Author: Historical Nonfiction

My favorite detail is the lady sharing a smile with the child. My second favorite detail is the stuffed pig, perched in the child’s lap.

The Ability to Adapt Gave Homo Sapiens an Edge:

Humans are pretty adaptable compared to other hominin species, and other apes, which may have been key to the survival of our species. Most animals stick to particular habitats, or are wide-ranging, and based on that scientists classify species on a continuum between generalist and specialist.

But homo sapiens are unique in that they can specialize, and they can generalize. We are specialist-generalists. Some humans have adapted intensively to one ecological niche, most famously high-altitude zones, while other wander across ecological zones. Yet we are still all one species, able to intermarry, or switch regions and adapt. That makes homo sapiens unique across species.

When Ötzi the Iceman died around 5,300 years ago in the Italian Alps, he was surrounded by thousands of microscopic fragments of bryophytes, a plant group that includes mosses and the flowerless green plants known as liverworts. Now a team has analyzed bryophyte fragments recovered from Ötzi’s clothes, gastrointestinal tract, and pieces of ice around him.

Although only 23 bryophyte species currently live near the glacier where Ötzi was found, about 75 species were identified by the team. This included 10 liverwort species, which are rarely recovered from archaeological sites. The team also found that only 30% of the identified species were local to where Ötzi died. The rest came from lower elevations, helping to confirm the route Ötzi took as he journeyed to what became his final resting place more than 10,000 feet above sea level.

You may know about a French king who sometime believed he was made of glass. To keep himself from shattering, Charles VI insisted on wearing reinforced clothing, such as having iron rods sewn in. There is a more recent royal example of “the glass delusion” in a 19th-century German princess who was once courted by a Napoleon.

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The ancient city of Koh Ker had a very brief spell as the capital and center of the Khmer Empire, between 928 and 944 CE. The capital was then moved back to Angkor Wat.

A new study has used ground-penetrating radar and manual excavation to uncover some of the hidden structures of the Koh Ker settlement, discovering a chute some seven kilometers long (4.3 miles), designed to ferry water from the Stung Rongea river to the city. But the chute has been calculated to be too small. This meant there were likely overflows and flooding, and the water would end up being wasted, without reaching where it was supposed to go.

In 944 CE after just 16 years in Koh Ker, King Jayavarman IV decided to move the capital back to its previous location in Angkor Wat. It was probably no coincidence that Angkor Wat’s water infrastructure actually worked.

Looking at this map, you would never know that potatoes were domesticated in the Andean highlands. History takes some strange turns.

New Study Pinpoints The Ancestral Homeland of All Humans Alive Today:

A group of researchers say they have pinpointed the ancestral homeland of all humans alive today: modern-day Botswana. Based on analyses of mitochondrial DNA, the researchers concluded that every person alive today descended from a woman who lived in modern-day Botswana about 200,000 years ago.