History

How Agatha Christie’s Deep Respect For Science Helped Her Mysteries Stand The Test Of Time

Before 1924, crime scene examiners’ bags—which contain nifty things that keep evidence from further contamination—didn’t exist. Police and investigators handled evidence with their bare hands and used improvised containers for evidence. It was Sir Bernard Spilsbury, a pathologist, who introduced this little crime scene bag. But that was not the first time a bag of this sort was brought up. It was actually prominent crime fiction author Agatha Christie who first mentioned it in her book “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” four years before Sir Spilsbury made it a reality. Read full article here

Domestic Chickens’ Origin Story May Have Begun About 3,500 Years Ago

Why did the chicken cross the continent? The earliest domesticated chicken bones dug up in Southeast Asia were quite peculiar. Compared to the later chicken bones found in Rome, earlier Southeast Asian chicken skeletons had no signs of injury from butchering. Additionally, these whole skeletons were found buried alone or in human graves. Many early chicken skeletons were like this, suggesting that people domesticated and brought chickens with them, not for food, but because they viewed them as sacred (or at least culturally significant). Read full article here.

The Western Conquest of the Silk Routes

Where did the corporation come from? Corporations were invented by the English and the Dutch in the early 17th century to help latecomers enter the trading industry. Those without established family trading businesses struggled with raising money to kickstart their trading business. Corporations solved that issue because they allowed multiple merchants to pool their money together in a way that gave them a share in the business equal to how much they chipped in. Read full article here.

The World’s Oldest Pharmacy, Still Selling Potions For Graverobbers And Queens

Santa Maria Novella, the world’s oldest pharmacy, has many odd concoctions from centuries past. This Florentine chapel houses the Seven Thieves’ Vinegar, a supposedly magical perfume that protects the wearer from the Black Death, the deadliest European plague outbreak. It gets its name from its origin story. There was once a group of seven thieves that escaped the plague despite stealing from the dead and dying. When they were caught, the judge spared their lives in exchange for the recipe, as each thief knew only one ingredient of this powerful brew.
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The Clinical Orgasm

Once upon a time, dildos and vibrators were used in…medicine? They were “medical instruments” that were used to treat “hysteria” (now known as “anorgasmia”) in women in the 1800s. Hysteria was a minor, but very common disease that messed with happy married life, frequent conception, and healthy birth. Both doctors and laypeople who would self-treat would use these sex toys to bring women to orgasm as a “cure”. They have also never been outlawed, even when other obscene materials, like porn and contraceptives, were banned. Read full article here

Art History’s Hidden Sexual Innuendo: The Weasel

Ancient peoples had bizarre misconceptions about weasel conception. They believed weasel mothers conceived children in their ears and gave birth through their mouths, as weasels carry their tiny young in their mouths. For a long time, they were considered sexual deviants because of it. However, weasels’ reputation changed after their “bizarre conception” was likened to the Annunciation of Christ, where the Virgin Mary conceived Jesus Christ after an angel whispered in her ear. After that, weasels were regarded as fertility talismans, bringing good luck to mothers and would-be mothers. Read full article here

Wolfenden’s Women: Prostitution In Post-War Britain

Written in 1954 to address the crimes of prostitution and homosexuality in Britain, the Wolfenden Report has been lauded as a liberalising document because it helped decriminalise homosexual sex, but it was quite repressive towards prostitution. Wolfenden’s writers argue it had greater implications than just public attitudes toward prostitution. The report liberalised the private sphere (by decriminalising gay sex) in exchange for greater government control in the public sphere (where prostitution largely operated). The book also tackles how maintaining public order is more important than ensuring the safety of prostitutes. Read full article here

Weighing Up The Evidence

Heliocentrism — the idea that the Sun was the centre of the Universe, rather than the Earth — has a long, storied history, dating back to before Copernicus, to whom the idea is usually attributed. Despite Copernicus’ mathematical models and Galileo’s arguments for the heliocentric model, Tycho Brahe’s modified geocentric model prevailed for decades after Galileo’s death in 1642. This was no doubt partly because Galileo’s arguments weren’t hard evidence, and some of it was even compatible with Brahe’s model, so he couldn’t convince the great astronomers of his time. Read full article here

Ancient Elites Drank Wine Infused With Vanilla

If you’ve drunk wine infused with vanilla, then you’ve had a taste of royalty. Archaeologists have discovered several ancient storage jars from the debris of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem with traces of vanilla, a highly prized imported herb. The jars had a rosette stamp indicating they were part of the royal kingdom of Judah. This evidence, along with several wine-markers, points to the possibility that the ancient Judean elite drank wine infused with vanilla, showcasing their stature. Read full article here

This Plane Accidentally Flew Around The World

After the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor reached the crew of Pan American Clipper 18602, Captain Bob Ford knew what he had to do. Ford was to implement ‘Plan A’: a series of instructions in a brown envelope that all Pan Am captains had been carrying for the past few months. For Ford and his crew, Plan A meant continuing to Auckland, the nearest unoccupied friendly Pan Am base without lights or radio, to avoid detection by the enemy. Read full article here

FASCINATING READS, SUMMARISED

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