The Tabnit sarcophagus is the sarcophagus of the Phoenician king Tabnit (Tennes) of Sidon (circa 490 BCE). It has an inscription in hieroglyphics on the main body and in Phoenician below that. The hieroglypics tell us the sarcophagus was originally intended for the Egyptian general Pen-Ptah. This sarcophagus, as well as the sarcophagus used by Tabnit's son Eshmunazar II, were possibly acquired by the Sidonians following their participation in the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BCE, when the Persian Empire conquered Egypt.

A History of Marshmallows

Marsh mallow, or Althea officinalis, is a plant indigenous to Eurasia and Northern Africa. We know ancient Egyptians mixed marshmallow sap with nuts and honey. Though no one knows what it tasted like! For thousands of years, to make a sweet remedy for sore throats or simply a sweet, marsh mallow's root sap was boiled, strained, whipped, and sweetened. Marshmallows had to be created by hand, poured and molded into something similar to what we eat today. Because marshmallows were so time-consuming to create they remained available only to the elite.

In the late 1800s two revolutions happened in marshmallow history, which together created the new "starch mogul" system. First, confectioners started using marshmallow molds made of modified cornstarch. At the same time, they replaced the mallow root with gelatin, creating a much more stable form of marshmallow. The new starch mogul system was pioneered in France. It quickly crossed the Atlantic, catching on the USA in the early 1900s. The marshmallow-covered sweet potato casserole was invented in 1917, along with putting marshmallows in hot cocoa. And in 1927, a recipe for s'mores appeared in a Girl Scouts handbook.

In 1948, the American Alex Doumak created and patented the extrusion process, once again revolutionizing marshmallow-making. His process involves taking the marshmallow ingredients and running them through tubes. Afterwards, ingredients are cut into equal pieces, and packaged for sale. In the 1950s the newly cheap marshmallows were hugely popular in the US.

An Unusual Moroccan Pirate Raid

In late June of 1627, two Icelandic towns were raided by Moroccan corsairs! Except...the head of the corsairs was one Murat Reis, who was born by another name: Jan Janszoon (Jensen). He was a Dutchman, captured by Moroccan corsairs in 1618, who converted to Islam and quickly became a successful corsair captain. His ship was based in Sale, Morocco. So the corsair crew, one would assume, was mainly Moroccan. Unless they were also captives who turned pirate, like Reis. And when Murat Reis needed extra hands for the raid, he put into port in England! Nine Englishmen joined the raid in return for a boat with "stockfish." So in the end, Iceland was raided and plundered by a Dutchmen, nine Englishmen, and a crew of (probable) Moroccans.

The epic poet Ennius lived from 239 BCE to 169 BCE in the Roman Republic. He basically created Latin poetry in the Latin literary tradition, and was quoted extensively throughout the Roman period, because everyone had read Ennius. Sort of like how modern authors can casually throw in "but soft, what light through yonder window breaks" and expect everyone to understand. But no works of Ennius' survive, merely those random quotations.

Old Mountains vs Young Mountains

The 145 million years is a little arbitrary, but it makes for a fun and unusual way to look at the world. Are your mountains young or old?

An Unusual Roman Trial in Turkey

In autumn of 284 CE, the Roman army returned home after a successful campaign against the Persian Empire. Unfortunately, their emperor Carus had died while the army was returning west. The army was now led by Carus' son, Numerian. But Numerian was mysteriously missing. His attendants claimed he had an eye infection which he had to protect "from the wind and sun." But the soldiers became suspicious, especially when an increasingly strong smell was coming from the coach supposedly carrying Numerian. When the army reached Nicomedia on November 20th it all came out. Numerian was found dead, and some said he was murdered, possibly by his own father-in-law Aper!

The soldiers "fell upon Aper, whose treachery could no longer be hidden, and they dragged him before the standards in front of the general's tent" the Historia Augusta tells us. The army assembled and a tribunal was held. By this point, the man proclaimed by the army was almost certain to be the emperor. So the army was deciding two questions: who could avenge Numerian, and whoever that was, could they be given the empire as a good emperor?

The solution was a 40-year-old officer from Dalmatia, Diocletian. He was already prominent, having commanded Numerian's household troops. After the tribunal was over, Diocletian stepped forward, and drew his sword. History tells us he then pointed at Aper and proclaimed loudly enough for the troops to hear "It is he who contrived Numerian's death!" Diocletian then sunk his sword into Aper's chest. Diocletian's reign marked teh end of the Crisis of the Third Century, stabilizing the empire after he defeated Carus' other son Carinus.

Ancient Kingdom's Lost City, Re-Discovered

Archaeologists have recently rediscovered remains of a trading and religious center of Aksum. Aksum, a kingdom principally located in today's Ethiopia, thrived from the 1st to 8th centuries CE, and was the state which saw the region converted to Christianity. It traded with the Roman Empire and India, minted its own coins, and took over the declining kingdom of Kush which had long rivaled ancient Egypt. The newly found city lay between the capital (also called Aksum) and the Red Sea.

The city has been renamed Beta Samati, which means "house of audience" in the local Tigrinya language. It was discovered in 2011, hiding more than 10 feet below the surface, in Ethiopia's Yeha region. The remains are already changing what we think we know about Aksum. It had previously been believed that societies in the region collapsed in the period before the rise of the Aksum Kingdom. But Beta Samati continued through the period of supposed abandonment just fine, functioning as a major connection on trade routes linking the Mediterranean and other cities which would end up under Aksum control.

Historian’s Mix-Up Mis-Named The First Female Doctor

Merit Ptah, the ancient Egyptian often cited as the “first woman doctor,” was likely made-up in the 1930s. A historian confused some names, and their mistake ended up in a book that has gone on to be widely cited.

The good news? The doctor who was mistakenly called Merit Ptah does exist! Her name was Peseshet, she was an “Overseer of Healer Women,” and there is strong evidence thanks to the 2400 BCE tomb of her son.

Archaeologists worked with primatologists to re-examine wall-paintings of monkeys in a Minoan building buried in volcanic ash around 1600 BCE. at the site of Akrotiri, which is located on the Greek island of Thera in the Aegean Sea. No monkeys are known to have lived in Greece at the time. Most of the monkeys in the painting have been identified as olive baboons, which are native to Egypt, but one monkey, with distinctive fur and an S-shaped tail, was identified as a grey langur, a species that lives in Nepal, Bhutan, and the Indus Valley of India. It was already known that the Minoans had contact with Egypt. And this wall mosaic hints at contacts with the Indus River Valley civilization, as well. Or perhaps it demonstrates the far-reaching and interconnected nature of the trade networks even in the Bronze Age.

Bust of the Roman Empress Tranquillina (reigned 241 - 244 CE). She was wife of Emperor Gordian III thanks to her father, the prefect of the Praetorian Guards, who were the emperor's personal bodyguards and by this point controlled who ran the empire. Empress Tranquillina reigned with her husband for just three years before her father died and the emperor lost power -- and his life.

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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!

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