Posts tagged history
Posts tagged history
Mysterious mysteries? Not entirely.
Greetings gentle readers! Today’s post is inspired by a lovely list-type article advertising ‘10 Civilizations that Disappeared Mysteriously’.
If you look at the list, every single one of these cultural groups/civilizations’ eventual disappearance can be explained by one main thing: climate change. Sure, you can throw in a couple of other factors but the common thread in all of them is that after however many years of existence and habitation, once the water goes away so to do the people. Let’s take a quick look, shall we?
1. The Maya
The Maya had a long and well-documented history and existed for several thousand years and their area of influence extended from Mexico down into Central America. However, all good things must eventually come to an end. Continual climate change starting around 900AD meant that over the following years and years, the rains were less frequent, the harvests were smaller and smaller and warring became more commonplace as people fought for dwindling resources and land. The arrival of the Spanish didn’t help matters much either. The Maya are actually still around, they just don’t have the grand empire they did back in the day. Just take a trip down to the Yucatan, Belize or Guatemala and you can hang out with the people who are descendants of those awesome Maya!
2. Indus Valley Civilization
This usually refers to the citizens of Harappa. They too had a thriving civilization with grand cities, arts, industry and all that good stuff…however climate change struck here too. Dwindling rains meant that their farms couldn’t support the massive populations and eventually people left for other areas of the Indus Valley.
3. Easter Island
Rapa Nui! That’s its proper name. So many theories surround this little island but people seem to agree on a couple of factors. The island, which is pretty bare and volcanic these days, was once covered in trees. Experts and descendants of the native islanders seem to agree that while the Rapanui had a very sophisticated and thriving culture for quite some time, their lifestyle just wasn’t sustainable. For whatever reason (weather, rats from European ships, etc.) trees never managed to grow back and thus the soil was pretty much destroyed, making farming nearly impossible. Without agricultural resources to support other things like fishing, the island just couldn’t support large numbers of people so most made the long trip east to Chile. A lot of Rapanui still live on the island though, so you can totally go there and hang out with them.
4. Çatalhöyük/Çatalhüyük/Çatal Hüyük
One of the more fun words to type :P Çatalhöyük is one of the most famous ancient sites in Turkey and was once home to a thriving Neolithic culture, actually it’s the first real Neolithic city that we know of and that’s pretty awesome. From about 9,000BC to 7,000BC almost 10,000 people called this city of decorated apartments and ritual centers home. But then, you guessed it! Things changed. There’s evidence of a number of climate events during the formative years of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean that upended cultures from time to time. If you look at the evidence left behind like pottery and other daily use items, it looks like the folks from Çatalhöyük spread out and migrated to other parts of the Near East where the land and resources were better.
Woooo Amurrica! This massive ancient city in the American Midwest was characterized by large earth mounds, a bustling population of as many as 40,000 people and sophisticated works of art. While it was located next to the mighty Mississippi River, the city seemed to always have an issue with agriculture and sanitation. It’s tough to keep a large population going and eventually everyone got tired of famine and moved on to more fruitful areas along the Mississippi and its many tributaries. Fun fact: Cahokia had a ball court not unlike those found in Aztec cities in Mexico! There is indeed a cultural connection there.
6. Göbekli Tepe
A site near and dear to my heart as I worked for 2 long years to get it on TV in a proper fashion. It kind of worked. Göbekli Tepe is special because it is officially THE OLDEST site of religious/ritual use that we know of. How old, you ask? This site was built before the Neolithic/agricultural revolution, which was when we find people really settling down and building permanent structures for the first time. Now, they’ve only excavated a very small percentage of the site so speculation and theories are still running rampant but here’s what I think: If you compare the artistic designs carved onto the stone columns, you’ll notice that all the animals are ones that are very familiar to that area of the works especially the bull, which is pretty much the mascot of Çatalhöyük. There are also some sites in neighboring areas that are a bit younger (like Nevali Çori and Jericho to the south) but have very similar characteristics in their architecture and their art. Coincidence? Nope! It’s the Natufians! And as always, when the weather starts working against you, you move on to someplace that’s more hospitable.
This one is really easy. At its height, Angkor was quite possibly the biggest city in the world. This massive city complex relied heavily on a sophisticated system of irrigation to support its sprawling population and after years of consistant lack of rainfall, the inhabitants of Angkor gradually moved to other areas of Cambodia.
8. The Turquoise Mountain
I’m not entirely familiar with this site but I loves me a good Silk Road city! Add a healthy dash of Islamic Golden Age on top of that and I’m SET. I plan on reading all about this today but from what it looks like (and judging from other similar cities in the world at that time) things simply dried up once the trade routes changed and the water disappeared. Mongols may have exacerbated the situation too.
The Silk Road! Oh, Taklamakan Desert how I long to visit you. With your awesome furry camels and even more awesome Caucasian mummies with stunning tattoos…but I digress. This city had the fortune and misfortune of being an oasis and a major stop along the Silk Road. As with #8, when the trade routes change and the water goes away, so do the people. Alas…
10. Nabta Playa
Oy, this site. It’s a shame that a nice site like this has been claimed by the Ancient Alien Theorists as evidence of something or other. It’s currently located in the middle of the Western desert in Egypt, which is 100% Sahara and an otherwise uninhabitable place unless you happen to be a sand gecko or something. However, long before the Egyptian civilization existed, the area we now call the Sahara desert was actually a lush grassland that supported many species of big mammals (we have fossils, yo) and early humans! These early folks successfully domesticated cattle, created ceramic things and had a successful system of farms. Were these people part of some mysterious advanced civilization that gave rise to the great Egyptians and helped them build pyramids from Day 1? No. Were they still quite awesome for that time period (c.7000-6500 BC) and eventually settled along the Nile, in turn eventually creating what we now refer to as the Pre-Dynastic Period of Egyptian history? You bet.
So in conclusion, most ancient ‘mysteries’ can usually be attributed to climate change and the things it causes like drought, famine, war and migration. Also, ancient people were a pretty awesome bunch so make sure to give them ample credit where it’s due :)
The winter of 1609 to 1610 was treacherous for early American settlers. Some 240 of the 300 colonists at Jamestown, in Virginia, died during this period, called the “Starving Time,” when they were under siege and had no way to get food.
Desperate times led to desperate measures. New evidence suggests that includes eating the flesh of fellow colonists who had already died.
Archaeologists revealed Wednesday their analysis of 17th century skeletal remains suggesting that settlers practiced cannibalism to survive.
Researchers unearthed an incomplete human skull and tibia (shin bone) in 2012 that contain several features suggesting that this particular person had been cannibalized. The remains come from a 14-year-old girl of English origin, whom historians are calling “Jane.”
There are about half a dozen accounts that mention cannibalistic behaviors at that time, although the record is limited, said Douglas Owsley, division head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian National Museum of National History.
The newly analyzed remains support these accounts, providing the first forensic evidence of cannibalism in the American colonies.
What we know from the bones
Jane’s remains were found in a 17th-century trash deposit at the former site of James Fort. William Kelso, chief archaeologist at the Jamestown Rediscovery Project said at a briefing Wednesday that the fort was built in 1607, but has been washed away. Kelso and colleagues began digging in 1994 and have been excavating the site on Jamestown Island ever since.
Owsley and colleagues can tell quite a bit about what happened to Jane when at least one starving settler in the fort apparently tried to feed off of her.
If it’s any consolation, it appears that she was already dead at the time.
Researchers say it looks like someone had tried, but failed to open the skull with four shallow chops to the forehead.
The back of the skull contains markings that could have been made by a small hatchet or cleaver striking it. The cranium cracked open from the last hit. Forensic experts say it appears the person striking the skull was right-handed.
The skull’s mandible contains cuts all over it and inside, which experts say reflect an attempt to take tissue off of the face and throat with a tool such as a knife. The cheek area reflects a “sawing action” of a tool going back and forth, Owsley said. There are also sharp passages of a knife.
At some point in the process, the head was removed, Owsley said.
The damage done to these remains indicates that whoever inflicted it was not a skilled butcher, he said.
“Instead, what we see is hesitancy, trial, tentativeness and an absolute total lack of experience.”
The shin bone that archaeologists recovered also appeared to have been chopped, but in a way that more resembles classic butchering techniques, Owsley said.
“The person doing this was clearly interested in, based on what would have been accepted cuisine in the 17th century, in cheek meat, muscles of the face — that area — and tongue, and also in terms of 17th century traditional cuts, would also include the brain,” he said.
It is possible that more than one person was involved in this, given the disparity in butchering practices seen in the head compared to the shin bone.
What we know about the colonists
In the summer of 1609, the settlers experienced two significant setbacks, said James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at Colonial Williamsburg.
The first was that a large fleet bringing supplies and settlers to Virginia was scattered. It had been carrying 500 settlers from Plymouth along with provisions.
“The fleet represented a new beginning for Jamestown, which had struggled over the previous two years,” Horn said.
A hurricane scattered the ships a week before they were supposed to arrive. The flagship with the leaders of this pack ended up in Bermuda. Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” takes its inspiration from this event.
Six ships reached Jamestown in August 1609, with spoiled or depleted food, and many settlers in poor health. “On one of those ships was Jane,” Horn said.
At the same time, the relationship between the Jamestown colonists and the native Powhatan Indians had broken down. The existing settlers were already experiencing disease and a shortage of food, and the demands they made on the Powhatans strained their relations.
That was the environment into which 300 additional settlers arrived at the James Fort.
One of the leaders of the group, Captain John Smith — the same one who was famously friends with Pocahontas — returned to England in October 1609 because he was injured, Owsley said, leaving a leadership vacuum.
In the fall, the Powhatans waged war against these colonists, and launched a siege against the fort.
With no way to get food from the outside, the colonists resorted to eating horses, dogs, cats, rats, mice and snakes, Horn said, according to the accounts of George Percy, who was the president of Jamestown during this time. There are even accounts of people eating their shoes and any other leather that could be found. Anyone who left to try to scrounge for roots in the woods was killed by the Powhatans.
Percy wrote, according to the Smithsonian, “thatt notheinge was Spared to mainteyne Lyfe and to doe those things which seame incredible, as to digge upp deade corpes outt of graves and to eate them. And some have Licked upp the Bloode which hathe fallen from their weake fellowes.” In other words, cannibalism.
It’s not clear how many deceased colonists were cannibalized. Only 60 of 300 of the original colonists survived, described as “looking like skeletons,” Horn said.
In May of 1610, the settlers finally arrived who had been shipwrecked in Bermuda, effectively saving the colony. Lord Delaware brought even more colonists and enough provisions to last a year.
There are still more pits at the fort to be excavated, and only 10% of Jane’s body has been recovered, Owsley said.
“I think there’s going to be other examples,” Owsley said. “Whether that will be found — with archeology you never know what’s going to be under the next shovel.”
A special exhibition will begin at the Smithsonian about Jamestown and Jane’s story on Friday.
The harsh winter of 1609 in Virginia’s Jamestown Colony forced residents to do the unthinkable. A recent excavation at the historic site discovered the carcasses of dogs, cats and horses consumed during the season commonly called the “Starving Time.” But a few other newly discovered bones in particular, though, tell a far more gruesome story: the dismemberment and cannibalization of a 14-year-old English girl. Find out how researchers made this discovery at Smithsonian.com.
Ancient Gamers – The Games of Old
If there is one thing that transcends time and space, it’s gaming. For tens of thousands of years, children and adults from all over the world have invented, played and mastered thousands of different games. Board games, dice games, games that require only the hands of the participants - someone, somewhere, at some point in time thought of an exciting new game. Some were successful, others fell back into obscurity. Chances are many of the games you played as a child (hopscotch, knucklebones) have been in existence for far longer than you think. In fact, there are quite a few games we play as adults that go back to ancient times. So without further ado, here is a selection of the most interesting games of yore.
Despite a plethora of uncovered gaming boards, pieces and other related artefacts, we need to take into account that we’re missing a lot of information on rules, the origins and the geographical distribution. What we do know is that these type of games would have required moving pieces around a board. It seems pretty straightforward, because we’ve all been raised with Ludo and Monopoly, but it needs to be mentioned. Some of these required skill while others were strategy based, and more often than not pure luck played its part.
The oldest mention of this Egyptian game comes from the third Dynasty tomb of Hesire, Chief of Dentists. It was played by both the elite and the common people, for over three thousand years, until it was rejected in the Late Roman Period because of its then-pagan symbolism. A similar game has been found in Arad, Canaan, but it’s unsure whether Senet has its origins in either one of these countries, or if the games have developed separately.
The board is arranged in three columns of ten squares each. It has two sets of game pieces, usually five of either kind, though there are more extensive games found with more pawns, as well as a few with less. The rules are a question of debate, though there have been made some educated guesses by specialists. Based on these guesses, several companies have made Senet games for sale.
The Romans were very fond of dice. As such, hardly any of their board games did not feature these. Latrunculi is one of the very few. This game is somewhat alike to modern day chess, as it is played on a square board divided into a grid. The name, which means ‘soldier-game’, gives us an indication on the nature of Latrunculi as a strategy game. We know quite a bit about it thanks to such figures as Varro and Ovid, who have left us a good idea of how the game was played in writing.
The game pieces were coloured glass pawns and called calculi, latrones, or milites. The pieces could be moved both forwards and backwards, and a piece was taken after being surrounded by two enemy pieces in rank or file. Blocking played a big part, and a player with good strategic skill could extract himself from a block. Backwards moves were a strategic retreat, and the entire game of Latrunculi had all aspects of a military battle: the player who took the most enemy pieces won, and was called the imperator.
The Game of Twenty Squares
This game, also known as The Royal Game of Ur, is a board game found in royal tombs dating from the first Dynasty of Ur, around 2600 B.C. The board itself has a peculiar shape: a three by four grid is connected to a two by three grid by a single column of two. It’s decorated with six different patterns. The pawns were two sets of markers, one black and one white, blank on one side and marked on the other. Three tetrahedral dice are also used. We don’t know exactly how the game would be played in the earliest of times, but a reconstruction could be made based on a Babylonian tablet dating from around 177 B.C.
Like Senet, Twenty Squares is a racing game part skill and strategy, and part luck. Also like Senet, modern incarnations of this game are for sale. There are different versions of the modern rules: in one, players race along the inner and outer tracks much like a game of Ludo, and in another the players must occupy all squares of two different patterns before the other does.
Dice games are perhaps more difficult to reconstruct, because in most case we lack a playing board – after all, all you need for a nice game of dice is a handful of dice. Most of these games involved values given to a particular side on the die, then simply rolling the dice and making sure you have the highest total value to win.
Ludus duodecim scriptorum
Other games required an additional playing board, such as the Roman game of Scriptorum. The board for this game existed out of three rows of twelve letters, arranged into two columns, that formed a sentence. Most of the board we have found have symbols, circles or semicircles drawn between each pair of horizontal words. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough about the rules of this game to make an educated guess beyond that it was akin to backgammon.
One of the most widely played children’s games has been around since time immemorial: knucklebones. It was originally played with five ‘knucklebones’ of a sheep, and the rules are simple. The child throws the bones in the air and catches them, usually on the back of the hand, in a series of prescribed throws and catches. The child that’s the first to manage the full set of throws in a row, wins.
Other names for knucklebones include astragaloi, dibs, and chuckstones. The origin isn’t quite sure, it seems to be one of those games that many cultures came up with on their own. Sophocles, for instance, ascribes the invention to Palamedes during the Trojan War, while in another legend Zeus is said to have presented Ganymede with both a new playmate (Eros) and a set of gold dibs for them to play with. On the other hand, Plato mentions the game as having been invented by the Egyptian god Toth, while Herodotus tells us the Lydians created it during a period of famine.
Whatever the origin, knucklebones is still played by children the world over today, using, now as then, a wide variety of materials, from pebbles to specially fabricated plastic pieces.
It is not a big endeavour to make a gambling game out of any old game: you simply bet money on the outcome. That said, there are games that have been designed as gambling games right from the outset (such as most dice games). One of the most famous of these games is:
Perhaps the most extensive game out there, a full game of Mahjong can take up to two days (believe me, I’ve tried!) No, we’re not talking about the online game of playing out pairs: Mahjong as it’s supposed to be played is a cross between domino, rummikub and poker. The rules are many and so elaborate that it’d require an article on its own to even start explaining them all, but the basics are as such: four players, each representing a wind, have a hand full of tiles (14). Each turn, they’ll exchange one tile from either the stack or the discard pile, until they have a strategic hand of pairs, called a Mahjong. While it was a gambling game pur sang, nowadays it’s being played without money changing hands.
The origin of Mahjong is unclear, though myth suggests that it was Confucius who invented it. The name would come from his fondness of birds, because it bears a resemblance to maque (麻雀), sparrow. Historians now believe the game is a fair bit younger than this, and was based on a forty-card game called Mǎdiào (馬吊), Hanging Horse.
Not so much a gambling game as a drinking game, this Greek game originating around the fifth or fourth century B.C., and required players to fling the dregs of wine at a target while uttering the name of the object of their affection. This target was a bronze standard with a small disk on top called a plastinx. When done correctly, the thrown wine would knock the plastinx down and make it hit a larger disk called the manes, which would cause a bell-like sound. This was done without getting up from the table, and the player could only use his right hand. Sometimes objects of value were staked on the outcome of the game, and considering the game required men flinging their leftover wine at a target, it got more difficult as the night progressed.
In honour of International Table Top Day today, we bring you an appropriate reblog of one of our earlier articles.
You can find more articles and object posts on gaming here.
I love miniature things and I love royalty, so you can imagine my excitement upon discovering that this website exists!
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is the largest, most beautiful, and most famous dolls’ house in the world. Built for Queen Mary, consort of King George V, by the leading British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924, it includes contributions from over 1,500 of the finest artists, craftsmen and manufacturers of the early 20th century. From life below stairs to the high-society setting of the saloon and dining room, a library bursting with original works by the top literary names of the day, a fully stocked wine cellar and a garden created by Gertrude Jekyll, no detail was forgotten – the Queen’s Dolls’ House even includes electricity, running hot and cold water and working lifts. Each room, is fully furnished in every way, and waiting to be explored.
Minie Balls: Small but Lethal
The hollow base of the cone-shaped minie ball (named for French inventor Claude Minié) expanded when the gunpowder ignited, thereby catching its grooves in the interior rifling of the gun and increasing the velocity and accuracy of the bullet. The longer, effective firing range of minie balls also turned mass infantry assaults into mass slaughter until military tactics caught up with the destructive power of the new technology. The ubiquitous minie balls have been collected as battlefield souvenirs ever since.
Information from Library of Congress
“Private J. Luman’s Skull…
Wounded at the battle of Mine Run, Virginia, on November 27th, 1863, when a minie ball passed through his skull. He was treated in the field hospital for several days before being evacuated to the 3rd division hospital in Alexandria. By December 8th, Private Luman was comatose and Surgeon E. Bentley applied a trephine and removed the splinters of bone associated with the wound. His condition failed to improve and he died five days later.”
-The National Museum Of Health And Medicine
.69 caliber is not small by any means… How the fuck did this guy survive for that long anyway?
Explainer: How We Wipe our Butts
“Toilet Hygiene in the Classical Era,” by French anthropologist and forensic medicine researcher Philippe Charlier and his colleagues… examines tidying techniques used way back — and the resultant medical issues…
…The toilet hygiene piece reminds us that practices considered routine in one place or time may be unknown elsewhere or elsetime. The first known reference to toilet paper in the West does not appear until the 16th century, when satirist François Rabelais mentions that it doesn’t work particularly well at its assigned task. Of course, the ready availability of paper of any kind is a relatively recent development. And so, the study’s authors say, “anal cleaning can be carried out in various ways according to local customs and climate, including with water (using a bidet, for example), leaves, grass, stones, corn cobs, animal furs, sticks, snow, seashells, and, lastly, hands.” Sure, aesthetic sensibility insists on hands being the choice of last resort, but reason marks seashells as the choice to pull up the rear. “Squeezably soft” is the last thing to come to mind about, say, razor clams.
Charlier et al. cite no less an authority than philosopher Seneca to inform us that “during the Greco-Roman period, a sponge fixed to a stick (tersorium) was used to clean the buttocks after defecation; the sponge was then replaced in a bucket filled with salt water or vinegar water.” Talk about your low-flow toilets. The authors go on to note the use of rounded “fragments of ceramic known as ‘pessoi’ (meaning pebbles), a term also used to denote an ancient board game.”…
…Putting shards of a hard substance, however polished, in one’s delicate places has some obvious medical risks. “The abrasive characteristics of ceramic,” the authors write, “suggest that long term use of pessoi could have resulted in local irritation, skin or mucosal damage, or complications of external haemorrhoids.”
Explainers, scientific knowledge and general anthropology: always a good thing. — Michael
Scientific American, Toilet Issue: Anthropologists Uncover All the Ways We’ve Wiped reviews the British Medical Journal, Toilet hygiene in the classical era (you’ll need a university subscription to get in).
Image: Roman Butt Wiping Tools, via Flush.
welp, I think I’ve learned everything tumblr has to offer…
Some real Victorian names.
Might be something for RPers to make note of should they ever want to play a Victorian era character.
Could you imagine a vampire going through eternity who’s real name is Toilet?
A little Actual Victorian Interruption, because this is hilarious.
And you thought modern celebrities’ kids had it bad.
I can’t decide if Victorian kids or Puritan kids had it worse…
Nice to know dreadful names are a long running tradition of awful.
Ancient Greek black figure pottery-inspired nails, featuring Theseus facing the Minotaur on one hand, and Oedipus pondering the riddle of the Sphinx on the other. Matte finish for an extra pottery-ish look!
THESE ARE THE BEST.