Category Archives: Amazing Stories

Aztec – Mysterious, Violent Ancient Civilization

Aztec – Mysterious, Violent Ancient Civilization

This intriguing Mesoamerican Culture left behind a rich legacy of ruins and artifacts from which we have learned much about the Aztec culture and way of life.

Like all of the ancient peoples we have discovered in our endeavors to learn about our past, the Aztecs were a spiritual people, and despite the violence for which they are known, they remain a topic of interest for historians and the curious alike.

Aztec
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Though the Aztecs performed astonishing feats of engineering, including the construction of aqueducts, canals, and temples, they are believed to have constructed their entire civilization of the course of 200 year. The practice of human sacrifice, performed during spiritual rituals, gained the Aztecs their reputation as a violent culture.

The Aztecs modeled their first city, Tenochtitlan, after Teotihuacan, an ancient city complex of pyramids, homes, and roads located just about 30 miles east of present day Mexico City. The Aztecs believed that the ancient city of Teotihuacan, which was already in ruin even in their time,  was laid out in the image of the Mesoamerican cosmos and created by their gods. (See Teotihuacan Below)

Teotihuacan
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Though the question of who built Teotihuacan remains unanswered, the Aztecs had good reason for their inspiration, it was carefully planned and constructed, and remains one of the best examples of such a feat in human history. We do know that construction of the city began in earnest around 80 AD, and that it was abandoned around 550 AD. Archaeological evidence suggests that the city was intentionally burned by it’s inhabitants during a revolt against the priests or rulers of the city.

It is this city that the Aztecs re-created in their construction of Tenochtitlan around 700 years ago, on an island that lay in an ancient lake called Lake Texcoco. This area is now the location of modern day Mexico City, however at the time the Aztecs built their city, this vast valley was mostly covered in water and so swampy that no one had thought to build in the area. The image below depicts how the city would have looked at the height of it’s era.

Aztec Tenochtitlan
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Much ingenuity went into the construction of the city other than the practices they observed at Teotihuacan, including the wooden pilings which were driven into the ground under their structures to stabilize them in the marshy ground. Without the use of beasts of burden, construction of the city often required a force of up to 50,000 men to transport the stone building blocks and other materials used to build the city. The Aztecs also created a network of causeways in order to connect their beautiful island city to the mainland on the north, west and south.

Aztec Facts

  • The average lifespan of an Aztec citizen was 37 yrs.
  • At the hight of the cities existence, it housed over 200,000 people.
  • The Aztecs created a vast network of “super highways” throughout central Mexico which enabled them to transport messages or goods 200 miles to the coast in just 24 hours.
  • The massive pyramid which sat at the very center of Tenochtitlan had a 300 ft. wide base and was15 stories high.
  • The temple, which was initially constructed in 1325 with the founding of the city, was re-constructed on the same location 7 times. As with other ancient temples, it was increased in size over time as the city grew by adding new stages on top of the old portions of the temple
  • Lime plaster was applied to floors and walls of Aztec structures; even after 500 years some examples of this ancient concrete remain as strong as our modern concrete.
  • The temple was uncovered by power company workers digging a trench in 1978. The first artifact unearthed at the site was the huge carved stone. (Shown Below) It is 11 ft. in diameter and weighs 8 tons. 
Aztec Carving 2
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The Aztec calendar, or calendar wheel shown in the image below, is one of the most intriguing artifacts left by this culture. As with all of the earliest Mesoamerican calendars, such as the Mayan calendar, the Aztec calendar used a 260 day cycle. This system, called Tonalpohualli, was actually comprised of three “wheels”, or individual cycles which worked together; a 260 day cycle, a 365 day cycle, and a 52 year cycle. Though this system may seem quite precise, it was less so than the Mayan calendar system. Certain dates on the Aztec calendar can refer to a couple of different times in the year, resulting in modern disagreements over events that occurred in the Aztec Empire, and adding to the mystery of the Aztecs.

Aztec Calendar
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Though much has been learned about the Aztec culture, many aspects remain unknown, and this ancient civilization is sure to remain a topic of great discussion and wonder as we strive to learn more about the history of mankind.

Aztec – Mysterious, Violent Ancient Civilization

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The Worlds’ Oldest Trees


The Worlds’ Oldest Trees

These trees live lifetimes which are calculated in terms of eons rather than decades, or even centuries, providing for one of natures’ most amazing stories. The Worlds’ Oldest Trees were seedlings at the time when the Egyptian Pharaohs were building the pyramids, when Europe was experiencing the Bronze Age, and around the same time that Stonehenge was mysteriously thought to  be erected.

They have withstood the test of time, surviving thousands of years in their stationary positions to eventually become the oldest trees in the world.

The Worlds’ Oldest Trees

Standing on a hill in the White Mountains of California resides a 4,845-year-old Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, affectionately named Methuselah. It’s twisted, weathered form tells the story of of the thousands of years it lived there, and has become rather a celebrity in its own right. It’s recently discovered older and un-named counterpart, also a Bristlecone Pine located in the White Mountains, was determined by the Rocky Mountain Tree Ring Research group to be 5,062 years old in 2013.

The Worlds’ Oldest Trees 2

There are other trees which have lived for thousands of years in other parts of the world as well. The hardy Olive tree makes it’s home in several warm, arid parts of the world, and due to its drought, fire, and disease resistant nature, it is a species that boasts longevity as well. In fact, the island of Crete in Greece is home to the seven Olive trees that are believed to be 2,000 to 3,000 years old at the least. The Vouves Olive tree in particular is believed to be the oldest of the seven, and is estimated to be over 3,000 years old.

Other examples of long living trees are Alerce, a 3,642-year-old Patagonian Cypress located in the Andes Mountains of Chile, and Llangernyw Yew, (shown below) a Yew tree which lives to this day in the churchyard of the Llangernyw village in North Wales.

Worlds’ Oldest Trees

However, none of these individual trees are capable of reaching the age of the worlds’ oldest living organism, the Quaking Aspen Tree. Because these trees reproduce via a natural cloning process, with new trees springing up from the roots of older trees rather than from seeds, the organism as a whole is able to reach astonishing ages which are numbered in tens of thousands of years.

While Aspen trees can be found all around the world in the northern hemisphere, the best known example of this is Pando, a massive colony of Aspens located in Utah that has been determined to be anywhere from 80,000, to hundreds of thousands of years old. This species is also the Worlds oldest living single organism and possibly the Worlds’ heaviest living organism.

Worlds’ Oldest Trees Organism

If only trees could talk, these ages old specimens could certainly tell a story. However, for those of us who can only exist for a short period of time in comparison, this tale of the The Worlds’ Oldest Trees alone is thought provoking enough!

The Worlds’ Oldest Living Trees

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Strange Dragon Blood Trees

Strange Dragon Blood Trees

Despite their appearance, these strange trees are not some fictional foliage from a Harry Potter movie! Still, these Strange Dragon Blood are truly…weird to behold, especially knowing that their name “Dragon Blood Trees”, is due to their red colored sap or resin!

Strange Dragon Blood Trees

Dragon Blood Trees, also known as Cinnabar Trees, are found on Socotra Island, Yemen, as well as a precious few other places on earth. The trees can live to be more than 300 years old; some sources say they can live up to 600 years or more. They are a slow growing species possessing natural coloring and medicinal properties which were knowingly utilized by ancient Greeks and Romans.

These bizarre looking trees are hand planted and cared for by local residents, producing blossoms in February which take five months to produce fully ripe fruit. Despite the name of the tree, they do not produce the famed “Dragon Fruit”, though they do have great ecological importance, not only as a flagship species, but as an indicator species and an umbrella species as well.

Strange Dragon Blood Trees of Socotra Island Yemen

Immature Dragons Blood Trees, like the ones shown in the image above, will eventually branch out and acquire the upside down, “umbrella” shaped tops the trees are so well known for.

 Socotra Dragon Blood Trees

Other than medicine, Dragons Blood Trees are also used to make incense, clothing dye, and varnish, placing them on the list of very useful, and at the same time very odd looking, natural resources!

Strange Dragon Blood Trees

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Free E-Cig!

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The Origin of St. Valentines Day

The Origin of St. Valentines Day

February 14th marks a day many people around the world look forward to each and every year; the day we exchange gifts, chocolate and flowers with loved ones as a token for our affection for them. Though Valentines’ Day has been observed since the middle ages, some may be surprised to find that The Origin of St. Valentines Day actually remains a mystery.

Valentine-Heart-Background-PSDIt appears that despite the fact that the festivities of Valentine’s Day are observed in the name of St. Valentine, his exact identity remains unknown. There are at least three different saints by the name Valentine or Valentinus who are recognized by the Catholic Church. Each of these saints was martyred for an act of sympathy towards the most important emotion in the world, love.

heart 2One legend states that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome and defied a decree by Emperor Claudius II outlawing marriage for young men. The Emperor felt that unmarried men made better soldiers than men with families, and finding the decree unjust, the priest continued to marry young couples in secret until his actions were discovered and he was ordered to be put to death. Another story suggests that Valentine was killed for attempting to aid Christians in their escape from harsh Roman prisons, while yet another story tells of how an imprisoned Valentine sent the very first “Valentine” to his jailors daughter, whom he had fallen in love with during her visits to the jail during his confinement. Though the age old legends of St. Valentine portray him as heroic, sympathetic and romantic, his exact identity is likely to remain a mystery forever.

heart 2We do know that the first written Valentines’ did not appear until after 1400, and that Charles, Duke of Orleans penned the oldest known written Valentine, a poem to his wife, while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. The poem now resides in the British Library in London England. The holiday began to be popularly celebrated throughout Great Britain In the early 1700’s, around the same time handmade Valentines probably began to appear in America.  The first mass-manufactured Valentines’ appeared in America in the 1840’s when a woman named Esther A. Howland began selling elaborate versions of the Holiday gift there. Known as the “Mother of the Valentine”, Esther embellished her Valentines’ with real ribbons, lace and colorful images called “scrap”, which quickly became a popular way to express Valentines’ wishes in the US.

heart 3Today, Valentines’ Day is the second most popular card giving Holiday of the year. In addition to the US, it is also celebrated in France, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Mexico. According to the Greeting Card Association, loved ones send around 1 billion cards to their Valentines’ each year. Despite the mystery surrounding St. Valentine, this holiday remains a testament to our devotion to the patron saints’ most beloved cause.

The Origin of St. Valentines Day