What are the “seven seas” that Medieval writers loved to mention?
- the Adriatic Sea
- the Mediterranean Sea -- which includes seas around and in the Mediterranean, like the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea and Tyrrhenian Sea
- the Black Sea
- the Caspian Sea
- the Persian Gulf
- the Arabian Sea -- which is today considered part of the Indian Ocean
- the Red Sea -- including closed Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee
"The gifts of nature are infinite in their variety, and mind differs from mind almost as much as body differs from body."
Quintilian (~35 - 100 CE). A rhetorician during the early Roman Empire, he was also, apparently, an armchair psychologist!
These giant birds, whose scientific name is Vorombe Titan, grew up to 10 feet tall and weighed in at a massive 1,800 pounds. It once ran across Madagascar.
A limestone relief, bearing the cartouche of King Amenhotep I, had been offered for sale in a London auction house. But it has now been given by the UK to Egyptian authorities. What happened? An archaeologist who spotted the relief in London realized it had been stolen from the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor in 1988. The archaeologist alerted Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, and the ministry’s Repatriation Department used legal and diplomatic channels to stop the sale in London. The limestone relief is back in Egypt, where it had rested for almost 3,500 years.
Before cookware emerged around 24,000 BCE, humans relied on foraged shells or animal parts (like stomachs or hides) to store and carry food.
The International Commission on Stratigraphy recently announced the creation of a new unit in the scale of geological time, the Meghalayan Age, from 4200 years before present, or 2200 BCE, to the present. That means we are currently living in the Meghalayan Age! Our age began with a megadrought. A "megadrought" means at least twenty years of drought, but this one was two centuries of low water, which research has linked to the collapsing of civilizations in Egypt, Syria, Greece, Palestine, Mesopotamia, the Indus River Valley, and the Yangtze River Valley. Geologic time scales are reflected in layers of rock or geologic strata. The best evidence of this sudden, global megadrought can be found in chemical signatures in a stalagmite in a cave in the Indian state of Meghalaya; hence the name.
But this new geologic age, less than a year old, is now the subject of controversy. There are three main arguments (so far) against the new Meghalaya Age. First, that all these civilizations did not collapse at once. Local city-states in Mesopotamia flourished, for instance, even as the Akkadian Empire shrunk. Second, that the archaeological and historical record suggests the civilizations destabilized due to specific, local problems -- not a worldwide megadrought. For instance, Egyptian civilization had slowly decentralizing for about a hundred and fifty years before 2200 BCE, but there was no disruption to Egyptian civilization, no dark age, and no mass starvation and death. Third, that the environmental determinism suggested by naming a new age after the Meghalayan megadrought takes away the importance of human agency, of cultural and sociopolitical factors, to drive change. By saying a drought caused all these civilizations' problems, we deny that humans are capable of causing such large-scale changes.
The debate has just begun. Initial arguments have been made for both sides. There are many more archaeological and historical discoveries to be made, scientific checking to do, and debates to be had. I personally am very excited to see what happens to the Meghalayan megadrought!
Egypt’s largest city has quite a colorful history. From the Arabic Conquest to the Crusades, Cairo saw it all. Read about the history of this interesting city on my patreon
When draining the flooded temple of Kom Ombo, near the southern Egyptian city of Aswan, archaeologists were surprised (and delighted) to find a previously-unknown sphinx statue. Hewn from the surrounding rock, it sits 28 cm (11 in) wide and 38 cm (14 in) tall. Small but mighty! It probably dates back to the Greco-Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty, which ruled Egypt from 305 BCE to 30 BCE, because two reliefs of King Ptolemy V, similarly carved from sandstone, were also recently found at the temple.