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Happy Birthday to the Drive-In Movie Theater!

Getty Images
Getty Images

In their heyday, drive-in movie theaters were a dime a dozen, with more than 4000 of them scattered across the U.S. alone. They were so numerous that theaters had to invent gimmicks to outdo the competition—their tricks included “laundry while you wait” and even fly-in movies that could accommodate small planes.

But though it seems quaint now, the drive-in wasn't originally invented as a gimmick. Creator Richard Hollingshead was inspired to create the unique movie set-up because his mother, a larger woman, found it difficult and uncomfortable to sit in regular movie theater seats. Wouldn’t it be great, she mused, if you could just watch films from your car?

He took her seriously, and in 1928 began toying with the idea. Hollingshead started by hanging a sheet from some trees in his backyard and mounting a movie projector onto the hood of his car. He experimented with different conditions, rolling the windows down at various heights to test sound quality, and using a lawn sprinkler to simulate rain. He even built small ramps for his test cars to ensure that rows in the back could see the screen just as well as the rows in the front.

After five years of test-drives, so to speak, Hollingshead received a patent for the “Automobile Movie Theater” in 1933. He spent $30,000 to open the first one—located in Camden, New Jersey—on June 6, 1933. “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are,” he advertised. More than 600 people showed up, paying 25 cents each to watch a 1932 movie called Wives Beware.

Loews licensed the drive-in theater idea from him, which should have made Hollingshead a very wealthy man. Unfortunately, he had trouble collecting, and in 1950, his patent was declared invalid. "He didn't make much money off it,'' his wife, Pauline, later said.

As of 2014, the number of drive-ins in the U.S. had dwindled to just 338.

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Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

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Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Scientists Just Found the Oldest Known Piece of Bread
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen

An old, charred piece of long-forgotten flatbread has captured the interest of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians around the world. Found in a stone fireplace in Jordan’s Black Desert, this proto-pita dates back 14,400 years, making it the oldest known example of bread, Reuters reports.

To put the significance of this discovery in context: the flatbread predates the advent of agriculture by 4000 years, leading researchers to theorize that the laborious process of making the bread from wild cereals may have inspired early hunter-gatherers to cultivate grain and save themselves a whole lot of trouble.

“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a researcher with the University of Copenhagen, told Reuters. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”

A report on these findings—written by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University College London, and University of Cambridge—was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It was once thought that bread was an invention of early farming civilizations. A 9100-year-old piece of bread from Turkey was previously regarded as the oldest of its kind. However, the Jordanian flatbread was made by a group of hunter-gatherers called the Natufians, who lived during a transitional period from nomadic to sedentary ways of life, at which time diets also started to change.

Similar to a pita, this unleavened bread was made from wild cereals akin to barley, einkorn, and oats. These were “ground, sieved, and kneaded prior to cooking,” according to a statement from the University of Copenhagen. The ancient recipe also called for tubers from an aquatic plant, which Arranz-Otaegui described as tasting “gritty and salty."

[h/t Reuters]

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