This was illustrated by an emperor of China. Emperor Xuanzong of the Ming Dynasty made in the fourth year of his reign (1429) for the high official Yang Shiqi. The focus of the hanging scroll is the cat and a bowl of peony blossoms the cat is looking at. The traditional word for cat in Chinese is a homophone for octogenarian and therefore a blessing for longevity, while the peony was a symbol of wealth and prosperity. With this wall scroll, Emperor Xuanzong was wishing long life and good fortune to his chancellor.

Mayan Human Sacrifices Were From All Over

The Maya at Chichen Itza were known to practice human sacrifice a thousand years ago. Who they were sacrificing, though, has long been a mystery. A recent isotope analysis of tooth enamel from sacrificial victims thrown into the city’s Sacred Cenote shows that there was some variety in who was sacrificed. Some grew up locally, while others hailed from the Gulf Coast, the Central Highlands, and as far away as Central America.

How the mix of individuals were chosen, and how those from further away ended up in Chichen Itza, remains unknown -- there is always something more to investigate!

Where African Currencies Got Their Names

Etymology -- the study of words' origins -- is pretty interesting. African currencies are an excellent example. How far back do you go for a words' "true" origin? Sierra Leone's currency, the Leone, comes from the Spanish "lion mountains" ("sierra" + "leon"). The Spanish word for lion comes from the Latin word for lion "leonem." But that Latin word comes from Greek "leon", which in turn comes from a non-Indo-European language, likely a Semitic language. The Greek word leon sounds similar to the Hebrew labhi (lion) and Egyptian labai (lion) and lawai (lioness). So which language do you count as the "origin" of Sierra Leone's currency? How far back do you go?

The Persistent Power of Egypt's Mamluks

The Mamluks were a corps of slaves which went from being the elite bodyguards of the Ayyubid Caliphate founded by Saladin, to running Egypt for themselves. It lasted as an independent state for over 250 years, from 1250 to 1517 when Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. But the Mamluks survived.

By the 1630s, a Mamluk emir managed to become de facto ruler of the country. By the 1700s, the importance of the pasha (Ottoman governor) was superseded by that of the Mamluk beys, and it was even made official. Two offices, those of Shaykh al-Balad and Amir al-hajj -- both offices held by Mamluks -- represented the rulers of Egypt. In the name of the Ottoman Sultan, of course. It was only with the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon in 1799 that the Mamluk power center was permanently ended.

The Islamic World in 1400: A Snapshot in Time

A snapshot of the world of Islam in 1400s. The newest Mongol state, the turkic-mongol Timurid Empire, was at the height of its power, while the last Islamic state was clinging to the Iberian Peninsula. The Kilwa Sultanate was at its peak, controlling much of the trade along the Swahili coast of Africa. Meanwhile India had broken up once again into a series of small kingdoms; the Muslim Mughal Empire was not for another 125 years.

There is no known portrait or depiction of Christopher Columbus that was made while he was alive. So all those statues and images you've seen are based on artists' ideas of what he could have looked like.

A Very Important Fact About Machu Picchu

Although Machu Picchu was home to hundreds of people, the only residence with a private toilet area was the emperor’s.

The Multiple Names of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottomans generally used two different terms when referring to their state, versus the territory the state ruled over. The state was called "Devlet-i Aliye-i Osmaniye" which literally translates to "the High Ottoman State." Side note: "Osman" was the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, and the English word "Ottoman" comes from his name which was sometimes translated as "Othman." The Ottomans called their territory "Memalik-i Mahruse," or "The Protected Lands." The two terms are sometimes more poetically translated to "the Sublime Ottoman State" or "the Sublime State" and "the Well-Protected Domains."

Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe was a massive stone city in southeastern Africa that was a thriving trade center from the 1000s and 1400s. But when Europeans first learned of it in the 1500s, they were certain it wasn't African at all. Listen to the podcast all about it, by "Stuff You Missed In History Class."

Name tags (in Korean: hopae) were, at times, legally required for all adult males under the Joseon government. First introduced in 1413 by King Taejong they were apparently modeled after a similar system under the contemporary Yuan Dynasty. Hopae were required on and off until the early 1600s, usually when the government saw the need to control internal migration. The tags are made of wood or horn, and showed the man's name plus other required identification. Some also included rank and permissions.

These particular tags belonged to soldiers. They list the soldiers' name, year of birth, year of entering service, position, and place of residence/troop. The last two on the right were for two brothers, both cannoneers (別破陣).

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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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