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.

A Poetic Critique of Taoism

Those who speak know nothing; Those who know are silent.” These words, as I am told, Were spoken by Laozi. If we are to believe that Laozi Was himself one who knew, How comes it that he wrote a book Of five thousand words?


-Bai Juyi (772-846) a renowned Chinese poet and Tang dynasty government official

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.

Very Early Mosque Found In Israel

The remains of a possible mosque dating to the 600s or 700s CE were discovered in the Negev Desert during construction work. The rectangular structure features a “mihrab,” or prayer niche, facing south toward Mecca. Local farmers are thought to have built the structure shortly after the Arab conquest of the region in 636 CE. That makes this potential mosque one of the earliest mosques in the world, maybe even built within twenty years of Muhammad's death!

The Most Deadly War (Until World War II)

Did you make a guess? Okay, here's the answer: maybe the War of the Three Kingdoms, or the Mongol Conquests. Let's explain each of those in turn. First, what was the War of the Three Kingdoms? When the Han Dynasty lost its grip on power in about 184 CE, China was split into three kingdoms: Wei, Shu, and Wu. The three fought continuously from 184 until 280 CE, when the Jin Dynasty conquered Wu. Historians estimate that between 36 and 40 million people died in all the fighting which occurred during that 96-year period.

The Mongol Conquests are probably better-known to those reading this blog post in English. The long version of the Mongol Conquests dates from 1206 when Genghis Khan burst out of Mongolia's steppe heartland to 1368, when the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty of China fell. Historians estimate between 30 million and 40 million people were killed.

But what about the An Lushan Rebellion, some of you are saying? That rebellion against the Tang Dynasty, which dragged on for 7 years and three Tang emperors before it was finally over, cost somewhere between 13 and 36 million. That's a very wide range. On the upper end, that could top the War of the Three Kingdoms and the Mongol Conquests. But that's only if they are in the low end of their possible death tolls, and the An Lushan Rebellion is at the very highest end of its possible death toll. Of course, historical death counts are always guesswork, so it may be that an entirely different war actually takes the top prize!

For those who are curious, World War II killed at minimum 56,125,162 people.

Big Boat Find in Sweden

Two ship burials have been discovered on a construction site near Sweden’s eastern coast, and one appears to be intact! In the intact tomb have been discovered the remains of a man, a horse, and a dog, who had all been placed in the vessel’s stern. Artifacts found included horse equipment, an ornate comb, a sword, a spear, and a shield. The boat in the second tomb is thought to have measured about 23 feet long, and been slightly larger than the boat in the other burial, but it was damaged by previous construction at the site. Such high-status burials are thought to date to the Vendel Period (550–800 CE) or the Viking Age (800–1050 CE).

A Cool Map Of Languages That Are Secretly Different

Arabic, German, Italian, Chinese, and Thai are five languages that most people think are just one language. But each has dialects sufficiently different to count as a different language. Each of these five "languages" just happen to have, historically, developed into a single unified nation -- and that nation finds it much more convenient, for whatever reason, to claim its citizens all speak the same language.

The exception is Arabic. Thanks to the Islamic conquests, nations that speak derivatives of Arabic find it more convenient to claim they all speak the same language just as they follow the same religion.

  • 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