From time to time, I like to report on the field of archaeology, practitioners of which are always presenting us with wonders of the past. Previously, I’ve told you about finds such as 2,100-year-old eye medication and three-century year old pretzels.
With all the scientists and graduate students out there digging all over the place, you’d think they would have found everything by now, but that’s not the case. New old stuff is popping up all the time.
For instance, archaeologists surveying the site of a new mall in Redmond, Wash. have uncovered a plethora of ancient tools used by the area’s earliest inhabitants. Findings included the carcass of a prehistoric mouse, an Altair 8800 microcomputer, and a 5.25″ floppy disk containing part of the installation instructions for MS-DOS Version 1.14.
Ha ha, just kidding. The tools that were found had nothing to do with nearby Microsoft headquarters and, as such, were not nearly as valuable as the items listed above. However, they were of interest to the archaeologists, because the 10,000-year-old scrapers, awls and spear points mean this is the oldest site in the Puget Sound lowland with stone tools, predating by some 9,990 years the Home Depot on Northeast 76th Street in Redmond. Even better, some of the spear points still had the remnants of prey on them, which goes to show that archaeology is not only fascinating, it can also be disgusting.
Speaking of which, that brings us to a discovery made by Swedish treasure hunters diving on the historic shipwreck of a warship named The Kronan. The divers were searching for gold coins and jewelry of the type that had been found previously on the wreck, but were lucky enough to instead find…well, I’ll just let you read the headline of the Evening Post that announced the news:
“Fyndet i gamla vraket: 340 år gammal ost.”
Yes, of course the Evening Post is a Swedish newspaper! Who else would cover Swedish divers diving on a Swedish shipwreck that was sunk in 1668 in a battle against a combined Dutch-Danish fleet during a series of wars that plagued Northern Europe in the late 17th Century, and likely delayed for decades the arrival on North American shores of IKEA.*
Where was I?
Right, that headline. Here’s the translation:
“The discovery of the ancient wreck: 340 year old cheese”
According to reports, the cheese, which was found inside a tin, smelled exactly as you’d expect it to. And yet, it was not the most nauseating thing discovered on the wreck of the Kronan. Because divers also found brain tissue. Better yet, the brain tissue was inside a skull! And if you combine the cheese, the brain and the skull, you get head cheese, which is available at your local supermarket, and is, perhaps, more gross than any of the shipwreck discoveries.
Oh, and one more thing about this story: it was also reported in a publication called The Cheese Connoisseur, which certainly makes me wonder about anybody marketing aged cheese.
Next we travel to Serbia, where archaeologists have found writing etched onto tiny leaves of gold and silver that were alongside skeletons of humans buried almost 2,000 years ago. Judging from the photo at left, I would expect the scrolls to say things like “Doublemint” and “Juicy Fruit,” but evidently they contain magic spells.
Researchers have identified the names of a few demons that are connected to the territory of modern-day Syria. But the spells are in Aramaic and written in the Greek alphabet with poor handwriting, so they may never be fully translated.
I hope you’ll join me in thinking that’s a good thing. When have you ever seen a movie where some ancient incantation turned out to be benevolent?
- Beautiful Scientist (Amy Adams): We think we’ve got the inscription translated. It’s either a love enchantment or a curse that will summon pure evil from the depths of the Earth’s core.
- Blindly Ambitious Archaeologist (Jude Law): Why don’t we say it out loud and find out?
- Nerdy Historian (Jeff Goldblum): I, um, really don’t think that’s a good idea. By the way, did that statue just move?
Speaking of statues (as Jeff just was), our last stop is Cairo, where England’s Independent reports that “archaeologists from Egypt and Germany have found a massive eight-metre statue of Ramses II submerged in ground water in a Cairo slum.”
In case you’re unfamiliar with British measurements, eight metres is roughly the equivalent of eight meters. To put that in perspective, imagine a little more than three and a half Shaquille O’Neals standing on top of each other.
Which leads me to this question: how do you not happen to notice three and a half Shaquille O’Neals laying around in some ground water? It seems to me you wouldn’t need archaeologists for a find like this, just the Roto Rooter man. “Yes, sir, your sewer seems to be blocked up a bit. Let me…What’s this? Oh, hello, Shaq. And Shaq. And Shaq. And little Shaq.”
And that’s the news about new old stuff.
See you soon.
*If only they had fought a few centuries longer.