When we study history, it’s so often in isolation, making it difficult to see where various events overlap.  For example, in the United States, we often study American history entirely independently of other events in the world. To Americans, that 600 – or so – year span of events that involved our nation seems vast.

But there is more. Much more. 

In the magazines included in every History Unboxed box, we also offer a quick snapshot of what else is going on in the world. And often, we find some truly incredible things….

Let’s start with something that began 80,000 years ago. First, 80,000 years is a very, very long time. That’s like all of American history, from the earliest explorers to now, times about 135.

  • 80,000 years ago
    A male quaking aspen, today known as Pando or the Trembling Giant began growing. It is a clonal organism, which means that it looks like a forest but is actually a single genetic entity with one shared root system. Pando started growing just about the time that humans left the African continent for the first time.  Pando is still alive today, although it has not grown significantly in decades or flowered in about 10,000 years.

Seems, some trees live a very, very long time. Here’s another fun fact.

  • 5,063 years ago: The world’s oldest single living tree, a Great Basin bristlecone pine, started growing.  It was a young tree during the Harappa period of the Indus Valley.

We tend to think of wooly mammoths as “pre-historic” and we know that ancient Egypt was highly civilized, but check this out…

  • 1700 BC/BCE: The last wooly mammoth died out. This means that wooly mammoths still roamed the earth when the Great Pyramid of Egypt was built (2580 BC/BCE), and the cities of Babylon, Uruk, Harappa, and Mohenjo-Daro were at their peaks.
  • 1342 BC/BCE: King Tutankhamun was born.  The Great Pyramid was already over 1200 years old.

And what is the relationship – time-wise- between the beginnings of Buddhism, the Roman Empire and Harvard University?

  • 288 BC/BCE: Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a fig tree, was planted in Sri Lanka. It was said to be from a branch of the tree under which the Buddha sat when he attained enlightenment. The branch was brought to Sri Lanka by Ashoka‘s daughter. It is still living today.
  • 483-384 BCE The Buddha died either in 483 or 400 BC/BCE.  Confucius, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all lived within 100 years of Siddartha Gautama’s life.
  • 69 BC/BCE: Cleopatra VII (love of Julius Caesar) was born.  That means the last Egyptian pharaoh lived closer to our time than to the time when the pyramids were built.
  • 1636 AD/CE: Harvard University founded.  Galileo was still alive, and would be for six more years.
  • 1453 AD/CE: The Roman Empire (eastern) finally fell. That means that people born in the Roman Empire were still alive when Columbus landed in the Americas, just about 40 years later.

And, even if we are sticking to American history, how far in the past -really-  is slavery and the Civil War?

  • 1865 AD/CE: The American Civil War ended. The first commercial fax service launched.
  • 1913 AD/CE: Rosa Parks was born in February. Harriet Tubman died in March, just over a month later.
  • 1971 AD/CE: The last African American born into slavery died. His name was Sylvester Magee.*
  • 2012 AD/CE: Mississippi ratified the 13th amendment (the one which abolished slavery)
  • 2018 AD/CE: As of November 2018, there was still one Civil War pension being paid out, to the daughter of a Civil War veteran who fought first for the Confederacy and then for the union. Irene Triplett receives a pension of $73 per month.

Which one of these historical facts surprised you the most?

*Sylvester Magee claimed his birth date was 1841. His claims have never fully been proven, but they’ve never been proved false either.

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