Coronavirus Would Not Have Disrupted Our Ancestors’ Lives

A virus circles the world, killing 1% of the population or more, particularly the elderly … and people just go about their business. Even in countries that understand contagion, no one healthy stops working, and neither do most of the sick. In fact, if you suggest staying home, most people think you’re crazy. Why manufacture an economic disaster? That’s how our ancestors would react to coronavirus, from the ancient world through early modern times. Their lives already involved a steady risk of death from acute, fast-acting disease, so this comparatively mild new illness would hardly set them back.

Europe's history of pandemic inspired Breugel's famous painting
The Triumph of Death, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. c. 1562. Click for a closer view of death’s regular assault on our ancestors.

Continue reading “Coronavirus Would Not Have Disrupted Our Ancestors’ Lives”

My New Novel, Secrets of Hominea!

My new novel just went on sale! Secrets of Hominea is a magical middle grade fantasy novel: a tale of giants, gnomes, queens, and adventurers — and of science and history. It’s for readers age 9 to 14.

middle grade novel

My first novel, The Jericho River, won multiple awards, including wins at the Next Generation Indie awards and the London Book Festival, as well as a bronze medal in the Readers’ Favorite awards. Continue reading “My New Novel, Secrets of Hominea!”

A New Timeline — and an Old Brain — for Homo Sapiens

Anthropologists recently made a fascinating discovery: Homo sapiens fossils found in Morocco date back 300,000 years. Until about a week ago, we thought our species reaches back only 200,000 years. The extra hundred grand opens up all kinds of possibilities for how and where we evolved — possibilities anthropologists have hardly begun to digest. Continue reading “A New Timeline — and an Old Brain — for Homo Sapiens”

Ancient Man-Made Global Warming and Environmental Engineering

Many Americans doubt man-made global warming because they don’t think humans could so fundamentally change the world. Some believe only God could alter the climate. But small groups of Homo sapiens have been re-engineering the environment on a massive scale for thousands of years, using only primitive tools. Many scientist think that includes ancient man-made global warming.

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The bison: greatest beneficiary of Native American environmental engineering?

Most of us know that humans have been cutting down forests and wiping out animal species for millennia. But we rarely recognize the scale of past people’s impact Continue reading “Ancient Man-Made Global Warming and Environmental Engineering”

Black Europeans, Short Spaniards, Tall Swedes, Milk, and Recent Human Evolution

During the past year, genetic studies have revealed some surprises about European prehistory. One study in particular analyzed DNA from 230 skeletons, dating from 6600 B.C. to around 300 B.C. It tells us that Europeans evolved many familiar traits far more recently than we’d thought. Continue reading “Black Europeans, Short Spaniards, Tall Swedes, Milk, and Recent Human Evolution”

Cheddar Man’s Family

Scientists call Britain’s oldest complete skeleton “Cheddar Man.” He lived around 7150 B.C.E., when forest covered Britain and antelope roamed, along with wild horses. Cheddar Man’s people were hunter-gatherers, and they ate the antelope and horses — along with each other, most likely. Butcher marks on his skeleton suggest someone carved him up, possibly after murdering him. Continue reading “Cheddar Man’s Family”