An Ancient Forest

The hardy evergreen trees of the Araucaria genus live in Australia and South America. And recently, an archaeologist teamed up with a group of ecologists discovered that the tree family has a long and intimate relationship with humans, dating back some 1,400 years.

Studying carbon isotopes at archaeological sites in southern Brazil, the archaeologists found that Araucaria forests first began to expand well beyond their natural habitat at the same time as the ancestors of today's indigenous peoples experienced a population expansion. They found no environmental explanation for the Araucaria's territorial expansion. So they concluded that ancient forestry practices were the most likely culprit.

Today, the Araucaria remain a critical source of timber, fuel, and edible seeds for indigenous peoples in Brazil. And they play a central role in indigenous ways of viewing of the world. Araucaria trees are often considered the embodiment of ancestors. Unfortunately, there has been a 95% reduction of the range of Araucaria species due to modern logging. The genus is now considered endangered.

Cemetery, In Use For Thousands of Years, Excavated in Albania

An ancient cemetery containing layers of about 1,000 burials dating back to the Iron Age has been found in southeastern Albania. The cemetery was actually three cemeteries: one from the Iron Age, one late Roman, and one from the Middle Ages. And under the bottom layer of the cemetery were what appears to be a Neolithic settlement. Archaeologists found holes in the ground, which supported the now-rotted wooden skeletons of small huts.

The Story of Princess Pingyang

Princess Pingyang is remembered in history not for being born a princess, but for helping herself become one. Pingyang was born in 600 CE. She was the third daughter of Li Yuan, Duke of Tang, a hereditary nobleman of under the Sui Dynasty. When her father rebelled against the Sui, Princess Yang fought fiercely to help him overthrow Emperor Yang. And I mean literally fought. She gained loyalty with gifts and equal treatment for peasants, and bribes for local leaders, slowly gathering support until she had assembled an army of 70,000 known as the “Army of the Lady.” Princess Pingyang’s husband Chai Shao was the leader of the Sui temple guard, but he joined forces with his wife to support the rebellion.

Her efforts were rewarded and her father founded the Tang Dynasty, renaming himself Emperor Gaozu. Unfortunately, soon after the victory, Princess Pingyang died at the age of just 23. Her father arranged a grand military funeral, fit for a general. Someone questioned the need for such a grand funeral. Her father famously replied: “She was no ordinary woman.”

Let's Learn About Mexico!

The birthplace of plant domestication in the Americas. The first New World country to gain independence from the Spanish Empire. The eleventh-largest country in the world, by population. Like the United States, Russia, and China, this is a country that any informed citizen should have at least a basic knowledge about.

Do Not Mess With This Urn

I do not know how it ever got into a museum; the archaeologist willing to move this urn has nerves of steel. Large, lidded urns were unique to the K'iché Maya of southern Guatemala. The urns contained the remains of important individuals who either were made into a tightly wrapped bundle and placed in the urn soon after they died, or were buried elsewhere then disinterred and had their bones alone placed in the urn. The majority of such urns come from sacred caves where descendants would make pilgrimages to give offerings and seek advice from their revered ancestors. The image is likely an ancestor who, at death, was transformed into a spirit embodiment of a deity. For it was their special connection to the supernatural and the gods that gave Mayan rulers their authority. And what better connection than to say your ancestors became deities upon their deaths, and that one day, you would too?

War and Sacrifice by the Moche

Based on ceramics they left behind, here's a modern (somewhat fanciful) animated movie about the Moche. Also called the Mochica culture, the Moche flourished in northern Peru between 100 and 700 CE. They are known today for their sophisticated irrigation systems and beautiful painted ceramics.

A Brief History of Cairo

Egypt’s largest city has quite a colorful history. From the Arabic Conquest to the Crusades, Cairo saw it all. Read about the history of this interesting city on my patreon

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.”

  • 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