Joined September 2020
Owner of @guns
Administers @history

The disastrous mortal disease known as the Black Death spread across Europe in the years 1346-53. The frightening name, however, only came several centuries after its visitation (and was probably a mistranslation of the Latin word ‘atra’ meaning both ‘terrible’ and ‘black)’. Chronicles and letters from the time describe the terror wrought by the illness. In Florence, the great Renaissance poet Petrarch was sure that they would not be believed: ‘O happy posterity, who will not experience such abysmal woe and will look upon our testimony as a fable.’ A Florentine chronicler relates that,

All the citizens did little else except to carry dead bodies to be buried […] At every church they dug deep pits down to the water-table; and thus those who were poor who died during the night were bundled up quickly and thrown into the pit. In the morning when a large number of bodies were found in the pit, they took some earth and shovelled it down on top of them; and later others were placed on top of them and then another layer of earth, just as one makes lasagne with layers of pasta and cheese.

The accounts are remarkably similar. The chronicler Agnolo di Tura ‘the Fat’ relates from his Tuscan home town that

… in many places in Siena great pits were dug and piled deep with the multitude of dead […] And there were also those who were so sparsely covered with earth that the dogs dragged them forth and devoured many bodies throughout the city.

The tragedy was extraordinary. In the course of just a few months, 60 per cent of Florence’s population died from the plague, and probably the same proportion in Siena. In addition to the bald statistics, we come across profound personal tragedies: Petrarch lost to the Black Death his beloved Laura to whom he wrote his famous love poems; Di Tura tells us that ‘I […] buried my five children with my own hands’.

Read More

The new Mayor of the city of Rome, Ignazio Marino, just announced his intention to destroy one of the city’s central roads, the Via dei Fori Imperiali, and turn the area around the old Roman Forum into the world’s largest archaeological park.  Reactions have ranged from commuters’ groans to declarations from classicists that this single act proves the nobility of the human species.

Forty-five thousand years ago, some of the first modern humans to call Europe home lived in and around Bulgaria’s Bacho Kiro Cave. They created adornments, like beads and pendants of cave bear teeth. They fashioned stone and bone tools and colored them with red ochre. They hunted, butchered and feasted on local animals. Artifacts of this lifestyle were left scattered in the cave, but these ancient humans left little evidence of themselves. Just a single tooth and a few tiny bits of bone survived to the present day. Yet those fragments contained enough genetic material that scientists have now recreated some of the humans’ stories, revealing surprising information about both their ancestors and their descendants.

Read More

By Augusta Genealogical Society Posted Mar 16, 2019 at 6:56 PM Updated Mar 16, 2019 at 6:56 PM

A reader asked, “How did 11 calendar days disappear in 1752?”

People living in Britain, America and other English colonies went to sleep on the night of Sept. 2, 1752, and when they woke up the next morning it was Sept. 14, 1752. Because the people thought the government was trying to cheat them out of 11 days of their lives, there were riots in villages. Eleven days (Sept. 3-13) were cut from the calendar, deleting them forever. These days simply never existed – no births, no marriages, no deaths.

This was very confusing by itself, but added to this change was that New Year moved from March 25 to Jan. 1. Think how confusing this must have been to people used to thinking about a year running from March 25 to March 24, now they had to get used to the year running from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Imagine – a person could have been married on April 26, 1710 and died on Feb 2, 1710.

This is a problem that has also confounded genealogists for many years.

Read More

Face of Senwosret III. ca. 1878–1840 B.C. Middle Kingdom, Egypt.

A team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, with archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology, have found the first evidence of a religious diet locked inside pottery fragments excavated from the early medieval Jewish community of Oxford.

Whilst residing in Paris in the sixth century, Queen Clotild, the widow of the Merovingian ruler Clovis, became the unwilling subject of the inveterate plotting of her sons, Lothar and Childebert, who were jealous of her guardianship of her grandsons, the children of their brother, Chlodomer. Childebert spread the rumour that he and his brother were to plan the coronation of the young princes and sent a message to Clotild to that effect. When the boys were dispatched to their uncles they were seized and separated from their household. Lothar and Childebert then sent their henchman Arcadius to the Queen with a pair of scissors in one hand and a sword in the other.

Read More

Archaeologists said on Thursday they had uncovered a large ancient pharaonic city that had lain unseen for centuries near some of Egypt’s best known monuments.

The city was built more than 3,400 years ago during the opulent reign of Amenhotep III, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs, the Egyptian archaeologist overseeing the excavations, Zahi Hawass, said.

The team began searching for a mortuary temple near Luxor in September, but within weeks found mud brick formations in every direction, Zahi Hawass said in a statement.

They unearthed the well-preserved city that had almost complete walls and rooms filled with tools of daily life along with rings, scarabs, coloured pottery vessels and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep’s cartouche.

Read More

Terracotta hydria (water jar.) 4th century B.C. Greek.

A freshly unearthed Bronze-Age stone may be the oldest three-dimensional map in Europe, researchers say.

The 2m by 1.5m slab (5ft by 6.5ft), first uncovered in 1900, was found again in a cellar in a castle in France in 2014.

Archaeologists who studied patterns engraved on the 4,000-year-old stone say they believe the markings are a map of an area in western Brittany.

They say this makes the slab the oldest 3D map of a known area in Europe.

Recognizing the unique signs of a possible civilizational collapse, rather than being blindsided by it, requires a bold thesis as to what the core engine of our civilization is. Without a clear and correct theory of what makes our civilization function, signs of decay will go unnoticed or rationalized, rather than recognized.

Every civilization rests on a core stack of social technology that coordinates and sustains its vital institutions. Social technologies—intentionally designed ways for the people in a society to operate—form the basis of the varied systems of material production and material technology that we see in every society. These social technology cores decay with time as they obsolete their own foundations, and as errors and parasitism build up. This decay can be circumvented, and the decaying core social technologies can be swapped for new ones, but this is a process of immense historical difficulty. What, then, is the core engine of our own civilization, and in what way might it decay? While we lack an incontrovertible answer, the Industrial Revolution appears to be a leading candidate. 

Read More

In the immediate postwar, the victorious allies divided the IG Farben conglomerate into individual companies. Bayer emerged as an independent enterprise. By the mid-1970s, Bayer, along with BASF and Hoechst, had returned to economic domination, aiding in the “German Economic Miracle” and re-emerging as one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. Bayer, however, did little to come to terms with its Nazi past. Fritz ter Meer, convicted of war crimes for his actions at Auschwitz, was elected to Bayer AG’s supervisory board in 1956, a position he retained until 1964.

Read More

Pair of ancient Roman gold snake bracelets, 1st century CE.

A rockshelter in South Africa’s Kalahari documents the innovative behaviors of early humans who lived there 105,000 years ago. We report the new evidence today in Nature.

The rockshelter site is at Ga-Mohana Hill - a striking feature that stands proudly above an expansive savanna landscape.

Many residents of nearby towns consider Ga-Mohana a spiritual place, linked to stories of a great water snake. Some community members use the area for prayer and ritual. The hill is associated with mystery, fear and secrecy.

Now, our findings reveal how important this place was even 105,000 years ago, documenting a long history of its spiritual significance. Our research also challenges a dominant narrative that the Kalahari region is peripheral in debates on the origins of humans.

We know our species, Homo sapiens, first emerged in Africa. Evidence for the complex behaviours that define us has mostly been found at coastal sites in South Africa, supporting the idea that our origins were linked to coastal resources.

This view now requires revision.

Read More

Israeli archaeologists have unearthed two dozen Dead Sea scroll fragments from a remote cave in the Judean Desert, the first discovery of such Jewish religious texts in more than half a century.

“For the first time in approximately 60 years, archaeological excavations have uncovered fragments of a biblical scroll,” the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said in a statement.

More than 20 bits of parchment were found after teams rappelled down an 80-metre cliff and scoured the Cave of Horror, so called due to its precarious position and because 40 skeletons of women, men and children were found there during excavations in the 1960s.

Read More

When did mortality first start to decline, and among whom? We build a large, new data set with more than 30,000 scholars covering the sixteenth to the early twentieth century to analyze the timing of the mortality decline and the heterogeneity in life expectancy gains among scholars in the Holy Roman Empire. The large sample size, well-defined entry into the risk group, and heterogeneity in social status are among the key advantages of the new database. After recovering from a severe mortality crisis in the seventeenth century, life expectancy among scholars started to increase as early as in the eighteenth century, well before the Industrial Revolution. Our finding that members of scientific academies—an elite group among scholars—were the first to experience mortality improvements suggests that 300 years ago, individuals with higher social status already enjoyed lower mortality. We also show, however, that the onset of mortality improvements among scholars in medicine was delayed, possibly because these scholars were exposed to pathogens and did not have germ theory knowledge that might have protected them. The disadvantage among medical professionals decreased toward the end of the nineteenth century. Our results provide a new perspective on the historical timing of mortality improvements, and the database accompanying our study facilitates replication and extensions.

Read More

As classics scholar Fanny Dolansky argues, it’s possible to apply a similar line of thought to the dolls of young Roman girls from the second to the fourth century. Over 500 objects excavated from the Roman Empire have been identified as dolls, primarily girls’ playthings, and over a dozen have been buried in tombs of young girls.

Dolanksy surveys eighteen dolls discovered in modern-day Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Egypt. Made from bone, ivory, or cloth, the dolls range in length from 15 to 30 centimeters and resemble upper-class adult women, with molded breasts and delineated genitalia. (Dolanksy limits her research to the lives of girls from the highest echelons of Roman society; unfortunately, few examples of lower-class children’s playthings have survived.)

Read More

Some 6,200 years ago, at least 41 Copper Age men, women and children met a brutal end. Killed under mysterious circumstances, their corpses were unceremoniously dumped into a mass grave in what is now Potočani, a village in eastern Croatia.

When archaeologists first rediscovered the remains in 2007, they speculated that the victims were extended family members who’d been executed for unknown reasons. But new research published in the journal PLOS One reveals that most of the deceased had no familial ties, eliminating a leading explanation for their deaths—and prompting experts to once again ask who killed the group and why.

Read More

Figure riding a sea turtle, probably depicting an ancient Greek fable similar to Odysseus’ Return to the Homeland (Nostos).