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Al.com, YouTube
Al.com, YouTube

Local Reporter May Have Found the Burned Remains of the Last American Slave Ship

Al.com, YouTube
Al.com, YouTube

An Alabama-based environmental reporter may have just solved a 158-year-old historical mystery. Ben Raines, a writer for Al.com, has been exploring what lies beneath the waters around Mobile, Alabama for years, helping scientists locate significant finds like an Ice Age forest at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Now, he seems to have found another huge piece of lost history. Using historical records and interviews, he thinks he has located the long-lost wreck of the Clotilda, the last slave ship to enter the U.S.

The Clotilda was not your average slave ship. The schooner sailed to the U.S. in 1859 as part of an illegal scheme, and was sunk by its captain to cover the evidence. While slavery was still legal in 1859, importing slaves was not. The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves passed Congress in 1807. But on the eve of the Civil War, many in Alabama—the birthplace of the Confederacy—were set on reopening the transatlantic slave trade. One Mobile businessman made a bet out of reviving it under the noses of the federal authorities. Timothy Meaher hired William Foster to captain the Clotilda in a transatlantic voyage to Africa and back in an attempt to illegally import newly captured slaves.

The authorities were onto Meaher and Foster’s plan by the time the Clotilda arrived in Mobile’s harbor on a dark summer night in 1860. To slip past them, Foster offloaded his human cargo to a riverboat, burning the Clotilda to hide the evidence of the venture. The ship disappeared under the waters.

Now, unusually low tides may have uncovered it once again. Raines used historical documents and interviews with longtime Mobile residents familiar with the delta's waterways to track down where the remains of the ship might be. According to local historians, ship experts, and archaeologists, the sunken hull he discovered lies right around where Foster wrote in his journals that he burned the Clotilda.

While most of the historic ship is buried in mud, one entire side is exposed and recently became visible during an extra-low tide. The wooden ship is around the right size and shows signs of being burned, adding to the evidence that it is the Clotilda. However, that fact has yet to be proven, since researchers need to examine the ship more closely by digging it up and removing artifacts for analysis. This could take quite a while because both federal and state permits are involved, and, by Raines’s account, “a lot of money” is too. We’ll have to wait just a little bit longer to find out the truth about the Clotilda.

[h/t Al.com]

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Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Humans Might Have Practiced Brain Surgery on Cows 5000 Years Ago
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi

In the 1970s, archaeologists discovered a site in France containing hundreds of cow skeletons dating back 5000 to 5400 years. The sheer number wasn't surprising—human agriculture in that part of the world was booming by 3000 BCE. What perplexed scientists was something uncovered there a few decades later: a cow skull bearing a thoughtfully drilled hole. Now, a team of researchers has released evidence that suggests the hole is an early example of animal brain surgery.

Fernando Ramírez Rozzi, a paleontologist with the French National Center for Scientific Research, and Alain Froment, an anthropologist at the Museum of Mankind in Paris, published their findings in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. After comparing the opening to the holes chiseled into the skulls of humans from the same era, they found the bones bore some striking similarities. They didn't show any signs of fracturing from blunt force trauma; rather, the hole in the cow skull, like those in the human skulls, seemed to have been carved out carefully using a tool made for exactly that purpose. That suggests that the hole is evidence of the earliest known veterinary surgery performed by humans.

Trepanation, or the practice of boring holes into human skulls, is one of the oldest forms of surgery. Experts are still unsure why ancient humans did this, but the level of care that went into the procedures suggests that the surgery was likely used to treat sick patients while they were still alive. Why a person would perform this same surgery on a cow, however, is harder to explain.

The authors present a few theories, the first being that these ancient brain surgeons were treating a sick cow the same way they might treat a sick human. If a cow was suffering from a neural disease like epilepsy, perhaps they though that cutting a hole in its head would relieve whatever was agitating the brain. The cow would have needed to be pretty special to warrant such an effort when there were hundreds of healthy cows living on the same plot of land, as evidenced by the skeletons it was found with.

Another possible explanation was that whoever operated on the cow did so as practice to prepare them for drilling into the heads of live humans one day. "Cranial surgery requires great manual dexterity and a complete knowledge of the anatomy of the brain and vessel distribution," the authors write in the study. "It is possible that the mastery of techniques in cranial surgery shown in the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods was acquired through experimentation on animals."

Either way, the bovine patient didn't live to see the results of the procedure: The bone around the hole hadn't healed at all, which suggests the cow either died during surgery or wasn't alive to begin with.

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Stefan Sauer, AFP/Getty Images
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
13-Year-Old Amateur Archaeologist Discovers the Buried Treasure of a Danish King
Stefan Sauer, AFP/Getty Images
Stefan Sauer, AFP/Getty Images

In January, amateur archaeologist René Schön and his 13-year-old student Luca Malaschnitschenko were scouring a field on an island in the Baltic Sea when something small and silver triggered their metal detector. What they initially thought was aluminum trash turned out to be a coin from a 10th-century treasure hoard that once belonged to a Danish king, AP reports.

Schön and Malaschnitschenko discovered the site on the eastern German island of Ruegen, but it wasn't until mid-April that state archaeologists uncovered the hoard in its entirety. Both of the amateur archaeologists were invited back to take part in the final dig, which spanned 4300 square feet.

The treasure trove includes pearls, jewelry, a Thor's hammer, and about 100 silver coins, with the oldest dating back to 714 CE and the most recent to 983 CE. Experts believe the collection once belonged to the Viking-born Danish king Harald "Harry" Bluetooth, who abandoned his Norse faith and brought Christianity to Denmark.

Pile of silver coins.
Stefan Sauer, AFP/Getty Images

Threatened by a rebellion led by his son, the king fled Denmark in the late 980s—around the same time the silver hoard was buried—and took refuge in Pomerania, on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. He died there in 987.

Harry Bluetooth derived his nickname from his bluish dead tooth. Today his legacy lives on in the Swedish Bluetooth technology that bears his name. The symbol for the tech also uses the runic characters for his initials: HB.

According to the archaeologists who worked there, the dig site represents the largest trove of Bluetooth coins ever discovered in the southern Baltic region.

[h/t AP]

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