The Foundation of Carthage

Carthage was initially founded by Phoenicians from the city-state of Tyre in the 800s BCE. They named it Qart-hadasht, which simply means “new town.” Situated in today's Tunisia, the settlement was one of many Tyrian colonies dotted around the Mediterranean basin, which brought new materials and goods back to Phoenicia and strengthened and expanded Phoenicia's trading network. Eventually the new town gained its independence around 650 BCE, and became a prosperous trade-based city-state with colonies of its own.

Prehistoric Neanderthals had high rates of surfer’s ear, or aural exostoses -- a condition caused by repeated exposure to cold water. It is theorized that they may have gathered resources from the sea, such as fishing, or gathering molluscs. Another possibility, of course, is that Neanderthals had a genetic predisposition to bone growths in their ears.

How To Make A Mountain

There are three types of mountains: mountains of accumulation, formed by volcanic eruptions; folded mountains, formed by the clashing of the earth’s tectonic plates; and mountains of erosion, formed by extreme weather.

History Doesn't Repeat, But It Rhymes

On May 21st, 1991, the former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber. Fourteen others were also killed in the attack. Rajiv Gandhi had taken office in 1984 after the his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by one of her bodyguards.

The title comes from a quote that may or may not have been by Mark Twain.

The Spy Who Slept His Way Out of Work

Jack Barsky, born Albrecht Dittrich, was a former sleeper agent of the KGB who spied on the United States from 1978–88. They ordered him to return to the USSR embassy in Canada to be extracted to East Germany. But Dittrich, now Barsky, had married and there was an infant daughter he did not want to abandon. (He didn't seem as concerned for his German wife and son back home.) Barsky decided he wouldn't leave the US. But the KGB isn't known for letting its employees go. Then he had an ingenious idea.

To stay in the United States, Dittrich told his handlers he had HIV and needed to stay in the United States for treatment. Afraid of it spreading to the USSR, or perhaps simply unable to snatch him, the handlers did not extract him. So HIV saved his life? Barsky was uncovered after the fall of the USSR when a defector to Great Britain listed his name along with many other former KGB agents. The FBI found him, surveilled him, and eventually picked him up. But Barsky was happy to provide information on his training and KGB techniques. In short, he made himself an asset to the FBI, and he was never formally charged. Oh, and he and his American wife ended up getting a divorce.

Contrary to popular belief, the first video game was not Pong. It was preceded by Tennis for Two in 1958 and Spacewar! in 1962

Ancient Maya practiced 'total war' well before climate stress

It's thought that widespread destruction of Maya cities only began when droughts threatened food supplies. A surprising find at the bottom of a Guatemalan lake is helping to upend that theory. Read the full article about the lakebed find at National Geographic

Who Lived In Egypt Before The Pharaohs?

The known, Dynastic Egypt began around 3,100 BCE. But the magnificent, complex civilization we still learn about in elementary school did not suddenly emerge, fully-formed. What came before? Archaeologists know that roughly between 9,300 BCE and 4,000 BCE, an enigmatic Neolithic people built a proto civilization in Egypt. But there has been little research on them, so a new excavation of six burial sites has the possibility of adding greatly to the understanding of how ancient Egypt became, well, ancient Egypt.

During the Neolithic, Egypt was much greener, allowing ancient herders to populate what is now the middle of a barren desert. During the Final Neolithic (4,600 - 4,000 BCE) they began to bury the dead in formal cemeteries. We know this from excavations at three burial sites which were not lone graves but large cemeteries housing over 100 burials each.

One cemetery appears to be for the elite. It had a low childhood mortality rate, tall stature, and relatively long lifespans for the Neolithic. Men averaged about 170 cm tall (5'7"), and women about 160 cm (5'3"). Most had lived beyond 40, and some even into their 50s. That's not old today, but for the Neolithic, that's nothing to scoff at. And most tellingly, those in this cemetery were buried with many artifacts including ornamental pottery, jewellery from stones and ostrich eggshells, sea shells far from the sea, and animal remains. Two other cemeteries appear to be for lower-status individuals. They had few artifacts, high child mortality, were physically shorter, and had shorter lifespans. The larger of the two cemeteries had a separate burial area for children under 3 years old, although most of the remains were infants and late-term fetuses. It is the earliest known infant cemetery.

These three very different burial sites suggest that by 4,600 BCE, Neolithic society had developed stratified social hierarchies. It also suggests that age 3 is when children became "people" and were included in adult cemeteries. Finally, there was evidence of respect for those previously buried, because when coming across old skeletons in reused graves, they often carefully repositioned their ancestors' bones, sometimes even replacing teeth that had fallen out! The archaeological evidence suggests a sophisticated herding society, one slowly evolving towards what would become Dynastic Egypt.

There's A Bishop of the Moon?

During a 1968 visit with the Pope, William D. Borders, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Orlando, Florida, observed that arguably he was now bishop of the moon. According to the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which was in force at the time, any newly discovered territory fell under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the discovering expedition had left. And Borders’ diocese included Brevard County, home of Cape Canaveral, where the Apollo missions took off.

A Lofty Goal

In 1760, Horace Benedict de Saussure, a naturalist hoping to gain scientific information, offered a reward to anyone who could make the full climb up Mont Blanc, the highest mountain peak in Europe. It was 26 years before Dr. Michel Paccard was able to complete the climb and earn the reward.

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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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