Topic description and stories

Understanding how we interact with our material world can reveal unparalleled insights into what it is to be human.

How 9,000 lists written over 300 years are helping to test theories of economic growth

03 Jul 2018

The handwritten inventories had lain largely untouched for centuries. Sand used to dry the ink still lay between the pages. Written neatly inside...

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A feather in your cap: inside the symbolic universe of Renaissance Europe

02 Nov 2017

Today, feathers are an extravagant accessory in fashion; 500 years ago, however, they were used to constitute culture, artistry, good health and even...

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Pre-Inka elites and the social life of fragments

31 Oct 2017

Objects unearthed in the Andes tell new stories of societies lacking hierarchical leadership in the time before the Inka Empire.

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Old book wall

The man who tried to read all the books in the world

26 Oct 2017

One man’s quest to create a library of everything, 500 years before Google Books was conceived, foreshadowed the challenges of ‘big data’ and our...

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This down-to-earth, glazed terracotta figurine of the Virgin could act as the focus of family prayers in a modest home

Animating objects: what material culture can tell us about domestic devotions

24 Oct 2017

Rustic figurines of a resigned-looking Virgin clutching her child may have no obvious literary or artistic merit to us today. But understanding what...

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All the things

Living in a material world: why 'things' matter

18 Oct 2017

Things structure our lives. They enrich us, embellish us and express our hopes and fears. Here, to introduce a month-long focus on research on...

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Necklet worn by a royal bodyguard, gifted in 1902 by Apolo Kagwa, Katikiro of Uganda

Two million years of human stories

12 Oct 2017

Every object in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology tells not just one but many stories. The Museum’s collections chronicle two million years...

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‘France’s Samuel Pepys’ is elevated from the footnotes of history

29 Jun 2017

The journals and scrapbooks of Pierre de L’Estoile have for generations provided a vivid picture of France in a time of religious upheaval. Now...

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Earliest-known children’s adaptation of Japanese literary classic discovered in British Library

14 Jun 2017

A chance discovery in the British Library has led to the discovery and reproduction of the earliest-known children’s adaptation of one of Japan’s...

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CGLI members visit the exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Museum archive reconnects a London-based Congolese community with its heritage

10 Mar 2017

When Reverend Kenred Smith captured moments of life in the Congo over 120 years ago, he couldn’t have imagined that the photos – now in Cambridge's...

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Enawenê-nawê men check basket and bark traps for fish before reinserting them into the weir’s upriver face

Man v fish in the Amazon rainforest

11 Nov 2016

The Enawenê-nawê people of the Amazon rainforest make beautifully engineered fishing dams. Living alongside this indigenous community, Dr Chloe Nahum...

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Portrait of Andreas Eberhard Rauber (1575/ around 1700); Barbershop in ‘The Book of Trades’ (‘Das Ständebuch’), Frankfurt am Main, 1568; portrait of Lucas Cranach the Elder

A very hairy story

07 Nov 2016

Beards are back in fashion. But today’s hipster styles convey rather different messages to the hair men cultivated in the early modern period...

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