Sep 20, 2016

Ancient bathing – up to about 10th Century

Archaeological evidence suggests 5,000-yearold bathing facilities in Gaza. Soaplike material found in clay jars of Babylonian origin has been dated to about 2800 B.C. From before the time of Abraham in Middle Eastern desert climes, custom dictated that hosts offer washing water to dusty-footed guests. But one of the first known and indisputable bathtubs comes from Minoan Crete. Supposedly built for the legendary King Minos around 1700 B.C. and found in the great palace at Knossos, it's of a shape similar to modern tubs. Even more impressive is the palace plumbing system that served the royal tub. Interlocking pieces of terra-cotta pipes-each tapered at one end to give water a shooting action to prevent the buildup of clogging sediment -- were jointed and cemented together. Their technology put Minoans in the hydrological vanguard.

Egyptians
Although the ancient Egyptians didn't develop such plumbing, they had a penchant for hygiene, evident in their use of fresh linens and body ointments, skin conditioners and deodorants of the day. As described in the 1500 B.C. Ebers Papyrus, these ancients washed, and treated skin diseases with a soapy material made of animal and vegetable oils and alkaline salts. From bas-reliefs and tomb excavations, there's evidence that Egyptians sat in a shallow kind of shower bath while attendants poured water over the bather.

Sep 6, 2016

Who Discovered the Panda?

Until 1869, few had heard of the giant black-and-white creatures hiding in China’s forests. Decades later, pandamania gripped the world.

Though today giant pandas are known and loved worldwide, it wasn’t always so.

Ancient Chinese texts rarely mention the native animals. Westerners first learned of them in 1869 when French missionary Armand David, while in China, laid eyes on a distinctive black-and-white pelt and then bought a complete, dead specimen from local hunters. A zoologist in Paris wrote up the official description of Ailuropoda melanoleuca (literally, “cat foot, black and white”).

In 1929 Chicago’s Field Museum put two mounted pandas on display courtesy of the Roosevelt brothers, Theodore Jr. and Kermit. The two were sons of the 26th U.S. president, whose love of sport hunting ultimately propelled major conservation reforms. With the help of Sichuan Province locals, they brought home the first panda shot by white men for the museum’s new Asian Hall. Their feat prompted copycat expeditions funded by other museums.