In ancient Egypt, silver was more valuable than gold. It had not always been available there, and after silver was introduced, it remained rare through the Early Dynastic Period. As a result silver jewelry was almost always thinner than gold jewelry. By the Middle Kingdom, though, new sources of silver seem to have opened up because silver became less valuable than gold.

The Largest Ziggurat in the World

Choga Zanbil is one of the few ziggurats that lies outside Mesopotamia. And it is the largest ziggurat left, too. Choga Zanbil stands at the site of the ancient city of Elam, in today’s Khuzestan province in southwest Iran. Choga Zanbil was built around 1250 BCE by the king Untash-Napirisha to honor the great god Inshushinak. But before the ziggurat could be completed, King Untash-Napirisha died and construction of the complex was abandoned. When the Assyrians attacked Choga Zanbil 600 years later, there were still thousands of bricks stacked at the site, waiting for building to resume.

The ziggurat is only a part of the complex. There are also temples, a total of eleven, dedicated to the lesser gods at the site. It is believed that King Untash-Napirisha originally planned twenty-two temples, which some scholars believe was an attempt to create a new religious center, possibly intended to replace Susa. And the ziggurat used to be much taller than it stands today, almost twice as tall in fact, and covered with glazed blue and green terra-cotta. Although it is shorter and less colorful than it once was, Choga Zanbil became Iran's first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

The Importance of Nabopolassar, The Forgotten Founder of the Neo-Babylonian Empire

Nebuchadrezzar is one of the few Babylonian kings who people remember today -- or can begin to attempt to say. He is famous as a conqueror, the restorer of Babylonia's glory. But he was actually the second re-founder of Babylonia. His father, Nabopolassar, founded the Chaldean Empire, also called the neo-Babylonian Empire.

Governor of the region of Chaldea, Nabopolassar seized the throne of Babylonia around 625 BCE. Until then it had been controlled by the waning Assyrian Empire. Nabopolassar forged a coalition with the Medes, to the east, and fought the Assyrians for the next decade to retain what he had seized. Finally, in 612 BCE, the Chaldeans and Medes sacked Assyria's capital at Nineveh. Babylonia had been in the shadow of the Assyrians for centuries. Now that was flipped, and Babylonia was on the rise.

Although the great Assyrian Empire was no effectively dead, Nabopolassar's new kingdom faced immediate threats from Assyrian remnants and especially from the Assyrian's former ally Egypt. In fact, Egypt took advantage of Assyria's decline to seize Judah in 609 BCE, a small kingdom that would immortalize Nebuchadrezzar's name. But that's a story for the future.

For the first years of Nabopolassar's reign, Egypt and Assyria harassed the new empire's borders. The crown prince rose through the military ranks as the fighting continued, and eventually led armies beside his father. In 605 BCE, Nebuchadrezzar was given solo command and defeated Egypt and the remnants of the Assyrians at Carchemish in Syria. He returned to Babylonia victorious, the future of the new empire secure, only to be informed that his father had died. The stage was set for him to become the emperor history would remember.

Source: National Geographic: History, "The Builder King: Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon" by Barbara Bock. Pgs 15 - 23.

This paperweight, made of haematite carved in the shape of a grasshopper, looks pretty modern. But it was hand-carved between 1800 and 1700 BCE, in ancient Babylonia.

First Fossilized Lungs Found in Dinosaur-Era Bird

The earliest fossilized lungs have been found in an ancestral bird species. About 120 million years ago, the Archaeorhynchus spathula lived in what is today China alongside dinosaurs, before dying in a volcanic eruption. The newfound fossil is unusual for its preserved feathers and considerable soft tissue, which show that this primitive bird's lungs closely resemble those found in living birds.

Modern birds have hyper-efficient lungs. Flying is a tough workout, and hyper-efficient lungs process oxygen quickly and with less effort, so that birds' muscles can get enough oxygen during flight to keep going. This new fossil suggests such specialized lungs evolved earlier than previously thought.

Ancient Greek Helmets - A Review

Sometimes it is fun to learn the small stuff. So today, let's learn way too much about ancient Greek helmets!

Ancient Egyptians Invented Hyponosis?

There is evidence of hypnosis, or something very close to it, nearly 5,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. People would enter "sleep temples" where they ingested herbs and recited hours of rhythmic prayer in an attempt to be cured of whatever was ailing them.

Native Americans Used Tobacco Earlier Than Previously Thought

This little limestone pipe recently had a big impact: traces of nicotine detected inside suggest North Americans were using tobacco products at least 3,500 years ago! The carved limestone pipe was found in the 1930s near the Flint River in Alabama, but had been in storage at the Alabama State Repository until a recent team of chemists and archaeologists, working with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, came looking for it as part of their work examining ancient Native American pipes with modern techniques. And boy did they hit the jackpot with this one.

Tobacco plants were first domesticated in South America, and their introduction to North American native communities was not believed to have happened until around 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. This new finding indicates that tobacco use was established much earlier than previously thought in the what is today the southeastern United States. And that's pretty far inland, suggesting tobacco reached elsewhere on the continent even earlier.

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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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