aztec sun stone

History is gone, but at the same time it’s a part of our world. This is part of its magic. It’s not just found in dusty old books or the stories we tell about the past. It exists all around us. That old building across the street, those craggy mountains on the horizon, the buttons from your grandfather’s World War II uniform–all of these things are tangible traces of the past, and they can tell us amazing stories about the way things were, if only we will listen.

I’ve been thinking lately how much history, even distant and ancient history, still exists in the world today in tangible form. This thought gave me an idea for a new series of blog articles that I hope you’ll like. Based in part on the success of my Hawaiian History Week blog series a few weeks back, I’ve decided to launch another series of historical articles under a common theme, that being, physical objects–that still exist in tangible form today–that tell interesting stories about history. This is necessarily a big topic, and one of the major issues in fleshing it out is to decide which objects to choose to profile! Just to pick an arbitrary number, I’ve decided to limit myself to 42 specific objects. (Fans of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will understand the significance of the number 42). I’ve already been making a list, scouring Wikipedia, the holdings of various museums as well as books and my own recollections, and I think I’ve got some interesting candidates.

Here’s how the blog series will work. Every couple of days, in the evening blog post, I’ll run an article showing the object I’ve chosen, explaining what it is and telling its story. Not every single post in a row is going to be on this theme, but you’ll know the posts when you see them. I’ll present my 42 chosen objects in chronological order, covering the whole globe, from literally the dawn of time until the 21st century. (I haven’t even finished choosing the ones later on the list yet; naturally this series will take at least a few weeks to complete). Some objects are momentous, priceless relics whose significance is instantly apparent, such as the object pictured at the top of this article. Others will be more mundane, even innocuous. But all will tell an interesting story about something in history.

I’m excited about this series, and with as much fun as the Hawaiian History Week series was, I’m looking forward to returning to a theme. The first article runs tonight. Join me on a trip through our planet’s fascinating history, and the priceless junkyard of objects it has left behind to tell its tale.

The image of the Aztec “sun stone” is by Wikimedia Commons user Sasha Isachenko, used/relicensed under Creative Commons 3.0 (Attribution) license.