Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Fig.1: Bennelong was voted the Best Dressed
Australian of 1791.
Moving to a new place is hard, especially when you don't know the customs and habits of your new neighbors (how was I supposed to know that jackhammering the walls at 3am was frowned upon in my apartment building?). It's always nice make a friend who will let you know the good places to eat and the cool things to see and the proper method for removing copperhead venom from an infected wound. This was exactly the role served by a man named Bennelong (fig.1), an Aboriginal Australian who lived on the eventual site of Sydney in the 18th and 19th centuries. Bennelong helped the British colonists better understand the ways of Australia and its inhabitants, allowing for their survival and the formation of a greater trust between the two peoples. He also got a free trip to England out of it as well, educating Europeans to Aboriginal Australian culture and getting a lesson himself as to what exactly is "bangers and mash." While inter-cooperation between the British and Australia's indigenous people did not last, Bennelong remains a revered figure among both cultures within Australian history for being a good friend and neighbor (unlike the old Russian lady in 3C who went at me with her rolling pin).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lisbon Earthquake of 1755

Fig.1: Lisbon and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Natural disasters happen practically everyday; things like hurricanes, volcanoes, forest fires, and Doritos Locos Taco shortages have all left their mark on individuals around the world. But sometimes Mother Nature gets so worked up that she just has to make a profound impact on history as well. This certainly happened in 1755, when an earthquake off the southwest corner of Europe pretty much destroyed Portugal's capital of Lisbon, as well as much of the rest of the country. Not only did this disaster alter the political and colonial aspirations of Portugal, but it also affected the philosophical and religious foundations of Europe as a whole, not to mention ruined the Domino Toppling Convention being held in Lisbon that year. In addition, this earthquake caused people to actually start figuring out why the earth quakes to begin with, giving rise to seismology (yet another college degree that pays better than history).

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Fig.1: I'll wait until they install the escalator.
Remember the days of exploring in your backyard and pretending to come across an ancient lost city? Well if your backyard was a rainforest in the El Petén region of Guatemala, this might have become a reality (though your face being clawed off by howling monkey might have become a reality too). This is what reportedly happened to a tree-gum collector named Ambrosio Tut (an awesome name and an awesome profession) in 1848 when he spotted some stone temples rising above the treetops. This proved to be the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, one of the largest and most influential urban centers in Mesoamerican history. At its height, it was home to as many as 75,000 people and controlled other city-states nearly 500 km away. Its power is plainly visible in its many temples (fig.1), built so high that they would have even given Rocky Balboa issues. It was among the most visited and studied Mayan sites in the world until 2012 when, as we all know, the world ended just as the Maya predicted. Boy, do I miss that world.