Ah yes, “do we really live longer than our ancestors” articles, the theses of which always seem to be “well once you eliminate deaths by disease, violence, and really every factor other than natural causes in old age, and probably only consider the upper classes (because they’re all we have data for in many cases), the difference in life expectancy from adulthood is only 5-10 years.”

And like, I get that infant and child mortality doesn’t reflect what most people intuitively conceive as life expectancy (though it bears noting that youth mortality on such a scale that it substantially distorts life expectancy figures is also really bad), but I’d argue that things like reduced frequency of wars and other homicides, the presence of antibiotics and other modern medicines, and lower rates of extreme poverty, are exactly what most people think of when they think of factors that impact life expectancy, and it’s blatant cherry-picking to say we ought to treat them as inadmissible.

It turns out that, after controlling for life expectancy, moderns live about as long as Medieval peasants did.


#anything that makes me laugh this much deserves a reblog #history #death tw #fun with statistics

literallymechanical asked:


I just learned that about 10% of Aramaic incantation bowls, with the spiral text and little demons in the middle, are fake. Not modern forgeries, but contemporary scams where a mesopotamian potter would scribble something that looked vaguely like aramaic on a bowl and sell it to illiterate customers.

Imagine coming home for rosh hashanah and having to smile politely while grandma rebekkah tells you all about how she’s gotten really into incantation bowls, and then whips out the 5th century equivalent of a resin and glitter orgone crystal she bought on etsy.

(The paper is “Two Pseudo-Text Incantation Bowls from the University of Pikeville,” authored by Craig A. Evans and Scott Stripling. You can find a pdf on google.)



1) that’s amazing

2) Big Ea-Nasir energy


#(I went and read the paper and that’s one of two main hypotheses) #(the other one is that they were writing in tongues) #history #Judaism




“may this great plague pass by me and my friends, and restore us once more to joy and gladness”

Feeling a powerful kinship with this scribe from 1350 today.

OTD (Christmas Eve), 670 years ago


#I missed Christmas for this but it’s New Year’s Eve so that works too #may we reach the anniversary of this night many times #also‚ it’s just…very emotional to read accounts of past plagues where people ask for prayers #because that was all they could do #humanity was not strong enough‚ not aware enough‚ not knowledgeable enough‚ to fight back against a monster that could not be seen #history #illness tw

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Found in a 120 year old time capsule.

Full VDO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoDj4mXdqmc



Worth it.



I’m sorry I might sound like a madwoman for going on a rant about this but man, it’s…
I don’t know how to express it but just the thought of some person, 120 years ago, taking a photo of their cat, which back then wasn’t easy – they didn’t have phones with cameras, each photo required a lot of time and dedication, so not only the person “wasted” a whole photo on their cat, they also did their fricking best to save this photo and carefully put it into an envelope to preserve it so that people in the future will know that there was this cat and it looked like this and it’s owner thought the cat looked lovely that day so much that they decided to take a photo of it and then they loved the photo so much that they went out of their way to preserve it for future generations like “hello people from the future! this is what my cat loos like!” because they loved their cat so much they wanted people from the future to know about it is… crazy to me… and here we are, 120 years later, long after the cat and it’s owners passed away, looking at an old photo of a cat and gushing about it. The cat died so long ago and wouldn’t even know it existed if not for the owner that loved their cat so much that they decided this photo was worth preserving and put it into a time capsule. and seeing now how people dedicate whole blogs to their cats and take countless pictures of them just to show to other people really hits because you realize that in the end, people from today aren’t that much different from people that were 120 years ago. We all just love our cats and want people to look at them.



I bet this woman was imagining the photo may be seen by like… a family some day. But no. It survived till the age of the internet. It has now transcended the original media. It is now being seen by far more eyes in far more places than the media she chose would normally allow.

I hope the taker of this 120 year old photo is PROUD.



I feel it’s worth pointing out that the thing in the time capsule isn’t a photograph – it’s a glass-plate negative.

For those unfamiliar with non-digital photography, how it works is when you take a photo, what you’re doing is exposing a transparent medium that’s been treated with a light-sensitive chemical that darkens when exposed to light. This results in a negative image of whatever you’re photographing: dark where the light was bright, and transparent where the light was dim. The negative is then treated with a fixative chemical that renders it insensitive to further light exposure, and the actual photograph is produced by shining a bright light through the fixed negative and onto a sheet of paper treated with the same light-sensitive chemical. In this way, a single negative can be used to produce many copies of the same photograph. This is the process shown in the video.

In other words, the person who stored the time capsule away didn’t preserve a photo of their cat: they preserved the tools necessary to mass produce photos of their cat. It’s not unreasonable to suppose they did, in fact, hope that many copies of it would be made – though they probably did not anticipate exactly how many there would be!


#cats #history #death tw #amnesia cw? #101 Uses for Infrastructureless Computers #photography

500 Million, But Not a Single One More

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We will never know their names.

The first victim could not have been recorded, for there was no written language to record it. They were someone’s daughter, or son, and someone’s friend, and they were loved by those around them. And they were in pain, covered in rashes, confused, scared, not knowing why this was happening to them or what they could do about it – victim of a mad, inhuman god. There was nothing to be done – humanity was not strong enough, not aware enough, not knowledgeable enough, to fight back against a monster that could not be seen.

It was in Ancient Egypt, where it attacked slave and pharaoh alike. In Rome, it effortlessly decimated armies. It killed in Syria. It killed in Moscow.  In India, five million dead. It killed a thousand Europeans every day in the 18th century. It killed more than fifty million Native Americans. From the Peloponnesian War to the Civil War, it slew more soldiers and civilians than any weapon, any soldier, any army (Not that this stopped the most foolish and empty souls from attempting to harness the demon as a weapon against their enemies).

Cultures grew and faltered, and it remained. Empires rose and fell, and it thrived. Ideologies waxed and waned, but it did not care. Kill. Maim. Spread. An ancient, mad god, hidden from view, that could not be fought, could not be confronted, could not even be comprehended. Not the only one of its kind, but the most devastating.

For a long time, there was no hope – only the bitter, hollow endurance of survivors.

In China, in the 10th century, humanity began to fight back.

It was observed that survivors of the mad god’s curse would never be touched again: they had taken a portion of that power into themselves, and were so protected from it. Not only that, but this power could be shared by consuming a remnant of the wounds. There was a price, for you could not take the god’s power without first defeating it – but a smaller battle, on humanity’s terms. By the 16th century, the technique spread, to India, across Asia, the Ottoman Empire and, in the 18th century, Europe. In 1796, a more powerful technique was discovered by Edward Jenner.

An idea began to take hold: Perhaps the ancient god could be killed.

A whisper became a voice; a voice became a call; a call became a battle cry, sweeping across villages, cities, nations. Humanity began to cooperate, spreading the protective power across the globe, dispatching masters of the craft to protect whole populations. People who had once been sworn enemies joined in common cause for this one battle. Governments mandated that all citizens protect themselves, for giving the ancient enemy a single life would put millions in danger.

And, inch by inch, humanity drove its enemy back. Fewer friends wept; Fewer neighbors were crippled; Fewer parents had to bury their children.

At the dawn of the 20th century, for the first time, humanity banished the enemy from entire regions of the world. Humanity faltered many times in its efforts, but there individuals who never gave up, who fought for the dream of a world where no child or loved one would ever fear the demon ever again. Viktor Zhdanov, who called for humanity to unite in a final push against the demon; The great tactician Karel Raška, who conceived of a strategy to annihilate the enemy; Donald Henderson, who led the efforts of those final days.

The enemy grew weaker. Millions became thousands, thousands became dozens. And then, when the enemy did strike, scores of humans came forth to defy it, protecting all those whom it might endanger.

The enemy’s last attack in the wild was on Ali Maow Maalin, in 1977. For months afterwards, dedicated humans swept the surrounding area, seeking out any last, desperate hiding place where the enemy might yet remain.

They found none.

35 years ago, on December 9th, 1979, humanity declared victory.

This one evil, the horror from beyond memory, the monster that took 500 million people from this world – was destroyed.

You are a member of the species that did that. Never forget what we are capable of, when we band together and declare battle on what is broken in the world.

Happy Smallpox Eradication Day.


#Tumblr traditions #anniversaries #illness tw #history #proud citizen of the Future


A brief but strange wiki jaunt today: I was wondering about the etymology of “mammoth”, so I looked it up and it’s from Russian and believed to derive from a Uralic language, which is wild! But the wiktionary etymology also offers this tantalizing aside: “Adjectival use was popularized in the early 1800s by references to the Cheshire Mammoth Cheese presented to American paleontologist and president Thomas Jefferson.”

Wait, what? So I had to look that up and it’s, I guess, a giant wheel of cheese that was produced by the town of Cheshire, Massachusetts, by combining the milk of every cow in the town, as a kind of weird political stunt. According to Wikipedia, it was inscribed with the motto “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.“ The article goes on to say:

Given the political landscape of the time, there was a fear that the more Republican Jefferson, considered an “infidel of the French Revolutionary school,” would harm the religious interests of the citizenry, and that “the altars of New England would be demolished, and all their religious institutions would be swept away by an inrushing and irresistible flood of French infidelity.”

One pastor in Cheshire, Elder John Leland, opposed this line of thought. A beleaguered minority in Calvinist New England, the Baptists were perhaps the strongest advocates in the early republic of the separation of church and state. Leland had met Jefferson during his time in Virginia and the two grew to have a friendly relationship. Leland remembered this as he served in Cheshire, and campaigned strongly for Jefferson.

Leland, believing that his efforts helped Jefferson win the Presidency, encouraged his townspeople to make a unique gesture to Jefferson. He urged each member of his congregation “who owned a cow to bring every quart of milk given on a given day, or all the curd it would make, to a great cider mill…” Leland also insisted that “no Federal cow” (a cow owned by a Federalist farmer) be allowed to offer any milk, “lest it should leaven the whole lump with a distasteful savour.”

The last part may require the clarification that the Federalists were one of the two viable parties at the time, the other being Jefferson’s “Democratic-Republican” party; this is not to be confused with the current system where the two parties are Democratic and Republican and both are federalist.

In any case, I appreciated the sheer Americanness of the anecdote. It feels very much like a story someone would invent to make fun of American history, so it is extremely gratifying that it actually happened.


#history #home of the brave #food #language










Early color photographs of Antarctica, circa 1915, by Australian adventurer Frank Hurley.


#(*pokes search engines*) #(yeah seems legit) #(I found some articles from NPR and Australian Geographic whose pictures overlapped with this set) #Antarctica #history


On the one hand this is extremely cool and an elegant solution to the problem, on the other hand it’s probably fortunate for Japan and China that we only went about a century between the rise of typewriters and the invention of computers with phonetic IMEs, or else I think they all would’ve gone completely mad.


#history #neat #the more you know #language

Coin and Trade – Personal Plot for Guild Artisans



Merchants and artisans are the middle-class framework of a medieval society’s economy, but they’ve never gotten much attention in D&D. The guild most likely to get fleshed out in a DM’s campaign is a local thieves’ guild, either as something for a party’s rogue to belong to or antagonists for the PCs to fight. So when I saw the Guild Artisan background in 5E, I was definitely intrigued.

We often say that the choices a player makes while creating a character tells you something about what kinds of stories they want to see. Guild Artisan is an intriguing one, because, on some levels, it’s so mundane. And that could be part of the story that the player wants to tell. Does their character want to stay rooted in their mundane profession, even as they become an adventurer? Maybe your rogue is also a first-class baker. Maybe your fighter smithed all her own weapons. Or maybe your wizard still maintains a trade as a glassblower, fashioning bottles with the same methodical patience they use to fashion spells.

The flip side to this is that, by most accounts, medieval guilds were anything but mundane. Any organization is likely to become a hotbed of intrigue, politics, and the like. It could be that branches of the player’s chosen guild are working against one another, each trying to gain some kind of political upper hand. Or perhaps the player hopes to take control of the guild someday, thereby fully diving into the pool of connections, favors, backstabbing, and character assassination.

One thing that’s nice about a guild artisan PC is that it lends a small amount of predictability to the actions of a PC when the group enters a new town. It seems likely that, regardless of whether they treat their guild as a political situation to be exploited or just a place to get some cheap accommodations, a GA PC will head for their guild early in their explorations of the new place. This predictability means that a DM can prepare a bit of story ahead of time, in the form of a cast of characters, a location, and even some plot.

The guild as a whole can be something of a character. A guild in one town might be friendly, open, and helpful. Another town’s guild could be a bit more suspicious and taciturn, less given to being open-armed with newcomers. Yet another could be friendly to a creepy degree, possibly because they’ve been infiltrated by a cult of some darker power and hope to lure newcomers into their web.

All kinds of plots can be tied to a guild, giving you the chance to introduce storylines via the GA PC. Imagine if a seemingly lowly but expansive guild becomes infiltrated by cultists, or compromised by doppelgangers. You could have a whole storyline about exposing the guild’s corruption, or stopping them before they use their unobtrusive nature to stab at the seat of power.

A guild can also be a source of information. A stonemason or architect’s guild might be aware of secret passages in a noble’s manse. A carpenter’s guild might have noted certain irregularities in chests they’ve been asked to construct on behalf of a new temple in town. An alchemist’s guild might be worrying, as they’ve recognized that the ingredients a wizard is buying could be combined to make a large quantity of poison. Any of these things might be dropped as gossip in a PC’s ear, giving a reason to investigate and perhaps leading to adventure and danger.

Even more overtly, a guild artisan PC may get offers of adventure for a group to follow-up on. An NPC member of a jeweler’s guild may need a rare component, like the shell of a basilisk egg, for a commission and be willing to pay handsomely for the adventurers that bring it to him. A blacksmith’s guild needs to know why the copper mine they paid hasn’t brought them ore or ingots lately, ultimately leading the PCs to discover a mine taken over by duergar slavers. Any kind of guild might hire a group of adventurers to guard a caravan of goods, or to try and rescue guild members captured by goblins.

I hope this has made you think about the fantastic potential for adventure that this seemingly mundane background possesses. Next month, we’ll be delving into the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion for that most high-flying of heroes, the Aarakocra. Until then, may all your 20s be natural.

Oh, I love medieval guilds as a concept so much! Okay. Some things that fascinate me:

I love glass, and the history of glass, and if you’re looking at the history of glass in Europe you wind up inevitably looking at Murano, Venice, because it is THE European glass centre from the 7th to the 18th centuries. 

A fascinating couple of paragraphs from the Glass of Venice website:

“By the late 1200s, the production of glass objects of the finest quality was the city’s major industry as confirmed by the establishment of the Glassmakers Guild that laid out rules and regulations for the craftsmen. The purpose of the guild was to safeguard the secrets of the trade and ensure the profitability of the industry. In line with these objectives, a 1271 law prohibited the importation of foreign glass or the employment of foreign glassworkers.

An even more radical law was passed in 1291 that laid the ground for the establishment of Murano as a premier glass-manufacturing center. This law required that all furnaces used for glassmaking be moved from Venice to Murano to avoid the risk of fire from the furnaces spreading onto the largely wooden structures of overpopulated Venice. Many historians agree that the true motive for this law was to isolate the glass craftsmen to a location where they wouldn’t be able to disclose trade secrets. A subsequent law passed in 1295 forbidding the glassmakers from leaving the city confirms this theory.

Artisans working in the glass trade were well rewarded for their efforts. They had a privileged social status, and their daughters were allowed to marry into the wealthiest and noblest of Venetian families. By applying this clever approach, Venetian government ensured that the glassmakers encouraged their offspring to carry on the trade, and that trade secrets stayed in the families and fueled creative processes leading to innovation and further success. This, along with Venice’s convenient location at the crossroads of trade between East and West, gave Venice monopoly power in manufacturing and selling quality glass throughout Europe that lasted for centuries.”

Venice as a city state set laws in place to establish, isolate and control their glassmakers guild on an island to protect trade secrets and maintain a continental monopoly on their trade. Trade secrets, historically speaking, were a HUMUNGOUS deal.

You could have so many stories here. Are you a foreign guild member, rocking up to the city with your letter of introduction, ready to be greeted by your brethren, and absolutely shocked by getting turned out on your ear? Maybe a shady sort wants you to smuggle trade secrets out to them. Maybe your guild branch wants you to smuggle secrets out to them. Maybe you found notes in a dungeon or wizard lair that would revolutionise certain processes, and suddenly you’re the target of every guild branch in existence hoping you’ll give or be persuaded to give the process to them and them alone. Maybe your party encounters a local guildmember who wants to leave the city and wants you to smuggle them out, breaking local guild laws and potentially fatally damaging your relationship with your overall guild in the process. Maybe the guild as a whole wants your help to break free from their city-state’s restrictions, or maybe only certain sections of the guild, and the rest are perfectly fine with their privileged lives or else deeply and genuinely believe that their secrets should be protected for the good of the city and the pride of the guild.

You’ve got options here. Murano is a very fascinating example of medieval guild-and-city politics.

On a broader scale. Moving to London here, and the Livery Companies (essentially guilds). There’s a lovely page on Wikipedia on the mottos of the Livery Companies, and it is fascinating. The mottos of a guild suggest so many interesting things about them, even when you have no idea of the history involved in how that motto came about.

Some examples:

The Worshipful Company of Bowyers (bow-makers) don’t have a latin phrase for a motto. Instead, they have three names. “Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt”. AKA the three battles where the English Longbow is considered to have decisively won the battle for the English. Like. That is just excellent and incredibly pointed marketing. “Here’s what our wares do, next fucking question!” Amazing.

The clockmakers have ‘Time is the Commander of All Things’. The Worshipful Company of Cooks has, for some reason, ‘Wounded Not Conquered’, and I’m desperately curious as to why. Musicians have ‘Preserve Harmony’ and the Glass Sellers have ‘Discord Weakens’, which is funny and makes me deeply hope their guildhalls are across the road from each other (I don’t think they are, but it’d be amazing). The Painter-Stainers have the extremely ominous ‘Love Can Compel Obedience’, which, if you need an incredibly random guild to have been infested with a cult, can I suggest?

On a similar note, the Poulters have ‘Remember Your Oath’, which, again, curious and ominous?

The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards has ‘With Upright Heart All Are Exalted’, which is hilarious and feels very much like they were trying to get in ahead of the inevitable gambling association.

A lot of the mottos are clearly biblical quotes loosely related to the industry at hand, like the Paviors (pavers) ‘God Can Raise to Abraham Children of Stone’. The Shipwrights have ‘Within The Ark Safe Forever’. The Needlemakers have ‘They Sewed Fig Leaves Together And Made Themselves Aprons’, which feels very much ‘the first day out of Eden, we were there and doing the work!’. There’s a lot of flag-planting and general ‘you’d be lost without us’ in these mottos, which is excellent.

The thing these mottos do is suggest history, ideology, story. Some of them feel defensive, some of them feel defiant, some of them feel ominous, some of them seem incredibly incongruous and make you wonder what the history is (again, why do cooks have ‘wounded not conquered’?).

From a worldbuilding POV … you can put things like this in your world. Like. Was your Cooks Guild hugely involved in a particular war? Was it born out of camp followers way back when? Does your glass sellers guild have a huge and longstanding hatred and rivalry with the local bardic college? Are your wood-metal-and-cloth stainers randomly an ancient fertility cult for no apparent reason? Do several of your guilds have close and sometimes hidden relationships to various deities and practices (are pavers the primary makers of golems)? Are the local weaponsmiths or bowyers extremely arrogant and proud of their craftmanship for extremely specific historical reasons? Are the needlemakers fed up of being looked down on when you’d all be fucking naked if we weren’t here?

Guilds are so much fun. You can do a lot with them, with their histories and hang-ups and beliefs, their relationships with their cities and each other, their reputations and reactions to how people view them, their prominence and decline as various industries crest and fall in different cities and different times. They’re an awesome set of organisations to play with in a world.


#long post #history #D&D #story ideas I will never write #this probably deserves some warning tag but I am not sure what