Arctic ice brings an understanding of ancient Europe’s economy

Greenland's icy mountains are not an obvious place to search for an archive of economic history, but a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that they provide one. Read the full article at The Economist

A Medieval Muslim Perspective on Human Existence

In the 700s, a Persian scholar named Ibn al-Muqaffa recorded a parable, describing human existence. A man fears an elephant so he dangles himself into a pit to hide. He soon realizes there is a dragon waiting at the bottom of the pit, and rats are gnawing on the branches he is holding onto. The man then notices a beehive and tries its honey. He becomes "diverted, unaware, preoccupied with that sweetness" and while he is distracted, the rats finish gnawing the branches. The man falls into the dragon's mouth with sweetness still on his tongue.

What a happy parable!

Ancient Turkic Monument, Surrounded By Inscribed Pillars, Sheds Light On Second Turkic Khaganate

The Dongoin Shiree steppe in eastern Mongolia contains a unique funerary monument from the 700s CE, that suggests the region was an important power center during the Second Turkic Khaganate. A stone sarcophagus was placed at the center of an earthen mound and surrounded by 14 stone pillars inscribed with Turkic runes. They comprise one of the largest collections of Turkic inscriptions ever found in Mongolia. One passage reveals that the deceased individual was an important and high-ranking official during the reign of Bilge Khagan (who ruled from 716 to 734).

Carnival, the Catholic holiday, probably comes from the word for "meat" in some way, which is "caro" in Classical Latin and “carne” in Medieval Latin. It was the last time that people could eat meat before the start of Lent, when meat was forbidden for 40 days.

Where Does Leprosy Come From?

Leprosy may have originated in Europe -- not Asia, as previously thought. An international team of researchers sampled about 90 different skeletons bearing the telltale deformations of leprosy. The skeletons were unearthed in Europe, and have been dated to between 400 and 1400 CE.

From the bones, the scientists reconstructed ten new genomes of medieval Mycobacterium leprae, in addition to the one or two strains already known to have been circulating in medieval Europe. All the strains of the leprosy bacterium were in fact present in medieval Europe, which strongly suggests leprosy originated closer to Europe than previously thought. Higher diversity is present near an area of origin - this is true of languages, humans, and apparently, leprosy. The new results suggest that leprosy came from someplace closer to Europe, like south-eastern Europe or western Asia.

The oldest strain was detected in a skeleton found in Great Chesterford, Essex, in southeast England, which has been dated to between 415 and 545 CE. This is the same strain found in modern-day red squirrels!

Extensively decorated with modeled imagery, duct flutes of Veracruz are characterized by one or two connected sounding tubes. This flute has a peccary -- a distant relative of the pig -- at its center. Veracruz flutes are notable for having clay pellets inside their tubular chambers. The small clay balls produce an eerie, warbling sound when the flute is played. Circa 600s to 900s CE, Veracruz Culture.

Early Medieval Gravestones Testify To An Irish Monastery’s Importance

Founded by St. Ciarán in the 500s CE, Clonmacnoise is one of Ireland’s most famous early monasteries. Its high status is reflected in the medieval documents recording numerous instances of Irish kings and important ecclesiastics being buried at the site.     Today, we know those were not fabrications of ambitious monks, because we have their beautiful grave-stones. Clonmacnoise has over 700 grave-stones, in fact. It is the largest collection of early medieval grave-slabs found anywhere in Atlantic Europe. People must really have wanted to be buried there!     Click through the image gallery to see a small selection of some of the grave-stones.

Not sure what this is, but it looks cool! Four legs, with three-toed feet, curly ears and a curly tail, this fantastic creature appears to be wearing a collar around its neck.     Veracruz culture, Mexico, circa 600s to 900s CE.

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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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