Some of the greatest architecture in the world, by which I mean attractive and sturdy both, came out of the need to control water. Among my favorites are Roman aqueducts.
The Roman aqueduct (UNESCO World Heritage Site) of Segovia illuminated at night, Autonomous Community of Castilla Leon, Spain, March 2012. Cristina Arias/Cover/Getty Images
These piped conduits sluiced water across many miles (the longest 155 miles) to bring water to the Roman citizenry. Of course, if you weren't a Roman, you'd have to pay for the privilege...
- Read all about Roman Aqueducts
As everybody knows from the movies, gladiators were reality TV for the Roman Empire, trained in schools to battle each other and the occasional animal for the entertainment of a crowd of spectators. Go Maximus!
Virtual Reconstruction of the Gladiator School at Carnuntum. M. Klein/7reasons
Schools to teach gladiators were called ludi, and intact archaeological remains of them are rare indeed. A recent report in Antiquity describes the gladiator school at Carnuntum, a 1st century Roman city southeast of Vienna, Austria, along with the virtual reconstruction shown above.
- Read about Carnuntum, the city and the gladiator school
- Read about Gladiators from NS Gill at Ancient History
- See the interactive videoon YouTube
- Roman Gladiators versus the Gladiator Movie, from NS Gill
Neubauer W, Gugl C, Scholz M, Verhoeven G, Trinks I, L÷cker K, Doneus M, Saey T, and Van Meirvenne M. 2014. The discovery of the school of gladiators at Carnuntum, Austria. Antiquity 88:173-190.
The snap and bite of a chili pepper is one of the true pleasures in life, and it turns out we have to thank the first Americans for that.
Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum Stickpen
There are over 35 different species of pepper in the world today, and they all began from a handful of species domesticated in the American continents. One of the likely progenitors is the wild bird pepper, illustrated here.
According to a new report published in Science today, the ancestors of the people who populated the American continents were stranded for up to 20,000 years on a land mass now sunk beneath the Bering Sea. And no, it was not named Atlantis.
This map shows the outlines of modern Siberia (left) and Alaska (right) with dashed lines. The broader area in darker green (now covered by ocean) represents the Bering land bridge near the end of the last glacial maximum. William Manley, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado.
The colonization of the Americas has been a topic of great archaeological study and debate for well over a century, and the answers to how, when and from where did the first Americans get to their new home have changed as the science has improved.
The latest set of fine-tuned answers are the results of pollen cores and mitochondrial DNA evidence, drawn into a theory known as the Beringian Standstill Hypothesis, or the Beringian Incubation Model, winningly abbreviated BIM.
- Beringian Standstill Hypothesis
- Colonization of the American Continents
- Bering Strait and the Bering Land Bridge
Hoffecker JF, Elias SA, and O'Rourke DH. 2014. Out of Beringia? Science 343:979-980. doi: 10.1126/science.1250768
New evidence concerning the process of domestication of the lovely and useful bottle gourd was published recently in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Bottle Gourds in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan Tanaka Juuyoh
A few years ago, scholars suggested that the bottle gourd was brought into the Americas by migrating hunter-gatherers from Asia. New evidence suggests that instead, African bottle gourds washed up on American Atlantic shores, where the locals took the seeds and planted them.
Kistler L, Montenegro ┴, Smith BD, Gifford JA, Green RE, Newsom LA, and Shapiro B. 2014. Transoceanic drift and the domestication of African bottle gourds in the Americas. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: in press.
Camels are odd creatures. They look ungainly, they make funny noises and they spit. And there are six separate species running around our planet right now.
Dromedary camels in the desert, one with raised leg. (does this remind you of Dali or what?) Photo by Terry McCormick / Photographer's Choice RF / Getty Images
How many camel stories does anyone truly need?
The archaeological site of Chalcatzingo is located in the Mexican state of Morelos, some 300 kilometers inland from a major source of its sculptural art, the Olmec heartland.
The Feline Triad at Chalcatzingo. Photo by Nicoletta Maestri
In a new photo essay, contributing writer Nicoletta Maestri gives us an insider's look at the bas-reliefs of this fascinating 3,000 year old site.
DNA studies on the Clovis-age burial site of Anzick in the American state of Montana illuminating the pace and complexity of the first American colonization were reported in Nature this week.
A nearly complete point of dendritic chert, a mid-interval biface of translucent cryptocrystalline quartz, a mid to late-interval biface of dendritic chert, and a "dual,end-beveled" osseous rod, all of which exhibit various amounts of red ochre residue. Sarah L. Anzick
Anzick is unusual for many reasons: at 12,800 years old, it is one of the oldest burials known in the Americas. The burial goods placed with the child represent one of the largest and most diverse collections of Clovis-aged working toolkit archaeologists have found to date.
And now, DNA recovered from the site have provided rare genetic support for the American colonization from Asia.
Rasmussen M, Anzick SL, Waters MR, Skoglund P, DeGiorgio M, Stafford Jr TW, Rasmussen S, Moltke I, Albrechtsen A, Doyle SM et al. 2014. The genome of a Late Pleistocene human from a Clovis burial site in western Montana. Nature 506:225-229.
Swidden agriculture, also known as slash and burn, is an ancient (and controversial) farming technique still used in many places in the world today.
Slash and burn agriculture in Bolivia, from CIAT, Center for International Tropical Agriculture. Neil Palmer (CIAT)
The method made sense where farmers had enough access to land to allow large percentages of it lie fallow for years or decades (excepting, of course, rainforests), but does it still in a world of increasing population and global agricultural markets?
Maple sugaring season is just getting started: hooray! But... just when did Americans start tapping the sap?
Photo Credit: Vermont Maple Sugar Camp, 1900-1906 Library of Congress LC-D4-19210, Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection
The maple sugaring process is pretty mundane--tap the sap, boil it until most or all of the water is evaporated away, filter it of impurities and pour it into bottles or press it into maple leaf molds. But the origins of maple sugaring are obscure. It's clear that tapping maples became known to the world at large after Europeans landed on American shores. What isn't clear is whether the original inhabitants of the Americas knew about tapping trees and told the Europeans about it, or the Europeans discovered it and told the Native Americans and First Peoples about it.
Read the Maple Sugaring photo essay, and make up your own mind.