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Unruly History in the News #35
Our favorite weekly round-up is back!
I took more time off of these roundups than expected—I just got out of the habit of them, I guess!
This week, in history acting unruly…
In honor of the kick-off of this long party last week: Why is Oktoberfest in September? (The answer is deceptively simple.)
A 250-pound sculpture of Buddha was stolen from an LA gallery this week. The sculpture dates to Japan’s Edo period and is valued at around $1.5 million. If you have any information, authorities are accepting tips at at 1-877-275-5273.
If you don’t have information but you’re interested in Japanese history, this week’s episode on Yasuke dates to around the same time as this sculpture was probably created.
Did our human ancestors almost die out? Evidence shows that about 800,000 years ago, humanity lost about 98% of its population.
New evidence suggests that ‘taking a knee’ as a protest dates back to Mesopotamia.
Scientist Barbara Huber and perfumer Carole Cavez have successfully recreated one of the sents used in Egyptian embalming 3,500 years ago. It’s called the Scent of Eternity and honestly I’m dying to smell it. Thanks to Niko for this find!
In a world of mass-produced clothing, a small town called Phrae, in northern Thailand, is the center of indigo artisans who are reviving this traditional craft for a new generation.
You remember the famous World’s Fair, now meet the World’s UnFair: An exhibition asking for the return of Indigenous lands. Through artwork the show brings attention to the many Indigenous groups still living in the US, as well as asks people to help donate to support “rematriation.” On view in Queens through October 15.
If you’ve ever wondered where the word placenta came from… it’s from cake. Yes, really.
Speaking of dessert—why is the history of baklava so, well, sticky?
A student in Hong Kong was sentenced to six months in prison this week on charges of sedition. The twenty-three-year-old woman had made a banner about the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Unfamiliar with Tiananmen Square? I covered the massacre in my episode on Tank Man.
An Australian museum is repatriating a stolen vase to Italy. The vase in question depicts Heracles fighting the Nemean lion. The artifacts were bought “in good faith” from Sotheby’s and other auction houses but were later found to be connected to disgraced dealer/smuggler David Holland Swingler.
Speaking of repatriation, the San Bernardino County Museum (near Los Angeles) is returning 1,300 stolen artifacts to Mexico.
And US authorities are returning seven drawings by Austrian artist Egon Schiele to descendants of the rightful owners. The artworks were stolen by the Nazis and sold privately.
On September 22, 1598, playwright Ben Jonson and actor Gabriel Spencer had a duel to the death over…no one knows. Or, at least, it’s not recorded. Through a strange quirk of English law, Jonson freely walked away from prosecution for murder by reading a verse out of the Bible.
A brief history of pregnancy tests—many of these I’d heard of but there were some new ones in here I hadn’t stumbled across.
These incredible sandstone faces were probably once part of bodies that stood 12-18 feet tall, but have been buried near Hadrian’s Wall for 1,800 years. They’re on display at Tullie House now through November 11.
Meanwhile, deadly floods in Libya killed 4,000 people and displaced at least 40,000 others (while 9,000 people remain missing). The floods also unearthed numerous archaeological remains. The process of cleaning and preserving begins among concerns that climate change may make these once-in-a-lifetime floods more common.
In histories of weekend plans…
This summer we’ve been coming down hard on graffiti that defaces ancient monuments, but some ancient graffiti is telling archaeologists more about the pilgrims who visited Egyptian temples. (This is not an endorsement to carve your initials on the Colosseum. Do not!)
And if you don’t have any other plans this week, why not try some shin-kicking with your friends? Or maybe gurning? Bound to be a good time.
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