In Latin, “arena” means “sandy place.” So the amazing Roman amphitheatres, like this one at Arles, were weirdly round beaches. Basically.

What Is An Ice Age?

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!

The Mysterious Fate of A Queen And An Empress

Zenobia, the ancient queen who ruled the kingdom of Palmyra after her husband, Odenathus' death. She declared Palmyra no longer a client kingdom of Rome, but an independent state, with her son its king and her its regent. A weak short-lived emperor, Claudius Gothicus, recognized her sovereignty in 268. She quickly began taking land which had once been Roman, including the breadbasket Egypt and the wealthy city of Antioch. Palmyra became known as the Palmyrene Empire. But it was not to last.

A new and more able Roman emperor, Aurelian, consolidated his power then moved on the new Palmyrene Empire. Aurelian besieged Palmyra in 272. The empress tried to flee east, toward Persia, but was captured when she reached the Euphrates River. Empress Zenobia, and Palmyra, was defeated.

Then things get mysterious. No one knows what exactly happened to Queen Zenobia after 273. Some Arab sources claim she committed suicide to avoid capture. Roman sources say that Emperor Aurelian, not willing to execute a woman, brought Queen Zenobia to Rome as a captive, to be shown before Rome during his triumphal parade. Some sources say she was then decapitated. Others claim she married a Roman senator, and lived the rest of her life as a Roman matron. To this day no one knows which story is the truth.

an original piece by historical-nonfiction.

Dice Have Gotten More Fair Since Ancient Times

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."

Riverside Cliff Tombs Found In Southwest China

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.

The Moche Knew How To Make A Stirrup Bottle

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.

Underwater Route Between Prehistoric Cenotes Found In Mexico

Researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have discovered a route through underwater limestone caves connecting the Sac Actun cenote and the Dos Ojos cenote. Maya pottery, human bones, and the bones of elephant-like creatures, giant sloths, bears, tigers, and extinct species of horses, all likely from around the end of the last Ice Age, have been found in the tunnel-like caves. Exploring them and finding artifacts can be difficult, though: the underwater caves range in width from 400 feet to just three feet.

Ancient Egyptian Ink Was Made With Metal!

In November 2017, researchers published an article in Nature revealing the secret element to ancient Egyptian ink: copper. A team from the University of Copenhagen analyzed papyri from the 100s BCE to the 200s CE. All the black ink from their samples contained copper. This is the first time copper-based ink has been found to have been used in ancient Egypt. The samples show no substantial variation across time or location and suggest a stable period of ink production techniques for at least 300 years. It is likely that the source material was a by-product of metallurgy.

Cemetery Dating To Two Ancient Peruvian Cultures Uncovered

An amazing new site has been found in Peru: an undisturbed cemetery with burials from the Viru Period (200 BCE - 500 CE) and the earlier Salinar Period (400 BCE - 200 BCE). The richer graves actually date to the Salinar Period, with gold artifacts, ritual objects, and a stone mace head. Unfortunately, those skeletons also show severe injuries. Located in Huanchaco, on Peru's north coast, the site is at what is essentially a fishing village. Such a concentration of high-status burials shows that the Salinar period had strong social differentiation, even in a small village.

Ancient Irrigation System Rediscovered in Northwest China

A team of archaeologists in northwest China has discovered an irrigation system dating to the 200s to 300 CE in the foothills of China’s Tian Shan Mountains, along one of the old sections of the Silk Road. The researchers spotted the canals, cisterns, and check dams with drones and satellite imagery, and created a 3-D model of the site with aerial photographs and photogrammetry software. The resulting model showed that the irrigation system was designed with an emphasis on conserving and storing water. They wanted to always have water in their cisterns, rather than always have a flow of water through their canals. Located next to the Mohuchahan River, the area where the irrigation system was found had previously been believed to be solely pastoral, so the new findings rewrite our understanding of who lived there and how they lived in the early centuries of the Silk Road.

  • <
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • >
  • Leave us a message

    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!

    Website design and coding by the Amalgama

    About us X