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Mad, Bad, and Deadly: Power in the Hands of Infamous Roman Emperors

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 20:34
Speaker(s): Robert FabbriEvent Category: On Human OriginsEvent Date(s): 01/06/2018 - 06:30

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Hedonistic, debauched, corrupt, sadistic and cruel would describe the 1st-Century Roman Emperors Caligula and Nero.  Both men became rulers of the largest empire in the world in their late teens and neither could manage to keep that power under control. 

Caligula proclaimed himself to be a god, and as a god he could take life at a whim as he pleased, and he did. He turned his palace into a brothel, bedded his sisters and prostituted them. He squandered taxes and would expect Romans to commit suicide and bequeath their estates to the Emperor. 

Nero also practiced omnipotence over life and death.  He divorced his wife and handed her head as a gift to his second. He would use humans as torches at banquets and fornicate with the wives of his senators.

Last man standing after political and literal bloodshed, Vespasian came to power. He possessed a different morality than we would expect in the 21st century; He had the wisdom and survival skills to become a “hero forged in the flames of battle.” Was Vespasian able to bring sanity back to Rome?

Robert Fabbri is the acclaimed author of the Vespasian novels series, and with his outstanding detailed research he manages to create the world of the godlike emperors, when life was at peril of the whims of immature, power crazy, incompetent young men, whose egos were more fragile than a leaf in the wind. Robert joins Ancient Origins Premium for an eye-opening In-Depth Interview.

Join Ancient Origins Premium for this In-Depth Interview!

Robert Fabbri was born in Geneva in 1961. He read Drama and Theatre at London University and worked in film and TV for 25 years as an assistant director. He has worked on productions such as Hornblower, Hellraiser, Patriot Games, and Billy Elliot. His life-long passion for ancient history inspired him to write the Vespasian series. He writes in his study in Berlin surrounded by research books, a load of Historical Fiction, as well as his 3,500 hand-painted lead soldiers. He lives in London and Berlin.  The Vespasian series covers the life of the Roman soldier turned Emperor.  Vespasian survived the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero and commissioned the Colosseum to be built.  Robert Fabbri is also the creator of The Crossroads Brotherhood Trilogy, giving an insight into the life of organized crime and protection in 1st century Rome and the trials and tribulations of Marcus Salvius Magnus, Vespasian’s unofficial bodyguard and friend.   |  Visit RobertFabbri.com

  Seeking Answers? Ask Robert Fabbri Get your questions in before May 28! We will ask the expert for you.

 

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The Sui Dynasty: 37 Years, Two Emperors and One Grand Canal

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 19:52

The Sui Dynasty may not have existed very long, but this imperial dynasty made an impact on Chinese culture long after the memories of its rulers faded away. Peasants were both delighted with and repulsed by the actions of the two emperors who reigned in this dynasty.

Read moreSection: NewsHistoryImportant Events

The Gladiators of Rome: Blood Sport in the Ancient Empire

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 19:47

The ancient Romans were well known for many things – their engineering marvels, their road networks, and the establishment of Roman law throughout the empire. They were, however, also renowned for their war-like nature. After all, this allowed the Romans to build an empire in the first place. This appetite for violence not only manifested itself in Rome’s imperialist policy, but also in its most well-known sport – the gladiatorial combats.

Two Venatores (those who made a career out of fighting in arena animal hunts) fighting a tiger. Floor mosaic in Great Palace of Constantinople (Istanbul), 5th century. (Public Domain)

It has been suggested that the concept of gladiatorial games has its roots in the Etruscans, the predecessors of the Romans. In Etruscan society, gladiatorial games were supposed to be part of the funerary rituals honoring the dead. Thus, gladiatorial combats originally possessed a sacred significance. Over the centuries, however, these funerary games came to be a form of entertainment, and the earliest Roman gladiatorial combat is said to have taken place in 264 BC.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory

Mysterious medieval fortifications buried in Poland detected with advanced imaging technology

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 19:16

Archaeologists discovered evidence of unknown medieval fortifications which may indicate the presence of Hussite clashes near a small village in Poland. They found indications of the fort buried in wooded foothills near the village of Bieździadka in south-eastern Poland, the site was examined by archaeologists Joanna Pilszyk and Piotr Szmyd. Based on the report from Science and Scholarship in Poland (PAP), the fortifications were discovered underground using sophisticated laser detection and aerial mapping.

Returning to the fort in Bieździadka, it is said to have sat on top of a plateau with steep sides; the sheer slope and height of over two meters (6.5 feet) naturally protected the stronghold. Moats were believed to surround the site and high fences or palisades are likely to have run along the perimeter. The age of the fort is not known, but researchers say it was probably built during the Middle Ages too.

Piotr Szmyd told PAP, “The area of the settlement is intriguing. Together with the embankments, it occupies an area of only 900 square meters. This small space could accommodate only one small house or defence tower.”

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

People of the Arctic worked meteorite iron 1,200 years ago

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 18:47

About 10,000 years ago a big meteorite fell to the Earth on northern Greenland and broke apart. About 1,300 years ago, Dorset Culture people in the Innaanganeq or Cape York Peninsula area of Greenland began extracting iron from it. Ironfromthesky.org says the meteorite was apparently a valuable commodity, and the people walked three days to take iron from it using stone tools.

Harpoon tip of the Cape York Peninsula (geni photo, Wikimedia Commons)

The Inuit people settled Greenland about 3,000 years ago, scientists believe. Inuit people of the Thule Culture moved to Cape York Peninsula in the 8th century and took over the iron trade across the eastern Arctic region from the Dorset people. Some iron pieces from this meteorite have been found as far away as Canada halfway to Alaska, says ScienceNordic.com.

This time frame of the 9th to 12th centuries is later than the Iron Age of Eurasia, which began as long ago as 3,400 years ago. Another difference is that some European and Asian people mined the earth for iron ore as opposed to taking it from meteorites.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Pick Your Poison: The AK-47 of the Ancient Near East

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 16:59

The Scythian bow was the AK-47 of the Ancient Near East and the weapon of choice to dominate the battlefield. Even though the bow was uniquely designed to deliver the utmost damage, the arrow itself was even nastier! 

Read moreSection: ArtifactsAncient TechnologyNews

First Jewish Curse Found: Chariot Racer Hexed by Calling on Balaam’s Angel

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 13:00

Experts have made the remarkable discovery of a curse on a lead amulet from the Eastern Roman Empire. According to the Jerusalem Times, experts were shocked when they finally deciphered the message of the scroll after several decades.  

Read moreSection: ArtifactsAncient WritingsOther ArtifactsNewsHistory & Archaeology

The 21st Century Battle for the Treasure of the San José

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 08:00

310 years ago, a 62-gun Spanish galleon, the San José, was sunk by the British Navy in the Caribbean Sea during the War of Spanish Succession. With a heavy cargo of gold, silver and emeralds historians have estimated her treasure to be worth 17 billion dollars.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Sacrificial gifts found at Aztec Temple in Mexico feature a trove of diverse species

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 22:16

One of the great archaeological sites in Mexico is the sprawling ancient city of Tenochtitlan, religious center and capital of the Aztec civilization. Templo Mayor (The Great Temple) was a huge pyramid which served as its central ceremonial focus. It was a temple built to honor gods, and researchers have discovered sacrificial offerings that demonstrate the great economic reach of the Aztec empire and the dedication to their deities.

In 2015, offerings were found at the base of an immense statue of Tlaltecuhtli, the giant earth goddess, who possessed both feminine and masculine attributes. The most elaborate and largest trove of these sacrificial gifts is called Offering 126. It is comprised of almost 4,000 organic remains, the majority being marine mollusks. After examination, researchers learned that the mollusks were identified as 111 different species.

Offering 126 from Templo Mayor, Mexico. Credit: INAH

Past Horizons writes, “40 of them [came] from the Atlantic, 66 from the Pacific, three found on both coasts and two from rivers.” Apparently not randomly collected, this diversity of species were purposefully retrieved from far-away places and challenging locations. Various mollusks and shells were sourced from Florida, the West Indies, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, and all along the western coast stretching from California to Ecuador.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Pharaoh bows to god of gods in newly discovered quarry carving

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 21:40

A team of archaeologists from a Swedish university has made some important discoveries at a large ancient Egyptian quarry. They’ve found a rock carving up to 3,000 years old depicting a pharaoh making offerings to the gods Amun-Ra and Thoth. They also discovered a rock inscription of the transfer of two obelisks from the quarry. Later discoveries also include 69 burials, of which half have been excavated, many were plundered, and at least four held the remains of children.

The carving dates to the Third Intermediate Period of the late dynastic period. The Third Intermediate began when Ramesses XI died in 1070 B.C. It ended with the Psamtik I’s founding of the 26th Dynasty in 664 BC.

The carvings and inscription are difficult to decipher because they are so worn and eroded. They were found at Gebel el Sisila, Egypt’s largest sandstone quarries, north of Aswan.

Mapcarta screenshot of Egypt and the River Nile showing Silsila, the red dot north of Aswan

Dr. Maria Nilsson and her team from Lund University have done an epigraphic study at Gebel el Silsila. An epigraph is an inscription on a building or, in this case, the walls and surfaces of the quarry.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Did Humans Walk the Earth with Dinosaurs? Triceratops Horn Dated to 33,500 Years

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 21:11

A Triceratops brow horn discovered in Dawson County, Montana, has been controversially dated to around 33,500 years, challenging the view that dinosaurs died out around 65 million years ago. The finding radically suggests that early humans may have once walked the earth with the fearsome reptiles thousands of years ago.

The Triceratops brow horn was excavated in May 2012 and stored at the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum. The Museum, which has been in cooperation since 2005 with the Paleochronology Group, a team of consultants in geology, paleontology, chemistry, engineering, and education, sent a sample of the outer portion of the Triceratops brow horn to Head of the Paleochronology Group Hugh Miller, at his request, in order to carry out Carbon-14 dating. Mr Miller sent the sample to the University of Georgia, Center for Applied Isotope Studies, for this purpose. The sample was divided at the lab into two fractions with the “bulk” or collagen break down products yielding an age of 33,570 ± 120 years and the carbonate fraction of bone bioapatite yielding an age of 41,010 ± 220 years [UGAMS-11752 & 11752a]. Mr. Miller told Ancient Origins that it is always desirable to carbon-14 date several fractions to minimize the possibility of errors, which Miller requested, and that essential concordance was achieved in the 1000's of years as with all bone fractions of ten other dinosaurs.

Read moreSection: NewsEvolution & Human Origins

Why do humans have such large brains? (And why aren’t they larger?)

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 20:00

Most animals have brains in proportion to their body size – species with larger bodies often have larger brains. But the human brain is almost six times bigger than expected for our bodies. This is puzzling, as the brain is very costly – burning 20% of the body’s energy while accounting for only 4% of its mass.

Read moreSection: NewsEvolution & Human Origins

The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing: One of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 17:03

Many children have been warned to be careful around their grandmother’s fine porcelain plates. Those kids may grow up thinking that porcelain is a fragile material which has to be handled with care (or better yet, left alone). It may amaze them to picture a huge tower constructed of that material.

Read moreSection: NewsAncient PlacesAsia

Finds from Alken Enge Provide New Perspective on ‘Barbaric’ Germanic Tribes

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 13:00

Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark have made a remarkable discovery concerning the human remains of Alken Enge, Jutland. A study published by PNAS that the size of barbarian armies in Iron Age Europe were much bigger than previously thought and that in this region the main warfare was ‘barbarian on barbarian’. 

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Challenges of Infant Mortality in Ancient Egypt: Amulets, Spells and the Divine—Part II

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 09:31

Among all the perils that the ancient Egyptians battled through their use of religion and magic, none came close to the poignant and desperate prayers they made to save the lives of their offspring. 

Read moreSection: NewsHistory

50,000-year-old Siberian bones may be the ‘oldest Homo sapiens' outside Africa and Middle East

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 08:00

Bones unearthed in eastern Siberia could be the oldest modern humans outside Africa and the Middle East. The discovery would change thinking about the arrival of man in Siberia. Some of the recovered bones - dated to about 50,000 years ago

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

The Xianbei: A Chinese Dynasty Emerges from Nomadic Warriors of the Steppe

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 19:55

The Xianbei were a confederation of nomadic tribes that inhabited the steppe region to the north of China during the Jin Dynasty and the succeeding Northern and Southern Dynasties. The best-known and most politically successful group within the Xianbei federation were the Tuoba Xianbei, who founded the Northern Wei Dynasty

Read moreSection: NewsHistoryFamous People

Louisiana Mound Builders Carefully Selected Sites to Ensure Longevity

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 16:59

A study of ancient mound builders who lived hundreds of years ago on the Mississippi River Delta near present-day New Orleans offers new insights into how Native peoples selected the landforms that supported their villages and earthen mounds - and why these sites were later abandoned.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Archaeologists in China find 2,800-year old tombs surrounded by 28 chariots and 98 horses

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 16:36

A team of Chinese archaeologists unearthed a set of elaborate tombs surrounded by 28 chariots and 98 horses in the province of Hubei in China in 2015. The incredible discovery dates back 2,800 years and is just one example of a practice used by high-ranking nobles to demonstrate their power and strength.

According to a report in Haaretz, researchers unearthed 30 elite tombs of various sizes in the city of Zaoyang. They date back to what is known as the Summer and Autumn Period in Chinese history (770 – 476 BC), which corresponds roughly to the first half of the Eastern Zhou dynasty, and was characterized by the creation of powerful states and the birth of a wealthy merchant class.

A map of the tomb distribution. Credit: cssn.cn

Following the discovery of the tombs, researchers stumbled across something entirely unexpected – an enormous chariot pit measure 33-meters (108ft) long and 4-meters (13ft) wide, which contained more than two dozen well-preserved chariots. Many of the wheels had been taken off, and chariot parts were placed carefully alongside them.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Demise of ancient Rapa Nui civilization linked to European contact

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 16:07

A 2015 study suggests that European “exploration” of the world resulted in the collapse of yet another indigenous people previously thought to have died out pre-contact: the Rapa Nui of Easter Island. Researchers of the island are finding evidence that the population of these people did not decline so precipitously as to endanger their survival until after Europeans arrived in 1722.

Previously, scientists theorized that the Rapa Nui population collapsed before Europeans arrived, from felling of trees and other vegetation, attendant topsoil loss and subsequent starvation of many of the people.

Researchers from Chile, New Zealand, and the United States are doing hydration testing of obsidian artifacts to gauge human activity and population movement on the island, says Phys.org.

“For many years,” the Phys.org article says, “Earth scientists and others have used Easter Island and its inhabitants, the Rapa Nui, as a lesson in what can happen when a parcel of land is overpopulated and thus overused—resources diminish and the people starve to death (or resort to cannibalism as some have suggested). But now, the researchers with this new effort suggest that thinking may be wrong.”

Scientists think Polynesians settled the island around 1200 AD. They became the Rapa Nui people, who erected 887 fabulous and famous giant stone statues called moai that mystify people. Over the next several hundred years, Phys.org says, they cut down most of the trees and other plants on the northern part of Easter Island.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

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