Bronze statue of Guan Yu, a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. After he died in 220 CE his deeds entered popular folklore. Guan Yu was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty (581–618 CE) and also became considered a bodhisattva. Today he is god of war, loyalty, and righteousness. This bronze statue dates to the Ming Dynasty, 1400s - 1500s CE.

Cahokia Was Not Abandoned Before Europeans’ Expansion

New analyses of human poop at Cahokia suggest reports of its abandonment before European contact have been greatly exaggerated. The once-mighty city -- largest north of the Aztecs -- did become depopulated around the mid-1300s. But by 1500 it was already resurging. And by 1650 it may have been larger than it was before its depopulation. That’s pretty remarkable. Despite massive pandemics caused by new European diseases, and at a time when other native populations in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean were in serious decline from violence and foreign diseases spread by European colonists, Cahokia not only survived but thrived.

The new story, based on the new analyses, is that the Mississippian culture did decline in the 1300s but it later repopulated and grew. Meaning that Europeans moving westward in the 1700s were not taking over “empty land” as has long been thought.

Brits And Americans Can’t Communicate?

...if they’re deaf. British Sign Language and American Sign Language are different languages, and are not mutually intelligible. American Sign Language is distantly related to French Sign Language, as an American pastor and major contributor to American Sign Language got training from the National French Institute for the Deaf after the British deaf schools refused to share their teaching methods. British Sign Language evolved independently from deaf communicators. Evidence of sign language in England dates back to 1576 when the Marriage Register of St Martin's, Leicester described the vows signed by Thomas Tillsye.

Stinky Treasure Trove of Medieval Artifacts Found In London

Only archaeologists would get excited about finding a latrine. Underneath London's Courtauld Institute of Art at Somerset House, a medieval cesspit has been found, which was used from the 1300s to the 1500s. Up to 100 objects have been retrieved from sticky, greenish sludge in the 4 meter (15 ft) deep pit. Some items are bathroom-related, but there have also been a surprising number of ceramic finds, some not broken which makes it curious why they were thrown away (click through the image gallery to see some of the finds). The variety of finds makes archaeologists suspect the cesspit was both a bathroom and occasional trashpit of the Chester Inn, a poorly-documented residence from the 1400s which stood where Somerset House is today. It is a little ironic that the pit was found when excavating the exact spot where the Courtauld is planning to install new toilets!

The Neo-Incan State You've Never Heard Of

The last (widely accepted) Incan emperor retreated to the highland jungles of the once-large empire, and built a new capital called Willkapampa. It remained the remote capital of a much-smaller Incan state from 1539 to 1572. After decades of continuous guerilla fighting and four rulers, Willkapampa was conquered by a Spanish army. The last Incan leader Túpac Amaru was pursued, captured, and beheaded in Cuzco's central square.

The remains of Willkapampa has never been conclusively identified.

Black Plague's "Family Tree" Reconstructed

In the 1300s, the Black Plague swept through Europe. To create a "family tree" of the plague, scientists conducted a genetic analysis of Yersinia pestis strains taken from 34 individuals who died in 10 different countries between 1300 and 1700. The results suggest that over time, the bacteria Yersinia pestis mutated and diversified into multiple clades. All the clades found in the study were related to back to one ancestral strain. That suggests that the Black Plague entered Europe just once. And the oldest strain, the one that appeared to have been the others’ ancestor, was from remains found in a little Russian town named Laishevo.

Here’s where a caution must be added. Such analyses are always limited by the available bacteria strains -- the family tree will be added to over time as more bodies are recovered and more bacteria strains isolated.

Scientists May Have Solved Mystery Around Da Vinci Painting

Art historians have long been puzzled as to why the glass ball in Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) does not distort the objects behind it the way a solid glass ball would. In other words, there is not the expected refraction and reflection of light. According to new computer models the answer is that the glass was hollow, was held about 10 inches in front of Jesus, and was very thin. If all these things came together, then Da Vinci would have been accurately painting a glass ball. The new analysis strengthens the argument that Da Vinci was responsible for most of the painting, since he was known to have been studying optics when Salvator Mundi was created, and the odd lack of distortion was used as evidence that the master himself did not paint the whole painting.

Ancient Inuit Mummies Show Surprising Health Problems

Symptoms of atherosclerosis, or hardening and narrowing of the arteries, have been detected in the mummified remains of four Inuit adults who lived in Greenland about 500 years ago. The recent study used computerized tomography to examine the bodies of the two men, who are thought to have been between 18 and 22 and 25 and 30 at the time of death, and two women, who died sometime between the ages of 16 and 18 and 25 and 30, and one infant. Three of the four adults showed evidence of arterial calcification. Increased gunk in arteries can lead to life-threatening conditions such as strokes and heart attacks.

These Inuit's atherosclerosis is a surprising find because current health theories suggest that a diet rich in marine foods and omega-3 fatty acids, such as that eaten by preindustrial-era Inuit peoples, would offer protection from arterial calcification. The individuals’ entire circulatory systems were not preserved, however, so the researchers were not able to determine the full extent of the damage to their arteries. The scientists also noted that heavy exposure to smoke from indoor fires may have outweighed the heart-health benefits of an active lifestyle and fatty-fish-based diet.

The English word "parrot" replaced the earlier word for the bird "popinjay." Where parrot itself came from is uncertain. It is first attested in the 1520s, and may have come from the Middle French "perrot." The French word's origins are also disputed. It may have come from Peter (or "pierre" in French), or from a dialectal form of their word for parakeet, "perroquet."

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    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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