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 Pornocracy: When The Popes Were Really, Truly Corrupt

During the first two-thirds of the 900s, the Roman papacy was basically the property of a Roman elite fammily, the Theophylacti. Which resulted in some strange doings.

The man who is considered the start of the pornocracy, Pope Sergius III, was put on the throne thanks to the Theophylacti. He (allegedly) then had his two predecessors murdered to make sure they could not challenge him. Sergius III was also the alleged father of Pope John XI, who became pope at just 21 through the machinations of his mother, Marozia of the Theophylacti. Marozia was actually the power behind the throne of course.

When John XI died, a reluctant Benedictine monk was put on the throne by Marozia's son, to ensure the pope would be controllable. Three similarly weak successors were chosen by the family Theophylacti. Then they put a family member, Marozia's grandson John XII, on the throne.

He was the end of the Pornocracy and has the distinction of being the only man to ever become pope three times. John XII was deposed for an antipope 20 years after his election, restored to the papacy a year later, then sold the office but changed his mind and took it back from the buyer. John XII ended up being deposed for good in 964 by the German emperor in collusion with a church council. And that was the end of the pornocracy, though the Theophylacti remained powerful in Rome for a few more generations. In all, two grandsons, two great-grandsons, and one great-great grandson of Marozia would sit on the papal throne.

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.

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.

The Epic Life of A Viking Explorer

Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir was a Norse explorer, born in Iceland, but remembered for her participation in the Viking expeditions to what is today Canada. She became known as the ‘far-traveller' and she is talked about in two Old Norse sagas, The Saga of Erik the Red and The Saga of the Greenlanders.

Gudrid is described in The Saga of the Greenlanders as “a woman of striking appearance, and wise”. Both sagas start Gudrid's story with her and her father sailing west to join Erik the Red’s newly-founded colony in Greenland. According to The Saga of the Greenlanders Gudrid, her husband, and several others were shipwrecked. Then they were rescued by Leif the Lucky, son of Erik the Red. A sickness came through the Greenland colonists that winter and Gudrid's husband died. The Saga of Erik the Red does not mention a shipwreck or Gudrid already being married. Instead, when Gudrid arrived Greenland was in the grip of a famine. Though a Christian, she took part in a pagan ritual, and assisted a seeress in chanting songs to sway spirits and end the famine.

Both sagas agree that after arriving in Greenland, Gudrid married Thorstein, son of Erik the Red and younger brother of Leif the Lucky. That winter a deadly sickness struck again. Gudrid and her husband sickened, and her husband died. But once again, Gudrid survived. She then married an Icelander, Thorstein Karlsefni, who travelled with her to Vinland. After they landed, Gudrid gave birth to a son, Snorri. If the sagas are truthful Snorri was the first baby born to a European on the North American continent.

Gudrid's story continues after the Vinland attempt at a colony is abandoned. She becomes a revered matriarch in Iceland, who many famous Icelanders trace their ancestry to. She even makes a pilgrimage to far-away Rome. The Saga of the Greenlanders ends with a list of Gudrid's descendants. Some historians argue that the saga should more rightly be named "The Saga of Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir" given how important she is in the history.

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.

Weird But True

"Egg" as a verb -- e.g. to egg someone on -- has been in the English language longer than "egg" as a noun -- e.g. a chicken's egg.

What do you think this person is doing? If you guessed pooping -- congrats, you guessed wrong! This piece is titled "Sorrowing Adam." He is sitting on something (it is not explained), grieving, after getting kicked out of paradise by God. The panel once decorated the side of a Byzantine casket or box. Ivory, circa 900s - 1000 CE (courtesy of the Walters Art Museum)

A remarkable Liao Dynasty (907 - 1125 CE) tomb in China was unfortunately looted before its discovery by archaeologists. But the looters could not take the murals. Over 160 square feet of beautifully preserved paintings decorate the tomb's walls, reproducing constellations, wooden architecture, travel, and scenes from daily life.

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.

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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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