Apparently even 800 years ago, Crusader forces were aware of the concept of always leaving yourself a way out of a sticky situation. Conservation and restoration work in the old city of Tiberias exposed a secret escape tunnel that connected the Crusader citadel directly with the harbor on the Sea of Galilee in the 1100s. The tunnel may have been used in times of danger, such as when Saladin besieged the city in 1187.

Amazing Finds Tell Us More About How The Ancient Calusa Fed Themselves

Rare 1,000-year-old Calusa Indian artifacts, including pieces of wood, rope, and fishing net, were retrieved from a waterlogged midden located along the ancient shoreline in Florida in spring 2017. The Calusa are known to have been a complex culture, relying on shallow-water fishing in elaborate “farms” rather than agriculture or hunting. The fishing net found recently was most likely made of cabbage palm fiber, formed into ropes and tied into a pattern. Some of the knots even survive! They allowed researchers to deduce that the net was originally a grid, with squares about an inch wide. And some tied-on clamshell weights, for making the net heavy in the water, were amazingly still attached.

The midden also contained the uncooked seeds of gourd-like squash which has not been identfied. Researchers speculate could be the remains of gourds used to help the fishing net float?

Unfortunately, modern archaeologists are having to unearth (pun!) everything about the Calusa, right down to the gourds they might have grown, because no Calusa remain to tell us about themselves. They had largely disappeared by the mid-1700s, ravaged by European diseases and slaving raids by tribes who were allied to the English province of Carolina. The few remaining were evacuated to Cuba in 1763, when Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain.

Constantinople, Not Byzantium

The term “Byzantine Empire” came into common use during the 1700s and 1800s. It would never have been heard, let alone embraced, by the people who once lived in it. To them, Byzantium was still the Roman Empire, which had merely moved its seat of power from Rome to a new eastern capital in Constantinople. Though largely Greek-speaking and Christian, the Byzantines called themselves “Romaioi,” or Romans. They used Roman law, played Roman games like chariot racing, and enjoyed Roman festivals. While Byzantium evolved a distinctive, Greek-influenced identity as the centuries passed, the Romaioi continued to cherish their Roman roots until the end. When he conquered Constantinople in 1453, the Turkish leader Mehmed II even took the emperor's title as “Caesar of Rome.”

This odd-looking item is a nose ring! The nose ring was uncovered at a grave near the border with Costa Rica in 1909. Times being what they were, the artifact was then sold to Tiffany & Co. in New York City. Eventually it ended up in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, where it resides today.     Because it was unearthed by non-archaeologists, and immediately sold abroad, not much is known about how it was made or who once wore it. It was crafted in Panama by a Native American out of gold alloy, sometime between 800 CE and 1521 CE. Based on eyewitness accounts by early conquistadors and the archaeological evidence, we can also say that gold nose rings were a popular form of body ornament and sign of rank, for both men and women, in ancient Central America.

Birds of a Feather

A new study, looking at macaw skeletons found at three prehistoric pueblo sites in New Mexico, USA, suggests that Native Americans in this arid area imported the birds from less-arid places. The bird remains which were examined date from between 300 CE and 1450 CE. The majority were tropical macaws -- definitely not native to New Mexico! There is also no evidence of macaw breeding save at one site. Put together, the evidence points to importing the birds.

In addition, there was widespread scarring along the surface of their bones, showing that humans removed their feathers. And many of the macaws' skeletons showed malnourishment, likely from being kept inside and fed a largely corn diet. Which, counter-intuitively, suggests the Pueblans were caring for them extremely well, for their society. Basically? The macaws were being imported, kept in captivity, and systematically harvested for their bright and colorful feathers.

An Animated History of Ukraine

Really, really good history! Since I know next to nothing about Ukraine's national history, I particularly appreciated the accessibility -- the vlogger assumed we had been born yesterday, and it worked.

Getting Married? Pay a Fine!

Medieval England liked its "fines" which sound pretty similar to dues or taxes today. There were quite a few around marriage:

  • Merchet – a fine paid for a licence to marry
  • legerwite which literally translates as a "laying down fine" was the fine levied on a woman who had had pre-marital sex (there was no corresponding male fine)
  • chidewite -- the fee for having an illegitimate child.

Cultural Connections, Courtesy Of A Vase

This is an unusual ceramic fragment, which was found at a housing construction site in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. A beautiful turquoise vase inscribed with a line of text. Given its location, archaeologists initially thought the text was Arabic or Turkish, both languages that have been spoken in Jerusalem and written in Arabic, at one time or another. But the writing was Persian. Persian, at a time when it would have been written in Arabic -- so after the Islamic Conquests -- has never been spoken in Jerusalem outside of individual families or small merchant groups.     Once translated, the inscription was found to be a line from the Rubaiyat, a collection of four-line verses (rubaais) written by Omar Khayyam (1048-1131 CE), the renowned medieval Persian poet, mathematician, and astronomer. The Rubaiyat is considered his masterpiece and the central work of Persian literature.     What makes the find especially surprising is that this is the first time Persian verses have been found on a vessel in Jerusalem. In fact, it was the first time one had been found in Israel! Others have been found in the region, but none in Israel itself. So now we have to wonder: how did this particular ceramic find its way to Jerusalem? A merchant selling fine goods? A gift for a family member far from home? We will probably never know for certain.

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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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