Author: Historical Nonfiction

Rare Ottoman Ivory Dagger Handle, circa 1500s

It is delicately carved in relief with arabesque designs of interlacing foliage.

Regular

In World War I, the German navy disguised one of their ships as a British ship, the RMS Carmania, and sent it to ambush British vessels. Unfortunately for the Germans, the very first British ship she encountered was the real RMS Carmania. Who promptly sank its doppelganger.

English Proverbs from the 1000s

  • Not every cloud you see threatens rain.
  • A boy is consumed by envy, an old man by anger.
  • A reasonable sufficiency is more righteous than dishonorable riches.
  • One does well to distrust a stream, even one that is calm.
  • Sometimes an old dog growls the truth.
  • It is a hard cheese that the greedy man does not give to his dogs.
  • He who cannot conceal, ought not to become a thief.
  • Whose bread I eat, his songs I sing.
  • All the gold that a king has does not equal this rain.
  • No thief will be hanged, if he himself is the judge.
  • What earned this one praise gets that one a beating.
  • Smoky things appear by day, and fiery things by night.
  • The living husband is incensed by praise of the dead one.
  • A stupid person who is corrected, immediately hates his admonisher.
  • It is not the lowliest of virtues to have placed a limit on your wealth.
  • No mother-in-law is pleasing to her daughter-in-law unless she is dead.
  • A frog on a throne quickly gives up the honor.
  • When you trade one fish for another, one of them stinks.
  • Whoever hates his work, surely hated himself first.
  • To a man hanging, any delay seems too long.

from Egbert of Liège’s The Well-Laden Ship

Artistic Snobbery

Serious American artists during the Early American Period (1789 – 1815) thought that genre scenes were too mean and lowly for
their talent. So major painters such as John Vanderlyn and Samuel Morse
scorned the depicting of ordinary folk – except, said Vanderlyn, Italian
peasants. With their lack of “fashion and frivolity,” Italian peasants,
Vanderlyn declared, were close enough to nature to possess a
neoclassical universality that was worth depicting.

What was the most deadly war in world history?

Before World War II, that is.

Answer

This is Meritamun. Her name means “belov…

This is Meritamun. Her name means “beloved of Amun,” the great Egyptian creator/sun god. She lived in ancient Egypt, sometime between 1500 BCE and 331 BCE, and was likely high status judging by the quality of the linens she was mummified with. Meritamun was between 18 and 25 when she died.

This is one of twelve guardian figures from th…

This is one of twelve guardian figures from the tomb of general Kim Yu-shin. He was instrumental in uniting the three Korean kingdoms by force in the 600s CE under King Muyeol of Silla and King Munmu of Silla. King Muyeol even married Kim’s younger sister and made her queen. Kim Yu-Shin remains today the most famous of the unification wars generals.

As befits his high status and importance, Kim Yu-Shin’s burial was lavish. His tomb was a large earthen mound, as is traditional in Korea, and the mound is surrounded by 12 stone slabs, each with a sign of the oriental warriors carved on it in relief to provide eternal protection for the general within. The warriors are actually anthropomorphic animals, based on the twelve animals of the Eastern zodiac.

This one is the Rabbit, shown in armor, with the billowing garlands of Chinese deities behind him. Though many details are lost he is still holding the long, diamond-shaped shield used by Tang Dynasty soldiers at the time.

Analysis of Hominin Teeth Tells Us About Prehi…

Analysis of growth rings in Australopithecus africanus teeth may tell us about prehistoric hominin’s breastfeeding habits. A recent analysis looked at four teeth, recovered from South Africa’s Sterkfontein Cave, belonged to two individuals who lived between 2.6 and 2.1 million years ago. The results suggest that they exclusively breastfed for the first six to nine months of life.

Although other foods were added around the 1st birthday, milk intake also ramped up again each year, over a period of four or five years. Why this yearly return to breastmilk? Perhaps during times of food scarcity, mothers would return to breastfeeding, to ensure their children got enough to eat.

The analysis found an additional piece of evidence suggesting that breastmilk was a starvation-food used to keep young children nourished. Levels of lithium in the teeth rose right before the period of breastfeeding began each year. Such a distinctive biological time-stamp connected to the later-life breastfeeding suggests that the breastfeeding began again each year in the same season, likely corresponding to the time of year when food was scarcest. One can speculate that lithium was high in a specific food source which became available only during a certain season each year (like apples in autumn) – or which Australopithecus africanus only resorted to when other foods were scarce (like tree bark in winter).

Greywacke sculptured head of an Egyptian pries…

Greywacke sculptured head of an Egyptian priest, unusual for its realism. Circa 300s BCE.

Thank Caesar for TB Vaccines

A study has recently revealed that the rapid expansion of the Roman Empire in the 1st century CE assisted the spread of tuberculosis around the world. The disease is first evidence in humans in Africa around 3000 BCE. But the spread out of Africa, of four of seven investigated genetic strains of TB, occurred during the 1st century CE. Just at the time that the Roman Empire conquered the Mediterranean basin.

The out-of-Africa spread of TB is thought to have been aided by the expanding Roman’s new transportation links – those wonderful Roman roads – as well as increased movement and exploration around the Mediterranean.