DNA from ancient remains is used to reconstruct thousands of years of population history in Africa. Researchers sequenced the genomes of 16 individuals who lived between 8,000 and 1,000 years ago, in what is today Malawi and Tanzania. Early on, the researchers found, the indigenous people of southern Africa used to be more widespread. Or their genes were. Markers of what is today southern African descent was found in individuals in Malawi and Tanzania who lived between 8,100 and 1,400 years ago.
But between 8,000 and 4,000 years ago, farming arrived in eastern Africa. Further DNA analysis revealed the hunter-gatherers in eastern Africa had mixed extensively with the incoming farmers. There was also migration from the Middle East in prehistory. About 38% of the ancestry of a 3,100-year-old livestock herder from Tanzania was related to ancient farmers from the Levant region.
What Did Roman Trade with India and China Look Like?
This map, based on geographical data recorded by a Greek writer in the early years of the Roman Empire, shows the trade route from Rome to India. Elites in India and China prized Roman-made glass and rugs. Elites in Rome enjoyed wearing silks made in the Far East -- so much that the Senate got worried about how much gold was leaving the empire, and tried to ban silk clothing. It did not work.
You will notice that most of the goods traded were for elites -- silk, glass, ivory, carnelian. Given the long distances to travel between the Mediterranean, the Ganges, and the Yangtze, only expensive items to wealthy aristocrats made the journey. Basics like grain or iron were traded in more localized networks.
Chinese Nobility Used Witchcraft To Handle Their Enemies
The punishment for "confusing" the people with witchcraft was death, in early China. Accusations of witchcraft were often wrapped up in aristocratic and dynastic struggles, particularly why the imperial succession was at stake. In 102 CE, the childless consort of the emperor died in prison, after being denounced as a witch. In 165 CE, the consort of the Emperor Huan was ordered to commit suicide, for a litany of offenses which included witchcraft.
What crimes had these noble women actually committed? We will likely never know for sure. But a witch hunt in Chang'an (Xi'an) in 91 CE offers some clues. On the instructions of the aging Emperor Wudi, who feared his long illness was caused by witchcraft, foreign shamans were brought in to search the imperial household for dolls used in harmful magics. Suspects were arrested for summoning evil spirits and saying malicious prayers at night. Those arrested were likely indicted for both magical and political reasons. Crown Prince Liu Ju was found to have wooden carvings of his "victims" in his room -- although the carvings could very well have been planted. He was duly removed from power and committed suicide in the aftermath.
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.
Although he died at age 76, Emperor Augustus was always portrayed as a 19-year-old. That was the age he first became consul, and First Citizen of Rome. His portraits are recognizable by the "swallow tail" or "lobster claw" of two locks of hair on his forehead.
Photograph courtesy of the Walters Art Museum
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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!