A Brief History of Han Purple

Han purple was an ancient Chinese pigment which is thought to have been created as early as 800 BCE, but the most famous examples of its use date back to around 220 BCE when it was used to paint the Terracotta Army and murals in the tomb of the first emperor Qin Shi Huang at Xi’an. It peaked in usage during the Han Dynasty, then declined, and then vanished from the historical record entirely -- along with knowledge of how to make the color.

It was not until the 1990s that scientists were able to replicate it. The process to make the copper barium silicate pigment was extremely intricate. For one thing, it involved the grinding of precise quantities of various materials. And for another, it required heating to between 900 and 1,100 degrees Celsius. Amazing that the process was discovered so long ago!

Etruscans Found in Sardinia

Italian authorities announced in 2018 that the first-ever Etruscan settlement has been discovered in Sardinia. The site dates to the 800s BCE and was strategically situated on the small island of Tavolara. It was likely intended to facilitate trade between Early Iron Age Sardinian Nuraghic communities, known to have inhabited Sardinia at the time, and Etruscan cities nearby on the Italian mainland. There had been extensive archaeological evidence of Etruscan-Nurghic exchanges, but this is the first evidence of an expatriate Etruscan community in Sardinia.

The Etruscans are famous for adopting many Greek cultural aspects and blending them with their own native culture. The resulting mélange in turn influenced Roman culture, which was initially a small backwater to the mighty Etruscans. One potential reason for the Etruscans' strength? Extensive trading ties with southern Italy, Greece, and Sardinia.

An Icky Archaeological Discovery

Brightly colored pottery is a hallmark of the Paracas culture (900 - 100 BCE) of southern Peru. They would mark unfired pieces with animals, supernatural figures, and patterns, then add color after the firing process to fill in the design. A new study, recently published in Antiquity, analyzed the chemical composition of the Paracas paints and binding agents. The study found that an organic white pigment on pottery from the Cahuachi site was made from an unusual material: reptile urine! It is unknown -- and a bit difficult to guess -- how the substance was collected and then processed.

New Discovery In Saudi Arabia May Change Out-Of-Africa Timeline

A finger bone from the Al Wusta site in the Nefud Desert of Saudi Arabia is once again changing how we think about the human migration out of Africa. The finger bone dates to 85,000 to 90,000 years ago. That makes it the oldest homo sapiens fossil ever found outside of Africa and the Levant. Before the discovery of the finger bone, it was believed that humans migrated out of those areas about 60,000 years ago. The new discovery suggests it may have happened earlier.

Bear's Paw Bones Discovered In Neolithic Grave

Approximately 4,500 years ago, the dismembered remains of a Neolithic man and small child were buried together, in southeastern Poland. With them was buried a complete bear's paw. It is quite unusual, as domesticated animals were the usual Neolithic burial companions in this part of Europe.

Traces of fire and a single cattle bone have also been found at the entrance to the burial niche, where the bear's paw was uncovered. The artifacts in combination have led archaeologists to suggest that the bear's paw was used for some sort of ritual at the burial's entrance.

First Nations Peoples Cultivated Shellfish, New Archaeological Evidence Finds

Several unassuming rock walls along the shore of Quadra Island, in Canada’s British Columbia, are actually the ruins of ancient clam gardens constructed by First Nations peoples thousands of years ago. The walls were erected within intertidal zones to create sandy terraces. These are ideal habitats for shellfish such as littleneck and butter clams. In some cases, the rock walls improved the productivity of natural clam beaches, and in others, the rocks walls created shellfish habitats from scratch. Radiocarbon dating of organic material sampled from one wall indicates it was built nearly 3,500 years ago, making it the oldest known aquaculture system of its kind.

Ancient Egyptian Festival So Important It Got Its Own Month

In ancient Egypt, the coming of the annual Nile flood was eagerly anticipated. The floods made Egypt fertile, replenishing the fields with beautiful, dark silt. This joyous season was also when Egypt held one of its most spectacular festivals: the Feast of Opet.

Held annually in the city of Thebes, the main attraction was a huge procession from the temple complex at Karnak to the temple of Luxor, with statues of the cities' most sacred gods at the heart of the parade. Opet's formal name is "heb nefer en Ipet" or "beautiful feast of Opet." It is believed that "opet" or "ipet" is the holiest inner sanctuary of the temple of Luxor.

The beautiful feast of Opet was so important to the ancient Egyptians that the second month of the Nile flood, when the festival usually occurred, was named after the festival: "pa-en-ipet" or "the [month] of Opet." Fitting, because the festival slowly grew from 11 days in the mid-1400s BCE to 27 days in the mid-1100s BCE. The festival really was its own month! And the ancient Egyptians probably did not mind having so much time to party.

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.

How The Squid Lost Its Shell

Did you know squid ancestors used to have shells? Well, they did, and it made them very well adapted to living in the ocean. Over time, however, that usefulness became a weakness

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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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