Have you heard of the “Blythe Intaglios”?

In 1932, pilot George Palmer was flying from Las Vegas to Blythe, Calif., when he saw drawings sketched on the desert. Someone had scraped away the dark surface soil to draw three human figures, two four-legged animals, and a spiral.

Like the more famous Nazca Lines in Peru, the Blythe Intaglios had gone unnoticed for so long because they were too big! The largest is over 170 feet long. Much too big to be seen from the ground. No local Native American group claims to have made them; radiocarbon dating places their creation between 900 BCE and 1200 CE.

Owls in Ancient Mythology

The Aztecs and Mayans feared and hated the owl and believed they were symbols of death and destruction. Interestingly, the Romans agreed, believing that the owls were bad omens -- but the ancient Greeks did not.  In ancient Greece, owls represented Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

Attempting To Fix Races Is An Ancient Practice - And Everyone Tried To Do It

Chariot racing goes back thousands of years -- they were huge in ancient Rome and its successor the Byzantine Empire. Of course, with racing comes betting, and chariots were big money. So of course people tried to fix races. We have plenty of evidence of ancient Romans and Greeks attempting to help this team win, or make that team lose, but for the first time, we have evidence that ancient Jews got in on it, too.

The first-ever evidence of Jewish cursing in sports was found in a rolled-up metal tablet that had been located in ancient Antioch by Princeton University researchers in the 1930s – and had been left rolled up until now. The tablet, about 9 x 6 centimeters in size, dated to about the 400s or 500s CE. It was not written in Greek, as one would expect for Antioch at the time, but Aramaic. That is the first hint that it was written by someone who was Jewish. The early Christians of Antioch would also have spoken Aramaic. But the dialect used in the curse and the form of writing were typical of the Jewish community, not the Christians; a second hint about its authorship.



The scroll itself is interesting. It was written on a lead tablet, which was often used for curses in the ancient world, because it is a lowly metal. After the scroll was rolled, it was stuck with a nail, just to make sure the curse worked. Like sticking a modern voodoo doll with pins. Then the hexer would inter the nailed curse beneath the hippodrome race track. The idea is that the horses would activate the curse while running over it.

Arctic ice brings an understanding of ancient Europe’s economy

Greenland's icy mountains are not an obvious place to search for an archive of economic history, but a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that they provide one. Read the full article at The Economist

The Abandoned City of Mud and Mystics

The ruined city of Arg-e-Bam is made entirely of mud bricks, clay, straw and the trunks of palm trees. The Iranian city was originally founded during the Sassanian period (224-637 CE) and while some of the surviving structures date from before the 1100s, most of what remains was built during the Safavid period (1502-1722).     Bam prospered because of pilgrims visiting its Zoroastrian fire temple, which had been built early in the Sassanian period, and because Bam was a trading hub along the Silk Road. It was later the site of Jame Mosque, built during the Saffarian period (866-903 CE). Next to the mosque is the tomb of Mirza Naiim, a mystic and astronomer.     The city was largely abandoned since a series of invasions in the early 1800s. In 1953, work began to intensively restore Arg-e-Bam. Restoration work continued until December 26, 2003, when a massive earthquake hit the area -- an estimated 6.6 on the Richter Scale. Almost everything in Bam was destroyed. After that, restoration was given up, and today Arg-e-Bam is at the mercy of the elements.     click through the image gallery to see photographs of what Arg-e-Bam looks like today

Where Does Leprosy Come From?

Leprosy may have originated in Europe -- not Asia, as previously thought. An international team of researchers sampled about 90 different skeletons bearing the telltale deformations of leprosy. The skeletons were unearthed in Europe, and have been dated to between 400 and 1400 CE.

From the bones, the scientists reconstructed ten new genomes of medieval Mycobacterium leprae, in addition to the one or two strains already known to have been circulating in medieval Europe. All the strains of the leprosy bacterium were in fact present in medieval Europe, which strongly suggests leprosy originated closer to Europe than previously thought. Higher diversity is present near an area of origin - this is true of languages, humans, and apparently, leprosy. The new results suggest that leprosy came from someplace closer to Europe, like south-eastern Europe or western Asia.

The oldest strain was detected in a skeleton found in Great Chesterford, Essex, in southeast England, which has been dated to between 415 and 545 CE. This is the same strain found in modern-day red squirrels!

The Americas' Linguistic Diversity

There were dozens of language families, each the equivalent of the Indo-European family, before 1492. This map is a "simplified" one. In today's California, for instance, languages that are spoken by neighboring tribes are as different as French and Chinese.     Why did the Americas develop such linguistic diversity? Many linguists suspect that at least some of these separate families date back to separate migrations of different tribes from Asia who originally spoke unrelated languages. Linguistic and archaeological data hint at more than one migration from Asia into the Americas, all of them through Alaska.     Extra Fun Fact: see “Eskimo-Aleut” in northern North America? It is not colored because there is no evidence those languages are related to any other indigenous American languages!

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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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