A 77,000-year-old mattress was discovered in the Sibudu rock shelter in South Africa, a few miles from the Indian Ocean. The three-foot-by-six-foot mattress, what they call bedding, consisted of compacted layers, less than an inch thick, and was probably used as both a sleeping and a work surface. The mattress also came with built-in pest controls: In addition to grasses and sedges, it was made from the stems and leaves of a type of laurel tree known as Cryptocarya woodii, whose aromatic leaves contain insecticides that kill mosquitoes. Pretty neat!
Pair of Amateur Metal Detector Enthusiasts Find Royal Treasure
A medieval treasure trove that belonged to the legendary King Harald Bluetooth was recently unearthed on a German island by a 13-year-old and an amateur archaeologist. The pair were using metal detectors to hunt treasure on Rügen, Germany's largest island, in the Baltic Sea. And wonder of wonders, they found some real treasure! Archaeologists who were called in found remarkable artifacts, including braided necklaces, pearls, brooches, a Thor's hammer (a representation of a mythical weapon forged by dwarves), rings and up to 600 chipped coins, including more than 100 that date to Bluetooth's era.
Based on their finds, archaeologists believe the hoard belonged to the Danish king Harald Gormsson, more commonly known as "Bluetooth," who ruled from about 958 to 986 CE. He is famous for bringing Christianity to Denmark, and uniting swathes of modern-day Norway, Germany, Sweden and Denmark under his rule. And yes, that's the guy that Bluetooth Technology is named after. The oldest coin uncovered at Rügen dates to 714 CE, while the youngest is a penny from 983 CE. These dates suggest the treasure was buried in the late 980s. That matches up with when Bluetooth lost a battle against his rebellious son, Sweyn Forkbeard, and then “retired” to northwestern Germany for a year before his death.
Naked Mole Rats Help Archaeologist Make Major Find
A researcher, Prof. Avraham Faust, was studying naked mole rats at Tel 'Eton, near the Hebron hills in the central Israeli lowlands. The little burrowing rodents are endemic to the region. They burrow everywhere, and whatever is in the way when they burrow, they deposit topside. If the rodent piles contain lots of pottery sherds, the area had been settled. If not, not. At Tel 'Eton there were a lot of artifacts in the naked mole rat piles, for a place that supposedly had never been inhabited.
With the rodents' help, Faust accidentally found the second-ever monumental structure which can be dated to the united Judah Kingdom ruled by King David and his son, King Solomon, in the 900s BCE.
Any claim for Davidic finds are -- to put it mildly -- controversial. There are ongoing debates about the first monumental structure dated to the Davidic era. And this new, second find is also debated. The vast majority of the findings in the house date to the 700s B.C.E, a couple of hundred years after the united Judah Kingdom. But Faust suspects its foundations date from the Davidic period of the united kingdom. The big house, which they dubbed the “governor’s residency” (though it could have been something entirely different) may exemplify what they call the "old-house effect": a building or settlement that existed for generations, but only left significant remains from its final form.
Tang Dynasty Scroll Describes How Not To Destroy A Kingdom
This one page from a manuscript dating to the Tang dynasty and found complete in a cave in Dunhuang, China. It is a Tang dynasty copy of "On the Fall of States," by Lu Ji (261-303), a writer of the Western Jin dynasty. "On The Fall of States" describes the rise and fall of the Eastern Wu in the Three Kingdoms period, as well as the meritorious contributions of the Lu family. Famous among ancient works on administration, "OntheFallofStates" argues that the key to a country's fortunes is to assess and employ people wisely.
In 1287 CE, China's great Mongol emperor Kublai Khan received word that his navy had been crushed in Vietnam. Nearly 400 of the emperor's prized ships, part of a massive invasion force, had become trapped in the Bach Dang River, where Vietnamese soldiers set them afire with flaming arrows and burning bamboo rafts. But how did Tran Hung Dao, king of Vietnam’s Tran Dynasty, do it?
According to texts from the period, Vietnamese forces cut down hundreds of trees, sharpened their ends, and placed them in a "stakeyard" across the Bach Dang River. Then, small ships lured Kublai Khan's fleet into the area just before the tides turned. As the water ebbed, long lines of stakes emerged several feet out of the water, barricading the river and preventing escape.
Today archaeologists are mapping the surviving remnants of the stakeyard. At least some of the stakeyard lies in local rice paddies, whose mud helps preserve the wooden stakes. They archaeologists also found that stakes weren't the only barriers -- the Vietnamese forces cleverly used existing islands and other natural obstacles in their barrier.
This little round granite bowl has a secret. Just 9 inches wide, it balances perfectly on 0.15 square inches! The top rests horizontally when the bowl is placed on a glass shelf. That’s only possible because the entire bowl has a symmetrical wall thickness, no part thicker or thinner than the rest. Any asymmetry would cause a lean. This amount of precision is difficult in today’s machine age -- how were they able to do it in ancient Egypt? Click through the image gallery to see more pictures of this little wonder.
English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge's body has been rediscovered. Didn't know he was missing? Neither did I! Apparently Coleridge died in 1834, and he was buried in the chapel at the nearby Highgate School. But in 1961, his and his family's coffins were moved from Highgate School chapel’s crumbling vault to St. Michael Church. They were stored in an area that had been the wine cellar of a mansion that previously stood on the site. But at some point, the door to the cellar was bricked up. Over time, the location of the cellar was forgotten, and no one remembered where Coleridge and his family were.
A recent investigation of the cellar, however, found the entrance to the wine vault, and the coffins were spotted through a ventilation gap in the bricks.
The Imperial Tomb of Western Xia Empire Are Surprisingly Un-Imperial
The tomb are called "the pyramids of China" by locals. But anyone who has seen pictures of ancient Egypt's pyramids would be underwhelmed. About 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) to the west of the modern city of Yinchuan, lies the enormous burial complex of the Western Xia dynasty. The burial complex is quite large, with the tombs taking up 40 square kilometers, or 25 square miles. The sheer size of the complex is a testament to the power of its long-ago empire.
The Western Xia dynasty existed from the 1000s to the 1200s. Then it was annihilated by the up-and-coming conqueror, Genghis Khan, because the Western Xia refused to aid Genghis Khan in his conquest of Khwarezm (on the far left of the map in the image gallery). Genghis Khan systematically destroyed Western Xia cities, slaughtering its population, destroying all its written records, and razing its architecture and cultural artifacts for good measure. He did his job well: until the 1900s, historians were unaware that Western Xia had existed! When put into context the imperial tombs become impressive simply for surviving.
When first built, the tombs were more slightly more imposing. They were surrounded by two layers of walls, with watchtowers, pavilions, and halls for sacrifices. The mounds themselves had five or seven stories tall, and each story was covered with colorful glazed tiles. But the buildings are unrecognizable now. And with the tiles lost to time, the tombs' inner earth is exposed to the elements. The last survivors of an empire wiped from the map, slowly fading over the centuries, until they, too, are gone.
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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!