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!
Incomplete circle (or "penannular") bracelets with animal-head ornaments on the ends of the bracelet (the "terminals") first developed in the First Persian Empire. Lions and antelopes were the most popular animals, and the bracelets were often more oval than circular, to make easier wearing on the wrist. This bracelet design hopped the Hellespont and became popular in Greece during the 400s BCE. The Greeks preferred hounds and lynx terminals, as well as lions and antelopes. Although they were worn by both genders, these particular gold bracelets were likely owned by a woman. The two bracelets were reportedly found alongside distinctively feminine jewelry. Greece, circa 300s BCE.
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.
Epheseus was the most important Greek city of those founded along western Turkey. The city was first founded by Ionian Greek settlers along the marshy delta of the Cayster River. There was already a sanctuary, dedicated by the local people to a goddess of vegetation and fertility. The new Greek settlers associated that with Artemis, goddess of the hunt, wild animals, chastity, and childbirth. Several structures were built in Artemis' honor by the early settlers.
Epheseus eventually built a magnificent temple to her, which was continued under the famous King Croesus of Lydia. He is known today for his huge wealth, but at the time he was a newly-arrived king who had conquered Ephesus in 560 BCE and was looking to make his mark as a man of piety and sophistication in the Greek world. So he paid for work on the temple to continue, and hired an architect from Crete, Chersiphron of Knossos. It says how important the temple was that even its architect's name is remembered in history. Croesus' wealth certainly did the trick: with the first temple ever constructed entirely of marble, and located along a great trade route running from Greece into Asia Minor, Epheseus flourished.
Unfortunately, King Croesus' temple burned down in 356 BCE. Supposedly it was destroyed the same day as Alexander the Great was born, and it was not saved because Artemis was busy helping his mother through her labor -- a key role as she was the goddess of childbirth. But Epheseus wasn't ready to give up and become a backwater. After all, their temple was on the list of wonders of the world that the famous historian Herodotus They rebuilt the temple, a bigger and better one with an additional stepped platform, and rededicated it to the goddess Artemis. It even kept its old name, the Artemision.
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.
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.
An amazing new site has been found in Peru: an undisturbed cemetery with burials from the Viru Period (200 BCE - 500 CE) and the earlier Salinar Period (400 BCE - 200 BCE). The richer graves actually date to the Salinar Period, with gold artifacts, ritual objects, and a stone mace head. Unfortunately, those skeletons also show severe injuries. Located in Huanchaco, on Peru's north coast, the site is at what is essentially a fishing village. Such a concentration of high-status burials shows that the Salinar period had strong social differentiation, even in a small village.
Over one million mummies have been found in Egypt. Most are cats.