What would become the important port city of Rotterdam has been inhabited since at least the Roman period. It was part of the frontier province Germania Inferior, and there is evidence of wooden locks, trenches, and ditches built by the Romans to control water levels. After the Romans withdrew in the second half of the 200s CE, the population steeply declined. Partially because sea levels rose, making much of the region uninhabitable.
It was not until 900 CE that pioneering farmers returned to the riverbanks of the Rotte River, or "Muddy Water" River. Archaeologists have found the remains of six farmsteads, dating from 950 to 1050 CE. Life in Rotta Village was difficult: flooding was always a threat, and attempts to drain the peat they farmed on just caused the ground level to sink when drained, making flooding even worse. Unable to make a living, Rotta Village was abandoned around 1050.
It was thanks to a local noble looking to protect his nearby lands that Rotterdam ever came to be. In the year 1270, the Count of Holland, Floris V, ordered the construction of a single sea wall to protect the region from floods. The resulting dike was 1,300 feet long, 23 feet wide, and nearly five feet high. It was constructed across the Rotte River, not far from the now-abandoned Rotta Village.
A town sprang up after the dike was built. Because it was close to the North Sea and the River Rotte, the area was between two trade systems: the Baltic Region which included Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and the north Atlantic coastal area, which included France, England, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Because the new dike blocked direct passage to the Rotte River, traders had to unload their goods and reload them on the other side, or temporarily store them in Rotterdam. This made Rotterdam an important port and market for staple goods, such as beer and textiles, which people had to buy no matter the difficulty in getting it across the dike. It also developed a fishing industry, selling its herring along the trade systems it linked. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Maya rituals may have literally been weighty affairs for high-ranking rulers. During these festivities, elite officials adorned themselves with an assortment of jade pendants, mostly worn on the ears or around the neck. Heavier ones (such as a 5-pound carved head from Ucanal in Guatemala) were likely attached to a belt and would have made customary ritual dancing quite cumbersome.
It is theorized that the weight of the assembled stones, which may have totaled as much as 25 pounds, symbolized a leader’s prestige and responsibilities.
The Khmer Empire, also known as the Angkor Empire, was a powerful Hindu-Buddhist empire in Southeast Asia. It held more or less power in the region from the early 800s to the mid-1400s when its capital city of Angkor fell. The first evidence by an academic of stoneware ceramic production was the documentation in 1888 by the French explorer Etienne Aymonier of an abandoned kiln site on Phnom Kulen. Not much investigation into Angkor ceramics was made until the 1960s, however, when deforestation and road-building uncovered kiln mounds for ceramics in the fields of Buriram province in northern Thailand. Once the discovery became known, a new interest in the ceramics of Angkor was born. Since then, many more kilns have been found across the former empire.
Angkor ceramics were made either with grayish-white clay bearing green glaze or with dark-colored clay using brown glaze. Occasionally, when a potter was apparently feeling adventurous, a ceramic would be made with both grayish-white and dark clay, and glazed with both green and brown glaze. And of course there were many unglazed ceramics. Angkor ceramics, though just two colors of clay, had a variety of shapes. Click through the image gallery to see some examples.
Analysis of human remains from the Viking town of Sigtuna dating to the 900s to the 1100s CE finds that at least half the population consisted of immigrants. Researchers from Stockholm University studied DNA and strontium isotopes from the remains of 38 people to determine where they originated. They found that around half came from the nearby Lake Mälaren area, but the other half came from areas as far off as Ukraine and the British Isles.
Sigtuna, in other words, was the Viking Age equivalent of London or Shanghai today! Sigtuna was one of Sweden’s first cities, founded in 980 by the country’s first Christian king, Olof Skötkonung. It quickly grew and reached a population of 10,000. That's roughly the same as London at the time. The new discoveries suggest that the city grew partially due to new arrivals, ambitious people interested in working their way up in the world. While Vikings are generally thought of as travelers and adventurers, this suggests they welcomed travelers too.
A new study shows that the centuries of deforestation under the Mayan Civilization -- which lasted from 200 BCE to about 950 CE at its height -- drastically changed the ability of local rainforests to store carbon in the ground. And even today, centuries after the Maya cities were mysteriously abandoned and the forests grew back, the region's carbon reserves have not yet fully recovered. Read the full article here.
The Peloponnesian War ended in 1996. The bloody conflict between Athens and Sparta had stopped in 404 B.C. without an official peace pact, so after 2,500 years the cities decided to sign a symbolic agreement. It read, “Today we express our grief for the devastating war between the two key cities of ancient Greece and declare its end.”
The Maya city of Tulum, once a major trading port on the Yucatan Pensinsula, was still occupied in the 1500s. While the Maya civilization precipitously declined in the 800s CE, a handful of cities survived and even grew when their neighbors shrank and vanished. Tulum was one such city. A Spanish expedition in 1518 sailed past and the crew was said to be astonished by the city's grandeur, apparently describing it as "a village so large that Seville would not have appeared larger or better."
Unfortunately, Tulum could survive 600 years after their wider civilization collapsed, but Tulum could not survive 100 years of European contact. It was abandoned by the end of the century after diseases carried from Europe decimated the population.
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!
Website design and coding by the Amalgama