The tale of how an amateur archaeologist’s hunch led him to uncover a lost medieval town and spend £32,000 of his own money to buy the land, would stand to be the archaeological discovery of any year. On the border between England and Wales, the site of the medieval town of Trellech reveals much about a tumultuous period of history – and how the town came to be lost.
A fearsome dragon was featured in medieval Scandinavian and Germanic legends about the hero Sigurd/Siegfried. The story is the centerpiece in the epic saga Niebelungenlied, in which the Siegfried kills Fafnir, who had been transformed into a hideous dragon by a powerful curse.
In the legend, Fafnir guarded a hoard of golden treasure. The dragon was so huge that the very ground shook when he walked. At Drachenfels (“Dragon Rock”), Konigswinter on the Rhine, a large statue of a typical dragon lurks near the ruins of a castle built on the summit of the hill in about 1150. A cave below was believed to be Fafnir’s lair.
According to the story, the hero Siegfried tracked the Dragon to his lair, by following a trail of the dragon’s enormous footprints sunk deep in the earth.
Notably, conspicuous fossil trackways of two types of massive dinosaurs are found in Germany. In 1941, the German paleontologist H. Kirchner speculated that observations of Triassic dinosaur tracks in sandstone near Siegfriedsburg in the Rhine Valley of western Germany might have been the inspiration for the legend about the dragon Fafnir’s footprints. [continue]
But as we look ahead to Canada’s 150th year, we are reminded that we are Canadians because — as the story goes — Jacques Cartier coined the term in 1534 from a lost-in-translation conversation during his first meeting with the Iroquois.
We could have been Cabotians, Tuponians or Hochelaganders.
Here are some of the other names that were considered when this country was just a fledgling dominion. [continue]
Walking through their home for the first time is a bizarre experience. You enter through a front gate made of two whale ribs. You sit and relax in the living room, with a hole cut in the floor so Wayne can catch fish from his couch. The whole house, tethered to the land and floating on armored foam, is always moving with the ebb and flow of the tide. [continue]
OK, that fishing-from-the-couch thing sounds really fun.
What do you think? Could you live like in a floating home like this one?
Here are some more articles about Freedom Cove, some with fantastic photos.
In a lowly tavern in an English town in the 1580s, a group of men met to organize the assassination of their monarch, Queen Elizabeth I. The head of the operation, Anthony Babington, planned to rescue and crown Mary of Scotland, an alternative heir to the English throne who had been imprisoned in the castle dungeon for 20 years. He detailed the plan to Mary as a cipher—a secret note in code— and snuck it to her in a shipment of beer. But Mary had no idea that his note had been opened and then resealed by a double agent posed as a courier, who was waiting for her reply. When Mary wrote back, the agent exposed the plot, and both she and Babington were executed.
Long before NSA surveillance, Queen Elizabeth had her own “Watchers,” a network of agents who intercepted letters, cracked codes, and captured possible dissenters to protect the crown in secret. The queen’s network of spies formed the original surveillance state in the U.K., and she started it for good reason. [continue]
Wouldn’t she be envious of the state’s spying apparatus now! So much easier when you can just snoop up on all electronic communication.
Inuit who live in Greenland experience average temperatures below freezing for at least half of the year. For those who live in the north, subzero temperatures are normal during the coldest months.
Given these frigid conditions, anthropologists have wondered for decades whether the Inuit in Greenland and other parts of the Arctic have unique biological adaptations that help them tolerate the extreme cold.
A new study, published on Wednesday in Molecular Biology and Evolution, identifies gene variants in Inuit who live in Greenland, which may help them adapt to the cold by promoting heat-generating body fat. These variants possibly originated in the Denisovans, a group of archaic humans who, along with Neanderthals, diverged from modern humans about half a million years ago. [continue]
Archaeologists have discovered the earliest known garden in the Pacific Northwest—and it was underwater. The site, about 30 kilometers east of Vancouver, Canada, on land belonging to the Native American group Katzie First Nation, was once part of an ecologically rich wetland. It was divided into two parts: one on dry land, where people lived and built their homes, and one that was underwater. In the underwater section, people had arranged small stones into a [continue]
Do you use Gravatar to display a custom image next to your comments on various blogs? Or do you have a blog at wordpress.com? If so, Gravatar has your email address, and it might be easy for a hacker to figure out what that address is.
For example: A user may be comfortable having their full name and profile photo appear on a website about skiing. But they may not want their name or identity exposed to the public on a website specializing in a medical condition. Someone researching this individual could extract their Gravatar hash from the skiing website along with their full name. They could then Google the hash and determine that the individual suffers from a medical condition they wanted to keep private. [continue]
Researchers are documenting Sahtu Dene caribou fences in the Northwest Territories, marking a physical record of Indigenous history in the area.
Tom Andrews, an archeologist with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, is documenting a kilometre-long wooden fence believed to have been used about 100 years ago in the Sahtu region.
“It’s a real smart hunting strategy that’s probably been used for thousands of years,” Andrews said.
Hunters used the fence to corral caribou, making it easier for them to hunt them in large numbers. [continue]
Since the turn of the 20th century, scientists have examined how humans around the world name colors in an attempt to answer one question: Does our language shape our worldview, or does our worldview shape our language?
Hannah Haynie, a postdoctoral associate at Colorado State University, teamed up with Yale University linguist Claire Bowern to find out. Their study analyzed a sort of evolutionary tree built from massive data found in field notes, dictionaries, and 20th-century records. The tree visualizes how color names potentially changed over time in the Pama-Nyungan language family, a group of indigenous Australian languages dating as far back as 6,000 years.
“It’s just like how, if you look at genes in people, you can look back at how they were transmitted along a tree,” Haynie said. “This brings a bunch of different sciences together to look at how language, our minds, and our world interacts together.” [continue]
On January 1st, the Church of Norway and the Norwegian government will formally divorce after nearly 500 years together. (…)
When 2016 becomes 2017, Norway will formalize the separation of church and state that was set in motion eight years ago by parliament. As of January 1st, the Nordic nation’s 1,250 priests and bishops will no longer be government officials appointed by the king. And the Church of Norway will no longer be an agency of the state, but an independent business. [continue]
Independent business? Surely they mean charity.
I had forgotten that the Norwegian Lutheran church was so closely tied to the state.
Just back from a walk in the cold rain, during which my rain jacket soaked through. Maybe a salmon-skin coat would be better? This article from From Hakai Magazine has me wondering: The Secret Language of Salmon Skin Coats.
Along the lower reaches of the Amur River, where the water empties into the Pacific Ocean, the climate—unlike most of Siberia—is wet. To keep dry, the indigenous Nivkhi shrugged on fish skin coats like the one pictured here. These ingeniously constructed coats are a testament to the people’s holistic approach to natural resources; they also tell the story of a worldly culture and a wild place.
A merchant working for a trading house in Vladivostok, Russia, collected this coat sometime between 1874 and 1898. Adolf Wassiliwitch Dattan, an imperial commercial agent with the German firm Kunst and Albers, amassed hundreds of indigenous artifacts over the years he was stationed in the Amur region. He donated his collections to several European museums, including the National Museum of World Cultures in Leiden, Netherlands, where this example of Nivkhi artistry is on display.
Fish skin is light, flexible, strong, and easy to work—the Gore-Tex of its day. Matchless as rainwear in milder seasons, layering fur close to the skin kept people cozy in winter. A Nivkhi woman—for only women sewed—prepared 100 salmon skins for this particular coat. She would have scraped away the flesh before washing the skins in salt water (women keeping the craft alive today use soap), then drying and beating the skins before piecing together the coat with thread fashioned from fish skin or sinew. “When it gets wet, [the thread] expands and fills the hole made by the needle, making the seams watertight,” says Cunera Buijs, the museum’s curator of Arctic regions. “It’s so clever.” [continue]
Do you think there would have been any lingering fish scent?
Let me explain. I have asked around, and nobody has any evidence to suggest that, for any given university, recruits with first-class degrees turn into better employees than those with thirds (if anything the correlation operates in reverse). There are some specialised fields which may demand spectacular mathematical ability, say, but these are relatively few.
So my game theoretic instincts suggest that if we confine our recruitment efforts to people in the lower half of the degree ladder we shall have an exclusive appeal to a large body of people no less valuable than anyone else. And such people will be far more loyal hires, since we won’t be competing for their attention with deep-pocketed pimps in investment banking.
The logic is inarguable: the best people to hire (or date) are those undervalued by the market. [continue]
An Atlas Obscura article makes it clear that the Victorians were insane.
Indeed, in the early years of Queen Victoria’s rule, Christmas rivaled Spring Break for sheer bawdiness and self-destruction. Nowhere is this more evident than in the bonkers Victorian parlor game of Snapdragon.
Traditionally played on Christmas Eve, players of Snapdragon must find themselves a broad, shallow bowl, and then prepare to risk their health. Into this bowl should be poured two dozen raisins. If raisins are hard to come by, almonds, grapes or plums will suffice. You should then pour a bottle of brandy into the bowl so that the raisins bob up and down like drowning flies. Place the bowl on a sturdy table, turn the lights down low, and then, with appropriate panache, ignite the brandy.
To play Snapdragon, arrange your family and friends around the blazing bowl so that their faces are lit in a demonic fashion and then, one by one, take turns plunging your hands into the flames in order to try and grab a raisin. If you can accomplish this, promptly extinguish the flaming raisin by popping it into your mouth and eating it. [continue]
If family relations have become slightly fraught over Christmas, you may be looking for a game involving rather more explicit violence, in which case you’ve come to the right paragraph: Moriarty is the game you’re after. [continue]
That article has lots more you’ll want to read.
Christmas parties these days are pretty tame events, all in all.
Prehistoric people may have cooked wild grains and plants in pots as early as 10,000 years ago, according to new evidence.
Scientists say the food was “a kind of porridge”, acting as the staple diet when there was no meat from hunting.
The pottery fragments were found at two sites in the Libyan Sahara, which was then green and fertile.
The ability to prepare plants and grains in pots would have been a big advance at the time.
Dr Julie Dunne, of the University of Bristol, said: “This is the first direct evidence of plant processing globally, and, remarkably, shows that these early North African hunter-gatherers consumed many different types of plants, including grains/seeds, leafy plants and aquatic plants.” [continue]
A recipe for a very merry Christmas drink for 17th century monks, beginning with ten pints of brandy, has been rediscovered by a Durham university academic, in the archives of Ampleforth Abbey in north Yorkshire.
The recipes – there were two similar versions, one for a punch, one for a drink known as “shrub” – were written down for English Benedictine monks who were in exile in France after the dissolution of the monasteries. Both were flavoured with orange and lemon peel, with added sugar and water, and involved days of steeping and mixing the ingredients. [continue]
I found this today, this perfect little ice-sphere. See? It formed on the end of a twig that had been half-in the river. I fished it out and put it in a nearby tree. And with that, I’m declaring tree-decorating done for the year.
(This is something I blogged about many years ago. At the end of this post, I’ll explain why I’m re-posting it now.)
The Sixth Century builders of Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine cathedral still standing in Istanbul, discovered cement with earthquake-resistant properties 1 300 years before anyone else, a research team revealed on Wednesday.
Hagia Sophia, built as a church and subsequently turned into a mosque, still stands only because its creators discovered the cement.
Many of the surrounding buildings have long since succumbed to the ravages of time, including earthquakes, according to a report in the New Scientist.
The structure has withstood quakes of up to 7,5 on the Richter scale, according to the team, headed by Antonia Moropoulou from Athens’ National Technical University.
Meanwhile, Great Buildings Online has a page about Hagia Sophia, which includes photos (this interior shot is particularly nice) and information about the building. The site points out that “The church was built 532 to 537 and the dome replaced in 563 after an earthquake.”
I guess Hagia Sophia’s builders hadn’t figured out how to earthquake-proof a dome.
Now all of that stuff in the box above was published on Mirabilis.ca on November 14th, 2002.
For a variety of sad and annoying reasons, archives from this long ago aren’t available on Mirabilis.ca anymore. So the blog post above has been unavailable for about eight years – maybe more. But there’s an incoming link from some other site that links to the Hagia Sophia post here, and people have been clicking that link for years and years. They wind up on a 404 page, and then they search the site. So there are searches here, every single day, for Hagia Sophia. After all these years!
OK, searchers, here you are. The content in the box above is what you came for. I put there just for you.
Stories abound that undermine the notion that elite athletes are healthy. From the running world, marathoner Alberto Salazar, at the age of 48, suffered a heart attack and lay dead for 14 minutes before a cardiologist placed a stent in a blocked artery, saving his life. Micah True, the ultra-marathoner and protagonist of the bestselling book Born to Run, went for a 12-mile run in the New Mexico wilderness and was later found dead.
Of course, these tragic tales are preceded by the origin story of an endurance athlete running himself, literally, to death. An enlarged, thickened heart with patchy scar tissue is common in long-term endurance athletes and is dubbed “Pheidippides cardiomyopathy” after the 40-year-old running messenger (and prototypical masters endurance athlete) who died after bringing the news of Greek victory at the battle of Marathon to Athens. Pheidippides was a hemerodrome, (an all-day running courier in Ancient Greece), and he had run 240km over two days to request help from Sparta against the Persians at Marathon, before expiring after running the additional 42km (26.2 miles) back from the battlefield. We celebrate his death by running marathons.
These deaths are even more alarming when you consider the subjects — highly trained athletes in what many would consider peak physical condition. Isn’t exercise supposed to prevent us from falling to a heart attack? [read the whole article]
If you’re an endurance athlete, does this give you pause for thought?
Its first operatives famously cracked coded messages encrypted by the Nazis, hastening the end of the second world war.
Now Bletchley Park is planning a new school for the next generation of codebreakers in order to plug a huge skills gap in what is fast emerging as the biggest security threat to 21st-century Britain. [continue]
Have you heard, over the last few years, of restaurants that have ended tipping altogether? I keep coming across articles about these, like this one in the New York Times:
Instead of expecting customers to tip the people who wait on them, tip-free restaurants pay all employees wages that reflect their skill and seniority. The customer pays a fixed amount, stated in writing (in menu prices), as in virtually every other kind of consumer business, from Nordstrom to Netflix to The New York Times. [continue]
Maybe one of these days a restaurant in my area will try this, but I’m not holding my breath.
It must be startling to look out of your window and see a centuries-old church rolling by. Even more so if you are in communist Romania in the 1980s, where news is state-controlled and everyday items rationed. And yet, between 1982 and 1988 almost a dozen churches, as well as other buildings, were moved hundreds of metres in order to save them from destruction, as dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu went about radically redesigning the heart of Bucharest, the Romanian capital.
That a communist country would go out of its way to save churches is strange enough, but the method of saving them, when other countries would probably have tried to dismantle the buildings and reassemble them elsewhere, makes the achievement all the more impressive.
“We were awestruck at those operations, comparing them with the landing on the moon for a country like Romania,” says Valentin Mandache, an architectural historian who witnessed the moving of several of the churches when he was still a young student.
At the centre of it all was Eugeniu Iordăchescu, a civil engineer who had the radical idea to place whole buildings on the equivalent of railway tracks and roll them to safety. [continue]