There are many things that happened in history that often make us wonder. In Peculiar Pasts I make it my mission to find out the answers to peculiar questions about history. Ranging from random historical oddities to explaining century-old phenomena; after reading these, you’ll definitely have some quirky facts to talk about next time you’re at a dinner party!
Why do babies on medieval paintings look like creepy old men?
You’re wandering around the museum, having a great time admiring naked statues and colourful works of art. You go around the corner and enter the medieval art section. Then BAM – it happens. A frightening and incredibly ugly medieval baby is looking straight at you. How come infants’ faces on medieval paintings look like creepy middle-aged men? You might think it was just the poor painting skills of the artists in that time, but this is not entirely true. There was actually a reason babies were made to look that way. Most of these babies were portrayals of Jesus, and in that time philosophers believed that Jesus was born as a perfect human being, unchanged (influenced by the idea of “Homunculus”, which means “little man”). Adult Jesus was therefore represented in baby Jesus, even though that meant he ended up looking like Benjamin Button most of the time. In the Renaissance, all of that changed and baby Jesus turned into a nice and chubby little lad.
How did women take care of their periods in the past?
If you think there is currently a stigma around periods, be assured it was at least a hundred times worse in the past; females bleeding without any injury was a phenomenon considered either holy and mystical or cursed and impure. Even though menstruation has been experienced by women as long as mankind existed, there is very little known about it. This is likely because most history has been recorded by men. I’ll give you a brief account of women and their periods throughout history. Starting with ancient times; Egyptians were believed to have used rags, and softened papyrus as tampons. Side note, these are mostly assumptions since no one can really tell what happened during this time, as it was not officially recorded. The Romans used wool for pads, and the ancient Greeks even went as far as wrapping bits of lint around wooden sticks functioning as tampons (which couldn’t have been the most comfortable to say the least… splinters anyone?). This was also believed to be a popular method of contraception. Medieval doctors had a very special recipe for heavy period flow; “find a toad, burn it in a pot, then wear the ashes in a pouch near your vagina”. Pain relief was not allowed by the Church; period cramps were sent by God as a punishment for Eve’s sins after all. Throughout the 17th century linen pads were mostly used. In more modern times (18th century onwards) several technical devices like Hoosier sanitary belt (two words: metal panties) came into fashion. Luckily at present, us women have got a lot of healthier alternatives.
(Source: Medical Daily, Metro)
We all know the iconic VW van that still represents the time of hippies, flower power and Woodstock. How did this come about? Volkswagen started as a car brand that was affordable, which linked well with the hippie ideology of simple and primitive living. The German car was cheap and easy to maintain, which allowed them to save money and DIY on the vehicle, to make it as personalised as possible. They specifically liked the VW Type 2, which was very spacious and thus fitted their wandering existence perfectly: there was enough space for people to live and sleep in.
What was the pirate’s code?
If you’ve ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean, you will have head of the phrase “The Code”. But what did this “Code” mean? Was it an actual thing? For the purpose of creating some order amidst all the chaos on sea, there was an actual Pirate Code. It was democratic, specific and absolutely inviolable: consequences for breaking it were brutal. Every pirate was equal, in the sense that every man had a vote when it came to affairs on the ship. However, discipline was harsh, and the Captain’s word was the law. The most important matters that were written down in The Code:
– Food and drink will be shared equally among all the men
– No fighting among the crew
– Always keep your pistol loaded and ready to fire
– No theft
– Workmen’s compensation (if a limb was lost, 800 pieces of eight would be given to the unfortunate soul)
– No sex on board
– No gambling
– Everyone fights: there is no room for cowards!
Most of these, if not adhered to, were punishable by death, marooning; abandoning the guilty one on a deserted island, or keelhauling: tying the sailor to a line and dragging it along the keel of the boat. Chances of survival were small. In general, the life of a pirate was very short. If he didn’t get killed, seriously wounded or hung by the government, he’d most likely be doing things that weren’t allowed by the code. Pirates were very aware of their short life spans, and therefore made the most of their times out in the ports.
(Source: The Vintage News)