Two trophy heads are strung on the cords that criss-cross this Mexican man’s chest. His horned headdress suggests that he is a shaman or ruler, as both wore similar headdresses in his culture. Shamans were respected not just for their abilities to communicate with the spiritual world but also for their prowess as great warriors. And this man is showing, with his two trophy heads, that he was to be feared. Of course, rulers wanted to show their military prowess as well. So the trophy heads do not settle the question of shaman vs ruler.
During shamanistic rituals, religious men would drink hallucinogenic beverages. Perhaps to help them communicate with the world beyond? The cup this figure is drinking from really makes the argument that this was a shaman, not a ruler.
Based on ceramics they left behind, here's a modern (somewhat fanciful) animated movie about the Moche. Also called the Mochica culture, the Moche flourished in northern Peru between 100 and 700 CE. They are known today for their sophisticated irrigation systems and beautiful painted ceramics.
This bowl’s shape is what makes it such a special find. The bronze bowl is decorated in the shape of an eagle’s wings, with a head on the rim.
Found in a grave with three cremated remains, it likely dates to the 300s CE. It’s a very fancy bowl. The only known Roman bowl with this particular shape, in fact. So researchers think it likely belonged to a high-status individual, perhaps an important member of the Roman army staff.
Maya rituals may have literally been weighty affairs for high-ranking rulers. During these festivities, elite officials adorned themselves with an assortment of jade pendants, mostly worn on the ears or around the neck. Heavier ones (such as a 5-pound carved head from Ucanal in Guatemala) were likely attached to a belt and would have made customary ritual dancing quite cumbersome.
It is theorized that the weight of the assembled stones, which may have totaled as much as 25 pounds, symbolized a leader’s prestige and responsibilities.
A new study shows that the centuries of deforestation under the Mayan Civilization -- which lasted from 200 BCE to about 950 CE at its height -- drastically changed the ability of local rainforests to store carbon in the ground. And even today, centuries after the Maya cities were mysteriously abandoned and the forests grew back, the region's carbon reserves have not yet fully recovered. Read the full article here.
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.”
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!