This hand-crafted figure portrays a spirit being, or perhaps a shaman in spirit form, ready to battle supernatural forces. Given the shape of the shaman and the long walkway behind the shaman, it is likely a snuff tray! This artifact comes from the Jama-Coaque culture (in what is today Ecuador). The Jama-Coaque's religious figures are believed to have engaged in shamanic transformations. These spiritual events were aided by psychoactive plants that they ground into a fine powder, then ingested as a snuff, from trays like this one. Circa 300 BCE to 600 CE.

North-western Syria has about seven hundred "Dead Cities" or "Forgotten Cities." They include villages, towns, and some cities that were mainly abandoned between the 700s and 900s CE. Because they rest in an elevated area of limestone known as the Limestone Massif, which gets relatively little rain, the settlements are more or less still at surface level and well-preserved. There are three main groups of highlands on the Massif, each with their own Dead Cities. They provide us with insight into what life was like for prosperous agriculturalists in Late Antiquity and the Byzantine period.

The Dead Cities became a massive UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, although they have been largely inaccessible since 2013.

Around 250 CE, large burial mounds in the shape of keys over top of sunken tombs began appearing in Japan. By the 400s CE these kofun were hundred of meters across. Inside all excavated kofun have been wooden coffins interred with precious grave goods such as bronze mirrors or well-made swords. On the slopes of the mounds are sometimes found terracotta figures used to mark the boundary between the kofun and the outside world. But only the smaller burial mounds have been examined.

Japan does not allow any excavations of kofun over a certain size and which is in the shape of a keyhole. This is because important resting places are believed to have been reserved for divine emperors. Digging into such tombs would be sacrilege. And if archaeologists found something that raised questions about the divine status of the world's oldest monarchy? Well, that would be even worse.

Because the Huns did not have a written language, there are many things unknown about the group that pushed out of the Eurasian Steppe in the 400s CE and functionally ended the Western Roman Empire.  What we know was written by outsiders about the Huns. And often the sources are decades or even centuries later.

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.

Greco-Buddhist Sculpture "Thinking Bodhisattva"

Looking at the sculpture, what aspects make it Buddhist? Greek? Gandharan, under the syncretic Kushan Empire. From Afghanistan's Hadda region, circa 300 - 500 CE.

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.

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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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