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Ancient Beer: 13,000-Year-Old Site May Be the World’s Oldest Brewery

September 17, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Even the most serious craft beer drinkers today wouldn’t recognize the ancient beer, which would have been closer to a thin gruel than a foamy pour.


Our ancestors may have started brewing beer 13,000 years ago (although their versions didn’t look much like beer today).

For many people, nothing tastes better than a glass of cold beer, whether enjoyed at the end of a long day of work or while relaxing on a summer afternoon. But brewing beer—not baking bread—could be the reason our ancestors began cultivating grains in the first place.

Inside a cave in Israel, researchers from Stanford University have found evidence of the earliest known beer-making operation, which they think may predate the cultivation of the first cereals.

Both of these milestones belong to the Natufians, a hunter-gatherer group who made the eastern Mediterranean region their home more than 10,000 years ago.

For the new study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, a team led by Li Liu, a professor of Chinese archaeology at Stanford, analyzed traces from stone mortars dating back some 13,000 years. They found the mortars at a Natufian graveyard in Raqefet Cave, near the modern-day city of Haifa.

More evidence that beer came before bread.

The controversial idea that beer, and not bread, inspired the original domestication of cereals is far from a new theory. It’s been around since the 1950s, in fact, and has been gaining ground in recent years thanks to research suggesting that the Natufians considered beer an essential part of the feasts that were so important to their society.

Liu and her colleagues were not looking for evidence of beer-making inside Raqefet Cave, but were simply investigating what kinds of plant foods the Natufians may have been consuming. As it turned out, what they discovered was evidence of a large brewing operation, which Liu called in a statement “the oldest record of man-made alcohol in the world.”

The researchers think their findings could be between 11,700 to 13,700 years old, predating the earliest known evidence of bread making recently uncovered at a Natufian site in East Jordan. They believe the Natufians made and consumed the beer as part of ritual feasts for their dead.


Microscopic traces of ancient starches extracted from the Raqefet Cave (left) are compared to starches replicated in the researchers’ beer brewing experiments.

Ancient beer-brewing was reenacted …read more

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How Flappers Redefined Womanhood (Hint: It Involved Jazz, Liquor and Sex)

September 17, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Young women with short “bob” hairstyles, cigarettes dangling from their painted lips, dancing to a live jazz band, explored new-found freedoms.


Flappers dancing while musicians perform during a Charleston dance contest at the Parody Club, New York City, 1926. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

No cultural symbol of the 1920s is more recognizable than the flapper. A young woman with a short “bob” hairstyle, cigarette dangling from her painted lips, dancing to a live jazz band. Flappers romped through the Roaring Twenties, enjoying the new freedoms ushered in by the end of the First World War and the dawn of a new era of prosperity, urbanism and consumerism.

The decade kicked off with passage of the 19th Amendment, which finally gave women the vote. Women also joined the workforce in increasing numbers, participated actively in the nation’s new mass consumer culture, and enjoyed more freedom in their personal lives. Despite the heady freedoms embodied by the flapper, real liberation and equality for women remained elusive in the 1920s, and it would be left to later generations of women to fully benefit from the social changes the decade set in motion.

The exact origins of the word ‘flapper’ remain unknown.
While the exact origin of the term “flapper” is unknown, it is assumed to have originated in Britain before World War I, when it was used to describe gawky young teenage girls. After the war, the word would become synonymous with the new breed of 1920s women who bobbed their hair above their ears, wore skirts that skimmed their knees, smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol while dancing in jazz clubs, always surrounded by admiring male suitors.


Two flapper women and their dates having a smoke. (Credit: Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images)

Flappers were defined by how they dressed, danced and talked.
As Joshua M. Zeitz writes in Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity and the Women Who Made America Modern, flapper fashion wouldn’t have been complete without the creeping hemline, which by 1925 or 1936 reached a shocking height of 14 inches above the ground. Sheer stockings, sometimes even rolled below the knees, completed the scandalous look.

Flappers wore their skirts shorter so they could show off their legs and ankles—but also so they could dance. They particularly loved the Charleston, a 1920s dance craze involving waving arms and fast-moving feet that had been pioneered by African Americans, first in …read more

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When Women Took Up Arms to Fight in Mexico's Revolution

September 14, 2018 in History

By Maura Hohman

Las soldaderas took on a range of roles from providing domestic support to dressing as men and leading troops into combat.


A group of rebel women and girls wearing traditional dress practice their shooting skills for the Mexican Revolution in 1911.

The Mexican Revolution rose out of a struggle for civil liberties and land and would eventually topple the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz and begin a new age for Mexico. The war, which started in 1910, was, at its core, one of the first social revolutions and women—as well as men—were driven to fight. For many women, the conflict also offered a moment to break from traditional female roles.

“Women saw it as a way to get out of oppressive circumstances,” says William Beezley, a history professor at the University of Arizona.

Women were searching for an opportunity to better their lives, Beezley explains, and were able to take part because the forces fighting within the civil war were unstructured and decentralized. The more organized the army, the smaller the role of women in battle.

Some soldaderas, as women in the Mexican Revolution became known, played traditional roles as nurses or wives, others took up arms. Perhaps the least visible soldaderas were the women who assumed male identities to fight—not because societal restrictions explicitly forced them to but because of personal choice.

“It might’ve been easier in the mind of some women,” says Beezley about the decision of some to take on male disguise, “but each woman chose for herself.”

The majority of soldaderas were women who traveled with their husbands or other male family members to provide domestic help as the men fought.

“There were no commissaries for the troops, so women often followed their men,” says Gilbert Joseph, a history professor at Yale University. “They’d sustain them through the struggle by cooking, keeping them company at night around the campfire. They were nurses, lovers and camp followers.”

Perhaps the best known soldaderas were those revolutionary fighters who, dressed in a long peasant skirt, large straw hat and cross-bullet belt, showed as much valor as any man. As Joseph says, “These images are very much etched into the popular consciousness.”

The soldaderas who donned male clothing and took male names often did so to protect themselves from sexual violence and high-ranking officials who resented women warriors or saw them as freaks, says Pablo Piccato, a professor of Latin American history at Columbia …read more

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The 2008 Crash: What Happened to All That Money?

September 14, 2018 in History

By Eric Rauchway

A look at what caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.


A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on September 15, 2008 in New York City. In afternoon trading the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell over 500 points as U.S. stocks suffered a steep loss after news of the financial firm Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The warning signs of an epic and The Money Makers. He teaches at the University of California, Davis, and you can find him on Twitter @rauchway.

History Reads is a weekly series featuring work from Team History, a group of experts and influencers, exploring history’s most fascinating questions.

…read more

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World War II-Era Flood Was the Worst in D.C.'s History

September 14, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

While the war raged overseas, soldiers and civilians worked furiously to protect the capital against rising waters.


Aerial view of the Potomac River in October, 1942.

While Allied troops were fighting World War II in the Pacific, the U.S. homefront was defending Washington, D.C. from the worst flood it’d ever seen.

“Spare no effort or expense to protect the Capital,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt told officials during the flood of October 1942, according to a Washington Post article. As the waters surged inland from the Potomac River, 800 soldiers and 300 civilians feverishly stuffed sandbags and built a barrier to prevent the flood from reaching downtown federal buildings like the White House.

The flood, which covered the National Mall so thoroughly that the newly-built Jefferson Memorial looked like a little island, would be the worst to ever engulf the nation’s capital, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It also caused the Anacostia River to overflow, submerging the Navy Yard in the Southeast.


U.S Office of Civilian Defense workers testing the depth of flood water in the streets of Washington, D.C.

The over 1,000 soldiers and civilians “raised a half-mile-long, 6-foot sandbag levee on the north bank of the Potomac in six hours,” reported LIFE magazine in 1942. “As the water crept up, inch by inch, bulldozers were thrown into the fight and the entire area around the Navy Building became a scene of fevered activity,” reported The Washington Post at the time.

The flood was brought on by torrential rainfall likely related to a southern tropical storm. In D.C.’s tidal zone, the flood crest was 17.7 feet, nearly a half-foot higher than the crest during D.C.’s second-worst flood in March 1936, according to the National Weather Service.

The 1942 rains didn’t just affect D.C. They also flooded parts of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. LIFE reported at the time that the flooding “completely isolated” Fredericksburg, Virginia. It drove 1,500 people from their homes, killed more than a dozen people and contaminated the water supply.


Civilian defense workers helping soldiers and firemen to move people driven from their homes by flood water.

In the D.C. area, the flood caused deaths and evacuations as well. John E. Buell, the chief of the Volunteer Fire Department in Bethesda, Maryland—a suburb of D.C.—died while trying to tow a car out of the water. …read more

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How the Vietnam War Empowered the Hippie Movement

September 14, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

The hippie counterculture reached its height during the war’s escalation, and subsided as the conflict drew to a close.


The 1971 May Day protests against the war in Vietnam.

On March 8, 1965, two battalions of U.S. Marines landed on beaches of Da Nang, marking the first official engagement of American troops in the Vietnam War. Over the next several years, as the United States escalated its ill-fated involvement in that conflict, hundreds of thousands of Americans joined in mass protests across the country, repulsed and outraged by the terrible bloodshed taking place in Southeast Asia. Though the anti-war movement had begun on college campuses at the dawn of the 1960s, more and more people joined in opposition to the war in the latter half of the decade, as television brought images of its atrocities into American homes in a new level of excruciating detail.

The hippie counterculture, which emerged in the late 1960s and grew to include hundreds of thousands of young Americans across the country, reached its height during this period of escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War, and subsided as that conflict drew to a close. But hippies’ rejection of mainstream American culture, and their distinctive brand of rebellion—including their long hair and beards, colorful style, psychedelic drug use, love of rock music and eco-conscious lifestyle—would leave a lasting impact on the nation in the decades to come.

Counterculture Prior to the Vietnam War

In many ways, the hippies of the 1960s descended from an earlier American counterculture: the Beat Generation. This group of young bohemians, most famously including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, made a name for themselves in the 1940s and ‘50s with their rejection of prevailing social norms, including capitalism, consumerism and materialism. Centered in bohemian havens like San Francisco and the East Village of New York City, Beats embraced Eastern religions, experimented with drugs and a looser form of sexuality; their followers became known by the diminutive term “beatniks.”

“What’s significant about [the Beats] is that the movement was very small, it was literary—so it had a claustrophobic quality about it,” explains William Rorabaugh, professor of history at the University of Washington and author of American Hippies (2015). “You weren’t allowed to be in the group unless you were either a friend of or a poet.”


Hippies dancing at a ‘Love-In’ at …read more

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When Dozens of Korean War GIs Claimed a UFO Made Them Sick

September 13, 2018 in History

By Natasha Frost

Theories range from high-tech Soviet death rays to extraterrestrials studying human combat to combat-stress-induced hallucinations.


During the Korean War, many UFO sightings were reported.

In May 1951, one year into the Korean War, PFC Francis P. Wall and his regiment found themselves stationed near Chorwon, about 60 miles north of Seoul. As they were preparing to bombard a nearby village with artillery, all of a sudden, the soldiers saw a strange sight up in the hills—like “a jack-o-lantern come wafting down across the mountain.”

What happened after—the pulsing, “attacking” light, the lingering debilitating symptoms—would mystify many for decades to come.

As the GIs watched, the craft made its way down into the village, where the artillery air bursts were starting to explode. “We further noticed that this object would get right into…the center of an airburst of artillery and yet remain unharmed,” Wall later told John P. Timmerman of the Center for UFO Studies in a 1987 . “Those early confirmations were just a product of a primitive radar system.” The flurry of UFO sightings Haines describes may have been the dual effect of these two threats: a potentially world-destroying war on the horizon, and the incredible pressure of being in the military.

Wall had experiences in those years in Korea that would scar him until his death in 1999. One night, Denny says, he managed to make his way through a pitch-dark minefield, praying for his life as he went. Others who made the same journey were not so fortunate. “When he went in [to the war],” she says, “he was happy-go-lucky, just a totally different person to when he came out.”

Whether the UFO sightings that Wall and so many other men reported were a product of this personality-altering trauma, or the effects of something requiring much greater investigation, remains a mystery.

…read more

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When Cigarette Companies Used Doctors to Push Smoking

September 13, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Before studies showed that cigarettes caused cancer, tobacco companies recruited the medical community for their ads.


A close-up of a 1946 ad declaring that ‘More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigaret

What cigarette do doctors says causes less throat irritation? In the 1930s and 40s, tobacco companies would happily tell you it was theirs. Doctors hadn’t yet discovered a clear link between smoking and lung cancer, and a majority of them actually smoked cigarettes. So in cigarette ads, tobacco companies used doctors’ authority to make their claims about their cigarettes seem more legitimate.

To the modern-day reader, the pitching of cigarettes as healthy (even to youth and pregnant moms) and the use of doctors’ endorsements may appear horrifying. Yet before 1950, there wasn’t good evidence showing that cigarette smoking was bad for you.


A 1930 Lucky Strike advertisement.

“People started to get worried in the ‘40s because lung cancer was spiking; the lung cancer death rate was going through the roof,” says Martha Gardner, a history and social sciences professor at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “People noticed that and were worried about it, but that didn’t mean they knew it was cigarettes.”

Yes, cigarettes did cause coughing and throat irritation. But companies used this to their advantage to promote their product as better than the competition. It wasn’t all cigarettes that gave you problems—it was just those other ones.

The first cigarette company to use physicians in their ads was American Tobacco, maker of Lucky Strikes. In 1930, it published an ad claiming “20,679 Physicians say ‘LUCKIES are less irritating’” to the throat. To get this number, the company’s ad agency had sent physicians cartons of Lucky Strike cigarettes and a letter asking if they thought Lucky Strikes were “less irritating to sensitive and tender throats than other cigarettes,” while noting “a good many people” had already said they were.


1937 Philip Morris advertisement claiming their brand cleared up irritation of the nose and throat.

Unsurprisingly, many doctors responded positively to this biased, leading question, and Lucky Strike ads used their answers to imply their cigarettes must be medically better for your throat. In 1937, the Philip Morris company took that one step forward with a Saturday Evening Post ad claiming doctors had conducted a study showing “when smokers changed to Philip Morris, every case of irritation cleared completely and definitely improved.” …read more

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down over the Ukraine-Russia border

September 13, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

On July 17, halfway through a flight from Amsterdam to Malaysia, a passenger plane was shot down over the war-torn Ukraine-Russia Border. All 298 people on board, most of whom were citizens of the Netherlands, died in the explosion.

It was the second Malaysian Air flight to disappear in 2014, after flight 370 crashed over the Indian Ocean on March 8.

The plane took off from Amsterdam at 10:31 GMT. It was expected to fly over the Ukraine-Russia border which, due to a war between Ukrainian fighters and Pro-Russia separatists, had instituted a minimum-altitude restriction just three days earlier to keep planes from being caught in any potential crossfire. The plane made contact and flew into country lines in accordance with restrictions, but disappeared a few hours later, just 30 miles from the border. No distress signal was received.

Questions arose about the flight path. Was it safe? As it turned out, the path had been approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization, and by the countries that controlled the airspace through which the plane was set to travel.

While it wasn’t clear in the beginning, it was suspected the plane had been shot down by “ill-trained” Russian separatists. Four days later, after investigators were finally able to get their hands on the plane’s black box, these suspicions were confirmed. The explosion had definitely not come from within. The recorder revealed that, as the plane approached the border, a “high-energy object” exploded a yard from the cockpit, breaking it completely off from the rest of the plane. The pilots were killed instantly. The rest of the plane flew for more than five miles before finally breaking apart. The debris scattered over more than 20 square miles of field.

It took 15 months to figure out which side of the war the projectile had come from. In October, 2015, Dutch investigators were able to discern that the blast had been caused by a Russian-made missile. In June 2016, over two years after the plane was shot down, an international group of investigators published a photo of large part of a Russian-made Buk missile that was found at the crash site.

Finally, in May of 2018, after four years of gathering evidence, a release from the Netherlands and Australia said that it wasn’t just a Russian-made missile that had taken down Flight 17, …read more

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Terrorist drives truck through a Bastille Day celebration

September 13, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

On July 14, 2016, thousands gathered along the seafront of Nice, France to celebrate Bastille Day—the country’s independence holiday. The mood turned from joy to horror, when a white truck barreled through a pedestrian-filled closed street. In the end, 86 were dead, including 10 children, and 304 spectators were left injured.

While fireworks shot into the sky for 30,000 spectators, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian man who had been planning his attack for a year, drove past the festivities several times in a truck he’d rented just three days prior. Shortly after the show concluded, he put his plan into motion. He jumped the curb with the truck, zigzagging through the crowd at 60 miles per hour, deliberately running people over. Those who were celebrating just moments before began scrambling for safety, running into hotels and onto the beach.

The attacker, who was previously “totally unknown” to security services, tore through over a mile of the pedestrian-filled promenade before being stopped by police. He was armed with an automatic pistol, but also carried several replica assault weapons, and even a disarmed grenade, to escalate his threatening appearance. Using the pistol, he fired shots at police, who shot and killed him.

In the days after the attack, shrines to the victims were built around the metal barriers closing off the promenade. Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared three days of mourning, and all festivities were canceled, including a five-day jazz festival and a Rihanna concert. Valls also called for volunteers to help boost security. 12,000 people stepped up.

Two days later, the Islamic State took responsibility for the attack. On July 22, five of Lahouaiej-Bouhlel’s accomplices were charged in the attack.

Despite the relatively speedy resolution, citizens and officials alike were left wondering, how, after everything the country had been through less than a year earlier in Paris, an attack like this could have happened again.

“Questions are raised,” Christian Estrosi, the president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France, which includes Nice, said in his address after the attack. “As I try to comfort the families, I also try to contain my anger; I can’t hide to you that I feel a deep anger. How is it possible in our country that, after everyone said there was a state of emergency, a state of war, we forgot it after Charlie Hebdo, and then there was …read more

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