Thanks to countless books, movies, and trashy TV shows, most of us have a fairly firm mental image of the ancient world. Togas, feasting, gladiatorial combat . . . the standard stuff. Yet step back in time, and you’d be confronted with a world that confounded your expectations. Far from being a close approximation of the truth, our collective mental image of the ancient world may be nothing like reality at all.
10 Ancient Britain Had African Citizens
Although London is one of the most multicultural cities on Earth, it’s only been in the last century or so that minorities have become a familiar sight in Britain. Go back a millennium, and everyone would be lily white, right? Not quite. Britain has had black citizens for at least 1,800 years. Real Dissent: A Libert... Best Price: $8.48 Buy New $7.93 (as of 03:10 EST - Details)
In 2010, researchers at Reading University found evidence that Roman York had been home to individuals of North African descent. One of them, dubbed “the iron bangle lady,” was found buried with enough jewelry to mark her out as distinctly upper-class, suggesting she wasn’t simply a traveler or slave. But even the iron bangle lady pales in comparison to ancient York’s most famous African citizen. In AD 208, the Libyan-born Roman emperor Septimius Severus made the city his base, ruling the Empire from there until his death three years later.
This multicultural history didn’t end with the fall of Rome. Records show small communities of black people living in Britain from the 12th century onward, with at least one skeleton identified as having predated the 1066 arrival of William the Conqueror. By 1501, Catherine of Aragon was bringing over her vast retinue of Muslims, Jews, and North Africans, plenty of whom settled in What Has Government Do... Best Price: null Buy New $2.99 (as of 11:35 EST - Details) Britain. Far from being a modern phenomenon, Britain has been multicultural for nearly its entire existence.
9 Neanderthals Were Seriously Intelligent
“Neanderthal” is a synonym for “idiot,” a reminder that before we became kings of the planet, we first had to wipe out our stupider cousins. You can’t get a much more classic image of the ice age than a Neanderthal being flummoxed by someHomo sapiens ingenuity. That image isn’t entirely accurate. All available evidence points to our Neanderthal cousins being just as intelligent as we are.
In 2014, researchers uncovered evidence that Neanderthals in northern Europe hunted by herding mammoths and bison into a deep ravine. Such a logistically complex operation would require Kindle Paperwhite, 6&r... Best Price: $40.90 Buy New null (as of 05:45 EST - Details) communication and planning abilities at least as advanced as those of our ancestors. There’s also plenty of evidence that Neanderthal tools were as advanced as human ones, using bones, flints, and homemade adhesives to create perfect weapons.
We’ve also found signs of Neanderthal culture. Archaeologists recently discovered ornaments and pigments for body painting, suggesting complex religious rituals. There’s even a cave in Gibraltar containing primitive Neanderthal art.
8 Ancient Egypt Had No Jewish Slaves
One of the earliest Bible stories any of us get taught is the Exodus. After centuries of slavery in Egypt, the Jews finally manage to escape with the help of some timely plagues. Although only a Against the State: An ... Best Price: $5.02 Buy New $5.52 (as of 11:35 EST - Details) handful today believe the literal truth of the story, most assume it at least has some basis in fact. Go back in time 4,000 years and the Sinai Desert would be full of wandering ex-slaves, right?
The archaeological record says otherwise. We haven’t uncovered a single shred of evidence that indicates 600,000 Jewish families spent time in the desert. Considering we have evidence for much smaller nomadic groups once living there, this absence is significant. Nor have we found anything in Israel that would suggest a large influx of migrants in ancient times.
The Egyptian state kept meticulous records of everything that happened, including migration by minor nomadic groups. Had most of their slaves, accounting for one-quarter of their entire population, suddenly fled, there would at least be records documenting labor shortages and a major economic crash. No such records have ever been found.
Incidentally, the ancient Egyptians treated their slaves better than most cultures. Many were simple debt slaves, who had sold themselves to pay back money and had a fixed end term to their servitude. In certain circumstances, they were even better off than free peasants. This was a departure from the Bible’s depiction of the Egyptians as cruel tyrants.