59 votes
Accepted

Why does the Great Wall of China follow such a bendy route?

The Chinese designed the wall to be an effective barrier; that was the goal. To answer your question, we need to ask: what land barrier stopped foreign troops the best? The answer in China, and ...
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  • 7,212
46 votes
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How were medieval castles built in swamps or marshes without draining them?

As noted, this type of castle was extremely common. Harburg (Horeburg/near Hamburg), the first castle at Danzig are perhaps the most famous of these. They were most often built along the Northern ...
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  • 77.2k
37 votes
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How were horses disembarked from sail ships?

Basically three options: 1. Ramp or gangway: The easiest and most preferable way. Might require specialised or retrofitted ships: (extreme left, vertically centered, click to enlarge) (Ottomans ...
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  • 77.2k
28 votes

What is this old farm "combine"?

The machine the tractor is pulling is a grain reaper-binder, possibly a McCormick-Deering. The reaper-binder, or binder, is a farm implement that improved upon the simple reaper. The binder was ...
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  • 1,116
26 votes
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When did horseback riding start? Are Doosheh cave petroglyphs authentic and correctly dated?

There seems to be something going on of the quite unreliable kind. The generally accepted 'history' and datings of horse domestication and riding practices are quite at odds with the dates for cave ...
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  • 77.2k
24 votes
Accepted

What were shoe soles made from in previous ages?

Leather was probably the most common material. The most basic transportation technology of the medieval era was the foot ... Those who did not go barefoot ... wore simple shoes. These shoes were ...
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  • 96.2k
20 votes

Why does the Great Wall of China follow such a bendy route?

The Great Wall of China: It is the longest man-made construction in the world. In the old times, it was of great military importance of preventing the enemies' intrusion and was regarded as the '...
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  • 1,904
18 votes

What were shoe soles made from in previous ages?

One kind of shoe not mentioned in the other answers are those using bast soles. "Bast" is fiber from tree bark. Bast shoes or lapti, were once worn by poorer members of Northern European cultures. ...
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  • 17.9k
16 votes
Accepted

How did lecturers magnify their voice in the days before amplification?

From my knowledge as a theatre historian and speech coach, I would say, it is probably a combination of: Projection and enunciation. Not only speaking loudly, but speaking clearly and probably a bit ...
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  • 1,493
16 votes

What is this old farm "combine"?

The "contraption" looks like a Reaper-binder A Massey-Harris reaper-binder pulled by a tractor (Rutland, England, 2008) The reaper-binder, or binder, is a farm implement that improved ...
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  • 77.2k
15 votes
Accepted

Study of causal structures and dynamics in history?

There is an emerging trans-disciplinary field called cliodynamics which studies these ideas. There's an open access journal, Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution, a ...
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  • 28.1k
15 votes
Accepted

How was body temperature checked before thermometers?

Adding to the previous answers regarding the use of the hand to assess body temperature, there have been several works which are quite suited to answer this question, which I hope to summarise here. ...
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11 votes
Accepted

How long did it take to build earth dikes with low-tech tools?

Julius Caesar is alleged to have completed a 25 mile double circumvallation (11 miles inner, 14 miles outer) of Alesia in 30 days, with approximately 50,000 men - though at all times, of course, some ...
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11 votes

Did anyone interweave blue and red threads in order to give the illusion of purple cloth before purple dye became cheap?

Speaking as a lazy crochet artist and textile enthusiast, most people have pointed out the dye aspects regarding purple colors very well. Meanwhile, I'll just point out that weaving blue and red ...
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  • 464
10 votes

How were horses disembarked from sail ships?

As noted in a comment there's a section of the Bayeux tapestry that depicts a horse being transported and another being led out of the water. Digging a bit deeper though, it looks like there was a bit ...
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9 votes

What were shoe soles made from in previous ages?

In Europe, different demands were placed on shoes based on different climates. People around the Mediterranean tended to wear sandals with wooden soles and leather thongs due to the warmer climate. ...
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  • 1,212
9 votes

How was body temperature checked before thermometers?

Avicenna (980–1037) said that fever was the increased temperature of the heart (Canon I, part 4), so he checked the temperature by touching the chest over the heart with the hand. This system was ...
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8 votes

How did lecturers magnify their voice in the days before amplification?

Project with a full lung Filling your lungs forces the air out more effortlessly and with more volume The Amphitheater The Amphitheater was designed to create a natural amplification of voices on ...
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8 votes
Accepted

What was the source for Adam's children in the endnotes to Josephus' "The Antiquities of the Jews"?

The footnotes on this (and other editions of Josephus) seem to be referring to pages in A Collection of Authentick Records Belonging to the Old and New Testament by William Whiston. In this case, ...
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8 votes

When did horseback riding start? Are Doosheh cave petroglyphs authentic and correctly dated?

Farsi wikipedia gives a number of different ages for those paintings (please note that my Farsi is not particularly good and English is just my second language, so the translation is probably ...
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  • 6,123
7 votes

How were medieval castles built in swamps or marshes without draining them?

Calvörde Castle in Saxony-Anhalt is an example of a rather common (to my great surprise) phenomena - the Marsh Castle. It guarded transportation routes between Brandenburg, Brunswick, and Magdeburg.
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6 votes
Accepted

How long did it take to bind a book in 13th century England?

My grandfather was a antiquarian book store owner in 1920s, in Kiev (Ukraine), and he bound books (I possess some books bound by him). With all ingredients ready he was able to bind 2-3 books per day,...
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  • 37.5k
6 votes

Did anyone interweave blue and red threads in order to give the illusion of purple cloth before purple dye became cheap?

Short answer — frame challenge: Of course 'someone' did that, perhaps quite early on, we can quite safely assume. Although hard evidence for that is scarce and presented here only with one concrete ...
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  • 77.2k
6 votes

Is there a name for the critical method of assessing historical narratives via the consultation of primary sources?

Historians agree that historiographic reading of the documentary record of the past, may produce sustainable historical accounts. They disagree on: what constitutes the documentary record of the ...
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5 votes

When did spotlights begin to be used at lectures?

Before electrical lighting, there was gas lighting. One type of gas operated light is the limelight, where a piece of quicklime is heated white hot in a flame of hydrogen burning with pure oxygen. ...
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  • 311
5 votes

Study of causal structures and dynamics in history?

You may find the field of "big history" relevant to your interests. David Christian's book Maps of Time is an excellent introduction. This work isn't as quantitatively oriented as what you are looking ...
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  • 17.5k
5 votes

How would a 16-17th Century European Rapier have been made?

First of all, swords are made from steel and casting steel is an advanced technology not available in the 17th century. Swords and all other steel tools are forged, which means that the steel ingot ...
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  • 37.3k
5 votes
Accepted

How would a 16-17th Century European Rapier have been made?

Since times immemorial, most all types of swords were made by forging rather than casting. Casting a sword is visually appealing, which is why you see that in the movies, but was not used in practice ...
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  • 1,568
5 votes

Fish/Shark skin sandpaper

A) The earliest documentation I've found regarding the use of sharkskin as sandpaper goes back to the British Empire in the mid 18th century. Sharkskin was apparently only used to finish very fine ...
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  • 17.9k
5 votes

How was body temperature checked before thermometers?

The standard way to check it is to touch one's forehead with your hand or better with your lips. You immediately detect whether the temperature of the patient is higher or lower than your own. This ...
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