Timeline

Dinosaurs at National Museum of Natural History

See Article from Smithsonian describing the new exhibit.

Highlights:

  • The new hall, The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time,  was created from a $35 million gift from David H. Koch.
  • The new hall brings back the nation’s T. rex, now the centerpiece of a new 31,000-square-foot fossil hall.
  • The exhibition is a journey through more than 3.7 billion years of life on Earth.
  • Fossils are positioned in “dramatic, new and more scientifically accurate poses”.

Rome

Well you know you can’t visit Rome without stopping to see the Trevi fountain. There are also plenty of street scenes around the Piazza di Spagna at sunset. When we first arrived in Rome we explored the area around the Colosseum and then walk to Trajan’s Forum.

Capitoline Hill, on one of the seven hills of Rome, was the symbolic center of the Roman world and also the site of three important temples dedicated to the god Jupiter Optimus Maximus, protector of Rome, Minerva goddess of wisdom and war, and Juno Moneta, a guardian goddess.

Below the capital is the forum which was once the focus of political, social, legal, and commercial life. The Palatine Hill is where Romulus is said to have founded Rome in the eighth century BC.

The Colosseum has 80 arched entrances that allow easy access to spectators. Deadly gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights were staged by the emperor and wealthy citizens largely to gain popularity. In AD 80, 9,000 wild animals were killed the Colosseum which held about 55,000 people who were seated according to rank. The Colosseum used Corinthian Ionic and Doric columns.

Wolf’s Lair

In late 1940, the Germans built the Wolf’s Lair in the middle of a forest, far from major roads and urban areas, and close to the Soviet Union. Completed by June 1941, the complex housed 2,000 people, including Adolf Hitler himself. A failed assassination attempt is well documented here.

It was an eery feeling to be in a place from which so much hatred brought about millions of deaths throughout the world. Now overgrown with trees, the bombed out buildings like in piles of concrete rubble…a sign of the destruction that authoritarianism eventually brings about.

Gdansk WWII Museum

Link to Wikipedia

The Museum of the Second World War was established in 2008 in Gdańsk, Poland.  It is devoted to the Second World War. The original concept of the museum was strongly criticized by national-conservatives as not focusing enough on Polish heroism and promoting "socialist-type pacifism". Newly appointed management of the museum has promoted re-nationalizing the museum and displaying Polish martyrology.  The architectural team that designed the building won the architectural competition.

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery

Stop #16:

Link to Wikipedia

Carrowmore is one of the four major passage tomb complexes in Ireland (see also Bru na Boinne). It is located at the geographical centre of the Cúil Irra peninsula 3 km west of Sligo town.  It is also one of the largest (in terms of number of monuments) complexes of megalithic tombs in Ireland dating to approximately 3700 BC.  The weather broke from the time we arrived until we departed, so we had the benefit of deep color from the rain and bright sunlight when the clouds shifted.

Bru na Boinne

Stop #12:

Link to Wikipedia

Brú na Bóinne means Palace of the Boyne or Mansion of the Boyne. It contains one of the world’s most important prehistoric landscapes dating from the Neolithic period, including the large Megalithic passage graves of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth as well as some 90 additional monuments (the photos are of Newgrange). The archaeological culture associated with these sites is called the “Boyne culture”. UNESCO designated the site in 1993.

Humans settled the area at least 6,000 years ago, but the major structures date to around 5,000 years ago.

We saw Neolithic mounds, chamber tombs, standing stones, henges and other prehistoric enclosures, some said to date from as early as the 32nd century BC. The site predates the Egyptian pyramids and was built with sophistication and a knowledge of science and astronomy. Each year, during winter solstice for about 20 minutes, a beam of light shines directly through an opening in the front entry of Newgrange and travels all the way through a narrow opening that leads to the far side of the chamber.

See also Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery.

National Library of Ireland on The Commons – Newgrange (photo from the early 1900s before the site was cleared)

 

Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak

Stop #22

Link to Wikipedia

The oldest settlement in Kazanlak dates back to the Neolithic era (6th-5th millennium BCE). The Thracian city of Seuthopolis was uncovered near Kazanlak. In the 4th century BCE, near the ancient Thracian capital of Seuthopolis and close to the city, a magnificent Thracian tomb was built. It contains painted murals representing a Thracian couple at a ritual funeral feast. The tomb was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Birkenau, Poland

Stop #5

Birkenau (Auschwitz II) is where most of the mass killings actually took place. The camp had more than 300 prison barracks. Still remaining are remnants of gas chambers and crematoria.

  • At Birkenau from 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over German-occupied Europe.
  • Jews were killed in large numbers using a pesticide called Zyklon B.
  • About 1.3 million people were sent to the camp, and at least 1.1 million of them were executed.
  • 90 percent of those killed were Jewish.

One of the last buildings I saw in Birkenau was the one that left the most lasting impression. It is a building where medical experiments were performed on pregnant mothers or new mothers and their newborn children. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the pit in my stomach I felt when I read that sign.

Auschwitz, Poland

Stop #4

It is almost impossible or maybe even irresponsible to visit Krakow without taking a day trip to Auschwitz. We decided that we wanted to enjoy Krakow and ordered our trip to visit heartbreaking Auschwitz first.

Auschwitz (Auschwitz 1) is the main camp. Birkenau (Auschwitz II) is the larger camp about 2 km away.

Auschwitz I began as a polish military barracks, but the Nazis converted it into a death camp in 1940. You will see the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” in some of the pictures. This translates to “Through Work Freedom”.

It was a very depressing and moving exhibit with piles of shoes, glasses, luggage and other items heaped in never-ending piles with their rightful owners long-perished.

Auschwitz I was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in May 1940. The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941.

Of those not killed in the gas chambers, many died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

Prisoners remaining at the camp were liberated on 27 January 1945, a day now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In 1947, Poland founded the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, and in 1979, it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

World War II Valor in the Pacific NM

Link to Wikipedia

The USS Arizona Memorial, at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on USS Arizona during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the island of Oahu led to the United States’ direct involvement in World War II.  The USS Arizona Memorial is one of several sites in Hawaii and elsewhere that are part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Florissant Fossil Beds NM

Link to Wikipedia

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is a national monument located in Colorado. Famous for the abundant and exceptionally preserved insect and plant fossils that are found in the mudstones and shales of the Florissant Formation, the formation is Eocene (approximately 34 million years old) in age and has been interpreted as a lake environment. Fossils are preserved because of the interaction of the volcanic ash from the nearby Thirtynine Mile volcanic field with diatoms in the lake.

Fossil Butte NM

Link to Wikipedia

Fossil Butte National Monument is located near Kemmerer, Wyoming.  It containes Eocene Epoch (56 to 34 million years ago) animal and plant fossils associated with Fossil Lake—the smallest lake of the three great lakes which were then present in what are now Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. Preserved fossils include fish, alligators, bats, turtles, dog-sized horses, insects, and many other species of plants and animals.  Sediments accumulated over about a 2 million-year period.

Luxor

Luxor, Egypt and Valley of the Kings and Queens

Link to Wikipedia

Luxor is the site of the Ancient Egyptian city of Waset, known to the Greeks as Thebes. Luxor has frequently been characterized as the “world’s greatest open-air museum”, with ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor standing within the modern city. Across the River Nile lie the monuments, temples, and tombs of the West Bank Necropolis, which includes the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.

Thebes thrived in the 11th Dynasty when Montuhotep II who united Egypt after the troubles of the first intermediate period brought stability.  Because Thebes was the city of the god Amun-Ra, it remained the religious capital of Egypt until the Greek period.

Giza, Egypt

Link to Wikipedia

The Giza Plateau is the site of some of the most impressive ancient monuments in the world, including a complex of ancient Egyptian royal mortuary and sacred structures, including the Great Sphinx, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and a number of other large pyramids and temples. Giza has always been a focal point in Egypt’s history due to its location close to Memphis, the ancient Pharaonic capital of the Old Kingdom.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex.  It is also the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.

The pyramid was built as a tomb over a 10- to 20-year period concluding around 2560 BC. At 481 feet, the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years.

 

Karnak, Egypt

Link to Wikipedia

The Karnak Temple Complex is a collection of temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings near Luxor, in Egypt. Construction at the complex began during the reign of Senusret I (1971 BC to 1926 BCE) in the Middle Kingdom and continued into the Ptolemaic period (332 to 30 BCE), although most of the buildings date from the New Kingdom (1550-1077 BCE). Approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity, and diversity not seen anywhere else in the world. The area around Karnak was the ancient Egyptian Ipet-isut (“The Most Selected of Places”) and the main place of worship of the eighteenth dynasty Theban Triad with the god Amun as its head.

Masada, Israel

Link to Wikipedia

Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of a mesa. Located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, it overlooks the Dead Sea.  Herod the Great fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, the siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of 960 people, the Sicarii rebels and their families hiding there.

Terra Cotta Warriors, Xi’An China

Link to Wikipedia

The Terracotta Army is a collection of sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife.

The figures, dating from approximately the late third century BCE, were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Xi’an, People’s Republic of China.

The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. The pits are estimated to contain more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses.

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