Kʼinich Janaabʼ Pakal, or "Pakal the Great" reigned over the Maya city-state of Palenque in the Late Classic period, from July of 615 to August of 683 CE. His 68-year-reign is the fourth-longest verifiable reign in history. It is also the longest in the history of the Americas.

Ancient Kingdom's Lost City, Re-Discovered

Archaeologists have recently rediscovered remains of a trading and religious center of Aksum. Aksum, a kingdom principally located in today's Ethiopia, thrived from the 1st to 8th centuries CE, and was the state which saw the region converted to Christianity. It traded with the Roman Empire and India, minted its own coins, and took over the declining kingdom of Kush which had long rivaled ancient Egypt. The newly found city lay between the capital (also called Aksum) and the Red Sea.

The city has been renamed Beta Samati, which means "house of audience" in the local Tigrinya language. It was discovered in 2011, hiding more than 10 feet below the surface, in Ethiopia's Yeha region. The remains are already changing what we think we know about Aksum. It had previously been believed that societies in the region collapsed in the period before the rise of the Aksum Kingdom. But Beta Samati continued through the period of supposed abandonment just fine, functioning as a major connection on trade routes linking the Mediterranean and other cities which would end up under Aksum control.

The Sasanian Empire (224 CE – 651 CE), which was a contemporary of the Roman and later Byzantine Empires, was once a great power. And like other great powers it built great walls to mark and control its borders. These included the Wall of the Arabs (in the southwest), Walls of Derbent (in the northwest at the Caspian Mountains) and Great Wall of Gorgan (in the northeast). Remains of the Sasanian border walls still exist, particularly in Derbent where they are a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Territory Ever Controlled By Istanbul, by Length of Control

Note that in this map, the Aceh Sultanate is considered a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans did send a fleet and other military aid to help the Acehnese in wars with the Malay kingdoms and the Portuguese, and the Acehnese did acknowledge the Ottoman sultan as caliph. It's still a stretch to say that the Ottomans in Istanbul "controlled" the Aceh territory on Sumatra.

An Unusual Maya Figurine

From Jaina Island's cemetary, where archaeologists have found figurines cradled in the arms of the deceased. This figurine is special because rather than depicting the deceased as a robust young adult, it shows a proud elderly warrior. He is definitely a warrior because he holds a flexible, rectangular shield in his right hand and wears a quilted armor tunic, both being requisite for Maya warriors during this period.

Earthenware figure, crafted sometime between 550 CE and 850 CE.

One-Faced Linga of Shiva

From the Pala Dynasty, which was a Late Classical imperial power in India's Bengal region. Circa 600s - 700s CE. Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

DNA Analysis Deepens Mystery around India's Skeleton Lake

Roopkund Lake is a shallow body of water filled with human bones, high in the Himalayas of India. Its not-very-creative nickname is "Skeleton Lake." As you might imagine, finding a mysterious lake filled with human bodies has generated much archaeological interest.

A recent genome-wide DNA analysis of 38 of the remains indicates that they came from multiple groups. The largest group (23 individuals) were similar to that of people from present-day India. The second-largest group (14 individuals) were most similar to people from present-day Crete and Greece! Very surprising. The last individual, if you are curious, had DNA suggesting a Southeast Asian origin.

Another recent finding was that these individuals did not all die at the same time, in a disaster of some kind. Radiocarbon dating placed the Indian-related bones between the 600s and 900s CE. The analysis does not tell us if within that span, multiple groupings were put in Roopkund Lake together, or if each individual's remains were placed individually into the lake. The other groups, the Mediterranean individuals and the Southeast Asian individual, were placed in the lake between 1600 and 1900 CE. That's pretty recent.

These DNA analyses were conducted only on a handful of the individuals buried at Roopkund Lake, the ones whose whole-genome DNA could be generated. There may be more surprises in store as more of the remains are tested.

Located on Peru’s northwest coast, Pañamarca was one of many ceremonial centers sacred to the Moche people. It is home to some of the best-preserved murals from the Moche, dating to the 500s to 900s CE. After early archaeological work in the 1950s, which documented some impressive murals, the site was quietly forgotten until an archaeologist and art historian decided to examine it again in 2010, and see what art might still remain. They didn't expect much. But not only were a number of the previously-documented murals still in good condition, many more had been missed by the earlier archaeologists, left in situ and intact. “We were soon looking at things that no one had seen since A.D. 780, when parts of the site were deliberately buried,” said lead researcher Dr. lisa Trever.

This particular mural was one of their new discoveries. Based on evidence from Moche ceramics, it is believed to depict the mythical hero Ai-Apaec fighting a Strombus monster whose shell is adorned with a two-headed serpent.

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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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