Researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have discovered a route through underwater limestone caves connecting the Sac Actun cenote and the Dos Ojos cenote. Maya pottery, human bones, and the bones of elephant-like creatures, giant sloths, bears, tigers, and extinct species of horses, all likely from around the end of the last Ice Age, have been found in the tunnel-like caves. Exploring them and finding artifacts can be difficult, though: the underwater caves range in width from 400 feet to just three feet.
This is a book, written sometime between 400 and 600 CE, in the Egyptian language Coptic. Unfortunately no one has been brave enough to open it. The charred book, named M.910 after its library accession number, was fused together by a cinder, which sank through many of its pages, binding the parchment leafs together and making opening the book dangerous. Thanks to modern technology, however, we do not need to open the codex to read its contents. A fine-detail CT scan of the codex was completed in December 2017. Previous fine-detail CT scans have worked, famously with a charred lump from En-Gedi in Israel, but that was a scroll. All the writing was on one side of the scroll. This codex has pages, with writing on both sides. Although tests of mock books worked, we will not know for a while if the real test -- scanning M.910 -- worked as well.
Who were the successors to the Roman's archrivals, the Parthians? You probably guessed from the title -- the Sassanians. It is widely considered the last "true" Persian Empire. Why?
When the Silk Road was in its heyday, it is generally known that silk and porcelain from China was being traded for gold and amber from Europe and spices from India. But did you know that the steppes of Eurasia were a large part of the Silk Road too? They traded horses, which were eventually commercially raised in stud farms, falcons for hunting, swords for fighting, and wax and honey which were popularly believed to provide resistance to the cold. But above all, the steppes traded animal pelts. Furs were highly prized, both for their practical warmth and their social prestige.
Muslim merchants learned to distinguish between different animal pelts, and set their prices accordingly. They were valued depending on their scarcity — less common furs meant higher social cachet — and their warmth. One caliph in the 700s CE went so far as to conduct a series of experiments to test which furs were the warmest. He placed each fur in a separate container, then filled each container with water, and left them all outside overnight in ice-cold weather. In the morning, he checked the containers. All had frozen except for the one with black fox fur. The caliph declared the experiment a success, and black fox fur the warmest and the driest of the furs.
In eastern Mongolia, archaeologists have uncovered a tomb dating to the mid-700s CE, surrounded by 14 stone pillars. Turkic runes inscribed on the pillars indicate the deceased was a viceroy and high-ranking administrative officer during the Second Turkic Qaghanate. This state, which controlled much of the steppes above the Great Wall of China, had emerged in 682 CE and lasted until 744 CE, under the leadership of the Götürk's Ashina clan. Think the Mongol Empire, but earlier and confined to the steppes, and led by Turkic clans. Prior to the discovery of the tomb, it had been thought that Turkic elites were only buried in particular parts of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of the ancient empire.
Tsuzuraozaki Kotei Iseki is an interesting archaeological site in Japan: it is entirely underwater! The site, in Lake Biwako under about 200 feet (61 meters) of water, is known to be home to a wide variety of pottery dating from as early as 8000 BCE through the 1100s CE. Japanese archaeologists recently used a robot (surprise, surprise) to explore Tsuzuraozaki Kotei Iseki. It spotted a Haji pottery urn, measuring about a foot long and dating to the 500s to 700s CE, and shallow, grayish-black bowls thought to be Sue pottery, made in Japan and southern Korea for funeral and ritual use beginning in the 400s CE.
A map of where, in the world, popes have been born. Note that they placed each pope in the country he would be born in, if he was born today. Three popes were born in modern-day Tunisia, sure, but that was back in the Roman Empire. Those ancient "Tunisian" popes would have called it the province of "Africa" and it included eastern Algeria and northern Libya, as well as Tunisia.
Usually, when we think of gold, we think of a warm yellow color. But the Nahuange, who lived in northern Colombia during the first millenium CE, intentionally treated gold jewelry so that it looked pinkish orange. A recent study analyzed 44 Nahuange artifacts from the Museum of Gold in Colombia, and found that they were made from tumbaga, a gold alloy which contains a substantial percentage of copper. They were also all "depletion gilded" which means copper was removed from the surface through hammering, a heating and cooling process, or both. The result was a golden shine on the outside which hid the metal's true high-copper content. That gilding was later removed, on purpose, to bring the copper's pinkish tones out. So initially, the jewelry makers desired golden objects, but at some later point, it was preferable to have pinkish-orange jewelry.
Located on a narrow strip of land between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains in the far western end of Eurasia, is the city of Derbent. With a history going back by five thousand years, Derbent is said to be Russia’s oldest city. It is also the southernmost city in Russia. Derbent’s position between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountains is strategically important in the entire Caucasus region. It is one of only two crossings over the mountain range; the other being over the Darial Gorge. This position has allowed the rulers of Derbent to control land traffic between the Eurasian Steppe and the Middle East and levy taxes on passing merchants. In fact, the city’s present-day name comes from the Persian word Darband which means “barred gate”.
Being at such a strategic location, it has long been a target, or a prize, of states with imperial ambitions. The city was historically an Iranian city, and its first intensive settlement in the 800s BCE was Persian. The city’s modern name came into use during the 500s CE, when the city was re-established by the Sassanid dynasty of Persia. In 654 CE, Derbent came under the hands of the Arabs. They called the city Bab al-Abwab, or “the Gate of Gates”, signifying its strategic importance. The Arabs transformed the city into an important administrative center and introduced Islam to the area. After the Arabs, the region came under the Armenians who established a kingdom there which lasted until the Mongol invasion in the early 1200s. After the Mongols, Derbent changed hands relatively quickly, given its history, coming under the rule of the Shirvanshahs (a dynasty in modern Azerbaijan), the Iranians and the Ottomans before finally being ceded to the Russian Empire as part of the end of the Russo-Persian War.
The Buddha is a canonized saint of the Catholic and Orthodox Christian Churches.