Peacock fresco at the Villa Poppaea. Notice the illusion of depth with the columns, and how the peacock's tail juts over the edge of the border.
This art was preserved by Vesuvius's eruption in 79 CE.
 

Terracotta Warriors fresh from the earth, before their colors deteriorate from the exposure. Photograph from a 1974 excavation.      

Possible Embassy Found In Major Mayan City

A recent study of the area in the Maya city of Tikal has found an unusual complex of buildings, which seems to be similar to the citadel of Teotihuacan. Tikal is in northern Guatemala, and Teotihuacan is central Mexico about 600 miles to the north. Inside the complex in Tikal were found weapons in a Teotihuacan style, including ones made from green obsidian from central Mexico, incense burners, carvings of Teotihuacan's rain god, and a burial in a pyramid with offerings similar to offerings in Teotihuacan burials. Ceramics within the pyramid have been dated to around 300 CE.

Interestingly, an elite Maya compound has been discovered in Teotihuacan, with its murals smashed and buried. Was this site the corresponding Tikal embassy to Teotihuacan, the partner of Teotihuacan's embassy complex in Tikal? The two cities had a difficulty relationship: Teotihuacan invaded Tikal in 378 CE.

2,700-year-old Tiny Cosmetic Jar

The bronze jar is only about 5cm across. And inside is a tiny amount of face cream -- or what was once face cream. It was excavated in 2017 at the Liujiawa site in China, which was the capital of Rui, a minor state during the early Spring and Autumn period (circa 700 BCE).

Ancient History Fun Fact

In ancient Mesopotamia, cuneiform clay tablets were often so small that reading them was difficult and impractical. But they were not really designed to be read. Instead they were designed to be checked, by someone who already knew the text by heart, and just needed a reminder about what the next section or word started with.

The written clay tablet was to assist in the perfect passing-down of oral information between generations. Students learned by listening and repeating chanting, singing, or reciting -- not by reading.

Ancient Example of How Culture Impacts Our Perceptions of the World

Ancient Egypt was an essentially one-dimensional country strung out along the Nile, which flows from south to north. The winds were conveniently arranged to be predominantly northerly. To go north, a traveler could let his boat drift, while with a sail he could move south against the slow current. For this reason, in the writing of the ancient Egyptians, ‘go downstream (north)’ was represented by a boat without sails, and ‘go upstream (south)’ by a boat with sails. The words (and concepts) or north-south and up-downstream became merged. Since the Nile and its tributaries were the only rivers known to the ancient Egyptians, this caused no difficulties until they reached the Euphrates, which happened to flow from north to south. The resulting confusion in the ancient Egyptian mind is recorded for us to read today in their reference to ‘that inverted water which goes downstream (north) in going upstream (south).’

quote from P.L. Csonka, “Advanced Effects in Particle Physics,” Physical Review, April 1969, 1266-1281

The Rosetta Stone is not the only trilingual stele from Egypt. In fact, there are three three-language stele that are slightly earlier than the Rosetta Stone! These have become known as the "Rosetta Stone Series" or "Ptolemaic series." Any of these stele would have been enough to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs -- it just so happened that the famous Rosetta was the first one found.

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

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!

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    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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