A beautiful (and big) turquoise glazed tile was stolen in 2014 from the Chasma-i Ayub monument near Bukhara, Uzbekistan. The tile has decorative calligraphy which reads “In the year five and six hundred” -- corresponding to 1208 - 09 CE. The piece is also quite large, about 21 inches, or half a meter, tall. You can see the gaping hole its theft left behind (click on the first image to see the second, of the monument after the theft).     The tile surfaced in a London art gallery in 2017; when a scholar alerted the gallery to the tile’s likely origin, the gallery owner honorably contacted the British Museum. The turquoise tile has now been formally returned to the Uzbekistan embassy.

Mary, The Once-King

On September 17th, 1382, Mary the daughter of Louis I, "the Great," of Hungary, of Croatia, and of Poland, was grieving. She was eleven, and her larger-than-life father had just died seven days before. But Mary was a princess. And she was her father's eldest daughter, and his heir. So on September 17th, 1382, Mary was crowned King of Hungary.

Unfortunately her reign was short, bloody, and filled with twists. Unhappy noblemen did not want a woman on the throne, and supported her distant cousin Charles III of Naples. Meanwhile, Sigismund of Luxembourg invaded Upper Hungary (today's Slovakia) in September 1385. By October, Mary and Sigismund were married, pretty much at sword-point. Charles III also invaded that autumn, took Buda, and forced Mary to renounce the throne. He was crowned in December 1385. Then Charles III was assassinated, likely on Mary's mother's instigation, in February 1386. But the dead king's supporters captured Mary and her mother, and held them until 1387. That's about two years longer than their king had reigned! The mother was executed but Mary was let go, and officially became co-ruler with her husband Sigismund. In reality, she had little power. Mary died eight years later, at age 23 or 24, when thrown from a horse.

This is a dog collar! It was uncovered by excavations in Waterford, an Irish city. Dating to around the 1100s CE, the collar was made of bronze, with leather backing to be soft on the dog's neck. It may have been worn by a hunting dog such as greyhound. Similar, though less ornate dog collars, are depicted on the Bayeux tapestry.

Beware The Dancing Girls!

The Tuyuhun were a nomadic people who created a powerful kingdom in the northern part of the Himalayan plateau. The Tuyuhun were unsurprisingly interested in their rich neighbor to the east, and invaded the Tang Dynasty in 623 CE. The Tuyuhun regularly raided Chinese settlements along the western Tang frontier. This was just another of a long line of incursions by nomads into China. So in 623, the Tuyuhun departed from their homeland, and invaded Gansu, in northwest China. The Tang general Chai Shao was dispatched to defeat them. The problem for him was the Tuyuhun army controlled the high ground, having arrived at a strong position and refused to abandon it. Their archers easily held off any approach by the Tang army, so why should they move? All pretty standard so far.

Chai Shao was an unorthodox man, though, and he thought of an unorthodox solution: erotic dancers. He sent two dancing girls and a group of musicians to a small hill near the Tuyuhun camp. The girls performed an erotic dance, accompanied by the musicians, just where they could be seen by the Tuyuhun army. Discipline fell apart completely as soldiers rushed to get a better view of the dancing.

Meanwhile, Chai Shao and the Tang cavalry snuck around behind the Tuyuhun, while everyone was distracted by the ladies. When they attacked, the Tuyuhun were completely defeated: they lost over 500 men, and were forced to retreat out of Gansu. Hostilities continued, but now the Tang were attacking the Tuyuhun, instead of fending off invasions.

This axe is perfectly crafted out of a single piece of stone! From the Late Mississippian culture, around 1300 to 1500 CE.

Papias the Lombard wrote the first fully recognizable dictionary in the 1040s. It was monolingual, defining Latin words in Latin.

Cleopatra remains fascinating, 2,047 years after her death. To date, she has been the subject of five ballets, seven films, forty-five operas, seventy-seven plays, and innumerable paintings.

A Shipwreck Off Florida From the 1500s Is Causing a Modern International Dispute

Okay, here's how the story begins. Global Marine Exploration (GME), a private marine salvage company, was granted permits by the state of Florida to explore seven areas off the coast of Cape Canaveral. They found artifacts indicating a wrecked ship, buried in the sandy seafloor, in May and June 2016. Among other finds, there were three ornate brass cannons and a distinctive marble monument marked with the coat of arms of the King of France. The cannons and the monument seem to come from the 1562 French expedition to Florida commanded by the navigator Jean Ribault (1520-1565), according to historical French records that include the cargo manifests of the fleet -- and the cargo manifests list those cannons and that monument. GME has made a big find. And they want the right to salvage it, and make a profit.

But then France, yes, the nation, interferes. You see the United States passed a federal law, the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004, giving "sovereign rights" over sunken naval vessels to their country of origin. France is arguing in the admiralty court, which oversees maritime matters, that US federal law gives their country the right to salvage their sunken naval ship. To be clear: France is pursuing a claim to a sunken ship, likely dating to the mid-1500s, based on a law passed in 2004 in a country which wouldn't exist until 200 years after the ship was sunk. This world is weird.

Unfortunately for France, GME argues that historical documents show that the cannons and monument may have been seized as plunder by the Spanish in 1565, during a raid on the French colony of Fort Caroline. If this true, the cannons were probably being carried to Cuba on Spanish ships when they were lost, GME says. In which case, France has no claim on the artifacts, and GME can recover the shipwreck that they admittedly spent the money to find. Who wins and gets the cannons? We will have to wait for the admiralty court to decide.

On an uninhabited Caribbean island, archaeologists were amazed to discover a series of cave drawings pre-dating European contact. This was a surprise because the drawings are so well-preserved. Over 70 winding caves on the island of Mona, between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, contain art. Some are scratches on the rock. Others are more sophisticated, with paint made from sophisticated organic materials such as bat droppings, plant gums, minerals like iron, and materials from native trees like turpentine trees. The islanders were putting a lot of work into their art, deep where the light of day could not illuminate their creations.

The researchers noted that the indigenous people of Mona Island believed that the sun and moon emerged from beneath the ground. So exploring deep into the expansive network of subterranean caves, and making art there, is interpreted by today’s archaeologists as a highly spiritual act.

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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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