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.

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.

Let's Learn About Mexico!

The birthplace of plant domestication in the Americas. The first New World country to gain independence from the Spanish Empire. The eleventh-largest country in the world, by population. Like the United States, Russia, and China, this is a country that any informed citizen should have at least a basic knowledge about.

Re-Analyses Suggest Final Days of PreColumbian Castle Were Violent Ones

One of Arizona’s most famous landmarks is a pair of 900-year-old limestone cliff dwellings, whose sudden abandonment centuries ago has proven to be an enduring mystery. Incorrectly called "Montezuma's Castle" and "Castle A," they were abandoned about 600 years ago, after 300 years of occupation. It was long thought that the castles were burned as part of some sort of closing ritual, then voluntarily abandoned. Recent research disagrees. Instead, new analyses suggest the castles' last days were violent ones.

The buildings were charred, and carbon dating of both the char and design analysis of pottery remains, reveal the buildings were occupied right up until they burned between the years 1375 and 1395. Perhaps more persuasively, the remains of four people had been excavated from Castle A in the 1930s. Previously, it was thought they had been dead and buried long before the buildings burned. But a closer examination of previous research done on those remains revealed that the dead had sustained trauma before their deaths, as evidenced by cut marks on their bones, burn marks, and fractures in three of the four skulls. And one of the skulls showed evidence of having been burned at the same time, or shortly after, it was violently attacked. All in all, the new analyses suggest the castles were attacked and burned, and subsequently abandoned. This new viewpoint is corroborated by Native American oral histories of the site’s collapse, which were incorporated into the new research.

The English word "alarm" means a state of sudden fear, or an alert that something is dangerous. It comes from the Middle French "à l'arme," or "alarme," which in English means "to arms!" It was the sound heard right before an attack. The word is first attested in English in 1378.

Indonesia's History Gazes Back At You

These faces represent ordinary people who lived in Indonesia a few centuries ago. Most represent men and women who lived in the Majapahit kingdom (circa 1293 CE –early 1500s), centered in East Java. A mighty kingdom, grown rich from trade through the area in spices, the Majapahit kingdom brought its citizens to a new level of material prosperity. Most Majapahit terra-cotta heads, including the first two in the image gallery, are found detached from their bodies, which seem to survive only rarely. The sole “complete” figure is assembled from a head and body that did not originally belong together.

Courtesy of the Sackler Gallery

A Brief History of Cairo

Egypt’s largest city has quite a colorful history. From the Arabic Conquest to the Crusades, Cairo saw it all. Read about the history of this interesting city on my patreon

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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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