New Sarmatian Burial Mound Found in Russia

The Sarmatians were a large Iranian steppe people who formed a coalition, dominated the related Scythians, and became masters of the Eurasian steppe from about 200 BCE to about 300 CE. Rustam Mudayev, a Russian farmer, recently discovered a burial mound after noticing a bronze cauldron while working on a farm northwest of the Caspian Sea. Mudayev reported the discovery to authorities, and the mound was excavated by an archaeological team from the Astrakhan State Museum, who identified it as a Sarmatian burial.

The Sarmatian burial mound, or kurgan, had been looted in antiquity. But the looters left behind three human skeletons in wooden coffins, a horse skull, a harness, weapons, gold jewelry, and a bronze cauldron. Investigations of the remains indicate they died about 2,500 years ago. That is a little early for the Sarmatians. Their culture was believed to have coalesced by about 300 CE -- two hundred years after this kurgan burial. This might help us better understand who the Sarmatians were before they became dominant and entered western historical records.

Is Afghanistan the Graveyard of Empires?

This video reviews three major empires that "died" trying to take Afghanistan: the nascent empire of Alexander the Great, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union.

Disney's Mulan May Have Been Historically Inaccurate

Historians are unsure whether the Huns, the ones who helped end the Roman Empire, ever invaded China. That's because its unclear if the Huns are the western name for the Xiongnu, a nomadic people from Mongolia who are found in Chinese records, or if the Huns were a nomadic people from central Asia or Iran.

A Brief History of Han Purple

Han purple was an ancient Chinese pigment which is thought to have been created as early as 800 BCE, but the most famous examples of its use date back to around 220 BCE when it was used to paint the Terracotta Army and murals in the tomb of the first emperor Qin Shi Huang at Xi’an. It peaked in usage during the Han Dynasty, then declined, and then vanished from the historical record entirely -- along with knowledge of how to make the color.

It was not until the 1990s that scientists were able to replicate it. The process to make the copper barium silicate pigment was extremely intricate. For one thing, it involved the grinding of precise quantities of various materials. And for another, it required heating to between 900 and 1,100 degrees Celsius. Amazing that the process was discovered so long ago!

Ancient Mayans Were Beekeepers

Archaeologists in the ancient city of Nakum in northeastern Guatemala recently made a big discovery. Beneath a vast ritual platform dating from around 100 BCE to 300 CE they discovered a foot-long, barrel-shaped ceramic tube with covers at each end. It is nearly identical to wooden beehives still made from hollow logs by Maya living in the region today. Their discovery is the only known Maya beehive. Since most beehives would probably have been wooden, they probably would not have survived.

An Icky Archaeological Discovery

Brightly colored pottery is a hallmark of the Paracas culture (900 - 100 BCE) of southern Peru. They would mark unfired pieces with animals, supernatural figures, and patterns, then add color after the firing process to fill in the design. A new study, recently published in Antiquity, analyzed the chemical composition of the Paracas paints and binding agents. The study found that an organic white pigment on pottery from the Cahuachi site was made from an unusual material: reptile urine! It is unknown -- and a bit difficult to guess -- how the substance was collected and then processed.

Bust of Ptolemy of Mauretania. He was the grandson of Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony, son of their daughter Cleopatra Selene, queen of Mauretania. He was last Roman client king of Mauretania before it was completely incorporated as a Roman province. Bust is circa 1st century CE.

How Big Was That Empire?

Now you can compare all the largest empires that have ever existed, by geographic area. Thank you modern geography!

Ayurveda's Three Classics

Ayurveda, a ancient medical tradition from India, has three great ancient authors. Each is known for one significant text. Today they are understood to be compilation texts, summaries of schools of medicine at the time of their writing, but the authors are believed to have been real people who wrote each individual book. Like an encyclopedia.

Sushruta, writing sometime in the 600s BCE (probably) wrote the "Sushruta Samhita," a treatise on medicine and surgery with a large section dedicated to medical instruments as well. Charaka, alive sometime in the 200s BCE, wrote a treatise focusing solely on medicine, the "Charaka Samhita." The third great author, Vagbhata, came much later in the 600s CE. His two major ayurvedic treatises similarly covered a broad swathe of medicine, but they also explicitly referenced the Sushruta Samhita and the Charaka Samhita, covering where they disagreed and the various solutions that had arose to those disagreements over the centuries.

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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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