"Legend tells that this temple-pyramid was built by a powerful dwarf magician, who was hatched from an egg by his sorceress mother. Under a threat by an Uxmal king he was ordered to build this temple within a fortnight, or else lose his life."
Recent archaeological evidence from a farm in Norway's southernmost Vest-Agder County offers strong evidence that Vikings farmers actively cultivated hemp. The farm's hemp remains date between 650 and 800 CE -- during the peak Vikings age. Hemp has been found at Viking sites before. But this site is special for how large the operation was. “The other instances were just individual finds of pollen grains. Much more has been found here,” says Frans-Arne Stylegar, an archaeologist and the county's curator.
As funny as the mental image of Vikings getting high is, archaeologists think the hemp was not being grown for its psychedelic properties. It was likely used for rope and textile -- much more boring.
Pañamarca has impressive ruins from the Moche culture, which flourished on the northwest coast of Peru between 200 CE and 900 CE. Amazingly, many murals in Pañamarca still retain their colors, over 1,000 years after the last painter laid down his brush. The site was deliberately buried sometime around 750 CE. And in doing so, the Moche unintentionally preserved their art for future archaeologists to discover.
This mural is on one of the pillars of the imaginatively named "Temple of the Painted Pillars." The figures hold typical Moche objects, including a plate with three purple goblets, a multicolored stirrup-spout bottle, and a feather fan.
The sling is the oldest weapon we know of. Besides, well, throwing rocks. But that doesn't really count. Slings were used throughout antiquity, in the Americas and Africa and Eurasia. Even the Polynesian Islands, the last places to be when discovered by humans, had slings!
In its basic form, a sling is a length of string which holds a stone. (You can probably guess where the sling got its name.) The string is slung and when the stone is released, it flies with more force than if someone had thrown the stone by hand. With just a length of string, you would throw both the stone and the string together! Eventually, someone came up with putting a leather pouch in the middle of the string. This would hold the stone, and also allow the thrower to keep a hold of the sling after a throw instead of throwing it away and needing to make a new one, or take time fetching the thrown one.
Historians have just discovered the oldest reference to the mathematical concept of "zero" in India. The concept of zero as a number was revolutionary in mathematics. In Eurasia, the idea came from India (and the Mayans separately invented it hundreds of years late in the Americas) but exactly when zero was first conceived in India is a bit of a mystery. Now, we have a potential clue: the Bakhshali manuscript, which a farmer dug up the text from a field in 1881 in the village of Bakhshali, near Peshawar in what is today Pakistan. It consists of 70 leaves of birch bark and contains hundreds of zeros in the form of dots. Why was it only just discovered, if the farmer dug it up over 100 years ago?
People knew what it was, and knew it zeros throughout the text. But they thought the Bakhshali manuscript was written between the 700s and the 1100s CE. Since the oldest then-known written reference to zero was the Indian astronomer Brahmagupta's work "Brahmasphutasiddhanta," which was written in 628 CE, the Bakhshali manuscript was a lot less exciting. It was a mathematical manuscript utilizing the newly-invented concept of zero, which astronomers had been using for at least a couple decades before the Bakhshali.
But recent, more advanced carbon dating resulted in three different dates for different parts of the Bakhshali manuscript. It appears now to be not one document but several, put together. And the oldest part dated to 224 to 383 CE! That is hundreds of years before Brahmagupta! Two other parts dated to 680 to 779 CE, and 885 to 993 CE, which is probably why earlier analyses got the manuscript's age wrong. If further tests confirm the findings, the Bakhshali manuscript moves up when zero was invented to the same time the Roman Empire was falling to barbarians, the Three Kingdoms Period was reordering China, and Teotihuacan was near the heights of its power.
The term “Byzantine Empire” came into common use during the 1700s and 1800s. It would never have been heard, let alone embraced, by the people who once lived in it. To them, Byzantium was still the Roman Empire, which had merely moved its seat of power from Rome to a new eastern capital in Constantinople. Though largely Greek-speaking and Christian, the Byzantines called themselves “Romaioi,” or Romans. They used Roman law, played Roman games like chariot racing, and enjoyed Roman festivals. While Byzantium evolved a distinctive, Greek-influenced identity as the centuries passed, the Romaioi continued to cherish their Roman roots until the end. When he conquered Constantinople in 1453, the Turkish leader Mehmed II even took the emperor's title as “Caesar of Rome.”
This odd-looking item is a nose ring! The nose ring was uncovered at a grave near the border with Costa Rica in 1909. Times being what they were, the artifact was then sold to Tiffany & Co. in New York City. Eventually it ended up in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, where it resides today.
Because it was unearthed by non-archaeologists, and immediately sold abroad, not much is known about how it was made or who once wore it. It was crafted in Panama by a Native American out of gold alloy, sometime between 800 CE and 1521 CE. Based on eyewitness accounts by early conquistadors and the archaeological evidence, we can also say that gold nose rings were a popular form of body ornament and sign of rank, for both men and women, in ancient Central America.
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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!