Ancient Origins Magazine

 

From the lush Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the fiery forges of Asgard, Ancient Origins Magazine scours the planet to reveal the history of the ancient world.

Discover ancient technologies, lost civilizations, and strange mysteries that still puzzle us today. Experience the power and people, the weapons and wisdom of the ancient world. With boundary-breaking research, nothing is left out!

Ancient Origins Premium Subscription

 

AO Magazine April May 2022
AO Magazine April May 2022

What is rock art? Who created the mysterious symbols adorning the deepest darkest caves and tallest rock faces? How can you explain the similarities found in artwork created by different and long-forgotten cultures located thousands of miles away from each other? When did our distant ancestors begin to make marks on stone, and what can it tell us about the early human mind?

Prehistoric rock art is both fascinating and mysterious to modern minds. Whether we’re examining the elaborate paintings hidden within Lascaux Cave or pondering the meaning of strange symbols carved into a boulder in North America, we gain a unique opportunity to connect with our most distant ancestors. We may never fully comprehend the messages left by them on stone, but the very existence of rock art allows us to glimpse into the past and momentarily recapture the essence of a long-lost time when the world was a very different place.

This issue doesn’t shy away from the big questions surrounding rock art. We search for the reasons our ancestors created prehistoric art in stone, ponder which rock art dating methods are best, consider the roles of shamans in cave art creation, and examine the most puzzling rock art in the world – including the extraordinary story of the Wandjina Sky Beings painted on stone in Australia. We see how carvings set in stone can reflect images seen in the sky in Armenia, trace the transformation of the images presented on rock by generations of artists in the Sahara, reveal the challenges in rock art (and sometimes graffiti!) conservation today, and even explore whether prehistoric art and the origins of language are interconnected.

Stepping away from the enigmatic realm of rock art we find another mystery – the hunt for Cleopatra’s lost tomb. Dr. Kathleen Martinez is at the forefront of the quest for Cleopatra’s final resting place, and she tells us all about her latest and best excavation discoveries while she searches for the iconic Egyptian queen!


Become a member to view more OR login here
AO Magazine March 2022
AO Magazine March 2022

Many powerful and influential women left their mark on history. They were just as strong and fearless, if not more, than the men around them. Although the records that have survived the ages aren’t always an accurate picture of what life was like thousands of years ago—generally these are narratives dominated by men writing about men — powerful women are plentiful in history. These women weren’t content to be the handmaids of men but lived life on their own terms.

In this issue you’ll find inspirational stories of women such as Fatima Al-Fihri, who founded the al-Qarawiyyin mosque and university in Fez, Morocco, and Sophie Blanchard, who was the first female balloonist to pilot solo flights. You’ll also discover the stories of six women who fought for their beliefs on the battlefield and the history of female leaders ruling ancient Peru.

We reveal how the lives of real women are sometimes transformed into myth too; for example, Scythian warrior women may have inspired the myth of Amazons and stereotypical witches may be based on the appearance and skills of independent alewives. In more modern times, we see how even Disney stories sometimes draw upon the lives of women from history and how the lives of influential women from the past play out in on the silver screen.

We also venture into the distant past to examine the fossils of the five hominin species that were present at South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind, and we close out this issue with an examination of the strange cases of medieval dancing mania and what may have caused the social phenomenon.


Become a member to view more OR login here
AO Magazine January February 2022
AO Magazine January February 2022

Love is a powerful emotion and even though we experience it in a deeply personal way, it has a history. In the past - as today - love has expressed itself in all kinds of relationships, held different meanings, and created both bliss and havoc. Love has inspired all forms of art and religion, but also caused wars and controversy. Anything we think ourselves capable of today in the love department has been tried, tested, praised, and abused by people in the past too.

In this issue we explore romantic love in various tones. First, we uncover the loving, and sometimes tragic, stories of devoted couples from long ago. Then we reveal the forgotten story of the Sacred Band of Thebes, who were not only supreme warriors but coupled lovers as well. You’ll discover the tale of a Neolithic Romeo and Juliet and swoon over the touching love stories of legendary couples.

Next, we discuss the lusty side of romance, as it is depicted in erotic ceramics created by an ancient Peruvian culture and graveyard prostitutes in ancient Rome. We also tell you which of today’s favorite aphrodisiacs come from antiquity and the truth about chastity belts.

You may be shocked by Ovid’s love advice from ancient Rome and the 31 rules that were provided for ‘courtly love’ in the Middle Ages. But those are not the only surprises this issue holds, as we also expose the dark origins of Valentine’s Day, the chilling tale of a Japanese snow spirit, and the possible solution to what all those strange containers from ancient Babylon really mean.


Become a member to view more OR login here
AO Magazine December 2021
AO Magazine December 2021

This is an issue that will satisfy both foodies and history-lovers!

Food has shaped human evolution and we have shaped our environment and food. We transformed food from diet to cuisine, tied it to our cultural identities and heritage, and made it integral to our rituals, holidays, and traditions. By studying the history of food, our ancestors’ eating habits, and ancient cookbooks we discover more than just what people were eating – we also gain glimpses into life beyond the kitchen.

In this issue Robyn E. Cutright, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Latin American Studies at Centre College, discusses her research on the ancient Andes to explain how past food choices influenced human evolution and traditional food practices. She also shares her perspectives on the Paleo diet, the difference between diet and cuisine, why recreating ancient recipes is cool, the most uncomfortable traditional food practice she’s experienced, and why everyone was baking bread last year.

This issue also contains a recipe for a seasonal favorite – spiced wine. The Medieval version of this beverage was known as Hippocras. While you may not be familiar with the name of this warming, spiced drink, it’s likely that you have enjoyed something like it, usually as the days get colder and the nights longer. We also provide you with a list of 10 cookbooks for you to examine, and maybe try your hand at cooking some more ancient recipes.

At this time of year many of us gather with friends and family and reflect on our past and the future. Whether you decide to make a traditional spiced wine, go wassailing (the orchard or caroling version), or maybe share a New Years’ pizza with family and friends, pause a moment to reflect on the importance food has in keeping our holidays and traditions alive and the joy of sharing meals and connecting with our loved ones.

Happy Holidays!


Become a member to view more OR login here
AO Magazine October November 2021
AO Magazine October November 2021

Everyone can name at least a few ancient kingdoms that they learned about in school, read about in a popular book, or watched someone discuss on a tv special or in a film. These are often stories about ancient Rome, Egypt, or Greece. But there are many other fascinating kingdoms that don’t receive the attention they deserve.

The lost kingdoms that we showcase in this issue are either kingdoms that don’t exist anymore, imaginary realms people once believed to be real, or forgotten empires that are often overlooked in the pages of history. For many of these kingdoms, all that is left today are their names, legends, and sometimes archaeological sites.

But those details may be enough to inspire an explorer who’s keen on adventure and solving mysteries. Their journeys may have been full of perils, but I wonder if the Portuguese explorers who ventured into unknown lands on a quest for Prester John and his fabled kingdom returned home satisfied that they had the courage to travel somewhere new. Of course they weren’t the only ones to set out in search of lost kingdoms.

I get the impression that despite their hardships and failure in finding the hidden land of Shambhala, the Roerich couple did enjoy their expeditions into hard-to-reach and little-investigated areas of Central Asia. The lost kingdom of Punt is another elusive land, one that researchers are still looking for. Finding the reasons behind Hatshepsut’s visits and what she brought home, as well as examining an ancient baboon skull, may help to finally solve this mystery.

Apart from forgotten kingdoms, this issue also examines a moment which is often overlooked in history, but relevant to us today. Author Jonathon Perrin demonstrates the parallels between the devastating plagues that struck Egypt in the time of the Sun Pharaohs and the recent pandemic.

Finally, we couldn’t let this time of year go by without mentioning paranormal events. To round out the issue we examine the tragic, terrifying origins of the famous ghost called La Llorona. An in-depth investigation reveals the truth behind a ghost which has allegedly haunted people for centuries in Mexico and across Latin America. Don’t read that article late at night!


Become a member to view more OR login here
AO Magazine September 2021
AO Magazine September 2021

From our earliest days we have been cohabiting the planet with animals. They’ve been regarded as pets and pests, considered sacred, been sacrificed, and used for resources and labor. Animals have been integral to every aspect of our lives – we encounter them in the wild, public arenas, our homes, and of course, our art. They’ve been hunted, herded, sheltered, and loved.

In this issue we explore our complex cohabitation with animals around the world and since prehistoric times. Archaeozoologist Dr. Annie Antonites reveals how faunal remains at archaeological sites provide unique insight into the relationship between ancient people and animals. In some cases, such as the extinct dodo, we have to turn to the remains to discover the truth – it was not the dumb bird some fairy tales would suggest!

Artifacts also reveal much about a society’s perspective on different animals. For example, a mechanical dog housed in the MET shines light on one of our species’ favorite companions. While the ancient Egyptians famously revered the slinky, clever cat, and worshiped feline-headed deities, did you know they were apparently “obsessed” with their dogs too?

To discover more about the relationships between cultures and creatures, we trace the paths of elephants from battlefields to the big top, and ponder why some cultures have loved hedgehogs while others despised them. We turn to art and literature for insight too. Be it the image of a spider in a Moche temple or the colorful tales of “monsters” in the pages of Medieval bestiaries, we can see how animals have been used as symbols reflecting human beliefs throughout time. Animal trials further reveal the bizarre way animals reflected perceptions of morality and the complex relationship between man and beast in the Middle Ages.

This issue also examines the strange story of a Viking ship allegedly lost in a Californian desert, and the powerful, deadly kunoichi – female ninjas who sometimes sported poison-coated wolverine claws to assassinate their targets!

There are not enough pages to discuss all the ways we have lived with, loved, and sometimes feared animals, but this issue reveals how our relationships and thoughts on animals not only reflect our view of nature, but also the nature of humanity itself.


Become a member to view more OR login here
AO Magazine July August 2021
AO Magazine July August 2021

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will include five new sports - baseball/softball, karate, sport climbing, skateboarding, and surfing. This is one of the ways these Olympics are unique, but this event also differs from others in striking ways due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

For one thing, the Olympics were postponed for a year. Another difference from past events is that fans won’t be there to cheer on their favorite athletes. Tens of thousands of athletes, support staff, and journalists are expected to attend, but spectators have been banned from the venues. While debate continues on whether sports broadcasters will try to incorporate artificial crowd noise into the games, it makes me consider the role of spectators at the Olympic Games of the past.

The ancient Olympics also knew how to draw in crowds of men (women weren’t allowed). The stadium of Olympia could contain about 45,000 spectators and that in Nemea about 40,000. If they had the means, men would travel from far and wide to watch their favorite runners, boxers, wrestlers, horse racers, and javelin throwers. But the audiences didn’t just attend because they loved sports, they also knew that the Games were a good place to network.

In-between events, merchants, fortune-tellers, jugglers, and many others conducted business. Even philosophers and writers, like the historian Herodotus, sought out the large audiences with hopes of gaining fame. Politicians of course saw the occasion as a good opportunity for political propaganda.

While spectators were undoubtedly important ever since the ancient Games, most people would agree the value of sports is more than just the number of fans cheering on athletes. Although some sports stars, such as the charioteer Gaius Appuleius Diocles, who you’ll learn about in this issue, were out for fame, many athletes are spurred on by their love of the sport more than their adoring fans and money.

In this issue we explore the origins and passion people hold for popular sports such as football, golf, and boxing all around the world. But we also cover some terrifying sports you may be less familiar with, such as buzkashi, described as “blood-drenched polo, with a headless goat as the ball.” A less intense, but equally surprising sport you’ll learn about is lava sledding in Hawaii – we have an exclusive interview with the man behind this ancient sport’s comeback.

Remember how I mentioned that women couldn’t attend the ancient Olympics where men competed? They had their own! This issue guides you through the fascinating story of the Heraean Games, one of history’s best kept secrets.

Speaking of secrets and mysteries, we also cover the legends surrounding the Cwezi – were they African demigods or possibly visitors from another planet?


Become a member to view more OR login here
AO Magazine June 2021
AO Magazine June 2021

The German-born American architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe once said: “Architecture wrote the history of the epochs and gave them their names”. From the Classical and Hellenistic to the Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque, each era has been defined and remembered for its awe-inspiring and monumental creations.

The story of architecture is, in fact, the story of humanity. Each architectural accomplishment reflects the social, economic and technological achievements in human history, and opens a window on the priorities, ambitions, power, and vision of civilizations past.

Architecture in ancient times frequently displayed a unification between the divine and mortal world. Monuments performed important practical functions, but they also held a symbolic role, serving as a link between the earth and the heavens. In many civilizations, the creative force applied in the practice of architecture was likened to the creative force of God himself.

In this issue, we journey through time and place to explore some of the world’s most impressive constructions, from the soaring ziggurats of Mesopotamia to the unique buildings of the Ancestral Puebloans in Mule Canyon, the magnificent stepwells of ancient India, and the jaw-dropping rock-cut tombs of Lycia. We also look at some of the greatest architectural tragedies – the burning of Notre-Dame de Paris and the destruction of Palmyra at the hands of terrorists– and examine latest progress to rebuild, revive, or simply remember these amazing historic sites.

While skyscrapers, suspension bridges, and now 3D-printed buildings are marvels of modern engineering, the key pioneering moments in architectural history have left a lasting impact on our buildings to his day, and have changed the shape of architecture for all time.


Become a member to view more OR login here
AO Magazine April-May 2021
AO Magazine April-May 2021

On January 9, 1493, Christopher Columbus was sailing in the Caribbean Sea when he reported seeing three mermaids rise out of the sea. Writing in his ship log, he revealed that they were not as beautiful as typically depicted in paintings, but that they did have a human face. 

Columbus’ report was not particularly unusual for his era. In centuries past, the world’s oceans were thought to be full of sea monsters, sirens, krakens, and other bewildering creatures. We now know that most of these cryptids, or “hidden animals”, described in the Middle Ages correspond with species that had not yet been classified by science, such as whales, walruses, and giant squids.

Sadly, Columbus had not seen mermaids but most likely manatees – a marine mammal related to the elephant which, from a distance, can appear human-like; they have round heads which they can turn from side to side, their forearms bend at the elbow, and they nurse their young in the same way humans do. In fact, the scientific name for manatees is Sirenia, a name reminiscent of sirens, the mythical mermaids of ancient Greece.

It is at this collision point between the fantastical creatures of folklore and the animals not yet discovered by science, that we find the field of cryptozoology, which is dedicated to the study of animals rumored but not proven to exist. Some animals we know today, like the gorilla and platypus, were once cryptids but are now recognized by science. Others, like bigfoot, sasquatch or the Loch Ness monster continue to tempt the hopeful with the possibility of their existence.

In this issue, we delve into the curious world of cryptids, exploring what facts are behind the legends of Olgoi-Khorkhoi, the Mongolian death worm of the Gobi Desert; Camazotz, the batman of Mesoamerica; Kraken, the giant, ship-destroying sea creature of Scandinavian folklore; Unicorns, and the dinosaur-like monsters said to lurk in the depths of lakes. Of course, we could not leave out the world’s most captivating cryptid – bigfoot, and his related ‘cousins’, the yeti, yowie and sasquatch. What is behind the global phenomenon of hairy hominid sightings? We also hear from a cryptozoologist who tells us what it is really like out in the field searching for cryptids, and we leave you with the ultimate cryptid film list!  

Skeptics love to poke fun at cryptids research, but there is one thing that both cryptozoologists and scientists can agree on – there are a lot of strange creatures out there whose existence has yet to be proven.


Become a member to view more OR login here
AO Magazine - March 2021
AO Magazine - March 2021

It was the French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) who said: "Let China sleep, for when she awakes, she will shake the world". With the largest standing army on the planet, the second biggest economy and one fifth of the world's population, Napoleon’s statement has proved prophetic, as China has proceeded to shake the world to its very foundation. It is only by examining its extraordinary past that we can begin to understand this astounding rise to power.

China has one of the oldest and longest lasting civilizations in history. It also boasts the largest number of inventions that have influenced us today, including the compass, gunpowder, paper, and printing. For many centuries, the sophistication of its culture, science, and technology outshined the rest of the world.  

But make no mistake, throughout four millennia of Chinese history, there were not only golden years of innovation, noble emperors, and cultured philosophers and scholars, but also centuries of unimaginable turmoil, ruthless rulers, and devastating wars.

In this issue, we look at some of the greatest splendours of ancient China, such as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the Leshan Giant Buddha; we spotlight its rich religious and philosophical tradition; and we highlight some of its greatest creations, like the world-famous terracotta army of the First Emperor. 

We also delve into its turbulent and checkered past, including the reign of its most tyrannical concubine turned empress, and a devastating defeat in history’s largest naval battle. 

One thing is for sure, the history of the planet's most populous country is one of the most fascinating, dramatic, and influential in the world. 


Become a member to view more OR login here
AO Magazine - January February 2021
AO Magazine - January February 2021

There are more than six billion people on the planet that worship a god or gods in one form or another. But humanity’s belief in god has fundamentally changed. Today, most adherents of a religion believe in a benevolent, merciful, and loving god (or gods). But it was not always this way. 

In the ancient world, gods and goddesses were believed to cast their wrath and fury upon the world, bringing droughts and floods, sickness, crop failures, plagues, and endless disasters. There were, of course, benevolent deities too – protectors, providers, healers, creators, and saviors, but their favor could not always be counted on, and keeping them appeased with offerings, rituals, or sacrifice, was of utmost importance.

Religious beliefs were so intricately woven into the fabric of existence that major events, such as wars, the rise and fall of rulers, and natural disasters; and even the ordinary events of daily life, were all believed to be under the will of the gods - nothing happened on earth unless first decreed in the heavens.

In many ways, these gods of old have never truly left us. Tales of their battles, bickering and conquests have influenced the course of our language and narrative. In fact, we pay homage to them daily – every Thursday (Thor’s Day), for example, we recall the Norse god Thor, the almighty god of thunder, while in February, we recollect Februus, the Roman god of purification. Traces of these ancient gods are also found in our modern-day symbols – the caduceus of god Mercury remains a symbol of trade and commerce, while the rod of Greek god Asclepius is a symbol used by healthcare and medical practices around the world.

Not only have the ancient gods never truly disappeared, but a revival in polytheistic beliefs is stirring once more. Nordic paganism is now Iceland’s fastest-growing religion, with the construction of the first temple to Thor and Odin in over 1,000 years, and all across Europe, we are seeing a renewed interest and adherence to old pagan traditions. Will we see the rise of the ancient gods once more?


Become a member to view more OR login here
AO Magazine - December 2020
AO Magazine - December 2020

We once attempted to solve one of history’s little mysteries – the location of some missing artifacts in Ecuador which provided evidence of contact between Mesopotamia and South America in ancient times. The search led us into hidden vaults within the Central Bank of Ecuador. Then it landed us in front of some influential religious figures, who suggested we drop the search if we wished to remain unharmed.

Some mysteries, like the missing relics in Ecuador, are not unsolved.  They are buried by a few to prevent people hearing a different story, perhaps an inconvenient truth.

Others are genuine puzzles that may never be solved, like the baffling prehistoric ‘cart ruts’ of Malta that criss-cross across the landscape like a complex network of tracks found at a busy railway station, or the meaning of a set of strange hieroglyphic symbols of the Phaistos Disc, a 3,500-year-old clay plate found in the ruins of a Minoan palace in Greece. So much time has passed since their creation that scientists and historians alike struggle to find any evidence at all to solve these ancient riddles.

In this issue, we delve into some of history’s most head-scratching conundrums, like the 12th century account of two children with green-hued skin that emerged from a field in rural England, or the tale of a man that arrived at Tokyo Airport with a passport issued by the non-existent country of Taured – are they just urban legends or is their truth behind these historic tales? 

We also turn to one of the greatest enigmas in history – the Holy Grail – the alleged cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper and that Joseph of Arimathea used to collect Jesus’s blood at his crucifixion. Over the centuries, thousands of scholars have attempted to find, understand or decipher the legend of the grail, but have any of them found the answer?

While scientific advancements have turned up more mysteries from our ancient past – like traces of an ancient unknown species encoded in our DNA – they have also enabled us to solve many of history’s biggest riddles, including ancient cold cases, strange structures, undeciphered scripts, inexplicable historical accounts and mystifying ancient technology.

Join us on a journey through the great unanswered questions of our time, which continue to captivate and intrigue us to this day.


Become a member to view more OR login here

Pages

Ancient Origins Quotations