The History Behind the Mystery: Maze Master

by Kathleen O’Neal Gear

A reporter once told me that our library could pass for a crime lab.  Skulls detailing the history of humanity line the shelves and perch on pedestals, beginning with a diminutive acrylic cast of Australopithecus afarensis, running through a variety of Homo erectus examples, then on to the impressive skulls of Neandertals, who had larger brains than modern humans, and finally through a selection of prehistoric human skulls from cultures around the world. The neatly defined sections of books beneath the skulls are devoted to the chronology of human evolution.  As anthropologists, my husband Michael and I are fascinated by the long journey of Homo sapiens.  The question every anthropologist wants to answer is: What are we and how did we come to be?

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Posted in Ancient History, Modern History

The Secret Plot to Murder King James I

by Benjamin Woolley

The rise of George Villiers from minor gentry to royal power seemed to defy gravity. Becoming gentleman of the royal bedchamber in 1615, the young gallant enraptured James, Britain’s first Stuart king, royal adoration reaching such an intensity that the king declared he wanted the courtier to become his ‘wife’. For a decade, Villiers was at the king’s side–at court, on state occasions, and in bed, right up to James’s death in March 1625.

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Posted in Early Modern History

The Hells Angels’ Role at Altamont

by Saul Austerlitz

Puttering in mostly unnoticed among the stream of vehicles making their way onto the speedway grounds, a tan school bus crammed full of young men parked just behind the stage. From the exterior, this bus hardly differed from any of the other ramshackle vehicles to have arrived at Altamont that day. But unlike the majority of people attending, the men in the dun-colored bus had come to do a job. They were bikers, and the bus was owned by the San Francisco chapter of the Hells Angels. The vehicle containing the bulk of the security staff for Altamont rolled to a halt about one hundred yards away from the stage. The remainder of the Angels rode their Harleys—some solo and some with female passengers clinging to their backs—right up to the lip of the stage. The crowd frantically scattered out of the way of the sputtering motorcycles.

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Posted in Modern History

A Reporter’s Journey Behind the Lines of ISIS

by Souad Mekhennet

I was told to come alone. I was not to carry any identification and would have to leave my cell phone, audio recorder, watch, and purse at my hotel in Antakya, Turkey. All I could bring were a notebook and a pen.

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Posted in Modern History

Dying to Be Beautiful: Deadly Cosmetics

by Eleanor Herman

The story of poison is the story of power. For centuries, royal families have feared the gut-roiling, vomit-inducing agony of a little something added to their food or wine by an enemy. To avoid poison, they depended on tasters, unicorn horns, and antidotes tested on condemned prisoners. Servants licked the royal family’s spoons, tried on their underpants and tested their chamber pots.

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Posted in Medieval History

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