The annual Lupercalia festival turned society upside down – and the location of its starting point is still hotly debated
Scenes from films like Gladiator and series such as HBO’s Rome might lead you to think that the ancient Romans were liberal in their view of nudity. In fact the opposite was true. It was only during exceptional occasions that Romans were freed from their social norms – and the most spectacular occasion was the annual Lupercalia festival.
From the earliest days of Rome, 15 February was reserved for this strange festival. It was so unusual that Cicero disparaged the festival as savage and uncivilised remnants of primitive times. A closer look at the rituals might explain his attitude: men of the nobility stripped down to their underwear in order to strike women with strips of goatskin. Classed as priests, these were not men of the cloth as we would understand it – Roman religion was nothing like modern Christianity or Islam – but young men of military age who showed off their muscles running around the Palatine hill and the Forum, the city centre of ancient Rome.
The genome of Cheddar Man, who lived 10,000 years ago, suggests that he had blue eyes, dark skin and dark curly hair
The first modern Britons, who lived about 10,000 years ago, had “dark to black” skin, a groundbreaking DNA analysis of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton has revealed.
The fossil, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset. Intense speculation has built up around Cheddar Man’s origins and appearance because he lived shortly after the first settlers crossed from continental Europe to Britain at the end of the last ice age. People of white British ancestry alive today are descendants of this population.
As campaigns such as Veganuary become more popular could the way westerners categorise what’s edible start to shift?
Yesterday marked the end of “Veganuary”, the campaign to encourage people to try a vegan lifestyle for a month. Year on year the trend has grown. Might those one-month vegans change the habits of the rest of us – by changing what an animal is?
Vegans shun all animal-derived products – meat, fish and leather obviously, but also eggs, dairy products, honey and wool. Beers refined using isinglass (derived from fish guts) are out, as would the new UK £5 and £10 notes, if they could be. The term itself was coined back in 1944, bringing together the start and end of the word VEGetariAN, as the next step on.
Human ancestors left Africa far earlier than previously thought, discovery of prehistoric jawbone and tools suggest
A prehistoric jawbone discovered in a cave in Israel has prompted scientists to rethink theories of how the earliest human pioneers came to populate the planet, suggesting that our ancestors left Africa far earlier than previously thought.
The fossil, dated to nearly 200,000 years ago, is almost twice as old as any previous Homo sapiens remains discovered outside Africa, where our species is thought to have originated.