Bronze Ram on Wheels, from Indonesia's Majapahit Empire

Proving that if it is at all possible, children everywhere want animals on wheels. Circa 1300s - 1400s.

Lets Talk About Aztec Child Sacrifices!

Aztec god of rain, Tlaloc, was believed to need children's tears to perform his duties. Priests of Tlaloc would induce child sacrifices to cry before they were killed. Children would be sacrificed starting in a certain month each year, and continue to be sacrificed until "the rains began in abundance."

Archaeological evidence has added nuance to this tale. First, there is evidence of multiple pre-death injuries to the children which would have caused significant pain. The Tlaloc priests were not shy in inducing those tears.

Another interesting archaeological find: child sacrifice remains have been found outside of Aztec and other Mesoamerican cities, whereas many adult sacrifice remains have been found inside cities. It seems the people could stomach child sacrifice, but only so long as they did not have to watch.

Milan Cathedral Took 700 Years to Build

Construction began in 1386. And finally stopped in 1965. That means this cathedral was getting built through the Renaissance, through the Enlightenment, and through the unification of Italy! Milan Cathedral is the largest church in Italy, which partially explains it (St Peters Basilica is larger but it isn't in Italy).

How To Find A Spouse, Aztec-Style

Aztecs used matchmakers! When a family had an eligible son, the parents would ask for the help of a matchmaker to find a potential wife. The bridegroom was usually around 20 years old. The matchmaker would put two families in contact. If the families agreed, and the match was liked by the community, the parents of the groom would offer a bride-price for the bride. When the bride's parents accepted the bride-price a wedding could be planned!

Measuring Machu Picchu

The Inca used two main units of measurement while constructing Machu Picchu, according to a recent analysis of measurements between 2010 and 2017. To figure out what Incan units were, Polish researcher Anna Kubicka used these measurements to calculate an indivisible unit of measurement that, when multiplied, equaled the length of different elements of Machu Picchu’s structures. The first unit of measurement was about 16.5 inches long. Roughly the length of a human arm to the elbow, this first unit was used to construct farm buildings, workshops, and structures for the servants of the Inca elite.

The second unit of measurement was about 21.3 inches long. It does not correspond with a human body part, and was used to construct buildings for elites. The different measurement systems may have been because imperial engineers planned or supervised the buildings for elites. But analyses of other Incan sites will be needed to see if 21.3 inches was indeed the "imperial" unit of measurement used by imperial engineers to make elite buildings across the empire.

Mummified Incan Llama Sacrifices Rediscovered

A team has found the naturally mummified remains of five young llamas thought to have been sacrificed by the Inca some 500 years ago at Tambo Viejo, an archaeological site on the coast of Peru. The animals had been prepared for the afterlife. They wore colorful string necklaces and earrings, and had been decorated using red paint and the feathers of tropical birds attached to wooden sticks. The five llamas were found under two buildings. One brown llama and three white ones were found beneath the clay floors of one building, in an area disturbed by looters. A single brown llama was found under the floor of a second building. “The adornments suggest that the offerings were very special,” said Lidio Valdez of the University of Calgary. “Indeed, historical records indicate that brown llamas were sacrificed to the creator Viracocha, while white llamas to the sun, the Inca main deity.”

Iroquois Woodland Village Excavated in Canada

Excavation of an Iroquoian village site in southeastern Canada ahead of a road construction project has uncovered over 35,000 artifacts. Representatives of the Six Nations of the Grand Reserve, the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation have been working with archaeologists throughout the process. The village has been dated to between 1300 and 1600 CE. There were five important villages known to have been in this area around this time -- perhaps archaeologists are working on one of them? The remains of several longhouses have been found suggesting it was a permanent settlement. There have also been ceramics for food preparation and cooking, stone tools, and a broad range of items for daily living. The site also produced one artifact dating back 4,000 years ago.

Huehuetéotl, God of Fire

Huehuetéotl was in a number of pre-Columbian mesoamerican pantheons, and was particularly important to the Aztecs. In Nahuatl, his name comes from the words for "old" "god."

Gold Phoenix Hairpin

From China’s Ming Dynasty, found in the tomb of Prince Zhuang of Liang, the ninth son of the Hongxi Emperor. He died in 1441 so the phoenix was made in 1441 or before. It is actually one of a pair. Imagine wearing two items, this intricate and this heavy, on your head!

Olmec and Maya Sculptures Used to Study Evolution of Emotions

Neuroscientist Alan Cowen and psychologist Dacher Keltner of the University of California, Berkeley, have used ancient sculptures to study whether human facial expressions are signalling the same emotions across cultures. How universal are our facial expressions? Previous comparisons of facial expressions of living people have been questioned because of the far-reaching influence of modern Western cultural practices.

Their study asked 114 participants to rate how people in the same situations as the 63 Mayan and Olmec sculptures would express the same emotions or emotional states. They were given descriptions of what the sculptures were doing, but not photos. The sculptures made in Mexico and Central America between 3,500 and 600 years ago, and were doing various things including being held captive, being tortured, carrying a heavy object, embracing someone, holding a baby, preparing to fight, playing a ballgame, and playing music. In other words, the 114 participants were used to check what emotions would participants "expect" to see on the sculpture's faces.

Separately, more than 300 English-speakers were presented with photographs of just the sculptures' faces. They were then asked what the statues’ expressions were, according to a list of 30 emotions or emotional states. These participants could not see what activity the statue was engaged in.

The study found that the sculptures’ facial expressions aligned with what the participants expected to see, per the 114. The findings suggest that humans may have evolved a wider set of facial expression to convey more emotions that had been previously thought.

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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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