Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is credited with being the first modern detective story — biographer Jeffrey Meyers says it “changed the history of world literature.” The story established the convention of the brilliant investigator who unveils a climactic revelation before explaining the reasoning that led him to it. The lead character, C. Auguste Dupin, served as a prototype for fictional detectives from Sherlock Holmes to Miss Marple.
But Poe himself thought the praise was overblown. “These tales of ratiocination owe most of their popularity to being something in a new key,” he wrote. “People think them more ingenious than they are — on account of their method and air of method. In the ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ for instance, where is the ingenuity in unraveling a web which you yourself … have woven for the express purpose of unraveling?” The brilliance of a detective story is transparently contrived, he said: “The reader is made to confound the ingenuity of the suppositious Dupin with that of the writer of the story.”
John Nevison is remembered today as the politest highwayman in Britain. He robbed from the rich and gave to the poor -- nothing interesting there -- but Nevison always robbed people in the politest way possible. Nothing but pleases and thank-yous and ma’ams. Today, Nevison is probably remembered best for a daring escape in 1676. So daring, in fact, that many later highwaymen took the credit.
Here’s how it went down. Nevison was conducting a pre-dawn robbery in Kent, in southern England, when his face was recognized. As soon as he finished up robbing the unfortunate victims he used a ferry to cross the Thames River then galloped all-out to York, a city in northern England. He rode 227 miles in 15 hours. Nevison arrived in York by sunset and played a gambling game with the Lord Mayor of York, providing himself with a very strong alibi. When Nevison was arrested for the robbery in Kent he just had to produce the Lord Mayor. No one could believe that someone could get that far, in that short a time, and Nevison was let go.
Of course he went right back to being a highwayman. A few years later Nevison was caught when an innkeeper betrayed him. Tried for highway robbery, as well as the murder of a constable, he was hanged at York in 1684.
Archaeological remains of a bathroom equipped with a flushing toilet used during the Silla Kingdom (57 BCE to 935 CE) were discovered in South Korea in 2017. The toilets were tilted, so anything that fell into them would naturally flow to a drain. People likely poured water after they did their business to wash away the waste into the plumbing system that flowed out of the palace.
The toilets were not for everyone. They were made of granite, a luxury at the time, and were located in the royal palace of Donggung and Wolji Pond. The palace complex was constructed in the year 674 CE by King Munmu.
The Phoenicians are the first known people to have sailed all the way around Africa. The Egyptian pharaoh Wehimbre Nekao, who ruled from 610 to 595 BCE, asked for Phoenician aid in circumnavigating Africa. This likely had something to do with Egypt's defenses, which were threatened at the time by Babylon -- who happened to be threatening the Phoenician heartland as well. Nekao was pretty lucky that the best sailors and navigators of the ancient world happened to share his enemy.
According to Herodotus, the voyage took two full years. Based on modern estimates, it may even have taken three years. The first stretch along the Red Sea, around the Horn of Africa, and down the eastern coast would have been easy sailing. Phoenicians were familiar with the Red Sea, often trading with Yemen for incense. And a combination of monsoon winds and easy currents made the eastern coast of Africa a quick journey.
After rounding the cape, in what is today South Africa, the Phoenicians are thought to have stopped and farmed for a bit. No ancient ship could carry enough supplies for two years. So they likely sowed their wheat in June, started to repair their ships, and harvested in November. Then they started up the western coast of Africa. This was what took the bulk of the journey. A combination of unfavorable winds and changeable currents likely made the trip rather scary. Modern historians think the Phoenicians made a second stop and stayed a planting season at what is today the coast Mauretania. They had likely been traveling for two and a half years. Finally, after a second harvest and repairing their boats, they beat their way along the Moroccan coast and towards the Mediterranean.
The navigators would have quickly re-entered civilization as they knew it: the Phoenicians by this time had a town on Mogador Island, off central Morocco. From then on it was an easy trip along the southern Mediterranean, with plenty of hospitable ports for refueling and telling the astonished inhabitants their story.
At the Athens Olympics of 1896, American runner Thomas Curtis asked his French competitor Albin Lermusiaux why he was putting on white gloves before the start of the 100-meter race. Lermusiaux said, “Because I am running in front of the king.”
A key creation myth said first the Herero had been given a bull and a cow by the Creator. Meanwhile other peoples had to be content with inferior gifts. The Herero got the best, because they got the cattle.
When this creation myth was challenged once by a German settler, one proud herdsman is reputed to have answered: “Everyone is greedy. The European is devoted to dead metals. We are more intelligent, we get our joy out of living creatures.”
The Silent Generation -- people born between 1925 and 1945 -- produced no U.S. presidents.
Unusual markings have been found on the bones of a woman who was buried in a monumental mound in the central Dniester region of Ukraine some 4,500 years ago by members of a nomadic shepherding culture. She died between the ages of 25 and 30. Initially, animals were thought to have made the parallel lines. But a recent re-analysis found the marks were made with a tar-like substance -- so they had to have been on purpose.
It appears that at some point after the woman died, her tomb was opened, the marks were made, and then she was re-interred. This is a unique find. No comparable funeral practice has been found in other prehistoric communities in Europe. Although now that this has been found, more may follow, since similar markings on other skeletons had previously been interpreted as remnants of tattoos.
That's not all that makes this woman special. The community living in the middle Dniester region approximately 4,500 years ago was engaged in nomadic shepherding - carts were used for longer distances. As a result, no permanent settlements were built, and no houses have been found. Their cemeteries are where they left their mark. Monumental burial mounds were made and played an important role for their communities. It is unusual for a woman to be buried in a monumental burial mound, like this woman was. It shows how important she was. And how unusual it was for women to have such high status.
In ancient Egypt, the very complicated process of mummification took 70 days. That's from the day the corpse arrived at the ibu, 'place of purification,' to the funeral. It seems likely that 70 days was deliberately chosen. It matches too perfectly the 70 days that the dog star Sirius (the goddess Sopdet to the ancient Egyptians) could not be seen. The annual rising of Sopdet heralded the inundation of the Nile, the mark of the start of the Egyptian New Year, and the green rebirth of the country. It seems a little too meaningful to be a coincidence.
"Deep Skull" was found in 1958 on Borneo, and since then it has remained the earliest known remnant of a modern human in island Southeast Asia. It is about 37,000 years old. It had been thought that the skull was related to indigenous Australians. This would support the idea that Borneo was settled in two waves, first by the ancestors of indigenous Australians, then by immigrants from Asia who became the ancestors of Borneo's modern indigenous people. A new analysis suggests that Deep Skull is more Asian than Australian. That supports the idea that Borneo was in fact settled by one major migration, not two.