Where Was Phoenicia?

Although the Phoenicians were among the most influential people in the Mediterranean in the first millennium BCE, very little is understood about them. For instance, there was never a kingdom called "Phoenicia." There was a bunch of cities, sharing a strip of land on the coast of modern-day Lebanon, Syria, and northern Israel. These cities were never united. Each was fiercely independent, though they shared a language, an alphabet, and several cultural characteristics.     Many of these cities survive today. For instance, Berot became modern Beirut, and Sidon became modern Saida.

The Americas' Linguistic Diversity

There were dozens of language families, each the equivalent of the Indo-European family, before 1492. This map is a "simplified" one. In today's California, for instance, languages that are spoken by neighboring tribes are as different as French and Chinese.     Why did the Americas develop such linguistic diversity? Many linguists suspect that at least some of these separate families date back to separate migrations of different tribes from Asia who originally spoke unrelated languages. Linguistic and archaeological data hint at more than one migration from Asia into the Americas, all of them through Alaska.     Extra Fun Fact: see “Eskimo-Aleut” in northern North America? It is not colored because there is no evidence those languages are related to any other indigenous American languages!

Amazingly Ancient Carving From Ural Mountains Gets A New Look

Gold miners discovered pieces of the elongated structure, dubbed the Shigir Idol, in 1894 in a Russian peat bog. But it wasn't until about 100 years later, in the late 1990s, that researchers did radiocarbon dating and found that the structure was about 9,900 years old, making it the oldest wooden monumental sculpture in the world, the researchers said. That dating only used two pieces of the Shigir Idol.     So a second, more exhaustive, analysis was recently ordered. And wow was it worth it! The Shigir Idol, according to the new tests, is in fact, 11,500 years old! In addition to updating the sculpture's birthday, the researchers found a previously unknown face carved into the wood. Who knows what we will find in another 20 years.

Why Did New Guinea Warriors Prefer Daggers Made With Human Bone?

The indigenous people of Papua New Guinea did not develop metalworking before modern contact. Instead, they fought with sharpened bone daggers. Here there was a choice: fight with daggers crafted from human thighbones or daggers crafted from cassowary thighbones -- giant, flightless, dinosaur-like birds. The preferred weapon in Papua New Guinea was human bone daggers.     And a new study suggests why: the dagger fashioned from human bone is stronger than the giant bird's thighbone, largely because of the way the warriors of New Guinea carved the weapons. The human bone daggers retained more of the natural curves of the bone, making them stronger than the flatter, less curved cassowary bone daggers. Given that cassowary daggers are easier to replace than human-bone daggers, it makes sense that the human daggers were carved with greater care to make them stronger.

The Mysterious Ancient Nomads of Mongolia

When you read "megaliths" most people think Stonehenge, not Genghis Khan. But the vast central Asian steppe is home to a proud megalith tradition.
Ancient nomads erected hundreds of megaliths in northern Mongolia and southern Siberia, many featuring a mysterious motif that seems to depict flying deer transforming into birds. It seems likely they were erected around 1,000 BCE by Bronze Age nomads, although some scholars think it more likely that they were crafted around 700 BCE by Iron Age peoples.

A Bucolic Medieval Song

  This is the musical manuscript for one of the best-known English medieval songs, 'Sumer is icumen in' (the Middle English for 'summer is coming in'). The lyrics describe the sounds of a country landscape at the start of summer. Some of those sounds might make a modern reader chuckle:    

'The ewe bleats after the lamb

The cow lows after the calf.

The bullock stirs, the stag farts,

Merrily sing, Cuckoo!'

  Instructions on how to perform the song are given in the bottom right-hand corner of the page. This page comes from a volume of mid-1200s manuscripts, which probably was written at Reading Abbey. The song is the earliest known manuscript in which both religious and non-religious words are written to the same piece of music.  

What Did Vietnam Look Like In The Late 1800s?

This undated manuscript is a lovely example of traditional Chinese and Vietnamese cartography, with some western influences. Named “Comprehensive map of Vietnam’s provinces” (Việt Nam toàn tỉnh dư đồ) it appears to have been painted around 1890.     Most of the map is in traditional Vietnamese and Chinese style. The map does not have a precise scale. It shows Vietnamese provincial organization loosely, with province names enclosed in red in the right places, but with no attempt at provincial borders. Almost every river mouth and estuary is named, reflecting a traditional Vietnamese view of their land, Non Nước (Mountains and Water). It also has a lovely and traditional pictorial style, with mountains and rivers and even a “gate” at the border between Vietnam and China.     The map’s western elements are scant: the shapes of the Vietnamese coastline is fairly accurate, as is the Mekong River and the lake of Tonle Sap in Cambodia.

Naming Nations

A surprisingly large number of countries have changed their names! A few more than once. (Note, this map does not include name changes due to independence or mergers -- so, South Sudan does not appear.)

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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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