Arab inventor al-Jazari (1136–1206) invented an automaton named the "elephant clock." Water propelled the clock, which caused a humanoid automaton to strike his cymbal and a mechanical bird to chirp, every half an hour. His instructions for the elephant clock are precise enough that multiple reproductions have been made!

One of the horse statues has been dated to at least 2,800 years ago, the time of the Israelite Kingdom, and the other to the Hellenistic period at least 2,200 years ago. Horses had become deeply established in the region by that time, albeit for mobility and for prestige. Horses were not for pulling plows, but to get about, and visit or conquer the neighbors. These are not the first horse statuary found in the region which were relatively popular by about 3,000 years ago. But they are the best preserved.

A map of the entire internet, as it was in May 1973. Back then, the World Wide Web was known as the ARPANET, and consisted of just 42 computer hosts connected to 36 nodes spread across the US. Lightning bolts indicate satellite connections. How many of the locations can you recognize? Ames, for instance, was the NASA Ames Research Center.

In A.H. 77–79/697–99 CE, the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan reformed Islamic coinage. He stopped using the styles of coins, with heads on one side and an image on the other, inherited from Byzantium and Sasanian Iran. Instead coins were decorated only with Arabic writing. Typically, the Muslim profession of the faith would appear in the field on the obverse, with the name of the mint in the margin. On the reverse of copper coins, the field would contain the name of the Prophet Muhammad, while the caliph’s name or that of a local ruler and the date would appear in the margin. The result was that coinage from the Islamic world took on a distinctive look and set of standard practices.

This jug's decoration of water birds and bending plants is an example of a particularly rare type of ceramic decoration. The jug is decorated in the "barbotine" technique, a style of decoration that is applied freehand using clay to create a raised design. Think icing applied to decorate a cake. Barbotine is very difficult to do well, and even when it is, requires much time. Thus there are few examples of barbotine techniques. Late 1st century BCE to early 1st century CE, Roman Empire.

Coal miners in eastern Serbia discovered three boats in what may have been a branch of the Danube River some 1,300 years ago. The site where the vessels were uncovered is near the ancient Roman city of Viminacium, which fell to invaders around 600 CE.

The largest of the three boats had a flat bottom, a single deck, at least six pairs of oars, fittings for a triangular sail, and measured about 49 feet long. It would have carried a crew of 30 to 35 sailors. The ship apparently had a lengthy career: traces of repairs to the hull suggest a well-used ship, which incurred wear and tear over its journeys. The two smaller boats were carved from single tree trunks, and are thought to have been made by Slavic peoples for crossing the river.

No signs of battle damage have been found on the boats, and no artifacts were left behind by the crews. Since the largest ship was built with Roman techniques, it is possible the boat dates to the Roman period, but those methods of construction may have continued to be used during the Byzantine and medieval periods as well, making dating tricky. Wood samples from preserved nearby oak trees have been sent for radiocarbon dating -- but covid-19 has prevented analyses from moving forward.

Street Traffic in London in the 1860s

This photograph is notable for showing a "live action" view of London streets during this period. It was taken at the clock tower at London Bridge.

This is the world's oldest surviving string! It dates to about 50,000 years ago, and was made by Neanderthals living in what is now southern France.

This made me smile, but I could not find much about the photograph. If anyone has information about the date, or these ladies, please get in touch!

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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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