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During the construction of the Capitol building in the early 19th century, the U.S. government commissioned a series of four relief panels to crown the doorway of the Rotunda. The reliefs encapsulate a vision of European—Native American relations that had assumed mythic historical proportions by the 19th century. The four panels depict: (1825) by Antonio Capellano, (1825) and (1826–27) by Enrico Causici, and (1827) by Nicholas Gevelot. The reliefs present idealized versions of the Europeans and the native Americans, in which the Europeans appear refined and the natives appear ferocious. The Whig representative of Virginia, Henry A. Wise, voiced a particularly astute summary of how Native Americans would read the messages contained in all four reliefs: “We give you corn, you cheat us of our lands: we save your life, you take ours.” While many 19th-century images of native Americans conveyed similarly negative messages, artists such as Charles Bird King sought to express a more balanced image of Native Americans.

These renowned historians and experts chatted with students online. Read the transcripts.

Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – c. April 5, 1994) was an American musician and artist, who was best known as the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter of the grunge band Nirvana.


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When historians debated the causes of Rome's decline and fall, for instance, they were merely debating proximate causes, which was understandable, as the science of energy did not yet exist when . Once scientists began to study the issue, running out of energy became seen as the ultimate cause, even though scientists still argue over environmental causes, for instance, but what some seem to miss in their arguments is that they are all just ways of saying that the civilization ran out of energy, whether humans contributed to the environmental failure (and declining and surplus energy) or not.


c. 4.6 billion years ago (“bya”)

Although there is , Sumer became the first literate civilization about 3000 BCE, after their invention of . Mesopotamian peoples , and elite accounting was typical of the first writing systems, or tales to aggrandize the elite. For instance, the of the preliterate Incas was an accounting tool. By the , silver became the official unit of accounting, to be supplanted by gold a millennium later, probably due to Egyptian influence.

Organisms begin to capture chemical energy.

The writers of the knew that deforestation led to droughts, and Gilgamesh’s war against the forest foreshadowed the fate of numerous Old World civilizations. The city-states of southern Mesopotamia made regular journeys to Lebanon’s cedar forest. The ruler of , not far from Uruk, had plans for aggrandizing his legacy and leveled cedar forests and rafted their logs downriver to Lagash to fulfill his grandiose schemes. The city-states of southern Mesopotamia deforested upstream river valleys and rafted logs to their downstream cities. Wars between the city-states, and wars of foreign conquest to secure forests and navigable rivers (particularly the Tigris, Euphrates, and of today’s Iran), were common then. Wood became such a coveted commodity that it could approach the value of precious metals and stones, and rulers placed names on mountains corresponding with what tree predominantly grew on each one.

Organisms begin to directly capture photonic solar energy.

The human ability to think abstractly was exploited by social managers from civilization’s earliest days. Fixating people on irrational symbols, and then manipulating those symbols for elite benefit, is arguably a universal trait of civilized peoples. Even today, a great deal of politics is the ; as with the earliest religion, the neocortex is bypassed in favor of , and people are easy prey to the cynical manipulation of emotionally charged symbols. The effects of can last for the victim’s lifetime. When people mistake symbols for reality, they are easily manipulated. Large-scale ideological indoctrination probably began in Sumer, as the priesthood concocted and promoted various beliefs. Symbology replaced reality, including the acceptance of the secular elite as deific, getting slaves to accept their status, and getting commoners to give food to the priesthood to fulfill some divinely ordained obligation. Religion passed from experience to belief with the rise of civilization. I am not suggesting that pre-civilized religions were necessarily enlightened. They had shamanic intermediaries too, but with the rise of civilization, the priest class had to work hard to justify the obviously unfair social organization that accompanied stratified populations. Direct religious experience was disparaged and suppressed while the priesthood’s religious indoctrination was promoted.