February 4, 2015

Lost civilization yet another famous dead body. . . .found?

Filed under: Cemeteries, Forensic archaeology, Historic — acagle @ 7:56 pm

Did Archaeologists Just Find Miguel de Cervantes, 400 Years After His Death?

Family crypts all over Europe contain mummies, valuables—and a hodgepodge of random bodies. Between the high death rates of days gone by and lax record-keeping, it’s often difficult to determine who lies in any given vault. That’s what happened to Cervantes: though his will stipulated that he be buried in a Madrid convent, his final resting place was never known for sure.

But that might have changed this weekend, when archaeologists found pieces of a casket with Cervantes’ initials in a crypt at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians. The find was clustered among the bones of at least ten individuals, one of whom could be Cervantes. Coffin-makers used metal tacks to form the initials “M.C.” on a now-brittle, decaying piece of wood.

They’re just popping up all over the place these days.

February 2, 2015

The Arrrrr-chaeology of Medicine

Filed under: Historic, Public Health — acagle @ 7:59 pm

(heh) Blackbeard’s Booty: Pirate Ship Yields Medical Supplies

Archaeologists are excavating the vessel that served as the flagship of the pirate Blackbeard, and the medical equipment they have recovered from the shipwreck suggests the notorious buccaneer had to toil to keep his crew healthy.

Blackbeard is the most famous pirate who ever lived. His real name was Edward Teach (or possibly Thatch), and his flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, was formerly a French slave vessel named La Concorde de Nantesthat Blackbeard captured in November 1717. Blackbeard was able to capture this ship easily because much of its crew was either sick or dead due to disease.

They mention mercury as being used to treat syphillis and show a syringe which was used to squirt mercury up the urethra on the assumption that the mercury — being poisonous (not that they knew how it would work) — would kill the source of the infection. But it was also used in tablet form (I believe Lewis & Clark brought them along) and also was rubbed into the skin and inhaled in vapor. I would guess it probably would occasionally work, but would often be deadly, although they were probably aware of the nasty side effects.

January 30, 2015

A bit of fairly recent history

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 9:29 am

When bread bags weren’t funny

There is nothing so romanticized as old-fashioned cookery, lovingly hand-prepared with fresh, 100 percent organic ingredients. If you were a reader of the Little House books, or any number of other series about 19th-century children, then you probably remember the descriptions of luscious meals. When you reread these books, you realize that they were so lovingly described because they were so vanishingly rare. Most of the time, people were eating the same spare food three meals a day: beans, bread or some sort of grain porridge, and a little bit of meat for flavor, heavily preserved in salt. This doesn’t sound romantic and old-fashioned; it sounds tedious and unappetizing. But it was all they could afford, and much of the time, there wasn’t quite enough of that.

These were not the nation’s dispossessed; they were the folks who had capital for seed and farm equipment. There were lots of people in America much poorer than the Ingalls were. Your average middle-class person was, by the standards of today, dead broke and living in abject misery. And don’t tell me that things used to be cheaper back then, because I’m not talking about their cash income or how much money they had stuffed under the mattress. I’m talking about how much they could consume. And the answer is “a lot less of everything”: food, clothes, entertainment. That’s even before we talk about the things that hadn’t yet been invented, such as antibiotics and central heating.

I didn’t have bread bags, although both of my parents were dirt poor growing up. My mother baked her own bread and to this day I feel a bit of a twinge of guilt whenever I buy it in the store. We would have been counted as lower middle class I guess. I had more than one pair of shoes, but I do remember buying the cheap jeans and my mom making some clothes for us and herself. She canned a lot of vegetables for the winter; supermarkets in the midwest could get some produce during the winter but it was kinda pricey and not all that good.

And this doesn’t even take into account how sick most people were most of the time and how close to an early death everyone was. Most of my family of my grandparents’ generation died in their 50s or 60s usually from stroke or a heart attack. And a lot of their siblings died in their youth or infancy as well.

If you want to learn anything at all about history, a good place to start is ignoring Hollywood.

January 27, 2015

The Dark Light Ages?

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 10:50 am

Good review of a book on the so-called Dark Ages (Medieval). The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews “God’s Philosophers”

How the myths that led to the creation of “The Most Wrong Thing On the Internet Ever” is well documented in several recent books on the the history of science. But Hannam wisely tackles it in the opening pages of his book, since it would be likely to form the basis for many general readers to be suspicious of the idea of a Medieval foundation for modern science. A festering melange of Enlightenment bigotry, Protestant papism-bashing, French anti-clericism, and Classicist snobbery have all combined to make the Medieval period a by-word for backwardness, superstition and primitivism, and the opposite of everything the average person associates with science and reason.

Hannam sketches how polemicists like Thomas Huxley, John William Draper, and Andrew Dickson White, all with their own anti-Christian axes to grind, managed to shape the still current idea that the Middle Ages was devoid of science and reason. And how it was not until real historians bothered to question the polemicists through the work of early pioneers in the field like Pierre Duhem, Lynn Thorndike, and the author of my astrolabe book, Robert T. Gunther, that the distortions of the axe-grinders began to be corrected by proper, unbiased research.

He weakens things a bit by calling the current research (which he agrees with) “unbiased” but none of this was really new to me in general outline although many of the details were. One bit to note, regarding Galileo and his generation:

Hannam gives the context for all this in suitable detail in a section of the book that also explains how the Humanism of the “Renaissance” led a new wave of scholars, who sought not only to idolize and emulate the ancients, but to turn their backs on the achievements of recent scholars like Duns Scotus, Bardwardine, Buridan, and Orseme. Thus many of their discoveries and advances were either ignored and forgotten (only to be rediscovered independently later) or scorned but quietly appropriated. The case for Galileo using the work of Medieval scholars without acknowledgement is fairly damning. In their eagerness to dump Medieval “dialectic” and ape the Greeks and Romans – which made the “Renaissance” a curiously conservative and rather retrograde movement in many ways – they discarded genuine developments and advancements by Medieval scholars. That a thinker of the calibre of Duns Scotus could become mainly known as the etymology of the word “dunce” is deeply ironic.

This is fairly typical: to distinguish one’s own work, it’s common to tear down the work of the previous generation. The New Archaeology made a big deal out of making the culture historians out to be totally unscientific collectors of interesting objects and tinkerers with chronology, while they, in contrast, were enlightened Scientific Anthropologists.

I may snag Hannam’s book. Currently I’m reading Asbridge’s history of the Crusades which has really changed my views (which were admittedly rather 2-dimensional) of the period. Also made me appreciate my life, given the horrors and deprivations the typical soldier around the turn of the last millennium faced.

UPDATE: On the subject of the Crusades, one bit of the book really kind of disturbed me. Seems during the 5th (I think) Crusade, they had to ferry knights to shore (at Damietta) from some of the larger ships to some smaller craft. Apparently, one knight mistimed his jump to the smaller boat and, being weighed down by mail, etc.. . . . drowned. Can you imagine that? You leave your home to travel for months on a Holy Crusade to fight for Christ and then before you even set foot in the Holy Land, you die jumping from one boat to another.

December 30, 2014

Two unrelated related items

Filed under: Battlefield archaeology, Historic — acagle @ 4:12 pm

Both from The Great War:
German soldiers preserved in World War I shelter discovered after nearly 100 years

Twenty-one German soldiers entombed in a perfectly preserved World War One shelter have been discovered 94 years after they were killed.

The men were part of a larger group of 34 who were buried alive when an Allied shell exploded above the tunnel during World War One causing it to cave in.
Thirteen bodies were recovered from the underground shelter but the remaining men had to be left under a mountain of mud as it was too dangerous to retrieve them.
Nearly a century later French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave on the former Western Front during excavation work for a road building project.

Only mostly good preservation, since all of the bodies were skeletonize.

And speaking of Pompeii:
World War I soldier’s room untouched for almost 100 years

His torn military jacket still hangs by his desk and his shoes are still tucked neatly by his bed — relics of a life lost long ago. In the small village of Bélâbre in central France sits the room of Hubert Rochereau, untouched for nearly a century as a memorial to the fallen solider, who died during World War I. It’s “an unforgettable journey back in time,” reported la Noveulle Republique, which described it as a “mummified room.”

That is really neat.

December 12, 2014

History revealed

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 10:59 am

Well, not quite yet anyway: Time capsule found at Massachusetts Statehouse

Crews removed a time capsule dating back to 1795 on Thursday from the granite cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse, where historians believe it was originally placed by Revolutionary War luminaries Samuel Adams and Paul Revere among others.

The time capsule is believed to contain items such as old coins and newspapers, but the condition of the contents is not known and Secretary of State William Galvin speculated that some could have deteriorated over time.

Officials won’t open the capsule until after it is X-rayed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to determine its contents. The X-ray is scheduled for Sunday.

They don’t say too much about it. It was removed earlier and put in a copper box — good move — but the condition of the contents is unknown. I’d say that if it didn’t get any moisture damage it might be in pretty good shape.

December 8, 2014

Any round tables in there?

Filed under: Historic, Remote Sensing — acagle @ 8:18 pm

Archaeologists find vast medieval palace buried under prehistoric fortress at Old Sarum

Archaeologists in southern England have discovered what may be one of the largest medieval royal palaces ever found – buried under the ground inside a vast prehistoric fortress.

The probable 12th century palace was discovered by archaeologists, using geophysical ground-penetrating ‘x-ray’ technology to map a long-vanished medieval city which has lain under grass on the site for more than 700 years.

Located inside the massive earthwork defences of an Iron Age hill fort at Old Sarum in Wiltshire, the medieval city was largely founded by William the Conqueror who made it the venue for one of Norman England’s most important political events – a gathering of the country’s nobility at which all England’s mainly Norman barons and lords swore loyalty to William.

From a geophysical survey, hence no need for excavation:

December 2, 2014

“People were just literally able to see their houses being ripped apart, and there was nothing they could do about it,”

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 7:57 pm

Not ‘lost’ exactly, but sort of lost: Ironbridge lost cottages uncovered during works

The remains of cottages buried by a landslide in the Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire more than 60 years ago have been uncovered.

The landslip destroyed 27 dwellings in 1952 and reduced the width of the nearby River Severn by 15m (52ft).

The discovery was made during a £17.6m project to stabilise land between the Jackfield Tile Museum and the Boat Inn.

I would imagine people knew it was there, but the story reads like it was unknown. They’re planning on covering it up again, which is fine by me.

October 29, 2014

Amelia Earhardt. . . . .found. Again.

Filed under: Aerial Archaeology, Historic — acagle @ 1:54 pm

Amelia Earhart Plane Fragment Identified

A fragment of Amelia Earhart’s lost aircraft has been identified to a high degree of certainty for the first time ever since her plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, in a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator.

New research strongly suggests that a piece of aluminum aircraft debris recovered in 1991 from Nikumaroro, an uninhabited atoll in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati, does belong to Earhart’s twin-engined Lockheed Electra.

Well, you can judge for yourself. Thus far, none of the evidence has convinced me of anything much. They’ll have to find a more definitive link such as the actual plane or identifying remains (human or personal).

October 22, 2014

Old news that’s not new news but old news

Filed under: Egypt, Historic — acagle @ 6:53 pm

Archaeologists dig up silent-movie set from California sands
More than 90 years ago, filmmaker Cecile B. DeMille erected 21 giant sphinxes and an 800-foot-wide temple as a set for the silent, black-and-white classic movie “The Ten Commandments.”
But in 1923, when filming was over, DeMille abandoned them there among the sands of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes in Santa Barbara County.
Now archaeologists are digging for the fragile plaster sphinxes and this week began excavations on one that they hope will eventually be on display at the nearby Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, which has raised $120,000 for the dig, the Los Angeles Times reported.

They’ve been working on this for years, but are now really excavating it. Not sure how significant it all is from a historical standpoint though.

But hey, it gives me another excuse to post a pic of Morena Baccarin. . .

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