In southwestern Turkey's ancient city of Hierapolis, was a place called the "Gates to Hell." Here, in a grotto beneath the city's theater, Roman priests sacrificed animals to Pluto and Kore (or as the ancient Greeks called them, Hades and Persephone). But the priests didn't use knives or other human-made weapons to kill the beasts; rather, the victims suffocated on a deadly gas seeping from the cave, a new study finds.
Volcanic carbon dioxide (CO2) would kill the various goats and sheep brought for slaughter, without leaving a mark on their bodies. To the ancient Romans it looked like Pluto and Kore were killing the sacrifices. Today, we know the scientific cause behind the ancient mystery.
Specifically, two millennia -- in the first century BCE, Romans were already debating whether wealth and virtue could coexist. Philosophers, of course, had been discussing it for far longer. But in the late Roman Republic, as the divide between rich and poor became wider, the issue became one of public debate. And the divide only got worse when the Republic fell to the new Empire.
In Latin, “arena” means “sandy place.” So the amazing Roman amphitheatres, like this one at Arles, were weirdly round beaches. Basically.
When you read that, an image probably came to mind: giant glaciers, people huddling for warmth, maybe a giant woolly mammoth or two. The problem with that definition of "Ice Age" is it defines what life is like now on Earth as "normal" and giant glaciers over the north and south pole as "abnormal." But is that true? Are we, in fact, living in a period of relative coolness? Is right now an "abnormal" Earth?
A better description of an ice age would be that it’s a long stretch of time in which both the atmosphere and the planet’s surface have a low temperature, resulting in the presence of polar ice sheets and mountainous glaciers. An Ice Age can last for several million years. Within the Ice Age period, the Earth isn't uniformly covered in snow. There are periods of glaciation, characterized by ice sheet and glacier expansion over the face of the planet, and interglacial periods, where we would have an interval of several thousand years of warmer temperatures and receding ice. Turns out just the presence of ice caps on the north and south pole is abnormal! What we currently live in is an "interglacial period" in the middle of an Ice Age!
A survey of cube-shaped dice dating back to the Roman era finds that they were not designed to have an equal chance of landing on different numbers until the Renaissance, according to researchers from UC Davis and the American Museum of Natural History. Roman-era dice, the researchers found, were a mess when it came to shape. They were made from a variety of materials, such as metal, bone and clay, and no two were shaped entirely alike. Many were visibly lumpy and lopsided, with the 1 and 6 on opposite sides that were more likely to roll up. In the Dark Ages after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, between 400 CE and 1100 CE, dice seem to have grown rare. Relatively few have been found from this period. Dice reemerged in the Middle Ages, and at that point were a little more regular in shape. But they still weren't fair -- anyone playing dice would have had slightly higher chances of getting certain numbers, depending on how uneven the dice were made.
The researchers suggest that the popularization of "scientific" thinking may have helped dice rolls become near-chance during the Renaissance. "People like Galileo and Blaise Pascal were developing ideas about chance and probability, and we know from written records in some cases they were actually consulting with gamblers," Jelmer Eerkens of UC Davis said. "We think users of dice also adopted new ideas about fairness, and chance or probability in games."
"Suffering has its limit, but fears are endless."
Pliny the Younger, circa 108 CE.
This is a copy, made in the 100s CE, of a famous status to the goddess Artemis. In fact, this was THE Artemis, and for centuries this vision of the goddess was worshiped as a symbol of fertility and power across the Mediterranean. This copy was modeled on the status at Ephesus, where Artemis' temple was a Wonder of the Ancient World.
Which modern people find odd, considering that she has what are rather suggestive round protuberances covering her torso. (Let's just get that elephant out of the room.) Historically considered eggs or breasts, both symbols of fertility, a modern theory is that they are actually bull testicles! It keeps getting weirder.
But the statue isn’t just about the bull testicles. This statue is completely covered with various images suggesting her role as goddess of fertility and nature, including a necklace of acorns, bees, lions, and deer. She also has a headdress shaped like an ancient city gate. Besides being extremely uncomfortable, it likely reminded ancient viewers of Artemis’ role as protector of the city and its prosperity.
More than 200 cliff cave burial sites have been identified in Zhengxing Township in Chengdu, in southwest China's Sichuan Province. The 200 burial sites number is deceptive; they are not just holes in the ground, but a cluster of hewn rooms, carved out of the cliffs overlooking the Jinjiang River. Some of the tombs have up to seven chambers with tunnels as long as 20 meters (65 feet).
Unfortunately, the tombs appear to have been previously looted. Bummer. But in what should be considered a small miracle, a large number of artifacts were recovered despite the looting; initial estimates are that around 1,000 gold, silver and bronze artifacts are still there. The tombs date between 206 BCE and 420 CE -- the Han Dynasty through the Wei-Jin period.
Owl stirrup spout bottle by a Moche artist. Based on the heart-shaped facial disk and the absence of ear tufts, it is likely a Tyto Alba, a species of owl which lived in the desert of Peru's northern coast. Circa 100s to 200s CE.