The Cherokee May Soon Get Back Half Of Oklahoma Thanks To The Supreme Court

A murder case from 2004 has ended up in the US Supreme Court. And with it, the fate of Oklahoma, which may have to return a significant amount of the state to the sovereign Cherokee Nation. Read more.

When the Chiricahua Apaches of what is today southern Arizona went on a raiding party, they adopted a special speech. One informant told anthropologists Morris Edward Opler and Harry Hoijer:

I used to know many words, but I have forgotten just about all of them. Only one sticks in my mind, and that is the ceremonial way of asking for a drink of water. Instead of saying, ‘I want to drink some water,’ we had to say, ‘I begin to swim the specular iron ore.’

This formal, alternative way of talking had to be maintained as long as the raiding party was away from home. As soon as they were back in camp, they could switch to everyday language.

First Evidence of Humans Enjoying Nutmeg

The oldest evidence — from some 3,500 years ago — for humans ingesting nutmeg has been detected on pottery sherds from Pulau Ay in the Banda Islands in Indonesia. It remains unclear whether neolithic humans were using nutmeg for its fruit, as a spice to flavor food, or for medicinal purposes.

What's Up With Anglo-Saxon Names?

Anglo-Saxon names tended to be made up of two elements, combined to have a particular meaning. For instance, Æthelstan (considered the first King of England united) is formed from Æthel, meaning "noble" and Stan, meaning "stone."

Within families the first part of a name might be reused many times. It was a sort of marker that people were related -- each would get a unique second half, of course. Sharing a name’s first part appeared especially common in aristocratic families. But it seems to have been widespread among Anglo-Saxons. In the 1000s, when England was conquered by the Danes and then the Normans, new naming practices were introduced and the two-part naming structure fell out of usage.

The Chinese New Year Is Anti-Revolutionary?

Under the rule of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong, the Chinese government forbade celebration of the traditional Chinese New Year. It was considered un-communist, because it was a religious celebration, and Marx believed religion to be an "opiate of the masses." Red banners, which for 1,000 years had featured couplets about springtime and prosperity, now had to have revolutionary slogans lauding Chairman Mao. Temple fairs vanished. Lion and dragon dances were scorned. Teachers told students to reject traditional gifts of money in red packets from their parents -- true communists only took money they earned through the sweat of the brow.

Perhaps the most long-lasting cultural effect was the banning the Kitchen God. Traditionally, a paper effigy of the Kitchen God watches the family all year, from his perch above the stove. During Chinese New Year's he travels to heaven and reports on whether the family has been good or bad. Families would bribe their picture of the Kitchen God, to encourage a good report. But printing images of the Kitchen God was banned by Mao. Today many urban Chinese do not even know who he is. It was only in 2008 that the ban on the Kitchen God's image was lifted.

Oldest Smiley Face Found On Bronze Age Hittite Jug

The Hittite Empire held sway over much of Anatolia and modern Syria between ~1600 BCE and 1100 BCE. They are credited with starting the Iron Age in the Mediterranean region, and being the first in the region to use chariots for warfare. And now, they may be credited with inventing the smiley face!

A ceramic jug, dating to about 1,700 BCE, was found during excavations at the Hittite city of Karkemish along the border of Turkey and Syria. When it was pieced back together, archaeologists were surprised to see a smiley face smiling back at them. It was used for drinking sherbet, a sweet drink commonly enjoyed in the Middle East as a dessert. Which supports the marks being a smile. With no other examples of such marks from that period, however, interpretations must be made cautiously.

The First "Britons" Were Black

Genetic studies of 10,000-year-old Cheddar Man recently revealed that he had black hair, and dark brown to black skin. Not what many people expected. Cheddar Man was discovered in 1903 at the entrance to Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge, in Somerset, England. He is the most complete skeleton to survive from the period when hunter-gatherers were starting to migrate to Britain at a time when it was still connected to the Eurasian landmass. Meaning Cheddar Man suggests that ancient hunter-gatherers in Europe were darker, too.

How, then, did northern Europeans end up with pale skin? It has been suggested that it was the switch from hunter-gatherer to farmer. The Mesolithic diet, rich in fish and meat, provides adequate amounts of vitamin D to live; when prehistoric Europeans switched to a Neolithic, farmer's diet based on one or two cereals, they lost all that dietary vitamin D. Why is this related to skin pigmentation? Vitamin D can also be produced by the reaction of pheomelanin in the skin with sunlight. People can manufacture their own vitamin D! People with fairer skin have the highest levels of pheomelanin, whereas darker-skinned people have higher levels of eumelanin pigment, which acts as a natural sunblock. Natural selection on hunter-gatherers favored darker skin. Natural selection on farmers favored lighter skin.

Goldworking Is Ancient Technology In The Americas

Gold was probably the first metal to be exploited in the Andes, by the end of the 2nd millennium BCE. From there, the archaeological record suggests goldworking then traveled north, reaching Central America in the first centuries CE, and Mexico by about 1000 CE.

This particular necklace is from the Chavin Civilization, which developed in the northern Andean highlands of Peru from about 900 BCE to about 200 BCE. That sounds old, but relatively speaking, that is not old at all. Gold had already been mined and worked in the Andes for a thousand years when the Chavin arrived on the scene.

A Linguistic Mix-Up

This newspaper report is false. In 1844, British general Sir Charles Napier was criticized in Parliament for his ruthless campaign to take the Indian province of Sind. On hearing this, 16-year-old schoolgirl Catherine Winkworth “remarked to her teacher that Napier’s despatch to the Governor General of India, after capturing Sind, should have been Peccavi (Latin for ‘I have sinned’).” She sent this immortal pun to Punch, which unfortunately printed it as a factual report.

The Ottoman Australia

From an Ottoman Empire atlas published in 1803. Notice how the island of Tasmania is part of the mainland -- Australia had been added to western maps for only a few decades at this point.

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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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