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New episodes come out Thursdays for free, with 1-week early access for Wondery+ subscribers. Everywhere around us are echoes of the past. Those echoes define the boundaries of states and countries, how we pray and how we fight. They determine what money we spend and how we earn it at work, what language we speak and how we raise our children. From Wondery, host Patrick Wyman, PhD (“Fall Of Rome”) helps us understand our world and how it got to be the way it is.
 
Barbarians, political breakdown, economic collapse, mass migration, pillaging and plunder. The fall of the Roman Empire has been studied for years, but genetics, climate science, forensic science, network models, and globalization studies have reshaped our understanding of one of the most important events in human history. PhD historian and specialist Patrick Wyman brings the cutting edge of history to listeners in plain, relatable English.
 
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Star Carr, located in the Yorkshire region of northern England, is one of the world's richest archaeological sites, a waterlogged window onto the European Mesolithic more than 11,000 years ago. Professor Chantal Conneller spent more than a decade excavating at Star Carr, and she joins me to talk about this enigmatic and little-known but incredibly …
 
Of all the Austronesian-speaking peoples, none have gone further than the Polynesians. Professor Patrick Vinton Kirch of the University of Hawaii is one of the world's leading experts on the Polynesian voyages and colonization of the Pacific, and we discuss how, why, and with what impact the Polynesians spread out over half of the planet. Patrick's…
 
The first wave of migration out of Taiwan brought speakers of Austronesian to the northern reaches of the Philippines, the homeland of the Malayo-Polynesians. From there, they spread out over a vast swathe of Southeast Asia and Oceania, eventually moving to the distant reaches of Indonesia and the previously uninhabited spaces of Remote Oceania. Pa…
 
More than 4,000 years ago, a remarkable migration - one of the great journeys in human history - began in Taiwan. Within just a thousand years, people speaking the Austronesian languages spread out everywhere from the Philippines to Borneo to the previously uninhabited islands of Vanuatu and Fiji in Remote Oceania. Patrick's book is now available! …
 
The harsh, unforgiving conditions of the Andes and the nearby Pacific coastline make it one of the best places in the world to study the relationship between people and their environment. Professor Jason Nesbitt is an expert on the archaeology of the Andes and has extensively worked on how ancient people in the region organized themselves to deal w…
 
China's Shang Dynasty is something of an enigma. It produced the earliest written evidence in China, in the form of inscribed oracle bones, and decades of archaeology have shed light on its capital city and society. Yet much about it is still unclear, including precisely how the Shang understood themselves and their world. Professor Rod Campbell is…
 
The arid shoreline between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific seems like an unlikely place to host one of the world's earliest complex societies. But more than 5,000 years ago, the people of the Norte Chico Culture built cities, temples, and monuments that laid the foundation for thousands of years of Andean civilization. Patrick's book is now ava…
 
Mesoamerica is one of only a few places in the world where "civilization" - states, writing, cities, monumental building, and so on - emerged independently. The first society to do all this were the enigmatic Olmecs more than 3,000 years ago. Today the Olmecs are known mostly for their colossal carved stone heads, but they were the pioneers of a di…
 
Over the past several decades, ancient DNA and other archaeological sciences have transformed our understanding of Europe in prehistory. Professor Kristian Kristiansen has worked with these new methods since the very beginning, and combines them with a deep grounding in both traditional archaeology and big-picture thinking about what it all means. …
 
The Eurasian steppe is central to grasping the past 5,000 years of human history, and in the past couple of decades, new tools of analysis have transformed our understanding of the place and its importance. Professor Michael Frachetti has developed and applied a whole series of innovative approaches to understanding the people of the Bronze Age ste…
 
Four thousand years ago, the sprawling cities of the Indus Valley Civilization dominated much of South Asia; a millennium after that, however, the cities were in ruins, and new migrants ultimately deriving their ancestry from the Eurasian steppe had established themselves throughout much of the region. These new arrivals have become known as Indo-A…
 
More than a billion people around the world speak a language of the Indo-Iranian family today. These languages all trace their origin to a group of innovative people living on the steppes of southern Russia more than 4000 years ago, people who inhabited a surprisingly far-flung, complex, and mutable world. Patrick's book is now available! Get The V…
 
The Indus Valley Civilization doesn’t get much attention compared to Mesopotamia or Egypt, but it covered an area of a million square kilometers, was home to hundreds of thousands or millions of people and a unified culture, and lasted for the better part of a millennium. More than that, the Indus Civilization doesn’t seem to fit the models we have…
 
Language is fundamental to how people experience the world, but how can we know what languages people spoke in the distant past? By 1200 BC, the linguistic outlines of the world were becoming a bit clearer, thanks to an explosion in written texts. Follow along as we go on a historical linguistic tour of the globe around 1200 BC, from the first Bant…
 
About one in every five people alive on the planet today speaks a language belonging to the Bantu family, and Bantu-speaking peoples have shaped the history of Africa in profound ways. But how did they expand from their original homeland, and how can we tell? Professor Kathryn de Luna joins me to talk about historical linguistics, archaeology, and …
 
The state - a centralized administration that exerts control over a territory and can coerce the people living there - is one of the driving forces of the last several thousand years of history. But when and where did states appear, and why? And can we really call all of the various forms of political control that emerged around the world “states?”…
 
Ancient DNA and new archaeological work have changed our understanding of many different parts of the global past, but nowhere more so than Africa. Professor Mary Prendergast sits on the very cutting edge of both fields, having worked on both the largest-scale studies of ancient DNA in Africa and some of the most fascinating and innovative work bei…
 
The most striking environmental shift on the planet in the Holocene epoch was the greening of the Sahara. For thousands of years, the now-deserts of northern Africa were a mosaic of savannahs, river valleys, and shallow lakes. This unique environment produced the ways of life that eventually brought pastoralism and food production, as well as a var…
 
Africa is rightly known as the “Cradle of Humanity,” because that’s where the most recent wave of modern human migrants originated and so much of our species’ evolutionary history took place there. But the reality is far more complex. Africa is a big place, and its relationship with our species spans hundreds of thousands of years, different enviro…
 
Human sacrifice is an ugly but essential topic in understanding the Shang Dynasty, but we know very little about precisely who these people were, where they came from, and what their lives were like prior to their deaths. Dr. Christina Cheung is a bioarchaeologist specializing in the study of stable isotopes, and she has produced some of the first …
 
Professor Jennifer Raff, a longtime friend of the show, returns to discuss her work on the genetic ancestry of America’s Indigenous peoples. We talk about Beringia, waves of migration, the troublesome relationship between science and Indigenous peoples, and her fantastic new book, Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas, which is available now. G…
 
More than 3,000 years ago in China’s Central Plains, the Shang Dynasty crossed the threshold from prehistory to history. For the first time in China, we have access to the written word, in the form of the famous inscribed oracle bones. Thanks to that writing, we can peer inside their society and understand its logic - the logic of violence, authori…
 
The reality of the Bronze Age Near East was much messier and harder to understand than a straightforward story of city-states, empires, and kings. Different ethnolinguistic groups, lifestyles, dynasties of would-be rulers, migrating mercenaries, and ephemeral states were all essential pieces of the fabric of that world. Professor Aaron Burke of UCL…
 
China’s written history goes back more than 3,000 years, stretching deep into the Bronze Age. But just how far back does it go, and how reliable are those first legendary texts when discussing a world that had already been lost for centuries? They speak of powerful kings and capital cities, and a dynasty called the Xia, but can we find them in the …
 
How did Latin splinter into the Romance languages? In this episode, we explore how Latin transformed from a single, widely dispersed language into a series - French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, and so on - of related but no longer mutually intelligible tongues. Patrick's book is now available! Get The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, an…
 
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