National Geographic History March/April 2019

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United States
National Geographic Society
6 期號


1 分鐘
from the editor

History’s mysteries are often solved by teams working centuries apart. The oracle at Delphi, ancient Greece’s favorite place for seeking divine advice, confounded many scholars who sought the place where priestesses told the future. Classical accounts described the process: The Pythia (Apollo’s priestess) entered a cavern, inhaled sweet-smelling vapors (called pneuma) emanating from the depths, went into a trance, and then uttered the words of the gods. In the 1890s archaeologists drew on these accounts when they first excavated the site on Parnassós. Unable to find the Pythia’s sacred space and the intoxicating pneuma, they concluded that the vapors were just “urban legends” passed down by the ancients. These early excavations revealed important geologic insights that became apparent to scholars in the 1990s. Combining science with history, an archaeologist, a geologist, a…

2 分鐘
craft brewing in caves: earliest evidence of beer

Humans were downing beers thousands of years earlier than experts previously thought—long before the advent of agriculture. The oldest traces of beer brewing used to date to around 9,000 years ago, but according to research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, cereal-based beer was being consumed some 13,000 years ago. Researchers from Stanford University and the University of Haifa in Israel made this discovery in Raqefet Cave on Mount Carmel, near Haifa in northern Israel. The site was once occupied by the Natufians, who lived some 15,000-11,500 years ago. Archaeologists believe them to be among the first people to abandon nomadic practices and opt for a semi-settled way of life. The cave contains many important finds, including a Natufian burial ground with the remains of 30 people. Archaeologists also found tools,…

1 分鐘
beer and bread

THE DISCOVERY in northern Israel of beer production some 13,000 years ago falls into the same timescale as the oldest known traces of bread yet found—between 14,600 and 11,600 years ago. The traces of flatbread, found in Jordan in 2018 and made from wild cereals, were the product of the same Natufian culture that brewed the Raqefet beer. Before the find, the earliest evidence of breadmaking had been dated to about 9,000 years ago in Turkey. Taken together, these finds are leading scholars to consider that crude methods of bread- and beermaking brought such nutritional and social enhancements to communities that they spurred efforts toward ever more refined cultivation of plants and farming.…

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scientist or schemer?

1734 Franz Mesmer, the son of a humble forest warden, is born in Iznang, a small town next to Lake Constance, Germany. 1768 Two years after receiving his doctorate, Mesmer marries Anna Maria von Posch, a wealthy widow. Their Vienna home serves as his consulting room. 1778 After his controversial treatment of a blind pianist is deemed a failure, Mesmer leaves Vienna and moves to Paris. 1784 A scientific commission concludes that Mesmer’s theory of animal magnetism lacks scientific basis. 1815 Mesmer dies in anonymity in the German town of Meersburg.…

6 分鐘
mesmer: master of animal magnetism

Wearing gold slippers and a lavender silk robe, physician Franz Anton Mesmer moved slowly around the silent, dimly lit room while waving a metal wand. A baquet, a large oak tub of magnetized water, sat in the middle of the richly appointed salon. Mesmer’s patients surrounded the baquet and pressed its protruding metal rods to the afflicted areas of their bodies. Ethereal notes of a glass harmonica, its sound resembling that of clinking glasses, tinkled in the incense-filled air. After a flick of his wand or a touch of his hand, some of Mesmer’s patients fell into trances, cathartic and curative “crises” that could resemble violent convulsions, fits of laughter, or piercing shrieks. Theory Becomes Practice Mesmer’s patients fell into trances, curative “crises” that resembled fits of laughter, convulsions, or shrieks. Mesmer’s unorthodox…

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power of placebos

FRANZ MESMER was unable to obtain praise or recognition from the medical and scientific communities for his cures, but his patients gave him glowing testimonials. They described how Mesmer, confident and charismatic, radiated a comforting serenity. His theory that a universal magnetic fluid governed the human body was wildly inaccurate. But Mes-mer believed his powerful magnetism could restore health, and in many cases, his confidence and the trust of his patients resulted in relief. Rather than revealing the powers of animal magnetism, Mesmer’s experiments were some of the earliest documentations of the placebo effect, when treatments work because patients expect them to.…