This axe is perfectly crafted out of a single piece of stone! From the Late Mississippian culture, around 1300 to 1500 CE.

Cleopatra remains fascinating, 2,047 years after her death. To date, she has been the subject of five ballets, seven films, forty-five operas, seventy-seven plays, and innumerable paintings.

A Shipwreck Off Florida From the 1500s Is Causing a Modern International Dispute

Okay, here's how the story begins. Global Marine Exploration (GME), a private marine salvage company, was granted permits by the state of Florida to explore seven areas off the coast of Cape Canaveral. They found artifacts indicating a wrecked ship, buried in the sandy seafloor, in May and June 2016. Among other finds, there were three ornate brass cannons and a distinctive marble monument marked with the coat of arms of the King of France. The cannons and the monument seem to come from the 1562 French expedition to Florida commanded by the navigator Jean Ribault (1520-1565), according to historical French records that include the cargo manifests of the fleet -- and the cargo manifests list those cannons and that monument. GME has made a big find. And they want the right to salvage it, and make a profit.

But then France, yes, the nation, interferes. You see the United States passed a federal law, the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004, giving "sovereign rights" over sunken naval vessels to their country of origin. France is arguing in the admiralty court, which oversees maritime matters, that US federal law gives their country the right to salvage their sunken naval ship. To be clear: France is pursuing a claim to a sunken ship, likely dating to the mid-1500s, based on a law passed in 2004 in a country which wouldn't exist until 200 years after the ship was sunk. This world is weird.

Unfortunately for France, GME argues that historical documents show that the cannons and monument may have been seized as plunder by the Spanish in 1565, during a raid on the French colony of Fort Caroline. If this true, the cannons were probably being carried to Cuba on Spanish ships when they were lost, GME says. In which case, France has no claim on the artifacts, and GME can recover the shipwreck that they admittedly spent the money to find. Who wins and gets the cannons? We will have to wait for the admiralty court to decide.

On an uninhabited Caribbean island, archaeologists were amazed to discover a series of cave drawings pre-dating European contact. This was a surprise because the drawings are so well-preserved. Over 70 winding caves on the island of Mona, between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, contain art. Some are scratches on the rock. Others are more sophisticated, with paint made from sophisticated organic materials such as bat droppings, plant gums, minerals like iron, and materials from native trees like turpentine trees. The islanders were putting a lot of work into their art, deep where the light of day could not illuminate their creations.

The researchers noted that the indigenous people of Mona Island believed that the sun and moon emerged from beneath the ground. So exploring deep into the expansive network of subterranean caves, and making art there, is interpreted by today’s archaeologists as a highly spiritual act.

What’s A King To A Caesar?

From 27 BCE to 1946 CE, someone, somewhere in Europe has had a title “Caesar.” The czar of Russia, the kaiser of Germany...many, many European titles were just local derivatives of “Caesar.”

The last Caesar was Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, who was removed from office in 1946 by the Soviets. He’s still alive, too!


"When a lion eats a man, and a man eats an ox, why is the ox more made for the man, than the man for the lion?"

Thomas Hobbes, Questions Concerning Liberty, Necessity, and Chance, 1656

In Mesoamerica children are warned about El Coco. A shapeless, hairy monster, it kidnaps and devours children. So they had better listen to their parents!

The Tragedy of the Moriori

The Moriori were a small, isolated population of Polynesians settlers, living on the Chatham Islands. Sometime shortly after New Zealand was settled in 1000 CE, a group of them set out an settled the Chatham Islands, far to their south east. And then the Chathams were forgotten. Remote and subarctic, the Chathams did not support any of the domesticated crops the Polynesian settlers brought with them -- taro, yams, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, bananas, and coconuts. Those crops had been domesticated in a tropical climate and quickly died on the Chathams. Without agriculture, and without nearby islands to colonize and perhaps get more food from, the Chathams were capable of supporting only about 2,000 hunter-gatherers.

So the Moriori learned to get along with each other. They renounced war. Chiefs remained, technically, but they caught their own food and lived in huts which were identical to everyone else. To prevent overpopulation, some male infants were castrated. All of these measures worked quite well, and the Moriori had a sustainable population from about 1300 CE, when it was settled, until November 19th, 1835.

Earlier in 1835, an Australian seal-hunting ship visited the Chatham Islands en route to New Zealand, and brought news to New Zealand of islands where "there is an abundance of sea and shellfish; the lakes swarm with eels; and it is a land of the karaka berry...the inhabitants are very numerous, but they do not understand how to fight, and have no weapons." That was enough to induce 900 Maori to sail to the Chathams. They arrived on November 19th, 1835. Another 400 arrived on December 5th. Armed with clubs, axes, and guns the warrior Maori walked through Moriori settlements, announcing that the Moriori were now their slaves, and killing anyone who openly disagreed.

The Moriori had a tradition of resolving disputes peacefully. They decided in a council to not fight back, but to offer the Maori peace, friendship, and a division of resources. The offer was never made. The Maori attacked first. Over the course of the next few days the Maori systematically killed hundreds of Moriori, cooked and ate many of them, and enslaved the rest. A Maori conqueror explained: "We took possession...in accordance with our customs and we caught all the people. No one escaped." And so the Moriori ended.

Why Crossbows Were Used Up Until The 1500s

The horizontally-held crossbow was invented by the Chinese around 2,000 years ago. And it was a huge improvement over the simple bow-and-arrow -- with a crosspiece and stock added, the crossbow does the work of pulling and holding the string, not the person. This meant the string could have more tension, and therefore the arrows could fly farther and with more power.  A well-aimed crossbow arrow could pierce armor.

Attacking from further away also meant the crossbowmen were relatively better-protected -- except against other crossbowmen, of course.

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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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