The First Fashionable Knockoff

About 5,000 years ago, the Chinese discovered how to make silk from the cocoon of silkworms. Silk quickly became highly prized -- and very expensive -- so to keep their monopoly, the Chinese kept the secret of how to make the valuable fabric. It was illegal to take silkworms outside of China. Anyone caught trying to export the secret of silk could face the death penalty. With such stringent measures, the Chinese managed to keep the secret for almost 3,000 years! Which opened the door for knock-offs.

The most common knock-off was cotton, beaten with sticks to soften it, then rubbed against a stone to give it a shine like silk. The resulting fabric was called "chintz" because it was "cheap." Even today, with silk much cheaper and more available, the word chintz means something less valuable and of less good quality.

Prehistoric women's arms 'stronger than those of today's elite rowers'

The study of ancient bones suggests that manual agricultural work had a profound effect on the bodies of women living in central Europe between about the early Neolithic and late Iron Age. The study examined the remains of 94 women spanning about 6,000 years, from the time of the early neolithic farmers (dating back to around 5,300 BC) through to the 800s CE, from countries including Germany, Austria, and northern Serbia. These ancient women had arm bones which were extremely strong -- about 30% stronger than non-athletic modern women. And stronger than modern rowers, soccer players, and runners. The study also reveals that the strength of women’s arm bones dropped over time. Probably because technology was developed to ease manual labor. By medieval times, the strength of women’s arm bones was on a par with that of the average woman today.

The first imperial Roman city to be established on the Iberian Peninsula -- the peninsula which today houses Spain and Portugal -- was Tarraco. In 27 BC, Emperor Augustus based himself here during Roman campaigns on the peninsula and the city flourished because of this attention. It became extremely wealthy because of his patronage and the city continued to thrive for a couple of centuries after Augustus' death. Enormous public buildings were constructed, including a sea-side Colosseum in the 100s CE.     Unfortunately for archaeologists, the thriving Roman city Tarraco became the thriving Spanish city Tarragona. The ancient Roman monuments were gradually built over, adapted into other structures, or pillaged for their raw building materials. Today you have to look hard to spot the original three-tiered structure of this seaside city. Click through the image gallery to see some beautiful photographs of Terraco's ancient Roman remains.

About 2,000 years ago, a Roman politician celebrated his victory by commissioning a sundial and putting it in public so everyone could read his name each time they checked the time. On the base of the sundial is inscribed "M(arcus) NOVIUS M(arci) F(ilius) TUBULA" — or Marcus Novius Tubula, son of Marcus. Another engraving on the rim of the bowl says that Tubula (literally, "small trumpet") held the office of "TR(ibunus) PL(ebis)" — that is, plebeian tribune, and paid for the sundial "D(e) S(ua) PEC(unia)," or "with his own money."

The sundial was found in the town of what was then Lirenas, about 90 miles southeast of Rome. The style of the letters suggests to researchers that the sundial was erected in the mid-first century BCE or onward.

Cleopatra remains fascinating, 2,047 years after her death. To date, she has been the subject of five ballets, seven films, forty-five operas, seventy-seven plays, and innumerable paintings.

Geneticists investigating the ancient domestication of cats happened to find that ancient cats had stripes -- but no spots. A specific gene is responsible for spotted fur, and it is absent in ancient cats. How fur patterns relate to when cats began to live with humans, I do not know. Anyways, the researchers' findings were confirmed by Egyptian murals, which only show striped cats. The gene causing blotched or spotted coats only began to appear in Europe during the Middle Ages.

The mosaic above comes from the House of the Faun, in Pompeii, during the early Roman Empire. Roman cats, which were descended from Egyptian cats, were striped too.

Source: National Geographic History, November/December 2017. "Finicky Felines Take Their Time with Domestication." Pp. 4 - 5

Times Were Different Then

Archers at the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece used tethered doves as their targets. Yes, live doves.

In Latin, what we call “doggy style” was called "coitus more ferarum," which roughly translates to “sexual intercourse in the manner of wild beasts.” In the Kama Sutra, it is known as the “cow position.”

More Comments on Caesar's Death

Thanks to Christian, for asking!

My source on the post, saying that Caesar was possibly already dying before he was assassinated, was a National Geographic: History magazine. Unfortunately, I recently moved and my magazines were left behind. So I cannot give you the exact issue.

But there was a recent article published about Caesar's health which has generated a lot of publicity. Historians have long thought that Caesar suffered from epilepsy. This new article argues that Caesar's reported symptoms better fit a series of mini-strokes. This would have been a slowly debilitating problem. Depending on where the strokes were, Caesar could have suffered from increased dementia, lost use of parts of his body, dampened or lost any of his physical senses, or idiosyncratic combinations of all three.

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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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