The reconstruction of an ancient Roman garden

This Sunday, June 25th, members of the Virtus Antiqua reenactment association from Cluj invite volunteers and the general public to take part in yet another experimental archaeology meeting at their center Camp Virtus, in the village of Salicea, near Cluj-Napoca. The meeting envisages the reconstruction of an ancient Roman garden, with beds for medicinal, cooking, and decorative plants that the ancient Roman would have known and used. Due to the access of goats at Camp Virtus, the gardens needs to be protected by a wattle fence, the construction of which, with local materials, shall take up most of the meeting. Still, it shall not be all work, as we will also cook an ancient recipe inspired by Apicius' De re coquinaria - cabbage and cauliflower with spices and pig meat sausages. The event is part of the ongoing cultural project entitled "Labyrinth through time" that encourages outdoors historical learning for families of volunteers.
See you at Camp Virtus, ca. 8 km. from Cluj, between 11 AM and 16 PM to help us with some historical reconstruction and tasting. Join our Facebook event for all the details and find inspiration checking out our image collections regarding reconstructions of Roman gardens, ancient gardening tools, and plants known during Antiquity
The Roman garden - experimental archaeology workshop at Camp Virtus
Roman garden reconstruction in Cluj-Napoca, part of the botanical garden
Current state of the garden reconstruction at Camp Virtus


Imported apothecary goods in Transylvania

Just like today, a significant category of customers preferred foreign, famous, and expensive goods. One could buy such from the pharmacies, for healing various of the era's afflictions (including syphilis), for disease prevention (prophylactic products that included exotic fruits such as lemons and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, Aloe Vera, pepper, etc.), for beauty, for hygiene, animal poisons, aphrodisiacs (the lizard Stincus Marinus) and abortives, or simply gifts. The Maucksch-Hintz pharmacy that hosts the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj for example Selters mineral water imported from the area of Strassbourg, exotic medicinal plants from the Orient (obtained through intermediaries such as merchants in Poland or Vienna), such plants from the new American continent (such as tobacco), drugs wrapped in royal paper from the Netherlands or France and many others.
Follow the free online tour "Imported products" on the izi.TRAVEL profile of the History of Pharmacy Collection, part of the National History Museum of Transylvania in the capital of that province, the city of Cluj-Napoca. 

Orange peel (Aurantior cortex)

Spices as apothecary ingredients

Stincus marinus


Medical Equipment Room at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj

The History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, holds and exhibits, in a separate hall that was not part of the old pharmacy, a special lot of items that reflect the history of medical equipment in Cluj. You can visit it in Unirii Square no. 28 - find the visiting hours HERE.
The Medical Equipment collection in Cluj

This separate collection includes around 500 objects used in the city’s hospitals and medical practices between the end of the 19th century and the 1970s and 1980s. The most recent items are a couple of ecographs produced during the 1980s in Germany. The display is grouped according to medical specialties (stomatology, ophthalmology, gynecology and neonatology, physiotherapy, radiology etc.) 
Gynecology instruments on display
 Among the most valuable items one can mention what is probably the oldest electrocardiograph from Romania (of the Einthoven type, with a single channel, produced in 1915 in Paris), Röntgen machines from 1915-1920, old microscopes, various medical instruments and old medical prints. The most consistent lot was donated to the National History Museum of Transylvania (that owns the collection) in 1997 by Prof. Dr. Pompiliu Manea (through his company, TEMCO), but there are also objects donated over time by doctors and various other private persons.
Read more about the electrocardiograph in a previous blog post HERE
Detail of the Einthoven electrocardiograph
The vault is decorated with gilded stucco from around 1900 and during the Communist Period this room hosted a hat shop, accessible from the side, currently Ferdinand Street. The hall only became part of the museum shortly before the year 2000.
Listen to this presentation free online on the museum's izi.TRAVEL profile
Gilded stucco decoration and Netherlandish medical plates


Ancient-type weaving loom

Labyrinth through time - Virtus Antiqua's reenactment project - continues with research onto another topic that shall be recreated soon at Camp Virtus, near Cluj: an ancient-type weaving loom. Several meetings at the camp, in the village of Salicea, shall lead to the modeling of clay loom weights, based on Roman-Era archaeological discoveries from Romania, the reconstruction of such a vertical loom and the experimenting with actual weaving techniques. Still, the first step is to consult the era's depictions, the existing patrimony and other reconstructions, in order to choose the exact type and model. Volunteers are encouraged to consult the thematic Pinterest album RAZBOI ANTIC DE TESUT (Romanian for ancient loom) that reunites such resources.
Pinterest album focusing on ancient looms


DIY leather bookmark

Leather bookmarks are fun and easy to make. One variant is available on my website, www.atelieruldeistorie.ro, that specializes in handmade artifacts inspired by the civilizations of Antiquity, mainly Dacian, Roman, Celtic etc. The bookmarks in question can be included among those from the first category, as the chosen symbol that decorates them is the so-called draco (meaning dragon in Latin), the mythical half wolf, half serpent war standard of the ancient Dacians, once inhabiting the present-day territory of Romania. See my previous post on DIY leather project HERE.
The first step is to cut strips of sturdier leather, the size of the intended bookmarks, and to cut-out the draco shape out of thinner leather, after marking its contours with special marker on the back of the leather, following a cardboard model. The decorative effect of the draco is obtained through punching holes that suggest its eye and body straps.

Cut-out draco shapes
Bookmark-shaped rectangle leather pieces and punched-out draco leather shapes
Then, glue the back of the draco (or other) decorative shape with leather glue applied with a brush onto the base trips. Be careful not to put too much glue on the edges, as the surplus might come out while pressing the two elements together. Leather glue dries fairly fast, so not much pressing is needed.

Apply glue to the back of the draco shape

Gently press the model onto the base strip of leather
The final step is optional and purely decorative. I find the strict rectangular contours of the bookmarks not so pleasing, so I add some asymmetry by cutting out its corners and creating V-shaped indentations, of various sizes, throughout the long sides. They are randomly placed and sized, so just follow your instincts. Thus, no two bookmarks shall be identical!

Finishing touches - cutting off the corners

Creating V-shapes indentations along the long sides of the leather bookmarks
And so the draco leather bookmarks are ready to be used! See other color combinations on my website HERE.
Handmade leather bookmark inspired by the ancient Dacian civilization, by Atelierul de istorie


Linocuts and Transylvanian landmarks

In many of her artworks, including linocut prints, Goddess Gruia draws inspiration from special landmarks from her native Transylvania. These models are often medieval monuments, but also various cityscapes and architectural elements from various eras. Here are some examples that also feature in some of the artist's large-size linocuts that are also available on Etsy:
Large-size linocut from Transylvania by Ana-Maria Gruia
The examples are from the historical center of the city of Cluj (the so-called Tailors' Bastion, in fact one of the towers of the 15th century fortified precinct, better preserved due to its restoration during the 17th century following a gunpowder explosion; and the church of the former Dominican monastery, currently Franciscan, in the city's initial medieval square, the so-called Ovar, today Museum's Square) and the Saxon fortified church in Calnic.
Linocut detail - The Tailors' Bastion in Cluj - by Ana-Maria Gruia
The Tailors' Bastion, in fact one of the corner towers of the second fortified precinct of Cluj

Linocut detail - church of the Dominican monastery in Museum's Square of Cluj - by Ana-Maria Gruia

Church of the Dominican monastery, later on Franciscan, in Cluj-Napoca
Artistic perspective over Calnic - keep, water well, fortified precinct, and gate tower - linocut by Ana-Maria Gruia
Water well and segment of the courtain wall inside the fortified Saxon church in Calnic, Alba County


The laboratorium in the old apothecary shop of Cluj

The apothecary laboratory of the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca is reconstructed in the basement and can be accessed, though not quite easily, in the corner of the Materials’ Room. Mind the steps – they are cut-out, asymmetrical, and very steep. Though the basement is the oldest part of the building, the so-called Maucksch-Hintz House, with Renaissance door frames and even reused Roman epigraphic monuments, one cannot be certain that it was ever used as a laboratory or just as a storage space. Its main problem is not the access, uncertain during the day as the current steps were installed in the 1970s, but the evacuation of smoke (an inevitable result of using the stove for various apothecary procedures) and the problematic ventilation of the basement. What is more, when the pharmacy was nationalized, the lab was already located on the first floor, in today's Books' Room.

Mind the steps!

Two rooms are reconstructed downstairs, one just for storage and one for the actual preparation of medicines. The latter contains the reconstruction of an apothecary stove and various original tools and utensils from old pharmacies in Transylvania: an alembic, a retort, several glass tubes and crucibles, types inherited from alchemy, percolators, graded cups, mortars, three-legged pots and many other items. Before the chemical synthesizing of the ingredients, the preparation of drugs involved relatively simple procedures such as the crushing, boiling, distillation, maceration and percolation of various plants, minerals and substances of animal origin.
Listen to this presentation free online on izi.Travel HERE

Reconstructed apothecary laboratory in Cluj-Napoca


Medallions inspired by Antiquity

Atelierul de istorie's special Facebook sales event deals with a lot of nine medallions, entirely handmade out of various materials, inspired by the civilizations of Antiquity: Dacian, Roman, Scythian etc. Join on Facebook the event entitled ANTICHITATEA LA PURTATOR  to see all items, their description and prices.

Tooled leather medallion inspired by the decoration of Dacian shields

Leather medallion inspired by ancient marine mosaics

Roman mask clay medallion
Bacchus/Dionysus clay medallion

Cosmic leather medallion

Leather medallion with a depictions inspired by Scythian animal art

Greek column-shaped leather medallion


"One-of-a-kind medallions" special online sales event

Atelierul de istorie has started a new series of online sales events hosted by Facebook. The first focuses on unique handmade medallions inspired by the civilizations of antiquity - mainly Dacian and Roman. The Facebook event is entitled "Wearing Antiquity" [Romanian: Antichitatea la purtator].
For two weeks shoppers will have the opportunity to acquire one-of-a-kind jewelry items, made of natural materials available during the ancient period - leather, metal, glass, and burnt clay. Though the small company specializes in handmade objects inspired by the civilizations of Classical Antiquity and its website presents a wide variety of such items, the medallions available during this special, limited-time event are single items that cannot be purchased normally online.
Join the event [June 9th-23rd 2017], see the products and drop us a line if anything is unclear or you wish to communicate in English - we do ship abroad as well :) And remember - this works on a first come first served basis.

Join the Facebook sales event by Atelierul de istorie!


Plants known and unknown during Antiquity

Part of the research and activities planned for the Labyrinth through time cultural project implemented by my NGO Virtus Antiqua I have recently taken an interest in the issue of what plants did the Romans know and use. The first step was to compile a Pinterest album on the topic, reuniting ancient depictions of plants (mostly used as cooking ingredients or spices), actual remains (mostly from Pompeii), but also reconstructions of gardens or cooking tables. See it HERE.
"Roman plants" Pinterest album
 Then, I devised several activities for our meetings with reenactors and volunteers. The first is a test for the senses, asking participants to guess certain plants according to their shape and smell, thus discussing their possible origin and uses in the Roman world.
Smelling and guessing Roman plants

Vanilla bean - unknown during Antiquity in the Mediterranean

Sample box
The second activity focuses on plants unknown in Europe during the Classical Period. Several plants introduced from the new continents - tobacco, tomatoes, potatoes etc. - are shown to the participants who guess them according to ancient prints and then try to discover when they were introduced and from where.
Plants introduced to Europe after the great geographic discoveries of the Early Modern Period
Read more about the project and its activities HERE


Pineapple leather earrings

The most recent addition to my Etsy shop the Transylvanian Trove is a new model of handmade leather earrings. These original pineapple-shaped earrings are entirely made by hand out of genuine, 100% natural leather. These are great fashion accessories for both everyday use and special occasions. The transparency effect is obtained through the overlapping of two pieces of leather, the upper one perforated to suggest the fruit's texture. Several color combinations are possible. The earrings are fitted with common metal hangers and loops.
The art earrings in question are created in Transylvania, but of tropical inspiration. Due to their length - 5 cm (1.9 inches) - these earrings shall not pass unnoticed! Be disco and have them assorted to various types of casual or festive outfits.
See more unique earrings at special prices from the Transylvanian Trove HERE.
Read also an earlier blog post about my leather earrings created for Atelierul de istorie HERE.

Pineapple earrings, handmade out of natural leather, original jewelry, fruit earrings, perfect gift for her, disco from Transylvania

Pineapple leather earrings
wearing my own creation - pineapple-shaped art leather earrings
fruit accessories handmade
anatomy of a pair of handmade leather earrings


Labyrinth through time - reenactment channel on YouTube

This year I am much involved in a cultural project entitled Labyrinth through time, partially funded by the National Cultural Fund Administration of Romania. Through this project my reenactment NGO from Cluj, Virtus Antiqua, plans to organize up to 15 meetings of experimental archaeology and living history this summer with families of volunteers and a final event in the autumn, reconstructing a true labyrinth "inhabited" by antique reenactors. Camp Virtus is our historical entertainment park near Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
The first meetings have been documented already on YouTube, through the project's specific channel:

Roman banquet and dessert, a game of archaeology, bow and arrow target practice and a display of gladiators:

The reconstruction of an ancient Roman bread oven:
  The second meeting - a game for the senses, an ancient Roman recipe, and the reconstruction of the oven:  
The first meeting, recruitment, and an ancient Roman snack:
Read more about the project (in Romanian) HERE
Join the project as volunteer together with members of your family - read the conditions (in Romanian) HERE
For updates follow our Facebook Page Camp Virtus.


New pastel flowers by Marin Gruia

Summer has set in yet again as Marin Gruia's favorite source of inspiration, so his latest creations depicting season flowers in stylized vases. The two brand new works reproduced here are pastel on paper (his favorite and first mastered technique), size 29 x 29 cm. The format is also among those that the artist from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, feels most at ease with.

For more of his creations feel free to check his art page on Facebook Marin Gruia Art
There is also his recent profile on Artbrl
And his website (in Romanian) HERE .

"Flowers", pastel on paper, c Marin Gruia

"Flowers", pastel on paper, c Marin Gruia


Books' Room at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj

This room, initially another storage space and then the laboratory of the modern pharmacy, is now used for the display of part of the books and documents collection, but also of some of the highly popular exhibits  of the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca.
Books' Room in the History of Pharmacy Collection, Cluj-Napoca

The central case contains two 18th-century manuscripts by Tobias Maucksch, the privileged pharmacist who initiated the decoration and the first marketing strategies in the old pharmacy. He noted offering doctors in town New Year’s presents so that they referred patients with prescriptions to his shop. Such presents consisted of white sugar, coffee or six lemons, as these were novel and fashionable goods during that period. The case also contains several printed works employed by pharmacists, from ancient writings and collections of aphorisms, to specialize books such as pharmacopoeias, encyclopedias of knowledge, and dispensatories, collections of recipes for the preparation of drugs.
The museum's collection of specialized written sources is in fact much larger, including as early as 16th-century pharmaceutical works printed in Venice, manuscript inventories of pharmacies from Transylvania, diplomas and numerous later, printed books.

Apothecary old books

Apothecary and medical old books

Among the famous exhibits, in this room you can discover the bottles in which the Elixir of Love was once sold and the recipe for this aphrodisiac drink, and a precious apothecary chest, a kind of first aid kit that noblemen took with them in their numerous travels through Transylvania and abroad.
Listen to the presentation on izi.Travel HERE.