The Crusades – The Real Story

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Facts About

the Crusades

At some point, slightly over a millennia ago, the entire civilized world decided to collectively go nuts. European armies rampaged through the Middle East, Islamic armies rampaged through the Balkans, and a whole lotta people died in a crazy religious war. Known as the Crusades, this state of affairs lasted the best part of 200 years.

 Since then, the Crusades have taken on an almost mythic resonance in both cultures. Everyone knows them… or at least thinks they know them. But the history we’re sold of the Crusades isn’t exactly the full version. In fact, go digging through the tall tales and mountains of propaganda, and you’ll uncover a whole lot of information suggesting the Crusades were even crazier than you ever thought possible.

10. They Weren’t Totally Unjustified

The standard image of the Crusades is one of opportunist European mercenaries trashing the Middle East under the guise of ‘religion’. While there’s plenty of evidence that individual crusaders didn’t care much about spreading Christianity, the same can’t be said of their commanders. According to historian Rodney Stark, the decision to launch the first crusade was both religiously motivated and totally justified.

Before the Franks started devastating Asia Minor and the Levant, the Islamic Empire had undergone a crazy period of expansion. Mohammed had turned his tribe from a minor group into a global power, and they’d moved out of the East and into Europe. Spain, Sicily and Southern Italy had undergone extreme wars of conquest, and Seljuk Turks were threatening Christian Constantinople. In Stark’s view, Pope Urban III’s call to the First Crusade was an example of Europe getting its act together to defend itself from an expansionist superpower.

On a personal level, too, some of the crusaders had justifiable motives. Many knew relatives who’d been killed on pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and signed up to fight to avenge them. Popular history may say the Crusades were an unprovoked attack, but Stark’s reading suggests otherwise.

9. The Arab World Hasn’t Held a Grudge All this Time

Osama bin Laden used the Crusades as justification for 9/11. Islamist terror groups use them to spread an ideology of vengeance. Even mainstream Arab politicians consider the Crusades a dreadful historical wrong that should be taught in schools. Way to bear a grudge, right?

Not exactly. See, the idea that the Arab-Muslim world has stewed over the Crusades for a thousand years may sound plausible, but it’s anything but. Until the mid-19thcentury, Arabic didn’t even have a word for ‘Crusades’.

By the 18th century, most Arabic societies had long forgotten about the Crusades. They were wars that had happened centuries ago; about as relevant to their lives as the 30 Years War or the Battle of Agincourt are to yours. The only reason they came back into the public consciousness is because early-19th century French scholars ‘rediscovered’ them at around the same time France invaded Algeria. Suddenly, these 800-year old battles were being used in Paris as justification for the current ‘civilizing’ war.

But the real trigger came with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. As European powers gobbled up Turkish territory after WWI, Arab scholars searched for a historical analogue for their present suffering. They seized on the crusades, and they’ve stayed in people’s minds ever since.

8. They Weren’t Just about Christianity vs. Islam

In our current, troubled, times, the desire to look back on the Crusades as an epic clash between Muslims and Christians is strong on both sides. To be sure, the majority of battles did take place between those two groups. But all of them? Not even close. An integral part of many of the Crusades was the elimination of everyone from Jews to pagans.

These guys weren’t just accidentally caught up in the crossfire. They were the targets of the Crusaders themselves. In the First Crusade, for example, Count Emicho switched the Levant for the Rhineland in modern Germany, where he laid siege to Jewish towns and massacred their inhabitants. The Albigensian Crusade of 1208-29 took place in France itself, and only targeted members of the Albigensian-Christian minority. Then there were the Baltic Crusades of 1211-25, which went after pagans in places like Transylvania. For those involved in these wars, seeing even a single Muslim or a patch of desert was as likely as you seeing an escaped rhinoceros on your way to work.

Across the whole Crusader period, significant battles were being fought with nary a Muslim in sight. And, while we’re on the subject…

7. The Crusaders Totally Sacked Christian Cities, Too

If anyone out there still believes the main goal of the Crusades was a clash of Islam and Christianity, we invite them to explain the Fourth Crusade. Called by Pope Innocent III, it started with Christian armies marching off to invade the Levant… and ended with the Crusaders sacking the Christian city of Constantinople and massacring its inhabitants.

At the time, Constantinople was the beating heart of the Byzantine Empire, an Eastern offshoot of the bygone Roman Empire that had traded pagan worship for Christian. No other city on Earth was so central to the spreading of Christianity about the world. And still the Crusaders declared it a target and destroyed it. On April 12, 1204, they entered the city and massacred thousands of their co-religionists.

There were semi-logical reasons for this course of action, related to the split between Western and Eastern Christianity and the internal politics of the Byzantine Empire (most of which is too complex or confusing to go into here). But the result was still one of the nastiest Christian-on-Christian massacres of the entire Crusades. Not the sort of outcome you’d expect if you truly believed this was a holy war between Allah and God.

6. Islamic Commanders Spent More Time Fighting Other Muslims than Christians

Given all this infighting and confusion in the Christian lands, you might expect to hear the Islamic commanders took advantage of it to portray a united front. Well, you’d be wrong. Just like the Crusaders themselves, the Muslim forces weren’t into this whole clash of civilizations narrative. By which we mean they spent almost as much time fighting other Muslims as they did the European invaders.

 Seriously, just look at the story of Saladin. A Muslim commander famous today for standing up to the Crusaders, Saladin was way more two-faced than his reputation suggests. Between 1174 and 1187, he spent most of his time beating on other Muslims, netting his family a vast dynasty that stretched all the way from Aleppo to Mosul, via Damascus. During this period, he even made truces with the Crusaders to free up his forces to fight his fellow Muslims.

Nor was he the only one. Saladin’s teacher, Nur al-Din, spent the time between the Second and Third Crusades riding into Egypt to whup Shi`ite Fatimid butt, ignoring the outposts of Christendom all around him. If these two were motivated by a hatred of all things Christian, they sure hid it well.

5. No One Realized for Ages that the Crusades Were Meant to be Religious

The First Crusade started way, way back in 1096. It was remarkably successful. By 1099, Jerusalem had been captured, Christian states had been established at Tripoli, Antioch and Edessa, and the Levant was no longer purely under Muslim control. With such a blaze of religious violence, you might have expected everyone to see the Crusades as we do now. But that simply wasn’t the case. According to history Professor Jonathan Phillips, no one realized the Crusades were meant to be religious for ages.

You gotta remember that the medieval period wasn’t a nice one to live in. Empires were constantly clashing, raiding parties routinely massacred entire towns, and pirates dominated the coastlines. So when a bunch of Europeans swept through the Levant, toppling Islamic governments and killing Muslims, most locals simply shrugged and decided they were just another raiding party.

It wasn’t until the First Crusade had ended that anyone realized there was something deeper going on than mere opportunism. Rather than sack Jerusalem and run off with its riches, the Crusaders stayed around, ruling their new territories as part of Christendom. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 1105 that conquered Muslims began talking about waging a jihad in response, and it wasn’t until 1144 that anyone actually agreed to do so.

4. It Wasn’t Just the Catholics

It’s an undeniable fact that the First Crusade was called by the Pope, at a time when most of Europe was Catholic. As a result, many still fervently believe that the Crusades were carried out entirely by Catholics. However, this version of events misses some pretty fundamental truths about religious alliances in the 12th and 13th centuries. Far from going it alone, the Catholics were often joined by members of the Orthodox Church.

One of the most-famous was Patriarch Heraclius, who fought alongside the Crusader nobleman Balian during the Siege of Jerusalem. Another was the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, who got the Crusades kick-started by appealing to the Pope to save Constantinople from Turkish hordes (eventually leading, ironically, to the sacking of Constantinople by those same Crusaders). On a lower level, there were Greek Christians involved in various crusades, alongside Armenian Christians and even some Russian Orthodox.

In short, many different branches of Christianity got involved, and the same was true on the Muslim side. Sunni, Shi’ite and various sub-divisions all piled in, creating a multi-faceted campaign where no group was obviously pulling all the strings.

3. The Mongol Conquests Were Much, Much Worse

Pretty much everyone agrees the Crusades were bloody. There’s a reason groups like ISIS love to bring it up as an example of Christians beating on Muslims. But the idea that they were unprecedented is, frankly, nonsense. From an Arab perspective alone, the Crusades were far from the worst calamity to hit the region. The Mongol Conquests were much, much worse.

If the European invasion was like having a gang of masked men ransack your house, its Mongol counterpart was like having your house torched while you’re still tied up inside it. The Mongols swept across the Middle East, laying waste to everything in their path. When they sacked Baghdad in 1258, over 200,000 people were put to the sword, and the Caliph viciously beaten to death. This followed on from their total destruction of the Sunni Muslim Khwarezmid Empire, which had seen around 1.25 million slaughtered in less than three years.

It’s impossible to state how much the region suffered under the Mongols. From 1240 to 1300, various Khans laid waste to Aleppo and Damascus, and conducted repeated raids into the Levant. Unsurprisingly, it was these super-massacres Arab historians tended to remember, rather than the less-violent Crusades.

2. One of the Great Muslim Commanders Wasn’t Even Religious

A lot of this article has dealt with how our beliefs about the Crusades and religion are kinda misguided. Well, prepare to have your minds blown all over again. It wasn’t just the Christian side that had a great big mixed bag of religious viewpoints. One of the greatest commanders of the Muslim armies, Zengi, wasn’t even religious at all.

In a 2010 article for History News Network, Professor Johnathon Phillips claimed that Zengi was a “secular individual.” This is pretty shocking, as Zengi was one of the great commanders of the Muslim fightback against the invaders. In 1144, he captured the major Crusader city of Edessa, inspiring Saladin to get involved in the wars, which led to Christians being driven out of many areas. Yet all available evidence shows Zengi wasn’t really interested in religion at all. When he wasn’t retaking Crusader strongholds, he was busy sacking Muslim cities, as part of his personal crusade to (presumably) get rich or die tryin’.

1. The Crusades May Have Led to the Discovery of America

The Ninth and last Crusade ended in 1272. Columbus discovered America over 200 years later, in 1492. In temporal terms, he was as distant from the rest of this article as you are from the Napoleonic Wars. So how could one possibly lead to the other? To answer that, we’ll have to hand over to cultural anthropologist Carol Delaney. In 2011, Delaney published a book on Columbus’s motives for discovering the New World. Rather than a thirst for adventure, or a desire to enrich himself, she maintains that Columbus was secretly hoping to find enough gold to finance a Tenth Crusade.

At the time, Jerusalem had been in Islamic hands for centuries. According to Delaney, Columbus considered this an affront against his religion. So he set off to collect the funds needed to raise an army and take Jerusalem back for Christendom. It was while on this mission that he accidentally stumbled across America.

 If true, that would mean that everything from New York, to the Brazilian football team, to Eva Peron and Simon Bolivar, to this very website are all a historical accident caused by the inconclusive end to the medieval Crusades. Now there’s a weird thought.

The Crusades

The Real Story

Caveman Digest – WIF Ancient History

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Theories About

Why the


Died Out

Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis… or, humans and Neanderthals… started to diverge from a common ancestor, Homo erectus, about 700,000 years ago. Then our species completely branched off about 300,000 years ago.

On average, Neanderthals were shorter than humans and they had a stockier build. They also had angled cheekbones, prominent brow ridges, and wide noses. Like humans, they used tools, controlled fire, and buried their dead. Also, while they are often depicted as dumb, savage brutes, researchers believe they were as intelligent as humans.

They lived in Eurasia, from about Spain to western Siberia, and while the date of their extinction is debated, it’s believed that they died out somewhere between 30,000 to 42,000 years ago. Why they went extinct is one of the biggest mysteries in evolutionary science. So why did our ancestral cousins die out?

10. We Were Better Hunters

The Neanderthals went extinct not long after humans migrated out of Africa into Eurasia. Since the Neanderthals ruled Europe for so long before the arrival of humans, and suddenly died off after coming into contact with them, it has led researchers to believe that humans were somehow responsible, at least in part, for the extinction.

One theory as to how humans drove Neanderthals to extinction was because we were better hunters. This became a problem because, with only a limited amount of food, there would have been competition for it. Since we’re here and they aren’t, it would suggest that we were better hunters and got most of the food. This would have caused the Neanderthal population to plummet, while the human population would have gone up.

9. Humans Violently Replaced Them

Throughout history, groups of humans have had a tendency to kill, enslave, or conquer other groups of people who are different from them. Why would prehistoric humans be any different when they came into contact with the Neanderthals?

When humans migrated out of Africa, they may have been more aggressive and more violent than the Neanderthals because that was advantageous to their hunting style. Meanwhile, it’s believed that the Neanderthals were less violent because they didn’t hunt in the same way. Instead of hunting and chasing down big animals, to get their protein they ate insects.

If they were more peaceful by nature, the Neanderthals would have been unable to fight off the growing population of violent human brutes who invaded their territory.

8. Volcanic Eruption

An event that can have profound effects on the Earth is the eruption of a large volcano. When a volcano erupts, millions of cubic tons of ash and debris can be put into the atmosphere and this alters the climate of the Earth by making it cooler, because less sun reaches the Earth.

Well 39,000 years ago, around the same time that the Neanderthals started to go extinct, the Campi Flegrei volcano west of Naples, Italy had a massive eruption. It was the biggest eruption in Europe in 200,000 years and 60 cubic miles of ash was pumped into the atmosphere.

This would have had devastating effects on the Neanderthals. The sun would have been blotted out for months, if not years. This would have cooled temperatures in Europe and it would have brought acid rain. These types of conditions would have made the environment inhospitable to the Neanderthals, causing them to die out. As the ash dispersed and the Neanderthals were dying off, humans would have moved into Europe with little resistance.

7. Humans Hunted With Wolves

Around the time that the Neanderthals went extinct, there were three top predators competing for food in Europe: the Neanderthals, humans, and wolves. According to anthropologist Pat Shipman of Pennsylvania State University an alliance between the wolves and the humans led to the extinction of the Neanderthals. His theory is that humans were able to tame and breed wolves. These wolf-dogs would have been used to get large animals, like mammoths, cornered so humans could finish them off. Cornering the animal was the most dangerous part of the hunt.

Also, when humans would bring down the animals and started to cut it apart, they would had to fight off scavengers, but the wolves would have been able sense scavengers from longer distances and they would have scared them off. Then the humans would feed the wolves and this would have been a win-win situation for the two top predators.

Meanwhile, there is no evidence that the Neanderthals used wolves to hunt. Without their help, prey would have been more dangerous to hunt and they would have to exert more energy while hunting, meaning they needed more food to sustain themselves. This would have made it hard for the Neanderthal population to maintain and grow their population, especially when two of their competitors teamed up to fight for the same resources that they needed.

6. Humans Had More Culture

According to a mathematical model from Stanford University, the reason that humans are still around and the Neanderthals aren’t is that humans had a high level of culture. By having a stronger culture, they would have been able to hunt and gather food over a larger area than the Neanderthals. This culture would have also led to better tool-making skills, which would allow them to make better weapons. For example, an ax would have been an incredibly useful tool and a devastating weapon.

According to their model, a small population of humans with a high level of culture could have overwhelmed a large population of Neanderthals who were less cultured.

5. The Division of Labor

The Neanderthals didn’t have the most complex diet. They were known to hunt big game animals, which was a dangerous task. They also hunted differently than humans. Neanderthal men, women, and juveniles would get involved with the hunt. Humans, on the other hand, developed tasks based on gender and age. This division of labor allowed them to collect a variety of different foods, and then they could process and cook it.

Being able to eat a variety of cooked food would have given humans an evolutionary edge in two ways. The first is that there would been more sources for food. Secondly, the more complex diet of cooked food not only allowed humans to survive, but it also helped in the evolution of the human brain and helped make it what it is today.

4. Neanderthals Had Smaller Frontal Lobes

One of the prevailing misconceptions surrounding the Neanderthals is that we were smarter than them. However, researchers believe their brains were just as big as humans’, but they were built differently. Neanderthal brains were designed to control their large bodies and to track movement. Humans had larger frontal lobes, which is the region of the brain where decision-making, social behavior, creativity, and abstract thought are controlled. In the long run, these qualities probably gave us an evolutionary edge compared the Neanderthals.

For example, by using abstract thought, humans realized that by processing food, like smashing up cooked yams, it would have saved energy during the eating process because you need less energy to chew your food. This is especially important when raising children. Secondly, the frontal lobe would have been helpful in spreading new technology quickly. With a larger frontal lobe it would have been easier for humans to teach each other, and to learn. Also, thanks to the large frontal lobe, early humans saw the benefit in forming large social groups, and these large groups would have made technology easier to spread across the species.

By saving energy on everyday tasks like eating, and utilizing technology, it would have given us an evolutionary edge that allowed us to survive while the Neanderthals went extinct.

3. The Weather Change Changed Their Habitat

An argument against the replacement theory is that humans had nothing to do with the extinction of the Neanderthals. After all, humans first left Africa about 100,000 years ago and moved into the Middle East, and then about 60,000 years ago they made it to Australia. However, humans only migrated into Europe, the Neanderthal’s homeland, 45,000 years ago. The question is, why did humans travel all the way down to Australia before getting to Europe, which is essentially around the corner from the Middle East? This suggests that humans may have only been able to move in when the Neanderthals were already dying off.

So why were they dying off? Well, drastic weather change could have been the culprit. When the Neanderthals went extinct, the last Ice Age was coming to an end and Eurasia was experiencing unstable weather patterns which dramatically changed the landscape. For example, in Italy around the time the Neanderthals went extinct, forests morphed into open plains over the span of 100 years. The Neanderthal body simply couldn’t evolve fast enough to survive in the new landscape.

The problem was that the Neanderthals hunted in the forest. They used the trees as cover and then they clubbed or stabbed prey. Their bodies simply weren’t built to sneak up on fast moving and dangerous game animals in the newly developed open plains.

Humans, on the other hand, were used to grasslands and open fields because that was the terrain in Africa where humans evolved and strived. With the Neanderthal population dwindling and the landscape becoming advantageous to humans’ skills, our ancestors simply moved into the area.

2. Disease Wiped Them Out

Why the Neanderthals lived for tens of thousands of years in Eurasia, but died out about 1,000 to 5,000 years after coming into contact with humans, is one of the most debated topics in anthropology. The obvious conclusion is that humans had something to do with the extinction, but no one is sure how or why humans caused it.

One theory is that when the Neanderthals moved out of Africa and settled in Eurasia, their immune system developed to deal with that environment. However, when humans migrated out of Africa, they brought African pathogens with them and these caused diseases like tuberculosis, herpes, tapeworms, and stomach ulcers. The Neanderthals’ immune systems simply couldn’t deal with the diseases and they went extinct. Yes, you read that right. Humans gave the Neanderthals herpes and it killed them.

Evidence to back this up is that this is what happened when Europeans came to the Americas starting in 1492. When they came, they brought diseases like smallpox and malaria, and this was devastating to people in the Americas. Since the Native Americans’ immune systems weren’t developed to combat the diseases, it’s estimated that 20 million Native Americans were killed in the years following contact with the Europeans, which was nearly 95 percent of the population in the Americas.

1. They Assimilated With Humans

One theory surrounding the fate of the Neanderthals is that there was no death blow. They simply assimilated with humans by interbreeding. For any of the reasons listed in the other entries on this list, or quite possibly because of a combination of them, the population of Neanderthals became drastically low. However, instead of all of them dying off, the species was just absorbed by the much bigger human population.

Evidence to back this up is that if you were born outside of Africa, 1.5 to 2.1 percent of your DNA is Neanderthal in origin. However, what’s interesting is that it isn’t the same genes in everyone. For example, if you have 2% Neanderthal DNA and your next door neighbor has 2% Neanderthal DNA, you may not share the same 2%. Researchers think that 20 percent of the Neanderthal genome is still found within humans. So they never exactly went extinct; instead, their DNA just became part of the modern human genome.

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Are You Older Than A Dinosaur? – WIF Ancient Earth

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the Dinosaurs

According to fossils, researchers believe that the earliest dinosaurs evolved about 230 million years ago in the late Triassic era. However, before the dawn of the “Terrible Lizards” there were other vicious creatures that lived in the Earth’s oceans and roamed the land.

 10. Cynognathus

One thing you may notice about the Cynognathus is that it has hair, which is a trait that most mammals have. Well, that’s because Cynognathus is a part of an order called Therapsids, which were distant relatives of mammals.

The Cynognathus lived 251 million to 245.9 million years ago, and the first mammals appeared around 200 million years ago. These creatures, which died out just as the earliest dinosaurs evolved, were found in modern day Africa and South America.

They were about the size of a modern wolf, and had long, powerful jaws that were used to hold their prey down. It would then use its dog-like teeth, which included sharp incisors and canines, to kill and devour their food, which were small herbivores. They were pack-hunting animals that were also incredibly fast runners. Their short limbs were tucked under their body, allowing for rapid movement.

9. Arthropleura

If you don’t like bugs, you should be happy that you’ll never came across an Arthropleura, which is the largest land living “bug” to ever crawl upon the earth. It would grow to be a foot and half wide and more than six feet long.

They lived in the swamplands around the equator in what is present-day North America and Europe about 320 to 290 million years ago. They died around the time that the oxygen levels in the atmosphere decreased, but it is unclear if the oxygen levels played a role in their extinction or if another factor was responsible.

8. Estemmenosuchus

The Estemmenosuchus may look like a mix between a rhino, a hippo, and Triceratops, but it was neither a mammal nor a dinosaur. Instead, it was a Synapsida, which is an ancestor of mammals. The Estemmenosuchus lived 267 million years ago in modern day Russia.

Researchers are unsure if the animal, which was up to 15-feet long and weighed nearly 1,000 pounds, was a herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore. It had sharp teeth, suggesting that it was capable of eating flesh. However, it had a big body, which was good at digesting food. It also had short legs and its mouth easily reached the ground, meaning it had an ideal body for grazing.

The Estemmenosuchus was one of the animals that went extinct during the “Great Dying” that happened about 252 million years ago.

7. Helicoprion

The Helicoprion first appeared about 270 million years ago, some 40 million years before the dinosaurs appeared. It’s important to note that while the Helicoprion looks a lot like a shark, it was not a species of shark. It was more closely related to chimaeras and ratfish. They went extinct about 20 million years before the earliest dinosaurs evolved.

The most notable aspect of the Helicoprion was its spiral set of teeth called a “whorl,” and it was first discovered over a century ago. The problem was that the Helicoprion was mostly made of cartridge, which isn’t ideal for creating fossils. So besides the whorls, there isn’t much in terms of Helicoprion remains.

For a long time, researchers were unsure where the whorls were on the body, but the main theory is that it was found on the bottom jaw and worked in a way that was similar to a buzz saw. When it would bite on to something, the teeth, which were permanent, would spin backward, cutting through its prey like a serrated steak knife.

Besides having a terrifying bite, Helicoprions were also quite large, often about 30 to 40 feet long.

6. Nothosaurus

About 20 million years before the dinosaurs first evolved around 230 million years ago, the first species of Nothosaurus (“false lizard”) evolved. They diversified, and there were at least 13 subspecies altogether. They all had long, flexible necks and big, broad heads, and their mouth was full of needle-like teeth.

Nothosauruses, which were about 13 feet long, were also notable because they were both a land and aquatic animal, similar to a seal. Their bodies, with webbed toes and robust limbs, made them excellent swimmers, but they didn’t usually chase after their prey on land or in the water. Instead, they would lie in wait and then surprised their prey, which consisted of fish and marine life.

5. Inostrancevia alexandri

The Inostrancevia alexandri was the largest member of Gorgonopsidae, which was a mammal-like reptile that was part of the Therapsida class. They were about 12 feet long, and their head alone was two feet big. Their size would have made them one of, if not the top predator when they lived, which was about from 299 to 252 million years ago in modern day northern Russia.

The Inostrancevia had two six-inch long canine teeth, which they used to rip the chunks of flesh off their prey, and then they were able to swallow it whole. Not even armored animals were safe; their canines would have been so strong they would be able to cut through it, and then using their powerful neck, they’d simply tear out of the meat.

4. Thalattoarchon Saurophagis

Thalattoarchon saurophagis, which means “lizard-eating sovereign of the sea,” got its catchy name because it ate prey that was as big as itself. No small feat, considering the Thalattoarchon was the size of a bus.

The 28-foot ichthyosaur first appeared about eight million years after the Earth’s biggest mass extinction, the Permian extinction. That was roughly 252 million years ago, and left about 95 percent of all life extinct.

The Thalattoarchon is the oldest known apex predator and it showed that marine life had fully recovered after the greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history. The Thalattoarchon killed its prey by using its sharp, four-inch conical teeth that it used to grab onto slippery fish and squid.

For unknown reasons, the Thalattoarchon and all other types of ichthyosaurs went extinct about 90 million years ago, about 25 million years before the dinosaurs bit the dust.

3. Dimetrodon

There is a common misconception that Dimetrodons were dinosaurs. While they do look like them, and they are often used in dinosaur toy collections, they weren’t even reptiles. They were Synapsidas, and were actually more like mammals than reptiles. Also, they didn’t even live at the same time as dinosaurs. They went extinct 40 to 50 million years before the first dinosaurs evolved.

When they were alive, which was from 295 to about 272 million years ago, Dimetrodons were apex predators. They were the first known land carnivore to use serrated teeth to eat other animals like reptiles and amphibians. They were about 5.5 to 15 feet long, and probably their most notable feature was their spiny back fin. While there is some debate as to what it did, the most prominent theory is that it was used to attract mates and a way for the cold blooded animals to collect heat.

2. Dunkleosteus

No, this isn’t a nickname Shaquille O’Neal gave himself. Instead, 400 million years ago the Dunkleosteus was the king of the ocean was. The armored fish was bigger than a modern day killer whale. They grew to 33 feet long and could weigh four tons. Besides being huge, Dunkleosteus also had an incredibly intense bite that was calculated to be 1,100 pounds of force. That would mean that their bite was as powerful as a Tyrannosaurus Rex, or modern alligators. This was powerful enough to bite through a shark, which was what Dunkleosteus preyed on. That’s right: they were so big and fearsome that they ate sharks, meaning humans wouldn’t have stood a chance if they came across one.

Luckily, no humans ever saw a living Dunkleosteus. They died out about 375 to 360 million years ago, during one the five major mass extinctions, the Late Devonian extinction. During the extinction, between 79% and 87% of all ocean species died out.

1. Carnufex Carolinensis

While there isn’t a whole lot known about Carnufex carolinensis, because only two Carnufex fossils have been found, what researchers do know about them is that they were nine-foot members of the Crocodylomorpha family, which is part of the lineage of modern crocodiles. They were probably the dominant predator when they lived 231 million in what is today North Carolina. They evolved just before the dinosaurs, and may have been the top predator before the rise of the dinosaurs.

Unlike other members of the Crocodylomorpha superorder, Carnufex walked on two feet. So, yes, picture a giant crocodile running after you on two feet, and your pants should soon be sufficiently wet. It had blade-like teeth, which is how it got its name, Carnufex, which means “butcher.” It feasted on armored reptiles and early mammals. They ultimately died out during the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event, which happened about 201 million years ago.

Are You Older Than A Dinosaur?

WIF Ancient Earth

Those Wacky Pharaohs – WIF Confidential

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Crazy Things

Done by

Egyptian Pharaohs

Like many rulers from the time before we had running water and microwaves, the pharaohs of Egypt were considered to be only rivaled in power by the gods their people worshiped. Considering the ancient Egyptians worshiped a god with crocodile for a head, they must have thought their pharaohs were pretty boss. So boss in fact that they let them get away with some pretty ridiculous things during their time in power, for example let’s talk about that time…

 10. Pharaoh Psamtik III Let His Army be Defeated… to Save Some Cats

As you may recall from The Mummy movies, cats were kind of a big deal in ancient Egypt. This is mostly due to the animal being closely linked with the cat-headed goddess of warfare and balls of twine, Bastet. In addition, cats were revered for the role they played in protecting food stores and homes from disease by killing pests likes snakes and rats. As a result, it was considered a crime in ancient Egypt to harm or, through inaction, allow a cat to come to harm. Basically, the pharaohs coined the three laws of robotics millennia before Asimov, and used them to protect the thing that poops under your stairs.

Perhaps the greatest example of a pharaoh placing the well-being of cats above that of his own people was when pharaoh Psamtik III literally told his army not to fight because an enemy commander had released hundreds of cats onto the battlefield. That commander was Persian king Cambyses II who, knowing of the Egyptians love of cats, had his men collect as many as they could prior to the battle and ordered them to simply walk up to the front gate of Pelusium (a major Egyptian stronghold) holding them, along with releasing hundreds more into the enemy ranks as they advanced.

The Egyptians, under threat of death from their pharaoh, had no choice but to let Cambyses’ men walk straight into the city unchecked. Cambyses’ men then methodically slaughtered anyone who dared challenge them, using shields with cats drawn on them, because oh yeah, even striking an image of a cat in ancient Egypt was enough to get in trouble.

The end result was a total victory for Cambyses, who celebrated in a dignified, noble fashion. Just kidding. He ordered the defeated Egyptian army to march past him as he threw cats at them while screaming insults at their god. Luckily for Psamtik, this is by no means the most embarrassing thing to happen to a pharaoh, with that honor likely belonging to…

9. Pharaoh Menes, the Legendary Pharaoh Who Was Killed by an Angry Hippo

Pharaoh Menes (sometimes written as Mena, or sometimes simply Min) was reportedly Egypt’s first pharaoh, and his journey to unify all of Egypt under a single ruler is the stuff of legend. Not because it was awesome, but because we know virtually nothing about Menes’ life or rule. He’s just from that long ago.

In fact, historians are only really confident about a few key details from Menes’ life: That he ruled Egypt during a time of relative peace, that he was well-respected by his people, and that he was stomped to death by a hippo after 62 years on the throne. Exactly how Menes met his end at the hands of a hippo isn’t known, because apparently that’s not a detail anyone back then felt was all that interesting to note. All we know for sure is that somehow the first Egyptian pharaoh was mysteriously ambushed while surrounded by guards, by a hippo. Speaking of dead pharaohs, did you know…

8. Pharaoh Rameses Got a Passport, Long After He Was Dead

Ramses II is considered to have been one of ancient Egypt’s greatest rulers, judging by just how many monuments were built in his name and the fact he was alternatively known as Ramses the Great by his subjects. After a 96-year long career as a pharaoh, Ramses was probably looking forward to spending some quality time alone as a corpse in a pimpin’ gold coffin, but the museums of the world had other ideas.

Like many great pharaohs, Ramses’ corpse was exhumed and put on display in a museum, his near-century-long legacy as a man thought of as no less than a god summed up by a single placard in a language his ancient mind couldn’t comprehend. In 1974, after years on display, Ramses’ corpse was showing its age and it was agreed that it should be sent to a Paris laboratory to be prettied up.

Not wanting the memory of one of the greatest pharaoh to be sullied by listing him as luggage, the Egyptian government granted Ramses an official Egyptian passport for his journey. Along with listing his name and age (some 3,000+ years at the time he flew), the passport also listed Ramses occupation as “King” with a small disclaimer adding that he was dead, as if the fact he was 3,000 years old didn’t already give that away.

7. Pharaoh Sesostris and His Big Ol’ Vagina Statues

Pharaoh Sesostris is a Pharaoh who may or may not have existed, with modern historians believing that he may actually be a composite figure with the stories told about him being gleaned from the lives of several pharaohs from across Egypt’s history. These pharaohs include the aforementioned Ramses the Great and Seti the First. As a result, we don’t know exactly who the following story is actually attributed to, but we had to share it, because… well, you’ll see.

The story goes that Sesostris was an incredibly confident military leader who hungered for battle, openly mocking enemies he felt fought poorly and applauding those he felt fought with honor. To this end the pharaoh is said to have taken to erecting statues in the middle of conquered cities he felt didn’t put up much of a fight with a giant vagina carved into it. A symbolic insult suggesting that the conquered city’s army fought like women. Again, we have no idea about the veracity of this tale since it’s main source is the notoriously unreliable scholar of history, Herodotus, but put yourself in our shoes and tell us you wouldn’t at least mention a pharaoh with a penchant for erecting giant vagina statues as an insult?

6. Pharaoh Akhenaten Got Rid of Religion, So Egypt Got Rid of Him

Akhenaten is a Pharaoh notable for two things: attempting to introduce monotheism to ancient Egypt, and the resulting backlash that saw him nearly erased from all of history.

 Basically, Akhenaten attempted to abandon the traditional Egyptian religious beliefs of believing in multiple awesome gods, and instead tried to convince his people to believe in and worship a single, super god called Aten. Perhaps because Aten was a lame disk of light with dozens of arms instead of a cool crocodile man or dog-headed grim reaper, the people of Egypt largely rejected this new religion and mere days after Akhenaten died, every reference to Aten – and by extension Akhenaten (who styled himself as Aten’s representative on Earth like some sort of sun-pope) – was scrubbed from Egypt.

Everything from the vast temples the pharaoh built to simple cooking pots bearing an image of Aten were destroyed, and Akhenaten himself was branded a traitor, with every mention of his rule being erased from every historical record. So complete was this process that his modern scholars had no idea Akhenaten had even existed until the late 19th century, when some of the items that survived the purge of his new religion were discovered.

5. Many Pharaohs Ceremonially Masturbated Into the Nile

Whacking it (the proper scientific term) played a surprisingly big part in ancient Egyptian culture, with the society’s creation story literally involving one of their many gods masturbating into the cosmos to create life as we know it. As pharaohs were seen as being basically a single step below the various deities of ancient Egypt, it was similarly customary for pharaohs to polish their bone and shoot some baby gravy directly into the Nile every now and again.

The idea behind this bizarre practice was that, like the gods before them, the pharaoh was infusing the river with his holy seed, encouraging life to spring forth from its waters in the form of a good harvest. Of course, not every pharaoh did this, because not every pharaoh had a tallywacker, which didn’t stop them pretending they did. Just ask…

4. Pharaoh Hatshepsut and Her Big Fake Beard

While the image of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh is undeniably that of a rippling, golden skinned man with a crooked staff, a silly hat, and a stupid beard, Egypt did have its fair share of vagina-owning pharaohs. Among them was Hatshepsut, one of Egypt’s most celebrated rulers and a woman credited with one of the longest and most successful reigns of any ruler from history, female or otherwise. Along with establishing major trade routes that helped fill Egyptian coffers full of gold and various spices, Hapshetsut is also credited with inventing that killer eyeliner all the pharaohs wore.

History notes that Hatshepsut’s gender was seldom an issue for her subjects and many statues were built in her honor sporting her delicate features, and oddly enough, a big beard. You see, in ancient Egypt that stupid little beard thing was seen as a symbol of “pharaonic power” and all pharaohs, male and female, were expected to have one during special ceremonies. The problem for Hatshepsut, other female pharaohs, and even male pharaohs who couldn’t grow a half decent beard, is that this obviously wasn’t possible. As such, elaborate fake beards were constructed to be used by the pharaohs who, for whatever reason, didn’t like the idea of actually growing and maintaining a real one.

Hatshepsut went a step further than this, though, and she’s recorded to have ordered that all statues of her were to capture her likeness while also simultaneously depicting her as a man to silence any naysayers who believed she couldn’t rule because of her gender. As a result of this, Hapshetsut’s statues are a curiosity among historians, as they clearly depict her with female facial features, but a buff man’s body and a beard.

3. Pharaoh Cleopatra Once Had Herself Delivered Naked in a Carpet

Cleopatra, like Hapshetsut, (ge·sund·heit) was one of Egypt’s celebrated female rulers. However, unlike Hapshetsut, who went out of her way to appear as a man, Cleopatra was famous for using her womanly wiles to get her own way. This is no better summed up than by the story of how she got Julius Caesar into bed.

The story goes that Cleopatra, who was renowned across the ancient world for being both beautiful and exceptionally cunning, sought to secure Caesar’s assistance in bolstering her political power during a diplomatic visit by the Roman ruler. Seeing as, at the time they met, Caesar was a 52 year old man and she was a nubile 20 year old, Cleopatra realized the best way to do this would probably be with her vagina.

To absolutely ensure that Caesar would have no chance to spurn her advances, she stripped completely naked and had several slaves roll her up in a giant carpet (some sources say bed sheets), which she then asked to be delivered to Caesar as a “gift”. The slaves knocked on Caesar’s door, told him they had a present for him, then unrolled the fabric towards the foot of his bed, revealing a naked Cleopatra, who then invited him to have some sex.

The resulting love affair between Caesar and Cleopatra formed one of the ancient world’s most influential power couples, and it all started with a sex-move straight out of Barney Stinson’s playbook.

2. Pharaoh Pepi II and his Honey Covered Slaves

Pharaoh Pepi II was a fairly unremarkable pharaoh, all things considered. Sure, he ruled Egypt and probably did the five knuckle shuffle into the Nile a few times, but he was mostly content during his rule to gorge himself on food and chill with Ra by bathing shirtless beneath the burning Egyptian sun. Pepi, however, had a particular dislike of flies, in particular when he was trying to eat, which was an issue because Pepi was always stuffing his face.

To counter this problem King Pepi had a designated slave in his sizeable entourage covered in honey every day. This slave would invariably attract the flies, who’d become stuck to the honey and thus be unable to bother Pepi while he ate. This worked so well that Pepi eventually had a honey covered slave stand in every room of his palace so that he’d never be bothered by flies again, proving that even the most minor annoyances can be totally avoided, provided you’re rich and powerful enough, and also have an army of slaves willing to be dipped in honey.

1. Pharaoh Tutankhamun had a Dagger From Space

We’re not going to front by pretending anyone reading this far down on a list of ancient Egyptian pharaohs doesn’t have some sort of an idea about who Tutankhamun is, so we’re just going to get right to it and say he had a knife FROM SPACE.

Specifically, Tutankhamun had a small dagger experts believe was forged from the iron heart of a meteorite. Found in the pharaoh’s tomb in the 1920s, the dagger, despite being thousands of years old, is still sharp enough today that the TSA wouldn’t let you board a plane with it.

 But here’s the thing: nobody is really sure where the dagger came from, because historical evidence suggests that the ancient Egyptians weren’t suitably advanced enough to smelt iron, let alone forge a weapon using space metal. This has led historians to presume that the dagger was a gift from a foreign nation who did possess that technology. While historians are pretty confident that the foreign nation wasn’t the Martians, they haven’t explicitly ruled it out either, so we guess those Ancient Aliens guys might have had a point.

Those Wacky Pharaohs

WIF Confidential


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…If there is one thing that can be said of the McKinneys is that they are possibility thinkers…

Possibility Thinker

“I have heard stories about something like this happening just before I came to be. I am told that it went on for many cycles. There was a distant civilization that began to act in an aggressive manner.” Cerella describes the potential intrusion/incursion, which was the beginning of the current culture of cynicism.

“It sounds to me like they got spooked.” Sampson has a way of cutting to the chase.

Cerella does not dispute that analogy, considering the voracity, the staying power of the old stories and the present introversion of her contemporaries. “I am lost,” is the cry she hears in her heart.

The McKinney men shrug, Celeste and Deimostra hug.

Sampson tries to help, “Who were these jokers?”

“They were not funny, father-to-Deke. Back then, our spacecraft were running into temporal roadblocks. The Elders were unable to resolve the problem to their satisfaction. We now know that Explorer/NEWFOUNDLANDER was a casualty of some outside force.” Cerella would know.

“Wow Cel, think about it! We thought they died from sort of space-bug or something.”

As it turns out, the ill-fated crew in and around the ship that became the McKinney’s salvation, were victims of an infective force in their timestem. In Earth terms they may have caught a bad cold.

“That is a frightening thought,” Celeste makes eye contact with her family. “Fifty vigorous individuals… might that happen to Earth?’

“Well, it was enough to scare an entire planet into provincialism.”

If there is one thing that can be said of the McKinneys is that they are possibility thinkers. Deke, of that Earthly clan, has been thinking way ahead of the past, as it relates to the present.

“As far as I can tell, the atmospheric restriction has been suspended. There is nothing preventing us from taking THAT,” Deke points to the most advanced of the ships they have been drooling over, “out for a mission.”


Episode 8

page 14

Ancient Manuscript Handbook – WIF Into History

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Unique and Enigmatic

Ancient Manuscripts

Ancient manuscripts, written in some old and forgotten languages, can offer truly insightful glimpses into the distant past. Many such tomes were written hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, and their grammar can still pose a serious impediment to scholars today in understanding them completely. While some are still a complete mystery, others offered just enough to make them even more intriguing. In any case, books and scripts written long ago were rare, if not unique, even during their time, let alone today. Here are ten such enigmatic and one of a kind manuscripts that survived to the 21st century.

 10. The Gospel of Judas

In 325 AD, the First Council of Nicaea took place, convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine I. Though it wasn’t actually the first such council, here, most of the discrepancies of the Christian faith were put in place in an attempt to attain consensus over various interpretations of the faith. As a result, it was more or less common knowledge that Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles, betrayed him to the Roman authorities in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. However, a leather-bound papyrus document surfaced during the 1970s near Beni Mazar, Egypt. Written in Coptic, the document was later dated to sometime around 280 AD. What the text revealed seemingly turned the entire series of events taking place in the New Testament on its head. This document, though not written by Judas himself, but rather by Gnostic Christians, was called The Gospel of Judas.

As it turns out, Judas wasn’t the traitor the Bible made him out to be, but rather Jesus’ most trusted apostle. The text reveals how Jesus told Judas to turn him in to the authorities in order for his soul to reach God. Judas’ reward here wasn’t silver, but his ascension to heaven and exaltation above the other disciples. However, not all scholars agree with this interpretation. Historian April D. DeComick believes the Coptic word “daimon” to mean demon, and not spirit, as it was previously assumed. If this is the case, which is most likely, then Judas was considered to be a specific demon called the Thirteenth, or the king of demons, and that Jesus wasn’t killed in the name of God, but rather for the demons themselves.

Due to the religious importance of the Gospel, its authenticity was put in question. While the papyrus itself was dated to the 3 rd century AD, the ink used posed more questions. There were some inconsistencies regarding the ink used in that time period of the 200s, but later research unveiled the fact that it is actually legitimate.

9. The Grolier Codex

Named after the location of its first public appearance (the Grolier Club in New York), the Grolier Codex is an 800-year-old manuscript belonging to the Maya of the pre-Colombian Yucatan Peninsula. Discovered by looters in a cave in Mexico during the 1960s, the codex was hidden alongside a Maya mosaic mask and some other treasures. A wealthy Mexican collector by the name of Josué Sáenz was then flown to an undisclosed location at the request of the looters, and the exchange was made in 1966. In 1971, Sáenz displayed it at the Grolier Club, after which he donated it to the Mexican government. Due to its rather shady means of discovery and acquisition, the manuscript was under heavy scrutiny and was initially believed to be a fake. Other factors about the document seemed to point in the same direction. However, Yale professor Michael Coe, together with other researchers from Brown University, subjected the 10-page-long manuscript to a series of various tests, ultimately proving it to be genuine.

Radiocarbon dating placed the document somewhere around 1250 AD, during the late Maya period, about the same time when the city of Chichen Itza was being built. The date refers to the papyrus itself, and not when the document was actually written. No evidence of modern pigments was discovered, including those able to produce the famous “Maya blue.” The codex, as it turns out, is a 104-year-long calendar predicting the movements of Venus. Alongside Mayan symbols, there are a lot of Toltec-influenced styles, not that uncommon during those times. The Toltec were regarded as ancestors by the Aztec civilization and many of their elements appear in Maya art as well. Its pages are adorned with“workaday gods, deities who must be invoked for the simplest of life’s needs: sun, death, K’awiil—a lordly patron and personified lightning—even as they carry out the demands of the ‘star’ we call Venus,” said Stephen Houston, Brown University social scientist.

8. The Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power

Sometime during the late 1970s or very early ’80s, an antiques dealer came across a 20-page-long ancient manuscript, which he then sold to the Macquarie University in Australia in 1981. Nobody knows were the document was found exactly, or when, but the scholars who later studied it say it was written sometime around 700 AD, by someone in pre-Islamic Upper Egypt. For decades scientists tried in vain to decipher it, but no one was successful until recently. Written in Coptic, the codex “starts with a lengthy series of invocations that culminate with drawings and words of power,” said Malcolm Choat and Iain Gardner, professors at Macquarie University and the University of Sydney.

Egypt was populated mostly by Christians at the time, and thus there are a number of invocations referring to Jesus. However, most of the spells and summons within the book seem to indicate the Sethians. One invocation calls “Seth, Seth, the living Christ.” The Sethians were a group of Christians which flourished in Egypt during the early centuries of Christendom, but by the 7thcentury they were declared as heretics and were slowly disappearing. They held Seth, Adam and Eve’s third son, in high regard. The manuscript also makes mention of a “Baktiotha,” an unknown but divine figure, ruler of the material realm, and of ambivalent allegiance.

Who actually used it is still a matter of debate among scholars, but it might not have necessarily been a monk or a priest. And even though the text was written with a male user in mind, it doesn’t exclude a female user either. Whatever the case, the codex gave “helpful advice” in the form of incantations or spells in curing various curses, possessions or ailments, as well as bringing success in love and business. There is even a spell on how to subjugate someone by saying a magical spell over two nails and then “drive them into his doorpost, one on the right side (and) one on the left.”

7. Liber Linteus

Following Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt at the turn of the 18th century, a sharp increase in the country took place in Europe in a phenomenon known as Egyptomania. As a result, the following decades saw an influx of Egyptian artifacts all over the continent. In 1848, a Croatian official under the Hungarian Royal Chancellery decided to resign his post and travel to Egypt. While there, he purchased a sarcophagus containing a female mummy. When he returned to Vienna, he displayed it in his home for 11 years, up until he died. His brother, a priest, inherited it and gave it away to the Archaeological Museum of Zagreb in 1867. And even though the mummy was on display since it arrived in Europe, with the wrappings displayed separately in a glass case, it was only here at the museum that the German Egyptologist, Heinrich Brugsch, realized that there was actually writing on it.

Believing them to be Egyptian hieroglyphs, Brugsch didn’t investigate any further. A decade later, while talking with a friend and explorer, Richard Burton, he realized that the script was of unknown origin and not Egyptian after all. Fourteen years later, in 1891, while back in Vienna, the writings on the wrappings were identified as being Etruscan. The Etruscans were the precursors of the Romans on the Italian Peninsula. The text was then known as the Liber Linteus (Latin for ‘Linen Book’).

Even to this day, Etruscan is not fully understood, as there are very few pieces of the ancient language in existence. But based on what already existed, Jacob Krall – an expert on Coptic language – was able to deduce that

the Liber Linteus was a sort of religious calendar. The question, then, was what Etruscan text was doing in Egypt? Krall was also able to deduce from a piece of papyrus scroll inside the sarcophagus that the mummy’s name was Nesi-hensu, the wife of a Theban ‘divine tailor’ named Paher-hensu, an Egyptian. The best explanation is that the text was transported from Italy to Egypt sometime in the 3rd century BC, and was the only linen available when the woman was embalmed. As a result, the Liber Linteus is an “accident” of history, but one of the most important texts when it comes to the Etruscan language.

6. The Sultan’s Book of Delights

One interesting and totally unique manuscript comes to us from India. The Ni’matnama Manuscript of the Sultans of Mandu, as it is also known, dates back to around 1500 AD. Unlike any other medieval Indo-Muslim manuscript of its time, which often tackle subjects like politics, war, social history or political organization, the Sultan’s Book of Delights centers itself on domestic arts and the personal likes of the eccentric Sultan Ghiyath Shahi of the Malwa Sultanate in Central India. It is one of the earliest books written in Urdu, with its first miniature illustrations being made under a Persian influence with the later ones becoming more Indian-ised.

Ghiyath Shahi ascended to the throne in 1469, but once his son, Nasir Shah, became of age in 1500 AD, he decided to step down and focus his attention on the pleasures of life. He then filled his palace with musicians, painters, cooks, and thousands of women. Many of these women were taught in the fine arts of wrestling and cooking, among others. Five hundred female Abyssinian slaves, clad in armor and skilled in combat, became his permanent bodyguards. During this time, the capital city of Mandu became known as Shadiyabad, or City of Joy.

The manuscript was also written during this period, and it consists of several hundred recipes for food, perfumes, salves and pastes, medicines, and all sorts of aphrodisiacs. What combinations work together, and what others should be avoided. These are accompanied by 50 illustrations depicting their preparation. The paintings also show Ghiyath Shahi himself, easily recognized by his moustache, either supervising or enjoying various activities such as hunting, fishing, or eating. These works were collected together into the manuscript by his son, Nasir Shah.

5. Gospel of the Lots of Mary

This is a 1,500-year-old book, in possession of Harvard University since 1984, which received it from Beatrice Kelekian, Charles Dikran Kelekian’s widow. Charles was a trader of Coptic antiquities, deemed the “dean of antiquities” among New York art dealers. Where he got this book is still a mystery. An interesting fact about this book is its small size, at just 3 inches in height and 2.7 inches in width. Its size made it easy to transport and to be hidden if need be. Written in Coptic, the book was, up until recently, undecipherable. And now that it’s been translated, the text came as a surprise to many scholars.

In the opening it reads: “The Gospel of the lots of Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, she to whom Gabriel the Archangel brought the good news. He who will go forward with his whole heart will obtain what he seeks. Only do not be of two minds. ”Even though it calls itself “a gospel,” this manuscript is not one in the sense of what we normally know the word to mean. Usually a gospel is a narrative about the life and death of Jesus, but this book hardly makes any mention of him. This is because the word “gospel” literally translates to “good news.”

In fact, this little booklet is a collection of 37 oracles, written vaguely, and which were probably used as a form of divination. The user would ask himself a question about the future, and then open the book at random to look for an answer. For example, oracle 24 reads: “Stop being of two minds, o human, whether this thing will happen or not. Yes, it will happen! Be brave and do not be of two minds. Because it will remain with you a long time and you will receive joy and happiness. ”Given its purpose, its small size starts to make sense, especially when many church leaders at the time were against divination and put strict rules in place to ban the practice. Regardless, the booklet was heavily used with thumbprints still being clearly visible on its margins.

4. The Sibiu Manuscript

In 1961, a professor of Science and Technology at the University of Bucharest came across an old manuscript in the national archive in Sibiu, Romania. The 450-page-long document was dated to sometime before 1570 and it described various subjects of artillery and ballistics from the 16th century. Doru Todericiu, the previously mentioned professor, began studying it in more depth, focusing on its scientific and technological content. On closer inspection he realized that in the third part of the manuscript, a man by the name of Conrad Haas was describing in remarkable detail the basics and function of a “flying javelin,” a modern multistage rocket. He describes and depicts rockets with two and three stages, as well as how to build the rocket, stabilizing fins, and the use of liquid fuel.

Not much is known about this Conrad Haas. He was born in Dornbach (now part of Hernals, Vienna). He held the post of arsenal master in the Imperial Austrian Army and in 1551 he came to the Principality of Transylvania to become a weapons engineer in Sibiu (then Hermannstadt). Here he wrote the manuscript. Todericiu says that Haas also built and tested the rockets by using soli fuels. The document is now located in the Sibiu Museum in Romania, and is the first documented proof of rocketry in the world. This style of multistage rockets was later used by astronauts in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. In the last paragraph on the military use of rockets, Haas wrote: “But my advice is for more peace and no war, leaving the rifles calmly in storage, so the bullet is not fired, the gunpowder is not burned or wet, so the prince keeps his money, the arsenal master his life; that is the advice Conrad Haas gives.”

3. The Eight-Foot Long Leather Manuscript

For about 70 years, one of the most unique and, without a doubt, the largest manuscript disappeared from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. In 2015 they rediscovered it, cramped in an old, dusty drawer somewhere in the back of the museum. Like other entries in this list, the exact location of its discovery is unknown. It was bought from a local antiques dealer by the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology in Cairo sometime after WWI and it was first unrolled just before WWII. It dates back to sometime around 2000 to 2300 BC, from the Late Kingdom to the early Middle Kingdom. It stands at 8.2 feet long, and is adorned with writing and beautifully colored drawings of exceptional quality.

Made out of leather, it is a real miracle the huge manuscript was able to withstand the rigors of time over more than 4,000 years. Leather was considered a very precious writing material, and only holy texts or great historic events were written on it. Papyrus was more common, and it better endured the test of time, especially in the scorching heat of the Egyptian desert. In any case, this particular manuscript is written on both sides and contains depictions of divine and supernatural beings, predating the famous Book of the Dead. Religious spells, formulated in the first person singular, make up the text. These were most likely recited by a priest, and even though it was portable, the scroll was most likely kept in a temple.

2. The Codex Washingtonianus

Located at the Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art, the Codex Washingtonianus consists of four gospels of the so-called Western order (Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark), and is the third oldest Bible in the world. It dates back to about the 4th or 5th century AD, during the time when Christianity began to turn from an underground cult to a standardized religion. The Codex was most likely copied from several other manuscripts found at the time. Its covers are made out of wood and the pages are of parchment (processed animal skin). Its pages are highly sensitive to light and humidity, and thus, the codex is rarely put on display.

What makes it so unique, besides being 1,500-years-old, is the fact that it holds an extra passage in the Gospel of Mark, not found in any other Biblical text anywhere. It reads: “And Christ replied to them, ‘The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near.’” What this single line seems to imply is that Satan, and not God, is the one in charge. When it was first translated and made public in 1912, it caused much controversy and distress around the world. Today, people’s perspectives have somewhat shifted, but back then this passage shook a lot of people. Since this passage, known as “the Freer Logion,” makes no appearance anywhere else in the world, it was probably an oral saying that made its way into the gospels, according to Michael Holmes, a biblical scholar at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

1. The Copper Scroll

Between 1946 and 1956, some 981 different texts and scrolls were discovered in eleven caves in the eastern Judaean Desert of what is now the modern-day West Bank. This collection is what’s known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Unlike the other scrolls found in these caves by local shepherds, the Copper Scroll was found by archaeologists in 1952 at the end of one of these caves. It was also the only one made from copper, while the others are in either parchment or papyrus. Made out of two rolled sheets of corded copper, it was impossible for scientists to unfold the scroll by any usual means. So, they instead decided to cut it in 23 thin strips, and then place them back together.

The text, although in Hebrew like the others, uses a different dialect. And while all of the others are religious in nature, like copies of Hebrew Scripture, uncanonized Hebrew texts and sectarian manuscripts, the Copper Scroll is a “treasure map.” In it there are actual directions to various hidden treasures of gold, silver, coins, and vessels. For example, column two, verses 1-3 say: “In the salt pit that is under the steps: forty-one talents of silver. In the cave of the old washer’s chamber, on the third terrace: sixty-five ingots of gold.” Summing them all up, researchers estimated the value of all of them at $1,000,000 in 1960. In today’s money that would be slightly over $8 million.

To date, however, nobody has been able to recover any of these treasures; or at least they say they haven’t. Nobody knows who wrote it, or to whom the treasure belonged. Some say the treasure never actually existed and that the Copper Scroll is a work of fiction. Others believe it refers to the Temple of Jerusalem, just before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and the scroll was made to safeguard its riches. Others go even further, believing the treasure to belong to a Jewish sect known as the Essenes. However, all of these are mere speculations, and whether the treasure exists or not is yet to be determined. But if it did exist, there’s always the possibility that it was already found in ancient times and nobody reported it.

Ancient Manuscript Handbook

WIF Into History

Old Thoughts, Bad Thoughts – WIF Myth and Legend

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Odd Things

People Used

to Believe

Humans have believed all kinds of strange things throughout our short time on this planet. This is, in part, because humans (and our evolutionary ancestors) love stories. We gather around campfires and invent entire mediums, industries, and technologies to aid in their telling. But on the other hand, humans have always had a deep need to understand the world we inhabit, and the combination of these qualities can lead to very uninformed people believing some very strange things.

10. The Sun is Actually Really Cold

He believed that the sun wasn’t hot, that it was actually very cold, but that its outer layers were of a luminous material, or an extremely reflective ocean. The discovery of sunspots had him reeling with possible ideas, suggesting that these were either momentary glimpses at the surface beneath the atmosphere or great mountain peaks that were being exposed by the tides of a vast ocean.

Obviously, these theories were laughed out of scientific circles by a host of polymaths, and Herschel’s ideas never caught on. The sun isn’t cold, and those sunspots are actually produced by the sun’s magnetic field.

9. Isaac Newton’s Future

Isaac Newton may have been known for his scientific exploits, but he was also absolutely obsessed with Alchemy, going so far as to construct his own furnaces to produce alchemical experiments. He wrote about these things extensively, using code to hide his theories from prying eyes, believing that anything could be transformed into anything else (something we know now is very wrong). If these texts were observed by anyone from modern times, they would be seen as occult or religious tracts. He was so obsessed with Alchemy and the supernatural that it might be considered that his interest in science was his real hobby.

To Newton, the philosopher’s stone was a real thing, which he was constantly searching for.

Newton was also fiercely religious and believed that the Bible should be taken literally. He spent much of his time attempting to uncover a secret code created by the authors of the Bible, something left by God that would redeem humanity before His inevitable return.

After studying Biblical texts extensively, he concluded that the world as we know it would end in 2060 and that it would be preceded by an apocalypse.

8. Bloodletting

All the way up until the start of the 1900s, the practice of applying leeches or cutting parts of a person’s body open to drain them of their blood was not only common, it was a thriving industry. The practice comes from the erroneous belief that all illness comes from the body having too much blood in it and that to cure that illness, the excess blood needs to be drained from the patient.

This is, of course, false, and while the practice of bloodletting fell and rose throughout history, it was perhaps never more popular than in the 1800s. It was a common practice for leeches to be imported for this purpose, and it’s estimated that in France alone, 42 million leeches were imported each year. These leeches were used to drain the blood from patients, cared for by barbers (yes, you read that correctly). A patient could have as many as 100 leeches applied to them. Barbers and caregivers would coat the part of the body they wished to apply the leech to with sugar-water, milk, or blood to entice the tiny critters to start sucking. This industry caused leeches to become fairly scarce, driving the cost of them up by 300%, and forcing “care-givers” to find inventive ways to extend the life of a leech.

The first physician didn’t come out against bloodletting until 1828.

7. Lambs Grew on Trees

During the Middle Ages, it was a common belief that the cotton being imported from India came from a vegetable that had a lamb attached to it by umbilical. This inaccuracy was reported by Sir John Mandeville in the 1300s. Mandeville wrote that in Tartary (the part of the map we know of as Russia and Mongolia today) a strange plant that produced gourds containing tiny lambs was a common sight.

It turns out that much of what Mandeville wrote about his travels were either outright lies or based on notes from other travelers.

Another version of this myth suggests that these vegetable lambs would die once they ran out of food surrounding their pod if they weren’t killed by their natural predator (wolves).

Other writers would go on to claim to have seen these vegetable lambs, and the belief would not start to crumble until the 1600s.

6. Women’s Orgasms Were A Sign of Insanity

As late as the early 20th century, it was believed that women did not experience sexual desire and that the female orgasm was something that needed to be solved, rather than a thing which could be beneficial to a woman’s mental and physical health.

Sigmund Freud was one of the physicians who proposed the idea that clitoral stimulation could lead to psychosis in women, a “theory” which saw quite a few women institutionalized as a result. Women who had difficulty or could not have a vaginal orgasm were labeled as lesbians (which was also thought to be a mental illness), imbalanced, and masculine.

History has had a bad habit of demonizing the female orgasm. The vibrator was originally invented so that doctors could relieve “hysteria” (known as sexual frustration today) in women, and it was generally not believed that women were capable of experiencing sexual desire and were merely receptacles for male anatomy.

Today, we know that the female orgasm is beneficial not only to a woman’s mental health but also to her physical health as well.

5. Cosmic Ice Theory

In 1912 Hanns Hörbiger attempted to challenge the scientific community by introducing a controversial theory which suggested that humanity, the stars, and the planets were all made of… ice. Hanns and his partner, Philip Fauth, argued that the formation of the Milky Way was caused by the collision of a massive star with a dead star filled with water. This collision resulted in the formation of the Milky Way galaxy and dozens of other solar systems—all made of ice produced from the collision. When these ideas were challenged for not making any mathematical sense and for there not being any physical evidence for it, Hanns said “Calculation can only lead you astray,” and, “Either you believe in me and learn, or you will be treated as the enemy.”

This ridiculous theory didn’t catch on with mainstream science at the time, not until the conclusion of World War I at least, when Hanns decided to take his theories into the public sphere, where they might be better appreciated.

His rationale was that if the general public grew to accept the theory that they were in-fact made of ice, then the scientific community would have to accept it as well (we mean, isn’t that how science works?). While serious scientists did not accept his theory, many socialist thinkers at the time did, concluding that it was superior to theories invented by Jews.

And you are probably guessing where this is leading. Hitler, Himmler, and all of his cronies also adopted these ideas as well, along with a whole bunch of other horrifying things.

4. Doctors Didn’t Need to Wash their Hands

Before the advent of germ theory, medical professionals would go from examining dead bodies to performing live births on mothers, which as you can imagine, caused all manner of infections and a high mortality rate among patients they cared for. It wasn’t until 1840, when Ignaz Semmelweis, a 19th-century Hungarian doctor observed that one of his fellow surgeons died after cutting his finger during an autopsy.

Semmelweis surmised that because many of the doctors in his hospital often operated on corpses before treating live patients, they were inadvertently spreading “cadaveric matter.” And when he instituted the policy that all of his doctors were to wash their hands between patients, the mortality rate at his hospital dramatically dropped. Naturally, he wanted to spread this discovery with the rest of the medical world.

There was quite a bit of resistance to this idea, though, mostly because Semmelweis’ publication on the matter was barely coherent, and handwashing wouldn’t be strongly advocated for until 1860 by famous nurse Florence Nightingale. And it wouldn’t be until the discovery of germ theory that handwashing would become a staple in hospitals around the world.

3. Sexual Energy Controls the Universe

Wilhelm Reich went from being the enemy of Fascist Europe to being the enemy of the US Government, from psychoanalyst to the founder of sexual liberty in the West. Reich believed that orgasms were caused by a mysterious energy in the atmosphere called “orgone” and that this energy permeated and moved the entire universe. He suggested that a good orgasm could liberate a man or woman, and a bad orgasm could make them a prisoner.

Sexual liberation was not exactly in vogue in Hitler’s Germany at the time, so Reich was forced to flee to New York, where his ideas would be embraced by the disenfranchised left. Reich even “invented” a device that he claimed could “energize” a person with orgone. The device, called an “Orgone Energy Accumulator,”  was feared by conservatives and revered by left-leaning individuals, and some even swear by its power today. Reich’s ideas got him labeled as a communist sympathizer in the 50s, and eventually, the FDA would come after him for selling his Orgone Accumulators, demanding that they be destroyed along with all literature pertaining to them.

Reich would be arrested for violating this order and sent to Federal prison, where he would die alone in 1957.

2. Women’s Bodies were not Designed to Handle Train Rides

The resistance we’re seeing to the rise of artificial intelligence and 5G internet is nothing new, it’s age-old. When the first locomotive was unveiled, men feared that its immense speed (top speed getting up to 50 miles per hour, or 80 kilometers per hour) would cause a woman’s uterus to fly from her body.

A companion to this fear was that the human body, male or female, might melt if brought to similar speeds.

Cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell suggests that this revulsion to new and developing technologies results from a kind of “moral panic” that a society experiences when an invention threatens to alter how we perceive time and space. Put more simply, we humans hate changes to the status quo, and we’ll kick and scream until that change either goes away or we realize it really isn’t so bad after all.

1. The Earth was the Center of the Solar System

Up until the end of the 2nd Century AD, it was thought that the Earth was the center of the universe. Although this notion is ridiculous to the vast majority of us who accept the clearly superior Heliocentric model (which purports that all bodies in the solar system revolve around the sun), to humans observing the skies in the 2nd Century, it did seem like the sun, stars, and the moon all revolved around the Earth.

Beyond famous Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Ptolemy, early Christianity taught that God had placed the Earth at the center of the universe, thereby making it unique.

Though recently, conspiracy theorists have begun a movement bordering on cult-like proportions suggesting that the Heliocentric model is a huge hoax perpetrated by world governments and that the Earth is actually flat, we don’t have to tell you that this is bullocks, do we?

The Geocentric model of the universe was so pervasive in human history, that it would remain the scientific rule until being invalidated in the 16th Century AD.

Old Thoughts, Bad Thoughts

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Unsolved Mysteries


Ancient Civilizations

Archaeology has uncovered many secrets from the ancient world. But the Earth has a bad habit of eroding the past, making it difficult to piece together the stories of our ancestors. In the past couple of centuries, we’ve discovered Roman artifacts in the Americas, found ancient Greek cities in what was once thought to be the backwater of Ancient Greece, puzzled over the success of the Incan economy, and have long searched for the core of history’s first true empire.

These mysteries prove that humanity needs to keep digging to uncover the truth, lest we repeat our past mistakes.

10. The Romans May Have Discovered the New World

But the recent discovery of certain artifacts around the Americas has been putting this idea into question. We’re talking about Roman artifacts discovered both on the continent and in her waters, such as a sunken Roman ship in Brazil’s Guanabara Bay, terracotta amorphae, and tall jars clearly made during the Roman Empire’s rule.

The jars themselves date back to the 1st or 3rd century BC. Wine, grains, and olive oil were stored inside these types of jars and transported all over the Roman Empire.

Just outside Mexico City, another terracotta artifact thought to belong to the ancient Roman Empire was found. The artifact is a carved head, and experts say it’s a depiction of a Roman during the Hellenistic period, dating all the way back to 200 AD.

Finally, the discovery of several caches of Roman coins have been found buried throughout North America, and date back to the 16th century. Though some doubt has been raised as to the legitimacy of the coins, many archaeologists have seriously begun to consider the possibility that Roman settlers discovered the Americas in the ancient past.

Though, who, how, and why is still a mystery.

9. Ancient Roman Cults

Cults in the ancient Roman Empire have baffled archaeologists and historians alike because the evidence of their writings and artifacts have been poorly preserved. A mystery religion is defined by historians and archaeologists as one that offers individuals a religious experience not practiced officially by the state. The Mithraic cult, which historians seem to agree existed sometime before Christianity began to take over Rome as the primary religion, had most of its writings and artifacts destroyed after Christianity took hold. Though most scholars agree that before this, the Roman government tolerated the Mithraic cult, as its views supported the government at the time.

For every Roman god, there was probably one or two cults devoted to them, most of them starting as a family or a divergent version of the official state religion taken on by a clan. These cults would persist until the state absorbed them. Most of them featured an initiation ritual (just like today’s cults) and were typically performed inside a large sanctuary.

Just how many of these cults existed in the ancient world, and what they believed, however, remains a mystery.

8. The Lost City of Paititi

The Lost City of Paititi and the quest to find it has claimed many explorer’s lives. The legend even inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World.” This lost city of gold has eluded every treasure hunter, archaeologist, and would-be explorer who have gone searching for it. Finding this city would inform much about the ancient Inca civilization which thrived between 1400 and 1533 AD, extending across western South America.

After the discovery of a letter to the pope in the Vatican archives from a missionary named Andres Lopez concerning the location of a large city rich with gold, silver, and jewels, the search for the city was renewed. Lopez’s letter claimed the city was located in the middle of the jungle and called Paititi by the local indigenous tribes. The pope and the Vatican kept the location secret for decades, but in 2016 a new expedition was set in motion. While that expedition turned up questionable artifacts in a site which is still being disputed today, the discovery of previously hidden cities throughout the Amazon (thanks to a combination of ground-penetrating radar and illegal logging and deforestation) has helped to keep the renewed fervor for the lost city alive.

7. The Economy of the Incas

Most historians agree that the Incan economy was one of the most successful in the ancient world, but perplexingly, they did not use money or gold, and only seemed to trade with outsiders. A lot of what we know of the Incas comes from the Spanish conquistadors who crushed their armies (after unleashing a plague of smallpox upon them, wiping out 90% of their population), so, much of how the Incas functioned as a society has been lost to time.

Still, the question remains how the Incas were able to create such a thriving economy without currency or even trade. Some historians believe that the secret to their great wealth came from the unique tax system they used, which required every Incan citizen to pay labor to the state. Strangely, wealthy Inca who passed away were able to continue owning property, and some historians jest that it’s almost as though they invented the idea of corporations-as-people without ever creating a market economy.

Because of the difficult terrain and harsh environment of the Amazon, much of the Incas way of life was dictated by a need to keep their people from starving, rather than developing markets and traditional forms of economics. At least, that’s what historians believe based on the little evidence that survives of the Incan civilization. Much of it still remains a mystery.

6. The Lost City of Tenea

The Lost City of Tenea was said to have been founded by prisoners of the legendary Trojan War, but it’s thought that the city was abandoned some time in the 4th century BC. Archaeologists have been on the hunt for signs of the legendary city since a sarcophagus was discovered in the Greek village of Chiliomodi in 1984.

More recently, though, archaeologists claim that the city has finally been discovered. An archaeological effort in the modern village of Chiliomodi began in 2013, leading to excavators of the site there to proclaim that proof of the legendary city was at last discovered after a series of rare coins, seven graves, and carefully constructed structures composed of clay, stone walls, and marble floors were unearthed.

Whether or not the Trojan War actually happened is up for debate, but the things learned in Tenea may provide a clue, especially if proof is found that shows that the city was indeed settled by those fleeing from their defeat in the Trojan War. Whether this was at the hands of legendary Odysseus or not, remains to be seen, and the city itself holds many mysteries which archaeologists are eager to uncover.

5. The Mystery of Teotihuacan

The ancient city of Teotihuacan stretches out for 20 square kilometers, contains nearly 2,000 single-story structures which appear to have been homes, and various impressive buildings like pyramids. The discovery of Teotihuacan may have been a major archaeological find, but its existence poses some problems for scholars, as it’s unknown who exactly built it. Originally, it was thought that the Toltec civilization must have built the city, but this was refuted when it was discovered that Teotihuacan peaked long after the Toltecs vanished.

Other theories range from the Totonacs having built the city, or immigrants fleeing the eruption of a volcano, but no conclusive theory has emerged. The city contains the hints of Mayan, Mixtec, and Zapotec cultures, further adding to the mystery.

Whoever built the city, scholars are certain Teotihuacan was originally founded in 400 BC, with the largest structures seeing their completion by 300 AD, and the city and culture reaching its peak nearly 100 years later with a population of over 200,000 inhabitants.

4. The Mystery of the Origin of the Sumerian Language

The Sumerian language appeared as early as 4000 BC and dominated Sumerian civilization for nearly 1,000 years, before being mostly replaced by Akkadian. The language was pictographic (or cuneiform) meaning that individual images represented whole words, phrases, or sentences, (much like Egyptian hieroglyphs, or later logographic languages like Chinese and Japanese).

This language is quite mysterious because beyond Akkadian there are no known ancestral forms of communication connected to it. Although some linguists think that Sumerian could be related to the Uralic languages such as Finnish and Hungarian, this view isn’t shared throughout the academic community.

Scholars suggest that, if the Sumerian people did not originate from the area of Mesopotamia, then it’s possible that their language could have been influenced by an older, still undiscovered language, but this is just a hypothesis.

3. The Fall of the Akkadian Empire

The Sumerian empire eventually fell to Sargon the Great, who established one of history’s first empires. The Akkadian Empire was ruled from Sargon’s city of Akkad. The Akkadians would succeed in nearly stamping out the Sumerian language and Sargon would be succeeded by several other rulers after his death. But sometime after Shar-Kali-Sharri took rule of the Akkadian empire, things took a turn for the worse, and eventually, what was once the world’s first true empire would collapse in 2154 BC.

What caused it, though, is a bit of a mystery.

Historians present three theories for the fall of Akkadia.

The first is that the invasion of the Gutians (a people who dwelled in the mountains) proved to be too much for the disorganized Shar-Kali-Sharri, who was already having difficulty maintaining order in the wake of his father’s death. He also waged a seemingly indefinite war with the Elamites and the Amorites at the same time the mountain people were invading.

The second is that a combination of a poor harvest, a great famine, and a great drought may have contributed or caused the collapse outright. In 2019, a study of fossil coral records from Oman provided evidence that winter dust storms, along with a longer winter than usual may have sealed the Akkadian Empire’s fate.

The third possibility is that a meteor collision with the Earth set in motion drastic changes to the Earth’s weather, causing the climate to change around an already struggling empire.

2. The Lost Ruins of Vlochos

In 2015, archaeologists uncovered what appeared to have been the site of a Greek village called Vlochos. At the time, they wrote the discovery off as of no importance, thinking that the remains atop the hill were nothing more than the remains of a Greek village. That was until they discovered the remnants of towers, gates, and a city grid which hinted at there being a deeper story to the ruins. With new information, the site is now considered to have been the center of a Greek city, one which flourished sometime during the 4th century BC, and was abandoned in the 3rd century BC.

Why it was abandoned, though, remains a bit of a mystery. Archaeologists and scholars think that a likely candidate is the invasion of Roman forces. Using ground-penetrating radar, archaeologists hope to uncover more of the lost city’s secrets.

What is interesting about this site is that this area of Greece was previously thought to have been a backwater of the Ancient Greek world, so archaeologists and scholars haven’t really paid much attention to it.

Who knows what other mysteries lie in wait for them?

1. The City of Akkad

No one knows where the city of Akkad was located. We know a great deal about the man who supposedly built it, Sargon the Great, and the empire he ruled, but the capitol city itself has long eluded scholars and archaeologists.

It has been told that Sargon the Great built the city along the bank of the western Euphrates River, possibly between the cities of Kish and Sippar, though Mari and Babylon have been offered as other potential possibilities as well.

There are a number of excavation sites which scholars think could be candidates for the City of Akkad. Most of these places are situated east of the Tigris, which is part of the Euphrates, but there is much debate as to which of these might be the true site of the capital of the Akkadian Empire.

How the city fell and where it was located is almost as great a mystery as to how the Akkadian Empire fell.

The Rise and Fall of Civilizations

WIF Into History

Odd Ruler Dudes – WIF Into History

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History’s Strangest

Ancient Rulers

The word strange is barely adequate for some of the ancient leaders described here, if the tales told of them are true. The ancient world had no shortage of outright butchers who practiced patricide, matricide, fratricide, and mass murders to consolidate and secure their positions at the head of their societies. They used brutal, though inventive methods to kill their perceived enemies and rivals, and exhibited a lust for blood and inflicting pain. Some of them appear on this list, including Commodus and Caligula.

Others exhibited downright weird behavior, on their own and at the expense of others for their personal satisfaction and comfort. Alcohol was a common denominator for some, with excessive consumption of wine and other beverages featured. The pursuit of sexual satisfaction is another. Vanity to the point of narcissism is still another. Some though, were just plainly bizarre, in their beliefs, their activities, and their behaviors. Here are 10 of the strangest, with the possible omission  of a couple recent American leaders.

10. Pharaoh Pepi II used honey covered slaves as walking flytraps

Pepi II was a pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty, reigning more than 2,000 years before the Common Era. He became pharaoh at the age of 6, following the death of Merenre I. Throughout his reign the power of the pharaoh declined; the dynastic Old Kingdom, also known as the Age of the Pyramid Builders, collapsed within decades of his death, after lasting five centuries. While still a child, Pepi sent an expedition to Nubia to trade ivory and other goods. When the leader of the expedition, Harkhuf, one of his governors, informed the young King he had captured a pygmy, the excited young man promised substantial rewards should the prisoner arrive at his court alive. The pharaoh wanted it as a plaything. The letter to Harkhuf survives, inscribed on the governor’s tomb.

Using a pygmy as a toy is strange enough, but not the only strange behavior attributed to Pepi II. The pharaoh detested flies. Using slaves to wave fans of feathers to shoo them away was not enough, in his estimation. Aware that flies were attracted to honey, Pepi covered slaves with the substance, and stationed them around him when he was at court and when walking or riding through his dominions. Flies swarmed to the honey-swathed slaves, and thus away from him. Some claim Pepi II held the longest reign of any ruler in human history, though that is debated among Egyptologists. His pyramid lies in ruins in Saqqara.

9. Caligula named a horse as a priest of Rome

The name of the third man to hold the title of Emperor of Rome is synonymous with corruption, cruelty, brutality, sadism, and unbridled sexual indulgence and depredation. His reign as Emperor was short, as was his life, dying through assassination at the age of 28. He held the throne from 37 – 41 AD. According to most scholars, the first few months of his reign were promising, though he soon embarked on a pattern of indulging his every whim, building luxurious residences for himself. An illness during the first year of his reign – some say poisoning – transformed his personality and his attitude towards his subjects and his perceived enemies.

Several ancient historians claimed Caligula falsely accused wealthy subjects of crimes, had them executed without benefit of trial, and claimed their estates. He claimed divinity, and frequently dressed in the costumes of several Roman gods, including Mercury, Apollo, and Venus. He had the heads of various gods removed from statues throughout the empire, and replaced them with likenesses of his own. Roman historians Suetonius and Cassius Dio claimed the emperor planned to name his favorite horse, Incitatus, a consul of Rome. He did not. Instead, he appointed the horse as a priest of Rome.

8. Emperor Zhou Xin of China created a lake of wine, and swam in it

Zhou Xin is a pejorative name given to Di Xin, following his death in 1046 BCE. The records of his life and reign were deliberately falsified and exaggerated by succeeding dynasties, according to most scholars, and separating fact from fiction regarding his extravagances is difficult. During his reign he abandoned any concept of morality, hosted massive orgies, and indulged heavily in his favorite beverage, wine. He was completely enamored with wine. To the point he created a lake filled with wine, surrounded by a forest of meat trees. Constructed on the palace grounds, the lake accommodated several boats.

The meat trees surrounding the lake were real trees, from which cooked meat suspended from the branches. Zhou Xin used the lake for canoeing, bathing, consorting with his concubines, and of course, drinking. Following his defeat at the hands of King Wu of Zhou, he retreated to a pavilion at the lake, with his jewelry and other symbols of his wealth, and had it set afire, killing himself in the flames. His death marked the end of the Shang dynasty in China, and introduced the Zhou Dynasty. Recent excavations confirm the existence of the lake, and nearby water wells established the lake was not built as a water reservoir as some argued, legitimizing the tales of the lake of wine.

7. Chinese Emperor Wu used goats to decide which of his more than 5,000 concubines he should visit

Emperor Wu of Jin was the first emperor of the Jin Dynasty, reigning from 266 to 290, CE. In 280 he defeated the forces of Eastern Wu, and became emperor of a unified China. The conquest of Eastern Wu increased his domains, his prestige, his personal wealth, and most importantly to him, the number of his concubines. Beginning in 273 he banned marriages until he had personally examined women, and either taken them for his own or rejected them. The conquest of Eastern Wu awarded him another 5,000 concubines from the palaces of his defeated enemies. From that point Wu focused his energies on gluttony, drinking, and visiting his concubines.

Decisive in battle, Wu was the opposite when selecting which concubine, or concubines, to visit. Or maybe the sheer number of women at his disposal intimidated him when it became time to choose. So, he left the decision to goats. He had a small cart fashioned, pulled by goats. He rode in the cart, and wherever the goats stopped when wandering the palace grounds occupied by the concubines, the lustful Emperor in tow, he went in. Some claim women desirous of the Emperor’s attentions placed bamboo and salt outside their rooms to entice the goats to stop. Wu died in 290 of an unknown illness, which one may surmise was exhaustion.

6. Byzantine Emperor Justin II liked to bite his courtiers and visitors

Justin II held the throne of the Eastern Roman Empire from 565 until he abdicated in 574, four years before his death. In 572 he exhibited growing signs of insanity, or at the least, strange behavior. John of Ephesus, a leader of the Syriac Orthodox Church and an historian, left written accounts of the Emperor’s increasingly strange actions in the last years of his reign. He demanded organ music played in his presence around the clock. Those who approached the Emperor found him likely to bite them. Not just a nip. Justin bit and held the bite, snarling like a wild animal, sometimes biting several times. At others he bit and chewed, organ music swirling in the background.

Which of his courtiers came up with the idea of amusing and distracting the biting Emperor with a wheeled throne is unreported. John of Ephesus recorded the Emperor’s chair had wheels installed, and Justin delighted in being rolled about in his chair. It often served to distract him sufficiently that he forgot to bite visitors or servants. In 574 he accepted the suggestion of his wife, Sophia and adopted Tiberius, a general, as his son and his designated heir, and abdicated the Byzantine throne. Sophia and Tiberius ruled as regents until Justin’s death, when Tiberius ascended to the throne as Tiberius II Constantine.

5. Korean Prince Sado required a presentation of 30 outfits to choose from before dressing

Prince Sado, the second son of Korean King Yeongjo, never served as the leader of his people, though he became the presumed heir to the throne following the death of his elder half-brother. Sado was not an ancient either, being born in 1735 CE, but in a pre-modern society and culture. Sado’s palace included eunuchs, concubines, and ladies-in-waiting, the latter of whom he frequently beat and raped. He once beheaded one of the eunuchs and carried the head to his wife and her ladies-in-waiting, forcing them to look at it as he held it in his bloodied hands.

Whenever His Highness desired to dress, which was several times per day as the mood struck him, servants were forced to display up to 30 different sets of clothing from which he chose. Those which displeased him he often burnt. He reported seeing ghosts in the palace, and outfits which he believed would upset the ghosts were similarly burnt. Servants required to dress him trembled as they did so, fearful of an act which would anger the prince and lead to their punishment, or even death. In 1762 his father had enough of his bizarre and violent son, and had him executed by placing him in a rice chest until he died.

4. Chinese Emperor Zhou Houshao had an invisible friend as an alter-ego

Born Zhou Houshao, he ascended to the throne as Emperor Zhengde at the age of 14. Zhengde meant “rectification of virtue.” When applied to his reign the term is very much a misnomer. The eleventh Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, his reign ended when he contracted an illness after falling into the Yellow River. Some say it was the Grand Canal. He was drunk, a common occurrence during his reign. During the fifteen years he held the throne he preferred the company of his eunuchs. He expressed interest in work only when preparing actions against those who displeased him, including against his own adoptive son, whom he had jailed. He was later executed.

To entertain himself, the Zhengde Emperor invented invisible friends, and his own fictional alter-ego, which he forced his ministers to accept. He spent much of his time playing outside of the palace, frustrating his ministers and advisors. He preferred the company of Muslim men and women in his sexual trysts as an adult, and enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle. His banning the slaughter of pigs and preference for Muslim company led to speculation that he converted to Islam, though he did not adopt that religion’s views on the consumption of alcohol. Throughout his life he continued to act like a child, with imaginary friends, and a penchant for playing childish games.

3. Herod the Great kept his wife’s body preserved in honey

King Herod the Great achieved infamy in the New Testament, after the visitation of the Magi informed him of the birth of a Jewish King. Most of the details of his life appear in The Antiquities of the Jews, by the historian Josephus. His reign as King of Judea as a client of Rome is debated due to differences in religious sources and those of historians. It is known that Herod executed numerous members of his immediate family during his reign, including his wife Mariamne I. Even that event is disputed, the Talmud claims she committed suicide, while Josephus reports her execution after trial in 29 BCE.

The Talmud is also the source of the story of Herod’s expansive grief over the death of his wife, and that he ordered her body preserved by placing it in a casket filled with honey. The Talmud refers to the implied saving of the body for sexual gratification one of the “deeds of Herod.” Josephus is silent on the honey story, and recounts Herod tried to overcome his grief through manly pursuits such as hunting, and through feasting and drinking copiously.

2. Commodus declared himself the reincarnation of Hercules

Commodus became one of the better-known Roman Emperors through the release of the film Gladiator in 2000. Joaquin Phoenix portrayed the corrupt and amoral son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius memorably, though in truth the real Commodus makes the fictional depiction an Eagle Scout in comparison. Commodus served as co-Emperor with his father for three years, became sole Emperor when Aurelius died in 180 CE, and reigned for another 12 years. Throughout his reign, his government became more chaotic. He suspected everyone, fought in the arena with “gladiators” who were in fact partially disabled men, their disabilities disguised, and did the same with wild beasts.

He had statues placed around the empire depicting him in the guise of Hercules, and later announced he was the reincarnation of the Roman god. His claim to be Hercules allowed him to claim direct descent from Jupiter, the head of the Roman hierarchy of gods. As a god he claimed immortality, a fact proved untrue when his wrestling partner, Narcissus, strangled him to death in his bath, at the behest of conspirators which included his mistress, Marcia. Following his death, the statues of the god-Emperor across the empire were destroyed.

1. Mithridates VI took poison daily to build up tolerance against assassination attempts

Mithridates VI of Pontus ruled Pontus and Armenia Minor as King from sometime in the second century BCE until 63 BCE. His father Mithridates V, was murdered via poison during a banquet. The death of his father gave the son a lifelong fear of suffering the same fate. Mithridates, at some point in his youth, began to immunize himself from poisons by taking them, in increasing doses. He did so while in hiding in the years immediately following the death of his father. During the time in hiding his mother, Laodice, and his brother, Chrestus, ruled the kingdom. When Mithridates returned he overthrew his mother and brother, assumed the throne, and had both imprisoned, where they died (some say executed). He gave them both royal funerals, after which he married his sixteen year-old sister, also named Laodice.

The Mithridatic Wars against the Romans and their puppet states did not go well for the king for whom they were named. After his final defeat at the hands of the Romans under Pompey, Mithridates fled to the region of the Black Sea, at first hoping to raise another army and continue the war. When the local populace rebelled against him, he opted for suicide over capture and execution by Pompey. He tried to kill himself with poison, but his efforts to build up a tolerance for poisons had been too successful. The poison didn’t kill him. Nor could be bring himself to use a sword to end his own life. It took some of his followers to kill him with swords and spears. Pompey had him buried in his ancestral grounds.

Odd Ruler Dudes

WIF Into History

A Pessimist’s View of Ancient Legends – WIF Myths and Legends

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Ancient Places

of Legend

That May

Never Existed

History books tell us of ancient places with amazing architecture, and world wonders long past. Archaeological discovery has learned much about the world before us. The idea of many of these locations has inspired imaginations for many years. However, the truth is that history gets distorted over time both through constant re-telling and sometimes through historical records that were actually just fanciful stories written after the fact. Many of the most famous locations may not have existed at all. Many of those that did, were much different than most people usually imagine.

The Holy Bible is a source of stories that Believers will never dismiss as fiction.

10. The Legend of El Dorado Didn’t Start Out About a City

The City of El Dorado, also known as the City of Gold, was popularized in myth. Fairly recently, it was retold in a very shiny and colorful Disney movie. The myth claims that there was a city of gold, told of by the South American natives. Many explorers went searching for it in the hopes of finding amazing riches. However, the original legend was actually about a person, not a city. It morphed into a city that needed to be searched for, because many of the natives were happy to lead the explorers on a wild chase.

The original legend told of an ancient leader who was so rich, that every morning he would be doused in gold dust. Then every evening, he would bathe in sacred waters, washing the dust off again. This was an example of his absolutely ridiculous wealth. However, while the legend is based on this, it isn’t actually true either. Archaeologists have discovered that the original story began because of the Musica people who would perform a similar ritual when anointing a new king. But they certainly weren’t wasting that kind of gold every day. It was for very special occasions.

9. The City of Troy May Not Be At All Like People Think

The City of Troy has captured people’s imaginations ever since The Iliad and The Odyssey. More recently, there have been very visually stunning movies that have helped rekindle modern interest in the ancient city. Many people assume the city and the famous siege that took place may have been similar to how it was described in Homer’s work, or in the movies. But the issue of Troy is extremely complicated.

To begin with, much of Homer’s original work that would complete the two famous stories is missing, and may never be found. This makes it difficult to understand how much of his work was fact, and how much was fiction. Also, for some time historians weren’t sure the city of Troy existed at all. Now they have found an archaeological site that they believe may contain the city, but that has only made the problem even more complicated. The site has several layers built on top of each other, which means that even if Troy was once there, figuring out which layer was the Troy described in Homer’s epic would be incredibly difficult.

Archaeologists also have good reason to believe at this point that the siege described in Homer’s work actually took place over the course of many years. There also may have actually been more than one siege, of more than one Troy, over the course of history — all on the same spot. For this reason, trying to get a historically accurate picture of Troy may be next to impossible.

8. The Lost City of Atlantis Was Probably a Myth, Or Just a Regular Destroyed Island

The Lost City of Atlantis has been popularized in myth for millennia. The idea of a lost city of prosperous people, who perhaps had interesting knowledge or technology is a fascinating idea. Some myths even go so far as to suggest that the people of Atlantis somehow continued to survive underneath the ocean. Wilder myths even suggest they are responsible for the Bermuda triangle — bringing down anything that gets too close to the truth of their hidden existence.

However, in all likelihood if Atlantis did exist, it was just an ordinary island struck by natural disaster. The first references to such a place were in an allegory by Plato about the suddenness that something could disappear, and about the hubris of not being prepared for danger. Many people are convinced this is the truth, and that there was no Atlantis. But, people often write about what they know. There is evidence that a prosperous island fairly near Plato was swallowed up almost instantly by a volcano, so he could have been making a reference to that event. Either way, there was nothing particularly special about the city Plato was referencing.

7. The Fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon Were Probably Not That Advanced

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the wonders of the ancient world. They also probably never existed at all. Many people have an idea from artwork of a huge city of mostly sandstone, with beautiful terraced gardens throughout, despite being in the middle of the desert. It certainly captures the imagination, but the first references to such a place were not written until hundreds of years after the city of Babylon was gone, greatly calling into doubt their existence.

The site of Babylon was only recently found, and wasn’t exactly where archaeologists expected, either. It turns out it was closer to a neighboring city known as Nineveh. The people of Nineveh had taken over the Babylonian culture through war. But they liked to assimilate the enemies’ names into their own cities, making archaeological identification difficult at first.

Archaeologists have not yet been able to prove the existence of any kind of hanging gardens or super advanced irrigation system. But even if they had, it wouldn’t have been that impressive to begin with. It turns out that the actual site of Babylon is not particularly arid, and would be quite useable for growing vegetation.

6. The Bermuda Triangle Is A Modern Myth, Not An Ancient Danger For Mariners

The Bermuda Triangle is a place that will cause many people to short circuit the logic part of their brain. They’ll start talking about the silliest paranoid conspiracy theories imaginable. Nearly everyone knows a mysterious story or two about the area. While most people would agree it is a natural phenomenon, the average person is convinced that something is going on there.

However, the truth is that there is no such thing as the Bermuda Triangle in the first place. What we mean by this is that there is no map in the world that has ever considered that particular region to be anything special to avoid or not. The entire idea of the triangle was made up by folklore.

Statistics show that there are no more accidents or disappearances of boats and planes in the triangle than anywhere else in the ocean. In other words, you could draw a triangle anywhere in the ocean and you would be just as likely to find a similar set of mysterious disappearances. This is because weather can cause ships and boats to go under, and the ocean is incredibly vast. Any part of the ocean can be dangerous. But there’s no evidence that particular area is any more dangerous than any other.

5. The Garden Of Eden Was Probably Philosophical, Not Physical

The Garden of Eden is a subject that has caused some controversy for many years. Certain Christians are convinced that the Garden of Eden was once a physical location somewhere on the globe, and have done a lot of research to suggest various possible locations. Most of them are somewhere in the Middle East, fairly near the locations mentioned in the early days of the bible.

Interestingly though, the Jewish faith never believed in the Garden of Eden as a physical place to begin with, but as a state of being. When men were first created, in their view, they were in a state of perfect harmony. The sin of man broke that harmony and they were no longer in the Garden of Eden, but harshly viewing the world as it actually was — alone, in the desert to fend for themselves. Many Christian scholars have increasingly taken up a similar viewpoint over the years.

4. The Tower of Babel was Probably Just an Unfinished Building

The legend in the bible says that after the great flood, many people who spoke the same language came together and arrogantly forgot about God. They planned to build a tower to reach the heavens. Partway through their building, God struck them with confusion. Now, they had many languages, and they scattered across the globe. Some people dismiss the entire thing as just a story, and some people have looked for archaeological evidence. The truth is a little more complicated.

There is no evidence to support the biblical story itself. However, there is evidence of a great Ziggurat that could fit the description of the tower that existed in the Babylonian Empire while the Hebrews were their slaves. The Ziggurat was unfinished during that time. Despite being quite grand, multiple attempts had been made to finish it. Some historians believe that the Jewish writers of the time, looking for allegories to teach important lessons, were inspired by the unfinished Ziggurat nearby.

3. Ponce De Leon was Probably Never Actually Searching for a Fountain Of Youth

We already know there was no actual fountain of youth. The idea of a magical fountain that could restore the vitality to anyone who bathed in it is quite ridiculous. However, while no one today really believes the story, some assume that the people of a few hundred years ago would have been stupid enough to believe it.

The legends claim that Ponce De Leon wasted years of his time in Florida searching for this mythical fountain. A fountain, it turned out, that was a trick allegedly played on him by the natives. However, there is no evidence in his writings he was searching for any such thing. The only source for his alleged search was a fanciful account written by a suspect source, trying to gain political favor with his views. It is more than likely the entire legend was a complete fabrication from beginning to end.

2. Jericho Was Probably Just Built on a Fault Line

Many people have heard the story of the fabled Wall of Jericho. Jericho was an ancient city in biblical days, held under siege. God was to help bring down the city, but needed the help of His chosen. The army was to blow their trumpets and march around the city continuously, and He would bring the city walls down for them. After several days, the walls came down, and the people of God were victorious.

Now, while the city of Jericho was real, many historians believe this story was far stranger than many people first realized. The city was actually in an area that would have been prone to earthquake activity. With armies using up nearby waters during a siege, it could increase the risk. Some historians would say that the army got lucky. Or, that someone knew the earthquake activity in the area and hoped to use it to their advantage. Believers would suggest that perhaps God chose that moment to activate an earthquake along that particular fault-line. No one will ever know.

1. Roswell is Really Just Home to an Old, Unused Air Force Base

We know the military presence at Roswell was hardly anything ancient. But with the belief many people have in ancient aliens, and their connection to Area 51 and the US government, it brings the entire thing full circle. Now, we aren’t saying that the town of Roswell, New Mexico doesn’t exist. But we are saying that there is a lot of confusion over what exactly Roswell is. Most people know that it’s the town where there was an alleged crash of a UFO. The Air Force would later claim it was just a weather balloon. Over time, most secret government projects have been associated with Area 51. Somehow the two places — Roswell and Area 51 — have often become conflated in the popular mindset.

While there was an Air Force Base located at Roswell, it has not been functioning for many years now. And it was never used for highly secret projects. In fact, Walker Air Force Base was a fairly generic and unimportant military post. When budget cuts came near the end of Vietnam, it was one of the first bases to close up shop. There’s a museum celebrating the legacy of the base, but what is left now serves commercial purposes. And no, there are no aliens there.

A Pessimist’s View of Ancient Legends

WIF Myth and Legend