There were dozens of language families, each the equivalent of the Indo-European family, before 1492. This map is a "simplified" one. In today's California, for instance, languages that are spoken by neighboring tribes are as different as French and Chinese.
Why did the Americas develop such linguistic diversity? Many linguists suspect that at least some of these separate families date back to separate migrations of different tribes from Asia who originally spoke unrelated languages. Linguistic and archaeological data hint at more than one migration from Asia into the Americas, all of them through Alaska.
Extra Fun Fact: see “Eskimo-Aleut” in northern North America? It is not colored because there is no evidence those languages are related to any other indigenous American languages!
Qin Shi Huang-di, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty and the person buried with those terra-cotta soldiers, was obsessed with living forever. He ordered a nation-wide search for an elixir of life, which would grant him immortality. A cache of bamboo strips found in Hunan Province in central China contains what his regional administrators wrote back, politely but rather awkwardly, about their findings. One village's message, deciphered by Chinese scholars, was that they hoped a local herb would be the emperor's answer. Another message said that no such elixir had been found in their area, but tactfully implied that they would continue searching.
Qin Shi Huang-di's search for the elixir failed and he died in 210 BCE. He may have been helped along by one of his potential elixirs of life: cinnabar, or mercury sulfide! It was believed at the time to extend one's life, but it is in fact highly toxic.
Why did the medieval Europeans switch from tunics, which were favored by the earlier civilizations like Greeks and the Romans, to pants? The answer is simple: horses win wars. All around the world, societies which had mastered the art of horseback combat wiped out those that had not. The theory goes that men in battle need protect their most sensitive organ. So pants it was.
A huge cache of stone inscriptions from one of Africa's oldest written languages have been unearthed in a vast "city of the dead" in Sudan. The inscriptions are written in the obscure 'Meroitic' language, the oldest known written language south of the Sahara, which remains only partially deciphered. The city of the dead is Sedeinga, located on the western shore of the Nile River in Sudan, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of the river's third cataract. It was once part of Nubia, a gold-rich region south of Egypt, which was home to multiple great ancient kingdoms. Sedeinga itself holds the vestiges of at least 80 brick pyramids and more than 100 tombs from the kingdoms of Napata and Meroe, which lasted from the 600s BCE to the 300s CE. They were cosmopolitan kingdoms, mixing Egyptian culture and sub-Saharan culture. One of the finds in Sedeinga, for instance, is a temple to the Egyptian goddess Ma'at, but depicted with Sub-Saharan African features for the first known time.
Researchers recently claimed that ancient Egypt's highly advanced civilization may have been brought down by unrest, primarily caused by climate change and volcanoes. The study used modern climate science and Ptolemy-Dynasty texts to explore the impact of volcanic eruptions on the flow of the Nile River.
It found that riots were caused by famines, which happened due to natural events that reduced the summer flooding of the Nile River. Without a proper flood season, crop yield was low or the entire harvest was lost. And hungry citizens are not good citizens.
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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!