10 Notable Poisonings From The Ancient World
Listverse – Daily Highlights
… that today is Barbie Day? The first Barbie was put on sale on September 6, 1959. Creator Ruth Handler watched her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls and noticed that she often enjoyed giving them adult roles. Ruth using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration for Barbie.
Today’s Inspirational Quote:
“Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on.”
— Henry Rollins
MIND AND HEART HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER—-
The mind is the treasure-house of learning but the heart is the treasure-house of spiritual wisdom. The so- called conflict between religion and science arises only
when there is no appreciation of the relative importance of these two types of knowledge. It is futile to try to glean knowledge of true values by exercise of the mind alone. Mind cannot tell you which things are worth having, it can only tell you how to achieve the ends accepted from non-intellectual sources.
In most persons the mind accepts ends from the promptings of wants, but this means denial of the life of the spirit. Only when the mind accepts its ends and values from the deepest promptings of the heart does it contribute to the life of the spirit.
Thus mind has to work in co-operation with the heart; factual knowledge has to be subordinated to intuitive perceptions; and heart has to be allowed full freedom in determining the ends of life without any interference from the mind. The mind has a place in life, but its role begins after the heart has had its say.
Discourses , vol 1, p144
By Meher Baba
It is an understatement to say that horses have influenced human history. Certain empires could not have existed without them. Apart from these animals lending their power to armies, horse bones and tack have other stories to tell. Some reveal the secrets of the earliest breeders, riders, and veterinarians.
Fossils and mummies give unprecedented insight into extinct species, geological features, and modern horse biology. Even horse art can sometimes add surprising historical details.
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Ancient animal bones can provide a kind of geographical report about the area in which they were found. In this case, a three-toed horse has added details to the youngest and highest plateau on Earth.
Today, its average elevation stands around 4,500 meters (14,800 ft). Scholars have always argued about when the so-called Tibetan plateau rose to this point and, more specifically, whether the landscape was higher or lower about five million years ago.
In 2012, a plateau skeleton from that period threw light on the matter. The Zanda horse (Hipparion zandaense) looked more like a tiny zebra with triple toes than a thoroughbred. Its feet, teeth, and long legs all indicated an animal that grazed and sprinted across open grassland. This already suggested that the area was above the tree lines.
Chemicals from the skeleton identified a diet similar to what wild asses enjoy on the Tibetan plateau today. These grasses are adapted to the kind of cold temperatures characteristic of great heights. Using all these clues, it was determined that the Zanda Basin was already at the region’s current elevation when the horse died.
In 2018, a volunteer offered to help with excavations at an ancient landmark. While digging in a ditch at the Roman fort Vindolanda in Northumberland, the volunteer found something exceedingly scarce.
Hipposandals were early Roman “horseshoes” made of metal that were meant to protect the hooves. They were a bit more elaborate than today’s crescent-shape shoe. What made the find an archaeologist’s dream was that the set of four hipposandals was complete and in an exceptional state of preservation. Even the ribbing underneath—to prevent the animal from losing traction and skidding—could still be seen.
One of the sandals showed a hairline fracture, which could be the answer to why a perfectly good set was discarded. Maybe the owner decided to chuck away the whole lot when he noticed one was cracked. Forged between AD 140–180, these iron devices were found in a ditch that was originally a trash site. It was covered with new clay foundations when another fort was built, preserving the shoes and countless more Roman treasures.
The Roman Empire once collected vast territories, and one such region was modern-day Germany. Scholars always thought that the Romans restricted involvement with the locals to the occasional military raid. History tells that things got worse for both sides after AD 9 when the Germans slaughtered a much larger Roman army at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.
In 2009, an artifact was discovered that suggested years of peaceful interaction. It was a 2,000-year-old golden horse head. Found inside a well at the German settlement Waldgirmes, the 25-kilogram (55 lb) head was a fragment of a statue. The intact sculpture, that of a horse and the Roman emperor Augustus, once stood at the village marketplace.
This prompted a closer look at Waldgirmes, which revealed that Romans had lived alongside Germans. The site had no military barracks to indicate a forceful occupancy. Instead, the surprisingly advanced town had Roman homes, ceramics, workshops, and a forum (the marketplace).
The Teutoburg battle brought an end to many German settlements, including Waldgirmes. Within years, tensions boiled over and Romans burned Waldgirmes to the ground.
Horses survived in North America for millions of years. Around 11,000 years ago, they became extinct. Only several millennia later did the first equestrian hooves land again on North American soil when the animals arrived with the Europeans.
An exceptionally rare thing to find in Utah is the remains of a horse from the original groups before they all died out on the continent. In 2017, that was exactly what a family found in their backyard.
Perhaps due to the scarcity and the fact that the area used to be farmland, the remains were assumed to be a cow’s skeleton. However, the creature was small, about the size of a Shetland pony.
When an expert arrived, the animal was identified as a horse from the last ice age that had drowned and sunk to the bottom of a lake. There, it remained undisturbed for 16,000 years.
Determining the cause of death and gender might be impossible, but it is still considered to be a prize specimen. One day, the species might even be identified. Researchers already know that it was old (due to arthritis of the spine) and that it possibly had cancer (due to a bone growth on one leg).
Today, horses get all the glory. It is even assumed that people across the world rode them first.
However, a skeleton found in 2008 suggested that the first saddle in the Near East went to donkeys. When the skeleton was discovered, its importance became apparent because the donkey’s molars had the same type of damage as those of horses that wear bits.
However, no further investigation was conducted into the possibility that this might be the earliest evidence of donkey ridership in the region. Instead, the archaeologists focused on the animal’s journey and death.
Apparently, the young animal was part of an Egyptian caravan en route to the ancient city-state of Tell es-Safi. Upon arrival, the donkey was sacrificed to bless the durability of a mudbrick house erected atop it.
In 2018, tests dated the donkey to around 2700 BC. This proved that people rode donkeys in the Near East for almost 1,000 years before horses arrived in the area.
At first, archaeologists could not explain the odd tooth. Rediscovered in 2018 among the archives of the National Museum of Mongolia, the tooth was crooked and sawed halfway through. The answer only dawned on them when local archaeologists who had experience with traditional horse husbandry were called in.
The tooth belonged to a horse which had been ritually sacrificed and buried over 3,000 years ago. Shortly before the animal was killed, the owner attempted to flatten the crooked incisor to lessen the animal’s pain. For whatever reason, the operation was abandoned and the horse met its end.
Despite the unsuccessful attempt, this is one of the first recorded cases of veterinary dentistry. In addition, this is a very early look at Mongolian horsemanship, something that would eventually change the history of Eurasia in the 13th century and bring Genghis Khan’s empire to power.
As horses became more important to the region, skills that included dentistry were perfected to better take care of the animals. Historians doubt that Genghis Khan’s powerful reign would have happened if it were not for Mongolian horsemanship.
Between 30,000–40,000 years ago, a foal died in an area of modern-day Siberia. The two-month-old baby perished in a mysterious way that left little damage to the body. Whether it drowned or died of an illness, the tiny corpse became trapped in permafrost. As time went by, its species—the Lena horse—became extinct, along with many other ice age animals.
In 2018, scientists were clambering about in the 100-meter-deep (328 ft) Batagaika crater when they found the foal. The animal is officially the best-preserved specimen of an ancient horse.
The mummy, which measured 98 centimeters (39 in) tall at the shoulder, was remarkably intact. Soft tissue, skin, hooves, hairs inside the nostrils, and the tail all survived.
Wild horses are still in the region today, but none are genetically related to the Lena species (Equus caballus lenensis) in any way. To find out more about the extinct horse, future tests will look at the foal’s diet and possible cause of death.
The Messel Pit site in Germany is known for well-preserved fossils. In 2014, it produced the body of a pregnant mare that died around 47 million years ago. She was in excellent condition and revealed a surprise.
It was not the nearly full-term foal, but the way in which it was carried. Researchers did not expect to find nearly identical similarities to modern mares in her reproductive system. Just like today, the prehistoric horse had a crumpled outer uterine wall and a ligament connecting the uterus to the backbone.
This does not seem strange until one considers the physical differences. The tiny mare was about as big as a fox terrier and hailed from an evolutionary time when horses still had four toes on their front feet and three on each hind leg.
Despite the ancient mare looking very different from modern horses, the find showed that some elements of the equine reproductive system were already in place millions of years ago.
Few people realize how hotly scholars debate the subject of who tamed the first horses. The leading theory supports a Bronze Age people called the Yamnaya. It was also assumed that they handed their skills to a much simpler hunter-gatherer group, the Botai from Kazakhstan (3700–3100 BC).
However, new genetic tests and horse remains complicate this picture. The earliest signs of horse domestication in Asia come from the Botai, including traces of mare’s milk inside a vessel and a bit-worn tooth. Even so, researchers have argued that the culture had to learn horsemanship elsewhere because they remained hunter-gatherers long after others around them became farmers.
In 2018, DNA showed that the Botai were not as incapable as previously believed. It was already known that they were an isolated culture, but tests on ancient Botai individuals showed no Yamnaya DNA. The Yamnaya people had a habit of spreading their genes wherever they went.
A lack of Yamnaya heritage around the time the Botai already had mounts strongly suggests that they domesticated horses first. Tests on Botai horses also revealed no link to modern animals, more evidence that the two cultures developed separate domestication with different horse breeds.
Today’s horses reflect many traits influenced by the decisions of ancient breeders. One of them is the limited Y-chromosome pool. Modern stallions all share a similar Y, which led to the belief that early breeders used only a few males. Modern equestrians frown at this bad genetic practice because millennia of inbreeding have left horses with segments called detrimental DNA.
In 2016, horse remains were taken from Scythian graves and sites where hundreds of the animals were ritually buried thousands of years ago. The Scythians from Kazakhstan were superb riders and warriors (during the ninth to first centuries BC).
When 11 stallions were analyzed from one royal tomb, none were inbred and there was no detrimental DNA. This meant that ancient breeders acted responsibly and used a healthy number of stallions instead of the assumed few.
The study also found that the Scythians allowed wild horses to interbreed with their stock. The buildup of detrimental genes and a shrunken male pool happened sometime during the past 2,000 years, long after the existence of the breeders who were blamed.
We all know that bananas are good for you, but for the most part, that is all we know about this popular fruit. In fact, there is a wealth of fascinating information about the banana, from when it was first grown to what the future holds for it. Simply put, there’s more to bananas than meets the eye.
These tasty mutants come in a variety of colors, carry religious symbolism, and can even clean your water. They also just might help you out in bed. These are ten of the most obscure facts about bananas.
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We all enjoy a banana as a snack, but for committed Hindus, it can have much greater significance than that. The banana takes on a central role in much of Hindu belief, such as the pontianak (called the churel in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), female spirits which are believed to live within banana trees, among other plants. (Note that despite the phrase “banana tree,” the banana plant is not actually a tree.) The tale of these ghosts derives from Malay mythology and describes pontianak as women who died during pregnancy and who have returned from the dead to subject children and expectant mothers to particularly gory deaths, even ripping an unborn child straight from its mother’s womb.
This is a story gruesome enough to frighten anyone, but bananas also play a more positive role in the Hindu belief system, as the banana tree, or kadali, is seen as a symbolic representation of the Hindu goddesses Parvati and Lakshmi. The tree stands for eternal knowledge, known as Tatva Jnana, and the banana leaves that grow from it are symbols of calm.
There are many different kinds of bananas, and while they all have roughly the same shape, they are not all yellow in color. There are estimated to be approximately 1,000 different kinds of bananas in the world, and these are split into 50 different groupings. The yellow one that we all know and love is a Cavendish type, but there are plenty of other kinds that are far less well-known to shoppers living in the US.
One example of this is the red banana, which has a dark red skin and is grown in Ecuador and Colombia. Another banana type with an unusual coloring is the Blue Java, which hails from Hawaii and is a distinctive blue hue before ripening. This type of banana is known for its extreme tolerance to cold weather and has been given the nickname “ice cream banana” because the ripe fruit tastes a lot like vanilla ice cream.
During the maturation phase, a banana plant stops producing leaves and starts forming an inflorescence, which is a complicated cluster of flowers on a single stem, also referred to as a thyrse by botanists. We commonly describe this inflorescence as being the “heart” of a banana, and the stem that it grows on develops inside a pseudostem until the heart is mature and bursts from the top.
Most banana plants develop just the one heart, but there was a unique case in the Philippines in 2008 where a plant produced an astonishing five. The exact location of this was Barangay Miranda, and all five of the inflorescences—or hearts—found on the plant were male. For a banana plant to do this is such a rare occurrence that local people viewed it as a symbol of good luck, and the plant became a magnet for tourists.
The banana is blessed with a decidedly phallic shape, but that doesn’t translate into a healthy sex life. The vast majority of the bananas that we can buy in our shops are part of the subgroup called Cavendish, and another thing that unites all of these bananas is that they are sterile. A wild banana is actually a massive herb found in jungle areas whose fruit contains large numbers of very hard seeds and is impossible to eat for that reason. The version that we are familiar with is a mutation of this wild banana in which the seeds fail to fully develop—which makes them ideal to eat but also means they can’t reproduce normally.
In the past, farmers kept bananas from dying out by replanting cuttings to clone them, but their inability to reproduce normally has left them vulnerable to diseases and pests that plants can usually fight off through the genetic mutations that sexual reproduction creates. There is a historic example of a variety of banana being decimated in this way, as the most popular type in the West up until the 1960s was the Gros Michel—until it was almost entirely wiped out by Panama disease. Now the continued availability in our shops of the Cavendish strain is similarly threatened by the Black Sigatoka fungal disease, which attacks the plants through the leaves.
As if the whole sterility thing wasn’t enough for the poor banana to have to cope with, they are also radioactive. Before we panic, though, it should be noted that radioactive energy surrounds all of us all of the time, with the average person in the US being exposed to approximately 360 millirems every year—which adds up to 36 X-rays. The vast majority, around 200 millirems, is absorbed via the odorless and colorless radon gas that is all around us as a result of uranium and radium breaking down.
Another source of radiation is food because living things need potassium to be able to survive, and one in every 8,550 potassium atoms is a radioactive potassium-40 isotope. This means that everything we eat is exposing us to some degree of radioactivity, but bananas are especially high in this because they contain greater amounts of potassium than most other foods. It is nothing to worry about, as you would need to eat 20 million of them—around 700 per day over a lifespan of 80 years—to achieve the sort of dosage that can cause life-threatening radiation poisoning. Frankly, if you try to eat 700 bananas every day, it is not likely to be radiation that kills you.
The cultivation of the banana plant appears to go back a very long way indeed, with evidence uncovered by researchers exploring Papua New Guinea’s Kuk Swamp dating it back to 5000 BC—and perhaps even further back to 8000 BC. This would represent the earliest known example of banana cultivation anywhere in the world. The researchers working at this site found a large number of pits with postholes, stakeholes, and other features associated with plant cultivation and harvesting. They concluded from this that these pits were used for growing a variety of different plants that were found within the area of study, one of which is the Musa banana plant.
Musa ingens is known to be indigenous to many parts of Papua New Guinea’s highlands, including Minj Valley, Kamang, Mount Piora, and Aiyura, which would seem to further support the possibility of banana cultivation there dating back that far. This particular variety of banana plant is the single largest herb that we know of at over 18 meters (59 ft) in height.
We know of Jules Verne as the author of classic adventure stories like Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, but fewer people know about the part he played in popularizing the banana. In his 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days, the French writer included enthusiastic descriptions of bananas that helped to spark interest in the fruit among Europeans and Americans for the first time.
One such example appears in chapter 12 of the novel, in which Verne describes Phileas Fogg and his companions finding bananas, “the fruit of which, as healthy as bread and as succulent as cream, was amply partaken of and appreciated.” The novel was a huge success and has been credited with bringing this fruit to the attention of US readers, although it would be another decade before bananas became easily available to the public, thanks to the Boston Fruit Company transporting them to the US quickly and en masse by steamship.
There is a widespread belief that bananas contain more potassium than virtually any other foodstuff, but, in fact, one medium-sized banana will give you just 422 miligrams of potassium when eaten raw. This does still put them pretty high up on the list of potassium-rich foods but also means that many other fruits and vegetables offer a higher dose of this vital nutrient—such as raw spinach, dehydrated apricots, dehydrated and stewed peaches, and raw cress.
The amount of potassium found in a banana will provide us with nine percent of the recommended adequate intake of 4,700 milligrams. Potassium has a range of health benefits that include supporting the functions of our nerves and muscles, getting nutrients to the cells in the body, and keeping our blood pressure at a normal level. So with another 91 percent to make up, we should probably try to develop a taste for raw spinach.
Bananas are not always used solely as food. One example of this can be seen in Latin America, where the leaves of the banana plant are often held upside down and turned into a makeshift coat or umbrella during rainy periods. In the Philippines, fiber from the banana plant pseudostem is sometimes turned into a fabric called agna through a process of weaving and is then used as material for everything from handkerchiefs to shirts. Two different parts of the banana plant, the bark and stem fibers, are utilized in the manufacture of banana paper, with the paper made from bark being primarily used for art purposes while stem fiber paper is manufactured on an industrial scale.
A more unusual alternative use for bananas is found in parts of Central America, where people often drink the sap from the red banana before a romantic night, in the belief that it contains aphrodisiac qualities. Finally, the peel of the banana is capable of acting as a water purifier, removing heavy metal contamination. This requires the peel to either be dried, ground up, and then added to the water or used to create water filters. Research undertaken at the Biosciences Institute in Botucatu, Brazil, showed that both methods led to the metals sticking to the peel.
Those who have an allergy to latex are advised to stay away from bananas as well, as they can experience an adverse reaction to them. One study found that eight of 16 latex-allergic patients suffered ill effects after they ate bananas. When the participants in the same research study were tested with banana skin pricks, five out of 14 (36 percent) experienced a negative reaction, while 12 of 19 (63 percent) suffered a reaction as a result of banana RAST testing.
Bananas are just one of the fruits, alongside kiwis and avocados, which produce this reaction. The reason for it is believed to be that the fruits in question contain a number of the same proteins that are found in latex and trigger the allergies. Potential symptoms include wheezing, itchy eyes, and a blocked-up nose.
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… that yesterday was Classic Novel Day? One of the great romantic novels, Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternaka, was published in the United States in 1958 after being smuggled out of Russia. Due to its independent minded stance, Doctor Zhivago was refused publication in the USSR.
Today’s Inspirational Quote:
“Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down. And trust your instincts … good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, but it’s with the friends that you choose. It’s with the people you surround yourselves with.”
— Michelle Obama
Did you know…
… that today is Newspaper Carrier Day? In 1833, the New York Sun hired the first newsboy, Barney Flaherty. Ten-year-old Barney answered an advertisement in the New York Sun, which read “To the Unemployed – a number of steady men can find employment by vending this paper.” And so it began!
Today’s Inspirational Quote:
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
— Gautama Buddha