43 Striking Facts You Didn’t Know About Europe

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1Maternal Roots

About 95% of the people of European origin can trace their maternal roots to one of the seven women who lived between 10,000 and 45,000 years ago.


2. Between 1993 and 2008, the same DNA was discovered at 40 different crime scenes in Europe, leading to the investigation of the “Phantom of Heilbronn”, which turned out to be a woman working in a cotton swab factory who inadvertently contaminated the swabs with her own DNA.


3. Some European countries have a “Freedom to Roam Law", which means that you can freely go into private land for recreation as long as you don’t cause any problems.


4. The Giant Tortoise did not receive a scientific name for over 300 years due to the failure of the delivery of specimens to Europe for classification due to their great taste. Every single one of the specimens was eaten on the voyage back by sailors, even by Charles Darwin.


5. Belarus is the last country in Europe that still uses the death penalty. The convicts are shot in the back of the head with a silenced PB-9 pistol. The whole procedure, starting with the announcement about denied appeals and ending with the gunshot, lasts no longer than two minutes.


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6Heels

Heels were first made by the Persian cavalry to keep stability while shooting arrows. It later became popular in Europe as a masculine symbol until 1630 when women followed the fashion.


7. The euro currency was designed featuring images of fictitious bridges to represent architectural styles throughout time in Europe. They had to be careful not to feature one country over the others, but the Netherlands then went on to build these bridges printed on Euro.


8. In 552 A.D. two monks successfully smuggled silkworm eggs in their walking sticks from China to the Byzantine Empire, essentially ending the silk monopolies of China and Persia, and bringing silk manufacturing to Europe.


9. Mandatory right-hand traffic was introduced in Europe by Napoleon with the aim of deterring sword fighting on horseback, and because the traditional left-hand traffic was seen as aristocratic. Since he never conquered Britain, left-hand driving would remain there.


10. Approximately 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. The 25% of people who aren't are generally of North European descent.


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11Human Zoos

Adolf Hitler was the first European leader to ban human zoos, a popular attraction in Europe where exotic peoples were paid to be on exhibit for onlookers, with recreated habitats and shows. Belgium was the last to ban them, in 1958.


12. In 1755 a massive earthquake hit Lisbon, Portugal on a major Catholic holiday, destroying the city's churches while sparing its brothels. Tens of thousands of worshipers were killed. The event profoundly shook the belief in a merciful God and the power of the church across Europe.


13. Jewish communities had lower death rates during the 14th century Plague due to their hygienic practices. This in part inspired a wave of anti-Semitic violence in Christian Europe, where some communities attributed the pandemic to a Jewish conspiracy.


14. Lions inhabited many areas of Europe until they were hunted to extinction around 100 B.C.


15. In the 1700s, when tomatoes were introduced to Europe, they were thought to be poisonous because people died after eating them. The real issue was people using pewter plates and the acidity of tomatoes leached lead out of them causing lead poisoning.


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16Genes

One man’s gene from 4000-6000 years ago contributes to approximately 50% of the male population in 11 European countries.


17. An average Chinese consumer has only 70g of chocolate a year while the average European consumer has 7kg.


18. Despite being universally considered as part of Europe due to cultural and geopolitical reasons, the island of Sicily in Italy is actually part of the African Tectonic Plate.


19. All the “ancient” crystal skulls of Central America were actually created in Europe during the 19th century. The Brazilian quartz deposit the skulls are made of was unknown during ancient times and likely crafted in the 19th-century German workshop renowned for crafting objects of Brazilian quartz.


20. Many major cities in Europe offer ‘Sanisettes’: private, self-contained, self-cleaning, public bathrooms. After the user has exited, a wash cycle begins and the entire floor and toilet fixture are automatically sprayed, scrubbed and disinfected.


21HIV Resistance

The plagues of the middle ages have made around 10% of Europeans resistant to HIV. These individuals carry a genetic mutation (known as CCR5-Ä32) that prevents the virus from entering the cells of the immune system. Plagues played a part in creating these mutations.


22. In medieval Europe “barber-butchers” were barbers that practiced surgery as well, a profession ranging from amputations to haircuts. The red and white ‘barber swirl’ in front of most barbershops today signifies blood and bandages which was common in their trade.


23. There is an ancient old-growth forest bordering Poland called Białowieża Forest. It resembles what most of Europe looked like before the 14th century. This story of conservation has been well documented over the last 500 years and is almost as rich as the ecosystem the forest supports.


24. 10-20% of Americans and a higher percent of Europeans are infected with a brain parasite from cats that makes them 2.5 times more likely to get in a car accident, change in personality traits, contribute to schizophrenia, and may cause sexual attraction to cat urine.


25. The European Union banned the marketing of products as “superfood” unless accompanied by an authorized health claim supported by factual scientific evidence.

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