This week: Back to School! answers questions history/science facts

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Projects and Pages for late August:

boy and teacher on a greek vase

BACK TO SCHOOL: A lot of kids are going back to school this week (if they haven't already!) so in their honor, check out some articles about what school was like long ago: in ancient Egypt, where teachers already used red pen to mark spelling mistakes? in Mesopotamia, where kids worked on percentages? in ancient Greece, where boys learned music and poetry? in ancient Rome, where boys wrote on wax tablets? in ancient China, where you studied for standardized tests?

OR OFF TO COLLEGE: If you're off to college instead of high school, did you know that there were great Buddhist universities in Nalanda (India) and Taxila (Pakistan) in the 500s BC, and then the University of Alexandria in Egypt in the 300s BC? In the 800s AD, there was a great university in Baghdad, but by the 1100s, new universities were opening in Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, and Naples.

MOUNT VESUVIUS: August 24th, 79 AD - The volcano of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy erupts, covering the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum with ash and killing hundreds of people (but also covering the area with great new soil, good for growing wine). Pliny the Elder is killed trying to save people, and his nephew Pliny the Younger tells us about it. (But some people think this actually happened on October 24th).

volcano erupting

SACK OF ROME: August 24th, 410 and 455 AD - In 410, the Visigoths march into Rome and plunder and smash stuff. They were angry that their refugee camps were badly underfunded and corrupt Roman officials were stealing funds sent to buy refugees food. In 455 AD, the Vandals repeated the sack, this time as part of their general piracy in the Mediterranean Sea from their base in North Africa.

BATTLE OF MANZIKERT: August 26, 1071 AD - Alp Arslan and the Seljuk Turks defeat the Roman Emperor (and Viking mercenary soldiers) at the Battle of Manzikert in what's now Turkey. As a result, the Turks get control of Turkey, and the Byzantine Empire loses most of its remaining wealth and power.

JAPAN: August 25, 1543 - First Portuguese explorers arrive in Japan.

WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK: Do something Japanese - go out for sushi or make your own sushi at home, or make a folding fan (or play Pokemon Go!).

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New pages this week:

CARIBBEAN: All about the Caribbean Islands - how the first people came to the Caribbean, then the Arawak (the Taino), then the Caribs, then the Portuguese explorers, then the Africans the Portuguese forced to come grow sugar, then the British and French who took over.

New discoveries this week:

EATING RHINO: DNA traces on stone tools from Jordan from 250,000 years ago shows that early humans ate all kinds of different meat - duck, horse, camels, and rhinoceros. That's not to say that early humans hunted rhinos - they may have just scavenged rhinos that died on their own, or got killed by a lion, or something.

SHELL JEWELRY: More confirmation that early people were following the coastlines and eating a lot of fish and shellfish - 42,000 years ago, the first modern people who reached East Timor in Southeast Asia were making seashells into beads for necklaces or bracelets. The same people were also catching tuna fish, which shows they were using deep sea fishing from boats, not just fishing poles.

MERV: In 1200 AD, Merv (in what's now Turkmenistan) was the world's biggest city. Then the Mongols destroyed it, and the big dam that brought Merv water. Excavations show it was a big city, rich from making the world's highest quality steel, with irrigated gardens and canals, icehouses, libraries, strong city walls, and organized Silk Road markets.

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Seasonal food of the week:

ICE CREAM: The end of August has brought some pretty hot weather, so how about making ice cream? You totally don't need an ice cream maker, just a glass pie pan, a fork, and a little room in your freezer. Try making peach granita, too. But really, any fruit will work just fine. Or, for something more exciting, try celery granita with figs and goat cheese.

Also check out our seasonal and budget recipes at

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Thank you to for their support!

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

Help support! (formerly "History for Kids") is entirely supported by your generous donations and by our sponsors. Most donors give about $10. Can you give $10 today to keep this site running? Or give $50 to sponsor a page?

Getting ready to go back to school? Homeschooling? can help students with ancient Mesopotamia, Africa with ancient Egypt, classical Greece, the Roman Empire, ancient China and Japan, ancient India, medieval Europe and Islam, and much, much more. Check out our pages on what school was like in ancient times - Egyptian schools, Roman schools, Islamic schools.