Secret History
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Boat

Blackbeard's pirate ship yields medical equipment not for faint of heart

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© North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
This urethral syringe was used to treat syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease that can be fatal. Chemical analysis shows that it contained mercury, which was commonly used to treat people with syphilis during the early 18th century. Although mercury may alleviate some of the symptoms taking too much of it can be fatal.
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 Nantes that 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.

A few months into 1718, the Queen Anne's Revenge ran aground on a sandbar at Topsail Inlet in North Carolina. Blackbeard abandoned much of his crew at that point, leaving the site with a select group of men and most of the plunder. He was killed in battle later that year.

The wreck of the Queen Anne's Revenge was rediscovered in 1996 and has been under excavation by the Queen Anne's Revenge Project. Archaeologists have recovered many artifacts, including a number of medical instruments. These artifacts, combined with historical records, paint a picture of a pirate captain who tried to keep his crew in fighting shape.

"Treating the sick and injured of a sea-bound community on shipboard was challenging in the best of times," Linda Carnes-McNaughton, an archaeologist and curator with the Department of Defense who volunteers her time on the excavation project, wrote in a paper she presented recently at the Society for Historical Archaeology annual meeting.

The people on a ship like Blackbeard's would have had to contend with many conditions, including "chronic and periodic illnesses, wounds, amputations, toothaches, burns and other indescribable maladies," Carnes-McNaughton said.

Blackbeard's surgeons

In fact, maintaining the crew's health was so important that when Blackbeard turned the Queen Anne's Revenge into his flagship, he released most of the French crew members he had captured, but he forced the ship's three surgeons to stay, along with a few other specialized workers like carpenters and the cook, Carnes-McNaughton said.

Info

Australian aboriginal stories of ancient sea level rise have survived for 10,000 years

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The Great Barrier Reef, off the Queensland coast, was once part of the mainland according to Aboriginal tales
Traditional stories passed down through generations by Australian Aborigines may be among the oldest accurate oral histories in the world, scientists have claimed.

The findings have allowed them to map how the continent may have looked around 10,000 years ago.

Oral folklore tells how the Great Barrier Reef once formed part of the coastline of north east Queensland, while Port Phillip Bay in Victoria was once a rich place for hunting kangaroo and opossum.

Researchers have found other stories from all over the continent that mirror how the landscape dramatically changed towards the end of the last ice age.

Question

New human species? Taiwanese fishermen unearth unique ancient bones

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© Chang et al. / Nature Communications / NPG
A fossilized lower jaw found by the Taiwanese fishermen working in the Penghu Channel indicates that a previously unknown human species lived in Asia as far back as 200,000, researchers say.

According to a study, published in the Nature Communications journal, the fossil, dubbed Penghu 1, is the first such discovery in Taiwan. It was picked up off on the seafloor that was part of the Asian mainland in the Pleistocene Epoch, which lasted from about 1.8 million years ago to approximately 11,700 years ago.

Although Homo sapiens are the only surviving human lineage, there were other human species or hominin roaming the earth. These include Homo erectus, believed to be our direct ancestors, Neanderthals and their close relatives Denisovans, as well as hobbit-like Homo floresiensis.

The fossil discovered in Taiwan might add another name to the list.

Sherlock

After 2,500 years the face of a Siberian princess is revealed

Taxidermy expert uses painstaking techniques to create first ever replica of the ice maiden found preserved in the Siberian high altitude plateau.
© The Siberian Times
'One of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century'.
The first replica face has been created of the famous tattooed Siberian princess found mummified and preserved after almost 2,500 years in permafrost. A Swiss expert has used special taxidermy techniques to build an accurate reconstruction of the ice maiden who was uncovered by archaeologists in 1993.

Known as Princess Ukok, after the high altitude plateau on which she was discovered, her body was decorated in the best-preserved, and most elaborate, ancient art ever found. While her discovery was exciting, particularly given how intact her remains were, her face and neck skin had deteriorated, with no real clue as to what she once looked like.

However, now her face has been revealed to the world for the first time following the work by Swiss taxidermist Marcel Nyffenegger.

Comment: Archaeology studies have come a long way in respecting indigenous traditions. May the Princess rest in peace after sharing so much about her culture.


Fireball

Asteroid that killed the dinosaurs boiled Earth's atmosphere

© Donald E. Davis / NASA
Calm before the storm
The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs set off an intense heat wave that briefly boiled the Earth's atmosphere - but it didn't burn off all the plants.

Humanity has not been unlucky enough to observe at first hand the effects of a large impact, so to investigate whether a massive asteroid would spark off a global wildfire we had to turn to the laboratory. We have modelled, for the first time, the heat generated by the impact and what it meant for the planet's plants. Our research is published in the Journal of the Geological Society.

This all happened 65m years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. Suddenly, between 60 and 80% of all living species became extinct. Until the 1980s, this catastrophic loss of life was a mystery, but then scientists found a clue - traces of the element iridium in rocks of this age. Iridium generally falls to Earth with extraterrestrial objects. This suggested a massive asteroid collided with the planet and that this could be responsible for the mass extinction.

Comment: Is history repeating? Fireball sightings are on rise. The Chelyabinsk meteor explosion should serve as a reminder of what humanity has coming for it.




Info

Scan finds new tattoos on 5300-year-old Iceman

© South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Eurac/Samadelli/Staschitz)
A new study has used advanced imaging techniques to identify previously unknown tattoos on the ribcage of the 5300-year old man known as Ötzi, bringing his total number of tattoos to 61.

But first, some context

In September of 1991 hikers in the Ötzal Alps along the border of Austria and Italy happened upon the mummified corpse who became an archaeological celebrity. After Ötzi died at the hands of unknown attackers one late spring or early summer around 3500 BC, his body and belongings were left in a small gully where they were entombed beneath an alpine glacier. A combination of glacial meltwater and extreme cold resulted in natural mummification of his body.

Thanks to more than two decades of analysis, scientists arguably know more about Ötzi's health and final days than those of any other ancient human. He died at around 45 years of age after being shot in the back with a stone-tipped arrow and bludgeoned. In the 12 hours preceding his death he climbed into the mountains from an Italian valley, and ate a last meal consisting of grains and ibex meat.

Ötzi suffered a variety of ailments, including advanced gum disease, gallbladder stones, lyme disease, whipworms in his colon, and atherosclerosis. Researchers have sequenced Ötzi's entire genome, identified a genetic predisposition to heart disease, and determined that he has 19 surviving male relatives in his genetic lineage. However, a new studyshows the Iceman still has secrets left to reveal.

Gold Coins

Book review - 'A History of Central Banking and the Enslavement of Mankind'

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© Black House Publishing
A review of Stephen Goodson's A History of Central Banking and the Enslavement of Mankind (Black House Publishing, 2014)

One of the most difficult things to explain to American university students is how capitalism and communism share far more in common than they do in conflict. In fact, regardless of how it is explained, the old saw that the two approaches are "opposites" can never quite penetrate. Even worse, explaining to students and their bewildered parents that the US banking and industrial conglomerates financed the Soviet Red revolution and built Soviet industry is also maddeningly impossible.

One simple way to explain it is to say that, for bankers in the modern era, the state's control of the entire economy from one place is what bankers believe paradise to look like. There is one plan, one banking system and one social system in place; this means that banks merely forward the cash, both expecting the state, not the economy as such, to reimburse them with the requisite interest. In other words, the command economy is the most congenial to banks. There is no necessary connection between private banking and a state-owned economy. It is just as simple for a banker to work for the Party as it is for Goldman-Sachs.

Capitalism and socialism are based on materialism. Production and utility alone are considered goods, and efficiency in methods is considered the sine qua non of ethical contemplation. Both systems are oriented to technology, hold to a linear view of history, and seek the mechanization of all aspects of humanity. As they both develop, the economic system and the state merge into a single machine. The error of the libertarians has always been their insistence that the state and private capital are opposed. Quite the opposite is true. Large concentrations of capital are deeply embedded in the state, using it as both a personal bodyguard and as a regulator that keeps market entry impossibly high. The defeat of the Justice Department by Microsoft in 2010-2012 shows the imbalance of power between private capital and the state.

Magnify

New study shows Australopithecus africanus had human-like hands

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© T. L. Kivell
Top row: First metacarpals of the thumb in (from left to right) a chimpanzee, fossil hominins Australopithecus africanus (StW 418) and two specimens belonging to either a robust australopiths or early Homo (SKX 5020 and SK 84), and a human. The bottom row shows 3D renderings from the microCT scans of the same specimens, showing a cross-section of the trabecular structure inside. Ma, million years ago.
New research suggests pre-Homo human ancestral species, such as Australopithecus africanus, used human-like hand postures much earlier than was previously thought.

Anthropologists from the University of Kent, working with researchers from University College London, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany) and the Vienna University of Technology (Austria), have produced the first research findings to support archaeological evidence for stone tool use among fossil australopiths 3-2 million years ago.

The distinctly human ability for forceful precision (e.g. when turning a key) and power "squeeze" gripping (e.g. when using a hammer) is linked to two key evolutionary transitions in hand use: a reduction in arboreal climbing and the manufacture and use of stone tools. However, it is unclear when these locomotory and manipulative transitions occurred.

Dr Matthew Skinner, Senior Lecturer in Biological Anthropology and Dr Tracy Kivell, Reader in Biological Anthropology, both of Kent's School of Anthropology and Conservation, used new techniques to reveal how fossil species were using their hands by examining the internal spongey structure of bone called trabeculae. Trabecular bone remodels quickly during life and can reflect the actual behaviour of individuals in their lifetime.

The researchers first examined the trabeculae of hand bones of humans and chimpanzees. They found clear differences between humans, who have a unique ability for forceful precision gripping between thumb and fingers, and chimpanzees, who cannot adopt human-like postures. This unique human pattern is present in known non-arboreal and stone tool-making fossil human species, such as Neanderthals.

Comment: Human ancestor guys stayed home while gals cruised


Rose

Russian peasants and their craft jobs

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Sometimes now you might hear the word "artisan" which often said to make things look skillfully made and good. However hundred something years ago all over the world things mainly were "artisan" - made by local craftsman. If we know some traditional craftsmen of the West and their craft survived till our days (this is what they sell as "artisan" now) the old Russian crafts on contrary is very much lost, mostly due to the Soviet intent for collectivization and industrialization. However there are still some old photos depicting old Russian artisans - mainly peasants at their craft with captions what exactly they do. For example the man on the photo on top is a master barrel maker at work.

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Memories of Auschwitz haunt a Polish town

© Jacek Nadolny
Bogumila recalls how as a small girl growing up in the Polish town of Oswiecim she saw prisoners beaten by Nazi guards and watched with her mother the distant glow of the crematorium fires of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

"Everyone sat in their homes in silence, windows shut as tightly as possible," she said.

The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, to be attended by world leaders and survivors, raises painful questions for residents of Oswiecim where Nazi occupiers created one of the most relentless extermination machines in history, claiming the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people.

How did their parents go about their daily business when such inhumanity was taking place just the other side of a barbed wire fence? How much did they know of what was going on?

Comment: See also: Holocaust 2.0: Coming soon!