NatGeo’s 9 Best Fall Escape Trips in the U.S.


 Take to the Skies at the Albuquerque, New Mexico International Balloon Fiesta 

WHY GO: Take in the gorgeous New Mexico landscape and delicious New Mexican cuisine while enjoying the spectacle of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which takes places every year in October.

WHAT TO EAT: Get the red chile pork ribs at El Pinto. For a classic chile relleno, visit Mary and Tito’s Café.

PRACTICAL TIP: Most New Mexican restaurants will ask whether you want red or green, for which kind of chili you want. To get both, just say Christmas.

FUN FACT: The Albuquerque balloon festival is the largest hot-air balloon festival on Earth.


read about more places to go, see all 9  fall vacations to experience in 2016 –>

Not-So-Dark Ages Revealed at King Arthur Site

King Arthur, Tintagel Excavation, Smithsonian

A view of the ruins of Tintagel castle, built in the 13th century by English royals eager to strengthen their ties to legendary King Arthur, who was said to be conceived at the site. Luxury goods unearthed at royal stronghold show that Celtic rulers thrived at the legendary site of Tintagel.

A recent discovery in southwest England is making headlines for its association with King Arthur, but archaeologists are hailing it as an incredibly important find regardless of any connection with Britain’s greatest legendary ruler.

Excavations at Tintagel, a rocky promontory on the coast of Cornwall, have revealed evidence of massive stone fortifications and luxury goods imported from as far away as modern-day Turkey, all dating to a poorly understood period in British history that began with the collapse of Roman rule on the island around 400 A.D.

The earliest mentions of a leader named Arthur in the historical record are tied to events that occurred between roughly 400 and 600 A.D., the period in which archaeologists believe the fortifications at Tintagel were built. According to an account written centuries later, the legendary king was conceived at Tintagel.

Luxury Trade During the So-called “Dark Ages”

Over the summer, archaeologists at Tintagel have found evidence for more than a hundred buildings that most likely date from the fifth to seventh centuries A.D., a period when the site is believed to have been an important royal stronghold of the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia.

Initial evidence for the Celtic stronghold was first revealed during excavations in the 1930s. Unfortunately, the home of C.A. Raleigh Radford, lead archaeologist on the project, was bombed during World War II and the scientific results were never properly published. In the 1990s, archaeologists reopened Radford’s trenches at Tintagel and discovered fine ceramics and glassware from all over the Mediterranean world.

More than two decades later, researchers have returned to Tintagel for the beginning of a five-year project funded by the charity English Heritage to better understand what was happening at the site during a time erroneously referred to by some historians as the “Dark Ages,” and by others as “Sub-Roman” or “Post-Roman.”

Why were coastal trading posts like Tintagel mysteriously abandoned in the seventh century?  read more –>…

Never Say Never! 13 Year Old Mongolian Eagle Hunter

Girl, Mongolia, Eagle Huntress, NatGeo-crop

Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl, trains to become the first female in 12 generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter … 

A 13-year-old girl stands proud in the mountains of western Mongolia, cradling the eagle she has trained to hunt. She’s carrying on a legacy that has defined this region for centuries.

But the girl, Aisholpan Nurgaiv, is also challenging a tradition. Though she is not the first female eagle hunter—there’s evidence of female eagle hunters from as early as tenth-century Persia, and National Geographic photographed Princess Nirgidma of Mongolia with her hunting eagle in 1932—Nurgaiv is the first Mongolian woman to compete in the country’s Golden Eagle Festival … read more, see documentary trailer video –>…

What Is Your Clan?

Teepee, Crow, NatGeoWhat is your clan? What is your Indian name? Who named you?

When anthropologist Aaron Brien puts these questions to a group of Crow Indian students gathered in the community of Crow Agency, Montana, most of the hands tentatively go up.

“My name is Emily Not Afraid. I am a Whistling Water and a child of the Newly Made Lodge. My Crow name is Baasshuushe isitccheesh, which means ‘Likes to tobacco dance.’ I was named as a baby by one of my clan mothers, Clara Big Lake.” …

… This, says Brien, is what makes the Crow—or Apsáalooke in their native Siouan language—different from any other tribe on the planet:  their clan system.  But it’s one that’s in danger of disappearing …

… To put the Crow Reservation’s size in perspective, it’s physically larger than Delaware and about a million acres shy of equaling the size of Connecticut. One of seven reservations in Montana, its largest town is Crow Agency, home to around 1,500 of the 13,000 or so enrolled tribal members … two decades ago, it was rare to hear conversations in English, and the clan system was practiced as part of everyday life. Now, in a single generation, the opposite is true. Both the Crow language and the idea of the clan system is quickly becoming a casualty on the battlefield of pop culture …

Ashammaliaxxiia, the word for the Apsáalooke clan system, translates to “Driftwood Lodges.” As the name implies, just as pieces of driftwood band together in turbulent waters, so do the Apsáalooke people to provide spiritual and material support to clan members. The Crow clan system is unique not just among Plains Indians but also among all tribes and nations. At its simplest level, the mother’s clan is responsible for the physical and emotional health of the clan member, while the father’s clan is responsible for spiritual support.

“The clan system creates a respect between people,” Brien says. “It’s a kinship system. It needs to be an everyday thing.” …  read more –>…

10 Awesome Music Festivals Around The World This Summer

Music, Bestival, UK, NatGeo

It’s getting hot up here in the Northern Hemisphere. With summer fully upon us, people are soaking up the sunshine, showing some skin, and planning adventures near and far, including trips to the sweatiest of summer traditions: music festivals.

Before you bust out your flower headdress and head to Lollapalooza, check out what else the world has to offer. Here are 10 music festivals across the globe that can offer a unique—and potentially more meaningful—travel experience.

Reggae Sumfest in Jamaica
July 17-23, 2016

Billed under the slogan “Our Music, Our Festival,” Jamaica’s biggest festival is held every year in Montego Bay, kicking off with an annual beach party and an all-white dress code party followed by days of music from some of the biggest acts in the homeland of reggae.

Lineup highlights: Stone Love, Beenie Man, Super Cat

Alfa Future People in Russia
July 22-24, 2016

Held in the Russian countryside, six hours east of Moscow by car, Alfa Future People is more than a massive EDM (electronic dance music) festival, with exhibitions on the latest in technology and athletic opportunities like a volleyball tournament and aerial gymnastics classes.

Lineup highlights: Armin Van Buuren, Axwell and Ingrosso, Martin Garrix

Fuji Rock in Japan
July 22-24, 2016

This event held every year at Japan’s Naeba Ski Resort might be the music festival surrounded by the most stunning natural beauty of any in the world. Hikes between stages will lead you through green cathedral forests and cool mountain streams. Or you can hitch a ride on the Dragondola—the longest gondola on Earth.

Lineup highlights: Beck, Wilco, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals

Splendour in the Grass in Australia
July 22-24, 2016

It may be winter in Byron Bay, Australia, but it is still summertime in the Northern Hemisphere! Besides, winter in Byron Bay is like winter in Hawaii, so you don’t need to leave behind your flip-flops and board shorts. Splendour in the Grass includes great live music plus additional draws like the Global Village, talks from thought leaders on science, politics, and more, and the Splendour Comedy Club.

Lineup highlights: The Strokes, the Cure, Band of Horses, Sigur Rós

Baleapop in France
August 8-11, 2016

This four-day festival with a focus on art, music, and openheartedness takes place on the stunning beaches of French Basque country in the city of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Baleapop organizers seek to foster connections between people through musical performances and contemporary art installations, while keeping the event affordable, environmentally friendly, and open to all.

Lineup highlights: Suuns, Shackleton

In the Mix in the Philippines
August 18, 2016

A brand-new festival this year, In the Mix offers the chance to experience one of the most underappreciated cities in Southeast Asia: Manila. The Philippines’ capital is widely, and rightly, known for being crowded, polluted, and hectic but there’s a rich history and culture hiding in plain sight if you know what to look for, plus some one of the warmest, most fun-loving people you’re likely to ever meet.

Lineup highlights: The 1975, Panic! at the Disco, James Bay

Dusk til Dawn Blues Festival in Oklahoma
September 2-4, 2016

If you really want to get off the beaten path, check out this all-night blues festival in tiny Rentiesville, one of Oklahoma’s few surviving historically all-black towns. Night owls dig the blues from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. for three days straight.

Lineup highlights: Joanna Connor, Johnny Rawls

Bestival in England
September 8-11, 2016

Held annually on the beautiful and bucolic Isle of Wight in the south of England, this midsize gathering of around 50,000 is widely considered among the best festivals in Britain. Bestival is known for its eccentric, alternative feel (jump in the world’s biggest bouncy castle!) and commitment to environmental issues.

Lineup highlights: Major Lazer, Wiz Khalifa, Diplo, Animal Collective

K-Pop World Festival in South Korea
September 30, 2016

K-Pop is hardly outside the mainstream but this festival is still unlike any other. After surviving preliminary rounds in countries around the world, finalists and fans gather in Changwon, South Korea, for high-energy, upbeat performances and to select the next K-Pop stars.

Lineup highlights: TBD

Lake of Stars in Malawi
September 30-October 2, 2016

This arts and music festival held annually on the shores of Lake Malawi in southern Africa promises a truly unique experience. Lake of Stars brings together Malawian artists with creatives from around the world for a weekend of music, dancing, and positive vibes that infuses $1.5 million into the local economy.

Lineup highlights: Freshlyground, Faith Mussa, Flo Dee

courtesy of:…

Did You Know? Friday Was International Tiger Day

Tiger, Sumatran, NatGeo-crop


We have lost 97% of all wild tigers in a bit over 100 years.

Sumatran tigers are the last of the so-called island tiger subspecies, having outlived the Bali tigers (Panthera tigris balica) and the Javan tigers (Panthera tigris sondaica) that once roamed the Indonesian islands of Bali and Java, respectively.

Although more than a thousand Sumatran tigers are thought to have lived on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra in the 1970s, their numbers have declined by roughly half due to poachers and deforestation.

read more –>…

Bog Butter Anyone?

Bog Butter, Smithsonian

Recently, Jack Conway was “cutting turf,” the term for digging up blocks of moss in Emlagh peat bog in County Meath, Ireland, when he discovered a 22-pound lump of butter. The find, believed to be 2,000 years old, according to the Irish Times, isn’t an unusual occurrence in Ireland, where every year, people digging up peat moss to heat their homes encounter chunks of the dairy.

The discoveries, which are called Bog Butter, can be thousands of years old. In 2009, a 77-pound, 3,000-year-old oak barrel of the stuff was found in County Kildare. In 2013, a turf cutter in County Offaly found a 100-pound, 5,000-year-old chunk. Many examples of the butter are found in Irish museums, including the place dedicated to the golden spread, Cork’s Butter Museum.

So what is Bog Butter? It’s exactly what it sounds like—butter made from cow’s milk, buried in a bog. What makes it special is its age. After spending so much time in the cool, damp peat, it starts to take on the appearance and consistency of paraffin wax. According to a study on bog butter by researchers from the University of Bristol, some of the chunks are non-dairy. When analyzing carbon isotopes in nine samples of the butter, they found that six of them were indeed dairy products, while the other three were from animals, perhaps tallow (rendered fat) stored for later use.

In a paper published in the Journal of Irish Archaeology, Caroline Earwood explains that bog butter is usually found in earthenware pots, wooden containers, animal skins, or wrapped in bark and takes on a pungent, cheesy odor. Looking at over 274 instances of bog butter from the Iron Age to medieval times, Earwood concluded that early Celtic people probably sunk the butter in the bog simply to preserve it or protect from thieves. The cool, low-oxygen, high acid environment of the bog made a perfect natural refrigerator. Seeing as butter was a valuable commodity and was used to pay taxes, saving it for times of drought, famine, or war would have been a good idea … read more –>…

Amazon Tribe Creates 500-page Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia

Medicine Man, Matses, Brazil

In one of the great tragedies of our age, indigenous traditions, stories, cultures and knowledge are winking out across the world. Whole languages and mythologies are vanishing, and in some cases even entire indigenous groups are falling into extinction. This is what makes the news that a tribe in the Amazon—the Matsés peoples of Brazil and Peru—have created a 500-page encyclopedia of their traditional medicine all the more remarkable. The encyclopedia, compiled by five shamans with assistance from conservation group Acaté, details every plant used by Matsés medicine to cure a massive variety of ailments.

“The [Matsés Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia] marks the first time shamans of an Amazonian tribe have created a full and complete transcription of their medicinal knowledge written in their own language and words,” Christopher Herndon, president and co-founder of Acaté, told Mongabay in an interview (in full below).

The Matsés have only printed their encyclopedia in their native language to ensure that the medicinal knowledge is not stolen by corporations or researchers as has happened in the past. Instead, the encyclopedia is meant as a guide for training new, young shamans in the tradition and recording the living shamans’ knowledge before they pass.

“One of the most renowned elder Matsés healers died before his knowledge could be passed on so the time was now. Acaté and the Matsés leadership decided to prioritize the Encyclopedia before more of the elders were lost and their ancestral knowledge taken with them,” said Herndon.

Acaté has also started a program connecting the remaining Matsés shamans with young students. Through this mentorship program, the indigenous people hope to preserve their way of life as they have for centuries past.

“With the medicinal plant knowledge disappearing fast among most indigenous groups and no one to write it down, the true losers in the end are tragically the indigenous stakeholders themselves,” said Herndon. “The methodology developed by the Matsés and Acaté can be a template for other indigenous cultures to safeguard their ancestral knowledge.” … read more –>…

Coins In A Fountain

Coins In A Fountain, SmithsonianThrowing spare change into a fountain is a time-honored ritual: throw a penny into the water, and your wish might come true. But all that money has to go somewhere. Otherwise, the growing piles of pennies, nickels, quarters and Euros could clog up the fountain’s works.

Depending on where a fountain is and who owns it, the coins collected can go to all sorts of different places—from fountain upkeep to charity or public service.

In New York City, for example, change collected from fountains in public parks often go towards the fountain’s upkeep itself, though entrepreneurs who don’t mind getting their hands wet often get to it first, writes Adam Chandler for The Atlantic.

“We have over 50 beautiful, decorative display fountains in NYC parks,” New York City Parks and Recreation spokesperson Maeri Ferguson tells Chandler. “They are cleaned regularly by Parks staff (every few weeks), but we consistently find that most of the coins have already been removed by entrepreneurial New Yorkers and there is not a significant amount left to be collected.”

Other cities, though, can pull in a much more serious haul. Take for example, Rome’s iconic Trevi fountain: for hundreds of years, visitors have thrown coins over their shoulder into the fountain to ensure that they return someday. So many tourists toss in coins that Roman officials have the fountain cleaned every night, reportedly netting as much as $4,000 in loose change from around the world each day, the BBC reported in 2006.

Most of the money collected each night goes towards running a supermarket for the needy. And collecting that cash is serious business. Roman officials have been known to be tough on anyone caught skimming coins from the fountain, the BBC reported.

In one case in 2005, police arrested four fountain cleaners after they were spotted slipping coins into their own pockets after collecting them. Authorities finally caught one notorious skimmer nicknamed “d’Artagnan,” banning him from the fountain after he fished out thousands of dollars in change over 34 years using a magnetized wand.

For the most part, money collected from privately-owned fountains in the United States also goes to charity. The fountain in New York City’s Bryant Park is owned and operated by a non-profit corporation, which puts the cash collected by cleaners towards the fountain’s own upkeep.

Chandler reports that private fountains can also rake in tens of thousands of dollars a year, leading private companies to create official policies towards disbursing the change. Minnesota’s Mall of America collects about $24,000 in change each year from its fountains and ponds, and nonprofits can submit applications for a cut of the change.

Tens of thousands of dollars in coins scooped out of wishing wells, fountains, and ponds in Florida’s Walt Disney World are donated each year to support foster children living in the state, Attractions Magazine reports.

Whether or not your wish comes true after tossing a coin into a fountain, you can rest assured knowing that the change is likely going to someone who needs it

Courtesy of:…

Refugees To Have Their Own Olympic Team

Olympic Refugee Athletes

Ten refugee-athletes from Syria, Sudan, Ethiopia and the Republic of Congo will compete at the Rio Olympics

When the parade of nations enters Maracanã Stadium later this summer for the opening ceremonies of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, there will be one extra flag. Ten refugees from around the world will compete as a team for the first time under the Olympic banner.

International Olympic Committee chairman Thomas Bach announced the formation of the refugee team last Friday. “It is a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society,” he said in a statement. “These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”

But the athletes aren’t just symbolic; they have the athletic chops to compete with the best of the best. Five of the athletes, all track and field competitors, come from South Sudan. Two are Syrian swimmers living in Europe, two are judo competitors from the Democratic Republic of Congo residing in Brazil and one is an Ethiopian marathoner from a refugee camp in Kenya.

According to Barbie Latza Nadeau at the Daily Beast, the team members were chosen from a short list of 43 refugee-athletes. All ten had to qualify under the standards set for all Olympic athletes. “There were no shortcuts,” an IOC spokesperson tells Nadeau. “Each Refugee Olympic Team member earned the position.”

For most of the athletes, just getting to the Olympics is a gold medal performance. As Lulu Garcia-Navarro writes at NPR, Popole Misenga and Yolande Mabika were members of the Republic of Congo’s judo team when they traveled to Brazil for the Judo World Championships in 2013. Their coach stole the team’s money and documents and left his team stranded.

The two decided to stay in Brazil instead of going back to the violence and instability of their home country, where many of their friends and family members had been killed. But with no money—not to mention no understanding of Portuguese—it has been difficult making a living and continuing on with the sport they love.

Nadeau tells the story of Syrian swimmer named Yusra Mardini, who paid a trafficker to help her and 20 other passengers reach the Greek island of Lesbos in 2015 to flee the violence in her home country. An hour into the trip, the rubber raft they were on began sinking. Yusra and her sister Sarah, another swimming champ, jumped in the water and pulled the raft for four hours until the group safely reached land.

“I thought it would be a real shame if I drowned at sea because I am a swimmer,” Mardini said at a press conference. She eventually made it to Germany where she was granted asylum.

Once in Berlin, Philip Oltermann at the Guardian reports Mardini was quickly accepted to an elite training club and trains twice a day at a special sports school. Because of her refugee status, she did not qualify for Germany’s Olympic team and Syria will likely not field a national team this year, and probably wouldn’t accept refugees even if it did. The new team gives Mardini a chance to show her stuff despite her circumstances.

“I want to make all the refugees proud of me,” she tells Oltermann. “It would show that even if we had a tough journey, we can achieve something.”

The refugee team will march into the stadium ahead of the Brazil delegation along with 15 coaches and trainers.

Read more:…

The Trail of the “Hobo King”

Hobo King, Smithsonian-crop

Recently, anthropologist Susan Phillips was searching the sides of the Los Angeles River for graffiti left behind by street artists and gang members when she came across scribbles and signatures of a different sort. Most of the artwork she studies is made with spray paint, but a particular patch of markings left beneath a bridge were etched with grease pencils and knife points. She recognized the symbols and signatures as those that would have been left behind about a century ago by transient people, including one by a man who is perhaps the best-known of the 20th century’s vagabonds: Leon Ray Livingston, better known as “A-No.1.”

If there is anyone who deserves to be called “the hobo king,” A-No.1 best suits the bill. Livingston spent much of his life traveling the United States by boxcar, writing several books about his journeys and working short stints as a laborer. But among historians of the era, he is known for developing and disseminating the coded symbols and markings that passed along local tips to fellow itinerant travelers, Sarah Laskow writes for Atlas Obscura. One of Livingston’s books, which chronicled his journeys with writer Jack London, eventually became the basis for the 1973 film Emperor of the North, starring Lee Marvin as A-No.1.

“Those little heart things are actually stylized arrows that are pointing up the river,” Phillips tells John Rogers for the Associated Press as she pointed out scribbled markings alongside Livingston’s signature. “Putting those arrows that way means ‘I’m going upriver. I was here on this date and I’m going upriver.’”

Although so-called hobo graffiti has mostly disappeared from America’s signposts and walls, the coded markings were once common sights across the country. The symbols often indicated safe places to gather, make camp and sleep, or might warn fellow travelers of danger or unfriendly locals, Elijah Chiland writes for Curbed Los Angeles. In this case, it appears that A-No.1 was heading upriver toward Los Angeles’ Griffith Park around August 13, 1914, which was a popular place for other nomadic people to meet.

Considering how quickly modern graffiti is washed away or painted over by other taggers, it seems like a minor miracle that the marks made by Livingston and his contemporaries somehow survived in this little corner of the L.A. River. After all, it was never intended to stick around very long, and the work by the Army Corps of Engineers in the late 1930s to lower the river to prevent or reduce its periodic floods was thought to have destroyed much of what once sat on its riverbanks. However, it appears that construction work is what may have preserved the 100-year-old graffiti for all this time as it rendered much of the area beneath the bridge inaccessible to future graffiti writers, Chiland writes.

“It’s just like a fluke down there in L.A. that that survived,” Bill Daniel, who studies historic graffiti and modern taggers, tells Rogers. “It’s hard to find the old stuff because most older infrastructure has been torn down.”

While it’s impossible to verify whether the name A-No.1 was scratched into the wall by Livingston himself or by someone else using his name, Phillips found other remarkable examples of graffiti made by the Hobo King’s contemporaries. Signatures and drawings belonging to people with names like “Oakland Red” and “the Tucson Kid” cover the space beneath the bridge alongside the famous A-No.1, Rogers reports. Now that the spot has been publicized, though, Phillips is working to chronicle the work while she still can.

“A lot of the stuff I’ve documented through time has been destroyed, either by the city or by other graffiti writers,” Phillips tells Rogers. “That is just the way of graffiti.”

courtesy of:…

Hearts of Homes In Kitchens Around The World – Pakistan

Kitchens may differ drastically around the world, but their role as the center of a home is universal. Whether makeshift or filled with modern appliances, kitchens are a space for family bonding, holiday traditions and child rearing.

kitchens_Pakistan, HunzaFamily Bonding

A family makes chapati sprinkled with apricot oil in their home in Pakistan’s Hunza region. Meals are an important family get together for the Hunza people.

Photograph by Matthieu Paley, National Geographic

courtesy of:…

Great Foodie Destinations 2016 – Antalya, Turkey


Eats, Antalya, Turkey, NatGeo

Antalya, Turkey

Photograph by Tueremis, laif/Redux

Thanks to periods of both Christian and Muslim rule until the 15th century, the cuisine of beachside Antalya blends influences from both cultures. Surrounded by the snowcapped Taurus Mountains, the city also boasts nearby olive groves, citrus orchards, and fresh seafood pulled from the turquoise Mediterranean Sea.

Tourists dine seaside on fish kebabs, octopus, and plates of colorful mezze. With a large variety of both casual lokantas and upscale restaurants, Antalya is the ideal location for hosting this year’s Expo 2016, which covers horticulture, agriculture, and other topics. More than five million visitors are expected to attend.

What to Eat: Experience Turkish flavors in European dishes at Vanilla Lounge. The restaurant serves white bean and tahini soup and lamb, mint, and pea risotto in a sophisticated setting. For more traditional fare, seek out grouper kebabs or fried red mullet from the Mediterranean—usually available between July and October—at seaside restaurant İskele. Complete the meal with a round of mezze plates like hummus, red pepper spread, or purslane salad.

What to Drink: Raki, an anise-flavored brandy that is quite similar to Greek ouzo, is Turkey’s favorite drink. It turns cloudy when mixed with water or ice, and it’s typically consumed with a meal of mezze and grilled fish. There’s no better place to try it than at one of Antalya’s oldest restaurants like 7 Mehmet, a waterfront spot specializing in seafood.

Edible Souvenir: Jams are a key component of lavish Turkish breakfasts, and Antalya and the surrounding region are particularly well known for making the sweet spreads. Visit Yenigun, one of the country’s biggest producers, for a huge selection of jams in unique flavors like eggplant, watermelon, and rose.

Food Experience: Try catching some seafood of your own with Green Canyon boat tours. The tour company provides all of the equipment for the fishing expeditions around the emerald waters, located about ten miles from Antalya.

courtesy of:


King Tut’s Dagger

King Tuts Dagger, Smithsonian-crop

X-ray spectroscopy lays a decades-long metal mystery to rest

When archaeologists discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb, they were stunned by the riches contained within. One of the weirder artifacts of the tomb was a dagger that confused scientists, sporting a blade seemingly impervious to rust and age. Now, reports The Guardian’s Alan Yuhas, the secret of the blade’s timelessness has been uncovered:  It was made from a meteorite.

New research published in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science  confirms that the blade was made with materials from a meteorite.  Scientists performed X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, a method used to learn more about the elements the object is composed of. In this case, they found iron, nickel and cobalt—materials found inside chunks of space rocks that survive their fall to Earth.

The discovery not only brings closure to a decades-long debate about whether or not the dagger was made from a meteorite, but it also gives insight into the culture of Ancient Egyptians. Aside from the obvious cool factor of owning a dagger made from a material from space, King Tut’s craftsmen appear to have realized that meteoritic iron was a long-lasting and tough material. The researchers write that their find shows that Ancient Egyptians placed a high value on what they called “iron of the sky” and that they knew about the off-Earth origins of the material.

It turns out the king may have had a thing for meteorites; it’s thought that other blades in the tomb and King Tut’s headrest may also have been made of “iron of the sky.” If King Tut did lay claim to Ancient Egypt’s most precious metal, he would not be alone:  In 2013, researchers discovered that a group of 5,000-year-old beads were made of meteoritic iron, too.

There’s something magical about metal that falls from the sky—not only do the mysterious stones have their own hall in the American Museum of Natural History, but they’re thought to contain clues to the origins of the solar system. No wonder they were a material fit for a king.

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A Child’s Play In Hong Kong

Hong Kong, High Rise Playground

Photograph by Wing Ka H., National Geographic Your Shot

Against the backdrop of a high-rise as colorful as the ball court, a child in Hong Kong lets off some steam after school … Colors are vibrant throughout the city:  In addition to its candy-colored high-rises, Hong Kong’s taxis are color-coded by service region, and the city’s Pearl River Delta is home to the uniquely hued Chinese white dolphin.

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Arctic Surfing, NatGeo

Surfer, Arctic, Norway, NatGeoPhotograph by Konsta Linkola, National Geographic Your Shot

Surfers wait for the perfect icy swell at this seemingly unlikely surfing spot:  Unstad Beach in Norway’s Lofoten Islands, captured in this image by Konsta Linkola. “We were hit by a blizzard as we were approaching the beach,” Linkola writes, “which made the surfing more extreme.”

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New Museums in 2016 – National Blues Museum

National Blues Museum (St. Louis, Missouri)
Open April 2, 2016Museum, Blues, Smithsonian

Celebrate the origin of nearly every modern form of popular music with a visit to the new National Blues Museum. The finished museum will have 15,000 square feet of exhibit, theater, and classroom space devoted to all things blues and will develop and show traveling exhibits, too. Want a preview? The museum’s radio station is already live, sharing updates and songs from a roster of well known and under-the-radar blues musicians.

Even with all that exhibit space, artifacts aren’t the focus of the new museum. Instead, technology-driven interactive features are designed to tell the story of the genre, following it from its Delta roots and tracing its many influences on modern music.

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The Diamond Sutra is the World’s Oldest Dated Printed Book

Sutra, Diamond, Smithsonian

Printed over 1,100 years ago, a Chinese copy of the Diamond Sutra at the British Library is one of the most intriguing documents in the world.
No one is sure who Wang Jie was or why he had The Diamond Sutra printed. But we do know that on this day in 868 A.D.—or the 13th of the 4th moon of the 9th year of Xiantong in Jie’s time—he commissioned a block printer to create a 17-and-a-half-foot-long scroll of the sacred Buddhist text, including an inscription on the lower right hand side reading, “Reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his two parents.” Today, that scroll is housed at the British Library and is acknowledged as the oldest dated printed book in existence.

Chances are you know a little something about the Gutenberg Bible, the first book made with moveable type, which came along almost 600 years later. Bibliophiles might also have a working knowledge of other famous manuscripts like the Book of Kells, The Domesday Book, and Shakespeare’s First Folio. Well, The Diamond Sutra should be in that pantheon of revered books, as well. Here’s why:


The text was originally discovered in 1900 by a monk in Dunhuang, China, an old outpost of the Silk Road on the edge of the Gobi Desert. The Diamond Sutra, a Sanskrit text translated into Chinese, was one of 40,000 scrolls and documents hidden in “The Cave of a Thousand Buddhas,” a secret library sealed up around the year 1,000 when the area was threatened by a neighboring kingdom.

In 1907, British-Hungarian archaeologist Marc Aurel Stein was on an expedition mapping the ancient Silk Road when he heard about the secret library. He bribed the abbot of the monastic group in charge of the cave and smuggled away thousands of documents, including The Diamond Sutra. The International Dunhuang Project is now digitizing those documents and 100,000 others found on the eastern Silk Road.


The Diamond Sutra is relatively short, only 6,000 words and is part of a larger canon of “sutras” or sacred texts in Mahayana Buddhism, the branch of Buddhism most common in China, Japan, Korea and southeast Asia. Many practitioners believe that the Mahayana Sutras were dictated directly by the Buddha, and The Diamond Sutra takes the form of a conversation between the Buddha’s pupil Subhati and his master.

Why is it Diamond?

A full translation of the document’s title is The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion. As Susan Whitfield, director of the Dunhuang Project explains, the sutra helps cut through our perceptions … We just think we exist as individuals It’s difficult to translate the sutra word for word and still catch its meaning. But this passage about life … adapted to English, is one of the most popular:

So you should view this fleeting world—
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.


Best Campgrounds in U.S. National Parks – Wonder Lake

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High Sand and High Seas, NatGeo

High Sands, High Seas, Namibia, NatGeo

Photograph by Julian Walter, National Geographic Your Shot

Namibia, on Africa’s southwest coast, is a large country with a harsh landscape. The towering and constantly shifting dunes of the Namib Desert, shown here in this aerial photo submitted by Your Shot member Julian Walter, run right to the Atlantic Ocean and can reach up to a thousand feet high.

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National Park Week 4/16 – 4/24, FREE ENTRY + More!

Secret Vista

The National Park Service turns 100 years old in 2016 and we want everyone to join the party!  On 16 days in ’16, all National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee will offer FREE ADMISSION to everyone.

Mark your calendar for these entrance fee–free dates in 2016:

  • January 18:  Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • April 16 through 24:  National Park Week
  • August 25 through 28:  National Park Service Birthday
  • September 24:  National Public Lands Day
  • November 11:  Veterans Day

National parks are America’s Best Idea, and there are more than 400 parks available to everyone, every day. The fee-free days provide a great opportunity to visit a new place or an old favorite, especially one of the 127 national parks that normally charge an entrance fee. The others are free all of the time. Plan your visit and enjoy our country’s history and nature.

The fee waiver includes entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.
Fee-free days make parks accessible to more people. However, national parks are always economical, with entrance fees that range from $3 to $30. In addition, any fourth grade student can get a free annual pass through the Every Kid in a Park program, and active duty military and citizens with a permanent disability can also get free passes. For more information about the variety of discounted passes available, please visit the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass page.