The Creation of Rotterdam

What would become the important port city of Rotterdam has been inhabited since at least the Roman period. It was part of the frontier province Germania Inferior, and there is evidence of wooden locks, trenches, and ditches built by the Romans to control water levels. After the Romans withdrew in the second half of the 200s CE, the population steeply declined. Partially because sea levels rose, making much of the region uninhabitable.

It was not until 900 CE that pioneering farmers returned to the riverbanks of the Rotte River, or "Muddy Water" River. Archaeologists have found the remains of six farmsteads, dating from 950 to 1050 CE. Life in Rotta Village was difficult: flooding was always a threat, and attempts to drain the peat they farmed on just caused the ground level to sink when drained, making flooding even worse. Unable to make a living, Rotta Village was abandoned around 1050.

It was thanks to a local noble looking to protect his nearby lands that Rotterdam ever came to be. In the year 1270, the Count of Holland, Floris V, ordered the construction of a single sea wall to protect the region from floods. The resulting dike was 1,300 feet long, 23 feet wide, and nearly five feet high. It was constructed across the Rotte River, not far from the now-abandoned Rotta Village.

A town sprang up after the dike was built. Because it was close to the North Sea and the River Rotte, the area was between two trade systems: the Baltic Region which included Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and the north Atlantic coastal area, which included France, England, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Because the new dike blocked direct passage to the Rotte River, traders had to unload their goods and reload them on the other side, or temporarily store them in Rotterdam. This made Rotterdam an important port and market for staple goods, such as beer and textiles, which people had to buy no matter the difficulty in getting it across the dike. It also developed a fishing industry, selling its herring along the trade systems it linked. And the rest, as they say, is history!

The Weight of Privilege

Maya rituals may have literally been weighty affairs for high-ranking rulers. During these festivities, elite officials adorned themselves with an assortment of jade pendants, mostly worn on the ears or around the neck. Heavier ones (such as a 5-pound carved head from Ucanal in Guatemala) were likely attached to a belt and would have made customary ritual dancing quite cumbersome.

It is theorized that the weight of the assembled stones, which may have totaled as much as 25 pounds, symbolized a leader’s prestige and responsibilities.

Yucatan Rainforest Still Shaped By Its Mayan Past

A new study shows that the centuries of deforestation under the Mayan Civilization -- which lasted from 200 BCE to about 950 CE at its height -- drastically changed the ability of local rainforests to store carbon in the ground. And even today, centuries after the Maya cities were mysteriously abandoned and the forests grew back, the region's carbon reserves have not yet fully recovered. Read the full article here.

The Longest War In World History... Sort Of

The Peloponnesian War ended in 1996. The bloody conflict between Athens and Sparta had stopped in 404 B.C. without an official peace pact, so after 2,500 years the cities decided to sign a symbolic agreement. It read, “Today we express our grief for the devastating war between the two key cities of ancient Greece and declare its end.”

Ohaguro: An Interesting Japanese Beauty Standard

Women in ancient Japan blackened their teeth with dye. White teeth were considered ugly. Evidence for this practice, called ohaguro, exists from as far back as the Kofun Period and (250 to 538 CE) in bone remains and on clay human figurines.

Ohaguro continued until the late 1800s and the Meiji Restoration.

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.

Ancient Mirrors Said Nice Things To Their Owners

These five lead mirror frames, dating to the turn of the 200s CE, have been found while excavating a Roman villa in northern Bulgaria. Three of the frames are decorated with the image of a large wine vessel and bear an inscription that means a “good soul.” A nice thought to have when looking at oneself, no?   The villa belonged to a Roman military veteran. The specific building where the mirrors were found was initially thought to be a house for workers, but the mirrors suggest perhaps it was a temple.

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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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