How Ancient Tooth Plaque Solved the Mystery of the Banana’s Trans-Pacific Journey

A TYPICAL DAY FOR MONICA Tromp might include scraping tartar off 3,000-year-old human incisors. “It’s basically like being a dental hygienist for the dead,” says Tromp, an Affiliated Researcher at New Zealand’s University of Otago, about her work studying ancient Pacific Islanders’ diets.

The hot, humid climate of places like Vanuatu, an archipelago 1,100 miles east of Australia, makes it notoriously difficult to find archaeological plant and animal remains. So for the past several years, Tromp has turned to an unlikely treasure trove of culinary data on early Pacific Islanders’ diets: the calcified plaque, called calculus or tartar, left on ancient human teeth. Now, in a new paper, Tromp and her fellow researchers have solved an agricultural mystery that has puzzled archaeologists: the migration of the banana.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Featured image: Adli Wahid, The Market. 

Australian Wildfires Uncovered Hidden Sections of a Huge, Ancient Aquaculture System

IN VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA, AN ANCIENT labyrinth of waterways snakes across a once-volcanic landscape. This is the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, a vast aquacultural system the Gunditjmara Aboriginal people, who still call this country home, began constructing 6,600 years ago. Parts of the system are still in use today.

Ask locals about Budj Bim, and you’ll invariably be directed to Uncle Denis Rose. A Gunditjmara elder, Rose, who has lived here most of his life, cares for the complex as Project Manager of the Budj Bim Sustainable Development Project. His knowledge of this country and its history has earned him the honorific “Uncle,” a term of respect for Aboriginal elders. Bring up the title, however, and he’ll demur. “I don’t refer to myself as that, no,” Rose says. “I’m in a little bit of denial about my age.”

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Featured image: Australian bushfires, 2019. Public domain.

How to Spend Valentine’s Day If You’re Single

Whenever I read a self-help article that advises women to “put yourself first,” or “cultivate self-love,” I want to throw my laptop out my fourth floor apartment window in despair. (I don’t actually do it, of course, because laptops are expensive.) 

Often, these seemingly empowering pieces of advice come with subtle directives about what we should think, be, and do. Love yourself [because that’s how you can get a man to love you]. Spend time doing something nice for yourself [like exercising so you can lose weight so men will love you]. But the truth is, loving ourselves in a world that is constantly judging us—for our bodies and our bank accounts, our relationships and our sex lives—is hard

Few other occasions present a greater challenge to self-love than Valentine’s Day.

Read more at Swell. Featured image: Brooke Lark/Unsplash.

The Culinary Legacy of Brooklyn's First Free Black Community

SOMETIMES, WE CAN ONLY UNDERSTAND history from above. That, anyway, seemed to be the outlook of historian James Hurley and pilot Joseph Hays when, in 1968, they flew a plane over Brooklyn. They were looking for the remnants of a village founded 130 years earlier, the free Black community of Weeksville.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Featured image: A map of Weeksville and surrounding neighborhoods in what is now Brooklyn, 1869. Public Domain.

The Chocolate-Brewing Witches of Colonial Latin America

IT HAPPENED, PERHAPS, ONE HOT, humid night, mist over the mountains that bordered the colonial city of Santiago de Guatemala. Melchora de los Reyes, a young, mixed-raced woman, had sex with her lover. When she met him, she was a virgin, a doncella, a status that made her eligible for marriage in the strict, Catholic society of 1600s Guatemala. But whether it was a look of love in his eyes, words sweet and thick as the mist, or promises that her lover would marry her, de los Reyes chose to have sex.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Featured Image: Rodrigo Flores, Unsplash.

Rape is an Economic Crime: The Case for Mental Health Restitution

On TV, the plot looks something like this: a woman is raped or abused. She is a sympathetic character, traumatized yet brave. She reports the crime to the police, who perform a detailed forensic investigation and arrest the perpetrator. A trial ensues, and the survivor steps forward to tell her story. She wins over the jury, and the perpetrator is sentenced to years in jail.

Sometimes, life comes close to this narrative. In 2016, for example, the survivor of the Stanford rape case authored a powerful victim impact statement that captured the country’s attention and, undoubtedly, helped ensure jailtime for the perpetrator.

But most of the time, for most survivors, reality looks quite different than Law and Order, SVU. The vast majority — 69% — of sexual assaults go unreported to the police, and only 0.7% of all sexual assaults result in a conviction.

Read more at The Talkspace Voice. Featured Image: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

Eat Like a 1970s Radical With ‘The People’s Philadelphia Cookbook’

“A VERY GAY MEAT LOAF” requires several key ingredients. First, wrote Michael Goldberger, a gay activist and neuroscience researcher, combine ground beef, pork, and veal with spices. Then, add partially-cooked spinach and—if you have the money—mushrooms, taking care not to overmix. Hard-boiled eggs and sour cream top it off.

Goldberger adapted the recipe from gay New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne and lesbian icon Alice B. Toklas, and included it in the 1976 People’s Philadelphia Cookbook. The book was compiled and published by the People’s Fund, a grassroots organization founded in 1971, with recipes from member organizations that included the Black Panther Party, the United Farm Workers, the Gay Activist Alliance of Philadelphia, and more.

Now, thanks to an enterprising historian, a flea market, and Twitter, The People’s Philadelphia Cookbook has a new life online. It’s a record of an optimistic era, when activists believed that the elimination of racism, homophobia, and capitalism was just around the corner. While the revolution would not be televised, it would certainly be well-fed.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Featured image: Richard Nixon tours Philadelphia’s Independence Hall with city mayor Frank Rizzo in1972. U.S. NATIONAL ARCHIVES/PUBLIC DOMIAN

How to Reclaim Your Sexuality After Trauma

Ending an abusive relationship felt like being reborn: slowly, painfully, sharp as shattered glass. My body had been rearranged, Mr. Potato Head-style, into something new, simultaneously more sensitive and blunter, more empathic but liable to shut down unexpectedly—on the sidewalk, in the bedroom, in the grocery store.

Many of us, especially women and queer people, have survived some kind of sexual or intimate trauma. Our stories are unique, and all our experiences are valid. We might be sexually assaulted as an adult, or have a history of childhood sexual abuse. We might be traumatized from an experience of harassment, or from having our boundaries pushed in an unhealthy relationship. 

Whatever our stories, sexual trauma can change how we experience our bodies, our desires, and our sense of self.

Read more at Swell. Cover image: Malvestida Magazine. Vibrator from Dame Products, which runs Swell.

How Aboriginal Hunting and ‘Cool Burns’ Prevent Australian Wildfires

THERE IS A SCAR ACROSS Australia’s Western Desert. For millennia—no one is sure how many, though evidence of Aboriginal people’s presence in Australia stretches back 50,000 years—the Martu people used fire to hunt in the scraggly bush. In a practice called cultural burning, they set low blazes patient enough for small animals such as bettongs and wallabies to flee their burrows before the fire reached them. Years of cultural burning cleared underbrush, creating a patchy habitat preferred by the small animals Martu people most liked to hunt, while simultaneously preventing massive lightning fires from consuming the land.

For the Martu, these fires were so vital that they were a means of maintaining life itself. “They would say, ‘If we weren’t out here burning, things won’t exist,’” says Rebecca Bliege Bird, a Pennsylvania State anthropologist who has worked with the Martu for decades.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Cover image: State Library of New South Wales/Public Domain.

Why It’s Harmful To Tell Kids “He’s Mean Because He Has a Crush on You”

If you are a child of the 90s, you might remember Helga Pataki. She was blond, had a strangely shaped head like the rest of her peers, lived in New York City, and, most importantly, relentlessly bullied television’s cartoon sweetheart, everyone’s favorite oblong-noggined Arnold.

A character on the Nickelodeon kids’ show Hey, Arnold!, Helga typified the grade school bully, cruel in order to cover up emotions she didn’t want to admit she had. As viewers of the program know, Helga was only mean to Arnold because she was in love with him, complete with a shrine in her closet and a mockup of her love interest made of chewing gum. Helga’s behavior is so iconic to the generation that grew up on her TV show, it’s even earned its own Urban Dictionary entry: Helga Pataki Syndrome.

Read more at Talkspace. Featured image: Mi Pham, Unsplash.