We have this idea that history was all pomp and circumstance, and despite this site's best efforts to ruin/improve your understanding, it's a myth that persists. Case in point: There are certain places that you immediately think of as being boring forever. But once you dig into the richness of history, you kinda find the badass, surprising, and occasionally stupid secrets that have been kept buried. Like how ...
Although we're fairly certain that nobody reading this was there at the time, you probably have an idea in your head of what the tomb of King Tut must have looked like when they opened it up in 1922. Surely, the archaeologists were greeted by cascading piles of gold treasure, well-preserved scrolls describing lost-long wisdom of the ages, and at least one ancient booby trap containing a skeleton with an explorer hat, right? Nope! It mostly looked like piles of millennia-old crap, like a dud episode of Storage Wars.
You see, packing for a long vacation is always stressful, and it was the same for the Ancient Egyptians, except a little more death-y. It was a popular belief that the afterlife was basically another life (nowlife?), and that whatever possessions you packed in your tomb, well ... that was it. You were stuck with them forever, because the next realm had little in the way of IKEA and Walmart. And Tut, being a one-percenter, had more death baggage to pack than most.
The tomb, known by the droid-esque name of KV62, was so tightly packed with miscellenea that it took nearly ten years to catalog and empty the place. This might sound like the archaeologists were milking their overtime pay, but KV62 contained, give or take, 5,000 antique, fragile-as-hell objects, including six chariots, chests of jewelry, enough weapons to outfit an army, 30 jars of wine, more board games than an old folks' home, countless statues and ornaments, and over a hundred walking sticks. That's not even including, you know, the gold-plated body. The real curse, it turns out, was compulsive hoarding.
The samurai are considered to be one of history's greatest fighting forces, whose very name invokes images of honor, badassery, and people getting sworded through their chests, Alien-style. The Sphinx is one of history's greatest icons, reminiscent of empire and lore and mystery and big-ass cat people. Combine the two, and you've got yourself a surefire blockbuster summer hit, possibly about time travel and definitely starring Mark Wahlberg.
Or this photo, whatever.
This photograph from 1864 shows a group of fully decked-out samurai, complete with the costumes, hats, and swords that you're already picturing in your mind's eye, relaxing in front of the Sphinx like they're on a brocation. And to be fair, they kinda were. The guys were travelling to France as part of the Ikeda Mission, a diplomatic mission so important that they simply couldn't resist the urge to have a pit stop and make every holiday photo you've ever and will ever take look like a crusty dog turd by comparison.
Washington, D.C. is fetid swampland, both metaphorically and literally. In its early days, before America was even a thing, it was a low-lying marsh known as Tiber Creek, and it was this way until the late 1800s, when the creek was dredged and dried out to create this magnificen- oh.
This photo of the Lincoln Memorial was taken in 1917, which is both shockingly modern and, in terms of demonstrating how well we're doing at hashtag draining the swamp, a very effective visual metaphor. The greenery isn't the result of having sent all the gardeners and horticulturalists to get machine-gunned in equally damp conditions (although construction of the memorial's interior had stalled by this time for this reason); it's the swamp trying to reclaim the land. By 1922, we'd won that war and locked the nature beneath a solid foundation of concrete, tarmac, cherry blossoms, and intern skeletons, where it sits bubbling away, waiting.
It's fair to say that even the most anti-sports among us like it when sporting events go big -- the Superbowl, the FA Cup, the World Polo Championship, etc. There's just something about spectacle and frenzied crowds that makes the hateful, cynical part of our brains switch off, although that's also a common side effect of drinking so much beer that your bar tab can be measured in kegs.
It was the same in the old-timey days, although the events were ... a little different.
Take this gigantic chess match played in St. Petersburg's Palace Square between the mightiest nerds of 1924, Peter Romanovsky and Ilya Rabinovich, who called their moves in via telephone. This wasn't just some geek shit, either. It was part of a huge government push to get more young people interested in chess than Russia's other popular youth activity of the day, shooting aristocrats in basements. As a result, the pieces were cosplayed by the military, with the Red Army representing the black pieces and the Soviet Navy representing the white ones. There's no word on who won the match, but we can bet that both players duked it out relentlessly for the grand prize of coming in second place and not having their lunch money stolen by Lenin.
The Supreme Court is possibly the most important court in the land, after those of the "food," "basketball," and "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's" variety. It's where gavels are banged, arguments are settled, and bitterly sarcastic judgments are made. In other words, it's as boring as any other non-TV courtroom ... except for the bizarre rule that photography is completely banned, to the extent that all electronic devices are confiscated, no less in an age where even our shoes are hardwired.
Of course, if you tell a mouse that cookies aren't allowed, that mouse is going to chew through your walls and eat cookies right in front of your stupid face. Behold, the forbidden sight:
The only two photos in existence of the Supreme Court come courtesy of 1932 and 1937, back when Judge Scalia hadn't yet watched his parents be gunned down in an alleyway by progressivism. The first photo, daringly reprinted above, was taken by Erich Salmon, who faked a broken arm and hid a camera inside the sling, showing a degree of inventiveness only matched by horny teenagers in '80s sex comedies.
The second was taken by an anonymous woman who cut out a hole in her purse, slipped a camera inside, and mastered shooting from the hip so as to avoid suspicion.
As far as video goes, there's also this tantalizing piece shot by Citizens United protesters in 2014, after they interrupted deliberations to rally against big money in politics, but got served a hearty dose of security boot heels inside their bungholes.
But don't worry, no one's gonna come arrest you just for watch- hold up, someone's at the door.
Did you know they're still making Polaroid-style cameras? The printed photo, making a comeback!
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