Sumerians made drums with animal skins and fashioned wind instruments from horns and bones. They also played string instruments, and a Sumerian lyre is the oldest example ever found from this family of instruments. Perhaps even more exciting for the music nerds out there, recent discoveries have revealed they used the oldest known system of musical notation based around a seven-note scale. This came two-thousand years before the Ancient Greeks developed the eight-note musical scale that is the foundation of Western music today.
One Russian cult from the early 1800s called the Skoptsy was .... weird. It thought that sex was a sin in all circumstances, even within marriage, and lust was a sin as well. They encouraged their followers to remove any body parts that may lead them to lust. Men would castrate themselves, and women would have mastectomies. Somehow it gathered an estimated million followers before the founder Kondraty Selivanov was arrested by Tsar Paul I and the cult fell apart.
In 1807, three years after the Haitian Revolution, someone decided to edit the Bible that was provided to Caribbean slaves to omit any inducements to rebel. The result was Select Parts of the Holy Bible, for the Use of the Negro Slaves in the British West-India Islands, a heavily redacted version.
It that includes Joseph’s enslavement in Egypt but omits Moses leading the Israelites to freedom. Also cut were Galatians 3:28 (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”) and the Book of Revelation, which tells of a new world in which evil will be punished. But they retained Ephesians 6:5: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.”
If you are curious, it can be read online thanks to Google Books. There are only three known exiting copies.
Archaeologists have recovered a rare and tantalising treasure just 160 feet offshore from Mallorca in Spain. Not gold or jewels, but 93 jug-like terracotta vessels called amphorae from a Roman ship that sank 1,700 years ago.
The amphorae are still intact and some are even sealed. So there is a pretty good chance that their contents survived the millennia. The amphorae are currently undergoing desalinization in a lab, to make sure that the salt doesn’t crystallize, breaking the amphorae and destroying their contents. But once that’s finished there will be some exciting news in the archaeology world!
A large quantity of Hexaplex trunculus shells, which were used in the production of valuable purple dye, have been found at a Minoan settlement dating to between 1800 and 1500 BCE on the now uninhabited Greek island of Chryssi. One large, two-room building in the settlement was equipped with built-in buckets, terraces, work desks, stoves, and a staircase made of stone slabs. Pottery and stone tools were also found in the building, although it lacked the dye-producing shells found in other structures in the settlement. One of the rooms contained treasures including a gold ring, a gold bracelet, gold beads, a silver bead, bronze beads, glass beads in various colors, an amethyst bead, ten lapis beads, an agate seal carved with an image of a ship, and three copper vases. Researchers speculate that the building may have managed the production and trade of valuable purple dye for the entire settlement.
James Buchanan was born in 1791. He was the 15th president of the United States, and his two immediate predecessors were both born after 1800 (13th president Millard Fillmore in 1800, 14th president Franklin Pierce in 1804). Buchanan is the only US president whose century-of-birth preceded that of the president before him.
To make his spy novels read as more authentic, author John Le Carré is credited with coining a number of terms for his fictional intelligence agency: terms like mole, honey trap, pavement artist, asset babysitter. These terms are now common in real-life intelligence agencies. (John Le Carré wrote The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Constant Gardener, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Night Manager.)
Since 1219, Estonia was ruled at various times by Danish, Swedish, German, and Russian governments. It declared independence after World War I, but that only lasted until 1940 when it was occupied by the Soviet Union. Estonia has only been an independent nation since 1991. That means that since 1219, Estonia has been independent for exactly 50 years out of 800!
Technically, the Taiwan Republic was the first independent republic in Asia. The Republic of Formosa was established on May 25th, 1895. However, on May 29th, 1895, a Japanese military force of over 12,000 soldiers landed in Northern Taiwan and turned Taiwan into a Japanese colony.
In 1860, during the Second Opium War, the British took Beijing and destroyed the Old Summer Palace. But first they took everything they could carry of value. Including Pekingese dogs, the first of which was given to Queen Victoria who brazenly named him... "Looty."