Another exciting news item has emerged from the fast-paced field of human prosthetics, although on the other end of the chronological spectrum from my post last week. Archaeologists believe they may have found the world’s earliest functioning prosthetic limb (so far).
Found on the right foot of an Egyptian mummy, dating from somewhere between 1000 and 600 BC, the prosthesis is a wood and leather big toe. It is not, however, the first ancient Egyptian false toe – another was found near the end of the 19th century, and is probably nearly the same age. The “new” artifact, however, is “articulated and shows signs of wear,” and was found attached to the mummy of a 50-60 year old woman, whose amputation site appears to have healed. The other toe was made of something like papier-mâché, and may have been simply ornamental and not actually supposed to help with walking (something the Egyptians are famous for).
A researcher at the University of Manchester has created an exact replica of the ancient toe, and is recruiting volunteers who have lost their right big toes to test the prosthesis’ functionality.
The previous record holder for “most ancient prosthesis” was a Roman bronze leg, dating to about 300 BC. It was, however, destroyed during the bombing of London in WWII.
Scientists believe that before the invention of objects like these functioning prosthetics, humans who had lost limbs must have resorted to tying everyday items like rocks, flowers, or small animals to amputation sites. Finds like the Egyptian toe force archaeologists to reevaluate the ingenuity of our ancestors, and push those dark days further and further into the depths of the past.
For a picture of the actual ancient toe, check out this article
Archeologists in Ventura, Calif., digging on the spot where a couple of outhouses were stationed some 130 years ago, are making some amazing discoveries…as long as they can tolerate the smell.
Here’s a quick rundown of what they’ve found: a pistol, bowie knife, whiskey flasks, a set of false teeth, two dog skulls and a blade for shearing sheep.
You might be able to label this case as CSI: Outhouse.
"It might be an early crime scene," project archaeologist John Foster is quoted in USA Today. "It looks like the two dogs were decapitated. Then whoever did it dumped the skulls and the blade, thinking the women probably wouldn't be looking too hard into the bottom of the privy."
Archeologists were called in to checkout the scene before the site was to be prepared for a condo development. The property has had a host of previous uses, including a school bus barn and Ventura County’s first courthouse/jail/hospital.
While the finds have been exciting, the project has had its drawbacks, archeologists report.
"The further you go down, the stronger the smell," archaeologist Marisa Solorzano says. "But it's not that bad. These privies are archaeological gold mines."
One person’s gold mine is another person’s pile of, oh well, you get what I mean.
Or to put it another way for you Trekkies: these archeaologists are boldly going where many have gone before!
...and soon there will be about 3 billion more. According to a UN report, next year half of the world's population will live in cities. Throughout human history, most people have lived in rural areas or small communities. This will mark the first time ever that more people will live inside of cities than outside.
While life in a well-planned, well-maintained city can be quite pleasant (Minneapolis/St. Paul, anybody?), urban life does bring its challenges. Health services and sanitation systems are stretched thin, and disease outbreaks are common. The concentration of poverty often breeds crime. Having so many people in such a small area puts great pressure on local ecosystems. Since most cities are near water, those environments are especially at risk.
Surprisingly, Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, the only existing member of the original Seven Wonders of the World list, didn’t make the cut this time around. Thor wrote about this controversy in an earlier posting found here. Other losers included the Statues of Easter Island, the Acropolis in Greece, New York’s Statue of Liberty, England’s Stonehenge, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Japan’s Kiyomizu Temple.
The New Seven Wonders were announced during an Official Declaration ceremony held in Lisbon, Spain on July 7, 2007, hosted by actors Ben Kingsley and Hillary Swank.
Bernard Weber, a Swiss filmmaker came up with the idea for new wonders list in 2001, after the Taliban in Afghanistan had toppled the huge Buddha statues at Bamiyan. Part of the funds garnered by the dedication ceremony will go to rebuilding those giant sculptures.
Not everyone shares Weber’s enthusiasm, however. Christian Manhart, press officer for UNESCO, the UN body for cultural oversight, complained that the list should have included more.
“All of these wonders obviously deserve a place on the list, but what disturbs us is that the list is limited to just seven," he said. “Seven were adequate in antiquity because the antique world was much smaller than today.”
The original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were all located in an area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. That list was comprised around 200 BC.
Egypt’s head of antiquities, Zahi Hawass was unimpressed by neither the new list, nor by it’s failure to include the Great Pyramids of Giza.
"This contest will not detract from the value of the pyramids, which is the only real wonder of the world," he said. "This competition has no value because it is not the masses who write history."
Well, folks, the numbers are in.
The awesomely named “Center for Excellence in Rural Safety,” based out of the University of Minnesota, has released a list of the states with the most dangerous rural driving (based on the highest percentages of traffic fatalities occurring on rural roads).
July 3 and 4 are the most dangerous days of the year to drive, and, although only a small minority of Americans live in rural areas, the majority of highway deaths occur on rural roads. The reason for this, says CERS, is because the type of accidents that happen on rural roads (head-on collisions, and driving off the roadway) are very dangerous, and because “rural roads, with lighter traffic and pleasant scenery, can easily lull drivers into a false sense of security.”
Here is a portion of the list. Also included are the most frequent reasons for driver distraction in each state.
1) Maine (Trees)
2) North Dakota (Ennui)
3) South Dakota (Buffalo sightings)
4) Iowa (Disorientation)
4) Vermont (Fall colors)
5) Montana (UFOs)
6) Wyoming (Loneliness)
7) South Carolina (Sea monsters)
8) Mississippi (Mildew)
9) Arkansas (Arkansas)
10) West Virginia (Vague nostalgia)
15) Minnesota (An accurate feeling of personal superiority)
18) Wisconsin (Proximity to Minnesota)
Anyhow, if you must leave your house this week, drive safely. And, if you can’t drive yet, repeatedly ask your parents to drive safely.
Archeologists near Lima found a skull with a clean, neat hole in the skull while excavating a pile of bones. It’s believed that the shot was fired some 500 years ago. They’re ruling out a recent gun shot striking the bones, since a blast from a gun today would have shattered the aging skull bones.
And the story adds up to the victim being hurt from a shooting. The bones of the excavation are from the early 1500s on ancient Incas who were massacred by Spanish conquistadors.
So how can the researchers be so sure it was a gun shot? New technology helped dig up the old story.
A scanning electronic microscope was used to analyze the hole. It found fragments of a musket ball embedded into the bone around the hole.
In total, the archeologists have found the remains of 72 Incas in the area and all show signs of violent injuries, suggesting that a large battle took place between the native people and the European explores.
Well, I hate to lie (or do I?), but Grand Theft Auto Rome isn’t actually in the works.
Still, with a some (lots of) imagination, before long we might all be causing a little morally reprehensible havoc in ancient Rome.
For the last ten years, the University of Virginia and the University of California, Los Angeles, along with computer scientists and architects from Italy, have been working on a project to digitally reconstruct ancient Rome, circa A.D. 320.
Rome, at this time, would have been the cultural hub of the western world, and had reached a population of around one million.
Employing the same techniques used to simulate modern cities, these scientists and artists have been working to recreate Rome street by street, temple to temple, in “Rome1.0.”
As someone who has worked at archaeological sites, I find the prospect of having a complete, scaled-down, and fully explorable model of something that would otherwise just exist in excavation logs and site reports is pretty neat. The imagination always adds perspective, but it would be awfully cool to be able to travel through an ancient site just as some one could have 1700 years ago.
Rome Reborn will continue map the ancient city, and there are plans to follow its progression from the late Bronze Age, to its fall in the 6th century A.D,
That’s a hard question to answer as the best way to get age information from the giants is to measure the amino acid levels in their eyes.
But an easier dating tool was found in a bowhead whale that was killed off of the coast of Alaska earlier this year. Embedded in the whale’s neck was an arrow-shaped tool, about three inches long, that was patented in 1879. So whale experts are figuring that the bowhead survived some kind of fishing attack at least 100 years ago. They’ve targeted the whale’s age to be between 115 and 130 years old.
In fact, the particular type of arrowhead found in the whale was groundbreaking for its time. It was filled with explosives that were supposed to go off on impact to further hurt the whale. With the particular case, that didn't work out, and the whale was probably annoyed, but not stopped, by the hit.
It’s rare to find centurion whales, but a few can live that long and there are documented cases of whales living to be 200 years old.
The captured Alaskan bowhead was 49 feet long and was speared using today’s more modern technology. It’s capture was completely legitimate. The Alaskan Eskimo Whaling Commission allows native villagers to take up to 255 whales from Alaskan waters each season
On July 1, a crew of 100 will begin rowing and sailing the Sea Stallion of Glendalough, a recreation of a 9th Century Viking ship, from Roskilde, Denmark. Seven weeks later, they hope to land in Dublin, Ireland, all in one piece a mere 1,200 miles away.
The 100-foot ship is modeled after a similar ship salvaged from the depths of the Roskilde Fjord in 1962. The 2007 trip in the recreated vessel will backtrack the route the original ship took from its home port in Dublin, a city that was founded by Vikings. The project is being coordinated by the Viking Ship Museum of Roskilde, Denmark.
Work from the crew will be divided up into four-hour shifts. They’ll be rowing the oars and tending the huge single sail. The crew will be made up of 78 men and 22 women, a significant change from the staffing the original Viking ships, which were almost entirely all men.
And the 21st Century crew will have some other advantages: global positioning technology, cell phones and waterproof clothing along with a support team on another boat.
But not all modern conveniences are involved with this new Viking ship. As much as possible, hand tools similar to those of the Viking
era were used in the ship’s construction, as were the fabric methods of that time in making the sail. The only guesswork of the whole process was determining the color schemes of the ship’s sides and sails.
We all have the chance to be part of the trip and keep tabs on the entire voyage through the Viking Ship Museum’s website. You can go to this link to follow the progress of the ship, read the history of its creation and learn a lot more information about the Viking era. You can also register your e-mail address there to get updated information as the trip approaches. The educational section of the website will include 3-D animations, film and photos of the trip.
All I can think of as a way to sign off here is to say “Skoal Vikings!”
Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Carson, whom many credit as the inspiration for the modern environmental movement. Her 1962 book Silent Spring warned the world of the dangers of environmental degradation, especially due to the overuse of chemical pesticides. The book stirred millions of people worldwide to take action. In the United States, we saw the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency – all the result of the movement Carson inspired.
Today, our air and water are cleaner thanks to these actions, and dangerous chemicals are more closely regulated. But some people are re-evaluating Carson’s legacy, especially with regards to the pesticide DDT. Carson explained how insects absorbed the poisonous chemical. Birds which ate enough insects often died themselves, or would have trouble hatching eggs. Carson promoted restricting the use of DDT.
However, some of her followers went further, pushing for a total ban of DDT in many countries. Unfortunately, DDT is extremely effective at killing mosquitoes that spread malaria – a disease that kills some one million people each year. Responsible, limited use of DDT could save millions of lives.
Carson’s legacy reminds us not only of the importance of protecting our environment, but also that one person can have a tremendous impact. It also reminds us that even the best ideas can have unintended consequences, and any major changes need to be undertaken in a balanced, rational and flexible manner.