Earliest story?

Personal amateur research shows The Epic of Giglamesh to be the earliest work of literature. I am curious if ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs depicted histories, warnings or tales? Are any simple stories which may predate those and can be as simple as a warning or a "we were here"?

edit: I understand that there's a massive difference tEoG and mere evidence of existence. To be clear I am not necessarily looking for something as complex and comprehensive as tEoG. Merely a form in which one generation/civ/society depicted information for posterity. In my opinion this information acts as a simple form of story telling. I would be happy with any examples, from the famous Ugarit tablet plea for assistance (postdating tEoG) to the Vinča symbols which, though ancient and simple, are not well understood.

Hieroglyphic writing systems generally were all initially used to record the accomplishments of kings in a very simple way. The problem they have is that true literature requires using a lot of the language, and logographic systems are really only extensible by adding a new symbols, or tacking other types of systems onto them. To tell an actual story with any kind of evocative language requires development of thousands of unique glyphs, or something more akin to an alphabet.

Egypt followed this pattern. Slowly their writing system started to adopt more advanced concepts (such as phonograms and determinatives), but that didn't happen until around the time of the writing of the Epic of Gilgamesh, so they can't really be said to predate it.

For example, what is considered the oldest known sentence in Egyptian is just the 5 symbols for "unite", "upper and lower Egypt", "son", "king of upper and lower Egypt", and a particular king's symbol, along with a few assorted determinatives written on them. That translates out to roughly "He united upper and lower Egypt for his son, King of Upper and Lower Egypt Perisben". This was probably about 500 years before the Epic of Gilgamesh, depending on how you mesh the two chronologies.

By the time of Middle Egyptian they had expanded the system to include about 900 different hieroglyphs, at which point they could begin to tell proper stories. However, this (barely) post-dates tEoG. Most of the more famous examples of Hieroglyphs on monuments are from this period. There was also a related written form (initially called Hieratic) which slowly over the centuries evolved into a proper alphabet*. Coptic is a living descendent of this system.

* - Abjad technically, since Semitic languages like Egyptian had no real need for vowel glyphs.

10,000-year-old rock paintings of people swimming were found in the Cave of Swimmers near Wadi Sura in southwestern Egypt. These pictures seem to show breaststroke or doggy paddle, although it is also possible that the movements have a ritual meaning unrelated to swimming. An Egyptian clay seal dated between 9000 BC and 4000 BC shows four people who are believed [ by whom? ] to be swimming a variant of the front crawl.

More references to swimming are found in the Babylonian and Assyrian wall drawings, depicting a variant of the breaststroke. The most famous drawings were found in the Kebir desert and are estimated to be from around 4000 BC. The Nagoda bas-relief also shows swimmers inside of men dating back from 3000 BC. The Indian palace Mohenjo Daro from 2800 BC contains a swimming pool sized 12 m by 7 m. The Minoan palace of Knossos in Crete also featured baths. An Egyptian tomb from 2000 BC shows a variant of front crawl. Depictions of swimmers have also been found from the Hittites, Minoans and other Middle Eastern civilizations, in the Tepantitla compound at Teotihuacan, and in mosaics in Pompeii. [1]

Written references date back to ancient times, with the earliest as early as 2000 BC. Such references occur in works like Gilgamesh, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Bible (Ezekiel 47:5, Acts 27:42, Isaiah 25:11), Beowulf, and other sagas, although the style is never described. There are also many mentions of swimmers in the Vatican, Borgian and Bourbon codices. A series of reliefs from 850 BC in the Nimrud Gallery of the British Museum shows swimmers, mostly in a military context, Often using swimming aids.

Since swimming was done in a state of undress, it became less popular as society became more conservative in the Early Modern period. [2] Leonardo da Vinci made early sketches of lifebelts. In 1538, Nikolaus Wynmann, a Swiss–German professor of languages, wrote the earliest known complete book about swimming, Colymbetes, sive de arte natandi dialogus et festivus et iucundus lectu (The Swimmer, or A Dialogue on the Art of Swimming and Joyful and Pleasant to Read). [3] His purpose was to reduce the dangers of drowning. The book contained a good methodical approach to learning breaststroke, and mentioned swimming aids such as air-filled cow bladders, reed bundles, and cork belts. [1]

In 1587, Everard Digby also wrote a swimming book, claiming that humans could swim better than fish. [4] Digby was a Senior Fellow at St. John's College, Cambridge and was interested in the scientific method. His short treatise, De arte natandi, was written in Latin and contained over 40 woodcut illustrations depicting various methods of swimming, including the breaststroke, backstroke and crawl. Digby regarded the breaststroke as the most useful form of swimming. [5] In 1603, Emperor Go-Yozei of Japan declared that schoolchildren should swim. [6]

In 1595, Christopher Middleton wrote "A short introduction for to learne to swimme", that was the first published guide recording drawings and examples of different swimming styles.

In 1696, the French author Melchisédech Thévenot wrote The Art of Swimming, describing a breaststroke very similar to the modern breaststroke. This book was translated into English and became the standard reference of swimming for many years to come. [7] In 1793, GutsMuths from Schnepfenthal, Germany, wrote Gymnastik für die Jugend (Exercise for youth), including a significant portion about swimming. In 1794, Kanonikus Oronzio de Bernardi of Italy wrote a two volume book about swimming, including floating practice as a prerequisite for swimming studies.

In 1798, GutsMuths wrote another book Kleines Lehrbuch der Schwimmkunst zum Selbstunterricht (Small study book of the art of swimming for self-study), recommending the use of a "fishing rod" device to aid in the learning of swimming. His books describe a three-step approach to learning to swim that is still used today. First, get the student used to the water second, practice the swimming movements out of the water and third, practice the swimming movements in the water. He believed that swimming is an essential part of every education. [8] The Haloren, a group of salt makers in Halle, Germany, greatly advanced swimming through setting a good example to others by teaching their children to swim at a very early age.

Swimming emerged as a competitive sport in the early 1800s in England. In 1828, the first indoor swimming pool, St George's Baths, was opened to the public. [8] By 1837, the National Swimming Society was holding regular swimming competitions in six artificial swimming pools, built around London. The sport grew in popularity and by 1880, when the first national governing body, the Amateur Swimming Association, was formed, there were already over 300 regional clubs in operation across the country. [9]

In 1844 a swimming competition was held in London with the participation of two Native Americans. The British competitor used the traditional breaststroke, while the Native Americans swam a variant of the front crawl, which had been used by people in the Americas for generations, but was not known to the British. The winning medal went to 'Flying Gull' who swam the 130-foot length in 30 seconds – the Native American swimming method proved to be a much faster style than the British breaststroke. The Times of London reported disapprovingly that the Native American stroke was an unrefined motion with the arms "like a windmill" and the chaotic and unregulated kicking of the legs. The considerable splashing that the stroke caused was deemed to be barbaric and "un-European" to the British gentlemen, who preferred to keep their heads over the water. Subsequently, the British continued to swim only breaststroke until 1873. The British did, however, adapt the breaststroke into the speedier sidestroke, where the swimmer lies to one side this became the more popular choice by the late 1840s. In 1895, J. H. Thayers of England swam 100 yards (91 m) in a record-breaking 1:02.50 using a sidestroke. [8]

Sir John Arthur Trudgen picked up the hand-over stroke from South American natives he observed swimming on a trip to Buenos Aires. On his return to England in 1868, he successfully debuted the new stroke in 1873 and won a local competition in 1875. Although the new stroke was really the reintroduction of a more intuitive method for swimming, one that had been in evidence in ancient cultures such as Ancient Assyria, his method revolutionized the state of competitive swimming – his stroke is still regarded as the most powerful to use today. [10] In his stroke, the arms were brought forward, alternating, while the body rolled from side to side. The kick was a scissors kick such as that familiarly used in breaststroke, with one kick for two arm strokes, although it is believed that the Native Americans had indeed used a flutter kick. Front crawl variants used different ratios of scissor kicks to arm strokes, or alternated with a flutter (up-and-down) kick. The speed of the new stroke was demonstrated by F.V.C. Lane in 1901, swimming 100 yards (91 m) in 1:00.0, an improvement of about ten seconds compared to the breaststroke record. Due to its speed the Trudgen became very quickly popular around the world, despite all the ungentleman-like splashing. [8]

Captain Matthew Webb was the first man to swim the English Channel (between England and France), in 1875. He used breaststroke, swimming 21.26 miles (34.21 km) in 21 hours and 45 minutes. His feat was not replicated or surpassed for the next 36 years, until Bill Burgess made the crossing in 1911. Other European countries also established swimming federations Germany in 1882, France in 1890 and Hungary in 1896. The first European amateur swimming competitions were in 1889 in Vienna. The world's first women's swimming championship was held in Scotland in 1892. [11]

Nancy Edberg popularized women's swimming in Stockholm from 1847. She made swimming lessons accessible for both genders and later introduced swimming lessons for women in Denmark and Norway. [12] Her public swimming exhibitions from 1856 with her students were likely among the first public exhibitions of women swimming in Europe [12]

In 1897, Capt. Henry Sheffield designed a rescue can or rescue cylinder, now well known as the lifesaving device. The pointed ends made it slide faster through the water, although it can cause injuries.

The Olympic Games were held in 1896 in Athens, a male-only competition. Six events were planned for the swimming competition, but only four events were actually contested: 100 m, 500 m, and 1200 m freestyle and 100 m for sailors. The first gold medal was won by Alfréd Hajós of Hungary in the 100 m freestyle. Hajós was also victorious in the 1200 m event, and was unable to compete in the 500 m, which was won by Austrian Paul Neumann.

The second Olympic games in Paris in 1900 featured 200 m, 1000 m, and 4000 m freestyle, 200 m backstroke, and a 200 m team race (see also Swimming at the 1900 Summer Olympics). There were two additional unusual swimming events (although common at the time): an obstacle swimming course in the Seine river (swimming with the current), and an underwater swimming race. The 4000 m freestyle was won by John Arthur Jarvis in under one hour, the longest Olympic swimming race until the 10k marathon swim was introduced in 2008. The backstroke was also introduced to the Olympic Games in Paris, as was water polo. The Osborne Swimming Club from Manchester beat club teams from Belgium, France and Germany quite easily.

The Trudgen stroke was improved by Australian-born Richmond Cavill. Cavill, whose father Frederick Cavill narrowly failed to swim the English Channel, is credited with developing the stroke after observing a young boy from the Solomon Islands. Cavill and his brothers spread the Australian crawl to England, New Zealand and America. Richmond used this stroke in 1902 at an International Championships in England to set a new world record by out swimming all Trudgen swimmers over the 100 yards (91 m) in 0:58.4 [13]

The Olympics in 1904 in St. Louis included races over 50 yards (46 m), 100 yards, 220 yards (200 m), 440 yards, 880 yards (800 m) and one mile (1.6 km) freestyle, 100 yards (91 m) backstroke and 440 yards (400 m) breaststroke, and the 4x50 yards freestyle relay (see also Swimming at the 1904 Summer Olympics). These games differentiated between breaststroke and freestyle, so that there were now two defined styles (breaststroke and backstroke) and freestyle, where most people swam Trudgen. These games also featured a competition to plunge for distance, where the distance without swimming, after jumping in a pool, was measured.

In 1908, the world swimming association Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA) was formed.

Women were first allowed to swim in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, competing in freestyle races. In the 1912 games, Harry Hebner of the United States won the 100 m backstroke. At these games Duke Kahanamoku from Hawaii won the 100 m freestyle, having learned the six kicks per cycle front crawl from older natives of his island. This style is now considered the classical front crawl style. The men's competitions were 100 m, 400 m, and 1500 m freestyle, 100 m backstroke, 200 m and 400 m breaststroke, and four by 200 m freestyle relay. The women's competitions were 100 m freestyle and four by 100 m freestyle relay.

The Deutsche Lebens-Rettungs-Gesellschaft (DLRG) (German lifesaving organization) was established on October 19, 1913 in Leipzig after 17 people drowned while trying to board the cruise steamer Kronprinz Wilhelm. In the same year the first elastic swimsuit was made by the sweater company Jantzen.

In 1922, Johnny Weissmuller became the first person to swim the 100 m in less than a minute, using a six kicks per cycle Australian crawl. Johnny Weissmuller started the golden age of swimming, winning five Olympic medals and 36 national championships and never losing a race in his ten-year career, until he retired from swimming and started his second career starring as Tarzan in film. His record of 51 seconds in 100-yard (91 m) freestyle stood for over 17 years. In the same year, Sybil Bauer was the first woman to break a men's world record over the 440 m backstroke in 6:24.8.

At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, lane dividers made of cork were used for the first time, and lines on the pool bottom aided with orientation.

Swimming innovation Edit

The scientific study of swimming began in 1928 with David Armbruster, a coach at the University of Iowa, who filmed swimmers underwater. [ citation needed ] The Japanese also used underwater photography to research the stroke mechanics, and subsequently dominated the 1932 Summer Olympics. Armbruster also researched a problem of breaststroke where the swimmer was slowed down significantly while bringing the arms forward underwater. In 1934 Armbruster refined a method to bring the arms forward over water in breaststroke. While this "butterfly" technique was difficult, it brought a great improvement in speed. One year later, in 1935, Jack Sieg, a swimmer also from the University of Iowa developed a technique involving swimming on his side and beating his legs in unison similar to a fish tail, and modified the technique afterward to swim it face down. Armbruster and Sieg combined these techniques into a variant of the breaststroke called butterfly with the two kicks per cycle being called dolphin fishtail kick. Using this technique Sieg swam 100 yards (91 m) in 1:00.2. However, even though this technique was much faster than regular breaststroke, the dolphin fishtail kick violated the rules and was not allowed. Therefore, the butterfly arms with a breaststroke kick were used by a few swimmers in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin for the breaststroke competitions. In 1938, almost every breaststroke swimmer was using this butterfly style, yet this stroke was considered a variant of the breaststroke until 1952, when it was accepted as a separate style with a set of rules.

Around that time another modification to the backstroke became popular. Previously, the arms were held straight during the underwater push phase, for example by the top backstroke swimmer from 1935 to 1945, Adolph Kiefer. However, Australian swimmers developed a technique where the arms are bent underwater, increasing the horizontal push and the resulting speed and reducing the wasted force upward and sideways. This style is now generally used worldwide.

In 1935 topless swimsuits for men were worn for the first time during an official competition. In 1943, the US ordered the reduction of fabric in swimsuits by 10% due to wartime shortages, resulting in the first two piece swimsuits. Shortly afterwards the bikini was invented in Paris by Louis Reard (officially) or Jacques Heim (earlier, but slightly larger).

Another modification was developed for breaststroke. In breaststroke, breaking the water surface increases the friction, reducing the speed of the swimmer. Therefore, swimming underwater increases the speed. This led to a controversy at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, and six swimmers were disqualified as they repeatedly swam long distances underwater between surfacing to breathe. The rule was changed to require breaststroke to be swum at the surface starting with the first surfacing after the start and after each turn. However, one Japanese swimmer, Masaru Furukawa, circumvented the rule by not surfacing at all after the start, but swimming as much of the lane underwater as possible before breaking the surface. He swam all but 5 meters underwater for the first three 50 meter laps, and also swam half of the last lap underwater, winning the gold medal. The adoption of this technique led to many swimmers suffering from oxygen starvation or even some swimmers passing out during the race due to a lack of air, and a new breaststroke rule was introduced by FINA, additionally limiting the distance that can be swum underwater after the start and every turn, and requiring the head to break the surface every cycle. The 1956 Games in Melbourne also saw the introduction of the flip turn, a sort of tumble turn to faster change directions at the end of the lane.

In 1972, another famous swimmer, Mark Spitz, was at the height of his career. During the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, he won seven gold medals. Shortly thereafter in 1973, the first swimming world championship was held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia by the FINA.

Breaking the water surface reduces the speed in swimming. The swimmers Daichi Suzuki (Japan) and David Berkoff (America) used this for the 100 meter backstroke at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. Berkoff swam 33 meters of the first lane completely underwater using only a dolphin kick, far ahead of his competition. A sports commentator called this a Berkoff Blastoff. Suzuki, having practiced the underwater technique for 10 years, surfaced only a little bit earlier, winning the race in 55.05. At that time, this was not restricted by FINA backstroke rules. The backstroke rules were quickly changed in the same year by the FINA to ensure the health and safety of the swimmers, limiting the underwater phase after the start to ten meters, which was expanded to 15 meters in 1991. In Seoul, Kristin Otto from East Germany won six gold medals, the most ever won by a woman.

Another innovation is the use of flip turns for backstroke. According to the rules, a backstroke swimmer had to touch the wall while lying less than 90 degrees out of the horizontal. Some swimmers discovered that they could turn faster if they rolled almost 90 degrees sideways, touched the wall, and made a forward tumble turn, pushing off the wall on their backs. The FINA has changed the rules to allow the swimmers to turn over completely before touching the wall to simplify this turn and to improve the speed of the races.

Similarly, the dolphin-kick underwater swimming technique is now also used for butterfly. Consequently, in 1998 FINA introduced a rule limiting swimmers to 15 meters underwater per lap before they must surface. After underwater swimming for freestyle and backstroke, the underwater swimming technique is now also used for butterfly, for example by Denis Pankratov (Russia) or Angela Kennedy (Australia), swimming large distances underwater with a dolphin kick. FINA is again considering a rule change for safety reasons. It is faster to do butterfly kick underwater for the first few meters off the wall than swimming at the surface. In 2005, FINA declared that you may take 1 underwater dolphin kick in the motion of a breaststroke pull-out.

Sophisticated bodyskins were banned from FINA competitions from the start of 2010 after many national swimming federations demanded the action, and leading athletes such as Michael Phelps and Rebecca Adlington criticized the suits. [14]

It's a story that changed seventeen years ago…

With its passage in November 2002, the Homeland Security Act set into motion what would be the single-largest government reorganization since the creation of the Department of Defense. Opening its doors in March 2003, one of the component agencies in the new Department of Homeland Security was the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, now known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE.

ICE was granted a unique combination of civil and criminal authorities to better protect national security and strengthen public safety in response to the deadly attacks perpetrated on 9/11. Leveraging those authorities, ICE has become a powerful and sophisticated federal law enforcement agency.

Throughout 2020, ICE is looking back at its achievements and history through a series of stories, images and milestones, focusing on significant events and accomplishments, one year at a time, beginning with 2003.

September 11, 2001: 19 terrorists hijack commercial airliners and carry out massive attack on the United States

Terrorists take advantage of security weaknesses in our aviation system to kill nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children, including citizens of more than 90 countries. It is the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil.

November 2002: Homeland Security Act

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 is introduced in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent mailings of anthrax spores. The act is co-sponsored by 118 members of Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush Nov. 2002. The Homeland Security Act creates the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the new cabinet-level position of secretary of homeland security.

Turning a literary strategy on its head

The existence of stories like the Sargon Birth Legend help us understand the biblical story. They show that the abandoned child theme was a popular literary strategy for the ancients. They used it to introduce a figure who rises from mundane origins after gaining favor from fate or the divine. The common elements in these rags-to-riches stories helped ancient audiences identify with the central figure and develop respect for his achievements.

Moses’ story is about more than parallels, though. While Moses briefly seems to find favor and protection in the household of Pharaoh, a quasi-divine figure for the Egyptians, his life takes a surprising turn. He ends up leaving the kingdom of Egypt fearing that Pharaoh will kill him. From there, the story is repatterned: In a wilderness of Midian, Yahweh appears to Moses, now an obscure shepherd “slow of speech and of tongue” (4:10). He tells Moses to act as His spokesperson before Pharaoh and lead His people out of Egypt.

Moses stands out against the stories of the ancient cultures because he isn’t promoted like their chosen figures, but saved and demoted to poverty so that he can lead others to salvation. He is the new archetype of the chosen hero—one who is promoted only for the benefit of others. Over and against the stories of worldly kingdoms, Moses’ story articulates God’s remarkable work for His kingdom. His values are different from ours, and as is often the case in retrospect, we can be grateful for that.

Dr. Michael S. Heiser is a scholar-in-residence for Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible Software. He is the author of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible and has taught many Mobile Ed courses, including Problems in Biblical Interpretation: Difficult Passages I.


Mathematics may be defined as “the study of relationships among quantities, magnitudes and properties, and also of the logical operations by which unknown quantities, magnitudes, and properties may be deduced” (according to Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia) or “the study of quantity, structure, space and change” (Wikipedia).
Historically, it was regarded as the science of quantity, whether of magnitudes (as in geometry) or of numbers (as in arithmetic) or of the generalization of these two fields (as in algebra). Some have seen it in terms as simple as a search for patterns.

During the 19th Century, however, mathematics broadened to encompass mathematical or symbolic logic, and thus came to be regarded increasingly as the science of relations or of drawing necessary conclusions (although some see even this as too restrictive).

The discipline of mathematics now covers – in addition to the more or less standard fields of number theory, algebra, geometry, analysis (calculus), mathematical logic and set theory, and more applied mathematics such as probability theory and statistics – a bewildering array of specialized areas and fields of study, including group theory, order theory, knot theory, sheaf theory, topology, differential geometry, fractal geometry, graph theory, functional analysis, complex analysis, singularity theory, catastrophe theory, chaos theory, measure theory, model theory, category theory, control theory, game theory, complexity theory and many more.

The history of mathematics is nearly as old as humanity itself. Since antiquity, mathematics has been fundamental to advances in science, engineering, and philosophy. It has evolved from simple counting, measurement and calculation, and the systematic study of the shapes and motions of physical objects, through the application of abstraction, imagination and logic, to the broad, complex and often abstract discipline we know today.

From the notched bones of early man to the mathematical advances brought about by settled agriculture in Mesopotamia and Egypt and the revolutionary developments of ancient Greece and its Hellenistic empire, the story of mathematics is a long and impressive one.

The East carried on the baton, particularly China, India and the medieval Islamic empire, before the focus of mathematical innovation moved back to Europe in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Then, a whole new series of revolutionary developments occurred in 17th Century and 18th Century Europe, setting the stage for the increasing complexity and abstraction of 19th Century mathematics, and finally the audacious and sometimes devastating discoveries of the 20th Century.

Follow the story as it unfolds in this series of linked sections, like the chapters of a book. Read the human stories behind the innovations, and how they made – and sometimes destroyed – the men and women who devoted their lives to… THE STORY OF MATHEMATICS.

This is not intended as a comprehensive and definitive guide to all of mathematics, but as an easy-to-use summary of the major mathematicians and the developments of mathematical thought over the centuries. It is not intended for mathematicians, but for the interested laity like myself.

My intention is to introduce some of the major thinkers and some of the most important advances in mathematics, without getting too technical or getting bogged down in too much detail, either biographical or computational. Explanations of any mathematical concepts and theorems will be generally simplified, the emphasis being on clarity and perspective rather than exhaustive detail.

It is beyond the scope is this study to discuss every single mathematician who has made significant contributions to the subject, just as it is impossible to describe all aspects of a discipline as huge in its scope as mathematics. The choice of what to include and exclude is my own personal one, so please forgive me if your favourite mathematician is not included or not dealt with in any detail.

The main Story of Mathematics is supplemented by a List of Important Mathematicians and their achievements, and by an alphabetical Glossary of Mathematical Terms. You can also make use of the search facility at the top of each page to search for individual mathematicians, theorems, developments, periods in history, etc. Some of the many resources available for further study (of both included and excluded elements) are listed in the Sources section.

What We Know About the Earliest History of Chocolate

On a sunny morning in San Francisco's Mission District, half a dozen men and women scoot around a tiny chocolate factory, wrapping bars, checking temperature settings, sorting beans. Cacao beans that have been fermented, dried, roasted, shelled, and ground tumble with sugar in a row of shiny metal mixers. After three days of gentle mixing, the buttery smooth results will be transferred to a tempering machine to shape the cacao’s natural fat molecules into stable crystal structures.

Related Content

This is the home of Dandelion Chocolate, a small-batch chocolate maker founded in 2010 by two former tech entrepreneurs. The tools and flavors have changed, but the work of roasting and grinding fermented cacao beans, and mixing them with a few simple ingredients to create a divine food, is a practice that goes back to early Mesoamerican civilizations.

The Olmecs of southern Mexico were probably the first to ferment, roast, and grind cacao beans for drinks and gruels, possibly as early as 1500 B.C., said Hayes Lavis, a cultural arts curator for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. “There is no written history for the Olmecs,” he said, but pots and vessels uncovered from this ancient civilization show traces of the cacao chemical theobromine.

“When you think of chocolate, most people don’t think of Mesoamerica. They think of Belgian chocolate,” says Lavis. “There’s so much rich history that we’re just beginning to understand.

In their raw state, plucked from tangy-sweet, gummy white flesh lining a large pod shaped like a Nerf football, cacao seeds are bitter and unrecognizable as chocolate to a modern American palate. “How would you think to take the seed, harvest it, dry it, let it ferment, and roast it? It’s not something you would normally think to do,” Lavis said. Perhaps, one theory holds, someone was eating the fruit and spitting seeds into the fire, and the rich smell of them roasting inspired the thought that “maybe there’s something more we could do with this.”

The naturally bitter flavor of cacao came through at full strength in early Maya recipes. “This was before they had really good roasting techniques, before they had conching, which is a step that mellows out the flavors, before they started looking at genetics,” says Dandelion co-founder Todd Masonis.

“Rarely did they add any sweetener — once in a while honey, but mainly to try to ferment it,” says anthropologist Joel Palka, of the University of Illinois at Chicago. A variety of herbs were on hand, however, for seasoning cacao-based food and drink. “There were literally dozens of things that would be used to flavor it,” says Lavis, ranging from chili and vanilla to magnolia.

In traditional preparation methods, which are still used by some small-scale producers, farmers take seeds out of the pods, ferment them in a leaf-covered pile. In more modern methods, the seeds are fermented in raised wooden boxes that enable aeration, drainage, and more consistent results. Dandelion acquires beans that have been fermented for several days and then dried. While the company pours dried beans into a modified coffee roaster carefully calibrated for each type of bean, traditional cacao roasters would have simply placed beans on a fire. “They'll get almost burnt,” Masonis says. 

Cacao figured into pre-modern Maya society as a sacred food, sign of prestige, social centerpiece, and cultural touchstone. “You would have to get together to prepare the chocolate,” Palka said. “It's the whole social process.” Around Chiapas, Mexico, Palka co-directs an archaeological project focused on Maya culture on the frontier of the Spanish empire. To this day, he encounters people in the area who grow chocolate as a family tradition and cultural practice. “Like coffee in the Arab world, or beer in northern and Eastern Europe, it's not only something that's good, but part of their identity,” he says.

Cacao drinks in Mesoamerica became associated with high status and special occasions, Palka said, like a fine French wine or a craft beer today. Special occasions might include initiation rites for young men or celebrations marking the end of the Maya calendar year.

After the Olmecs, the Maya of Guatemala, Yucatan, and the surrounding region incorporated cacao seed into religious life. Paintings recovered from the time show cacao in mythological scenes and even court proceedings. In the early 12th century, chocolate was used to seal the marriage of the Mixtec ruler 8 Deer at Monte Albán, a sacred site in the Valley of Oaxaca. “It’s one of the few food crops that was used as a dowry or part of [wedding] ceremonies,” Lavis said. Early records of Maya marriages in Guatemala, he added, indicate that in some places, “a woman would have to make the cacao and prove that she could make it with the proper froth.”

“When they had to communicate with their gods related to nature, rain, and the fertility of the earth, I'm sure they were pulling [cacao] out and drinking,” Palka said. Many vessels uncovered in the ruins of Maya buildings and burial sites have cacao residues in them, Palka said. “A lot of cacao pots were buried with people,” he said, but it is unclear whether people were simply buried with their dishes, or if these pots were involved in funeral ceremonies. 

Around Chiapas, Palka said, residents prepared chocolate drinks as offerings for gods related to nature as recently as 1980. “It was something that people enjoyed,” he said, “and so they knew their gods enjoyed it, too.”

In addition to its loftier role in ritual and celebration, cacao also served decidedly material functions in some early American civilizations. Cacao beans were used as currency, and the seeds were so valuable that it was evidently worth the trouble to counterfeit them. At multiple archaeological sites in Mexico and Guatemala, Palka said, researchers have come across remarkably well-preserved “cacao beans.” “Then they touch them, and they're clay,” he says. The clay beans may have been passed off as money, Palka says, or substituted for real cacao in rituals. Aztec rulers accepted cacao as tribute payments, and cacao, like valuables including jadeite and cotton mantles, was commonly exchanged in Maya marriage negotiations at the time of European contact. “Sometime in the 1500s, you could buy a turkey for 100 cacao beans,” says Lavis.

Archaeologist Eleanor Harrison-Buck, however, cautions against distilling cacao’s importance to its economic value as “a form of currency that elites could control and administer as a means of consolidating their power.” Rather, she said, the production, acquisition, and circulation of cacao as a resource among the ancient Maya was grounded in social relations.

“I think that chocolate became so important because it's harder to grow,” compared to plants like maize and cactus, which were used to brew early versions of beer and tequila, respectively. “You can't grow cacao in every region in the Americas,” Palka says. “It requires a certain kind of soil, amount of rainfall, and especially shade because the midges and little flies that pollinate the cacao trees have to live in shade.” As a result, cacao requires an area of limited sun and plenty of humidity.

According to archaeologist Harrison-Buck, an official Spanish account from 1618 describes the Belize River town of Lucu, which had “much thick cacao that turns reddish-brown and tastes good by itself.” Vanilla vines and annatto trees growing nearby were used to flavor cacao beverages. And art recovered from the Maya Lowlands shows cacao as a staple in ancient Maya feasts. The fact that cacao “served as a key cultigen and staple in ritual feasts for numerous Mesoamerican cultures for thousands of years,” Harrison-Buck says, “makes it something particularly important to study and understand in this region.”

But the pollen, fossilized plant tissue, and botanical remains of this important crop do not preserve well, she says, in the wet, tropical environments of the Maya Lowlands where cacao was grown and continues to grow today.  As a result, archaeologists know more about the early uses of cacao than they do about ancient methods of producing the bean. “There’s a lot we still don’t know and may never know,” Lavis says.

To better understand how ancient civilizations produced cacao, however, Harrison-Buck and soil scientist Serita Frey have been working in Belize to find out whether cacao orchards leave a distinctive biological footprint in soil. Over the past year, the pair have collected soil in areas where cacao is currently grown in eastern Belize, and begun analyzing it in Frey's lab. They've also sampled soil from floodplains adjacent to ancient Maya sites, and from lands that supported cacao in colonial times.

“We know that when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the Maya planted cacao trees right on the riverbanks,” says Harrison-Buck. At these humid, biologically diverse sites littered with fallen leaves, the scientists often hear birdsong in the morning. Troops of howler monkeys swing, cry, and feast in fig trees that grow along the river and provide the shade that cacao trees need to thrive.

According to Harrison-Buck, the team has successfully uncovered evidence of a theobromine signature, but the signature is difficult to consistently isolate from older orchard sites. Eventually, by comparing chemicals in soil from these various sites, they're hoping to map out the molecular signposts that indicate ancient cacao cultivation, and reconstruct where cacao was produced in the Belize Valley in historic or even prehistoric times.

Chocolate is often said to have been seen as an ancient medicine and aphrodisiac. Cortez wrote to King Carlos I of Spain of “xocoatl,” a drink that “builds up resistance and fights fatigue.” And one officer serving Cortez reportedly observed the Aztec ruler Montezuma drinking more than 50 cups per day of a frothy chocolate beverage mixed with water or wine and seasonings including vanilla, pimiento, and chili pepper.

But according to Lavis, some of these tales are likely overstated: “I don’t think any living person could drink 50 cups of cacao.” The Spanish also probably attributed medical benefits to chocolate that the Maya didn’t—instead, cacao was simply part of Mayan life. “I think it was just part of their diet, and they knew it was good for them,” Lavis said.

“When you have something that people drink for ritual, people think it's good for you,” Palka said. “I would categorize it with eating maize: you have to eat it to sustain your body and your self and your soul. Chocolate fits clearly into that.”


Put 3 tablespoons of ground cocoa in a mug and fill it with hot water. Cut up your favorite kind of chili (Palka recommends poblano for a slightly spicy, smoky flavor or habanero for extra spice. Drop the chopped chili into the liquid and stir. “If you really want to appreciate the chili, chop it up finely so it will float,” Palka says. For less heat, use bigger pieces, which will sink to the bottom. “It’s more of an aftertaste.” For a more bitter drink, Palka adds two chocolate beans, dry and chopped. To sweeten, add two teaspoons of sugar.

About Josie Garthwaite

Josie Garthwaite is a journalist and editor based in San Francisco. She writes about science, environment and innovation.


Copley MS, Berstan R, Dudd SN, Docherty G, Mukherjee AJ, Straker V, Payne S, and Evershed RP. 2003. Direct chemical evidence for widespread dairying in prehistoric Britain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100(4):1524-1529.

Copley MS, Berstan R, Mukherjee AJ, Dudd SN, Straker V, Payne S, and Evershed RP. 2005. Dairying in antiquity I. Evidence from absorbed lipid residues dating to the British Iron Age. Journal of Archaeological Science 32(4):485-503.

Copley MS, Berstan R, Mukherjee AJ, Dudd SN, Straker V, Payne S, and Evershed RP. 2005. Dairying in antiquity II. Evidence from absorbed lipid residues dating to the British Bronze Age. Journal of Archaeological Science 32(4):505-521.

Copley MS, Berstan R, Mukherjee AJ, Dudd SN, Straker V, Payne S, and Evershed RP. 2005. Dairying in antiquity III: Evidence from absorbed lipid residues dating to the British Neolithic. Journal of Archaeological Science 32(4):523-546.

Craig OE, Chapman J, Heron C, Willis LH, Bartosiewicz L, Taylor G, Whittle A, and Collins M. 2005. Did the first farmers of central and eastern Europe produce dairy foods? Antiquity 79(306):882-894.

Cramp LJE, Evershed RP, and Eckardt H. 2011. What was a mortarium used for? Organic residues and cultural change in Iron Age and Roman Britain. Antiquity 85(330):1339-1352.

Dunne, Julie. "First dairying in green Saharan Africa in the fifth millennium BC." Nature volume 486, Richard P. Evershed, Mélanie Salque, et al., Nature, June 21, 2012.

Reynard LM, Henderson GM, and Hedges REM. 2011. Calcium isotopes in archaeological bones and their relationship to dairy consumption. Journal of Archaeological Science 38(3):657-664.

Salque, Mélanie. "Earliest evidence for cheese making in the sixth millennium BC in northern Europe." Nature volume 493, Peter I. Bogucki, Joanna Pyzel, et al., Nature, January 24, 2013.

The Early History of LEGO

Simple, block-shaped toys have been around for hundreds of years, but it took a 20th-century Danish genius named Ole Kirk Christiansen to invent the interlocking pieces we know today as LEGO bricks. It all started in 1932 in the village of Billund, long before LEGO had achieved world domination as a brand.

A master joiner and carpenter, Christiansen opened a humble woodworking shop with his son Godtfred, just 12 years old at the time. They manufactured stepladders, ironing boards and later expanded to make wooden toys, and in 1934 dubbed their business LEGO, a contraction of the Danish "leg godt" ("play well").

And play well they did. The company expanded from only six employees in 1934 to forty in 1942. LEGO was also fairly progressive, and became an early adopter of new technologies and materials. In fact, the group became the first Danish company to own a plastic injection-molding machine. When the Christiansens came across prototypes of a British toy called "Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Bricks" in 1947, they adopted the idea and started manufacturing their own version two years later. The bricks had pegs on top and hollow bottoms, allowing children to lock the bricks together and create elaborate structures never possible with the simple wooden blocks of yesteryear.

Dubbing them the (decidedly un-catchy) "Automatic Binding Bricks," they were the forerunner to today's LEGO brick. But they hadn't quite got the formula right yet. The bricks lacked the tubes found inside modern LEGOs which greatly improve stability. Further, it seemed the world wasn't ready for plastic toys just yet sales of plastic LEGO toys in the early 50s were mediocre at best.

In 1958, the LEGO brick finally came into its own. And while founder Ole Kirk Christiansen never lived to see his company's heyday, his son Godtfred Christiansen pioneered and patented the now-standard LEGO stud-and-tube configuration, and introduced roof bricks to the "LEGO System of Play," which was comprised of 28 sets and 8 vehicles.

After a devastating warehouse fire in 1960, the company decided to ditch production of wooden toys altogether and focus instead on plastics. LEGO hasn't changed the design of their brick since then, which means today's sets are compatible with sets from 1958 onward.

More LEGO fun: In 1961, the LEGO wheel was invented. At first blush that may not sound as momentous as humanity's initial development of the wheel (approximately 5,000 BCE), but considering that today LEGO turns out more than 300 million tiny wheels per year, it actually makes them the most prolific wheel manufacturer in the world. Along with 3000 other types of pieces, they're packaged into 37,000 LEGO sets per hour. And according to LEGO, the process they use to mold their plastic is so accurate that a mere 18 out of every million bricks fails to meet quality standards.

This article was written by Ransom Riggs and excerpted from the Mental Floss book In the Beginning: The Origins of Everything.

Arsinoe II - Queen of Ancient Thrace and Egypt

Arsinoe II, queen of Thrace and Egypt, was born c. 316 B.C. to Berenice and Ptolemy I (Ptolemy Soter), founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. Arsinoe's husbands were Lysimachus, the king of Thrace, whom she married in about 300, and her brother, King Ptolemy II Philadelphus, whom she married in about 277. As Thracian queen, Arsinoe conspired to make her own son heir. This led to war and the death of her husband. As Ptolemy's queen, Arsinoe was also powerful and probably deified in her lifetime. She died July 270 B.C.

The Strange History of One of the Internet's First Viral Videos

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

Back when video of Vinny Licciardi smashing a computer zigzagged all over the internet, "viral" wan't even a thing yet. Erik Dreyer/Getty Images

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

You’ve seen the video. Everyone on the internet has. A man sits in a cubicle and pounds his keyboard in frustration. A few seconds later, the Angry Man picks up the keyboard and swings it like a baseball bat at his screen—it’s an old PC from the ➐s, with a big CRT monitor—whacking it off the desk. A frightened coworker’s head pops up over the cubicle wall, just in time to watch the Angry Man get up and kick the monitor across the floor. Cut to black.

The clip began to circulate online, mostly via email, in 1997. Dubbed “badday.mpg,” it’s likely one of the first internet videos ever to go viral. Sometimes GIFs of it still float across Twitter and Facebook feeds. (Most memes barely have a shelf life of 20 minutes, let alone 20 years.)

Beyond its impressive resilience, it’s also unexpectedly significant as the prime mover of viral videos. In one clip, you can find everything that’s now standard in the genre, like a Lumière brothers film for the internet age: the surveillance footage aesthetic, the sub-30-second runtime, the angry freakout in a typically staid setting, the unhinged destruction of property.

The clip also serves up prime conspiracy fodder. Freeze and enhance: The computer is unplugged. The supposed Angry Man, on closer inspection, is smiling. Was one of the first viral videos—and perhaps the most popular viral video of all time—also one of the first internet hoaxes?

Vinny Licciardi didn’t realize he had gone viral until he heard one of his coworkers had seen a video of him smacking a computer on TV. Except at the time it wasn’t called “going viral”—there was no real precedent for this kind of thing. A video he made with his coworkers had somehow ended up on MSNBC, and thousands of people were sharing it.

At the time, he was working at a Colorado-based tech company called Loronix. The video was shot at Loronix, and the computer he smashed belonged to the company, but he wasn’t a frustrated cubicle drone. Loronix was actually a fun place to work, the kind of tech startup where coworkers stay late to play Quake online over the company’s coveted T1 line. They weren’t usually going full barbarian-horde on their office equipment.

But Loronix was developing DVR technology for security-camera systems and needed sample footage to demonstrate to potential clients how it worked. So Licciardi and his boss, chief technology officer Peter Jankowski, got an analog video camera and began shooting.

They filmed Licciardi using an ATM and pretended to catch him robbing the company’s warehouse. Licciardi decided he wanted to be a “disgruntled employee,” which gave his boss an idea. “It was pretty ad hoc,” Jankowski says. “We had some computers that had died and monitors and keyboards that weren’t working, so we basically set that up in a cubicle on a desk.”

Jankowski directed the shoot, as Licciardi went to town on a broken monitor and an empty computer case. It took two attempts. “The first take, people were laughing so hard we had to do a second one,” Licciardi says.

They converted the video to MPEG-1, so that it’d work best on Windows Media Player and reach the largest amount of people. (“Great resolution—352 x 240,” Jankowski adds, laughing.) They put them on promo CDs and handed them out at trade shows with a company brochure then they forgot about them.

Over the next year, badday.mpg began to circulate through various companies. The large file caused some problems. “Loronix would get calls from these companies saying, ‘Hey you know this video of yours is getting passed around, and it’s crashing email servers,’” Licciardi says.

While he wasn’t getting noticed on the street, Licciardi did experience the bizarre partial fame of other viral video stars. “I was traveling on a plane, talking to the guy next to me, telling him about my video,” he says. “And he’s like, ‘I’ve seen that.’ And the guy behind me is like, ‘I’ve seen that too!’ and the stewardess was talking, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve seen that!’ It’s amazing how many people have seen it.”

Today, the spread of badday.mpg seems almost impossible. There was no YouTube, no nearly infinite email storage space, no video sites like eBaum’s World, and there wasn’t really an infrastructure in place to easily handle the mass distribution of video content. Hosting a video cost money downloading it took time. And after downloading it, you’d have to open it in one of only a few media players, like Real Player Plus or Windows Media Player. It’s impressive that any content at the time could go viral.

But something about badday.mpg transfixed people. Like most people, web developer Benoit Rigaut first saw the video in 1998, after a friend emailed it to him. The attachment was a short, low-quality version of the original. He was captivated and sought out a higher-quality version. It took awhile to download—he estimates 20 minutes. “There was definitely something special in this video,” Rigaut recalls. “A real catharsis to the always somehow frustrating computing experience.”

So on a rainy weekend, Rigaut made a fan site for it, mostly so he could share the huge file without blowing up his friends’ inboxes. He had previously worked at CERN and still had full access to its web hosting: “I placed the 5-MB file on Europe’s largest internet node, without any traffic quota.”

The site had the look of an old Geocities page. Black background, ASCII art, novelty GIFs, visitor counters. There’s a link to the “badday webring” and an audio-only file of the video. At the top there’s a GIF to give visitors a preview, before they took the time to download it. Rigaut wrote a semi-tongue-in-cheek conspiracy narrative, pointing out badday’s inconsistencies. He included screengrabs with red circles drawn around the unplugged cables and the man’s smile.

“There is no doubt on this point,” the site said. “Wintel is creating a catharsis because they fear the day of the revolution. The day when workers sitting in front of their buggy products won't laugh. The day we will stand up together to fetch for the people in charge of this disastrous hardware/software association!”