Some Mayan Cities Were Still Occupied When The Spanish Showed Up
The Maya city of Tulum, once a major trading port on the Yucatan Pensinsula, was still occupied in the 1500s. While the Maya civilization precipitously declined in the 800s CE, a handful of cities survived and even grew when their neighbors shrank and vanished. Tulum was one such city. A Spanish expedition in 1518 sailed past and the crew was said to be astonished by the city's grandeur, apparently describing it as "a village so large that Seville would not have appeared larger or better."
Unfortunately, Tulum could survive 600 years after their wider civilization collapsed, but Tulum could not survive 100 years of European contact. It was abandoned by the end of the century after diseases carried from Europe decimated the population.
Easter Island was first visited by Spanish explorers in the 1770s. There they encountered the indigenous Easter Islanders, or the Rapa Nui. They had been living on Easter Island since at least the 1200s CE, and possibly since the 300s CE.
Sometime between 1650 CE and 1860 CE, the Rapa Nui developed a type of picture writing called “rongo rongo” or “to recite.” There is great debate about whether they independently invented writing. Or whether the Spanish gave them the idea of symbols to represent sounds. Unfortunately, by the 1860s the Rapa Nui had forgotten how to read the script. Today it remains undeciphered.
Archaeologists were scanning a Mexican pyramid for damage, after a devastating 7.1-magnitude earthquake in September 2017, and they accidentally uncovered traces of an ancient temple. The temple is nestled inside the Teopanzolco pyramid in Morelos state, about 40 miles south of Mexico City. The pyramid dates to the 1200s CE. It is believed to have been built by the Tlahuica culture, one of the Aztec peoples living in central Mexico.
The temple found inside the pyramid is not large, just 20 feet by 13 feet. Inside were found traces of incense, and ceramic sherds. It is dated to 1150 CE. Which makes it older than the pyramid built on top. Apparently, it was not uncommon for the Tlahuica to build on top of older structures.
Unfortunately, the pyramid the temple is within did get damaged. Its core was "rearranged" to use one archaeologist's terminology. And two temples at Teopanzolco were also heavily damaged. But from a disaster, a new discovery emerged, and I think that's pretty cool.
Women in ancient Japan blackened their teeth with dye. White teeth were considered ugly. Evidence for this practice, called ohaguro, exists from as far back as the Kofun Period and (250 to 538 CE) in bone remains and on clay human figurines.
Ohaguro continued until the late 1800s and the Meiji Restoration.
The library at Saint Catherine’s Monastery is the oldest continually operating library in the world. In the earlier days of books, the parchment they were written on was extremely valuable -- sometimes more valuable than the words written on them. So when someone wanted to copy down a new book, rather than purchase or make a new parchment, they scrapped the words off an older book and wrote the new book instead. Such texts are called "palimpsests." Saint Catherine's has at least 160 plaimpsests. The manuscripts bear faint scratches and flecks of ink beneath more recent writing, the only hint of the treasures they hid.
In an unlikely collaboration between an Orthodox wing of the Christian faith and cutting-edge science, a small group of international researchers are using specialized imaging techniques that photograph the parchments with different colors of light from multiple angles. This technology allows the researchers to read the original texts for the first time since they were wiped away.
And what they found are truly treasures. They found new poems -- or rather, very old poems -- and early religious texts and some rare-language texts doubling the known vocabulary of languages that have not been used for more than 1,000 years. Perhaps most valuable, though, are the entirely new words, in long-forgotten languages. It will take religious, medieval, and linguistic scholars years to sift through all the finds!
According to the poet, traveler, and politician Usama ibn Munqidh, who lived in the 1100s CE, "One of the wonders of the human heart is that a man may face certain death and embark on every danger without his heart quailing from it, and yet he may take fright from something that even boys and women do not fear." ibn Munqidh then told the story of a battle hero his father knew, who "would run out fleeing" if he saw a snake, "saying to his wife, 'The snake's all your's!' And she would have to get up to kill it."
Women Scribes: The Technologists of the Middle Ages
Today, most popular representations of manuscript production and scriptoria depict exclusively male spaces. The image that “scriptorium” conjures up is that of robed men laboring over texts. Yet, women had a very real place in developing, maintaining, and innovating this arduously crafted technology, using it to share visions, communicate with each other, and create works of staggering beauty and insight. Read the full article on medieval women's importance as scribes and writers
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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!