Category Archives: Biology

AntiquityNOW Celebrates Shark Week!

Strong, agile, mysterious, beautiful, ancient. Sharks have embodied our terrors and captured our imaginations for thousands of years. Today we celebrate and study sharks, even dedicating an entire week of television and social media to these denizens of the deep. Before popular culture caught on to the shark frenzy, however, ancient civilizations revered, respected, feared and even worshipped the shark. Below you’ll find a collection of images showing how some long ago cultures represented this iconic creature.

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Foodborne Illness: The History of an Invisible Enemy

The history of foodborne illness is as complex and tortuous as the history of eating. Since the very beginning, foodborne illness has been a perpetual hitchhiker in our journey with food. With every human advancement in eating and acquiring food, foodborne illness has been ready with a challenge, finding new ways to survive in changing environments. Bacteria’s tenacious flagella have withstood numerous developments in our diet and continue to plague our lives today.


Humans discover fire.

Humans discover fire.

The food rules for early man were simple: eat what you can get. Lacking discerning palettes, these opportunistic hunters were most likely consuming contaminated meat, poisonous mushrooms and indigestible grains. The meat from abandoned carcasses? On the menu. The sickest, weakest animals? A quick and easy appetizer. The variety of microbial fauna they frequently ingested has been preserved for posterity in the form of coprolites (fossilized feces). These generous deposits give us a glimpse of their diet as well as the pathogenic organisms therein.[1] Continue reading

A Place Called Home: Earth Day, Ecopsychology and an Urban Legend


What is this connection with the earth that we humans cling to so tenaciously?  As a species we obviously are dependent on the air to breathe, the water and soil that nurture us, the sun whose fiery presence holds us in its eternal circle.  But the earth is more than the elements that give us life.  The earth holds millions of memories in the folds of its mountains, across the tapestry of its lands and in the rhythmic singing of its seas. For we as humans attach ourselves to this earth, not just for nurturance, but by the profound evocations of time, memory and place. Continue reading

Music Origins: Mesopotamia, American Gospel and the Neurology of Faith, Part II

Image courtesy of Andrew Newberg, NPR.

Image courtesy of Andrew Newberg, NPR.

In Part I we looked at the importance of music in Mesopotamia and its specific role in communing with the gods. Fast forwarding nearly four millennia we found a remarkable similarity in the strains of American gospel music and the belief that the ecstasy of song enables the Holy Spirit to enter the bodies of the faithful. What is the nature of this willingness to give up one’s self to a higher being? How does music play a part? Is rapture—a potent driving force among believers—real?  Let’s look further at the reason for this music/spiritual connection by venturing inside the anatomy of the brain and as well exploring humankind’s long and precarious evolution of mind and body. Continue reading

Happy Valentine’s Day! The Power of Love (Pssst—It’s All in the Eyes and Nose)

393px-Red_roseRed roses are synonymous with love, and have been for centuries.  But there’s an interesting story behind the tales of starry-eyed lovers and their proclamations of everlasting romance.  The red rose it seems, has as much to do with our eyes and nose as it has to do with affairs of the heart.

First, let’s take a look at the flower that started it all:  the beauteous and aromatic rose. Roses can be traced back 35 million years according to fossil evidence.  Roses were growing wild in many places as diverse as Persia and in what is now Colorado in the United States.  As early as the 11th century BCE the Chinese were cultivating flowers of all sorts.  In fact, China has incredible biodiversity and boasts 93 species and 144 varieties of roses that are native to its habitats.[1]  China became the dominant breeder and purveyor of roses until around 300 years ago, when Europe took the lead in cultivation and breeding.[2] Continue reading

Merry Christmas! The History—and Neuroscience—of Christmas Caroling

Image courtesy of deltamike on Flickr.

Image courtesy of deltamike on Flickr.

Caroling has been a popular pastime to celebrate Christmas for hundreds of years.  Indeed, chanting and song have been a part of rituals and celebrations from some of the earliest of societies.  Whether found in the first hollowed bone flute and percussive tree stump or the widely stylized play lists of today, music has been embedded in human culture.  And as contemporary studies show, our responses to music are not just attuned to auditory preferences and social context.  Music is really a “brain thing.” Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Happy Holidays! Enjoy an Eggnog Courtesy of Your Ancestral Genes

Image courtesy of Reese Lloyd on Flickr.

Image courtesy of Reese Lloyd on Flickr.

Eggnog is a holiday beverage with a history and a taste that can’t be beat.  To really appreciate the roots of eggnog, we have to go back 7,500 years.  That was a period critical to the human species—or at least to those of us who indulge in dairy.  It was sometime during that period that humans in the region between the central Balkans and central Europe developed “lactase persistence.” Professor Mark Thomas of University College London (UCL) Genetics, Evolution and Environment says in a 2009 study, “Most adults worldwide do not produce the enzyme lactase and so are unable to digest the milk sugar lactose. However, most Europeans continue to produce lactase throughout their life, a characteristic known as lactase persistence. In Europe, a single genetic change (13,910*T) is strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have given people with it a big survival advantage.” Continue reading

What’s That Baby T-Rex Doing in My Birdcage?

Guanlong wucaii

Guanlong wucaii

UPDATE!   Originally published on December 12, 2012, this was AntiquityNOW’s first blog post! The dinosaur/avian connection is back in the news today with the announcement that Australia will be the first country to publicly display specimens of Guanlong wucaii, a relative of Tyrannosaurus rex that helped confirm the link between dinosaurs and birds. The Guanlong wucaii is the T-Rex’s oldest relative living around 90 million years before its gigantic relative. Unlike the more famous T-Rex, the Guanlong wucaii much more closely resembled our modern day birds as its body was covered in feather-like structures. Stephen Wroe, associate professor at University of New England and a palaeontologist, said, “It might be hard to imagine how Tyrannosaurus, with its huge size and famously tiny arms, could be related to birds. But Guanlong demonstrates earlier relatives of Tyrannosaurus were much more avian – more lightly built and with longer forelimbs.”[1] Continue reading

KIDS’ BLOG! Heirloom Seeds From Our Great-Great-Great-Great-Great (and many more!) Grandparents

child gardeningHave you ever planted a seed and watched it grow into a plant? It’s an incredible feeling to see a tiny little seed turn into a fruit or a vegetable. Did you know that some of the seeds we use to grow our food today come from seeds harvested by cultures that existed thousands of years ago? These ancient seeds are called heirloom seeds and they’ve been passed down from generation to generation.  They produce some of the most delicious fresh fruits and vegetables of all varieties. Continue reading

Ancient Green Technology

???????????Today, we celebrate the earth and we think about all the ways we can help to cherish and protect it. We have come so far in our efforts to develop new ways of preserving our planet and with modern technology our carbon footprints are getting smaller every day, but the concepts that allow us to “go green” actually date back tens of thousands of years.

Green TechYou can learn all about “seven incredibly innovative uses of geothermal, water, wind and solar power from around the ancient world” in the fascinating article 7 Ancient Wonders of Green Design & Technology from WebEcoist.

As you celebrate today’s earth, remember the ancients who cared for and protected their planet and provided us with the blueprints to do the same.