Archive for the ‘Ancient North America’ Category
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.
A carving of a mammoth on a mammoth bone has recently been authenticated and scientists are now saying it is the oldest example of art found in the Americas. The piece was found near Vero Beach in Florida in either 2006 or 2007. Although it was discovered years ago it has taken until know for scientist to be able to authenticate it and figure out how old the piece actually was.
It has been discovered that the carving is actually 13,000 years old. Originally, scientists believed that the piece was a fake. They began to compare the piece to other bones that were found at the site and studied them using electron microscopy. It was found that the carving did not have any coloring differences between carved grooves and other bones that were found on the site.
This is exciting for scientists as it means that the marks and grooves that were made on the bone aged at the same rate as other bones and debris found at the same site. If the marks had been made more recently it would mean that they were a different color than the other bone surfaces would have been. As there were no differences, it is now believed that the carvings were made approximately 13,000 years ago.
Even the bone itself supports these findings. Scientists believe that the bone fragment belonged to one of three mammals, all of which died out as the last ice age ended. This was between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago. Scientists have been able to figure out that the bone belonged to a mammoth, a giant sloth or a mastodon. The last mammoth was believed to have died out approximately 4,000 years ago but the species was on the decline as much as 10,000 years ago.
It was believed that a combination of climate change and predation by humans was responsible for the mammoths to become extinct. Scientists studied factors such as ocean currents and rainfall and were able to determine that the climate that the mammoths preferred (which was cold and dry) actually began to change approximately 42,000 years ago. The mammoths would have had issues with the warmer, wetter climate that began to set in.
Mammoths needed a large supply of coarse tundra vegetation in order to survive. Their teeth had actually evolved in order to consume this type of vegetation. When that type of plant matter began to die off it became difficult for the mammoths to eat the food that they had evolved to eat. It also did not help that humans began to hunt the mammoth as much as 40,000 years ago.
The artwork on the bone is exciting as it is a sign of what early Western art looked like. There are many differences between the mammoth incising and cave drawings and art that have been found in Europe. It is believed that they may have had a memory of what the artwork looked like in Europe but took the art in their own direction.
Individuals around world are placing bets on whether or not the Rapture is about to take place. This is an event that many religious leaders believe was foretold in the Biblical passage 1 Thess 4:17. It is believed that this event will separate the faithful from the non-believers. It is the beginning of the End Times, a series of events that will ultimately culminate in the end of the world.
A literal interpretation of the passage states that the dead will first rise to Heaven. After that, the faithful will vanish from the earth and will journey up to heaven. The remainder of the people will be left behind in a chaotic world where they will essentially suffer until the world is destroyed. The radio evangelist Harold Camping has predicted that the Rapture would take place on two different occasions. His first prediction was that it would take place on September 6th, 1994. He has since revised the date and has said that on May 21st, 2011 the world will take place. He has further stated that the world will actually end several months later on October 21st.
While Camping’s predictions are certainly the most recent and up to date, he was certainly not the first person to have preached about this event. One of the earliest and best known proponents of the Rapture was actually Cotton Mather. Mather lived from 1663 CE to 1728 CE. He was a New England Puritan minister who was known as an author and pamphleteer as well.
It was not his writing that made him famous, however. The majority of people who recognize the name Cotton Mather connect it to the Salem Witch Trials instead of his views on politics, medicine and the Rapture. There were several judges who heard charges of witchcraft in many towns and villages in New England. It was Mather, however, that was willing to admit spectral evidence as a way of proving that some individuals were in fact guilty of witchcraft. This form of evidence includes information that was given out in dreams or visions rather than physical proof of guilt.
Mather was known for his zealous approach to hunting witches. He wrote several books and essays including Illustrious Providences (1684) and Wonders of the Invisible World (1693) as a way of encouraging and even reviving the trials when they began to decrease in popularity. Many people view Mather as a rabid witch hunter who was willing to go to extreme lengths in order to prove an individual’s guilt and obtain their conviction.
Mather wrote many different books on a variety of topics during his life. Some works were several volumes in length. The vast majority of his works were religious in nature. A number of his works were on the topic of the Salem witch trials, spectral evidence and the witch trials that took place in Europe at approximately the same time.
As a result of mass hysteria and the witch trials, twenty-nine people either died in prison or were executed after being convicted of the crime of witchcraft. One of the most famous, Giles Corey, was pressed to death under heavy stones when he refused to confess.
When looking at a jellyfish swimming in the water, it is not hard to imagine that they are the leftovers from some strange, prehistoric creature. It may not surprise you to learn that the oldest jellyfish date back to approximately 505 million years ago. What may surprise you is that these early specimens were found in Utah. While the area is now known for its dry, desert-like climate, it was a different story in prehistoric times.
Jellyfish fossils are incredibly rare. The creatures are mainly composed of soft parts and lack the bones that are more commonly preserved in the form of fossils. However, the fine sediment that was present in prehistoric Utah created an environment where the soft shape of the creature was preserved. There were many details present in the fossil. Archaeologists were able to see the bell, the tentacles and the muscle scars that made up the creature. The fossils were discovered by Richard D. Jarrard and Susan Halgedahl, both from the University of Utah
What is amazing is how highly evolved (for a jellyfish) the fossil appears to be. There were many similarities between the 500 million year old specimen and the creatures that are currently alive and stinging swimmers in modern waters. While scientists believed that jellyfish evolved slowly over millions of years, the fossils found in Utah present several alternate possibilities.
The first is that jellyfish evolved very quickly. This may have been because of the presence of warm, shallow seas. It was believed that these conditions, present during the Cambrian period, actually led to the evolution of many different aquatic life forms. Another theory is that the jellyfish did evolve slowly over an extended period of time but that these unique creatures are actually much, much older than scientists originally thought they were. The Cambrian period lasted from 542 million years ago to 488 million years ago (approximately).
The jellyfish discovered in Utah were tiny and measured less than half an inch in size. The location of the fossils also suggests that they lived in fairly deep water. The similarity to modern species suggests that they lived in much the same way: swimming around hunting for food.
Modern jellyfish are among some of the most durable and enduring creatures. Some travel from one body of water to another by traveling in the bilge areas of ships. Massive specimens have been found in Arctic waters. All around the world, run-ins with these creatures have resulted in pain and (in some cases) death when swimmers or divers had encounters while swimming.
Since humans have only existed for about half as long as jellyfish it is reasonable to believe that we have likely been dealing with these creatures all along. A jellyfish sting can cause massive pain, nausea and vomiting. Some will cause muscle spasms or numbness and, in severe cases, can also cause breathing problems. Some individuals will even slip into a coma and die.
We now know that it is possible to treat a jellyfish sting with vinegar or, in a pinch, urine. You have to wonder what prehistoric humans would do in order to treat the stings and minimize the pain and swelling. Hopefully they had some vinegar on hand.
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