Since ancient days, people have developed sophisticated weapons to fill their arsenals. In ancient Egypt, the khopesh was a notoriously deadly sword on the battlefield. A khopesh would typically be cast out of a single piece of bronze that was quite heavy, and it looked like a cross between a battle ax and a sword. Even Ramses II is portrayed as wielding one of these.
A Japanese officer of the Edo era would make great use of a sodegarami (the word itself means “sleeve entangler”). This weapon looked like a spiked pole, and it allowed the officers to confront any antagonist with a quick twist, bringing the attacked person to the ground but not necessarily inflicting severe wounds.
When it comes to the Aztec warriors, perhaps their best asset on the battlefield was the macuahuitl. Known as the Aztec sword, this weapon was not a real sword cast in metal but made from oak wood. Its edges were set with obsidian blades (volcanic glass), and Aztec warriors used these to slash throats and inflict painful wounds that caused heavy bleeding.
When Cortés arrived in Central America, he certainly witnessed the strength of the Aztecs on the battlefield. Chronicles of his battles and similar historical documents tell that the Aztecs were fearsome people. Their society and culture were largely built on warriorhood.
Both the jaguar and the eagle were emblematic predators that added to the Aztec culture, and warriors would typically dress to look like one of the two. They believed such appearance would spread fear among their adversaries. If a new warrior was to join the Aztec battle groups, he could do so only if he captured an enemy soldier first.
The Aztec had a well-thought-out system on how the military should function, and a well-developed strategy for the battlefields too. The Aztec warriors who used the macuahuitl would step forward during a battle only when the archers or slingers advanced close to the adversary. In a close encounter with the enemy, the macuahuitl was their best asset in hands.
Resembling a cricket bat, the macuahuitl had a length typically extending some three and a half feet. While numerous examples of this weapon were managed with one hand only, there were others who required two hands to grab and fight.
Depending on its size, the weapon had between four and eight razor-sharp blades along each side, but this varied, with some macuahuitl embracing a complete single edge formed by the unusual volcanic material. No matter the design, the obsidian could not be pulled out. The Aztecs would wield their swords with short and chopping movements, and, as many accounts suggest, they cut off some heads.
Besides the macuahuitl, the Aztec made use of the tepoztopilli, one more weapon carved out of wood and fitted with obsidian blades. However, the tepoztopilli was more like a type of polearm. It was spear-like, with a large wedge head on the front, and at five to six feet long, the entire piece was a bit longer than the macuahuitl.
Cortés’ conquistadors certainly had plenty of opportunities to see the power of the Aztec weaponry demonstrated first hand. Several of the Spanish horse riders reported that the Aztec swords were able to decapitate not only a human head but that of a horse. The blades would inflict a wound so deep in the animal, its head would cleave off to hang only by the skin.
Contrary to popular belief, the deadly macuahuitl was not an invention of the Aztec themselves, but rather a weapon widespread among distinct groups of Central Mexico and likely in other places of Mesoamerica as well.
Even Christopher Columbus was fascinated by the strength of this weapon when he encountered it after reaching the Americas. He gave orders to his people to collect a sample to show back in Spain.
Today, there aren’t any original macuahuitl surviving, only various re-creations of the weapon based on knowledge extracted from contemporary accounts and illustrations produced during the 16th century or earlier.
It is believed that the last authentic macuahuitl was destroyed in a fire in the Real Armería de Madrid, where the weapon was kept for a long time next to the last original tepoztopilli.
Although nowadays socks seem to be nothing more than just a simple detail of one’s outfit, the fact is that they have come a long way and dramatically evolved over the centuries. Socks are considered by many as being the oldest type of clothing to have ever existed, dating back to the Stone Age when our ancestors first started using animal skin for the purpose of covering their feet and ankles in order to provide much-needed warmth and comfort.
The oldest known surviving pair of socks was discovered in the city of Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. They date back to 300-500 A.D. and were created by needle-binding. Today, these strange looking ancient socks are on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The museum explains that:
“The Romano-Egyptian socks were excavated in the burial grounds of ancient Oxyrhynchus, a Greek colony on the Nile in central Egypt at the end of the 19th century. They were given to the Museum in 1900 by Robert Taylor Esq., ‘Kytes,’ Watford. He was the executor of the estate of the late Major Myers and these items were selected among others from a list of textiles as ‘a large number of advantageous examples.”
It appears that humans have embraced the benefits of wearing socks since the earliest cultures and civilizations, including people of Ancient Greece. The famed Greek poet, Hesiod, gives us one of the first written accounts of the importance of keeping our feet warm by using “piloi,” ancient type of socks made from matted animal hair.
They came, they saw, they wore socks with sandals. As you might have already guessed, we are talking about the Ancient Romans. Several years ago, an archaeological dig in North Yorkshire brought archaeologists to a conclusion that Roman legionnaires wore socks with sandals. Although one can rarely see an Ancient Roman sculpture that features socks, the fact is that Ancient Romans, similarly to the Ancient Greeks, also wore socks for protection against cold weather.
While Ancient Greeks and Romans used socks for functional purposes, among Europeans of the 5th century A.D., socks become known as puttees and were usually worn only by “holy” people to symbolize purity.
Status symbols, both financial and cultural, have existed for quite a long time throughout our history with every era being defined by a different one. We all know the status symbols of our own era, but one might be surprised to find out that around 1,000 years ago a rather strange object was considered a mark of social standing, and that was, believe it or not, a pair of colored socks.
It was not until 1000 A.D. that socks became a prominent object in everyday life and a symbol of wealth among the nobility. However, this changed with the invention of the knitting machine in 1589, which made it possible for socks to be knitted far faster than knitting them by hand as people did before. A strange new substance known as nylon was introduced in 1938 which caused a revolution in the entire textile industry and changed sock production forever.
Today in the 21st century, socks can be found for any kind of need, purpose, or style; the only thing that remains a struggle is to keep one pair of socks complete.
In the summer of 536, a strange cloud appeared in the skies over much of Southern Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. Sometimes referred to as “a veil of dust,” something plunged the Mediterranean region and many other areas of the world into gloomy years of cold and darkness.
This foreboding change was recorded by the Byzantine historian Procopius. “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during this whole year.” Procopius also wrote of disease and war resulting from the blocking of the sun’s light.
A Syrian scribe described the change as “…the sun began to be darkened by day and the moon by night, while ocean was tumultuous with spray.” Gaelic Irish records describe a “failure of bread” in the year 536.
For many years, historians and scientists have wondered what may have caused Procopius and others to record notable differences in weather. Modern research has provided some interesting theories.
Much of the rest of the world seems to have been impacted by the cloud as well, at least in the northern hemisphere. Studies of tree rings between 536 and 551 show less tree growth in China, Europe, and North America. Less solar radiation reaching the earth resulted in lower temperatures and abnormal weather patterns. The results for humans included lower food production output, famine, as well as increased social and political disruption.
There were specific events recorded that were likely related to the ominous cloud. A deadly pandemic swept through the Byzantine Empire in 541-542, that became known as the Justinian Plague. Estimates are that up to a third of the population perished during the outbreak. Procopius described some of the horrible symptoms as fever and swelling all over the body.
In 536 China, there was famine and drought with many deaths, as well as reports of “yellow dust that rained down like snow.” At the same time, Korea faced massive storms and flooding. Unusually heavy snowfalls were noted in Mesopotamia.
Scandinavia seems to have been particularly hard hit. Archaeological evidence indicates that almost 75 percent of villages in parts of Sweden were abandoned in these years. One theory is that this displacement of people was a catalyst for later raids by Vikings seeking more fertile land in other parts of Europe and beyond. A Norse poem of the time reads, “The sun turns black, earth sinks in the sea. Down from heaven, stars are whirled.”
The severe weather may have impacted other historical trends. Among them is the migration of Mongolian tribes westward, the fall of the Persian Sassanid Empire, and the rise and rapid expansion of Islam.
Some historians mark these specific changes in weather patterns as contributing to the historic transition from antiquity to the beginning of the era of the Dark and Middle Ages. It certainly emphasizes the impact rapid climate change may have had on human populations.
What could have caused such a sudden and dramatic change in weather? Experts are divided, and we may never know the whole answer. One theory is that the climate around the world changed based on one giant volcanic eruption, possibly from Central America. This could have resulted in a layer of ash and dust covering the skies of much of the planet.
Another suggestion is that there were two large volcano blasts within a couple of years of each other, specifically in 536 and 540, causing darkness and cold around most of the world. Clouds of smoke and debris from massive volcanic fires could have spread rapidly.
Evidence of volcanic eruptions was backed up by material found in both the North and South Poles. In both Antarctica and Greenland, sulfate deposits have been discovered dating back to the mid-6th century.
A third theory contemplates the impact of a comet or meteorite crashing into the Earth. Or the possibility of a near miss from a comet passing by that could have left thick dust clouds of particles in the atmosphere. Experts generally think this explanation is less plausible than that of volcanic eruptions.
Whatever the cause, people living at the time noticed and recorded a rapid change in nature. Human populations around the earth were disrupted and to many it would have felt like the world were coming to an end.
Despite all the discoveries that have been made about Ancient Egypt, archaeologists are confident that there’s more to be found, new riches sleeping under the vast dunes of the desert. They seem to be right, as a tomb was recently unearthed that belonged to an important ancient priestess, a precious discovery that provides insights into the life of an ancient Egyptian woman of high rank more than four millennia ago. The recent find happened close to the country’s renowned Pyramids of Giza and roughly 12 miles to the south of the capital of Cairo.
The newly uncovered tomb, as old as 4,400 years, includes rare decoration such as intriguing wall paintings. Some of them feature portrayals of what is believed to be the high priestess named Hetpet, Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry officials stated while announcing the discovery on February 3, 2018. One of the spokespersons, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri, remarked that the site was found in “very good condition.”
“There are colored depictions of traditional scenes: animal grazing, fishing, bird-catching, offerings, sacrifice, soldiers, and fruit-gathering,” Waziri said of the paintings that adorn the tomb of the priestess.
Hetpet was a priestess to Hathor, the Ancient Egyptian deity of fertility, motherhood, dance, and music. In general, female priestesses were not common in that era, but worshiping Hathor was well known. Typically represented with a head of a cow, Hathor had a number of priestesses. Hetpet, as one of them, is considered to have been closely affiliated with the royal family of the Fifth Dynasty. Though a notable figure of antiquity, her mummy was never found.
Archaeologists conclude that the tomb belongs to the period of the Fifth Dynasty due to the featured decoration as well as the style in which the tomb is built. The priestess herself is depicted standing in various scenes. In some, she is presented offerings by children. In others, she appears to look on hunting and fishing activities. Inscriptions of her name and titles have also been found at the site.
One of the most dazzling scenes of all includes one with a monkey, animals which were back then domesticated and helped their owners in activities such as collecting fruit. Among the paintings in Hetpet’s tomb, a monkey can be seen dancing in front of an orchestra, what some commentaries have described as a rare portrayal. In previously discovered scenes, the animal has been found dancing in front of a guitarist alone.
The latest archaeological mission, which is being carried out in the wider area of the western necropolis of Giza, commenced in the last quarter of 2017. However, the same area that contained Hetpet’s tomb has been already noted among archaeologists for hiding other treasures, included tombs dating to the Old Kingdom as well as more pieces of artifacts related to the figure of Hetpet. Unearthing some of them took place as early as the mid-19th century and early 20th century.
Near the excavated area, construction of a new facility that will serve as a museum has been commissioned too. While the new edifice is expected to feature Egypt’s numerous authentic artifacts, including belongings of the world-famous King Tutankhamun, the entire facility should be completed by 2022, the Telegraph reports.
The recent period has been marked by numerous significant discoveries for Egypt, spanning different periods and dynasties. In September 2017, Egyptian officials announced the discovery of a 3,500-year-old-tomb close to Luxor, one that belonged to a goldsmith and his spouse.
As tourism in Egypt has stagnated in the last couple of years due to safety concerns, Egyptian authorities are hopeful that with all the latest discoveries, including the tomb of the priestess, people will once more wish to visit the country.
Hypatia, (born c. 355 CE—died March 415, Alexandria), mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who lived in a very turbulent era in Alexandria’s history. She is the earliest female mathematician of whose life and work reasonably detailed knowledge exists.
Hypatia was the daughter of Theon of Alexandria, himself a mathematician and astronomer and the last attested member of the Alexandrian Museum (see ). Theon is best remembered for the part he played in the preservation of Euclid’s Elements, but he also wrote extensively, commenting on Ptolemy’s Almagest and Handy Tables. Hypatia continued his program, which was essentially a determined effort to preserve the Greek mathematical and astronomical heritage in extremely difficult times. She is credited with commentaries on Apollonius of Perga’s Conics (geometry) and Diophantus of Alexandria’s Arithmetic (number theory), as well as an astronomical table (possibly a revised version of Book III of her father’s commentary on the Almagest). These works, the only ones she is listed as having written, have been lost, although there have been attempts to reconstruct aspects of them. In producing her commentaries on Apollonius and Diophantus, she was pushing the program initiated by her father into more recent and more difficult areas.
She was, in her time, the world’s leading mathematician and astronomer, the only woman for whom such claim can be made. She was also a popular teacher and lecturer on philosophical topics of a less-specialist nature, attracting many loyal students and large audiences. Her philosophy was Neoplatonist and was thus seen as “pagan” at a time of bitter religious conflict between Christians (both orthodox and “heretical”), Jews, and pagans. Her Neoplatonism was concerned with the approach to the One, an underlying reality partially accessible via the human power of abstraction from the Platonic forms, themselves abstractions from the world of everyday reality. Her philosophy also led her to embrace a life of dedicated virginity.
An early manifestation of the religious divide of the time was the razing of the Serapeum, the temple of the Greco-Egyptian god Serapis, by Theophilus, Alexandria’s bishop until his death in 412 CE. This event was perhaps the final end of the great Library of Alexandria, since the Serapeum may have contained some of the Library’s books. Theophilus, however, was friendly with Synesius, an ardent admirer and pupil of Hypatia, so she was not herself affected by this development but was permitted to pursue her intellectual endeavours unimpeded. With the deaths of Synesius and Theophilus and the accession of Cyril to the bishopric of Alexandria, however, this climate of tolerance lapsed, and shortly afterward Hypatia became the victim of a particularly brutal murder at the hands of a gang of Christian zealots. It remains a matter of vigorous debate how much the guilt of this atrocity is Cyril’s, but the affair made Hypatia a powerful feminist symbol and a figure of affirmation for intellectual endeavour in the face of ignorant prejudice. Her intellectual accomplishments alone were quite sufficient to merit the preservation and respect of her name, but sadly, the manner of her death added to it an even greater emphasis.