What Makes This Train Turn Special?

South of Brusio, in the Swiss Canton of Graubünden, the Bernina railway's track must change elevation without exceeding its specified maximum gradient of 7 percent. Engineers figured out that by building a viaduct in 360 degrees, the train could gently go upwards at a gentle grade, and the arch bridge would make the solution artistically pleasing, too. Opened in 1908 it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Sadly the original engineers probably did not live that long.

Dense Network of Amazonian Villages Found with Laser Scanning

Laser scanning technology successfully peered through the Amazon rain forest’s thick canopy to reveal the footprint of a complex network of ancient villages in southeastern Brazil. Dwellings in these little-known settlements, which date to between 1300 and 1700 CE, were built atop raised mounds of earth arranged in a uniform circular pattern around a central plaza. Rather like clock faces according to researchers.

The scans also showed that the villages were connected via an organized system of roads. Most villages had two roads leading away to the north, and two leading away to the south. The roads also varied with some being smaller and sunken into the ground, others larger and protected on the sides by banks.

In total the archaeologists studied some 36 villages. The area appeared densely populated with some villages as little as 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) apart.

Gilt-Bronze Statue of Maitraya (Pre-Enlightenment Buddha) in Meditation

This is one of the most highly-regarded Korean Buddhist sculptures, dating to the middle or late 500s. The bronze is as thin as 2 mm in some places. The statue is a testament to the artistry and skill of bronze workers at the time. In Korea, it is National Treasure No. 78 and resides in the National Museum of Korea

The Beer-Making Queen

The Sumerian king list contains a single woman as ruler, called Kubaba (or Kugbau). She is sometimes listed as her own dynasty and sometimes combined with the 4th Sumerian dynasty of Kish (a Sumerian city). Early on she was also worshipped as a goddess. Perhaps frustratingly, perhaps suggesting that her position as queen was relatively unremarkable to the ancient Sumericans and their descendants, there is little evidence for how Kubaba the ruler was viewed at the time. Nor why she continued to be put down on Sumerian king lists kept by various cities.

To make it worse, there are two very different tones and texts that comment upon Kubaba's rule. In the first cuneiform record, which was a late text that gave the Sumerian king list then commented on the entries, it is mentioned how Kubaba became queen after being an alewife (or tavern keeper/beer brewer), and then it describes her efforts to properly reinstate the fish sacrifice in the sanctuary of Marduk (the city god of Babylon), for which she was appointed ruler. Basically very similar to the comments on other kings on the Sumerican king list. Kubaba is being presented as unexceptional. In the second cuneiform text that mentions Kubaba, a small omen text, it extremely specifically talks about intersex miscarriages, and that the omen (named for "Kubaba, who once ruled") is taken to mean "the ruin of the kingdom; a eunuch will rebel against the king." Not so positive. All this helps explain why what we know about Kubaba is contadictory, uncertain, and very intriguing!

The Depth of Nature

Nile Crocodiles dig the deepest (known) burrows, going up to 39 feet (12 meters) below the earth. The deepest plant roots belong to the Shepherd's tree in Africa's Kalahari Desert, which can reach 223 feet (68 meters) deep.

The fossa is the largest carnivorous mammal on Madagascar. These animals look like a mix between a cat, dog, and a mongoose, and they can reach 6 feet in length. Fossa are an excellent example of the unique animal life that has developed on Madagascar due to its long isolation from other continents and its range of biomes.

Although it originated in the Americas, some (Western) scholars in the 1800s claimed corn is an Old World crop. Some went so far as to falsify documents that claimed to be pre-contact references to corn by Europeans. As you can guess their attempts did not work.

Georgian men wearing traditional horse-riding gear at a community gathering. In the Georgia Governorate, Russian Empire, circa 1890

The Colored Hockey League was the first organized in 1895. Between 1895 and the early 1930s, all-Black ice hockey teams on Canada's eastern seaboard played for mixed audiences as they challenged each other and vied to win the Colored Hockey Championship. The Colored Hockey League pre-dates the National Hockey League by 20 years, and also pre-dates the more famous Negro Baseball League of the United States.

The Swiss Army was the last country to disband its bicycle infantry regiment, making it just into the 21st century to 2003.

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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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