Fragments of tree bark inscribed with a Buddhist manuscript written in Sanskrit were discovered in Mes Aynak, a prosperous Buddhist city occupied from the 200s to 600s CE. The manuscript fragments themselves appear to be from the 600s. Researchers think the ancient manuscripts may have been housed in an archive at the site, which has also yielded a monastery complex, murals, and more than 400 Buddha statues and stupas.
Did you make a guess? Okay, here's the answer: maybe the War of the Three Kingdoms, or the Mongol Conquests. Let's explain each of those in turn. First, what was the War of the Three Kingdoms? When the Han Dynasty lost its grip on power in about 184 CE, China was split into three kingdoms: Wei, Shu, and Wu. The three fought continuously from 184 until 280 CE, when the Jin Dynasty conquered Wu. Historians estimate that between 36 and 40 million people died in all the fighting which occurred during that 96-year period.
The Mongol Conquests are probably better-known to those reading this blog post in English. The long version of the Mongol Conquests dates from 1206 when Genghis Khan burst out of Mongolia's steppe heartland to 1368, when the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty of China fell. Historians estimate between 30 million and 40 million people were killed.
But what about the An Lushan Rebellion, some of you are saying? That rebellion against the Tang Dynasty, which dragged on for 7 years and three Tang emperors before it was finally over, cost somewhere between 13 and 36 million. That's a very wide range. On the upper end, that could top the War of the Three Kingdoms and the Mongol Conquests. But that's only if they are in the low end of their possible death tolls, and the An Lushan Rebellion is at the very highest end of its possible death toll. Of course, historical death counts are always guesswork, so it may be that an entirely different war actually takes the top prize!
For those who are curious, World War II killed at minimum 56,125,162 people.
Athletes in ancient Greece smeared olive oil on their bodies before a competition. The oil made their skin more supple and made them appear, as classical writers described, "like gleaming statues of the gods."
Thanks to a small stick with two cactus needles on its end, we know that Native Americans in the southwest USA were tattooing each other as early as 2,000 years ago. Which is much, much earlier than previously believed. The artifact in question is made of a sumac twig handle, two small prickly pear cactus spines, and yucca-leaf trips to hold the spines on the handle.
If you look closely you can see that the tips of the needles are stained with a black pigment. Analyses show the pigment matches the proper depth to pierce and stain the epidermis. This was not a first, fumbling attempt but a workable tool, one that was used before it was eventually thrown away.
The artifact comes from a midden heap at the Turkey Pen site near Bear Ears National Monument, which was occupied by the Ancestral Puebloan civilization from roughly 50 BCE to 200 CE. It is the first evidence that the Ancestral Puebloan peoples practiced tattooing. Elsewhere in the world, the rise of tattooing is associated with agriculture and increases in population. Ancestral Puebloans were undergoing just such a population increase when the tool was made. Archaeologists on the project speculated, therefore, that community members' tattoos may have strengthened a sense of social identity, as the world quickly changed around them.
Oldest Written Fragment of The Odyssey found in Greece
A clay tablet, found near the ruined Temple of Zeus in the ancient city of Olympia, Greece, could be the oldest written record of The Odyssey. The tablet was uncovered by archaeologists and tentatively dated to the Roman-era 200s CE. It is engraved with 13 verses from the Odyssey’s fourteenth book, in which Odysseus speaks to his lifelong friend Eumaeus, the first person he sees on his return from his decade away from home.
A person of the Moche culture would likely have used this pot to hold kernels close to a fire. Circa 200 - 600 CE. During this period, ceramic pots with handles for roasting corn were used more or less throughout Peru, but especially in the north.
Han purple was an ancient Chinese pigment which is thought to have been created as early as 800 BCE, but the most famous examples of its use date back to around 220 BCE when it was used to paint the Terracotta Army and murals in the tomb of the first emperor Qin Shi Huang at Xi’an. It peaked in usage during the Han Dynasty, then declined, and then vanished from the historical record entirely -- along with knowledge of how to make the color.
It was not until the 1990s that scientists were able to replicate it. The process to make the copper barium silicate pigment was extremely intricate. For one thing, it involved the grinding of precise quantities of various materials. And for another, it required heating to between 900 and 1,100 degrees Celsius. Amazing that the process was discovered so long ago!
Archaeologists in the ancient city of Nakum in northeastern Guatemala recently made a big discovery. Beneath a vast ritual platform dating from around 100 BCE to 300 CE they discovered a foot-long, barrel-shaped ceramic tube with covers at each end. It is nearly identical to wooden beehives still made from hollow logs by Maya living in the region today. Their discovery is the only known Maya beehive. Since most beehives would probably have been wooden, they probably would not have survived.
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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!