The Khipu Code: The Knotty Mystery of the Inkas’ 3D Records

Khipu in the Museo Machu Picchu, Casa Concha, Cusco / Wikimedia Commons Instead of words or pictograms, the Inkas used khipus – knotted string devices – to communicate extraordinarily complex mathematical and narrative information. By Dr. Gary Urton (left) and Manuel Medrano (right) / 06.13.2018 Urton: Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies Medrano: Research Assistant, AB Candidate in Applied[…]

The History of Kathmandu Valley, as Told by Its Architecture

Kathmandu’s Darbar Square was one of the worst affected by the earthquake. Jool-yan/ Hundreds of monuments of the Kathmandu Valley’s World Heritage sites were completely destroyed on April 25. Here’s the story of a few of them. By Dr. Michael Hutt / 03.01.2015 Professor of Nepali and Himalayan Studies SOAS, University of London The Kathmandu Valley, which was already called “Nepal” centuries before the emergence of the modern[…]

Athena the Patron: The History of the Parthenon

The Parthenon seen from the hill of the Pnyx to the west / Wikimedia Commons The most recognized remaining architecture of Classical Athens and the culmination of the development of the Doric order. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 06.14.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief Introduction The Parthenon (Greek: Παρθενώνας) is a temple of the Greek goddess Athena built in the fifth century B.C.E. on the Acropolis[…]

Waterloo Won, War Over: The Painting that Captures the Moment

David Wilkie, Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Dispatch, 1822 How did the bulk of those at home in Britain find out the news of Waterloo? By Dr. Philip Shaw / 06.18.2015 Professor of Romantic Studies University of Leicester Picture the scene: it’s the summer of 1815 and a cluster of veterans huddled around an old pensioner reading from a newspaper[…]

‘Enlightened Despots’ in the Early Modern World

Equestrian portrait of Catherine in the Preobrazhensky Regiment’s uniform. / Wikimedia Commons Enlightened despotism, also called benevolent despotism, was a form of government in the 18th century in which absolute monarchs pursued legal, social, and educational reforms inspired by the Enlightenment. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 06.12.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief 1 – Frederick the Great and[…]

The Grim Reality of the Brothels of Pompeii

Brothels in Pompeii were decorated with murals depicting erotic and exotic scenes: but the reality was far more brutal and mundane. Thomas Shahan/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY Though their activities were depicted alluringly in murals, the sex workers of Pompeii were slaves who lived hard lives. By Dr. Marguerite Johnson / 12.12.2017 Professor of Classics University of Newcastle Like the anxious men who began excavations at[…]

The Erotic Art of Ancient Greece and Rome

A fragment of a wall painting showing two lovers in bed from the House of L Caecilius Jucundus in Pompeii, now at Naples National Archaeological Museum. Wikimedia Commons From phallus-shaped wind chimes to explicit erotica on lamps and cups, sex is everywhere in ancient Greek and Roman art. But our interpretations of these images say much about our own culture. By Dr. Craig Barker / 02.22.2018[…]

Elite Companions, Flute Girls, and Child Slaves: Sex Work in Ancient Athens

A painting depicting a debate between Socrates and Aspasia, by Nicolas André Monsiaux, circa 1800. Wikimedia Commons In Athenian society, it appears some elite courtesans were better educated than traditional wives. Other sex workers were sold into the role as children. By Dr. Marguerite Johnson / 12.20.2017 Professor of Classics University of Newcastle When the Athenian politician Pericles delivered his famous Funeral Oration at the[…]

The Truth about Sex in Ancient Greece

Studies of a reclining male nude: Adam in the fresco ‘The Creation of Man’ on the vault of the Sistine Chapel. c. 1511. Michelangelo. © The Trustees of the British Museum Here are the facts behind four commonly held beliefs about Ancient Greek sexuality. By Dr. James Robson / 04.01.2015 Senior Lecturer in Classics The Open University While we gaze at serene[…]

Andrew Johnson, Impeachment, and Reconstruction

Boston Public Library, Flickr, Creative Commons How have historians interpreted the impact of the failed impeachment attempt of Andrew Johnson? By Dr. Alan Gevinson Specialist Assistant to the Chief, NAVCC Library of Congress Project Director, American Archive of Public Broadcasting, Library of Congress Council on Library and Information Resources Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of[…]

Islamic Spain in the 15th Century

The Great Mosque of Córdoba turned church after the Reconquista / Photo by Berthold Werner, Wikimedia Commons Was it a beacon of enlightened sophistication snuffed out by barbaric Dark Age Europeans, or the arena of a clash of eastern and western civilizations?  By Dr. Brian A. Catlos / 06.10.2018 Professor of Religious Studies University of Colorado at Boulder[…]

More than Blood and Bling: Our Many Visions of the Vikings

What does a 21st century Viking look like? Anthony Devlin/PA The Vikings have an enduring appeal in the popular and academic consciousness. By Dr. Steven Ashby / 03.06.2014 Professor of Archaeology University of York The Vikings have arrived at the British Museum. This exhibition, the first of its kind for decades, is notable for its scale and ambition. That[…]

Elephants in Ancient Indian Warfare

This war scene shown in a temple frieze in the Kailashanatha Temple depicts the use of chariots and elephants in warfare during the period of the imperial Rashtrakutas (eighth to tenth centuries CE). Location: Ellora Caves, Aurangabad, Maharashtra. / Photo by Sengai Podhuvan, Wikimedia Commons Ancient Indians continued to believe in their efficacy even when the ground results showed otherwise. By Dr.[…]

`Bharata’: A History of Ancient India

Map of the Indo-Saka – Indo-Scythian Kingdoms / Image by World Imaging, Wikimedia Commons Homonid activity in the Indian sub-continent stretches back over 250,000 years and it is, therefore, one of the oldest inhabited regions on the planet. By Dr. Joshua J. Mark / 11.12.2012 Professor of Philosophy Marist College India is a country in South Asia whose[…]

5 Places to View Pre-Colonial America

It’s not too late to explore our ancient history, and we can begin by grasping a better understanding of tribal perspectives on landmarks, place names, and the historical people and events that make them significant. / Photo by DEA/F. BARBAGALLO/De Agostini/Getty Images The ancient history of this country is often overlooked. Here are landmarks significant to[…]

Thou Art Translated! How Shakespeare Went Viral

A 1964 Soviet stamp depicts William Shakespeare. “Stamp” via Centuries before the internet, Shakespeare became a global phenomenon. By Dr. Alexa Alice Joubin / 04.23.2015 Professor of English Co-Director, Digital Humanities Institute Director, Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare George Washington University In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, when Peter Quince sees Bottom turned into an ass-headed figure, he cries[…]

A Brief History of Immersion, Centuries before VR

milliganpuss, Creative Commons We’ve never needed Oculus Rift to provide immersive experiences – they’ve been around for as long as we have. By Dr. Patrick T. Allen / 05.16.2018 Senior Lecturer in New Media Design University of Bradford Immersive experiences are fashionable at the moment, as virtual reality finally emerges into the mainstream with headsets now commercially available. But[…]

The Burning of the Library of Alexandria

By Preston Chesser The loss of the ancient world’s single greatest archive of knowledge, the Library of Alexandria, has been lamented for ages. But how and why it was lost is still a mystery. The mystery exists not for lack of suspects but from an excess of them. Alexandria was founded in Egypt by Alexander[…]

Disease Evolution: Our Long History of Fighting Viruses

A virus is essentially an information system (encoded in DNA or RNA) surrounded by a protective coat. Tom Thai/Flickr, Creative Commons Humans have a deep history of viral infections, the evidence for which dates back to ancient DNA from Egyptian mummies. By Dr. Peter C. Doherty / 04.26.2016 Laureate Professor The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity A virus[…]

Reinventing Heritage Buildings Isn’t New At All – The Ancients Did It, Too

With the addition of minarets, Hagia Sophia was converted from a Christian basilica to an Islamic mosque. Candace Richards, Author provided Adaptive reuse and recycling of heritage architecture may be all the rage, but are not new. Making new buildings from old has a long history in the ancient world. By Candace Richards / 01.02.2017 Assistant Curator, Nicholson Museum University of Sydney In any debate on new construction[…]

Why Does Culture Sometimes Evolve via Sudden Bursts of Innovation

A particularly fruitful moment for technological innovation? Viktor M Vasnetsov Not all technologies are created equal. Researchers devised a new model to explain why, after eons of nothing much new, we sometimes see an explosion of innovation in the archaeological record.    By Dr. Nicole Creanza and Dr. Oren Kolodny / 11.24.2015 Creanza: Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University Kolodny: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in[…]

Basic Ideas in Ancient Greek Mathematics

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 The ancient Greeks laid the essential groundwork and even began to build the structure of much of modern mathematics. By Dr. Michael Fowler Maxine S. and Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics , Physics Education,Theoretical Condensed[…]

Early Modern European Settler Colonies

Portuguese Fort Aguada, Goa, India / Photo by Abhijit Nandi, Creative Commons Beginning in the early modern age, European settler colonies were founded first beyond the Atlantic Ocean and later in the Pacific, but not in Asia. By Dr. Christoph Marx / 06.06.2017 Professor of History Universität Duisburg-Essen Introduction Beginning in the early modern age, European settler[…]

A Cast Fit for an Egyptian King

Video by Kai-Jae Wang/Harvard Staff Guided by Semitic Museum curator, students create ‘Dream Stela’ replica. By Jill Radsken / 06.08.2018 Between the paws of the six-story Great Sphinx in Giza, a slab of hieroglyphs tells the story of how King Thutmose IV dreamed his destiny. The eight-foot Dream Stela was erected in 1401 B.C., 1,000[…]

Written in Stone: The World’s First Trigonometry Revealed in an Ancient Babylonian Tablet

The Plimpton 322 tablet. UNSW/Andrew Kelly, Creative Commons A 3,700-year old Babylonian clay tablet reveals an ancient method of constructing right-angled triangles that makes it the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table.    By Dr. Daniel Mansfield (left) and Dr. Norman Wilderberger (right) / 08.24.2017 Mansfield: Associate Lecturer in Mathematics Wilderberger: Associate Professor in Mathematics University of New South Wales The ancient Babylonians –[…]