Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Shrimp Avocado Salad…Courtesy of Our Ancestral Genes

A while back we posted a holiday recipe for eggnog that explained how 7,500 years or so ago, humans in the region between the central Balkans and central Europe developed “lactase persistence.” According to a study by Professor Mark Thomas of University College London (UCL) Genetics, Evolution and Environment, “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.”1

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Throwback Thursday! Discover Ancient History Encyclopedia.

Where do you go for information on our shared past? If you’re a history teacher looking for content and resources, which website is your favorite? History buffs, where do you go to feed your hunger for historic facts? For a growing number of people, the answer to those questions is “Ancient History Encyclopedia.” So how does a self-described “small non-profit organization” become the global leader in ancient history content online, attracting more monthly traffic than the British Museum or the Louvre? Find out in our exclusive 2015 interview with AHE Founder and CEO Jan van der Crabben and Co-founder and Communications Director James Blake Wiener.

And for a dose of history on-the-go, make sure to download their app, available on iPhone and Android platforms.

“Is It Time to Rethink Our Ideas About Preserving World Heritage?” A Provocative Question in Dire Times

AN Forum

A recent New York Times opinion piece by Connie Wang, a senior features writer for Refinery29 and the host of the documentary series “Style Out There,” offers a counterpoint to the often maligned idea of cultural appropriation.

“Finding the Beauty in Cultural Appropriation” takes a look at what Nigeria is doing to introduce their country’s various traditional and ancient clothing styles into high fashion. “A source of pride”1 to the Nigerians, the clothing combines the colors, fabrics and designs of various indigenous groups and repurposes them for the runway, bringing to life an ingenious and wildly inventive concept. Taking her cue from Nigerian haute couture, Wang offers her own take on how borrowing, copying and imitating other cultures can actually be a good thing.

Cultural appropriation is not a modern invention. It finds its roots in our primitive antecedents and the fact we are a species endowed with an affinity for mimicry. In “Mimicry in Social Interaction: Its Effect on Human Judgment and Behavior” published in the European Journal of Social Sciences, authors Nicolas Gueguen, Celine Jacob and Angelique Martin write “…mimicry is associated with the desire to create affiliation and rapport and that automatic mimicry is the result of an evolution process when mimicry was used in social communication between humans.2 In other words, mimicry offered the possibility of connections by promoting the sense of likeness to others. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Fish, Chips and Pompeii’s Fast Food Thermopolia

fish and chips

Image courtesy of An Italian in My Kitchen

Nowadays fast food comes in all forms throughout the world.  A life on the go means quick fare at affordable prices. Whether hamburgers, tacos, satay, samosas, crepes or today’s recipe of fish and chips, fast food is ubiquitous.

Modern convenience? Not if you take a page from Roman culinary history.

Thermopolia (s., thermopolium) were eateries found aplenty in the Roman Empire. In fact, Pompeii boasted around 150 thermopolia. A thermopolium was an open air room with an L-shaped counter distinguished by large storage urns called dolia containing dry edibles such as nuts.  Each day the thermopolium featured different dishes available for purchase. People could select such standard victuals as “coarse bread with salty fish, baked cheese, lentils and spicy wine.”1 Other fare included pizza (tomatoes were not yet brought to Europe at the time) made of cheese and onions, soups, pickles, eggs and ham.2 A tempting array of palate pleasers no doubt. And like our 21st century fast food menus, thermopolia  meals were based on their convenience and simplicity. Customers knew what to expect and would merely point to the blue plate specials they wanted. Continue reading

Reimagining Extinction: Michael Wang and the Art of Resurrection

NASAAntiquityNOW examines the connections between ancient and modern times to demonstrate that the past is never really gone. In so many ways, we still draw from the wisdom of ancient peoples and times. Even when it comes to climate change.

As we have been hearing, the warnings are dire. The earth is warming at an increasing rate.  Although the planet has experienced natural weather fluctuations throughout its history, the current alarms are sounding more ominous.

NASA has collected a trove of information gathered from earth-orbiting satellites and other sources to offer scientists a comprehensive view of changing climate patterns, much of which has been caused by fossil fuels. And the evidence is compelling. According to NASA:

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.[1]

NASA explains that the current trend is significant since a greater than 95 percent probability attributes it to human activity since the mid-20th century at a rate “unprecedented over decades to millennia.”[2]

In the midst of the debates on what to do, what to regulate and how much of an impact all this data will have on life in the future, one artist is staking claim to his own representational view of our evolving world.

New York artist Michael Wang is fascinated by the interaction of the natural world, particularly the ancient one, with a modern industrial world seemingly bent on destruction. He imbues his art with the concepts of global systems that affect the natural world, including species distribution, climate change, resource allocation and the global economy. Two projects show his unique interpretation:

In Drowned World, which was exhibited at the 2018 European Contemporary Art Biennial’s Manifesta 12 in Palermo, Italy, Wang depicted the collision of the natural world that gives us sustenance and the industrial world that drives civilizations. In the installation visitors to Palermo’s botanical garden climbed steps to look over a wall into the remains of a coal-gas plant that once powered the city’s streetlamps. In that modern-day artifact Wang planted a forest of plants similar to those that grew 300 million years ago during the Carbonifera era, and which over time became coal and other fossil fuels. Araucarias trees, ferns, cycads and epiphytes thrived among rusted remnants of machinery and gas tanks. It was a juxtaposition of ancient, modern and ancient again, an intriguing synthesis of a lifecycle disrupted.[3]

In his art Wang questions what this disruption means to Earth’s future. When humans have wielded their influence with ever increasing consequences, how can the natural world coexist? “Climate change and ocean acidification modify the conditions for nearly all life on this planet. When the effects of human actions are nearly inescapable, what can we consider truly natural?”[4]

Click here to see pictures from the installation.

flower

franklinia alatamaha

In a city of quirks and marvels the rooftop garden of the Swiss Institute Contemporary Art Gallery in New York is unique in design and purpose. In rows of simple aluminum planters grow four different kinds of plants that are fragile vestiges of a verdant history going back millennia. Indeed, in one of the planters flourishes franklinia alatamaha, which is extinct in the wild (EW) as classified by The International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“Nature’s orphans” and “homeless” is how Wang describes these plants because without human cultivation, they wouldn’t exist in nature. As discussed above, human disruption is once again a factor, an underlying thrust that repeats in Wang’s art. For example, ginkgo biloba, a hardy and popular contemporary tree, began dying off in the wild thousands of years ago in the mountains of central China. Most likely this was due to human hunters who killed the large animal that picked up and shed the seeds across the region. This annihilation of that animal species affected ginkgo propagation. Ironically, during this period people also grew to value the trees so much that they planted them at temples and in cemeteries. Thus, the trees we see today have all been cultivated by humans.

gingko leaves

Ancient fossilized gingko leaves U.Name.Me/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

“I wanted to trace the passage of these species from nature into culture,” Wang says. He questions how humans manipulate nature to the degree that we alter the natural order according to our own self-interests. “How can you cause the extinction of a species in one context while also allowing its propagation beyond what would be purely natural in another context?”[5]

Click here to see pictures from the installation.

Wang fuses his artistic vision with an awareness of ancient systems and an understanding of earth’s peril. His art forces us to consider the inevitable result of human folly, and exhorts us to find the collective will to prevail.

Wang’s other works include “Invasives,” the controlled release of invasive species, “Carbon Copies,” an exhibition linking the production of artworks to the release of greenhouse gases, “Rivals,” a series that connects the sale of artworks to corporate finance, and “Terroir,” monochrome paintings made from the ground bedrock of world cities.

[1] https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
[2] Ibid.
[3] http://www.fruitoftheforest.com/michael-wang-extinct-in-the-wild
[4] Ibid.
[5]https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/culture-clash-nature-and-civilization-face-art-michael-wang

Strata, Portraits of Humanity, Episode 15, “American Revolutionary War Fort”

StrataImage-webIn this episode of Strata, Dan Elliot of the LAMAR Institute set out to document Carr’s Fort, a fortified farmstead used during the American Revolutionary War. The fort originally was commanded by Captain Robert Carr and housed his 100 patriot troops.  In February of 1779, the woods of north Georgia were bristling with small skirmishes between the patriots and the British.  The battles helped determine the outcome of the Revolutionary War.  Carr’s Fort and its sister sites are part of the fabric of the history of America. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Figs Part 1: Pork and Fruit Ragout

figWe are so excited about today’s Bon Appetit Wednesday. It marks the beginning of a series on the succulent fig. As we all know, there is nothing more exciting than a good fig recipe! Okay, now that may be a bit of an overstatement, but in all seriousness, these little ancient fruits are amazing. There are so many ways to use the fig, which have been filling the bellies of our ancestors for thousands of years. Because the fig has been around for so long and has had such an impact on history, we’re devoting more than one post to its story. So whet that appetite and enjoy the glorious tale of the fig. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Oliebollen (Dutch Doughnuts)

oliebollenOnly two more days until we ring in a brand new year! At AntiquityNOW we like to bring together traditions from all over the world, so this year we’re featuring a recipe for an ancient Danish treat. Oliebollen are delicious dutch doughnuts with an unusual meaning and a dark history. Traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve, oliebollen is translated as “oily balls.” While this may not sound like the most appetizing name for a food, these deep fried sweets will make you forget their strange name at first bite. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! The Ancient Pierogi

1024px-Pierogi_in_london_feb_10Winter here in the northern hemisphere is showing no signs of abatement, and as the snow piles up, there’s no better time than the present for some good, old fashioned comfort food. Luckily, we’ve got a recipe with a long history of filling the belly and warming the heart. Homemade pierogis are perfect for a cold winter night. We’re bringing you a scrumptious recipe for making your own Polish potato and cheese filled pierogis from scratch. Get the kids involved and make it a fun family activity on a bleak and frigid snow day! Continue reading

Ancient Dentistry Part 1: Drills, Gemstones and Toothpaste!

dentistry-316945_640 (1)We all cringe at the thought of going to the dentist — and that’s with the comfortable recliners, the soothing music, the anesthetics and analgesics. Imagine what a visit to the dentist must have been like thousands of years ago.

In modern-day Pakistan, where the earliest evidence of dentistry has been found, Stone Age dentists were wielding drills made of flint. Nine-thousand-year-old teeth found at a Neolithic graveyard showed clear signs of drilling, but also signs that rotting gum tissue had been removed, leading researchers to consider the crude drills “surprisingly effective.”[1]

In fact, in a 2006 article for the journal Nature, researchers wrote about the “perfect,” “amazing” holes those flint drills had made.[2] The holes were about one-seventh of an inch deep, except in one case where the dentist had managed to drill a hole in the inside back end of a tooth, boring out toward the front of the mouth.[3] There is no evidence of dental fillings; however, at least one researcher believes some sort of “tarlike material or soft vegetable matter” may have been placed inside the holes.[4] Unfortunately for those early patients, it’s unlikely that the dentists used any kind of anesthetic. Continue reading