Corn is a New World crop that was unknown throughout the rest of the world until Columbus accidentally connected Europe with the Americas. But the native words for corn did not become universal: many cultures have names for corn that reference other nation. In some African languages, the word for corn means “Egyptian grain”; in Egypt, corn is called “Syrian” or "Turkish grain”; in France, it is “Indian wheat”; and in India, corn is referred to as “wheat from Mecca.”

In June 1992, farmers started draining ponds in Longyou County, Quzhou prefecture, Zhejiang province, China. Only to realize that they were not ponds at all but drowned caverns, apparently created during the Ming Dynasty. So far there have ben 36 such man-made caves found in 1 square kilometer. They contain rooms, halls, pillars, beds, bridges, and pavilions. When they were made and why remains a mystery, however, since no historical document mentions them.

Portrait of a Musician is widely attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. This unfinished painting is dated to between 1483 and 1487. This would mean da Vinci painted it while in Milan, and indeed the painting shares many features with his other works while there. Portrait of a Musician is notable for being the only male portrait da Vinci ever did.

The Queen Who Stole A Crown

In 1440, the queen of Hungary and one of her ladies-in-waiting stole the Hungarian crown. This is not a metaphor for a coup -- they stole the physical crown of Hungary's king. Which has the confusing name the Crown of St. Stephen. At the time in Hungary, only the person with the physical symbols of kingship was considered the "true" king. While at the same time, the nobles also elected the king, and understandably the nobles wanted an older king to protect them from the very real Ottoman attacks on the kingdom.

>The lady-in-waiting Helene Kottanner broke into the vault, took the crown, smuggled it out of the palace in a pillow, then escaped across the frozen Danube River by sledge. The crown was intended for the queen's child who she was pregnant with. Luckily it ended up being born a son, and the queen remarried someone that the nobles accepted as king, whose butt kept the throne warm and led men in battle, until her son grew up a little.

The Aztecs believed that a soul-like aspect of oneself left the body while one slept, and spent time in the dream world as a “nagual.” A nagual is a sort of spirit animal (very rough translation). If one’s nagual got hurt, then one’s body got hurt.

How the Fortress of Kruševac once looked. This donjon, in Serbia, served as the entrance to a medieval fortified town, the seat of Moravian Serbia (a powerful principality in the late 1300s).

Aztec/Mixtec sacrificial knife depicting a crouching eagle warrior holding a flint blade, bound together with agave fiber and resin. Circa 1400 - 1521.

Curved Swords Are Cool!

The Turks are responsible for curved swords becoming popular as an elite warrior weapon outside of Europe and China, and therefore the attached social cachet. The Turks may have been the first to lengthen the curved sword into an elite cavalry weapon, somewhere around the 700s CE. This did not spread far so long as the Turks remained nomads confined to the Eurasian Steppe, occasionally raiding and plundering settled societies nearby.

But after the Mongols pushed through much of western Asia, which in turn pushed the Turks west as well, resulting in empires run by steppe-based nomads, the perceptions of curved swords began to shift. Suddenly it was those in power who used curved swords. After some time under Turkish rule their curved swords became associated with being elite, powerful, high-status. This happened first in Persia and India. Thanks to Ottoman control of the Balkans the curved sword eventually arrived in Europe, too, where it evolved into the sabre.

Obsidian Jar From Mexico's Late Postclassical Period (1250–1521)

This highly polished piece, believed to be Aztec, shows a monkey holding his tail over his head. It is one of the star pieces in Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Anthropology Museum). And it could be a fake!

The piece was catalogued in the museum as having come them in 1880 from ‘an ancient tomb, found in the grounds of an hacienda near Tezcoco.' But how did it end up at the museum? The monkey was the subject of an article written in 1884 by the French collector and archaeologist Eugene Boban, who claimed that a Dr. Rafael Lucio had obtained the piece in 1869 after spotting it in the home of a patient of his. The patient had apparently ‘bought the object from a peasant farmer who found it on an hacienda, in exchange for a sheep “worth 12 reales”’. But Boban later wrote that ancient Mexicans ‘never made figures or idols of obsidian’, concentrating their work mainly on masks, jewellery and adornments, concluding ‘all obsidian objects with body, arms and legs can be considered fake.' He would know, as both an expert in Mexican antiquities, and aware of the existence of numerous fake pieces (most importantly including obsidian ones) made somewhere near the small town of San Juan Teotihuacán. If a fake it is one of the most famous fake pre-Columbian Mexican artifacts outside of the crystal skulls. Boban's suspicions about the obsidian monkey has been a continuous feature of the artifact's history. As has its prominence at the Museo Nacional de Antropología.

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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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