Re-Coloring An Ancient Roman Bust

Ancient Romans (and Greeks) didn’t have pure marble-white art. They painted their stone art to imitate real-life color. Take this bust for example, found at the tomb of Publius Vergilius Maro in Naples, Italy. When it was first placed at his tomb, the bust would have been painted like so.       Side note: Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BCE – 19 BCE) known to most simply as Virgil, was a famous poet who enjoyed the favor of the first Roman emperor Augustus.  

Scythians were ancient horse nomads whose tribes controlled the Eurasian steppe from southern Siberia to the Black Sea from about the 800s BCE to 100s CE. Thanks to their high-latitude homeland, some Scythian burials became accidental mummies, preserved in frozen ground until archaeologists uncovered them.

Their well-preserved bodies mean we can tell they had tattoos. Lots of them! They didn’t tattoo their faces. But pretty much anywhere else was up for inking. Click through the image gallery to see photos of a modern man who is re-creating one particular Scythian mummy's tattoos!

The Debate About Wealth Inequality Is Millennias Old

Specifically, two millennia -- in the first century BCE, Romans were already debating whether wealth and virtue could coexist. Philosophers, of course, had been discussing it for far longer. But in the late Roman Republic, as the divide between rich and poor became wider, the issue became one of public debate. And the divide only got worse when the Republic fell to the new Empire.

In Latin, “arena” means “sandy place.” So the amazing Roman amphitheatres, like this one at Arles, were weirdly round beaches. Basically.

What Is An Ice Age?

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!

It Ain't Easy Being Scythian

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.

The First Newspaper

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.

Riverside Cliff Tombs Found In Southwest China

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.

Underwater Route Between Prehistoric Cenotes Found In Mexico

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.

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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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