First News
Volume:7, Number:33
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Fun Facts

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The Silk Road or Sickness Road?

There is new evidence of something that researchers have long suspected: along with people, goods, and ideas, the Silk Road also transported infectious diseases. Studying preserved poop in a latrine at a Silk Road way station, which was in use from 111 BCE to 109 CE, researchers discovered four species of parasitic worm. One particularly interesting find is the Chinese liver fluke. It is a parasitic worm, which causes diarrhea, jaundice, and liver cancer. Put together, the evidence suggests the unfortunate infected traveler must have come from quite a distance, carrying the parasite with them. Other infectious diseases might have been carried along the Silk Road in a similar way.

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Meat Ban in Japan

Probably influenced by the Buddhist precept that forbids the taking of life, emperor Tenmu issued an edict in 675 CE that banned the eating of beef, monkeys, and domestic animals under penalty of death. The original law was only meant to be observed between April and September, but later laws and religious practices essentially made eating most meat, especially beef, illegal or taboo. It was not until 1872 that Japanese authorities officially lifted the ban. Even the emperor had become a meat eater, to show it was totally okay and not angering Buddha.

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Invention of Ruler

The oldest preserved measuring rod is a copper-alloy bar which was found by the German Assyriologist Eckhard Unger while excavating at Nippur. The bar dates from c. 2650 BC and Unger claimed it was used as a measurement standard. Rulers made from Ivory were in use by the Indus Valley Civilization in what today is Pakistan and some parts of Western India prior to 1500 BCE. Excavations at Lothal (2400 BCE) have yielded one such ruler calibrated to about 1/16 of an inch. Ancient bricks found throughout the region have dimensions that correspond to these units

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