Between 1746 and 1792, seventeen students of Carl Linnaeus set out across the globe to collect plant and animal samples for his new taxonomy. Seven of these apostles died on the trip, and one would betray Linnaeus.
The first author whose name we know was Enheduanna. Daughter of Sargon the Great, she wrote religious hymns, so she can also lay claim to being the first named poet in history.
How many ways can you move a bridge to let boat traffic through? Well, you can lift it, fold it, curl it, retract it, tilt it, swing it, or submerge it.
It’s our 400th post! In most religions originating in the Middle East, the number 40 equals a large unspecific number: 40 days, 40 nights, 40 years should all be interpreted as “many” days, nights, or years.
Honey takes on the chemical properties of nectar gathered by bees. This fact turns out to be quite useful if you’re fighting the ancient Romans.
In ancient art from Europe to India a particular artistic motif frequently appears: a male or female figure grabbing two wild creatures, one in each hand. These are the Master and Mistress of Animals.
The Darb-e Imam shrine in Iran contains an early and exciting example of non-periodic tiling that was only mathematically appreciated five hundred years later.
Certain holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem cannot be changed without agreement from the many local denominations. As a result, a ladder has been propped against a window ledge on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre since 1728.
Around five million years ago, the Strait of Gibraltar closed and the Mediterranean dried up. When it reopened, the sea refilled in less than two years.
The Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses III was murdered in a conspiracy formed by one of his harem wives that included magicians, physicians, and butlers.
Around 1200 BCE, almost every civilisation in the Eastern Mediterranean collapsed, or just barely survived. One possible culprit were invaders from across the sea: the Sea Peoples. No-one knows precisely who they were.
Ramesses II was the most famous and powerful pharaoh of Egypt’s New Kingdom. And we’re pretty sure that he was a redhead.
The Royal Game of Ur is the oldest board game for which we have a near-complete set of rules. People were playing it five thousand years ago, and it is still played today.
In Lebanon, political leadership and representation are officially divided up according to religious affiliation. This system, confessionalism, is supposed to encourage peace and cooperation between disparate faiths.
Qatar has been engaged in a diplomatic crisis with its neighbours since 2017. Amid the escalating tensions, Saudi Arabia has proposed a canal stretching all the way along the border with Qatar – turning the peninsula into an island.