Vatican Jr.

Several popes and bishops were buried in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, one of the first communal cemeteries in Rome which developed into the largest and most richly decorated. One famous area, where nine popes were laid to rest from the mid-200s to the 300s CE, was even nicknamed “the little Vatican.” But in the early 300s Christianity went mainstream and Christians could be buried above ground. For centuries, the catacombs rested undisturbed as its exact location slowly became forgotten.     Then, in 1849, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus was rediscovered by an archaeologist. The sensational find prompted Pope Pius IX to visit in 1854. He is believed to be the first pontiff to enter the catacombs’ galleries in over one thousand years. Pius IX was deeply moved, and was heard to murmur in awe: “Are these the tombstones of my predecessors?”

What Were The Ancient Japanese Eating?

Millet was replaced by rice as the main staple food from around 300 BCE. So there's the main source of carbohydrates. Seafood was preferred to meat, both for its abundance and because Buddhism, introduced in the 500s CE, largely prohibited the killing of animals and birds. So there's the main source of protein. Agriculture (nogaku) in ancient Japan, as it remains today, was largely focused on cereal and vegetable production, with meat only being produced in relatively limited quantities. Vegetables, seafood, and rice made up most of the ancient Japanese diet as they do today.

The First Person To Lose Their Head

Priscillian was a priest who practiced extreme self-discipline and abstention in the mid-300s CE. He was also an ascetic. A really, really strict one. He started a movement about being ascetic, but it had a couple other beliefs as well... including that apostles, prophets, and "doctors" are the divinely appointed orders of the Church, and the "doctors" (like Priscillian) are the highest. Interesting how he put himself at the top of the hierarchy. Anyway, his new teachings did not mix well with orthodox Christianity which says that laymen like Priscillian are lower than apostles, prophets, and their local bishops.

Unfortunately for Priscillian, by this point the Roman Empire was on the Christianity train. And he lived in the Roman Empire. Emperor Maximus of the Roman Empire cried heresy and Priscillian was beheaded in 385 CE. He was the first person in recorded history to have been executed by losing his head. That's one way to become famous, I guess.

Who Counts As Family?

Under the traditional Irish laws, the Brehon Laws, there were three family groups. The largest unit was the iarfine, or ‘after-kin’, comprised of all descendants sharing a common great-great-grandfather. The next was the derbfine, or ‘true-kin’, which was considered to be the most important. These were all descendents sharing a common great-grandfather.

Under the Brehon Laws parties to legal proceedings were not treated as individuals but rather as members of their wider kin-group. For the purposes of law, therefore, the whole derbfine was treated as a single legal entity. All kinsmen of this group were duty bound to remedy all wrongdoings, whether committed by or against their members. Finally, the gelfine, or ‘bright-kin’, was the close family made up of all descendants sharing a common grandfather.

What Were The Senegambian Stone Circles?

Divided into four large sites across Senegal and Gambia, the Senegambian Stone Circles cover an area of approximately 18,500 square miles (30,000 square kilometers). Constructed somewhere between 300 B.C.E and 1,600 C.E., the circles consist of approximately 29,000 stones, 17,000 monuments and 2,000 individual sites. That's a lot! The stones are, on average, 6.5 feet tall (2 meters) and weight 7 tons. They were hewn out of a common rock, laterite, but would have required intricate knowledge of geology, especially since the stones weren’t carved in pieces but rather, like obelisks, hewn out of the rock in solid pieces and dragged to their final locations. That's damn impressive. Giant monoliths, carved out of single blocks of stone, dragged to a spot and arranged precisely in circles, all without breaking.     More is known about the stones than the people who built them. Since constructing the circles would have required organization, surplus food, and and construction know-how, it is believed the society which built the Senegambian Stone Circles was prosperous and organized. The site in Sine Ngayene is the largest of the four, and several iron smelting sites and quarries were discovered close by. Evidence of hundreds of homes was also found nearby, and layers of materials that indicate four nearly distinct cycles of use.

  Maya communities living in the interior of the Yucatán Peninsula were evidently aware of the great marine predators swimming at the outskirts of their jungle world. A new study has examined the strong influence sharks had on Maya art, iconography, and daily life. Shark teeth have been found at many inland Maya sites. Some were even fossilized teeth from extinct megalodons! The teeth, which the Maya obtained through trade, were used in ritual ceremonies, as votive offerings, or as personal adornments.

To ancient Romans, serpents were friends, not feared. A genius loci was the protective spirit of a place. Every house and business had a genius loci, and they traditionally took the form of a snake.

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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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