Why Did Some Early Human Societies Practice Violent Human Sacrifice?

Illustration of ritualised human sacrifice in traditional Hawaiian culture, as documented by the French explorer and artists Jaques Arago in 1819.Arago, Jacques. (1822). Promenade autour du monde: pendant les années 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820, sur les corvettes du roi l’Uranie et la Physicienne, commandées par M. Freycinet Human sacrifice seems horrifying and costly. But there[…]

African Tools Push Back the Origin of Human Technological Innovation

By about 320,000 years ago, humans in Kenya began using color pigments and manufacturing more sophisticated tools. Human Origins Program, Smithsonian Scientists have discovered sophisticated tools in Kenya that are much older than expected.    By Dr. Patrick Randolph-Quinney (left) and Dr. Anthony Sinclair (right) / 03.15.2018 Randolph-Quinney: Reader/Associate Professor in Biological and Forensic Anthropology, University of Central Lancashire Sinclair: Professor of Archaeological[…]

Ancient DNA Reveals How Europeans Developed Light Skin and Lactose Intolerance

Slurp and thank the Yamnaya. Samantha Jade Royds/Flickr, CC BY-SA Shedding light on how have traits that were rare in African ancestors became common in Europe. By Dr. Daniel Zadik / 07.10.2015 Postdoctoral Researcher in Genetics University of Leicester Food intolerance is often dismissed as a modern invention and a “first-world problem”. However, a study analysing the genomes of 101 Bronze-Age Eurasians reveals[…]

Ancient DNA Sheds Light on the Origin of Europeans

Ancient DNA can tell you a lot more than skull shape about the origins of the first Europeans. Flickr/Sebastian Dooris , CC BY Capturing ancient genomes gives us valuable information.    By Dr. David Lambert (left) and Dr. Micheal Westaway (right) / 11.15.2014 Lambert: Dean Research Griffith Sciences and Professor of Evolutionary Biology Westaway: Senior Research Fellow Griffith University Much[…]

How the Greeks Used Geometry to Understand the Stars

10th century CE Greek copy of Aristarchus of Samos’s calculations of the relative sizes of the sun, moon and the earth. / Konstable, Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Michael Fowler Maxine S. and Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics , Physics Education,Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics University of Virginia Crystal Spheres: Plato, Eudoxus, Aristotle Plato, with his belief that the world[…]

Greek Science after Aristotle

By Dr. Michael Fowler Maxine S. and Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics , Physics Education,Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics University of Virginia Strato Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Strato. Part of a fresco in the National University of Athens. / Wikimedia Commons Aristotle’s analysis of motion was criticized by Strato (who died around 268 B.C., he is sometimes called Straton), known as[…]

Children and Youth in Ancient China

Damen bearbeiten neue Seide, by Meister nach Chang Hsüan / The Yorck Project via Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Anne Kinney Professor of East Asian Languages, Literature and Cultures University of Virginia The unprecedented interest in the child who assumed unique importance in the Han period was set into motion by a convergence of historically-specific conditions: (1)[…]

In a World with No Antibiotics, How Did Doctors Treat Infections?

Bloodletting was treatment for infection in the past. Wellcome Library, London, CC BY While some ancient therapies proved effective enough that they are still used in some form today, on the whole they just aren’t as good as modern antimicrobials at treating infections. By Dr. Cristie Columbus / 01.29.2016 Associate Dean Campus – Dallas Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine Texas A&M University The development of antibiotics and[…]

Anthropology of Ancient Greece

Porch of Maidens, Acroplis, Athens / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Marcel Detienne Basil L. Gildersleeve Professor of Classics Emeritus Johns Hopkins University Our history begins with the Greeks. – Ernest Lavisse Back in the mists of time, long before the emergence of articulate language, the human race discovered that it possessed the power to imagine[…]

Ancients, Medievals, and Motion in the Heavens

Celestial map from 1670, by the Dutch cartographer Frederik de Wit / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Michael Fowler / 07.23.2015 Maxine S. and Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics , Physics Education,Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics University of Virginia Introduction The purpose of this lecture is just to review the various motions observed in the heavens in the simplest,[…]

Bronze Patinas, Noble and Vile

Torso of a Youth (“The Vani Torso”) (detail), Colchian, 100–200 B.C. Bronze, 41 3/4 in. high. Georgian National Museum, Vani Archaeological Museum-Reserve. Photo: Rob Harrell, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution The surfaces of ancient bronze sculptures have a lot to say about where they’ve spent the last 2,000 years.[…]

What Ancient Cultures Teach Us about Grief, Mourning, and Continuity of Life

Day of the dead at a Mexican cemetery. © Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA Many in the Western world lack the explicit mourning rituals that help people deal with loss. Two scholars describe ancient mourning practices.    By Dr. Daniel Wojcik (left) and Dr. Robert Dobler (right) / 11.01.2017 Wojcik: Professor of English and Folklore Studies, University of[…]

An Overview and History of Zoroastrianism, One of the World’s Oldest Religions

Plaque with a Priest from the Oxus Treasure, 500–330 B.C., Achaemenid. Gold, 5 7/8 x 2 15/16 in. The British Museum. Image courtesy of and © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved Looking closely at the objects displayed with the Cyrus Cylinder to find symbols of the ancient religion of Persia—Zoroastrianism.[…]

Kindred Skies: Ancient Greeks and Aboriginal Australians Saw Constellations in Common

Yurri and Wanjel – the Gemini stars Castor and Pollux in the Wergaia traditions of western Victoria, Australia. Stellarium/John Morieson and Alex Cherney, CC BY-SA Many of the constellations we know in the night sky come from myths of the ancientGreeks. But similar stories are told by the oldest living cultures on Earth, including those of Australia. By Dr. Duane M. Hamacher /[…]

Severed Limbs and Wooden Feet: How the Ancients Invented Prosthetics

By Dr. Jane Draycott / 05.17.2017 Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellow in Classics: Ancient Science and Technology University of Glasgow We are living through an incredibly exciting period for prosthetics. A pioneering brain computer interface that will allow veterans to control artificial body parts with their minds was recently announced by researchers in Virginia in the[…]

How Eclipses were Regarded as Omens in the Ancient World

More than 2,000 years ago, the Babylonians understood the cycle of eclipses. They also regarded them as signs that could foretell the death of a king. By Dr. Gonzalo Rubio / 08.08.2017 Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies Pennsylvania State University On Monday, August 21, people living in the continental United States will be able to see a total solar eclipse. Humans have been alternatively amused, puzzled,[…]

From the Pyramids to Stonehenge – Were Prehistoric People Astronomers?

Ricardo Liberato/wikimedia, CC BY-ND Understanding the past requires knowledge that goes beyond modern science. By Dr. Daniel Brown / 03.12.2018 Lecturer in Astronomy Nottingham Trent University Ever since humans could look up to see the sky, we have been amazed by its beauty and untold mysteries. Naturally then, astronomy is often described as the oldest of the sciences,[…]

What Does the Acropolis Mean? A Conversation with Historian Thomas Gallant

View of the Parthenon from the Propylaea, 1805, Simone Pomardi. Sepia, Sepia, 21 5/8 x 29 1/8 in. The Packard Humanities Institute Six questions for the historian about the monument in history and the imagination.    By David Saunders and Annelisa Stephan / 01.08.2016 Saunders: Curator, Department of Antiquities, J. Paul Getty Museum Stephan: Editor and Content[…]

Early Chinese Dynasties

Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 02.23.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief 1 – The Mythical Period 1.1 – Introduction 1.1.1 – Overview Early prehistoric China is called the “Mythical Period.” It encompassed the legends of Pangu, and the rule of the Three Sovereigns, and the Five Emperors. The period ended when the last Emperor, Shun, left[…]

Beyond Hieroglyphs: The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt

1 – Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Art 1.1 – Overview Ancient Egyptian art includes the painting, sculpture, architecture, and other arts produced by the civilization in the lower Nile Valley from 5000 BCE to 300 CE. Ancient Egyptian art reached considerable sophistication in painting and sculpture, and was both highly stylized and symbolic. Much of[…]

A History of ‘Kemet’ – Ancient Egypt

Image via Wikimedia Commons Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 02.16.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief 1 – Introduction to Ancient Egypt 1.1 – The Rise of Egyptian Civilization In prehistoric times (pre-3200 BCE), many different cultures lived in Egypt along the Nile River, and became progressively more sedentary and reliant on agriculture. By the time of[…]

Unlocking the Secrets of an Ancient Fountain

Peirene: General view of the spring facade, with Acrocorinth (the acropolis of ancient Corinth) in the background. Histories of Peirene, Robinson (2011), Figure 3 Do you picture archaeological sites as dry, dusty piles of stones? Meet Peirene, an ancient Greek ruin so tantalizing that archaeologists have literally died for it. Dry and dusty this place is[…]

Sicily: A Cultural Crossroads in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds

Bay of Palermo, Sicily, 1963, Samuel J. Magnolia. Mural painting, about 8 1/2 x 15 ft. Photo courtesy of Rosemarie Anne Keene A cultural crossroads since ancient times, Sicily took on a truly international character in the Middle Ages. By Dr. Bryan C. Keene / 05.30.2014 Adjunct Professor of Art History Pepperdine University My interest in art[…]

The History of the ‘Green Man’ in the Greek and Byzantine Worlds

Keystone in the Shape of a Foliate Face, about 1225–36, made in Stymphalia, Greece. Stone, probably sandstone, 14 9/16 x 20 1/16 x 17 11/16 in., 176.368 lb. Image courtesy of the Chloumoutsi (Clermont) Castle Museum, Ilia An unusual carved stone from Greece reveals the changing political landscape of the Byzantine world in the thirteenth[…]