The length of a day on Mars -- the time it takes Mars to complete a rotation on its axis -- has been known since 1666. It was even accurate to within 3 minutes!

The length of a day on Saturn was a mystery until 2019.

It was extremely difficult to measure for two reasons. First, because without a solid surface, Saturn had no geographical features by which to measure rotational speed. And Saturn has a funky magnetic field that makes alternative ways of measuring hard. Saturn's day was only measured when NASA's Cassini probe studied the planet's icy, rocky rings and their interaction with the planet.

The Wanggongchang Explosion was a mysterious explosion in Beijing, China, on May 30, 1626. It is reported to have killed 20,000 people. The exact cause of the explosion is unclear: while the epicenter was a major production center of gunpowder, what set the gunpowder explosion off remains debated, with the two main theories being negligence or a meteor exploding mid-air at low/medium altitude while entering the Earth's atmosphere.

Dense Network of Amazonian Villages Found with Laser Scanning

Laser scanning technology successfully peered through the Amazon rain forest’s thick canopy to reveal the footprint of a complex network of ancient villages in southeastern Brazil. Dwellings in these little-known settlements, which date to between 1300 and 1700 CE, were built atop raised mounds of earth arranged in a uniform circular pattern around a central plaza. Rather like clock faces according to researchers.

The scans also showed that the villages were connected via an organized system of roads. Most villages had two roads leading away to the north, and two leading away to the south. The roads also varied with some being smaller and sunken into the ground, others larger and protected on the sides by banks.

In total the archaeologists studied some 36 villages. The area appeared densely populated with some villages as little as 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) apart.

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 When they were made and why remains a mystery, however, since no historical document mentions them.

How Old Is This?

This is a view of the Amber Fort, built by the Raja Man Singh I, a Rajasthan ruler under the Mughal Empire (ruled 1589 – 1614). It was later significantly updated by his descendant Jai Singh I.

The most widely published authors of all time are a god, a man, and a woman. The Christian Bible is the first most-sold "author," followed by Williams Shakespeare then Agatha Christie.

This giant bull sculpture (nandi in Hindu) was carved from a single boulder as part of the lead-up to a major Hindu temple at the top of the Chamundi Hills. The nandi was constructed in 1659 during the time of Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar (1659 - 1673) the Maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore.

The photograph with the man standing near for size was taken in 1895.

Jack of All Trades

During the Edo Period in Japan (1600−1868), firefighters primarily worked as steeplejacks -- people who climb tall structures such as apartment buildings or and steeples in order to carry out repairs. This meant that firefighters got paid when they put out fires, but they also got paid when fires damaged tall buildings and repairs were needed. The result? Multiple known cases of firefighters setting fires to create business for themselves. It was enough of a problem that the shogunate to issue warning ordinances and executed some offending firefighters.

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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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