DNA Identifies Modern Czech Men As Descendants of Medieval Noblemen

The large Czech town of Uherské Hradište is believed to have been a center of the Holy Moravian Empire, which was the first major state that was predominantly West Slavic. The empire was notable for ushering in Christianity in the region after the arrival of St. Cyril and St. Methodius in 863; the Holy Moravian Empire's use of the Glagolitic alphabet invented by those saints also birthed the first ever Slavic literary culture.

Uherské Hradište itself boasted a large church and baptistery and was inhabited by dukes, noblemen, craftsmen, tradesmen, farmers, and probably slaves. A team of researchers have recently conducted a study comparing samples of DNA obtained from 75 men buried in high-status graves between the 800s and 1200s CE with 340 living men, whose last names appeared in historic registry records. In other words, the living men's last names suggest their families have been in the area of Uherské Hradište for quite a while.

Y-chromosome markers identified 18 men, out of the 340, who are descended from Great Moravian noblemen. The researchers were surprised by such a large number. It seems small, yes, until you consider that East Moravia used to border Hungary. As a liminal space between Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire it was affected by many wars, from the Thirty Years' War to World War II.

The Epic of Beowulf: A Secret Scandanavian?

Beowulf talks a lot about gold rings. It was so important that rings inspired a smash hit Wagner opera in the 1800s which in turn inspired JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. Many gold neck and arm rings have been found in Scandanavia dating between 300 and 550 BCE. But after that? No rings. Furthermore, no such rings have been found in Anglo-Saxon England during the right time period: from 550 CE till the late Viking period, the last possible dating for Beowulf. What does this all mean? It is archaeological evidence that Beowulf, the Old English epic, was first told in Scandinavia and somehow made its way to England.

This beautiful art piece depicts a shaman's raptorial bird spirit, by combining flat painting and clay modeling. Click through the image gallery to see all of its sides. The bird's head, including the raptor's deadly pointed beak, and the tips of its wings and tail protrude from the vessel. Around them, the artist painted the spirit's wings and tail feathers, as well as human forms on either side. Each of the two figures grasps a staff topped by a human skull. Nicaragua, circa 1000 - 1350 CE.

Need To Remember All The British Royal Houses?

Here's a fun mnemonic: "No Point Letting Your Trousers Slip Halfway!" Which stands for the main British royal families: Normans, Plantagenets, Lancasters, Yorks, Tudors, Stuarts, Hanovers, and Windsors. And in chronological order, too!

From the Ica-Chincha people of the central coast of Peru, this grave marker would have been placed next to or inside a tomb. It may even have helped support the tomb's roof. Crowned with a two-pronged headdress the post was treated just like real human remains. Ica-Chincha painted their dead with a red cinnabar pigment, and you can just see traces of red on this grave marker's face too. Circa 1000 to 1470 CE, during the Ica-Chincha's Late Intermediate period.

Let's Talk About Creepy Medieval Babies!

Have you ever wondered why, until the Italian Renaissance, European painters liked to paint baby Jesus as a mini-adult? Complete with facial wrinkles and an angry squint. It turns out they were not just really, really bad at depicting babies; instead, this had a specific religious meaning. Most babies getting painted were baby Jesus. The Catholic Church and Medieval artists thought Jesus was a homunculus, which literally means "little man." In other words, they thought Jesus was born perfectly formed -- that Jesus' body was exactly the same since birth -- and as he grew up, all Jesus did was grow. Must have been nice to not go through puberty! Baby Jesus as a homunculus fell out of fashion when wealthy individuals, instead of the church, began commissioning paintings.

Twenty wooden sculptures, each standing about 27 inches tall, have been discovered in rectangular niches in an adobe wall at the site of Chan Chan, named after the Chan Chan culture which flourished there in northern Peru. Some of the human figures carry staffs and shields. And archaeologists estimate the figurines are about 800 years old. That date makes the figures older than the Chan Chan culture, whose site they were found at. Very interesting!

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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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