When you name your special series The Day Tomorrow Began, you inevitably have to ask yourself: just how far back are we going to go? If there’s one group of scholars who could tell us what the earliest possible day that “tomorrow” began is, it’s archaeologists.
On this episode, we go back in time to learn about James Henry Breasted, a UChicago scholar who in the early 20th century revolutionized the field, founded the world-renowned Oriental Institute (the OI) and uncovered the roots of ancient civilizations. And we talk with leading scholars, who look to the future as the field of archaeology wrestles with its colonialist past.
- The Day Tomorrow Began: Ancient Civilizations
- The Fertile Crescent, Explained
- Explore The Day Tomorrow Began website
- Read American Egyptologist: The Life of James Henry Breasted and the Creation of His Oriental Institute by Jeffrey Abt (UChicago Press, 2011)
- OI website
Paul Rand: Big Brains is supported by the University of Chicago Graham School. Are you ready to open the door to new learning in your life? Experience inquiry that is steeped in the UChicago tradition of powerful discovery and exploration. Select from courses and programs into liberal arts, culture, science, society, and more. Customize your lifelong learning journey with UChicago Graham, online and in person offerings are available. Learn more at graham.uchicago.edu/bigbrains.
Paul Rand: Tomorrow: It’s a word that scientists think a lot about. Tomorrow is where new discoveries will be made and old discoveries might be proven wrong, but every tomorrow has a beginning. There is always a day that tomorrow began.
On Big Brains, we explain the surprising research that’s reshaping the world around us, but today we’re going to try something new. In a special series we’re calling, The Day Tomorrow Began, we’ll be explaining the historical origins of some of the most important ideas that have reshaped our world and the through lines that they may carry into our future.
From the University of Chicago Podcast Network, this is The Day Tomorrow Began, a special Big Brain series that explores the past, present, and future of some groundbreaking and breakthrough discoveries. On this episode, the search for the origins of civilization. I’m your host, Paul Rand.
Paul Rand: When you name your special series, The Day Tomorrow Began, you inevitably have to ask yourself, “Well, just how far back are we going to go?”
Tape: Hundreds of millions of years before the human adventure began, the earth was a lifeless, fiery mass, whirling in timeless infinity.
Paul Rand: See what I mean? That seems just a bit too far back, doesn’t it?
Tape: Several million years ago, there roamed this untamed world, a creature destined to rope his way upward out of a jungle. This jungle creature had become Man.
Paul Rand: That doesn’t feel right either, maybe an expert could help. And if there’s one group of scholars who could tell us what the earliest possible day that tomorrow began is, it’s archaeologists.
Gil Stein: It’s almost a universal human need to want to understand our origins.
Paul Rand: That’s Gil Stein, professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Chicago.
Gil Stein: And one of the ways that we try to find out about where we come from is to try and collect the direct evidence for it. The objects, the everyday things, the burials of ancient civilizations. To be honest about it, it’s ancient garbage.
Augusta McMahon: It takes a lot of imagination to be an archaeologist.
Paul Rand: And that’s Augusta McMahon, Professor of Mesopotamian archaeology at the University of Chicago.
Augusta McMahon: Because effectively you’re trying to reconstruct everything based on rubbish.
Paul Rand: For many archaeologists, the day that tomorrow began was the birth of human civilization.
Gil Stein: Living in cities, in state, organized societies with social stratification, occupational specialization of different jobs and roles in society.
Paul Rand: In many ways, you could say that civilization was really man’s first breakthrough discovery. Fire and the wheel are wonderful tools, but they only began to build the progress and growth of tomorrow when employed in the context of civilization.
Augusta McMahon: Urban living has been an incredibly successful and incredibly adaptable form of human settlement.
Paul Rand: But the story behind the discovery of our earliest civilizations is more surprising than you may think.
Gil Stein: The origins of civilization is different from the way people think it happened.
Paul Rand: It’s a contentious story, and the main character happens to be the most famous archaeologist of all time.
Tape: Forget any ideas you got about lost cities, exotic travel and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure and X never, ever marks the spot.
Paul Rand: Obviously not Indiana Jones, but what few people may know is that Harrison Ford’s iconic character is believed to be based on a very real, very fascinating person who is the focus of our story.
James Henry Breasted: Our civilization of today is an inheritance, a vast and richly varied accumulation of experience acquired gradually and by arduous struggle through the countless ages of the human past.
Paul Rand: He may not have worn a fedora or fought Nazi scientists, but he did travel across the world digging up and studying our ancient history.
James Henry Breasted: There has always been a first time in man’s past for every acquisition which we of today accept as a matter of course.
Paul Rand: His name was James Henry Breasted.
Gil Stein: James Breasted was a kind of a genius.
Paul Rand: And it’s easy to see why there is a, and we should say unconfirmed, mythology that Indiana Jones was based on James Henry Breasted.
Gil Stein: He’s this incredibly handsome, debonair guy hanging out in the Middle East, and you look at him and you think, “Yeah, I can see it.”
Paul Rand: Over the course of the early 20th century, Breasted became the first American Egyptologist in the world. The founder, one of the most internationally recognized schools of archaeology and the person who revolutionized our understanding of the origins of ancient civilization.
Jeffrey Abt: As you go through the archives and look at his correspondence and his publications and so forth, this to see somebody who was a kind of human dynamo.
Paul Rand: That’s Jeffrey Abt, professor of art history at Wayne State University and the author of a. Surprisingly, one of the very few biographies on this famous archaeologist.
Jeffrey Abt: In public, he was charismatic, he was engaging, he was a rack on tour, a good storyteller. He was attentive. Unfortunately, we don’t have much in the way of any recordings of him. There’s a film that his son did, The Human Adventure.
James Henry Breasted: As we travel together, great stage upon which our earliest predecessors played. Let us remember that like every generation since theirs, we are the current cast still continuing to play our parts in the never ending drama of the human adventure.
Paul Rand: And when it comes to adventure, Breasted was the classic example of a globe trotting archeologist.
Jeffrey Abt: He was kind of a rascal. After he married, he went to Egypt for the first time. It was his honeymoon trip down the Nile. Being there was a kind of cross between a well and a tunnel. It was a hole that led down into a tomb, and he wanted to see the interior of it and so he found a rope. He asked a workman, an Egyptian who was traveling along with him to hold one end of the rope, kind of wrap it around a rock. And then he lowered himself down into this tomb, stripped off his clothes, lowered himself down into it with a torch of some kind so he could see the hieroglyphics on the wall. And I think that it was kind of dangerous. His new wife, his new marriage was concerned about him, but it was something that he absolutely had to see.
Gil Stein: Archaeologists are very passionate about what they do. In their honeymoon suite, they had all these mummies and ancient Egyptian artifacts that you can dig up or acquired from antiquities dealers in Egypt. And I thought, “That can’t be a romantic honeymoon.” And yet this is what he loves.
Paul Rand: We all have a memory, maybe for most of us back in the fourth grade, of the first time that our imagination was captured while reading about pyramids or the lives of ancient Egyptians in our textbooks. We take our access to that history for granted today. But those textbooks are part of a lineage that goes straight back to Breasted.
Jeffrey Abt: I think it can be said that he established ancient Near Eastern history and Egyptology in particular, as subjects of serious study in American higher education. When he entered the field at the end of the 19th century, what people knew in America of ancient Near Eastern history, and in particular, Egyptology was informed either by biblical studies or by the popularization of ideas about ancient Egypt that were circulated by people like Madame Blavatsky in the Theosophical movement.
Paul Rand: They believed in psychic powers like clairvoyance and telepathy, and that a higher race of beings formed the first societies in Egypt. Your classic daytime history channel conspiracy show stuff. But surprisingly, they were quite popular in Breasted’s time.
Jeffrey Abt: And so he saw himself as combating a kind of ignorance about the actualities of ancient Near Eastern history and that it was something that he could correct through lecturing and through teaching, and then ultimately through writing textbooks. One of which was ancient times. It was a hugely popular book in its day, and it transformed the teaching of ancient Middle Eastern history in American high schools and colleges.
Paul Rand: There are many gifts that Breasted made to the field of archaeology and our knowledge of ancient history. But his greatest gift brings us back to our central question, understanding the origins of civilization. And at the time everyone thought they had it figured out.
Gil Stein: Most people thought that civilization began with the Greeks and Romans. Breasted realized, “Wait a minute, the true origins of civilization go back much further. And not just in the European world, but in the ancient Middle East.”
James Henry Breasted: Largely going to favorable geographic conditions, civilization first arose in the Near East.
Paul Rand: Perhaps you’ve heard the term Fertile Crescent before. Well, Breasted coined that term.
Augusta McMahon: His main contribution was to actually define the Fertile Crescent, this area, it basically covers the Levant up into Turkey and then round into Iraq and Iran as being really the source of a lot of really major foundational human developments.
Gil Stein: And he realized that the first cities and civilizations developed there, and that those ideas about urbanism in the state spread outward to other... Well to Europe, and that the roots of European civilization are in the ancient Near East.
James Henry Breasted: You see here the earliest non-implemented metal. It is a copper needle, which was excavated from a burial in early Egypt, dating from not less than 6,000 years ago.
Augusta McMahon: He kind of defined and really brought out the importance of this particular area in an era in which Greece and Rome was meant to be then the foundation of everything and anything earlier than that was just a kind of primitive extra. So his contribution was really to bring out the importance of these earlier developments in a part of the world which people had kind of discounted or thought was essentially peripheral.
James Henry Breasted: To Egypt, we owe the dawn of conscience and the earliest visions of character as a social force. Out of the Near East as a whole likewise came the great religions of the Western world and also the beginnings of science, astronomy and medicine, art and architecture, literature and music.
Jeffrey Abt: When you mentioned the Fertile Crescent, you’re actually hitting upon a good example of how he took a very complex array of information, having to do with topography, hydrography, farming, where people chose to settle in the ancient Near East. He takes all of these different sources of information and he draws them together with a single concept, the Fertile Crescent.
Augusta McMahon: And that was another one of his really important contributions, was to actually develop and think through this idea that the combination of archaeology, material, culture and so on with the textual documentation was, again, incredibly important in terms of our understanding of these past cultures and their development.
Paul Rand: Weaving together the study of objects with written records was an incredible insight for truly understanding what ancient civilizations were like because...
Gil Stein: People didn’t write down everything or else they just told lies, like kings would give out royal propaganda, about how wonderful they were.
Augusta McMahon: Writing was always a sort of elite technology, and they tended to write about things that were important to elites or write about the administrative end of things, and not about sort of people from the bottom up. So particularly the lives of women and children and anyone sort of poor and disenfranchised or anyone in a rural situation, their lives were not documented in text. So in many ways, the archaeologists are trying to sort of reconstruct and bring forward those under documented lives.
Paul Rand: His work on the Fertile Crescent and the rewriting of civilization’s origins is a big enough accomplishment for one lifetime. But it may not have even been Breasted’s longest lasting contribution to the field of archaeology. That contribution is probably the establishment of the Oriental Institute or OI at the University of Chicago.
Gil Stein: So he had this idea in 1919 of creating an institute where he would bring together those three really complimentary ways of knowing about the past. We could look at all across the Middle East how urbanized state societies ruled by kings developed thousands of years ago. He’d bring together the best specialists in all those areas and focus them on exploring the origins of civilization in the Fertile Crescent.
Paul Rand: With funds provided by John D Rockefeller, Breasted built the OI into the premier archaeological force on the planet.
Jeffrey Abt: His ideas change after he gets the funding from Rockefeller for the Royal Institute, and he does this 1919, 1920 tour of the ancient Near East to sort of plan a scope of, actually as he put it, a kind of campaign of research across the Middle East to recover the history of ancient Near Eastern civilizations. It’s in that context that he sees the importance of excavation. He starts raising money for the big archaeological digs that take place at locations like Megiddo, for example.
Tape: The records on these ancient buildings are the raw material of which history is made. They have never been properly copied and are steadily weathering, disintegrating, and becoming illegible. Unless preserved in this way, these priceless historical records will be irretrievably lost.
Gil Stein: Breasted sent out expeditions to Egypt, to Palestine to explore Megiddo, which is the origin of the legend of Armageddon. The battle at the end of time.
Tape: In the enormous pit before us was discovered an ancient winding staircase descending 120 feet to a horizontal tunnel, 165 feet long. This led to a cavern containing a spring, Megiddo’s water supply, especially during siege. The stairs at several points have been restored by the expedition. This is the largest ancient work of engineering yet found in Palestine and perhaps anti dates the Hebrews themselves.
Gil Stein: And in each of those places, archaeologists picked the most important sites that could give the deepest insights into how civilization began. So in all these different areas, this is really important. Civilizations were related to each other, but they weren’t identical. And each culture had its own way of developing a civilization, and by this institute that Breasted created, we could look at all across the Middle East how urbanized state societies ruled by kings developed thousands of years ago.
Tape: The Oriental Institute staff is at work in the tomb of Mereruka, one of the great lords of Memphis. The colors of many reliefs are still bright because these tombs were buried beneath the protecting sands, blown in from the Western desert until they were excavated a few years ago. Mereruka, whose limestone statue gazes at us from his niche would be astonished to watch these modern architects and artists copying his tomb for publication nearly 5,000 years after his death.
Jeffrey Abt: A vast number of excavations that were conducted by the Oriental Institute, the work that it did between his founding in 1919 and his death in 1935, the Oriental Institute became internationally famous for its wide ranging excavations and explorations across the Middle East. That was all Breasted's doing.
Paul Rand: The OI’s work didn’t end with the death of Breasted. Both Stein and McMahon are affiliated with the institute and it’s where they’re making their own field discoveries with the OI support. But today, the OI and archaeologists in general are reckoning with the darker aspects of archaeology past, a history of colonialism and theft of history. That’s after the break.
Paul Rand: Big Brains is supported by the University of Chicago Graham School. We open the doors of UChicago to learners everywhere. Experience the university’s distinctive approach to inquiry through our online and in-person courses in the liberal arts, culture, science, society, and more. Learn with instructors and extraordinary peers in small interactive classes. Autumn registration is open now. Visit graham.uchicago.edu/bigbrains.
Paul Rand: James Henry Breasted, the Oi and archaeology as a profession developed during the era of colonialism. Yet today, the profession is looking this history in the mirror and thinking about how to make the past right.
Augusta McMahon: This is a good question, a very difficult question that makes a lot of people quite uncomfortable.
Gil Stein: That’s a very important aspect of our history as a discipline that we really have to face up to, and that in many ways, archaeology developed hand in hand with especially 19th and early 20th century colonialism because the archaeologists were working in areas that were either colonial possessions or else League of Nations mandates after World War I.
Augusta McMahon: So within the Middle East, of course, prior to, really during the sort of Ottoman Empire, it was pretty much a situation where Western scholars would go in. They would get a sort of permit from the Ottoman bureaucracy in Istanbul, Constantinople and then roam around and basically take anything they’d wanted.
Paul Rand: The Ottoman Empire controlled most of what we think of as Egypt and the Middle East today, and they held the power to say who could and who couldn’t excavate those lands.
Gil Stein: That’s part of this colonialist legacy. This feeling like, “Oh, the past, the archaeology of this country really should rightfully belong to us.”
Paul Rand: If you think about Indiana Jones’ signature catchphrase.
Tape: That belongs in a museum.
Paul Rand: He never really specifies which museum and in which country, and with whose permission, does he?
Gil Stein: These museums have many, many collections where the artifacts were bought, they were bought on the antiquities market. Most cases, I’ll say, those ancient objects were looted from archaeological sites in those countries and then illegally smuggled out of those countries and then illegally sold.
Paul Rand: But all of that started to change in the 20th century.
Gil Stein: In 1919, World War I had just ended and all of the Middle East, which had been part of the Ottoman Empire, was emerging from Ottoman control and all these new countries were forming across the Middle East.
Augusta McMahon: When Iraq became a nation, almost immediately or very, very soon after the nation was created, they actually had an antiquities’ department set up. And that antiquities’ department then really controlled all of the antiquities within what is now modern Iraq. What happened initially was once Western, and it was still very much kind of like westerners came in and excavated, and there was a sort of colonial approach to that, which was very problematic. But at least when Westerners came in, they had to get a local permit. And also at the end of the excavation, they had to take everything they found to Baghdad or wherever, and it was essentially checked through and divided up. So there already, and this is the 1930s, a sort of sense that ownership needs to change and that there needs to be local representation of these materials. They can’t simply be taken away because there is actual Iraqi engagement with these materials that are their own cultural heritage.
Gil Stein: And since 1970, UNESCO developed a framework for cultural heritage protection against illegal antiquity smuggling. So now it’s a moral and ethical obligation of every museum. If you want to acquire a new object, you have to be able to prove that it was legally excavated and legally exported from its country of origin and legally imported.
Augusta McMahon: Many archaeologists who work in Iraq and in other countries in the Middle East as well, are simply being much more careful in the recent decades to make sure that there are Syrian archaeologists, Iraqi archaeologists, Egyptian archaeologists who are integral parts of the project. So rather than the Western institution coming in, we have this research question, and here’s our team. And a sort of representative of the Department of Antiquities has to be there. But that’s the kind of past model. And increasingly now we’re trying to actually make sure that we have local Iraqi scholars or local Egyptian scholars and so on who are an integral part of the research project right from the beginning.
Gil Stein: I want to say since the end of World War II and decolonization, that archaeologists really changed their entire way of thinking about the political context in which they worked. And what you’ll see, I think you can talk to many archaeologists and they’ll tell you, “I work with such and such as my partner in Syria or in Turkey or in Iran, and I’m only there with their permission, and that I also have an obligation to publish my results and make them accessible in the countries where that have allowed us to work there.”
Augusta McMahon: And there are advantages for us as well as for actually the local community, because the more people who know about the history of the site and the history of the landscape that they occupy, the greater chance of things like preservation. Because sites everywhere in the world are under threat of just the fact that they’re often in really great places to live and work. And so cities and whatever else are expanding and actually basically sort of nibbling away at a lot of archaeological sites. But the more that the people who actually live on or near the sites know about just the deep past and have an actual attachment to that cultural heritage, the more likely it is that sites will be protected or conserved and so on.
Gil Stein: And what I can say is I’m really proud that the Oriental Institute, almost all or the vast majority of the objects we have in our museum were legally excavated with permits from the local governments. They were scientifically excavated and they were published. That’s really the future of museums.
Augusta McMahon: So the question is now, what do you do with all these materials that actually are in museums now? Particularly the ones that were removed under the Ottoman era.
Paul Rand: One answer that many people say to that question is, “Well, give them back.”
Tape: Now to a debate in Europe about what to do with art and artifacts, many of which were stolen or looted from Africa, and are now in museums across the continent and around the world.
Gil Stein: Almost every day you’ll see some news story about German museums repatriating Benin Bronzes.
Tape: It is being called a game changer and the start of a new era. Germany has promised to begin returning the artifacts known as the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria next year, making it the first country to do so.
Tape: French colonial soldiers stripped this artifacts out of a royal court more than a century ago. Now they’re back.
Gil Stein: Or Greek artifacts being returned to Greece.
Tape: It’s been 200 years since the Greek Parthenon marbles were taken from Athens by a Scottish lord and sold to the British government. The sculptures now sit in the British museum, and they become a source of national injustice for many Greeks who say they were removed illegally and should be returned.
Gil Stein: Many objects were looted from Iraq after the invasion of Iraq.
Tape: Recovering memory and identity, this is how Iraq’s foreign minister describes the return of these antiquities from the United States.
Gil Stein: And you’ll find the Museum of the Bible returning very ancient cuneiform tablets to Iraq because they’re illegally smuggled.
Tape: It’s known as the Gilgamesh Dream tablet, an artifact made of clay with an engraved fragment of the epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest known religious text. It was stolen from an Iraqi museum in 1991 and sent to the United States. Now it’s back along with the world’s attention.
Gil Stein: The Oriental Institute, we’ve returned thousands of clay tablets from the time of the Persian Empire. We were happy to return them. No one had to lean on us. Over the last 10 years, we’ve been periodically shipping back hundreds and then thousands of those objects. So it’s the right thing to do, and museums have really stepped up to it by and large. I think you’ll see it’s very widespread, and it’s a really healthy development.
Paul Rand: Many archaeologists are generally in favor of repatriation, but McMahon says it can be far more complicated than most people care to realize.
Augusta McMahon: So we had to think about what is moral and also what can effectively be done. Because say we were to go to Oriental Institute, University of Pennsylvania Museum, Metropolitan British Museum, wherever else, and say, “Okay, everything which actually the source of this was actually in Iraq or in Egypt. We have to take all of this back and send it back to the country of origin.” That is extremely problematic just because of the scale of what you’re talking about. While there are plenty of Iraqi archaeologists, Egyptian archaeologists, people who would be completely capable of caring for this material, conserving it, studying it, and so on, they tend to be massively underfunded. Just to sort of dump a huge quantity of materials on a very underfunded and under-resourced, most cases government institution, is not going to be particularly useful. It ends up going back and again, there’s a big news story, “Here, massive statues heading back to Baghdad.”
What then happens when they get there? And is this actually probably less effective? So we need to be thinking through just the logistics of this after you get through what is the moral obligation, what should we be doing? What is kind of the next step? And how can potentially these western institutions support Iraqi colleagues in everything that they will need on that side? And that’s hard because in Iraq, the antiquity department is part of the government. And also what do Iraqi colleagues in general really want, and what do other Iraqi stakeholders really want? Because often the sort of press for repatriation of objects may be kind of pushed by particular individuals, particular groups that have some kind of goal behind that. Is this something which is actually a more general wish? And we need to be just cognizant of that problem as well. So it’s an incredibly complicated set of issues that needs a lot more dialogue and a lot more careful thinking and particular careful thinking about the medium and the long term and what the goals should be.
Paul Rand: Well, Stein and McMahon deal with these issues on the ground when they go on expeditions. In fact, Stein is actually speaking to us from a dig site in Iraq.
Gil Stein: I’m in a part of northeastern Iraq called the Kurdish Regional Government, and it’s east of the Tigris River, right up next to Iran, living in a city called Erbil, which is a very ancient city. It may be one of the oldest continuously occupied cities on the planet Earth.
Paul Rand: Stein has been studying the roots of urbanism his entire career. And like Breasted, has made some field defining discoveries that make us rethink the past.
Gil Stein: My own interests are in the very roots of urbanism in the origins of the first towns as the ancestors of cities. So for me, one of the most exciting things I ever did was I excavated one of the most ancient colonies ever founded in world history. That the very first state societies that developed in ancient Sumer in Mesopotamia, one of the first things they did was they sent out colonies all over up the Euphrates and Tigris valleys into the mountains of what’s now Turkey and Iran in search of raw materials. And they traded with the local people. And what I was interested in asking was, “Well, how are ancient colonies similar or different to our own modern conception of colonies where you picture sort of white guys and myth helmets sort of ordering around the natives or something?”
And what I was finding was that ancient pre-capitalist colonies in the technology conditions of 5,000 years ago operated in very different ways. And when you look at the ancient world that the world’s earliest known colonial system from about 3,700 BC really ancient, it operated under very different and more equal conditions than we think of as modern colonialism.
Paul Rand: Like Stein, McMahon’s research and Mesopotamia also focuses on the dynamics of our earliest cities, the building blocks of civilization.
Augusta McMahon: It started just rethinking what Mesopotamian cities potentially looked like in the past, and they are much more like our own with these issues of sort of changeable industrial edge zones. And just sort thinking that through and making more connections with the way we live now and the way we live in the past. It’s very easy to say, “Oh, well, in the past it was like this. It was all peaceful, or it was all sort of managing control.” And actually there’s this sort of diversity and chaos of modern urban living was also a factor in the past as well. We know all about modern urban challenges, things like crowding and unemployment and challenging commuting times, and a number of other things like that. And they also existed in the past as well, that crowding was a genuine issue. Unemployment was an issue, and sort of urban infrastructure that we take for granted now.
Paved streets and access to water and access to the equivalent of fuel, so gas and electric and so on, is pretty much for most modern urban inhabitants is sort of an expectation. And in the past it wasn’t unless it was a very, very unusual circumstance. I’ve been looking into the needs of people in the past, which are essentially the same as for us and how that was managed at an individual level. What we also are now realizing is that a lot of Mesopotamian cities don’t just grow from internal people getting together and doing their thing, but also through migration, much like now. So people are moving into cities for employment opportunities, for social networks, for safety, for all the same reasons in the past, as in the present.
Paul Rand: Well, I think we fully answered our question from the beginning about the earliest days of civilization, but I can’t help but notice we still have one huge mystery unsolved. Was Indiana Jones actually based on James Henry Breasted?
Gil Stein: I don’t know for sure, but I would like to believe that it’s true.
Paul Rand: We asked everyone we interviewed at the OI, and no one knew for sure. That was until we talked to Abt.
Jeffrey Abt: In working on the book, I actually contacted George Lucas.
Paul Rand: You did?
Jeffrey Abt: I did.
Paul Rand: Drum roll, please.
Jeffrey Abt: And his response was that he had never heard of Breasted.
Paul Rand: Bummer, but...
Jeffrey Abt: He said that he mentions the University of Chicago at the beginning of Indiana Jones because Chicago is famous for archaeology. Well, I think one can argue that the reason that Chicago is famous for archaeology is because of Breasted.
Paul Rand: And well, you just can’t argue with that. If you’re getting a lot out of the important research that’s shared on Big Brains, there’s another University of Chicago Podcast Network show that you should check out. It’s called Capitalisn’t. Capitalisn’t uses the latest economic thinking to zero in on the ways that capitalism is and more often isn’t working today. From the debate over how to distribute a vaccine to the morality of a wealth tax, capitalism clearly explains how capitalism can go wrong and what we can do about it. Listen to Capitalisn’t, part of the University of Chicago Podcast Network.
Matt Hodapp: Big Brains is a production of the University of Chicago Podcast Network. If you like what you heard, please leave us a rating and review. The show is hosted by Paul M Rand and produced by me, Matt Hodapp And Lea Ceasrine. Thanks for listening.
How an Indiana Jones-type figure transformed the field—and the questions scholars are wrestling with today
Neuroscientist uses MRIs to measure your attention—and learn how to improve it
Explore the surprising history of these cosmic monsters—and the future of research from leaders in the field
A behind-the-scenes look at world-changing ideas at UChicago and beyond
Groundbreaking study examines one program’s impact on employment and incarceration
One scientist’s quest to improve technology as we transition to green energy
Scholar explores the science behind animal consciousness
Research examines—and could help predict—extreme weather events around the world
Why Air Pollution Is Cutting Years Off Our Lives, with Christa Hasenkopf and Anant Sudarshan (Ep. 95)
Scholars behind Air Quality Life Index report warn of threat to our global health
Scholar examines how the wealthy, global corporations exploit tax loopholes in the tiny U.S. state