The Odd Story of a Pope Chosen by a Dove

Pope Fabian was elected bishop of Rome in 236 under...unusual circumstances. Here is how it went down, according to Eusebius of Caesarea, writing in the 300s:

After the short reign of Pope Anterus, Fabian had come to Rome from the countryside when the new papal election began. "Although present," says Eusebius, Fabian "was in the mind of none." While the names of several illustrious and noble churchmen were being considered over the course of thirteen days, a dove suddenly descended upon the head of Fabian. To the assembled electors, this strange sight recalled the gospel scene of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at the time of his baptism by John the Baptist. The congregation took this as a sign that he was marked out for this dignity, and Fabian was at once proclaimed bishop by acclamation.

Chinese Medicine Really Likes Licorice

Licorice root is first mentioned in Chinese medicine in Zhang Zhongjing's medicinal masterpiece "Treatise on Cold Pathogenic and Miscellaneous Diseases" around 190 CE. Although licorice was probably in usage as a medicine long before then. It decreases thirst and soothes the throat, and was used to "harmonize" other flavors in Chinese medicines. Thus licorice is found in an astonishing 5,000 Chinese herbal formulas today!

Lost Maya Capital Found In Mexico

Researchers have recently uncovered a Maya site in southeastern Mexico that may have been the capital of Sak Tz’i’, a kingdom mentioned in inscriptions uncovered at other Maya sites, and looted artifacts which turn up on the market. Such clues were used in the early 2000s to model the hypothetical boundaries of Sak Tz'i' territory and the likely location of its capital. And recent archaeological work involving locals and building on the model has found a site filled with Sak Tz'i' monuments.

Translated as “white dog,” Sak Tz’i’ was a small state founded in 750 BCE and surrounded by more powerful states. The city was protected on one side by steep-walled streams, while masonry walls were built around the rest of the site. But these defenses were likely insufficient. So the researchers suspect the city’s leaders must have engaged in political maneuverings with the kingdom’s stronger neighbors in order to survive for more than 1,000 years.

The team members have found evidence of pyramids, a royal palace, a ball court, sculptures, and inscriptions describing rituals, battles, a mythical water serpent, and the dance of a rain god. Current archaeological work focuses on stabilizing and mapping the site.

What Did Paradise Look Like To The Teotihuacan?

The Tepantitla Compound inside the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan, is decorated with a number of murals that provide a fascinating insight into how the Teotihuacano believed the world worked and how it had to be maintained. Teotihuacan thrived between 250 and 550 CE. They had a complex society capable of maintaining a city and an artistic culture. Mural 3, typically known as the “Paradise of Tlaloc”, shows normal people in everyday clothes are going about their daily lives, playing games and picking flowers. In the middle of the mural is a mountain. It is covered with water, holding fish and swimming people, and which flows into the rivers and canals and irrigates the crops that are being sowed and reaped. But this is not a human paradise.

The people are actually being "fed" to the mountain. From the top of the mountain you can see a train of people falling inside it, then their blood flows down and transforms into the life giving waters. Another interesting note is that the human figures are in three colors: red, yellow and blue. These different colors presumably represent different classes or castes. When you look at the mountain, all three colors are being fed to produce water. There was no class distinction in who was sacrificed.

The notion of feeding the gods was commonplace in Mesoamerica. We all know about Aztec ritual sacrifices to keep the sun rising. What makes the scenes of Tepantitla unusual is that the mural portrays everyday people, warriors, and priests making the offerings. Other Mesoamerican cultures would have only a Divine Ruler making the sacrifices, able to communicate with the gods. Teotihuacanos were apparently more egalitarian in who got to kill others to appease the gods.

Skeleton Analyses in Mongolia Suggest Millet Increasingly Part of Their Ancient and Medieval Diet

An international team of researchers examined the ratios of stable nitrogen and carbon isotopes in collagen and dental enamel samples obtained from the remains of some 130 individuals who were buried in Mongolia between 4500 BCE and 1300 CE. The analysis suggests that during the Bronze Age, the Mongolian diet was based on milk and meat and supplemented with local plants. From about the 200s BCE to the late first century CE, during the Xiongnu Empire, some people continued to eat the Bronze Age animal-based diet, while those living in political centers began to eat more millet-based diets. Grain consumption and thus the practice of agriculture appears to have continued to increase into the period of the Mongolian Empire of the Khans. Empires based in Mongolia thus presided over a mixed population of both pastoralists and farmers. Their varied food strategies gave the empires strength in diversity.

A Gift From The Gods

During the renovation of Jambukeswarar Temple, a temple to Shiva in southern India, workers uncovered a sealed brass pot. The workers alerted local authorities after they opened the pot and discovered 505 gold coins. The temple is believed to have been built during the Chola Period around 200 CE. The coins are currently being examined to determine how old they are, and when in the temple’s history they were hidden.

All Hail The Butterfly God

A Zapotec figural ceramic of the Butterfly God found at Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Mexico. 200 - 600 CE.

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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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