Historian’s Mix-Up Mis-Named The First Female Doctor

Merit Ptah, the ancient Egyptian often cited as the “first woman doctor,” was likely made-up in the 1930s. A historian confused some names, and their mistake ended up in a book that has gone on to be widely cited.

The good news? The doctor who was mistakenly called Merit Ptah does exist! Her name was Peseshet, she was an “Overseer of Healer Women,” and there is strong evidence thanks to the 2400 BCE tomb of her son.

The Fall of Babylon

Cyrus the Great, the founder of the first Persian Empire, conquered the millennia-old city of Babylon on October 12th, 539 BCE. Local inscriptions tell us it was without a fight, or even a siege. This was probably because local rulers recognized all was lost and decided to give in and hope for a good settlement.

But Greek historian Herodotus tells a more exciting version. According to him, the city’s walls crossed the river Euphrates. Unable to get past the walls, Cyrus had sappers drain the river upstream into a nearby lake, until the river’s level fell “about to the middle of a man’s thigh.” As the Babylonians celebrated a religious festival the Persians simply walked -- dripping -- into a dancing city.

Whether it was surrendered or it was captured, Babylon would belong to the Persian Empire and Cyrus’ descendants for the next 200 years.

The Unknown Russian War

The Russian Civil War was an ideological conflict between competing groups in Russia from 1918 to 1921. It is most famously a conflict between the “Whites” and the “Reds.” The Reds were Bolshevik Communists, and the Whites were those who opposed them. With over 825,000 combat fatalities and 2 million more war-related casualties, the Russian Civil War is considered the most costly civil war in modern times.

Beautiful Celtic Shield Found in Warrior's Grave

Some archaeological finds have to be seen to be believed, and the discovery of the 2,200-year-old grave of a male Celtic warrior in England has experts very excited indeed – as you'll understand once you take a peek at the haul. Read the full article on the find here.

Potential Roman Surveyors Tool Found In Mosaics For First Time

Images in a floor mosaic in a Pompeii home may be related to the practice of surveying. Roman survey technicians, known as gromatici, employed a cross-shaped instrument called a groma. A cord hanging from each of the perpendicular arms of the cross ended with a weight or plumb bob that could be used to create plumb lines. Thus, the tool allowed surveyors to establish true vertical and horizontal lines when planning towns and aqueducts. One groma has been uncovered at Pompeii, but their use has only been known from texts dating to the medieval period.

Now, a mosaic at Pompeii's House of Orion appears to match the descriptions from those medieval texts. There are two images in the mosaic which might be surveyor's tools. The first consists of a square inscribed in a circle, which is cut by two perpendicular lines. One of the lines aligns with the longitudinal axis of the structure’s atrium. A second image, made up of a circle inscribed with a cross, appears to depict a groma. Researchers speculate that the house belonged to a member of the surveyor's guild or was used as a gathering place for the guild.

The Surprising Second Marriage of Jackie Kennedy

On October 20th, 1968, Jacqueline Kennedy married long-time friend and Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The world was astonished: though JFK had been dead 5 years, but Onassis was 62 and Jackie was 39. Robert Kennedy had also just been assassinated four months prior. Perhaps the recent bereavement contributed, though. Jackie had been quoted as saying "If they're killing Kennedys, then my children are targets ... I want to get out of this country." Onassis could provide the security and privacy Jackie wanted for her children and herself.

Europe's Early News Network

Did you know that handwritten sheets -- called avvisi -- circulated among the cities and courts of Europe in early modern Europe after public mail routes became common? They were bought on the streets or by subscription, and had information and news from cities like Warsaw, Paris, and Madrid. They sometimes even had information from further afield such as Ireland or the American colonies. It is hard to understand now, by the once or twice weekly avvisi were a revolution in news, connecting Europeans more than ever before.

One newsletter, dated March 19th, 1588, describes the famous Spanish Armada which sailed against Queen Elizabeth I of England. It was described as having "140 or more sailing ships and eight months of provisions" plus "17,000 combat soldiers and 8,000 sailors." The same avvisi also discusses the reconstruction of the Rialto Bridge in Venice, and how problems with pilings were fixed on-site rather than being replaced due to the "inconvenience" of closing the Grand Canal.

Tracing Herding In Africa

It is known that animal herding, which had been in northeastern Africa since about 8,000 years ago, made it to southern Africa by about 2,000 years ago. But it has been an open question whether the pastoral life was brought south by immigrants, or whether it was adopted by hunter-gatherers already in the area. A multinational team of scientists recently examined 41 genomes from individuals who lived in Africa between 4,000 and 300 years ago. The genomes suggested that pastoralists migrated from southwestern Asia into eastern Africa around 5,000 years ago. They interbred with local foragers, mixing genomes. However, about 3,300 years ago, the inbreeding ceased.

Pastoralism had already been established by this point. The immigrants were now locals. So this study creates a new question: why did the genomes separate? What happened that pastoralists and hunter-gatherers suddenly stop intermarrying?

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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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