The word "porcupine" is from the Old French "porc-espin" which means -- literally -- "spiny pig." Yup.
Hanging at the Gemäldegalerie Art Museum in Berlin, Germany, is an unusual painting. Measuring 64 inches by 46 inches, this oil-on-oak-panel painting from the 1500s has an unusual subject. The crowd of people are all doing frankly weird things: two men are defecating out of a window, a man is biting into a wooden pillar, another man is banging his head against a wall, a man is burying a calf, a man is attempting to scoop up spilled porridge, and a woman is tying into a bundle what appears to be the devil. This odd artwork was made by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, who was one of the most significant Dutch artist of the Renaissance. Titled "Netherlandish Proverbs," the painting is actually a literal illustration of more than one hundred Dutch language proverbs and idioms.
Archaeologists, studying the skeletal remains of a teenager in western Panama, have discovered the earliest evidence of cancer in Central America. The adolescent was between 14 and 16 years old when she died, in about 1300 CE. Although her skeleton was first found in the 1970s, it was not until recent re-analyses were done that signs of a tumor were identified on their upper right arm. Unfortunately, it was not a painless cancer. She would have experienced intermittant pain, as the sarcoma grew and expanded through her bone, until she died. Interestingly, a pediatric oncologist who examined the remains thought that the cancer was unlikely the ultimate cause of her death -- though there is no way to know for certain now.
The full inventory of Shakespeare's possessions, which would have listed his books and other important information that modern historians would kill for, was probably sent to London. Important records were kept at the time in the capital. Unfortunately, that means the inventory was most likely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.
The largest seated Buddha in the world was carved out of the rock face of Lingyun Hill in Leshan, China. Dating to around 800 CE, the statue stands about 230 feet (70 m) tall and the shoulders measure 90 ft (30 m) across.
Researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have discovered a route through underwater limestone caves connecting the Sac Actun cenote and the Dos Ojos cenote. Maya pottery, human bones, and the bones of elephant-like creatures, giant sloths, bears, tigers, and extinct species of horses, all likely from around the end of the last Ice Age, have been found in the tunnel-like caves. Exploring them and finding artifacts can be difficult, though: the underwater caves range in width from 400 feet to just three feet.
A new study suggests that we should stop blaming rats for spreading the Black Plague. Instead, the findings suggest, we should look at ourselves. Dirty humans, not dirty rats, were the likely culprits in spreading the bubonic plague. Specifically, “ectoparasites,” such as body lice and fleas carried by people, are more likely to be the guilty party.
Using mortality data from nine plague outbreaks in Europe between the 1300s and 1800s, the teams in Norway and Italy tracked how pandemics developed. In seven of the cases there was a closer resemblance to the human model for outbreak spread compared with the alternatives. Which means that if humans were just a little cleaner, the plague would not have spread so easily, or killed so many.
DNA analyses from a mass grave, dating to the end of the Aztec Empire, shows they died of an epidemic of salmonella. Salmonella enterica Paratyphi C, a pathogen that causes enteric fever, is the likely culprit. This is the first time science has been used to identify the epidemic which the Spanish at the time called "full bloodiness." Its indigenous name was the cocoliztli epidemic. It hit regions of Mexico and Guatemala from 1545-1550, and symptoms included intense fever, pain, vomiting and bleeding from eyes and nose. The death toll is estimated to be between 5 and 15 million Native Americans -- that's up to 80% of a population which had no resistance to this, or a host of other diseases, which had suddenly arrived on their continent.
A golden Bodhisattva, from Bali in Indonesia. Circa 900 CE.
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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