Unidentified 500-Year-Old Shipwreck Has Turned Up Perfectly Intact on Bottom of The Baltic Sea

Laying on the muddy floor of the frigid inland Baltic Sea, scientists have found an almost perfectly preserved and intact Renaissance-era shipwreck, undisturbed for hundreds of years. What is really exciting is its state of preservation: it is the oldest well-preserved ship ever found in the Baltic. Its wooden frame, tender boat, and even wooden decorations were saved by the cold, low-oxygen waters of the deep sea.

The Accidental Widow

Oda Tokuhime, the daughter of Oda Nobunaga, married Tokugawa Ieyasu's five-year-old son Nobuyasu in 1563, when she herself was just five years old. The marriage, though for political advantage, became a happy one. The was just one problem: Tokuhime's mother-in-law.

Lady Tsukiyama was so jealous and quarrelsome that, reportedly, even her husband had difficulty dealing with her. And Tokugawa was a major daimyo who controlled large swathes of Japan due to his close alliance with Nobunaga! But the poor man couldn't control his wife. Among other things, Lady Tsukiyama made a retainer's daughter Nobuyasu's concubine because Tokuhime had produced no sons by age 20 -- although their two daughters would suggest that Tokuhime was certainly fertile, and there was plenty of time to have more children.

At some point, Tokuhime decided she could not live with Tsukiyama anymore. She wrote an anonymous letter to her father, the very powerful Oda Nobunaga, and accused Lady Tsukiyama of treason. Tokugawa Ieyasu imprisoned his wife as a result, then to protect his alliance with Nobunaga, had her executed. But what would Nobuyasu, Tokuhime's husband, do? Everyone was very concerned that he would seek an honorable revenge against Oda Nobunaga for the death of his mother. So Ieyasu ordered Nobuyasu to commit suicide by seppuku: his own son killed himself, to protect his father's most important alliance. Tokuhime accidentally got rid of her husband while she was trying to get rid of her mother-in-law. Tokuhime lived another 50 years and never remarried.

The Legend of Switzerland's Peace Soup

In 1529, it looked like Switzerland would fall into war between its Protestant and Catholics. Similar religious wars, both small and large, were raging across Europe.

Switzerland's cantons were divided by religion. To the north was the Protestant-favouring canton of Zürich, led by Martin Luther-like reformer Ulrich Zwingli, a parish overseer who was spreading reform. To the south was Zug and the allied Catholic cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy, who felt their rural union should remain aligned with the Vatican and Rome. In June of 1529 diplomacy failed and the Zürich soldiers marched south to fight.

When the armies met, negotiations between the leadership continued. Meanwhile the soldiers in both armies were hungry, and Zürich had plenty of bread and salt, while Zug had a surplus of milk from its farms. They pooled their resources to make a simple soup of milk and bread. The men who ate together would not fight against each other, and no fighting would happen that year. And the legend of the miltschuppe was born. Even today, politicians in Switzerland share miltschuppe to (symbolically) help resolve disagreements.

Rare Ottoman Ivory Dagger Handle, circa 1500s

It is delicately carved in relief with arabesque designs of interlacing foliage.

Very Early Mosque Found In Israel

The remains of a possible mosque dating to the 600s or 700s CE were discovered in the Negev Desert during construction work. The rectangular structure features a “mihrab,” or prayer niche, facing south toward Mecca. Local farmers are thought to have built the structure shortly after the Arab conquest of the region in 636 CE. That makes this potential mosque one of the earliest mosques in the world, maybe even built within twenty years of Muhammad's death!

The Most Deadly War (Until World War II)

Did you make a guess? Okay, here's the answer: maybe the War of the Three Kingdoms, or the Mongol Conquests. Let's explain each of those in turn. First, what was the War of the Three Kingdoms? When the Han Dynasty lost its grip on power in about 184 CE, China was split into three kingdoms: Wei, Shu, and Wu. The three fought continuously from 184 until 280 CE, when the Jin Dynasty conquered Wu. Historians estimate that between 36 and 40 million people died in all the fighting which occurred during that 96-year period.

The Mongol Conquests are probably better-known to those reading this blog post in English. The long version of the Mongol Conquests dates from 1206 when Genghis Khan burst out of Mongolia's steppe heartland to 1368, when the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty of China fell. Historians estimate between 30 million and 40 million people were killed.

But what about the An Lushan Rebellion, some of you are saying? That rebellion against the Tang Dynasty, which dragged on for 7 years and three Tang emperors before it was finally over, cost somewhere between 13 and 36 million. That's a very wide range. On the upper end, that could top the War of the Three Kingdoms and the Mongol Conquests. But that's only if they are in the low end of their possible death tolls, and the An Lushan Rebellion is at the very highest end of its possible death toll. Of course, historical death counts are always guesswork, so it may be that an entirely different war actually takes the top prize!

For those who are curious, World War II killed at minimum 56,125,162 people.

Black Death May Have Crossed The Sahara

Some researchers are claiming that they have evidence that the Black Death reached sub-Saharan Africa. Traditionally, it has been believed that the plague didn't make it across the Sahara Desert, as the desert is inhospitable to the fleas on rodents which carry the bacteria. Further, the written records in the region do not mention plague and there are no plague pits, so characteristic of the Black Death in Europe. But archaeological evidence shows there was a huge shift in populations in Ghana and Burkina Faso at the right time in the 1200s. And plague is now endemic in many parts of Africa, yet no one has really studied how it got there. You can read about their evidence, and come to your own conclusions.

Big Boat Find in Sweden

Two ship burials have been discovered on a construction site near Sweden’s eastern coast, and one appears to be intact! In the intact tomb have been discovered the remains of a man, a horse, and a dog, who had all been placed in the vessel’s stern. Artifacts found included horse equipment, an ornate comb, a sword, a spear, and a shield. The boat in the second tomb is thought to have measured about 23 feet long, and been slightly larger than the boat in the other burial, but it was damaged by previous construction at the site. Such high-status burials are thought to date to the Vendel Period (550–800 CE) or the Viking Age (800–1050 CE).

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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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