Sunday, June 28, 2009

35,000 year old flute found

Archaeologists find oldest ever flute in southern Germany

A Tübingen research team has revealed what is thus far the oldest musical instrument in the world ever discovered. In a cave in the Swabian Mountains, archaeologists uncovered a flute believed to be more than 35,000 years old made from the hollow wing bones of a giant vulture. This is not the first such astonishing discovery of this group of Tübingen researchers.
35,000 year old Bone Flute discovered in the Swabian Mountains, picture-alliance dpa

Prehistoric expert Nicholas Conard from the University of Tübingen is known worldwide for his spectacular Ice Age finds. Only a few weeks ago he landed an archaeological coup with the discovery of the oldest known human artistic representation ever found known as the Venus of Hohle Fels.

On Wednesday, Conard revealed the flute, the oldest evidence for a musical instrument worldwide. And while it’s not the first Ice Age flute found in the Swabian Mountains, its age reveals the importance of music to daily life at that time. It was dated using radiocarbon dating techniques and is 5,000 years older than the instruments discovered so far.

Like the Venus statue, the flute was discovered in the cave known as the Hohle Fels located nearby Schelklingen, around 20 kilometers from the city of Ulm. Although similar flutes were found in southern France and Austria, this is believed to be the oldest such instrument and proof for the evidence of Stone Age musicians on earth.

A precursor to modern flutes

Twelve parts of the musical instrument were found in the lowest levels of the cave believed to date from the time period of the Aurignacian culture that existed in Europe and southwest Asia 40,000 years ago. The Aurignacian peoples were especially well known for their worked bone points and cave art. Assembled, the twelve pieces represent by far the most completely preserved musical instrument thus far found in the Swabian caves.

The flute was discovered in the summer of 2008 and has until now been under assembly. It is made from the bones of a vulture whose wingspan of 2.3 to 2.65 meters made for ideal bones in the construction of instruments. The flute is 22 cm long, has five holes and a notch at the end. The flute can no longer be played, however, because the bottom half is missing. Conard's team had a replica of the old flute made, which when played sounds amazingly similar to a modern flute.

The research team also found individual fragments from three ivory flutes. Additional musical instruments from the Ice Age were discovered years before at other sites in the Swabian Mountains. All in all, the Tübingen researchers have excavated four flutes made of bone and numerous ivory flutes. Conard says this clearly reveals that musical traditions played an important part of life in even the earliest human civilizations.

The Swabian Mountains provide good conditions for archaeologists and the Tübingen team are known for their excavation techniques. Although this is the oldest flute so far found, it's likely that music was played in other parts of the world at that time.

The public will be able to view the flute together with the Venus statue for the first time at an Ice Age exhibit in Stuttgart September 18-January 10.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

10 Ancient Inventions You Think Are Modern

Following on from our previous list Top 10 Ancient Inventions You Think Are Modern, we have put together this list. It includes items that were omitted from the first but are still fascinating. Most of the things found here are considered by most to have come from the modern world (or the medieval world at the earliest) but all pre-date the birth of Christ. Feel free to mention others you might know in the comments.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have played many ball games, some of which involved the use of the feet. The Roman game harpastum is believed to have been adapted from a team game known as episkyros. The Roman politician Cicero (106-43 BC) describes the case of a man who was killed whilst having a shave when a ball was kicked into a barber’s shop. These games appear to have resembled rugby football. Also, documented evidence of an activity resembling football can be found in the Chinese military manual Zhan Guo Ce compiled between the 3rd century and 1st century BC. It describes a practice known as cuju (literally “kick ball”), which originally involved kicking a leather ball through a small hole in a piece of silk cloth which was fixed on bamboo canes.


A variety of oral hygiene measures have been used since before recorded history. This has been verified by various excavations done all over the world, in which chewsticks, tree twigs, bird feathers, animal bones and porcupine quills were recovered. Many people used different forms of toothbrushes. Indian medicine (Ayurveda) has used the neem tree (a.k.a. daatun) and its products to create toothbrushes and similar products for millennia. A person chews one end of the neem twig until it somewhat resembles the bristles of a toothbrush, and then uses it to brush the teeth. In the Muslim world, the miswak, or siwak, made from a twig or root with antiseptic properties has been widely used since the Islamic Golden Age.

Sutures have a long and bizarre history, dating back to ancient Egypt, where everything from tree bark to hair was used to stitch human flesh back together again. Physicians have used suture to close wounds for at least 4,000 years. Archaeological records from ancient Egypt show that Egyptians used linen and animal sinew to close wounds. In ancient India, physicians used the pincers of beetles or ants to staple wounds shut. They then cut the insects’ bodies off, leaving their jaws (staples) in place. Other natural materials used to close wounds include flax, hair, grass, cotton, silk, pig bristles, and animal gut. The fundamental principles of wound closure have changed little over 4,000 years.

A Babylonian clay tablet that has been generally accepted as “the earliest known map” is the artifact unearthed in 1930 at the excavated ruined city of Ga-Sur at Nuzi, 200 miles north of the site of Babylon (present-day Iraq). Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand (7.6 x 6.8 cm), most authorities place the the date of this map-tablet from the dynasty of Sargon of Akkad (2,300-2,500 B.C.) The surface of the tablet is inscribed with a map of a district bounded by two ranges of hills and bisected by a water-course. This particular tablet is drawn with cuneiform characters and stylized symbols impressed, or scratched, on the clay. Inscriptions identify some features and places. [Source]

Papyrus Ebers

The earliest recorded evidence of the production of soap-like materials dates back to around 2800 BC in Ancient Babylon. A formula for soap consisting of water, alkali and cassia oil was written on a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 BC. The Ebers papyrus (Egypt, 1550 BC) indicates that ancient Egyptians bathed regularly and combined animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to create a soap-like substance. Egyptian documents mention that a soap-like substance was used in the preparation of wool for weaving. Galen describes soap-making using lye and prescribes washing to carry away impurities from the body and clothes. The best soap was German, according to Galen; soap from Gaul was second best. This is the first record of true soap as a detergent.


The world’s earliest dockyards were built in the Harappan port city of Lothal circa 2400 BC in Gujarat, India. Lothal’s dockyards connected to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river on the trade route between Harappan cities in Sindh and the peninsula of Saurashtra when the surrounding Kutch desert was a part of the Arabian Sea. Lothal engineers accorded high priority to the creation of a dockyard and a warehouse to serve the purposes of naval trade. The dock was built on the eastern flank of the town, and is regarded by archaeologists as an engineering feat of the highest order. It was located away from the main current of the river to avoid silting, but provided access to ships in high tide as well. The name of the ancient Greek city of Naupactus means “shipyeard”. Naupactus’ repuation in this field extends to the time of legend, where it is depicted as the place where the Heraclidae built a fleet to invade the Peloponnesus.

A speculum (Latin for “mirror”) is a medical tool for investigating body cavities, with a form dependent on the body cavity for which it is designed. Vaginal specula were used by the Romans, and speculum artifacts have been found in Pompeii. The original instruments were excavated from the House of the Surgeon at Pompeii, so named because of the materials that were recovered there. It comprises a priapiscus with 2 (or sometimes 3 or 4) dovetailing valves which are opened and closed by a handle with a screw mechanism, an arrangement that was still to be found in the specula of 18th-century Europe. Soranus is the first author who makes mention of the speculum specially made for the vagina. Graeco-Roman writers on gynecology and obstetrics frequently recommend its use in the diagnosis and treatment of vaginal and uterine disorders, yet it is one of the rarest surviving medical instruments. [Source]
Processed Rubber

Although vulcanization is a 19th century invention, the history of rubber cured by other means goes back to prehistoric times. The name “Olmec” means “rubber people” in the Aztec language. Ancient Mesoamericans, spanning from ancient Olmecs to Aztecs, extracted latex from Castilla elastica, a type of rubber tree in the area. The juice of a local vine, Ipomoea alba, was then mixed with this latex to create an ancient processed rubber as early as 1600 BC. Archaeological evidence indicates that rubber was already in use in Mesoamerica by the Early Formative Period – a dozen balls were found in the Olmec El Manati sacrificial bog. By the time of the Spanish Conquest, 3000 years later, rubber was being exported from the tropical zones to sites all over Mesoamerica. Iconography suggests that although there were many uses for rubber, rubber balls both for offerings and for ritual ballgames were the primary products.

In the sculptures at Nineveh the parasol appears frequently. Austen Henry Layard gives a picture of a bas-relief representing a king in his chariot, with an attendant holding a parasol over his head. It has a curtain hanging down behind, but is otherwise exactly like those in use today. It is reserved exclusively for the monarch (who was bald), and is never carried over any other person. In Egypt, the parasol is found in various shapes. In some instances it is depicted as a flaellum, a fan of palm-leaves or coloured feathers fixed on a long handle, resembling those now carried behind the Pope in processions. In China, the 2nd century commentator Fu Qian added that this collapsible umbrella of Wang Mang’s carriage had bendable joints which enabled them to be extended or retracted.

The earliest known reference to toothpaste is in a manuscript from Egypt in the 4th century A.D., which prescribes a mixture of iris flowers. Many early toothpaste formulations were based on urine. However, toothpastes or powders did not come into general use until the 19th century. The Greeks, and then the Romans, improved the recipes for toothpaste by adding abrasives such as crushed bones and oyster shells. In the 9th century, the Persian musician and fashion designer Ziryab is known to have invented a type of toothpaste, which he popularized throughout Islamic Spain. The exact ingredients of this toothpaste are currently unknown, but it was reported to have been both “functional and pleasant to taste”.

Saturday, June 6, 2009



In books, films, and television, the wing chair has become a shorthand signifier for power, depravity, and corruption.

In Nabokov’s Lolita (1955), rival pedophiles Quilty and Humbert, during their final sleazy face-off, fall into two wing chairs. In Billy Wilder’s film Double Indemnity (1944), Barbara Stanwyck cooks up a plot to kill her husband from one wing chair, then hides a gun beneath the cushion of another. On the reality TV show The Apprentice (2004), real-life tycoon Donald Trump indoctrinates or dispenses with tycoons-in-the-making from his corporatized, boardroom wing chair.

Signs generate meaning, but meaning is not absolute; it changes continually as the relationship between viewer/reader and sign is renegotiated. It is possible, for example, to get a wing chair today without being a real estate tycoon or a corrupt bank CEO. You can purchase your very own Chippendale wing chair for five dollars on eBay or go DIY and make your own with help from the short video How to Make a Cardboard Chair. Regardless of these sweet, democratizing advances, the prevailing meaning of the wing chair in popular culture reflects our need as consumers to have an easy embodiment of our macabre, off-kilter, libidinous, power-mongering drive.

Charles II, crowned king of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1660, could be fingered as the wing chair’s progenitor, insofar as he masterminded the cultural circumstances inspiring the wing chair’s invention and necessity. When Charles II came to power, thereby ushering in the Restoration—a period freed from the Puritans’ censorious moral beliefs toward sex and self-indulgence—his parliament ordered dead Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell’s body exhumed from its resting place in Westminster Abbey, posthumously decapitated, and dumped into a mass grave.[1] With Puritanism symbolically dismembered and reburied, the wealthy British populace was finally free to unwind, and needed an appropriate chair in which to do so.

According to Lucy Wood, a senior curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the wing chair’s direct ancestor was a more obdurate and morose bit of furnishing known as the sleeping chayre, or the reposeing chayre. The two stiff colossal side-pieces of the sleeping chayre cloistered the sitter in a kind of opulent coffin, and were attached to the base by iron ratchets that permitted forward and backward adjustments. (The predecessor to the sleeping chayre was the invalid chair. With its leg supports linked by straps, castors, and rods jutting out from the arms to support a reading desk, the invalid chair looks closer to a medieval stretching rack than to an item designed for convalescing.[2])

The wing chair, first known as the easy chair, had a high back, low seat, sumptuous upholstery, and side-pieces, known as wings, cheeks, or lugs, to protect the sitter from nasty drafts and other distractions. The earliest example of the wing chair—a stiff and sallow descendant of the sleeping chayre—appeared sometime between 1660 and 1680. Around the year 1700, however, a novel shape was introduced: the curve. Since at least the Venus of Willendorf, a figurine dated around 24,000-22,000 BCE, civilization has idealized the female curve.[3] As a symbol of such sensuous stuff, the curve was, unsurprisingly, shunned by the Puritans, people who strove to defeminize what was naturally feminine in women by shrouding them in loose, shape-obscuring smocks. During the Restoration, however, the female form was once again adored and joyfully distorted. Corsetieres were employed to amplify a woman’s breasts and posterior. Whether with a peplum or a pinked-out frill, the backlash against the constraints on sexuality was in full swing, and the wing chair became the libidinous embodiment of the post-Puritan id.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895

What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895.....

Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?

This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina , Kansas , USA . It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina , and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina , KS - 1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of 'lie,''play, ' and 'run.'
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time,1 hou r 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000.. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5.. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft... Long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton , Bell , Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
[Do we even know what this is??]
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2.. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals& nbsp;
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers..
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.

Gives the saying 'he only had an 8th grade education' a whole new meaning, doesn't it?! Also shows you how poor our education system has become and, NO, I don't have the answers!