web analytics

Two wrecks at low tide

A local history group searching along the coast for WWII pillboxes in Kent (spoiler: there are a shit ton of them) has discovered a previously unknown Tudor shipwreck. It was probably a merchant vessel. They’re probing it now.

The article mentions another wreck on a beach in Sussex. I think that’s one I’ve seen myself. I can’t tell you how underwhelming these things are in person: dark knobs in the general shape of a boat.

Still, if they decide to dig up the cargo — that’s when it gets cool.

Me, I ate something that disagreed with me today and I feel shit. I feel kind of shit. Not like ‘throwing up’ (or shitting) shit, but not good.

July 16, 2018 — 9:55 pm
Comments: 10

drought archaeology

We haven’t had rain in weeks and weeks now. They got the hay up in June — earliest ever — and my lawn is a sad, pale, yellow shadow of Springtime green.

But it does interesting things like this. Traces of humans leave impressions on the land for thousands of years and generations of farming never fully eradicate them.

This is a late stone age henge, in a part of Ireland that is weirdly full of henges. Seriously, they’d love to know why there were so many in this one narrow place. This one’s unusual for its double ring wall, but it’s on private land and there’s no intent to dig at the moment.

There is more archaeology turning up across the UK, thanks to a confluence of the drought and all the drone photography.

But not here. Not in my yard. Though we are miles from the sea now, the patch we live on was reclaimed from the water in late Medieval times. I live on weirdly new land!

July 12, 2018 — 10:01 pm
Comments: 8

Spoiler: it’s empty

This is cool: the maritime museum in Greenwich owned Sir Francis Drake’s treasure chest. Problem was, it was locked and they didn’t have a key.

Here’s a neat short film of the conservator making a key for it, starting with a blank and observing where the mechanism rubbed against the metal.

I’m sure they knew there was nothing in it before they started, but internets got to clickbait.

July 10, 2018 — 8:40 pm
Comments: 7

Lego of the Gods

Tweet from the British Museum says: “This 2,300-year-old #MysteryObject has a modern equivalent – what do you think it might have been used for?”

Eh. No idea. No associated article and no idea of scale, so I really could not say, BM.

…chasing a deadline tonight…

June 14, 2018 — 9:31 pm
Comments: 24

I didn’t know we had one of those…

Isaac Newton’s death mask. And by “we” I mean the Royal Society.

Several were made at the time of his death. You have to be careful about that, as sculptors regularly touched them up.

Like the famous l’Inconnue de la Seine, which has been (I suspect) heavily recarved. Nobody simpers in death.

I have been fascinated with death masks ever since I had a life mask made of myself in plaster of Paris when I was about twelve. By my mother’s entire special education class.

This went about as badly as you imagine, but it’s a story that needs telling with a lot of hand gestures and mime. And sound effects.

Anyway, I escaped with my life. Not sure what happened to the mask, though.

Today is the anniversary of Newton’s death, March 20, 1726 (or 1727 in the newfangled Gregorian calendar that was coming into use in his lifetime). If you look closely, you can just make out the dent in his head left by that apple.

That’s Uncle B’s joke.

March 20, 2018 — 9:50 pm
Comments: 12

The Flintstones’ cartoons

cartoon

Moving images, prehistoric style. They’ve found a bunch of these things and the current thinking is that they were toys. The current thinking.

I really liked this article in Science News.

Thousands of objects, some over 20,000 years old, have been traditionally explained as having some nonobvious ritual or religious significance, because they were…weird and inexplicable. More recent analysis of some of the clay objects have shown tiny fingerprints: they were made by children. Others may well have been made by adults for children.

I’m sure our ancestors would seem super religious to us, or at least terribly superstitious, but not EVERYthing was a ritual object, for crying out loud. This buttresses nicely with my personal thesis that the Willendorf Venus (and her sisters) were porno.

Think about carrying that object in the pocket of your…caveman suit. It would be pretty, erm. Tactile.

February 12, 2018 — 9:39 pm
Comments: 6

Gone.

crazyeye

Welp, he’s gone. History’s most famous case of the Crazy Eye.

Y’all may recall I am (or used to be) muchly into True Crime, but I’ve never had much interest in Manson. He was a petty criminal who had spent more than half his life in prison when he was released in the late Sixties. He looked around at the shit going down and thought, “yeah, I can work with this.”

It’s not even certain whether he ever killed anyone his own self. He surely wasn’t anywhere near the scene of the famous murders. He egged other people on and mugged for the cameras.

A tiny, manipulative clown. And now he’s dead. Shame he lived so long.

And Mitchell has won the Dead Pool!

Good on yer, Mitchell. We shall reassemble here Friday for the next one. Which is good – I’ve got a seminar to go to Friday that includes four hours of car travel. I ain’t going to be fit to post.

November 20, 2017 — 8:13 pm
Comments: 19

Lady Weasel Poison-Fist

fist

Oooo…lookee what I have to play with! We have been loaned a suit of armor at work. It’s of modern manufacture, but it’s made for actual re-enactment use, so it’s properly articulated and very heavy.

You can see the six individual plates that make up each finger, for example, and underneath each is a leather loop that holds it in place. It’s the whole thing, head to toe. I’ve had on the helmet and gloves.

I’m itching to try out the whole kit, but it weighs around a hundred pounds, and I don’t think anyone would appreciate me going face first into the parquet with the fancy metal togs on.

November 9, 2017 — 10:24 pm
Comments: 15

Confirmed: Einstein was tight

einstein

In 1922, Einstein was in Tokyo giving a series of lectures. A courier delivered a message to him in his hotel and Einstein, who didn’t have any local currency in his pocket, took out a piece of hotel stationery and wrote, “Stilles bescheidenes Leben gibt mehr Glueck als erfolgreiches Streben, verbunden mit bestaendiger Unruhe” and gave it to the man in lieu of tip. It means, “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”

Einstein had just won the Nobel and wasn’t super famous yet, so really this is like that one old auntie who gave you a piece of lame advice instead of a birthday present. Particularly as the Japanese man probably couldn’t read it.

Who knew Einstein wrote fortune cookies?

It worked out. Last week, the courier’s nephew sold the autograph for $1.56 million.

Oh, he also gave him a piece of paper that said, “Wo ein Wille ist, da ist auch ein Weg.” (Where there’s a will there’s a way.) Now, that’s just sad.

November 2, 2017 — 10:45 pm
Comments: 10

In praise of the messy

thekeep

I went to a lecture tonight. It revolved around a cache of hundreds of 18th Century personal letters that turned up in the back of a closet.

Think of this, O ye tidy folk — all the history we have comes from someone in the past who couldn’t bear to throw something away. However hard it is for us to believe it, everything you can see in the room where you are sitting will be interesting in a hundred years, fascinating in two hundred and a priceless antique in three.

The picture is from the About page of The Keep — the repository of the East Sussex Record Office where these letters (and thousands of other interesting documents) live. You probably don’t have any specific connection to East Sussex, but you can spend a merry hour or more plugging words into the search box and seeing where it takes you.

As promised, I shall be lame tonight, and even lamer tomorrow night. I’ve got an all-day seminar to go to, far away.

October 12, 2017 — 9:10 pm
Comments: 11