This odd-looking item is a nose ring! The nose ring was uncovered at a grave near the border with Costa Rica in 1909. Times being what they were, the artifact was then sold to Tiffany & Co. in New York City. Eventually it ended up in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, where it resides today.
Because it was unearthed by non-archaeologists, and immediately sold abroad, not much is known about how it was made or who once wore it. It was crafted in Panama by a Native American out of gold alloy, sometime between 800 CE and 1521 CE. Based on eyewitness accounts by early conquistadors and the archaeological evidence, we can also say that gold nose rings were a popular form of body ornament and sign of rank, for both men and women, in ancient Central America.
A page from the Codex Borbonicus, an Aztec codex written by Aztec priests shortly before or after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. It is one of the oldest surviving codices -- mainly because Spanish priests often ordered them destroyed as pagan artifacts. Interestingly, the codex is named after the Palais Bourbon in France (because its owned by the French); it is not named after anything to do with the Aztecs or the contents of the codex. In 2004, Maarten Jansen and Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez proposed that it be given the indigenous name Codex Cihuacoatl, after the goddess Cihuacoatl!
According to the Abenaki (a Native American tribe in New England and southern Quebec) there once was a man who created himself. His name was Oodzee-hodo. Unfortunately for him, humans did not yet have legs. So Oodzee-hodo had to drag himself around by his arms. Just by trying to get around, he created the mountains, the valleys, the rivers, and the sacred Lake Champlain from his body scraping the ground.
Eventually, apparently tired of having no legs, Oodzee-hodo turned himself into a stone in the middle of the lake. That’s a new way to spend retirement! He is said to inhabit Rock Dunder (west of Burlington, Vermont).
A new study, looking at macaw skeletons found at three prehistoric pueblo sites in New Mexico, USA, suggests that Native Americans in this arid area imported the birds from less-arid places. The bird remains which were examined date from between 300 CE and 1450 CE. The majority were tropical macaws -- definitely not native to New Mexico! There is also no evidence of macaw breeding save at one site. Put together, the evidence points to importing the birds.
In addition, there was widespread scarring along the surface of their bones, showing that humans removed their feathers. And many of the macaws' skeletons showed malnourishment, likely from being kept inside and fed a largely corn diet. Which, counter-intuitively, suggests the Pueblans were caring for them extremely well, for their society. Basically? The macaws were being imported, kept in captivity, and systematically harvested for their bright and colorful feathers.
Really, really good history! Since I know next to nothing about Ukraine's national history, I particularly appreciated the accessibility -- the vlogger assumed we had been born yesterday, and it worked.
During the Choson Dynasty (1392 to 1897) in Korea, it was customary to make a food offering to one’s deceased parent, at every meal for the first three years after they passed. So offering stands like this one are a common pottery type. They were made to be sturdy more than pretty, since each one was expected to last three years of daily use.
On one corner of a magnificent 19th-century mansion in Vienna, Austria, is a rather unusual glass case. Inside is the midsection of an ancient tree. And it is completely covered in nails. Back in medieval Europe, hammering iron nails into living trees, wooden crosses and even rocks was a common practice for luck -- similar to throwing coins into fountains today. Some trees became particularly known as "nail trees," like the spruce in Vienna. Called Stock Im Eisen, or “staff in iron,” it is estimated to be somewhere over 600 years old. The first nails were hammered in while the tree was still alive, sometime before it was felled in 1440.
The idea of iron nails in living trees being lucky fell out of favor sometime in the late 1800s. And many nail trees quietly disappeared. But not Stock Im Eisen. It remains, watching over its corner.
The earliest written records of the guitar date back to the 1300s, near the start of the European Renaissance. And the first instruments that modern audiences would recognize as guitars were crafted in the 1400s. But the exact origins of the guitar are debated. Did it come from the Middle East during the Medieval Period, like the lute? Or was it invented in Europe?
For those interested: the painting is "The Guitar Player" by Johannes Vermeer, circa 1672.
You've probably heard of the great fleet of Zheng He, and that he took great trips to foreign lands. But where exactly did he go? This is a map of the place we are certain Zheng He visited, as well as some stops that he may have made but we aren't as sure about.
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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!