Archive for the 'Archaeology' Category

It was believed the Coelacanth went extinct along with the dinosaurs around 66 million years ago when the Chicxulub impactor smashed into planet Earth…that was until Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, curator of the East London Museum, found one in a pile of fish on a dock in South Africa in 1938. This ancient fish surprised the scientific world when the first living specimen was pulled up by Captain Hendrik Goosen while he was trawling for fish near the mouth of the Chalumna River. The Coelacanth was dubbed a “living fossil” though it was eventually discovered that it has evolved over the last 400 million years. Come hear the story of how the determined Marjorie saved the world’s first extant Coelacanth specimen, and what exactly makes this strange, ancient species so special.

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Over 5,200 years ago a king rose to power in Upper Egypt. His name was Scorpion. Yes, there was a real Scorpion king, and we can piece together a fragmentary picture of his life through the archaeological evidence left behind. Though the details of his life are debated, it’s clear he was an important part of Egyptian history. Come join me as we time travel back to predynastic Egypt and meet the legendary Scorpion King.

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Bundle up, grab some nog, and get ready for a 117-year-old ghost story. We don’t tend to think of ghost stories when we think of the glitz and glamour of the holidays, but the tradition of gathering around the fire to tell dark tales and call upon the lore of ages long since passed goes back generations. Today, we discuss this tradition and hear M.R. James’s tale “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,” first published in 1904.

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It’s a stone with many names--the Stone of Destiny, the Stone of Scone, the Coronation Stone, Lia Fáil-- and there are numerous legends and myths about its origins. For centuries it was used in the coronations of Scottish kings, that is, until it was taken to England by Edward 1st in 1296. From then on it was used in the coronations of English and subsequent British monarchs, symbolizing their rule over Scotland and its incorporation into the United Kingdom. For 700 years after it was taken by the English king, it remained in Westminster Abby under the Coronation Chair, until Christmas day, 1950, when four students from the University of Glasgow--Kay Matheson, Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, and Alan Stuart--decided it was time for Scotland to take it back. This is the true story of one of the most famous and unlikely heists in history. The most remarkable part of this incredible true story isn't that these four students planned on breaking into Westminster Abby to steal back a symbol of Scottish nationalism…it's that they were going to get away with it.

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Music and murder collide in the third installment of the series highlighting the life of one of America’s greatest musical legends: Leadbelly. Ledbetter was already a fugitive when he murdered Will Stafford on a dirt road in Texas. No longer able to run from the law, Huddie faced difficult times in the brutal early 20th century prison system where he wrote some of his most profound music. But Leadbelly wouldn’t go down without a fight (and at least two more prison breaks). In this episode, we explore the next chapter of his life, as well as learn the dark history of convict leasing and why the remains of 95 inmates, known as the “Sugarland 95,” lie buried just below the surface of a small, Texas town.

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This week we travel back in time 430,000 years to find some of the first examples of compassion in the fossil record. This time we fuse psychology and science with history as we discuss why compassion exists, its potential health benefits, the consequences of stress, fight or flight, and what that all has to do with human happiness. This one packs a scientific punch as we turn up the nerd level to 11.

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The finale is here! In the final episode we explore the final years of Olympias’s epic life. We cover how she cultivated her own power at court, watch her rise to even greater heights after the death of Alexander the Great, see a war waged between two incredible women of the ancient world, and find out just how this mother of an empire met her end.

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In Part 2 we continue to uncover the hidden history of Olympias of Epirus. Assassination, murder, and the political intrigue of an ancient royal court all take center stage in this episode. Come discover the next chapters in the life of one of the most vilified women in history as we sift through the propaganda of two millennia to get a glimpse of the incredible life of the most powerful woman in ancient Greece. Find out what she did next, at the budding of one of history’s largest and most fascinating empires, as we see just how far she would go to ensure the success of her dynasty.  

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The finale is here! Come find out just how one of the most inspiring stories of human endurance ended. We head back to Antarctica and watch the crew of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition make history as Shackleton attempts one last desperate attempt at a rescue mission. This episode has all the answers you've been waiting for. 

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In 1914 the 28 member crew of the Endurance left to trek across the continent of Antarctica on foot. It is now the beginning of 1916. Their ship has been crushed, they've been stranded on the ice with no way out, and they've taken to the boats in a last ditch effort to escape the ice melting beneath them. In Part 4 we hear what happens next as they head for the yet unexplored Elephant Island, and Shackleton with a sets out on an 820 mile open boat journey on the roughest sea passage in the world to either find rescue, or doom them all to an icy grave. 

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In this two story episode we travel to Guanajuato, Mexico, and discover a cache of mummies that were literally evicted from their graves. Then we head to Beni Hassan, Egypt, where a farmer digging a well in 1888 accidentally stumbled upon one of the largest hoards of cat mummies ever found, and, possibly, an ancient, illegal crime ring of cat killers (seriously). We also meet Bastet, the ancient Egyptian goddess that started it all. 

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In this episode we explore history's first monsters. From the prehistoric beasts that stalked our ancestors to the first mythological oral traditions, then to the first ancient written accounts through the modern day; this is the history of what scares us. What were the first monsters, why do we fear them, and why do we need them? Let's find out and examine the first things that appeared from the darkness. 

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And so it begins. 

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