The Creation of Rotterdam

What would become the important port city of Rotterdam has been inhabited since at least the Roman period. It was part of the frontier province Germania Inferior, and there is evidence of wooden locks, trenches, and ditches built by the Romans to control water levels. After the Romans withdrew in the second half of the 200s CE, the population steeply declined. Partially because sea levels rose, making much of the region uninhabitable.

It was not until 900 CE that pioneering farmers returned to the riverbanks of the Rotte River, or "Muddy Water" River. Archaeologists have found the remains of six farmsteads, dating from 950 to 1050 CE. Life in Rotta Village was difficult: flooding was always a threat, and attempts to drain the peat they farmed on just caused the ground level to sink when drained, making flooding even worse. Unable to make a living, Rotta Village was abandoned around 1050.

It was thanks to a local noble looking to protect his nearby lands that Rotterdam ever came to be. In the year 1270, the Count of Holland, Floris V, ordered the construction of a single sea wall to protect the region from floods. The resulting dike was 1,300 feet long, 23 feet wide, and nearly five feet high. It was constructed across the Rotte River, not far from the now-abandoned Rotta Village.

A town sprang up after the dike was built. Because it was close to the North Sea and the River Rotte, the area was between two trade systems: the Baltic Region which included Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and the north Atlantic coastal area, which included France, England, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Because the new dike blocked direct passage to the Rotte River, traders had to unload their goods and reload them on the other side, or temporarily store them in Rotterdam. This made Rotterdam an important port and market for staple goods, such as beer and textiles, which people had to buy no matter the difficulty in getting it across the dike. It also developed a fishing industry, selling its herring along the trade systems it linked. And the rest, as they say, is history!

New Pre-Incan Mummy Found In Peru

Archaeologists working at Pachacamac, a pre-Columbian pilgrimage site and ceremonial center on the coast of Peru, have uncovered a well-preserved mummy buried sometime between 1000 and 1200 CE. They discovered the mummy bundle while excavating remains of a structure once devoted to local ancestors. When the Incan Empire later took over the area, Pachacamac was converted from a building devoted to the ancestors to a ritual healing facility. They apparently built right over the mummy, which was found perfectly undisturbed.

Let's Talk About Angkor Ceramics!

The Khmer Empire, also known as the Angkor Empire, was a powerful Hindu-Buddhist empire in Southeast Asia. It held more or less power in the region from the early 800s to the mid-1400s when its capital city of Angkor fell. The first evidence by an academic of stoneware ceramic production was the documentation in 1888 by the French explorer Etienne Aymonier of an abandoned kiln site on Phnom Kulen. Not much investigation into Angkor ceramics was made until the 1960s, however, when deforestation and road-building uncovered kiln mounds for ceramics in the fields of Buriram province in northern Thailand. Once the discovery became known, a new interest in the ceramics of Angkor was born. Since then, many more kilns have been found across the former empire.

Angkor ceramics were made either with grayish-white clay bearing green glaze or with dark-colored clay using brown glaze. Occasionally, when a potter was apparently feeling adventurous, a ceramic would be made with both grayish-white and dark clay, and glazed with both green and brown glaze. And of course there were many unglazed ceramics. Angkor ceramics, though just two colors of clay, had a variety of shapes. Click through the image gallery to see some examples.

Medieval Viking Town the Size of London Was An International Destination

Analysis of human remains from the Viking town of Sigtuna dating to the 900s to the 1100s CE finds that at least half the population consisted of immigrants. Researchers from Stockholm University studied DNA and strontium isotopes from the remains of 38 people to determine where they originated. They found that around half came from the nearby Lake Mälaren area, but the other half came from areas as far off as Ukraine and the British Isles.

Sigtuna, in other words, was the Viking Age equivalent of London or Shanghai today! Sigtuna was one of Sweden’s first cities, founded in 980 by the country’s first Christian king, Olof Skötkonung. It quickly grew and reached a population of 10,000. That's roughly the same as London at the time. The new discoveries suggest that the city grew partially due to new arrivals, ambitious people interested in working their way up in the world. While Vikings are generally thought of as travelers and adventurers, this suggests they welcomed travelers too.

The Longest War In World History... Sort Of

The Peloponnesian War ended in 1996. The bloody conflict between Athens and Sparta had stopped in 404 B.C. without an official peace pact, so after 2,500 years the cities decided to sign a symbolic agreement. It read, “Today we express our grief for the devastating war between the two key cities of ancient Greece and declare its end.”

The Re-Discovery of Cahokia's Beaded Burial

The people buried in one of America’s most famously ornate prehistoric graves are not who we thought they were, according to a new analysis. A new study of 900-year-old human remains, originally unearthed nearly 50 years ago at what was once Cahokia, reveals that their burial has been fundamentally misunderstood. The number of people buried there was wrong. The sexes of those buried there was wrong. Basically, archaeologists had been mis-interpreting Cahokia's most magnificent burial, and what that implies about its culture, for decades.

When Cahokia's Mound 72 was first excavated in 1967, researchers uncovered more than 270 people buried there in a series of mass graves sometime between 1000 and 1200 CE. But the mound’s centerpiece was a scene that that archaeologists described as a resplendent grave of six elite men.

It was nicknamed "The Beaded Burial" because of the centerpiece. Two bodies, stacked on top of each other, blanketed with more than 20,000 beads made from marine shells. The coating of beads appeared to be arranged into a tapered shape, resembling the head of a bird. Archaeologists theorized these beads connected Cahokia to the beliefs of modern Native American groups, specifically in the Bird Man: a legendary falcon-warrior hero whose beaked face has appeared on artifacts from Cahokia to Georgia. The two men underneath were real-life representations of the Bird Man, or perhaps his chosen rulers on earth. They were surrounded by four other men, perhaps the leaders' servants, perhaps representing other figures in the Bird Man myth. Regardless, the implications were clear: Cahokia was ruled by male warriors.

A recent re-analysis of the Beaded Burial shows this interpretation is fundamentally wrong. Because it was not two men buried under the beads, but a man and a woman. Likewise, a bundle of unarticulated bones that had been interpreted as one man's remains was actually the remains of both a male and female. And the team even discovered remains that had never been reported before, those a child between the ages of 3 and 6, alongside another female. All told, the researchers accounted for the remains of 12 people, not six, and at least four of them were female. Which makes you wonder if the original archaeologists were sexist, or bad at their job. Or both!

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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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