Food residue encrusted on 6,000-year-old pottery fragments from Northern Europe, such as the one above, show traces of mustard seed, which was likely used as a seasoning for fish and meat.

Ancient Pottery Fragments Show That Prehistoric Humans Used Spices Too

Shards of 6,000-year-old cooking pots from northern Europe show traces of mustard seed, likely used as a seasoning for fish and meat

Eugene Allen, inspiration behind The Butler, poses for a portrait by Roland Freeman.

Hear From the Real Butler of the White House, Eugene Allen

Smithsonian Folkways interviewed the man who inspired the new film starring Forest Whitaker

Sprites over Red Willow County, Nebraska, on August 12, 2013

Scientists Capture Rare Photographs of Red Lightning

Graduate student Jason Ahrns and colleagues hunt the skies for sprites—fleeting streaks and bursts of color that can appear above thunderstorms

Three elephants will be coming to the National Zoo from Canada’s Calgary Zoo in the spring.

HUGE News From the Zoo: Three New Elephants Are Moving In

Three female Asian elephants will come to the National Zoo from the Calgary Zoo in spring of 2014

Still from an animation illustrating the concept behind BIG’s design for Lego House

BIG Plans for a Lego Museum in Denmark

Some architects played with Legos as a child. And some never stopped playing with them

About the only use modern humans have for their urine is in health screenings. But preindustrial workers built entire industries based on the scientific properties of pee.

From Gunpowder to Teeth Whitener: The Science Behind Historic Uses of Urine

Preindustrial workers built huge industries based on the liquid's cleaning power and corrosiveness--and the staler the pee, the better

By analyzing a piece of fish’s DNA, researchers have found that roughly a third of U.S. seafood is mislabeled.

How DNA Testing Can Tell You What Type of Fish You’re Really Eating

By analyzing a the DNA of fish sold across the country, researchers have found that roughly a third of U.S. seafood is mislabeled

Bottles of imported sake line the shelves at True Sake, in San Francisco. Soon, the small retail shop will begin carrying sake made in America.

Can You Taste the Difference Between American and Japanese Sake?

Sake has been brewed for thousands of years in Japan. Now, American brewers are starting to make sake—but is it any good?

Technology has pushed education in good and bad directions.

10 Things We’ve Learned About Learning

For starters, laptops in classrooms are a big distraction, singing phrases can help you learn a language and multitasking isn't good for your grades

George Fabian Lawrence, better known as “Stoney Jack,” parlayed his friendships with London navvies into a stunning series of archaeological discoveries between 1895 and 1939.

The Commoner Who Salvaged a King’s Ransom

A furtive antiquarian nicknamed Stoney Jack was responsible for almost every major archaeological find made in London between 1895 and 1939

The seemingly simple coffee cup sleeve represents the genius of design.

How the Coffee Cup Sleeve Was Invented

The cardboard sleeve became the ubiquitous finger-saver for coffee fanatics everywhere

The world’s reefs are fading fast.

Can Swarming Robots and Cloud Umbrellas Help Save Coral Reefs?

As reefs continue dying off, scientists have started to think more boldly about how to protect them

In new research, Japanese scientists determined that warmer temperatures have gradually made the Fuji apples mealier and less flavorful.

Climate Change Is Altering the Taste and Texture of Fuji Apples

Japanese scientists determined that warmer temperatures have gradually made the fruits mealier and less flavorful

The patent that ignited the dreams of generations of architects

Lego Architecture Studio Brings Modernism to the Play Room

The childhood toy becomes an architect's dream come true


The Civil War

Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and the War That Changed Poetry, Forever

The two titans of American poetry chronicled the death and destruction of the Civil War in their poems


Waters Around Antarctica May Preserve Wooden Shipwrecks for Centuries

Some capsized ships may linger on the ocean floor indefinitely


Why Are So Many Dolphins Washing Up Dead on the East Coast?

A Smithsonian marine biologist investigates the sudden die-off of bottlenose dolphins along the Atlantic—and suspects that human activity may play a role

From “The Marlborough-Vanderbilt Wedding”

How American Rich Kids Bought Their Way Into the British Elite

The nouveau riche of the Gilded Age had buckets of money but little social standing—until they started marrying their daughters to British nobles


Cosmic Portraits Created From Hubble Space Telescope Images

Sergio Albiac generates images of people by collecting their head shots and replacing pixels with snippets from pictures of stars and galaxies

During World War II, when sugar was rationed to 8 ounces per adult per week, some vegetable alternatives were introduced. These girls don’t seem too happy about the “carrot-on-a-stick” option.

A WWII Propaganda Campaign Popularized the Myth That Carrots Help You See in the Dark

How a ruse to keep German pilots confused gave the Vitamin-A-rich vegetable too much credit

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