A Queen Uncovered

Queen Ankhnespepy II was a particularly powerful female leader during Egypt's Old Kingdom. She married not one but two kings during the Sixth Dynasty -- Pepy I and Merenre -- and she served as regent when her son Pepy II became king at just six years old. Recently, a Swiss-French archaeological mission at the Saqqara necropolis found the top portions of two obelisks, thankfully with inscriptions to help identify them, which would have marked the entrance to Queen Ankhnespepy II's funerary temple. They are the oldest Old Kingdom obelisk fragments found, and would have stood more than 16 feet tall.

The obeslisks weren't impressive just for their height. The two were made out of granite, a material usually reserved for kings. Any ancient Egyptian who saw them would instantly know the the power and stature of Queen Ankhnespepy II.

A new rock-cut chamber tomb has been found in central Greece, near the city of Orchomenos, which was the most important center in the region during the Mycenaean period. Uncovered in a cemetery filled with similar tombs, the new discovery is distinguished by its size: at 452 square feet (42 square meters) it is the 9th largest Mycenaean tomb every excavated. And more than 4,000 Mycenaean tombs have been excavated since 1850!

What is inside this large tomb is also surprising. Contemporary tombs usually house multiple burials, but this tomb has just one. And the artifacts are unusual, too. Tombs from this time period, heck the other Mycenaean tombs in that cemetery, always have painted pottery, yet this burial has very little. In contrast, it has a lot of jewelry, which was previously considered to be for female burials only. This new find is raising a lot of questions about its occupant, and the Mycenaean society where they lived and died.

What A Way To Go

Sherwood Anderson was a prominent American short-story writer and novelist from the 1920s to the 1940s. When Anderson was 64, he took a cruise to South America with his wife. Unfortunately he got sick on the journey, with intestinal discomfort, and had to disembark in Panama to go to a hospital. Anderson died in Colon, Panama in March 1941. He accidentally swallowed a toothpick while drinking a martini on a cruise. An autopsy revealed he had accidentally swallowed a toothpick, which had damaged his internal organs and resulted in infection and then peritonitis. It is suspected the toothpick came from either a martini or an hors h'oeuvre on the cruise.

The World's Largest Book

Kuthodaw Pagoda is a Buddhist stupa, located at the foot of Mandalay Hill in Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar). It was built during the reign of King Mindon Min who had the pagoda built as part of the traditional foundations of the new royal city of Mandalay, which he was building in the 1850s. He was concerned that the teachings of Gautama Buddha would be lost, due to an ongoing British invasion and their lack of support for Burma's traditional religion. So King Mindon came up with a giant, amazing, and extremely unique way to preserve the entire text of the Tipitaka Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. He had it inscribed in huge stone slabs, 730 slabs in total. Each slab is a meter wide and a meter and a half tall (3.2 ft by 5 ft), and 13 centimeters thick (5 inches). Each stone has 80 to 100 lines of inscription on each side in round Burmese script, chiseled out and originally filled in with gold leaf. The slabs are big enough, but King Mindon wasn't done yet. Each slab was housed in its own shrine, called kyauksa gu, with a precious gem on top. Again -- that's 730 shrines with 730 giant stelae. Finally, the shrines were arranged around a central golden pagoda. King Mindon must have bet that the British would be unwilling to destroy such a large, beautiful, and expensive complex.   And about the title of this post -- because they technically can be read, these 730 slabs of marble are figuratively called the “world's largest book.”

Ancient Greek Burials Yield Evidence of Ancient Intestinal Worms

Some 2,500 years ago, the Greek doctor Hippocrates described infestations of parasitic worms in his patients. Modern scholars suspected he was referring to roundworms, pinworms, and tapeworms, but had not been able to confirm the diagnoses. Until now. A recent study led by the University of Cambridge analyzed the soil near the pelvic bones in 25 skeletons found on the Greek island of Kea, to recover traces of parasites that may have been housed in the individual's digestive tracts while they were alive. The study detected and identified roundworm and whipworm eggs in four of the burials! Unlike usual, finding parasitic worms is actually a good thing! The researchers noted that the eggs of those two parasites have robust, protective outer membranes, whereas the more delicate outer membranes of other parasitic worm species likely decomposed over time, and would be unrecoverable by now.

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.

Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses has been a site of peaceful protests since 1831, when indigenous peasants began to stage rebellions against their Russian overlords. Even when they lacked bodies to bury they erected crosses on the 33-foot mound as memorials and as symbols of peaceful resistance. The region was freed after World War I but then captured by the Nazis and later incorporated into the U.S.S.R.; again the local population planted crosses of defiance, though they were mown down three times by Soviet bulldozers. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the hill has become an important symbol of political and spiritual self-determination. It now bears an estimated 100,000 crosses.

From an archaeological point of view, Choirokoitia, Cyprus, is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the eastern Mediterranean. Built around 6,000 BCE they were likely the first people to inhabit Cyprus, descendants of farmers who came from the Middle East in the 7,000s BCE, who brought agricultural skills to their new island home. Over time, they would have lost their cultural connections with the homeland and developed into a unique civilization. Evidence from the archaeological work at Choirokoitia shows that they had tools made from bone and flint, stone vessels and even simple figurines of deities.

Choirokoitia's residents also had ... interesting ... mortuary practices, archaeology has uncovered. They buried their dead in their houses. Family members who had passed on were placed under the floor of the home they had once lived in. If you needed evidence that Cyprus developed its own, unique prehistoric culture, there you go -- family under the floor is definitely different than the mainland culture that the earliest Cypriots came from!

“Swallow-Tailed Hawk.” It is plate 72 from John James Audubon's famous work of natural history "The Birds of America," which contained just over 700 North American birds. Aududon based his work on detailed studies of birds, both dead and alive, in their natural habitats. And every depiction is life-sized! This plate is actually pretty big, at 20 inches by 27 inches (53 x 69 cm). Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum.

At its peak in 1637, the Dutch East India Company was valued at US$ 7.9 trillion. That’s adjusted for inflation. US$ 7.9 trillion is the value of the top 20 highest valued companies in the world today -- yes, including Apple and Microsoft.

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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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