Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Choir of the Silent Monks

                              Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Monday, August 26, 2013

We Found Richard III but Where is Ghengis?

The mystery began on August 18, 1227, when Mongol leader Genghis Khan died of unknown causes while leading a military campaign in China. According to legend, Khan’s successors killed anyone who witnessed his funeral procession on its way back to the Mongol capital of Karakorum. Some 800 soldiers are said to have massacred the 2,000 people who attended his funeral, before being summarily executed themselves. Khan’s corpse was then placed in an unmarked grave to ensure his rest would be undisturbed. Horses trampled all evidence of the burial, and some say a river was diverted to flow over the site. As a result of these extreme measures, the location of Khan’s tomb has remained unknown for almost 900 years.

Most experts believe Khan was buried somewhere near his birthplace in Khentii Aimag, northeastern Mongolia, and that his descendants may be buried there along with him—but they don’t have much more to go on than that. Researchers weren’t even allowed in the area until after the Soviet occupation of Mongolia ended in the 1990s. And in the decades since, various groups have been pressured to give up their searches due to protests from the Mongolian government and public that excavation would disturb the rest of their national hero.

Such opposition has not halted the hunt. In 2004 Japanese-Mongolian researchers discovered the remains of what they think is Khan’s palace complex on the grassy steppe of Khentii Province, 150 miles east of the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator; they believe his tomb may be somewhere nearby. And since 2008, the Valley of the Khans Project has been using cutting-edge technology to search for Khan’s final resting place. The project has enlisted thousands of “citizen scientists” to comb through high-resolution satellite images of the region looking for possible clues, giving amateurs with a home computer and an Internet connection a rare chance to help solve one of history’s most enduring riddles.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

England's Richard III Found under a parking lot in Leicester England.

What do the remains of King Richard III tell us about the man and how he died?

Researchers say the skull and jaw of last English monarch to die in battle were badly damaged, lending support to reports that the blows that killed him were so heavy that it drove the king’s crown into his head.

They also conclude that Richard III may have been as anxious and fearful as William Shakespeare portrayed him – he ground his teeth with stress.

Researchers also found that the king had suffered severe tooth decay, perhaps as a result of his privileged position and a sweet tooth.

Dr Amit Rai, a general dental practitioner in London who wrote a paper for the British Dental Journal, said: “Richard is likely to have been killed by one of two blows to the base of the skull from some of the most advanced military weapons of the time.

“Several accounts of Richard III reveal that he rode into battle wearing his crown which, despite this making him an easy target, is consistent with the location of the battlefield injuries he sustained on his skull.”

The skeleton of Richard III was found beneath a council car park earlier this year.

The discovery was described as one of the most significant archaeological finds in history. DNA analysis was used to confirm the skeleton belonged to the monarch by matching it to that of living descendants.

King Richard died in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth in the War of the Roses over the English throne. Reports from the time say he was hit so hard by the blows from a Welsh swordsman that his crown or helmet were driven into his skull.

His body was taken to Grey Friars Church in Leicester where it was buried in a shallow grave.

Centuries later the site was built over by the council to form a car park until archaeologists dug him up.

Distant relatives of the king have now started legal proceedings to challenge a plan to rebury Richard III's remains in Leicester.

Lawyers have lodged papers in the High Court seeking a judicial review of a decision by the Ministry of Justice, arguing that Richard III’s remains should be buried in York, alongside his family.

However, in the meantime, the King’s remains have provided valuable insights into what life was like for the last Plantagenet king.

Dr Rai said the monarch’s teeth and jaw showed signs of rudimentary signs of medieval dentistry while some of the teeth showed signs of decay from a diet rich in carbohydrates and sugar.

Surface loss on a number of back teeth and upper right teeth suggest he also suffered from stress-related bruxism, or teeth grinding.

Whether this was because he was wracked with guilt over the fate of the Princes in the Tower, who he is accused of murdering to assume the throne, may never be clear.

Dr Rai also found evidence that Richard III had undergone dental surgery and had two teeth removed at the hands of barber surgeons.

Tartar was also found on the teeth in the King’s upper jaw.

Dr Rai added: “Analysis of this tartar will enable the identification of the strains and diversity of bacteria which once inhabited Richard’s mouth and provide a better insight into his diet and oral hygiene habits.”

Monday, March 4, 2013

Unpleasent Jobs in History

In the good old days before electricity and massive industry, many jobs that now require no or little labor, were undertaken by humans. This list looks at ten jobs that are now (mostly) extinct. Each job contains at least one element of the bizarre.

# 10 Jester

We have all heard of the court Jester – the fool who was permitted to insult the king without losing his head – as long as it made the king laugh. It was a job that came with accolades and with fear. It is also a job unlike any existent today. How many families do you know that employ a private “comedian” so to speak? But, while the job did vanish from history for hundreds of years, as recently as 1999 one Kingdom (Tonga) has appointed an official jester. In a bizarre (and very amusing) twist, the man appointed happened to also be the government’s financial advisor. He was later embroiled in a financial scandal. The American jester to the Tongan court was Jesse Bogdonoff and he is pictured above.

# 9 Toshers and Mudlarks

A tosher was someone who scavenges in the sewers, especially in London during the Victorian period. The toshers decided to cut out the middle man and it was a common sight in 19th Century Wapping for whole families to whip off a manhole cover and go down into the sewers, where they would find rich pickings. As most toshers would reek of the sewers, they were not popular with the neighbors. Similarly, the mudlarks were people who would dredge the banks of the Thames in the early morning when the tide was out. They would have to wade through unprocessed sewerage and even sometimes dead bodies in order to find little treasures to sell. In a kind of weird twist, this is now the popular hobby of some middle class Londoners who travel the banks to clean up trash.

# 8 Knocker-Up

A Knocker-up was a profession in England and Ireland that started during and lasted well into the Industrial Revolution, before alarm clocks were affordable or reliable. A knocker-up’s job was to rouse sleeping people so they could get to work on time. The knocker-up often used a long and light stick (often bamboo) to reach windows on higher floors. In return, the knocker-up would be paid a few pence a week for this job. The knocker-up would not leave a client’s window until they were assured the client had been awoken. This all leads to the obvious question: who knocks up the knocker-up?

# 7 Toad Doctor

Toad doctors were practitioners of a specific tradition of medicinal folk magic, operating in western England until the end of the 19th century. Their main concern was healing scrofula (then called “the King’s Evil,” a skin disease), though they were also believed to cure other ailments including those resulting from witchcraft. They cured the sick by placing a live toad, or the leg of one, in a muslin bag and hanging it around the sick person’s neck. Needless to say this job would also require growing or gathering up a large collection of toads, and in the case of doctors who used just the leg, chopping their legs off to give to their patient.

# 6 Dog Whipper

A dog whipper was a church official charged with removing unruly dogs from a church or church grounds during services. In some areas of Europe during the 16th to 19th centuries it was not uncommon for household dogs to accompany – or at least follow – their owners to church services. If these animals became disruptive it was the job of the dog whipper to remove them from the church, allowing the service to continue in peace. Dog whippers were usually provided with a whip (hence the title) or a pair of large wooden tongs with which to remove the animals. They were generally paid for their services, and records of payments to the local dog whipper exist in old parish account books in many English churches.

# 5 Resurrectionist

In Britain, the crime of snatching a body was only a misdemeanor and so was punishable by a small fine only. This led to a huge industry in body snatching in order to provide corpses to the blossoming medical schools of Europe. One method the body-snatchers used was to dig at the head end of a recent burial, digging with a wooden spade (quieter than metal). When they reached the coffin (in London the graves were quite shallow), they broke open the coffin, put a rope around the corpse and dragged it out. They were often careful not to steal anything such as jewelry or clothes as this would cause them to be liable to a felony charge. During 1827 and 1828, some Edinburgh resurrectionists including Burke and Hare changed their tactics from grave-robbing to murder, as they were paid more for very fresh corpses. Their activities, and those of the London Burkers who imitated them, resulted in the passage of the Anatomy Act 1832. This allowed unclaimed bodies and those donated by relatives to be used for the study of anatomy. This effectively ended the body snatching business.

# 4 Fuller

Fulling is a step in woollen clothmaking which involves the cleansing of cloth (particularly wool) to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities, and making it thicker. In days gone by, the fullers were often slaves. In Roman times, fulling was conducted by slaves standing ankle deep in tubs of human urine and cloth. Urine was so important to the fulling business that urine was taxed. Urine, known as ‘wash’, was a source of ammonium salts and assisted in cleansing and whitening the cloth. By the medieval period, fuller’s earth had been introduced for use in the process which ameliorated the process and removed the need for urine.

# 3 Whipping Boy

A whipping boy, in the 1600s and 1700s, was a young boy who was assigned to a young prince and was punished when the prince misbehaved or fell behind in his schooling. Whipping boys were established in the English court during the monarchies of the 15th century and 16th century. They were created because the idea of the Divine Right of Kings, which stated that kings were appointed by God, and implied that no one but the king was worthy of punishing the king’s son. Since the king was rarely around to punish his son when necessary, tutors to the young prince found it extremely difficult to enforce rules or learning. Whipping boys were generally of high birth, and were educated with the prince since birth. Due to the fact that the prince and whipping boy grew up together since birth, they usually formed an emotional bond. The strong bond that developed between a prince and his whipping boy dramatically increased the effectiveness of using a whipping boy as a form of punishment for a prince. The idea of the whipping boys was that seeing a friend being whipped or beaten for something that he had done wrong would be likely to ensure that the prince would not make the same mistake again.

# 2 Groom of the Stool

The Groom of the Stool was a male servant in the household of an English monarch who, among other duties, “preside[d] over the office of royal excretion,” that is, he had the task of cleaning the monarch’s anus after defecation. In the early years of Henry VIII’s reign, the title was awarded to minions of the King, court companions who spent time with him in the Privy chamber. These were the sons of noblemen or important members of the gentry. In time they came to act as virtual personal secretaries to the King, carrying out a variety of administrative tasks within his private rooms. The position was an especially prized one, as it allowed one unobstructed access to the King’s attention. Despite being the official bum-wiper of the king, the Groom of the Stool had a very high social standing.

# 1 Gong Farmer

A gong farmer or gongfermor was the term used in Tudor England for a person who removed human excrement from privies and cesspits, gong being another word for dung. Gong farmers were only allowed to work at night and the waste they collected, known as night soil, had to be taken outside the city or town boundaries. As flushing water closets became more widely used, the profession of gong farming disappeared. A latrine or privy was the toilet of the Middle Ages. A gong farmer dug out the cesspits and emptied the excrement. Gong farmers were only allowed to work between 9 pm and 5 am, and were permitted to live only in certain areas, for reasons that should not be too elusive. Due to the noxious fumes produced by human excrement, coroners’ reports exist of gong farmers dying of asphyxiation. This was obviously a shit job to have.