Corn is a New World crop that was unknown throughout the rest of the world until Columbus accidentally connected Europe with the Americas. But the native words for corn did not become universal: many cultures have names for corn that reference other nation. In some African languages, the word for corn means “Egyptian grain”; in Egypt, corn is called “Syrian” or "Turkish grain”; in France, it is “Indian wheat”; and in India, corn is referred to as “wheat from Mecca.”

In June 1992, farmers started draining ponds in Longyou County, Quzhou prefecture, Zhejiang province, China. Only to realize that they were not ponds at all but drowned caverns, apparently created during the Ming Dynasty. So far there have ben 36 such man-made caves found in 1 square kilometer. They contain rooms, halls, pillars, beds, bridges, and pavilions. When they were made and why remains a mystery, however, since no historical document mentions them.

Islamic Sicily Produced Wine

Grape residue has been detected in medieval containers unearthed in Sicily. Analysis of residues in the jars found molecules very similar to those produced by modern winemakers who use ceramic jars to ferment wine. This suggests wine was produced on the island during the Islamic period, from the 800s to 1100s CE.

Based on the new finds, it is thought that Muslims who ruled Sicily in the 800s CE produced and exported wine to boost trade and therefore their incomes. It seems unlikely the wine was produced for local consumption. This is because Muslims are prohibited from getting drunk, and by some interpretations of the Koran are prohibited from drinking any alcohol, meaning that alcohol consumption plays little role in Islamic life.

Especially exciting is how it was determined that the containers had held wine. “We had to develop some new chemical analysis techniques in order to determine that it was grape traces we were seeing and not some other type of fruit,” reported Léa Drieu of the University of York. The new test for grape products in ceramic containers could help researchers investigate wine production throughout the Mediterranean region.

Portrait of a Musician is widely attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. This unfinished painting is dated to between 1483 and 1487. This would mean da Vinci painted it while in Milan, and indeed the painting shares many features with his other works while there. Portrait of a Musician is notable for being the only male portrait da Vinci ever did.

The Queen Who Stole A Crown

In 1440, the queen of Hungary and one of her ladies-in-waiting stole the Hungarian crown. This is not a metaphor for a coup -- they stole the physical crown of Hungary's king. Which has the confusing name the Crown of St. Stephen. At the time in Hungary, only the person with the physical symbols of kingship was considered the "true" king. While at the same time, the nobles also elected the king, and understandably the nobles wanted an older king to protect them from the very real Ottoman attacks on the kingdom.

>The lady-in-waiting Helene Kottanner broke into the vault, took the crown, smuggled it out of the palace in a pillow, then escaped across the frozen Danube River by sledge. The crown was intended for the queen's child who she was pregnant with. Luckily it ended up being born a son, and the queen remarried someone that the nobles accepted as king, whose butt kept the throne warm and led men in battle, until her son grew up a little.

Phoenix headdress ornament made of gilded silver. So elaborate it can even stand on its own! From China's Tang Dynasty (618-906 CE).

The Aztecs believed that a soul-like aspect of oneself left the body while one slept, and spent time in the dream world as a “nagual.” A nagual is a sort of spirit animal (very rough translation). If one’s nagual got hurt, then one’s body got hurt.

A Tale Of Dragons And Translations

The creature referred to in Chinese as lóng and in Mongol as lū appears on the Chinese twelve-year zodiac as the year of the dragon. When the eastern zodiac tradition was brought to Iran by the Mongol conquest in the 1200s, this zodiac animal's name was translated into Persian as nahang. Nahang was used to describe to dangerous water beasts whether they be real (crocodiles, hippos, sharks) or mythological (dragons, sea serpents, etc.)

In the 1900s the word "nahang" shifted meaning to specifically refer to cetaceans (whales, porpoises, dolphins). And that is how the Chinese year of the dragon is the Persian year of the whale!

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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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