Arab inventor al-Jazari (1136–1206) invented an automaton named the "elephant clock." Water propelled the clock, which caused a humanoid automaton to strike his cymbal and a mechanical bird to chirp, every half an hour. His instructions for the elephant clock are precise enough that multiple reproductions have been made!

One of the horse statues has been dated to at least 2,800 years ago, the time of the Israelite Kingdom, and the other to the Hellenistic period at least 2,200 years ago. Horses had become deeply established in the region by that time, albeit for mobility and for prestige. Horses were not for pulling plows, but to get about, and visit or conquer the neighbors. These are not the first horse statuary found in the region which were relatively popular by about 3,000 years ago. But they are the best preserved.

A Record of Records

When he retired from playing professional hockey in 1999, Wayne Gretzky held (or shared) sixty-one records. Today, twenty years later, he holds (or shares) sixty.

Potential Human Sacrifice Found at Shang Dynasty Burial

Archaeologists have uncovered a headless human skeleton in a pit at central China’s Chaizhuang site, which dates to the late Shang Dynasty (1600–1050 BCE). The person was placed facing north, in a kneeling position, with their hands crossed in front of them. The overall effect suggests they had been beheaded as a human sacrifice. Oracle bones bearing glyphs describing just such a practice have been found at the Yin Ruins, the capital of the Shang Dynasty. At Chaizhuang, the researchers also found an oracle bone bearing the “Kan” glyph, which is associated with sacrificing people and livestock in pits and upright burials. This would be the first archaeological evidence of a beheaded human sacrifice, though.

The Soviet Union's Leadership Kept Changing Its Mind on Abortion

The Soviet Union was the first country to have widespread, legalized abortion when the Commissariat of Health legalized abortions in November 1920. In its announcement, the Commissariat noted that the number of abortions occurring each year had continued to grow both in the Soviet Union and in European countries. They added in their decree that “legislation of all countries combats this evil [of abortion] by punishing the woman who chooses to have an abortion and the doctor who makes it” which drove many operations into underground markets where “up to 50 per cent of such woman are infected in the course of operation, and up to 4 per cent of them die.”

The Commissariat wanted the legalization of abortion in the Soviet Union to directly address this problem, stating women who have abortions are “victim[s] of mercenary and often ignorant quacks who make a profession of secret operations” and that the new law was to protect women, not punish them. Doctors were therefore allowed to perform abortions, free of charge, in public hospitals. However, midwives, nurses, and private physicians operating out of private practices were not allowed to perform abortions. This was again becase of the Commissariat's health and safety reasoning.

Stalin reversed the legalization of abortion, except in cases where there was a serious threat to the pregnant woman's health. This was part of his emphasis on the family unit. Then in 1955, the Soviet government lifted the ban on abortion. But they continued to emphasize prevention of abortion, whether legal or illegal, and coupled legalization with a pro-natal campaign and sexual health education. While elective abortions became legal again, the operations were still stigmatized. The state wanted to prevent most abortions, as part of its continued push for strong family units as the center of social stability.

During the silent film era in Japan, movie theaters would have narrators called "benshi." They would provide an introductory mini-lecture on the film's setting, read on-screen titles, and voice all the characters while the film was playing on the screen. Some even provided their own commentary on what was happening, for instance reciting a poem during an emotionally moving visual. Benshi cold be women or men, and were very important for the movie-goers' experience. Of course some were better than others. In fact, particularly good benshi became famous in their own right, and would be advertised on movie posters!

Amazons Were Real

Recent archaeological work at Scythian graves in the 400s BCE suggest Scythian women may have been the real-life inspiration for the Greek's myths about Amazons. The Scythians, like the Amazons, enjoyed outdoor life, sexual freedom, hunting, and warfare. And the ancient Greeks knew about the Scythians, with historian Herodotus describing how Scythian women fought alongside men on horseback.

Now, the evidence is mounting from archaeological investigations of the Scythians. Since the 1940s, archaeologists have been excavating Scythian burial mounds, or kurgans. They have found many examples of women buried with the same funerary rites as men. In addition, some women were buried with their legs bent, as if astride a horse. And in their tombs were spears, axes, arrows, and horses. In fact, about one-third of Sccythian women found in burials have been found with weapons.

The remains themselves also point towards their warrior prowess. Slashed ribs, broken arms, and fractured skulls demonstrate that these women fought, and sometimes died from their battle wounds. The archaeology supports ancient Greek written accounts. Amazons were real, and they were Scythian.

A map of the entire internet, as it was in May 1973. Back then, the World Wide Web was known as the ARPANET, and consisted of just 42 computer hosts connected to 36 nodes spread across the US. Lightning bolts indicate satellite connections. How many of the locations can you recognize? Ames, for instance, was the NASA Ames Research Center.

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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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