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Throughout time, catastrophes have shaped the world we live in. In the 2019-20 Great Lecture Series, we explore catastrophes from their causes and immediate impacts, to their implications and ingenuities. Natural and nuclear disasters, along with disease and deluge, will all be explored—from Pompeii to Chernobyl and mass extinction to the flu pandemic.

Number of Videos: 7

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Time: 01:03:30
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Views: 8,204  

The Destruction of Pompeii and Its Aftermath: Blacker and Denser Than Any Other Night

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, it buried Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the surrounding settlements under nearly 20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice. Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer, documented his eyewitness account of the disaster, supporting the archaeological evidence uncovered there in the last two centuries. This Great Lecture reviews how these buried cities and their exploration have had a lasting impact on European and American culture. C. Brian Rose, Ph.D., Curator-in-Charge, Mediterranean Section, Penn Museum; Immediate Past President, Archaeological Institute of America; Trustee, American Academy in Rome

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Time: 01:03:15
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Views: 65,799  

Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918–19 in Philadelphia

What happens when disease strikes a city of two million people, sickening half a million and killing more than 12,000 in just six weeks and 16,000 in two months? During fall 1918, in the last months of World War I, Philadelphia hosted the largest parade in its history. Within days, influenza casualties overwhelmed hospitals. In this illustrated presentation, Robert D. Hicks, Director of the Mütter Museum, discusses the pandemic as a social catastrophe and considers its memorialization today. He shares highlights of the museum’s most ambitious exhibition to date, Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia, that opens during this for five years. Several relevant artifacts from the Mütter Museum will be on display at the lecture. Robert D. Hicks, Ph.D., Senior Consulting Scholar, Director, Mütter Museum/Historical Medical Library, William Maul Measey Chair for the History of Medicine of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

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Time: 00:55:49
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Views: 3,408  

Overturning of Space and Time: The End of the Inca Empire

Explore the collapse of the Inca Empire- once the most powerful in the America- caused by civil unrest, European expansion, and disease. Clark L. Erickson, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Curator, American Section, Penn Museum

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Time: 00:55:05
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Views: 8,113  

Great Catastrophes in Earth History

In human history we have witnessed impressive natural disasters. These mis-events pale in comparison with great events in earth history. Disasters may seem dire challenges to life on earth but ultimately, they proved to be great opportunities for new forms of life to evolve. We may not want to have shared our living space with dinosaurs. Peter Dodson, Ph.D., Professor of Anatomy, Labs of Anatomy, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and Professor of Paleontology, Department of Earth and Environmental Science, School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

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Time: 00:46:54
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Views: 26,380  

The Great Flood and Its Aftermath

In the Great Flood of ancient Mesopotamian mythology, the gods cower from the storm as humanity teeters on the brink of extinction. What saves humanity? A subversive act: when the god of wisdom and magic tells a flood survivor to build an ark. While the Mesopotamian flood story sounds similar to one in the Bible or the Qur’an, they are quite distinct. This Great Lecture explores whether the Great Floods really happened; and recounts well-known and newly identified versions of the Mesopotamian flood, as well as related stories from other cultures. Dr. Stephen J. Tinney, Deputy Director, Chief Curator, and Head of Collections and Research

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Time: 00:51:08
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Views: 2,732  

An Earthquake That Shook the World: Seismicity and Society in the Late Fourth Century CE

A concentration of late fourth- and early fifth-century sources seem to suggest that a massive earthquake shook the eastern Mediterranean in the second half of the fourth century CE, precipitating a tsunami that reached as far as Croatia, Northwestern Greece, Libya, and Egypt. This earthquake is conventionally dated to the morning of July 21, 365 CE. However, this neat picture of a single, universally-destructive event is open to question, for it is difficult to resolve the textual, archaeological, and geological evidence for seismological activity in the second half of the fourth century into a single, coherent picture. This Great Lecture uses that data, instead, to explore late Roman society’s ‘culture of risk’—its strategies for understanding, mitigating, and exploiting the manifold uncertainties of the physical and metaphysical world. Cam Grey, Department of Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania

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Time: 01:14:38
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Views: 50,082  

The Classic Maya Collapse: New Evidence on a Great Mystery

The Maya of the Classic Period 150–900 CE created one of the most dynamic and successful societies of the ancient Americas. Millions of people inhabited thousands of settlements, divided among more than a hundred kingdoms. By controlling water resources and terraforming the landscape they developed an agricultural system that supported a ruling class of king and, nobles, as well as strata of artists, architects, potters, merchants, and warriors. But at about 800 things began to go seriously wrong and within a century all their great cities were abandoned, never to be reoccupied. One of the great problems of world archaeology, this catastrophe has never lacked theories, what it lacked was hard facts pointing to an explanation. But today we might finally be close to understanding what happened and laying a mystery to rest. Simon Martin, Ph.D., Adjunct Associate Professor, Anthropology, Curator, American Section, Penn Museum