History

In my exploration of Heinrich Schliemann, a German archaeologist and businessman, I came across information about his involvement in funding the demolition of a medieval “Frankish tower” at the Acropolis of Athens. The transformation and adaptation of monuments under the prevailing zeitgeist is quite revealing. If you’re interested in the Acropolis changes, Dr. Rachel Kousser’s article on Khan Academy is worth a read.

Within and beyond the ancient world, the Parthenon had many lives. Rather than ignoring them, it is useful to acknowledge these lives as contributions to the building’s extraordinary continuing vitality. […] When contrasting its present-day state with the first photographs taken in the mid-nineteenth century, we can see how much has been intentionally removed: a Frankish tower by the entrance to the Acropolis, an Ottoman dome, mundane habitations. […] In its current iteration, the Acropolis has been returned to something resembling its pristine Classical condition […] This feels like a loss: a retardataire effort to reinstate a selective, approved version of the past and to erase the traces of a more difficult and complex history. As such it stands as an example, and perhaps also a warning, for our current historical moment.

The MIT Press Reader shared an article excerpted from the book “Cultures of Contagion”. The article highlights how the study of radioactive particle movements worldwide during the 1950s and beyond has played a crucial role in shaping our understanding of global interconnectedness of our biosphere.

This new geophysical knowledge forms the foundation of our current global atmospheric and oceanic circulation models. Importantly, in tracking the diffusion of radionuclides both through the atmosphere and through plants, animals, and human populations, scientists could demonstrate the integration and interconnectedness of the entire biosphere.

While I was living in Bologna, I discovered a fantastic sweet fruity wine called a Romagna Cagnina (more specifically, a bottle of Terre Cevico Cagnina Dolce DOC). When I was living in Bologna, I discovered a fantastic sweet fruity wine called a Romagna Cagnina (more specifically, a bottle of Terre Cevico Cagnina Dolce DOC). While visiting nearby Ravenna and delving into its Byzantine history, I discovered an intriguing connection between the region’s wine and stonecutters and laborers from Istria. The grape variety used in the wine might have been brought to Ravenna by these workers, who also used Istrian stone in the construction of the city’s monuments. Here is a small excerpt from a webpage advertising the wine:

This wine has been talked about since the Byzantine era when the first vines arrived from Istria during the importation of limestone for the construction of churches, baptisteries and historical monuments of the Ravenna area. The name appears to derive from the slightly harsh characteristics of this ancient grape variety, as it was said to “bite the palate”.

A longer description about the wine can be found here.

Please take a moment to appreciate the stunning interactive essay from The New York Times, which uses the medieval manuscript Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry as a reference to explore how time is perceived through the utilization of time-keeping devices, like calendars.

The documentary “The secrets of civilization” gave fascinating insights into how Romans changed their environment. First, there is an artificial mound in Rome known as Monte Testaccio, a big ancient waste heap which is nearly entirely made of broken pieces from discarded containers (amphora) used for, for example, storing olive oil. Here are two videos about the site:

Second, the documentary mentioned how a landscape in Spain, Las Médulas is the result of a Roman gold-mining technique called Ruina Montium (“wrecking of mountains”). Here is a video describing the process from IMAGEEN.

Finally, it’s interesting to know that it seems that a period of unusually warm weather, called the Roman Climactic Optimum, may have benefitted the Romans.

This article from The New York Times discusses a controversy about the restitution of prehistoric objects by Indonesian government against a Dutch Naturalis museum.

While art museums have been grappling since the 1990s with claims that they hold or display looted Nazi art, and ethnographic museums have faced repatriation claims from African nations and Indigenous people worldwide, the Java Man case pushes restitution into the realm of the natural history museum — where it hasn’t been much of an issue until now.

A positive spin on thinking about our own collapse, from an article by Thomas Moynihan who wrote a book an how humanity only recently started to think about its own extinction/collapse:

Only very recently in human history did people realize that Homo sapiens, and everything it finds meaningful, might permanently disappear. Only recently did people realize the physical universe could continue — aimlessly — without us. However, this was one of the most important discoveries humans have ever made. It is perhaps one of our crowning achievements. Why? Because we can only become truly responsible for ourselves when we fully realize what is at stake. And, in realizing that the entire fate of human value within the physical universe may rest upon us, we could finally begin to face up to what is at stake in our actions and decisions upon this planet. This is a discovery that humanity is still learning the lessons of — no matter how fallibly and falteringly.

In this article I also learned about the 1755 Lisbon earthquake which apparently which apparently lead scientists to study the phenomena, leading to modern seismology and earthquake engineering.

A quick link to a fascinating and thorough look by David Henkin at the diffusion of the week as a way of organizing social life.

The following video is a short excerpt from a PBS documentary about the history of blue jeans.

Where did blue jeans begin? This iconic American garment can be traced to fabrics woven in India, France and Italy and a knowledge of indigo dying from Africa and brought to the colonies in the trade of enslaved people. Blue jeans’ roots are as deep and entangled as the nation’s.

The following Vox video details how the invention of a “Chinatown style”, that can be found in cities around the world, can be traced back to an earthquake in San Francisco in 1906 and the subsequent re-imaging/invention of a new style and culture.