Researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have discovered a route through underwater limestone caves connecting the Sac Actun cenote and the Dos Ojos cenote. Maya pottery, human bones, and the bones of elephant-like creatures, giant sloths, bears, tigers, and extinct species of horses, all likely from around the end of the last Ice Age, have been found in the tunnel-like caves. Exploring them and finding artifacts can be difficult, though: the underwater caves range in width from 400 feet to just three feet.
Christopher Columbus was interested in reaching Asia, and believed he had, as we all know. But did you know that his original reason for wanting to open a new trade route to the rich East was to pay for a military campaign to capture Jerusalem? Never mind that the holy city had been in Muslim hands since 1187 CE -- about 300 years by the time Columbus was born -- and Christian Europe had long since given up on crusades to the Middle East.
Once the New World was reached, Columbus kept his eye on the prize. He reported that there was so much treasure in this "Asia" he had found, that within seven years the Spanish crown could raise enough money for 5,000 cavalry and 50,000 footsoldiers, and use them to conquer Jerusalem. Sadly for Columbus' lofty religious visions, the Spanish crown was uninterested in conquering Jerusalem, which is on the wrong side of the Mediterranean from Spain.
Canyon Creek in eastern Arizona was one of the turquoise sources exploited by pre-Columbian indigenous groups, but it has long been considered insignificant. A new study of the area, however, has shown that the mines were actually a major supplier of the bluish-green mineral during the 1200s and 1300s CE, when turquoise was exported to sites as far as 80 miles away. Lead isotope analysis of samples indicates that Canyon Creek turquoise is unique, making it distinguishable from other sources in the Southwest, and allowing modern archaeologists to trace where Canyon Creek turquoise was exported to.
A map of where, in the world, popes have been born. Note that they placed each pope in the country he would be born in, if he was born today. Three popes were born in modern-day Tunisia, sure, but that was back in the Roman Empire. Those ancient "Tunisian" popes would have called it the province of "Africa" and it included eastern Algeria and northern Libya, as well as Tunisia.
Native Americans knew about rubber for centuries (at least) before Europeans stumbled onto the Americas. They made balls for children, and waterproof shoes and bottles with the weird milky white substance that bled from certain trees -- what we call latex today.
Boiled catnip and dried ground pig testicles mixed with wine were among the recipes recommended to fix male infertility during the Medieval Period, an academic in England has discovered. Based on English and Latin texts from the period, the new research also shows that women were not always blamed for infertility, as has previously been thought.
Located on a narrow strip of land between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains in the far western end of Eurasia, is the city of Derbent. With a history going back by five thousand years, Derbent is said to be Russia’s oldest city. It is also the southernmost city in Russia. Derbent’s position between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountains is strategically important in the entire Caucasus region. It is one of only two crossings over the mountain range; the other being over the Darial Gorge. This position has allowed the rulers of Derbent to control land traffic between the Eurasian Steppe and the Middle East and levy taxes on passing merchants. In fact, the city’s present-day name comes from the Persian word Darband which means “barred gate”.
Being at such a strategic location, it has long been a target, or a prize, of states with imperial ambitions. The city was historically an Iranian city, and its first intensive settlement in the 800s BCE was Persian. The city’s modern name came into use during the 500s CE, when the city was re-established by the Sassanid dynasty of Persia. In 654 CE, Derbent came under the hands of the Arabs. They called the city Bab al-Abwab, or “the Gate of Gates”, signifying its strategic importance. The Arabs transformed the city into an important administrative center and introduced Islam to the area. After the Arabs, the region came under the Armenians who established a kingdom there which lasted until the Mongol invasion in the early 1200s. After the Mongols, Derbent changed hands relatively quickly, given its history, coming under the rule of the Shirvanshahs (a dynasty in modern Azerbaijan), the Iranians and the Ottomans before finally being ceded to the Russian Empire as part of the end of the Russo-Persian War.
Aizen Myoo, a Shingon Buddhist protective deity and god of love. The protective deity makes sense. But he is not looking particularly loving. Maybe his tough exterior hides a soft heart? This particular seated wooden statue of Aizen Myoo is Japanese, from the Kamakura Period, circa 1200s to 1300s CE.
Tash Rabat, a mysterious site in Kyrgyzstan, was once a settlement along the Silk Road, a way station for caravans -- a caravanserai. It provided shelter and food for both human traders and their animal workers. What makes Tash Rabat slightly mysterious is that its layout is unusual for this kind of caravanserai. What’s left is a single structure that looks like a blend between a castle and a temple.
Archaeologists are puzzled by Tash Rabat. They believe the location was used as a resting place for traders from about the 1400s but there’s also evidence that a Christian monastery may have been there from as early as the 900s. That could explain the odd layout – perhaps the travelling merchants just adapted an existing structure.
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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