Tuesday March 4, 2014
Russia's seizure this week of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine has been welcomed by some of the ethnic Russian majority in the area. However, it is vigorously opposed by the large Crimean Tatar population.
The Crimean Tatars, descended from the Golden Horde of Mongols, were once the majority population in Crimea. However, Joseph Stalin charged them all with collaborating with the Nazis during World War II, and deported them to the parts of the Soviet Union that are now Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Many Tatars have returned to Crimea since the fall of the Soviet Union - and they are not at all interested in coming under Russian rule once more.
Tuesday February 25, 2014
A reader who worked as a civilian for the U.S. Army in South Korea just sent me a link to some of her pictures from that time, taken between 1956 and 1959. These amazing images look much more similar to Korea in the early 1900s than South Korea today. It's amazing how quickly the country has changed!
Collage photo, left to right: 1910 photo from Library of Congress Prints and Photos Collection, 1952 photo from Homini:) on Flickr.com, 2005 photo by Chung Sung-Jun on Getty Images.
Monday February 24, 2014
The great Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, died on the battlefield at the age of 71 in 1566. His troops were fighting the Hapsburgs in Hungary, and they went on to win the Battle of Sziget, unaware that their leader had passed away from a heart attack.
And here is where the story gets a bit mysterious. For some reason, likely to preserve the body for its trip back to Constantinople, Suleiman's attendants removed his heart and intestines, and buried them on the site. Several later maps purport to show where the heart was buried, but they are not considered reliable.
Now, researchers are searching for the burial site, although theirs may be a quixotic quest. After all, organs decay, and Suleiman's heart likely would have been buried in a simple wooden box in accordance with Muslim burial practices. Local officials hold out hope that the sultan's heart will be found, however, so that they can advertise the site as a tourist attraction.
In the meantime, the search for Sulieman's heart has yielded one large and surprising find. Archaeologists discovered a previously forgotten Ottoman town, which stood on the site from about 1573 to the 1680s, when the Hapsburgs wiped it off the map.
Painting of Suleiman by Titian (?) via Wikipedia.
Tuesday February 18, 2014
Move over, Central Asia. New archaeological evidence from Saudi Arabia suggests that horses may have been domesticated there as early as 9,000 years ago, rather than about 6,000 years ago in what is now Kazakhstan, as scientists had previously believed.
The evidence consists of stone, horse-like statues discovered in the Al Magar region. Initial radiocarbon and DNA testing hints that the site may by 9,000 years old, although those dates are not final. The statues depict equine animals with raised ridges along their shoulders and muzzles, resembling halters and reins.
Arabian horses are world famous today. It's possible, however, that their heritage on the Arabian Peninsula goes back much further than we knew. If the dates are correct, and the carved stone horses really are sporting tack, then the whole history of horse domestication has just been rewritten.
Photo of much later horse petroglyphs that clearly show domesticated horses, by James P. Blair via Getty Images.