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 Raines used historical documents and interviews with longtime Mobile residents familiar with the delta's waterways to track down where the remains of the ship might be.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]

People Have Been Dining on Caviar Since the Stone Age

iStock.com/Lisovskaya
iStock.com/Lisovskaya

Millennia before caviar became a staple hors d'oeuvre at posh parties, it was eaten from clay pots by Stone Age humans. That's the takeaway of a new study published in the journal PLOS One. As Smithsonian reports, traces of cooked fish roe recovered from an archeological site in Germany show just how far back the history of the dish goes.

For the study, researchers from Germany conducted a protein analysis of charred food remains caked to the shards of an Stone Age clay cooking vessel. After isolating roughly 300 proteins and comparing them to that of boiled fresh fish roe and tissue, they were able to the identify the food scraps as carp roe, or eggs. The scientists write that the 4000 BCE-era hunter-gatherers likely cooked the fish roe in a pot of water or fish broth heated by embers, and covered the pot with leaves to contain the heat or add additional flavor.

The clay shards were recovered from Friesack 4 in Brandenburg, Germany, a Stone Age archaeological site that has revealed about 150,000 artifacts, including items crafted from antlers, wood, and bone, since it was discovered in the 1930s. In the same study, the researchers report that they also found remnants of bone-in pork on a vessel recovered from the same site.

Other archaeological digs have shown that some of the foods we think of as modern delicacies have been around for thousands of years, including cheese, salad dressing, and bone broth. The same goes for beverages: Recently a 13,000-year-old brewery was uncovered in the Middle East.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Dozens of Cat Mummies, Plus 100 Cat Statues, Discovered in 4500-Year-Old Egyptian Tomb

iStock.com/Murat İnan
iStock.com/Murat İnan

The mummification of cats was a common practice in ancient Egypt, but it’s always a pleasant surprise when the felines are found thousands of years later. As NPR reports, dozens of mummified cats and 100 wooden cat statues were recently discovered in a 4500-year-old tomb near Cairo.

These items were uncovered by Egyptian archaeologists while excavating a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, whose necropolis served the ancient city of Memphis. Another nearby tomb remains sealed, and it’s possible that it may have evaded looters and remained untouched for millennia.

In addition to the wooden statues, one bronze cat statue was found. It was dedicated to Bastet, goddess of cats, who was said to be the daughter of Re, god of the Sun. While cats were revered by ancient Egyptians, they weren’t directly worshipped. Rather, gods like Bastet were often depicted with the physical characteristics of an animal that was considered divine.

Even rarer than the mummified cats were a couple collections of mummified scarab beetles that were found in the tomb—the first of their kind to be unearthed in this particular necropolis, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced in a Facebook post. The scarabs were still in “very good condition” because they had been wrapped in linen and placed inside two limestone sarcophagi, whose lids had black scarabs painted on top.

"The (mummified) scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare," Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Reuters and other media. "A couple of days ago, when we discovered those coffins, they were sealed coffins with drawings of scarabs. I never heard about them before."

The beetles were an important religious symbol in ancient Egypt, representing renewal and rebirth. The Ministry of Antiquities said archaeologists also found wooden statues of a lion, a cow, and a falcon, as well as painted wooden sarcophagi of cobras (with mummies inside) and wooden sarcophagi of crocodiles.

[h/t NPR]

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