This is a cooking vessel from Japan dating back to 2,500 BCE! Archaeologists call this kind of vessel “fire-flame,” ka’en in Japanese, because their tops resemble flames. No one knows why the design was created, or what it actually represents. Pots like this were used by making holes in the ground, starting fires in the holes, then placing the pots onto the fires in the holes. As a result, bottoms often deteriorated and this particular vessel's bottom is a replacement.
DNA from Stone Age ‘chewing gum’ tells an incredible story
For the first time, scientists used 5,700-year-old saliva from a piece of chewed pitch to sequence the complete human genome of an ancient hunter gatherer. Plus the world of microbes that lived inside her. What they found was enough to make a guess about what she looked like, too. Read full National Geographic article here
When the woman was buried about 2,200 years ago, she was dressed a fine woolen dress and shawl, sheepskin coat, and a necklace made of glass and amber beads. Her relatively high status is further evidenced by the bronze bracelets and bronze belt clasp she wore. In two years of studying her remains, archaeologists have concluded that she was about 40 when she died and was born and raised in the Limmat Valley that houses Zurich. She had done little if any manual labor. And she had a huge sweet tooth (based on the state of her teeth).
The woman's remains were found buried about 260 feet (80 meters) from the grave of a Celtic man found in 1903. Even more exciting, the man was buried in the same decade as the lady. They may have known each other when alive!
The Indian Kingdom That Frightened Alexander the Great
You've probably heard of the Mauryan Empire, but have you heard of the Magadha Kingdom -- its immediate predecessor? It existed from the 500s to the 300s BCE. Formidable, it controlled the entire eastern part of the country through alliances with smaller vassal states, and at the height of its power claimed suzerainty over the entire eastern part of the country (roughly the size of England).
The kingdom lasted for three dynasties, during which Siddhartha Gautama lived, preached, and died. The kingdom survived, and even encouraged, the spread of this new religion. Two Magadha kings held the first and second councils of Buddhist monks. It is an open question whether, without the support of this major regional power, Buddhism could have survived.
But in the 300s, the power vacuum left by Alexander the Great's conquests in western India opened the door for Chandragupta Maurya to rise and create a new power on the subcontinent. He killed the last Magadha king (who was reportedly extravagant and unpopular) and Magadha was absorbed into Maurya's new empire which would eventually control the whole subcontinent.
Magadha touches upon a major figure in western imagination: Alexander the Great. In 326 BCE, Alexander arrived at the edge of India. He and his army camped on the river Beas, in what is today far western India, but his army mutinied and refused to go any further. The chronicles tell us the men had heard about the great Magadha Kingdom and were afraid of going up against such a mighty foe. They were not wrong to be afraid: they arrived when Magadha , renewed under a forceful new Nanda dynasty, was at the height of its territorial and military power.
After Tutankhamen died age 19, his beloved wife (and half-sister) Ankhesenamun was in a perilous position. There was no clear successor, and the country remembered the turmoil of the previous reign under the heretic Akhenaten. Eventually, the throne was taken by the much-older Ay, who had been Tutankhamen's grand vizier and may have been Ankhesenamun's grandfather. Ay ruled for just four years before being replaced by Horemheb. He was commander of the Egyptian army and well-placed to take over should anything occur.
Under Horemheb, Ankhesenamun disappears from history. We do not know when she died. We do not know where she was buried. Wife of two pharaohs, daughter of another, her fate is a 2,300-year-old mystery.
A new study indicates that modern Africans inherited DNA from migrating Neanderthals. Geneticists conducted a statistical analysis of DNA gathered from 2,504 modern Africans, Europeans, and East Asians, and compared it with records of DNA extracted from Neanderthal remains in Siberia and southeastern Europe. They concluded that modern Africans, on average, indirectly inherited as much as 0.5 percent of their genome from Neanderthals. It is thought that the genes came to Africa via a human population that left the continent between 100,000 and 150,000 years ago, interbred with Neanderthals outside of Africa, and then returned.
That is the voice of a man who has been dead 3,000 years. Nesyamun was an Egyptian priest who lived during the lived during the volatile reign of pharaoh Ramses XI (c.1099–1069 BCE), and worked as a scribe and priest at the state temple of Karnak in Thebes (modern Luxor). When he died, he was mummified so he could live forever.
Enough soft tissue was preserved by the process that scientists could make a 3-D printing of his vocal tract. They hooked it up to a speech synthesizer and...voila! Although all you hear is a single vowel, and it sounds like Nesyamun’s voice if he spoke lying on his back (as he was when the vocal tract was mummified), it still represents a huge step for science.
Fishermen in Argentina's Greater Buenos Aires region keep making an unusual catch: prehistoric shells of armadillo ancestors. In October of 2019, a group of fishermen found a mostly intact shell which has been dated to over 10,000 years old. On Christmas Day of 2015, Jose Antonio Nievas found a shell in mud by a stream in his farm.
Both turned out to be glyptodonts' shells. Glyptodonts were not a single species, but an animal genus containing seven known species, among them the ancestors of modern armadillos. Glyptodonts had large, heavy shells and armored tails which they could use as clubs. They emerged in South America no earlier than 35 million years ago, and went extinct around the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. Whether or not their extinction was related to humans’ arrival on the continent around the same time... well, that’s still up for debate.
Aegina was a very important Greek city-state that is almost totally forgotten today. Partially because they were a big player in Greece before Athens, and most of what we know about Aegina is from Athenian records and archaeological studies.
As an island, Aegina was situated between Attica and the Peloponnese, making it a useful island for traders since prehistoric times. There is archaeological evidence of Minoan and Mycenaeans trading with or living on the island. It was really during Archaic Greek period (900s BCE - 480 BCE) that the city-state became a naval powerhouse. It was the first mainland European power to mint its own coins, within 30 or 40 years of the invention of coinage in Asia Minor. It was one of just three city-states, and the only mainland Greek one, trading at and owning a share of the mighty emporium of Naucratis in Egypt. It was a hub for grain from the Pontus region -- food is power, and Pontic grains was so important that Athens would later enforce a monopoly on it.
But to really understand how much of a big-time Aegina was, look at its weights system. The Aeginetic standard of weights and measures (developed during the mid-600s) was one of the two standards in general use in the Greek world. It is like the British Empire making other countries measure in pounds and miles.
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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!