Did everyone get socks this Christmas? Or maybe a hairy jumper or an ugly bobble hat? If not, you may be overdue for a visit from the Yule Cat. Like the more famous Krampus, the Yule Cat brings a paradoxical element of terror to the festive season by eating people who didn’t receive new clothes at Christmas.

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Perseid meteor over the Luhasoo bog in Estonia, by Martin Mark.

In August, the Earth passes through the debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle, causing the Perseid meteor shower. When the pebble-sized debris burn up in our atmosphere, we see shooting stars that appear to come from the same direction as the constellation of Perseus.

I stayed up on Saturday night to watch, but I only saw a few shooting stars despite (erronous) claims that 2017 would have the best Perseids in 96 years. It was still fascinating, particularly knowing that they were space pebbles sizzling up in our atmosphere tens of miles above me. Historically, people have seen spiritual or cultural significance in astronomical events, so I wondered if there was any such history for the Perseids.

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What could we learn from examining the body of someone who lived two thousand years ago? Not their bones, or even a dry mummy, but a solid, flexible corpse. A corpse that could be autopsied like someone who died weeks ago.

Archaeologists had the chance to find out when the body of Xin Zhui, a Han Dynasty noblewoman, was discovered in China. Her body is the best preserved mummy ever found. However, the most revealing hints about her life are gained from studying her remains in the context of her tomb and historical period.

This article contains descriptions and images of human remains.

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A small tree pangolin being held.
A tree pangolin, by Valerius Tygart.

This cute Pokémon-like creature is a pangolin. Pangolins are interesting to anthropologists because they tell us something about how we classify things, and how we react to things that can’t easily be classified.

Mary Douglas was anthropologist who wrote about the Lele people of Central Africa in the 1950s. She was particuarly interested in how people classify things and what it says about our cultures. She thought that we felt strong emotions towards things that we couldn’t classify, we could consider them taboo or somehow special.

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