Monthly Archives: May 2016

Just looking for a better way to get spices

At the start of the 16th century Spain and Portugal were in fierce competition to find the best route to the Spice Islands and to explore the New World. Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese sailor who tried many times to get the Portuguese king to sanction a voyage for him to sail west. After many refusals Magellan emigrated to Spain where he asked for and received permission from the King of Spain to put together a voyage with five vessels. The Portuguese were not happy and at first tried to persuade him not to sail under the Spanish flag and when that did not work they tried to sabotage his trip. Most of Magellan’s crew were either Portuguese or Spanish but there were members from almost every major European country in his crew. The fact that Magellan was Portuguese flying under the Spanish flag made things very difficult for Magellan who was constantly under watch from the other Spanish officers.

(Book – Over the Edge of the World:Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the World – Laurence Bergreen)

Are two stories better than one?

The story of the flood and Noah contains two different ways of referring to God. If you divide the story based on the two different references you still get two complete stories. This makes scholars think that two different versions of the story got interwoven when put into writing.

(The Great Courses – Sacred Texts of the World)

Hmmmm…could we clone him someday from these cells?

The oldest intact cells from a mummy are two intact red blood cells from the wounds of a man who was killed in the alps from an arrow to the chest. The mummy is about 5300 years old and has spent most of the last five thousand years under a glacier. Scientists are studying the cells for disease and to understand his general state of health.

(Magazine – Archaeology – September/October 2015)

What time is it?

In 1572 one of Queen Elizabeth 1 favorite men in court presented her with a bejeweled bracelet with  a tiny timepiece in it. It is the first known wrist-watch.

(Book – The Life if Elizabeth 1 – Alison Weir)

The Trojan War was a mistake

In his ‘Histories’ Herodotus says he talked with the priests of Egypt who said they had knowledge of the Trojan War. They said that Paris and Helen were blown off course when trying to go back to Troy and that Helen remained in Egypt under the protection of the Egyptian king Proteus. The Trojans told the Greeks that Helen was not in Troy but the Greeks did not believe them and continued the Trojan War. After Troy was sacked Menelaus went to Egypt to recover Helen. Herodotus believed the story because of a couple of references in Greek literature. ‘The Iliad’ refers to Paris and Helen visiting Egypt and ‘The Odyssey’ talks about a time when Menelaus and Helen were in Egypt.

(The Great Courses – Herodotus: The Father of History)

It was not limited to the lower class

Smallpox was common in Europe in the 1500’s and Queen Elizabeth 1 came down with the disease early in her reign. She almost died but did recover and she was one of the fortunate victims who was not noticeably permanently scarred after the pox appeared on her body.

(Book – The Life if Elizabeth 1 – Alison Weir)

We still can’t read Linear A from ancient Greece

Language is usually spoken and only around 200 languages have a used written form. The earliest written language dates to around 3500 BCE in the area of Iran and Iraq. Chinese has a written language dating to around the 12th century BCE and is the earliest written language still in use.

(The Great Courses – Understanding Linguistics: The Science of Language)