Europeans Divided Up Australia Before They Even Discovered It
In the 1500s three provinces, Beach, Maletur, and Lucach, were added to Australia. Note that the Europeans talking about Australia had not yet discovered it. Australia was a concept, a possibility, and somehow it already had named provinces. The names were corruptions of real places in Southeast Asia that were mentioned in Marco Polo's book. Later European readers mistakenly placed them south of Java, over 1,000 miles wrong. And from there, the myth took on a life of its own.
The most important of the three was Beach, which appeared on many maps with the enticing title provincial aurifera, or “gold-bearing land." Sailors often referred to the continent of Australia as "Beach."
Maletur was given the title scatens aromaibus, or a region overflowing with spices. Lucach was said as late as 1601 to have received an embassy from Java. These three places were believed to exist in Europe during the 1500s. In fact, in 1545 Spain even appointed a governor of the nonexistent Beach – a certain Pedro Sancho de la Hoz, who was one of the conquistadors of Chile.
The Peloponnesian War ended in 1996. The bloody conflict between Athens and Sparta had stopped in 404 B.C. without an official peace pact, so after 2,500 years the cities decided to sign a symbolic agreement. It read, “Today we express our grief for the devastating war between the two key cities of ancient Greece and declare its end.”
Some Mayan Cities Were Still Occupied When The Spanish Showed Up
The Maya city of Tulum, once a major trading port on the Yucatan Pensinsula, was still occupied in the 1500s. While the Maya civilization precipitously declined in the 800s CE, a handful of cities survived and even grew when their neighbors shrank and vanished. Tulum was one such city. A Spanish expedition in 1518 sailed past and the crew was said to be astonished by the city's grandeur, apparently describing it as "a village so large that Seville would not have appeared larger or better."
Unfortunately, Tulum could survive 600 years after their wider civilization collapsed, but Tulum could not survive 100 years of European contact. It was abandoned by the end of the century after diseases carried from Europe decimated the population.
Easter Island was first visited by Spanish explorers in the 1770s. There they encountered the indigenous Easter Islanders, or the Rapa Nui. They had been living on Easter Island since at least the 1200s CE, and possibly since the 300s CE.
Sometime between 1650 CE and 1860 CE, the Rapa Nui developed a type of picture writing called “rongo rongo” or “to recite.” There is great debate about whether they independently invented writing. Or whether the Spanish gave them the idea of symbols to represent sounds. Unfortunately, by the 1860s the Rapa Nui had forgotten how to read the script. Today it remains undeciphered.
Women in ancient Japan blackened their teeth with dye. White teeth were considered ugly. Evidence for this practice, called ohaguro, exists from as far back as the Kofun Period and (250 to 538 CE) in bone remains and on clay human figurines.
Ohaguro continued until the late 1800s and the Meiji Restoration.
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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!