Fragments of tree bark inscribed with a Buddhist manuscript written in Sanskrit were discovered in Mes Aynak, a prosperous Buddhist city occupied from the 200s to 600s CE. The manuscript fragments themselves appear to be from the 600s. Researchers think the ancient manuscripts may have been housed in an archive at the site, which has also yielded a monastery complex, murals, and more than 400 Buddha statues and stupas.
While designs that apparently represent tattoos are seen on paintings of both men and women in Egyptian art and statues, all the tattooed Egyptian mummies discovered to date are female.
Did you make a guess? Okay, here's the answer: maybe the War of the Three Kingdoms, or the Mongol Conquests. Let's explain each of those in turn. First, what was the War of the Three Kingdoms? When the Han Dynasty lost its grip on power in about 184 CE, China was split into three kingdoms: Wei, Shu, and Wu. The three fought continuously from 184 until 280 CE, when the Jin Dynasty conquered Wu. Historians estimate that between 36 and 40 million people died in all the fighting which occurred during that 96-year period.
The Mongol Conquests are probably better-known to those reading this blog post in English. The long version of the Mongol Conquests dates from 1206 when Genghis Khan burst out of Mongolia's steppe heartland to 1368, when the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty of China fell. Historians estimate between 30 million and 40 million people were killed.
But what about the An Lushan Rebellion, some of you are saying? That rebellion against the Tang Dynasty, which dragged on for 7 years and three Tang emperors before it was finally over, cost somewhere between 13 and 36 million. That's a very wide range. On the upper end, that could top the War of the Three Kingdoms and the Mongol Conquests. But that's only if they are in the low end of their possible death tolls, and the An Lushan Rebellion is at the very highest end of its possible death toll. Of course, historical death counts are always guesswork, so it may be that an entirely different war actually takes the top prize!
For those who are curious, World War II killed at minimum 56,125,162 people.
This is Meritamun. Her name means "beloved of Amun," the great Egyptian creator/sun god. She lived in ancient Egypt, sometime between 1500 BCE and 331 BCE, and was likely high status judging by the quality of the linens she was mummified with. Meritamun was between 18 and 25 when she died.
This is one of twelve guardian figures from the tomb of general Kim Yu-shin. He was instrumental in uniting the three Korean kingdoms by force in the 600s CE under King Muyeol of Silla and King Munmu of Silla. King Muyeol even married Kim's younger sister and made her queen. Kim Yu-Shin remains today the most famous of the unification wars generals.
As befits his high status and importance, Kim Yu-Shin's burial was lavish. His tomb was a large earthen mound, as is traditional in Korea, and the mound is surrounded by 12 stone slabs, each with a sign of the oriental warriors carved on it in relief to provide eternal protection for the general within. The warriors are actually anthropomorphic animals, based on the twelve animals of the Eastern zodiac.
This one is the Rabbit, shown in armor, with the billowing garlands of Chinese deities behind him. Though many details are lost he is still holding the long, diamond-shaped shield used by Tang Dynasty soldiers at the time.
Greywacke sculptured head of an Egyptian priest, unusual for its realism. Circa 300s BCE.
A study has recently revealed that the rapid expansion of the Roman Empire in the 1st century CE assisted the spread of tuberculosis around the world. The disease is first evidence in humans in Africa around 3000 BCE. But the spread out of Africa, of four of seven investigated genetic strains of TB, occurred during the 1st century CE. Just at the time that the Roman Empire conquered the Mediterranean basin.
The out-of-Africa spread of TB is thought to have been aided by the expanding Roman’s new transportation links -- those wonderful Roman roads -- as well as increased movement and exploration around the Mediterranean.
Bronze strap union (part of a chariot) from Nant-y-cafn in southern Wales (mid 1st century CE). This replica, based on an archaeological find, approximates what it would initially have looked like before it spent nearly 2,000 years in the dirt.
Two ship burials have been discovered on a construction site near Sweden’s eastern coast, and one appears to be intact! In the intact tomb have been discovered the remains of a man, a horse, and a dog, who had all been placed in the vessel’s stern. Artifacts found included horse equipment, an ornate comb, a sword, a spear, and a shield. The boat in the second tomb is thought to have measured about 23 feet long, and been slightly larger than the boat in the other burial, but it was damaged by previous construction at the site. Such high-status burials are thought to date to the Vendel Period (550–800 CE) or the Viking Age (800–1050 CE).
This is an ancient Etruscan bronze mirror! Though its not very reflective anymore. Said to be from an Etruscan tomb, 465-450 BCE.