DNA Ends A Century-Long Debate

DNA testing on the mummies of two elite men, Khnum-nakht and Nakht-ankh, finally clears up what their relationship was. The mummies died around 1800 BCE, and were buried in a joint tomb at Deir Rifeh, which was discovered in 1907.     Since their discovery, there has been a debate about how the mummies were related. Though they share a tomb, there are many suggestions that the two were not normal brothers. Their inscriptions state they had the same mother but one has listed both a father and grandfather, the other just a father. The two bodies were mummified using different methods. Facial reconstructions from their skulls in the 1970s revealed they looked extremely different, with "almost a total anatomical difference between the features of the two." Because of these differences, some thought one of the brothers was adopted, and they were not biologically related. Others thought the mother could have remarried, hence the different fathers and anatomies.     Now those debates can be ended. The two were half-brothers, sharing the same mother. Their mitochondrial DNA (from their mothers) were similar, suggesting one mother, but their y-chromosome DNA (from their fathers) showed variations suggesting two different fathers. Presumably, the mother remarried at some point, but the brothers were raised together and eventually buried together.

Reconsidering Bacchus

The ancient Roman god, also known as Dionysus, does not have a good image today. His name is linked to drunkeness, excess, madness. But the ancients did not see him as one-sided. He was the god of losing one's inhibitions. But he was also the god of getting together. Ancient nicknames included Bacchus the Liberator, Bacchus the Saviour, and Bacchus the God Who Gives Men's Minds Wings. Those do not sound all bad, right?

Bacchic cults were banned in Roman times, because their members held allegiance to "a parallel state," but at the same time, Roman leaders have quotes on how fantastic it is that conquered populations enjoy Roman wine so much -- it makes them easier for Rome to control. To the ancients Bacchus was an ambiguous god, both beneficial and harmful.

Sumerians At Sea

The ancient Sumerians are known for having created one of the earliest agricultural civilizations in the world. A new discovery in southern Iraq suggests they also conducted some of the earliest maritime trade.Remains of brick ramparts, docks, and an artificial basin created to be the town's port have been found at the site of Abu Tbeirah since 2016. That suggests they knew how to build boats and fish, at least. But what about maritime trade?

At the same site, researchers found some unusual artifacts that show the ancient Sumerians almost certainly had long-distance contacts, likely by sea. Vases made of alabaster, a stone not found in Mesopotamia. Carnelian beads from India. A necklace in the style of the Indus River Valley; the Indus River Valley civilization flourished at the same time as Sumer.

Ancient Sumerian texts mainly talk about agriculture, and little about maritime trade. The is understandable. Agriculture required the most organization, and effort by the state. Archaeology is uncovering a relatively hidden aspect of  ancient Sumerian life. They had farmers, yes, but also sailors.


"I feel wonderful drinking beer, in a blissful mood, with joy in my heart and a happy liver."

ancient Sumerian poet, circa 3000 BCE

Human-Sloth Conflict Documented In Footprints

Fossilized footprints from a dry lake bed in White Sands National Monument, in New Mexico, divulge an extraordinary interaction between humans and a ground sloth 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. Human tracks superimposed on the prints of the giant sloth show how people carefully stalked the beast. The sloth’s trail suggests it then employed a series of evasive maneuvers and even reared up on its hind legs, likely to defend itself.

It is not known exactly why giant sloths went extinct near the end of the last Ice Age, but human hunting may have contributed to their demise.

This Baby Is 2,900 Years Old

This little Olmec baby was crafted sometime between 1200 and 900 BCE, and appears to be sucking on a finger. And it is life-sized. Although I am unsure that a real-life baby would sit still long enough for such an elaborate hairdo -- or have enough hair.     Found at the highland site Las Bocas, in Pueblas, Mexico.

How the Ice Age Shaped New York

Long ago, the region lay under an ice sheet thousands of feet thick. It terminated abruptly in what are now the boroughs, leaving the city with a unique landscape. The edge of the ice sheet can still be seen today, as a thin line of green parks, because large boulders and scrapped-bare rock made early development difficult.     Read full article on how New York City's geography was shaped thousands of years ago by miles-thick glaciers

These Are The Oldest Footprints On Earth

Found on a prehistoric sea floor, the oldest footprints ever found were left between 551 million and 541 million years ago during the Ediacaran period. That is hundreds of millions of years before the dinosaurs.     The trackways tell scientists it was left by a bilaterian animal — that is, a creature with bilateral symmetry that has a head at one end, a back end at the other, and a symmetrical right and left side. Its paired appendages, scientists did not call them legs, were used to raise the animal off the sea floor as it moved.

Was the Persian Army so Big Its Arrows Really Blocked out the Sun?

The army of the Persian Empire had enough archers that they were said to be able to "block out the sun." You might remember the Spartan's famous answer to that: great, we "can fight in the shade."

Were those ancient chroniclers exaggerating? We do not know, but conservative estimates of the Persian army's capabilities was that they had 50,000 men in their army. Yes, that's a conservative estimate. Previous armies in the region are believed to have fought with mainly infantry, with archers being a supporting group; we know the Persians innovated by increasing the numbers of archers. Let’s crunch some numbers.

As a conservative estimate, let's say there are about 20,000 archers in the Persian battle line. Each archer can fire about 5 arrows a minute. And their quivers held 120 arrows, but let's assume they had to go hunting for dinner the last few nights, and give them 100 arrows. When you do the math, that means the Persian Army could fire 100,000 arrows a minute. And they could do that for as long as their arms held out, or until their arrows run out, so about 20 minutes.

The Persian army could fire 100,000 arrows a minute, for 20 minutes. As a conservative estimate. Now, I've never been on an ancient battle field, but that sounds like it could block out the sun.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • >
  • Leave us a message

    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!

    Website design and coding by the Amalgama

    About us X