God Created the World, But the Dutch Created the Netherlands

The famous Dutch saying is not very wrong. Since the 1200s, the Dutch have been slowly creating land from the sea. A large part of the Netherlands is below sea level. Without the existing dikes, about 65% of the country would be underwater. There's a reason the Netherlands are famous for their windmills: this revolutionary medieval technology was instrumental in allowing them to drain land. The windmills at the lower level will pump out the water to higher level, which is be pumped out again to a higher level. The windmill chain continues until the water is drained to a nearby river, where it can flow to the sea.

The Discovery of Metals

There were seven known metals until the 1200s CE: gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury. These were the metals that built humanity's first civilizations. (For those who point out the Bronze Age from about 3300 BCE to 1200 BCE, bronze is a mix of copper and tin.) Arsenic was discovered in the 1200s, antimony in the 1400s, and things just took off from there. Today there are 86 known metals.

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.

The Khanate of the Golden Horde

After Genghis Khan's death, his united Mongol Empire quickly fragmented. One of the four main successors to the united Mongol Empire was the Khanate of the Golden Horde to the northwest. Its land today covers much of central and eastern Russia, as well as the south to the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea.

Also known as the Kipchak Khanate, and the Ulus of Jochi, it was given to Jochi, the eldest son of Genghis Khan. Unfortunately Jochi died several months before his father. So Jochi's son, Batu Khan, got inherited the territory. Under the new khan, the Golden Horde khanate expanded into Europe, subjugating the Russian principalities as they swept eastwards.

The Golden Horde khanate flourished until the middle of the 1300s, after which it began to decline. And it really fell apart after the invasion by Timur in 1396. By 1400, the Golden Horde fragmented into a number of smaller khanates, three of the most important being the Khanates of Crimea, Astrakhan, and Kazan.

What are the “seven seas” that Medieval writers loved to mention?

  1. the Adriatic Sea
  2. the Mediterranean Sea -- which includes seas around and in the Mediterranean, like the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea and Tyrrhenian Sea
  3. the Black Sea
  4. the Caspian Sea
  5. the Persian Gulf
  6. the Arabian Sea -- which is today considered part of the Indian Ocean
  7. the Red Sea -- including closed Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee

The Incans Were Incestuous?

In the Inca Empire, an emperor was expected to marry a family member. There were two rival legends that were supposed to be the origin of the Inca Empire: that Manco Capac (semi-mythical potential founder #1) married his mother, or that four sisters married four brothers and they started the empire (semi-mythical potential founders #2). As a result, nobility and royalty were encouraged and expected to marry within the family. Note this was only true for the ruling class. A commoner who tried marrying a family member could expect to have their eyes gouged out, or even be executed.

We know that Atahualpa, the last undisputed Incan Emperor, was married to his sister. It was listed as one of the reasons the Spanish executed him. Along with resisting their rule and refusing to convert, of course.

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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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