All Hail The Butterfly God

A Zapotec figural ceramic of the Butterfly God found at Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Mexico. 200 - 600 CE.

Sardinians Were Stone-Age Stay-At-Homes

A new study suggests that Sardinians experienced less genetic turnover than populations living in mainland Europe. When large-scale migration is thought to have occurred during the Bronze Age in Europe, Sardinia's population remained in place. An international team of scientists analyzed the genomes of 70 Sardinians whose remains were recovered from more than 20 archaeological sites spanning a period of about 6,000 years. The scientists then compared the Sardinian DNA to DNA collected from other ancient and modern peoples. The researchers determined that Neolithic Sardinians were closely related to their contemporaries in mainland Europe. Sardinian genetic ancestry remained stable through 900 BCE, although a new style of stone towers did appear on the island in this century. The 900s BCE are important because that is when major population movements occurred in Europe. But they apparently did not impact Sardinia as much.

The DNA supported later population movement on the island, such as the arrival of the Phoenicians from what is now Lebanon, and the Punics, from what is now Tunisia, as early as 500 BCE During the Roman and medieval periods, the scientists also found evidence of migration to the island from Italy and Spain.

Bronze statue of Guan Yu, a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. After he died in 220 CE his deeds entered popular folklore. Guan Yu was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty (581–618 CE) and also became considered a bodhisattva. Today he is god of war, loyalty, and righteousness. This bronze statue dates to the Ming Dynasty, 1400s - 1500s CE.

Recording Abu Simbel’s Move, 1964-1968

Built more than 3,000 years ago, Abu Simbel contains two temples, carved into a mountainside. The larger of the two temples contains four colossal statues of a seated pharaoh Ramesses II (1303-1213 BCE) at its entrance, each about 69 feet (21 meters) tall. About 3,300 years later, when the Aswan Dam was to be built to control the flooding of the Nile River, the temples were threatened. Their location would be beneath the water of the lake created by the dam. UNESCO stepped in to save Abu Simbel and many more ancient Egyptian sites by disassembling and reassembling them, very carefully, above the waterline. Click through the image gallery to see photographs of the historic move.

The Indian Kingdom That Frightened Alexander the Great

You've probably heard of the Mauryan Empire, but have you heard of the Magadha Kingdom -- its immediate predecessor? It existed from the 500s to the 300s BCE. Formidable, it controlled the entire eastern part of the country through alliances with smaller vassal states, and at the height of its power claimed suzerainty over the entire eastern part of the country (roughly the size of England).

The kingdom lasted for three dynasties, during which Siddhartha Gautama lived, preached, and died. The kingdom survived, and even encouraged, the spread of this new religion. Two Magadha kings held the first and second councils of Buddhist monks. It is an open question whether, without the support of this major regional power, Buddhism could have survived.

But in the 300s, the power vacuum left by Alexander the Great's conquests in western India opened the door for Chandragupta Maurya to rise and create a new power on the subcontinent. He killed the last Magadha king (who was reportedly extravagant and unpopular) and Magadha was absorbed into Maurya's new empire which would eventually control the whole subcontinent.

Magadha touches upon a major figure in western imagination: Alexander the Great. In 326 BCE, Alexander arrived at the edge of India. He and his army camped on the river Beas, in what is today far western India, but his army mutinied and refused to go any further. The chronicles tell us the men had heard about the great Magadha Kingdom and were afraid of going up against such a mighty foe. They were not wrong to be afraid: they arrived when Magadha , renewed under a forceful new Nanda dynasty, was at the height of its territorial and military power.

Tutankhamen's Wife's Mysterious Fate

After Tutankhamen died age 19, his beloved wife (and half-sister) Ankhesenamun was in a perilous position. There was no clear successor, and the country remembered the turmoil of the previous reign under the heretic Akhenaten. Eventually, the throne was taken by the much-older Ay, who had been Tutankhamen's grand vizier and may have been Ankhesenamun's grandfather. Ay ruled for just four years before being replaced by Horemheb. He was commander of the Egyptian army and well-placed to take over should anything occur.

Under Horemheb, Ankhesenamun disappears from history. We do not know when she died. We do not know where she was buried. Wife of two pharaohs, daughter of another, her fate is a 2,300-year-old mystery.

That is the voice of a man who has been dead 3,000 years. Nesyamun was an Egyptian priest who lived during the lived during the volatile reign of pharaoh Ramses XI (c.1099–1069 BCE), and worked as a scribe and priest at the state temple of Karnak in Thebes (modern Luxor). When he died, he was mummified so he could live forever.

Enough soft tissue was preserved by the process that scientists could make a 3-D printing of his vocal tract. They hooked it up to a speech synthesizer and...voila! Although all you hear is a single vowel, and it sounds like Nesyamun’s voice if he spoke lying on his back (as he was when the vocal tract was mummified), it still represents a huge step for science.

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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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