Both Old English and Old Norse were part of a Northwest Germanic language group. The languages were similar until the 400s CE, when the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England made English part of the West Germanic language group -- like German instead of like Norwegian. But Old English and Old Norse followed the same phonological rules. Which meant they changed in predictable, and similar, ways.
Which means that during the Viking Age in England, Old English and Old Norse approached being mutually intelligible. Not only were the English being raided, invaded, and occupied, but the warriors who were doing so could be almost understood, speaking a strange version of their own tongue. Probably just made the Great Dane Army’s job easier. Isn’t it nice for threats to make people quake in fear, instead of just making them confused.
It is long, but it is good. I promise. The Iroquois Confederacy, or as they called themselves, the Hodenosaunee, were an important pre-Columbian society and government. In fact, their democratic system had strong influence on today's US Constitution. But it was also a family-based system. Which is definitely NOT what today's US government is based on.
The seven-day week has no correspondence to astronomy -- unlike the presence of the sun giving us days, or phases of the moon giving us months. Historians generally think the seven-day week was "invented" by Mesopotamians and/or Jews. Both thought the number seven had mystic significance. Sumer had a (mostly) seven-day week system since at least the 21st century BCE. The Jewish weeks may have developed independently or been influenced by their Fertile Crescent neighbors.
From the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa the seven-day week spread around the Old World. The Greeks and Persians adopted the Babylonian system, and fro Persia it spread to India and China in various forms. In Japan, for instance, seven-day weeks were mainly used by specialist astrologers until the 1800s. In Europe, it was officially adopted by the Roman Empire in the 300s CE, but it was already in common use throughout the empire.
Around the year 950 CE, the Japanese emperor was contemplating cutting down an ancient plum tree, which had recently died. The emperor changed his mind after receiving an anonymous poem. "Since my lord commands, what can I do but obey; but the nightingales, when they ask about their nests-- whatever can I tell them?"
This vase, made in 1904 by Miyagawa Kozan, commemorates that story. You can see the character for "nightingale" perched daintily on the blue plum branch. The character (and all the other characters) is not painted on, but colored clay inserted into the cutout wall of the vessel. They probably couldn't do that in 950!
One of the biggest hoards of medieval coins in Japan has recently been found, in Saitama, just north of Tokyo. A ceramic jar filled with thousands of bronze coins was found at the site of a samurai's home. The jar appears to have been buried during the first half of 1400s.
It appears to contain at least 100,000 coins and maybe up to 260,000 -- depending on the interpretation of the wooden tablet which was found on the edge of the jar's lid. “Nihyaku rokuju” (260) had been written with an ink brush. The writer left off the what they were counting, though. 260 coins is laughably low, considering how many coins are in the jar. The archaeologist who announced the find thought the tablet likely left off "kan," or 1,000 coins; that means the jar was supposed to have held 260,000 coins. Quite a big nest egg!
Leonardo Da Vinci May Have Drawn The First Landscape In European Art
On August 5th, 1473, in his notebook with pen and ink, Leonardo da Vinci tried to depict a panorama of the rocky hills and lush, green valley surrounding the Arno River near Vinci. The aerial view was nothing he could have seen naturally. It was rather a fantasy of what birds might see, flying overhead -- but with some imaginative additions courtesy of Leonardo.
Other artists had drawn and painted landscapes as backdrops, but with the Arno River drawing, Leonardo was doing something different. He was drawing a landscape by itself, for its own beauty. This makes it a contender to be the first landscape in European art.
Shakespeare May Have Annotated Book Passages Behind One Of His Famous Plays
A 16th-century book, with notes in the margins, may have been annotated by Shakespeare himself. The 1576 copy of François de Belleforest’s "Histoires Tragiques" has faded ink symbols next to six passages -- passages featuring a Danish prince who avenges his father's murder by his uncle, who cemented his stolen throne by marrying the prince's mother. Sound familiar? The "Histoires Tragiques" was already thought to have been one of Shakespeare's sources for Hamlet. This new find may have been the specific copy Shakespeare read!
The chrysanthemum was brought to Japan around the beginning of the Heian period (794−1185). By the Edo period (1600 - 1868) hundreds of types of chrysanthemums were being cultivated. These pages come from Gakiku, the first picture book of chrysanthemums published in Japan, in 1691. Its beautiful illustrations and Chinese-style poems introduced readers to 100 different varieties of the flower.
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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!