Monthly Archive: February 2014

The Amazing Medieval Map Of Sea Monsters

Catholic priest and exile Olaus Magnus is perhaps best known for his chronicle of medieval life in Scandinavia, presented in his epic work Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (“A History of the Nordic People”). He also spent 12 years of his life creating an elaborately detailed map of Scandinavia. Not only has it been found to be eerily accurate, but it’s also been found that swirls and squiggles previously thought be decoration actually coincide with real oceanic phenomenon. Also on the map are amazingly detailed drawings of sea monsters, accompanied by thorough descriptions of the mythical beasts then thought to roam the sea.

The Mysterious Quranic Letters No One Can Explain

Like the Bible, the Quran is meant to be the direct word of God (or Allah), a perfect text delivered from a perfect being. But this interpretation raises several mysteries; chief among them why 29 chapters begin with a cascade of random letters.

The Cruel Experiments To Find The Original Human Language

How language has formed and evolved over the years has long been of interest to scholars across the centuries. Herodotus recorded what is supposedly the first experiment on what language is embedded into our being as the oldest. Children were allegedly taken from their mothers and raised in almost complete isolation, without being exposed to any human communication, to see what they would speak first. And supposedly, it’s an oft-repeated experiment with outcomes that are said to range from Phrygian to Hebrew.

Fighters In The Longest War Actually Forgot They Were Fighting

The 335-Year War is the longest war in history. It was fought—technically—between the Netherlands and England’s Isles of Scilly, although the conflict went on for so long that it was largely forgotten that the two nations were actually at war. It started when the Dutch decided to get involved in the English Civil War and declared war on the losing side. The conflict was never settled—until 1986, when the end of the war was officially declared.

The Metal That Was Once Worth More Than Gold

Aluminum is one of the three most common elements found within the Earth’s crust. However, until relatively recently, extracting aluminum from the bauxite ore in which it naturally occurs was a costly and difficult process. And prior to the advent of efficient chemical and electrical processes to separate aluminum from bauxite in the late 1800s, the shiny, flexible metal was more valuable than gold.

The White Shantytowns Of South Africa

South Africa has long been plagued by poverty. Across the nation, millions of citizens are forced to live in shantytowns and decrepit slums, a hangover from the enforced inequalities of the apartheid era. But while the majority of South Africa’s poor are black people, a completely new class has emerged since the seismic social shifts of 1994—formerly well-off white people who now eke out an existence in grinding poverty.

The Pilgrims Didn’t Dress Like ‘Pilgrims’

We have a very distinct image of the Pilgrims who established the colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. Simple black-and-white clothing, tall hats, and buckles (on nearly everything) made up the Pilgrim’s wardrobe. But all of those features are actually the ex post facto additions and embellishments of artists’ imaginations.

Medieval Catholic Churches Performed A Type Of Gay Marriage

Gay marriage has long been a controversial topic, but it wasn’t always that way. Textual evidence from between the 8th and 16th centuries has shown that the Catholic Church not only felt that same-sex unions were all right, but performed the ceremonies. Texts refer to the ceremonies as “brotherment,” in which two men swear to share bread, wine, and purse for the rest of their lives.

The Elizabethan Theatres That Kidnapped Their Child Actors

Child actors have it pretty rough, especially kids who lived in Elizabethan England. Unscrupulous theater managers often grabbed boys off the streets and forced them to act in sexually explicit plays. What’s worse, these pedophilic playhouses had the support of the Queen herself.

The Russian Town That Will Kill You In 60 Seconds

Oymyakon, Russia has the dubious distinction of being the coldest inhabited place on Earth. Only a few hundred miles from the Arctic Circle, the coldest recorded temperature is -96.16 Fahrenheit (-71 Celsius). It’s too cold for fruits, vegetables, and grains, so the people who live there survive on reindeer, horsemeat, fish, and the milk from their animals. Winter temperatures average -40 Fahrenheit (-40 Celsius), and anyone foolhardy enough to go out in the cold unprotected will die from exposure in about one minute.