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.
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.
Bust of the Roman Empress Tranquillina (reigned 241 - 244 CE). She was wife of Emperor Gordian III thanks to her father, the prefect of the Praetorian Guards, who were the emperor's personal bodyguards and by this point controlled who ran the empire. Empress Tranquillina reigned with her husband for just three years before her father died and the emperor lost power -- and his life.
The Sasanian Empire (224 CE – 651 CE), which was a contemporary of the Roman and later Byzantine Empires, was once a great power. And like other great powers it built great walls to mark and control its borders. These included the Wall of the Arabs (in the southwest), Walls of Derbent (in the northwest at the Caspian Mountains) and Great Wall of Gorgan (in the northeast). Remains of the Sasanian border walls still exist, particularly in Derbent where they are a UNESCO world heritage site.
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.
While people talk about modern beauty standards being artificial and western, it can be easy to not understand the true diversity of beauty standards across time and across history.
For instance, the ancient Maya thought being cross-eyed was highly desirable. Parents would hang an object between their infant's eyes hoping to induce permanent cross-eyes. In Iran until modern times, women were more desirable if they had unibrows and mustaches and many used darkening products to achieve them.
No matter what you look like, there was probably a time and a place when you were the height of attractiveness. Think about that the next time you look in a mirror!
Yemen has a famously isolated island, Socotra, whose separation from the mainland and varied climate features resulted in the development of many unique flora and fauna. A 1990 biodiversity study found that there are 700 species on Socotra that live nowhere else on earth. And an estimated one-third of its species are unique to the island. But did you know that Socotra has been occupied by humans for the past 2,000 years? The result is the degradation of its famous biodiversity: the island once featured wetlands and pastures that were home to crocodiles, giant lizards, and water buffaloes. Their homelands have been replaced by sand gullies and the animals who once called the wetlands home have disappeared. The remaining Socotra fauna are those which can survive in the drier climates, and they are greatly threatened by goats and other introduced species. Many native plants only survive where there is greater moisture or protection from livestock, meaning that continuous human effort is needed to preserve them.
The Maya at Chichen Itza were known to practice human sacrifice a thousand years ago. Who they were sacrificing, though, has long been a mystery. A recent isotope analysis of tooth enamel from sacrificial victims thrown into the city’s Sacred Cenote shows that there was some variety in who was sacrificed. Some grew up locally, while others hailed from the Gulf Coast, the Central Highlands, and as far away as Central America.
How the mix of individuals were chosen, and how those from further away ended up in Chichen Itza, remains unknown -- there is always something more to investigate!
New genetic research now suggests that when the ancient Inuits migrated from Siberia to North America they brought their dogs with them. Considered one of the toughest and strongest breeds, this ancient Siberian canine was so indispensable, the genetic research shows the Inuits used them exclusively. They did not even interbreed with the new dogs they found in North America. The new study showed that over 4,500 years, Inuit new dogs were and remained genetically distinct and physically different from the dogs who arrived earlier in North America.
Where the humans went they brought their dogs, so Inuit dogs rapidly dominated and spread eastward in the North American Arctic alongside their humans' migration. Because the Inuit remained faithful to their sled dogs, the pre-existing native dogs were almost completely replaced.
This genetic distinction has been maintained through today, too. The study compared 922 Arctic dogs and wolves who lived over 4,500 years. Modern sled dogs, according to their genomes, are some of the last direct descendants of the breed the Inuit brought with them from Siberia.