Marco Polo And The Mysterious Maps
Saturday February 20, 2021 1:00pm EST
by Dr Benjamin B Olshin
Marco Polo And The Mysterious Maps

In the 13th century, Italian merchant and explorer Marco Polo travelled from Venice to the far reaches of Asia, a journey he chronicled in a narrative titled Il Milione, later known as The Travels of Marco Polo. While Polo’s writings would go on to inspire the likes of Christopher Columbus, scholars have long debated their veracity. Some have argued that Polo never even reached China, while others believe that he came as far as the Americas. Now, there is another piece of this puzzle: a very curious collection of fourteen little-known maps and related documents said to have belonged to the family of Marco Polo himself.

Historian of cartography Benjamin B. Olshin presents these artifacts, charting their course from obscure origins in the private collection of Italian-American immigrant Marcian Rossi in the 1930s; to investigations of their authenticity by the Library of Congress, J. Edgar Hoover, and the FBI; to the work of the late cartographic scholar Leo Bagrow; to Olshin’s own efforts to track down and study the Rossi maps, all but one of which are in the possession of Rossi’s great-grandson.

Are the maps forgeries, facsimiles, or modernized copies? Did Marco Polo’s daughters―whose names appear on several of the artifacts―preserve in them geographic information about Asia first recorded by their father? Or did they inherit maps created by him? Or, if the maps have no connection to Marco Polo, who made them, when, and why?

Dr Benjamin B OlshinDr Benjamin B Olshin is a former Professor of Philosophy, the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, and Design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He is a Fulbright scholar with over a decade of experience in international consulting, research, education/training, and design work in the U.S., Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Dr. Olshin has published and presented work in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Taiwan, Japan, and Indonesia. Over the course of his career, his research and other work has taken on many subjects, including maps and exploration, the history of technology, the philosophy of physics, and communication across cultures. He has written in a broad range of areas, including the history of cartography, the philosophy of science, and sociology of technology, and design. His latest book is Lost Knowledge: The Concept of Vanished Technologies and Other Human Histories. His other books are Deciphering Reality: Simulations, Tests, and Designs, and The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps.

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Old School Ghost Hunting versus Modern Paranormal Research
Saturday January 23, 2021 1:00pm EST
by Charles Christian
Old School Ghost Hunting versus Modern Paranormal Research

From “is anyone there?” to “the show must go on!”

Regular Ancient Origins contributor Charles Christian surveys the evolution of ghost hunting into paranormal research over the past 50 years and asks if the spooky plot has been lost as the old techniques of investigating alleged hauntings have given way to a commercialized entertainment industry. Drawing on his own experience as an amateur ghost hunter at university and his current membership of the UK's long-established Ghost Club, and Society for Psychical Research, Christian will survey both the change in approaches and the change in format.

Among the things he will be looking at are: the low-tech investigations of old, the increased reliance on largely-ineffective gadgets today, the changing nature of ghost hunter from private affairs to mass entertainment events, the impact of commercialization on both the impartiality of hunt organizers and on the availability of venues to investigate, the impact of hit television shows and social media, the decline in preliminary book-based background research, the changing status of the psychic medium with their opinions now going unchallenged, the failure to understand concepts such as crowd psychology and pareidolia, and the rise of the bogus experts and pseudo-academic qualifications.

"Everyone wants to be a superstar psychic researcher today with a large, monetized YouTube audience but in the process, they are destroying the field for serious Investigations, generating fake-news legends, and undermining the credibility of more academic paranormal study," says Christian.

The Truth may be out there, but for too many paranormal investigators, they are more concerned with the paying audience that is also out there. If you are interested in the subject of ghosts and hauntings, this webinar is unmissable as it will also help point you in the direction of constructive research—and save you the expense of buying pointless gadgets!

Charles Christian Charles Christian is a UK-based journalist, author, and radio show host and a regular contributor to Ancient Origins Premium and a sometime werewolf hunter. He blogs at, his Weird Tales Radio Show is at, exploring Ghosts, Geeks, Magick, Music, Urban Myths & Folklore and he is on Twitter at @ChristianUncut. His recent non-fiction book is A travel guide to Yorkshire’s Weird Wolds: The Mysterious Wold Newton Triangle and Writing Genre Fiction: Creating Imaginary Worlds: The 12 Rules -

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Are You Related to a Viking, Egyptian, Paleo American, or Biblical Israelite?
Saturday December 19, 2020 2:00pm EST
by Dr. Eran Elhaik
Ancient DNA Origins

For the past decade, Ancient Origins saw its mission in making science freely accessible to the public, particularly the fields of science related to human’s past. It is only appropriate that Ancient Origins would also be the first to provide Ancient DNA Origins Tests – the next generation of DNA tests.

Unlike contemporary DNA tests that report ancestry in relation to contemporary populations under the hidden assumptions that people and populations remained genetically the same over time, this next generation of DNA tests acknowledges that the past is a volatile entity that needs to be captured precisely and accurately using only the DNA of people who actually lived in the past. But comparing the ancient DNA of skeletons and mummies is not enough; our goal was to bring them back to life (figuratively speaking, of course), using all the means at our hands.

Our first line of tests includes some of the fascinating populations that ever lived: The Biblical Israelite Tribes, Medieval Iceland Vikings, Ptolemaic Egyptians, and Paleo American Indians. Our Ancient DNA Origins Tests tell the story of every group and every individual. Ancient DNA Origins Tests were designed to tell you whether you are a part of the Greatest Story Even Told, the Edda, the great civilization that rests underneath the sands, or the Mesoamerican people that once roamed the American continent.

Together with lead geneticist Dr. Eran Elhaik, who brings to Ancient Origins his wealth of experience in genetics leading past projects like the Geographic Geno 2.0 and GPS Origins, we are proud to spearhead this next generation of genetic tests. We hope that you will enjoy and benefit from them too. “Study the past, if you would divine the future” as Confucius wrote, and we now have the actual means to do so.

EranDr. Eran Elhaik completed a Ph.D. in Molecular Evolution at the University of Houston with Prof. Dan Graur where he studied the evolution of mammalian genomes. He then completed two post-docs at Johns Hopkins University, working with Prof. Aravinda Chakravarti on population genetics and with Prof. Zandi working on mental disorders. Dr. Elhaik was appointed as an Assistant lecturer in the Bioinformatics Hub of the University of Sheffield, England, focusing on population genetics and complex disorders that he links via personalized medicine. In 2019, he became an Associate Professor at the University of Lund, Sweden. Dr. Elhaik’s research typically employs complex computational, statistical, epidemiological, and mathematical approaches to interdisciplinary fields like complex disorders, population genetics, personalized medicine, molecular evolution, genomics, paleogenomics, and epigenetics covering various organisms from ants to humans. Due to his innovative and breakthrough work, Dr. Elhaik is one of the most renowned scientists.

Dr. Elhaik’s work received much interest over the years from scholars and the public alike. We are proud to say that we covered all his research that falls within our domain. These studies include dating the most ancient human Y chromosome, “Y chromosomal Adam,” and developing a genomic GPS tool that identifies the geographic origin of modern people with extreme accuracy. A commercial version of this test is offered on our website. His extensive studies on Druze and Ashkenazic Jews traced their origins from over 1000 years ago and uncovered “Ancient Ashkenaz,” where Ashkenazic Jews formed their unique genomic signature alongside the ancestors of Druze. Elhaik’s group was the first and only group that developed the technology that identifies ancient Ancestry Informative Markers, which are used to infer the ancient ancestry in modern people accurately. This is one of the critical components underlining our new line of Ancient DNA Origins Tests.

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Rome’s First Princess - The Banishment of Julia Augusti
Saturday October 17, 2020 2:00pm EST
by Mary Naples
Rome’s First Princess -   The Banishment of Julia Augusti

All of Rome was in an uproar. No one had imagined that even a cold fish like Augustus was capable of exiling his only biological child, Julia, to a barren and windswept island—as punishment for the high crime of adultery. Yet it was not enough for her to be merely banished from her beloved Rome.  Augustus further decreed that aside from the guards who kept watch, no men were allowed on that stygian enclave. The implication was that since she was deemed a woman of ill-repute, being deprived of male companionship would make for a more exacting punishment. Along those same lines, wine was forbidden, and food provisions were at a bare minimum. In other words, for all intents and purposes, Julia was in prison.

Over these long millennia, Julia’s reputation has been maligned by ancient writers and contemporary historians alike, but was it something other than loose morals that set her father against her? Make no mistake being labeled a woman of ill-repute was reason enough to land Julia on the prison island during the authoritarian Augustan era. All the same, according to Suetonius, Augustus debated putting his daughter to death. Given the severity of her father’s reaction to the disgrace, some believe that Julia’s fall was the result of a political intrigue to overthrow him. But with her two eldest sons primed for the throne, why act against her better interests? This presentation explores the possible reasons behind the harsh exile of Rome’s first princess, delving into the politics of the era and the climate of paranoia and suspicion within the Julio-Claudian clan itself.

Mary NaplesWith an emphasis in Women’s Studies, Mary Naples earned an M.A. in Humanities from Dominican University of California in 2013. Her master’s thesis: “Demeter’s Daughter’s: How the Myth of the Captured Bride Helped Spur Feminine Consciousness in Ancient Greece,” examines how female participants found empowerment in a feminine fertility festival. Her deep love of the classical world is reflected in her writing which explores women’s narratives ranging from the ancient Greek and Roman worlds into the Byzantine era and even into ancient Israel and Judea. After a career in high-tech, Mary lives in Sausalito, California with her husband and cat, Maddie. There she has a collection of books on the classical world and a garden with a Cretan-styled labyrinth. Visit Mary’s website:

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Which Macedonian Royal Lies in The Tomb at Amphipolis?
Saturday September 5, 2020 2:00pm EST
by Andrew M Chugg
Amphipolis Tomb

In the time of Alexander the Great and his successors, Amphipolis was one of the greatest cities of ancient Greece. It is situated upon the eastern bank of the River Strymon, about three miles inland from the northern shore of the Aegean Sea. Shortly after Alexander’s death, it became the site of the largest tomb ever built in Greece. This took the form of a circular tumulus, now named the Kasta Mound. A sequence of excavations has uncovered a perimeter wall, known as the peribolos, constructed of the finest marble. The presence of a cist grave beneath the floor of the last chamber and the exhumation of human remains within its anciently disturbed trench attest clearly to the status of the mound as the monument for a burial. The vastness of this monument and the superlative quality of its decoration compels one to believe that the occupant of the grave was a personage of the very highest importance. Andrew Michael Chugg investigates several tantalizing clues indicating a female member of the Macedonian royal house.

Andrew Michael ChuggAndrew Michael Chugg read Natural Sciences at Trinity College in the University of Cambridge in the UK, graduating with honors. He has appeared as an Alexander expert on BBC Radio, and in several National Geographic TV documentaries. He has also written various books on Alexander including The Quest for the Tomb of Alexander the Great and Alexander’s Lovers. He recently completed a project to reconstruct the highly influential account of Alexander’s reign by Cleitarchus, which was written in Alexandria in the second quarter of the third century BC, but which has been lost since the time of the Roman Empire. The entire reconstruction was published in a single 700-page volume in 2015. Andrew is currently working on an account of the largest and most important tomb ever found in Greece in the Kasta Mound at Amphipolis, and on a scientific analysis of the Pharos lighthouse in Alexandria, the Seventh Wonder of the ancient world.

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The Life and Death of Ancient Cities
Saturday August 8, 2020 2:00pm EST
by Professor Greg Woolf
The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: a Natural History

When one imagines the ancient Mediterranean world, it is often a world of spectacular cities, whose monuments and institutions provided the model for the vast urban worlds we inhabit today. Recent research has emphasized some of the differences between our world and theirs. Today, more than half the world's population lives in huge cities with populations in the millions. Then, maybe only one in ten people lived in towns and they were small—really small—with populations of just a few thousand. Even by the standards of ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia the cities of the Greeks, Romans, Etruscan, and Phoenicians were tiny.

Professor Greg Woolf talks about the implications and shows how evolutionary theory explains the rise of cities across the world in the last 6,000 years, and how ecology explains the very small scale of Mediterranean urbanism. He will illustrate how, despite their small size, these urban experiments proved so influential on the societies that came after Greece and Rome.

Professor Greg Woolf Professor Greg Woolf is an historian and archaeologist specializing in the Roman empire. He has published on various aspects of the ancient economy, on ancient literacy, on Roman religion, on late prehistoric Europe, and on ancient history in the very long term. His books include Becoming Roman. The origins of provincial civilization in Gaul (1998), Et tu Bruté? The murder of Caesar and political assassination (2006), Tales of the Barbarians: Ethnography and Empire in the Roman West (2011) and Rome. An Empire’s Story (2012) and his latest The Life and Death of Ancient Cities. A Natural History (2020).

Greg Woolf has degrees from Oxford and Cambridge and between 1989 and 1998 held fellowships at various colleges in the two universities. In 1998 he became Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Since January 2015 he has been Professor of Classics at the University of London and Director of the Institute of Classical Studies in the School of Advanced Study. He is also an Honorary Professor of Archaeology at University College London.

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A Tour of Turkey and the Mystical Göbekli Tepe
Sunday June 28, 2020 2:00pm EST
by Andrew Collins
A Tour of Turkey and the Mystical Göbekli Tepe

A lifetime of experiencing ancient wonders of the world is not complete without visiting the incredible ancient sites and sacred spaces of Turkey and Anatolia, featuring the earliest religious structures built by mankind.

Dive into history and culture: Çatal Höyük,  Mount Nimrod, the Hittite centers of Hattusa and Alaca Höyük, Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, Ankara's archaeological museum, Şanlıurfa’s Pools of Abraham, the mysterious landscape of Cappadocia including the underground city of Derinkuyu, and many more sites besides.

Author Andrew Collins takes us on a virtual tour of the ancient sites of Turkey—including mystical Göbekli Tepe—with special guest Jim Willis.

Andrew CollinsAndrew Collins is a history and science writer, as well as more than a dozen books that challenge the way we see the past. Among them are Gobekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods, The Cygnus Key, Beneath the Pyramids and Denisovan Origins, co-authored with Greg L. Little. He is the co-discover of a massive cave system beneath the pyramids of Giza, now known as Collins’ Cave, and has been at the forefront of research into Gobekli Tepe for last 20 years. He lives in England. His website is

COME WITH US: Our experts will guide you through amazing ancient sites when we tour Turkey in person later this year! Get insider information you wouldn’t get anywhere else; discover the hidden mysteries, the sacred meanings, the physical and astronomical significance of the sites.

Book your place now and join us in May 2022 on the Ancient Origins Göbekli Tepe Tour.

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Who was the Historical Osiris?
Saturday June 20, 2020 2:00pm EST
by Dr. Willem McLoud

Who was the Historical Osiris? A new ancient Middle Eastern chronological model reveals an age-old secret

Osiris was one of the most popular gods of ancient Egypt, a god who first made his appearance in Egypt during the Fifth Dynasty. He was, strangely—albeit fascinatingly—remembered as a great civilizing king who traveled the world. He was called “Lord of all the Earth” and received the Atef crown from Re, signifying absolute kingship and rule over the cosmos. One of the great enigmas of Egyptology is who the historical Osiris was. Who was the real king behind the myth?

A newly discovered cuneiform text has changed it all. This text is a literary fragment from the Epic of Gulkišar, who ruled over the Sealand in southern Babylon during the period when Babylon was destroyed by the Hittite king, Mursili I. The information contained in this fragment of the epic has overturned the old ways of thinking about ancient Middle Eastern chronology, providing strong backing and support for a new ancient Middle Eastern chronology, which casts Osiris and his origins in a totally new light.

Dr. Willem McLoudDr. Willem McLoud is an independent South African scholar whose main interests are ancient Middle Eastern studies, Kantian philosophy, and philosophy of science. He has a PhD in Nuclear Physics (Nuclear Fusion) from the University of Natal, a MA in Philosophy of Science from the University of Cape Town as well as a MBL from UNISA. Willem’s main areas of study regarding the ancient Middle East are the Sumerian, Akkadian, and early Egyptian civilizations, with special focus on the Uruk and Akkadian Periods in Mesopotamian history, as well as the Old Kingdom Period in Egyptian history. He has pioneered a new ancient Middle Eastern chronological model in which the Mesopotamian high chronology is correlated with the Egyptian low chronology.

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The Origin of Languages and Scripts
Saturday May 23, 2020 2:00pm EST
by Dr. Fanie Vermaak
The Origin of Languages and Scripts

Why don’t we still use Egyptian hieroglyphs? What happened to Mesopotamian cuneiform?

Writing originated more or less at the same time and in the same manner by approximately the middle of the fourth millennium BC all along the great rivers of the world, with the Chinese script along the Wuang-Ho River, the Indian script along the Indus River, the Egyptian hieroglyphs along the Nile, and the Mesopotamian cuneiform signs along the Tigris and the Euphrates.

However, the alphabetical letters, as we use them today, have an extended history that dates back to the latter part of the second millennium BC. They most probably developed in the eastern part of the Mediterranean (present Syria and Lebanon). The more complicated writing systems in the Ancient Near East, such as the Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Mesopotamian cuneiform, could no longer effectively serve the trade processes and required a simpler alphabetical system to improve the communication system for everyday use in this geographical gateway area.

Special guest Dr. Fanie Vermaak returns to Ancient Origins Premium to present on the history and fates of ancient languages and scripts.

Dr. Fanie VermaakDr. Fanie Vermaak is a professor in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of South Africa. With an initial background in theological studies (also ordained minister of the Dutch Reformed Church) he focuses on various cultural activities in the Ancient Near East, specializing in Sumerian and Egyptology.

Vermaak studied Theology and various Semitic Languages at the Universities of the Free State (Bloemfontein) and Stellenbosch, South Africa.  He specialized (PhD) in the cuneiform (Sumerian) studies of the Ur III period (2100-2000 BC) on the activities of the temple administrators of Southern Mesopotamia and published also extensively in this regard. He extended further studies with the various ancient gateways of the Near East towards also the outside world so far as the Indus Valley. Vermaak is also the chairperson of the Ancient Egypt and Near Eastern Society (AENES) who is responsible for the monthly evening lectures for the public sector (15 years). He served eight years on the national academic society called Southern African Society for Near Eastern Society. He is a founding member of the International Society of Cuneiform Studies. Fanie often acts as a Middle East analyst on various media and has a special interest in the ancient and modern Near East or Middle East.

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Breaking Bread with the Vikings - An Academy of Taste Webinar
Saturday April 25, 2020 2:00pm EST
by Alicia McDermott
Alicia McDermott

What kept the Vikings going during hard times?

In a world filled with uncertainty and worries about tomorrow, you may wonder what’s the point in thinking about who came before us, how they lived and died, or what they ate. The future is where we’re headed, why bother considering the ways of our ancestors, right?

I disagree. Apart from the debt we owe to our predecessors for helping us to be here now, we also can find comfort and knowledge about them and ourselves by exploring their/our traditions, their wisdom, their resilience in the face of hardships, their creativity, and the stories they have left behind.

We can read their tales and admire their art, but why stop there? Let’s explore their music, festivals, and even eat their food! We can bring them back to life, if just for a moment, to celebrate their diversity, creativity, and humanity. Reconnecting with our ancient origins is a great source of comfort, strength, and perhaps even amusement! They were us, so when we learn from their achievements and mistakes, we also learn about ourselves.

So, what does all of this have to do with food? Well, in many ways, both literally and culturally, food keeps us going. It’s what sustains us and unites us. All of life’s biggest events tend to happen with food somewhere in the picture. We have special meals for special days, indulgences to comfort us on dark nights, and little treats we give each other as tokens of affection.

For this webinar, we’re going to break bread with the Vikings and discover what the ancient Norse men and women shared around their hearths. I’m going to whip up one of the most popular foods in many cultures – bread – and you’re welcome to join me in the fun. If you’d like to try your hand as Viking chef in training, you’re going to need a few things: flour (wheat, oat, barley, rye…whatever’s available), milk, honey, an egg, salt, possibly some nuts, and an interest in learning a little more about what was on a Viking menu!

Food brings people together…no matter the time our space between us.

Alicia McDermott  Alicia McDermott is a researcher, editor, and writer at Ancient Origins. She has degrees in Anthropology, International Development Studies, and Psychology, and sees herself as a lifelong learner with an open mind.

Alicia has worked in various fields such as education, tourism, and anthropology. Traveling throughout Bolivia and Peru, as well as all-over Ecuador, Alicia has increased her knowledge of Pre-Colombian sites as well as learning more about modern Andean cultures and fine-tuning her Spanish skills. Alicia has had a passion for writing since she was a child and apart from creative writing, she has written various essays about Latin American social issues and archaeological sites.

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