age Collapse, agriculture in the area came to a halt — and only started back up around 850 BC.

Such a dramatic environmental change, which would cause a lack of water and food, is thought to have spurred widespread revolts and social upheaval.

“This climate shift caused crop failures, dearth and famine, which precipitated or hastened socioeconomic crises and forced regional human migrations,” researchers write in the paper.

Considering that the drought started hundreds of years before the Bronze Age Collapse occurred, many probably did not realize that the climate had changed so dramatically until it was too late.

The potential migration caused by lack of fertile land and rainwater may also explain the “Sea Peoples” who invaded Egypt and other sites in the Bronze Age, as many of these “invaders” brought their families with them.

Meet Babis Bizas, the Greek Who Is ‘The World’s Most Traveled Person’

world's most traveled person
Babis Bizas has traveled to every single sovereign state of the world. Photo: Courtesy Babis Bizas, illustration by GR

Babis Bizas is the ”world’s most traveled person” according to the Guinness Book of Records. Amazingly, the Greek adventurer travels more than 300 days per year, each year.

Bizas, born in 1954 in the Greek city of Arta, is an explorer, author, travel writer and tour operator.

After completing his studies at University, where he mastered many languages, including English, Russian, Spanish, and French, Bizas made the decision to work in a field related to travel.

Thus, the world’s most traveled person started his career as a guide with big tour operators in Greece.

“World’s most traveled person” has visited the North and South Pole

World's most traveled person
Babis Bizas and the Greek flag in the North Pole in 1995. Photo: Courtesy Babis Bizas.

After decades of traveling to all ends of the Earth, Bizas can proudly claim that he is the only Greek, not to mention one of the very few individuals on the planet, who has visited both the North and the South Pole.

In 1996 he took part in an expedition to the North Pole, and nearly 18 years later, in 2014, he traveled to the South Pole.

He says that it was his duty, as a Greek, to raise the flag of his homeland there.

Today, he works as a manager at COSMORAMA Travel where he plans trips to places that are not well-known and rarely explored, such Kurdistan or Transnistria.

As his reputation as the most traveled person in the world is known internationally, the Greek adventurer’s tours are always full and booked months out.

Although mainly Greeks follow Bizas’ travels and take his tours, people from as far as Australia and the USA have booked and participated as well.

Babis Bizas has visited every sovereign state on Earth

World's most traveled person
Babis Bizas in the South Pole in 2014

Bizas has always been a man who travels to unusual and unexpected destinations.

By 2004 he had managed to visit every single sovereign state on Earth — not so difficult to imagine, taking into consideration that even as a University student he had already traveled as a backpacker nearly all over Europe.

It’s no wonder that many travelers who want someone with the experience and knowledge to lead their tours in destinations where no tourist infrastructure is available seek him out.

When asked about his favorite place, the explorer says that he is passionate about the tribal areas of Africa and Asia, where the ancient cultures and societies with deep roots and traditions have managed to survive even in today’s world, by resisting modernization.

No two tours Bizas conducts are the same — not even when he tours the same country. Every time he returns from a trip, something different is added to the next itinerary. No matter what you believe or where you come from, we all must agree on one thing: Bizas epitomizes the Greek spirit of exploration and adventure!

2020 Euro Face-Off: England and Scotland Draw 0-0

 

2020 Euros England
The English football team at Wembley Stadium on Friday. Photo: England football team/Facebook

England and Scotland’s 2020 Euro Group D match on Friday resulted in a no-goal draw, raising doubts as to how dominant the English team will be as the tournament progresses. The match was held at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium, which was only a quarter full due to the affect of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in England. It was there that the underrated Scottish squad proved they were up to the fight against their more-favored rivals.

The crowd was rambunctious and on edge at the start of the game, with supporters of both sides trying as best as they could to create distractions for the players. The host team’s fans booed the Scottish national anthem loudly, with Scottish fans booing back, but the clamor soon died down as the stands became rapt with the surprisingly even play between the two sides.

A fast paced and evenly matched meeting

All though the tensions between the two nations’ teams are not as high as they once were, the spirit of the rivalry was definitely in the air on Friday in Wembley, with a fast pace established right at the outset of the game. Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz struggled to assert order between the two sides and keep the match civil. England had its first opportunity from an ill-fated corner kick that was headed directly into the goal post.

Scotland saw a perfect window to score when Kieren Tierney sent the ball to O’Donnell in the 32nd minute, but English keeper Pickford caught the ball with perfect coordination.

England will go on to play the Czech Republic, and Scotland will play Croatia, both on Tuesday, June 22nd.

Old rivals meet again at the 2020 Euros

The English-Scottish football rivalry dates all the way back to 1872, when they played their first international fixture at Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow, Scotland. The match was instigated by public challenges published by the secretary of the Football Association in England, challenging the Scottish to a match against the English, goading them on with a series of newspaper ads throughout the late 1860’s.

They played five matches at the Oval in London before their 1872 match, the first one recognized by FIFA as being official. The rivalry continued into the 20th century, with the English squad regularly defeating the Scots by large margins, until the legendary 1977 match where the Scottish defeated the English 2-3 in the Annual series, resulting in the Tartan army invading the pitch and tearing down the goal posts.

Their rivalry arrived at the Euros in 1996, when the two teams were draw into the same group, causing a flurry of excitement in fans, who had not seen a face-off between their respective teams in seven years. Tickets to the match sold out in two days. The Scottish national anthem was entirely inaudible under the booing of the English fans in the stands. After a tense first half that ended with no goals scored, the Scottish team conceded two goals to the English.

Top Three Unmissable Greek Islands that Most Tourists Don’t Visit!

Serifos Greek Island
Credit: Maria Kalaitzidou – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Everyone knows of the popular Greek Islands destinations to visit while in Greece. However, there are many smaller, lesser known islands that are the perfect escape from the crowds of tourists — and you will find that you get to experience the real, unspoiled Greece!

Let’s look at three islands that are overlooked by most tourists — simply because they may not even know that they exist.

Antiparos, a Greek island away from crowds

Greek Island Antiparos
Credit: Dimorsitanos – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Antiparos is a small Greek Island in the southern Aegean, in the central Cyclades archipelago. It is only a stone’s throw from Paros, which is where you can access the ferry to cross over to the quaint island.

One natural wonder that has been enchanting visitors to the island for centuries is the Cave of Antiparos.

The entrance to the cave is guarded by a small 18th century church which is also worth checking out, called Agios loannis Spiliotis (Saint John of the Cave).

There are wonderful, relaxing beaches on the island as well as a typical small-island sense of hospitality — meaning you will find quaint tavernas and restaurants where you feel like family while eating traditional Greek food.

Koufonisia — the perfect island for long walks along the beach

beach
Koufonisia. Credit: Zde/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-4.0

Not the easiest place to find, Pano Koufonisi is located between Naxos and Amorgos.

There are actually two islands in the Koufonisia complex — Pano and Kato Koufonisia, both which can be visited by ferry from Naxos and Amorgos. Pano Koufonisis is inhabited, unlike Kato Koufonisi.

Now that you know how to get there, here is what you will find on Pano Koufinisi. This is the perfect island for relaxing, taking long walks along the beach or taking a dip in the sparkling blue sea.

There are tavernas and shops in Chora where you will also find some accommodations if you wish to make your trip to this small island more than just a day trip.

Serifos is a gem with 74 different beaches

Serifos Island
Serifos. Credit: An. Antoniou, CC BY-SA 3.0

Serifos is a small island of about 75 square kilometers and is located in the Cyclades. You will find this hidden treasure which is often overlooked by tourists between the island of Kythnos and Sifnos.

It is the ideal Greek Island to visit if you don’t want to be surrounded by tourists — mostly due to the fact that no one knows it even exists!

This island is accessible from a ferry at the port of Piraeus and other islands of the Cyclades group.

As soon as you arrive on Serifos at the port of Livadi you will see beautiful sandy beaches against an impressive view of the capital, Serifos, or Chora, dotted with white houses on the slopes of the hill.

The island is almost in the shape of a complete circle and boasts 74 beaches all around its shoreline, where you will find everything from water sports and secluded natural coves to relaxing beaches.

A lot of the beaches have tavernas nearby, so you can always relax with a home cooked traditional Greek meal for lunch, dinner or both!

Fifth-Century AD Evil Eye From Israel Shows Talisman Popular There

Evil Eye
An archaeologist from the Israeli Antiquities Authority shows a pendant that was unearthed some time ago but recently came into the IAI’s possession. The pendant has a representation of the Evil Eye on the reverse, showing Israelis of the 5th century AD still wore such talismans. Credit: Facebook/ Dafna Gazit/Israeli Antiquities Authority

Officials from the Israeli Antiquities Authority recently displayed for the first time a 5th-century Evil Eye pendant that served as a talisman against evil which had been unearthed some time ago in the Galilee region.

The pendant had unfortunately been in private hands but its owner recently decided to share the amazing object with the world by donating it to the IAA.

The necklace and pendant, dating back around 1,500 years ago was uncovered 40 years ago in the village of Arbel in the Galilee by one of its first residents, the late Tova Haviv, according to a press release from the IAA.

It was recently handed over to the Israel Antiquities Authority by a family member. The pendant, which has a triangular shape, shows the figure of a person with a halo riding a horse.

Israeli pendant
The front of the 5th century pendant found in Israel shows_____. Credit: Facebook/Dafna Gazit/Israeli Antiquities Authority

The rider is depicted in the act of throwing a sphere at a female figure on the ground, surrounded by the inscription, in Greek, reading “The One God who Conquers Evil.” Under the horse, the Greek letters I A W Θ appear, which the equivalent of Jewish divine name of Y-H-W-H, or God.

The opposite side of the object depicts an eye pierced by arrows and surrounded by dangerous animals – two lions, a snake, a scorpion and a bird – as well as another Greek inscription reading “One God.”

According to Dr. Eitan Klein, the deputy director of the IAA Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit, the amulet is “part of a group of fifth–sixth-century CE amulets from the Levant that were probably produced in the Galilee and Lebanon.

Evil Eye pendant
The Evil Eye is shown on the obverse of the Israeli pendant. Credit: Facebook/ Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority

“This group of amulets is sometimes called ‘Solomon’s Seal’ and the rider is depicted overcoming the evil spirit – in this case, a female identified with the mythological figure Gello/Gyllou, who threatens women and children and is associated with the evil eye.

“The eye on the reverse is identifiable as the evil eye, being attacked and vanquished by various means. The amulet was therefore probably used to guard against the evil eye, possibly to protect women and children,” he adds.

Significantly, during the Byzantine period, Arbel was a Jewish settlement, which was often mentioned in the Talmud, and the artifact dates back to that exact period. And perhaps most remarkably, the presence of the talisman there suggests that even the Jews of that period wore amulets of this type for protection against the evil eye and demons.

Evil Eye charms
The Evil Eye is a common theme of talismans worn all over the Mediterranean even today. Credit: FocalPoint /CC BY-SA 3.0

In the statement, the IAA says “We thank the amulet’s donor for demonstrating good citizenship! Objects of this kind tell the story of Israel’s history and heritage and they belong to all the citizens of Israel, both legally and in terms of their cultural value.”

The evil eye, or Mati, in Greek, is an ancient Mediterranean symbol that is part of a superstitious curse or legend.

It has historically been believed that a curse can be cast on a person by a malevolent glare, which is usually given to a person when one is unaware. The concept of the evil eye dates back at least to Greek classical antiquity, to 6th century BC, where it appeared on Chalcidian drinking vessels, known as ‘eye cups’, as a type of apotropaic magic (something that has the power to deflect evil).

Kylix Evil Eye
A Kylix Evil Eye Cup from Calchidia is one of the earliest-known portrayals of the ancient Mediterranean symbol of the evil eye, or Mati. From 540-520 BC. Credit: User:Bibi Saint-Pol/ Public Domain

People from many cultures around the Mediterranean believe that receiving the evil eye will cause misfortune or injury, while others believe it to be a kind of supernatural force that casts or reflects a malevolent gaze right back upon those who wish harm upon others (especially the innocent).

Talismans or amulets created to protect against the evil eye are usually called “evil eyes” themselves and can appear on almost any object whatsoever— from a glass bead to the prow of a Mediterranean fishing boat.

Older iterations of the symbol were often made of ceramic or clay. However, following the beginning of the production of glass beads in the Mediterranean region in approximately 1,500 BC, evil eye beads were popularized with the Phoenicians, Persians, Greeks, Romans.

Blue was likely used as it was a relatively easy color to create in glass; however, modern evil eyes can come in a range of colors, although most by far are a piercing cobalt blue.

The idea expressed by the term causes many different cultures to pursue protective measures against it, with around 40% of the world’s population currently believing in some form of the power of the evil eye.

The concept and its significance vary widely among different cultures, but it is especially prominent in the Mediterranean and West Asia. The idea does appear multiple times in Jewish rabbinic literature, so perhaps the existence  of the Israeli pendant should not come as a surprise.

While the Egyptian Eye of Horus is a similar symbol, it represents protection and good health, very unlike the Greek evil eye talisman, which specifically protects against malevolent gazes.

Similarly, the Eye-Idols (c. 8700–3500 BC) excavated at the Tell Brak Eye Temple are believed to have been figurines offered to the gods, and according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, they are unrelated to a belief in the evil eye.

Regarding Greek traditional beliefs, the evil eye is far and away the largest Greek superstition. It is believed that someone can cast the evil eye onto another person out of envy (either good or bad) and jealousy.

You are said to be “matiasmenos” (“the evil eye has been cast upon you”) if you are dizzy or have a headache and yawn a lot. Most Greeks feel that they are under the spell of the evil eye if they are too beautiful, or too rich.

The good news is that you can have the “spell” broken by someone who knows how to conduct a special ritual with oil, water and prayers. Or, amazingly, now with the help of modern technology, even by using an app on your cellphone.

No matter which category they might believe they are in, many Greeks run to the “Xematiastra,” the woman who knows how to send away “To mati,” to find relief from the ancient curse.

North Macedonia Promises to Correct Jersey Logos

North Macedonia jersey
The North Macedonia jersey at Euro 2020. Credit: North Macedonia Football Federation/Instagram

Zoran Zaev, the Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia told a Greek broadcaster on Friday that the ongoing issue of the name displayed on the jerseys of his nation’s football players is being addressed.

Last week, Athens had brought a formal complaint before UEFA, the government body in charge of the European football championship, which has already begun, in relation to the logos, which still read “The Republic of Macedonia” in defiance of the naming stipulations included in the groundbreaking 2018 Prespa Accords, in which the country was allowed to adopt the official name of “The Republic of North Macedonia.”

The controversial agreement was the culmination of many years of back-and-forth charges, with many in Greece angry that any form of the name “Macedonia” be used in the Balkan nation to the north of Greece.

North Macedonia – Macedonia name issue rears its head three years after Prespa

Today, the Prime Minister of North Macedonia stated to Greece’s national broadcaster ERT that objections from Athens to the way his country’s name appears on the national team’s jerseys are being addressed

Moreover, he assured that the issue will be resolved on the basis of the name deal he officially signed with former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in 2018.

“We have already raised the issue with the Federation and will resolve it on the basis of the Prespa Agreement, UEFA rules and tradition in the upcoming period,” Zaev said in a written response to a request for comment from Greek media.

The request was a result of the controversy that erupted last week after Athens lodged its complaint with UEFA over the name “Football Federation of Macedonia” and the initials “FFM,” that sill appear on players’ jerseys.

“All of Europe knows”

“All of Europe knows that our national football team represents North Macedonia at the Championship. Even if the federation is not a public entity, the national team is, as it is in all countries in the world,” Zaev stated.

“So it is and should be clear on all levels and to everyone that it is the national team of North Macedonia, irrelevant of the initials of the Federation on the kit. We have already raised the issue with the Federation.”

“(The) Prespa agreement’s implementation is a work in progress and our goal is to gradually find solutions with our neighbors… to move us forward on the basis of cooperation and mutual respect,” he added.

Greece had sent a letter of complaint to President of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Aleksander Ceferin on June 12 over the name being used by the North Macedonia team.

Greek Sports Minister Lefteris Avgenakis signed the letter of Greece’s objection to the FFM (Football Federation of Macedonia) badge on the team’s jersey that excludes the word “North” from the Balkan country’s name.

According to he name agreement signed between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in 2018, the country’s name is now Republic of North Macedonia.

Based on the customary use of abbreviations for an internationally recognized name, the Balkan country should include a “N” in the abbreviation.

The Greek minister said that FFM is not a proper abbreviation of North Macedonia, as agreed by both sides in the 2018 Prespa accord.

In the letter, Avgenakis also asked UEFA to look into the name of the country’s soccer association, Football Federation of Macedonia, saying that it also contravenes the name deal.

This is the first time Greece’s neighbor has taken part in the final phase of the major event. Northern Macedonia completes the 3rd group of the UEFA Euro 2020 along with the Netherlands, Ukraine and Austria. On Sunday it faces Austria.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias has also sent a similar letter to his counterpart in North Macedonia, Bujar Osmani.

 

56-Year-old Greek Woman Dies Minutes After Second Pfizer Vaccine

vaccine
Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

A 56-year-old Greek woman died at Kalavryta Hospital just a few minutes after her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

The middle-aged woman, who was vaccinated during her 10:00 AM appointment in the morning of Friday at the hospital was pronounced dead just a few minutes after she received her second inoculation with the Pfizer coronavirus inoculation.

As is normal procedure, the woman was sitting in a separate area while she was monitored for negative developments that can occur after the vaccine administration.

Just ten minutes after she was vaccinated, she complained of a “burning” pain in her chest and her back, and collapsed.

Doctors on the scene tried to revive the woman, and even to intubate her, but stopped their frantic efforts one hour after she collapsed.

Woman may have suffered a heart attack, pulmonary edema

Reports say that it is possible that she had suffered a heart attack, along with pulmonary edema, or a filling of the lungs with fluid. There was no positive response from any of the hour-long efforts to resuscitate her.

The 57-year-old also reportedly suffered from underlying diseases. The medical examiner’s office, which is now conducting a thorough review of her case, will disclose their findings at a later date.

The woman’s death is particularly poignant since she and her husband had moved from the capital city of Athens to the village of Kertezi, Kalavrita, in order to feel safer during the pandemic.

She and her husband had left their permanent residence in Athens an entire year ago and had moved to the house they kept in Kertezi, in order to live in what they considered an environment that would allow them to avoid becoming infected.

Vaccine given to woman who was known to suffer from allergies

According to Greek press reports, the 56-year-old had already lost one of her two children in a car accident several years ago.

An unidentified resident of the small village spoke to interviewers from the Patras Times, saying “At the moment I am in the hospital in Kalavrita. Here they say that the woman left from an allergic shock, but we will wait for the official announcements.”

The woman was said to have had allergies, but the authorities “did not manage to offer her the slightest help,” according to the report.

She had two children, one of whom she had lost in a car accident and the other lived on Cyprus.

“We are all shocked. People left Athens a year ago, where they lived permanently to protect themselves from the coronavirus and now that has happened. Her husband is from Kertezi, in fact they had decided to stay here permanently.

“Unfortunately, the woman passed away at a young age, and unjustly.”

Fifty fewer coronavirus cases on Friday, continuing downward trend

Greece recorded 469 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, which marks  50 fewer instances of the virus than the 519 cases that had been recorded on Thursday.

Just two of Thursday’s total cases were identified during routine Covid-19 testing of tourists at the country’s borders, the same number as had been reported yesterday.

This brings the overall total of cases, including all those who have recovered from the disease, to 417,706, of which 51.2% are men.

Based on the confirmed cases of the last 7 days, 26 are considered related to travel from abroad and 951 are related to an already known case.

Currently, there are 307 Greek citizens undergoing the invasive process of intubation, with 65.5% of these being male. Their median age is 67 years. 85% suffer from an underlying disease and/or are age 70 years and older. Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 2,602 patients have been discharged from the ICU.

This represents 14 fewer intubated people than yesterday.

Tragically, 20 people suffering from the coronavirus passed away in the country over the past 24-hour period, which represents an increase of four over those who had died with the virus on Thursday.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, a total of 12,514 deaths associated with the virus have been recorded. 95.2% of the victims suffered from underlying disease and/or were age 70 years and older.

Door opened for mandatory vaccine for Greek healthcare workers

In other breaking coronavirus news on Friday, Greece’s National Bioethics Committee approved the mandatory vaccination for some workers as “last resort.”

The ruling apparently paves the way for a mandatory vaccine for healthcare professionals and workers in nursing homes as a last resort to protect vulnerable populations.

In their report, which was published on Friday evening, the committee proposed three measures as part of what it described as an “escalating” approach to convince workers to obtain their vaccine before resorting to forcing them to do so.

First, targeted information campaigns stressing voluntary vaccination, based on up-to-date scientific data, should be the initial course of action.

The committee added that this should be followed by measures to encourage inoculation that could be designed in cooperation with hospital administrations, including the facilitation of vaccine appointments, giving flexibility in working hours on the days they are to receive the vaccine, priority in the selection of days off, or even just the mandatory use of a double mask for those who are not vaccinated.

Requiring inoculations woful due the very last resort, the report said. Any mandatory vaccinations should have a specific timeframe and should be implemented if the previous approaches do not lead to a significant increase in the vaccination rate.

The Committee’s report had been requested by the Prime Minister’s office.