The Most Deadly War (Until World War II)

Did you make a guess? Okay, here's the answer: maybe the War of the Three Kingdoms, or the Mongol Conquests. Let's explain each of those in turn. First, what was the War of the Three Kingdoms? When the Han Dynasty lost its grip on power in about 184 CE, China was split into three kingdoms: Wei, Shu, and Wu. The three fought continuously from 184 until 280 CE, when the Jin Dynasty conquered Wu. Historians estimate that between 36 and 40 million people died in all the fighting which occurred during that 96-year period.

The Mongol Conquests are probably better-known to those reading this blog post in English. The long version of the Mongol Conquests dates from 1206 when Genghis Khan burst out of Mongolia's steppe heartland to 1368, when the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty of China fell. Historians estimate between 30 million and 40 million people were killed.

But what about the An Lushan Rebellion, some of you are saying? That rebellion against the Tang Dynasty, which dragged on for 7 years and three Tang emperors before it was finally over, cost somewhere between 13 and 36 million. That's a very wide range. On the upper end, that could top the War of the Three Kingdoms and the Mongol Conquests. But that's only if they are in the low end of their possible death tolls, and the An Lushan Rebellion is at the very highest end of its possible death toll. Of course, historical death counts are always guesswork, so it may be that an entirely different war actually takes the top prize!

For those who are curious, World War II killed at minimum 56,125,162 people.

The Face of a 2,000-Year-Old Woman

This is Meritamun. Her name means "beloved of Amun," the great Egyptian creator/sun god. She lived in ancient Egypt, sometime between 1500 BCE and 331 BCE, and was likely high status judging by the quality of the linens she was mummified with. Meritamun was between 18 and 25 when she died.

Analysis of Hominin Teeth Tells Us About Prehistoric Breastfeeding Practices

Analysis of growth rings in Australopithecus africanus teeth may tell us about prehistoric hominin's breastfeeding habits. A recent analysis looked at four teeth, recovered from South Africa’s Sterkfontein Cave, belonged to two individuals who lived between 2.6 and 2.1 million years ago. The results suggest that they exclusively breastfed for the first six to nine months of life.

Although other foods were added around the 1st birthday, milk intake also ramped up again each year, over a period of four or five years. Why this yearly return to breastmilk? Perhaps during times of food scarcity, mothers would return to breastfeeding, to ensure their children got enough to eat.

The analysis found an additional piece of evidence suggesting that breastmilk was a starvation-food used to keep young children nourished. Levels of lithium in the teeth rose right before the period of breastfeeding began each year. Such a distinctive biological time-stamp connected to the later-life breastfeeding suggests that the breastfeeding began again each year in the same season, likely corresponding to the time of year when food was scarcest. One can speculate that lithium was high in a specific food source which became available only during a certain season each year (like apples in autumn) -- or which Australopithecus africanus only resorted to when other foods were scarce (like tree bark in winter).

Thank Caesar for TB Vaccines

A study has recently revealed that the rapid expansion of the Roman Empire in the 1st century CE assisted the spread of tuberculosis around the world. The disease is first evidence in humans in Africa around 3000 BCE. But the spread out of Africa, of four of seven investigated genetic strains of TB, occurred during the 1st century CE. Just at the time that the Roman Empire conquered the Mediterranean basin.

The out-of-Africa spread of TB is thought to have been aided by the expanding Roman’s new transportation links -- those wonderful Roman roads -- as well as increased movement and exploration around the Mediterranean.

Black Death May Have Crossed The Sahara

Some researchers are claiming that they have evidence that the Black Death reached sub-Saharan Africa. Traditionally, it has been believed that the plague didn't make it across the Sahara Desert, as the desert is inhospitable to the fleas on rodents which carry the bacteria. Further, the written records in the region do not mention plague and there are no plague pits, so characteristic of the Black Death in Europe. But archaeological evidence shows there was a huge shift in populations in Ghana and Burkina Faso at the right time in the 1200s. And plague is now endemic in many parts of Africa, yet no one has really studied how it got there. You can read about their evidence, and come to your own conclusions.

In German East Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania) during World War I, soldiers painted this pony to resemble one of the local zebras so it could be tethered in the open without being shot. The Imperial War Museum adds, “Two white ponies behind anxiously await their makeovers.”

The archangel Michael, whose cult first emerged in Ethiopia under the patronage of Emperor Zär'a Ya'eqob (ruled 1434–1468), remains the most venerated archangel in Ethiopia. This is largely due to his role as an intercessor on behalf of the faithful. In this folio dating to the late 1600s, Saint Michael rescues the faithful from the flames of hell. And on the facing page, those Michael has already saved are depicted as living safely in paradise.

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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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