The Americas' Linguistic Diversity

There were dozens of language families, each the equivalent of the Indo-European family, before 1492. This map is a "simplified" one. In today's California, for instance, languages that are spoken by neighboring tribes are as different as French and Chinese.     Why did the Americas develop such linguistic diversity? Many linguists suspect that at least some of these separate families date back to separate migrations of different tribes from Asia who originally spoke unrelated languages. Linguistic and archaeological data hint at more than one migration from Asia into the Americas, all of them through Alaska.     Extra Fun Fact: see “Eskimo-Aleut” in northern North America? It is not colored because there is no evidence those languages are related to any other indigenous American languages!

Rioting Over Sports Is A Proud Tradition!

In 1314, King Edward II of England banned football (soccer) because two rival villages were physically brawling each other over their football games. But football survived. And so did hooliganism. Today, many English clubs have a proud tradition of throwing stones, beer bottles, and whatever else is handy at opposing teams as they visit for games. Some English clubs are even known to be better or worse to visit, because of their fans!

The English are not the only ones, of course. Anyone remember when Vancouver won hockey’s Stanley Cup in 2011 and the whole city rioted? Or this year, when Philadelphia’s football team (the other kind of football) won the 2018 Super Bowl and the whole city took to the streets?

A Rare Smile

A recently rediscovered fragment of an abbot’s grave slab from North Wales may offer an unusual glimpse of a medieval personality. An archaeologist analyzed the two-foot-long stone piece and found that it once lay atop the tomb of an abbot named Howel, who led an important Welsh abbey around 1300. The slab depicts Howel in realistic fashion—rare for the period—and wearing a broad smile. Records suggest Howel was a power broker during the period and might have been seen as an important source of stability in the community.

Hawaii Has A Protected Valley, Where Its Ancient Plants Are Preserved

For the past 1,500 years, Limahuli Valley on Kauai has been a green haven, a wilderness preserved to exist just as the native Hawaiians experienced it. It is home to plant life unlike anything found in the rest of the world, with many endangered plants thriving in the valley.

Ancient Log Jams

Before the arrival of Europeans, “log jams” formed by the accumulation of fallen trees and driftwood on rivers and streams were a common phenomenon across North America.

The most famous, and largest, was the Red River. At its peak, this log jam — known as the Great Raft — extended between 130 and 160 miles, clogging the lower part of the river in what is now Northwest Louisiana and Northeast Texas. It formed sometime around 1000 CE. Its great size made it a natural dam, forcing water over the banks of the Red River and into the valley, creating numerous large and deep lakes. A few even remain today, two centuries after European steam boats removed the Great Raft to allow boats to navigate the river.

The Korean Chinese Mongolian Empress

A Korean from a minor aristocratic family became empress of China. And empress to a Mongolian khan -- since the emperor of China at the time was Toghon Temür of the Yuan dynasty. Born in Goryeo, a Korean client kingdom of China, Gi Jao was from a minor noble family. So minor, in fact, that she was sent as a concubine (read: slave) to the emperor of China in 1333, as part of a shipment of tribute sent every three years from Goryeo.

Gi Jao resigned herself to her new life and made the best of it. She caught the emperor's eye, eventually becoming his favorite concubine, and gave birth to a son he made his heir. After much intrigue, Gi Jao became Toghon Temür's secondary wife then his secondary empress. Toghon Temür already had a primary empress.

It is hard to say if Gi Jao was happy in the end. She was eventually promoted to primary empress, but her husband lost China within three years to a native Chinese rebellion, the Ming Dynasty, and died two years after that. Her son succeeded to the emperor's throne, but it was a shadow of the vast empire her husband had ruled, mostly in today's Mongolia. Shortly after Toghon Temür's death Gi Jao disappears from the historical record.

Medieval Japan Was A Great Place To Be Gay

By the 1300s, Japanese samurai had started taking their proteges as lovers. Usually, this was an older man with a younger boy. It was so common that one samurai said, “A young man without a pledged, elder he-lover is likened to a young girl without a fiance.” But same-age male love was normal, too. A pair of aging male lovers, they said, were like “two old cherry trees still in bloom.”

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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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