Pre-Viking Ship Burials, Pre-Inca Mummies, Pre-Armageddon Protection, and…pre-Christmas Ancient GamesTop of Form
Greetings The Unleashed!
I remember a favorite game at my primary school was British Bulldog. We would all line up to cross the playground, with just one player, the Bulldog, who had to win players to their side by tagging them. The winner was the final person left to be converted. There were some epic games with up to fifty participants (at least in my memory). It was intense, thrilling, and, of course, eventually got banned by the powers that be in the school due to being a little bit dangerous.
In secondary school, the natural progression was to rugby football, the only team sport I ever really liked, or had any real aptitude for. I was quite good at knocking people over.
Netflix's sensation, "Squid Game" took such playground nostalgia and turned it into a heart-pounding, jaw-dropping spectacle of survival, where the stakes were literally life and death. A new series has made this fictional game a reality, although elimination rather than execution is the forfeit for failure.
The Olympic Games were held in the Greek city of Olympia from 776 BC through to 393 AD. The games thrived, then went cold for more than 1500 years before the first modern Olympics were staged in 1896 in Athens, Greece.
The Romans famously played at being gladiators, with death and injury almost guaranteed, and medieval tournaments included a jolly good melee, hand to hand combat, and jousting, which was hard to survive unscathed.
The Mesoamerican ballgame is an example of ancient game play used to develop citizens and even choose sacrifices – the winner in those games won the honor of being sacrificed!
But it wasn’t just physical competitions that took place. Games of mental dexterity and strategy also existed.
In the never-ending struggle for survival, Ancient Origins keeps innovating in order to keep providing products that appeal to our audience. The latest innovation has come from the top, and I must say, is a timely and pretty cool addition to our store’s shelves.
So, just in time for Christmas (coincidence?) we have ancient board games freshly produced and ready to entertain and even exercise your grey matter somewhat.
A Northern European board game, Tablut, also known as Hnefatafl, carried a storied history that lay lost and forgotten for centuries. In 1732, the renowned botanist Carl von Linné stumbled upon Saamis in Lapland engaged in a mysterious board game. Little did he know, he was witnessing the resurrection of Hnefatafl, now recognized as Tablut among the Saamis.
Ancient Origins has just launched their version of this classic strategic game, based on the most accepted rules, with a beautifully designed and individually handcrafted product, available from the Ancient Origins shop here.
The Royal Game of Ur, discovered in the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia, offers a glimpse into the aristocratic indulgence in board games. One of the oldest board games known, dating back to around 2600 BC, this game featured a beautifully adorned board and distinctive pyramid-shaped dice. It was not just a game but a testament to the craftsmanship associated with aristocratic leisure.
The Royal Game of Ur is another in the Ancient Origins growing series of ancient board games available now.
So, enough playing around, back to business with the latest Editor picks….
A bit of a bait title, but worth a click…
Drone mappers identified a 19 kilometer (12-mile) long canal in rural Iraq. Built over it, archaeologists excavated what was at first thought to be a bizarre-shaped temple. However, it turns out that 4,000-years-ago, ancient Sumerians built “a one-of-a-kind anti-drought machine.”
Located near the modern city of Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq, the ancient city of Girsu was occupied by the Sumerian civilization from the 3rd millennium BC. Dedicated to the war and agriculture god Ningirsu, artifacts recovered from the site have illustrated both the religious and political history of early Mesopotamian society.
A recent dig by the British Museum at Girsu revealed “a mysterious structure,” which in the 1920s was interpreted as an unusually shaped temple. However, members of the museum’s Girsu Project have now announced that the curious discovery was a 4,000-year-old “innovative civilization-saving machine.”
The ‘pre’ part makes this really interesting…
The identification of a pre-Viking ship burial unearthed in Norway is helping rewrite history. A previously excavated mound, containing remnants of the oldest large ship ever buried, on the island of Leka in north-central Norway’s Trøndelag county is at the center of this fascinating find.
The seagoing vessel was placed in the ground approximately 1,300 years ago, around the year 700 AD. This is an incredibly important discovery, since it dates to before the beginning of the Viking Age. This pre-Viking ship burial shows the that Vikings weren’t the first ones to bury ships alongside important people, but were only continuing a tradition that had begun in earlier times.
One of the more fascinating traditions associated with the Viking Age in ancient Scandinavia was the practice of burying prestigious people in large mounds inside grand ships. These boats were apparently provided so that rulers, wealthy elites and celebrated warriors could complete a successful journey to the afterworld, in a vessel appropriate for individuals of high status who lived in a robust maritime culture.
Thousands of burial mounds of various sizes have been discovered in Norway and all across Scandinavia, and large mounds that contain both boats and skeletons represent a notable subset of the overall total. This includes the 195-foot (60-meter) burial mound on Leka, which was first excavated multiple times in the late 1700s.
The site was called Herlaugshaugen because of a reference made in Scandinavia’s royal sagas to one King Herlaug, who was purportedly buried alive in this large mound along with 11 of his most trusted confidantes in the year 871 AD.
In the Saga of Harald Fairhair, which related the adventures of Norway’s first true national king, it was said that Herlaug chose suicide by burial as an alternative to surrendering to Harald’s marauding army. Herlaug had established his own small fiefdom in north-central Norway’s Namdalen district, and he resisted Harald’s efforts to unify all of Norway under his authority for as long as he could. With defeat imminent, King Herlaug chose death rather than subservience, entombing himself inside the burial mound on the island of Leka with his status of king still intact.
Gross but true…
In human history, there are some tales so bizarre they surpass the wildest fiction. One such story, rooted in the grim realities of 16th century France, reveals a desperate and macabre solution to famine: the grinding of human bones into 'flour' for bread-making.
The background to this strange episode is set during the tumultuous Wars of Religion in France. In 1590, the city of Paris, controlled by the Catholic League, found itself under siege by the French Royal Army led by Henry of Navarre, later Henry IV of France. The siege aimed to starve the city into submission, a tactic that led to desperate measures.
In these dire times, Pierre de L’Estoile, a clerk-in-chief of the French Parliament, recorded a chilling decision made by Parisians. As food supplies dwindled, an assembly proposed a horrifying solution: to grind the bones from the Cemetery of the Innocents' charnel house into flour and bake bread from it. Driven by extreme hunger, the plan was executed, but with tragic outcomes. L’Estoile notes that those who ate this 'bone bread' met their death, not from starvation, but from the very solution they hoped would save them.
But why did those who ate the 'bone bread' die?
In the arid expanses of the Persian desert, an ingenious ancient technology known as the Yakhchāl has been discovered, revealing a sophisticated approach to ice-making dating back to 400 BC. These structures, scattered across Iran, functioned as primitive refrigerators, utilizing a cooling system designed to preserve ice throughout the year. The Yakhchāl, meaning "ice pit" in Persian, boasts a distinctive dome shape housing a vast subterranean storage area. Constructed with thick, heat-resistant materials, the Yakhchāl employed an above-ground evaporative cooling system.
Operating in harmony with the natural climate, cold air entered through base entries, while the conical design expelled remaining heat through openings at the pinnacle. The ice-making process commenced in shallow ponds filled nightly from freshwater canals. Shielded from the sun's rays by shading walls, the ponds froze during winter nights. Harvested ice was then transferred to the Yakhchāl, constructed from locally sourced materials such as adobe, clay, egg white, goat's hair, lemon juice, and a water-resistant mortar known as subrouge. These remarkable structures played a vital role in preserving food, drinks, and possibly cooling buildings during the scorching summer months. Today, 129 Yakhchāls endure as historical markers of ancient Persian ingenuity.
Til next time, play by the rules, or not…the choice is yours!