Return Home
Season 2 | Episode 1

Detective Stories

« previous episode | next episode »
Man ducking into phone booth Man ducking into phone booth (Pure'n'Simple/flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

Forensics, archeology, genealogy, and genetics are devoted to figuring out what really happened. In this hour of Radiolab, digging up the past leads to some very unexpected finds.

We begin at a trash dump in Egypt, where we find Jesus, Satan, sissies, and porn. Next, a goat on a cow leads us to hundreds of old letters scattered on the side of Route 101. And lastly, a blood-sampling tour of Asia reveals a prolific baby-maker...and potentially a world conqueror.


Erick Gordon, Dirk Obbink, Chris Tyler Smith and Tatiana Zerjal

The Greatest Hits of Ancient Garbage

What can a 1,000 years worth of trash tell us about ancient human behavior? Dirk Obink, Director of research and professor of papyrology and classics at Oxford, tells us about the "mother lode" of 2,000 year old paper found in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt in 1896 by two Oxford graduate students , ...

Comments [23]

Goat on a Cow

Producer and gumshoe Laura Starecheski brings us along on a hunt that traverses the country, and time. The mystery to unravel? A box of old letters found on the side of the road by Erick Gordon. Git your teeth ready for a nail-bitin' chase through clues and suspects--a ...

Comments [36]

Genghis Khan

By looking at our genes we can link ourselves to our parents, grandparents, and ancestors long long ago. Tatiana Zerjal and Chris Tyler Smith tell the tale of discovering the genetic relation of over 16 million men in Central Asia.

Comments [42]

Comments [17]

Anita J. Gordon from 5715 Beacon Street #211,Pittsburgh, PA 15217

Did the story about "Goat on a Cow" extend past discovering the grandson had lost the letters from his truck. Wondered what more was learned about his grandmother's life?

Oct. 15 2016 02:13 PM
mechelle from nashville

It is this type of reporting that perpetuates rape culture. I honestly don't care to hear about male lineage when the fact that so many women were destroyed from the inside out is simply overlooked! Come on guys, this is NOT a minor detail. Help get rid of this patriarchy nonsense and get more female voices on the show!

May. 17 2015 12:03 AM

What is the song that begins at 49:40-ish?

Sep. 12 2014 02:00 AM
Pat from Cambridge, Mass.

Did Radiolab ever respond to the appalling treatment of sexual violence in this episode? (The Khan segment)

Mar. 24 2014 12:08 PM

Denise is right. asking 2 male reporters to discuss the legacy of the worst rapist in human history was not a good idea.

Jun. 09 2013 05:16 PM

Pretty common knowledge,most conquerors has thousands of descendants. Half of Europe can claim Charlemagne as their distant relative,myself this some thing new? no.....most folks with a basic knowledge of history know this...

Jun. 09 2013 02:20 PM
Denise from Bellingham WA

Why in the world would you say that Ghegis Khan "slept with" the women he raped?? Would you say that about the rapes that happen in war these days? It's like the Japanese "comfort" women, or whatever they were called. But reporting it with no comment almost makes it sound legitimate. Right! Kill the men and "sleep with" the women!

Jun. 07 2013 11:01 PM

Is there a book or somewhere online to read excerpts from the new Jesus 'testaments' that they found in the trash?

Mar. 08 2013 05:47 PM

Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but
after I clicked submit my comment didn't appear. Grrrr... well I'm not writing all
that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say excellent blog!

Mar. 07 2013 03:39 PM
new guy

i heared the episode and these are stories seperated for those who cant\ dont want to listen to the whole thing at once, i figured.
anyway, thank you people for producing this quality most interesting podcast.

Aug. 22 2012 11:55 AM
new guy

im new to radio lab, heared season 1 so far.
are these sub stories posted shorts from the main episode? i wouldnt want to miss extra content..

Aug. 22 2012 10:50 AM

I to was intrigued by the musical interlude in this episode. If anyone knows what it is, please post.

Apr. 20 2012 01:10 PM
pz99 from san francisco, ca

What's the musical interlude at the end of the "greatest hits of ancient garbage" segment, before "Goat on a cow"-- sounds kind of like Steve Reich on zithers? Really neat musical piece, I'd like to hear more of it.

Feb. 18 2012 03:29 AM
Erin from a mysterious place

I loved this episode (particularly Goat on a Cow). MYSTERY! The heart of so many good stories. How great would it be to revisit this theme again (and perhaps even get listeners to ask everyone they know if they know of any good real-life detective stories?)...actually, this theme alone could be a program in itself...maybe one day I'll win the lottery and fund one.

May. 03 2011 12:46 AM

Adam--That is exactly what makes them credible. Is it not amazing to think that we could read the first draft of the Bible. If the author did reject 616, it raises the question "Why?"

Maybe all my nerdy, Catholic school love of Bible scholarship is coming out, but working out why some works were rejected while others became canonical is a fascinating study.

May. 01 2011 11:13 AM
Kellie D

Adam, you bring up a good point, however, what do we throw away today? Everything eventually gets into the garbage, newspapers, antiques, books, stuff we consider old but may have more value then we are aware of etc etc. Not all trash contains false information. I think that makes it part of the mystery. At the very least it opens up another point of view. As they say, the winner writes the history, maybe by looking in old trash we can open up a broader understanding of the past.

Sep. 16 2010 01:25 AM
Adam Patterson from Canada

I know this podcast is a few years old, But I had a question and comment about the findings in Egypt buy the University of Oxford.

Especially when they said "The Beast" was called 616 and not 666.

I would like to point out that these papers were found in a garbage pile.... Could that not then by why it was thrown out?

Did they account for that? like these findings may not be credible?

Sep. 09 2010 05:28 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.