The term “Byzantine Empire” came into common use during the 1700s and 1800s. It would never have been heard, let alone embraced, by the people who once lived in it. To them, Byzantium was still the Roman Empire, which had merely moved its seat of power from Rome to a new eastern capital in Constantinople. Though largely Greek-speaking and Christian, the Byzantines called themselves “Romaioi,” or Romans. They used Roman law, played Roman games like chariot racing, and enjoyed Roman festivals. While Byzantium evolved a distinctive, Greek-influenced identity as the centuries passed, the Romaioi continued to cherish their Roman roots until the end. When he conquered Constantinople in 1453, the Turkish leader Mehmed II even took the emperor's title as “Caesar of Rome.”
This odd-looking item is a nose ring! The nose ring was uncovered at a grave near the border with Costa Rica in 1909. Times being what they were, the artifact was then sold to Tiffany & Co. in New York City. Eventually it ended up in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, where it resides today.
Because it was unearthed by non-archaeologists, and immediately sold abroad, not much is known about how it was made or who once wore it. It was crafted in Panama by a Native American out of gold alloy, sometime between 800 CE and 1521 CE. Based on eyewitness accounts by early conquistadors and the archaeological evidence, we can also say that gold nose rings were a popular form of body ornament and sign of rank, for both men and women, in ancient Central America.
A new study, looking at macaw skeletons found at three prehistoric pueblo sites in New Mexico, USA, suggests that Native Americans in this arid area imported the birds from less-arid places. The bird remains which were examined date from between 300 CE and 1450 CE. The majority were tropical macaws -- definitely not native to New Mexico! There is also no evidence of macaw breeding save at one site. Put together, the evidence points to importing the birds.
In addition, there was widespread scarring along the surface of their bones, showing that humans removed their feathers. And many of the macaws' skeletons showed malnourishment, likely from being kept inside and fed a largely corn diet. Which, counter-intuitively, suggests the Pueblans were caring for them extremely well, for their society. Basically? The macaws were being imported, kept in captivity, and systematically harvested for their bright and colorful feathers.
Really, really good history! Since I know next to nothing about Ukraine's national history, I particularly appreciated the accessibility -- the vlogger assumed we had been born yesterday, and it worked.
Did you know Tibet once controlled an empire? It ruled the Himalayan highlands, Bengal, and the modern Chinese provinces of Gansu and Yunnan from 618 CE to about 840 CE. Between the first and third emperor, their territory expanded eventually to the height shown in the map above. But difficulty of transportation and communication, and religious tensions due to the introduction of Buddhism in the early 700s CE, led to infighting which pitted the royal family against ancient noble families and supporters of the new religion.
The last two emperors were assassinated, one by pro-native religionists, one by a Buddhist hermit. Yes, a Buddhist assassinated an emperor. After the death of the tenth emperor, the Tibetan Empire disintegrated into civil war.
The completely intact boat burial of a high-status Viking has been found in Scotland. It's exciting because not only is the site undisturbed by looting or the elements, but the site is the first undisturbed Viking boat burial to be found in mainland Britain! Besides with his longboat, the deceased was buried with an axe, spear, and sword. But the burial was not all about fighting. They were discovered with a whetstone from Norway, a ring pin from Ireland and pottery from the Hebrides -- suggesting a widely-traveled Viking. Sadly little human remains remained, just a few fragments of bone and two teeth.
So far we know very little. The burial appears to date to the late 800s or early 900s CE. The person was high-status. Beyond that, we will have to wait for scientific testing to fill in the story, such as their gender, where they grew up, and what they ate.
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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!