Beautiful ceramic tiles decorated with blue and white glaze, from Pakistan's Sindh region. Circa 1500s.

courtesy of the LACMA

The First Dancers

The San people created one of the earliest depictions of dancing in their rock art. Dating from 10,000 years ago in southern Africa, the art shows San shamans performing trancelike dances.

Not Something To Be Proud Of, LBJ!

American President LBJ was a competitive womanizer. If people mentioned Kennedy's many affairs in his hearing, LBJ would bang the table and declare that he had more women by accident than Kennedy ever had on purpose.

An Underwater Burial Site in Sweden Had Heads Stuck On Poles (And Some Other Gruesome Stuff)

Recently, archaeologists uncovered the remains of Mesolithic people in an underwater grave in what is now southern Sweden. People living during the Mesolithic, about 8,000 years ago, were hunter-gatherers. They were not known for elaborate burial practices, or intergroup conflict and fighting. Which makes the finds particularly interesting. When the burial site was in use, it would have been at a shallow lake bottom, covered with tightly packed stones, upon which the remains of humans had been laid. They were deliberately being buried in water. The twelve remains were all skulls, save for one infant. The adult skulls were mostly were missing jawbones, and at least two of the skulls showed evidence of a stick thrust through the opening at the base through the top of the skull. Their heads were stuck on poles, rising above the shallow water. Pretty scary stuff -- but these were hunter-gatherers, not known for intergroup fighting, and therefore the need to frighten other groups.

Another surprise: all the skulls showed signs of trauma. And to make things more unusual, the trauma was different depending on if they were a woman or a man. The males were hit on top or near the front of the head, while the females were typically hit from behind. Although none of the wounds appear life-threatening, without their bodies, archaeologists cannot say for certain what killed them.

Finding a Lock of George Washington’s Hair, and a Link to American History

A librarian going through a book at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., found a thin envelope that may add to the odd history of a founding father’s hair. Read full article

What Is an Isotope Analysis and Why Is It Useful?

You've probably heard the term "isotope analysis." In theory, its a simple idea: people are what they eat and drink. Ratios of carbon and nitrogen in our bones and our teeth allows scientists to tell the relative amounts of animal protein that we eat and drink.  It can also be used to distinguish between broad groups of plants, because different paths use different photosynthetic pathways and that determines the amounts of carbon and nitrogen we get from eating different groups of plants. Using carbon and nitrogen ratios, modern scientists can -- to a degree -- reconstruct the diets of people who died long ago.

Isotope analysis can also tell if a person was born where they were buried. There are differences in strontium isotope ratios, depending on the age of the underlying geology of an area. Are you living on 20 million year old bedrock, or 200 million year old bedrock? Apparently, it makes a difference. By drinking local water and eating local food, people incorporate the local strontium isotope ratios into their tooth enamel while their teeth form during childhood. When a skeleton is found, the teeth's strontium isotope ratio can be compared to the local burial area's ratio. If it is not the same, then the person was not raised there. Of course this only tells us whether they are local or not. It does not help identify where the person migrated from.

In Latin, “arena” means “sandy place.” So the amazing Roman amphitheatres, like this one at Arles, were weirdly round beaches. Basically.

A UnHoly Record

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (German) and his predecessor Saint John Paul II (Polish) were the first consecutive non-Italian popes since the seven French popes of the Avignon Papacy -- which ended in 1376.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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