Bone study reveals what ancient peoples on the Mediterranean coast really ate

Plus: There may be hyper-advanced aliens hiding in one of these two places in the universe.

Jugs lining the walls of a "kitchen" are at the ruins of Herculaneum or Ercolano, Italy.  This Roman...
Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Moment/Getty Images

“Fortune favors the brave,” unless you are sailing straight into a cloud of noxious fumes raining down ash, lava, and fire on your head.

The quote isn’t just the name of a beer or a cute phrase on motivational posters. It is actually attributed to Pliny the Elder, an author, philosopher, and naturalist who was both a witness and victim of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. that destroyed the Ancient Roman towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Torre.

What Vesuvius did not destroy are the chemical signatures embedded in the preserved bones of the people who perished. Today these molecular prints are leading to new discoveries about how Ancient Roman men and women lived — and more specifically what they ate for dinner every day.

If you were wondering what to make for your Friday night dinner, then wonder no more and scroll on for the full tale, and more stories about vampire bat friendships, and where aliens might be hiding in the universe.

I’m Claire Cameron, and this is Inverse Daily. If you love this newsletter, then share it with a friend by sending them this link.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Friday, September 24, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox. ✉️

Where are you?


Scientists identify two galaxies that could be home to hyper-advanced alien life — A team of astronomers are searching for Type III alien civilization among the galaxies, the most advanced type of extraterrestrial life. Passant Rabie explains what this means for finding life in space:

The Kardashev scale, developed by astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev in 1964, measures how far technologically advanced a hypothetical alien civilization is based on the amount of energy it consumes.

The scale has three types of civilizations:

  • Type I civilization, which uses the energy available to it on its planet
  • Type II civilization, one that consumes as much power at the scale of its entire star system (meaning its host star and the other planets that orbit it)
  • Type III civilization, the most advanced kind which can harness as much energy as the entire galaxy

As of now, human civilization has not even achieved full Type I status. Instead, we’re at a measly 0.73 since we are still not able to harness all of the solar energy that reaches Earth. Scientists predict that it would take us 100 to 200 years to reach Type I.

On the other hand, a Type III civilization is way past us.

So if they do exist, where are these aliens potentially hiding in the universe?

Read the full story here.

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A real-life still-life painting from Herculaneum.

DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini/Getty Images

Ancient men and women in Italy had one key difference in their diets Archaeologists have revealed what Ancient Romans at Herculaneum once ate, giving tourists and home cooks a chance to recreate the food now. Inverse contributor Doris Elín Urrutia takes us back to the height of culinary sophistication in 79 A.D.:

When they were alive, the people of this affluent town of 5,000 had a diet that would make any sensible person drool. For starters, they ate an incredible amount of fresh fish and olive oil, far more than current-day adherents of a modern Mediterranean diet.

A study published in the journal Science Advances describes how archaeologists looked inside the bones of the ancient peoples of Herculaneum, using a method called Longin collagen extraction. The researchers then determined the stable isotope values of amino acids from that bone collagen. They used statistical models that incorporate knowledge of protein synthesis to figure out just how much fish a Herculaneum denizen ate. (Bone collagen can tell you what a person ate when they were alive, thanks to chemical signatures in the collagen.)

Soncin and her team sampled the rib-bone collagen of 11 adult males and 6 adult females and found signatures of carbon and nitrogen.

Curiously, the men showed greater levels of seafood-derived chemicals.

Read the full story.

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Friends that suck together, stay together.

mikroman6/Moment/Getty Images

Bloodsucking bats have one thing in common with humans, study reveals Scientists reveal female vampire bats often forage for food with close kin or "friends," highlighting the social nature of this often misunderstood animal. Tara Yarlagadda has more:

According to a study published Thursday in the journal PLOS Biology, female vampire bats prefer to go hunting for blood in the company of a few good friends.

These findings suggest friendship may be essential to the bloodthirsty bat’s way of life and help us understand the evolutionary behavior of one of nature’s most elusive nocturnal animals.

“We think this study opens up an exciting new window into the social lives of these mysterious animals,” co-author Gerald Carter tells Inverse.

Key quote: “Vampire bats are some of the most maligned of all bats,” Carter says. “People do have a reason to fear them... but I do think they are beautiful and interesting animals.”

Read the full story here.

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One day.


SpaceX Starship: This new hurdle stands between Musk and his Mars City — SpaceX's under-development rocket, Starship, is designed to take humans to Mars. When it will do so is another question, writes Mike Brown.

It all boils down to the rules of aviation: Before SpaceX can soar to Mars, it has to clear some regulatory hurdles. That could put an end to CEO Elon Musk’s goal to host the first orbital flight this year, and it may draw into question the company’s longer-term deadlines to carry NASA astronauts to the Moon in 2024, send humans to Mars by the mid-2020s, and establish a Mars city by 2050.

In Musk’s race to make humanity into a multi-planetary species, these hurdles could represent some speed bumps on the way.

Want to find out more about Musk’s plans for Mars? Subscribe to MUSK READS+ for exclusive interviews and analysis about spaceflight, electric cars, and more.

Read the full story here.

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Kevin Sorbo, aka Hercules.

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