When it was built in 1897, the US Library of Congress was the largest and the most expensive library building in the world.

The Largest Ziggurat in the World

Choga Zanbil is one of the few ziggurats that lies outside Mesopotamia. And it is the largest ziggurat left, too. Choga Zanbil stands at the site of the ancient city of Elam, in today’s Khuzestan province in southwest Iran. Choga Zanbil was built around 1250 BCE by the king Untash-Napirisha to honor the great god Inshushinak. But before the ziggurat could be completed, King Untash-Napirisha died and construction of the complex was abandoned. When the Assyrians attacked Choga Zanbil 600 years later, there were still thousands of bricks stacked at the site, waiting for building to resume.

The ziggurat is only a part of the complex. There are also temples, a total of eleven, dedicated to the lesser gods at the site. It is believed that King Untash-Napirisha originally planned twenty-two temples, which some scholars believe was an attempt to create a new religious center, possibly intended to replace Susa. And the ziggurat used to be much taller than it stands today, almost twice as tall in fact, and covered with glazed blue and green terra-cotta. Although it is shorter and less colorful than it once was, Choga Zanbil became Iran's first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

This paperweight, made of haematite carved in the shape of a grasshopper, looks pretty modern. But it was hand-carved between 1800 and 1700 BCE, in ancient Babylonia.

Let's Talk About Creepy Medieval Babies!

Have you ever wondered why, until the Italian Renaissance, European painters liked to paint baby Jesus as a mini-adult? Complete with facial wrinkles and an angry squint. It turns out they were not just really, really bad at depicting babies; instead, this had a specific religious meaning. Most babies getting painted were baby Jesus. The Catholic Church and Medieval artists thought Jesus was a homunculus, which literally means "little man." In other words, they thought Jesus was born perfectly formed -- that Jesus' body was exactly the same since birth -- and as he grew up, all Jesus did was grow. Must have been nice to not go through puberty! Baby Jesus as a homunculus fell out of fashion when wealthy individuals, instead of the church, began commissioning paintings.

Twenty wooden sculptures, each standing about 27 inches tall, have been discovered in rectangular niches in an adobe wall at the site of Chan Chan, named after the Chan Chan culture which flourished there in northern Peru. Some of the human figures carry staffs and shields. And archaeologists estimate the figurines are about 800 years old. That date makes the figures older than the Chan Chan culture, whose site they were found at. Very interesting!

The Khanate of the Golden Horde

After Genghis Khan's death, his united Mongol Empire quickly fragmented. One of the four main successors to the united Mongol Empire was the Khanate of the Golden Horde to the northwest. Its land today covers much of central and eastern Russia, as well as the south to the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea.

Also known as the Kipchak Khanate, and the Ulus of Jochi, it was given to Jochi, the eldest son of Genghis Khan. Unfortunately Jochi died several months before his father. So Jochi's son, Batu Khan, got inherited the territory. Under the new khan, the Golden Horde khanate expanded into Europe, subjugating the Russian principalities as they swept eastwards.

The Golden Horde khanate flourished until the middle of the 1300s, after which it began to decline. And it really fell apart after the invasion by Timur in 1396. By 1400, the Golden Horde fragmented into a number of smaller khanates, three of the most important being the Khanates of Crimea, Astrakhan, and Kazan.

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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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