Hawaii Has A Protected Valley, Where Its Ancient Plants Are Preserved

For the past 1,500 years, Limahuli Valley on Kauai has been a green haven, a wilderness preserved to exist just as the native Hawaiians experienced it. It is home to plant life unlike anything found in the rest of the world, with many endangered plants thriving in the valley.

Ancient Log Jams

Before the arrival of Europeans, “log jams” formed by the accumulation of fallen trees and driftwood on rivers and streams were a common phenomenon across North America.

The most famous, and largest, was the Red River. At its peak, this log jam — known as the Great Raft — extended between 130 and 160 miles, clogging the lower part of the river in what is now Northwest Louisiana and Northeast Texas. It formed sometime around 1000 CE. Its great size made it a natural dam, forcing water over the banks of the Red River and into the valley, creating numerous large and deep lakes. A few even remain today, two centuries after European steam boats removed the Great Raft to allow boats to navigate the river.

The Korean Chinese Mongolian Empress

A Korean from a minor aristocratic family became empress of China. And empress to a Mongolian khan -- since the emperor of China at the time was Toghon Temür of the Yuan dynasty. Born in Goryeo, a Korean client kingdom of China, Gi Jao was from a minor noble family. So minor, in fact, that she was sent as a concubine (read: slave) to the emperor of China in 1333, as part of a shipment of tribute sent every three years from Goryeo.

Gi Jao resigned herself to her new life and made the best of it. She caught the emperor's eye, eventually becoming his favorite concubine, and gave birth to a son he made his heir. After much intrigue, Gi Jao became Toghon Temür's secondary wife then his secondary empress. Toghon Temür already had a primary empress.

It is hard to say if Gi Jao was happy in the end. She was eventually promoted to primary empress, but her husband lost China within three years to a native Chinese rebellion, the Ming Dynasty, and died two years after that. Her son succeeded to the emperor's throne, but it was a shadow of the vast empire her husband had ruled, mostly in today's Mongolia. Shortly after Toghon Temür's death Gi Jao disappears from the historical record.

Medieval Japan Was A Great Place To Be Gay

By the 1300s, Japanese samurai had started taking their proteges as lovers. Usually, this was an older man with a younger boy. It was so common that one samurai said, “A young man without a pledged, elder he-lover is likened to a young girl without a fiance.” But same-age male love was normal, too. A pair of aging male lovers, they said, were like “two old cherry trees still in bloom.”

Who Ran Korea During The Choson Period?

Scholar-Officials (sadaebu or sonbi) represent the highly educated ruling class that emerged during the Choson dynasty (1392-1910 CE) of Korea. The founder of the Choson dynasty, Yi Songgye adopted Neo-Confucianism - the modified teachings of the early Chinese philosopher Confucius to establish new principles for Korean governance. Implementing a competitive Confucian examination system to select civil servants, early Choson kings created a class of government officials who were familiar with Chinese and Korean historical and literary classics. Their new system was modeled on the older Chinese one. The new class of scholar-officials challenged aristocratic families that had monopolized power during the previous Koryo period (935 - 1392 CE).

Where Do Piggy Banks Come From?

Contrary to popular belief, the piggy bank is not a European invention. Many terracotta piggy banks have been found on Java. Most are in the form of a pig, as the fat animal evoked associations with wealth. The slot for coins is still visible on the back of this example, which was made sometime from 1300 to 1500 CE.

Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum

Rhinoceroses Have UnImaginative Names

Let's start with the general species name, rhinoceros. It comes from two Greek words, rhino (nose) and ceros (horn). So rhinoceroses are "nose-horned." Yes, really, the second-largest land animal on the plant has a name which took all of second to dream up.

Moving on to the different types of rhinos. There are five species: the white rhinoceros and black rhinoceros (native to Africa) the Indian rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros, and Sumatran rhinoceros. You'll never guess where they live!

The Weird Family History of Iceland

Iceland has a population of 332,529 that for hundreds of years has been largely isolated from the rest of the world. Inbreeding is a constant concern due to the country’s small size, and the migration of most of the population into the capital city. Luckily, the country has been literate since its founding, and because of its small population and isolation, we have marriage and birth records pretty much since the founding of the island. Everyone's family tree is known. It is pretty neat -- every Icelander today can trace their heritage back to which founding settlers they come from.

And to help prevent inbreeding today, an app was developed: Islendiga-App (English: App of Icelanders). The whole giant Icelandic family tree is on the app, and people can check to see if they are related. Its slogan is “Bump the app before you bump in bed.”

Some of the World's Largest Pre-Columbian Rock Art - Seen For The First Time In Centuries

Thanks in part to historically low water levels, researchers have been able to document a large corpus of rock art located along a section of Venezuela’s Orinoco River known as the Atures Rapids. Drone photography recorded most of the engravings for the first time, which include scenes of humans, animals, and cultural traditions. One massive panel contains 93 individual characters across 3,200 square feet of rock. Although still unsure of the engravings’ dates, experts believe they were created in both the pre-Columbian and colonial periods

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    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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