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The long history of comet phobia

he Book of Miracles, c. 1550
© Wikimedia Commons
The Book of Miracles, c. 1550.
Nowadays, the appearance of a comet, like the recently soaring NEOWISE, is likely to inspire wonder and excitement. But for much of human history, a comet was more likely to inspire blood-curdling fear.

"Almost always in classical times comets were regarded as portents, generally as warnings of dire events," writes historian Duane Koenig. (They were also sometimes "harbingers of happy things," like the birth of heroes, prophets, or kings.)

Ancient records show that thousands of years ago, "Persians and Koreans viewed comets as of evil nature and often [announced] war with the country in whose direction the tail pointed," writes Koenig. Over in Rome, comets were an object of fear and worship. Historian Geraldine Herbert-Brown finds that Pliny the Elder paid "particular attention to comets, and the terror they had caused humans in the course of history." According to Pliny, a comet would appear at "crucial intervals" starting in 49 BCE, "glaring terribly when Nero succeeded Claudius, and then continuously throughout Nero's principáte."

Comets — also called "bearded stars" — were consistently seen as bad news for rulers. Around 70 CE, the Roman emperor Vespasian was cautioned about a comet. "He contended the bearded star did not concern him because he was bald. It threatened his neighbor, the king of the Parthians, who was hairy," writes Koenig.

Archaeology

'Mammoth central' found at Mexico's Santa Lucia airport construction site

mammoth fossils mexico city
© Marco Ugarte / Associated Press
Paleontologists work Thursday to preserve the skeleton of a mammoth discovered at the construction site of Mexico City’s new Santa Lucia airport.
The number of mammoth skeletons recovered at an airport construction site north of Mexico City has risen to at least 200, with a large number still to be excavated, experts said Thursday.

Archaeologists hope the site that has become "mammoth central" — the shores of an ancient lakebed that both attracted and trapped mammoths in its marshy soil — may help solve the riddle of their extinction.

Experts said that finds are still being made at the site, including signs that humans may have made tools from the bones of the lumbering animals that died somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago.

There are so many mammoths at the site of the new Santa Lucia airport that observers have to accompany each bulldozer that digs into the soil to make sure work is halted when mammoth bones are uncovered.

Galaxy

A warning from history: The Carrington event was not unique

Carrington

Drawings of the Carrington sunspot by Richard Carrington on Sept. 1, 1859, and (inset) Heinrich Schwabe on Aug. 27, 1859.
[Ref]

On Sept. 1st, 1859, the most ferocious solar storm in recorded history engulfed our planet. It was "the Carrington Event," named after British scientist Richard Carrington, who witnessed the flare that started it. The storm rocked Earth's magnetic field, sparked auroras over Cuba, the Bahamas and Hawaii, set fire to telegraph stations, and wrote itself into history books as the Biggest. Solar. Storm. Ever.

But, sometimes, what you read in history books is wrong.

"The Carrington Event was not unique," says Hisashi Hayakawa of Japan's Nagoya University, whose recent study of solar storms has uncovered other events of comparable intensity. "While the Carrington Event has long been considered a once‐in‐a‐century catastrophe, historical observations warn us that this may be something that occurs much more frequently."

Comment: Taking into account Electric Universe theory, it's notable that Wikipedia's entry for the year 1770 records that on July 1st Lexell's Comet (D/1770 L1) passed Earth at a distance of 2184129 km, the closest approach by a comet in recorded history. The extreme solar storm of 1770 is thought to have occurred just over a month later.

In Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection, Pierre Lescaudron details the electrical interaction involved between a comet and the Sun, and, considering the 1770 time frame above, the following excerpt could go some way towards explaining the occurrence of the powerful sunspot and subsequent geomagnetic storm:
Because of their highly eccentric orbits, the trajectory followed by most comets is almost perpendicular to the Sun's electric field. This means that the surrounding electric potential rapidly changes during the comet's journey across the solar system.1 This subjects the comet to increasing electric stress brought on by increasing electric potential difference between the comet and its surrounding space. This imbalance in electric potential triggers massive solar discharges and comet outbursts [...]

1 Thornhill, W. & Talbott, D., The Electric Universe, p. 90-95
In our own time, when we consider how many comets have been recorded in our skies of late, our entry into a grand solar minimum, that Earth's weakening geomagnetic field has reached an all time low - which serves to shield our planet from incoming space weather - an extreme solar storm event similar to any of those mentioned above is highly possible and could be a catastrophe for our planet as we know it.

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Microscope 2

Parasitic worm infections common in Medieval Europe, grave study finds

Trichuris trichiura
© Adrian Smith and Patrik Flammer, University of Oxford, UK
Photomicrograph of a Trichuris trichiura egg from an archaeological deposit.
Although helminth infections — including tapeworms and roundworms — are among the world's top neglected diseases, they are no longer endemic in Europe. However, researchers reporting in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases report that these infections were common in Medieval Europe, according to grave samples analyzed from across the continent.

Helminths are parasitic worms and they infect an estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide. The worms are transmitted through eggs that are present in human feces and can contaminate soil and water. While some infections cause only mild symptoms, others are associated with chronic malnutrition and physical impairment, particularly in children.

In the new work, Adrian Smith of the University of Oxford, UK, and colleagues analyzed 589 grave samples from 7 European sites dated between 680 and 1700 CE. Samples were taken from the pelvises of skeletons. Data associated with the sites allowed them to assess the influence of age, sex and community size on helminth infection rates.

Comment: See also:


Colosseum

Hadrian's Wall dig reveals oldest Christian graffiti on chalice

Vindolanda
© Jaime Pharr/Alamy
The ruins of Vindolanda Roman fort in Northumberland where the chalice was found.
A 5th-century chalice covered in religious iconography has been discovered in Northumberland, to the astonishment of archaeologists, who describe it as Britain's first known example of Christian graffiti on an object. With its complex mass of crosses and chi-rhos, angels and a priestly figure, as well as fish, a whale and ships, it is believed to be without parallel in western Europe.

Made of lead and now in 14 fragments, it was unearthed at the Vindolanda Roman fort, one of Europe's foremost archaeological sites, near Hadrian's Wall, during an excavation that has also discovered the foundations of a significant church of the 5th or 6th century.

Dr Andrew Birley, director of Vindolanda excavations, told the Observer that finding church foundations inside the Roman stone fort was significant enough, but that uncovering a vessel "smothered both inside and out with Christian iconography is quite incredible".

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Colosseum

Complete 2,700 year old colosseum-like structure unearthed in Turkey may be sole surviving example

Colosseum

Colosseum-like structure unearthed in western Turkey
A structure similar to Rome's Colosseum, regarded as the best example of Roman architecture in the world, has been unearthed in the 2,700-year-old Mastaura ancient city in the Aegean province of Aydın's Nazilli district.

The discovery of the Colosseum, which has been preserved under the ground between olive and fig groves, has created excitement in the world of archeology.

Inspired by the notes of European travelers who traveled in the region about 200 years ago, archaeologists discovered the only example of the Colosseum in Rome. There are seven to eight similar examples in Anatolia but they have not survived until today.

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Map

5,700-year-old Neolithic house, Bronze Age burials, Iron Age smelting site uncovered during excavation in north Cork, Ireland

neolithic house

Eight separate excavations were carried out after the county council undertook two road realignment projects on the N73 (main road between Mallow and Mitchelstown) close to the villages of Shanballymore and Kildorrery.
Eight separate excavations were carried out after the county council undertook two road realignment projects on the N73 (main road between Mallow and Mitchelstown) close to the villages of Shanballymore and Kildorrery.

The foundations of a 5,700-year-old Neolithic house, evidence of Bronze Age burials and Iron Age smelting have been discovered by archaeologists as a result of excavations at the sites of two road realignment projects in Co. Cork.

They were unearthed in a total of eight separate excavations carried out after the county council undertook two road realignment projects on the N73 (the main road between Mallow and Mitchelstown) close to the villages of Shanballymore and Kildorrery.

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Map

Ancient Egypt's pet monkeys were imported from India

monkey egypt
© Professor Marta Osypińska
In the first century AD, the Romans took control of Egypt, making the city an important trading hub.

The burials were initially believed to originate from Northeast Africa, imported to the port city through the trans-oceanic trade network linking Africa and the Middle East.

The precise identification of the remains was difficult, as the monkeys were still adolescents and hadn't yet developed features in their skeletons that articulated the characteristics to match with a particular native African species.

Comment: Other recent research paints a pretty grim picture of how the ancient Egyptians treated some of their animals.

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Dig

24,000 year old mammoth ivory carving reveals sophisticated ancient technology of craftsmen

mammoth
© Lbova L. / 2020, Archaeological Research in Asia
A team of archeologists from Siberian Federal University and Novosibirsk State University provided a detailed reconstruction of a technology that was used to carve ornaments and sculptures from mammoth ivory. The team studied a string of beads and an ancient animal figurine found at the Paleolithic site of Ust-Kova in Krasnoyarsk Territory. Over 20 thousand years ago its residents used drills, cutters, and even levelling blades.
A team of archeologists from Siberian Federal University and Novosibirsk State University provided a detailed reconstruction of a technology that was used to carve ornaments and sculptures from mammoth ivory. The team studied a string of beads and an ancient animal figurine found at the Paleolithic site of Ust-Kova in Krasnoyarsk Territory. Over 20 thousand years ago its residents used drills, cutters, and even leveling blades. The unusual features of some of the items showcased the mastery of the craftsmen. The new data obtained by the scientists will help study the relations between the residents of different Siberian sites. The article about the study was published in the highly respected journal Archaeological Research in Asia.

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Dig

3,800-year-old wall reliefs symbolizing famine caused by climate change unearthed in Peru

Caral
Wall carvings were found in what was once a fishing city of the Caral civilization, the oldest in the Americas. The relief is thought to symbolize a period of drought and famine brought on by climate change.

Archaeologists discovered an ancient wall relief in Peru, belonging to the oldest civilizations in the Americas, news agency Andina reported on Thursday. The wall is approximately 3,800 years old and portrays snakes and human heads.

One meter (3.2 feet) high and 2.8 meters long, the wall relief was discovered in the sea-side archaeological site of Vichama, 110 kilometers (68 miles) north of Peru's capital, Lima.

Comment: See also: And for more on the ancient civilizations of the Americas: