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Mark Johnston

Mark Johnston has been a self-described “history nerd” from a very young age. In the seventh grade, he researched and wrote a paper on Roman gladiators just for fun. When he wasn’t frivolously writing essays nobody asked for, Mark spent his time buried in a computer playing games like Zeus: Master of Olympus, in which he frequently cheated . More recently, he attended Mount Royal University where he majored in history and creative writing and wrote many, many more papers. He was thrilled to discover that, this time, people actually wanted to read them.

Mark currently lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his wife, Carmen. They are expecting their first child any day now, and Mark is fervently hoping for a nerd. When not researching or writing, Mark enjoys writing and recording music, hiking in the majestic Rocky Mountains, and of course, still plays Zeus: Master of Olympus. He still cheats.


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The Runamo Runes: The Mysterious Runic Inscription that Never Was!

The Runamo Runes: The Mysterious Runic Inscription that Never Was!

Before the invention of paper, humanity often inscribed words, symbols, and images onto the living stone of the surrounding landscape. These images, often commemorating significant cultural events or...
Hands sprinkling salt. Humans have cultivated salt for centuries, but in some places, salt has covered the earth. Source: Left zlikovec / Adobe Stock

Salt Sowing: An Ancient Method to Settle Scores

Many people use salt to bring out the flavor in their food. Others spread it on icy roads and sidewalks to give vehicles or pedestrians some grip as they go about their day. It is, by most accounts,...
In the wars between the Olympians and the Titans, known as the Titanomachy, Hyperion, the heavenly light, does battle with Zeus, the sky and thunder god. Source: rudall30 / Adobe Stock

Hyperion: Titan God of Heavenly Light, Son of Gaia and Uranus

In Disney’s 1997 film Hercules , the Titans are portrayed as natural disasters personified in the form of monolithic, terrible beings. In Greek mythology, however, the Titans were part of the first...
Nidhogg breathed chaos under Yggdrasil. Source: warmtail / Adobe Stock

Nidhogg, the Chaos Bringing Dragon of Ancient Norse Mythology

A dark dragon, feathered, with corpses strewn about its body. An ancient evil that nibbles away at the structure of the universe itself. The “curse-striker.” A beast constantly engaged in a battle of...
The Nordic Helm of Awe is a Viking or Norse magical spell or rune that could be used for good or evil, but it wasn’t an actual battle helmet. Source: Fotokvadrat / Adobe Stock

What is the Helm of Awe? Runes, Symbols, and Viking Magic!

Every culture contains a plethora of images, animals, foods, etc. that are symbolic of their values. Symbols are an important, meaningful aspect of culture that can teach historians, archaeologists,...
Chinese knife money. Source: sytilin / Adobe Stock

Chinese Knife Money: Making Markets feel Murderous?

The days of ‘cash as king’ are fading. Today, credit, debit, and digital currency have begun to slowly replace cash as the primary forms of payment, but it was not always so. For centuries, paper...
This must have been the imagined landscape of John Wilkins' 17th-century moon mission just as his flying chariot left the clouds behind. Source: flashmovie / Adobe Stock

Astronomer John Wilkins Planned a Moon Mission in 1640 AD with a Flying Chariot!

In 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth. In 1969, the American Apollo 11 moon mission placed the first human boots on the surface of the moon. These nations...
Tiresias, the blind seer of Greek mythology. Source: matiasdelcarmine / Adobe Stock

Tiresias: The Blind Seer of Greek Mythology

Movies, video games, and comic books have made mythological figures like Zeus, Hercules, and Hades household names across the globe. These gods and heroes of ancient Grecian myth have carved out a...
The site of the old town Kaupang, a Viking village for tourists, is an interpretive center where visitors can learn about the Viking Age, as well as about archaeological techniques and processes. Source: J. P. Fagerback, BSD

An Archaeological Needle in the Haystack: The Viking Village of Kaupang

Ancient Norse literature is filled with place names of towns, farms, and fjords. While many of these names have survived to the modern day, making their discovery relatively straightforward, others...
An imaginary depiction of Cerdic of Wessex from John Speed's 1611 "Saxon Heptarchy." Source: John Speed / Public domain

The Question of Ancient Kings: Cerdic of Wessex, First Saxon King of England?

Historians of the ancient world face a myriad of challenges when studying the past. Centuries of legends and myths become intertwined with recorded facts, leaving behind a complex web of mystery...
The Macedonian Tomb of Lyson and Kallikles has long fascinated art scholars and more than a few see Roman stylistic influences in the ancient tomb. Source: Ancient painters of Macedonia / Public Domain

The Tomb of Lyson and Kallikles: A Roman-style Macedonian Grave?

The Tomb of Lyson and Kallikles is the smallest of the four Macedonian Tombs of Lefkadia and holds a mystery that has become the subject of debate amongst scholars of art and architectural history...
A topographic reconstruction from satellite photos of the Richat Structure with false coloring. False coloring as follows: Brown: bedrock; Yellow/white: sand; Green: vegetation; Blue: salty sediments. Source: NASA/JPL/NIMA / Public domain

What Do Astronauts, Atlantis, and Africa Share? The Richat Structure!

Tucked away in Mauritania, surrounded by the imposing, shifting dunes of the Sahara Desert, lies the Richat Structure. A spectacular rock formation of many names, the “Eye of the Sahara” has guided...