Medicines BC

In 130 BC, a ship fashioned from the wood of walnut trees and bulging with medicines and Syrian glassware sank off the coast of Tuscany, Italy. Archaeologists found its precious load 20 years ago and now, for the first time, archaeobotanists have been able to examine and analyse pills that were prepared by the physicians of ancient Greece.

DNA analyses show that each millennia-old tablet is a mixture of more than 10 different plant extracts, from hibiscus to celery.

“For the first time, we have physical evidence of what we have in writing from the ancient Greek physicians Dioscorides and Galen,” says Alain Touwaide of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.



Darwin and Ecology

Two hundred years ago, Ascension Island was a barren volcanic edifice.

Today, its peaks are covered by lush tropical “cloud forest”.

What happened in the interim is the amazing story of how the architect of evolution, Kew Gardens and the Royal Navy conspired to build a fully functioning, but totally artificial ecosystem.

Read more at BBC News.

Grandfather’s Story Leads to Mass Grave

CNN has the story which caught my attention.

“This is a murder mystery from 178 years ago, and it’s finally coming to the light of day,” Frank Watson said.

The brothers first heard about Duffy’s Cut from their grandfather, a railroad worker, who told the ghost story to his family every Thanksgiving. According to local legend, memorialized in a file kept by the Pennsylvania Railroad, a man walking home from a tavern reported seeing blue and green ghosts dancing in the mist on a warm September night in 1909.

“I saw with my own eyes, the ghosts of the Irishmen who died with the cholera a month ago, a-dancing around the big trench where they were buried; it’s true, mister, it was awful,” the documents quote the unnamed man as saying. “Why, they looked as if they were a kind of green and blue fire and they were a-hopping and bobbing on their graves… I had heard the Irishmen were haunting the place because they were buried without the benefit of clergy.”

When Frank inherited the file of his grandfather’s old railroad papers, the brothers began to believe the ghost stories were real. They suspected that the files contained clues to the location of a mass grave.

It seems like they are taking it a bit too far. One skeleton looks like it might have been shot? What about the other 56?

But it sounds interesting, nevertheless.

World’s First Feast

Discovery has an article that says that the first proof of a feast took place in Israel 12,000 years ago and featured 71 tortoises and three aurochs (cow ancestors). Apparently it was celebrated to lay a female shaman to rest.

According to the study, published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the grave consisted of an oval-shaped basin that was intentionally cut into the cave’s floor.

“After the oval was excavated, the sides and bottom of the floor were lined with stone slabs lined and plastered with clay brought into the cave from outside,” said Munro.


Flag Etiquette

All persons present should face the flag, stand at attention and salute on the following occasions:

1. When the flag is passing in a parade or review. The salute to the flag
in the moving column is rendered at the moment the flag passes.
2. During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag.
3. When the National Anthem is played and the flag is displayed.
4. During the Pledge of Allegiance … I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

from Flag Co

Weapons are coming out of the ice

Discovery Archaeology says:

A treasure trove of ancient weapons has emerged from melting ice patches in the Canadian Arctic, revealing hunting strategies thousands of years old.

The weapons, which include a 2,400-year-old spear throwing tools, a 1000-year-old ground squirrel snare, and bows and arrows dating back 850 years, have been found high in the remote Mackenzie Mountains, a region where Mountain Boreal caribou abound in the summer months.

Dotted with ice patches resulting from accumulation of annual snow that, until recently, remained frozen all year, the mountains have been the caribous’ shelter for millennia.

And, so, we have further proof that global warming is not manmade. What made this area warm 2400 years ago, if it is?

Pictish Language is Visually Beautiful

I don’t know how it sounded or what the writing says, but it is gorgeous.

Discovery News has an article on the Ancient Scottish language.
cadboll-stone-pictish writing Discovery news

The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland.

Quote of the day

“We, the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow men who pervert the Constitution.” — Abraham Lincoln

As Texas Goes…

so goes the country.

I doubt that seriously, though our education system has offered something to the nation.

Joanne Jacobs sent me to this NYT article. It is inconsistent, inaccurate, and biased. Other than that though (seriously), there are some interesting things in it.

I love my state, so I’m a little prejudiced.

But, let me be clear, the founders of our nation were Christians- regardless of what the Times wants to say.

Dinosaur Colors Found!

Of course, it is out of China and they’ve had some fake stuff, but this looks real.

The BBC says:

Professor Benton explained that differently shaped melanosomes produced different colours, with blacks or greys produced by “sausage-shaped” melanosomes, and reddish or “russet” shades found in spherical ones.
“A ginger-haired person would have more spherical melanosomes, and a black-haired or grey-haired person would have more of the sausage-shaped structures,” said Professor Benton.
The scientists found both types of melanosome in Confuciusornis and decided to turn their attention to Sinosauropteryx, which is the most primitive feathered dinosaur yet found.

Good stuff.

If I ever teach Dinosaurs and Dragons again…

Math in New and Improved Ways

The Math Curmudgeon has a great post on Game-Changing Graphics.

It is well worth looking at.

Want to see how a Russian Winter decimated Napoleon’s army? It’s there.

How cholera was identified as coming from a septic tank? That, too.

Scary view of sex at Jefferson High. (When did that come out and how did I miss it? Answer 2004. I don’t know. That would be a good place to point some of my students. American Journal of Sociology.)

This would definitely be interesting to read about.

A Home in Nazareth has the archaeological news of a house from Nazareth from the era when Jesus was born.

The dwelling and older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves suggest that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of about four acres (1.6 hectares). It was evidently populated by Jews of modest means who kept camouflaged grottos to hide from Roman invaders, said archaeologist Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority

The house, to date, is 900 sq ft, a pretty small home by American standards, even for a small family of four.

“According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average home size in the United States was 2,330 square feet in 2004, up from 1,400 square feet in 1970.” from Info Please.

My friends in Austin have a home from the 50s and theirs is typical for that era and area and is about 1200 sq ft. Another set of friends have a home there from the 40s and theirs was about 1400 sq ft. Our home in Abilene from the 40s was also about 1400 sq ft.

According to these sites the average was about 1100 to 1200 square feet in the 1950’s.

I know the three houses my family lived in the the 1950’s ranged from about 900 square feet to about 1400 square feet.
Outside the Beltway

Article on house size matters

from Yahoo! Answers

A New Favorite Picture

The-Inundation-of-The-Biesbosch-in-1421 cat on the cradleLawrence Alma-Tadema painted this in the 1800s, after a true story from 1421 when a flood carried off a cat and a cradle. The cat jumped from side to side on the cradle to keep it upright.

I found the picture on Happy Catholic, who references the next site, Victorian Paintings, which said: “Depecting an incident from the great flood of the Zuyder Zee in 1421 where a cradle and a cat were swept away but the cat kept it upright by jumping from side to side.”

However, when I looked up “inundation of Biesboch” I found that Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland, wrote a fictional story about the inundation of Biesboch in 1815. Now apparently there were 16 villages in the Netherlands which were destroyed by a flood in 1421. Perhaps that is what the king was writing about.

Also, this article says that the flood was real and there was a cat and a cradle together in that flood, but the story of the cat jumping from side to side came from a 1589 newspaper story about that year’s flooding of the Hohenloe.

Since the picture was painted in 1856, it is quite likely that the two stories had been conflated through time. Or, perhaps, the cat jumped in both, but in the first we only have a picture and in the second we have the word witness.

Everett Millais’ “A Flood” was also about the same story. He and Alma-Tadema were friends.

“Too Many People” is a Lie.

Spiked has an article on the history of Malthusians. Great stuff. Of course, I’m an anti-malthusian, so I would say so. But there is history, census data from a thousand years, and some good quotes. Plus there are some good arguments, too.

And the third and main mistake Malthusians always make is to underestimate the genius of mankind. Population scaremongering springs from a fundamentally warped view of human beings as simply consumers, simply the users of resources, simply the destroyers of things, as a kind of ‘plague’ on poor Mother Nature, when in fact human beings are first and foremost producers, the discoverers and creators of resources, the makers of things and the makers of history. Malthusians insultingly refer to newborn babies as ‘another mouth to feed’, when in the real world another human being is another mind that can think, another pair of hands that can work, and another person who has needs and desires that ought to be met.