Listen to the musical notes of an ancient conch shell

Whats the oldest instrument youve ever heard played? Well, we might be able to do you one better. In this article, an 18,000 year old conch was reexamined at the Natural History Museum of Toulouse in France, discovered to have a different purpose than they originally thought. This conch was discovered in 1931 in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains, first thought to be a loving cup, used to share drinks during ceremonies. Upon reexamination, the conch was discovered to be carved into a wind instrument. Check out its notes here:

Conch Shell – Photo From Natural History Museum of Toulouse in France

For more source recommendations like these, check out the Core Blog (, or reach out to the Core Office ( for more information on the Core Curriculum.

The bright ghosts of antiquity by John Talbot

In this feature for The New Criterion titled “The bright ghosts of antiquity”, BU alumnus John Talbot writes about the baffling translations of the Loeb Classical Library, and wonders about the impact of such translations on the study of Latin and Greek:

But then if your Greek were good enough, you wouldn’t be reading the Loeb edition, would you? Therein lies a key to the academic animus against the Loebs: the anxiety that such convenient translations are as much a cause of the decline of Latin and Greek as a symptom. There is some justice in such fretting. The temptation, when you are supposed to be construing a knotty passage of Thucydides, to resolve the problem with a stolen glance at the right-hand page, proves too much for many students.

– Talbot

Books in the Loeb Classical Library

Books in the Loeb Classical Library

For more information on Talbot and his poetry, check out his page on the Poetry Foundation website:

Gong hei fat choy!

2-5-2006 (2)

In view of the Lunar New Year, let’s look back to a trip taken in the past by Core students to Boston’s Chinatown.

On Sunday February 5th 2006, a small party of students gathered at 10 AM to take the T to Chinatown to watch the traditional Lion Dance and enjoy a meal of dim-sum or “hearts delight.” During the Lion Dance (see photo), businesses and families paraded red, orange, black and white Chinese lions through the street. Shopkeepers offered bowls of oranges and lettuce, and if a lion stopped to take the food, it was assumed that shop would have good fortune for the New Year.

After watching the procession of carefully crafted lions, the group went to the dim-sum meal. The room was as big as a ballroom dance floor, with tables for 12 crowded in close that filled the room. Squeezing between the tables full of hungry patrons were waitresses with carts of various dishes: dumplings, meats, and desserts. In place of individual orders, one person would order for the whole table chicken feet, sweet bread with beans in the center, shrimp wontons and the waitress would lay out a tray of each dish for the table to share. There was always a pot of tea circulating the table or being refilled by a waitress. Although the crew arrived in Chinatown early in the morning, they did not leave the restaurant until well into the afternoon.

This Core in the City trip was a terrific example of one of the fundamental purposes of our time in the Core: the cultivation of appreciation for, and engagement with, the diverse cultures of the world.

This blog post was adapted from an article in Core’s Spring 2006 newsletter, De Ideis.

5 Misconceptions About Climate Change

In this episode of Science Matters from The Origins Podcast, the host, theoretical physicist, lecturer, and author, Lawrence M. Krauss, focuses on 5 big misconceptions about climate change, as well as the science behind climate change. In their first episode of 2021, Lawrence addresses misconceptions such as, “human productions of CO2 cannot significantly impact the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere,” as well as, “CO2, at its current PPM level in the atmosphere, cannot not affect the heat balance of the entire earth,” among others:

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Article about Dante’s Descendant Taking Part in a Mock Retrial

Check out this fascinating article about Dante’s descendant taking part in a mockretrialto see if Dante’s conviction in 1302 was just! Click this link to read!


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Voltaire and the Land of Snow


On this snowy day, our thoughts turn to this mention of snow in North America, on page 58 of Wooton’s translation ofCandide:

‘You know England; are they as mad there as in France?’ ‘It’s a different type of madness,’ said Martin. ‘You know that these two nations are at war over some acres of snow at the Canadian border; and that they are spending much more than the whole of Canada is worth on this fine war. To tell you precisely if there are more people who ought to be locked up in one country or in the other, that’s something of which my limited intellect isn’t capable. All I know is that the people we are going to see are very splenetic.’

(Emphasis added.) In this translation the one which we we are reading in CC 202 this spring — Martin and Candide reach the coast of England and immediately show a peculiar and particular dismissiveness toward the snow-covered land of Canada. What’s with all this animosity with Canada?

Here in the Core office we suppose it is worth noting that our director Kyna Hamill is from Canada… What is this “different type of madness” Voltaire mentions? Perhaps our gooddirector will enlighten us on the nature these”splenetic” people…

(Photo above from The Boston Globe.)

A NYT Article about “The Dancer Who Made Beethoven’s Ninth Happen”

In this NYT article, Patricia Morrisroe beautifully describes the life of one of the greatest dancers of their generation, Louis Antoine Duport, and the dramatic event of the performance of Beethoven’s Ninth, a powerful choral symphony. To read about this “temperamental impresario” and the premiere of a concert he managed, click here.

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Image of Louis Antoine Duport.

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Image of the Theater am Krntnertor in Vienna, where Beethovens Ninth was first performed on May 7, 1824.

Christopher Ricks on Milton and Blasphemy

Christopher Ricks, an esteemed professor in the Editorial Institute and the Core Curriculum here at BU, recently gave a lecture to the CC201 students on Milton and Blasphemy. This lecture discusses the incredible sensitivities of the word blasphemy, what it means to blaspheme, and how anti-blasphemy laws still impact our society today. He also discusses blasphemy in conjunction with Milton’sParadise Lost, and how the two are inextricably connected. This is exemplified in the following quote from the lecture:

“Now I have a general position here, which is that unless a religious work is accused in some way, is open in some way to the accusation that it is blasphemous, it won’t be a great religious work. That is, it will have ‘played safe’ — and no great art, or great thought, or great personhood is ever achieved by playing safe” (Ricks).

Core community members who would like to listen to the full lecture can do soHERE.

A New Article about Visiting Ancient Worlds Virtually through Student-Made Videos

This article by Rich Barlow allows you to see course tours of art from Boston to Paris via technology. These tours were created by BU students in Professor Kyna Hamill’s “Ancient Worlds” class for their UROP projects. To read this article and see the virtual tours, click here.


“Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again”

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This week, as CC 101 students turn their focus towards the Parthenon, classical architecture has also been getting some attention from President Trump. The Guardian reports that earlier this year, the Trump administration drafted an executive order calling for a return to a classical style in new federal buildings. The draft order, entitled “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” criticizes brutalist and deconstructivist architecture for “its failure to re-integrate ‘our national values into federal buildings.'” The draft order argues:

When designing and building the federal capital in Washington in the late 18th century, America’s founders embraced the classical models of ‘democratic Athens’ and ‘republican Rome’ because the style symbolized the new nation’s ‘self-governing ideals.’

Critics say that new buildings should be a product of their time, and that an official architectural style is not compatible with a 21st century liberal democracy. Check out the full Guardian article here.