The Vikings may not have worn horned helmets, but the ancient Greeks had helmets covered in boar tusks and the Dayak of Borneo had helmets covered in fish or pangolin scales.
From the beginning of written history until 500 CE
The Imperial Regalia of Japan consists of a legendary sword, mirror, and jewel. They are brought out at every imperial enthronement, but only a few priests and the emperor himself are ever allowed to see them.
Julius Caesar won the Siege of Alesia with a military tactic known as investment: build walls around the besieged settlement’s own walls, and and then build another layer of walls around those ones.
The Cloaca Maxima in Rome is one of the world’s first sewer systems. It still works today, and with good reason: it has its own goddess.
The pyramid of Amanishakheto stood for nearly two thousand years, until an Italian looter blew it up.
Socotra, the alien island wedged between the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, is home to the dragon blood tree: a source of dye, paint, medicine, varnish, and magic.
The Sardinian launeddas, also known as a triplepipe, sounds like someone playing three clarinets at the same time.
Poisoned potions of immortality caused the death of up to seven Chinese emperors – the last less than three centuries ago.
The Doubting Antiquity School were sceptics of ancient Chinese texts’ historical veracity… until the oracle bones were deciphered.
Most accidental mummies are preserved by heat, cold, or peat bogs. But in the Chehrabad mines in Iran, the bodies of ancient miners were buried in salt.
In the Roman Empire someone who killed their parent would be sewn into a sack with a live rooster, dog, monkey, and snake, and then thrown into the water. In medieval Germany, they used a cat, a dog, and a picture of a snake.
On June 25, 1900, tens of thousands of important historical manuscripts were found in a secret room within the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas in Dunhuang, China, where they had been hidden for nearly a millennium.
The first pictorial representation of Jesus Christ is insulting Roman graffiti that gives him a donkey’s head.
Al-Khazneh, the temple carved out of a cliff in Petra, is the most famous remnant of the Nabataean Kingdom. But to its south lies Hegra, the cursed stoneland city.
For more than 1700 years, mithridate and theriac were Europe’s ultimate medicines. A concoction of up to sixty-four ingredients – including cinnamon, turpentine, and poppy – they were supposed to neutralise any poison or plague.
We all know that Egyptian tombs contained models of servants, boats, and animals to accompany the deceased in the afterlife. But they sometimes also contained model gardens, granaries, bakeries, breweries, stables, and slaughterhouses.