Clay head by an Ife Yoruba artist. Nigeria, circa 1100 to 1400 CE.
An international team of researchers examined the ratios of stable nitrogen and carbon isotopes in collagen and dental enamel samples obtained from the remains of some 130 individuals who were buried in Mongolia between 4500 BCE and 1300 CE. The analysis suggests that during the Bronze Age, the Mongolian diet was based on milk and meat and supplemented with local plants. From about the 200s BCE to the late first century CE, during the Xiongnu Empire, some people continued to eat the Bronze Age animal-based diet, while those living in political centers began to eat more millet-based diets. Grain consumption and thus the practice of agriculture appears to have continued to increase into the period of the Mongolian Empire of the Khans. Empires based in Mongolia thus presided over a mixed population of both pastoralists and farmers. Their varied food strategies gave the empires strength in diversity.
A bronze buckle and metal bead found in Alaska, and dating to between 700 and 900 years ago, were smelted in East Asia out of lead, copper, and tin. Among the artifacts are a fishing lure with eyes made of iron (top), a copper fish hook (bottom right), a belt buckle (bottom, second from right) and a needle (bottom). They are evidence of cross-Pacific trade which connected the American arctic with its Asian counterpart. European contact in the area dates to only 300 years ago. The artifacts were found in the remains of a dwelling which was part of a cluster of sites inhabited by the Thule, ancestors of the modern Inuit, on Cape Espenberg in Alaska.
That sounds like one of my fun titles, but it's the painting's actual name! (Translated from Chinese, of course.) Silk leaf painting by Li Song, during the Song Dynasty in 1210 CE. The meaning of the painting is debated; it may be a Taoist commentary on death.
In the early 1200s, the Kievan Rus was the center of eastern Slavic civilization and Orthodox Christianity. But after the fall of the city of Kyiv to the Mongols on December 6th, 1240, the city was left a post-apocalyptic waste. Six years later a papal envoy passed through its ruins. He reported only 200 houses still stood, and the people who had returned to live in the ghost town were surrounded by "countless skulls and bones of dead men lying about on the ground. Kyiv, he wrote, "has been reduced to almost nothing." The city became a marginal provincial hub in the centuries following, but it only became really important again after the Russian industrial revolution in the late 1800s.
King John of England is most famous today as the bad prince in Robin Hood, or the king whose barons rebelled and made him sign the Magna Carta. But did you know that within his first three years as king, he lost almost all of the crown’s holdings in France?
He lost to the French king the duchy of Normandy, whose duke William had conquered England, along with Anjou, Maine, and Touraine. King John was nominally still the head of Aquitaine, but only because his famous mother Eleanor still lived. Most of Aquitaine’s nobles made quiet peace with the French king. And as soon as Eleanor died, John lost Aquitaine as well.
Just to be clear how great a disaster this was: John lost about half of his country. He went from being king of a vast domain connected by the sea, to being confined to England with a domain that ended at the coast. No wonder no English king since has been named John.
The Maya at Chichen Itza were known to practice human sacrifice a thousand years ago. Who they were sacrificing, though, has long been a mystery. A recent isotope analysis of tooth enamel from sacrificial victims thrown into the city’s Sacred Cenote shows that there was some variety in who was sacrificed. Some grew up locally, while others hailed from the Gulf Coast, the Central Highlands, and as far away as Central America.
How the mix of individuals were chosen, and how those from further away ended up in Chichen Itza, remains unknown -- there is always something more to investigate!
The Mamluks were a corps of slaves which went from being the elite bodyguards of the Ayyubid Caliphate founded by Saladin, to running Egypt for themselves. It lasted as an independent state for over 250 years, from 1250 to 1517 when Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. But the Mamluks survived.
By the 1630s, a Mamluk emir managed to become de facto ruler of the country. By the 1700s, the importance of the pasha (Ottoman governor) was superseded by that of the Mamluk beys, and it was even made official. Two offices, those of Shaykh al-Balad and Amir al-hajj -- both offices held by Mamluks -- represented the rulers of Egypt. In the name of the Ottoman Sultan, of course. It was only with the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon in 1799 that the Mamluk power center was permanently ended.
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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