Tarantella dancers, 1828

When Dancing Plagues Struck Medieval Europe

The tarantella is named for a peasant woman from southern Italy whose tarantula bite started a contagious dancing fever!
A tree with branches blown sideways by wind

When Europeans Feared the Wind

In early modern Europe, various sorts of winds were associated with illness and even death.
A woman dropping her tea-cup in horror upon discovering the monstrous contents of a magnified drop of Thames water

What Does History Smell Like?

Scholars don't typically pay that much attention to smells, but odors have historically been quite significant.
A rack of shoes from different eras

Our Long Relationship with Leather

A recently-discovered skeleton wearing leather boots inspires a walk through our history of wearing animal hides.
Kodak Brownie Starlet, 1957

How the Brownie Camera Made Everyone a Photographer

Eastman Kodak used folklore to sell a modern technology, and ended up creating new communities and forms of expressions along the way.
Image from Livre des profits ruraux (late 15th century France)

The Landlord Asks for a Christmas Rose

Bizarre customs of landholding—from demands for flowers to ritualized flatulence—reflect the philosophy that developed under the feudal system.
Cat Mummy

Why Ancient Egyptians Loved Cats So Much

Ancient Egyptians' love of cats developed from an appreciation to their rodent-catching skills to revering them as sacred creatures.
A contraption used to extract the silk from a spider

The Tangled History of Weaving with Spider Silk

Spider silk is as strong as steel and as light as a feather, but attempts to industrialize its production have gotten stuck, so to speak.
Otto Marseus van Schrieck - Stilleben mit Insekten und Amphibien, 1662

A Recipe for Flies and Frogs

And other wonders of spontaneous generation.