Workers in Cologne, Germany have stumbled upon a 2000-year-old library while preparing a car park site for construction. The find, one of many archeological discoveries in the ancient city, has greatly excited archeologists, bibliophiles, and history buffs alike as it is the oldest known library in Germany.
Archeologists initially thought they had found a public meeting space until they noticed the walls had small niches carved into them that were too small to fit statues inside. “They are very particular to libraries—you can see the same ones in the library at Ephesus,” explained Dr. Dirk Schmitz, an archeologist involved in the excavation.
The library dates back to the second century AD, a golden age for the Roman Empire, and would have been built around the same time as many others, such as the Library of Celsus in Turkey. The construction of libraries was vogue at this time, and massive new buildings were put up to both store documents and glorify the builders. The Library of Celsus, for example, was built to commemorate Senator Tiberius Celsus, who was buried inside.
Tourists pose in front of the restored facade of the Library of Celsus in Izmir, Turkey. Its statues, facade, and size made it much larger than many other libraries of the day. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
The Cologne library is estimated to have held up to 20,000 parchment scrolls, all of which have long turned to dust. This makes it more extensive than many other libraries of the time, but much smaller than the Bibliotheca Ulpia, which needed separate buildings to hold its Greek and Latin collections, or the famous Library of Alexandria, which was built to house all of the knowledge of the ancient world.
What kind of scrolls could you get there?
The content of the scrolls the library held is the subject of pure speculation, but other libraries are known to have held records, histories, poetry, scientific manuscripts, philosophy, and works of Greek and Roman literature.
Since the Romans held Greek culture and thought in high regard, most major libraries would have had separate sections for both languages. Many upper-class Romans had private libraries and enjoyed reading what we now think of as classics, so it is probable that this library had works by Virgil and Homer.
So, could anybody have gone in and checked out a scroll?
Such a library would have been the domain of well-connected elites, so claims T. Keith Dix of the University of Georgia in his article “Public Libraries” in Ancient Rome: Ideology and Reality. While some Roman libraries were open to the general public, many were not, and the books and scrolls would be available only to those the local authorities liked. Records show that being able to take the books out of the library was rare and most people had to read the scrolls in the room where they got them.
In any case, William V. Harris claims in the book Ancient Literacy that no more than 5-10% of the population of the classical world would have been literate, with some scholarly areas seeing rates near 20%. He also tells us that members of the army tended to be more literate than most.
This is taking a strong definition of the word “literacy” though. The presence of graffiti on many Roman buildings shows that members of the lower classes could write, if poorly.
Since what is now Cologne was the heavily fortified capital of the frontier province of Germania Inferior, it is probable that the city had a decent number of literate citizens between its garrisons, administrators, educators, professionals, and priests who could have been patrons of the library.
(For the balance of this article please visit: https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/2000-year-old-roman-library-discovered-in-germany/)
A look at the available evidenceRegis Duvignau / Reuters
And, if we’re going back this far, we’re not talking about human civilizations anymore. Homo sapiens didn’t make their appearance on the planet until just 300,000 years or so ago. That means the question shifts to other species, which is why Gavin called the idea the Silurian hypothesis, after an old Dr. Who episode with intelligent reptiles.
So, could researchers find clear evidence that an ancient species built a relatively short-lived industrial civilization long before our own? Perhaps, for example, some early mammal rose briefly to civilization building during the Paleocene epoch about 60 million years ago. There are fossils, of course. But the fraction of life that gets fossilized is always minuscule and varies a lot depending on time and habitat. It would be easy, therefore, to miss an industrial civilization that only lasted 100,000 years—which would be 500 times longer than our industrial civilization has made it so far.
Given that all direct evidence would be long gone after many millions of years, what kinds of evidence might then still exist? The best way to answer this question is to figure out what evidence we’d leave behind if human civilization collapsed at its current stage of development.
(For the balance of this article please see: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/are-we-earths-only-civilization/557180/)
Meet Hypatia, the ancient mathematician who helped preserve seminal texts
Her dramatic death often overshadows her epic life, but it shouldn’t
Illustration by Matteo Farinella
Why the last? Tension between religious and secular factions seeking control over the city boiled over in the early 400s, leading to her violent murder and turning her into a martyr for scientists, pagans, and atheists.
Hypatia’s death is much better recorded than her life – historians aren’t even sure when she was born (sometime around 350 CE). But there is plenty of evidence that Hypatia was a tremendous scholar.
If you wanted to learn math and astronomy in Alexandria, it helped if your dad was Theon, the last known member of Alexandria’s museum (not a museum in the sense we use the word now but more of a “university”). Theon taught Hypatia and sought her help with some of his commentaries – republications of someone else’s work with notes interpreting and explaining various parts.
Commentaries such as these played an important role in preserving and advancing ancient Greek works at a time when such works were seen by many as “pagan” and opposed to Christian ideals. Many historians believe that at least one of the commentaries attributed to her father, the third book of Theon’s version of Ptolemy’s Almagest, an astronomical text used widely until the 16th century, was actually written by Hypatia.
This authorship debate sometimes overshadows works that are conclusively hers, including commentaries written under her own name on topics including geometry, number theory, and astronomy. If it weren’t for Hypatia, works like On the Conics of Apllonius, which introduces hyperbolas, parabolas, and ellipses, would likely have been forgotten, because their concepts were written in dense jargon – Hypatia was skilled at translating complex mathematical topics in terms the general public could understand.
Unfortunately, these commentaries have been lost – most of what we know about Hypatia’s work is from letters to her and passing references in historical accounts. Some people have credited her with developing a device called an astrolabe (an astronomical calculator of sorts). While she did teach her students about them, and likely helped design more elaborate versions, it was probably invented by someone else.
Hypatia also became a renowned Neoplatonic philosopher, rising to lead the Platonic School at Alexandria and giving public lectures in addition to private lessons. Hypatia’s association with “science” and “learning” led her to be labeled a “pagan,” a dangerous thing at a time when paganism was seen by many as a kind of “religious rival” threatening to pull people away from Christianity. But Hypatia taught students of all backgrounds. People came from all over the world to hear her speak, and she held great respect from the male-dominated society.
Historian Socrates Scholasticus wrote of her:
She not unfrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in coming to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more.
Hypatia was a master networker – she had an “in” with many powerful figures in the ancient world, including the governor of Alexandria, Orestes. This popularity likely spawned jealousy in archbishop Cyril, already in a foul mood due to a feud with Orestes over control of the city. Orestes was a Christian, but he didn’t think the Christian Church should encroach on “civil government.” Cyril, on the other hand, wanted the church to have more control in secular affairs. The argument led to Cyril’s monks trying to assassinate Orestes, but they only succeeded at putting Orestes on high alert. But they didn’t have to look far for an easier target – Hypatia regularly traveled around, giving public lectures proudly espousing “pagan” views.
She was also a target for other reasons: as a close acquaintance to Orestes, Hypatia likely advised him regarding the feud, and some of Cyril’s followers saw her as getting in the way of conflict resolution, even accusing her of using witchcraft to sow divide. In 415 or 416, a mob of Christian zealots attacked Hypatia’s carriage on the streets of Alexandria, dragged her into a church, and violently killed her and burned her body.
Hypatia’s brutal death turned her life into a “martyr story” that has been used by scientists, pagans, and atheists throughout the ages as evidence of long-standing discrimination and the “evils” of the Christian Church. But another version of her story to remember is that of a powerful woman considered a world leader in philosophy and mathematics at a time when most women were confined to domestic duties.
This piece was produced in partnership with Sloan Science & Film, an initiative of the Museum of the Moving Image that publishes science-based film guides, including for Alejandro Amenábar’s feature Agora (2009). The film stars Rachel Weisz as Hypatia, and Oscar Isaac as her student. It was awarded the Sloan Feature Film Prize at the Hamptons International Film Festival for its realistic and compelling portrayal of science.
(Source of this article: https://massivesci.com/articles/hypatia-math-science-heroes/)
Money is one of the most important concepts in human history. Love it or hate it, we’ve devoted a lot of time to it. While we use paper currencies today, some of the items used as cash throughout history have been a little less recognizable, and some choices are hilarious in hindsight.
On the islands of Palau and Yap, four-ton stone rings called Rai stones are still used for measuring wealth and traditional purposes. In New France during the 18th century, playing cards became legal currency as gold and silver supplies dwindled. Colonial Virginia used tobacco, and British Canada used beaver pelts instead of metal coins.
But perhaps the strangest currency belonged to the Mayan people, who used cacao beans, the basis of chocolate, to pay their taxes and trade with one another.
Wait, cacao beans?
In a paper published in Economic Anthropologyby Joanne Baron of the Bard Early College Network, the argument is made that depictions of cacao beans in Mayan artwork gradually shift from treating it as food with some value in bartering to treating it as money used both to shop and pay taxes.
The Maya, like every other culture, depicted everyday lives in their art. While the earliest artwork didn’t show very many cacao beans, by the 8th century it was depicted on everything. While many of the early images show it being used as food, later images show it being offered as a tribute to the nobility or used in trade.
Nearly 200 pieces of artwork depict cacao beans being used to pay tribute and taxes, which Baron argues made them a functioning currency, as there was little chance the nobility could use that many beans as anything other than money. One cited study suggests that of the 11 million beans paid as taxes per year only two million were consumed. There isn’t much else to do with nine million beans you won’t eat unless you’re using them as cash.
It is possible that the Maya just started to depict cacao beans more often in their art without having made them officially money. However, the later recorded use of cacao beans as currency by the Aztecs supports the idea that the Maya did the same.
Why did they find these beans so valuable?
Mesoamericans have been cultivating cacao since nearly 2000 BCE and the bean originally had value as the basis for a mildly alcoholic drink. Later, a frothy, nonalcoholic drink similar to hot chocolate was developed. This refreshing drink rapidly became more popular than its predecessor and was used in offerings to the Gods. Chocolate was so adored that the cacao plant had its own deity who was regularly worshiped.
It seems that the value of a cacao bean was always related to its intrinsic value as food, with the beans that were largest, roundest, and best colored having the highest value. However, the 16th-century naturalist Francisco Hernández informs us that while there were four kinds of beans, only the smallest type was used to make hot chocolate. The larger beans were still appraised by their ability to be made into beverages but were only used for exchange.
The Spanish conquerors of México also observed that since the qualities of a good bean were determined by looks the appearance of a bad bean could be altered to fool an absent-minded customer.
(For the balance of this article please visit: https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/a-sweet-economic-system-chocolate-was-money-in-ancient-maya-civilization/)
10 Times Great Philosophers Revealed Their Personalities
Pythagoras was a cult leader, Socrates loved to dance + 8 other revelations
Think of how many celebrities you know with personal lives for the world to see. How many of them do you share hobbies with? How many of them have made a humanizing slip-up?
People have been gossiping about celebrity lifestyles since the dawn of fame, but we often focus our attention on the lives of actors, athletes, and attention seekers. Famous academics and philosophers usually get a little more privacy.
This doesn’t mean their lives are any less interesting, however. An entire book, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius, was written on the subject in the third century. A new edition reminds us that even eggheads can be just as amusing as rock stars.
Here are some of the most demystifying life stories of 10 famous philosophers. Take some of the details here with a grain of salt though, the book is rather uncritically written, and many details lack sources. Other details are supposedly confirmed by sources long since lost.
This hasn’t stopped other philosophers, Nietzsche and Montaigne among them, from admiring the text and it shouldn’t stop you.
Socrates is held in extremely high esteem as both a great philosopher and academia’s great martyr. In Diogenes’ biography, we are reminded of Socrates the man. He tells us of how Socrates served in the army, was often found socializing downtown, and edited his friends’ plays—including Euripides, one of the big three ancient Greek tragedians.
Perhaps most amusingly, Diogenes tells us that Socrates loved to dance and thought that “such exercise helped to keep the body in good condition.” He also learned how to play the lyre as an old man, just like your crazy uncle during his mid-life crisis, and “he saw no absurdity in learning a new accomplishment.”
In a showing of tremendous wit, when his wife told him he suffered unjustly, he asked her, “Would you have me suffer justly?” He also supposedly told a man that he would regret both getting married and being single, perhaps explaining that last remark.
Aristotle teaching Alexander the Great. Engraving by Charles Laplante (Public domain, via Wikimedia Common)
Plato’s most famous student, Aristotle would go on to touch every branch of human thought that existed at the time. He tutored Alexander the great, wrote an ethical theory that still has a punch, and founded his own academy in Athens.
The most interesting detail that Diogenes tells us about Aristotle is that he had a lisp or stutter. Given that many of Aristotle’s works were given as lectures and recorded later, we must imagine that he either embraced it or worked around it. Diogenes gives us sources for this claim, but his book has long since become the authority on the matter. Accurate or not, Aristotle makes it on to many lists of celebrities with speech impediments.
Original Artwork: Engraving by Ambrose Tardieu (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Thales is the first philosopher in the western intellectual tradition and is most famous for his argument that water is the fundamental substance of the universe. He was also a noted mathematician, businessman, and sage.
Diogenes reminds us of his sharp wit. He records that when asked if there was a difference between life and death Thales responded that there was not. When he was then asked, “Why then, do you not die?” Thales retorted “Because it makes no difference.” On another occasion, he was asked which was older, nighttime or daytime. He replied, “Night is older, by one day.”
Plato (left) and his student Aristotle (Right) as imagined by Raphael.
Plato’s contribution to western thought is impossible to overstate. Philosopher Alfred Whitehead went so far as to suggest that all of European philosophy was “a series of footnotes to Plato.”
Diogenes tells us a great many things about him. His name, allegedly, was given to him by his wrestling coach on account of his “robust figure”—the name is derived from the Greek word platys, meaning ‘broad’. Plato was skilled enough to participate in the Isthmian Games, which attracted athletes from all over Greece.
Platon was a common name, however, it would be strange for a family so wealthy and noble as Plato’s not to name him for an immediate male relative. Diogenes tells us that Plato’s real name was Aristocles, but this is impossible to confirm. Plato also called himself “Plato” later in his life, making the issue more difficult. In any case, we might know one of the greatest thinkers of all time by his stage name!
(For the balance of this article visit: http://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/10-times-great-philosophers-revealed-their-personalities)
Frayed, browned and in fragile condition, the Voynich manuscript currently resides deep in a basement at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library but digitized copies of it are available for free online.
Examining images from the manuscript.
Since it came to light over 100 years ago, many have tried and failed to decode the text — from US Army cryptographers to ordinary citizens postulating theories in the deepest corners of Reddit.
Its author and original title are unknown, and it is named for the collector and bookseller Wilfrid Voynich, who purchased it in 1912.
Ever since Voynich showed it off to the world, the incomprehensible text and cryptic illustrations have spurred countless theories about its meaning, origin, and the identity of its author. Some thought it might have been written by Leonardo Da Vinci or maybe even an autistic monk, others felt it might simply be an elaborate prank.
So what do we really know about the Voynich manuscript? Why has it captivated the imagination of so many through the decades? And will its mysteries ever be solved?
Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America and a longtime Voynich scholar, says the first recorded appearance of the manuscript was when it was bought in the late 16th century by Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, who believed it had been written by 13th century British philosopher and alchemist Roger Bacon.
Some of illustrations in the book resemble known plants, others less so.
It then apparently traveled around Europe, disappearing for 250 years, before eventually being acquired by Voynich. Although Voynich never revealed where he got the manuscript, Davis says that his wife disclosed after his death that he had bought it from Jesuits outside of Rome.
In 2011, carbon-dating revealed the parchment dates back to the early 15th century, somewhere between 1404 to 1438. Analysis of the ink confirmed it was consistent with what was used during that period.
That dating rules out some of the names postulated as being the author, like Bacon, Da Vinci and Voynich himself. But beyond those facts, the manuscript offers more questions than answers.
It’s that sense of mystery that has captured the public imagination, and compelled so many to attempt to decipher its meaning.
Davis concludes “It’s magical. It really is. There’s nothing like it.”
A team of scientists has discovered a mysterious “big void” inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest pyramid in the Giza complex. The void was discovered using a novel scanning technology called cosmic-ray muon radiography, and while the scanning team is suggesting this could be an undiscovered inner structure, some Egyptologists are not convinced.
The scanning project, called ScanPyramids, was launched in late 2015 and set out to scan four specific Egyptian pyramids using a variety of new and innovative scanning technologies. In the case of the Great Pyramid, the team deployed a scanning technique that detects the path of muon particles, an elementary particle that is created when cosmic rays collide with atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
The team developed three separate muon-detection techniques and investigated the path of these particles through the Great Pyramid. The path of muons is straight unless they hit a dense or solid object, and then they can be slightly deflected. By measuring these particle tracks scientists can identify whether they are moving through solid rock or if there are empty spaces.
Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists recently revealed the discovery of a large void above the Grand Gallery in the Great Pyramid. The discovery was confirmed using all three muon detection processes and it is suspected to be about 30 meters (100 ft) long.
(For balance of this article visit: https://newatlas.com/void-great-pyramid-skepticism/52037/)
There are a few controversial claims floating around that the Americas were reached by oversea cultures before Columbus made his well-known visit to the “New World” in 1492. For example, Italian physicist and philologist Lucio Russo has presented the argument that the ancient Greeks reached America long before Columbus.
Another intriguing argument suggests the Chinese “discovered” the Americas 70 years prior to the famous voyage.
The suggestion that the Chinese arrival predated Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas is a major argument of the amateur historian Gavin Menzies. In fact, it seems that Menzies has made his career by going against the mainstream view of the past.
Three of his more debated books are “1421: The Year China Discovered the World,”a book claiming a Chinese fleet led by Admiral Zheng He reached the Americas in 1421; its sequel “1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance”; and a text that mainstream thinkers regularly mock, “The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History’s Greatest Mystery Revealed.”
A Chinese map from 1418 seems to show parts of North and South America, according to Menzies.
You may wonder about Menzies’s claims. In the text “Who Discovered America: The Untold History of the Peopling of the Americas,” Menzies argues a Chinese map from 1418 provides evidence for his argument that the Chinese explored the Americas in 1421.
Specifically, Menzies makes mention to a map charted by Admiral Zheng He which appears to show North American rivers and coasts and something of South America. DNA studies are also used as his evidence for indigenous Americans being related to the waves of Asian settlers he asserts reached the Americas.
Menzies says the map helps explain the Chinese names of some places in Peru.
A Christie’s Auctions’ appraiser has allegedly confirmed the authenticity of the map. Historians are also said to have stated the map was written in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Menzies says that the map’s validity can also be used to explain the Chinese names of several towns and regions in Peru.
Menzies has been repeatedly criticized and mocked by the mainstream academic community.
For example, University of London history professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto has suggested that Menzies’s books are “the historical equivalent of stories about Elvis Presley in (the supermarket) and close encounters with alien hamsters.”
While it’s true Menzies may not be correct in his claims, it is extremely unfortunate that a person courageous enough to make his assertions has been so widely mocked for presenting an idea that dares to go against the mainstream.
Republished with permission. Read the original at Ancient-Origins.net.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
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In Beyond Science, The Epoch Times explores research and accounts related to phenomena and theories that challenge our current knowledge. We delve into ideas that stimulate the imagination and open up new possibilities.
Want to know the reason much of North America speaks English and not Spanish? It all boils down to a single day in the English Channel in August of 1588, says Yale University history professor John Lewis Gaddis. The Spanish Armada was cleverly chased out of British waters by a rag-tag British fleet that set old ships on fire and pointed them right at the anchored Spanish fleet, causing the Spaniards to cut anchor and flee. Because of the way the wind was blowing, the Spanish ships had to sail all the way around the British Isles (about 2,000 nautical miles) to get home and were soundly defeated. That led, John posits, to the rise of the British empire. John’s latest book is the fascinating On Grand Strategy.
(For more information visit: http://bigthink.com/videos/john-lewis-gaddis-how-spanish-not-english-was-nearly-the-worlds-language)
The Tacoma Bridge collapse of 1940 in Washington, USA was a calamity of the world’s third longest suspension bridge back then and had a crucial impact on engineering. It caused the governing of the modeling of all the long-span bridges in the future.
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was an iconic, long-span bridge built in the state of Washington in the USA in the 1930s. It was opened to traffic on t July 1940. Leon Moisseiff planned the building’s design to be far more flexible than the acceptable standard ratios.
On 7 November 1940, strong winds of 40 mph battered the area and the bridge oscillated significantly. The bridge towers were made of strong, structural carbon steel, yet they proved no match for the violent movements which eventually caused the bridge to collapse. Fortunately, there were no fatalities except for a dog. The estimated loss from the mishap was $6.4 million.
(For more on other engineering disasters visit: http://mrbublenews.com/index.php/2018/04/14/the-14-worst-disasters-engineering-history/)
Published 2018 Apr 17
Only on closer inspection did they realize it was silver, German national news agency DPA reported.
The excavation uncovered more than 600 coins and pieces of silver, including, jewelry, neck rings, brooches, pearls and a Thor’s hammer dating back to the late 10th century.
According to a statement released by the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern State Office for Culture and Historic Preservation, approximately 100 coins from the salvaged treasure trove are thought to have belonged to Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson who reigned from around AD958 to 986 and whose name is today linked to bluetooth technology.
The Viking-born king is regarded by historians as the founder of the Danish empire and is credited with unifying the country under one flag.
He is believed to have converted to Christianity some time around 960, a decision that historians link to a decline in pagan traditions throughout the kingdom.
Abandoned Train – Pinterest.com – Abandoned Steam Engine Train – Skeleton Coast – Namibia – 622ccc3f121cfb3e345284d4ca685a13 – “Dead End” by Keith Alexander, South African visual artist.
Heady feelings of triumph for the people of the central New Mexico pueblos didn’t last long after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Governor Otermín’s attempted return reminded the Puebloans that the Spanish would eventually return, and remembering how they seemed to stand in the path of any conquering army, they decided to relocate. When the Spanish did return, many more relocated, and after the failed revolt in 1696,many pueblos were abandoned entirely, out of fear of retribution. Some of these refuges found a home on the Hopi First Mesa [in what is, today, Arizona].
For the full story, see the chapter entitled The Tewa Village in Hopi in the book Forgotten Tales of New Mexico by Ellen Dornan published by The History Press. ArcadiaPublishing.com. ISBN: 978-1609494858. $13.00. 176 pages. 5″x7″.