Category Archive 'Mysteries'
21 Jun 2021

Voynich Manuscript Deciphered?

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Gerard E. Cheshire, in a new paper on Academia.edu: “Voicing the Voynich: The Pronuncial Writing System and Graeco-Iberian Language of MS408 (Ischia/Voynich),” claims to have identified the language Yale’s Voynich Manuscript is written in, and proposes a methodology for readers to employ and join in to help compete its decipherment.

This paper provides more precise guidance and instruction with regard to the palaeographic method in translating manuscript MS408 (Ischia, Voynich). Manuscripts of antiquity typically require palaeographic interpretive techniques for the purpose of translation, because they include idiomatic abbreviations, unusual calligraphy, exotic language, unique letter symbols and so on, making them a challenge to read. Therefore, it is necessary to learn and understand the associated peculiarities of the MS408 language and writing system in order to arrive at reasonable translations.

This process requires historical and linguistic research, so that initial translation possibilities can be progressively honed by a process of elimination until the semantics and syntax are workable. This scientific approach ensures that the emergent translations are sufficiently refined to be as close a match as possible to the intended meaning of the text. Due to the mutable nature of palaeographic analysis, there is often room for continued adjustment in translation, so accuracy relies on reprocessing the text time and time again, until new passes offer no further improvement. Thus, by repetition of the procedure the translation becomes more and more precise by degrees: i.e. as near to 100% accuracy as possible.

Initially the language was thought to be an anachronistic or outdated form of proto-Romance, but further research has revealed the language to be the Medieval Iberian variant of Romance known as Galician-Portuguese (G-P), with the inclusion of some Latin, Greek and occasional Arabic. The writing system is phonetic but is heavily abbreviated with enclitics, clitics and plosives, so that silent and junctural consonants and vowels have often become omitted altogether. Thus, the text was written in direct imitation of speech rather than obeying rules of
spelling, grammar and punctuation – thus, it is a pronuncial writing system. In addition, Latin stock words and phrases are abbreviated to initial letters.

As the writing system is pronuncial the consistency seen in its idiosyncratic spelling, from one page to the next, suggests that all of the text was written by the same hand, simply because two or more authors would have arrived at two or more spelling methods, unless there was some agreement, or the scribes were being dictated to. As the text does seem to differ in style, this is a possible explanation, although individuals can and do vary in their handwriting from day to day.

Whichever explanation is correct, the author, or authors, of the manuscript evidently devised a unique writing system, which may have been due to absence of formal education, due to cultural isolation, or it may have been deliberate to keep the information away from male eyes, as it would have been deemed embarrassing due to courtly etiquette, because the contents largely refer to private womanly matters relating to seduction, impregnation, gestation, contraception, abortion, childbirth, gynaecology, paediatrics, medicines, astrology, supernatural beliefs, treatments, therapies, ageing, beautification, illness and death.

Ischia was home to a Greek diaspora population with its own Basilian Orthodox monastery and nunnery in the early 15th century, when the island and its citadel, Castello Aragonese, were appropriated by Alfonso V, of the Crown of Aragon, during his campaign to conquer nearby Naples. Thus, the Iberian language of the newcomers was mixed with the Graeco language of the islanders, resulting in the manuscript language, best described as Graeco-Iberian Romance.

Despite its close geographical proximity to Italy, the island of Ischia had been culturally discrete for centuries when the manuscript was written, and therefore had little linguistic commonality with the contemporaneous Neapolitan culture. The manuscript dates quite precisely because a narrative map within the manuscript describes and illustrates the rescue of islanders from Vulcano and Lipari, with a flotilla of ships from Ischia, following a volcanic eruption that began on the February 4th, 1444, and created the Vulcanello peninsula. The map lies between
Portfolios 86 and 87. …

This paper presents reworked and updated translations of the first lines of the manuscript plant pages 1-10 (Portfolios 2a-6b), so that the reader can see how the translation process is conducted and to encourage the reader to continue translating the pages, by employing deeper knowledge of the writing system, the language and historical botanical information, to arrive at the most cogent translations, based on semantics (meaning) and syntax (structure).

An algorithmic approach is first employed, whereby possible words are listed according to the priority array queue of Galician-Portuguese, Latin, Greek, Arabic. Due to their linguistic stem and cultural assimilation, similar words are also often found in other Iberian Romance languages: Valencian, Catalan, Occitan, Asturian, Aragonese. Many variants are also found in other Romance languages: Italian, Neapolitan, Sicilian, Corsican, Sardinian, Istriot, Ladin, Venetian,
Friulian, French, Romanian, Aromanian.

Cross-reference with historical botanical and medicinal information is then employed to arrive at the most logical semantics and syntax, so that the most likely translations are preserved, and the least likely translations are eliminated. By running sentences through this process a number of times, the translations are gradually perfected.

I’m not at all certain that he’s right, but his paper is intriguing.

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Older description from Yale’s Beinecke Library:

Written in Central Europe at the end of the 15th or during the 16th century, the origin, language, and date of the Voynich Manuscript –named after the Polish-American antiquarian bookseller, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912– are still being debated as vigorously as its puzzling drawings and undeciphered text. Described as a magical or scientific text, nearly every page contains botanical, figurative, and scientific drawings of a provincial but lively character, drawn in ink with vibrant washes in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red.

Based on the subject matter of the drawings, the contents of the manuscript falls into six sections: 1) botanicals containing drawings of 113 unidentified plant species; 2) astronomical and astrological drawings including astral charts with radiating circles, suns and moons, Zodiac symbols such as fish (Pisces), a bull (Taurus), and an archer (Sagittarius), nude females emerging from pipes or chimneys, and courtly figures; 3) a biological section containing a myriad of drawings of miniature female nudes, most with swelled abdomens, immersed or wading in fluids and oddly interacting with interconnecting tubes and capsules; 4) an elaborate array of nine cosmological medallions, many drawn across several folded folios and depicting possible geographical forms; 5) pharmaceutical drawings of over 100 different species of medicinal herbs and roots portrayed with jars or vessels in red, blue, or green, oand 6) continuous pages of text, possibly recipes, with star-like flowers marking each entry in the margins.

30 Nov 2020

Iowahawk on the Missing Utah Monument

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29 Nov 2020

Loads of Reasons For Suspicion

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Patrick Basham, in the Spectator, does an excellent job of listing the very many reasons that the alleged result of the 2020 Presidential Election vote tally does not make sense.

To say out-loud that you find the results of the 2020 presidential election odd is to invite derision. You must be a crank or a conspiracy theorist. Mark me down as a crank, then. I am a pollster and I find this election to be deeply puzzling. I also think that the Trump campaign is still well within its rights to contest the tabulations. Something very strange happened in America’s democracy in the early hours of Wednesday November 4 and the days that followed. It’s reasonable for a lot of Americans to want to find out exactly what.

First, consider some facts. President Trump received more votes than any previous incumbent seeking reelection. He got 11 million more votes than in 2016, the third largest rise in support ever for an incumbent. By way of comparison, President Obama was comfortably reelected in 2012 with 3.5 million fewer votes than he received in 2008.

Trump’s vote increased so much because, according to exit polls, he performed far better with many key demographic groups. Ninety-five percent of Republicans voted for him. He did extraordinarily well with rural male working-class whites.

He earned the highest share of all minority votes for a Republican since 1960. Trump grew his support among black voters by 50 percent over 2016. Nationally, Joe Biden’s black support fell well below 90 percent, the level below which Democratic presidential candidates usually lose.

Trump increased his share of the national Hispanic vote to 35 percent. With 60 percent or less of the national Hispanic vote, it is arithmetically impossible for a Democratic presidential candidate to win Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. Bellwether states swung further in Trump’s direction than in 2016. Florida, Ohio and Iowa each defied America’s media polls with huge wins for Trump. Since 1852, only Richard Nixon has lost the electoral college after winning this trio, and that 1960 defeat to John F. Kennedy is still the subject of great suspicion.

Midwestern states Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin always swing in the same direction as Ohio and Iowa, their regional peers. Ohio likewise swings with Florida. Current tallies show that, outside of a few cities, the Rust Belt swung in Trump’s direction. Yet, Biden leads in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin because of an apparent avalanche of black votes in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. Biden’s ‘winning’ margin was derived almost entirely from such voters in these cities, as coincidentally his black vote spiked only in exactly the locations necessary to secure victory. He did not receive comparable levels of support among comparable demographic groups in comparable states, which is highly unusual for the presidential victor.

We are told that Biden won more votes nationally than any presidential candidate in history. But he won a record low of 17 percent of counties; he only won 524 counties, as opposed to the 873 counties Obama won in 2008. Yet, Biden somehow outdid Obama in total votes.

Victorious presidential candidates, especially challengers, usually have down-ballot coattails; Biden did not. The Republicans held the Senate and enjoyed a ‘red wave’ in the House, where they gained a large number of seats while winning all 27 toss-up contests. Trump’s party did not lose a single state legislature and actually made gains at the state level.

Another anomaly is found in the comparison between the polls and non-polling metrics. The latter include: party registrations trends; the candidates’ respective primary votes; candidate enthusiasm; social media followings; broadcast and digital media ratings; online searches; the number of (especially small) donors; and the number of individuals betting on each candidate.

Despite poor recent performances, media and academic polls have an impressive 80 percent record predicting the winner during the modern era. But, when the polls err, non-polling metrics do not; the latter have a 100 percent record. Every non-polling metric forecast Trump’s reelection. For Trump to lose this election, the mainstream polls needed to be correct, which they were not. Furthermore, for Trump to lose, not only did one or more of these metrics have to be wrong for the first time ever, but every single one had to be wrong, and at the very same time; not an impossible outcome, but extremely unlikely nonetheless.

Do RTWT.

22 Nov 2020

The Unicorn Tapestries

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In Paris Review, Danielle Oteri described how, despite the efforts of curators, scholars, and even an obsessed high school teacher turned museum guard, our understanding of the complex symbolism in the tapestries has retreated rather than advanced over decades. She notes: “the Met’s most eminent scholars have debated the finer points of the tapestries, each time removing more and more from the guidebooks and wall labels. Today at the Cloisters, the wall label for each of these tapestries, the most famous works in the museum, among the most famous works in the world, is only about one sentence long.”

Nobody knows who made the Unicorn Tapestries, a set of seven weavings that depict a unicorn hunt that has been described as “the greatest inheritance of the Middle Ages.”

Without evidence, the La Rochefoucauld family in France asserted that the tapestries originate with the marriage of a family ancestor in the fifteenth century. The tapestries did belong to the La Rochefoucauld in 1793, before they were stolen by rioters who set fire to their château at Verteuil. The family regained possession sixty years later, when the tapestries were recovered in a barn. The precious weavings of wool, silk, gold, and silver were in tatters at their edges and punched full of holes. They had been used to wrap barren fruit trees during the winter.

In late 1922, the Unicorn Tapestries disappeared again. They were sent to New York for an exhibition, which never opened. A rich American had bought them and transferred them to his bank vault before anyone else could see them. In February 1923, John D. Rockefeller Jr. confirmed from his vacation home in Florida that he was the American who had acquired the tapestries for the price of $1.1 million. The tapestries were transferred to Rockefeller’s private residence in Midtown Manhattan.

Fourteen years later, Rockefeller donated the tapestries to the Cloisters, a new medieval art museum he had funded as a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The mysterious works were to be on regular public display for the first time in their five-hundred-year history.

RTWT

09 Jun 2020

Forrest Fenn’s Treasure Found

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ABC Chicago reported that the decade-long quest is over.

Forrest Fenn, who hid $1 million in treasure in the Rocky Mountain wilderness a decade ago, said Sunday that the chest of goods has been found.

Fenn, 89, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that a treasure hunter located the chest a few days ago.

“The guy who found it does not want his name mentioned. He’s from back East,” Fenn said, adding that it was confirmed from a photograph the man sent him. Fenn did not reveal exactly where it had been hidden.

Fenn posted clues to the treasure’s whereabouts online and in a 24-line poem that was published in his 2010 autobiography “The Thrill of the Chase.”

Hundreds of thousands have hunted in vain across remote corners of the U.S. West for the bronze chest believed to be filled with gold coins, jewelry and other valuable items. Many quit their jobs to dedicate themselves to the search and others depleted their life savings. At least four people died searching for it.

Fenn, who lives in Santa Fe, said he hid his treasure as a way to tempt people to get into the wilderness and give them a chance to launch an old-fashioned adventure and expedition for riches.

For more than a decade, he packed and repacked his treasure chest, sprinkling in gold dust and adding hundreds of rare gold coins and gold nuggets. Pre-Columbian animal figures went in, along with prehistoric “mirrors” of hammered gold, ancient Chinese faces carved from jade and antique jewelry with rubies and emeralds.

Fenn told The New Mexican in 2017 that the chest weighs 20 pounds (9 kilograms) and its contents weigh another 22 pounds (10 kilograms). He said he delivered the chest to its hiding place by himself over two separate trips.

Asked how he felt now that the treasure has been found, Fenn said: “I don’t know, I feel halfway kind of glad, halfway kind of sad because the chase is over.”

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All Thats Interesting has the whole story.

NYM 2015 post.

17 Apr 2020

Peter Beard, Missing For Over Two Weeks

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The Post includes with the story of his disapppearance a good précis of Peter Beard’s colorful career:

Peter Beard has swum with crocodiles, been charged by rhinos and trampled by a herd of elephants. Writer Bob Colacello once aptly described him as “half Tarzan, half Byron.”

For decades, he’s led a larger-than-life existence, both in his work and his romances with some of the world’s most beautiful women — including Candice Bergen, Cheryl Tiegs, Lee Radziwill and “For Your Eyes Only” Bond girl Carole Bouquet. It’s hard to imagine him just fading away.

But on March 31, the 82-year-old wildlife photographer — now said to be suffering from dementia — wandered away from the luxuriously rustic home in Montauk, Long Island, that he shares with his wife, Nejma, and their daughter, Zara. He hasn’t been seen since. …

Beard’s whereabouts remain a mystery despite an extensive search by 100 police officers, a helicopter, drones and K-9 units. But some who know him remain unfazed.

“I was not shocked,” model Cheryl Tiegs, who was married to Beard from 1982 until 1986, told The Post of his disappearance.

“Maybe someone picked Peter up and he is on a joyride across America. He does pretty wacky things. The night after we got married, he did not come home until dawn.

The photographer made his name by turning photos into one-of-a-kind works of art. Selling for more than $500,000, his creations are splattered with blood and scrawls of ink, and affixed with personal mementos.

“I felt beyond privileged to watch him making art, to see him walking around and deciding which pieces got blood and which didn’t,” Peter Tunney, Beard’s former business manager and art dealer, told The Post.

“I remember a picture of his with Uma Thurman’s mother [model Nena von Schlebrügge] on top of a crashed car. She was there because Peter couldn’t get [the model] Veruschka that day. Salvador Dalí stood alongside the car.”

Everyone who knows Beard inevitably brings up his movie-star good looks, penchant for carousing, rough-hewn charm — and habit of disappearing when the mood strikes. Friends nicknamed him Walkabout.

However, they reluctantly add, advanced age and hard living have taken a toll. As a longtime pal recalled to The Post: “Not long ago, I saw Peter at an event, went up to him and said hello. He didn’t recognize me. And we used to talk on the phone almost every day.”

RTWT

08 Jan 2020

The Mystery of Malaysian Flight MH-370

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William Langwiesche, in the Atlantic, addresses at length what is known of the mystery of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-370. It’s a fascinating story.

If the wreckage is ever found, it will lay to rest all the theories that depend on ignoring the satellite data or the fact that the airplane flew an intricate path after its initial turn away from Beijing and then remained aloft for six more hours. No, it did not catch on fire yet stay in the air for all that time. No, it did not become a “ghost flight” able to navigate and switch its systems off and then back on. No, it was not shot down after long consideration by nefarious national powers who lingered on its tail before pulling the trigger. And no, it is not somewhere in the South China Sea, nor is it sitting intact in some camouflaged hangar in Central Asia. The one thing all of these explanations have in common is that they contradict the authentic information investigators do possess.

RTWT

23 Aug 2019

What Killed These People?

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Atlas Obscura:

No one knows exactly how they got there—the skeletal remains of 500-some-odd people spread around Lake Roopkund, in the Indian Himalayas. Since the bones were rediscovered by a forest ranger in 1942, a number of haunting—if unsubstantiated—theories have circled the skeletons like vultures: Had these been Japanese soldiers who succumbed to the elements? Victims of a landslide or forgotten epidemic or attack?

Now an international team of more than two dozen researchers has thrown more than one wrench into this enduring and alarming mystery. As it turns out, the remains do not all date to the same historical period—and they don’t even share a common geographic origin. This means that, many centuries apart, different groups of different peoples from different parts of the world somehow all met their demise at this same spot, which has since earned the popular moniker Skeleton Lake. The researchers published their puzzling findings yesterday, in the journal Nature Communications.

Éadaoin Harney and Nick Patterson, biologists at Harvard University and two of the study’s 28 authors, say they were very surprised by what they found in their DNA analyses. With their colleagues they looked at 76 distinct skeletal elements, 38 of which provided full genomic information, and all of which combined to present an impressive diversity: Of the 38 individuals, the remains of 23 date approximately to the year 800, while the remains of the other 15 date approximately to 1800. Though the 23 older individuals all appear to have come from South Asia, Harney and Patterson say there is evidence indicating that they came from different places within the subcontinent, and the evidence indicates that their remains were “deposited in more than one event.” All but one of the other 15 individuals, meanwhile, came from as far away as the eastern Mediterranean—perhaps, says Patterson, from somewhere in the Greek-speaking world. The remaining individual had Southeast Asian ancestry, and so constitutes a third distinct group.

Ayushi Nayak, another author of the study and a PhD candidate in archaeology at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, emphasizes that those three groups were represented in the remains of just 38 individuals. How many more historical periods and geographical regions, she wonders, might lie within the site’s hundreds of bones? Looking at all of them was not feasible for just one study, but the remaining samples have been well preserved by the chilly Himalayan air, so more research is possible.

RTWT

19 Jul 2019

Caroline Walter

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Atlas Obscura:

In 1867, when she was just 17, Caroline Christine Walter died from tuberculosis. Devastated, her sister Selma commissioned a sculptor to carve an eerily beautiful memorial to remember her by.

The grave shows Walter as if she had just fallen asleep while reading. In the open book, visitors can read “It is certain in God’s wisdom that from our dearest loved one we must part.”

The grave itself is rather ordinary, as it isn’t unusual for a family member to create an ornate memorial to a lost loved one. However, what’s unusual is the fact that fresh flowers have inexplicably appeared on the grave every day since Walter died.

Walter has been dead for more than 150 years, and her sister and all the people that knew her in life have long since died as well. Still, each day, rain or shine, even on holidays, there are fresh new flowers carefully tucked beneath the statue’s arm.

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My Send Off:

Over 50,000 flowers have been placed on the grave of a young girl who died almost 145 years ago in Freiburg, Germany. Who places them there, no one knows. Every morning, under summer’s sun and winter’s snow, a fresh flower has been placed on the grave of Caroline Christine Walter. …

In the early summer of 1867, just before she turned 17, Caroline contracted tuberculosis and passed away a few short weeks later.

Her sister Selma wanted to create a lasting memorial and asked a sculptor to cast a grave in her sister’s likeness. The life size and life like sculpture depicts Caroline just as if she fell asleep reading in her own bed.

The grave was placed against one of the outer walls of the Alter Friedhof cemetery which had already been in existence for more than 200 years. It was a peaceful setting, made more peaceful by the beautiful grave of the sleeping girl.

It was soon after Caroline passed away, and the flowers on her grave from the funeral were wilting, that her sister began to notice that a fresh flower was always on the grave when she visited. Months and then years passed and still no one had discovered who might be leaving the flowers. The cemetery groundskeepers could provide no clue but perhaps they were sworn to secrecy.

Caroline had never mentioned any young man in particular to Selma however legends abound. The most common one is that the flowers were placed by one of Caroline’s tutors who had fallen in love with her and mourned her passing for the rest of his life. But, even had he lived to be a hundred, he still would have died more than half a century ago. Did he leave instructions for future generations to carry on the tradition?

Today, only a little sunlight filters through the boughs of the trees overhead, moss has grown over the place where she sleeps but every morning since that fateful day in 1867, a fresh flower blooms on Caroline’s grave.

17 Jun 2019

There’s a Good Story Here

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An alligator in Sugar Lake, Texas has been seen, and photographed, swimming by with a knife sticking out of his head.

Fox6Now.com:

Local resident Erin Weaver was quoted as saying:

“I feel that somebody did this on purpose.”

03 Jun 2019

Frustrating Photo

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(Just click on photo for large version.)

You cannot make out what rifle he’s holding, or what pistol butt protrudes from that holster.

I think there actually is a lever there, but for some reason it is practically invisible. The bulge on the receiver just in front of the trigger guard has to eliminate Winchester and Marlin, and my guess is that it’s a rare Bullard Repeating Arms lever action. Bullards were made circa 1884 to 1891.

I also think those pelts are wolves.

02 Jun 2019

But Where Did He Get That Goat’s Head?

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