In March 2007, we very briefly introduced readers to the basics of the Mayan military, or at least what was known at the time.
New archaeological discoveries are always being made and challenging previous assumptions—for example, just last year, archaeologists discovered the tomb of a Mayan warrior queen: Lady K’abel, a 7th-century Maya Holy Snake Lord.
Today, here’s the link to revisit The Mayan Military (ca. 300-900 AD)!
Fun Bonus Fact: Sometimes, the Mayans timed certain military campaigns to coincide with celestial events!
In 2007, the Ancient Standard put together a brief history of an important household item we take for granted… toilet paper!
The funny thing is, toilet paper isn’t a daily item everywhere in the world – it’s really something that’s more common to “First World” countries, instead of simply washing up after “doing one’s business.”
Which is more sanitary? We’ll leave that up to you!
Follow this link to revisit The Dirty Truth — A Brief History of Toilet Paper (6th-Century AD and onward… hopefully)!
Fun bonus fact: In Japan, a handmade paper called washi is often used in disposable paper products. It’s made up of water and paper-mulberry, and is a softening agent for Japanese toilet paper. The papermaking technique for washi was introduced into Japan in the Kamakura Period (1192-1333)!
Modern-day board game enthusiasts are certainly familiar with this scenario: Picking out a game from the shelves, opening the box, getting the game set up, only to discover that… a piece is missing?!
In the Lyminge hall in Anglo-Saxon Kent, some 1,300 years ago, this exact scenario may have played out. Archaeologists discovered a gaming piece from the 7th-century that belonged to nobles living the high life—a life rich enough to afford expertly crafted gaming pieces, in this case a suspected 6th-century Lombard piece.
Made from hollow bone and closed with delicate wooden caps, held together by a bronze pin, the gaming piece may have been tossed aside in frustration or anger by a sore loser—a king or noble, disgusted at a loss, throwing the piece over his shoulder. Its disappearance is tantamount to having something slide under the fridge or stove—impossible to find later on, and only re-discovered under exceptional circumstances.
During this time, it was far more common for gaming pieces to be made out of wood or chunks of bone, but this piece’s expert craftsmanship does imply that the kings of Kent weren’t hurting for luxuries during their rule.
The Anglo-Saxons were avid board gamers (and gamblers!), playing such games as tabula (an early form of backgammon) and latrunculi (similar to draughts)—and it wasn’t uncommon for men to be buried with their dice or gaming boards.
In Western Afghanistan stands a 63-meter high minaret, built of yellow baked bricks with glazed tile and stucco decoration. This tall monument was constructed in the 1100s as part of a city, though few specifics about the city are currently known.
Archaeologists believe the city was a cosmopolitan area, home to Muslims, Jews, and Christians, who were able to live harmoniously despite their differences.
It’s thought by some that the minaret, known as the Minaret of Jam, may have been part of Turquoise Mountain, the lost medieval capital of Afghanistan… though this is, presently, only speculation. More on that below!
First, however, the minaret:
The minaret would have been illuminated by a torch at the top, and inside the structure are opposing spiralling staircases constructed in such a way—like a double helix—that the fragile-looking building has remained standing, despite many earthquakes in the area.
The most remarkable aspect of the minaret, however, is the decoration. The writing on the structure is from a section of the Quran that speaks of the life of Mary, mother of Jesus, which clearly highlights the similarities between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. And with Jewish graveyard nearby, it’s hard to deny that there were people of different faiths living here at one time!
Historians and archaeologists postulate that the Minaret of Jam is placed at the ancient location of the Ghruid Dynasy’s summer capital, called Firuz Koh (Turquoise Mountain). During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Ghurids controlled the area here, which is now part of Afghanistan, as well as parts of northern India, Pakistan, and eastern Iran.
The specific dating on the minaret is somewhat unclear, leaving the exact construction date unknown, let alone its purpose (which might otherwise be guessed at by the date).
The landscape around the Jam does include some “palace” ruins, along with a pottery kiln and some fortifications, but no one lives there now—and the site is very difficult to reach.
That said, it’s impressive, and seems unique in its mystery of being a potentially unifying monument for religious beliefs that have often clashed (to a deadly degree) throughout history.