Archive for the ‘Ancient North America’ Category
Deep in the Canadian North… in a frigid town called Timmins, where even polar bears fear to tread… there’s been–
Editor: Wait, wait. Hold up. What do you mean, “deep in the Canadian North?” You mean Timmins, Ontario, home of Canadian country pop sensation Shania Twain?
Editor: That’s what I thought. Please continue.
So, as we were saying, in a small town in northeastern Ontario where it’s not quite as cold as some people would like to believe (you have to go much further north for that), a team from the University of Toronto made a rather incredible discovery.
Inside boreholes in the Timmins Mine, about 2.4 kilometers below ground level, the team collected samples of ancient water that is estimated to be between 1.1 and 2.6 billion years old.
Yes, that’s as old as the rocks in the mine! When the surrounding rocks formed, that depth of 2.4 kilometers down? Would have been ocean floor. That means folks who walk around in the Timmins Mine in those boreholes are walking on 2.6 billion-year-old seafloor.
The team who collected the samples found that the water contained rich amounts of dissolved gases, such as methane and hydrogen. These gases can provide energy for microbes that tend to be found around hydrothermal deep-ocean vents.
Barbara Sherwood Lollard, an Earth Scientist and co-author of the water study, says that a find like this “shows us that there’s been very little mixing between this water and the surface water; what we want to do … is see if we can narrow that [age range] down.”
By measuring the concentrations of other rare gases in the water—neon, helium, argon, and xenon—the team was able to make its estimation of the water’s age, ie. how long it had been trapped underground, and whether it had interacted with any other water or if it remained isolated all that time.
The next step to this find is in testing the water for microbes—yes, living microbes that might be billions of years old! Some ancient microbes can survive for that long without access to sunlight, and can reveal new information about the development of life on Earth.
This ancient water provides the necessary evidence to prove that pockets of water can exist in isolation under the Earth’s crust for billions of years—and may have implications for the possibility of life on other planets!
Geochemist Steven Shirey has weighed in with his thoughts on the study, saying that “if you think that you can have microbial life throughout the entire crust of the Earth, then all of a sudden it becomes very possible that life could live on other planets under the right condition.”
Considering that there’s known to be warm rock under the cold surface of Mars, it’s possible that water may still exist… and perhaps some ancient Martian microbes?
(Editor: Hmm… The Ancient Standard: Mars Edition… that sounds pretty good…!)
Everyone has that friend… you know who it is… the one who shows up late, but gets really excited about arriving and expects everyone else to get excited too? Well, it may be that Christopher Columbus was one of those friends.
Except with, you know, arriving on “newly discovered lands” and all that.
Christopher Columbus has long been known for being the “discoverer of the New World”, crossing the vast waters between Spain and the Caribbean in 1492—and of course, finally setting foot in America. Which he thought was India. Chris was definitely a special guy.
But here’s the thing—a British adventurer, a former Royal Navy officer named Philip Beale, believes that Columbus may not have been the first to set foot in the Americas. His theory is that the Phoenicians actually reached the New World a staggering 2,000 years before Columbus even knew what a boat was!
Beale said, “of all the ancient civilizations, they were the greatest seafarers—Lebanon had cedar trees perfect for building strong boats, they were the first to use iron nails, and they had knowledge of astronomy and currents.”
The theory is based on the writings of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote that the Phoenicians circumnavigated Africa in 600 B.C.
And whether this theory is true or not, it is known definitively that Columbus wasn’t the first man on the scene—Viking settlements in Newfoundland place the New World’s discovery at least at 900 A.D. That makes Chris the second arrival at best… but possibly the third.
Will it ever be known for sure whether the Phoenicians made it to the Americas? Probably not. A number of artifacts that were thought to be of Phoenician origin, discovered on American soil, turned out to be forgeries.
Still, the incredible sailing abilities of the Phoenicians make it worth considering… did they discover America?
Now, that’s a gardening exhibit you won’t see every day… clam gardens?!
But that’s what researchers are calling the ancient food storage system found on Russell Island’s beach in British Columbia. The clam gardens were discovered six years ago, and University of Victoria students are still helping to sift gravel, sand, and shells to figure out the origins and purpose of the gardens.
The clam gardens aren’t gardens in the traditional sense of the word—ie. where you’d find an abundance of plant life—but rather they’re locations where clams are able to grow naturally, abundantly, and where the environment in those locations can be manipulated to increase clam production. Sort of like feeding compost to a backyard garden to help it grow.
It’s thought that the clam gardens are at least 1,000 years old, but possibly older. The gardens look like small fields constructed on the beach at low tide (a necessity!), with rock walls surrounding the locations. The walls would have helped provide a barrier to stop seaweed and predators from getting inside the garden and damaging or disturbing the growing clams.
And just like a backyard gardener does when taking care of his or her plants, whoever tended the clam garden would have needed to till the sand (so to speak) to keep the oxygen flowing.
Who built the clam gardens is another question entirely. A thousand years ago, an aboriginal community lived on the island, so it’s possible that the clams were used for both food and trade—but that said, clam gardens are a new(ish) discovery for Canadian archaeologists, with the first one discovered only as recently as 1995.
Inevitably, there’s still much to be learned about these ancient clam gardens, and it’s possible that there are many more out there still to be discovered.
Historians are now looking at the Salem witch trials in a whole new light. In the past, they had thought that mass hysteria had been behind the conviction and deaths of 25 men and women. Four others were found guilty of witch craft but were not executed.
The year was 1693. The people living in Salem, Massachusetts strongly believed that Satan was both present on earth and very active as well. The settlers had brought this belief with them from Europe where charms were used in order to increase the productivity of both their farming and their agricultural pursuits.
Over time, the harmless “white magic” that allowed fields to produce a larger crop yield and to protect their animals from disease or injury was slowly transformed into something darker. Now people who used witch craft did it to harm their neighbors. If an animal was born with a defect or crops failed it was witch craft that was to blame.
This belief was especially strong in Salem. They blamed the supernatural for every ill that befell them such as arguments or strife between members of the congregation. If a baby died, crops failed or there was any kind of disagreement among the colonists it was Satan and his minions that were to blame. Men such as Cotton Mather and Joseph Glanvill wrote about the supernatural and went a long way to strengthening sentiments against the supernatural.
It didn’t help that in 1692, a group of young girls began to have strange fits. They were examined and it was found that the fits were not caused by epilepsy or any other known disease. The girls were related to Reverend Samuel Parris, a Puritan minister. When the girls had their fits they tended to scream, make strange sounds and even contort their bodies into strange positions. These strange actions were then mimicked by other girls in the town.
Many historians have looked for a reason for the Salem witch trials. They felt that it was mass hysteria that was to blame for the deaths of innocent men and women. In one case, children as young as four testified against some of the members of the Salem community.
Now scientists and historians have a different theory as to the cause of the Salem witch trials. It is now theorized that ergot poisoning may have been the reason for the fits and strange dreams rather than simple mass hysteria. Ergot is caused by a fungus that grows on rye and other grains that would have been grown in the Salem settlement. The poison can be passed from mother to infant through breast milk, making it possible for very young children to suffer from this condition.
Some of the symptoms include convulsive fits that are very similar to those that the girls had during the trials. Sufferers will experience muscle spasms, parasthesia, nausea and vomiting. They also experience hallucinations similar to those that are produced by LSD.
While it is not possible to blame all of the activities in Salem on ergot poisoning it goes a long way to explaining many of them.