All That Glitters Is Orange?

Usually, when we think of gold, we think of a warm yellow color. But the Nahuange, who lived in northern Colombia during the first millenium CE, intentionally treated gold jewelry so that it looked pinkish orange. A recent study analyzed 44 Nahuange artifacts from the Museum of Gold in Colombia, and found that they were made from tumbaga, a gold alloy which contains a substantial percentage of copper. They were also all "depletion gilded" which means copper was removed from the surface through hammering, a heating and cooling process, or both. The result was a golden shine on the outside which hid the metal's true high-copper content. That gilding was later removed, on purpose, to bring the copper's pinkish tones out. So initially, the jewelry makers desired golden objects, but at some later point, it was preferable to have pinkish-orange jewelry.

Derbent, Russia's Oldest City

Located on a narrow strip of land between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains in the far western end of Eurasia, is the city of Derbent. With a history going back by five thousand years, Derbent is said to be Russia’s oldest city. It is also the southernmost city in Russia. Derbent’s position between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountains is strategically important in the entire Caucasus region. It is one of only two crossings over the mountain range; the other being over the Darial Gorge. This position has allowed the rulers of Derbent to control land traffic between the Eurasian Steppe and the Middle East and levy taxes on passing merchants. In fact, the city’s present-day name comes from the Persian word Darband which means “barred gate”.

Being at such a strategic location, it has long been a target, or a prize, of states with imperial ambitions. The city was historically an Iranian city, and its first intensive settlement in the 800s BCE was Persian. The city’s modern name came into use during the 500s CE, when the city was re-established by the Sassanid dynasty of Persia. In 654 CE, Derbent came under the hands of the Arabs. They called the city Bab al-Abwab, or “the Gate of Gates”, signifying its strategic importance. The Arabs transformed the city into an important administrative center and introduced Islam to the area. After the Arabs, the region came under the Armenians who established a kingdom there which lasted until the Mongol invasion in the early 1200s. After the Mongols, Derbent changed hands relatively quickly, given its history, coming under the rule of the Shirvanshahs (a dynasty in modern Azerbaijan), the Iranians and the Ottomans before finally being ceded to the Russian Empire as part of the end of the Russo-Persian War.

Prehistoric women's arms 'stronger than those of today's elite rowers'

The study of ancient bones suggests that manual agricultural work had a profound effect on the bodies of women living in central Europe between about the early Neolithic and late Iron Age. The study examined the remains of 94 women spanning about 6,000 years, from the time of the early neolithic farmers (dating back to around 5,300 BC) through to the 800s CE, from countries including Germany, Austria, and northern Serbia. These ancient women had arm bones which were extremely strong -- about 30% stronger than non-athletic modern women. And stronger than modern rowers, soccer players, and runners. The study also reveals that the strength of women’s arm bones dropped over time. Probably because technology was developed to ease manual labor. By medieval times, the strength of women’s arm bones was on a par with that of the average woman today.

The first imperial Roman city to be established on the Iberian Peninsula -- the peninsula which today houses Spain and Portugal -- was Tarraco. In 27 BC, Emperor Augustus based himself here during Roman campaigns on the peninsula and the city flourished because of this attention. It became extremely wealthy because of his patronage and the city continued to thrive for a couple of centuries after Augustus' death. Enormous public buildings were constructed, including a sea-side Colosseum in the 100s CE.     Unfortunately for archaeologists, the thriving Roman city Tarraco became the thriving Spanish city Tarragona. The ancient Roman monuments were gradually built over, adapted into other structures, or pillaged for their raw building materials. Today you have to look hard to spot the original three-tiered structure of this seaside city. Click through the image gallery to see some beautiful photographs of Terraco's ancient Roman remains.

A colossal status of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (r. 117 to 138 CE) found in the ruins of a bathhouse at Sagalossos, a Greco-Roman city in south-central Turkey. It is estimated the statue stood between 13 and 16 feet (4 and 5 meters) tall. That’s pretty big! It was an announcement of the power of Rome, personified by Rome’s divine emperor.

What’s A King To A Caesar?

From 27 BCE to 1946 CE, someone, somewhere in Europe has had a title “Caesar.” The czar of Russia, the kaiser of Germany...many, many European titles were just local derivatives of “Caesar.”

The last Caesar was Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, who was removed from office in 1946 by the Soviets. He’s still alive, too!

Geneticists investigating the ancient domestication of cats happened to find that ancient cats had stripes -- but no spots. A specific gene is responsible for spotted fur, and it is absent in ancient cats. How fur patterns relate to when cats began to live with humans, I do not know. Anyways, the researchers' findings were confirmed by Egyptian murals, which only show striped cats. The gene causing blotched or spotted coats only began to appear in Europe during the Middle Ages.

The mosaic above comes from the House of the Faun, in Pompeii, during the early Roman Empire. Roman cats, which were descended from Egyptian cats, were striped too.

Source: National Geographic History, November/December 2017. "Finicky Felines Take Their Time with Domestication." Pp. 4 - 5

Between 1896 and 1907, archaeologists Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt discovered an amazing treasure trove. But their treasure was words, not gold: over 500,000 papyri fragments, dating back around 1,800 years, so well-preserved that they are still readable to the naked eye. The fragments were uncovered in the ruins of Oxyrhynchus, a sizable ancient town in southern Egypt that flourished when the Roman Empire controlled Egypt. The town's arid conditions meant that the ordinary residents' papyri survived nearly 2 millennia. The papyri include Christian gospels, magical spells and even a contract to fix a wrestling match!

Yokai are shape-shifting creatures native to Japan; they can appear as animals like turtles or deer, or as inanimate objects, or even plants! They live on the edge of towns and between villages. Yokai come in many forms, some bringing good fortune, some bringing calamity and illness.

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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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