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Annual Editions: World History, Volume I
1. Gone but Not Forgotten, Richard Monastersky, The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 1, 2006
A recent advertising campaign and an ill-fated television sit-com have brought cavemen to a wider audience. Recently, geneticists, using DNA samples from Neanderthals, have concluded that their relationship with Homo sapiens was much closer than originally thought. Will the Neanderthal cavemen finally get the respect they deserve?
2. Out of Africa, Spencer Wells, Vanity Fair, July 2007
By examining human genomes, obtained through DNA samples, scientists have learned that all of us can trace our existence back to Africa. Since that continent’s peoples saved humankind from extinction, do we not have an obligation to assist Africans in their time of need?
3. First Americans, Karen Wright, Discover, February 1999
It was long thought that the first humans in the New World crossed the Bering Strait at the end of the Ice Age, but recent archaeological evidence seems to indicate that none of this may be true. Scientists continue to search for clues pertaining to who the earliest Americans were and how and when they arrived.
4. Stone Age India, Samir S. Patel, Archaeology, January/February 2010
Most of the information about evolution and migration during the Paleolithic Era has concentrated on Africa, Europe, and the eastern Mediterranean area. However, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, the remains of a 74,000 year old civilization that was buried by a volcanic eruption may force scientists to rewrite India’s prehistory.
5. Kelp Highways, Heather Pringle, Discover, June 2008
Conventional wisdom taught that early human migrations occurred only across now vanished land bridges. However, recent evidence has raised the possibility that Ice Age mariners may have played a significant role in the colonization of the globe.
6. Who Were the Hurrians?, Andrew Lawler, Archaeology, July/August 2008
The Hurrians have been historically dismissed as a marginal tribe from north of Mesopotamia. Recent archaeological evidence claims that they may have played a key role in shaping Mesopotamia’s first cities, empires, and states.
7. Dawn of the City: Excavations Prompt a Revolution in Thinking about the Earliest Cities, Bruce Bower, Science News, February 9, 2008
The excavation of Tell Brak in northern Syria has cast new light on the history of urban development in ancient Mesopotamia. It also provides an interesting case study involving the rise and fall of Tell Brak, including the reasons for both.
8. The Dawn of Art, Andrew Curry, Archaeology, September/October 2007
Swabia today is a German region that many consider a center for creativity and innovation. The recent discovery of artifacts from as far back as 40,000 years ago provides a possible connection between present-day conditions and Swabia’s advanced ancient past.
9. Prehistory of Warfare, Steven A. LeBlanc, Archaeology, May/June 2003
According to Steven LeBlanc, humans have been at each others’ throats since the prehistoric era. This predilection for organized violence has been largely ignored by previous archaeologists, even though LeBlanc finds evidence in every corner of the world. Wars in prehistoric times—should we be surprised?
10. Writing Gets a Rewrite, Andrew Lawler, Science, June 29, 2001
The commonly-held belief that writing began in Mesopotamia five thousand years ago is being challenged by researchers today. Evidence gathered in recent years indicates that it may have developed simultaneously in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus River Valley. But the findings, while promising, are not conclusive enough to make a case for that theory. Perhaps future discoveries will shed new light on this important question.
11. How to Build a Pyramid, Bob Brier, Archaeology, May/June 2007
The size and scope of Egypt’s pyramids has attracted the attention of scholars who both marveled at and mused about their creation and, especially, how this was accomplished. Recently, a theory which argued for the presence of an internal ramp made a seemingly impossible construction seem possible.
12. Multiculturalism in History: India, the Multicultural Paradigm, Stanley Wolpert, Orbis, Fall 1999
Tracking Indian multiculturalism back to its historical roots, the author surveys India’s major periods of growth and development. He laments India’s tragic and violent present, caused primarily by religious and ethnic intolerance, and argues that education is the key to solving this gravest of India’s current problems.
13. Uncovering Ancient Thailand, Tom Gidwitz, Archaeology, July/August 2006
Charles Higham has spent forty years exploring and uncovering the archaeology of Southeast Asia. From his work emerge artifacts and fossils, which transform our understanding of this once-neglected part of prehistory.
14. Black Pharaohs, Robert Draper, National Geographic, February 2008
The influence of Black Africa on Egyptian civilization has been a contentious point of debate among archaeologists and historians. What cannot be disputed is that during Egypt’s 25th Dynasty, black forces from Nubia conquered Egypt, resulting in a series of Black Pharaohs who ruled Egypt throughout this period. The most noted of these was Taharqa, who was sufficiently noteworthy to merit a mention in the Hebrew Bible.
15. The Gold of Kush, Geoff Emberling, Archaeology, November/December 2009
The Kingdom of Kush, located south of Egypt, was both a friend and enemy of its more powerful neighbor before it declined and disappeared from history. Archaeological discoveries revived its historical significance, but the building of the Merowe Dam in Sudan has finally destroyed "the remains of a great kingdom."
16. Messages from the Dead, Marco Merola, Archaeology, January/February 2007
Qatna was a Bronze Age Syrian city-state which was conquered and destroyed by the warlike Hittites. A collection of newly-discovered tablets chronicles the city’s rise and fall, a testimony to the bellicose nature of Mesopotamian existence.
17. China’s First Empire, Michael Loewe, History Today, September 2007
Created at the end of China’s Warring States period, the Qin Dynasty established China’s Empire. Led by its first Emperor, Shi Huangdi, the empire defined how China would be run for more than 2000 years.
18. Beyond the Family Feud, Andrew Lawler, Archaeology, March/April 2007
A recent debate among Mesoamerindian scholars concerns the role of the Olmec civilization whose people were once referred to as "the Sumerians of the New World." Were the Olmecs the progenitors of Maya and Aztec civilizations, or were they one among many people who contributed to the later civilizations?
19. Unlocking Mysteries of the Parthenon, Evan Hadingham, Smithsonian, February 2008
The Parthenon, a temple built to honor the Goddess Athena 2,500 years ago, has endured earthquakes, fires, explosions, and lootings throughout its history. A restoration project that is painstakingly recreating the ancient wonder is also "yielding new insights" into the astonishing feats of its master builders.
20. Alexander the Great: Hunting for a New Past?, Paul Cartledge, History Today, July 2004
Alexander the Great has become an almost mythical figure who inspired poets, painters, sculptors, writers, and historians to make him the subject of their works. Considered by many to be a god while alive, he continues to inspire today. Who was the real Alexander, and what was responsible for his greatness?
21. Sudden Death: Gladiators Were Sport’s First Superstars, Providing Thrills, Chills and Occasional Kills, Franz Lidz, Sports Illustrated, February 15, 2001
Gladiatorial games, once a staple of Roman popular culture, have been resurrected today in various forms of extreme fighting. While not "murder as public sport," they remain reminders of how barbaric the Roman practice was, and what its existence said about Roman society.
22. Apocalypse: The Great Jewish Revolt against Rome, 66–;73 C.E., Neil Faulkner, History Today, October 2002
From 66–73 C.E., Rome waged war against Jews who rebelled against its rule. The final battle occurred at Masada, where the last Jewish soldiers chose mass suicide over defeat and a lifetime of slavery. One of Israel’s most sacred places, Masada highlights "oppressed people . . . fighting against . . . greed and war."
23. Vox Populi: Sex, Lies, and Blood Sport, Heather Pringle, Discover, June 2006
Graffiti has become a modern art genre, but it is hardly a new creation. In Roman times, wax tablets and plastered walls presented places where citizens could express themselves, providing us with a glimpse into "the ragged edges of ordinary life."
24. Woman Power in the Maya World, Chris Hardman, Americas (English Edition), May/June 2008
The Maya city of Waka’, discovered in the 1960s, has added enormously to the history of Maya Civilization. Findings at this site included, unexpectedly, the fossils of women, along with accompanying artifacts, which indicated royal status. Does this discovery indicate the presence of woman power in the Maya world?
25. Secrets of a Desert Metropolis: The Hidden Wonders of Petra’s Ancient Engineers, Evan Hadingham, Scientific American Discovering Archaeology, September/October 2000
The Arabian Desert traders, known as Nabataeans, built at Petra in southern Jordan an oasis city of 30,000 that had graceful temples, shops, and an Olympic-sized pool supplied by an aqueduct. Long thought to have withered after the Romans changed the trade routes, or to have been deserted after devastating earthquakes, the city is now thought to have prospered until the Islamic conquest of the 7th century A.D.
26. Ancient Jewel, T. R. (Joe) Sundaram, The World & I, October 1996
Indian civilization is more than 6,000 years old. Its culture produced Hinduism and Buddhism and influenced philosophical thinking. Ideas about cycles of life and acceptance of diversity are only a part of the Indian contribution to the world.
27. The Shrine of Islam’s Tragic Divisions, Corrine Atkins, History Today, November 2003
Islam’s major division between Sunni and Shia sects splits the Muslim world. Its historical roots can be traced to the post-Muhammad era, when there was a dispute among members as to who would be the Prophet’s successor. True unity among Muslims cannot occur until this rift is healed.
28. The Dome of the Rock: Jerusalem’s Epicenter, Walid Khalidi, Aramco World, September/October 1996
Jerusalem is as sacred to Muslims as it is to Jews and Christians. The Dome of the Rock, an octagonal sanctuary covering the rock from which Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven, dominates the skyline of the old city. It is a point where humanity is joined to God.
29. Universal Rights and Cultural Relativism: Hinduism and Islam Deconstructed, Catherine E. Polisi, World Affairs, Summer 2004
Human rights abuses against women are sometimes justified today on grounds of Hindu and Islamic scriptures and teachings. However, a careful examination of these scriptures shows that both hold women and men in equal standing.
30. First Churches of the Jesus Cult, Andrew Lawler, Archaeology, September/October 2007
The early Christian churches and their communities were nothing like their contemporary successors. Small and scattered, they kept the faith alive until public acceptance and legal status were achieved. Recent excavations in the Holy Land are providing useful data regarding Christianity’s early years.
31. Women in Ancient Christianity: The New Discoveries, Karen L. King, Frontline, April 6, 1998
What role did women play in the early Christian church? Was it a subordinate one or one that reflected gender equality? Karen King cites ancient sources that reveal women actively participating in early Christianity—as disciples, prophets, preachers, and teachers. The leadership roles of these early Christian women were suppressed for centuries until the rediscovery of original source texts has allowed us to re-enter the first centuries of Christianity.
32. The Survival of the Eastern Roman Empire, Stephen Williams and Gerard Friell, History Today, November 1998
In the 5th century C.E., the Roman Empire had become divided into two parts: the western one centered in Rome, and the eastern one in Constantinople. Both were subjected to barbarian attacks. The western empire succumbed to those attacks, but the eastern empire lasted for another thousand years.
33. Trophy Skulls and Beer: Unearthing the Source of an Andean Empire’s Power, Andrew Curry, Archaeology, January/February 2010
From 600 to 1000 C.E., the Wari Empire dominated what is today Peru in a period known as the Middle Horizon. What caused this enigmatic state to decline and disappear is being explored by archaeologists today.
34. The Ideal of Unity, Russell Chamberlin, History Today, November 2003
With Europe increasingly united and centrally controlled, one wonders if there has ever been a precedent for such an ambitious endeavor as the European Union. In the Middle Ages, there was one such attempt as the Holy Roman Emperors attempted to unify the continent. They ultimately failed; this selection tells why.
35. Who Were the Anasazi?, Keith Kloor, Archaeology, November/December 2009
The Anasazi were a Native American tribe that dominated northwestern New Mexico from 500 to 1300 C.E. Sometimes referred to as Chacos, their fate has been investigated by archaeologists. However, recent lineage claims from both the Hopi and Navajo tribes have created unexpected controversy, which affects archaeological work at these sites today.
36. The Age of the Vikings, Arne Emil Christensen, Scientific American: Discovering Archaeology, September/October 2000
The Norsemen were more than feared warriors. They were also colonizers, citybuilders, lawgivers, explorers, and merchants. Eventually, they settled in the British Isles, Normandy (in France), Russia, Greenland, and Newfoundland, where they left their cultural mark in a variety of ways.
37. The Fall of Constantinople, Judith Herrin, History Today, June 2003
In what many regard as one of history’s turning points, the Ottoman Turks captured the Byzantine Empire’s capital city of Constantinople in 1453. The background to this epic struggle and the valiant defense of the city in the face of insurmountable odds are recounted here.
38. The Explorer Marco Polo, Paul Lunde, Aramco World, January 2005
Marco Polo preceded the age of Global Expansion by two centuries, but his well-documented eastern travels must have inspired many later explorers. In fact, the monopoly of eastern trade by the Republic of Venice encouraged other states to seek alternative eastern routes, especially around the southern coast of Africa.
39. 1492: The Prequel, Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times Magazine, June 6, 1999
Between 1405 and 1433, Zheng He of China led sailing expeditions to the west that reached the east coast of Africa. He could have sailed around Africa to Europe, but there was little reason to reach that "backward region of the world." Economic and intellectual complacency within China stopped the explorations. This set a course for the later domination by the West.
40. The Other 1492: Jews and Muslims in Columbus’s Spain, Fouad Ajami, The New Republic, April 6, 1992
Christopher Columbus’s three ships left Spain for their world-changing voyage to the Americas the day before the last ships carrying expelled Jews also left Spain under somewhat different conditions. An account of the latter exodus chronicles Spanish anti- Semitism, which includes the 1481 Inquisition and the 1492 Edict of Expulsion.
41. A Taste of Adventure: Kerala, India, and the Molucca Islands, Indonesia, The Economist, December 19, 1998
From the day that Vasco da Gama and his Portuguese crew landed in India, shouting "For Christ and spices," the world has never been the same. The global spice trade that journeys like his created, changed forever the palates of people throughout the world and brought riches to exploring nations and their citizens.
42. The Significance of Lepanto, Gregory Mellueish, Quadrant, April 2008
The Battle of Lepanto has been referred to as one of history’s turning points, as it saved Europe from a potential Islamic invasion. It still deserves this acclamation. However, the victory was that of an emerging form of state over a powerful traditionalist empire.
43. Do Civilizations Really Collapse?, Eric A. Powell, Archaeology, March/April 2008
This volume has explored many civilizations, concentrating on reasons for their rise and fall. Recently, historian Jared Diamond has proposed an eco-cidal theory to explain civilizational collapses. While some give credence to Diamond’s theory, others question some of his work. A brief critique of his work ends this volume.
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