Culture & Literature
National Geographic History

National Geographic History July/August 2019

See how National Geographic History magazine inflames and quenches the curiosity of history buffs and informs and entertains anyone who appreciates that the truth indeed is stranger than fiction with a digital subscription today. And that history is not just about our forebears. It’s about us. It’s about you.

United States
National Geographic Society
Read More
$5.60(Incl. tax)
$28.04(Incl. tax)
6 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
from the editor

Veni, vidi, vici. I came, I saw, I conquered. Pithy, precise, parallel: The phrase was first found in the works of second-century A.D. historians Suetonius and Plutarch when they wrote about Julius Caesar’s military successes. “Veni, vidi, vici” appears in their accounts of Caesar’s lightning-fast, absolute victory over the kingdom of Pontus in 47 B.C. Rome rewarded Caesar with a triumph for that victory, and history rewarded him with something far more enduring: a catchphrase. When you start to look, “Veni, vidi, vici” (or its English equivalent) turns up everywhere. A 1724 Handel opera and the 1984 movie “Ghostbusters” both reference it. Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole have all crooned “You came, you saw, you conquered me,” in “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You).” Spaghetti Westerns got in…

1 min.
a pointed history

TWO SPINES from a prickly pear cactus (above) form the sharp end of what has now been confirmed was a tattoo tool used at an Ancestral Puebloan settlement in Utah around 2,000 years ago. The tool was dated by analyzing the area of the midden (trash heap) in which it was found. The spines are mounted in a sumac-twig handle (below). Placement of the black pigment on the spines is consistent with the proper depth to pierce and stain the epidermis. ROBERT HUBNER, WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY. ANDREW GILLREATH-BROWN, WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY…

2 min.
ancient ink: the story of tattoos in north america

Researchers have evidence that tattooists were busy honing their skills nearly two thousand years ago, pushing back the timescale for the practice in North America by almost a millennium. Presenting their findings in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, a team of archaeologists has concluded that a tool, found near Bears Ears National Monument, is a tattoo needle. The unassuming artifact is made of cactus spines, less than half an inch long, inserted into a sumac-twig handle, and tied in place with yucca-leaf strips. Tips of the spines are stained with dark pigment. New research reveals that they were used for inking patterns onto people in the first or second centuries A.D., making the tiny instrument the earliest evidence of tattooing in the Southwest. Revisiting the Past Archaeologists first found the curious implement…

1 min.
hot food and high dwellings

THE ANCESTRAL PUEBLOANS who fashioned the tattoo tool were part of the Basketmaker II culture. Their artifacts, dwellings, and artworks have been found across the American Southwest in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Lasting about a millennium, from 500 B.C. to A.D. 500, the Basketmaker II period coincides with the transition to agriculture. The period gets its name from the abundance of baskets found at archaeological sites. These skillfully woven baskets were often sealed with pine pitch, making them watertight. The baskets could be used in food preparation by placing fire-warmed stones inside to heat food. Later, Ancestral Puebloan peoples began living in cliff dwellings, which still dot the landscape throughout the Southwest.…

1 min.
the life of an imposter

JANUARY 1762 Elizabeth of Russia dies, and is succeeded by her nephew, Peter III. Peter’s wife, Sophie, is a German princess. JULY 1762 Following a coup in which Sophie forces her husband to abdicate, Sophie becomes Catherine II. Peter dies in prison. 1772 A young woman in Paris claims to be the daughter of the late Empress Elizabeth and attracts the support of wealthy men. 1774 Catherine II orders Count Alexei Orlov to lure the mystery woman into a trap. She is arrested and sent to Russia. 1775 The false princess dies while imprisoned in St. Petersburg. Her true identity is never discovered.…

6 min.
princess tarakanova, pretender to the throne

Empress Catherine II of Russia was no stranger to conspiracies and cabals orchestrated by her enemies, but in the early 1770s, one mysterious woman’s claim to the throne would expose deep insecurities underlying Catherine’s reign. The empress ordered that “Princess Vladimir” (later known as “Princess Tarakanova”) be imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg. Although Catherine II is better now known as Catherine the Great, her reign had a rocky start. Empress Elizabeth, before she died in 1762, had named Peter, her nephew and Catherine’s husband, heir to the throne. Six months after her death, a coup, led by Catherine, forced Peter III to abdicate. About a week later, imprisoned in a palace in Ropsha outside of St. Petersburg, Peter died while in the care of Catherine’s allies.…