Coastal Amazonian Diets Analyzed

An international team of researchers studied the diets of people who lived between 200 CE and 1000 CE on Brazil’s Amazon coast. Using statistical models and analysis of the chemical composition of their bones, the results suggested that people ate mostly terrestrial plants and animals. This is surprising since they were studied specifically based on their living in coastal areas. Rodents such as those from the guinea pig family, the agouti, and the paca; the brocket deer; and catfish are all thought to have been consumed, in addition to wild and cultivated plants such as cassava, corn, and squash.

The First Japanese Cats May Have Been Royal

No one is quite sure how cats arrived in Japan. The most supported hypotheses are that they traveled down the silk road from Egypt to China and Korea, and eventually made the hop to Japan. Why they came across also is debated. They may have come as ratters guarding precious Buddhist sutras written on vellum, or as expensive gifts traded between emperors. They may have been both, at different times. The first evidence that cats were definitely in Japan come from the diary of 17-year-old Emperor Uda on March 11, 889 CE:

On the 6th Day of the 2nd Month of the First Year of the Kampo era. Taking a moment of my free time, I wish to express my joy of the cat. It arrived by boat as a gift to the late Emperor, received from the hands of Minamoto no Kuwashi. The color of the fur is peerless. None could find the words to describe it, although one said it was reminiscent of the deepest ink. It has an air about it, similar to Kanno. Its length is 5 sun, and its height is 6 sun. I affixed a bow about its neck, but it did not remain for long. In rebellion, it narrows its eyes and extends its needles. It shows its back. When it lies down, it curls in a circle like a coin. You cannot see its feet. It’s as if it were circular Bi disk. When it stands, its cry expresses profound loneliness, like a black dragon floating above the clouds. By nature, it likes to stalk birds. It lowers its head and works its tail. It can extend its spine to raise its height by at least 2 sun. Its color allows it to disappear at night. I am convinced it is superior to all other cats.”

Mildly Unusual Viking Warrior Grave Found

A in a burial ground near a Viking-era farm (800s - 900s CE) in central Norway included a full set of weapons. Specifically, an ax, spear, shield, and sword. Having such weapons meant he was probably a warrior. Which also meant he was probably a farmer, who lived nearby, because by law all farmers who owned their land were required to also own such weapons. That's not the only thing unusual about the find. In most graves from the period, the sword is found on the right side of the body, even though a right-handed person would have worn a sword fastened to the left side of the body, in order to withdraw it from its scabbard with the right hand. It is not clear why swords went on the right side but that's the way it was. This burial had the sword on the left.

1,200-Year-Old Rock-Cut Temple Uncovered In India

Three chambers have been found cut into the limestone banks of the Arjuna River in southern India. Archaeologists suggest that the rooms, which had been covered with debris and heavy plant growth, were built as a temple some 1,200 years ago. Cement on the walls and ceiling of the structure may have been applied about 100 years ago in an attempt to repair holes and cracks in the limestone. A stone naga statue within the inner sanctum is thought to have been placed there at the time of the repairs, as well. But then somehow the temple was forgotten between then and now. It is even unclear who the temple was dedicated to because there are no identified statues, no idols, no painted reliefs. The temple lacks decoration, except for niches on either side of the entrance to the inner sanctum, likely because of the poor quality of the limestone.

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.

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.

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    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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