Phoenix headdress ornament made of gilded silver. So elaborate it can even stand on its own! From China's Tang Dynasty (618-906 CE).

Ancient Roman House Excavation Reveals Swords and Puppy Paws

Five Roman-style longswords were discovered in a house located in central Sardis, western Turkey’s ancient capital of the kingdom of Lydia. Only three swords had previously been found in the city. Buckles and a lead seal also recovered from the house suggest the residents may have been connected to the military or the city’s civil authorities. The longswords have been dated to about 500 CE. The house they were found in had been furnished with wall paintings that mimic draped curtains and multicolored marble, and terracotta floor tiles that were playfully imprinted before firing with a dog’s paw prints and finger-drawn outlines of birds resembling chickens or ducks. The house appears to have been occupied for approximately 200 years before it was destroyed by an earthquake in the early 600s CE.

Temple Complex Remains Found In Southwestern China

A Buddhist temple complex dated to the Tang Dynasty (618–906 CE) has been discovered in southwest China’s city of Dali. The structures contained tons of tiles and pottery. Also uncovered have been 14 foundations for structures, 63 stone walls and 23 ditches, including the remains of brick and tile kilns. Inscriptions suggest the temple may have held the remains of members of the royal court of the State of Nanzhao. This was a state made up of people from the Bai tribe and six tribes from the Erhai Region centered around present-day Yunnan.

In the complex, the researchers discovered a tile inscribed with the characters "Buddha sarira enshrined by the government," which indicates that the Buddhist relics of Nanzhao's royal court are likely to have been enshrined and worshiped inside the temple. The word "sarira" has a variety of meanings in Buddhism. It generally means, though, the remains after a Buddhist cremation. Perhaps this was where Nanzhao's royal family enshrined holy figures, or their own ancestors.

A Brief Review of the Death of Ali (And Why it Matters)

Ali was cousin and son-in-law to Muhammad twice over, raised by him since he was five, and was according to tradition the second person to accept Islam. This all sounds nice but since Muhammad had no sons it became of vital importance after Muhammad died and people had to figure out who was to succeed him. Ali became the fourth caliph in 656. In a disputed sort of way. It did not help that his biggest supporters were the ones who had assassinated the third caliph, Uthman. Although to give him his due, Ali initially turned down the caliphate when the assassins offered it to him.

Ali did not reign long. He ruled over the first civil war in Islam, when followers of Uthman declared his leadership illegitimate. Though he won the war Ali never had control of all the Muslim world. This will be important later. Ali did not get to enjoy his ascendency for long: he was assassinated by poisoned sword in 661 in Cairo by a man from the losing side of the civil war. His son Hasan was immediately declared caliph. But followers of Uthman were able to weaken Hasan's position, because they had still had lands and armies at their command when Ali died, and they did a good job of bribing Hasan's generals. A few months after Ali's assassination, Hasan realized the impossibility of his position and abdicated. The followers of Uthman then set up the Ummayad Caliphate, the first political system after Muhammad run by men who were in no way descendants of Muhammad.

Unsurprisingly, the Ummayads continued to state Ali’s time as caliph was illegitimate, harassed Ali’s family, and required Ali to be publicly cursed in congregations’ prayers. This was bad handling of a delicate situation. It led many to be more sympathetic to Ali and to remember his rule more fondly. So Ali’s death eventually brought about the biggest split in Islam: between Shi’a who view Ali and descendants of the house of Muhammad as the only true rulers of the Muslim faithful, and Sunni who viewed political legitimacy as separate from family descent.

Today the vast majority of Muslims (87% - 90%) are Sunni. But throughout history, who is Shi’a or Sunni, and what territories they control, have mattered very much.

The Tashtyk culture existed between the first century and the 600s CE of southern Siberia. They are known in archaeological circles for their elaborate burial customs. They would layer gypsum on the face of the deceased, to create colorful and lifelike death masks.

A particularly well-preserved Tashtyk man was discovered in the late 1960s in the Khakassia region. Removing the mask would damage the mummy. So previous generations of researchers wisely decided to leave the man as they had found him. Now, thanks to a CT scan, we have the ability to glimpse the man beneath the death mask. The Tashtyk man had a hole in his left temple made likely at or after death. It was probably how his brain was removed before the mask was painted on.

He also had a nasty cut across his left side which ran from his eye to his ear which was neatly sutured. The gash seems to have been fatal. But in keeping with the Tashtyk practices he was made to look nice before his final send-off.

Traces of a square-shaped building have been detected under the Main Plaza at Monte Albán with the use of ground-penetrating radar, electrical resistance, and gradiometery. Each side of the newly detected structure measures about 60 feet long, and more than three feet thick. A Zapotec site in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca, Monte Albán was established around 500 BCE and collapsed around 850 CE. It is estimated that the plaza was in use for about 1,000 years before the collapse. Which makes the existence of a building under the plaza rather interesting...

What is this?

First, it is worn on the body. Does that help at all? Answer: a nose ornament! It comes from Peru's Moche culture, between 500 and 600 CE. The Moche were known for their metalwork. Here is a silver crescent with gold shrimp attached on, with tails that extend beyond the silver, and eyes marked by green stones.

Coastal Amazonian Diets Analyzed

An international team of researchers studied the diets of people who lived between 200 CE and 1000 CE on Brazil’s Amazon coast. Using statistical models and analysis of the chemical composition of their bones, the results suggested that people ate mostly terrestrial plants and animals. This is surprising since they were studied specifically based on their living in coastal areas. Rodents such as those from the guinea pig family, the agouti, and the paca; the brocket deer; and catfish are all thought to have been consumed, in addition to wild and cultivated plants such as cassava, corn, and squash.

The remains of a 1,200-year-old pagan temple to the Old Norse gods has been discovered in Norway's seaside town of Ose. It is the first such temple found in the country. Though we know what the building was, based on surviving temples in Denmark and Sweden. The wooden building is large for the time, about 45 feet (14 meters) long, 26 feet (8 m) wide, and up to 40 feet (12 m) high. Archaeologists think it was built sometime in the 700s, and would have been the site of sacrifices (and more mundane religious observances) during the midsummer and midwinter solstices.

The Norse began building these large "god houses" in the 500s CE. They replaced simpler cult sites, often outdoors, that had previously sufficed for worship. Larger god houses became popular as Norse society became more stratified and dominated by wealthy families, who are thought to have built god houses as part of their taking control of the cults of the gods.

The Old Norse religion was suppressed from the 1000s, when Norway's kings forcibly imposed the Christian religion, and destroyed God Houses to enforce worship in the new Christian churches. Perhaps including the one at Ose. (The one above is a reconstruction, the real site has only the foundations remaining.)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • >
  • Leave us a message

    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!

    Website design and coding by the Amalgama

    About us X