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!

Ancient Greek Askos

An askos is a vessel for holding oil. You can see the little golden protrusion from the neck, which is to hold the wick. This particular one has been carved from solid agate, with gold mountings. Egypt's Ptolemaic Dynasty, 100s - 1st century BCE.

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."

CT Scan Helps Re-Create Pharaoh's Final Moments

A computed tomography (CT) scan of the skull of Seqenenre Taa II, who ruled southern Egypt between 1558 and 1553 BCE, has detected additional wounds suffered by the pharaoh. An engraving discovered in Thebes records that both Seqenenre Taa II and his son, Kamose, were killed in battle against the Hyksos. They were invaders who conquered and occupied northern Egypt. The new CT scan revealed a nearly three-inch-long cut in the mummy’s forehead and cuts around the eyes and cheeks that may have been made with an ax. A stab wound at the base of his skull may have been inflicted with a spear. Fractures on the right side of the skull may have been inflicted with a dagger and a blunt object, such as an ax handle. These newly discovered wounds were filled in with embalming material.

It is unlikely that Seqenenre Taa II was hastily mummified on the battlefield, as has previously been thought, because the work done to repair the skull suggests care and consideration. Not a quick job. The recent CT scan also did not show any defensive wounds on the forearms. This is important because it increases the liklihood that Seqenenre Taa II was not killed directly in battle, but was captured, bound, and then executed.

Portrait of Emperor Marcus Aurelius

A masterful portrait, it clearly captures him as both leader and philosopher, using the artistic signals of the time. His drooping eyes and far-off gaze indicate a contemplative man. Yet his smooth, softly modeled flesh and mass of hair make clear this is a man of high importance.

Amazonians Protected Enriched Earth Created By Centuries of Ancestors

Evidence for the construction of a wooden palisade fence around a village site and its fields of Amazonian Dark Earths (ADEs) has been uncovered at the Versalles archaeological site. The site sits along the Iténez River in Bolivia, and is being investigated by an international team of researchers, and members of the modern Versalles community.

This particular village grew maize, manioc, and fruit. Their agriculture was made possible by enriching nutrient-poor tropical soils over generations through burning, mulching, and the addition of organic waste products. The earth around Versalles began being enriched around 500 BCE. Then around 1300 CE, the villagers added defensive ditches and embankments which have left traces of a decayed wooden palisade. These were not puny, either, but quite deep ditches, as shown in the picture. It is known that around this time was a period of unrest in Amazonia.

While fortifications have previously been found around such enriched soil in Amazonia, this is the first time that they have yielded the remains of a wooden fence as well.

Xingtian, a Chinese god, is forever fighting the Supreme Deity. At one point Xingtian was decapitated and his head was buried in the mountains to keep him from finding it. His response was the start using his nipples for eyes and his belly button as a mouth. Xingtian (unsurprisingly) is the divine spirit of perseverance despite tribulations.

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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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