Wishing a Happy 258th Birthday to the British Museum

Ok so I may be a few years too late for the big 250th but in defence I was 10 at the time…

The British museum is one of the most iconic and visited museums in the world. No trip to London would be complete without wondering around the galleries for a few hours at least!

Originally founded by the physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) who, not wanting his extensive collection to be broken up after his death, gave it to the nation.  Around 71,000 objects from across the world created a new kind of a museum, one that was not private; not owned by king or the church, freely open to the public with no specific aim. It created a “universal museum”  that was more than simply a collection of curiosities. It was free and open to “all studious and curious persons”. It widened the eyes of the British people to what lay beyond Britain, Europe, even the empire.

Since its opening the museum has remained open (well with the exception of a couple of World Wars) and has seen its attendance rise from 5,000 to 6 million daily visitors. So ‘Happy Birthday’ to the British Museum, you do such wonderful work, put on the most amazing exhibits and continue to feed mine and many, many others geekiness.

 

 

Credits for the beautiful sketch –  www.simoneridyard.co.uk   – so follow her on Instagram it gives me such art envy.

For a full history of the British Museum – www.britishmuseum.org/about_us/the_museums_story/general_history.aspx

note – the British museum also have a great blog and Youtube page (That I am very jealous of) please check it out !

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Human Origins Essay

submitted finally! This essay taps into the recent biological advancements made in genetics and its application to the early days of our species.  This has been my favorate module  in semester one of my first year at the univercity of southampton and has allowed me to make good use of my biology A-level.

I’m not saying this is a particularly good essay (I’ve almost certainly made many errors) but I found it so interesting to write and read about that that I had to share what I learnt.

Assess the contribution that DNA has made to our understanding of when modern humans (i.e. Homo sapiens) spread out of Africa and what routes they took?

Recent advances in genetic technology have illuminated the time and space Homo sapiens travelled through when leaving Africa.  The ‘Out of Africa’ theory has been widely accepted because of overwhelming genetic evidence; now the question of how and when our species left the continent is being deciphered through a range of genetic testing.  Pushing biology to the extremities of possibility, current research has led to the remapping of the route taken by our ancestors.  Whether this migration occurred as singular or multiple events is widely disputed.  The handful of possible escape route out of Africa has been explored through the comparison of haplogroups in mtDNA lineages. DNA evidence shows a gradual decrease in genetic diversity as the distance from Africa increases.  Genetic analysis has been the most significant contribution in our understanding of this first migration out of Africa.

The 1987 study of mtDNA variation by Cann et al. set a president for the study of archaeogenetics and effectively re-wrote the theory of early modern expansion by disproving the ‘Multiregional Hypothesis’.  The benefit of analysing mitochondrial DNA is that it is non-recombining, only passed on from mother to child; its application in genetic history is therefore more substantiated then nucleotide DNA that is prone to greater variety and mutation.  By tracking the maternal line an original Cann’s study established a “Mitochondrial Eve”. She has been dated back to around 150,000 years and was argued to have given rise to 134 mitochondrial haploid types (Cann 1987).  The work was heavily criticised due to issues in method and computer programming but has since been proven essentially accurate in its conclusions.  These conclusions provided strong support for the ‘Out of Africa’ or ‘single-origin model’ by establishing a single hypothetical ancestor that originated in sub-Saharan Africa who that spread out of the continent 100,000 years ago and replaced all other Homo populations. This infers that only a select few ventured out of Africa; here we can see the restricted variation in Haploid groups as a result of a founder effect whereby a small population has gone on to colonise the rest of the world. There has been evidence that as few as ten “daughters” make up the mitochondrial lineages within modern European populations (Gusar 2004).  One of the prominent points of evidence is the similar age between the three main haplogroups in Eurasia M,N and R ; this indicates they were part of the same colonisation (Macaulay et al. 2005).

By comparing mtDNA variety between populations of modern humans and our “Cousins” the chimpanzee, Cann was able to establish a significant lack of variety within modern populations (Cann 1987). The existence of a small pioneering expedition of Homo sapiens who ventured out of Africa 100,000 years ago has now been conclusively accepted; this is largely due to irrefutable genetic evidence.  The study of nuclear DNA, especially of strand CD4 locus on chromosome 12 (Tishkoff et al. 1996), has shown a different variety of mutations in Africa whilst having a heavily restricted variation throughout the rest of the world. This supports the ‘Out of Africa’ theory and posits that non-African descendants originated from a small pioneering group that left Africa at a maximum age of 102,000 years ago given the inferred date of initial mutation (Tishkoff et al 1996).

The contribution of DNA in establishing an approximate date of dispersal, to the point where a few thousand years can be argued either way is one of the greatest archaeological advances of our time.  Our understanding of when this occurred allowed us to irrevocably disprove the traditional ‘Multiregional Hypothesis’ of human evolution and forgo some of the polycentric ideas that became associated with it – disproving the idea of ‘race’.  Analysis of Nuclear DNA has gone a long way in our understanding of the flow of genetics across the world.  Evidence of a restricted genetic pool in the initial colonisation of the world outside of Africa insinuates the occurrence of the founder’s effect or potentially a genetic bottleneck where diversity is heavily restricted.  The evidence resulting from the complete mapping of the Human genome in 2004 emphasised greater variation within sub-Saharan populations than the rest of the world; there was no exodus out of Africa.

Work in the 1980-90’s almost exclusively debated the plausibility of the two main models of human global colonisation however the discussion has turned towards the more intricate task of understanding the relationship between our genetic ancestry and demographic history (Groucutt et al. 2015). The movement of Homo sapiens out of Africa lies at the cusp of scientific possibility; advances in our technical capabilities have expanded our genetic history book by several chapters.  The new millennia now accessible for archaeogenetic study have allowed us to analyse the relationship between modern populations in order to determine the route of the first settlers.  The debate is now largely centred on the mapping of routes our ancestors most plausibly took on their exit from Africa.  Some have speculated that this early migration may have occurred multiple times and not necessarily followed the same path.

The most prominent theories of human dispersal suggest a northerly exit from the African continent seeing three possible escape routes; across the Mediterranean to southern Europe and Italy, across the straits of Gibraltar and across the Levant. Each theory insinuates a sea crossing there being no immediate land bridge between the continents in geographic reconstructions at the proposed time of crossing ~100,000 years ago (Cann 1987).  However others have posited a southerly route across the Indian Ocean is a more probable route as a single dispersal model. The analysis of haplogroups in mtDNA has shown the time periods in which these divergences of populations occurred and archaeological evidence along coastal Africa signify the capability to move across bodies of water in order to populate the new land.

This path out of Africa has been been a matter of great debate however the most prominent thought sees a movement out of the to the Horn of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula.  DNA from  southern Indian and southeast Asia comply with the theory that the people who first left Africa came not across the Indian Ocean. This southern route has been supported by the analysis of mtDNA samples from New Guinea, mainland India and the Andaman Islands (Macaulay at al. 2005).  These “relic” populations have been argued to have been the result of a rapid dispersal out of Africa ~65,000 years ago.  The dating suggests that this may have been a secondary route taken at a later stage aiding the theory of multiple dispersion.  However Macaulay makes the argument that the northern routes are less likely exits. Geographic models calibrate a more arid and harsh environment as the ‘ice age’ widens deserts by locking moisture in glaciers and increased the distance to water by reducing sea levels ; the northern passages were probably blocked by desert (Macaulay et al. 2005).  This is backed up by the lineage of haplogroups; the oldest N and R have the oldest date outside of Africa and are found almost exclusively in western Asia and India and arise ~10,000 years before the development of another haplogroup U in northern Africa. This so suggests that the southerly route across to Asia was the route taken by the first global explorers.  The route along this latitude was also a lot more comfortable and ecologically rich. It is plausible that our ancestors took the path of least resistance and remained in the subtropical environments rather than push closer to the ice sheets; models have shown that southern Arabia was in a wetter phase and well within the biological niche that Homo sapiens inhabit (Armitage 2011).

Genetic studies have allowed us to trace the migration of all humans across the globe.  It has contributed a great deal to our concept of ‘race’ and social derivation. Outside of sub-Saharan Africa we have all originated from one small group of pioneering humans who 100,000 years ago decided to venture outside of the continent they were born. Our understanding of genetics and especially interpretation of mtDNA has allowed us to rewrite the earliest pages of our species history.  We have retraced the footprints of the first sapiens to step outside of the “cradle of life” and conquer the word. Geneticists have been able to tell us more about our origins in the last 50 years then we could ever have imagined. Possibly one of the greatest human achievements; the complete mapping of the Human genome in 2004 aimed to provide data in order to aid our understanding of the movement and evolution outside of Africa. We have been able to narrow the time period and space in which the human race could have left the continent. We have much to credit genetic studies for in our understanding of the first migration/s out of Africa.

Reference list :

Armitage, S.J., Jasim, S.A., Marks, A.E., Parker, A.G., Usik, V.I. and Uerpmann, H.-P. (2011) ‘The southern route “Out of Africa”: Evidence for an early expansion of modern humans into Arabia’, Report, 331(6016), pp. 453–456. doi: 10.1126/science.1199113.

Boyd, R. and Silk, J.B. (2000) How humans evolved. New York: WW Norton & Co.

Cann, R.L. (1987) ‘IN SEARCH OF EVE’, The Sciences, 27(5), pp. 30–37. doi: 10.1002/j.2326-1951.1987.tb02967.x.

Groucutt, H.S., Petraglia, M.D., Bailey, G., Scerri, E.M.L., Parton, A., Clark-Balzan, L., Jennings, R.P., Lewis, L., Blinkhorn, J., Drake, N.A., Breeze, P.S., Inglis, R.H., Devès, M.H., Meredith-Williams, M., Boivin, N., Thomas, M.G. and Scally, A. (2015) ‘Rethinking the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa’, Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, 24(4), pp. 149–164. doi: 10.1002/evan.21455.

Gusar, V., Roostalu, U., Malyarchuk, B.A., Derenko, M.V., Kivisild, T., Metspalu, E., Tambets, K., Reidla, M., Tolk, H.-V., Parik, J., Pennarun, E., Laos, S., Lunkina, A., Golubenko, M., Barać, L., Peričić, M., Balanovsky, O.P., Loogväli, E.-L., Khusnutdinova, E.K., Stepanov, V., Puzyrev, V., Rudan, P., Balanovska, E.V., Grechanina, E., Richard, C., Moisan, J.-P., Chaventré, A., Anagnou, N.P., Pappa, K.I., Michalodimitrakis, E.N., Claustres, M., Gölge, M., Mikerezi, I., Usanga, E. and Villems, R. (2004) ‘Disuniting uniformity: A Pied Cladistic canvas of mtDNA Haplogroup H in Eurasia’, Molecular Biology and Evolution, 21(11), pp. 2012–2021. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msh209.

Macaulay, V. (2005) ‘Single, rapid coastal settlement of Asia revealed by analysis of complete Mitochondrial Genomes’, Science, 308(5724), pp. 1034–1036. doi: 10.1126/science.1109792.

MitoDNA ACWilson nature1987 (no date) Available at: http://dna1.genome.ou.edu/5853/outofafrica/MitoDNA-ACWilson-Nature1987.pdf (Accessed: 1 December 2016).

Stringer, C. and Andrews, P. (2005) The complete world of human evolution: With 432 illustrations, 180 in colour. NEW YORK: Thames & Hudson.

Tishkoff, S.A., Dietzsch, E., Speed, W., Pakstis, A.J., Kidd, J.R., Cheung, K., Bonne-Tamir, B., Santachiara-Benerecetti, A.S., Moral, P., Krings, M., Paabo, S., Watson, E., Risch, N., Jenkins, T. and Kidd, K.K. (1996) ‘Global patterns of linkage Disequilibrium at the CD4 locus and modern human origins’, Science, 271(5254), pp. 1380–1387. doi: 10.1126/science.271.5254.1380.

 

Guess Where I’m Going …

I am very excited about the end of exams – more than just the simple fact I will no longer be taking exams and panicking about their impact – I will be of to a place I have never been before and I cannot wait!

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and and for a city with such a rich and diverse history it is amazing I hadn’t heard of it before. The Ancient Greek myths of  Jason and the Argonauts were said to have established the city after fleeing from the King of Aetes having stolen the golden fleece.  Having encountered a dragon whilst there the city’s “dragon bridge” is named after Jason’s victory over the monster – I will be sure to take a selfie!

However most accounts state that the city began in the 1st century AD as a Roman one ; highlighting on the trade route between Upper pannonia and the northern Roamn colonies of Norcicum and Aquilia. Roman walls and dwellings give physical evidence of this period unlike the supposed Greek settlement. Before the trade route was utilized the area was populated with celtic tribes since around 2000 BC ; the ground was largely marsh and dwellers were subsistence hunter-fishermen.

 

 

The germanic occupation began in the 6rd century; with them came rapid growth. I look forward to visiting many of the city squares of which most are from this era. The city developed despite battling to eventually come under Habsburg rule in 1335 and suffering a huge earthquake 1511. Rebuilding under renaissance style it will be interesting to see the contrast in architecture as the city changed hands frequently in the middle ages each bringing a unique style – that is if any of it survived through several earthquakes!

Since its founding the citys geographical position has made it strategically vital. The deterioration of the Western Roman Empire saw the destruction of much of the city as the Huns invaded. There are still early christian churches that remain – again more photo opportunities! the best example of it strategic importance would be the building of Ljubljana Castle in the late 15th century. This was in reaction to the threat of the turks who wanted control of the well connected city. The Castle is probably the thing I am most looking forward to visiting – who can resist a good medieval castle !

Ljubljana is a City where Slovenian nationality began. The Slovene language was said to be established here. The rich culture of the city is argued to have been established with the philharmonic in 1701. However it was not until more recent history, the 1860’s, that it truly became the slovenian cultural centre . The city gained true power status and recognition as it hosted the four members of the holy alliance in 1821 who met to discuss the democratic revolution and national movements of Italy and how to suppress them.

6601493 - Kopija

My favorate Ljubljana dweller by far is Tito ; the infamous Yugoslavian leader of the state post WW2 . The first World War had passed the city only indirectly affecting its residents ; the outbreak of the second would drive its path of history to the Right. The city was encircled by the Fascist by a 30m high wire fence to keep it isolated – commemorated in the path of Remembrance and Comradeship  I am aiming to walk around the city following it. Tito died in the city leading to Yugoslavia’s unraveling –  a tension during the Cold War straining the state’s relation with the USSR.

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For a city with such rich history it is amazing I had not heard of it before ! I’m revising hard so I can pack up and go already  … if you have ever been to this amazing city, live there or know someone else who has please leave a message or find me on twitter I would love to hear from you.

I will be posting videos and blog posts during my time there (at the end of the month) so be prepared and subscribe !

 

 

 

 

what I wish I included …

A personal statement is only 2000 character long so you cannot fit everything onto one page. If I could give one piece of advice it is Don’t read anyone else’s. A personal statement is unique to you interest and experience so be as interesting and
experienced as you can.  One great way of showing this is researching the professors and doctors that are leading in your field of interest ( and see what universities they came from) and seeing how they have expressed their passion for the subject.
Neil Oliver, for example, my favorate scottish TV Archaeologist stated “It was the sheer challenge of understanding the ancient world that attracted me and the legacy that those people left behind” in his phenomenal BBC4 series ‘A History of Ancient Britain’. Gathering an insight as to why experts are so interested in their subject is a great way of comprehensively understanding your own interest.

If you are wishing to study joint honours make sure you have some linkage as to why both such as a quote that discusses the relation between both subjects. I wish I included this great quote from Moreland ” The relationship between archaeology and history was, until recently, akin to that between servant and master”  it would have been a great link between what seemed like the two halves of my statement.

Another great resource of information is on university websites. Articles such as “why choose {insert subject here} .. ” and “meet our students” are great for researching why others choose that subject. This is only useful to a certain extent as it also shows what the common themes are likely to be in other applications. However student profiles give a comprehensive list of what the University is looking for in its students. For example one student profile from the University of Exeter  goes on to emphasize the importance of a personal statement ..

What made you choose your degree subject?

I did not have any English qualifications – any official papers (as I like to call them).  Before coming to Exeter Uni, I had been travelling for almost two years between different English speaking countries.  The Uni believed in me and I got the place.  I appreciated a lot the fact that they considered more my personal experience rather than turn me down because I did not have any papers.

 

One thing I am glad I did was gain experience – my placement at the Mary Rose allowed to get my foot in the door with more than one university! Having experience or a
qualification at some where well-know is one of the best ways of getting yourself  noticed. This could be that you sent an essay to a notable competition on the subject you wish to study or that you visited a conference on a topic you are particularly interested.

I was realy interested in the middle east and the archeology found their. I went along to the Iran Heritage Foundation’s conference of “the Destruction of Monuments and Memory in the Middle East”. what was great about this was that it was relatively small which meant that you could go and talk to speakers and subject leaders personally – I had many interesting conversations while I was their.  ( This conference has now been uploaded onto their YouTube channel see below)

 

Unfortunately University places are now so competitive that “I’m realy enjoying my studies” doesn’t quite cut it. I said in the introduction not to read anyone else’s personal statement well don’t let anyone else read yours. If they are applying for the same  or similar course it may well be the same admissions team that compares your statements. Keep yours personal. The most important thing is to be yourself, don’t try and include impressive fancy language (unless you’re an english scholar I suppose) but show that you have a sound understanding of what is required in the subject by using key words. Most importantly don’t try and do it in one draft – rewrite rewrite rewrite and you will come up with your own golden UCAS ticket !

To everyone applying for University good luck ! To everyone yet to accept a place good luck ! To everyone taking A-level finals to get into their accepted place good luck! It will all turn out ok … or so I keep telling myself .

To thrive off random

I have quite frequently been noted on my almost unexhausted knowledge of random and almost completely useless facts; many of which I note down in my rather shabby old notebook or hold as my phone background.  These usually compile of fantastic quotes from books I ought to read or people I wish I met.

“To thrive of randomness” is realy something we all do everyday. The facts or anecdotes I know come from the podcasts, Tv shows or books I read (yes … I am bit of an old woman at heart) are ingrained in all of us; but it is drawing links, as historians are so notorious for, that allows them to be applied in almost any situation. 

so here are some of the quotes, pictures and facts that I have picked up in the last 6 months. They are a conglomeration of my travels, my education and general life inspiration. My favorite quote this month, as funny as it is, is beginning to ring true as A-levels tip into the borderline breakdown stage and to just have one night where i am not panic writing an essay would be lovely.

“cinderella never asked for a prince she asked for a night off and a dress”

– Kiera cass

I have just got back from a “night off” with a few of my friends having tamely celebrated an 18th birthday at a dinner party (I suppose all my friends are old at heart realy).  How could I not resist writing down such a fabulous quote !

This next one I took a picture of in a bookstore in America. Being dyslexic I did actually use this quote in my personal statement although the 3000 words did not include such a fabulous sketch.

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This next picture is also from my trip to america, the grand canyon to be exact. Did you know that in 1935 some poor souls laid a telephone line from one side of the canyon to the other!

 

while we’re still on the topic of dyslexia – I found this image yesterday of what it looks like to read with the condition. luckily i’m not this bad but just regularly forget words, spellings, phrasings oh and funnily swapping up of numbers; suppose I am reading 1975 I would say 1957 whilst thinking I am saying 1975 … random no?

you have probably already guessed from the first two quotes but I like a good sassy historian, J.M.Roberts is exactly that and this quote from him is one of my all time favorites … i have ended many an argument with this line.

“I have not changed my mind about a particular topic and have felt no need to give it more or less attention”

– J.M.Roberts

 

So there you have it a few random bits and pieces from my collection. This notebook of mine also holds some great ideas for my new youtube channel please check it out (if you already hadn’t) www.youtube.com/channel/UCynlSlG8Iq44FQZi2X8vCtw , although I am not sure how I film “my drunk historic kitchen”!

Please like and comment if you enjoyed this. I am also thinking of doing a random fact/quote of the month – what do you think?

 

see you soon fellow time travelers

 

Walking around St  Andrews 

I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting in this medieval  town; with world renound golf courses, beautiful ruins and of course the famous scotish univercity. But what I found pleasantly suprised me, apart from the 1/3rd of American students,  St. Andrews was a hub of medieval architecture, ruins and unfortunate  60s design. 

Honestly though I spent a few days up in Scotland, coincidentally in the same area where much of my family spent both wars, and I loved it. It was this gloriously sunny day (unusual for Scotland) and the town was lively, full of students and prospectus. 

I spent the day before the open day walking around the town. I have to admit I was one of those tourists who spent a little bit too long in the cemetery – were a unique bunch. In my defence the ruins of the towns medieval cathedral were scattered across the graveyard. This once grand structure now lay as a few odd towers,arches and paved floors. It was recognisably a medieval structure, looking closely at the still standing structures you felt unbelievable sad that the reformation ever happens.

I have never wanted to study in Scotland more then after visiting St.Andrews. The whole vibe just echoed an American collage with a history and competence of Oxbridge.

The first person I spoke to was a student origionly from the Middle East studying physics. This amazing Young man was sudding for his Dr while teaching at the uni.  Yet he seamed like a first year; confident and, surprisingly for a physicist, incredibly relatable and chatty. I just though – that could be me in a few years – making me feel instantly at home. I understood these people and I wanted to be one of them . 

The town exceeded all my expectations. The little museum was a treasure trove of local artifacts and history. Me and my dad especially enjoyed our hotel especially since it was above a pub and the football was on! 

I got back home after a long week going from st.Andrews to Bath for a conference to Northampton. Returning to school I was yelled at by my form tutor – apparently I had been too ambitious. My dreams of Scotland and St.Andrews lay in ruins scattered accord the cemetery that has now become my UCAS application.  – remind you of anywhere ? 

                  
    
    
  

  

    
   

when Time Team came to town !

who can’t forget the iconic channel 4 Tv show? Hosted by Baldrick – or tony robinson as anyone who hasn’t watched blackadder will know him is was one of my favorite shows growing up (I had a fun childhood I promise). But it was his eccentric band of historians and archeologists that made me so engaged with each project; Mick Aston, Carenza Lewis, Francis Pryor and Phil Harding to name a few.

so when the team came down to my local town, you could tell I was very excited! They actually dug on the local  Grammar’s Junior school playing field. I had played rounders there a few months before and could not believe what I was actually running on top of when i heard what Phil had dug up. This excavation occurred 6 years ago i had just turned 11 at the time, but old enough for it to leave an impression on me over the tree days of there dig.

History of the site –

In 1212 Peter de Rupibus founded the Domus Dei, as a combined hospital, poor house and traveller’s rest. The site continued in the role of hospice for around 300 years until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.

After a visit from Elizabeth I in 1561 a residence for the governor was erected. To this end Government House and its associated buildings were constructed on the site of Governors Green alongside the Domus Dei. Government House was the focal point for many significant events including the marriage of Charles II in 1662.

Tony Robinson’s opening line of the show aired in 2010 – “in an area so rich in history our aim is to characterise the remaining archaeology, compare any surviving remains of the hospital with known maps and ideas to identify the dimensions of Government house and its associated outbuildings….. and as usual we have just 3 days to do it.”