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National Geographic History

National Geographic History September/October 2018

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National Geographic Society
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6 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
from the editor

If you close your eyes and imagine evil, what do you see? A scarlet man with horns and a pitchfork? A pair of glowing eyes glaring in the dark? A dark force thriving on fear and pain? Evil has many incarnations, and in this issue, HISTORY explores two of them—one spiritual and the other physical. The first article delves into medieval Christian art to show how the devil’s appearance evolved over centuries from fallen angel to horned monster, like the one shown above in this 15th-century Spanish altarpiece. In many of these artworks, evil is vividly rendered as an ugly, slavering beast awaiting sinful souls to punish in hell. In the story of Jack the Ripper, evil is a mystery man: predatory, anonymous, and elusive. Dwelling in the shadows, it inflicts horror…

2 min.
chimú child sacrifice: an appeal to the heavens

Archaeologists from the United States and Peru have uncovered the single, largest act of mass child sacrifice found to date. A team led by Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, and John Verano of Tulane University, Louisiana, discovered a mass grave in northern Peru on a bluff about a thousand feet from the sea. The burial site Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, dubbed “Las Llamas” by archaeologists, holds the remains of more than 140 children, the majority between eight and 12 years old. Also found were the remains of 200 baby llamas, sacrificed alongside the children. Supported by grants from the National Geographic Society, the archaeologists noted that the skeletons bore injuries consistent with human sacrifice: “It is ritual killing, and it’s very systematic,” Verano said. The team had been excavating a temple near…

1 min.
lives for the gods

HUMAN SACRIFICE has been recorded in the Aztec, Maya, and Inca cultures, but the rite more typically involved the deaths of adults. Child sacrifice seems to have been much rarer. Before the Las Llamas find, the largest known incident had been at the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, where 42 children were killed. As in this, and in cases of individual child murder at Inca sites, the violence at Las Llamas was highly ritualized. The children’s faces were daubed with a red, cinnabar-based pigment, traces of which were found on their skulls. Their sternums and ribs also bear the marks of a quick, deliberate strike, most likely a deep cut across the chest.…

1 min.
a life in figures

1761 Marie Grosholtz is born in Strasbourg, France. She grows up in the Bern home of her mother’s employer, the doctor and sculptor Philippe Curtius. 1765 Curtius moves to Paris, and young Marie and her mother will follow two years later. There he will teach the girl to create lifelike waxworks. 1789 The French Revolution breaks out, and Marie is accused of being a royalist. To escape execution, she sculpts wax death masks. 1794 Curtius dies, and Marie inherits his waxworks. A year later, she marries François Tussaud. Despite being in an unhappy marriage, the couple have two sons. 1802 Leaving France, Madame Tussaud travels to Britain and gains fame with her waxworks. She will never again return to France.…

7 min.
madame tussauds: the house that wax built

In her memoir Tussaud wrote that during the Reign of Terror her head was shaved in preparation for the guillotine. Paris seethed with tension in the summer of 1789 as crisis engulfed France. Gripped with revolutionary fervor, the people were clamoring for a greater say in their government. In July outrage grew after King Louis XVI fired his reform-minded finance minister, Jacques Necker. A huge crowd of revolutionaries took to the streets of the capital, waving black flags and mimicking a funeral cortège. They bore wax effigies of both Necker and the pro-democracy prince, the Duke of Orléans. Taken from the collection of a well-known waxwork artist, these likenesses may have been sculpted by his apprentice, Marie Grosholtz, who would become better known by her married name: Madame Tussaud. Years later, Marie sculpted a…

1 min.
an early impression

THIS WAXWORK of Marie Grosholtz was fashioned by her mentor, Dr. Philippe Curtius, in 1784. The future Madame Tussaud was in her early 20s when she was in residence at Versailles. According to her memoirs, her skills had earned her a position tutoring members of the French royal family. Her placid expression and regal dress give no hint of the terrors to come after 1789 when the French Revolution broke out. Witnessing the horrors of the day would give her the toughness and the subject matter that formed the foundation of her later success.…