Charts & Graphs

Carry-on Baggage

Intentional and unintentional cultural transmissions.

  • Fork

    Route: Byzantine Empire to Venice, 1005

    Carrier: Maria Argyropoulina, who married into the Venetian court

    Impact: Offended Venetian clergy

  • Zero

    Route: Algeria to Italy, 1202

    Carrier: Leonardo Fibonacci, who learned of the Hindu-Arabic numerical in North Africa

    Impact: Ended use of Roman numerals in European mathematics

  • Gunpowder

    Route: Central Asia to the Middle East, c. 1260

    Carrier: Mongols

    Impact: Provided means for modern warfare

  • Black Death

    Route: Central Asia to Europe, c. 1300

    Carrier: Merchants and soldiers on the Silk Road

    Impact: Killed 30 to 60 percent of European population

  • Tobacco

    Route: Cuba to Spain, 1492

    Carrier: Christopher Columbus, who received it as a gift from American Indians

    Impact: Caused lung cancer

  • Horse

    Route: Spain to Hispaniola, 1493

    Carrier: Conquistadors, who brought horses to aid in exploration of the New World

    Impact: Made possible the cowboy

  • Smallpox

    Route: Europe to Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1617

    Carrier: European settlers

    Impact: Killed 90 percent of American Indian population along Massachusetts coastline

  • Brown Rat

    Route: Asia to Europe, Europe to North America, c. 1750

    Carrier: Ships

    Impact: Provided specimens for laboratory testing

  • Tumbleweed

    Route: Europe to South Dakota, 1877

    Carrier: Russian farmers, who transported flaxseeds

    Impact: Provided quintessential movie scenes for Westerns

  • Pajamas

    Route: South Asia to Britain, c. 1870

    Carrier: British colonialists

    Impact: Replaced nightgown as favored sleepwear

  • Zebra Mussel

    Route: Black and Caspian Seas to Lake St. Clair, 1988

    Carrier: Ballast water

    Impact: Crippled native mussel species, resulting in $5 billion in economic losses

  • Avian Flu

    Route: Hong Kong to Africa, South Asia, Western Europe, and the Middle East, 1997–2009

    Carriers: Diseased poultry

    Impact: Killed over 200 people