August 26, 2013 2:20 pm
To kick off its Dumpling Week, a celebration of all things doughy, fatty and delightful, NPR takes a moment to reflect on dumplings’ surprisingly ancient origins:
No one knows for sure, but Ken Albala, a food historian at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., thinks dumplings have been around for a very long time. “Almost without doubt, there are prehistoric dumplings,” he says.
This is mostly a matter of speculation. (“I think it’s a very fine line between putting in loose flour or meal, and getting a porridge out of it, or putting in lumps…A dumpling, I don’t know, it seems like more fun to me,” Albala told NPR.) But we do know that people living more than 1,000 years ago in the Tang Dynasty made dumplings “that look exactly the same as you’d see served in a restaurant in the area today,” one food writer said. By the 13th century, Turkish traders had adopted the manti dumpling from Mongols they encountered, and in the Renaissance, Italians had caught on to the magic of gnocchi, bringing the dumpling concept to Europe.
Renaissance recipes went something like this:
If you want gnocchi take some cheese and mash it, then take some flour and mix it with egg yolks as if you are making dough. Place a pot of water over a fire. When it starts boiling, place the mixture on a board and slide it in the pot with a spoon. When they are cooked, place them on plates and top them with a lot of grated cheese.
What could be bad?
More from Smithsonian.com:
August 13, 2013 10:20 am
The thieves—both men and women—grab their long-haired victim or hold her at gun or knife point, then slice off her hair at the base of the pony tail with a razor blade, or cut it off with scissors. In Venezuela, stolen hair is now a black market commodity, CNN reports, and attacks may occur at the beach, mall or on the street. CNN:
Hair stylist Israel Rodriguez told Caracol that synthetic hair costs anywhere from $40 to $160, depending on its quality. But natural hair can cost more than $500, he said.
Demand for extensions in Venezuela is high, and one stylist there says that sales have increased by 30 percent since the first hair-snatching incidents were reported.
The mayor of the Venezuelan city, Maracaibo, advises women not to wear their long hair down in public until authorities can get a handle on the situation, Business Insider reports. The plague of hair snatchers seems to be spreading, too. Colombia just reported its first victims, CNN reports.
Here, CNN translates a video produced by Panorama, detailing the problem with on-the-ground interviews:
More from Smithsonian.com:
August 9, 2013 2:05 pm
Archaeologists have struck upon a “once in a lifetime” find, an incredibly well-preserved 26-by-8-feet frieze buried beneath a temple in Holmul, a jungle-filled pre-Columbian research site in northeastern Guatemala, the BBC reports. The sculpture depicts rulers and the gods, some decorated with jade.
The sculpture is believed to depict the crowning of a new Mayan leader in about AD590.
It also bears an inscription made up of 30 glyphs, which was deciphered by Harvard University expert Alex Tokovinine.
The inscription says that the carving was commissioned by the ruler of a nearby city-state, Ajwosaj ChanK’inich.
The frieze was buried beneath a large pyramid, which was constructed over it around 200 years later. Though the pyramid obscured the great work of art below, it likely contributed to the frieze’s preservation since it was protect from the elements and, perhaps, from looters. Indeed, the archeological team behind the discovery came across the frieze while exploring an area broken into by looters.
National Geographic elaborates on the finding and how it fits in to the larger Mayan history:
The central figure’s name is the only readable one: Och Chan Yopaat, meaning “the storm god enters the sky.”
Estrada-Belli and his team speculate that Och Chan Yopaat may have been the leader that the Naranjo king, Ajwosaj, established as the ruler of Holmul after wresting the city back from the Tikal dynasty.
Archeologists report in a press release that they hope the other hieroglyphs, once translated, will shed light on the “game of alliances” that different Mayan kingdoms were engaged in during this time period.
More from Smithsonian.com:
August 7, 2013 9:53 am
Costa Rica has had it with zoos. The government plans to shut down all of the countries zoos and either release or relocate the zoo animal residents, Global Post reports. Rather than view wildlife behind bars, Costa Rica is encouraging its citizens and tourists alike to take to the protected parks in the hopes of spotting a toucan or tree frog doing their thing in nature. Care2 writes:
The closures will take effect in March 2014, when the government’s contract with the organization that operates its two zoos is set to expire — a move that [Environment Minister Rene] Castro says reflects “a change of environmental conscience among Costa Ricans.” The facilities which now house captive animals, Simon Bolivar Zoo and the Santa Ana Conservation Center, will be then transformed into urban parks or gardens where wildlife can visit and live freely if they so choose.
The government plans to release as many animals as possible back into the wild and find rehab centers or sanctuaries for those that likely can’t make it in the real world. Care2 calls the move the beginning of a “paradigm shift” about the nature of zoos and animal captivity.
Releasing formerly captive animals into the wild, however, is a notoriously tricky business. Birds, for example, will imprint on keepers—they develop an attachment to humans. Some may even see themselves as a human. For all but the most primordial insects or reptiles, life in a zoo can soften them and make them complacent around people, two factors that are detrimental to life in the wild. Even in Costa Rica, illegal wildlife trade and poaching are problems, as the recent murder of a sea turtle conservationist demonstrated.
Animals also learn essential behaviors—how to hunt, avoid being eaten, attract a mate, interact with a social group—from their parents and fellow animals. Dedicated wildlife rehabilitation centers often spend months or even years meticulously preparing animals for release back into the wild. On the flip side, animals kept in captivity can transmit novel diseases to those living in the wild. All of this is just to say: if Costa Rica expects its zoo animals to survive life outside of captivity for long, some very careful planning and preparation is in order.
More from Smithsonian.com:
June 27, 2013 4:25 pm
It’s the kind of thing archaeologists dream about. A tomb untouched by time or looters, still laden with the gold and silver offerings that accompanied the ancient elite into the afterlife. But when Polish archaeologist Milosz Giersz actually did find an unlooted tomb in Peru, he started having nightmares, according to National Geographic.
Giersz was terrified that looters would make their way to the site, so he and his colleagues excavated the site in complete secrecy for months. They had to dig through 30 tons of rock to get to the 1,200-year-old tomb, where they found and collected more than 1,000 artifacts, including some fantastic gold jewelry. The tomb housed more than 60 bodies, including three queens of the enigmatic Wari civilization.
Think of archaeology and Peru, and you’ll probably call to mind images of Incan sites like Machu Pichu. The Inca were enshrined in history as the civilization encountered and eventually conquered by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the 1500s, but they were relative newcomers to power in Peru. They had only held power for a single century before Spain entered the region. The Wari, by contrast, ruled most of what is now Peru for several centuries.
That might not sound like a long time when compared to the Roman Empire, but the Wari civilization had a large impact on the people of the region. Speaking to National Geographic (which helped to fund the excavation), one archaeologist compared the Wari culture to the reign of Alexander the Great. Much of the Wari history remains a mystery. Because so many of their archaeological sites have been looted, archaeologists really don’t know much about them. They hope that this new discovery might answer some of their many remaining questions.
More From Smithsonian.com: