The Story of Princess Pingyang

Princess Pingyang is remembered in history not for being born a princess, but for helping herself become one. Pingyang was born in 600 CE. She was the third daughter of Li Yuan, Duke of Tang, a hereditary nobleman of under the Sui Dynasty. When her father rebelled against the Sui, Princess Yang fought fiercely to help him overthrow Emperor Yang. And I mean literally fought. She gained loyalty with gifts and equal treatment for peasants, and bribes for local leaders, slowly gathering support until she had assembled an army of 70,000 known as the “Army of the Lady.” Princess Pingyang’s husband Chai Shao was the leader of the Sui temple guard, but he joined forces with his wife to support the rebellion.

Her efforts were rewarded and her father founded the Tang Dynasty, renaming himself Emperor Gaozu. Unfortunately, soon after the victory, Princess Pingyang died at the age of just 23. Her father arranged a grand military funeral, fit for a general. Someone questioned the need for such a grand funeral. Her father famously replied: “She was no ordinary woman.”

The Incans Were Incestuous?

In the Inca Empire, an emperor was expected to marry a family member. There were two rival legends that were supposed to be the origin of the Inca Empire: that Manco Capac (semi-mythical potential founder #1) married his mother, or that four sisters married four brothers and they started the empire (semi-mythical potential founders #2). As a result, nobility and royalty were encouraged and expected to marry within the family. Note this was only true for the ruling class. A commoner who tried marrying a family member could expect to have their eyes gouged out, or even be executed.

We know that Atahualpa, the last undisputed Incan Emperor, was married to his sister. It was listed as one of the reasons the Spanish executed him. Along with resisting their rule and refusing to convert, of course.

Let's Learn About Mexico!

The birthplace of plant domestication in the Americas. The first New World country to gain independence from the Spanish Empire. The eleventh-largest country in the world, by population. Like the United States, Russia, and China, this is a country that any informed citizen should have at least a basic knowledge about.

Do Not Mess With This Urn

I do not know how it ever got into a museum; the archaeologist willing to move this urn has nerves of steel. Large, lidded urns were unique to the K'iché Maya of southern Guatemala. The urns contained the remains of important individuals who either were made into a tightly wrapped bundle and placed in the urn soon after they died, or were buried elsewhere then disinterred and had their bones alone placed in the urn. The majority of such urns come from sacred caves where descendants would make pilgrimages to give offerings and seek advice from their revered ancestors. The image is likely an ancestor who, at death, was transformed into a spirit embodiment of a deity. For it was their special connection to the supernatural and the gods that gave Mayan rulers their authority. And what better connection than to say your ancestors became deities upon their deaths, and that one day, you would too?

Thank The Algonquian For Pecan Pie

Native Americans and First Nations people, who spoke a language of the Algonquian group, were the first to meet English explorers in North America. So many words from these languages entered English:

  • caribou (“snow-shoveler”)
  • chipmunk (“red squirrel”)
  • moccasin
  • moose
  • muskrat
  • opossum (“white dog”)
  • pecan (“nut”)
  • powwow (“to dream, to have a vision”)
  • raccoon, skunk (“to urinate” + “fox”)
  • woodchuck

Re-Analyses Suggest Final Days of PreColumbian Castle Were Violent Ones

One of Arizona’s most famous landmarks is a pair of 900-year-old limestone cliff dwellings, whose sudden abandonment centuries ago has proven to be an enduring mystery. Incorrectly called "Montezuma's Castle" and "Castle A," they were abandoned about 600 years ago, after 300 years of occupation. It was long thought that the castles were burned as part of some sort of closing ritual, then voluntarily abandoned. Recent research disagrees. Instead, new analyses suggest the castles' last days were violent ones.

The buildings were charred, and carbon dating of both the char and design analysis of pottery remains, reveal the buildings were occupied right up until they burned between the years 1375 and 1395. Perhaps more persuasively, the remains of four people had been excavated from Castle A in the 1930s. Previously, it was thought they had been dead and buried long before the buildings burned. But a closer examination of previous research done on those remains revealed that the dead had sustained trauma before their deaths, as evidenced by cut marks on their bones, burn marks, and fractures in three of the four skulls. And one of the skulls showed evidence of having been burned at the same time, or shortly after, it was violently attacked. All in all, the new analyses suggest the castles were attacked and burned, and subsequently abandoned. This new viewpoint is corroborated by Native American oral histories of the site’s collapse, which were incorporated into the new research.

The English word "alarm" means a state of sudden fear, or an alert that something is dangerous. It comes from the Middle French "à l'arme," or "alarme," which in English means "to arms!" It was the sound heard right before an attack. The word is first attested in English in 1378.

War and Sacrifice by the Moche

Based on ceramics they left behind, here's a modern (somewhat fanciful) animated movie about the Moche. Also called the Mochica culture, the Moche flourished in northern Peru between 100 and 700 CE. They are known today for their sophisticated irrigation systems and beautiful painted ceramics.

Indonesia's History Gazes Back At You

These faces represent ordinary people who lived in Indonesia a few centuries ago. Most represent men and women who lived in the Majapahit kingdom (circa 1293 CE –early 1500s), centered in East Java. A mighty kingdom, grown rich from trade through the area in spices, the Majapahit kingdom brought its citizens to a new level of material prosperity. Most Majapahit terra-cotta heads, including the first two in the image gallery, are found detached from their bodies, which seem to survive only rarely. The sole “complete” figure is assembled from a head and body that did not originally belong together.

Courtesy of the Sackler Gallery

A Brief History of Cairo

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

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    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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