Messengers For The Mightiest God

Huginn (from Old Norse "thought") and Muninn (Old Norse "memory" or "mind") are a pair of ravens that fly over the world of men, and report everything they see to the god Odin. The appear on Viking coinage, brooches, tapestries, and even a helmet! Moral of the story: don't do anything shady if you see a crow nearby.

Rare Song Dynasty Bowl Sells For Record-Breaking Amount

This simple blue bowl, about 1,000 years old, sold at auction in late 2017 for $37.7 million dollars. That breaks the previous record for Chinese porcelain, $36.05 million, set in 2014 for a Ming dynasty wine cup which was sold to a Shanghai tycoon. This unassuming ru-ware bowl with a blue-green glaze and complex ‘ice crackle’ pattern was used for washing brushes. It was originally created for the imperial court during the Northern Song Dynasty, sometime between 960 to 1127 CE.

What makes the bowl so special is its rarity: ru-ware was made during only a short period, not exceeding twenty years, and few pieces survive today. This bowl is one of only four ru-ware pieces held in private hands.

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The Weird Family History of Iceland

Iceland has a population of 332,529 that for hundreds of years has been largely isolated from the rest of the world. Inbreeding is a constant concern due to the country’s small size, and the migration of most of the population into the capital city. Luckily, the country has been literate since its founding, and because of its small population and isolation, we have marriage and birth records pretty much since the founding of the island. Everyone's family tree is known. It is pretty neat -- every Icelander today can trace their heritage back to which founding settlers they come from.

And to help prevent inbreeding today, an app was developed: Islendiga-App (English: App of Icelanders). The whole giant Icelandic family tree is on the app, and people can check to see if they are related. Its slogan is “Bump the app before you bump in bed.”

What Is An Ice Age?

When you read that, an image probably came to mind: giant glaciers, people huddling for warmth, maybe a giant woolly mammoth or two. The problem with that definition of "Ice Age" is it defines what life is like now on Earth as "normal" and giant glaciers over the north and south pole as "abnormal." But is that true? Are we, in fact, living in a period of relative coolness? Is right now an "abnormal" Earth?

A better description of an ice age would be that it’s a long stretch of time in which both the atmosphere and the planet’s surface have a low temperature, resulting in the presence of polar ice sheets and mountainous glaciers. An Ice Age can last for several million years. Within the Ice Age period, the Earth isn't uniformly covered in snow. There are periods of glaciation, characterized by ice sheet and glacier expansion over the face of the planet, and interglacial periods, where we would have an interval of several thousand years of warmer temperatures and receding ice. Turns out just the presence of ice caps on the north and south pole is abnormal! What we currently live in is an "interglacial period" in the middle of an Ice Age!

Dice Have Gotten More Fair Since Ancient Times

A survey of cube-shaped dice dating back to the Roman era finds that they were not designed to have an equal chance of landing on different numbers until the Renaissance, according to researchers from UC Davis and the American Museum of Natural History. Roman-era dice, the researchers found, were a mess when it came to shape. They were made from a variety of materials, such as metal, bone and clay, and no two were shaped entirely alike. Many were visibly lumpy and lopsided, with the 1 and 6 on opposite sides that were more likely to roll up. In the Dark Ages after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, between 400 CE and 1100 CE, dice seem to have grown rare. Relatively few have been found from this period. Dice reemerged in the Middle Ages, and at that point were a little more regular in shape. But they still weren't fair -- anyone playing dice would have had slightly higher chances of getting certain numbers, depending on how uneven the dice were made.

The researchers suggest that the popularization of "scientific" thinking may have helped dice rolls become near-chance during the Renaissance. "People like Galileo and Blaise Pascal were developing ideas about chance and probability, and we know from written records in some cases they were actually consulting with gamblers," Jelmer Eerkens of UC Davis said. "We think users of dice also adopted new ideas about fairness, and chance or probability in games."

The World Was Supposed To End In 1186?

In 1186 in Persia, the poet Anwari foretold a great cataclysm would come on a night when several planets would align. On the predicted night, the weather is exceedingly calm. Anwari is widely ridiculed. However, that day is when Ögedei Khan, son and heir of Genghis Khan, was born. Ögedei oversaw the conquest of Anwari's homeland of Iran.

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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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