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!

In Mesoamerica children are warned about El Coco. A shapeless, hairy monster, it kidnaps and devours children. So they had better listen to their parents!

The Tragedy of the Moriori

The Moriori were a small, isolated population of Polynesians settlers, living on the Chatham Islands. Sometime shortly after New Zealand was settled in 1000 CE, a group of them set out an settled the Chatham Islands, far to their south east. And then the Chathams were forgotten. Remote and subarctic, the Chathams did not support any of the domesticated crops the Polynesian settlers brought with them -- taro, yams, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, bananas, and coconuts. Those crops had been domesticated in a tropical climate and quickly died on the Chathams. Without agriculture, and without nearby islands to colonize and perhaps get more food from, the Chathams were capable of supporting only about 2,000 hunter-gatherers.

So the Moriori learned to get along with each other. They renounced war. Chiefs remained, technically, but they caught their own food and lived in huts which were identical to everyone else. To prevent overpopulation, some male infants were castrated. All of these measures worked quite well, and the Moriori had a sustainable population from about 1300 CE, when it was settled, until November 19th, 1835.

Earlier in 1835, an Australian seal-hunting ship visited the Chatham Islands en route to New Zealand, and brought news to New Zealand of islands where "there is an abundance of sea and shellfish; the lakes swarm with eels; and it is a land of the karaka berry...the inhabitants are very numerous, but they do not understand how to fight, and have no weapons." That was enough to induce 900 Maori to sail to the Chathams. They arrived on November 19th, 1835. Another 400 arrived on December 5th. Armed with clubs, axes, and guns the warrior Maori walked through Moriori settlements, announcing that the Moriori were now their slaves, and killing anyone who openly disagreed.

The Moriori had a tradition of resolving disputes peacefully. They decided in a council to not fight back, but to offer the Maori peace, friendship, and a division of resources. The offer was never made. The Maori attacked first. Over the course of the next few days the Maori systematically killed hundreds of Moriori, cooked and ate many of them, and enslaved the rest. A Maori conqueror explained: "We took possession...in accordance with our customs and we caught all the people. No one escaped." And so the Moriori ended.

The turkey, the bird native in the Americas, is named after the country Turkey. That's just in English; the story gets weirder. In Arabic, the turkey bird is called "dik rumi" or "Roman chicken." In Hebrew, it is "tarnegol hodu," the "rooster of India." In Portuguese, it is "Peru." As in the other country, yes. In Greek it is "galopoula" or "French chicken." Both Khmer and Scots Gaelic call the turkey "French," too. Meanwhile, the French call the turkey "dinde" which is a shortened form of "poule d'Inde" or "chicken of India." And what do the Turkish call the turkey? They are slightly unique: they call the bird "Hindi," after one of the main languages of India.

Although Ryōan-ji, in Japan, has temples built as far back as the 1000s CE, the garden at Ryōan-ji was thought to have been built between 1450 and 1473. Which makes this rectangle of land one of the oldest gardens in the world. A World Heritage site, the garden at Ryōan-ji is considered to be one of the defining surviving examples of a form of Japanese Zen temple garden design called kare-sansui or ‘dry landscape’.

Who Invented The Patent?

The Venetians started patents in the 1400s, by requiring inventions to be registered with the government. But the system was quite different. For one thing, the government owned the invention, the inventor owned nothing. The government could grant ownership of new inventions to whomever they wished. This was important when, for example, an improvement on a musket was invented and the government wanted to have an arms manufacturer produce this better musket for their army. And no one else’s army.

You know what changed this system? The United States Constitution. Yup, that’s right. It states that “for a limited time...authors and inventors” will have “exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

This was revolutionary! In more ways than one, because now not only did inventors owned their creations, but patents could run out, so that no one could monopolize a particular market forever. Under the old system, where governments monopolized the market, the patent held until someone stole the invention’s designs for their government!

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.

In 1439, the English Parliament issued a proclamation banning kissing. They wanted to slow the latest outbreak of plague, which was probably not the famous Black Death, but another virulent sickness -- they were quite common at the time.

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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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