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Dracula’s Dungeon Found?

October 30, 2014

Cool: CNN video.

We Evolved to Eat Vegetables and Meat, Not Grains and Dairy

October 29, 2014
Some bad history (or prehistory) from the U. S. Department of Agriculture

Some bad history (or prehistory) from the U. S. Department of Agriculture

MyPlate is a graphic from the USDA that advises Americans how to eat. But I think it’s based on bad history (and bad biology too). It tells us to get almost half of our calories from grains and dairy. Yet through almost all of our history (or prehistory), we fed ourselves by hunting and gathering, and that didn’t involve grains or dairy. Read more…

Did Hobbits Live among Us Recently?

October 27, 2014
Homo floresiensis

Homo floresiensis (reconstructed)

The Indonesian island of Flores and its neighbors host two unusual languages, called Ke’o and Ngadha. They have extremely simple grammar — surprising for Austronesian languages, which generally have complex grammar. Languages often simplify when they share land with foreign-language speakers, and the two groups communicate through a “creole” or simplified dialect. (English simplified that way after the Vikings invaded.) But until recently, Flores history hasn’t offered an obvious candidate for the foreigners in question. In 2004, however, anthropologists discovered fossils on Flores from a species they named Homo floresiensis: a small relative of ours often called “hobbits.” (See my post on hobbits and other pre-humans.) Linguist John McWhorter has suggested these hobbits provide Flores’ missing linguistic link. Read more…

Britain Does Something Noble

October 25, 2014
Commodore Sir George Ralph Collier, Baronet, commander of the West Africa Squadron from 1818 to 1821

Sir George Ralph Collier, Baronet, Commodore of the West Africa Squadron from 1818 to 1821

In 1807, the British Parliament outlawed the slave trade. Then the government did something truly unusual—possibly with no precedent. It spent military resources solely for the sake of other people. The Royal Navy assigned a squadron to patrol the coast of West Africa, hunting for slave ships—a.k.a. pirates—to make sure no one else captured and transported human beings. By 1860, the West Africa Squadron had captured 1,600 slavers and freed about 150,000 people. Read more…

Why the U.S. Has No Name

October 23, 2014

Today, the United States is a country, a nation, and we tend to think it has been since its birth. But in 1776, and for ninety years after that, no one really knew whether the U.S. was a country or a complex alliance of many countries, like today’s European Union. Read more…

The Dominican Republic Once Agreed to Join the U.S.

October 15, 2014

Few in the English-speaking world realize that the Dominican Republic once agreed to join the United States. In 1869, D.R. President Buenaventura Báez signed an annexation treaty with U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. The Caribbean nation, which shares an island with Haiti, would have become a U.S. territory, with the right eventually to apply for statehood. Read more…

Homo ghostus

September 27, 2014

I reported in an earlier post that Homo sapiens once shared the world with at least four other hominins: four other species of upright, tool-making, fire-burning people. The four are Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Flores hobbits (Homo floresiensis), and the Denisova hominins. We know of the Denisovans only from a single fossilized finger bone, or possibly two fossils. Scientists identified them as a separate species through extracted DNA. Well, now we’ve got evidence of a fifth species in the Lord of the Rings world of prehistory, and it’s more mysterious even than the Denisovans. That’s because we have no fossils for the fifth species. Read more…

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