A 1,000-year-old bag found in southwest Bolivia has a very impressive collection of items to use with mind-altering substances. It includes two snuff tablets, a snuff tube with attached braids of human hair, a pouch made from three stitched-together fox snouts, and spatulas made from what appears to be llama bones. Analyses have revealed the items contain traces of tobacco, coca, the raw materials for a psychoactive snuff called vilca or cebil, and ayahuasca. Interestingly, the plant materials came from a variety of ecosystems suggesting either a wide-ranging traveler or a large trading network. The bundle was found in a cave in 2010 and radiocarbon dates to between 905 and 1170 CE. That date range matches the declining period of the Tiwanaku culture, which had once dominated much of the southern and central Andes. For the Tiwanaku, hallucinogens were an important aspect of religious observance.
The Maya at Chichen Itza were known to practice human sacrifice a thousand years ago. Who they were sacrificing, though, has long been a mystery. A recent isotope analysis of tooth enamel from sacrificial victims thrown into the city’s Sacred Cenote shows that there was some variety in who was sacrificed. Some grew up locally, while others hailed from the Gulf Coast, the Central Highlands, and as far away as Central America.
How the mix of individuals were chosen, and how those from further away ended up in Chichen Itza, remains unknown -- there is always something more to investigate!
Great Zimbabwe was a massive stone city in southeastern Africa that was a thriving trade center from the 1000s and 1400s. But when Europeans first learned of it in the 1500s, they were certain it wasn't African at all. Listen to the podcast all about it, by "Stuff You Missed In History Class."
Ancient Settlement On Florida Island Revealed By Lasers
Drone-mounted lasers appear to have detected details of the architecture of an ancient island settlement off Florida’s Gulf coast, using 3D mapping technology. Archaeological remains were first noted on Raleigh Island in 1990. In-person exploration of the area in 2010 revealed the presence of a settlement dating from 900 to 1200 CE.
Unfortunately, the island’s dense foliage impeded traditional land-based surveys of what remained. That’s why this drone-based laser survey, almost ten years later, is so important.
Among other details we now can see 37 residential areas “enclosed by ridges of oyster shell” that are up to 12ft (4m) tall. Archaeological digs at 10 identified residential areas found evidence that beads made from large marine mollusks were produced in these settlements. Stone tools, used to make the beads, were also found. The beads were likely for import among inland chiefdoms. In areas that were far from the coast, such as the lower midwest of the US, mollusk beads and even sizable sea mollusks were imported, where they were used as social capital in economic and social interactions between groups.
Terracotta head from the city of Ife, potentially depicting a king. The man is wearing an Ife crown. And the subject matter of most Ife art is centered around royal figures and their attendants. So king is a good guess. Made by the Yoruba of today's Nigeria, between 1100 and 1300 CE.
The Territory Ever Controlled By Istanbul, by Length of Control
Note that in this map, the Aceh Sultanate is considered a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans did send a fleet and other military aid to help the Acehnese in wars with the Malay kingdoms and the Portuguese, and the Acehnese did acknowledge the Ottoman sultan as caliph. It's still a stretch to say that the Ottomans in Istanbul "controlled" the Aceh territory on Sumatra.
This is why Black Sea shipwrecks are such a unique find
Remote-controlled cameras are giving humanity our first glimpse of dozens of wrecks entombed in the icy depths off the coast of Bulgaria. These cameras were originally sent down for an entirely different purpose: studying how changing sea levels affected prehistoric humanity. But once the underwater cameras were sent down, the research team was stunned at the number -- and highly preserved state -- of shipwrecks spanning from the 800s to the 1800.
Until the end of the 1100s, everyone who was educated in Europe had to know Latin. Unfortunately for them, Latin was taught by reading and memorizing long Latin texts over a period of years. It would be like learning to speak English by making people memorize the bible. In other words, it took a very long time, and few people could really learn Latin. Which helped keep the educated to a few, clerical elites in the church.
Alexander of Villedieu, a French Franciscan grammarian and teacher who was private tutor to the nephews of a bishop in northern France, thought this system sucked. He devised a fast-track method to teach Latin, using simple rules and written in verse so that his pupils could memorize the language more easily. The bishop was quite impressed by Alexander's students' progress. So impressed that he encouraged Alexander to write a whole grammar book so that others could learn using his new method. Doctrinale puerorum, a versified grammar book, was written around 1200 and immediately became a classic.
Doctrinale's influence and use spread throughout Europe. Because it made learning Latin much easier and faster (and cheaper), a great movement of mass literacy began. His way of teaching using the rules of the language, not rote memorization, better suited the needs and aspirations of non-churchmen. It was a big step forward for mass education. And when the printing press was invented, Doctrinale became even more accessible, with versions printed in Germany, Italy, and his native France.
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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!