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Holy crap: toilet found in an Iron Age shrine in Lachish

In September, the Israel Antiquities Authority made a stunning announcement: at the ancient Judean city of Lachish, second only to Jerusalem in importance, archaeologists have uncovered a shrine in the city’s gate complex with two vandalized altars and a stone toilet in its holiest section. “Holy crap!” I said to a friend when I first read the news.

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Why is the world changing so fast?

Over the past 30 years, I have worked on many reference books, and so am no stranger to recording change. However, the pace of change seems to have become more frantic in the second decade of this century. Why might this be? One reason, of course, is that, with 24-hour news and the internet, information is transmitted at great speed. Nearly every country has online news sites which give an indication of the issues of political importance.

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Big data in the nineteenth century

Initially, they had envisaged dozens of them: slim booklets that would handily summarize all of the important aspects of every parish in Ireland. It was the 1830s, and such a fantasy of comprehensive knowledge seemed within the grasp of the employees of the Ordnance Survey in Ireland.

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The University: past, present, … and future?

By nearly all accounts, higher education has in recent years been lurching towards a period of creative destruction. Presumed job prospects and state budgetary battles pit the STEM disciplines against the humanities in much of our popular and political discourse. On many fronts, the future of the university, at least in its recognizable form as a veritable institution of knowledge, has been cast into doubt.

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The library—100 years from now

I want to live to be 100 years old. Yes, that is a bold statement, and I’ll admit this goal may be a bit unrealistic and potentially impossible, but my curiosity pushes me to beat the laws of nature. As a 22-year-old avid reader working for a publishing company, I can’t help but wonder: what will be the future of the printed book? Since the creation of the world wide web by Tim Burners-Lee in 1989 and it’s continual expansion since then, this question has haunted the publishing industry, raising profound questions about the state of the industry and the printed book.

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The nail that sticks out gets hammered down, or does it?

Do you have a tattoo to care for? If not, shouldn’t you ask yourself, why not? Butterflies on calves, angel wings on shoulders, Celtic crosses across chests of law-abiding citizens have superseded anchors and arrow-pierced hearts on biceps of the demimonde. The size of your body surface area is the limit, because, “YAS, this gives you life!”

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Shakespeare’s contemporaries and collaborators [infographic]

While it is obvious that Shakespeare drew a tremendous amount of inspiration from Christopher Marlowe (note the effect of The Jew of Malta, Hero and Leander, and Tamburlaine on The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, and Shakespeare’s history plays, respectively), this kind of borrowing and […]

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Presidential birthday cakes: the Ike Day recipe

On this day, sixty years ago, Republicans celebrated President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s upcoming birthday with a star-studded televised tribute on CBS. As part of his re-election campaign, Ike Day was a nationwide celebration of Ike: communities held dinners and parades, there were special halftime shows at college football games, and volunteers collected thousands of signatures from citizens pledging to vote.

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Sex, Pope Francis, and empire

Pope Francis recently said in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, and on several occasions over the last year, that Western nations are exporting an idea that gender is a choice. Pope Francis asserts that this “gender ideology” is the enemy of the family. Here the pope disappoints many in America and Europe, who hoped that he might free Catholics from the heritage of homophobia and repression of women that has been protected and promoted for millennia by the Roman Catholic Church.

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10 things Birth of a Nation got right about Nat Turner

On Sixty Minutes, when filmmaker Nate Parker was asked if Birth of a Nation was historically accurate, he noted, “There’s never been a film that was 100 percent historically accurate. That’s why they say based on a true story and doesn’t say, ‘A true story.’” Hollywood may not be the best place to learn one’s history, but here are ten things that the new movie Birth of a Nation got right about Nat Turner’s revolt:

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American History

Twitter and the Enlightenment in early America

A New Yorker once declared that “Twitter” had “struck Terror into a whole Hierarchy.” He had no computer, no cellphone, and no online social media following. He was not a presidential candidate, but he would go on to sign the Constitution of the United States. So who was he? And what did he mean by “Twitter”?

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American History

The transformation of food in America in the 19th century

At the start of the 1800s, American cities had only a few public dining options such as taverns or hotels; by the end of the century, restaurants had become “a central part of the fabric of cities.” In the 19th century, the landscape of food consumption in America greatly changed. The modern concepts of retail food shops, restaurants, industrial food systems, and diverse food options emerged.

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Fiddle parts and sound posts: how objects tell stories

Biography chooses us when there is alchemy between biographer and subject—a perfect fit of interlocking puzzle pieces. In my case, a lifelong fascination with objects and the craftsmen who make them led me to the story of a pioneering violinmaker—American Luthier: Carleen Hutchins—the Art and Science of the Violin.

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The different faces of Taliban jihad in Pakistan

All simplistic hypothesis about “what drives terrorists” falter when there is suddenly in front of you human faces and complex life stories. The tragedy of contemporary policies designed to handle or rather crush movements who employ terrorist tactics, are prone to embrace a singular explanation of the terrorist motivation, disregarding the fact that people can be in the very same movement for various reasons.

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Witches, werewolves, and Christmas

In Hamlet, Marcellus, referring to the royal ghost, says: “It faded on the crowing of the cock. Some say that ever gainst that season comes wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated, this bird of dawning singeth all night long, and then, they say, no spirit dare walk abroad, The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike, No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, so hallowed and so gracious is that time.”

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