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.

Climate Change Incited Wars Among the Classic Maya

A new study of the relationship between climate change and clashes among the Classic Maya explicitly links temperature increases with growing conflicts.  This is the so-called Classic period in which the Mesoamerican civilization boomed, with its people constructing extensive cities and massive pyramids, as well as developing one of the earliest writing systems in the Americas. To study how climate change and climate stress interacted with human conflict, the researchers cataloged inscriptions on monuments related to violent struggles and compiled temperature and rainfall records for lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula.

A total of 144 unique conflicts emerged from inscriptions on monuments from more than 30 major Maya centers. The research team then compared conflict records to palaeoclimate data. The correlation was impressive. From 350 CE to 900 CE, conflicts increased from 0 to 3 in every 25-year period, to 24 conflicts in every 25-year period. That's a 600% increase. The change in conflicts was not associated with changes in rainfall, previously theorized to be the cause of Mayan climate change. But the conflicts did correspond with increases in summer temperatures. We are still figuring out exactly how this caused increased warfare in the Classic Maya. The leading theory is that crop shortfalls occur frequently above a certain temperature. And history in general tells us that when people are hungry, wars increase.

People of the Marshall Islands Use Highly Sophisticated, Specialized Maps

"Among the various homing or way-finding devices used by the interisland navigators are the stars, signs in the seas, land-indicating birds, and "charts." Stick charts from the Marshall Islands illustrate what might be called, for want of a better term, 'native' cartography. These charts are generally made of narrow strips of the center ribs of palm fronds lashed together with cord made from locally grown fiber plants. The arrangement of the sticks indicates the pattern of swells or wave masses caused by winds, rather than of currents, as was formerly thought to be the case. The positions of islands are marked approximately by shells (often cowries) or coral. ...Distances between the various islands of the Marshall group are not great, but because they are low atolls, the island can only be seen from a few miles away from an outrigger canoe. To locate an island that is not visible, the navigator observes the relationship between the main waves, driven by the trade winds, and the secondary waves (reflecting or converging) resulting from the presence of an island. If a certain angle exists between the two sets of waves, a choppy interference pattern is established. When such a zone is reached, the canoe is placed parallel to this pattern with the prow in the direction of the waves of greater amplitude, which give a landward indication. These often complex wave patterns can be illustrated on the stick charts, which may be carried on the canoe. In addition, the navigators lie down in their craft to feel the effect of the waves.

Cartography in Culture and Society, 3rd Edition, by Norman Thrower

Mayans liked to drink chocolate hot. The Aztecs, who came a couple centuries later, liked to drink chocolate cold.

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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!

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