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 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 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.

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

Dragon's head with a wind chime dangling from its muzzle. This bronze dragon head would have been fitted over a wooden beam at the corner of a roof, probably of a Buddhist temple or royal residence. It is one of only two known rafter filials from this period. Korea, Goryeo Dynasty, 900s CE.

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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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