The use of paper as toilet paper was common in China at least by the late 500s CE. In 589 CE the scholar-official Yan Zhitui (531–591 CE) wrote about the use of toilet paper: "Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes." Since Yan does not feel the need to explain “toilet purposes” he assumes the reader knows and uses toilet paper, too.

Giant Mosaic from the 500s in Hatay, Turkey

At 1,200 square meters, it is believed to be the largest single-piece ground mosaic today. Archaeologists uncovered it after the mosaic was discovered where a hotel was to be constructed. Based on its size and location, it is theorized that the mosaic once covered a public space, such as a town square.

A Virtual Tour of China's Yungang Grottos


This UNESCO world heritage site is not one but a series of over fifty Buddhist temple! They were carved in the 400s and 500s CE, first under the Northern Wei dynasty's patronage which made a nearby city its capital, then under private patronage after the capital was moved away.

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.

All Hail The Butterfly God

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

Bronze statue of Guan Yu, a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. After he died in 220 CE his deeds entered popular folklore. Guan Yu was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty (581–618 CE) and also became considered a bodhisattva. Today he is god of war, loyalty, and righteousness. This bronze statue dates to the Ming Dynasty, 1400s - 1500s CE.

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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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