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GEORGE WASHINGTON STANK HERE

To truly understand history, use your nose

@jessicawapner

ODOR

SOME PEOPLE are distressed that while we can read history, we cannot smell it. “Our knowledge of the past is odorless,” Cecilia Bembibre and Matija Strlic write in a new study on historic odors. Bembibre and Strlic, preservation scientists at University College London, want to change that.

We can look at photographs and drawings, read memoirs and listen to old recordings, but we can’t conjure the odors of past events. We don’t know what the air smelled like to Marco Polo as he traveled the Silk Road, or to the first northern Indians who gathered around Siddhartha Gautama in the fifth century B.C., or to the soldiers of the American Revolution who woke up at Fort McHenry to find that their lag was still there.

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