World History

"Getting to the Pacific by ship, without having to go over land, was the biggest challenge of that period," says Helen Nadar. "[Magellan's] the one that solved it" (above, a color engraving).

The Man Who Sailed the World

Ferdinand Magellan's global journey gave him fame, but took his life

One of the few entryways into Petra is a narrow passage, the Siq, at the end of which Petrans carved elaborate monuments into the soft rock.

Reconstructing Petra

Two thousand years ago, it was the capital of a powerful trading empire. Now archaeologists are piecing together a picture of Jordan's compelling rock city

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Risks and Riddles

The Soviet Union was a puzzle. Al Qaeda is a mystery. Why we need to know the difference

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Prophet on the Mount

The devout pay respects to Aaron

The Institution's treasures were under 24-hour guard until World War II's end. The superintendent of the Shenandoah National Park selected five residents of Luray and the vicinity to serve as guards. "All fine men thoroughly conscientious in their duty," these guards were led by Lynn Black (far left, front row), and protected the collections against sabotage, theft and fire.

In the Event of War

How the Smithsonian protected its "strange animals, curious creatures" and more

The unlikely researcher, George Smith, made one of archaeology's most sensational finds when he uncovered the cuneiform-inscribed clay tablet containing fragments of a lost Babylonian epic.

Epic Hero

How a self-taught British genius rediscovered the Mesopotamian saga of Gilgamesh —after 2,500 years

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The Epic of Gilgamesh Translation

Translated by Stephen Langdon, University of Pennsylvania

A carving of the tale of Gilgamesh

Lost Treasure

In Gilgamesh, scholars unearthed literary gold

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Talking to the Feds

The chief of the FBI's organized crime unit on the history of La Cosa Nostra

Adhering to tradition is a way of life among the Zuni Indians of northwestern New Mexico, whether it's dryland farming or wedding ceremonies. "The Zuni's complex social web seems to hold people," says Dennis Tedlock. "Their religion and language provide...ethnic identity."

The Zuni Way

Though they embrace computers and TV, the secret of the tribe's unity lies in fealty to their past

The Old Bailey (in 1809) was the venue for more than 100,000 criminal trials between 1674 and 1834, including all death penalty cases.

Digitizing the Hanging Court

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey is an epic chronicle of crime and vice in early London. Now anyone can search all 52 million words

Zuni or not, every woman is obliged to pitch in for the Sha'lako corn-grinding ceremony. During the religious festival, says Morell (far right), "people are expected to set aside all feelings of ill-will and hostility."

Mystery and Drama

Virginia Morell, author of "The Zuni Way," on the mystical ceremonies of the Zuni pueblo

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Celebrating St. Patrick

On March 17, everyone's green-even the Chicago River. Yet St. Patrick remains colored in myth

Teenager Chen Daidai and her mother, Hu Shuzhen, a part-time real estate agent, live in an apartment that the family owns in Wenzhou, a hub of manufacturing—and growing prosperity (from A Tale of Two Chinas)

China Rising

Rediscover five articles published between May 2002 and May 2006 that reveal another side of the emerging superpower

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Tea's Time

The ancient drink makes a comeback

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The Past Informs the Present

In this Q & A, Caroline Alexander, author of "Faces of War," discusses robotic faces and the timelessness of war stories

Samuel Johnson

Doctor Feelgood

Stricken by "vile melancholy," the 18th-century critic and raconteur Samuel Johnson pioneered a modern therapy

In San Sebastián (where condos dot the beach), a real-estate boom reflects a region betting on long-term stability.

Peace at Last?

Though political tensions linger, terrorists agreed to a cease-fire this past March. Will it mean peace at last?

A group of men dressed as the communist militia from 1980s walk in Warsaw during the 24th anniversary of martial law, in 2005.

Poland's War

Remembering martial law 25 years later

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What's Up

Paper dolls, Josephine Baker and the Seven Years' War

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