The real Pocahontas was nothing like the Pocahontas depicted in Disney’s 1995 animated classic. There are a multitude of ways that Disney lies about, or at the very least exaggerates, the life of Pocahontas, but they’re not the only culprits when it comes to spreading falsehoods about the Native American princess (who wasn’t actually a princess, by the way). The history of Pocahontas has been riddled with dramatizations, oversimplifications, and outright lies from the very beginning – and all of that dishonesty only adds to the tragedy that is Pocahontas’s true life story.
The truth about Pocahontas is infinitely sadder than the bright and cheery, wind-color-painting version presented in popular culture. Her interactions with English settlers were far less whimsical and musical than Disney would have you believe; it was instead the sort of violent and prejudiced interaction that we’ve come to expect from that era. Pocahontas herself is still an inspiring and important historical figure, but her actual life story is not a feel-good tale about the common threads between people of different backgrounds. Instead, it’s the exact opposite.
Pocahontas Was Kidnapped And Held For Ransom By The English
Pocahontas’s most significant interaction with the English was a lot less Disney-friendly than popular culture would have you believe, and it was far more indicative of the real relationship between colonists and Native Americans. Unhappy with Chief Powhatan, a group of English settlers paid a rival Native Ameriacn group to coerce Pocahontas onto an English ship so that she could be held for ransom. Captain Samuel Argall ordered her capture, and then compensated the Native Americans who helped him with a copper kettle for their troubles.
She Was Born Into Royalty – Kind Of
Pocahontas is known as being one of the main Disney princesses, but that is only partially true historically. Pocahontas was the daughter of Chief Powhatan, the head of a major alliance of Algonquin-speaking groups, which was one of the largest alliances in North America. The area he represented was known as the Tsenacommacah. However, Pocahontas had 26 brothers and sisters to share her status with, so she was far from the only royal child running around Tsenacommacah, even if she was reportedly the chief’s favorite daughter. The chiefdom did not share its power hereditarily, either, so the idea of Pocahontas being royalty is not exactly true.
Pocahontas Was Only One Of Her Names
Pocahontas is the most common name that we know this important historical figure by, but it might actually be the least formal name she held. “Pocahontas” was a mildly pejorative nickname that translated into something along the lines of “spoiled child.” She was also known as Mataoka for most of her childhood and later went by the name of Amonute. Then, after her conversion to Christianity, she became known as Rebecca – a name she would carry until her death.
The John Smith Story Is Likely BS
The tale most commonly told about Pocahontas might not even be a real story at all. Supposedly, Pocahontas saved the English colonist John Smith from execution at the hands of her father, and then the two went on to begin a romantic relationship. Apparently, the love between the two helped the European settlers of Jamestown get along with the Native Americans for a brief period.
But some question whether or not Smith was ever in any real danger, whereas others question whether the meeting ever even happened. John Smith earned the reputation of being a bit of an exaggerator, and there’s no direct evidence that his interaction with Pocahontas or her father ever occurred. Most sources believe that Pocahontas would have been about 11 years old when the meeting was said to have happened, which is far too young for a romance between the two.
Smith Only Linked Himself To Pocahontas After She Became A Minor Celebrity
John Smith didn’t write about his rescue by, or romance with, Pocahontas until more than 15 years after it supposedly happened. What’s more, Smith wrote plenty during and about the time period when his adventures with Pocahontas were said to have occurred, but failed to mention her at all. In fact, when Smith did finally write about her, she had already become a celebrity in England, thanks to her marriage to a different Englishman and her subsequent cross-ocean visit, which makes it pretty likely that Smith just crafted a lie to try to cash in on her fame.
Pocahontas Was Tatted Up And Had A Wicked Fashion Sense
When she hit adulthood at the frighteningly young age of 14, Pocahontas began to turn her eyes toward marriage. During her courting days, she was known to rock a fashionable and alluring one-strapped deerskin dress, which was a real hit with the fellas. She also began to cover her skin in traditional tattoos, making her look like quite the badass. Eventually, Pocahontas would journey to Europe, where she adapted to local fashion with aplomb and sported some pretty bitchin’ hats.
Pocahontas Was Already Married To A Local Warrior
If John Smith and Pocahontas did have any sort of romantic relationship, it is certain that they never joined each other in wedded bliss. Pocahontas did get married on two occasions in her life, including once at the age of 14 or so to a Native American warrior known as Kocoum. Little is known about Kocoum, but he appears to have been some sort of military leader and is referred to by some sources as a “captain.” Others suggest that Kocoum was one of Pocahontas’s father’s bodyguards. The fact that she did not marry a man of high political standing mean that she probably married Kocoum for love, but the marriage apparently did not last.
She Went On A Diplomatic Mission To Avoid War
While held for ransom in Jamestown, Pocahontas became inculcated in European customs, language, and religion. Her forced education made her a convenient diplomat and go-between for the English colonists to use in negotiations with Native Americans. Oddly enough, Pocahontas was sent to her father to defuse the tense situation that had begun with her own kidnapping. Pocahontas won peace by assuring her father that she was happy with the English and would rather stay with them than return home, an act that ultimately prevented more bloodshed between the two groups.
Pocahontas Became A Symbol Of Peace And Religious Conversion
Much of the mythology surrounding the story of Pocahontas can clearly be tied to the fact that she became a symbol of peace to the English. The fact that her conversion to Christianity came while she was a prisoner did not dissuade the Europeans from using her as a textbook example of the power of their religion and its ability to bring peace to diverse groups of people. Her assimilation into English culture became an impetus to insist that all Native American people should be converted to Christianity and “civilized” by whatever means necessary.
Pocahontas Gained Her Real Fame By Marrying An Englishman
Pocahontas did actually gain worldwide fame and historical notoriety because of a romantic relationship with an Englishman, but it was not John Smith. Rather, Pocahontas met a wealthy widower named John Rolfe during her time in captivity, and the two soon married. Rolfe was coming over to Virginia to farm tobacco, but he lost his wife and child on the journey across the ocean. The two were eventually married on April 5, 1614, and their son, Thomas, was born about a year later. The family lived on Rolfe’s tobacco farm for a number of years, and their steady marriage was yet another reason for sustained peace between the colonists and her father’s people. This was the first recorded interracial marriage in North American history.
Pocahontas Went On Tour As A Curiosity In England
After a few years of marriage, John Rolfe and Pocahontas, then known as Rebecca Rolfe, sailed back to England in 1616. The arrival of a Native American “princess” was much hyped, and she was described as the “daughter of the most powerful prince of the Powhatan Empire of Virginia.” She was treated as a curiosity by most, but she was relatively well-treated during a whirlwind tour of England. While there, Pocahontas was the guest of honor at some grand balls, attended plays, and even met the king and queen. She also reportedly ran into John Smith, but didn’t speak to him, giving further evidence that his story is bologna.
Pocahontas Died On Her Way Back To North America
After her whirlwind tour of England in 1616, Rebecca Rolfe was set to return to her home continent in 1617. Sadly, she would not make it back to Virginia, and in fact would not even make it to the ocean. While sailing down the Thames River, Pocahontas fell ill with an unknown sickness, which has been speculated to be pneumonia or dysentery. She and her family were taken ashore at the town of Gravesend, where Pocahontas would die at the age of 21. John Rolfe returned to Virginia alone, having left his also-ailing son back in England, and shortly after his arrival, his father-in-law, Powhatan, also died. The peace that Pocahontas had helped forge then slowly began to unravel.
Her Son, Thomas Rolfe, Became One Of The Wealthiest Men In The New World
Unlike his mother, Thomas Rolfe survived his sickness, and eventually returned to North America, although not for some time. His father, John Rolfe, died in 1622, but Thomas did not return to Virginia until 1635. Although the Powhatan Empire did not consider Thomas for the leadership role vacated by his grandfather, they did grant the son of Pocahontas thousands of acres of land along the James River. Thomas would use this inheritance to become the wealthiest tobacco farmer in the New World, and he also had a daughter, Jane, who ensured that Pocahontas’s bloodline would live on for generations to come.
(For the source of this, and many other interesting historical articles, please visit: https://www.ranker.com/list/facts-about-the-real-pocahontas/stephanroget/)
Googling “mysterious ancient discoveries” or “unexplained ancient inventions” leads to dozens of sites listing artifacts supposedly so baffling the only possible answer could be aliens, time travel, the paranormal, the Iluminati, or aliens. Wait – did we already mention aliens? Sorry: they’re a go-to explanation for anything apparently too sophisticated, weird, or “out-of-place” for “humans figured it out, okay?” to be a satisfying explanation.
It’s a disheartening discovery, because once you separate the hoaxes and nonsense from the finds of actual archeological interest, there are still cool mysteries to explore. The list below features mysterious ancient inventions, unexplained ancient discoveries, and some slightly more recent finds still baffling to scientists in the 21st century – but not because they’re a sign of alien tech. Give ancient humanity a little more credit, y’know?
Deadly “Greek Fire” Was a Family Secret
It’s not like anyone is aching for napalm to make a comeback, but scientists and historians are nonetheless very curious about 7th-century “Greek Fire,” a deadly proto-napalm fired from ships that “would cling to flesh and was impossible to extinguish with water.” Sounds like a nightmare!
The Byzantine Empire wielded it with aplomb, but, like Coca-Cola Classic and Bush’s Baked Beans, the recipe for Greek Fire™ was a protected family secret. National Geographic pulled a Mythbusters and took a guess at the ingredients in 2002, using a “bronze pump” and a “mixture of light crude oil and pine resin.” The results? It destroyed a ship “in minutes.” Good guess!
The Recipe for Damascus Steel Remains a Mystery
Returning from the Crusades, a lot of perplexed Europeans started talking about swords wielded by Islamic warriors “that could slice through a floating handkerchief, bend 90 degrees and flex back with no damage.” Fast-forward to the 21st century and the recipe for so-called “Damascus steel” is still a mystery.
The best guess is that the blades consisted of “crucible steel,” which is created by melting iron with plant matter. Still, no one knows the specific type of crucible steel used to yield such a blade. It might as well be a lightsaber.
The Voynich Manuscript May Ultimately Just Be Indecipherable
If you haven’t heard of the Voynich Manuscript, you’re in for a treat. Researchers say the absolutely bonkers, hand-written and hand-drawn manuscript, featuring text in an indecipherable language and hundreds of illustrations including “a myriad of drawings of miniature female nudes, most with swelled abdomens, immersed or wading in fluids and oddly interacting with interconnecting tubes and capsules,” was created by someone sometime during the 15th century in Central Europe. A Polish-American antiquarian bookseller named Wilfrid M. Voynich acquired it in 1912. Other than that, who knows? It’s a total mystery.
If it’s supposed to mean anything or help people understand anything, it has failed miserably. That said, it is one of the few genuine mysteries out there. Do yourself a favor: jump down the Voynich rabbit hole. Just don’t blame Ranker if you lose your mind a little.
The Antikythera Mechanism Is a Mysterious Astrological Calendar
Unlike the Roman dodecahedra, scientists have a pretty good idea what the so-called Antikythera Mechanism is all about. Discovered at the bottom of the sea in 1901, the intricate device was likely constructed around the end of the second century BC. It “calculated and displayed celestial information, particularly cycles such as the phases of the moon and a luni-solar calendar,” according to research compiled in Nature.
But we still don’t know who built it, who used it, and what they used it for, exactly. It’s also still unclear why it is “technically more complex than any known device for at least a millennium afterwards,” to quote the Nature abstract, which prompted a zillion “ancient aliens” and “TIME TRAVEL IS REAL!!” blog posts after it was published in 2006.
But history, as Brian Dunning of Skeptoid notes, tells us similar gear-based technology was around two and a half millennia prior, and Occam’s Razor tells us any “siblings” of the Antikythera Mechanism, like most commonplace bronze objects of the period, were likely “recycled” into other objects. It’s still mysterious, just for less sexy reasons than some might think.
Zhang Heng’s Seismoscope Detected Earthquakes (Somehow)
The first earthquake-detecting tool in history was this ornate, golden, dragon-festooned, toad-surrounded vessel from around 132 AD. The picture is of a replica, but you get the idea, right? No? Okay, here’s the idea: when the earth quakes, one of the dragons, each representing principal directions of the compass, would spit out a ball into a toad’s mouth, indicating the direction of the quake.
The instrument was said to have “detected a four-hundred-mile distant earthquake which was not felt at the location of the seismoscope.” Either that, or someone bumped up against it, because to this day, no one actually knows what was really inside the thing. (More dragons, maybe?) Some say it could have been a simple pendulum-based system, but the exact “science” remains a mystery.
It’s Unclear How Vikings Made Their Ulfberht Swords
Speaking of insane swords – the Vikings may have used techniques or materials borrowed from the creators of Damascus steel to make their legendary “Ulfberht” swords. When archeologists discovered the Viking blades, they were shocked because “the technology needed to produce such pure metal would not be invented for another 800 years.”
But in 2014, a 9th-century Viking grave was discovered in Scandanavia with an Islamic inscription meaning “for/to Allah,” linking the two worlds and making the shared knowledge plausible – but that’s just a guess. The true origin of the blades is still unknown.
Scientists Disagree About Why the Iron Pillar of Delhi Won’t Rust
The more-than-1600-year-old “Iron Pillar of Delhi” has scientists divided about its weird resistance to rust. There are two schools of thought: Team Environment says the mild climate of Delhi, India, is ultimately to thank. Right place, right time, essentially. Team Materials says it’s all about the “presence of phosphorus, and absence of sulfur [and] manganese in the iron,” plus the “large mass of the pillar.”
One thing both camps agree on? It’s a total mystery how the rust-resistant iron lumps were “forge-welded to produce the massive six-ton structure.” Regardless, it’s an impressive piece of engineering.
The Phaistos Disk Could Be a Prayer or an Ancient Typewriter
This giant sugar cookie is a head-scratcher, for sure, but there are some interesting theories out there. Discovered in 1908 in Crete, this 6-inch diameter clay disk dates back to around 1700 BC and features 241 “words” created out of 45 individual symbols, arranged in a spiral.
Roman Dodecahedra Might Just Be Candlesticks
If you think these little bronze guys would make excellent paperweights or tchotchkes – well, so did the ancient Romans, maybe? We honestly have no idea. They could have been useless objects meant for decoration, a conversation piece for the 2nd-to-4th-century Roman equivalent of coffee tables.
George Hart of Stony Brook University notes dozens of these twelve-sided, 4-to-11 cm. spheroids have been found throughout Europe, yet the Romans made no mention of them. Guesses include candle stands, flower stands, surveying instruments, finger ring-size gauges, and even D&D-style dice. Maybe the ancient Romans were pen-and-paper stylus-and-papyrus RPG enthusiasts?
It’s Unclear What the Giant Balls of Costa Rica Were Used For
Scientists have a pretty good idea how these giant, ancient stone balls found in Costa Rica were formed. From around ca. 200 BC to AD 800, natives used “fracture, pecking, and grinding” techniques to reduce granodiorite, a large igneous stone, into these pleasing spheres. What’s mysterious is why they did it.
Ultimately, it may never be understood, since vandals have moved almost all of them from their original locations, making it impossible to test theories about their use as calendars or navigational tools. Some gullible vandals even blew the balls up, hoping to find gold in them thar balls. (They didn’t.)
(For the source of this, and many other interesting history-related articles, please visit: https://www.ranker.com/list/mysterious-ancient-scientific-discoveries-and-inventions/kellen-perry/)
Her discovery of nuclear fission led the way to nuclear power—and the Cold War
– the physical process by which very large atoms like uranium split into pairs of smaller atoms – is what makes and possible. But for many years, physicists believed it energetically impossible for atoms as large as uranium (atomic mass = 235 or 238) to be split into two.
That all changed on Feb. 11, 1939, with a of Nature – a premier international scientific journal – that described exactly how such a thing could occur and even named it fission. In that letter, physicist Lise Meitner, with the assistance of her young nephew , provided a physical explanation of how nuclear fission could happen.
It was a massive leap forward in nuclear physics, but today Lise Meitner remains obscure and largely forgotten. She was excluded from the victory celebration because she was a Jewish woman. Her story is a sad one.
What happens when you split an atom
Meitner based her fission argument on the “” of nuclear structure – a model that likened the forces that hold the atomic nucleus together to the surface tension that gives a water droplet its structure.
She noted that the surface tension of an atomic nucleus weakens as the charge of the nucleus increases, and could even approach zero tension if the nuclear charge was very high, as is the case for uranium (charge = 92+). The lack of sufficient nuclear surface tension would then allow the nucleus to split into two fragments when struck by a – a chargeless subatomic particle – with each fragment carrying away very high levels of kinetic energy. Meisner remarked: “The whole ‘fission’ process can thus be described in an essentially classical [physics] way.” Just that simple, right?
Meitner went further to explain how her scientific colleagues had gotten it wrong. When scientists bombarded uranium with neutrons, they believed the uranium nucleus, rather than splitting, captured some neutrons. These captured neutrons were then converted into positively charged protons and thus transformed the uranium into the incrementally larger elements on the – the so-called “,” or beyond uranium, elements.
Some people were skeptical that neutron bombardment could produce transuranium elements, including – Marie Curie’s daughter – and Meitner. Joliot-Curie had found that one of these new alleged transuranium elements actually behaved chemically just like , the element her mother had discovered. Joliot-Curie suggested that it might be just radium (atomic mass = 226) – an element somewhat smaller than uranium – that was coming from the neutron-bombarded uranium.
Meitner had an alternative explanation. She thought that, rather than radium, the element in question might actually be – an element with a chemistry very similar to radium. The issue of radium versus barium was very important to Meitner because barium (atomic mass = 139) was a possible fission product according to her split uranium theory, but radium was not – it was too big (atomic mass = 226).
When a neutron bombards a uranium atom, the uranium nucleus splits into two different smaller nuclei. Stefan-Xp/Wikimedia Commons
Meitner urged her chemist colleague to try to further purify the uranium bombardment samples and assess whether they were, in fact, made up of radium or its chemical cousin barium. Hahn complied, and he found that Meitner was correct: the element in the sample was indeed barium, not radium. Hahn’s finding suggested that the uranium nucleus had split into pieces – becoming two different elements with smaller nuclei – just as Meitner had suspected.
As a Jewish woman, Meitner was left behind
Meitner should have been the hero of the day, and the physicists and chemists should have jointly published their findings and waited to receive the world’s accolades for their discovery of nuclear fission. But unfortunately, that’s not what happened.
Meitner had two difficulties: She was a Jew living as an exile in Sweden because of the Jewish persecution going on in Nazi Germany, and she was a woman. She might have overcome either one of these obstacles to scientific success, but both proved insurmountable.