Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe was a massive stone city in southeastern Africa that was a thriving trade center from the 1000s and 1400s. But when Europeans first learned of it in the 1500s, they were certain it wasn't African at all. Listen to the podcast all about it, by "Stuff You Missed In History Class."

Ancient Settlement On Florida Island Revealed By Lasers

Drone-mounted lasers appear to have detected details of the architecture of an ancient island settlement off Florida’s Gulf coast, using 3D mapping technology. Archaeological remains were first noted on Raleigh Island in 1990. In-person exploration of the area in 2010 revealed the presence of a settlement dating from 900 to 1200 CE.

Unfortunately, the island’s dense foliage impeded traditional land-based surveys of what remained. That’s why this drone-based laser survey, almost ten years later, is so important.

Among other details we now can see 37 residential areas “enclosed by ridges of oyster shell” that are up to 12ft (4m) tall. Archaeological digs at 10 identified residential areas found evidence that beads made from large marine mollusks were produced in these settlements. Stone tools, used to make the beads, were also found. The beads were likely for import among inland chiefdoms. In areas that were far from the coast, such as the lower midwest of the US, mollusk beads and even sizable sea mollusks were imported, where they were used as social capital in economic and social interactions between groups.

Ancient Khmer Capital Failed Because of Poor Government Management of Infrastructure

The ancient city of Koh Ker had a very brief spell as the capital and center of the Khmer Empire, between 928 and 944 CE. The capital was then moved back to Angkor Wat. A new study has used ground-penetrating radar and manual excavation to uncover some of the hidden structures of the Koh Ker settlement, discovering a chute some seven kilometers long (4.3 miles), designed to ferry water from the Stung Rongea river to the city.

But the chute has been calculated to be too small. This meant there were likely overflows and flooding, and the water would end up being wasted, without reaching where it was supposed to go. In 944 CE after just 16 years in Koh Ker, King Jayavarman IV decided to move the capital back to its previous location in Angkor Wat. It was probably no coincidence that Angkor Wat's water infrastructure actually worked.

Death by Devotion

The Mughal Emperor Humayun died by falling down the stairs. Not because he tripped, or was pushed -- no, his death was stranger than that. Emperor Humayun was Muslim and he had a practice of kneeling five times a day, whenever he heard the call to prayer. One day when he was descending his library stairs, arms full of books, he heard the call to prayer and reflexively began to kneel. But his foot got caught in his robes and the staircase did the rest.

That is the image of a lost city, found beneath the Cambodian jungle. Mahendraparvata, sometimes dubbed the 'lost city of Cambodia', was an early capital city of the Khmer Empire (800s - 1400s CE). Historians and archaeologists knew Mahendraparvata existed -- somewhere. And a recently-released paper suggests that it has been found, based on the combination of scriptural evidence stating the capital was on a specific mountainous plateau, and airborne laser scanning (above) that found the remains of a city in that area.

Traditional ground-based archaeological work was conducted after the laser scanning identified the site. The city appears to date to the late 700s CE to early 800s CE, the right era for Mahendraparvata. It is a city of linear axes denoting wide boulevards. The streets are large, 60 to 80 meters (~200 feet) wide, and up to 15 kilometers (9 miles) long. Dams, reservoir walls and the enclosure walls of temples, neighborhoods and even the royal palace are built next to or alongside the embankments. With thousands of buildings Mahendraparvata will take decades to fully rediscover. This was a large city, a capital city, built to impress even centuries later.

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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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