What Does Calculus Mean?

In Latin it means "small pebble." It is a reference to the abacus, where mathematical calculations used to be done by moving back and forth small beads or pebbles. Over time, the Latin word had come to mean "reckoning, account," mathematicians borrowed it for the phrase "differential calculus" and the rest is history.

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.

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.

Who Are The Basques, and What Makes Their Language Special?

I was recently surprised to realize how many people are unaware of this group, a significant minority in Europe for many reasons. Here's a brief introduction to who the Basques are, and why you should know about them.

Ancient Greek Helmets - A Review

Sometimes it is fun to learn the small stuff. So today, let's learn way too much about ancient Greek helmets!

Loneliness Is A Modern Invention

Literally -- the word first appeared in the 1800s. Before that time, English had the words ‘oneliness,’ the state of being alone, and ‘solitude,’ also meaning the state of being alone.

And while loneliness is understood to be a painful condition today, oneliness and solitude were debated. Some European philosophers thought solitude was damaging to a person’s physical and mental health. Others held that it was crucial to stay sane. And crucial for spiritual health: solitary confinement was originally not a punishment, but an path to reformation through enforced contemplation of one’s sins.

Archaeologists Announce Largest Viking Ship Ever Found In Norway

A new Viking ship burial has been discovered in Norway. Using ground-penetrating radar, archaeologists recently found one of the world’s largest Viking ship graves, resting a mere 0.5 meters beneath a farmer's field. That's just 1.5 feet!

The digital visualization reveals a large, possibly well-preserved ship, 20 meters long. And it appears to be embedded in a complex of at least eight other burial mounds, and underneath the complex are five even-older longhouses. This is not just one find, but a treasure trove of finds.

But back to the ship. Only three well-preserved Viking ships have been found previously in Norway. And they were all excavated long ago, with the techniques available at the time. That makes this find precious: an intact, very large ship burial found at a time when we have techniques like ground-penetrating radar, soil geochemistry, and radiometric dating. As of right now, no excavations are planned. Archaeologists are concerned about what exposure to the air could do to the site.

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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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