The Three Wise Monkeys

A slightly-mysterious carving of the Three Wise Monkeys on the sacred stable at the Nikko Toshogu Shrine complex in Japan, which was built in 1617. The sculpture is attributed to Hidari Jingorō, a legendary sculptor whose existence is a matter of debate. Not only is their carver potentially a myth, these monkeys may also be the first physical representation of the old saying, which arrived in Japan with Buddhist monks in the 700s CE.

Cup made of agate and shaped like a horn. This cup was found in China as part of the Hejiacun Hoard, a huge collection of over a thousand silver and gold items unearthed at the site of Chang'an, the capital of the Tang dynasty. But the craftsman who made it was almost certainly in Persia, and specifically the Parthian Empire. We know this because the drinking vessel is in the style of horn-shaped rhytons found in central Asia and the Mediterranean which are known to have been produced in Persia.

North-western Syria has about seven hundred "Dead Cities" or "Forgotten Cities." They include villages, towns, and some cities that were mainly abandoned between the 700s and 900s CE. Because they rest in an elevated area of limestone known as the Limestone Massif, which gets relatively little rain, the settlements are more or less still at surface level and well-preserved. There are three main groups of highlands on the Massif, each with their own Dead Cities. They provide us with insight into what life was like for prosperous agriculturalists in Late Antiquity and the Byzantine period.

The Dead Cities became a massive UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, although they have been largely inaccessible since 2013.

Ancient Domesticated Bananas Found Off The Coast of New Guinea

Some extremely early evidence of banana cultivation -- dating to around 2,000 years ago -- has been found on Mabuiag Island. That's in the Torres Strait, between the tip of northern Australia and the island of New Guinea. With the permission of the island's Goemulgal community a team examined soil near Wagadagam Village. Besides thousands of microscopic fossilized starch grains and banana phytoliths, they also found traces of terraces at the site, indicating that banana cultivation had intensified on the island around 1,300 years ago (roughly 700s CE). Interestingly the survey did not find evidence of wild banana plants on Mabuiag Island. That means ancient humans brought already-domesticated bananas to the island specifically for agricultural production.

Glyphs Help Rediscover Timeline of Mayan City

Using photogrammetry and light cast from different angles, researchers have been recording and attempting to read eroded glyphs at the Maya city of Coba. The city once flourished in the northern lowlands of the Yucatan Peninsula. After ten years of work, the researchers have identified the names of 14 rulers who governed the city from about 500 to 780 CE. This allows modern researchers to begin reconstructing a political timeline of the city. When was it powerful? When did it fight other cities? For instance the glyphs document a Lady Yopaat, who is thought to have increased the power and influence of the city during her 40-year reign in the early 600s.

Once-Dominant Steppe Warrior's Grave Found In Croatia

The rare remains of an Avar warrior dating to the late 600s or early 700s CE have been found in a walled tomb in eastern Croatia, near the site of the Roman city of Cibalae. While Avars were known to have been in the area, this is the first Avar grave found. The Avars were Eurasian nomads who arrived in Europe in the 500s CE, at the invitation of the Byzantine emperor, and conquered the other nomadic tribes in the region to become the dominant group. Archaeologist Anita Rapan-Papeša explained “When we observe the walled grave we have discovered, it turns out that Avars saw how Romans were buried so they made their own copies of Roman graves.” Rapan-Papeša and her team members also unearthed a grave in the cemetery that contained the remains of an Avar warrior, his horse, and bridle ornaments.

The Kayi Tribe is considered to be one of the twenty-four Oghuz Turkic Tribes that descend from the legendary and almost mythical figure Oghuz Khan/Oghuz Khagan. It was a leader of this tribe, Osman, who founded the Ottoman Empire. The Seljuk Turks were also an Oghuz Turks, for those who are curious, though not counted as one of the twenty-four main tribes.

Redefining Maya Warfare

It was previously thought that before 800 CE, conflict between Maya population centers was low-risk and ritualized. Sacred sites would be vandalized and high-status hostages taken. But the people and their cities would largely be left alone. It was only later, due to growing socioeconomic tensions, that warfare became more dangerous and inflicted greater human loss.

But recent analyses of lake sediment cores near the ancient city of Witzna, in northern Guatemala, is challenging this view of Maya conflict. The core analyses showed a massive fire took place around 700 CE. All the major structures of the city were destroyed by the fire, even the royal palace.

A hieroglyphic war stela at nearby population center Naranjo states that on May 21st, 697 CE, Naranjo subjected Witzna to “puluuy.” It was previously thought that the word puluuy meant a local fire ritual. Just a little ritualized conflict that hurt no one. The evidence from the lake sediments redefines the word. Witzna was inflicted with a puluuy which hurt its citizens and destroyed its buildings. The Naranjo stela describes four other cities as having been subjected to puluuy. This suggests that Mayans practiced total warfare, with great human cost, earlier and more frequently than previously thought.

Lost Maya Capital Found In Mexico

Researchers have recently uncovered a Maya site in southeastern Mexico that may have been the capital of Sak Tz’i’, a kingdom mentioned in inscriptions uncovered at other Maya sites, and looted artifacts which turn up on the market. Such clues were used in the early 2000s to model the hypothetical boundaries of Sak Tz'i' territory and the likely location of its capital. And recent archaeological work involving locals and building on the model has found a site filled with Sak Tz'i' monuments.

Translated as “white dog,” Sak Tz’i’ was a small state founded in 750 BCE and surrounded by more powerful states. The city was protected on one side by steep-walled streams, while masonry walls were built around the rest of the site. But these defenses were likely insufficient. So the researchers suspect the city’s leaders must have engaged in political maneuverings with the kingdom’s stronger neighbors in order to survive for more than 1,000 years.

The team members have found evidence of pyramids, a royal palace, a ball court, sculptures, and inscriptions describing rituals, battles, a mythical water serpent, and the dance of a rain god. Current archaeological work focuses on stabilizing and mapping the site.

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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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