Thursday, 28 December 2017

How Eratosthenes calculated the Earth's circumference

In the mid-20th century, satellites determined the exact circumference of the Earth, 40,030 km. But over 2,000 years earlier in ancient Greece, a man arrived at nearly that exact same figure by putting a stick in the ground. That man was Eratosthenes. A Greek mathematician and the head of the library at Alexandria.

The idea of a spherical Earth was floated around by Pythagoras around 500 BC and validated by Aristotle a couple centuries later.

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Tyrant Collection

When Edward VIII became King of England, the Royal Mint prepared five proof sets of the coins bearing his portrait, and these were scheduled to be issued in January of 1937. But on December 11, 1936, Edward VIII abdicated. By this act, Edward VIII became the only king of England for whom no coins were issued as money within the United Kingdom.
The Prince of Wales, (1894 - 1972)

This Ptolemy IV gold octodrachm (circa 202-200 BC) is one of the collection's highlights
The Tyrant collector has been assembling what is the world’s most valuable coin collection in private hands, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Excessively rare with only 8 recorded specimens, the Marcus Junius Brutus, d. 42 BC. Gold Aureus (8.07 g), was struck at a traveling mint in Macedonia or Western Asia Minor, in summer/autumn 42 BC. A choice example made $ 525,000 in 2010.

Gold Roman aureus issued by Marcus Junius Brutus

Sunday, 24 December 2017

St Nicholas burial site

The church in the small coastal town of Demre is one of Christianity's most legendary sites. St Nicholas' body is believed to have laid in a tomb inside the church before being stolen by Italian thieves.

But using radar technology, Turkish archaeologists preparing for restoration work detected another tomb 5ft beneath the marble slabs which make the church's floor. One theory is that the tomb shifted underground during an earthquake and has remained undiscovered.

A well-worn church behind a scruffy shopping square in a small Turkish town has been described as the original Santa's grotto.
St Nicholas is believed to have been born 270 years after Jesus and lived in Demre for most of his life. Inspired by the message of Jesus, he sold all his possessions and gave out the cash to the poor. His legend for gift-giving gave rise was the inspiration behind Santa Claus.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Christmas: The meaning behind the word


Brain being pulled out of the nose with a hook.
When you wish someone a Merry Christmas, you are really wishing them a merry burial, a historian claims. The word Christmas has its origins in ancient Egypt, deriving from the word ‘krst’ meaning ‘at rest’ in the sense of a burial or dead, according to Malcolm Hutton. The word ‘krst’ appears on most coffins which contain Egyptian bodies. Egyptians often referred to mummified bodies as ‘The Anointed’ because the body had been anointed with embalming fluid and natron - a salt mixture blended with oil and used for cleaning the body.

The connection between Christ and anointed was made explicit in both Hebrew and Greek. In Hebrew, anointed translates as ‘Masiah’ (or ‘Messiah’) while in Greek it means ‘Christós’.

Monstrance, a vessel in which the consecrated Host is exposed.
Traditionally, "Christmas" is thought to be a shortened form of "Christ's mass". Some Roman Catholic monstrances - used in the Benediction blessing - still have the image of Ra with a bull’s head below it.

“It was the Church that did the hijacking, taking from the Ancient Egyptians.”

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Archaeologists discover Roman harbor in ancient Greek port

Archaeologists carrying out excavations in Lechaion, once the main harbor town of ancient Corinth, have discovered impressive Roman engineering underneath the waves.
The ancient city of Corinth, located on the Peloponnese peninsula of southern Greece, was once a strategic city of great importance with access to the Mediterranean trade routes. It was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BCE.

The mysterious island monument in an area of the Inner Harbour was dated to the early 1st century AD. It was likely built as part of a Roman building program designed to help restore Corinth. The area was destroyed by an earthquake sometime between 50-125 CE. Experts speculate it may be the first evidence of the earthquake of 70 CE recorded during the reign of the Roman emperor Vespasian (69-79 CE).

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Royal Mint Unleashes The Red Dragon of Wales


Dragons are found in legends all over the world, and are associated with strength, wisdom and power.
The coin for The Red Dragon of Wales, struck at The Royal Mint’s home in South Wales, captures the spirit of the Welsh nation.

The Red Dragon was an emblem of Owen Tudor, the grandfather of Henry VII. Henry’s troops carried a fiery red dragon standard at the Battle of Bosworth.
The Red Dragon emerged from heroic traditions of King Arthur and his father Uther Pendragon, to become a Royal Beast of the Tudor monarchs. From there it has become the emblem of the modern Welsh nation.

Friday, 8 December 2017

245m year old 'Darth Vader' horseshoe crab fossil found

An uncanny resemblance to an evil villain has earned a fossilized crab the honour of being named after Darth Vader. The unusual shape of the extinct horseshoe crab species bears a striking similarity to the famous helmet of the Star Wars character.

The 245-million-year-old species, whose remains date from the Triassic period, have been dubbed Vaderlimulus tricki, after the Dark Lord of the Sith.
It is the first fossil of its kind from the Triassic Period to be found in North America. When this creature was alive, it would have lived on the supercontinent of Pangea.

Already ancient at that time, horseshoe crabs date back nearly 500 million years and surviving fossils are extremely rare. Today only four similar species remain alive and their numbers continue to dwindle.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Scientists unveil skeleton of ancient human ancestor

Researchers in South Africa have unveiled what they call "by far the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor older than 1.5 million years ever found." The skeleton dates back 3.6 million years. Researchers say it has taken 20 years to excavate, clean, reconstruct and analyze the fragile skeleton.
The skeleton, dubbed Little Foot, was discovered in the Sterkfontein caves, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Johannesburg when small foot bones were found in rock blasted by miners.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Jonathan, St. Helena's famous ancient tortoise


In his time on St Helena he has seen 28 British governors come and go.
Jonathan the giant tortoise is perhaps the world's oldest land animal, living in pampered luxury on the remote British island of St. Helena. Aged at least 185 -- though no one knows for certain -- Jonathan should prepare himself for an influx of visitors now that an airport has opened on the small island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. The island's most famous resident, Jonathan slowly roams the lush gardens of the governor's house, eating carrots, lettuce, cucumber, apples and pears prepared in the governor's kitchen.
He appears on the island's five-pence coin, on immigration stamps, and in old black-and-white photographs alongside Boer War prisoners in the early 20th century. Jonathan originates from the Seychelles but his arrival on St. Helena remains a mystery and the exact year is disputed. Some unconfirmed reports suggest 1882 -- a few decades after Napoleon died in exile on the island on 1821.

He is now blind, has no sense of smell and is already far beyond his life expectancy of 150 years -- but otherwise he is in good health with good hearing.

St. Helena, located 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) from the African mainland, is one of the most remote places on Earth.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Ancient Christian mosaic uncovered in the ruins of a monastery in Israel


The tessellated tile work features a four line inscription in Greek, commemorating the builder of the monastery in which it was found. It also includes the date of its construction according to the Georgian calendar, the first evidence of its use in Israel, which corresponds with 539 AD.
An immaculately preserved mosaic created by Christians living in Israel 1,500 years ago has been uncovered by archaeologists.

Inscription reads: 'By the grace of God (or Jesus), this work was done from the foundation under Procopius, our most saintly and most holy bishop, in the month Dios of the 3rd indiction, year 292.
The find was made in the coastal city of Ashdod.

Ashdod was one of the most important cities on the coast of Israel in the Byzantine period.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Ancient Skull from China raises Questions

Most scientists believe all modern humans are descended from African ancestors. But a new analysis of an ancient Chinese skull found too many similarities to the earliest human fossils found in Africa to be a coincidence. The 260,000 year old skull was discovered nearly 40 years ago in China’s Shaanxi Province. It belonged to a member of Homo erectus.

Its possible we need to reassess how our ancestors migrated, interacted and subsequently evolved.
The similarities show that early modern humans may not have been genetically isolated from other parts of the world. Characteristics of modern Homo sapiens may have actually developed in east Asia, and were later carried to Africa.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

The art market’s Disneyland - $ 1.6b

Art auctions in New York are shaping up to be a spectacle. Leading the charge is Da Vinci’s 500-year-old “Christ as Salvator Mundi". It is being sold by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. He purchased it for $127.5 million in 2013.

Warhol’s 32-foot-wide canvas depicting “The Last Supper” 60 times as a massive black and white grid. The 1986 work is estimated at $50 million.
Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 landscape “Laboureur dans un champ”. Estimated at about $50 million

Peter Doig’s “Red House" is estimated at $18 million to $22 million.
Schumacher’s Ferrari will mark the first time a collector car will be offered at a Sotheby’s art auction. Estimated at $4 million to $5.5 million, the Ferrari F2001, Chassis No. 211, was driven by the racing legend to win the Grand Prix de Monaco.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Hoard of Ancient Coins found in U.K.

A collection of rare coins dating back 2,500 years have been uncovered in a study desk drawer at a 14th century castle in Kent. The unique hoard of 186 coins that came from as far away as China and Syria was discovered by volunteers searching for photographs at Scotney Castle in Lamberhurst, near Tunbridge Wells. The collection includes Greek coins from the seventh century BC and Roman coins from the late second century BC. The majority of the collection features Roman coins from the late second century BC to the fourth century AD.

The cache of coins was discovered hidden in the back of a dusty drawer by National Trust staff who had no idea they were there

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Returned Stolen Treasure

Two Roman ballista balls from Gamla were returned. The 2,000-year-old stones were left in a bag at the courtyard of the Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Cultures.
In 1993, a retired Red Army officer dropped off 101 drawings by masters like Goya, Manet, and Delacroix at the German embassy in Moscow.

They had been looted from the Bremen museum in 1945 by Soviet soldiers.
The looting of the Baghdad Museum as Saddam Hussein’s government crumbled was devastating for antiquities lovers. In 2003, three men anonymously returned one of Iraq’s most precious treasures in the back of a car.

The Sacred Vase of Warka, a massive limestone bowl, dates to around 3200 B.C.
In 2001, London dealer James Ede received an anonymous phone call that led him to his doorstep, where he found six fragments of Roman frescoes taken from Pompeii during excavations. They had been stolen 16 years earlier from the walls of a villa near the ancient city, and were estimated to be worth around £100,000.
In 2006, just a year after a 1,500-year-old stone box from the Mayan civilization was found in Guatemala, it mysteriously vanished.

After a national investigation, it returned through an anonymous delivery at the country’s Ministry of Culture.
In 1950 a group of 11 small ancient clay figurines were found in a Utah canyon. They belonged to a long-vanished people called the Fremont Culture, who had lived in the region from 700 to 1300 A.D. For two decades, these pieces, which came to be known as the Pilling Collection, toured around Utah museums.

In the early 1970s, one of the figures mysteriously failed to show up. In 2011, an anthropologist at Utah State University received a box with the missing piece.
In 2007 the J Paul Getty Museum returned disputed antiquities, including a prized statue of the goddess Aphrodite.

Italian authorities believe the 7ft statue, bought by the Getty for $18 million in 1988, was looted from an ancient Greek settlement in Sicily.
In April 2015 some 123 artefacts were seized by US customs as part of a five year investigation into international smuggling networks dubbed Operation Mummy's Curse.

One item, a 2,300 year-old sarcophagus was found in a garage in Brooklyn.