The remains of a 1,200-year-old pagan temple to the Old Norse gods has been discovered in Norway's seaside town of Ose. It is the first such temple found in the country. Though we know what the building was, based on surviving temples in Denmark and Sweden. The wooden building is large for the time, about 45 feet (14 meters) long, 26 feet (8 m) wide, and up to 40 feet (12 m) high. Archaeologists think it was built sometime in the 700s, and would have been the site of sacrifices (and more mundane religious observances) during the midsummer and midwinter solstices.

The Norse began building these large "god houses" in the 500s CE. They replaced simpler cult sites, often outdoors, that had previously sufficed for worship. Larger god houses became popular as Norse society became more stratified and dominated by wealthy families, who are thought to have built god houses as part of their taking control of the cults of the gods.

The Old Norse religion was suppressed from the 1000s, when Norway's kings forcibly imposed the Christian religion, and destroyed God Houses to enforce worship in the new Christian churches. Perhaps including the one at Ose. (The one above is a reconstruction, the real site has only the foundations remaining.)

The Tang Dynasty started building a palace for its capital Chang'an in 634 CE. Called Daming Palace, recent excavations of its remains show it once covered 3.7 square kilometers. That's 4.5 times the Qing Dynasty's famous Forbidden Palace in Beijing, 15 times Buckingham Palace, and about the size of New York City's Central Park.

Since the 600s CE, the red dragon has been a symbol of Wales. Over time, great Welsh warriors became known as "pendragon" which means "dragon head" or "dragon leader."

Cup made of agate and shaped like a horn. This cup was found in China as part of the Hejiacun Hoard, a huge collection of over a thousand silver and gold items unearthed at the site of Chang'an, the capital of the Tang dynasty. But the craftsman who made it was almost certainly in Persia, and specifically the Parthian Empire. We know this because the drinking vessel is in the style of horn-shaped rhytons found in central Asia and the Mediterranean which are known to have been produced in Persia.

This hand-crafted figure portrays a spirit being, or perhaps a shaman in spirit form, ready to battle supernatural forces. Given the shape of the shaman and the long walkway behind the shaman, it is likely a snuff tray! This artifact comes from the Jama-Coaque culture (in what is today Ecuador). The Jama-Coaque's religious figures are believed to have engaged in shamanic transformations. These spiritual events were aided by psychoactive plants that they ground into a fine powder, then ingested as a snuff, from trays like this one. Circa 300 BCE to 600 CE.

North-western Syria has about seven hundred "Dead Cities" or "Forgotten Cities." They include villages, towns, and some cities that were mainly abandoned between the 700s and 900s CE. Because they rest in an elevated area of limestone known as the Limestone Massif, which gets relatively little rain, the settlements are more or less still at surface level and well-preserved. There are three main groups of highlands on the Massif, each with their own Dead Cities. They provide us with insight into what life was like for prosperous agriculturalists in Late Antiquity and the Byzantine period.

The Dead Cities became a massive UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, although they have been largely inaccessible since 2013.

Glyphs Help Rediscover Timeline of Mayan City

Using photogrammetry and light cast from different angles, researchers have been recording and attempting to read eroded glyphs at the Maya city of Coba. The city once flourished in the northern lowlands of the Yucatan Peninsula. After ten years of work, the researchers have identified the names of 14 rulers who governed the city from about 500 to 780 CE. This allows modern researchers to begin reconstructing a political timeline of the city. When was it powerful? When did it fight other cities? For instance the glyphs document a Lady Yopaat, who is thought to have increased the power and influence of the city during her 40-year reign in the early 600s.

Studying Native American Pipes To Understand Their Tobacco Habits

Researchers have detected traces of smooth sumac, or Rhus glabra, in the residues left in 1,400-year-old pipes unearthed in central Washington state, using a new technology that can detect thousands of plant compounds. Traces of a species of tobacco plant not currently grown in the region were also detected in the pipes. The smooth sumac may have been mixed with tobacco and used for its medicinal properties. Or simply to make the tobacco taste better. This study also analyzed a pipe used after contact with Europeans began in the area. It had residue containing a tobacco plant grown by Native Americans living on the East Coast. This is slightly surprising, as it had previously been thought that plants grown by Europeans quickly took over post-contact trade in tobacco. The evidence from the West Coast suggests that Native American growers remained in demand longer than previously thought.

Once-Dominant Steppe Warrior's Grave Found In Croatia

The rare remains of an Avar warrior dating to the late 600s or early 700s CE have been found in a walled tomb in eastern Croatia, near the site of the Roman city of Cibalae. While Avars were known to have been in the area, this is the first Avar grave found. The Avars were Eurasian nomads who arrived in Europe in the 500s CE, at the invitation of the Byzantine emperor, and conquered the other nomadic tribes in the region to become the dominant group. Archaeologist Anita Rapan-Papeša explained “When we observe the walled grave we have discovered, it turns out that Avars saw how Romans were buried so they made their own copies of Roman graves.” Rapan-Papeša and her team members also unearthed a grave in the cemetery that contained the remains of an Avar warrior, his horse, and bridle ornaments.

In A.H. 77–79/697–99 CE, the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan reformed Islamic coinage. He stopped using the styles of coins, with heads on one side and an image on the other, inherited from Byzantium and Sasanian Iran. Instead coins were decorated only with Arabic writing. Typically, the Muslim profession of the faith would appear in the field on the obverse, with the name of the mint in the margin. On the reverse of copper coins, the field would contain the name of the Prophet Muhammad, while the caliph’s name or that of a local ruler and the date would appear in the margin. The result was that coinage from the Islamic world took on a distinctive look and set of standard practices.

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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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