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!”

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.

1280px-George_Catlin_Bull_Buffalo
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”

The Backflow into Africa

A 19th Century nobleman of Ethiopia -- the population most impacted by the backflow
A 19th Century nobleman of Ethiopia — one of the lands most impacted by the backflow

We all know Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and then spread across the rest of the world. But scientists have recently demonstrated that, around 1000 B.C., an astoundingly large group came back. This “backflow” brought so many people from Eurasia that today’s East Africans get as much as 25% of their genes from Middle Eastern ancestors. In other words, about a quarter of their ancestors were Middle Eastern migrants. And even in far Western and Southern Africa, more than 3,000 miles away, the people get at least 5% of their genes from backflow migrants. Continue reading “The Backflow into Africa”

Stone Age GPS and the Discovery of Hawaii

Polynesians settled Hawaii during the 400’s C.E. They came by double-hulled sailing canoe from the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. The trip probably took months, and survival required substantial supplies of food and fresh water. Even then death loomed for any canoe the gods didn’t favor with rain, fish, and good winds. It’s hard enough to imagine making the trip when you know the destination. But how did the Polynesians ever discover Hawaii in the first place? Continue reading “Stone Age GPS and the Discovery of Hawaii”