Mercury: The Forgotten Planet

Here’s a couple of fun facts about this often-overlooked planet

  • It is the smallest planet
  • It is the closest planet to the sun
  • It cannot be seen when the sky is fully dark. Mercury can only be observed at dusk and at dawn when there is some light from the sun
  • Though it is the most difficult of the visible planets to see, Mercury's existence has been known since ancient Sumerian times, roughly 5,000 years ago
  • Early ancient peoples believed that Mercury was two distinct stars, one appearing in the east at dawn and the other in the west in the evening. By the time of Plato, however, around 350 BCE, Greek astronomers realized it was a single planet

Is Soup Older Than Taxes?

The oldest type of soup dates from about 6,000 BCE in ancient Egypt. The recipe calls for sparrow and hippopotamus meat. The first known system of taxation was in Ancient Egypt around 3000–2800 BCE in the First Dynasty of Egypt of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. So soup is indeed older than taxes!

Spiritual Sustenance

Almonds and pistachios are the only nuts mentioned in the 5 books of the Hebrew bible. Peanuts may be mentioned too, but they are legumes, not nuts.

Every Egyptian Temple Reflected The Way Their World Was Born

The ancient Egyptians believed that at first there was nothing but water. Then a mound appeared from the water. This creation myth reflects their yearly Nile flood, when the river's waters covered the land, and then life-giving silt emerged as the waters receded.

Each temple they built represented that primordial mound of creation. In temple architecture, that mound was represented by a gradual rise in ground level between the entrance and the innermost shrine. Every temple also had a sacred lake, like the one above at Karnak, and each temple was surrounded by an undulating mudbrick wall. Because of course something as minor as a wall need to have a meaning, it is thought that the undulating wall represents the primordial ocean that the mound of creation rose from.

Sparta's Strange System Of Dual Kingship

The ancient Greek city-state of Sparta always had two kings ruling at the same time. This diarchy (as opposed to monarchy), is not unique to Sparta. It has always been rare in history, though. How Sparta ended up with a dual kingship is shrouded in mystery. Some theorize that the diarchy originated in a compromise, probably made by two or more tribal leaders sometime during Sparta’s inception, or maybe later, around 1000 to 900 BCE.

The Spartans told themselves a different story. Each of the two kings belonged to a different dynasty, the Agiad and the Eurypontid. but claimed descent from the same ancestor. According to Spartan mythology, the ancestor of the two kings was Heracles (Hercules), but in a more folk-based version of events, it was King Aristodemus. The story goes that King Aristodemus had twin boys right before his death. People could not tell which one was the eldest, so that easy system for naming the king was gone. The people decided to consult the Oracle at Delphi. She instructed them to crown both brothers and regard both as their kings. This account was, most likely, an invention, but was generally accepted by Spartans.

Hear The Oldest Flute In The World

In 2008, archaeologists discovered fragments of flutes carved from vulture and mammoth bones at a Stone Age cave site in southern Germany called Hohle Fels. They were carved and played by Homo sapiens. These flutes are ancient, dating back 42,000 to 43,000 years, making them the oldest flutes in the world.

The oldest Homo sapiens flutes, that is. There is at least one flute made by a Neanderthal that is older. Found at a Neanderthal campsite at Divje Babe in northwestern Slovenia, the Neanderthal flute is estimated to be over 43,000 years old and perhaps as much as 80,000 years old. The video above features Ljuben Dimkaroski, who plays trumpet for the Ljubljana Opera Orchestra, and who helped archaeologists figure out how to play the prehistoric flute. Don't worry! He is playing a clay replica, not the original.

Unique Decorations Found On Prehistory Woman's Bones In Ukraine

Unusual markings have been found on the bones of a woman who was buried in a monumental mound in the central Dniester region of Ukraine some 4,500 years ago by members of a nomadic shepherding culture. She died between the ages of 25 and 30. Initially, animals were thought to have made the parallel lines. But a recent re-analysis found the marks were made with a tar-like substance -- so they had to have been on purpose.

It appears that at some point after the woman died, her tomb was opened, the marks were made, and then she was re-interred. This is a unique find. No comparable funeral practice has been found in other prehistoric communities in Europe. Although now that this has been found, more may follow, since similar markings on other skeletons had previously been interpreted as remnants of tattoos.

That's not all that makes this woman special. The community living in the middle Dniester region approximately 4,500 years ago was engaged in nomadic shepherding - carts were used for longer distances. As a result, no permanent settlements were built, and no houses have been found. Their cemeteries are where they left their mark. Monumental burial mounds were made and played an important role for their communities. It is unusual for a woman to be buried in a monumental burial mound, like this woman was. It shows how important she was. And how unusual it was for women to have such high status.

How Are Astronomy and Ancient Egyptian Mummies Related?

In ancient Egypt, the very complicated process of mummification took 70 days. That's from the day the corpse arrived at the ibu, 'place of purification,' to the funeral. It seems likely that 70 days was deliberately chosen. It matches too perfectly the 70 days that the dog star Sirius (the goddess Sopdet to the ancient Egyptians) could not be seen. The annual rising of Sopdet heralded the inundation of the Nile, the mark of the start of the Egyptian New Year, and the green rebirth of the country. It seems a little too meaningful to be a coincidence.

Ancient Bornean Skull Has A New Surprise

"Deep Skull" was found in 1958 on Borneo, and since then it has remained the earliest known remnant of a modern human in island Southeast Asia. It is about 37,000 years old. It had been thought that the skull was related to indigenous Australians. This would support the idea that Borneo was settled in two waves, first by the ancestors of indigenous Australians, then by immigrants from Asia who became the ancestors of Borneo's modern indigenous people. A new analysis suggests that Deep Skull is more Asian than Australian. That supports the idea that Borneo was in fact settled by one major migration, not two.

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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!

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