Category Archives: Public Life

Happy Valentine’s Day! How the Heart Became the Shape of Love

Today, we at AntiquityNOW commemorate that most wondrous of all human emotions: Love. On past Valentine’s Days, we have explored how love enters through the eyes and nose, how the brain on love is a power to behold (Robert Palmer does a cameo in this one) and even offered up an ancient Thai rose salad recipe to enjoy on this holiday. But being the curious afficionados of ancient history we are, we wondered, where did the heart-shaped symbol originate?

Ancient silver coin from Cyrene
depicting a seed or fruit of silphium.

As where many ancient secrets begin, let’s look at nature. There are numerous plants with blossoms or leaves in the shape of the symbol we now see as a heart.  But the one in history that is most relevant, had multitudinous uses in ancient times and is an eternal mystery to the science of propagation is silphium. Also known as silphion, laserwort, or laser, it was widely used by Egyptians, Knossos Minoans, Greeks and Romans as a seasoning, medicine and perfume.  And in a cheeky irony by Mother Nature, it was also popular as an aphrodisiac and a reportedly effective contraceptive. It grew naturally around the North African city of Cyrene (founded as Greek city in 631 BCE at what is now Shahhat, Libya), and was such an important trade item that Cyrenian coins displayed its heart-shaped seed or fruit. It was documented as literally worth its weight in gold.[1] From this description, it certainly appears to be a cure-all:

It was said to have short, thick leaves, tiny yellow flowers, and bulky, vigorous roots. The sap that oozed from the silphium plant was particularly aromatic and medicinal, at least by ancient standards. The wonder drug of its day, silphium was said to cure such maladies as tooth decay, warts, dog bites, stomach ailments, coughs, leprosy, and anal growths. But it was more valued for its use as a contraceptive…more specifically as an abortifacient. Ancient medical texts all repeat the claim that a pessary made of silphium sap was effective at “purging the uterus” to “bring forth menstruation”, all clever euphemisms for drug-induced abortions. In a society that placed a high value on legitimate heirs …, silphium’s (sic) became highly sought after as the first “morning-after” pill.[2]

Continue reading

Throwback Thursday! Beer Archaeology?! Yes, please.

Travis Rupp has the coolest job. He is a self-proclaimed “beer archaeologist” and I want to hang out with him. Obviously, at AntiquityNOW, we think archaeology is pretty fascinating. Digging up ancient toilets? Sign us up. Excavating an ancient village? We’re there. Meticulously and tediously removing the dust from a single ancient coin? We’d love to help. But, not everyone finds the past so exciting. However, we’re willing to bet, nearly everyone can agree there is something amazing and fun about recreating the drinks of the past. Who doesn’t want to cheers with a Viking-inspired beer or raise a glass of “Beersheba” from ancient Israel? Check out this article from NPR for all of the delicious details about Rupp and his quest for antiquity’s most fabulous brews: Beer Archaeologists Are Reviving Ancient Ales — With Some Strange Results.

And don’t miss our very own article about ancient beer. Did you know “ancient history reveals that, as far back as 4,000 years ago (and probably further), brewing was done primarily by women?” True story. Learn more here.

Throwback Thursday! Ancient Advertising

When was the last time you sat through an entire commercial? Perhaps during the Super Bowl? With today’s DVR, Netflix, Hulu, etc., being forced to suffer through 3 minutes of advertising is a thing of the past. Advertisers have had to become more clever, even tricky, and some would say invasive, in order to get our attention. Now, their ads pop up on our social media feeds, web browsers and even our email. It seems we’ve dodged one type of sales pitch, only to be bombarded with dozens more! Surely this is a modern nuisance. Actually, it’s not. Check out our two part series, “How Advertising Helped Write History,” to learn all about how ancient salesmen hawked everything from olive oil to a date with a gladiator.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother's Day Graphic 2014 copy

Kneeling mother holding a child. Pre-Columbian. 600-900 CE.

Throwback Thursday! Rescuing Our Cultural Legacies

AN Forum

As news broke this week that Nimrud had been recaptured from ISIS, the world held its breath as the extent of the destruction began to be revealed. So much has been lost and though ISIS is being driven out of many of its strongholds, they continue to systematically destroy cultural heritage.

In this terrifying and heartbreaking time, we wanted to republish a previous blog post that highlights the good that is being done to protect the world’s cultural heritage every day. In the exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener, co-Founder and Communications Director at Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), speaks to Global Heritage Fund’s Executive Director Stefaan Poortman about the importance of cultural heritage and what the Global Heritage Fund has done to save the world’s cultural treasures.

AHE is a resource partner for AntiquityNOW’s The Slavery Project (TSP), a series of curricula for high school students looking at the long and inglorious history of slavery. This interview with Global Heritage Fund was published on Ancient History Encyclopedia’s website in August 2015. It is reprinted with permission of both parties.

Click here to read the full post and interview.

Ancient Olympic Games: Celebrating Rio 2016!

Rio_2016_logo.svgTonight, the world will watch as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad open in Rio. In the opening ceremony, we will enjoy stunning displays of modern technology and in the games that follow we’ll witness fascinating feats of modern sport. It is incredible to see how far we’ve come in our athletic pursuits, but it is important to remember when all of this began. Check out our posts below on the history of the Olympics and get ready to watch the world unite in Rio!

It’s Christmas in July! Free Gifts for Everyone from AntiquityNOW

gifts-570821_1280

Are you yearning for carols? Are you longing for tinsel and ornaments? Is there not enough cheer in your life? We’ve got the cure for the July blues. It’s Christmas time!

First, learn about the history of Christmas in July by reading this insightful and fun-filled post from last year: Happy Christmas in July!

Next, check out all of the free gifts we have to offer: Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! A Healthy and Ancient Ramadan

Ramadan mealRamadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a month of prayer and fasting, began last week and ends on July 5th. If you are observing Ramadan, you know that planning the Iftar and Suhur meals is key. While Ramadan has ancient roots, today many households are mixing their modern habits into the month. Health is a top priority for many families. Perhaps this year you’re trying to be a bit healthier in your observance and plan meals that are delicious and nutritious. It is important for these meals to provide all of the nutrition you need for the long days of fasting. For a list of healthy ideas, check out Nestle Family’s Healthy Ramadan Recipes.

And for a history of Ramadan as well as some ancient ingredients and recipes, look no further than our AntiquityNOW Ramadan posts below. Don’t miss the bonus post about the ways in which professional athletes observe Ramadan.

 

May Is AntiquityNOW Month!

AN News Grey

May is a month of celebration for us at AntiquityNOW. This is the time we commemorate how the past is not as distant as we may think.

AN Month bigHere’s how we’ve previously described why we take a month each year to give special attention to the past:

During May we celebrate all things ancient, with a modern twist. From 2,000 year old nanotechnology to today’s supercomputers, from earliest chanted rituals to electronic bloviations, the arc of human history has been, shall we say, complicated. As sentient beings, we have constructed marvels in word and deed. We have also destroyed and obliterated that which we don’t understand and those we choose not to recognize. We strut, preen, cogitate, ruminate—we make an altogether spectacular tragicomedy as we shuffle along this mortal coil. Humans are a confounding lot who often are doomed to repeat the very histories we disregard. Here lies the fascination with looking to the past as it reflects our very modern sense of self.

Continue reading

Strata, Portraits of Humanity, Episode 18, “Historic Norwegian Farm” and “Mariana Islands Latte Stones, Episode 1”

StrataImage-webThis episode of Strata returns to a familiar theme:  what does legacy mean for a people, and how can it be preserved?

In the first video of this episode, we are introduced to the stream at the historic farm of Havrå that connects the mountain, the field and the fjord.  Havrå, whose history stretches back to the Bronze Age, is protected by the Norwegian government.  On the farm, the field and the old sharing of the cultivated land are still intact.  And though many of the ancient ways have changed, a deep sense of heritage and community remain. Our second offering looks at the megalithic ruins known as latte that symbolize the ancient culture of the Chamorro people of the Mariana Islands. Latte are stone pillars and capitals that supported houses in complex village systems until the late 1600s prior to massive societal change under Spanish rule.  In this video we explore how the Chamorro legacy was built, and how clues to the past have uncovered new mysteries yet to be solved. Part 1 of 2. Continue reading