What’s A King To A Caesar?

From 27 BCE to 1946 CE, someone, somewhere in Europe has had a title “Caesar.” The czar of Russia, the kaiser of Germany...many, many European titles were just local derivatives of “Caesar.”

The last Caesar was Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, who was removed from office in 1946 by the Soviets. He’s still alive, too!

 

Pañamarca has impressive ruins from the Moche culture, which flourished on the northwest coast of Peru between 200 CE and 900 CE. Amazingly, many murals in Pañamarca still retain their colors, over 1,000 years after the last painter laid down his brush. The site was deliberately buried sometime around 750 CE. And in doing so, the Moche unintentionally preserved their art for future archaeologists to discover.

   

This mural is on one of the pillars of the imaginatively named "Temple of the Painted Pillars." The figures hold typical Moche objects, including a plate with three purple goblets, a multicolored stirrup-spout bottle, and a feather fan.

 

Lost Arthurian Kingdom May Be Found

You probably are familiar with Camelot and Avalon. Legendary places in British legends, they were places the Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur visited or lived, sometime in the unsettled 500s between the collapse of Roman power and the coming of Saxon invaders. One of the less-well-known places in Arthurian legend is Rheged. It was home to a famous knight in the legends: Sir Owain, son of King Urian and Morgan le Fay, the man who killed the Black Knight. And now archaeologists may have found Rheged.

The researchers were drawn to Trusty's Hill, a hill fort in Galloway in Southern Scotland, because there are pictish symbols carved into its bedrock. They are unique in the region, and archaeologists (plus 60 volunteers) wanted to survey what they could about the mysterious Picts. And in the course of their examination in summer 2016, archaeologists realized they had accidentally uncovered something else: the Pictish symbols seemed to form a symbolic entranceway, which in many sites in Scotland is associated with royalty. Had they found a royal stronghold? Then the dig uncovered pottery from France, and a workshop exclusively to produce costly fine metalwork and jewelry, which support that the site was a significant trade center at the time.

Putting everything together, it seemed they had accidentally uncovered a royal hillfort stronghold, which flourished sometime around 600 CE under the rule of Britons who lived in Galloway. The region's wealth, demonstrated by the finds at Trusty's Hill, make it the strongest contender we have for the legendary kingdom of Rheged. We are pretty sure Rheged existed, too, because we have two sources on it. First, Rheged is mentioned in Arthurian legends dating to the 1100s, and second, Urien of Rheged was praised in verse by Taliesen, a poet we know lived around the 500s CE.

Constantinople, Not Byzantium

The term “Byzantine Empire” came into common use during the 1700s and 1800s. It would never have been heard, let alone embraced, by the people who once lived in it. To them, Byzantium was still the Roman Empire, which had merely moved its seat of power from Rome to a new eastern capital in Constantinople. Though largely Greek-speaking and Christian, the Byzantines called themselves “Romaioi,” or Romans. They used Roman law, played Roman games like chariot racing, and enjoyed Roman festivals. While Byzantium evolved a distinctive, Greek-influenced identity as the centuries passed, the Romaioi continued to cherish their Roman roots until the end. When he conquered Constantinople in 1453, the Turkish leader Mehmed II even took the emperor's title as “Caesar of Rome.”

Birds of a Feather

A new study, looking at macaw skeletons found at three prehistoric pueblo sites in New Mexico, USA, suggests that Native Americans in this arid area imported the birds from less-arid places. The bird remains which were examined date from between 300 CE and 1450 CE. The majority were tropical macaws -- definitely not native to New Mexico! There is also no evidence of macaw breeding save at one site. Put together, the evidence points to importing the birds.

In addition, there was widespread scarring along the surface of their bones, showing that humans removed their feathers. And many of the macaws' skeletons showed malnourishment, likely from being kept inside and fed a largely corn diet. Which, counter-intuitively, suggests the Pueblans were caring for them extremely well, for their society. Basically? The macaws were being imported, kept in captivity, and systematically harvested for their bright and colorful feathers.

How Weather Created The Vikings

You may have heard of Krakatoa, a giant volcanic explosion which caused the year without a summer. But did you know something equally giant happened in 536 CE? A vast cloud of dust darkened the sky, likely caused by a combination of cataclysms such as comets or meteorites, plus at least one volcanic eruption. Whatever happened caused lower summer temperatures in the northern hemisphere for the next fourteen years!

The added cold and darkness devastated Scandanavia. In the Uppland region, for instance, we know nearly 75% of villages were abandoned during this period. And the legend of Ragnarok may have been inspired, or embellished, during this period; the end of the world is supposed to start with Fimbulwinter, a deadly time when the sun turns black and the weather bitter and changeable -- just like the harsh years after 536 CE.

Scholars note that when Scandanavian society eventually rebounded, their culture was much more war-centered, with men and women alike celebrating the virtues of fearlessness, aggression, and physical prowess. Local rulers were constantly seizing and defending abandoned territory, fighting for good farmland and good fishing territory. Graves are suddenly filled with weapons and shields. A militarized society arose, which would one day be known and feared across the continent.

Athenian Agora Excavations: an Interactive Guide

The city of Athens flourished in the 400s and 300s BCE, setting the course for modern European civilization and eventually for democracy's re-emergence. Even when her power waned, Athens remained the cultural and educational center of the Mediterranean until the 500s CE. And the agora, or marketplace, was the center of city life throughout this time. In it was built beautiful and functional public buildings, first by proud city citizens, then as gifts from Greek kings and eventually Roman emperors.
Since the 1930s, modern excavations have been underway to study where the agora once stood. And they have an excellent website, with an interactive map of what has been recovered and discovered, so far, of the ancient Athenian agora. 

An Animated History of Ukraine

Really, really good history! Since I know next to nothing about Ukraine's national history, I particularly appreciated the accessibility -- the vlogger assumed we had been born yesterday, and it worked.

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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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