Native Americans knew about rubber for centuries (at least) before Europeans stumbled onto the Americas. They made balls for children, and waterproof shoes and bottles with the weird milky white substance that bled from certain trees -- what we call latex today.

Want To Impress A Lover? Pig Testicles Will Do The Trick!

Boiled catnip and dried ground pig testicles mixed with wine were among the recipes recommended to fix male infertility during the Medieval Period, an academic in England has discovered. Based on English and Latin texts from the period, the new research also shows that women were not always blamed for infertility, as has previously been thought.

Derbent, Russia's Oldest City

Located on a narrow strip of land between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains in the far western end of Eurasia, is the city of Derbent. With a history going back by five thousand years, Derbent is said to be Russia’s oldest city. It is also the southernmost city in Russia. Derbent’s position between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountains is strategically important in the entire Caucasus region. It is one of only two crossings over the mountain range; the other being over the Darial Gorge. This position has allowed the rulers of Derbent to control land traffic between the Eurasian Steppe and the Middle East and levy taxes on passing merchants. In fact, the city’s present-day name comes from the Persian word Darband which means “barred gate”.

Being at such a strategic location, it has long been a target, or a prize, of states with imperial ambitions. The city was historically an Iranian city, and its first intensive settlement in the 800s BCE was Persian. The city’s modern name came into use during the 500s CE, when the city was re-established by the Sassanid dynasty of Persia. In 654 CE, Derbent came under the hands of the Arabs. They called the city Bab al-Abwab, or “the Gate of Gates”, signifying its strategic importance. The Arabs transformed the city into an important administrative center and introduced Islam to the area. After the Arabs, the region came under the Armenians who established a kingdom there which lasted until the Mongol invasion in the early 1200s. After the Mongols, Derbent changed hands relatively quickly, given its history, coming under the rule of the Shirvanshahs (a dynasty in modern Azerbaijan), the Iranians and the Ottomans before finally being ceded to the Russian Empire as part of the end of the Russo-Persian War.

Aizen Myoo, a Shingon Buddhist protective deity and god of love. The protective deity makes sense. But he is not looking particularly loving. Maybe his tough exterior hides a soft heart? This particular seated wooden statue of Aizen Myoo is Japanese, from the Kamakura Period, circa 1200s to 1300s CE.

Tash Rabat, a mysterious site in Kyrgyzstan, was once a settlement along the Silk Road, a way station for caravans -- a caravanserai. It provided shelter and food for both human traders and their animal workers. What makes Tash Rabat slightly mysterious is that its layout is unusual for this kind of caravanserai. What’s left is a single structure that looks like a blend between a castle and a temple.

Archaeologists are puzzled by Tash Rabat. They believe the location was used as a resting place for traders from about the 1400s but there’s also evidence that a Christian monastery may have been there from as early as the 900s. That could explain the odd layout – perhaps the travelling merchants just adapted an existing structure.

A beautiful (and big) turquoise glazed tile was stolen in 2014 from the Chasma-i Ayub monument near Bukhara, Uzbekistan. The tile has decorative calligraphy which reads “In the year five and six hundred” -- corresponding to 1208 - 09 CE. The piece is also quite large, about 21 inches, or half a meter, tall. You can see the gaping hole its theft left behind (click on the first image to see the second, of the monument after the theft).     The tile surfaced in a London art gallery in 2017; when a scholar alerted the gallery to the tile’s likely origin, the gallery owner honorably contacted the British Museum. The turquoise tile has now been formally returned to the Uzbekistan embassy.

In northern Romania, in a region historically known as Bukovina, are some unusual churches. Dating to the late Byzantine era and immediately afterwards, the eight churches are renowned for their beautiful, colored frescos that adorn their walls. What makes them truly remarkable is where those frescos are -- not just inside, but also outside, exposed to the elements, inviting worshippers in.

At the time, literacy was...not that common. So frescos told the stories people couldn't read, from the Old Testament and the New Testament. And the result are beautiful churches!

What’s A King To A Caesar?

From 27 BCE to 1946 CE, someone, somewhere in Europe has had a title “Caesar.” The czar of Russia, the kaiser of Germany...many, many European titles were just local derivatives of “Caesar.”

The last Caesar was Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, who was removed from office in 1946 by the Soviets. He’s still alive, too!

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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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