In about 250 BCE, a Celtic tribe known as the Parisii first settled Paris on the Île de la Cité. In 52 BCE, the Parisii settlement was conquered by the Romans and their general, Julius Caesar. The Romans named the city Lutetia, from an earlier Greek name Lukotokía, whose origin is unknown. But the renaming did not stick. So the city of lights is known today as Paris, the name of its first founders, from over 2,200 years ago.

The coin is a Parisii gold coin, by the way. It dates to the 200s BCE.

The Ancient History of Diglossia

Diglossia is when a single community uses two languages or dialects. It is only diglossia if this is a stable situation -- not a transition from one language to another. In diglossia, one language is for everyday use (the low language), and one language is for specific situations (the high language) such as literature, formal education, or religious activities. The high language usually has no native speakers. Examples are Latin, used by scholars in the European Middle Ages, Mandarin for official communications and local dialects for everyday use in China, and literary Tamil versus spoken Tamil.

The earliest known diglossia is Middle Egyptian, the language in everyday use in Ancient Egypt during the Middle Kingdom (2000 - 1650 BCE). By the New Kingdom (1550 -1050 BCE) the language had evolved into Late Egyptian. And by the Persians, then Ptolemies, then Roman Empire, the language had evolved into Demotic (700 BCE - 400 CE). But Middle Egyptian remained the standard written, prestigious form, the high language, and was still in use until the 300s CE. That means it was used, unchanged, for over 1,900 years after people had stopped speaking it!

Ancient Carthage Practiced Infant Sacrifice

A tophet means a sacred precinct outside a city used for burials of sacrifices. In English it also means hell. Which is fitting, because recent evidence from Carthage's tophets contained tiny cremated human bones packed into urns and buried underneath tombstones with inscriptions that gave thanks to the gods. A recent study found that these burials were evidence that Carthage practiced infant sacrifice. As evidence, the researchers cited the inscriptions on the tombstones, which recorded that the gods had “heard my voice and blessed me." Some urns contained animal remains which have definitely been sacrificed and were buried in the exact same way as the children. Finally, the discovered skeletons were far too few to represent all the stillbirths and infant deaths that would occur in a city the size of Carthage 2,000 years ago. The evidence points towards elite Carthaginians engaging in child sacrifice to give thanks for blessings they have received from the gods.

Roman historian Diodorus claimed that in the city of Carthage there was a bronze statue of Cronus with his hands extended, palm up. All babies placed within would roll down into a pit of fire. The historian even made mention of rich families who bought poor children and raised them specifically for sacrifice. Romans and Greeks dismissed Diodorus' claims as anti-Carthaginian propaganda. But modern archaeology may have vindicated him -- though frankly this is something that he probably would have been happy to be wrong about.

Dragon Sculptures Evidence of Ancient Cultural Exchange Between China and Mongolia

Two gilded silver dragon figurines featuring detailed horns, eyes, teeth, and feathers have been discovered in a Xiongnu elite tomb in north-central Mongolia. The dragons bear obvious characteristics of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 9 CE). They are evidence of the cultural exchange and interaction between the prairie in the north and central China, as well as the high status of the Xiongu buried in the tomb. Of course, the silver dragons were not the only rich items they were buried with: a trove of gold, silver, bronze, jade and wood artifacts have also been found.

Theory of Terracotta Army's Anti-Rust Technology Debunked

The Terracotta Army's well-preserved bronze weapons had led some to speculate that artisans during the Qin Dynasty developed anti-rust treatments in the mid-200s BCE. This theory was boosted by the finding of trace amounts of chromium on the surfaces of bronze weapons excavated in Xi'an, China -- the same area where the army was buried. Today, chromium conversion coating is a preservation methods that involves dipping a metal into a solution containing chromium salts, which gives the metal a protective layer of chromium oxide. Maybe the Qin Dynasty's artisans had discovered something similar?

Recently a group of researchers, from UCL and the Terracotta Army Museum, decided to run a study and check the theory. They analyzed 464 bronze weapons and fragments, as well as lacquer and soil samples. They had hypothesized that if chromium conversion coating was not used on the weapons, the chromium traces on the weapons might come from the soil they were buried in, or perhaps from chromium in the pigments decorating the warriors. The study's findings were not what they hypothesized. The terracotta warriors themselves, and organic materials including wooden quivers, scabbards, and shafts, were coated in a lacquer which contained chromium. Bronze weapons were not.

To double-check their findings, replica bronzes were weathered in an environmental chamber. Those buried in Xi'an soil did much better than the bronzes buried in British soil. The experiment indicated that it was Xi'an soil's moderately alkaline pH, its very small particle size, and the tin content of the bronze weapons which helped to preserve them. In other words, the traces of chromium found were incidental and not the reason the weapons were so well-preserved.

The Foundation of Carthage

Carthage was initially founded by Phoenicians from the city-state of Tyre in the 800s BCE. They named it Qart-hadasht, which simply means “new town.” Situated in today's Tunisia, the settlement was one of many Tyrian colonies dotted around the Mediterranean basin, which brought new materials and goods back to Phoenicia and strengthened and expanded Phoenicia's trading network. Eventually the new town gained its independence around 650 BCE, and became a prosperous trade-based city-state with colonies of its own.

Beautifully Preserved Boot Still Bright Red After 2,300 Years

This Scythian woman's boot was saved by being frozen in a Siberian barrow tomb, preserved by the cold where no decomposition could occur. Even the woman's fine felt socks were saved inside the shoes!

Athletes in ancient Greece smeared olive oil on their bodies before a competition. The oil made their skin more supple and made them appear, as classical writers described, "like gleaming statues of the gods."

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    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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