Middle Ages Handbook – WABAC Into Ancient History

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 Forgotten Peoples

of the Early

Middle Ages

The further back we look through history, the more diverse the people are. This isn’t surprising, given the fact that many nations today are basically tribes that found their way to today’s world. And each of these “tribes” is as diverse as the places they hailed from. Europe is no different.

During the Early Middle Ages (5th to 10th century AD), Europe was in a period of transition. The Roman Empire had recently fallen, and barbaric tribes were on the move, pushed forward by the invading Huns. The Arabic Moors were settling in the Iberian Peninsula, the Viking Age was just beginning, and the Byzantine Empire was carrying on Rome’s legacy in the east.

Well, here are some peoples who were also calling parts of Europe their home during those times. Most people today have all but forgotten about them, but their legacy still remains here and there.

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10. The Hutsuls – Ukraine

The Hutsuls are a group of Ukrainian pastoral highlanders inhabiting the Carpathian Mountains in present day West Ukraine. Their origins are shrouded in mystery. Scholars today can’t even agree on where their name comes from. Some say that the name was originally kochul (nomad), which became kotsul, and then hotsul. This referred to the Kievan Rus, who fled for the mountains during the Mongol Invasion of the 13th century. Others believe that the name derives from a sub-tribe of Cumans or Pechenegs, the Uzians, or from a tribe allied with the Ostrogoths – the Hutsians. More recent theories say that the name Hutsul comes from the Romanian word for brigand.

Whatever the case, these people have been living in the region for a long time, at least from the 9th century AD, and are still there today. They have a long lasting tradition in forestry, logging, and sheep herding. They’ve even been credited for having created the breed of horse known as the Hucul pony. Farming in this region was virtually nonexistent during those times, with the main focus being on animal husbandry. Today, roughly 25,000 Hutsuls live in the region. Most are in Ukraine, while the other 4,000 live in present day Romania.

9. The Principality of Hum – Bosnia and Herzegovina

Hum, more commonly known to the locals as Zachlumia or Zahumlje, was a Principality during the Early Middle Ages of what are now Bosnia and Herzegovina, and parts of Croatia. Zachlumia is a derivative of Hum, from Vlach (Vulgar Latin) culme, meaning “hill.” Zahumlje is named after the mountain of Hum. The name Herzegovina comes from the term Hum.

The inhabitants of the region were Slavic migrants who colonized the area during the 6th century. They mixed with the Romanized people already living there. The House of Viševi, which is Hum’s hereditary dynasty, probably descended from the Slavic Litziki tribe populating the upper streams of the Vistula River.

During the second half of the 7th century, the Avars occupied the whole region of Dalmatia and sacked the towns, enslaving and displacing the local population. The principality of Hum was among these places. Some of these Avars might have permanently settled the area. Nevertheless, they attacked Constantinople in 626, but were defeated by the Byzantines and stopped being an influential force in the region. Shortly after, in 630, the Serbs settled Hum under the protection of the Byzantine Emperor.

8. The Vascones – Spain

Located in the Northern part of the Iberian Peninsula, the Vascones were an Indo-European tribe. They’re considered by many to be one of the oldest on the continent. Not very much is known about them before Roman colonization, but what is known is that they are the ancestors of present-day Basques, who live there today. Their languages seem to have similarities, but to date the Vascone language hasn’t been successfully translated.

Before and during Roman rule, the territories of what is now Basque country were shared by the Vascones with three other smaller tribes: the Varduli, Caristii and Autrigones. What happened to them is a matter of debate, but they were more than likely assimilated by the Vascones during the following period. Later, they extended their reach northwards, across the Pyrenees into French Aquitaine. This region became to be known as Gascony, which derives its name from the Vascones.

In the 5th century AD, the Vascones began to see a period of constant strife with the advancing Vandals, Alans, and Suevi tribes, as well as the Visigoths, who were given the province of Aquitaine by the Romans. Later, further conflicts erupted between the Vascones and the Franks, as well as the Goths and Visigoths.

With the Arab Invasion in 711 and the rise of the Carolingian dynasty, the Vascones/Basques were under new threats. After Charlemagne’s death, his son Louis the Pious provoked a new rebellion in the region, led by Gartzia Semeno. A relative of his, Enecco Arista, took power in Pamplona around 824. This is when the Kingdom of Pamplona was born, later known as the Kingdom of Navarre.

7. The Kvens – Upper Scandinavian Peninsula

Contrary to popular belief, the Vikings never did control the whole of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The lands predominantly belonged to the Kvens and Sami of Kvenland since Neolithic times. Their numbers were bolstered by the coming Finno-Ugric peoples from the east, somewhere around the third millennium BC.Kvenland encompassed most of modern day Finland, part of northwestern Russia, and two thirds of Sweden and Norway. Up until the Medieval Period only the southern most parts of the peninsula in Norway, Sweden, and Finland were under control of the Norse.

The Kvens, together with the Sami, formed the ancestral basis for modern day Finland. To the Swedes, Kvenland was known as Österland, or the ‘eastern land’. Their organization was mostly tribal based, with a possibility of local kingships here and there. When talked about in Norse materials or sagas, these kingships were inflated to a national level.

It is believed that the Yngling royal family, the oldest Scandinavian dynasty, hailed from Kvenland. This is not entirely proven. What is for sure, however, is the Norse religion and folklore, which come from the Kvens. Something absolutely characteristic to shamanism from the Ural and Eurasian regions (from where the Kvens originated) is the cosmogony in the higher/middle/lower worlds division, evident in the nine worlds from Norse myth.

6. The Frisians – The Netherlands and Germany

Originating from a larger family of peoples, the Frisians are closely related to the Jutes, Warns, Angles, and Saxons, and spoke a language similar to English. Their forefathers settled the coastal, clay-districts of present-day Dutch provinces of Friesland and Groningen as early as 700 BC. Much like today, the region encountered periodical flooding, with sea levels rising every few centuries. That’s why the inhabitants mostly lived on man-made mounds, called terps.

Later, they fell under the protectorate of the Roman Empire, having to pay regular taxes in the form of cowhides. With the fall of the Romans, Germanic tribes swept over Western Europe. For the first time, they formed organized states. Groups of Frisians, together with the Chaukians, went on to create a new tribal alliance that became the Franks. Other Frisians, together with the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, crossed the North Sea and formed present-day England.

They also created their own Frisian Empire, which peaked in the 7th century. Its lands were mostly on the coast, from north Belgium to southern Denmark. The North Sea was even called “Mare Frisicum” during this period. The Frisians controlled trade routes from Friesland to England, France, Scandinavia, and northwest Russia.

Even today, the Frisian language is recognized as official in the Netherlands and taught in schools throughout the province of Friesland. The small village of Hindeloopen, with a population of around 870 people, has its own Frisian dialect. It’s the smallest community in the world to publish its own dictionary.

5. The Picts – Scotland

Known as “Picti” (the painted ones) by the Romans, these people can trace their lineage back to the Celts in terms of language and culture. They inhabited the eastern and northern parts of present day Scotland. Because of the Picts, the Romans were unable to successfully conquer the whole of Britain. They were the main reason for Hadrian’s Wall (Picts’ Wall) being built.

Even though they lived on the outermost fringes of the continent, the Picts were skilled artists and traders. They created some of the most beautifully carved stones and jewelry north of Rome itself. They were even making use of “the Golden Ratio” in their designs. That’s something found only in nature, or a handful of other man-made structures like the Notre Dame Cathedral or the Egyptian Pyramids. Another interesting fact about these people is that they were among the last on the continent to practice a matrilineal succession, meaning that they were tracing their descent through a female, rather than male line.

Since they had no written language of their own, most of what we know about the Picts comes from outside sources. We unfortunately don’t know what they called themselves, or what religion or traditions they were practicing. However, the Picts played an active role in British history throughout the Early Middle Ages. They defeated the Anglo-Saxons on several occasions, creating a clear north-south divide on the island. The Picts played an integral role in the early formation of Scotland.

4. The Krivichi – Belarus

The Krivichi, or Krivichians, were a tribal confederation of different ethnic groups of Slavs who occupied regions of Belarus and western Russia. They’re mentioned in the Kievan Rus’ chronicles, though how they came to the region is still up for debate. Whatever the case, they played an intricate role in developing the area in terms of trade. They connected the towns of Novgorod with the town of Pskov, which gave them easy access to the Baltic Sea. They acted as middle men between the Vikings to the north and the Byzantine Empire to the south.

By the end of the first millennium, the Krivichi had built many agricultural settlements with traces of ironworks, jewelry making, and several other crafts. Archeological digs have uncovered many long burial mounds where the druzhinnik (members of princely retinue, or bodyguards) were interred in a sumptuous manner, alongside their weapons and other riches.

By the middle of the 9th century, the Krivichi went under the suzerainty of the Kievan Rus. They took part in Prince Oleh’s and Prince Ihor’s campaigns against Constantinople in 907 and 941, respectively. Both attacks failed to take the city, but sparked a period of good trade relations between the Vikings and the Byzantines. During this period, however, the Krivichians were broken up into three principalities under the rule of the Vikings. Together with the Drehovichians, they made up the ancestral basis for both the modern Russian and Belorussian people. The modern word Krievs means “Russian” in Latvian.

3. The Pannonian Avars – Hungary

The Avars were a nomadic horse-warrior people, whose origins are not entirely known. They are believed to have come from present day Mongolia. Their departure towards the west was most likely sparked by losing power in the region to the Gokturks.

Once on the European continent, they made contact with Emperor Justinian I of the Byzantines. He hired them to protect the Empire’s borders to the north. After Justinian’s death in 565 AD, the new Emperor, Justin II, canceled their agreement and the Avars started looking for a permanent home. Together with the Lombards, they defeated and removed the Gepids from Pannonia (present-day Hungary).

Now, established on the Pannonian plains, the Avars built their headquarters near Attila’s old capital and fortified it. This place became known as The Ring. From here they began several campaigns of expansion in all directions, enlarging their kingdom. They fought and defeated the Franks in 570, following with a campaign against the Byzantines. After ravaging Moesia, they were finally defeated near Adrianople in 587.

With the death of their ruler, Khan Bayan, around 602 AD, the Avar Khanate went into a slow decline. Just like the Huns, the Avars lacked any real central government capable of managing large numbers of sedentary people. They began to fight among themselves. Emperor Charlemagne of the Franks took advantage by attacking them in 795 AD. One year later, the Avars were ruled by the Franks. Their legacy, besides the iron stirrup (which they introduced in Europe), was the major shift in demographics wherever they raided or settled. The Avars are responsible for uprooting and displacing large numbers of people, who then had to establish their cultures elsewhere.

2. The Sorbs – Germany

During the second half of the 5th century, many Germanic tribes living in areas of present-day East Germany moved toward the Mediterranean. The vacuum left behind was filled by Slavic peoples collectively known as Wends. They assimilated the remaining “Germans,” and by the 7th century most of the region was Slavic speaking. Among these Wends were also the Sorbs, whose territories reached as far North as Berlin.

Their earliest surviving mention was in 631 AD, in Fredegar’s Chronicle, where they were described as Surbi and under the rule of Dervan. Initially subordinates to the Franks, the Sorbs declared their independence after the Frankish defeat of 632, in the face of Samo’s Empire (a political union of Slavic tribes). Over the coming centuries, the Sorbs fought several battles with the Franks and upcoming Germans. In 939, Gero II held a feast where he murdered 30 Sorbian princes, resulting in many Sorbian revolts against German rule.

From this period onward, the region became more and more Germanized. It now forms an integral part of modern day Germany. Around the Bautzen and Cottbus in Lusatia, some Slavic speakers survived and identify themselves as Sorbs even to this day. Their numbers, however, are dwindling. There are only around 60,000 living in the region since the fall of the Soviet bloc. Even if many don’t know how to speak the Sorb language, some still practice the old traditions like the lapanje kokota (rooster plucking), a summer harvesting ritual.

1. The Alans – Pretty Much All Over the Place

The Alans were an Iranian steppe people who, from the 4th century BC, settled the area between the Black and Caspian Seas, north of the Caucasus Mountains. They played an important role in shaping Medieval Europe. They were the only non-Germanic people to build important settlements in Western Europe, and dominated the late Roman Empire’s foreign affairs.

With the arrival of the Huns, the Alans broke into two parts. Some remained behind in Alania, while others pushed forward. Among the latter, some settled within the Byzantine Empire, though most went into Western Europe. Together with the Visigoths and Vandals, the Alans passed into Gaul and Spain, reaching as far as North Africa.

The Alans and Romans were able to defeat Attila the Hun in 451 AD, sparing much of Western Europe from the Hunnic onslaught. After Attila’s death, the Alans settled in large numbers along the middle course of the Loire in Gaul under King Sangiban, as well as on the lower Danube with King Candac. In 461 and 464 they also made incursions into Italy. By the 5th century AD, the Alans became fully Christianized and gradually lost their Iranian language.

The Alans are credited for their introduction of mounted warfare tactics into Western Europe, as well as armoring themselves and their horses. The Spanish province of Catalonia is just a slight deformation of Goth-Alania. The name Alan, in all its variations and languages, comes from the tribe. They also left an imprint in Celtic poetry, e.g., the cycle of legends concerning King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. They introduced a now-extinct dog breed, the Alaunt. It was used in the still-popular sport of hunting on horseback with hunting dogs. This practice was introduced into Europe by…you guessed it: the Alans.


Middle Ages Handbook

WABAC Into Ancient History

It’s All Greek to Me – Spartan Facts

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Horrifying Facts

About the Spartans

Sparta is one of the most extreme civilizations in Earth’s history. Relatively early in Greek history, even before the Classical World had begun, the Spartans drove through a radical social and political revolution. In effect, all Spartans are made to be equal. Really equal. And they developed key concepts we still use today, like the importance of self-sacrifice for the common good or the value of duties and of rights. In short, all Spartans aimed to be as perfectly human as humanly possible. Every single of our utopic ideas today, can draw their roots from the Spartan example.

 The biggest problem about Sparta, from a historical point of view at least, is that they left very few written records, and didn’t build grand architecture that we could then analyze. However, Spartan women enjoyed a degree of freedom, education and equality unparalleled anywhere in the ancient world. Each member of society, man or woman, master or slave, had a precise role to play, and one can’t talk about Spartan soldiers without talking about Sparta itself. And this is because every Spartan citizen was specifically molded to be the perfect soldier from birth. This preparation was often-times brutal, and we’ll take a look just how extreme the Spartans were.

10. Spartan Children Were Bred for War

Almost every aspect of the Spartan way of life was governed by the state. This included its children. Each Spartan baby was brought before a council of inspectors, who examined him for physical defects. If anything seemed out of the ordinary, they would take the newborn and leave him to die of exposure somewhere on a hillside outside the city. In a few fortunate cases, these forsaken children would be rescued by foreigners passing by, or by the helots (Spartan slaves) working the fields. In their infancy, the babies who survived this first of many tests would be bathed in wine instead of water, as to strengthen their physical attributes. They would also be frequently ignored by their parents when they cried, as to make them accustomed to a “Spartan” way of life. These parenting techniques were so highly admired by foreigners that Spartan women were often sought as nurses or nannies.

Up until the age of seven, Spartan boys lived with their family, but then they were taken by the state to live in communal barracks and start their first training regimen, called “agoge”. This program aimed to mold the young Spartans to become perfect warriors. The training involved hard physical exercises, as well as learning stealth, extreme loyalty, military and combat training, pain-tolerance, hunting, survival skills, social communication, and morality. They were also taught reading, writing, rhetoric and poetry. However, at age 12 they were stripped of all clothing and possessions, save a red cloak. They were then instructed to sleep outside and make their own beds from reeds. They were also encouraged to scavenge or steal food, but if caught they were severely punished by flogging. Spartan girls continued to live with their families after the age of seven, but they too received the famous Spartan education, which involved dance, gymnastics, as well as javelin and discus throwing. These exercises were believed to make them ready for motherhood.

9. Hazing and Fighting Among Themselves

One way through which children were toughened up as a key element in their development as soldiers was to instigate fights among them. Older men and teachers would often start various arguments among their students and encouraged them on, leading the boys to start fighting with each other. Since the main purpose of the agoge was to make these trainees highly resistant to all sorts of hardships found during war, like cold, hunger or pain, those who showed signs of weakness, cowardice, or timidity were subject to harsh punishments and humiliation by peers and teachers alike. Imagine being bullied by someone in school, and then your teacher would come over and join in. To make things even worse, girls often sang choral songs in front of dignitaries during various religious or state ceremonies, sometimes singling out specific trainees for ridicule.

Not even grown-ups were spared humiliation. Spartans absolutely loathed people out of shape. This is one of the reasons why all Spartan citizens, the kings included, had their daily meals at a syssitia, a military mess, where the food was bland and always insufficient. Together with daily physical exercises, Spartan men and women kept in shape throughout their entire lives. Those who didn’t, however, were exposed to public humiliation by everyone, and even risked being banished from the city if they didn’t fix the problem immediately.

8. The Contest of Endurance

An integral part of Ancient Sparta, and one of its most gruesome practices, was the so-called Contest of Endurance, or Diamastigosis. This tradition was said to commemorate an incident where people from neighboring settlements killed each other at the altar of Artemis. From that point on, human sacrifices were brought there annually. Since Lycurgus, however – a famous, semi-mythical Spartan lawgiver from the 7th century BC – the ceremony at the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia only involved the ephebes (adolescent boys undergoing the agoge) being flogged until they completely stained the stairs of the altar full of blood. During the event, the altar was covered with cheeses and the young boys would try to reach and take them. Older ones would wait for them with sticks in hand, flogging and beating them without mercy. This tradition was in fact an initiation ceremony where the ephebes were accepted as full Spartan warriors and citizens. The last boy standing would receive great honor for his bravery. Deaths were also not uncommon during this event.

During the Roman occupation of Sparta, the tradition of Diamastigosis endured, but lost much of its ceremonial importance. It instead became a favorite spectator sport. People from all over the empire would flock to Sparta and see how young men were being whipped in such a brutal fashion. By the 3rd century AD the sanctuary was enclosed by a theater where spectators could watch the floggings.

7. The Krypteia

When the ephebes reached the age of 20 or so, those who were marked out as potential future leaders were given the opportunity to take part in the Krypteia. This was a sort of secret police, or at least the closest Sparta got to one. It more closely resembled a guerrilla force since its main purpose was to stake out and terrorize the surrounding helot settlements. At its peak during the 5th century BC, Sparta had about 10,000 men able to bear arms, while the surrounding helot population outnumbered them 7 to 1. This was a double-edged sword for the Spartan citizens. On the one hand, the helots were providing the Spartans with all the food they would need, freeing them to become super-soldiers. On the other hand, the Spartans were constantly under threat from helot rebellions. This continuous risk of revolt was also the main reason why the Spartans developed such a highly militarized society in the first place, in which every Spartan man became a soldier by law.

Every fall these young soldiers got a chance to test out their skills, when the Spartan ephors unofficially declared war on the helot population. At night the members of the Krypteia would be armed with knives and set loose onto the surrounding countryside. They were instructed to kill any helot they encountered, especially the strongest among them. This annual slaughter of the lowest class was to ensure the helots’ obedience, as well as to keep their population in check. Only the Spartans who took part in this gruesome event as young men could hope to one day achieve the highest ranks in the army and society. Throughout the rest of the year, this “secret police” would patrol the countryside looking for any signs of unrest. Any potentially troublesome helot would be summarily executed.

6. Compulsory Marriage

While this can’t be construed as particularly horrifying, compulsory marriage by the age of 30 is something that many today consider especially frightening. We don’t think the same rules apply in modern-day Sparta, but in the ancient times they certainly did. Up until the age of 30, all Spartan men lived their lives in communal barracks and made up the active military of the mighty city-state. They would then be relieved of duty, but would act as the reserve force until they turned 60. In any case, 30 was the age when all male citizens were more or less forced to tie the knot, if they hadn’t done so already.

And since Spartans saw marriage primarily, but not exclusively, as a means of conceiving new soldiers, girls usually married at around 19 (later than other Greek girls). Bachelors were encouraged to evaluate the health and fitness of their future mates. But even if the marriage arrangements were made between the husband and his future father-in-law, this doesn’t mean the girl didn’t have any say in the matter. After all, Spartan women were equal to their men, more so than in a lot of countries today.

In the event a Spartan soldier would get married before finishing his active service when turning 30, he would live separately from his wife until that time. Likewise, if a man remained a bachelor after entering the reserves, he was seen as neglecting his duties towards Sparta itself, and would be publicly mocked at every occasion; especially during official ceremonies. If by any chance a Spartan wasn’t able to bear children, he was expected to find a suitable other who could. There were even cases of a woman having several partners and their collective children belonging to all.

5. Spartan Weapons & Armor

The bulk of every Ancient Greek army, Sparta included, was the hoplite. These were heavily-armored soldiers, citizens of their respective city-states, with enough material means to equip and make themselves available to fight. But while other cities’ hoplites weren’t professional soldiers and often lacked sufficient military training, Sparta’s soldiers were bred solely for war, and did nothing else their entire lives. And while other Greek city-states built massive walls to defend themselves, Sparta famously had none, considering its hoplites as its defenses.

The principle weapon of every hoplite, regardless of origin, was the spear, or dory. These spears measured around 8 feet in length and were held one handed, either over or underhand. Its tip was made out of bronze or iron, and the shaft was made from cornel wood. This wood was especially sought after because of the density and strength it gave the spear. The wood is so dense it actually sinks in water. Then in their left hand, the hoplites held their iconic round shields, the hoplon. Weighing some 30 pounds, these were used primarily for defense, but were also used for bashing. These shields were made out of wood or leather with an outer layer of bronze. Spartans marked their shields with the letter lambda. This stood for Laconia, the name of the region of Sparta.

Now, if either their spears broke off or the battle became too overcrowded, the hoplites in the front row turned to their xiphos. This was a short sword, about 17 inches long, which was used for stabbing while behind the hoplon. Spartans, however, mostly preferred the kopis instead of the xiphos, because of the nasty wounds it inflicted. The kopis was used more as an axe in the form of a thick, curved iron sword, and Spartans were often depicted in Athenian art while holding one. For extra defense, they wore bronze helmets that protected the head, the back of the neck, and the face, as well as a breastplate (thorax) of bronze or leather. Bronze graves, knemides, to protect the shins, as well as arm-guards were also worn.

4. The Phalanx

One of the signs a civilization reaches a certain point in its development is the way its army wages war. Tribal societies, for example, usually fought in loose arrangements, each warrior waving his huge broadsword or axe over his head in intimidation, and looking for personal glory on the battlefield. But more advanced civilizations fought in compact formations, with each individual soldier having a precise role to play within a larger strategy. The Romans did this, and so did the Ancient Greeks. In fact, the famous Roman Legion formations were inspired by the Greek Phalanx.

Hoplites were organized into regiments, lokhoi, of several hundred individuals, and fought in 8 rows or more. This is what’s known as a Phalanx. The men stood shoulder to shoulder in a tight formation, with their shields covering their left half, as well as the right side of the soldier next to him. Above their shields and between their heads, there was a literal forest of spears protruding outwards. The Phalanx advanced at walking speed or slightly faster, usually accompanied by rhythmic music and war-cries; something which Spartans studied intensely during the agoge. As Greek cities often fought each other, Phalanx would usually meet another Phalanx in battle, in which case they would push and stab each other until one side emerged victorious. Think of it as a much bloodier version of a rugby scrum. Nevertheless, this formation was also successfully used against the Persians on numerous occasions.

Its biggest weakness, however, was its left flank. As the Phalanx advanced and each man sought to keep behind the shield of his neighbor, the formation had the tendency to shift right, leaving the left flank exposed. A good commander would therefore put his best warriors in his own right flank in order to take advantage of this possible situation and ultimately win the battle.

3. No Such Thing as Surrender

As part of their extreme-loyalty training, Spartans despised cowardice above all else, and soldiers were expected to fight without any sense of fear whatsoever. Even to the last man, if need be. In effect, the act of surrender was seen as the epitome of all cowardice. In the highly unlikely event of a Spartan hoplite doing such an unthinkable thing, it would most likely lead him to commit suicide. The ancient historian Herodotus makes mention of two Spartans who missed out on the famous Battle of Thermopylae and who later, in their utter shame, killed themselves. One by hanging himself, and the other by dying a redeeming death during a later conflict for Sparta.

Spartan mothers were famous for saying things like: “Return with your shield or on it” to their sons just before they left for battle, referring to them either returning victorious or dead. Sparta only considered its debt fully repaid when its citizens died doing their duty for her. Men by dying in battle, and Spartan women during childbirth. In fact, only these two groups of people were ever worthy enough to have their own names forever engraved on their tombstones.

2. The Thirty Tyrants

Sparta was known for wanting to spread its own utopian views upon its neighboring states. First were the Messenians to the west, which Sparta defeated during the 7th and 8th centuries BC, turning them into their subservient helots. They later began looking towards Athens itself. During the Peloponnesian War(431–404 BC), not only did the Spartans defeat them, but would also inherit their naval supremacy over the Aegean; something that Sparta never had. Refusing to raze Athens to the ground, as was suggested by the Thebans and Corinthians, the Spartans decided instead to shape the city in their own image.

To do so, they installed a pro-Spartan oligarchy in Athens, infamously known as the Thirty Tyrants. Their main purpose was to revise or in most cases, completely erase the fundamental Athenian laws for its own style of democracy. They reformed the power structure by first lowering most citizens’ rights, and installing 500 councilors to serve the judicial functions formerly belonging to all citizens. They also hand-picked 3,000 Athenian men to “to share in the government” who were allowed more privileges than the rest. During their 13-month-long regime, some 5 percent of all the Athenian population died or simply disappeared, a lot of property confiscated, and many pro-Athenian democrats were exiled.

A former student of Socrates himself, Critias, the leader of the Thirty, was considered cruel, imposing and downright inhumane, as a man who wanted to make Athens into a mirror image of Sparta whatever the cost. Similar to the Krypteia in Sparta, all people who were considered a threat to the new establishment were quickly executed. They also employed 300 “lash-bearers” to patrol the city, harassing and terrorizing the city’s population into submission. Around 1,500 of Athens’s most prominent figures not in favor of Spartan rule were forced to take poison hemlock.

Interestingly enough, the more violent the Tyrants were with the city’s population, the more opposition they faced. This poor state of affairs eventually resulted in a successful rebellion 13 months later, lead by Thrasybulus, one of the few who managed to escape into exile. With the Athenian restoration, the before-mentioned 3,000 were given amnesty, while the rest, the Thirty included, were executed. Critias died in the initial attack. Riddled with corruption, betrayals and violence, the Tyrants’ short rule ensured severe mistrust among the Athenians themselves in the years to come.

1. The Famous Battle of Thermopylae

Made popular today by the 1998 comic book series, and the 2006 movie 300, the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC was an epic engagement between the few Greeks under the Spartan King Leonidas I and the many Persians under King Xerxes. The whole conflict began even before these two became rulers, during the reign of Xerxes’ predecessor, Darius I. He already expanded his borders into mainland Europe and then set his sights on Greece itself. When Darius died and Xerxes took power in 486 BC, he immediately began preparations for an invasion; the biggest threat Greece had ever faced.

After much deliberation between the many Greek city-states, a combined force of around 7,000 hoplites was sent to defend the pass of Thermopylae against the advancing Persian army. (Somehow the graphic novel and movie failed to mention those other 6,700 warriors, including the legendary Athenian naval fleet.) Among that 7,000 were the famous 300 Spartans lead by King Leonidas himself. Xerxes amassed around 80,000 troops for the invasion, though the numbers vary a lot. The relatively small Greek force was due in part to their unwillingness to send troops so far north. The other reason was more religious, for it was the period of the sacred games at Olympia and the most important Spartan religious festival, the Karneia, during which no fighting was allowed. In any case, Leonidas realized the peril they were facing and chose 300 of his most loyal men, who all had male heirs.

Located some 95 miles north of Athens, Thermopylae was an excellent defensive position. Only at about 50 feet wide, and cramped between an almost vertical cliff-face and the sea itself, the Persians couldn’t effectively deploy their vastly superior numbers. This gave the Greeks a tremendous advantage, coupled with a defensive wall already built there. When Xerxes finally arrived, he waited four days in the hopes of the Greeks retreating, which didn’t happen. He then sent his envoys one last time, asking they lay down their arms, to which Leonidas replied “come and get them.” For the following two days the Greeks withstood the many Persian attacks, including those of the infamous Immortals. Betrayed by a local shepherd who told Xerxes about a hidden pass through the mountains, Leonidas would soon find himself surrounded.

Learning of this unfortunate turn of events, he dismissed most of the other hoplites under his command, and kept only his Spartans and a few others to make the last stand. When the final attack came, the mighty Leonidas, as well as his 300 Spartans fell, fulfilling their duty towards their people and to Sparta itself. Even to this day, there’s an inscription at Thermopylae which says: “Go tell the Spartans, you who read: We took their orders and here lie dead.” Now even if Leonidas didn’t win the battle, what he did manage to achieve reverberated through the following wars with the Persians, leading the Spartans to lead the resistance and defeat their overwhelming conquerors. This battle also ensured that Sparta will forever be remembered in history as one of the world’s most unique and powerful civilizations.


It’s All Greek to Me

Spartan Facts

Human Evolution Handbook – WIF Speculation

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Possible Reasons

Why

Humans Evolved

evolution-of-humans

Before we start, let’s look at three common misconceptions about human evolution. The first is that humans evolved from apes, gorillas, or chimpanzees. While we do share a lot of DNA with them, they are actually more like our evolutionary cousins. We share a common ancestor, but split from their evolutionary path about six to seven million years ago. Then, over the next several million years, our ancestors gradually evolved to early modern humans about 200,000 years ago.

Secondly, according to most theories, Homo sapiens just didn’t appear by themselves as the only species of human. Many scientists believe that there were at least 15 to 20 different types of early humans, which are part of the Hominin classification. These other groups of humans are called tribes. A notable one is Neanderthals. All other tribes of Hominin have died out except for Homo sapiens.

Finally, to say we are more evolved than our primate cousins is a bit misleading. Yes, we have a higher intelligence level. But if you and a chimp were dropped in the middle of the jungle, who would be more likely to survive? Instead, humans are the way they are because of the concept known as “survival of the fittest.” Essentially this means that we had the right tool, at the right time, and this ensured our survival. For example, let’s say you’re locked in an airless glass case with one random tool. If you have a saw, you may not survive, but if you have a hammer, you would. Being locked in that case with a hammer doesn’t make you better or more evolved. You just had the right tool at the right time. Evolution works in a similar way.

So now that we got that out of the way, the question becomes: what caused humans to evolve the way they did? One interesting thing to note is that since humans are so complex, and evolution took place over several million years, all, some, or none of these theories may be true.

 10. The Stoned Ape Theory

Easily, the most far-out explanation for why humans evolved is that they ate psilocybin mushrooms; also known as magic mushrooms. The theory comes from Terence McKenna. As you may have guessed, he was a strong advocate for recreational use of psychedelic drugs made from plants.

McKenna’s “Stoned Ape Theory” is that, about 18,000 years ago, near the end of the last glacial period, the jungles of North Africa started to recede and gave way to the grasslands. Our ancient ancestors came down out of the trees and started to follow around a herd of ungulates, which are large mammals like horses and rhinoceroses. Our ancestors ate the magic mushrooms that started to grow in their dung. McKenna also claims that the mushroom spores came from outer space. Supposedly, our ancestors mostly lived off the mushrooms, which altered their minds. This led to the development of spoken language.

However, 12,000 years ago, due to climate change, the mushrooms were largely removed from their diet. While their brain had evolved so they could talk, early humans ultimately reverted back to their primate social structures, ones that we are still living in today.

Of course, not many people in the scientific community think the theory is true. But there is evidence to back it up. For one, mushrooms are pretty resilient because they can grow in the dark on decaying organic material, so there’s a good chance they could survive on alien planets. Also, spores can be moved by electrostatic forces, which are rather weak, so they travel well. Finally, scientists have recently shown that magic mushrooms do change brain connectivity. So, just maybe, McKenna was on to something. But more likely, he was just on something.

9. The Aquatic Ape Theory

One thing that separates us from a lot of other tribes of Hominin, and other mammals in general, is that we are nearly furless. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why we lost most of our body hair, but it’s believed to be for evolutionary reasons. One theory that was first proposed in the early 1940s is “The Aquatic Ape Theory.”

The theory is that 6-8 million years ago, our apelike ancestors looked for food by swimming. However, fur isn’t ideal for life in the water. So, we shed the hair and developed higher body fat, like aquatic mammals such as walruses and cetaceans (whales and dolphins). The theory is controversial and has yet to be proved.

8. One Human Started it All

In the introduction, we talked about how evolution happened over millions of years. It was a bunch of small changes, and not one sudden, drastic change. A theory that goes completely against this comes from Colin Blakemore, an Oxford neurobiologist. His theory is based on the fact that, about 200,000 years ago, there was a huge jump in the size of the human brain, where it increased about 30%. This sudden increase was odd because, starting three million years ago, the size of the human brain only gradually increased.

 Blakemore believes that this jump was caused by one person, a woman who lived about 200,000 years ago that all humans can be traced back to called “Mitochondrial Eve.” He speculates that she had a mutation in her brain, that either first happened in her brain or was passed on to her by a close relative. This mutation led to massive brain growth. Blakemore says that even a change in one gene would have been enough for the brain to grow as big as it did. Also, the genetic mutation was so dominant that it was passed on through generations. Then, when environmental conditions changed because of things like climate change, droughts, and other problems, the descendants of Eve would have been more capable of handling the problems, making them better able to survive.

7. The Killer Ape Theory

Violence is considered one of the worst human traits, but it may be the reason for our evolution. According to “The Killer Ape Theory,” which was first proposed by anthropologist Raymond Dart in 1963, the fact that humans are aggressive, like violence, are cruel, and will kill in cold blood are the reason that humans evolved. The theory says that early humans would move into other areas, even ones they didn’t need, and through vicious acts, which included cannibalism and killing members of other tribes by ripping them limb from limb, they would take over the area.

This would have a three prong effect. First is that it would decrease the population of other tribes of Hominin. Second, our ancestors would have had the best areas of land and access to the most resources. Finally, if they moved into an area and killed all the males, then they would have mated with the women, ensuring that human DNA was passed on. However, evidence to back up the theory is inconclusive.

6. Disease

Another theory as to why our ancestors shed their fur was to rid themselves of parasites like ticks and lice. These parasites would not have only been annoying, but would have carried diseases with them like malaria, West Nile, and Lyme disease. In some cases, these diseases would have been deadly.

The problem was fur is needed on most primates because it helps regulate body temperature. This is where the human brain comes in. Humans could do two things that other Hominin couldn’t: build fires, and make clothing. This would have helped us regulate our body temperature, thereby eliminating the need for fur.

5. Food

A major difference between Homo sapiens and other species of Hominin is that we were able to build fires. In turn, this allowed us to cook our food. According to researchers, cooking two types of food helped in our evolution. The first one is meat. Human ancestors started eating meat about 2.6 million years ago, but it’s possible they were butchering meat as early as 3.4 million years ago. Eating meat had a twofold effect on human evolution. The first was that the diet would have altered the brain by creating more neurons. Secondly, hunting for food was a group activity that would have helped early humans develop verbal communication and planning skills.

The other food that helped in our evolution, which may surprise devotees of the Paleo diet, is carbohydrates. A study from the University of Sydney found that the human brain would not have been able to evolve unless early humans ate meat and starchy carbs like nuts, fruits, and vegetables similar to potatoes. The carbs were needed for the evolution of the brain because the human brain needs glucose in order to function. In fact, the brain uses 60% of the blood glucose, meaning early humans would have needed carbs in their diet.

4. Climate Change

 Since the days when early humans first appeared, the Earth has undergone hot spells and cold spells. Each time there was a major change in climate, it coincided with large evolutionary leaps, like bigger brains and the ability to use complex tools. This has led researchers to believe that humans evolved to deal with the uncertainty of the environment.

The problem with the theory is that researchers aren’t sure why climate change would have caused these giant leaps. However, they believe that every change could have impacted a different trait. For example, when the earth was hot and there was less water, early humans would have needed to learn to plan to ensure they get water and food. But then during wet periods, planning wouldn’t have been as necessary and something like sexual selection could become more important.

All of these traits that were affected by changes in climate make up the mosaic of the modern human.

3. Interbreeding

 About 60,000 years ago, early Homo sapiens left Africa. When they did, they encountered other Hominin like the Neanderthals and the Denisovans and all of us got a little busy with each other. This intermingling led to a hybridization, which altered the human evolutionary line. This interbreeding would have sped up changes in evolution. These changes would have helped us adapt in areas outside of Africa, which allowed humans to spread across the planet in about 45,000 to 55,000 years.

Evidence to back this up is that people today have traces of Neanderthal and Denisovan in their DNA. Genetic testing shows that Europeans and Asians have about one to four percent Neanderthal DNA and people from Southeast Asia have up to 6% Denisovan DNA. As for people who never left Africa, about 3,000 years ago, there was a migration back to Africa. So even African people have some traces of Neanderthal DNA.

2. Walking Upright (Bipedalism)

One of the major things that set humans apart from our Hominin relatives is the size of our brain. Over the course of human evolution, the human brain has more than tripled in size and the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for complex mental functions, was reorganized. This change happened about 200,000 years ago and researchers are unsure why.

One theory is that it may be a result of humans walking on two feet, which started about four million years ago in one of our ancient evolutionary ancestors. The theory is that over this time, the shape of the pelvis changed and the birth canal became narrower. This led to babies being born with soft skulls so they could maneuver through the narrow birth canal. Due to the soft skulls, it allowed the human brain to expand, thus leading to modern day humans millions of years later.

1. We Could Throw Things

 Located in the Republic of Georgia is Dmanisi, the oldest known Hominin settlement outside of Africa. The fossils from the area are about 1.8 million years old and Dmanisi may hold a clue as to why humans evolved. Based on findings at the site, researchers believe that humans evolved because our ancestors could throw rocks.

The theory is based on the fact that our ancestor, Homo erectus, survived in the Dmanisi area despite the presence of large cats, like saber-toothed tigers and leopards. The Dmanisi people were small and didn’t have much in the way of natural defenses, like claws or fangs. At the site, the researchers found plenty of rocks, which led them to believe that, at first, early humans used rocks by throwing them at large predators to keep them away while they ate. Eventually, the ability to throw rocks was used to hunt and to trick the big cats and steal their food.

This ability to throw made us more human in two different ways. One is that it helped socialize us because bands of humans would have worked together to hunt and trick other predators. Secondly, in the brain, there’s something called Broca’s area. This is a region of the brain that’s responsible for hand and eye coordination, which is needed to throw a rock at a target. The region is associated with higher mental functions such as speech and communication. That means there’s a chance that throwing helped developed speech, which was a major milestone in the evolution of humans.


Human Evolution Handbook

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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

Neanderthals

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.


Caveman Digest –

WIF Ancient History

Are You Older Than A Dinosaur? – WIF Ancient Earth

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Animals

Pre-Dating

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

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 8

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 8

…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.”


THE NULL SOLUTION

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

WIF Myth and Legend