Cleopatra Was Not The Last Woman To Reign Over Egypt

That distinction goes to Shajar al-Durr (? – 1257 CE). Described as a beautiful, pious and intelligent woman, she was Sultan of Egypt for three months. Which sounds really bad, but thankfully, she was not assassinated. Shajar al-Durr was the widow of the previous Ayubbid sultan. When he was assassinated (sorry, someone had to be assassinated, I guess) the sultan's personal troops, the Mamluks, decided to place Shajar al-Durr on the throne. That makes Sultan Shajar the official end of the Ayubbid sultanate, as well as the last woman to rule Egypt.

But things went wrong quickly, as the caliph of the Abbaside Caliphate refused to recognize her dominion over the country which was technically a fiefdom within the caliphate. So the Mamluks married Shajar to their next choice of ruler, Izz al-Din Aybak, and Shajar abdicated to pass the throne to him. Which marked the official beginning of the Mamluk Sultanate! Shajar therefore oversaw the end of one political power, and lived to see the beginning of the next. More than Cleopatra can say.

Beautiful Viking Game Pieces

Aren't they beautiful? Made from glass, they were uncovered at a burial site in Burka, Sweden. Circa 700s to 1000s CE.

How Big Was That Empire?

Now you can compare all the largest empires that have ever existed, by geographic area. Thank you modern geography!

Scathach: Woman Warrior of Irish Legend

The legendary female warrior of Scathach is pretty cool. First, there's her name, which means "the shadowy one" in Gaelic. Then there's her castle, Dun Scaith (Castle of Shadows), reportedly sat on Isle of Skye northwest of Scotland.

Getting to Dun Scaith, and Scathach, was a complicated business. First, one had to know where Scathach lived. Her location was apparently something of a commonly-known secret. Once someone knew her location, one had to travel across the Irish Sea, known for its storms and choppy seas, and travel to the remote, craggy islands of northwest Scotland. Upon arrival, one then had to get past Scathach's warrior daughter to get an audience with Scathach herself.

Scathach is important in Irish legends for the unique place she holds as a woman warrior who trained other women, as well as men. Her training was notoriously dangerous, teaching things like pole vaulting over castle walls and underwater fighting, but everyone agreed that if you survived Scathach's training you were a great warrior. Scathach is also famous for having trained Cu Chulainn, who went on to become the central figure in the Ulster Cycle, part of the origin stories for Ireland itself.

Potatoes Aren't Just For Eating

The Incas used potatoes for several things other than food, including healing broken bones, preventing indigestion, and measuring time based on how long a potato took to cook!

Ayurveda's Three Classics

Ayurveda, a ancient medical tradition from India, has three great ancient authors. Each is known for one significant text. Today they are understood to be compilation texts, summaries of schools of medicine at the time of their writing, but the authors are believed to have been real people who wrote each individual book. Like an encyclopedia.

Sushruta, writing sometime in the 600s BCE (probably) wrote the "Sushruta Samhita," a treatise on medicine and surgery with a large section dedicated to medical instruments as well. Charaka, alive sometime in the 200s BCE, wrote a treatise focusing solely on medicine, the "Charaka Samhita." The third great author, Vagbhata, came much later in the 600s CE. His two major ayurvedic treatises similarly covered a broad swathe of medicine, but they also explicitly referenced the Sushruta Samhita and the Charaka Samhita, covering where they disagreed and the various solutions that had arose to those disagreements over the centuries.

The Great Hare: An Algonquin Trickster Who Helped Create The World

Nanabozho is a prominant trickster figure, found in most Algonquin tribes' belief system. Stories about him vary considerably from tribe to tribe. His parents change, he is sometimes given siblings, and stories about his deeds would fill a book. Nicknamed "the Great Hare" although he is rarely shown as a rabbit, Nanabozho is a transformer figure, a creator and provider of food and representative of the various life force(s). Although a bit of a trickster figure, Nanabozho is not truly immoral or even seriously inappropriate. He is viewed as a virtuous hero and friend of humankind who happens to have a mischievous side.

There's so much contradictory information about Nanabozho so that is where I will stop. If you want to read some of the many tales about Nanabozho, here is a list to get you started.

The King Who United Korea

Statue of Wang Geon, a medieval Korean king from 918 to 943 CE. He is notable establishing the Goryeo Dynasty, then achieving the reunification of the Later Three Kingdoms in 936 CE. The modern English word, "Korea," comes from the name of the dynasty he founded, Goryeo.

The sculpture, made of bronze, is life-size and completely nude. Its 2-inch penis is intended to symbolize the king's mastery of the virtue of chastity. The symbolism does not translate well today.

The statue was made in 951 CE. Then it was deliberately buried in 1428 CE, when Wang Geon's dynasty was overthrown. The statue was rediscovered in North Korea in 1993.

The Precursor to Modern Sign Language

The first modern sign language for the hearing impaired is credited to Pedro Ponce de Leon, a Spanish Benedictine monk who lived in the 1500s. Native Americans had long used hand gestures to communicate with other tribes and to facilitate trade with Europeans. Inspired, de Leon adapted the gestures used at his monastery to create a method to teach the deaf to communicate.

de Leon's first success was with Gaspard Burgos, a deaf man who, because of his difficulty with oral communication, had been denied membership in the Benedictine order. Under de Leon's tutelage, Burgos learned to speak so that he could make his confession. Burgos later wrote a number of books. de Leon went on to teach a number of other individuals how to speak and write, using his sign language, but his exact methods of teaching have been lost to history.

It took another Spanish cleric building on his work, one Juan Pablo Bonet, to write the first surviving work on educating individuals with hearing disabilities. Titled "Summary of the letters and the art of teaching speech to the mute" it was published in Madrid in 1620. However, both de Leon and Bonet focused on teaching the deaf to speak and write, and their sign languages were systems used to facilitate that. Their manual systems were not true "languages" with grammar and syntax.

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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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