Caribou (top) live in North America, and reindeer (bottom) live in Europe and Siberia. Taxonomists initially classified them as two distinct species due to their morphological differences. Today, we know they are really the same species.     During the last ice age, the ancestor of modern caribou could have walked between Eurasia and North America. But when the glaciers melted, and the land bridges ended up underwater, the species got separated between the two continents that emerged.

Mongolians practiced horse dentistry as early as 3,200 years ago

Horse dentistry was first practiced -- by anyone -- among Bronze Age Mongolian herders. As early as 800 BCE, they attempted to extract first premolar teeth from young horses, allowing herders to use metal bits, while avoiding behavior and health complications for horses that the bits may have caused if the teeth were left in place. Bits allow riders to more easily control horses. Making horseback warfare easier, too.

The Oldest Bridge in the World

The ancient Sumerian city of Girsu, in southern Iraq, is one of the earliest known cities of the world. At least five thousand years old, Girsu became the capital of the Lagash kingdom, a sacred metropolis devoted to the Sumerian heroic god Ningirsu. And Girsu continued to be the kingdom's religious center after political power had shifted to the city of Lagash.     It was at Girsu that evidence of Sumerian civilization was first discovered. Thousands of cuneiform tablets with records of economic, administrative and commercial matters of the city showed that this was not just a cluster of building but an advanced civilization in its own right.     The Bridge of Girsu was first discovered in the 1920s. At that time it was variously interpreted as a temple, dam and water regulator. It was only recently that the structure was identified as a bridge over an ancient waterway. At 4,000 years old, that makes it the oldest bridge in the world. Since the excavation nearly a century ago, the bridge has remained open and exposed to the elements, with no effort made at conservation or plans to manage the site. Fortunately, since it has been recognized as a bridge, there has been more interest in preserving and protecting the site. Recently, an announcement was made that the bridge would be restored as part of ongoing archaeological efforts.

Dating Dust

You may know about the massive volcanic eruption that happened 74,000 years ago, at Sumatra’s Mount Toba. It caused a volcanic winter and may have nearly annihilated the earth’s human population. The search for evidence of that eruption has contributed potentially groundbreaking advances to archaeological dating. Working at two sites on the coast of South Africa, researchers have discovered a layer containing glass shards from the blast that fell over a two-week period and are invisible to the naked eye. The precise time frame provided by the shards can serve as a control to test whenever new methods are developed for dating rock shelters and other sites occupied millennia ago.

“We’ve now sampled several other cave sites in South Africa looking for evidence of the Toba eruption,” explains archaeologist and paleoanthropologist Curtis Marean. “If we can find it, we can align those chronologies to a two-week precision—which is unprecedented."

Have Humans Bred Themselves To Be Travelers?

The desire to travel may be genetic, and it can possibly be traced to what has been dubbed "the wanderlust gene." Associated with increased levels of curiosity and restlessness, the gene is associated with dopamine levels in the brain

The More You Know

Words have a lifespan of anywhere between 1,000 and 20,000 years. More commonly used words tend to last longer. The oldest word in the English language -- and the most frequently used word -- is "I."

Why Do We Have A Seven-Day Week?

The seven-day week has no correspondence to astronomy -- unlike the presence of the sun giving us days, or phases of the moon giving us months. Historians generally think the seven-day week was "invented" by Mesopotamians and/or Jews. Both thought the number seven had mystic significance. Sumer had a (mostly) seven-day week system since at least the 21st century BCE. The Jewish weeks may have developed independently or been influenced by their Fertile Crescent neighbors.

From the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa the seven-day week spread around the Old World. The Greeks and Persians adopted the Babylonian system, and fro Persia it spread to India and China in various forms. In Japan, for instance, seven-day weeks were mainly used by specialist astrologers until the 1800s. In Europe, it was officially adopted by the Roman Empire in the 300s CE, but it was already in common use throughout the empire.

Ancient Texts Helping To Hunt Down Lost Cities

Analysis of about 23,000 clay tablets found in the Turkish city of Kanesh -- some as many as 4,000 years old and written in cuneiform -- may reveal the locations of 11 ancient cities. Kanesh is located in the middle of what is today Turkey. It was a hub of Anatolian trade during the Bronze Age. Over time, humanity forgot the locations of many of the cities Kanesh traded with.

Today researchers use precise mathematical modeling to reconstruct cities' economic networks across the Anatolian plateau. They are hoping to use the new tablets from Kanesh to recreate its trading network. And hopefully, based on the information from Kanesh and cross-checking with information on other known cities' trading networks, they will be able to  pinpoint where ancient lost cities were likely to have been.

DNA Ends A Century-Long Debate

DNA testing on the mummies of two elite men, Khnum-nakht and Nakht-ankh, finally clears up what their relationship was. The mummies died around 1800 BCE, and were buried in a joint tomb at Deir Rifeh, which was discovered in 1907.     Since their discovery, there has been a debate about how the mummies were related. Though they share a tomb, there are many suggestions that the two were not normal brothers. Their inscriptions state they had the same mother but one has listed both a father and grandfather, the other just a father. The two bodies were mummified using different methods. Facial reconstructions from their skulls in the 1970s revealed they looked extremely different, with "almost a total anatomical difference between the features of the two." Because of these differences, some thought one of the brothers was adopted, and they were not biologically related. Others thought the mother could have remarried, hence the different fathers and anatomies.     Now those debates can be ended. The two were half-brothers, sharing the same mother. Their mitochondrial DNA (from their mothers) were similar, suggesting one mother, but their y-chromosome DNA (from their fathers) showed variations suggesting two different fathers. Presumably, the mother remarried at some point, but the brothers were raised together and eventually buried together.

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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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