Both Old English and Old Norse were part of a Northwest Germanic language group. The languages were similar until the 400s CE, when the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England made English part of the West Germanic language group -- like German instead of like Norwegian. But Old English and Old Norse followed the same phonological rules. Which meant they changed in predictable, and similar, ways.
Which means that during the Viking Age in England, Old English and Old Norse approached being mutually intelligible. Not only were the English being raided, invaded, and occupied, but the warriors who were doing so could be almost understood, speaking a strange version of their own tongue. Probably just made the Great Dane Army’s job easier. Isn’t it nice for threats to make people quake in fear, instead of just making them confused.
In 1932, pilot George Palmer was flying from Las Vegas to Blythe, Calif., when he saw drawings sketched on the desert. Someone had scraped away the dark surface soil to draw three human figures, two four-legged animals, and a spiral.
Like the more famous Nazca Lines in Peru, the Blythe Intaglios had gone unnoticed for so long because they were too big! The largest is over 170 feet long. Much too big to be seen from the ground. No local Native American group claims to have made them; radiocarbon dating places their creation between 900 BCE and 1200 CE.
Attempting To Fix Races Is An Ancient Practice - And Everyone Tried To Do It
Chariot racing goes back thousands of years -- they were huge in ancient Rome and its successor the Byzantine Empire. Of course, with racing comes betting, and chariots were big money. So of course people tried to fix races. We have plenty of evidence of ancient Romans and Greeks attempting to help this team win, or make that team lose, but for the first time, we have evidence that ancient Jews got in on it, too.
The first-ever evidence of Jewish cursing in sports was found in a rolled-up metal tablet that had been located in ancient Antioch by Princeton University researchers in the 1930s – and had been left rolled up until now. The tablet, about 9 x 6 centimeters in size, dated to about the 400s or 500s CE. It was not written in Greek, as one would expect for Antioch at the time, but Aramaic. That is the first hint that it was written by someone who was Jewish. The early Christians of Antioch would also have spoken Aramaic. But the dialect used in the curse and the form of writing were typical of the Jewish community, not the Christians; a second hint about its authorship.
The scroll itself is interesting. It was written on a lead tablet, which was often used for curses in the ancient world, because it is a lowly metal. After the scroll was rolled, it was stuck with a nail, just to make sure the curse worked. Like sticking a modern voodoo doll with pins. Then the hexer would inter the nailed curse beneath the hippodrome race track. The idea is that the horses would activate the curse while running over it.
Arctic ice brings an understanding of ancient Europe’s economy
Greenland's icy mountains are not an obvious place to search for an archive of economic history, but a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that they provide one. Read the full article at The Economist
The ruined city of Arg-e-Bam is made entirely of mud bricks, clay, straw and the trunks of palm trees. The Iranian city was originally founded during the Sassanian period (224-637 CE) and while some of the surviving structures date from before the 1100s, most of what remains was built during the Safavid period (1502-1722).
Bam prospered because of pilgrims visiting its Zoroastrian fire temple, which had been built early in the Sassanian period, and because Bam was a trading hub along the Silk Road. It was later the site of Jame Mosque, built during the Saffarian period (866-903 CE). Next to the mosque is the tomb of Mirza Naiim, a mystic and astronomer.
The city was largely abandoned since a series of invasions in the early 1800s. In 1953, work began to intensively restore Arg-e-Bam. Restoration work continued until December 26, 2003, when a massive earthquake hit the area -- an estimated 6.6 on the Richter Scale. Almost everything in Bam was destroyed. After that, restoration was given up, and today Arg-e-Bam is at the mercy of the elements.
click through the image gallery to see photographs of what Arg-e-Bam looks like today
Carnival, the Catholic holiday, probably comes from the word for "meat" in some way, which is "caro" in Classical Latin and “carne” in Medieval Latin. It was the last time that people could eat meat before the start of Lent, when meat was forbidden for 40 days.
Leprosy may have originated in Europe -- not Asia, as previously thought. An international team of researchers sampled about 90 different skeletons bearing the telltale deformations of leprosy. The skeletons were unearthed in Europe, and have been dated to between 400 and 1400 CE.
From the bones, the scientists reconstructed ten new genomes of medieval Mycobacterium leprae, in addition to the one or two strains already known to have been circulating in medieval Europe. All the strains of the leprosy bacterium were in fact present in medieval Europe, which strongly suggests leprosy originated closer to Europe than previously thought. Higher diversity is present near an area of origin - this is true of languages, humans, and apparently, leprosy. The new results suggest that leprosy came from someplace closer to Europe, like south-eastern Europe or western Asia.
The oldest strain was detected in a skeleton found in Great Chesterford, Essex, in southeast England, which has been dated to between 415 and 545 CE. This is the same strain found in modern-day red squirrels!
Early Medieval Gravestones Testify To An Irish Monastery’s Importance
Founded by St. Ciarán in the 500s CE, Clonmacnoise is one of Ireland’s most famous early monasteries. Its high status is reflected in the medieval documents recording numerous instances of Irish kings and important ecclesiastics being buried at the site.
Today, we know those were not fabrications of ambitious monks, because we have their beautiful grave-stones. Clonmacnoise has over 700 grave-stones, in fact. It is the largest collection of early medieval grave-slabs found anywhere in Atlantic Europe. People must really have wanted to be buried there!
Click through the image gallery to see a small selection of some of the grave-stones.
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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!