Welcome to Naghsh-e Rostam, Ancient Necropolis of Kings

About ten kilometers from the abandoned city of Persepolis, Naghsh-e Rostam is less well known but similarly impressive. The sheer size of the tombs, cut out of the cliff face, helps you to understand the power and wealth of the Archaemenid empire (also known as the 'First Persian Empire'), which ruled almost half the worlds population at its height, around 450 BCE. The tombs are positioned high enough to be inaccessible to tourists. The necropolis contains the tombs of Darius I, Darius II, Xerxes I and Artaxerxes I, with a fifth unfinished tomb probably intended for Darius III. It was unfinished because the Archaemenids were conquered by Alexander the Great. He spared the Naghsh-e Rostam tombs when he burnt down nearby Persepolis, although the four tombs were ransacked either by his troops or by grave-robbers in the following years.

Prehistoric women's arms 'stronger than those of today's elite rowers'

The study of ancient bones suggests that manual agricultural work had a profound effect on the bodies of women living in central Europe between about the early Neolithic and late Iron Age. The study examined the remains of 94 women spanning about 6,000 years, from the time of the early neolithic farmers (dating back to around 5,300 BC) through to the 800s CE, from countries including Germany, Austria, and northern Serbia. These ancient women had arm bones which were extremely strong -- about 30% stronger than non-athletic modern women. And stronger than modern rowers, soccer players, and runners. The study also reveals that the strength of women’s arm bones dropped over time. Probably because technology was developed to ease manual labor. By medieval times, the strength of women’s arm bones was on a par with that of the average woman today.

The Tragic Tale of Krishna Kumari of Mewar

The Rajput princess’s life is worth remembering, for its briefness and its tragedy. She was famous and fought over, influencing political alliances and causing wars, as recorded in annals and letters composed during her life and immediately after her death. But after Krishna Kumari's death she was largely forgotten. Maybe because of how shamefully she died? Or because it is easier to forget than remember the wasteful tragedy of her short life. Read about her story for yourself, and come to your own conclusions

Tash Rabat, a mysterious site in Kyrgyzstan, was once a settlement along the Silk Road, a way station for caravans -- a caravanserai. It provided shelter and food for both human traders and their animal workers. What makes Tash Rabat slightly mysterious is that its layout is unusual for this kind of caravanserai. What’s left is a single structure that looks like a blend between a castle and a temple.

Archaeologists are puzzled by Tash Rabat. They believe the location was used as a resting place for traders from about the 1400s but there’s also evidence that a Christian monastery may have been there from as early as the 900s. That could explain the odd layout – perhaps the travelling merchants just adapted an existing structure.

This copper female figure, from the eastern Indian region of West Bengal, is almost certainly Radha, lover of the god Krishna. She was a human woman who devoted herself completely to her god, Krishna, and as a result was made a goddess, an ideal for Krishna devotees to follow. This figure likely sat in a shrine to be adorned by adoring devotees. Her worn face testifies to her many years of use, which slowly softened her features. Circa 1500s CE.

Courtesy of the Walters Art Gallery

The Sauds and the Salafis: The History of a Political Alliance

Born in 1703, Muhammad ibn Wahhab came from Najd at the heart of Arabia. After study in Medina and 12 years of travel and study in Iraq, he returned to Arabia to launch a puritanical reform of Islam. He took aim at popular piety, destroying saints' tombs and cutting down sacred trees. He ordered the stoning of adulterous women, and preached jihad against unbelievers -- Shia Muslims among them. In short, he rejected 1,400 years of Muslim thought. But his message was popular. By the mid-1700s, Wahhab's "True Muslims," or Salafis, were powerful enough to be making alliances with the Bedouin Saud family against the Ottomans. In return, the first Saudi state endorsed the Wahhab movement. It benefited both sides: the Wahhabs had support for their extreme religious reforms, and the Sauds had given their new state legitimacy that came not from royal blood but from religious purpose. This symbiotic relationship remains today: Saudi Arabia supports Wahhabist schools around the world, and Wahhabists recognize the Sauds as deserving to rule due to their commitment to purifying Islam.

Mahatma Gandhi lies on the ground after being shot by right-wing Hindu nationalist Nathuram Vinayak Godse, who is being restrained in the background. New Delhi, India. Jan. 30, 1948

Bamboos are the fastest-growing plants on earth. Trees such as oak or apple can take up to 120 years to reach maturity. Most bamboo trees take 5 to 7 years to reach maturity. Yet apple trees bloom every year. Bamboo blooms once every 60 to 130 years! And, even more mysteriously, all the bamboo of that species bloom at the same time. All over the world, from Japan to France to the USA. And records from China dating to 919 CE tell us this has been happening for a long, long time. It is as if the plants carry an an internal clock ticking away until the preset alarm goes off simultaneously. This mass flowering phenomenon is called "gregarious flowering." And botanists are still stumped as to why, exactly, bamboo does this --although of course there are plenty of hypotheses!

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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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