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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
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
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
AntiquityNOW 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.
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.”
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.
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?”
Click here to see pictures from the installation.
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.
“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?”
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.
A fascinating new article on The Conversation explores how advances in 3D printing are allowing us to protect and preserve our precious heritage in new and important ways.
“What is new about digitally-fabricated replicas is that they can be extremely accurate with regards to the shape of the original – the reproduction process uses, among other means, high-tech laser scanners. The power of digitally fabricated replicas also lies in their digital nature. This means they can easily be stored, edited and shared across the world.
People interested in cultural heritage can access these digital replicas, for example from museum websites, and print them at home or at a nearby Fablab on a desktop 3D printer. Most importantly, these digital representations can also be easily manipulated or customised to satisfy different audience requirements under different interpretation scenarios.” – The Conversation
AntiquityNOW has been privileged to work with a pioneer in this arena. Read our article, Saving the Past With 3D Printing: An Interview with Dr. Bernard Means, Director of the Virtual Curation Laboratory to learn more about the incredible ways Dr. Means is using this technology to save the past.
There is a new and exciting exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History and it will bring you face to face with the king of all dinosaurs, the T. Rex! But, you may be surprised to see feathers sprouting from the leathery hide of the toothy tyrannosaurus. The museum is displaying a brand new, full size model of the T. Rex, complete with feathers. You can read all about it in this article in the New York Times.
And for more information about feathered dinosaurs and the link between our modern day avian friends and those terrifying lizards from the past, check out our very first blog post, What’s That Baby T-Rex Doing in My Birdcage?.
It’s National Baking Month! This is the perfect time of year to enjoy a few of our delicious and ancient baked goods recipes. Red velvet cake and whoopee pies are yummy, but check out the recipes below to indulge in some sweet and educational baking fun!
We love Egyptian recipes! There are so many delicious ancient Egyptian foods, ingredients and dishes to explore and today we’re bringing you one more. Um Ali, also called Om Ali, is a sweet and creamy bread pudding dessert that has become a traditional modern Egyptian dessert. It brings so much joy to the palate, but it has a surprisingly dark history. It was actually created in the 13th century to celebrate the murder of Shajar al-Durr, a sultana. Click here to read the entire sordid affair.
Thankfully, you don’t have to be celebrating something so dark and dismal in order to enjoy this traditional sweet. It can be served cold or warm depending on the season and it’s made with ingredients you most likely have in your kitchen right now. For a fancier and more complex version, visit click here. Enjoy some Um Ali this holiday season!
p.s. Click here for a list of our other Egyptian recipe posts.
- 1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup chopped hazelnuts
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup flaked coconut
- 1 1/4 cups white sugar, divided
- 4 cups milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Place the pastry sheets in the baking dish and place the dish in the oven. Watch it closely. When the top layer turns crunchy and golden, remove it from the oven. Continue until all the sheets are cooked.
- Preheat the oven’s broiler.
- In a bowl, combine walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, raisins, coconut and 1/4 cup sugar. Break cooked pastry into pieces and stir into nut mixture. Spread mixture evenly in 9×13-inch dish.
- Bring milk and 1/2 cup sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Pour over nut mixture.
- Beat the heavy cream with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread evenly over nut mixture in dish.
- Place dessert under oven broiler until top is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.
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.