A History of Condoms from Animal to Rubber

Promotion for safe sex by the Connecticut Department of Health Services / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons Condoms have been with us for thousands of years, but the original condoms probably weren’t all that good for safe sex. Though tortoiseshell, animal intestine and linen have all been used to make them, it was Charles Goodyear’s discovery[…]

A History of Mindfulness

Buddhist Man Meditating / Photo by Jakub Michankow, Wikimedia Commons ‘Mindfulness’ has become a household word, standing for inner peace, wellbeing, and cutting-edge healthcare. For four years, I researched how it’s become such a compelling force in Western culture. By Dr. Matt Drage / 02.22.2018 Researcher in Mindfulness and Meditation as Biomedical Inrtervention Introduction “Well I think[…]

The Origins of Modern Dogs in Ancient Asian Wolves

You’ve come a long way, baby. moggafogga, CC BY-NC-ND The how and the when of dog domestication are fairly settled. As for the where: now DNAsays Fido traces his roots back to wolves in Central Asia that lingered around people’s camps millennia ago. By Dr. Laura Shannon / 10.20.2015 Computational Evolutionary Geneticist Adam Boyko Laboratory Cornell University Dogs’ origin story goes something like[…]

Earliest Evidence of Cat Domestication Found in China

So, you found my ancestors? Are you sure this time? epsos There has been much debate about how cats went from hunting in the wild to a much-loved pet. By Akshat Rathi / 12.16.2013 Former Science and Data Editor The Conversation There has been much debate about how cats went from hunting in the wild to a much-loved pet. That is because[…]

Beware Cupid’s Arrow! French Print Reveals Dangers of Romantic Mix-Ups

The Exchange of Arrows Between Death and Cupid, ca. 1665–1701, Pierre Landry (publisher). Engraving. The Getty Research Institute, 2012.PR.102 By Courtney Wilder / 02.14.2013 “Hide your heart from sight, Lock your dreams at night, It could happen to you.” While the presumably dreadful “it” referred to in the opening verse of “It Could Happen to[…]

The Art and Knowledge in Medieval Herbals

The illustrations in medieval herbals are beautiful and mysterious. But if you know how to read them, they also convey a wealth of knowledge about the plants they portray. By Julia Nurse / 10.04.2017 Collections Researcher Wellcome Library The illustrated herbal has an almost unbroken line of descent from the ancient Greeks to the Middle[…]

Temples and Cities in Ancient Egypt

The temple of Hathor and Nefertari, also known as the Small Temple, dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II’s chief consort, Nefertari, at Abu Simbel / Photo by Ad Meskens, Wikimedia Commons A close relationship with particular deities was an important aspect of regional identity in pharaonic Egypt. By Dr. Steven Snape Reader in Egyptian Archaeology[…]

The Unexpected Legacy of George Washington

It is as an entrepreneur that Washington serves best to inspire Americans in the twenty-first century. By Dr. Edward G. Lengel / 02.14.2016 Director of the Papers of George Washington University of Virginia Presidential candidates love to invoke George Washington. His example inspires politicians of all persuasions; even zealots profess to seek his guidance. The[…]

Bull-Leaping Paintings at Ancient Knossos: What Do They Tell Us?

Bull-leaping fresco from the east wing of the palace of Knossos (reconstructed), c. 1400 B.C.E., fresco, 78 cm high (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, photo: Jebulon, CC0) The most interesting question about the bull leaping paintings from Knossos is what they might mean. By Dr. Senta German / 08.15.2018 Faculty of Classics Andrew W Mellon Foundation Teaching Curator, Ashmolean Museum[…]

Bull’s Head Rhyta and Their Ritual Significance in Ancient Minoa

Bull’s head rhyton from the palace at Knossos, c. 1550-1500 B.C.E., black steatite, jasper, and mother-of-pearl, 26 cm high (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, photo: Zde, CC BY-SA 4.0) Images of bulls are among the most important in Minoan art. By Dr. Senta German / 08.16.2018 Faculty of Classics Andrew W Mellon Foundation Teaching Curator, Ashmolean Museum University of Oxford[…]

Building the City in Ancient Egypt

Ruins of ancient Thebes A team of four men could produce 3,000 mudbricks per day. By Dr. Steven Snape Reader in Egyptian Archaeology University of Liverpool Introduction Egypt, more particularly the Nile Valley between Aswan and Cairo, is blessed with a cornucopia of constructional resources. An ancient Egyptian who made the (sometimes very short) stroll from the[…]

The Evolutionary Origins and Significance of Drug Addiction

By looking at drug addiction from an evolutionary perspective, we may understand its underlying significance and evaluate its three-fold nature: biology, psychology, and social influences. By Dr. Tammy Saah / 06.29.2005 Psychiatrist Abstract By looking at drug addiction from an evolutionary perspective, we may understand its underlying significance and evaluate its three-fold nature: biology, psychology,[…]

Dial ‘S’ for Sex: A History of a Phone-Booth Subculture in the United Kingdom

Sex worker card collection, Thomas SG Farnetti / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons In the 1980s a change in the law meant UK phone boxes became noticeboards for business cards selling sexual services. As well as accumulating a cult following, these miniature advertisements tell us a lot about fluctuations and fashions in what was on offer.[…]

The Victorian Prostitute Whose ‘Pox’ Inspired Feminists

In Victorian times, syphilis was believed to arise spontaneously in a prostitute’s body, a result of ‘immorality’. But as medical knowledge advanced, early feminists began to challenge the law that detained and punished women for their illness. By Anna Faherty / 07.20.2017 Associate Lecturer University of the Arts London Fitzrovia, 1875. A woman recorded only as “A[…]

The Life of Rosina Bulwer Lytton: Women and Mental Health in the 19th Century

Rosina Bulwer Lytton, from A Blighted Life, 1880 / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons The life of Rosina Bulwer Lytton provides a fascinating insight into the attitudes towards women and mental health in the 19th century. By Julia Nurse / 09.18.2015 Collections Researcher Wellcome Library Dismissed for years as the mad wife of the novelist and[…]

Metsys’s Musician: A Newly Recognized Early Work and Its Implications

This new attribution creates a benchmark for the late-medieval artist’s oeuvre, against which other works can now be compared.    By Rafael Barrientos Martinez and Dr. Larry Silver Martinez: PhD Student in Art History, University of California, Los Angeles Silver: Farquhar Professor of Art History, University of Pennsylvania The major late fifteenth-century portrait of Jacob Obrecht, from[…]

American Cycles of Prohibition: Do They Have Roots in Ancient Drinking Norms?

Ancient amphorae / Southampton University, Creative Commons It has been proposed that different drinking norms developed in northern and southern Europe during antiquity and that these patterns are still found today in the cultures overlying these areas. By Dr. Ruth C. Engs Professor Emeriti in Applied Health Science Indiana University Bloomington Abstract It has been proposed that[…]

An Introduction to the Roman Drunken Satyr

Conservator William Shelley and preparator Rita Gomez of the Getty Museum oversee the sculpture’s safe arrival in the Getty Villa conservation studios. Drunken Satyr, 1st century BC–1st century AD, Roman. Bronze, 137 cm high. Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, inv. 5628. Reproduced by agreement with the Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities and Tourism. National[…]

Unearthing Hidden Stories from African-American History

Team member Felix Knight looks through archives at the Church of Espiritu Santo in Havana, Cuba. David LaFevor The Slave Societies Digital Archive documents the lives of approximately 6 million free and enslaved Africans in the Americas. By Dr. Jane Landers / 12.04.2018 Professor of History Vanderbilt University Many years ago, as a graduate student searching in[…]

The Post-Reformation Protestant Mission in the Modern World

The Protestant churches that emerged from the Reformation movements of the 12th to the 16th centuries arrived late, following the Catholic Church, to efforts to spread Christianity. By Dr. Andreas Feldtkeller / 10.26.2017 Professor of Religious Studies and Intercultural Theology Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Abstract The Protestant churches that emerged from the Reformation movements of the[…]

The Post-Reformation Catholic Mission in the Modern World

The Inquisition by Francisco Goya / Wikimedia Commons The inter-cultural communication and the exchanges and transfers regarding Christian doctrine (catechism) – and regarding art and science – after the Reformation. By Dr. Michael Sievernich / 07.14.2011 Professor of Theology Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz Abstract This article provides an overview of the Catholic Mission in the modern era,[…]

Wittenberg Influences on the Reformation in Scandinavia

Wittenberg was the most important source of inspiration for the Reformation in both of the Scandinavian kingdoms.    By Dr. Simo Heininen (left) and Dr. Otfried Czaika (right) / 08.01.2012 Heininen: Professor of Theology, University of Helsinki Czaika: Professor of Church History, Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society Introduction Wittenberg was the most important source of[…]

An Anthropology of Death around the World in Ten Objects

Many cultures around the world celebrate death as part of life, though we often contain death within designated spaces of our hospitals and cemeteries. From Victorian mourning etiquette to Mexican skeleton decorations, explore how different traditions think about the end. By Elissavet Ntoulia / 10.30.2018 Visitor Experience Assistant Wellcome Trust Mummification Mummified cat, ancient Egypt,[…]

How the Ancient World Invoked the Dead to Help the Living

The dead wait to be ferried across the River Styx. The Souls of Acheron (1898) by Adolf Hiremy Hirschl For the ancients, ghosts could be quite useful. By Dr. Evelien Bracke / 10.28.2016 Senior Lecturer in Classics Swansea University Dressing up, knocking on neighbours’ doors and asking for food is a very old tradition. Communities on the British Isles were[…]

Golden Tickets to the Underworld in Ancient Greece

Tablet with Instructions for the Deceased in the Underworld, 350–300 B.C., Greek. Gold, 7/8 × 1 7/16 × 1/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Gift of Lenore Barozzi, 75.AM.19 How some ancient Greeks navigated their passage to a happier afterlife. By David Saunders / 10.30.2018 Curator, Department of Antiquities J. Paul Getty Museum Introduction[…]

Janus: The Roman God of Beginnings and Endings

Detail from The Temple of Janus by Peter Paul Rubens. Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Commons On January 1, we consider the origins of Janus, after whom this month is named. Dr. Caillan Davenport / 12.31.2017 Senior Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History and ARC DECRA Senior Research Fellow Macquarie University January 1 can be a day of regret and reflection – did I really[…]

Mapping the Body with ‘Ayurvedic Man’ in 18th-Century Nepal

Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons An exquisite treasury of illustrations and objects, the Ayurvedic Man picture book presents a visual history of some of the earliest medical systems and healing practices in the world. It traces Ayurveda and Indian medicine as they travelled from East to West, gaining, losing and regaining popularity over the centuries. This extract features a[…]