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. FeaturedContinue reading “The Culinary Legacy of Brooklyn's First Free Black Community”
WHEN EUROPEANS FIRST REACHED RAPA Nui, or Easter Island, on Easter Day, 1722, they were awed to find around 1,000 imposing stone moai, or monoliths, carved in the shape of human beings. The statues overlooked a barren landscape. While archaeological evidence shows that Rapa Nui was once lushly forested, by the time Europeans reached the island, it hadContinue reading “Easter Island's Monoliths Made the Crops Grow”
WHEN CONQUISTADOR HERNÁN CORTÉS REACHED Tenochtitlan in 1519, he beheld a floating city. The temples and palaces of the Aztec capital gleamed white from an island in the middle of a vast lake, all spread under a searing blue sky. With an estimated population of 200,000, roughly the size of contemporary Paris, the city overflowed with people. AroundContinue reading “How to Feed a Megacity Like the Aztecs”
THIS STORY ENDS WITH AN eccentric entrepreneur distributing 2,500 maps of the United States in the shape of a pig to a gala of Civil War veterans. It begins with sewing machines. Grover and Baker sewing machines, to be precise. Read more at Atlas Obscura. Cover image: Porcineograph, Library of Congress, Public Domain.
TWELVE-THOUSAND YEARS AGO, THE GLACIERS receded from modern-day British Columbia, leaving the land to bleed silt into the sea. In the salty shallows hugging the coast, bivalves struggled to survive, growing slow and dying small in the fluctuating temperatures of the newly thawed ocean. Their shells fell to the floor and built up on beaches, formingContinue reading “Canadians Were Better at Clamming 3,500 Years Ago”
IN THE 1910S, COFFEE CROPS around the world began to suffer a mysterious ailment. When plucked from the tree, the coffee fruit, usually plump and crimson, was riddled with round holes, and the damaged beans inside were nearly useless. Growers soon discovered that the culprit was a small beetle, the coffee berry borer, which has spreadContinue reading “Solved: The Mysterious Origins of Your Coffee’s Worst Nightmare”