Peacock fresco at the Villa Poppaea. Notice the illusion of depth with the columns, and how the peacock's tail juts over the edge of the border.
This art was preserved by Vesuvius's eruption in 79 CE.

Terracotta Warriors fresh from the earth, before their colors deteriorate from the exposure. Photograph from a 1974 excavation.      

The Viking Colony That Wasn't

L'Anse aux Meadows is (rightly) famous as the archaeological evidence of a Viking settlement in North America. Located on the northern tip of Newfoundland, the site has the remains of eight buildings and could house up to 100 people, and seems to have been occupied around the year 1000.

The interesting thing? The site does not quite fit with the descriptions of "Vinland" in the Norse Sagas. L'Anse aux Meadows has no graves and no cows, but the sagas describe an attempt to found a permanent settlement (suggesting a graveyard was needed) and showing cows to confused locals. L'Anse aux Meadows also has butternuts and butternut wood, which grows at the northernmost much further south around New Brunswick. Even the name - Vineland - and the description of wild grapes does not match L'Anse aux Meadows. Wild grapes grow much further south, also by New Brunswick.

Hopes were briefly raised that another Viking settlement might have been found at Point Rosee on the southern end of Newfoundland. A satellite-based survey seemed to find 'cultural remains.' But the follow-up in-person survey found the remains were entirely natural in origin.

So the search continues. Or perhaps...the Sagas were slight exaggerations, and add descriptions from places scouted but not settled further into North America. Only time (and archaeology) will tell.

The length of a day on Mars -- the time it takes Mars to complete a rotation on its axis -- has been known since 1666. It was even accurate to within 3 minutes!

The length of a day on Saturn was a mystery until 2019.

It was extremely difficult to measure for two reasons. First, because without a solid surface, Saturn had no geographical features by which to measure rotational speed. And Saturn has a funky magnetic field that makes alternative ways of measuring hard. Saturn's day was only measured when NASA's Cassini probe studied the planet's icy, rocky rings and their interaction with the planet.

A Clever Crossword

On Nov. 5, 1996, (which was Election Day for the presidency of the United States) the popular New York Times crossword puzzle included a surprising clue:

39 [Across]. Lead story in tomorrow’s newspaper (!), with 43 [Across]

The answer for 43 Across was ELECTED. But which presidential candidate fit in 39 Across -- and presumably was the winner of the presidential election? In fact there was not one answer but two. Rather than predict the outcome of the election, the writer of the crossword had managed to make it possible for CLINTON to work and for BOBDOLE to work, by changing the answers to the respective seven down clues. You can read the full crossword here.

Possible Embassy Found In Major Mayan City

A recent study of the area in the Maya city of Tikal has found an unusual complex of buildings, which seems to be similar to the citadel of Teotihuacan. Tikal is in northern Guatemala, and Teotihuacan is central Mexico about 600 miles to the north. Inside the complex in Tikal were found weapons in a Teotihuacan style, including ones made from green obsidian from central Mexico, incense burners, carvings of Teotihuacan's rain god, and a burial in a pyramid with offerings similar to offerings in Teotihuacan burials. Ceramics within the pyramid have been dated to around 300 CE.

Interestingly, an elite Maya compound has been discovered in Teotihuacan, with its murals smashed and buried. Was this site the corresponding Tikal embassy to Teotihuacan, the partner of Teotihuacan's embassy complex in Tikal? The two cities had a difficulty relationship: Teotihuacan invaded Tikal in 378 CE.

A Small Announcement

This blog has been going for almost 10 years now. It has expanded from a tumblr blog to include this website, a ko-fi, and a patreon. And it has always remained a one-person show. Historical-nonfiction is, frankly, a lot of time and effort. You ongoing support has allowed me to continue for this long. But the time has come for me to take a step back from historical-nonfiction.
What does this mean for you? You can still look forward to learning something interesting, something historical, something to expand your knowledge of world. But posts will come when inspiration strikes, not on a fixed schedule as it has been. In short: what this means for the future is historical-nonfiction will have fewer new posts.
I want to finish this small announcement by saying thank you all. For everything.

2,700-year-old Tiny Cosmetic Jar

The bronze jar is only about 5cm across. And inside is a tiny amount of face cream -- or what was once face cream. It was excavated in 2017 at the Liujiawa site in China, which was the capital of Rui, a minor state during the early Spring and Autumn period (circa 700 BCE).

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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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