"Mona Lisa is the only beauty who went through history and retained her reputation. "

Will Rogers, an American stage and film actor, vaudeville performer, cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator. In the mid-1930s he was hugely popular as a wit and a film star, commanding some of Hollywood's highest fees. Rogers was also a Cherokee citizen born in 1879 in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. It is today Oklahoma.

Although the Mamluks were famously slave-soldiers who took over Egypt, you might not know they actually remained "slaves" even after seizing power. Slaves were taken, then raised in state barracks and trained according to their aptitude (soldiers, bureaucrats, administrators). Those positions were not available to the general public, as the state-raised slaves were seen as having no loyalty to their families, only the state. They were legally emancipated upon reaching the age of majority.

A Medieval London Theater Uncovered

A Shakespeare-era theater, the Boar's Head Playhouse, has long been known from historical documents but was only recently re-discovered thanks to a construction project in London's Whitechapel neighborhood. Originally an inn, the Boar's Head was converted to a theater in 1598. But open-air performances had been held there since at least 1557, according to surviving records, when a play performed there, "A Sack Full of News," got banned by the Lord Mayor of London for its "lewd" content.

What The Ell?

"Ell" is a unit of measurement based on the Old English word for "arm." The unit was the length of a forearm, usually 45 inches or 1.143 m. It has fallen out of use, as have many other units of measurement based on arms:

  • digit (1/60 ell)
  • finger (7/360 ell)
  • palm (1/15 ell)
  • hand (4/45 ell)
  • shaftment (2/15 ell)
  • span (1/5 ell)
  • cubit (2/5 ell)

Where Do Country Names Come From?

Multiple countries have names whose origin is unknown. You would think we would know why people called their land a certain name, but in some cases, it is a mystery. These "etymology-less" countries include:

  1. Andorra
  2. Armenia
  3. Brunei
  4. Chile (a really new country!)
  5. Cuba
  6. Cyprus (this one is an old country, fine)
  7. Djibouti
  8. Greece's name for itself, Hellas
  9. Paraguay
  10. Portugal comes from the Latin "Portucale." "Port" is the same as in English, but it is combined with the unknown word "cale." So half of Portugal's name is of unknown origin
  11. Syria
  12. Uruguay

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.

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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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