Friday, June 08, 2007

Chicken Bones Suggest Polynesians Found Americas Before Columbus

Were Polynesians in South America before Columbus happened upon the Americas in 1492? Some evidence suggests this is the case. An article by Heather Whipps titled Chicken Bones Suggest Polynesians Found Americas Before Columbus has the details.

Whipps wrote, "Popular history, and a familiar rhyme about Christopher Columbus, holds that Europeans made contact with the Americas in 1492, with some arguing that the explorer and his crew were the first outsiders to reach the New World. But chicken bones recently unearthed on the coast of Chile—dating prior to Columbus’ discovery of America and resembling the DNA of a fowl species native to Polynesia—may challenge that notion, researchers say."

“Chickens could not have gotten to South America on their own—they had to be taken by humans,” said anthropologist Lisa Matisoo-Smith from the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Whipps also wrote, "Polynesians made contact with the west coast of South America as much as a century before any Spanish conquistadors, her findings imply."

Of course, this still makes the Vikings the first outsiders to be in the Americas. They would predate both the Polynesians and Columbus under the scenario presented. This is still impressive though but hardly surprising. If the Polynesians could find Easter Island, they certainly could have got to South America. (Hat tip)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Virtual Religion Index

Virtual Religion Index - This site is a large link collection from Rutgers University, categorised by religion. Also includes resources for ancient religions, archaeology, philosophy, sociology of religion, and psychology of religion. There are a lot of good links here that history resreachers would find of interest.

From the site:

This site is designed to advance research in matters of religion. As a global forum that may be accessed instantaneously anywhere, the internet promises to surpass the impact of the printing press on the study of religion. Gutenberg made possible the family Bible. The WWW puts a global library of free information on the desk of anyone with a computer & internet access.

Efficient use of these resources, however, requires cataloging. Many religion-related web pages offer lists of links to sites of related interest. Some are extensive & a few annotated. Still, important tools & texts are often published & stashed in out of the way corners of the web, like here. To locate them one needs something deeper than a list of favorites, yet more circumspect than a search engine.

This Virtual Religion Index is a tool for students with little time. It analyzes & highlights important content of religion-related websites to speed research. Hyperlinks are provided not only to homepages but to major directories & documents within. Our purpose is not to circumvent tours of worthy sites, but to cut down the time spent on surfing & sorting of automated searches. After all if you know what source has information you can use, chances are you will visit it more often. We offer this free service in hope that you will come here again & again.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Beast of Omaha

Today is the 63rd anniversary of the Normandy D-Day invasion during World War Two. The fighting was fierce and the allied took huge causalities on the first day. The D-Day Museum notes, "Total Allied casualties on D-Day are estimated at 10,000, including 2500 dead. British casualties on D-Day have been estimated at approximately 2700. The Canadians lost 946 casualties. The US forces lost 6603 men."

Astonishingly, almost a third of these causalities may be attributable to one man! Murdo Macleod wrote an article for the Scotsman in 2004 titled 'Beast of Omaha' weeps as he recalls slaughter of thousands on beach. It tells the tale of Hein Severloh who was a 20 year old German corporal on D-Day.

Macleod wrote, "Severloh was safe in an almost impregnable concrete bunker overlooking the beach. He had an unimpeded view of the oncoming Allied forces. He was the last German soldier firing, and may have accounted for about 3,000 American casualties, almost three-quarters of all the US losses at Omaha. The Americans came to know him as the Beast of Omaha."

Macleod continued, "He fired for nine hours, using up all the 12,000 machine-gun rounds. The sea turned red with the blood from the bodies. When he had no more bullets for the machine-gun, he started firing on the US soldiers with his rifle, firing off another 400 rifle rounds at the terrified GIs."

Severloh survived the battle and died in 2006. In this 2004 interview with Macleod, he recounts his story. Not surprisingly, those nine hours haunted him for the rest of his life.

I find this story hard to fathom. I realize the Allies took more causalities during D-Day than the US has in the entire current Iraq War. However, one guy with a machine gun took out 3000 soldiers alone in nine hours? Severloh was only doing his job but I can see why the survivors named him the Beast of Omaha.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Loot, Plunder, and a New Public Library

Libraries, like most educational institutions, often have to engage in fund raising to raise money to either continue operations or to enhance services. This development work may take many forms. However, how about the raid and plunder approach?

Bobinski (1994) wrote that the first recorded instance of library philanthropy goes back to Roman history. It can be traced to 39 B.C. In that year, Gaius Asinius Pollio built the first known public library in history by the Forum in Rome. The bequest was entirely funded by Pollio's defeat and plunder of the Parthini in Illyria!

I can not be certain that this is the first true public library. I am not convinced that this was the first library primarily funded by war, loot, and plunder either. After all, Wikipedia notes another form of questionable library collection development from about the same time, "Mark Antony was supposed to have given Cleopatra over 200,000 scrolls for the Library of Alexandria as a wedding gift. These scrolls were taken from the great Library of Pergamum, decimating its collection." Anthony was probably not the first to help build a library in this manner.

I guess I can not judge Gaius Asinius Pollio too harshly. There are thousands of examples of looting, conquest, and plunder in the ancient world. How much of this ill gained treasure went into funding libraries? Very little I guess so I will give Gaius Asinius Pollio some credit for library philanthropy.


Bobinski, G.S. (1994). Library philanthropy. In W.A Wiegand and D.G. Davis (Eds.), Encyclopedia of library history. New York: Garland Publishing.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Crisis in East Timor

Crisis in East Timor - This site provides an analysis into the involvement of Indonesia and various other countries and agencies during the chaos in East Timor which came to a head in 1999. It has extensive coverage on the 1999 votes, the militia terror, and the UN intervention. It looks into the role the media took, has analysis and essays, and includes links to more information.

From the site:

East Timor was ruled by Portugal for about 3 centuries. During World War II, thousands of East Timorese lost their lives helping Australia forces fight against the Japanese. East Timor was then invaded by Indonesia shortly after Portugal abruptly left, in 1975. This was the day after U.S. President Ford's visit to Indonesia, with what people have suspected as being a "green light" to invade. At that time, Indonesia had military, economic and political support from countries such as UK, USA and Australia, for various reasons including the oil and gas reserves, a strategic location, various trade and cheap labor related interests. 200,000 people are said to have been killed since 1975 -- one third of the entire East Timorese population. Meanwhile human rights abuses continued.

What Happened in East Timor?

- August 1999 saw a vote on self determination in East Timor.

- Leading up to this and after the vote where there was an overwhelming majority who voted for independence, Indonesian military-backed militia and paramilitaries went on a terror campaign with slow international reaction.

- Much of East Timor was destroyed and at some points there were estimates from 200,000 to 300,000 refugees created with up to 600,000 people displaced.