Zoroastrianism, arguably the world's first religion to worship just one god, still exists today -- mainly in India. But it barely survived an ancient blow. Specifically, the conquests of Alexander the Great.
When Alexander took Persia in the 320s BCE, large portions of the compiled works of Zarathustra were lost, in the destruction of cities and holy places. Some say it had once been over 12,000 pages. What remained was re-collected after Alexander's death, named the Avesta, and standardized into a five-part text which is still used by believers today.
The main section, named the Gathas, is the oldest: it contains 17 hymns believed to have been written by Zarathustra during his lifetime. Other sections contain prayers, rituals, accounts of how the world was created, and Zoroastrian law.
A head in the Ecuadorian Chorrera art style. Circa 300 BCE to 600 CE. This was a time of social, political, economic, and artistic innovations in the region, prompted by agricultural improvements and a growing population. New settlements and towns, with ever-larger numbers of inhabitants, triggered the need for methods to manage village life and ensure the well-being of the community, which, in turn, led to greater social hierarchy. Hand-in-hand with the growing social complexity was the appearance of more complex religious practices. Both developments encouraged the desire for novel artworks to express the new sociopolitical and spiritual ideologies that characterize this dynamic time throughout ancient Ecuador.
The earlier Valdivia figurine tradition developed into an elaborate figural art form with such novel artistic expressions as the elegant, mold-made sculptures of the Jama Coaque and La Tolita styles of Ecuador's northwestern coastal region. This particular figure likely is an example of La Tolita style, which is differentiated by its heightened naturalism.
Cemetery, In Use For Thousands of Years, Excavated in Albania
An ancient cemetery containing layers of about 1,000 burials dating back to the Iron Age has been found in southeastern Albania. The cemetery was actually three cemeteries: one from the Iron Age, one late Roman, and one from the Middle Ages. And under the bottom layer of the cemetery were what appears to be a Neolithic settlement. Archaeologists found holes in the ground, which supported the now-rotted wooden skeletons of small huts.
The birthplace of plant domestication in the Americas. The first New World country to gain independence from the Spanish Empire. The eleventh-largest country in the world, by population. Like the United States, Russia, and China, this is a country that any informed citizen should have at least a basic knowledge about.
When draining the flooded temple of Kom Ombo, near the southern Egyptian city of Aswan, archaeologists were surprised (and delighted) to find a previously-unknown sphinx statue. Hewn from the surrounding rock, it sits 28 cm (11 in) wide and 38 cm (14 in) tall. Small but mighty! It probably dates back to the Greco-Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty, which ruled Egypt from 305 BCE to 30 BCE, because two reliefs of King Ptolemy V, similarly carved from sandstone, were also recently found at the temple.
Hathor was one of the most commonly worshiped goddesses in ancient Egypt. She was primarily a mother goddess, and was often considered the mother of the pharaoh. But she had other aspects, too: she helped women to conceive, she helped mothers survive childbirth, she welcomed the deceased into the Afterlife, she was even "Mistress of Foreign Lands" meaning that as soon as an ancient Egyptian left their homeland, they were in Hathor's territory. Did I mention Hathor was the goddess of music, dance, and sexual love, too? Really, with so much influence over so much of ancient Egyptian life, it is no surprise that Hathor was one of the most long-lived deities.
As early as the Fourth Dynasty (2613 - 2494 BCE), there is written and archaeological evidence of temples dedicated to Hathor. She was also revered in the New Kingdom, and Hatshepsut (1473 - 1458 BCE) dedicated a small shrine in her mortuary temple to Hathor. She remained popular even when Greek pharaohs ruled Egypt. The great temple at Dendera was built in her honor under the Ptolemies.
The Turkish national flag is mostly red, with a white star and a crescent in the center. Ottoman Sultan Selim III formalized the look in 1793, but the flag is actually much older.
The crescent-and-star combination has been used in Turkey since Hellenistic times (400s to 100 BCE). It likely came from ancient Mesopotamian iconocraphy. Ancient depictions of the symbol always show the crescent with horns pointing upward and with the star placed inside the crescent, for reasons that have been lost to time. When it came to Turkey, they gave it their own meanings. For Byzantium the moon symbolized Diana, also known as Artemis, the patron goddess of the city.
In 1453, when the city was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, the flag remained unchanged. With time, it became not just Istanbul’s flag but the Ottoman flag, with its design formalized in 1793 and its status as national flag formalized in 1844. Turks affectionately call the flag "ay yildiz" -- the "moon star" flag.
Many nations that were once part of Ottoman Empire adopted the star-and-crescent when they gained independence, including Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. In the 1900s the symbol became associated with not just the Ottomans, but with Islam in general, and many states that were never part of the Ottoman Empire adopted it too, including Pakistan, Malaysia, and the Maldives. Pretty amazing that an ancient Mesopotamian symbol is flown around the world today.
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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!