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.

Aegina: A Forgotten Ancient Power

Aegina was a very important Greek city-state that is almost totally forgotten today. Partially because they were a big player in Greece before Athens, and most of what we know about Aegina is from Athenian records and archaeological studies.

As an island, Aegina was situated between Attica and the Peloponnese, making it a useful island for traders since prehistoric times. There is archaeological evidence of Minoan and Mycenaeans trading with or living on the island. It was really during Archaic Greek period (900s BCE - 480 BCE) that the city-state became a naval powerhouse. It was the first mainland European power to mint its own coins, within 30 or 40 years of the invention of coinage in Asia Minor. It was one of just three city-states, and the only mainland Greek one, trading at and owning a share of the mighty emporium of Naucratis in Egypt. It was a hub for grain from the Pontus region -- food is power, and Pontic grains was so important that Athens would later enforce a monopoly on it.

But to really understand how much of a big-time Aegina was, look at its weights system. The Aeginetic standard of weights and measures (developed during the mid-600s) was one of the two standards in general use in the Greek world. It is like the British Empire making other countries measure in pounds and miles.

This 18th-century Qing Dynasty vase is in the form of a bronze gu (an ancient Chinese ritual bronze vessel from the Shang and Zhou Dynasties used to drink). Circa 1736 - 1795 CE.

"How could there be unbroken eggs under a toppled nest?"

This supposed quote is a Chinese idiom. It means that when a group suffers, all individuals belonging to that group will also suffer.

The idiom has a rather sad origin story. When the scholar-official Kong Rong spoke ill of the warlord Cao Cao in 208 CE, he was arrested and later executed on such charges as, among others, "plotting a rebellion", "slandering the imperial court" and "disrespecting court protocol." Kong Rong had two children. When they heard their father had been arrested, others urged them to escape, but they answered "How could there be unbroken eggs under a toppled nest?" They were not wrong; Kong Rong's entire family was executed on Cao Cao's orders.

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.

What Animal Is This?

Your guess is as good as any, because we do not know! The claws, fangs, and spots are cat-like, while the hindquarters resemble two seahorse tails. Moche, 525-550 CE.

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.

New Room Discovered In Nero's Golden House

Emperor Nero was famously extravagent. Among other personal projects, he build a massive "Golden House" or Domus Aurea in Latin, which was to be the emperor's palace and personal artistic project. Nero was loved by the lower classes while alive, but hated by the conservative Roman elite that liked to pretend they still ran a republic. So his Domus Aurea was a huge problem for his successors: how could an emperor pretend he was merely the first man in a republic, when living in a palace? After Nero's death, the Domus Aurea was stripped of its rich interiors, filled with dirt, and built over. The cover-up job worked in the short term. But in the long term, it preserved the Domus Aurea for future Romans to find, and the palace was rediscovered in the 1400s. Since then, it has been the site of ongoing excavation and preservation efforts.

In 2019, as part of restoration work at Emperor Nero's Domus Aurea, a secret underground room was discovered! Its walls are covered with murals showing real and mythical creatures, the paint and gilding preserved because of the rubble and dirt used to fill much of the room.

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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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