This week: Swimming answers questions history/science facts

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Projects and Pages for late July:

red-figure greek painting of women swimming

SWIMMING: It's hot all over, so we'll cool you off by featuring our pages on the history of swimming. Check out how early people could swim all over the world except in Central Asia and Europe. See how the Central Asian fear of the water slowly spread to medieval China and North Africa, and then to the Americas.

silver coin with man's head on it
Mark Anthony

MARK ANTHONY: July 31st, 30 BC - Mark Anthony, defeated by the forces of the Roman Emperor Augustus, kills himself, followed soon afterwards by his partner Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Egypt. One of their children, Cleopatra Selene, later married the ruler of Morocco, Juba II, and wrote science books with him about elephants and geography. But Egypt becomes part of the Roman Empire.

BAGHDAD: July 30th, 762 AD - Foundation of the city of Baghdad as an Islamic replacement for the ancient city of Babylon nearby. Under Abbasid rule, Baghdad becomes a major university and trade center. Scientists like Ibn Sahl and al Tabari, and al Razi worked in Baghdad.

OTTOMAN EMPIRE FOUNDED: July 27, 1299 AD - Osman I invades Nicomedia, starting the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire lasted for more than 600 years. Read about Suleiman the Magnificent, the century of women Sultans, the siege of Vienna, and the Ottoman Empire's decline.

painting of indian man

SEPHARDIM: July 31st, 1492 AD - Ferdinand and Isabella force all the people in Spain who are Jewish to leave the country. The Netherlands and the Islamic Ottoman Empire welcome most of the refugees, who become known as the Sephardim.

AURANGZEB: July 31st, 1658 AD - Aurangzeb forces his father out of power and becomes the new Mughal emperor of India - and the last great one before the Mughals collapsed. Like other rulers of his time - Louis XIV, Peter the Great, the Kangxi Emperor - Aurangzeb worked hard to centralize power and unify his country.

WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK: Go swimming!

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New page this week:

furnace with blacksmith and his assistant
Blacksmith in ancient Greece

IRON: It's not a new page really, but we rewrote our main page about iron and blacksmithing this week to be more up to date, and more inclusive of the many cultures that use iron.

New discoveries this week:

NEANDERTHALS: Yet another suggestion as to why the Neanderthals left so little of their DNA in modern humans: maybe there were not very many of them, and so their genetic diversity was too small and bad genes got passed down instead of being selected out of the gene pool. When Neanderthal DNA met up with modern human DNA, the greater diversity led to more of the modern human DNA winning out.

MARIJUANA: New studies suggest that it was the Indo-Europeans (the Yamnaya) who spread ganja from their homes in Central Asia east to China, west to Europe, and south to Iran and India. Weed wasn't totally unknown in China or Europe before that, but it became a lot more popular about 3000 BC, about the same time that the Yamnaya were also spreading dogs, plaid fabric, and other fancy stuff. Well, Herodotus does say that the Scythians were big cannabis users.

VERY EARLY ROPE: Whether made out of hemp or something else, apparently people were making rope from plant fibers in southern Germany at least 40,000 years ago. They used a mammoth bone tool to twist the rope for strength. These people lived right by the Danube river, so probably they used the rope for fishing nets, or on boats.

SILK ROAD DISEASES: Analysis of the sticks people used instead of toilet paper shows that Silk Road travelers carried all sorts of nasty, catching diseases with them: Chinese liver flukes, tapeworms, roundworms, and whipworm. They probably also carried other things: smallpox, and bubonic plague, for example. No wonder Central Asia produced so many doctors! They needed to stop infections in order to keep trade moving.

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Seasonal food of the week:

WHATEVER'S COLD: While it's so hot, nobody feels like cooking. Here's an assortment of cold dishes you might enjoy. Start with guacamole or baba ganoush or hummus on crackers.. For main dishes, try gazpacho, or cold avocado soup with shrimp. Not so fond of avocados? Try this similar cold cucumber soup. On the side, maybe some lettuce and egg salad? Or try making some homemade sushi, vegetarian or otherwise. Or a Ni├žoise salad with potatoes and green beans?

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?

Now that the weather's nice, try some of these outdoor activities! How about bicycle polo, or archery for a Medieval Islam day? Or kite flying or making a compass for a day in Medieval China? How about making a shaduf for a day in Ancient Egypt? Holding an Ancient Greek Olympic Games or a medieval European tournament? Building a Native American wickiup?