Ostrich eggshell beads reveal oldest known social network

Artifacts dating back 50,000 years help us better understand human connections

Ostrich eggshell beads reveal oldest known social networkIt’s one of the most enduring craft traditions in human history, stretching back 50,000 years: tiny donut-shaped beads made from ostrich eggshells. They reveal the oldest social network ever identified, according to a study by Jennifer Miller. The beads probably originated in eastern Africa and spread west and south through the continent as people traded them…

Cynthia Ann Parker’s story didn’t end with her death

Courage, charisma and adaptability allowed her son to mingle smoothly with the white world

Cynthia Ann Parker’s story didn’t end with her deathMy previous column told the story of Cynthia Ann Parker. Kidnapped as a nine-year-old in an 1836 Comanche raid, she was assimilated into the tribe, married a war chief with whom she had three children, and was then ‘rescued’ by Texas Rangers in 1860. She died a decade later, miserable and unwilling to reintegrate into…

A true story that inspired a classic western movie

Kidnapped by Commanches then rescued, Cynthia Ann Parker was a victim of cultural genocide twice over

A true story that inspired a classic western movieMovie enthusiasts invariably sing the praises of John Ford’s The Searchers. Released in 1956 and starring John Wayne, the film has been described as a masterpiece and shows prominently in critical lists of the best films ever made. It’s inspired by a true story. Or maybe that should be stories in the plural. The Searchers…

Two cheers for capitalism, despite its inherent vulnerability

It may seem prosaic and uninspiring but it does deliver the goods - prosperity and personal liberty

Two cheers for capitalism, despite its inherent vulnerabilityAs part of its recent Capitalist Manifesto series, the National Post had several of its columnists identify 10 essential books on the topic. The selections included offerings from Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Deirdre McCloskey and Matt Ridley, all of whom are worth reading. But I was struck by an omission. Published in 1978, Irving Kristol’s…

Why Santa Claus matters, regardless of your faith

If we share peace and goodwill with others, we find them growing within us

Why Santa Claus matters, regardless of your faithThough it’s technically the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ for Christians, many traditions merge to form what we call Christmas. Some traditions are indeed Christian but others aren’t. Some date from eras before Jesus was born and some are more recent. One of the most endearing today is that of Santa Claus, the…

Blue Christmas: How Elvis turned it into a seasonal classic

How something quite ordinary can be transformed by a specific performance

In late 1965, coming to Canada from Ireland had its revelations. My Dublin hometown may have been more architecturally distinguished, but it couldn’t match Toronto’s relative abundance of decently paying jobs. There were also things like diners – which I’d only seen in American movies – and the language esoterica pertaining to “double-double” coffees. Top…

Barbados shakes off the chains of centuries of brutal oppression

Wealth can’t make what’s wrong right. It can’t make the truth disappear, and it can’t stop great people

Barbados shakes off the chains of centuries of brutal oppressionIn his classic book Man’s Search for Meaning, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl discusses the internal character that allowed people to survive the Holocaust. He speaks of an “inner greatness,” where despite the horrendous circumstance, one can choose their attitude, their own way. This is the ultimate human freedom. We recently saw this inner greatness displayed by…

A century after a critical turning point in Irish history

1920's Ireland is a fascinating study of competing perspectives

A century after a critical turning point in Irish historyDecember 1921 was a critical turning point in Irish history. The Dec. 6 Anglo-Irish Treaty aimed to end the War of Independence by “establishing the Irish Free State as a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth.” But it actually did more. It effectively launched the fledgling entity on a glide path toward full independence without…

How do we behave when no one is looking?

Integrity, compassion and courage are more enduring and powerful than greed

How do we behave when no one is looking?Renowned American writer Maya Angelou advised, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” In other words, before we put anyone into a position of trust in our lives, we need to examine their track record. How do they treat the most vulnerable people in our society? How do they respond…

Luis Ángel Firpo was boxing’s Wild Bull of the Pampas

Subtlety wasn’t his style. He was all about aggression and clubbing his opponents into submission

Luis Ángel Firpo was boxing’s Wild Bull of the PampasExtending over 14 acres, La Recoleta is a famous cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A 2013 CNN travel piece called it one of the world’s 10 most beautiful. Today’s layout dates from the early 19th century and is said to resemble “a city more than a burial ground with its impressive neo-classical gates opening up…
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