The ancient Roman god, also known as Dionysus, does not have a good image today. His name is linked to drunkeness, excess, madness. But the ancients did not see him as one-sided. He was the god of losing one's inhibitions. But he was also the god of getting together. Ancient nicknames included Bacchus the Liberator, Bacchus the Saviour, and Bacchus the God Who Gives Men's Minds Wings. Those do not sound all bad, right?
Bacchic cults were banned in Roman times, because their members held allegiance to "a parallel state," but at the same time, Roman leaders have quotes on how fantastic it is that conquered populations enjoy Roman wine so much -- it makes them easier for Rome to control. To the ancients Bacchus was an ambiguous god, both beneficial and harmful.
In 1932, pilot George Palmer was flying from Las Vegas to Blythe, Calif., when he saw drawings sketched on the desert. Someone had scraped away the dark surface soil to draw three human figures, two four-legged animals, and a spiral.
Like the more famous Nazca Lines in Peru, the Blythe Intaglios had gone unnoticed for so long because they were too big! The largest is over 170 feet long. Much too big to be seen from the ground. No local Native American group claims to have made them; radiocarbon dating places their creation between 900 BCE and 1200 CE.
The Aztecs and Mayans feared and hated the owl and believed they were symbols of death and destruction. Interestingly, the Romans agreed, believing that the owls were bad omens -- but the ancient Greeks did not. In ancient Greece, owls represented Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
Arctic ice brings an understanding of ancient Europe’s economy
Greenland's icy mountains are not an obvious place to search for an archive of economic history, but a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that they provide one. Read the full article at The Economist
Two Bog Bodies, Found Within Months of Each Other, May Have Been Kings
Not far from Dublin in the town of Clonycavan, County Meath, and near Croghan Hill, County Offaly, two bog bodies were found within three months of each other in 2003. Clonycavan Man had been severed in half by a peat-cutting machine, but scientists were able to recover his body from the torso up. He had crooked teeth and a small beard. He was also likely murdered. His skull had been split open, likely by a stone ax, and the bridge of his nose was also struck, probably with the same weapon.
Twenty-five miles away, peat workers found Old Croghan Man, who similarly is just a torso with arms. And Old Croghan Man shows evidence of what can only be described as overkill. He had a defensive wound on his upper left arm where he may have tried to protect himself. He was bound by a hazel branches which had been threaded through holes in his upper arms. He was stabbed in the chest, struck in the neck, decapitated, and finally cut in half.
Radiocarbon dating showed that Clonycavan Man lived between 392 and 201 BCE and Old Croghan Man between 362 and 175 BCE, the height of the Celtic Iron Age. Both men were young, showed few signs of physical labor during their lives, and were healthy at the time of their deaths. There is some evidence that they were failed kings. Or perhaps claimants to kingship who failed to win the throne. Both Clonycavan and Old Croghan men's nipples were pinched and cut. Sucking a king's nipples was a gesture of submission in ancient Ireland. Cutting off their nipples would have made them ineligible to be kings, even in the afterlife. Their place of burial, in bogs that formed important tribal boundaries, also suggests the killings were political as well as ritual.
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.
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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!