In a fun bit of history news, a secret passageway into the British House of Commons has been found! The passageway dates to 1660 and the coronation of King Charles II. Sadly, it leads nowhere interesting. The passageway is simply an extra way from a corridor to the House of Commons. It was in use for almost 300 years, until it was enclosed and forgotten during World War II.
The earliest roller coasters were descended from Serra da Estrela, Portugal sled rides held on specially constructed hills of ice. They were pretty big, sometimes up to 200 feet (62 m) tall! The Serra da Estrelas were constructed by a large group of Russian refugees to remind them of where they came from. There is evidence for them as early as the 1600s, in the 1700s they gradually became popular across Europe, and by the early 1800s wheeled carts began being used instead of sleighs on tracks. The first such wheeled ride was brought to Paris in 1804 under the name Les Montagnes Russes (French for "Russian Mountains").
French, along with Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, still call roller coasters "russian mountains" after their snowy ancestor. Russian, ironically, calls them "American mountains."
This was made in 1627. By hand! Bernini was contracted to create a bust of Maria Barberini Duglioli, niece of Pope Urban VIII, and subcontracted the work to Giuliano Finelli. Finelli chose to focus on the lady's accessories: the intricate lace collar, the flower in her curly hair, her ropes of pearls. When released, the bust was widely hailed as a tour de force. Finelli raised the standard for female portraits and an inspiration for future busts.
They were first mass-produced in Nuremberg, Germany ... in 1662!
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.
Canada's third most-spoken language was once Canadian Gaelic -- about 200,000 Canadians could speak it at the language's peak. Canadian Gaelic declined after 1850 and today there are less than 1,000 speakers.
Yamanote and Shitamachi are traditional names for Tokyo's two halves. Yamanote is the affluent, upper-class area and Shitamachi (literally "low town" or "low city") is the middle and lower-class area. The terms have been in use since the city became Japan's shogunate capital in 1603. Over time, each area has added neighborhoods as the city expanded, but the original neighborhoods are still distinctly Yamanote or Shitamachi.
Even after Japan began its formal policy of isolationism in 1639, the Dutch continued to be allowed to trade through the port of Nagasaki. They were notably... pliable... traders. Basically, the Dutch would do whatever was needed to maintain good relations and keep trading flowing. For example:
“...In 1640 a Dutch trading party was allowed to stay [in Nagasaki] after the expulsion of the Spanish and Portuguese. The ‘Hollanders’ assured their hosts of the relative pliancy of their brand of Christianity, demonstrating their good Protestant faith by firing a few shells at the Japanese Catholics huddled in Hara Castle.”
Their actions meant that the Dutch had exclusive access to Nagasaki for over a century. Japan also kept trading relations open with their much closer neighbors the Ryūkyū Kingdom, Korea, and Russia through the ports of Satsuma, Tsushima and Matsumae (respectively).
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.
A covered drain paved with stones and topped with an arch lined with thin, burnt clay bricks was discovered by members of the Archaeological Survey of India at the Red Fort, a fortress built of red sandstone by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1639 CE. You might know him as the builder of the Taj Mahal.
The drain once connected the fort’s Delhi Gate to the moat which surrounded and protected the fort. Researchers are now removing silt from the drain, and then will strengthen it, so that it will once again be able to serve as a channel for rainwater. Rainwater from within the Red Fort seems to have been directed to the moat, whereas rainwater collected from the surrounding city was drained away.