Obsidian Jar From Mexico's Late Postclassical Period (1250–1521)

This highly polished piece, believed to be Aztec, shows a monkey holding his tail over his head. It is one of the star pieces in Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Anthropology Museum). And it could be a fake!

The piece was catalogued in the museum as having come them in 1880 from ‘an ancient tomb, found in the grounds of an hacienda near Tezcoco.' But how did it end up at the museum? The monkey was the subject of an article written in 1884 by the French collector and archaeologist Eugene Boban, who claimed that a Dr. Rafael Lucio had obtained the piece in 1869 after spotting it in the home of a patient of his. The patient had apparently ‘bought the object from a peasant farmer who found it on an hacienda, in exchange for a sheep “worth 12 reales”’. But Boban later wrote that ancient Mexicans ‘never made figures or idols of obsidian’, concentrating their work mainly on masks, jewellery and adornments, concluding ‘all obsidian objects with body, arms and legs can be considered fake.' He would know, as both an expert in Mexican antiquities, and aware of the existence of numerous fake pieces (most importantly including obsidian ones) made somewhere near the small town of San Juan Teotihuacán. If a fake it is one of the most famous fake pre-Columbian Mexican artifacts outside of the crystal skulls. Boban's suspicions about the obsidian monkey has been a continuous feature of the artifact's history. As has its prominence at the Museo Nacional de Antropología.

Ancient Roman Snack Shop Excavated

Archaeologists have finished excavating a snack bar, or thermopolium, in the Regio V section of northeastern Pompeii. When the city was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE it was a thriving ancient Roman community which meant there were bakeries, laundries, brothels -- and snack shops. About 80 thermopoliums are thought to have fed the residents of ancient Pompeii. The recently-excavated thermopolium was a well-decorated snack shop. Frescoes excavated include depictions of a Nereid riding a seahorse, gladiators in combat, ducks, and a rooster. An image of a dog on a leash may refer to the owner’s guard dog, as a complete dog skeleton was found in the doorway. Fragments of bone found in pots in the shop’s counter indicate that pork, fish, snails, and beef were on the menu. Unfortunately a man in his 50s was in bed at the time of the eruption, judging by the human remains found as well.

An avid stamp collector in earlier life, Franklin Roosevelt brought a surprisingly detailed knowledge of remote regions to his presidential role of commander-in-chief. Which, since he led the United States through the majority of World War II, was a rather large part of his job for four years. "The president’s knowledge of world geography was amazing,” wrote his naval aide, John McCrea. “I once remarked about this, and he replied, ‘If a stamp collector really studies his stamps, he can pick up a great deal of information.'”

Going to War, But Politely

The last full declaration of war between two sovereign states which were both recognized by the United Nations was in 1980 when Iraq invaded Iran, sparking the Iran-Iraq War. This declaration of war included two parts, per the Hague Convention of 1907. First, there was a "previous and explicit warning," and second, they notified neutral powers of "a state of war" without delay.

Yes there have been a lot of wars since then. But none since 1980 have met all the requirements for a full declaration of war. For instance, after fighting started on September 27th of 2020, Armenia and Azerbaijan notified neutral countries of a state of war, but they had not warned each other first, meaning it does not quite count.

What is the History of Jamaican Jerk?

The Smithsonian recently did a brief history of this famous Jamaican flavor. The story includes how indigenous Caribbean cultural traditions from the Taíno, combined with enslaved Africans' culinary practices, contributed to the cultural fusion that is Jamaica today, as well as Jamaican food such as jerk. It's a good story, and it is worth a read.

A stone vessel unearthed in central China’s Henan Province has helped archaeologists identify the tomb of an emperor from the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 CE – 220 CE). The vessel was found in an Eastern Han Dynasty-era tomb, and is rather large at ten inches tall and 30 inches across. But what makes it important is its inscription: the date of the third year of Guanghe, or 180 CE, during the reign of Emperor Liu Hong of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Emperor Liu Hong is known to have made a mausoleum for his predecessor, Emperor Liu Zhi. Based on written records, archaeologists used to speculate that the mausoleum where the vessel was found belonged to Emperor Liu Zhi, but had no evidence to prove it. The stone vessel's inscription gives physical corroboration to written records. Making it all but certain that its tomb is that of Emperor Liu Zhi. So far excavations have found a yard, corridor, well, path, and drainage channel as well as the stone vessel.

"We were all used to the heat; but whereas the desert was dry, Sicily was humid. … I well remember an incident that occurred one day as I was driving in my open car up to the front. I saw a lorry coming towards me with a soldier apparently completely naked in the driver’s seat, wearing a silk top hat. As the lorry passed me, the driver leant out from his cab and took off his hat to me with a sweeping and gallant gesture. I just roared with laughter. However, while I was not particular about dress so long as the soldiers fought well and we won our battles, I at once decided that there were limits. When I got back to my headquarters I issued the only order I ever issued about dress in the Eighth Army; it read as follows: ‘Top hats will not be worn in the Eighth Army.’ "

Quote is from American Field Marshal Montgomery's recollections of fighting and commanding men during World War II. The Memoirs of Field Marshal Montgomery, published in 1958.

Lovers, Mullaly Park, South Bronx, New York

The title of this post is the title of the photograph. Descriptive, right? You can see the couple leaning against a railing in the already-mentioned Mullaly Park in the South Bronx. Photograph taken in 1980 by Walter Rosenblum.

The Twin Cities

Kinshasa is the largest city and capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the . Located on the Congo River, it sits across from Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo (ROC). Both cities speak French despite being colonized by different countries. France colonized the ROC and Belgium the DRC. With a population of 16 million, Kinshasa is a megacity. It is also the largest French-speaking city in the world! Brazzaville is much smaller at a mere 1.7 million inhabitants.

Interesting side fact: Brazzaville was the capital of Free France from 1940–1943 when France had been conquered by the Nazis.

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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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