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May 6, 2009


Martin of The Lay Scientist has been hanging around the Daily Mail web site, so that we don't have to. The level of his sacrifice can be judged by a recent article which featured a reconstruction of the first modern European human, who arrived from Africa and looks kind of, well, black. It seems that the BNP supporting types don't like being reminded that humanity evolved in Africa and that white skin is a relatively recent mutation.

Rubbish. Europeans did not come from Africans and never could. This is just more anti-European propaganda, of as much real scientific merit as Piltdown Man.

Others don't like the idea that we evolved at all, and in their comments demonstrate that they never got past the single-celled stage:

We are all descended from Adam and Eve, who were most probably had brown skin and were from the middle east no more than 10,000 years ago.

Daily Mail Readers in Revolt over Black AncestorsThe Lay Scientist, 5th May 2009. Headline courtesy of the Daily Mail-o-matic.

March 4, 2009

Just hanging around.

Beerhenge.Clonehenge is a blog with a mission:

Encouraged by an internet acquaintance of like mind, we began to search online for Stonehenge references and replicas. It was casual at first–just for laughs–a butter henge here, some biscuit henges there, and of course the well known ones like car henge and fridge henge and the modern stone “henges” scattered about the States. But after a bit the sheer number of ersatz henges [we use the word henge here, not in the true sense of a circular earthwork mound with a ditch, but in the sense that it is commonly if mistakenly understood, as a stone circle, often with lintels over some pairs of stones] filled us with a kind of horror-filled joy, and we decided something must be done.

Clonehenge is that something. It is a celebration of those first builders who erected Stonehenge as we understand it today, whose idea has turned out to be the ancestor of all icons, so powerful in image that five thousand years later people feel compelled to emulate their achievement, often in the most unlikely places and unsuitable media.

It is also a celebration of the ingenuity and mad genius of those people today who decide, usually for no reason except fun and the challenge, to make Stonehenges out of anything they can lay their hands on. Hurray for the builders!

They have already found most, though not all, of the usual suspects. The photograph is of one of my own creations, Beerhenge, made from two cans of Yebisu and a hip flask. As an added bonus that is, indeed, the summer solstice sunrise.

February 28, 2008

Now what about the chainmail bikini?

Sweden: Archæologists have discovered there might be some truth behind the Wagnerian stereotype of a Viking woman in a metal bra:

Cloth samples with fasteners and round pieces of metal were found in the mud near the Swedish capital, Stockholm...

But comparing them with figurines found at the site, they seem to have been worn as a metal bra.

The research at Birka also suggests that Viking women held bra fashion shows, but these were banned by prudish Christians.

Viking Women Had Bra Fashion ShowsThe Daily Record, 28th February 2008.

December 1, 2006

Little blue men

Scotland: Pictish symbol stones have been the subject of much debate over the years, with many hypotheses put forward to explain their unique iconography. Stan Hall has come up with possibly the most surprising one, suggesting that the Newton Stone in Aberdeenshire depicts a planetary catastrophe, and that something was around to witness it.

I recognised that on the Newton Stone it shows two planets breaking away from each other…The double disc and z-rod pictographs…record for posterity the actual birth of Jupiter from Saturn.

Hall believes that this break-up of Saturn — which must have been an extraordinary cosmic moment — has been recorded in the myths of all ancient people.

The Greeks talk of the night of the falling stars — all major civilisations have records of major interplanetary catastrophes. They're found in old nursery rhymes, which have found to be Sumerian, like 'Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle' which shows the planets rushing together.

But whilst Hall believes that our mytho-history records these turbulent disruptions, he is unsure whether humans would have been around to witness the events depicted. Which leads to Hall to question who first set down the information? Just who might have been around to see the birth of Jupiter?

If you are even slightly familiar with the contents of Chariots of the Gods, you can guess who.

Out of this world solution to a Scottish standing stoneThe Scotsman, 28th November 2006 (via Warren Ellis).

August 30, 2005

Bargain of the Day: Le Dolmen de Bagneux

France: The perfect accessory for the well-heeled neopagan is on the market. The Dolmen de Bagneux is located close to the town of Saumur in the heart of the Loire Valley.

[Le Dolmen de Bagneux]The famous Dolmen in Bagneux is probably one of the most majestic French dolmens and the largest of the 4,500 dolmens spread out on about 60 French departments.

The overall length of this dolmen is over 23 meters (75 feet) and its chamber is over 18 meters (60 feet) long. As all dolmens, the 'Great Covered stone" in Bagneux, was a large chamber tomb which must have contained a great number of prehistoric skeletons during the neolithic age, i.e.from 4,000 to 2,000 B.C., that is about 5,000 years ago.

In addition to the domen itself, the sale includes a commercial building currently used as a brewery and restaurant, and two flats.

July 25, 2005

Palæolithic sisters are doing it for themselves

Germany: Archæologists have unearthed what appears to be the world's oldest sex toy. The sculpted and polished stone phallus was found in a cave near Ulm, and is life size.

Researchers believe the object's distinctive form and etched rings around one end mean there can be little doubt as to its symbolic nature.

It's highly polished; it's clearly recognisable, said Professor Conard.

There is also evidence that the dildo served a secondary purpose - it bears marks which show it was used for flint-knapping.

Ancient phallus unearthed in cave - BBC News, 25th July 2005.

June 11, 2005

Bargain of the Day: House with broomstick landing pad

Scotland: A house for sale in the Borders offers an unusual facility - a ledge for the use of passing witches.

The ledge was designed to allow a stopping place and broom park for witches to help safeguard the house from evil, said James Denne, of Knights Frank, handling the sale of Whiteriggs at Melrose in Roxburghshire.

He said: The witch's ledge was something that was seen in fifteenth and sixteenth century homes.

It was very much a superstition that if you had somewhere in the house that a passing witch could stop and rest then the likelihood was that she would protect you and your house from any harm. So the witch's ledge indicates to a passing witch that she is welcome and she can rest peacefully there.

The site is just outside controlled airspace.

A house that welcomes witches - The Herald, 10th June 2005.

March 12, 2005

Gruesome goings-on at the holy well

England: Many holy wells have gruesome legends attached to them, but the one associated with Lidwell in Devon isn't your usual tale of saintly self-sacrifice. Instead, the well was used by an early serial killer:

On the slopes of Haldon Hill lie the remains of Lidwell Chapel, the site of one of Devon's more macabre tales. The name, Lidwell, is actually a corruption of Lady's Well and the chapel is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. Like so many other churches and chapels, it was built on what was formerly a pagan place of worship, a sacred well, probably dedicated to the goddess of spring. There is, too, evidence of the original well and this can be seen in a corner of the grounds.

This isolated ruin, adjacent to farmland and situated to the northwest of Teignmouth, was, in medieval times, the focal point of a small settlement and leper sanctuary where the monks could provide care for the sufferers, all of whom would be compelled to live outside their community. The legend concerns one monk in particular, a hermit or recluse who lived at Lidwell during the early part of the fourteenth century. This man is said to have lured passing travellers into the chapel where he would rob them, murder them and dispose of their bodies by throwing them down the well.

In support of the legend, the Bishop's register of the year 1329 contains an entry relating to the execution of a Hermit Monk who had been convicted of murder. Intrigued by what we had unearthed and wanting to know more about this curio, we felt that the next logical step would be to visit the scene of crime so a team of five members of TNC arranged to go and look the place over as soon as we could.

And so starts the tale of a group of criminologists who discover that well-hunting can be a wet and frustrating business. But the tale takes a turn for the fortean:

February 21, 2005

New Zealand's Stonehenge

New Zealand: The Phoenix Astronomical Society has unveiled it's own version of Stonehenge, designed to work properly in the antipodes.

The astronomical society's volunteers supplied 11,000 hours of labour over the 18 months the henge took to build.

The result of that toil is a henge of 24 upright pillars and connecting lintels that is 30m in diameter and about 4m high. In the centre of the henge is a 5m-tall obelisk, the eye of which points at the south celestial pole.

Set into a tiled mosaic that runs out from the obelisk along the meridian is a 10m analemma, the figure of eight pattern that the path of sun traces over a year.

Outside the circle of the henge stand six heel stones, the markers for the rising and setting points of the sun at solstice and equinox.

Maori astronomical achievements are also celebrated in the new monument:

To make the henge truly of Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand), the astronomers have ensured that their creation marks the stars and constellations that Polynesian navigators used on their epic voyages across the Pacific Ocean, and they have also incorporated Maori lore.

NZ unveils Stonehenge replica - BBC News, 14th February 2005.

January 28, 2005

Phallic symbol erect again

The People's Republic of Yorkshire: The Barwick-in-Elmet maypole will be back this year, because villagers have worked out how to erect it in accordance with recent bureaucratic health and safety regulations.

Residents at Barwick-in-Elmet had traditionally lowered and then raised the 86ft wooden pole with ropes, ladders and plenty of human effort.

It was last done this way in 1999 since when health and safety regulations have been made tougher.

These caused problems for villagers in 2002 -- when the triennial festival was last held -- and so they held the celebrations without the maypole ceremony.

But now they say they can meet the regulations and will first take down and then raise up the pole again, using a tractor and crane and manual labour.

Nigel Trotter, a qualified engineer, was confident the village could meet regulations and called a public meeting to galvanise support. Now chairman of the maypole committee, he said: Although the lifting techniques will be new to the ceremony, they are a logical development of the traditional techniques used over the past 50 years.

The maypole is traditionally lowered to ground at Easter and then raised again at Spring Bank Holiday (formerly Whitsuntide) which this year falls on Monday, May 30.

The festival will include all the usual traditional amusements, including a procession, maypole dancing and the crowning of a May Queen.

We're back in pole position... - Yorkshire Evening Post, 28th January 2005.

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