Ancient China had its own form of mixed martial arts. Called lei tai, it was a no-holds-barred mixed combat sport that combined Chinese martial arts, boxing and wrestling. Killing your opponent was allowed. The sport was played by having a man on a rail-less platform who would invite anyone who wished to challenge them. If a challenger won, they became the man on the platform. But if a man beat enough opponents they would win acclaim as a “champion.” One famous champion, Lama Pai Grandmaster Wong Yan-Lam, fought over 150 people over 18 days to become a champion.
The modern form of lei tai appeared during the Song Dynasty. It is still practiced, though in a modified form that makes deaths less likely.
An international team of researchers studied the diets of people who lived between 200 CE and 1000 CE on Brazil’s Amazon coast. Using statistical models and analysis of the chemical composition of their bones, the results suggested that people ate mostly terrestrial plants and animals. This is surprising since they were studied specifically based on their living in coastal areas. Rodents such as those from the guinea pig family, the agouti, and the paca; the brocket deer; and catfish are all thought to have been consumed, in addition to wild and cultivated plants such as cassava, corn, and squash.
Stainless steel as we know it today was invented in the early 1800s, when European scientists observed iron-chromium alloys resisting corrosion by certain acids. It is sometimes known as chromium steel, since it is the chromium mixed in which stops the iron from rusting. Now, archaeologists have found what they think is evidence of low-chromium crucible steel in the 11th century (1000s CE) in what is now Chahak in Iran. This low-chromium steel would have been used to manufacture weapons like knives and swords.
While the earlier metal alloy is not exactly the same as stainless steel as we know it today, the alloy does show evidence of chromium being mixed with pig-iron to create an alloy called crucible steel. This is the earliest we have ever had evidence for creation, intentionally, of low-chromium steel. And investigation of the Chahak alloy's properties could help identify crucible steel artifacts which might have been made in and around Chahak.
Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir was a Norse explorer, born in Iceland, but remembered for her participation in the Viking expeditions to what is today Canada. She became known as the ‘far-traveller' and she is talked about in two Old Norse sagas, The Saga of Erik the Red and The Saga of the Greenlanders.
Gudrid is described in The Saga of the Greenlanders as “a woman of striking appearance, and wise”. Both sagas start Gudrid's story with her and her father sailing west to join Erik the Red’s newly-founded colony in Greenland. According to The Saga of the Greenlanders Gudrid, her husband, and several others were shipwrecked. Then they were rescued by Leif the Lucky, son of Erik the Red. A sickness came through the Greenland colonists that winter and Gudrid's husband died. The Saga of Erik the Red does not mention a shipwreck or Gudrid already being married. Instead, when Gudrid arrived Greenland was in the grip of a famine. Though a Christian, she took part in a pagan ritual, and assisted a seeress in chanting songs to sway spirits and end the famine.
Both sagas agree that after arriving in Greenland, Gudrid married Thorstein, son of Erik the Red and younger brother of Leif the Lucky. That winter a deadly sickness struck again. Gudrid and her husband sickened, and her husband died. But once again, Gudrid survived. She then married an Icelander, Thorstein Karlsefni, who travelled with her to Vinland. After they landed, Gudrid gave birth to a son, Snorri. If the sagas are truthful Snorri was the first baby born to a European on the North American continent.
Gudrid's story continues after the Vinland attempt at a colony is abandoned. She becomes a revered matriarch in Iceland, who many famous Icelanders trace their ancestry to. She even makes a pilgrimage to far-away Rome. The Saga of the Greenlanders ends with a list of Gudrid's descendants. Some historians argue that the saga should more rightly be named "The Saga of Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir" given how important she is in the history.
Built and inhabited between 1000 CE till it was abandoned around the 1400s CE.
An almost-complete cat skeleton discovered at a medieval village site in southern Kazakhstan has been analyzed, and the researchers concluded it was likely kept as a pet. The village was located along the Silk Road and was home to Oghuz, who were Turkic pastoralists. There were multiple indicators suggesting the Oghuz had kept this cat as a pet. The cat had healed through several broken bones suggesting it was cared for by others while recovering. Also, because it lost all its teeth, it was likely unable to feed itself without human help. In addition, the cat's remains were found because they were buried -- unlike other animal bones at the site which were discarded. Analyses of the chemical composition of the cat's bones show the cat ate a higher-protein diet than dogs whose remains have been found at the site, and other cats that lived during the same time period. Keeping a pet cat was thought to be unusual for the Oghuz. This particular pet cat's presence suggests cultural exchanges facilitated by the Silk Road which passed by the village.
What do you think this person is doing? If you guessed pooping -- congrats, you guessed wrong! This piece is titled "Sorrowing Adam." He is sitting on something (it is not explained), grieving, after getting kicked out of paradise by God. The panel once decorated the side of a Byzantine casket or box. Ivory, circa 900s - 1000 CE (courtesy of the Walters Art Museum)
The Northern Line of the Great Wall of China has recently been mapped using drones and high-resolution satellite images. The 460-mile-long Northern Line mostly winds through Mongolia, and was constructed of pounded earth between the 1000s and 1200s CE. The Northern Line was previously thought to have been constructed to prevent incursions by nomadic tribes such as those eventually united under Genghis Khan. But the team found that much of this section of the more than 13,000-mile-long Great Wall is low in height and placed near paths. In other words, it does not match what you would expect for a wall intended to prevent enemy invasion. It looks more like a wall intended to monitor the movement of livestock and people -- and potentially tax it.
A remarkable Liao Dynasty (907 - 1125 CE) tomb in China was unfortunately looted before its discovery by archaeologists. But the looters could not take the murals. Over 160 square feet of beautifully preserved paintings decorate the tomb's walls, reproducing constellations, wooden architecture, travel, and scenes from daily life.