Geneticists investigating the ancient domestication of cats happened to find that ancient cats had stripes -- but no spots. A specific gene is responsible for spotted fur, and it is absent in ancient cats. How fur patterns relate to when cats began to live with humans, I do not know. Anyways, the researchers' findings were confirmed by Egyptian murals, which only show striped cats. The gene causing blotched or spotted coats only began to appear in Europe during the Middle Ages.

The mosaic above comes from the House of the Faun, in Pompeii, during the early Roman Empire. Roman cats, which were descended from Egyptian cats, were striped too.

Source: National Geographic History, November/December 2017. "Finicky Felines Take Their Time with Domestication." Pp. 4 - 5

Throwing Things Around

A catapult is technically any kind of machine that causes a projectile to travel a great distance. That means everything from a slingshot up is a catapult. But when most of us think of a catapult, we think of a medieval weapon of war. So that's what this post is about.

The catapult was invented in China (unsurprisingly) in the 300s or 200s BCE. Its first form was basically a giant, meaner crossbow. The catapult was good enough at its job, of killing people and taking cities, that more and more sophisticated versions were invented. Today we actually still use catapults, albeit much less than they did in the middle ages. For instance, sophisticated version of the humble catapult launches planes off the decks of aircraft carriers!

This beautiful depiction of a preaching Buddha was sculpted in Gandhara, a kingdom in northwestern Pakistan, around the 200s CE. After the Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment, he decided to teach others his path to spiritual freedom. The gesture that this Buddha makes refers to the Buddha's first sermon and more generally to the Buddhist teachings, or "dharma". This is not a purely Indian sculpture, however. The Buddha's wavy hair, his toned arm, and the folds of his cloak show influences of Greco-Roman sculptural conventions. Gandhara had been conquered by Alexander the Great in the 300s BCE, and continued to have trading ties with the Mediterraean through the time this particular sculpture was made.

How Ancient Queens Put Their Names In The History Books

Two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were built by women! The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were planted by Queen Semiramis, of Assyria, and the Masoleum of Halicarnassus was built by Queen Artemisia, of Caria.

The Bodhi Tree

In Bihar, India is the spot where the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, found enlightenment after 49 years of meditation. He was sitting under a tree when it happened. So the tree became famous, and was named the Bodhi Tree or "Enlightenment Tree." The ancient Mauryan Emperor Ashoka I (304 to 232 BCE) converted to Buddhism, and regularly paid homage to the tree. So much so, that legend says his jealous wife tried to "kill" the Bodhi Tree by stabbing it with thorns. The tree survived, and a shrine was eventually built near its base.

Of course, the original Bodhi Tree eventually did die -- Gautama lived more than 2,000 years ago -- and Buddhist tradition says that the current Bodhi Tree is a direct descendant of the original. Emperor Ashoka's daughter apparently took a branch from the original, and planted it, and that branch is today's Bodhi Tree.

Times Were Different Then

Archers at the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece used tethered doves as their targets. Yes, live doves.

Athenian Agora Excavations: an Interactive Guide

The city of Athens flourished in the 400s and 300s BCE, setting the course for modern European civilization and eventually for democracy's re-emergence. Even when her power waned, Athens remained the cultural and educational center of the Mediterranean until the 500s CE. And the agora, or marketplace, was the center of city life throughout this time. In it was built beautiful and functional public buildings, first by proud city citizens, then as gifts from Greek kings and eventually Roman emperors.
Since the 1930s, modern excavations have been underway to study where the agora once stood. And they have an excellent website, with an interactive map of what has been recovered and discovered, so far, of the ancient Athenian agora. 

An Animated History of Ukraine

Really, really good history! Since I know next to nothing about Ukraine's national history, I particularly appreciated the accessibility -- the vlogger assumed we had been born yesterday, and it worked.

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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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