Researchers narrow search for remains of Don Quixote author

miguel de cervantes statue

Researchers believe they may have found the remains of the man said to be the author of the first modern European novel, beneath the chapel of a cloistered convent in Spain.

Experts searching for the remains of Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes said earlier this month that they found wooden fragments of a casket bearing the initials “M.C.” containing bones beneath the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in Madrid’s historic Barrio de las Letras, or Literary Quarter, according to the Associated Press.

Archaeologists are seeking to solve the centuries-old mystery of where the famed Spanish writer was laid to rest. The initials on a plank of the coffin were formed with metal tacks embedded into the wood.

While the bones of at least 10 people were found inside the niche containing the broken wooden planks of the coffin, some of the remains belonged to children.

Cervantes’ remains went missing in 1673 when work was undertaken at the convent. They were thought to have initially been taken to another convent before being returned, according to the Daily Mail.

Researchers are examining the bones to try to determine whether Cervantes’ are among them. Cervantes, who was 69 when he died in 1616, left several clues that should aid investigators with their probe, including:

  • He had just six teeth when he died; and
  • He suffered three wounds during the famed Battle of Lepanto, including one that left one of his arms withered.

Cervantes’ influence on the Spanish language is such that it is often called the “the language of Cervantes.”

His magnum opus, fully titled The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, and published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615, follows the adventures of Don Quixote, a landless nobleman who has imbibed too many chivalric novels and lost touch with reality. In a bid to bring justice to the world, he turns knight errant, recruits a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, as his faithful squire, and roams the world in search of adventure.

Cervantes himself led a fascinating life. Born in 1547, he had by 1569 moved to Rome, where he worked as chamber assistant to a cardinal.

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Mysterious stone carving shows up at British yard sale

stone-garden-ornament

A British archaeologist and television producer, perusing a yard sale in Leicester, England, came across an item being sold as garden ornament that was unlike other objects being proffered.

Instead of a garden-variety garden ornament, the stone carving had a complex pattern that “may be some form of writing,” according to James Balme, who purchased the article.

Weighing approximately 60 pounds, the stone is about 18 inches long and 5-1/2 inches wide at its base.

The stone appears to have been used as “a keystone from an archway or indeed a vaulted ceiling,” according to Balme.

While its exact date is uncertain, Balme believes it’s from the Anglo-Saxon period, which began when the Romans abandoned Britain around 410 AD and ended with William the Conqueror’s invasion of England in 1066, according to the online publication RedOrbit.

The sandstone carving has been used as a garden ornament for several years, Balme told the Danish publication Jyllands-Posten.

In an effort to identify the use and exact date of the stone carving, Balme is turning to social media such as Twitter to try to learn more about the stone.

(Top: Stone found by James Balme on sale as a garden ornament in Leicester, England.)

Imploding buildings are nothing more than male catnip

One of the great mysteries of genetics is where exactly on the Y chromosome does the unfettered enjoyment of all things explosive reside.

Whether it’s imploding buildings, the sinking of obsolete ships or something as simple as blasting an anvil into the air, most males will admit to an innate delight at seeing things blown up. (Of course, whether individuals take added delight in seeing living creatures harmed in said explosions is a good way to ferret out sociopaths from the average guy.)

That said, watching imploding buildings and exploding ships on YouTube would seem to be to males what videos of kittens and cute toddlers are to many women.

Don’t tell me there isn’t a McArthur Fellowship waiting for the individual who can determine where on the human genome the difference resides.

The above implosion took place Wednesday at Sparrows Point Terminal in Baltimore.

The former Bethlehem Steel L-furnace, which stood 32 stories tall, weighed more than 11 million pounds and was the largest furnace in the western hemisphere, was brought down to make way for new businesses and Port of Baltimore-related development.

The demolition was handled by Baltimore-based Controlled Demolition Inc. The edifice actually consisted of two structures: the 320-foot-tall blast furnace and the free-standing exoskeleton around it that provided various levels of access.

Controlled Demolition used 94 explosive charges at 12 separate points, according to WBAL-TV.

The Controlled Demolition’s video shows the implosion from no fewer than six different angles, including a spectacular slow-motion view that begins at the 1:37 mark.

Time well spent, indeed.

(HT: Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid)

Chile plans new investigation into death of Pablo Neruda

Pablo_Neruda_(1966)

More than 40 years after noted poet, diplomat and politician Pablo Neruda died, Chilean officials say they will begin a fresh inquiry into his death.

Neruda, a Nobel Prize winner considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, died on Sept. 23, 1973, less than two weeks after the military coup that ushered Gen. Augusto Pinochet into power.

Government spokesman Francisco Ugas said there are indications that Neruda could have been poisoned.

Neruda’s body was exhumed in April 2013 and tests conducted on his remains, but no indication of poison was found at that time. However, more tests are planned with scientists looking for traces of inorganic or heavy metals, according to the BBC.

The upcoming investigation will seek to detect cellular or protein damage caused by chemical agents. Previous tests  focused specifically on the discovery of toxins, according to the BBC.

“There is initial evidence that he was poisoned and in that sense the signs point to the intervention of specific agents,” said Ugas, who is head of the government’s human rights department.

Neruda’s death certificate says he died of prostate cancer.

Neruda was a member of Chile’s Communist Party and lawmaker who held diplomatic posts in France, Spain and Mexico. He was a staunch supporter of deposed President Salvador Allende and it was believed he would become a thorn in the side of Pinochet’s regime.

Neruda was hospitalized with cancer at the time of Pinochet’s coup. Pinochet denied permission for Neruda’s funeral to be made a public event. However, thousands of grieving Chileans disobeyed the curfew and crowded the streets.

(Top: Pablo Neruda recording his poetry at the U.S. Library of Congress in 1966. Source: Wikipedia.)

Canadian remains believed to be those of Irish Famine victims

coffin ship 1

More than a million Irish died as a result of the Great Famine that struck the island in the 1840s. Another 2 million emigrated in a desperate bid for a better life, with many setting sail for North America. What’s less well known is that among those who departed amid the tragedy of the Great Hunger, an estimated 100,000 died in transit.

Bones discovered on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula in 2011 have recently been identified as those of children, aged seven to 12, believed to have been Irish who died fleeing the famine.

Vertebra and jaw bones are among remains confirmed by Parks Canada following three years of research to be those of malnourished children. It seems likely they died while fleeing the Great Hunger almost 170 years ago, according to IrishCentral.

Many of those two million who left Ireland traveled to America on ‘coffin ships,’ which were themselves deadly.

Coffin ships were crowded and disease-ridden, with poor access to food and water. They usually transported the poorest of the poor, and suffered mortality rates as great as 30 percent.

Owners of coffin ships provided as little food, water, and living space as was legally possible – if they obeyed the law at all. It was said that sharks could be seen following the ships because so many bodies were thrown overboard

One of these ships, the Carricks, set sail from Ireland to Quebec City in 1847. It sank off Cap-des-Rosiers, about 500 miles northeast of its goal, and 87 people died. The 100 survivors were taken in by families in the village.

A monument was erected in 1900 to remember the victims. In 2011, skeletal remains were discovered 40 yards away from the marker. Without DNA evidence and carbon dating it’s uncertain whether the children traveled aboard the Carricks.

Researchers were able to determine that children – two of them between seven and nine years old and another as old as 12 – showed evidence of rickets, a vitamin D deficiency, and malnourished, according to the publication.

Georges Kavanagh, a resident of Gaspé, can trace his ancestors back to the victims and survivors of the shipwreck. He told the Washington Post that he plans to ensure they get a proper reburial.

He said, “I have a link to these people – I almost consider them my family. Who wouldn’t want their ancestors to get a peaceful rest?”

The Irish famine is commonly attributed to widespread potato blight that led to devastation of the staple crop of millions of Irish, resulting in starvation. This despite the fact that Ireland was still producing and exporting butter, peas, salmon, rabbit, lard, herring, honey, tongues, onions, seed and more.

These commodities were shipped out of Ireland to Britain, demonstrating what could be at best be termed a misguided policy on the part of the United Kingdom, policy that was instrumental in the disaster.

Between death and emigration, Ireland’s population fell by an estimated 20 to 25 percent, and even today is still below pre-Famine levels.

(Top: Drawing of a “coffin ship” preparing to leave Ireland for North America.)

Media outlet speculates on what long-lost gun would think, say

winchester rifle

State workers in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park recently came across a Winchester Model 1873 rifle propped against a tree in the desert. It’s unclear how long the rifle had been resting in the desolate location, but from its condition and the fact that it was produced in 1882, it would seem it’s been a long time.

Here’s how CNN began its story about the find:

“If this rifle could talk.”

If that rifle could talk it would probably say something along the lines of “I’m really, really bored” or “Where the hell have you been?”

CNN opted to give the gun a more colloquial tone in its musings:

“In a gravelly voice, it may recite a yarn of weary settlers swaying on horses’ backs in the parched, rocky Nevada wilderness. It may talk about riding in a saddle holster across neighboring Utah more than a decade before it became a state of the union.”

Left out is the possibility that the Winchester’s owner went off to use the bathroom and forgot where he put his gun, or that he got himself so gooned up on cheap firewater that he couldn’t find his horse, never mind his rifle.

Of course, if the rifle could talk, it would be a pretty amazing rifle because none of the rifles, shotguns or handguns I’ve seen or handled has so much as uttered a single word. It would be worth a pretty penny, I’d imagine, whether it was 130-plus years old or not.

CNN goes on to speculate further:

“Who knows how many years the rifle stood there, after someone left behind the model called ‘the gun that won the West.’ Did they have to depart in a hurry – running from danger? Or did they not see it, as it stood neatly camouflaged against the arid trunk of the juniper tree?”

Ah, unfounded speculation, the secret garden of the reporter with space to fill, a deadline to meet and few actual facts.

What is known is that the gun was manufactured and shipped in 1882. The Great Basin National Park staff was able to determine that from the weapon’s model name and serial number, which are still legible.

A couple of facts CNN didn’t have to imagine: The rifle will be conserved in the condition it was found, and it will become part of the display commemorating the park’s 30th birthday in 2016.

No word on whether the Winchester will have a speaking role.

(Top: Winchester Model 1873 rifle found propped against tree in Great Basin National Park. Photo Courtesy: Great Basin National Park.)

A typical summer day in United Kingdom air space

This mesmerizing video shows air traffic during a 24-hour period in the United Kingdom during a typical summer day.

Created by NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic control services, the data visualization shows air traffic coming into, going out of and flying across the UK on a typical summer day.

It was created using real data from 7,000 flights from a day this past June as recorded by radar and air traffic-management systems.

Activity is shown at 800 times faster than real time, according to NATS.

The time runs from midnight to midnight and shows the arrival of early morning traffic coming across the Atlantic in the early hours, the build up through the day and then tapers off into the night before the pattern repeats.

The noticeable difference in flight speeds is likely due to varying speeds of commercial and military aircraft.

(Viewing this in full-screen mode is particularly cool.)

(HT: Carpe Diem)