17 Apr / 2018

H2-OhNo! Part 1: Raw Water

Α reconstructed appearance of Myrtis, an 11-year-old girl who died during the plague of Athens and whose skeleton was found in the Kerameikos mass grave, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Just how pure is your raw water source? Do you trust it? Would you drink it? Join your Horrific History co-hosts, Eric Slyter and Jordan Watney, as they take several trips in the Horrific History time and space machine to look at cases in history when trusted water supplies turned deadly and how some earlier societies handled water quality concerns. Learn how waterborne diseases can help determine the outcome of a war, encourage societies to develop regulations on industry and even kill already starving settlers in a new (to them) land. We’ll also take a brief look at how people have viewed and measured water quality through history (hint: up until recent history water quality was assessed only by human senses), and natural contaminants which can be harmful (or deadly) when you’re drinking water to achieve that healthy glow.


How did scientists prove that typhoid helped determine the outcome of the Peloponnesian War between the Spartans and the Athenians around 430 BCE, and what conditions allowed it to help wipe out an estimated 1/3 of the population in Athens? Is it true that people in the middle ages only drank beer instead of water because the quality was so bad? What made the water so toxic to the salt of the earth colonists of Jamestown and what did they have in common with the city of Athens?


Cities under siege, medieval public works and salty sewer water, this episode has lots of raw water for you (and some myth busting)! Learn about the ways humanity’s history is tied to the search for clean water, and many of the painful lessons we had to learn along the way. So sit down with a glass of nice clear water as you listen to this latest Horrific History episode through one of your favorite podcast services (iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and more). Just remember, no squeam allowed! Join us again in two weeks for Part 2 when we’ll explore some more of the events (with natural causes) from more modern history which led humans to develop ways of processing and filtering drinking water and ways in which we are still failing as a species!


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Some of our favorite resources from this week’s episode:


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Commercial break music by Dead but Dreaming.

Slideshow Image Credit: Holland Paintings Gift of The Ahmanson Foundation (AC1997.10.1) European Painting Currently on public view: Ahmanson Building, floor 3 The painting is believed to be referring to the plague of Athens or have elements from it (i.e. as per Plague in an Ancient City, by Michael Sweerts, circa 1652, represents the Plague of Athens, Thucicydes and the Plague of Athens)

Blog photo credit: Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis, and used under Creative Commons License

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