Where Do Popes Come From?

  A map of where, in the world, popes have been born. Note that they placed each pope in the country he would be born in, if he was born today. Three popes were born in modern-day Tunisia, sure, but that was back in the Roman Empire. Those ancient "Tunisian" popes would have called it the province of "Africa" and it included eastern Algeria and northern Libya, as well as Tunisia.

All That Glitters Is Orange?

Usually, when we think of gold, we think of a warm yellow color. But the Nahuange, who lived in northern Colombia during the first millenium CE, intentionally treated gold jewelry so that it looked pinkish orange. A recent study analyzed 44 Nahuange artifacts from the Museum of Gold in Colombia, and found that they were made from tumbaga, a gold alloy which contains a substantial percentage of copper. They were also all "depletion gilded" which means copper was removed from the surface through hammering, a heating and cooling process, or both. The result was a golden shine on the outside which hid the metal's true high-copper content. That gilding was later removed, on purpose, to bring the copper's pinkish tones out. So initially, the jewelry makers desired golden objects, but at some later point, it was preferable to have pinkish-orange jewelry.

Want To Impress A Lover? Pig Testicles Will Do The Trick!

Boiled catnip and dried ground pig testicles mixed with wine were among the recipes recommended to fix male infertility during the Medieval Period, an academic in England has discovered. Based on English and Latin texts from the period, the new research also shows that women were not always blamed for infertility, as has previously been thought.

Derbent, Russia's Oldest City

Located on a narrow strip of land between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains in the far western end of Eurasia, is the city of Derbent. With a history going back by five thousand years, Derbent is said to be Russia’s oldest city. It is also the southernmost city in Russia. Derbent’s position between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountains is strategically important in the entire Caucasus region. It is one of only two crossings over the mountain range; the other being over the Darial Gorge. This position has allowed the rulers of Derbent to control land traffic between the Eurasian Steppe and the Middle East and levy taxes on passing merchants. In fact, the city’s present-day name comes from the Persian word Darband which means “barred gate”.

Being at such a strategic location, it has long been a target, or a prize, of states with imperial ambitions. The city was historically an Iranian city, and its first intensive settlement in the 800s BCE was Persian. The city’s modern name came into use during the 500s CE, when the city was re-established by the Sassanid dynasty of Persia. In 654 CE, Derbent came under the hands of the Arabs. They called the city Bab al-Abwab, or “the Gate of Gates”, signifying its strategic importance. The Arabs transformed the city into an important administrative center and introduced Islam to the area. After the Arabs, the region came under the Armenians who established a kingdom there which lasted until the Mongol invasion in the early 1200s. After the Mongols, Derbent changed hands relatively quickly, given its history, coming under the rule of the Shirvanshahs (a dynasty in modern Azerbaijan), the Iranians and the Ottomans before finally being ceded to the Russian Empire as part of the end of the Russo-Persian War.

Eadgifu of Kent

A little-known Saxon royal, Eadgifu’s reputation suffers for living before the Norman conquest, and for having an unpronounceable name! She was the third wife of King Edward the Elder of Wessex. At the time, England was divided between Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and Danish kingdoms, all vying for power. Wessex was the southernmost Anglo-Saxon kingdom and the only one that had completely held out against Danish invasion. But now the Anglo-Saxons were fighting back and Eadgifu was there to see it. Edward the Elder captured the eastern Midlands and East Anglia from the Danes in 917, and gained control of Mercia upon the death of his sister, its queen. By the end of his reign, Edward could be called “King of the Anglo-Saxons” because he had united them -- although not the Danes.

Little is known about her during her husband’s reign, but when her sons Edmund and Eadred ruled, Eadgifu seems to have been the power behind the throne. During the reign of King Eadred, the kingdom of Northumbria was conquered. It was the last Danish kingdom to fall. England was now a single, centralized monarchy, although the union was new and weak. Eadgifu actually lived to see two grandsons, King Eadwig and King Edgar, sit on the throne after King Eadred. She was less influential by this point, as she had sided with Edgar against Eadwig during the succession dispute. King Edgar, when he eventually took the throne, ruled a united England which was truly a union. It had been together for long enough that it was no longer a piecemeal collection of Anglo-Saxon and Danish kingdoms. When she died, in or after 966, Eadgifu had lived long enough to see the small southern kingdom of Wessex become the nation of England we would recognize today.

Tash Rabat, a mysterious site in Kyrgyzstan, was once a settlement along the Silk Road, a way station for caravans -- a caravanserai. It provided shelter and food for both human traders and their animal workers. What makes Tash Rabat slightly mysterious is that its layout is unusual for this kind of caravanserai. What’s left is a single structure that looks like a blend between a castle and a temple.

Archaeologists are puzzled by Tash Rabat. They believe the location was used as a resting place for traders from about the 1400s but there’s also evidence that a Christian monastery may have been there from as early as the 900s. That could explain the odd layout – perhaps the travelling merchants just adapted an existing structure.

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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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