Archive for the 'Prehistory' 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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In 1928 Glen and Bessie Hyde struck out to make history. They wanted to raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon at a time when only 45 people in recorded history had dared to make that journey. If successful, they would set a new speed record, and Bessie would be the first woman in recorded history to make the voyage.

Their scow was found snagged in the river at mile 232, all their belongings still intact, but the young couple had vanished. Their disappearance sparked a mystery still told around canyon camp fires and has made them an inseparable piece of Grand Canyon lore. A diary, a skeleton with a bullet hole in the skull, and a campfire confession all stoked the flames of a century of mystery. Come hear their story.

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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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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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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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