History

The Golden Age of Athens is long over. But thanks to photographer-animator Dimitris Tsalkanis, you can still stroll through the ancient city during its most prosperous time—at least in digital form. A native of Greece’s (modern) capital, Tsalkanis has spent the past 13 years recreating the long-gone chapters of Athens’ history with 3-D modeling software,
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Charles Darwin’s ideas about evolution shook up Britain’s Victorian establishment upon the release of On the Origin of Species, the 1859 bestseller that made Darwin a household name and changed the course of scientific history. Far less famous, however, is Darwin’s publisher, John Murray III. Though he ushered Darwin and his theory of natural selection
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In November 1864, lawmakers gathered at the Maryland State House to ratify a new constitution prohibiting slavery. On Monday, more than 150 years after this momentous event, lawmakers convened at the Annapolis state capitol to unveil bronze statues honoring abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, both of whom were born into slavery in Maryland. As
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The oldest Mexican cookbook in the University of Texas at San Antonio’s (UTSA) collection was never meant for public consumption. Handwritten in 1789 by Doña Ignacita, a woman who probably served as the kitchen manager for a well-to-do family, the manuscript includes recipes for such specialties as “hidden vegetable stew,” or potaje escondido, and an
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In 1959, the Smithsonian Institution received a letter from Mrs. James “Shirley C.” Wade offering to sell a linen banner bearing an ink portrait of the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. An eagle carried the Jefferson portrait victoriously aloft framed in a halo of seven-pointed stars. From the bird’s beak streamed a
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General George Washington, hero of the American Revolution, was world famous in the 1780s, which was exactly the clout he needed to get what he was really after: Spanish ass. The best donkeys in the world came from Spain, but because of their equine superiority, the Spanish monarchy made them illegal to export without royal
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If I have learned one thing as director of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, it’s that there are two types of deaths that take national mourning to a whole new level. The first are those household names who seemed to have watched over us all our lives, imparting lessons along the way—good and bad. These
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On Charles Dickens’ 208th birthday, the London museum that bears his name celebrated by unveiling more than 300 recently acquired artifacts related to the esteemed author. The museum purchased the items—including letters, writing implements, jewelry, artwork and books—from a private collector based in the United States for £1.8 million, or about $2.3 million USD. The
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Botanical illustrations offer mesmerizingly detailed and vividly colored glimpses of the natural world. Now, reports Hakim Bishara for Hyperallergic, more than 150,000 such artworks are freely available for download via the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), an open-access digital archive that preserves images and documents related to botany, wildlife and biodiversity. Captured in watercolor paintings, lithograph
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After a long, hard day of pillaging, nothing helped the Vikings of yore unwind more than kicking back with a good old-fashioned board game. Especially popular was Hnefatafl (pronounced “neffa-taffle”), a strategy game that pitted a king and his defenders against two dozen attackers. Though much about Hnefatafl remains mysterious, the pastime was clearly precious.
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Courtrooms were considered no place for proper women in the late 1800s. Crowded with men who smoked and spat, they were places where women usually appeared as victims or witnesses, during their divorces, or when accused of committing a crime themselves. “The female spectacle would be the prostitute, the dancer, the actress, all that was
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Gold leaf acts as surprisingly effective camouflage for insect homes tucked into the corner of Catholic altarpieces—or so restorers working on Panama City’s Catedral Basílica Santa María la Antigua realized after discovering 120 clusters of bee nests accidentally sealed in the church’s central artwork for more than 150 years. Scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research
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Tiny, trim and vibrantly colored, mud wasps are far more concerned with snaring snacks of spiders than appreciating works of art. But the insects will still build their nests on artistic creations—and in doing so, they sometimes inadvertently lend a helping wing to modern research efforts. Reporting this week in the journal Science Advances, a
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