How Many "First Australians" Were There?

New research suggests ancestors of the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, and Melanesian peoples arrived in a planned, coordinated migration. The mathemetical models used take three sets of data into account. First, fertility, longevity, and survival data from hunter-gatherer societies around the globe. Second, "hindcasts" of past climatic conditions from general circulation models -- basically the reverse of what scientists use to forecast future climate changes. Third, the long-established principles of population ecology. Combining these three, the scientists ran a number of simulations, to estimate how many people would have needed to arrive to found a sustainable Australian population.

The results suggest that the first Australians arrived with a settler population of at least 1,300 people. Any fewer than that, and they probably would not have survived, per the mathematical models. The probability of survival was also large if people arrived in smaller, successive waves, averaging at least 130 people every 70 or so years over the course of about 700 years. Either way, the settling of Australia was no accident. It was not one storm-tossed canoe washing up on a new shore. It was a planned and coordinated effort to migrate to a new homeland.

Gender Imbalance in Neolithic Iberia

Archaeologists from the University of Seville recently completed a review of more than 500 Neolithic burials at 21 archaeological sites on the Iberian Peninsula. They found that at the 198 graves where the sex of the deceased could be determined, there were 1.5 male graves for every female grave. The researchers said that children’s graves were also underrepresented in the sample. “The quantity of males cannot be natural,” Cintas-Peña said. The study indicates that men were more likely to be buried with arrowheads and other projectiles, and more likely to have signs of injury or violent death, while women were more likely to be buried with ceramics.

However, the researchers added, the most elaborate graves in the cemeteries did not necessarily belong to men. They suggest gender differences, and male predominance in terms of violence, arose along with social inequalities as people accumulated private property. “If we can say that gender inequality began in the Neolithic, or in the Copper Age or in any period, it means that it's something cultural, it’s not something biologically determined,” Cintas-Peña explained.

Oldest Written Fragment of The Odyssey found in Greece

A clay tablet, found near the ruined Temple of Zeus in the ancient city of Olympia, Greece, could be the oldest written record of The Odyssey. The tablet was uncovered by archaeologists and tentatively dated to the Roman-era 200s CE. It is engraved with 13 verses from the Odyssey’s fourteenth book, in which Odysseus speaks to his lifelong friend Eumaeus, the first person he sees on his return from his decade away from home.

Greensleeves, a traditional English folk tune, dates back to 1580! And it was not written by Henry VIII, nor is it likely about a prostitute who stained her clothes...playing...in the grass. At the time green was associated with romance. Rather like pink is today!

Tracing Wine's Family Tree

An international team of archaeologists and geneticists have compared the genomes obtained from 28 grape pips, discovered at nine archaeological sites in France, the oldest pip dating to some 2,500 years ago. These genomes were then compared to a modern grape DNA database. One grape seed, unearthed at a medieval site in the center of France and dated to around 1100 CE, was found to have DNA identical to Savagnin Blanc. That's the grape used to produce a wine known in France as Vin Jaune, and in Central Europe as Traminer. The lineage of this one grape has been maintained for 900 years!

The study also found that humagne blanche, a white grape grown in the Swiss Alps, is related to grapes grown by the Romans in southern France. It confirms stories of the Romans bringing grapes and wine into Switzerland.

The first record of a bagel is in Krakow, Poland in 1610. A document issued by the Jewish elders of Krakow, with instructions on various aspects of Jewish life, included the recommendation to give "beygls" to women after childbirth. It was part of a section on how to properly celebrate the birth of a boy.

One man, Kumarajiva, is responsible for revolutionizing Chinese Buddhism. He lived from 334 to 413 CE during China's Sixteen Kingdoms Era, and was tasked by the Later Qin emperor with translating key Buddhist texts into Chinese from Sanskrit. This is harder than mere literal translation. Sanskrit and Chinese are very different, linguistically, and Kumarajiva complained that the translation work was like having to eat rice after someone else had already chewed it!

Kumarajiva was able to translate many key Buddhist texts. In China today, millions of Chinese speak the words of Kumarajiva every day.

The US military famously used Navajo code talkers during World War II, speaking an adapted form of Navajo as an "unbreakable" code. But did you know they adapted other Native American languages, as well? For instance, 21 Comanche speakers participated in the WWII Code Talker program, and 17 ended up enrolling in the US Army. All survived the war, and the Comanche code was never broken.

The Subversive Woman Who Made Chinese History

In 1927, China was shocked by a sensational new character: Sophie, a woman wracked by sexual longing who was determined to torment her reliable if dull boyfriend, while consumed with lust for a man she could not have.

Sophie was the protagonist of Miss Sophie’s Diary, a short story by Jiang Bingzhi, who went by the pen name Ding Ling. It was published during a brief period in Chinese history, the New Culture movement, which was
liberal intellectual movement centered in China’s cities. Ding Ling was part of the left-leaning literary scenes in Beijing and Shanghai.

But she soon found herself on the run from the nationalist political authorities. Ding Ling and literarti like her were dangerously subversive to the China the nationalists wanted to build. She joined the communists by the 1940s, but ended up in internal exile, living in a remote rural area. Ding Ling’s work was too “bourgeouis” and “individualistic” and “rightist” now.

In the 1970s, in her seventies, Ding Ling was rehabilitated. Today she is remembered as one of China’s most important feminist authors.

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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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