Prehistoric women's arms 'stronger than those of today's elite rowers'

The study of ancient bones suggests that manual agricultural work had a profound effect on the bodies of women living in central Europe between about the early Neolithic and late Iron Age. The study examined the remains of 94 women spanning about 6,000 years, from the time of the early neolithic farmers (dating back to around 5,300 BC) through to the 800s CE, from countries including Germany, Austria, and northern Serbia. These ancient women had arm bones which were extremely strong -- about 30% stronger than non-athletic modern women. And stronger than modern rowers, soccer players, and runners. The study also reveals that the strength of women’s arm bones dropped over time. Probably because technology was developed to ease manual labor. By medieval times, the strength of women’s arm bones was on a par with that of the average woman today.

Bamboos are the fastest-growing plants on earth. Trees such as oak or apple can take up to 120 years to reach maturity. Most bamboo trees take 5 to 7 years to reach maturity. Yet apple trees bloom every year. Bamboo blooms once every 60 to 130 years! And, even more mysteriously, all the bamboo of that species bloom at the same time. All over the world, from Japan to France to the USA. And records from China dating to 919 CE tell us this has been happening for a long, long time. It is as if the plants carry an an internal clock ticking away until the preset alarm goes off simultaneously. This mass flowering phenomenon is called "gregarious flowering." And botanists are still stumped as to why, exactly, bamboo does this --although of course there are plenty of hypotheses!

The first imperial Roman city to be established on the Iberian Peninsula -- the peninsula which today houses Spain and Portugal -- was Tarraco. In 27 BC, Emperor Augustus based himself here during Roman campaigns on the peninsula and the city flourished because of this attention. It became extremely wealthy because of his patronage and the city continued to thrive for a couple of centuries after Augustus' death. Enormous public buildings were constructed, including a sea-side Colosseum in the 100s CE.     Unfortunately for archaeologists, the thriving Roman city Tarraco became the thriving Spanish city Tarragona. The ancient Roman monuments were gradually built over, adapted into other structures, or pillaged for their raw building materials. Today you have to look hard to spot the original three-tiered structure of this seaside city. Click through the image gallery to see some beautiful photographs of Terraco's ancient Roman remains.

About 2,000 years ago, a Roman politician celebrated his victory by commissioning a sundial and putting it in public so everyone could read his name each time they checked the time. On the base of the sundial is inscribed "M(arcus) NOVIUS M(arci) F(ilius) TUBULA" — or Marcus Novius Tubula, son of Marcus. Another engraving on the rim of the bowl says that Tubula (literally, "small trumpet") held the office of "TR(ibunus) PL(ebis)" — that is, plebeian tribune, and paid for the sundial "D(e) S(ua) PEC(unia)," or "with his own money."

The sundial was found in the town of what was then Lirenas, about 90 miles southeast of Rome. The style of the letters suggests to researchers that the sundial was erected in the mid-first century BCE or onward.

Cleopatra remains fascinating, 2,047 years after her death. To date, she has been the subject of five ballets, seven films, forty-five operas, seventy-seven plays, and innumerable paintings.

A colossal status of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (r. 117 to 138 CE) found in the ruins of a bathhouse at Sagalossos, a Greco-Roman city in south-central Turkey. It is estimated the statue stood between 13 and 16 feet (4 and 5 meters) tall. That’s pretty big! It was an announcement of the power of Rome, personified by Rome’s divine emperor.

What’s A King To A Caesar?

From 27 BCE to 1946 CE, someone, somewhere in Europe has had a title “Caesar.” The czar of Russia, the kaiser of Germany...many, many European titles were just local derivatives of “Caesar.”

The last Caesar was Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, who was removed from office in 1946 by the Soviets. He’s still alive, too!

Where Did Numbers Come From?

Our earliest numbers were actually...letters. Confusing, right? Thank goodness for the Indians and their common-sense answer of creating a whole separate set of symbols for numbers.

Geneticists investigating the ancient domestication of cats happened to find that ancient cats had stripes -- but no spots. A specific gene is responsible for spotted fur, and it is absent in ancient cats. How fur patterns relate to when cats began to live with humans, I do not know. Anyways, the researchers' findings were confirmed by Egyptian murals, which only show striped cats. The gene causing blotched or spotted coats only began to appear in Europe during the Middle Ages.

The mosaic above comes from the House of the Faun, in Pompeii, during the early Roman Empire. Roman cats, which were descended from Egyptian cats, were striped too.

Source: National Geographic History, November/December 2017. "Finicky Felines Take Their Time with Domestication." Pp. 4 - 5

Between 1896 and 1907, archaeologists Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt discovered an amazing treasure trove. But their treasure was words, not gold: over 500,000 papyri fragments, dating back around 1,800 years, so well-preserved that they are still readable to the naked eye. The fragments were uncovered in the ruins of Oxyrhynchus, a sizable ancient town in southern Egypt that flourished when the Roman Empire controlled Egypt. The town's arid conditions meant that the ordinary residents' papyri survived nearly 2 millennia. The papyri include Christian gospels, magical spells and even a contract to fix a wrestling match!

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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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