In the early 1200s, the Kievan Rus was the center of eastern Slavic civilization and Orthodox Christianity. But after the fall of the city of Kyiv to the Mongols on December 6th, 1240, the city was left a post-apocalyptic waste. Six years later a papal envoy passed through its ruins. He reported only 200 houses still stood, and the people who had returned to live in the ghost town were surrounded by "countless skulls and bones of dead men lying about on the ground. Kyiv, he wrote, "has been reduced to almost nothing." The city became a marginal provincial hub in the centuries following, but it only became really important again after the Russian industrial revolution in the late 1800s.
King John of England is most famous today as the bad prince in Robin Hood, or the king whose barons rebelled and made him sign the Magna Carta. But did you know that within his first three years as king, he lost almost all of the crown’s holdings in France?
He lost to the French king the duchy of Normandy, whose duke William had conquered England, along with Anjou, Maine, and Touraine. King John was nominally still the head of Aquitaine, but only because his famous mother Eleanor still lived. Most of Aquitaine’s nobles made quiet peace with the French king. And as soon as Eleanor died, John lost Aquitaine as well.
Just to be clear how great a disaster this was: John lost about half of his country. He went from being king of a vast domain connected by the sea, to being confined to England with a domain that ended at the coast. No wonder no English king since has been named John.
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!
The Mamluks were a corps of slaves which went from being the elite bodyguards of the Ayyubid Caliphate founded by Saladin, to running Egypt for themselves. It lasted as an independent state for over 250 years, from 1250 to 1517 when Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. But the Mamluks survived.
By the 1630s, a Mamluk emir managed to become de facto ruler of the country. By the 1700s, the importance of the pasha (Ottoman governor) was superseded by that of the Mamluk beys, and it was even made official. Two offices, those of Shaykh al-Balad and Amir al-hajj -- both offices held by Mamluks -- represented the rulers of Egypt. In the name of the Ottoman Sultan, of course. It was only with the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon in 1799 that the Mamluk power center was permanently ended.
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.
Since 1219, Estonia was ruled at various times by Danish, Swedish, German, and Russian governments. It declared independence after World War I, but that only lasted until 1940 when it was occupied by the Soviet Union. Estonia has only been an independent nation since 1991. That means that since 1219, Estonia has been independent for exactly 50 years out of 800!
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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!