The Americas' Linguistic Diversity

There were dozens of language families, each the equivalent of the Indo-European family, before 1492. This map is a "simplified" one. In today's California, for instance, languages that are spoken by neighboring tribes are as different as French and Chinese.     Why did the Americas develop such linguistic diversity? Many linguists suspect that at least some of these separate families date back to separate migrations of different tribes from Asia who originally spoke unrelated languages. Linguistic and archaeological data hint at more than one migration from Asia into the Americas, all of them through Alaska.     Extra Fun Fact: see “Eskimo-Aleut” in northern North America? It is not colored because there is no evidence those languages are related to any other indigenous American languages!

Why Did Men Switch From Tunics To Pants?

Why did the medieval Europeans switch from tunics, which were favored by the earlier civilizations like Greeks and the Romans, to pants? The answer is simple: horses win wars.  All around the world, societies which had mastered the art of horseback combat wiped out those that had not. The theory goes that men in battle need protect their most sensitive organ. So pants it was.

Tang Dynasty Scroll Describes How Not To Destroy A Kingdom

This one page from a manuscript dating to the Tang dynasty and found complete in a cave in Dunhuang, China. It is a Tang dynasty copy of "On the Fall of States," by Lu Ji (261-303), a writer of the Western Jin dynasty. "On The Fall of States" describes the rise and fall of the Eastern Wu in the Three Kingdoms period, as well as the meritorious contributions of the Lu family. Famous among ancient works on administration, "On the Fall of States" argues that the key to a country's fortunes is to assess and employ people wisely.

A huge cache of stone inscriptions from one of Africa's oldest written languages have been unearthed in a vast "city of the dead" in Sudan. The inscriptions are written in the obscure 'Meroitic' language, the oldest known written language south of the Sahara, which remains only partially deciphered. The city of the dead is Sedeinga, located on the western shore of the Nile River in Sudan, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of the river's third cataract. It was once part of Nubia, a gold-rich region south of Egypt, which was home to multiple great ancient kingdoms. Sedeinga itself holds the vestiges of at least 80 brick pyramids and more than 100 tombs from the kingdoms of Napata and Meroe, which lasted from the 600s BCE to the 300s CE. They were cosmopolitan kingdoms, mixing Egyptian culture and sub-Saharan culture. One of the finds in Sedeinga, for instance, is a temple to the Egyptian goddess Ma'at, but depicted with Sub-Saharan African features for the first known time.

Coin Collection From Classical Corinth Presents A Conundrum

A hoard of about 119 coins, together with an iron lock that may have locked the container holding the coins, have been found inside a collapsed building in the harbor of the ancient city of Corinth in Greece.

The earliest coin in the hoard dates to shortly after the death of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (who reigned from 306-337 CE), while the most recent two coins in the stash date to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I (who reigned from 491-518 CE). Based on their weight and size, the coins from Anastasius I's reign likely date to sometime between 491 and 498 CE, before Anastasius I reformed the Byzantine Empire's coinage system. So the building collapse no sooner than the 500 CE. When the coins come from is not the conundrum, however.

Why didn't anyone come to collect the stash after the building collapsed? That's the big mystery that has archaeologists scratching their heads. The coin collection represents significant wealth at the time, and the lack of bodies suggests the collection's owner wasn't killed when the structure collapsed. The coins were found just 12 to 16 inches (30-40 centimeters) below modern ground level. It wouldn't have been much work to retrieve the coins. But instead they were left, to be discovered by modern archaeologists. Not that the archaeologists are complaining!

Map of Cities the Romans Founded, Outside of Italy

It says a lot about the state of western and northern Europe, that those are where the Romans founded new cities. In Asia and eastern Europe, they conquered cities, they didn't need to build them.

How To Revive A Dead Language

As you probably know, Hebrew is the only language that has been brought back from the dead. It was not spoken as an everyday language since 200 to 400 CE, kept alive only as a sacred language used for prayers and writing. In the late 1800s it was revived as a common language, used among Jewish immigrants to the British colony of Palestine.

The problem with bringing a dead language back is that a lot of words are suddenly needed for things that didn't exist the first time around. Like electricity. And tomatoes. At first there was a Hebrew Language Committee, established in 1890 by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, which created literally thousands of new words that are used everyday in modern Hebrew. Everyday words, like ice cream, polite, art, and clock. In 1953 the committee was replaced by the Academy of the Hebrew Language, an official institution created by the Israeli government, which is the final authority on modern Hebrew. It has continued to create new words, publishing official additions every year (like the Oxford English Dictionary). Some of its creations include Hebrew-rooted words for junk food, gentrification, and sexism.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    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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