Thursday, August 31, 2017

Damn, Girl-Teuta, Queen of the Illyrians

Ancient Illyria covered the same space as modern Albania. Or modern Bosnia-Hezergovinia. Or modern Serbia. Or modern Croatia. Or modern Montenegro. Historians really can't agree. No matter where they may have lived, the Illyrians were a fierce nation of seafarers, with a penchant for piracy. The pillaged all around the Adriatic, making themselves rich off of the goods of trading ships. They were a wealthy nation, and in the early 200 BCE's, they were still holding strong, despite the rise of the land hungry Roman Republic.

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A reasonable guess as to where Illyria may have been.
Teuta was the second wife of king Agron. Agron was your typical ancient king. He liked pillaging, booze, and sex. And after a particularly successful raid, he engaged in all three so enthusiastically that it lead to his demise, leaving Teuta to serve as regent for their young son, Pinnes.

Impossibly enough, Teuta liked pillaging even more than her dead husband. One of her first acts upon being appointed regent was to give out letters of marque to the majority of the ships in her navy, authorizing them to pillage whoever they wanted, so long as they paid their tax.

In Illyria, piracy was just as much an industry as fishing. It was an acceptable career, and the Illyrians didn't see anything wrong with it. Teuta encouraged it among her people, and told them to attack everyone and anyone. Not only did piracy bring in money to the Illyrians, but it also brought in new lands and cities, because the Illyrians weren't content to just steal things, they also had to conquer lands.

Teuta was known to have led some of these raids herself, and for several years the Illyrians were the scourge of the Adriatic. No one could stop them, until someone snitched to Rome.

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Bust of Teuta
The Roman Republic was about 250 years old, and going pretty strong. The senate was dedicated to protecting the financial interests of Roman citizens, so when reports of Illyrians indiscriminately attacking their ships reached Rome, the senate sent out two ambassadors--the Coruncanius brothers--to try and broker a peace with Teuta.


Unfortunately for all involved, one of those ambassadors, Lucius, wasn't very good at being an ambassador. Lucius and Gaius approached Teuta when she was in the middle of a seige, pulling her away from the thick of the fight. When they presented their argument she was obviously distracted, and when they finished speaking she told them that she and her government couldn't regulate the actions of private citizens. This is when Lucius lost it.

There's no account of exactly what Lucius said to Teuta, historians just record it as 'plain speech'. However, the gist of what he told her was that Illyria should change its customs to suit the needs of Rome. Bad move.

When the brothers were on a ship back to Rome Lucius was killed by an assassin that is widely believed to have been sent by Teuta. Killing an ambassador is a major no-no, so when word reached Rome, the Romans retaliated brutally, sending 200 ships and 20,000 infantrymen to suppress the Illyrians.

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Teuta on Albanian currency.
Teuta held her own for a very long time against the Romans, and would have been able to beat them back, if not for the treachery of Demetrius. Demetrius was a high ranking Illyrian with designs on the throne. He sold out the Illyrians to the Romans, and Teuta was forced to surrender, and ceed Illyria to the Romans.

Today Teuta is remembered most often as a Pirate Queen. She's on the back of Albanian currency, and she's claimed as a national hero by the Albanians. Teuta was known in her day for being fierce and indomitable, to the point that following her peace treaty with Rome she was no longer allowed to sail out of her harbor with more than two unarmed ships. Despite not knowing much about Teuta before or after this incident with Rome, there is no doubt that she was a strong, fearless woman.

Sources
Queen Teuta and Rome
Teuta-The Pirate Queen of Illyria
Lady Pirates-Queen of the Illyrians
The Fierce Queen of the Illyrians: Teuta the Untameable
Ancient Piracy and Teuta: The Illyrian Pirate Queen
Queen Teuta

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Kennewick Man

You know that moment? That awkward moment when you're testing the bones of you latest suspected murder victim, and that victim happens to be more than 8,000 years old? Well coroner Floyd Johnson and archaeologist James Chatter found themselves in this exact situation in 1996.

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Facial reconstruction of Kennewick Man
On July 28, 1996 two hikers found a human skull by the Columbia river. They turned it over to the police, who turned it over to Floyd Johnson, the Benton country coroner. Suspecting that the skull had Native American connections, and knowing that the skull was very, very old, Johnson called in his archaeologist friend James Chatter. Chatter was able to excavate the rest of the body from the riverbank, and after sending a finger bone for analysis, they found out that the skeleton was more than 8,000 years old.

Here's where things get complicated. See, the land that the skull and skeleton were found on was being administered by the Army Corp of Engineers. The Corp of Engineers was in negotiations with local American Indian tribes over salmon fishing rights, and the Corp of Engineers were eager to appease the tribes, who demanded that the skeleton be handed over immediately for reburial.*

The tribes believed that Kennewick man was their distant ancestor, a belief proved by science in 2006. A body being buried, and remaining buried is an important part of Native American religion, which is why they wanted Kennewick Man returned for reburial.

As you might imagine, many scientists were more than a little dismayed, after all, how often do you come across an 8,000 year old skeleton? So, naturally, Smithsonian institute scientist Douglas Owsley, along with a few other scientists, decided to file a lawsuit against the US government.

What ensued was a 20 year legal battle over whether or not the skeleton could be studied. In the end the remains were given back to the Utilla tribe, and were reburied in February of 2017. Luckily for historians and scientists though, some research was done on the bones before they were reburied.

The findings of the analysis of Kennewick Man's skeletons completely changed the theories about how First Nation people ended up in North America. Previous theories said that First Nation people had most likely crossed on a land bridge between modern Russia and Alaska. Further studies confirmed that First Nation people could have sailed from the Japan area, keeping close to the shore to provide food for themselves. The sea-food rich diet that Kennewick Man ate adds strength to this theory.
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The skeleton
You can learn a lot from bones, and a lot was learned from Kennewick man. There were tissue markers indicating that was right handed, and threw something (most likely a spear) quite frequently The markers suggest that he was throwing at a downward angle, suggesting that he was spear hunting for fish--a hypothesis his marine life diet certainly supports. There was further evidence suggestion that Kennewick man was very tough. He was in pain for most of his life, he had several ribs that broke, but never healed properly, there was a fracture in his shoulder, and he lived more than half of his life with a stone spear point embedded into his hip.

Kennewick man has been reburied, and it is unlikely that he will ever resurface, however scientists managed to glean enough information from him in their limited time of study to write a 680 page book about him. Their findings will continue to serve as an invaluable resource for archaeologists who study pre-history in North America.

*NAGPRA (Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act) is a law passed in 1990 that provides for the return of Native American remains and some artifacts to the tribes who own them. This was the law invoked by tribes concerning Kennewick man.

Sources
"Who Was Kennewick Man" by Reuben Flores, American Mosaic December 2015
Kennewick Man, The Ancient One
The Kennewick Man Finally Freed to Share His Secrets

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Damn, Girl-Kathinka Zitz-Halein

Born November 4, 1801 Kathinka Zitz-Halein was an influential writer and political activist during the mid 1800's. Not only would she go one to publish over 30 books, but she also created the first women's political organization in Mainz Germany, but she also was instrumental in caring for the political refugees, political prisoners, and families of the aforementioned during the 1849 German uprising.

Image result for kathinka zitz-haleinKathinka was born to a middle class family, and received an excellent education. She was a talented writer, and had published her first series of poems by the age of 16. She had multiple teaching jobs, as well as a job as the headmistress of a school. However, when her mother died she left that to take care of her sister, Julie. It wasn't until Julie died that Kathinka started to get into politics.

It is unclear if Kathinka married Franz Zitz before or after her founding of the Humania Association. What is certain though, is that she was the founder and president of the leading women's political association in Mainz, and he was the president of the leading men's political association in Mainz. They were the Bill and Hillary Clinton of their era, right down to the rampant infidelity.

Unlike Secretary Clinton, Kathinka told Franz to hit the road. Though they remained married for the rest of their lives (Kathinka refused to grant him a divorce), they never lived together after the first 18 months of their marriage. Kathinka used support payments from Franz to support herself and her writing career. This steady income allowed her to further her political aspirations as well.

Before proceeding, it is important to mention that Kathinka was NOT a feminist. By her own admission, she didn't want men and women to be equal, merely for men and women to both be free to excel in their own respective spheres. She also believed that women were more than capable of helping the German revolution, and that they should be allowed to have political rights. This is what she said publicly anyways, here letters cast further doubt on her beliefs.

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Mainz, Germany
Kathinka was, essentially, That Girl. You know That Girl? That Girl who believes that men and women should be equal, believes in closing the wage gap, believes in ending rape culture, believes in a woman's right to choose, but says that she's not a feminist because she doesn't believe that women are better than men, and doesn't hate men? You know, That Girl who says she's not a feminist because she doesn't really understand what feminism is? Kathinka was the 1800s version of That Girl. Though she publicly spoke against gender equality, and said that women should not leave the domestic sphere, her actions said otherwise.

The mission of the Humania Association was to disperse aid to refugees, prisoners, political insurgents, and their families. Aside from managing the financial and internal governance of the organization, Kathinka also did a large amount of 'field work', that would sometimes lead her dangerously close to insurgent territory. On one particularly memorable occasion Kathinka was asked by the Democratic Association--the male version of the Humania Association (with a bit more fighting)--to smuggle a chest back to Mainz during her visit to Kahrlsrule. Kathinka didn't know the contents of the chest, but when the chest was confiscated by Hessian authorities, it turned out that the chest contained the membership records of Democratic Association, as well as the names and information of several covert operatives.

Image result for kathinka zitz-haleinAside from charitable giving behind enemy lines, Kathinka's main impact came from her writing. Not only did she write novels and poetry, but she also wrote political pamphlets under her various pseudonyms, some of which got her in trouble with the law. In 1848 she wrote a series of articles for a Mannheim newspaper calling the people of Mainz to arms against the Hessian government. Not only was this article suppressed by Hessian authorities (always a good sign), but it was very influential in the uprisings later that year.


Though she is not widely known or read today, Kathinka had an enormous impact on the people of her community. She fought not only for German unification, but also helped the families and soldiers who had been injured and impoverished because of their dedication to that fight. She was a clever and persuasive writer, and it is because of her writing that we know as much about German politics of that era as we do.

Sources
German Women and the Revolution of 1848: Kathinka Zitz-Halein and the Humania Association by Stanley Zucker
Kathinka Zitz-Halein
Zitz-Halein, Kathinka


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The High Arctic Exiles OR The Time the Canadian Government Abandoned 92 Inuit in the High Arctic

It's 1950, and the Cold War is downright frigid. The Russians and the Americans are sniffing around Canada's arctic islands, and Canada needs to assert its sovereignty. So what do they do? They force around 92 people to leave their homes in more reasonable climes, and move them to the high arctic. Sound like a human rights abuse? That's because it is. Or if it isn't, it should be. However, because it happened to First Nation people, nobody cared. It wasn't until 2011 that Canadian government finally acknowledge the immorality of what they had done, and apologized for the suffering of the Arctic people.
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Resolute, 1953


The town of Inukjuak, located in northern Quebec, was the original home of many of these exiles. It was, and still is, home to a large Inuit population. In 1953 members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) swept through the community, looking for volunteers to go live in the towns of Resolute and Grise Fiord in what is today Nunavut. The stated reasoning behind this was that the Canadian government was worried that the area around Inukjuak was becoming over-hunted, and would no longer be able to support the local population. The RCMP promised plentiful hunting and a better life to people who made the move, as well as the opportunity to come back to Inukjuak after two years should those who relocated wish to return. Several families eagerly agreed, and they set off for their new homes in the C.D. Howe.

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From Inukjuak to Resolute and Grise Fiord
Or so the Canadian government claims. The Inuit who actually made the move tell a far different story. Instead of being asked politely to move the RCMP brutally harassed, and all but forced the families to make the move. The Inuit were told that upon arriving in Resolute and Grise Fiord there would be houses, clothes, and boats for hunting waiting for them. They were promised that their families wouldn't be split up. The RCMP spun a tale of a life with better hunting and good employment opportunities, with, of course, the offer that anyone who didn't like it up north could come back after two years. The RCMP lied.

Once they were on board this ship the people were told that they would be divided into two communities--one for Resolute and one for Grise Fiord. The Inuit were, to understate, not at all pleased with this, and they were less pleased when they landed and found out that there were no houses, no boats, and no animals to hunt. They had left a city with a school and medical facilities, they were taken to a frozen wasteland.

The Exiles lived in tents that first year. They survived mainly of of seal meat and scraps that they found in the RCMP garbage dump. Finding water was difficult, and catching anything was near impossible. Not only was it always dark, but there were just no animals around to hunt. And in the summer when the birds returned, and on the rare occasion they found a musk ox, the Inuit were unable to shoot them, because they were protected species. When the Inuit asked to go home they were told that it was impossible, and that they needed to stay where they were.

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Monument to the exiles in Grise Fiord.
Though the Canadian government claimed that this was for the good of the Inuit people, there are other theories which seem much more believable. As I mentioned above, the Cold War was positively glacial at the time, and both the US and Canada feared that Russia would attempt to establish a base in the Canadian High Arctic, so they would have a good vantage point to attack North America. To combat this, the US wanted to snatch up the Canadian High Arctic, and basically make it part of Alaska. Canada wasn't down for this.

The problem with the High Arctic was that it was largely uninhabited. Canada could say that it was theirs, but they weren't really doing anything with it, so what would it matter if the US or the USSR took it? The prevailing theory is that the Canadian government sent the Arctic Exiles to Resolute and Grise Fiord as 'human flagpoles' to establish their sovereignty.

The communities of Resolute and Grise Fiord are still running today. Both communities are very small, with less than 400 inhabitants between them. In 1996 the Canadian government offered the Exiles and their families a settlement of $10 million to make up for what they put them through. Much of this money has failed to appear.


Sources
The High Arctic Relocation
Out in the Cold: The Legacy of Canada's Inuit Relocation Experiment in the High Arctic
Inuit Get Federal Apology for Forced Relocation
Inuit Were Moved 2,000km in Cold War Maneuvering
Exile (documentary)


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Documentary Review-Warrior Women

Image result for warrior women netflixWarrior Women with Lucy Lawless is an awesome 5 part documentary series that I literally watched in one sitting because I liked it so much. It was interesting, visually pretty, and, best of all, actually taught me things I didn't know--something I always appreciate. The documentary covers five women in depth--Joan of Arc, Grace O'Malley, Boudicca, Lozen, and the 'Real' Mulan, and I HIGHLY recommend that you go watch it right now. It's on Netflix, so it should be pretty easy.


I do have some warnings, however. This show is very addictive. You will be sad when it's over. This show will suck you in, then spit you out wondering what exactly you're supposed to do with your life now. You may not be able to watch another historical documentary again without feeling the bitterness of dissatisfaction. Further side effects of watching Warrior Women with Lucy Lawless may include:

  • A crush on Grace O'Malley
  • A desire to fight the Roman Empire
  • Seeing Boudicca in a different light
  • A desire to fight the US Government
  • Learning how to actually pronounce 'Boudicca' and 'Iceni'
  • A crush on Lucy Lawless
  • Increased knowledge about swords and other weapons
  • Procrastination of other responsibilities to watch this documentary
  • Frustration that it only has five parts
Image result for warrior women with lucy lawlessHyperbolic silliness aside, this is a fantastic documentary. It's very well researched, it's well presented, and it keeps your attention the entire way through. I honestly, have no serious complaints about this show, only the wish that it was longer. So if you're looking for an amazing history show to watch, definitely watch this one.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Swiss Guard

Officially founded in 1506, the Swiss Guard has been protecting the Bishops of Rome for more than 600 years. Over those 600 years the Guard has held off invasions, fought the Pope's wars, and acted as the Pope's private security force. Today they're the smallest army in the world. Despite their size, the Guard has an illustrious history, and hangs on to many of its traditions, including it's colorful uniforms.

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Pope Francis inspecting the Guard
You wouldn't guess it from Pope Francis, but historically, Pope's didn't usually turn the other cheek. Sure, some performed miracles and invented important things like calendars, but more maneuvered and schemed to keep secular power as well as spiritual power over Europe, even going as far as to send large amounts of armed forces to support their interests. Popes had enormous political power over Europe from the early CEs until shortly after the Reformation, and they needed the forces to back it up. So in 1506 Pope Julius II hired a group of the fiercest fighters in Europe--Swiss mercenaries.

Now, while today's Swiss army may be a hot, incompetent, mess, they were pretty good in the 1500s. Contingents of Swiss mercenaries protected the Kings of France and Spain, and fought for other Italian states as well. Given that the Swiss Cantons were overcrowded, the Swiss government was more than okay with these arrangements. Swiss mercenaries were known, not only for their fighting expertise, but for their loyalty, and when Pope Julius II hired them, they permanently attached themselves to the Vatican.

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The 1527 Sack of Rome
One of the Guard's finest hours was during the Sack of Rome of 1527 by Spanish mercenaries. 147 guards held off a force of 20,000 men long enough for Pope Clement to escape the Vatican. Out of the 189 members of the guard, only the 42 who accompanied the Pope survived.


Members of the Guard are instantly recognizable while on duty. They wear brightly colored red, yellow, and blue uniforms, which would only work as camouflage if they were hiding in a crayola factory. On formal occasion they add 1500s style armor, including morian style helmets with large red or purple feathers. Though their uniform is designed on the clothing the guard would have worn in the 1500s, and done up in the traditional color of the Medici family, the current uniforms were actually designed in 1914. The guards carry halberds--a seven foot long pole arm--on duty, as per tradition, but are also armed with more modern weapons.

Today the Guard are instrumental in protecting the Pope on his travels, watch over visitors to the Vatican, and to watch over the safety of Vatican City. The guard is only open to Swiss males between ages 19 and 30 who are practicing Catholics. While in the guard, guards are required to take an oath of celibacy, as well as swearing to be morally upright at all times.

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Sources
Pontifical Swiss Guard
The Pope's Private Army
Swiss Guard History