Napoleon the War Criminal

On March 10, 1799, the Ottoman city of Jaffa (in what is today Israel) fell to Napoleon and his French troops. The general ordered his men to slaughter several thousand men in the city’s garrison that had been taken prisoner, mainly Albanians. Napoleon viewed this as justice for the Ottomans killing French messengers sent to Jaffa. Today it would be a war crime.

Abraham Lincoln Doesn't Mind Being Called A Fool

In fact, his sense of humor greatly facilitated his sustained relations with the testy [Secretary of War Edwin M.Stanton and the pompous [Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P.Chase. For instance, when a delegation, which he had sent to Stanton with orders to grant their request, returned and reported that not only had Stanton refused to do so, but had actually called Lincoln a fool for sending such an order, Lincoln, with mock astonishment, inquired: “Did Stanton call me a fool?” – and, upon being reassured upon that point, remarked: “Well, I guess I had better go over and see Stanton about this. Stanton is usually right.”

Quoted from "Lincolns Humor" and Other Essays, by P. B. Thomas

Archaeologists Confused By Aboriginal Tools

When workers constructing a rail line south of Sydney discovered a trove of Aboriginal artifacts, archaeologists at first were baffled. Many of the stone tools were crafted from flint, which is not native to the area. A subsequent investigation concluded that the flint was actually chemically identical to samples found along the Thames River in London. The flint cobbles were likely loaded onto ships in England for ballast and then discarded in Australia, where they were repurposed by Aboriginal artisans.

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.

No More Executions

The first country in the world to abolish the death penalty for all crimes was Venezuela, in 1863. It is still in their constitution!

Magical Man Survived On 3 to 4 Hours of Sleep

Former American president Lyndon Johnson averaged only 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night and worked most of the rest; his wife once said, “Lyndon acts as if there is never going to be a tomorrow.” He would sleep from 1 am or 2 am to 5 am, work until lunch, then take a brief nap around 2 or 3 pm, before working until the early hours of the morning. These "double days" were exhausting for everyone who worked with him. And they were probably a political advantage for Johnson, who could get more work done in a day than his opponents.

He once called a congressman at 3 a.m. to discuss a piece of pending legislation. When Johnson asked, “Were you asleep?” the congressman thought quickly and said, “No, Mr. President, I was just lying here hoping you’d call.”

This Discovery Happened Surprisingly Late

Humans have theorized about other galaxies and distant planets for centuries. But it was only in 1992 that the first exoplanet -- a planet outside our Solar System -- was discovered. That's after the original Star Trek and Star Wars both finished!

Sumerians At Sea

The ancient Sumerians are known for having created one of the earliest agricultural civilizations in the world. A new discovery in southern Iraq suggests they also conducted some of the earliest maritime trade.Remains of brick ramparts, docks, and an artificial basin created to be the town's port have been found at the site of Abu Tbeirah since 2016. That suggests they knew how to build boats and fish, at least. But what about maritime trade?

At the same site, researchers found some unusual artifacts that show the ancient Sumerians almost certainly had long-distance contacts, likely by sea. Vases made of alabaster, a stone not found in Mesopotamia. Carnelian beads from India. A necklace in the style of the Indus River Valley; the Indus River Valley civilization flourished at the same time as Sumer.

Ancient Sumerian texts mainly talk about agriculture, and little about maritime trade. The is understandable. Agriculture required the most organization, and effort by the state. Archaeology is uncovering a relatively hidden aspect of  ancient Sumerian life. They had farmers, yes, but also sailors.

Human-Sloth Conflict Documented In Footprints

Fossilized footprints from a dry lake bed in White Sands National Monument, in New Mexico, divulge an extraordinary interaction between humans and a ground sloth 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. Human tracks superimposed on the prints of the giant sloth show how people carefully stalked the beast. The sloth’s trail suggests it then employed a series of evasive maneuvers and even reared up on its hind legs, likely to defend itself.

It is not known exactly why giant sloths went extinct near the end of the last Ice Age, but human hunting may have contributed to their demise.

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    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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