Winston Churchill as a boy owned, played with, and undoubtedly cast and painted lead soldiers. He owned something like 1500 hundred of them—probably one of the largest juvenile collections ever on the planet—, and no one ever thought Churchill intellectually impaired.
The Left, as we all know, has Science on its side, and its regime of experts intends to govern us guided by the insights delivered by established science.
The Left’s supposedly science-based policies, however, have a tendency to resemble primitive superstition, frequently incorporating Ousiaphobia (My own neologism: “the fear of substances”) which in every way resembles the sort of fear that primitive natives manifest toward things declared taboo by tribal witchdoctors.
Our own witchdoctors come with Ph.D.s, of course, and our politicians enthusiastically embody taboos in legislation. One particularly notorious example was the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 which banned ever-more-minute levels of the taboo element LEAD (symbol: Pb) in children’s toys, &c.
That particularly absurd piece of legislation had much more far-reaching implications than banning the importation of toys painted with lead paint from China. It effectively prohibited the sale of used (and antique) toys carrying traces of the forbidden metal, and when the law (passed under George W. Bush, mind you) went into effect early in 2009, it was thought also to ban all children’s books printed before 1985, because (oogah, boogah!) back then printers’ ink contained minute quantities of lead. The act banned lead in levels of 300 parts per million, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission promised that it would enforce the ban since “[g]iven the way that kids tear and chew through library books… it’s unlikely that libraries have many children’s books that are more than 24 years old.”
Our federal government has declared all children’s books printed before 1985 taboo on the basis of the belief that children customarily eat books.
Apparently, the book purge is still underway, four years later. A commenter on a publishing blog (read by my wife) reported yesterday.
My regional library system got hit hard by the requirement to riff all the older kids books (lead in the ink, natch). That really flubbed up their budget. I suspect they are not alone in this. The Friends of the Library group has stepped up and done a lot, but I’ve noticed the number of new acquisitions is declining.
Most people in America go to school for sixteen long years. They get science courses, and learn that Darwin proved that life arose spontaneously by chance, and that Natural Selection is good as a basis for rejecting traditional religion, but is absolutely not to be tolerated in human society. I presume everyone gets Chemistry courses and learns that lead is an element, is a metal, and is heavy. Chemistry courses probably inform people today that compounds of heavy metals tend to be very poisonous, but it is clear that the relationship, or lack thereof, between very poisonous and “300 parts in a million” is very evidently not made clear. Neither is the obvious necessity of employing common sense and testing theories against historical fact.
If exposure to books with infinitesimal amounts of lead in the ink they are printed with really impacted children, every youngster who was so foolhardy as to devote significant time to reading would have to be presumed to have damaged his intelligence. In reality, it’s the children who read a lot who went on to get scholarships to Yale.
Winston Churchill monkeyed around with lead during his childhood on a scale which would obviously appall today’s scientific experts. You can bet that he handled, fondled, ordered and re-ordered, and played with every single one of those 1500 lead soldiers. He undoubtedly was additionally equipped with molds for making more of them, and he doubtless, like most hobbyists of his ilk, poured melted lead and cast his own lead soldiers which he then trimmed, tidied up, and painted. The boy Churchill’s hands were, you can count on it, soiled with lead on many a day.
I fished with lead sinkers as a boy, and during some periods, I too used a lead pot, casting my own sinkers. I also learned to handload ammunition, and cast bullets. Amazingly Churchill lived to the age of 90, and I’ve made it into my sixth decade myself.
The Romano-Egyptian socks were excavated in the burial grounds of ancient Oxyrhynchus, a Greek colony on the Nile in central Egypt at the end of the 19th century. They were given to the Museum in 1900 by Robert Taylor Esq., ‘Kytes,’ Watford. He was executor of the estate of the late Major Myers and these items were selected among others from a list of textiles as ‘a large number of very useful examples.’
Particularly intriguing about these “very useful examples” is the technique used to construct these red wool socks. Called nålbindning, or single-needle knitting, this time-consuming process required only a single thread. The technique was frequently used for close-fitting garments for the head, feet and hands because of its elastic qualities. Primarily from prehistoric times, nålbindning came before the two-needle knitting that’s standard today; each needle was crafted from wood or bone that was “flat, blunt and between 6-10 cm long, relatively large-eyed at one end or the eye is near the middle.”
We don’t know for sure whether these socks were for everyday use, worn with a pair of sandals to do the ancient Egyptian equivalent of running errands or heading to work—or if they were used as ceremonial offerings to the dead (they were found by burial grounds, after all).
For sandals? They look to me to have been made for someone (the ibis-headed god Thoth?) who had feet like a stork.
A Roman ring, found in a farmer’s field (presumably part of what was once the Roman town Calleva Atrebatum) near Silchester, Hampshire in 1785 in some unknown manner wound up preserved in the library of The Vyne, a stately 16th century home belonging (until 1958, damn Socialism!) to the Chute family.
The ring bears an image of Venus and a Latin inscription. That inscription apparently connects the ring to a Latin curse tablet found by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in an excavation of a temple complex associate with the god Nodens at Lydney Park in Gloucestershire.
The lead curse tablet read:
DEVO NODENTI SILVIANVS ANILVM PERDEDIT DEMEDIAM PARTEM DONAVIT NODENTI INTER QVIBVS NOMEN SENICIANI NOLLIS PETMITTAS SANITATEM DONEC PERFERA VSQVE TEMPLVM DENTIS
For the god Nodens. Silvianus has lost a ring and has donated one-half [its worth] to Nodens. Among those named Senicianus permit no good-health until it is returned to the temple of Nodens.
Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1929 apparently consulted with J.R.R. Tolkien at Oxford about the natural hypothesis that the Silchester ring, with the inscription “SENI???”, might be the very same ring Silvianus had lost.
Tolkien took an interest in the matter, visited the Gloucestershire temple complex several times, and made a point of looking into the etymology of the name of the god Nodens.
It is believed today that it was this real world story of a lost, and very improbably rediscovered, gold ring, bearing an inscription, and weighted with a curse that may very well have been the inspiration of the One Ring featured in The Hobbit which appeared in 1937.
In any event, the Silchester ring is now being put on display by the combined efforts of the Tolkien Society and the National Trust in a newly-established “Ring Room” in The Vyne.
Rob lives on a carefully-constructed drink, containing all essential nutrients, which he calls “Soylent.”
Rob Rhinehart tells us:
Food is the fossil fuel of human energy. It is an enormous market full of waste, regulation, and biased allocation with serious geo-political implications. And we’re deeply dependent on it. In some countries people are dying of obesity, others starvation. In my own life I resented the time, money, and effort the purchase, preparation, consumption, and clean-up of food was consuming. I am pretty young, generally in good health, and remain physically and mentally active. I don’t want to lose weight. I want to maintain it and spend less energy getting energy.
I hypothesized that the body doesn’t need food itself, merely the chemicals and elements it contains. So, I resolved to embark on an experiment. What if I consumed only the raw ingredients the body uses for energy? Would I be healthier or do we need all the other stuff that’s in traditional food? If it does work, what would it feel like to have a perfectly balanced diet? I just want to be in good health and spend as little time and money on food as possible.
I haven’t eaten a bite of food in 30 days, and it’s changed my life.
And what exactly is in Soylent? Rob isn’t telling. He’s afraid it might not suit your metabolism. You might croak on a diet of the stuff, and your survivors might sue him. But, he is offering to send you a free supply, if you get medically tested before and after trying his diet and then inform him of your results. link
It seems to me that a clever fellow could synthesize the same sort of thing just as well or, dare I say it? even better than good old Rob. For instance, I bet a little vodka would help a lot…. (sound of loud, echoing manaical laughter coming from the laboratory)
Sampson Strong, Cardinal Wolsey, 1610, Christ Church College, Oxford.
The Telegraph reports that the successful search for Richard III’s remains is prompting the city fathers of Leicester to promote a search for another lost burial, that of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.
Wolsey, a great builder, had arranged for himself a magnificent black sarcophagus in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral, but his failure to procure Henry VIII the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon led to Wolsey’s downfall, the confiscation of his properties, and finally to his arrest for treason. He was lucky enough to expire in Leicester of natural causes en route to London for his trial and inevitable execution. Wolsey was consequently buried in the same Leicester Abbey as Richard III, without a monument. The grand sarcophagus eventually went to a more worthy occupant: naval hero Lord Nelson.
City councillor Ross Willmott said: “The discovery of Richard III is wonderful news, yet there remains something of a mystery about what happened to Wolsey, who rivaled Henry VIII in wealth and power and was one of the most significant political figures of the era.
“Arguably, he is far more influential than Richard III. To discover his remains would help tell the story of another historic figure linked to the city.”
“There have been digs over the years to try to find him but they have not succeeded. I would like another go.
“It would bring more tourists to the city and further excite the interest in history and archeology that we are now seeing.”
The churchman, Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor, died at the town’s abbey, the ruins of which can be seen from the city centre, while travelling to London after being accused of treason when he failed to secure the annulment of the king’s marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon.
He served as royal chaplain to Henry VII, who seized the throne after Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
It is likely he was buried with great ceremony at the abbey but historians think his tomb was destroyed later in Henry VIII’s reign, when abbeys were dissolved in the late 1530s after England’s split with the Catholic Church.
Attempt to locate Wolsey’s remains during digs in 1820 and again in the 1930s drew blanks.
However, Leicester Civic Society chairman Stuart Bailey said: “His bones may have been scattered and any remnants destroyed, but for years they said that about Richard III.
“I think it would be marvellous to have another look. It was a great fluke that Richard was found but we know Wolsey was buried in the Lady Chapel of the abbey church, which is not all that big.”
Just in time for yesterday’s St. Paddy’s Day celebration, Jeffrey P. Kahn, in the New York Times, cites recent theories that agriculture (and therefore civilization) developed earliest for the production of beer rather than food.
Human beings are social animals. But just as important, we are socially constrained as well.
We can probably thank the latter trait for keeping our fledgling species alive at the dawn of man. Five core social instincts, I have argued, gave structure and strength to our primeval herds. They kept us safely codependent with our fellow clan members, assigned us a rank in the pecking order, made sure we all did our chores, discouraged us from offending others, and removed us from this social coil when we became a drag on shared resources.
Thus could our ancient forebears cooperate, prosper, multiply — and pass along their DNA to later generations.
But then, these same lifesaving social instincts didn’t readily lend themselves to exploration, artistic expression, romance, inventiveness and experimentation — the other human drives that make for a vibrant civilization.
To free up those, we needed something that would suppress the rigid social codes that kept our clans safe and alive. We needed something that, on occasion, would let us break free from our biological herd imperative — or at least let us suppress our angst when we did.
This INVESTMENT GRADE spiny Comura trilobite represents the finest possible quality of preservation, completeness and displays an entire array of authentic spines freed completely from their matrix and exposed. This species is one of the most complex and difficult to prepare in this manner and such a project encompasses untold hours of meticulous preparation and skill. All three rows of spines running down the lobes of this trilobite and all other cephalonic spines have been exposed and are 100% AUTHENTIC. The trilobite is prepared with the head (cephalon) protruding up off of the rock and rock is removed from beneath. This time-consuming fantastic, natural position gives the impression as if it is attempting to crawl off its original limestone matrix. Examples like this come along only on very rare occasion and 100% authentic examples are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Perfect for the most demanding advanced collector striving to acquire specimens based on the finest rarity and quality.
I didn’t actually realize that trilobites came in investment grade, and I bet they didn’t either, but I will gladly concede that is is one heck of a nice trilobite.
The photos don’t really make it clear that this bad boy is only 2.4” long, and the whole shooting match, rock and all, is less than 3 1/2” long. Nonetheless, they are asking $4250.
“This university believes that the way of the amateur is the only one to provide satisfactory results.”
—Master of Caius College, “Chariots of Fire” (1981).
As the Wall Street Journal reports, a Baltimore hairdresser is proving the college master right.
By day, Janet Stephens is a hairdresser at a Baltimore salon, trimming bobs and wispy bangs. By night she dwells in a different world. At home in her basement, with a mannequin head, she meticulously re-creates the hairstyles of ancient Rome and Greece.
Ms. Stephens is a hairdo archaeologist.
Her amateur scholarship is sticking a pin in the long-held assumptions among historians about the complicated, gravity-defying styles of ancient times. Basically, she has set out to prove that the ancients probably weren’t wearing wigs after all.
“This is my hairdresserly grudge match with historical representations of hairstyles,” says Ms. Stephens, who works at Studio 921 Salon & Day Spa, which offers circa 21st-century haircuts.
Her coiffure queries began, she says, when she was killing time in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore back in 2001. A bust of the Roman empress Julia Domna caught her eye. “I thought, holy cow, that is so cool,” she says, referring to the empress’s braided bun, chiseled in stone. She wondered how it had been built. “It was amazing, like a loaf of bread sitting on her head,” says Ms. Stephens.
A hairstylist by day, Janet Stephens has become a “hair archaeologist” studying the intricacies of ancient Greek and Roman hairstyles. As WSJ’s Abigail Pesta reports, she’s been published in the academic community on her research, which she says proves the intricate hairstyles were not wigs.
She tried to re-create the ‘do on a mannequin. “I couldn’t get it to hold together,” she says. Turning to the history books for clues, she learned that scholars widely believed the elaborately teased, towering and braided styles of the day were wigs.
She didn’t buy that. Through trial and error she found that she could achieve the hairstyle by sewing the braids and bits together, using a needle. She dug deeper into art and fashion history books, looking for references to stitching.
In 2005, she had a breakthrough. Studying translations of Roman literature, Ms. Stephens says, she realized the Latin term “acus” was probably being misunderstood in the context of hairdressing. Acus has several meanings including a “single-prong hairpin” or “needle and thread,” she says. Translators generally went with “hairpin.”
The single-prong pins couldn’t have held the intricate styles in place. But a needle and thread could. It backed up her hair hypothesis.
In 2007, she sent her findings to the Journal of Roman Archaeology. “It’s amazing how much chutzpah you have when you have no idea what you’re doing,” she says. “I don’t write scholarly material. I’m a hairdresser.”
John Humphrey, the journal’s editor, was intrigued. “I could tell even from the first version that it was a very serious piece of experimental archaeology which no scholar who was not a hairdresser—in other words, no scholar—would have been able to write,” he says.
He showed it to an expert, who found the needle-and-thread theory “entirely original,” says Mr. Humphrey, whose own scholarly work has examined arenas for Roman chariot racing.
Ms. Stephens’ article was edited and published in 2008, under the headline “Ancient Roman Hairdressing: On (Hair)Pins and Needles.” The only other article by a nonarchaeologist that Mr. Humphrey can recall publishing in the journal’s 25-year history was written by a soldier who had discovered an unknown Roman fort in Iraq.
BBC: “It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that, beyond reasonable doubt, the individual exhumed at Greyfriars in September 2012 is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England.”
Dr Jo Appleby, an osteo-archaeologist from the university’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, revealed the bones were of a man in his late 20s or early 30s. Richard was 32 when he died.
His skeleton had suffered 10 injuries, including eight to the skull, at around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal.
One was a “slice” removing a flap of bone, the other was caused by bladed weapon which went through and hit the opposite side of the skull – a depth of more than 10cm (4ins).
Dr Appleby said: “Both of these injuries would have caused an almost instant loss of consciousness and death would have followed quickly afterwards.
“In the case of the larger wound, if the blade had penetrated 7cm into the brain, which we cannot determine from the bones, death would have been instantaneous.”
Other wounds included slashes or stabs to the face and the side of the head. There was also evidence of “humiliation” injuries, including a pelvic wound likely to have been caused by an upward thrust of a weapon, through the buttock.
On 22 August 1485, Richard met his rival Henry Tudor – the soon-to-be Henry VII - in fields near Market Bosworth in Leicestershire.
Most sources agree Richard’s army was larger, but it failed to sweep his enemy from the field.
Dr Steven Gunn, a fellow in modern history at Merton College, Oxford, said Tudor historian Polydore Vergil wrote a vivid account of Richard’s next, extraordinary, move.
He explained: “He says spies told Richard that Henry was riding with a small number of men, so when he sees this, Richard leads a charge straight at him.
“He then goes on to say: ‘In the first charge Richard killed several men; toppled Henry’s standard, along with the standard-bearer William Brandon; contended with John Cheney, a man of surpassing bravery, who stood in his way, and thrust him to the ground with great force; and made a path for himself through the press of steel.’
“Richard is then surrounded by enemy troops but Vergil only says he was killed ‘fighting in the thickest of the press’.
“More detail comes from a Burgundian historian Jean Molinet, who describes Richard’s horse becoming stuck in a marsh and then ‘unhorsed and overpowered, the king was hacked to death by Welsh soldiers’.”
Results of mtDNA analysis: positive.
90% of living Jews are European (Askenazi) Jews. There are two theories of the origin of European Jewry: the Rhineland Hypothesis contends that European Jews fled Palestine after the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. or after the Muslim conquest of Palestine in 637 A.D., migrated into Europe via Italy and Spain, then settled along the Rhine, before being driven eastward by persecution. The use of Yiddish, a High German dialect, by Ashkenazi Jews provides substantive support for their origin somewhere in Germany.
The alternative Khazar Hypothesis, popularized by Arthur Koestler, argues that nearly all European Jews really descend from the Khazars, a Turkish-speaking people, who converted to Judaism en masse in the 8th century.
Thus far… the Khazars’ contribution has been estimated only empirically, as the absence of genome-wide data from Caucasus populations precluded testing the Khazarian hypothesis. Recent sequencing of modern Caucasus populations prompted us to revisit the Khazarian hypothesis and compare it with the Rhineland hypothesis. We applied a wide range of population genetic analyses to compare these two hypotheses. Our findings support the Khazarian hypothesis and portray the European Jewish genome as a mosaic of Near Eastern-Caucasus, European, and Semitic ancestries, thereby consolidating previous contradictory reports of Jewish ancestry. We further describe a major difference among Caucasus populations explained by the early presence of Judeans in the Southern and Central Caucasus.
In the same issue, Danielle Venton summarized the conclusion of “the first scientific paper to prove the Khazarian Hypothesis and reject the Rhineland Hypothesis.”
When Behar et al. published “The genome-wide structure of the Jewish people” in 2010, Elhaik decided to investigate the question that had intrigued him for so long. Using data published by Behar, he calculated seven measures of ancestry, relatedness, and geographical origin. Though he used some of the same statistical tests as prior studies, he chose different comparisons.
“Results in the current literature are tangled,” Elhaik says. “Everyone is basically following the same assumption: Ashkenazi Jews are a population isolate, so they are all similar to one another, and this is completely incorrect.”
Previous studies had, for example, combined the question of similarity among and between Jewish populations and the question of ancestry and relatedness to non-Jewish populations. Elhaik viewed these questions separately. Jewish communities are less homogeneous than is popularly thought, he says, with Jewish communities along the former Khazarian border showing the most heterogeneity.
His second question centered on ancestry: When comparing Jewish communities to their non-Jewish neighbors, Caucasus or Levant (Middle Eastern) populations—which is the closest to Jews? “All Eurasian Jewish communities are closer to Caucasus populations,” he writes, with Central European Jews closer to Italian non-Jews as the exception. Not one of the eight evaluated Jewish populations were closer to Levant populations.
Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, is protected in the afterlife by an army of teracotta warriors.
Here’s an interesting item from Gizmodo, essentially translated from the Spanish-language paper El Pais:
(some typos corrected
After discovering a secret palace hidden in China’s first emperor massive burial complex, Chinese technicians are nervous. Not because Qin Shi Huang’s tomb is the most important archeological discovery since Tutankhamun, but because they believe his burial place is full of deadly traps that will kill any trespassers. Not to talk about deadly quantities of mercury. ...
Talking to Spanish newspaper El Pais, the archeologists working at the excavation said that “it’s like having a present all wrapped at home, knowing that inside is what you always wanted, and not being able to open it.” But, at the same time, nobody wants to be the first to get inside because of the mausoleum’s dangerous traps—they’re detailed in the same texts that recount its abundant riches.
It’s not clear if the traps are really there, even while many texts describe them. ...
[L]et’s assume that the Chinese … really installed booby traps that triggered deadly crossbows in the emperor’s tomb. Even if the old Chinese texts are correct, they might not still work after two thousand years. Perhaps the mechanisms are so rusty that the bolts won’t fire. Maybe the wood and the cords used the in the traps have long since been destroyed by bacteria.
Chinese historian Guo Zhikun argues the contrary. He is one of the main experts on Qinshihuang’s burial site, and says that it’s very possible that the traps are still active. He claims that the use of chrome in the figures may indicate that the traps received a similar protective treatment. He is sure that “the artisans who built the traps installed crossbows that will fire if any thief tries to get inside.”
Even if the traps don’t work, there is still the matter of the high, deadly concentration of mercury inside the tomb. On-site measurements indicate dangerous levels, which may come from another feature described in the scrolls: Imperial engineers created large rivers of quicksilver inside the tomb. So much that the level of mercury inside could be deadly for any unprotected adventurers.
The Chinese government hasn’t decided what to do with the hidden complex yet. The authorities will wait for some time because they believe that, with the current technology, you can’t get inside the tomb without destroying some of its contents.
If the Chinese archaeologists are indeed afraid of two-thousand-years-in-the-ground working crossbows and alleged “rivers of mercury,” I’ll be glad to enter the hidden palace first and take a look around for them. All they have to do is cover my expenses.
Hurricane Sandy gave New Haven a little Halloween present.
The 16-acre New Haven Green was laid out in 1638 as the central square of a 9-square town layout. Reputedly, the size of the town green was intended to be sufficiently large as to accommodate all human beings saved at the time of the Day of Judgment, whose number was calculated by the Puritan divines on the basis of various theological considerations to amount to 144,000.
The New Haven Green served as a marketplace and militia parade ground and in the course of its history contained a watch house, a prison, a school, several churches, and a succession of statehouses during the period extending up to 1875 when New Haven shared the seat of government of the colony and later state with Hartford.
The Green also served as the colonial burying ground until 1821. Among those buried in the New Haven Green is the regicide John Dixwell. After the use of the Green as a cemetery was abandoned, the headstones were removed to Grove Street Cemetery, but the burials were undisturbed.
Winds from Hurricane Sandy knocked over an oak tree on Monday, October 29th, on the Upper Green. The following afternoon, a homeless woman recognized that a human skeleton was intertwined with the tree’s exposed roots. She called for the police, and detectives and the state medical examiner went to work, concluding that the remains were those of someone buried in the colonial era.