Where Was Phoenicia?

Although the Phoenicians were among the most influential people in the Mediterranean in the first millennium BCE, very little is understood about them. For instance, there was never a kingdom called "Phoenicia." There was a bunch of cities, sharing a strip of land on the coast of modern-day Lebanon, Syria, and northern Israel. These cities were never united. Each was fiercely independent, though they shared a language, an alphabet, and several cultural characteristics.     Many of these cities survive today. For instance, Berot became modern Beirut, and Sidon became modern Saida.

Amazingly Ancient Carving From Ural Mountains Gets A New Look

Gold miners discovered pieces of the elongated structure, dubbed the Shigir Idol, in 1894 in a Russian peat bog. But it wasn't until about 100 years later, in the late 1990s, that researchers did radiocarbon dating and found that the structure was about 9,900 years old, making it the oldest wooden monumental sculpture in the world, the researchers said. That dating only used two pieces of the Shigir Idol.     So a second, more exhaustive, analysis was recently ordered. And wow was it worth it! The Shigir Idol, according to the new tests, is in fact, 11,500 years old! In addition to updating the sculpture's birthday, the researchers found a previously unknown face carved into the wood. Who knows what we will find in another 20 years.

The Mysterious Ancient Nomads of Mongolia

When you read "megaliths" most people think Stonehenge, not Genghis Khan. But the vast central Asian steppe is home to a proud megalith tradition.
Ancient nomads erected hundreds of megaliths in northern Mongolia and southern Siberia, many featuring a mysterious motif that seems to depict flying deer transforming into birds. It seems likely they were erected around 1,000 BCE by Bronze Age nomads, although some scholars think it more likely that they were crafted around 700 BCE by Iron Age peoples.

Archaeologists' Tire Goes Flat, Helping Them Discover 3,000-Year-Old Society

A flat tire in 2016 led to the chance find of some pottery by the side of the road on Quan Lan Island, in the Ha Long Bay region in Vietnam. When the archaeologist investigated, they were surprised to discover that the pottery was over 3,000 years old! The team returned to the area in 2018 after securing permission to do excavations from the local Vietnamese government. They found evidence that indeed, Quan Lan Island was once home to a Neolithic society which left behind ceramics, tools, and various other detritus for modern archaeologists to find.

This as-yet-unnamed society came to a mysterious end. About 3,000 years ago, the artifacts just stop. Something happened. The next big question, now that this island society has been discovered, is what led to its end?

What Did Vietnam Look Like In The Late 1800s?

This undated manuscript is a lovely example of traditional Chinese and Vietnamese cartography, with some western influences. Named “Comprehensive map of Vietnam’s provinces” (Việt Nam toàn tỉnh dư đồ) it appears to have been painted around 1890.     Most of the map is in traditional Vietnamese and Chinese style. The map does not have a precise scale. It shows Vietnamese provincial organization loosely, with province names enclosed in red in the right places, but with no attempt at provincial borders. Almost every river mouth and estuary is named, reflecting a traditional Vietnamese view of their land, Non Nước (Mountains and Water). It also has a lovely and traditional pictorial style, with mountains and rivers and even a “gate” at the border between Vietnam and China.     The map’s western elements are scant: the shapes of the Vietnamese coastline is fairly accurate, as is the Mekong River and the lake of Tonle Sap in Cambodia.

Naming Nations

A surprisingly large number of countries have changed their names! A few more than once. (Note, this map does not include name changes due to independence or mergers -- so, South Sudan does not appear.)

What's In A Word

The term "golem" appears in the Hebrew Bible with the meaning "formlessness." The Talmud, Jewish commentaries on the Bible and Jewish law, uses "golem" to mean an "uneducated person." From this combination comes the modern sense of the word: a clumsy, ugly, human-made monster who has no life until it is given to him by his creators.

The Qin Emperor and the Search for Eternal Life

Qin Shi Huang-di, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty and the person buried with those terra-cotta soldiers, was obsessed with living forever. He ordered a nation-wide search for an elixir of life, which would grant him immortality. A cache of bamboo strips found in Hunan Province in central China contains what his regional administrators wrote back, politely but rather awkwardly, about their findings. One village's message, deciphered by Chinese scholars, was that they hoped a local herb would be the emperor's answer. Another message said that no such elixir had been found in their area, but tactfully implied that they would continue searching.

Qin Shi Huang-di's search for the elixir failed and he died in 210 BCE. He may have been helped along by one of his potential elixirs of life: cinnabar, or mercury sulfide! It was believed at the time to extend one's life, but it is in fact highly toxic.

Eskimo Girl Wearing Clothes of All Fur

Taken in 1915, this photograph and its title comes from an American cultural anthropologist's collection of photographs and negatives. Eskimos today are known by their own word for themselves, Inuit, which means 'people.' The Inuit are the main indigenous people of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Siberia.

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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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