Giovanni Belzoni, an early Egyptologist, wrote in 1821 what it was like to enter an Egyptian tomb:
I sought a resting place, found one and contrived to sit; but when my weight bore on the body of a dead Egyptian, it crushed it like a band box. Naturally I had recourse to my hands to sustain my weight, but they found no better support; so that I collapsed together among the broken mummies with such a crash of bones, rags and wooden cases as kept me motionless for a quarter of an hour, waiting until it subsided again. I could not remove from the place, however, without increasing it and every step I took I crushed a mummy in some place or another… Thus I proceeded from one cave to another, all full of mummies piled up in various ways, some standing, some lying and some on their heads.
This buffoon was known as the "Great Belzoni" and is still considered a pioneer archaeologist in the study of ancient Egypt. Seriously, read his wikipedia page, I couldn't believe it either.
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.
"No one in their country ever ploughs a field or touches a plough-handle. They are all without fixed abode, without hearth, or law, or settled mode of life, and keep roaming from place to place, like fugitives, accompanied by the wagons in which they live."
Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus, describing the Huns when they first appeared to the Roman world in the 300s CE (Res gestae 31.2.10)
A belief in witches -- and consequently witch-hunts -- have been found in every single inhabited continent of the world, and most of the peoples who have lived on it. But belief in witches is not entirely universal: the largest witch-free area is Siberia, covering about a third of the northern hemisphere, and the ancient Egyptians were notable for their lack of belief of witchcraft and embracing magic, instead of fearing magic.
Caligula, the Roman emperor who was ... mentally challenged ... tried to emulate Alexander the Great by riding horseback across a bridge of boats over the Naples Bay. And he did it dressed in a breastplate Caligula had stolen from Alexander's tomb.
On November 1st, 1896, the National Geographic magazine published its first picture of an African woman with bare breasts. The photo is of a Zulu bride and groom in Witwatersrand, South Africa. The photograph set a precedent: National Geographic would portray indigenous peoples as they were, not changed to suit western sensibilities. It was a huge deal at the time. The photograph was very shocking to American readers. And no, I'm not showing it, you're going to have to find the photograph for yourself.
The capital of Sudan is Khartoum. The city is also the largest city in Sudan. Exactly where the name comes from is disputed; one theory is that it comes from Arabic khurṭūm, "elephant trunk," for the shape of the Nile river near the city.
Stone Age tools found in Namibia dating back to 200,000 years ago are the earliest remains of humans yet identified in Africa. The tools are believed to have belonged to a Homo sapiens predecessor, Homo erectus.
Bamboos are the fastest-growing plants on earth. Trees such as oak or apple can take up to 120 years to reach maturity. Most bamboo trees take 5 to 7 years to reach maturity. Yet apple trees bloom every year. Bamboo blooms once every 60 to 130 years!
And, even more mysteriously, all the bamboo of that species bloom at the same time. All over the world, from Japan to France to the USA. And records from China dating to 919 CE tell us this has been happening for a long, long time. It is as if the plants carry an an internal clock ticking away until the preset alarm goes off simultaneously. This mass flowering phenomenon is called "gregarious flowering." And botanists are still stumped as to why, exactly, bamboo does this --although of course there are plenty of hypotheses!
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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!