Seven hominin footprints dated to some 120,000 years ago were identified among hundreds of animal prints in northern Saudi Arabia’s Nefud Desert. The footprints were dated using optical stimulated luminescence, a way of measuring how much ionizing radiation an area has been exposed to. It's often used to get the age of sediment, and sometimes fired bricks or pottery. The hominin prints are thought to have been left by two or three modern humans who may have come to what was then a shallow lake along with camels, buffalo, and elephants.

The First Japanese Cats May Have Been Royal

No one is quite sure how cats arrived in Japan. The most supported hypotheses are that they traveled down the silk road from Egypt to China and Korea, and eventually made the hop to Japan. Why they came across also is debated. They may have come as ratters guarding precious Buddhist sutras written on vellum, or as expensive gifts traded between emperors. They may have been both, at different times. The first evidence that cats were definitely in Japan come from the diary of 17-year-old Emperor Uda on March 11, 889 CE:

On the 6th Day of the 2nd Month of the First Year of the Kampo era. Taking a moment of my free time, I wish to express my joy of the cat. It arrived by boat as a gift to the late Emperor, received from the hands of Minamoto no Kuwashi. The color of the fur is peerless. None could find the words to describe it, although one said it was reminiscent of the deepest ink. It has an air about it, similar to Kanno. Its length is 5 sun, and its height is 6 sun. I affixed a bow about its neck, but it did not remain for long. In rebellion, it narrows its eyes and extends its needles. It shows its back. When it lies down, it curls in a circle like a coin. You cannot see its feet. It’s as if it were circular Bi disk. When it stands, its cry expresses profound loneliness, like a black dragon floating above the clouds. By nature, it likes to stalk birds. It lowers its head and works its tail. It can extend its spine to raise its height by at least 2 sun. Its color allows it to disappear at night. I am convinced it is superior to all other cats.”

Literal Meanings of Countries' Names

Click through the image gallery to see names' meanings around the world. Some of these names are older than others. For instance, Mexico's name comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Also, some of these take the English name's meaning, others the local language's meaning. But still -- fun maps!

Extremely Well-Preserved Ship From 400 Years Ago Found in Baltic

This particular find is an excellently-preserved example of a type of Dutch ship called a "fluit." These ships, whose earliest versions emerged in the 1500s, were unusual in being purely mercantile vessels. Other ships at the time were designed to switch between serving as cargo ships and war vessels. But the three-masted fluit had a cost-effective design, maximizing cargo capacity and minimizing the number of sailors needed to run the ship. The fluit could therefore carry double the cargo of other ships on similar routes. Though popular between 1500s and 1700s, few fluits survive today, meaning this well-preserved wreck could help teach us more about the ship that helped the Dutch build their international mercantile power.

Inscribed brick in Akkadian from Ešnunna, Iraq which a dog once walked over, leaving behind their paw prints. Circa 2000-1900 BCE.

Math Points Towards Climate Change Ending Ancient Civilization

A new mathematical proof has identified that climate change could be responsible for the end of the Indus River Valley civilization around 3,000 years ago. To determine the amount of rain in a given monsoon over the last 5,700 years, scientists had previously analyzed the presence or absence of a specific isotope in stalagmites in a North Indian cave. Mathematical scientist Nishant Malik used that data to look specifically at the time period when the Indus River Valley civilization was around. The isotope patterns suggested a major change in monsoon patterns around when the civilization was beginning to rise. And then a reverse shift in monsoon patterns when the civilization was declining. This strongly points to climate change as the downfall of the Indus River Valley civilization -- not war, or earthquakes, as has previously been suggested.

Jewelry Found in Silla-Era Korean Tomb

Additional finds were recovered from a small tomb in eastern South Korea, dating around 400s - 500s CE, where a pair of gilt-bronze shoes were found earlier this year. The new finds included a small gilt-bronze coronet, gold earrings, bracelets, a silver ring and silver belt, and a beaded chestlace, or piece of regalia worn across the chest and shoulders. The outer band of the coronet, which features three treelike branches and has two antler-like prongs, is decorated with heart-shaped holes and jade and gold marbles. A bracelet worn on the right wrist is made of more than 500 tiny yellow beads. According to South Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration, the researchers have not yet determined the sex of the deceased, who stood about five feet, seven inches tall. The site is a Silla-era royal tomb complex in Gyeongju, suggesting the person was connected to the royal family of Silla.

Interesting Facts About The Zodiac

Whether you read your horoscope faithfully, or you do not even remember your own zodiac sign, here's a fun list to learn more about this ancient system of divination.

  • Astrology developed before the Copernican Revolution. As a result, the zodiac is based on the incorrect assumption that the sun moves around the Earth, passing through the different star constellations.
  • The modern zodiac's 12 signs were finalized in ancient Greece, and is directly based on Ptolemy's writings in Egypt during the 100s CE
  • Saint Augustine of Hippo published a criticism of astrology in opposition to early Christians who were trying to cast horoscopes for Christ
  • Ancient Babylonians had their own zodiac of 12 signs, including a scale and a pair of twins
  • In India, astrological predictions are based on the 12 zodiac signs, which are the same as western signs, and the five elements fire, earth, water, air, and ether, each of which correspond to a planet
  • The Chinese zodiac runs on a sixty-year cycle of 12 signs (rat, rooster, dragon, etc) combined with the five phases (wood, fire, metal, water, earth)

Between 1970 and 2016, Earth has lost 68% all birds, fish, and animals. That is over two-thirds of Earth’s wildlife, gone. We live in a historic time.

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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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