In Latin, “arena” means “sandy place.” So the amazing Roman amphitheatres, like this one at Arles, were weirdly round beaches. Basically.
When you read that, an image probably came to mind: giant glaciers, people huddling for warmth, maybe a giant woolly mammoth or two. The problem with that definition of "Ice Age" is it defines what life is like now on Earth as "normal" and giant glaciers over the north and south pole as "abnormal." But is that true? Are we, in fact, living in a period of relative coolness? Is right now an "abnormal" Earth?
A better description of an ice age would be that it’s a long stretch of time in which both the atmosphere and the planet’s surface have a low temperature, resulting in the presence of polar ice sheets and mountainous glaciers. An Ice Age can last for several million years. Within the Ice Age period, the Earth isn't uniformly covered in snow. There are periods of glaciation, characterized by ice sheet and glacier expansion over the face of the planet, and interglacial periods, where we would have an interval of several thousand years of warmer temperatures and receding ice. Turns out just the presence of ice caps on the north and south pole is abnormal! What we currently live in is an "interglacial period" in the middle of an Ice Age!
Between the 800s and 100s BCE, a nomadic people comprised of many different tribes lived in the steppe of Eurasia, a vast region running from northern China and Mongolia to the northern Black Sea area. Today, we call those nomads the Scythians. Modern archaeology has been telling us more and more about what it was like to live and die on the steppe. The short version? Life on the steppe was hard. There must have been competition to grazing rights and water rights, and since livestock and horses were the lifeblood of the Scythian tribes, animal stealing must have been common too. From burials, we know there is visible trauma on a high percentage of the found Scythian remains. The high number of weapons buried with them also suggests a militarized society were fighting was commonplace.
This one goes to the Romans! They had "Acta Diurna" (Daily Events) which was a handwritten news report, posted in multiple public places for the public to read. It first appeared in 131 BCE during the Republic. Although initially only the outcomes of trials, the Acta Diurna eventually expanded to public notices and announcements like important births or senatorial decrees.
More than 200 cliff cave burial sites have been identified in Zhengxing Township in Chengdu, in southwest China's Sichuan Province. The 200 burial sites number is deceptive; they are not just holes in the ground, but a cluster of hewn rooms, carved out of the cliffs overlooking the Jinjiang River. Some of the tombs have up to seven chambers with tunnels as long as 20 meters (65 feet).
Unfortunately, the tombs appear to have been previously looted. Bummer. But in what should be considered a small miracle, a large number of artifacts were recovered despite the looting; initial estimates are that around 1,000 gold, silver and bronze artifacts are still there. The tombs date between 206 BCE and 420 CE -- the Han Dynasty through the Wei-Jin period.
Researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have discovered a route through underwater limestone caves connecting the Sac Actun cenote and the Dos Ojos cenote. Maya pottery, human bones, and the bones of elephant-like creatures, giant sloths, bears, tigers, and extinct species of horses, all likely from around the end of the last Ice Age, have been found in the tunnel-like caves. Exploring them and finding artifacts can be difficult, though: the underwater caves range in width from 400 feet to just three feet.
In ancient Rome, it was standard practice to name daughters with the female form of the family name. Julius Caesar's daughter, for instance, was Julia. And Marcus Antonius' (Mark Antony's) daughters were both Antonia! Although to avoid confusion, they were known as Antonia Maior and Antonia Minor.
Pasiphaë, the wife of King Minos, did not trust her husband. So she laid a spell on him. It kept him from ... having relations ... with anyone else. But in a very unusual way: if King Minos slept with a concubine not approved by Pasiphaë, he would ejaculate serpents, scorpions, and centipedes, killing the unlucky woman.
All rather ironic, since Pasiphaë herself was unfaithful. To be fair, she only cheated because of Poseidon, who was angry at King Minos; to punish the husband, Poseidon enchanted poor Pasiphaë to fall in love with a bull. The result of their "love" was the Minotaur, half-man and half-bull.
In November 2017, researchers published an article in Nature revealing the secret element to ancient Egyptian ink: copper. A team from the University of Copenhagen analyzed papyri from the 100s BCE to the 200s CE. All the black ink from their samples contained copper. This is the first time copper-based ink has been found to have been used in ancient Egypt. The samples show no substantial variation across time or location and suggest a stable period of ink production techniques for at least 300 years. It is likely that the source material was a by-product of metallurgy.
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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