Gilt-Bronze Statue of Maitraya (Pre-Enlightenment Buddha) in Meditation

This is one of the most highly-regarded Korean Buddhist sculptures, dating to the middle or late 500s. The bronze is as thin as 2 mm in some places. The statue is a testament to the artistry and skill of bronze workers at the time. In Korea, it is National Treasure No. 78 and resides in the National Museum of Korea

The Beer-Making Queen

The Sumerian king list contains a single woman as ruler, called Kubaba (or Kugbau). She is sometimes listed as her own dynasty and sometimes combined with the 4th Sumerian dynasty of Kish (a Sumerian city). Early on she was also worshipped as a goddess. Perhaps frustratingly, perhaps suggesting that her position as queen was relatively unremarkable to the ancient Sumericans and their descendants, there is little evidence for how Kubaba the ruler was viewed at the time. Nor why she continued to be put down on Sumerian king lists kept by various cities.

To make it worse, there are two very different tones and texts that comment upon Kubaba's rule. In the first cuneiform record, which was a late text that gave the Sumerian king list then commented on the entries, it is mentioned how Kubaba became queen after being an alewife (or tavern keeper/beer brewer), and then it describes her efforts to properly reinstate the fish sacrifice in the sanctuary of Marduk (the city god of Babylon), for which she was appointed ruler. Basically very similar to the comments on other kings on the Sumerican king list. Kubaba is being presented as unexceptional. In the second cuneiform text that mentions Kubaba, a small omen text, it extremely specifically talks about intersex miscarriages, and that the omen (named for "Kubaba, who once ruled") is taken to mean "the ruin of the kingdom; a eunuch will rebel against the king." Not so positive. All this helps explain why what we know about Kubaba is contadictory, uncertain, and very intriguing!

Georgian men wearing traditional horse-riding gear at a community gathering. In the Georgia Governorate, Russian Empire, circa 1890

Religious Pluralism Has Ancient Roots

The Persian emperors, starting with the first emperor (ever) Cyrus, were willing and able to show reverence to local gods and participate in the religious rites necessary to solidify and maintain their rule in conquered territory. Cyrus showed deference and continued the royal rituals of Babylon's supreme god Marduk after he conquered the city in 539 BCE. Cyrus wanted his continuance of Babylonian religious rituals to be widely known and published his deference to Marduk on the famous Cyrus Cylinder. His son Cambyses publicly worshiped the Egyptian gods Apis and Re. Even the emperor who attacked Greece multiple times, Xerxes, ordered sacrifices and deference to the Greek gods after conquering various Greek cities.

None of this should be interpreted to mean that the emperors personally believed in and revered these gods. Rather, religious pluralism was good government policy!

Corn is a New World crop that was unknown throughout the rest of the world until Columbus accidentally connected Europe with the Americas. But the native words for corn did not become universal: many cultures have names for corn that reference other nation. In some African languages, the word for corn means “Egyptian grain”; in Egypt, corn is called “Syrian” or "Turkish grain”; in France, it is “Indian wheat”; and in India, corn is referred to as “wheat from Mecca.”

In June 1992, farmers started draining ponds in Longyou County, Quzhou prefecture, Zhejiang province, China. Only to realize that they were not ponds at all but drowned caverns, apparently created during the Ming Dynasty. So far there have ben 36 such man-made caves found in 1 square kilometer. They contain rooms, halls, pillars, beds, bridges, and pavilions. When they were made and why remains a mystery, however, since no historical document mentions them.

The Great Kurultáj

This is a yearly event for descendants of Central Asian nomadic peoples in August. The name itself means "meeting of the tribes." The event began in 2007, after genetic evidence confirmed the shared heritage of Hungarians with a Kazakh tribe; the event was intended to strengthen cultural ties across Eurasian Steppe descendants. The Kurultáj evolved quickly into a yearly event with a yurt village, parade of horsemen, horse races, traditional horsemen wrestling, and various tournaments. Unsurprisingly, it is a popular event for horse enthusiasts and especially professional horseriders.

9/11 Changed Interpretations of the First Civilizations

Historically, the Middle East was interpreted and categorized by traditional historians as part of "Western" civilization until about 9/11. That means that ancient Mesopotamia -- with its famous early cities of Ur, Sumer, and Babylon, and later empires such as the Babylonian and Assyrian -- was seen as part of the arc of history which would eventually produce ancient Athens, then the Roman Empire, and eventually today's European countries. And history books on religion written before 2000 by Western writers will refer to Islam, Christianity and Judaism as Western religions and Western societies. This is in contrast to Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism which are Eastern religions, emerging from Eastern societies.

After 9/11 a big movement emerged in much of Europe and the United States among conservatives to interpret Islam as Eastern and all Islamic countries as Eastern. Ancient Mesopotamia got re-classified as part of the arc of Eastern history along the way. Among non-conservatives, the Middle East is also categorized differently but for different reasons. Rather than recategorizing what is Western or Eastern, "western" is more critically examined as a term. Instead of ancient civilizations being lumped into "western" and "eastern" you are more likely to see (non-conservative) historians questioning "who is 'western'" "what is 'western'" and "who is defining those terms and why do they care."

Dog Bone Fragments Trace History of New World Settlement

A 10,200-year-old fragment of dog bone has been identified, from among thousands of ancient bone pieces discovered in a cave on the west coast of Alaska in 1998. Modern DNA analyses have found that the dog the fragment belonged to was closely related to dogs domesticated in Siberia about 23,000 years ago. And the dog was descended from a population that split from its Siberian ancestors about 16,700 years ago.

By tracing this dog's heritage and movement, we can get hints at the history of the humans dogs (presumably) traveled with. Our current understanding of human history fits well with the new study. Previous studies looking at human DNA suggest that modern Native American populations split from Siberian ancestors around the same time. Chemical analysis of the dog bone indicates that the creature ate a diet based on marine animals. Potentially the dog lived off scraps of fish, seal, and whale, provided by its human companions traveling by boat around Ice Age glaciers.

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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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