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Who Were the Ancient Bog Mummies? Surprising New Clues
Ongoing research suggests at least two 2,000-year-old corpses had traveled before their deaths.
PUBLISHED JULY 18, 2014
Cast into northern European wetlands, bog bodies have long appeared as opaque to archaeologists as their dark and watery graves. But new clues are coming in the centuries-old mystery of their origins.
Over 500 Iron Age bog bodies and skeletons dating to between 800 B.C. and A.D. 200 have been discovered in Denmark alone, with more unearthed in Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. (Read “Tales From the Bog” in National Geographic magazine.)
Much of the bodies’ skin, hair, clothes, and stomach contents have been remarkably well preserved, thanks to the acidic, oxygen-poor conditions of peat bogs, which are made up of accumulated layers of dead moss.
Tollund Man, for example, found in 1950 on Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula and perhaps the most famous bog body in the world, still “has this three-day beard—you feel he will open his eyes and talk to you. It’s something that not even Tutankhamun could make you feel,” said Karin Margarita Frei, a research scientist who studies bog bodies at the National Museum of Denmark.
In Denmark, about 30 of these naturally mummified corpses are housed in museums, where scientists have worked for decades to figure out who these people were and why they died.
Because some bear horrific wounds, such as slashed throats, and were buried instead of cremated like most others in their communities, scientists have suggested the bodies had been sacrificed as criminals, slaves, or simply commoners. The Roman historian Tacitus started this idea in the first century A.D. by suggesting they were deserters and criminals. (See National Geographic’s pictures of bog bodies.)
But ongoing research is uncovering an entirely new dimension: When alive, these people of the bog may have instead been special members of their villages, which in the early Iron Age were loosely scattered across Denmark.
New chemical analyses applied to two of the Danish bog bodies,Huldremose Woman and Haraldskær Woman, show that they had traveled long distances before their deaths. What’s more, some of their clothing had been made in foreign lands and was more elaborate than previously thought.
"You sacrifice something that is meaningful and has a lot of value. So maybe people who [had] traveled had a lot of value," Frei told National Geographic at the Euroscience Open Forum in Copenhagen in June.
For Europeans dating as far back as the Neolithic period 6,000 years ago, bogs were both resources and possibly ominous supernatural portals, according to Ulla Mannering, an expert in ancient textiles at the National Museum of Denmark.
The bogs’ peat, which could be burned for heating homes, was valuable in tree-scarce Denmark, and an ore called bog iron was made into tools and weapons.
Among prehistoric people, “when you take things, you also offer things,” said Mannering.
This may be why the Danish villagers would deposit “gifts” of clothes, old shoes, slaughtered animals, battered weapons, and, for a period of 500 years, people into the black abyss of the bogs. (Related:"Medieval Christian Book Discovered in Ireland Bog.")
Danish Iron Age cultures left no written records, so their religious beliefs are unknown, Mannering noted.
"Very Fine Lady"
When peat harvesters began accidentally unearthing bog bodies in the mid to late 1800s, many were discovered without clothing, solidifying the view that they had been simple people, Frei said. (Watch a National Geographic Channel video about bog mummies.)
Tollund Man, for instance, was found with a belt but no clothes. “It doesn’t make sense to be naked and have a belt,” Frei pointed out.
Frei wondered, then, if some of the bog bodies’ clothing had dissolved in the bogs over the centuries. So she decided to examine Huldremose Woman, a mummy discovered in 1879 wearing a checkered skirt and scarf, both made of sheep’s wool, and two leather capes.
Using microscopes, she discovered that tiny plant fibers were stuck to the 2,300-year-old woman’s skin—remnants of ancient underwear, which later analyses revealed were likely made of flax.
Next, Frei performed a first-of-its-kind analysis of the strontium isotope contained in the flax and in the wool from the skirt and scarf.
Researchers analyzed the isotopes, or different varieties, of atoms in the strontium preserved in the flax and wool fibers. These atoms provide a chemical insight into the geology of the region where the plant and sheep lived.
The results show that the plant fibers taken from threads of the underwear grew on terrains geologically older than those of Denmark—those typical of northern Scandinavia, such as Norway or Sweden—suggesting that Huldremose Woman may have come from somewhere else, according to research published in 2009 in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Frei also did an analysis of strontium isotopes in Huldremose Woman’s skin. Humans absorb strontium through food and water, and it’s especially prevalent in our teeth and bones—though many bog bodies are found without teeth and bones because of the acidic conditions.
read more from Nat Geo
Apollo 11 carried a number of cameras for collecting data and recording various aspects of the mission, including a 35-mm surface close-up stereoscopic camera. It was designed for the highest possible resolution of a 3-inch square area with a flash illumination and fixed distance. Photography was accomplished by holding the camera on a walking stick against the object to be photographed. The camera was powered by four nickel-cadmium batteries that operated the motor-drive mechanism and an electronic flash strobe light.
There are many details seen in these pictures that were not known previously or that could not be seen with similar definition by astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin in their careful inspection of the lunar surface. The photographs taken on the mission with the close-up stereoscopic camera are of outstanding quality and show in detail the nature of the lunar surface material. From the photographs, information can be derived about the small-scale lunar surface geologic features and about processes occurring on the surface.
Image Credit: John Lloyd/NASA
This picture shows human epithelial cell infected with Chlamydia trachomatis (green) and it was taken with ZEISS FE-SEM.
Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular human pathogen (the bacterium lives within human cells), a gram-negative bacterium, and it can appear as either coccoid or rod shape.
C. trachomatis can cause numerous disease states in both men and women. Both sexes can display urethritis, proctitis (rectal disease and bleeding), trachoma, and infertility. The bacterium can cause prostatitis and epididymitis in men. In women, cervicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, and acute or chronic pelvic pain are frequent complications. It is the single most important infectious agent associated with blindness.
Those seething with so much rage and xenophobia that they’d hurl ugly epithets in the faces of children fleeing bloody violence in Central America bring shame to the whole nation. But the response of mainstream America hasn’t been much better. The media’s characterization of what’s going on at our southern border as a “crisis,” politicians pointing fingers at one another and Washington’s refusal to provide the resources necessary to care for a small wave of refugees — not to mention the bipartisan push to send them back home — is just as shameful when one considers the context.In June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that in 2013, the global population of refugees from war and persecution hit 51.2 million — exceeding 50 million for the first time since World War II.Half of them were children.The vast majority were “internally displaced persons,” homeless people within their home countries. Many live in fetid refugee camps run by underfunded NGOs, where they face continuing privation and abuse.
It would be great if my fellow Americans could see the humanity in these children who are trying to find safety and refuge in a country that, until recently, was a reliable beacon of hope for the world.
Anyone who thinks you can just walk into a convenience store and get the affordable birth control you need clearly has no understanding about the reality of women’s lives — and no business making decisions about them.
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Today on ‘just vaccinate your fucking children already’ news:
Childhood vaccines are safe. Seriously.
The federal agency that sets criminal sentencing policies for judges voted on Friday to allow tens of thousands of inmates serving time for drug crimes to apply for reduced sentences, the largest such sentencing reduction in modern U.S. history.
The unanimous vote by the seven members of the U.S. Sentencing Commission will apply to most drug offenders in federal prisons, according to the commission.
Their decision came after the commission studied the results of a similar 2007 vote that affected only those serving time for crack cocaine offenses and found that inmates released early posed no greater risk of committing another crime than those who served their full terms…
Congress has until November 1 to disapprove of the commission’s decision. If lawmakers let the new rules stand, judges across the country can begin considering individual petitions from inmates for sentence reductions, but no prisoners can be released until Nov. 1, 2015, according to a special rule added by the commissioners.
End-Permian extinction happened in 60,000 years—much faster than earlier estimates, MIT study says
The largest mass extinction in the history of animal life occurred some 252 million years ago, wiping out more than 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of life on land—including the largest insects known to have inhabited the Earth. Multiple theories have aimed to explain the cause of what’s now known as the end-Permian extinction, including an asteroid impact, massive volcanic eruptions, or a cataclysmic cascade of environmental events. But pinpointing the cause of the extinction requires better measurements of how long the extinction period lasted.
Now researchers at MIT have determined that the end-Permian extinction occurred over 60,000 years, give or take 48,000 years—practically instantaneous, from a geologic perspective. The new timescale is based on more precise dating techniques, and indicates that the most severe extinction in history may have happened more than 10 times faster than scientists had previously thought…
(read more: PhysOrg)
(Image: © John Sibbick / Natural History Museum)
(I left out a couple parts for clarity, where towards the end they add wax and fillers, though please watch the video. It’s beautifully shot and goes into more detail,..)
(plus it has epic orchestral music in the background which makes any learning experience more badass).
Pumzi - dir. Wanuri Kahiu // Kenya
In a dystopian future 35 years after an ecological WWIII has torn the world apart, East African survivors of the devastation remain locked away in contained communities, but a young woman in possession of a germinating seed struggles against the governing council to bring the plant to Earth’s ruined surface.
The main character is a museum curator in the future and also yes I would like see this now please
THERE IS NOTHING ABOUT THIS I DON’T LIKE
GET INTO THIS
The new book Trans Bodies, Trans Selves is a collection of essays describing the varied experiences of trans people — and the social, political and medical issues they face. It’s written by and for transgender and gender non-conforming people.
We speak to the editor and two contributors about the book and their experiences.
Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote the introduction to the book. She is a trans woman. In the interview we discuss transgender surgery:
"The question of surgery is an interesting one for a couple of other reasons. For one thing, it’s the thing that traditionally in the media always gets fixated on, the question of, "Tell us about the surgery. What happens in the surgery? Have you had the surgery?"
And transgender people have, for decades, offered up their most private selves as fodder for these kinds of interviews. …But we’re trying to get to a place now where when we talk about transgender people, it’s not a conversation about a trip to the doctor’s office. And, to some degree, what is private for everyone else ought to be private for us as well.”
Photo: Transgender author and Colby College English professor Jennifer Finney Boylan, shown in Belgrade Lakes, wrote the introduction to “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves.” The Associated Press
Over an 11-month period last year, 129 inmates [at Rikers] suffered “serious injuries” — ones beyond the capacity of doctors at the jail’s clinics to treat — in altercations with correction department staff members.
The report cataloged in exacting detail the severity of injuries suffered by inmates: fractures, wounds requiring stitches, head injuries and the like. But it also explored who the victims were. Most significantly, 77 percent of the seriously injured inmates had received a mental illness diagnosis.
In 80 percent of the cases, inmates reported being beaten after they were handcuffed… In five of the 129 cases, the beatings followed suicide attempts.
None of the officers involved in the 129 cases have been prosecuted at this point, according to information from the Bronx district attorney’s office. None have been brought up on formal administrative charges in connection to the cases so far either.
Rikers: Where Mental Illness Meets Brutality in Jail (The New York Times)
Trigger warnings at the link for police brutality, violence, suicide, torture, and ableism