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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Cleopatra’s true racial background (and does it really matter?)

Racial profiling and manipulation have existed for a long time. It has become an issue in modern politics, and over 2500 years ago the Greek historian Herodotos wrote that ethnicity was often turned to political ends. Cleopatra VII, the last queen of Egypt, is often a victim of racial profiling.

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Witchcraft!

In 2004, workmen digging in Greenwich, near London, uncovered a sealed stone bottle that rattled and splashed when they shook it. It was sent to a laboratory where X-rays revealed metal objects wedged in the neck, suggesting that it had been buried upside down, and a scan showed it to be half filled with liquid. Chemical analysis confirmed this was human urine containing nicotine and brimstone. When the cork was removed, scientists discovered iron nails, brass pins, hair, fingernail parings, a pierced leather heart, and what they believed might be navel fluff.

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This Day in History: Rosetta Stone Found

This day in 1799, the Rosetta Stone was found during Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign about 35 miles north of Alexandria. To learn more about this famous artifact, I turned to Oxford Reference Online and discovered this entry, taken from Carol A. R. Andrews’ article “Rosetta Stone” in The Oxford Companion to Archaeology edited by Brian […]

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Diplomatic Marriages

Amanda H. Podany is Professor of History at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Her new book, Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East, is a vivid tour of a thousand years of ancient Near Eastern history, from 2300 to 1300 BCE. She focuses on the establishment of international diplomacy, how the great kings of the day devised diplomacy and trade. In the excerpt below we learn about a marriage contract between two kings, one of the ways countries sealed alliances.

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What Makes Civilization?

In What Makes Civilization?, archaeologist David Wengrow provides a vivid new account of the ‘birth of civilization’ in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq). These two regions, where many foundations of modern life were laid, are usually treated in isolation. This book aims to bring them together within a unified history of how people first created cities, kingdoms, and monumental temples to the gods. In the original blog post below, David Wengrow writes about that isolated view of the Near and Middle East.

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Oxford Bibliographies Online Recommends

Oxford Bibliographies Online is a series of intuitive and easy-to-use “ultimate reading lists” designed to help users navigate the vast seas of information that exist today. To introduce you to the doors this new online tool opens Andrew Herrmann, Associate Editor of OBO, has excerpted some suggested reading related to Greek mythology. Use his study guide below to impress the date you bring to see the Immortals.

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Visoko, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ben’s Place of the Week

Visoko, Bosnia and Herzegovina Coordinates: 43 59 N 18 10 E Population: 15,310 (1991 census) There are plenty of cases where tourists have been lured to destinations to see replicas of ancient architecture, or commercial complexes masquerading as cultural monuments, but how about sites that are arguably hoaxes? Residents of Visoko, a short distance northwest […]

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Finding My Way from Stonehenge to Samarkand

By Brian Fagan When I sat down to compile my latest book From Stonehenge to Samarkand, I found my greatest inspiration in the writings of a virtually forgotten English writer, Rose Macaulay. Her classic book, Pleasure of Ruins, first appeared in the 1950s and was reprinted with evocative photographs by Reny Beloff a decade later. […]

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The Fall of Rome – an author dialogue

As promised, here is part 2 of the dialogue between Bryan Ward-Perkins and Peter Heather, colleagues at Oxford University and the authors of two recent books on the collapse of the Roman Empire; ‘The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization’ and ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians’, respectively. Today they discuss the consequences of ‘the fall’ on western Europe and why they both decided to write about the fall of Rome at the same time.

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