Medieval Soap Factory Found in Israel

A 1,200-year-old soap factory has been unearthed in the Negev Desert by a team of Israel Antiquities Authority researchers, with the assistance of local high school students. The pillared building was in use during the time when the Abbasids controlled the area. Based on the archaeological remains, it appears that hard cakes of soap was made from olive oil and saltwort, using a rather complicated process. First, the liquid mixture was cooked for about seven days, and was then transferred to a shallow pool, where the soap hardened for another ten days, until it could be cut into bars, which dried for another two months. So much soap could have been produced at the site that it was probably exported to Egypt and other parts of the Arab world.

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.

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.

Skeleton Analyses in Mongolia Suggest Millet Increasingly Part of Their Ancient and Medieval Diet

An international team of researchers examined the ratios of stable nitrogen and carbon isotopes in collagen and dental enamel samples obtained from the remains of some 130 individuals who were buried in Mongolia between 4500 BCE and 1300 CE. The analysis suggests that during the Bronze Age, the Mongolian diet was based on milk and meat and supplemented with local plants. From about the 200s BCE to the late first century CE, during the Xiongnu Empire, some people continued to eat the Bronze Age animal-based diet, while those living in political centers began to eat more millet-based diets. Grain consumption and thus the practice of agriculture appears to have continued to increase into the period of the Mongolian Empire of the Khans. Empires based in Mongolia thus presided over a mixed population of both pastoralists and farmers. Their varied food strategies gave the empires strength in diversity.

The Effort to Save Colombia's Underground Mountaintop Tombs

Scientists and conservators are finally able to return to what was once an Andean war zone. Tierradentro is a cluster of 162 burial chambers hewn from the peaks of four parallel mountains near the Andean town of Inza. They span a few miles of mountainous terrain, with the tomb entrances at the peaks.

These burials were created between 600 and 900 CE, before Spanish colonization, as “homes for the dead” of the ancient society’s elite class. Some are the size of a closet. Others are large, with multiple rooms. And every single burial chamber has beautiful, unique paintings. Read all about archaeologist's recent return to Tierradentro in an Atlas Obscura article

In Laconia, the district around Sparta, and specifically in Maina, now Mani Peninsula, the inaccessible middle finger of the Peloponnese, there were people who worshipped the Greek gods until the 800s CE. They finally began converting to Christianity under Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867–886 CE). However they were still having to be re-converted for generations, which we know because the Orthodox preacher (and eventual saint) Nikon the Metanoeite did missionary work in Maina around the 950s.

Mysterious Tiawanaku Religion Pre-Dated Incas by 500 Years, Stunning Lake Discovery Reveals

The Tiwanaku state dominated the Andean highlands for centuries yet we know very little about them. What we do know comes from their archaeological remains. They appear to have developed in the Lake Titicaca region, and at their peak, they may have only numbered 10,000 to 20,000 people. Recent underwater excavations near the lake's Island of the Sun reveal ritual offerings made by the Tiwanaku centuries before the Island of the Sun was converted into a major Incan pilgrimage site. The finds include puma-shaped incense burners with fragments of charcoal present on the excavated deposits, and a number of gold, shell, and stone ornaments. They date from the 700s to the 900s CE. And they were, intriguingly, found near anchors -- like the offerings had been deliberately weighed to drift the bottom of the lake.

That is the image of a lost city, found beneath the Cambodian jungle. Mahendraparvata, sometimes dubbed the 'lost city of Cambodia', was an early capital city of the Khmer Empire (800s - 1400s CE). Historians and archaeologists knew Mahendraparvata existed -- somewhere. And a recently-released paper suggests that it has been found, based on the combination of scriptural evidence stating the capital was on a specific mountainous plateau, and airborne laser scanning (above) that found the remains of a city in that area.

Traditional ground-based archaeological work was conducted after the laser scanning identified the site. The city appears to date to the late 700s CE to early 800s CE, the right era for Mahendraparvata. It is a city of linear axes denoting wide boulevards. The streets are large, 60 to 80 meters (~200 feet) wide, and up to 15 kilometers (9 miles) long. Dams, reservoir walls and the enclosure walls of temples, neighborhoods and even the royal palace are built next to or alongside the embankments. With thousands of buildings Mahendraparvata will take decades to fully rediscover. This was a large city, a capital city, built to impress even centuries later.

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.

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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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