Taxonomy term

human history

Antimony may have poisoned Pompeii's drinking water

The ancient Romans may have had advanced water distribution systems, but the water pipes they used were highly toxic. Many Roman-era water pipes were lined with lead, leading some archaeologists to suspect a public health crisis among Romans that may have contributed to the empire’s eventual fall. But others point out that the high levels of calcium carbonate in the Romans’ water supply would have quickly coated the pipes with scale, limiting the exposure of drinking water to lead. However, a new study suggests lead wasn’t the only concern: A sample of pipe from Pompeii dating to A.D. 79 has shown that the Italian city’s drinking water may have also contained alarmingly high levels of antimony. Antimony is an acutely poisonous element, ingestion of which can lead to severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and/or death from ailments such as kidney failure and cardiac arrhythmia.

23 Nov 2017

Humans arrived Down Under earlier than thought

Analysis of sediments surrounding a trove of artifacts discovered in northern Australia suggests the first humans arrived on the continent about 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, a finding that has implications for the hypothesized role of humans in the extinctions of Australian megafauna.

07 Nov 2017

When agriculture went to our heads

The dawn of agriculture left an indelible mark on early human societies, and a new study finds that eating softer, cultivated foods subtly changed the shape of human skulls. Scientists have long suspected that the transition from hunting and foraging to farming and raising livestock would have affected our skulls, specifically the mandible and other anatomy involved in chewing, but quantifying such changes has proven difficult.

01 Nov 2017

Northern Finns didn't starve during Little Ice Age

Today, Finland’s Northern Ostrobothnia region is one of the northernmost places in Europe that can support agriculture. But how this region fared during the Little Ice Age — a period of globally cooler temperatures that lasted roughly from A.D. 1300 to 1850 — is unknown. Scientists assume the climatic cooling would have adversely affected food supplies. Now, however, the discovery of a mysterious medieval cemetery in northern Finland dating to the middle of the Little Ice Age is offering clues that the inhabitants were well fed and well suited to the northern clime.

31 Oct 2017

First complete DNA sequences from Egyptian mummies

Egyptian mummies provide archaeologists with a tantalizing window into ancient Egyptian culture. And now they are offering up their DNA.

11 Oct 2017

Neolithic farmers impacted sedimentation

The Neolithic Revolution, also known as the Agricultural Revolution, started in the Middle East about 11,500 years ago when people moved away from nomadic hunting and gathering toward more settled agricultural communities where they raised livestock and cultivated crops. In a new study of the Dead Sea Basin, researchers found that this turning point may also mark the first time that humans made a measurable impact on sedimentation rates.

29 Sep 2017

Jerusalem tower facelift reveals it's 1,000 years younger

Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to at least 2400 B.C. Downhill from the heart of the city is Gihon Spring, a year-round natural fount that was likely the primary water source for the ancient city. Defensive fortifications built around the spring, known as the Spring Tower, were originally dated to the Middle Bronze Age, around 1700 B.C., but a new study reveals the tower could be as much as 1,000 years younger.

19 Sep 2017

A mammoth king: Was the legend of King Hygelac in "Beowulf" inspired by a fossil find?

Some literary and scientific sleuthing suggests that the eighth-century discovery and misidentification of fossil mammoth bones on the Rhine-Meuse River Delta could have led to the monsters and characters of “Beowulf.”
20 Aug 2017

Benchmarks: July 15-24, 1975: Apollo-Soyuz mission launches space collaboration

The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union spurred innovations and historic firsts for humankind from Sputnik to the moon landing. However, much of the drive to break through those technological barriers and explore the vast, starry landscape of space was rooted in a desire to display military dominance in space amid the competition and animosity of the Cold War.

15 Jul 2017

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