Category: an original piece by historical-nonfiction

Japanese Suffragette Komako Kimura At A New Yo…

While British and American suffragettes get all the attention, Japan had a contemporary suffragette movement. It began after the Meiji Restoration when major educational and political reforms started educating women but excluding them from participation in the new “democratic” government. By law, they were barred from joining political parties, expressing political views, and attending political meetings. Japanese women, more educated then ever and slowly participating in Japan’s workforce, began fighting for the right to participate in the new civil democracy as well.

Unfortunately, when Western white women began winning the right to vote after World War I, Japanese women’s participation in politics was still fighting for basic rights. In 1921, for instance, a court ruling overturned the law forbidding women from attending political meetings. This led to a flowering of women’s suffrage organizations in the 1920s, in addition to literary circles which began publishing feminist magazines during the interwar period.

Japanese women kept the issue alive, but did not win the right to vote until 1945, when election laws were revised under the American occupation.

Intriguing Ritual Burial Found From Pre-Classi…

Found in southern Mexico City, it is a burial unlike any other we know of. Ten interlocking skeletons of various ages and genders were laid to rest, arranged in a spiral shape. Some hold ceramic spheres and stones in their hands and the grave also contains various sizes of ceramic vessels, that presumably once contained grave goods. It is the largest single burial from the Valley of Mexico.

Laid to rest in a pit about 6 feet (2 meters) wide, they were most likely interred at the same time, sometimes between 500 and 400 BCE. Archaeologists think they were buried at the same time because the arms of one person were placed under the spine of another, suggesting they were deliberately arranged. Plus, that spiral.

So far, three of the ten remains have been sexed: two women, one man. There also appears to be a range of ages. While most on first analysis are young adults, there is at least one more mature adult, a child between 3 and 5 years old, and an infant just a few months old. Some of the skeletons, though not all, also show cranial deformations and dental mutilations, which are known to have been practiced in other Mesoamerican cultures including the Maya and Inca.

Mahmud II: The Great Reformer

Often called “Peter the Great of Turkey,” Mahmud II was the 30th sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He reigned from 1808 until his death in 1839. Mahmud II oversaw extensive military, administrative, and monetary reforms which were capped by the Decree of Tanzimat in 1839.

Tanzimat was an overarching modernizing effort which, among other things, ended tax farming, created military conscription from districts based on size (instead of the hereditary Janissaries), and created legal and social equality before the law for all citizen (instead of different religious systems operating autonomously, often with special privileges for favored sects). One aspect of Tanzimat greatly limited the sultan’s power: it guaranteed citizens the rights of life and property. This meant sultans could no longer execute or confiscate the property of anyone at whim.

Unfortunately, Mahmud II died in 1839, so Tanzimat had to be implemented by his sons and successors.

Two Bog Bodies, Found Within Months of Each Ot…

Not far from Dublin in the town of Clonycavan, County Meath, and near Croghan Hill, County Offaly, two bog bodies were found within three months of each other in 2003. Clonycavan Man had been severed in half by a peat-cutting machine, but scientists were able to recover his body from the torso up. He had crooked teeth and a small beard. He was also likely murdered. His skull had been split open, likely by a stone ax, and the bridge of his nose was also struck, probably with the same weapon.

Twenty-five miles away, peat workers found Old Croghan Man, who similarly is just a torso with arms. And Old Croghan Man shows evidence of what can only be described as overkill.

 He had a defensive wound on his upper left arm where he may have tried to protect himself. He was bound by a hazel branches which had been threaded through holes in his upper arms. He was stabbed in the chest, struck in the neck, decapitated, and finally cut in half.

Radiocarbon dating showed that Clonycavan Man lived between 392 and 201 BCE and Old Croghan Man between 362 and 175 BCE, the height of the Celtic Iron Age. Both men were young, showed few signs of physical labor during their lives, and were healthy at the time of their deaths.

There is some evidence that they were failed kings. Or perhaps claimants to kingship who failed to win the throne. Both Clonycavan and Old Croghan men’s nipples were pinched and cut. Sucking a king’s nipples was a gesture of submission in ancient Ireland. Cutting off their nipples would have made them ineligible to be kings, even in the afterlife. Their place of burial, in bogs that formed important tribal boundaries, also suggests the killings were political as well as ritual.

“Mona Lisa” of Fossils Discovered in Canada

image

An armored dinosaur has been found in Alberta, so well-preserved that it looks like a statue. The specimen was preserved in 3D, perfectly hardening into sandstone, from its snout its hips. Paleontologists were able to determine, just by looking at it, that this discovery is also a new species.

So what did this new dinosaur look like? Well, according to the researchers, it is the “dinosaur equivalent of a tank.” It was 5.5 meters long (about 18 feet) and weighing more than 1,300 kilograms (or 2,800 pounds). There is ornamentation around its eyes, six-sides plates on the sides of its skull, and distinct alternating lines of spikes and scales along its back. The prickly skin even contains molecular clues suggesting it was reddish on its backside, and lighter on its underside! That’s a lot of detail about a species, all from one specimen.

image

The new dinosaur been named Borealopelta, or “northern shield.”

Rare Song Dynasty Bowl Sells For Record-Breaki…

This simple blue bowl, about 1,000 years old, sold at auction in late 2017 for $37.7 million dollars. That breaks the previous record for Chinese porcelain, $36.05 million, set in 2014 for a Ming dynasty wine cup which was sold to a Shanghai tycoon. This unassuming ru-ware bowl with a blue-green glaze and complex ‘ice crackle’ pattern was used for washing brushes. It was originally created for the imperial court during the Northern Song Dynasty, sometime between 960 to 1127 CE.

What makes the bowl so special is its rarity: ru-ware was made during only a short period, not exceeding twenty years, and few pieces survive today. This bowl is one of only four ru-ware pieces held in private hands.

The Mysterious Fate of A Queen And An Empress

Zenobia, the ancient queen who ruled the kingdom of Palmyra after her husband, Odenathus’ death. She declared Palmyra no longer a client kingdom of Rome, but an independent state, with her son its king and her its regent. A weak short-lived emperor, Claudius Gothicus, recognized her sovereignty in 268. She quickly began taking land which had once been Roman, including the breadbasket Egypt and the wealthy city of Antioch. Palmyra became known as the Palmyrene Empire. But it was not to last.

A new and more able Roman emperor, Aurelian, consolidated his power then moved on on the new Palmyrene Empire. Aurelian beseiged Palmyra in 272. The empress tried to flee east, toward Persia, but was captured when she reached the Euphrates River. Empress Zenobia, and Palmyra, was defeated.

Then things get mysterious. No one knows what exactly happened to Queen Zenobia after 273. Some Arab sources claim she committed suicide to avoid capture. Roman sources say that Emperor Aurelian, not willing to execute a woman, brought Queen Zenobia to Rome as a captive, to be show before Rome during his triumphal parade. Some sources say she was then decapitated. Others claim she married a Roman senator, and lived the rest of her life as a Roman matron. To this day no one knows which story is the truth.

Two Baby Girls, Who Lived and Died in the Last…

The two infants were ceremonially buried by a previously unknown population of ancient humans around 11,500 years ago. Their remains were found at Upward Sun River, a site in Alaska. DNA analyses show that the two girls were likely cousins, and descend from people separated from a population in eastern Asia, which remained isolated for thousands of years before migrating into Alaska, sometime after 15,000 years ago.

Named the Ancient Beringians — for the Bering Land Bridge that once connected North America to Asia — they were a “sister” population, or clade, that shared recent common ancestors with modern Indigenous North and South Americans. Their tool technology also appears to descend from Asian tools. Both the human remains at Upward Sun River and modern Native Americans were descended from the same ancestral source, which carried a mixture of East Asian and Mal’ta-related ancestry (the Mal’ta were an ancient population near Lake Baikal in modern Siberia, known largely from the remains of a four year old boy who died around 24,000 years ago).

Of course, all this latest find shows is that the Ancient Beringians existed about 11,500 years ago, and that they descended from the same group as modern Native Americans. We do not know what happened to this population after these two little girls died. This find does not tell us if the Ancient Beringians persisted, intermarrying with what would become modern North and South Americans. It does not tell us if they died out, perhaps because of climate change at the end of the Ice Age making their way of life untenable, or even because of conflict with other indigenous groups. These two young relatives raise many questions, and answer only a few.

What Was The Holodomor?

From late 1932 until mid-1933, the Soviet Union experienced a major famine largely due to the disastrous policy of forcing peasants to work in collective farms. In Soviet Ukraine, the situation was deliberately exacerbated by teams of activists who removed food from peasant homes. They would go from village to village, entering each house and demanding grain, corn, squash, roots, the seeds for the next year’s crop – everything edible. Then the state closed the borders of Ukraine. The policy was designed to quash Ukraininian separatism, but in reality took away both food and the ability to grow more food, while preventing Ukrainians from leaving their villages to find food elsewhere. Millions died. Today, the famine is known as the Holodomor.

Of course the Soviets tried to cover up how many Ukrainians died. They prevented journalists from visiting the region, forbade publication of the national census in 1937, and then altered the census for years afterward to hide the impact of the Holodomor.

Recently, though, Ukrainian demographers have gone back to look at birth and death records, which were largely unaltered by the Soviets. By estimating how many people should have died and should have been born, they can estimate how many Ukrainians went missing from late 1932 to mid-1933. Using this method, the number of “unnatural deaths” during the Holodomor is 3.9 million.

Waltzing With The Devil

Did you know the waltz was once considered a scandalous craze? Dances before it had been precisely choreographed things, which kept men and women at arm’s length and the most a couple might do was hold hands. Then suddenly the waltz appears in the late 1700s. Couples could get close, even putting their arms around each other! So shocking! And of course, it was insanely popular with young people. 

Madame de Genlis, a royal French governess, said the waltz caused women to lose their virtue. “A young woman, lightly dressed, throws herself into the arms of a young man. He presses her to his chest and conquers her with such impetuosity that she soon feels her heart beat violently as her head giddily swims!” The waltz, M. de Genlis said, could corrupt any honest young woman who danced it.

It sounds silly today. But people were really worried that waltzing was corrupting the youth. Rather like with some modern dance crazes…