Archive for the 'Mysterious History' Category

News Flash: It was actually the Polynesians.

Stay back Mr. Columbus, and scoot over Norse explorers, we have some news…


The migration routes of Polynesian seafarers have become more clear — and all thanks to the sweet potato. (Photo: John Webber/Wikimedia Commons)


From Mother Nature Network,

Polynesian seafarers discovered America long before Europeans, says DNA study
New DNA analysis of sweet potatoes, which were first cultivated in the Americas, is the key.
by Bryan Nelson


“The prevailing theory about the “rediscovery” of the American continents used to be such a simple tale. Most people are familiar with it: In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Then that theory was complicated when, in 1960, archaeologists discovered a site in Canada’s Newfoundland, called L’Anse aux Meadows, which proved that Norse explorers likely beat Columbus to the punch by about 500 years.


Now startling new DNA evidence promises to complicate the story even more. It turns out that it was not Columbus or the Norse — or any Europeans at all — who first rediscovered the Americas. It was actually the Polynesians.


All modern Polynesian peoples can trace their origins back to a sea-migrating Austronesian people who were the first humans to discover and populate most of the Pacific islands, including lands as far-reaching as Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island. Despite the Polynesians’ incredible sea-faring ability, however, few theorists have been willing to say that Polynesians could have made it as far east as the Americas. That is, until now.


Clues about the migration patterns of the early Polynesians have been revealed thanks to a new DNA analysis performed on a prolific Polynesian crop: the sweet potato, according to Nature. The origin of the sweet potato in Polynesia has long been a mystery, since the crop was first domesticated in the Andes of South America about 8,000 years ago, and it couldn’t have spread to other parts of the world until contact was made. In other words, if Europeans were indeed the first to make contact with the Americas between 500 and 1,000 years ago, then the sweet potato shouldn’t be found anywhere else in the world until then.


The extensive DNA study looked at genetic samples taken from modern sweet potatoes from around the world and historical specimens kept in herbarium collections. Remarkably, the herbarium specimens included plants collected during Capt. James Cook’s 1769 visits to New Zealand and the Society Islands. The findings confirmed that sweet potatoes in Polynesia were part of a distinct lineage that were already present in the area when European voyagers introduced different lines elsewhere. In other words, sweet potatoes made it out of America before European contact…”


For the rest, click here.



The Art and Science of Prussian Blue

As it turns out, not only is Prussian blue one of our favorite colors, it has a most interesting history…


“It was an accident in a Berlin laboratory (then a center for alchemy) in 1704 that changed the course of art forever. A chemist rushing to create a batch of cochineal red (made from bugs) accidentally used potash contaminated by (the iron in) animal blood that turned the concoction a deep blue – henceforth known as Prussian blue due to its geographic origins…”


Prussian blue is the gorgeous saturated color in this detail of the portrait of Maria de los Dolores Collado and Echague by Vicente Palmaroli, 1870, that hangs in the Prado.


From the Quintessence blog,


Prussian Blue – The Art and Science of Color
by Stacey Bewkes

“As I was scrolling through Instagram the other morning, I stopped to “like” and admire a post on Charlotte Di Carcaci’s artful feed.


I am constantly tempted by both fashion and decor items I encounter in this shade, such as Christopher Spitzmiller‘s handsome Alexander lamp I spied in his showroom. But did you know that Prussian blue was the link between art and science that truly transformed the world of paint? It’s easy to forget that before the 18th century paint was made from natural sources – plants, flowers, rocks etc. and creating artistic effects in paintings was a much more complicated and expensive matter. Ultramarine, made from lapis lazuli, was the first blue and more valuable than gold…”


For a series of incredible pictures of, and commentary on, Prussian blue objects, click here to go to the Quintessence blog.




Massive Ancient City Discovered in Guatemala

As the science of archeology advances, there is no doubt we will be in awe of what is found…


A new pyramid found south of Tikal’s Mundo Perdido. Image: PACUNAM/Canuto & Auld-Thomas




The Ruins of a Massive Ancient City Have Been Discovered in Guatemala
With the help of lasers and drones, scientists have found that Maya civilization was more advanced and populous than previously imagined.

by Becky Ferreira


“The ruins of an enormous Maya ‘megalopolis’ have been discovered in Guatemala with the help of the remote sensing technique LiDAR, according to a bombshell exclusive from National Geographic on Thursday. This vast lost city envelops sites like Tikal, Holmul, and Witzna—known for their temples and pyramids—but shows that these famous heritage areas are the tip of the iceberg of this lost urban network.


Hidden under the dense jungle canopies of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, more than 60,000 human-made features—homes, canals, quarries, highways, and more—have been identified in aerial imagery collected by an international collaboration of researchers headed by the PACUNAM Foundation, a Maya cultural and natural heritage organization.


This pre-Columbian civilization is estimated to have peaked some 1,200 years ago. The data suggests it may have supported a population of 10-15 million over the newly surveilled area of 800 square miles (2,100 square kilometers).


The advanced infrastructure, which includes agricultural terracing and elevated trade routes to prevent flooding in rainy seasons, has experts rethinking the dimensions and complexity of the Maya empire…”


For the rest (and lots of pictures), click here.




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