10 Compelling Reasons to Know the Minoans

Originating on the remote island of Crete, and surrounded by other ancient empires in the Mediterranean, it’s easy to see why the Minoan Civilization is overlooked. Its influence, however, would leave behind a far-reaching and enduring legacy that included the arts, navigation and the first written European language. Also, as a point of distinction, they should not be confused with the word ‘cretin’, which refers to an idiot.

Much of what we know about the advanced culture is attributed to British archeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who named the civilization for the Greek mythological deity, King Minos (the son of Zeus and Europa). Like most of the indecipherable Minoan language, what they actually called themselves remains a mystery. Evans’ findings did reveal an island that had been continually inhabited since the Neolithic period (c. 7,000 BC) and gradually evolved into a society brimming with creativity, organization, and in harmony with the natural environment.

In the early 20th century, the esteemed antiquarian led several excavations and classified three distinct Minoan eras (Early, Middle and Late) eras. Evans later subdivided his treatise, e.g. Early Minoan I, II, III (EMI, EMII, EMIII), the first of which began around the 3rd millennium BC and helped usher in the Bronze Age.

Eventually, the Minoans’ impressive 1,500-year dominance came to an end around 1450 BC with the arrival of the Mycenaean Greeks. A steady influx of invading forces would come to occupy the land over time, including the RomansByzantines, Ottomans, and Nazis. Today, Crete is part of Greece and represents the country’s largest island (125 miles east to west), serving as a popular tourist destination with its abundant ancient sites and artifacts — all of which proves categorically that no empire lasts forever (and why history matters).

10. The Minotaur and The Labyrinth

According to Greek mythology, King Minos was given a magnificent snow-white bull from the sea god, Poseidon. But when Minos failed to sacrifice the animal and instead kept it for himself, the water deity took revenge by having the bull seduce the ruler’s wife, Pasiphae, who then give birth to a half-man, half-bull creature. But that’s not even the freakiest part of the story — it gets much weirder — but at least you’ve been warned.

Following the murder of King Minos’s son, Androgeus (a dominant Jim Thorpe type of all-around athlete), a war led to the defeat of the guilty Athenians. Minos then demanded reparations in the form of seven young men and seven young maidens; per terms of the settlement, the teens would be sacrificed every seven years (or nine years depending on the version) by being fed to the ferocious, flesh-eating Minotaur. Adding to the punishment, the beast now roamed in an inescapable maze-like enclosure called a labyrinth, created by the famous architect-to-the-gods, Daedalus and his son, Icarus.  

By the time the third sacrifice rolled around, Theseus, the King of Athens’ son, volunteered to put an end to the slaughter and slay the bull himself. Upon arrival, Minos’s daughter, Ariadne, fell madly in love with the Athenian prince and helped him kill the Minotaur (her half half-man, half-beast brother) by giving Theseus a spool of thread so he could find his way out.

Finally, to make a wonderfully twisted, salacious story short(er), Ariadne and Theseus broke up, Icarus died by flying too close to the sun, and King Minos was boiled to death and eventually turned up in the underworld, where became a judge in Hades.  

9. Minoan Art

Well-crafted ceramic pottery, metal-work, and colorful fresco murals characterize Minoan art forms. A deep surplus of unearthed relics reflects a strong artisan class whose efforts became increasingly more vibrant and in demand. The materials used implies a heavy Egyptian sway — most likely relating to superior quality, availability or simply attractive wholesale pricing that couldn’t be beat. Ultimately, Cretan-based designs would make a distinct impression of their own that quickly spread throughout the region.

Many of the best-known pieces are found at the Heraklion Museum, named for the present day Cretan capital. Priceless items include a gold bee pendant, polychrome Kamares vases, and a clay statuette depicting a Snake Goddess or high priestess.

The museum also features the famous Bull’s Head Rhyton, showcasing the Minoans’ craftsmanship, combining both realism and animated stylization — as well as the ubiquitous taurine animal. Carved out of steatite (soapstone) with gilded horns and eyes made of red jasper, the vessel would have been used for decanting their renowned hooch during rituals and celebrations.

8. Europe’s First Advanced Civilization

While contributions by the Greeks and Romans usually receive the majority of ink in world history textbooks, the Minoan civilization predates them both and probably deserve a bit more credit. Homer mentions Crete in the Illiad and Odyssey, describing it as “an island abundant of people where in ninety great cities different languages were heard.” Granted, the legendary Greek poet may have been heavy-handed with the hyperbole, but most people would find it difficult to name another empire or country (past or present) that boasts even half that many ‘great cities.’  

Large Minoan towns featured multi-storied buildings and stone-paved roads shaped from blocks cut with bronze saws. The capital at Knossos is believed to have exceeded 100,000 inhabitants — an extraordinary population in the ancient world. The bustling metropolis even boasted an intricate drainage system using clay pipes, as well as possibly the world’s first flush toilets (with the help of gravity flow and buckets of water).

One of the clearest indications of Minoan influence was the discovery of its writing system. Evans would ultimately discover over 3,000 clay tablets and seals with three distinct forms written on horizontal lines: Cretan Hieroglyphs, a pictographic script, and two other forms, which he dubbed “Linear A” and “Linear B.”  The majority of found documents written in Linear A appear to have been used for administrative purposes such as recording inventory and census information. Although experts have only been able to decipher Linear B, that language emerged as an early form of ancient Greek.

Although the Phoenicians are credited as the oldest verified alphabet (and its derivative scripts of Greek and Latin), the Minoan writing system preceded the former Middle Eastern Kingdom by over a millennium.  

7. Cretan Couture

As every fashionista knows, style is everything — regardless of the era, environment or reigning house of design. People depicted in Minoan art clearly illustrate the importance of one’s appearance, and look nothing like the sloppy, toga party drunks from the movie Animal House.

Men wore neatly constructed loincloths and kilts, promoting an air of self-confidence and an emphasis on comfort in the warm Club Med climate. Women flaunted a variety of sewn garmentssuch as blouses and layered skirts displaying symmetrical geometric shapes. Remarkably, clothes were shaped to the body using a strapless, fitted bodice to accentuate their breasts, and both sexes wore tight belts made of metal to achieve a desirable small waist en vogue at the time (and still is).

Incredibly, the styles worn in Crete would appear to mirror modern French fashions over 3,500 years later, prompting archeologists to dub an excavated Minoan painting, “La Parisienne” (the woman of Paris) replete with dramatic eyes, ruby red lips, and black cascading curls.

6. Shared Power Structures

Although a high ranking monarch or religious figure would have served as the de facto ruler on Crete, the Minoans political power structure differs sharply from other ancient societies. Based on archeological discoveries at sites such as Knossos, Phaistos, and Malia, the centrally located palace seems to have provided a royal residence in addition to hosting ceremonial rituals and administrative functions. The high number of major settlements throughout the area also suggests more of a bureaucratic decentralized government.

The possibility of gender equality provides another stark contrast to other civilizations that preceded and followed. We know they worshipped several prominent goddesses unique to their culture, leading some historians to speculate they may have been a matrilineal society. Furthermore, women depicted in Minoan imagery are typically seen as glamorous, confident and frequently appear next to men on even footing. The absence of warlike themes or weaponry found in burial plots gives additional support to this theory.

While no definitive proof exists to support the notion of women in Crete holding leadership roles, it’s worth noting that females appear to have more freedoms than those elsewhere during the same time period. By comparison, the Mycenaeans typically depict women within the context of the family structure, nurturing children and other domestic endeavors.

5. The Palace of Knossos

Emperor Nero purportedly hosted wild orgies inside a rotating chamber at his Roman villa. Elvis partied hearty in his quaalude-inspired Jungle Room at Graceland. But “The Throne Room” at Knossos would set the tone early for livin’ large in the Bronze Age. Found deep within the biggest Minoan palace ever built, a sunken alcove featured a purification tank, decorative griffins and intricately carved and elevated seating — creating a high standard by which all future monarchs, drug kingpins, and rock stars would be measured — shark tanks notwithstanding.

First discovered in the 1870s and later purchased by Evans in 1900, the Palace of Knossos served as the ceremonial and political center of Minoan society and is the oldest architectural monument in Europe. The elaborate complex spanned over 226,000 square feet and contained a labyrinthine configuration of over 1,400 rooms plus courtyards and corridors. Not surprisingly, the swanky spread dripped with opulence and showcased works of art destined for world-class museums.

The architects designed the airy layout, using highly advanced construction techniques to take advantage of the abundant natural lighting and seasonal events; adding to the extravagance, a grand staircase led to multiple levels. A series of fires and other catastrophic natural disasters would destroy the original foundations, but the plucky Minoans kept rebuilding it, stacking more sumptuous layers along the way.

And with more rooms than Caesar’s Palace (the one in Rome — not Vegas) the lavish manor bristled with activity day and night until its eventual demise in 1350 BC by yet another fire and the abandonment by its new owners — aka the Greeks.

4. Disaster Strikes. Again. And Again.

The demise of the dynasty remains a debatable topic for historians and archeologists alike. Although strong evidence points to a hostile takeover by the Mycenaean Greeks in the mid-15th century BC, the locals constantly faced a much a bigger threat than invaders dressed in bed sheets: MOTHER NATURE. In fact, a series of catastrophic events may not have only ended their fun in the sun, but radically altered climate worldwide and even spawned the fantastical, please-be-true legend of Atlantis (and assorted biblical tales, too!).

Commonly known as the “Minoan Eruption,” the island of Thera (today’s Santorini) experienced what many geologists refer to as the largest volcanic eruption ever witnessed. Unfortunately, written documents at the time remain sketchy (see #8 on this list), a reasonable guesstimated places the calamity taking place sometime in the 17th century BC and located about 68 miles from Crete.

A conspicuous lack of human bones on Santorini hints that evacuations took place prior to the rupture, sparing thousands of lives. Nonetheless, the rumbling most likely triggered a chain reaction of highly destructive tsunamis, earthquakes, and fires. Just how powerful was it? The Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) registered 7 out of a possible 8, and released the energy of several hundred atomic bombs in a fraction of a second, making the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima look like a wet firecracker.

Unquestionably, the eruption held the potential to cripple a naval fleet and flood coastal settlements; additionally, colder temperatures caused by massive amounts of sulfur dioxide and ash into the atmosphere would have had led to prolonged food shortages from ruined harvests. The swift decline of Minoan significance later morphed into a story concocted by the Greek philosopher Plato, who described a wondrous underwater empire located somewhere deep in the Atlantic. The world-changing event may have also found its way into the Old Testament and its stories of biblical plagues and the Moses-led exodus from Egypt.  

3. Minoans Got Game

One of the more celebrated frescoes found at the Knossos excavation shows three young acrobats of uncertain gender engaging in a daredevil sport that involved somersaulting over the back of an enormous charging bull while using its horns to catch big air. Dubbed the “Toreador Fresco,” it’s an astounding sight on many levels — not the least of which denotes an activity or holy ritual requiring athleticism, courage, and participants who were clearly bat-sh… stuff… crazy.  

The stunning motif is far from the only representation of the bull-mad culture found throughout the island. Taurine tumbling can be seen on numerous other mediums, including other frescoes, drinking vessels, and burial tombs. There’s even a sculpture (now on display at the British Museum in London) in which a jumper appears to be doing the Fosbury Flop over a bull. Olé!

Some scholars have theorized that the spectacle might have been sacrificial in nature (bull or man — take your pick) or an early form of bullfighting. Conversely, others have questioned whether the stunt is even humanly possible. Although a type of “bull-leaping” actually still exists today in parts of Spain and France, nobody dares to put their hands on the horns of a two-ton beast. And as for modern day matadors, the barbaric bloodsport features animals already bleeding to death and heavily compromised before a well-dressed butcher in tights and a silly hat steps into the ring.

So in summary, sports fans, Michael Jordan might be the greatest Chicagoan (Bull) of all time, but any man or woman who laced up for the Minoan Bulls deserves the highest praise.

2. Self Reliant Empire

The diverse landscape of Crete with its mountain peaks, fertile valleys, and natural harbors provided ample sustenance for the entire island and its surrounding communities. Recorded inventories indicate they raised a wide range of livestock, including cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats. As a result, this required a substantial amount of arable land for growing feed crops in fields plowed by donkeys and oxen.

This demand helped pioneer a system of polyculture in the region — the practice of growing more than one crop at a time. As their population grew, so did the variety, leading to greater commerce and an expedited delivery system rivaling Amazon. The Minoans enjoyed a healthy diet centered around staple crops like wheat and barley, along with a wide range of fruits and veggies such as peas, lentils, figs, olives, grape, apples, pears, and pomegranates. Their well-rounded catalog ranged from utilitarian timber to the therapeutic (and extremely valuable) multi-purpose spice, saffron.

Perhaps the core element of the Minoans’ high quality of life can be attributed to its copious production of oils and prized wines. They possessed sophisticated vinification skills and benefitted from one of the first wine-presses ever built.

From well-maintained records, we know that vast underground storage facilities were used, providing further evidence of wine’s valued role. Later, Greek and Roman authors praised Cretan wines as being revered throughout the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the Bible states that Jesus turned water into wine with his first miracle — and given his divine powers, we can safely assume he uncorked the good stuff from Crete.

1. Major Maritime Power

The Minoans established a seafaring empire based on trade, relying on an extensive fleet of ships manned by skilled mariners. Crete’s advantageous location helped build a vast network of routes that extended to ports in Greece, Sicily, Spain, Syria, and Egypt. And unlike other future naval powers dedicated to the pursuit of pillage and plunder, the Minoans focus on business allowed them to prosper and rapidly expand their sphere of operations

Using tall, sturdy cypress trees, shipbuilders constructed a variety of naval vessels and are believed to have invented the keel. The larger ships stretched over 100 feet in length and used both sail and oars for propulsion; at sea, the Minoans relied on their navigational expertise and knowledge of celestial bodies and currents to guide them in challenging waters. Also, because they’re Minoan after all, the boats looked good too, featuring images of blue dolphins and colorful seabirds.

A wide selection of top shelf, Made In Crete goods made for lucrative trading along well-traveled shipping lanes; this also allowed them to import luxury items like ivory and precious metals which they fashioned into fine jewelry. More importantly, however, the Minoans traded for copper and tin to make bronze tools and nautical equipment — an essential component for maintaining and expanding their command of the seas.


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Top 10 Writing Mistakes No One Should Make

Everyone should have basic writing skills. However, many People trip up on the same, common grammatical errors. This reference will help you to avoid the same on your next writing assignment.

1. Missing Comma Splices

Commas trip up many a writer. Many professors look over assignments only to see that there aren’t ass many comma splices as necessary.

For one, a comma should be added after interjections. Phrases like “for instance” or sentences starting with “first” should be followed with this punctuation. It’s also important to use them when connecting independent clauses.

2. Spelling Mistakes

This might seem simple, but it is very common. More often than simple misspellings, though, is the wrong spelling form. For instance, “your” instead of “you’re” or “there” instead of “their.” It’s also rather frequent that spellcheck systems replace misspelled words with the wrong correction – particularly if the word is far from correct initially.

Make sure to carefully proofread work before turning it in. It can also be helpful to reach out for the second pair of eyes. If you need help on editing or writing essay types such as reflective essays, on-campus writing centers and online writing services can be a helpful tool.

3. Not Being Concise

This is a point that isn’t always an accident. It’s something that some students use to meet a required word or page count. For example;

She went to the store and while she was there she bought apples.

A more concise version would be;

She went to the store and bought apples.

When writing formally, less is more. Don’t use ten words when five will do. This only serves to make the main argument hard to follow.

4. Not Being Specific with Pronouns

Pronouns are often used and crucial. Passages such as this aren’t a great idea:

Micheal went to the library. After that, Micheal went to get coffee and met with Micheal’s friends.

See the problem? This can be simplified with pronouns like this;

Micheal went to the library. After that, he went to get coffee and met with his friends.

However, there is a problem if only pronouns are used. If that passage never said Micheal’s name, how would the audience know who he was? Utilize a careful mix of proper nouns and pronouns.

5. Quotation Errors

Quotation missteps are also common. This might include capitalization or punctuation misuse. Here’s an erroneous example:

He said, “I want to go home”.

The correct way to express this would be;

He said, “I want to go home.”

6. Shifts in Verb Tense

Any writing needs to be consistent. A basic rule that is often missed is to keep verbs tensed the same throughout. Compare the following:

He ran many races throughout his career. To do so, he trains every day.

This makes it difficult to follow the timeline. When does he train? Now or then? This phrasing is much clearer:

He ran many races throughout his career. To do so, he trained every day.

7. Title and Heading Capitalization

The first thing someone sees when flipping through a piece of writing is the title and headings. If these sections aren’t correctly formatted, it hurts your credibility right away. Make sure to follow these rules:

  •       Capitalize the initial and final word;
  •       Capitalize nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and conjunctions;
  •       Keep articles lowercase;
  •       Keep “to” lowercase.

8. “You and I” and “You and Me”

An initially confusing topic is the use of “you and me” vs. “you and I.” An easy trick to keep things straight, though, is to remove the word “you” out of the sentence and see if it still works.

For example, the sentence, “She and I went to the concert,” is correct. You can tell because if the sentence, “I went to the concert,” makes sense. If you were to say, “Me went to the concert,” it becomes immediately clear what’s wrong.

9. Double Negatives

Using double negatives make things hard to understand. Instead of a phrase like, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” use “I can’t get satisfaction.”

10. Split Infinitives

The final mistake isn’t a hard and fast standard, but it’s generally agreed upon. An infinitive is “to” and then a verb. Putting an adverb between those words splits the infinitive which is frowned upon. To compare;

Incorrect: He tried to quickly run to class.

Correct: He tried to run to class quickly.

10 Remarkable Archaeological Discoveries from England

England is a country within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that is not only of modern linguistic, cultural, political, and legal influence and relevance worldwide, but also the site of fascinating anthropological occurrences of historical intrigue. Now, we discover the mysterious ancient archeology of England going well beyond Stonehenge…

10. Maiden Castle, Dorchester

An ancient fort located on a hilltop, Maiden Castle in Dorchester, England is Britain’s grandest and most advanced hillfort dating from the Iron Age. Constructed for protective purposes primarily in the 1st century BC, this giant creation is described as having the expanse of around 50 football fields. With its size and complexity, Maiden Castle is a testament to the multiple uses of the ancient site that showcases both spectacular feats of design and construction while commemorating those forgotten at an Iron Age cemetery with admittedly grisly remains preserved at the site.

The awful injuries present on remains shows the violent nature of ancient conflicts — as brutal as conflicts get in modern times. Remarkable ancient religious relics arising from conquest and associated construction works are reflected in the historic site’s amazingly diverse archeological finds. A 4th century AD Roman temple stands out as a distinctive find, while the remnants of a Neolithic enclosure date to an ancient 3500 BC. The gigantic hillfort would have stood out prominently on the landscape in its prime thanks to its massive white chalk ramparts, which cumulatively formed a huge protective settlement that would have contained hundreds of inhabitants. These huge ramparts date from the 1st century BC.

9. Rollright Stones

A site that is both ancient and enticing, England’s bizarre Rollright Stones form an ancient monument consisting of three distinct elements that are named evocatively as The King’s Men stone circle, the King Stone, and the Whispering Knights. The monument site is placed on lands at the border of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. The Whispering Knights is a burial chamber dating to the earlier parts of the Neolithic era, around 3800 to 3500 BC, while the King Stone is a single standing relic of the later Neolithic era from about 2500 BC.

The King’s Men stone circle is a most dramatic site, but is notably newer than the other stone features that make up the Rollright Stones site, dating to either the early or middle portions of the Bronze Age at approximately 1500 BC. The monuments are formed from the oolitic limestone sedimentary rock that dates all the way back to the Jurassic geological age. This stone was taken from the Cotswald Hills, which are formed of this rock and rise in close proximity to the Rollright Stones site. Protective installations around the King Stone and Whispering Knights protect the heavy monuments. The King’s Men Stone Circle, which may recall a very rocky crop circle, can be easily approached on foot.

8. Stonehenge, Avebury Henge, and Woodhenge

Stonehenge, Avebury Henge, and Woodhenge stand out as the mysterious remains of prominent ceremonial sites holding great importance in Neolithic Britain. Forming part of a designated World Heritage site known as “Stonehenge, Avebury & Associated Sites” that includes the iconic Stonehenge, the lesser known Avebury Henge, and the Stone Circles, the henges are diverse and spaced well apart, some as far as 30 miles from each other. World famous Stonehenge has the most massive and impressive stone elements by far, while Avebury Henge is comprised of much smaller stones.

However, the Avebury Henge has a much larger diameter than Stonehenge despite the smaller size of the stones making up the relic. In fact, Avebury Henge is the greatest megalithic structure on Earth, with a record-setting size of a 380-yard diameter and a circumference of 1,090 yards. Earthworks and ditches onsite add to the intricacy of the structure. The site features have been restored to showcase their remarkable structural form consisting of earth mounds, delineations, enormous stone boundaries and circles of ancient ceremonial significance. One of the most fascinating facts about Stonehenge is the discovery of the material’s origin in Wales rather than England. Nothing short of exceptional was the effort required to move the stones. Another exceptional ancient monument near Stonehenge is “Woodhenge,” which contained an incredible number of ancient wooden posts in a circular area. Concrete pillars mark the exact sites of the decayed wood posts.

7. Silbury Hill

One of the largest man-made ancient monuments in the world is a chalk pile of anthropological origin in Wiltshire. While the brown, sandy colored pyramids of Egypt are most familiar in the world of archaeology, a site in England offers great contrast. The lesser known Silbury Hill is green in color, pyramid-like, yet rounded around the edges as it forms a dramatic cone, looking like a grass-covered mini-volcano or a pyramid that has been rounded off and then covered with a protective coating of turf. Silbury Hill is a unique feature falling within the Stonehenge, Avebury & Associated Sites World Heritage site.

Rising approximately 98 feet above ground level into the sky with a width of around 534.95 feet, the immense anthropological formation is Europe’s highest human created prehistoric mound with a size coming close to the small pyramids of Egypt. Tunneling expeditions into the mysterious Silbury Hill have been made in the past three centuries a total of three times, first in 1776 in hopes of figuring out the nature of the hill. Yet, despite investigations, little was found, except for the discovery of three separate stages of building. Ominous collapses put a crater in the top of the hill, limiting the degree of further digging. The true purpose of the hill and its potential contents remain a mystery.

6. Grave of Richard III

The notorious and much discussed final Plantagenet English King Richard III’s Grave was discovered in August 2012 at the unlikely location of what is now the site of Leicester’s Greyfriars Friary Church. Looking for Richard was a project with which the University of Leicester’s archeological workers assisted, culminating in the discovery of what was proven to be Richard III’s skeleton. The burial of the late king’s body presents a rather mysterious state of affairs, beginning with the fact that the grave was shallow, and at the same time, so cramped that the head of the king was tilted to allow the cramped space to accommodate the remains.

Furthermore, the grave is not properly dug with square edges, but rounded at the bottom, indicating shoddy removal of material. Remarkably, nearby building works and a separate incident of stone removal close to the burial site did not end up destroying the precariously laid remains.The skeleton had remained essentially intact, but rather eerily, the feet were missing, although the state of the remains indicate that the feet would have been present at the time of the original quick burial. This is fortunate given the riches of archeological value presented by the find of Richard III’s body. Now, the gravesite is remarkably preserved with a glass casing and viewing center known as the King Richard III Visitor Centre.

5. Cuerdale Hoard

The Cuerdale Hoard

Buried treasure might be the fuel of pirate legends galore, but ancient archaeological finds known as hoards have been a prominent placeholder in England’s archaeological history. The grandest and most spectacular find of its type in England ever is the top Viking hoard on the British Isles, known as the Cuerdale Hoard. The extraordinary and lucky find was made on May 15, 1840 by workers engaged in repairing the embankment along the River Ribble at Cuerdale, close to Preston, in the vicinity of Lancashire. Over 8,600 objects, including many diverse precious metal artifacts were in the hoard, placed by the Vikings in the site near Lancashire.  

The way that the hoard was discovered consisted of some interesting packaging. The immense array of real-life buried treasure was found not in a wooden chest but in one that might come into question for material safety. The artifacts were packed in a massive chest of lead. The landowner’s bailiff secured the treasure, which was then earmarked as the property of Queen Victoria in right of her Duchy of Lancaster before being entrusted to the ownership of the British Museum, who received the majority of the find. The laborers who made the discover were not forgotten altogether, as they got to receive one coin per member of the crew. How generous.

4. Sutton Hoo

Given that England is on an island, historical finds relating to historic migration is of great interest in studying the archaeological and anthropological history of the country. A site of enormous historical significance, Sutton Hoo — a sandy burial site and treasure cache near Suffolk on the English coast — is the finding place of the famous Sutton Hoo Helmet. Two cemeteries from the 6th and 7th centuries are present, with a huge array of finds pertinent to understanding Anglo-Saxon settlement history.

A most incredible find, of significance in England and worldwide, was the discovery of an entire ship burial site, with concrete evidence offering great insight into Anglo-Saxon history and helping to increase knowledge of this foundational but insufficiently understood time in history. The ship burial was at first thought to be of Viking origin but was later determined to be part of an Anglo-Saxon relic site of great archaeological significance. Shedding great light on the history of settlement in England, the finds include hundreds of artifacts with gruesome depictions among them. One plaque shows a horse trampling an enemy soldier to death, while the remains of a man onsite were found to consist of a warrior buried beside his horse, weapons included.

3. Hadrian’s Wall

The Great Wall of China may be exceptionally famous as a global landmark, but lesser known is a monumental ancient wall constructed by the Romans crossing what is now a landscape of northern England. The laboriously built Hadrian’s Wall is a lengthy structure stretching 70 miles across northern England, which was constructed in the 2nd century AD with the intention of clearly marking the boundaries of the northern reaches of the mighty Roman Empire.

In modern times, clear remains of the wall that was built to proudly stand in a span extending from the River Tyne, in the vicinity of Newcastle and close to the North Sea on England’s east coast all the way to the Irish Sea off England’s west coast. A frequently retained mistaken view of Hadrian’s Wall is that the formation was established as a border between England and Scotland. In fact, the structure lies entirely within England, with the land North of the wall a continuation of English land prior to the border with Scotland. The wall was made from stone segments with a variety of forts installed as lookouts and defense sites. Furthermore, a ditch was created to curb incursions by advancing troops intent on crossing over the wall.

2. The Bloomberg Tablets

Discovered during the construction of a building in London to serve as the new Bloomberg LP headquarters for Europe, the 405 pieces of inscribed wood created by Romans that soon became known as the Bloomberg Tablets were unearthed. At the Queen Victoria Street construction site, the waxed wood pieces had been written upon with blackened wax using a stylus as a writing instrument. Some of the pressure-created markings survived on the wood into the time of their modern discovery despite the breakdown of the wax itself, allowing archaeologists to make out a multitude of fascinating ancient Roman messages in great detail, often in their entirety.

The messages that were transferred into the wood material underlying the writing wax were greatly aided in their preservation by chance hydrogeological conditions onsite. The tablets were found in an area that was deluged by mud-bearing floods from the Walbrook River, a once open watercourse that is now buried. The highly waterlogged, muddy conditions in which the tablets were enclosed over time may have been dirty, but it was also an oxygen-deprived environment. This deterred decay significantly, providing a remarkable literary window into time. Notes speak of London referred to by the name “Londinium,” and included a vast range of messages including contracts for materials delivery.

1. Seahenge

Stonehenge, an iconic stone Neolithic monument of international renown, is so famous that it was not given an introductory account on this list. But lesser known is the existence of another very strange “henge” in England. It might seem that “henges” are becoming a theme in England, and the discovery of well preserved timber built “Seahenge” in Norfolk stands as testament to the boundless innovation and diversity of construction site location displayed in the creation of ancient monuments. Seahenge is a remarkable site of ancient religious significance that was constructed in the water, originally rising above the surface in the shallows in the Norfolk region of coastal England.

The site appears to have been originally constructed from material that was cut down in two different years, with a central stump from one tree, while the exterior ring of posts forming the bulk of the henge are believed to have originated from trees felled the year afterwards. The salvaged remains of the oak wood that forms the decaying timbers dates to 4050 BC. In an effort that attracted some controversy, the timbers of the henge were removed and studied, with a plan in place to return the timbers following completion of studies.


10 Historic Myths and Misconceptions (That Won’t Go Away)

Even though history is, in theory, a fixed and unchangeable field of study, in practice it evolves all the time. Things and events that we were sure to have happened can be turned on their head by a single archaeological discovery or a reinterpretation based on new facts.

It is after these changes in historical perspective that certain notions, myths, and misconceptions stick around. In other cases, however, it could just be that not so historically accurate movies have created them as such for dramatic effect. Whatever the case may be, we are here to set the records straight for 10 of them…

10. The Viking Name

The Norsemen, more commonly known as the Vikings, were a group of peoples from Northern Europe, particularly the Scandinavian Penninsula, Denmark, and Iceland. They made a name for themselves from the 8th to 11th centuries AD mostly by pillaging, enslaving, but also trading with other European and Middle Eastern peoples.

The most common misconception about the Vikings is in regard to their very name. The term Viking didn’t appear in the English language until the middle of the 19th century. There are several possible origins for the term; the most widely accepted being that it came from vikingr, an Old Norse term meaning to raid or piracy. A similar theory proposes that the term Vikings refers to men rowing in shifts.

What’s more, the Norsemen had different names to the different people they came in contact with. The Germans knew them as the Ascomanni (ashmen), the Irish knew them as Lochlannach (lake people), while the Slavs, Byzantines, and Arabs know them as the Rus. The fact of the matter is that we don’t really know what they called themselves. Nevertheless, the Vikings that ended up living in Ireland began calling themselves Ostmen (east men) at some point.

9. Napoleon Was Short

There’s a common misconception that Napoleon Bonaparte was really short in stature. This myth is so ingrained in today’s collective consciousness that we even have a psychological issue named after it: the Napoleon Complex. This type of inferiority complex manifests itself in some shorter people, particularly men, where they feel the need to overcompensate by exhibiting aggressive and/or domineering social behavior.

As far as the actual Napoleon was concerned, he was 5-foot-2, to be exact. That’s not particularly tall. But the fact of the matter is that he wasn’t shorter than the average Frenchman from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. So, why all the fuss about his height, then? The answer lies in the difference between the measuring systems of France and England at the time. Both nations used inches in their measurements, but the French inch was longer than its British counterpart.

In reality, Napoleon was 5-foot-6 in British inches and 5-foot-2 in French. At some point, a confusion was made, and people started believing that Napoleon was 5-foot-2 in British inches. To make matters worse, Napoleon was often surrounded by taller guards, making him seem smaller by comparison. But the Imperial Guard had height requirements, which account for Napoleon’s byname of le petit caporal or the little corporal. 

8. Benjamin Franklin Discovered Electricity

Many people around the world are under the misconception that Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity during his famous Kite Experiment. And while Franklin was a renowned scientist of his time with an interest in many areas of study and an inventor of many things, such as bifocal glasses, he did not discover electricity.

In fact, scientists of the 17th century had been experimenting with static electricity. What Benjamin Franklin did, however, was to prove that electricity had both positive and negative elements and that lightning was, in fact, a type of electricity. His initial idea for the experiment was to use a 30-foot rod. But after two years, he decided on the silk kite, instead. Little did he know at the time, however, that a French naturalist by the name Thomas-Francois Dalibard didconduct the experiment as Franklin originally intended — on May 10, 1752, just one month before Franklin. Dalibard concluded that Franklin’s hypothesis was right.

7. Peasants Ignited the French Revolution

Revolutions are almost always idealized as an event in a nation’s history where the lower class people took up arms against a brutish and authoritarian regime. Yet, as history has shown us time and time again, for a revolution to be successful, it oftentimes requires more than just the peasantry. The same thing can also be said about the French Revolution of 1789.

Explaining the actual causes and how the revolution went down is something way beyond the scope of this list. Nevertheless, the common “knowledge” is that impoverished people began the revolution. There were several notable uprisings prior to the revolution, when the people of Paris rebelled against the government. But every time, the middle class prevented things from degenerating further. In 1789, however, things were different. The middle class and lower nobility, themselves — dissatisfied with the high taxes and levels of corruption — joined the commoners. Thus, sealing the fate of the French monarchy.

6. Hernan Cortes and the Aztec Empire

At its height during the early 16th century, the Aztec Empire managed to cover much of what is now central Mexico. It encompassed an area of over 52,000 square miles and a population of around 11 million. Though relatively young, the Mesoamerican nation managed to gather a lot of wealth and expand its reach in a short amount of time. This, however, also attracted a lot of hatred from the people they subjugated, as well as the attention of the Europeans stationed in Cuba.

Hearing reports of strange stone monuments and brightly dressed and golden-covered natives on the mainland, the Spanish Governor of Cuba, Diego Velasquez, organized an expedition comprised of a fleet of 11 ships, 500 soldiers, and 100 sailors. At the head of this expedition was Hernan Cortes. And even though the expedition was later canceled, Cortes sailed to the mainland anyway.

The historical myth surrounding Hernan Cortes is that he, alongside his men, managed to bring the mighty Aztec Empire to its knees all by themselves. Truth be told, they were sporting state-of-the-art weapons such as crossbows, steel swords, guns, pikes, cannons, and full plate armor. They also had horses, something which the natives had never encountered before. All of these weapons made the Spanish hundreds, if not thousands of years ahead technologically, proving their worth time and time again on the battlefield — mainly as morale breakers for the enemy.

Nevertheless, this would not have been enough to bring down an Empire — let alone in a timespan of just three years. It was by employing the help of several subjugated tribes and their armies, as well as smallpox that was introduced several years earlier that managed to do the job — alongside Cortez and his heavily-armed men, of course.

5. Richard the Lionheart was English

Richard I of England, later known as Richard the Lionheart, was born on September 8, 1157 in Oxford. He was the son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Second only to Henry VIII, Richard I was among the most famous kings of England. Among his most notable achievements was his involvement during the Third Crusade (1189-1192) alongside Frederick I Barbarossa, King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor, and Philip II of France.

The campaign was ultimately a failure, with the Crusaders not being able to take the Holy City of Jerusalem. There were, however, several victories along the way, most notably the capture of the city of Messina in Sicily, the capture of the island of Cyprus, the capture of Acre in what is now present-day Israel, and the Battle of Arsuf. Though not able to fulfill its intended objective, the Crusade created a Christian foothold in the Middle Eastern mainland.

Even though he was born in England, Richard the Lionheart became the Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitou at age 11 — both in France. Among Richard’s other deeds were two rebellions against his own father, after which he became sole heir of the Kingdom of England, as well as Normandy, Maine, and Aquitaine. He died in 1199, leading a siege at the age of 42, and throughout his life he only set foot in the British Isles twice for a total of six months. He never learned how to speak English and, prior to the crusade, he emptied the Crown’s coffers and sold off many lands and titles in preparation for the campaign.

4. Chivalry

People, by and large, have a fairly idealistic view of history. Many of us like to think that the past was a simpler, nicer, and overall better time. But this is a common misconception so deeply ingrained into our common consciousness that even historians sometimes have trouble distancing themselves from it. Many of us oftentimes forget just how war-ridden the world was or how little access most people had to so many things that we take for granted today.

The purpose of history is, or should be, to examine events and systems in the most objective way possible. To see what worked and what didn’t, and how we can use those things to improve the future. History shouldn’t be about keeping score or grudges, nor should we look at it through a nostalgic lens so as to better fit with our idealistic point of view.

One example of this is chivalry. Popularized by numerous medieval and modern novels, stories, and epic poems, chivalrous knights are often seen as valiant, noble, courteous men, defined by their high-minded consideration, particularly towards women. Yet, the reality is quite different. The origins of the term and concept stem back to the 10th century France. It was introduced by the church as an attempt at regulating the endemic violence in French society. The term comes from chevalier, or knight, which in turn, derives from cheval, or horse.

In reality, these knights were quite violent, with numerous accounts of sacking and pillaging towns, villages, monasteries, as well as regularly committing acts of murder, torture, rape, and so on. In short, chivalry evolved to become somewhat of a code of conduct in warfare and had almost nothing to do with what we now consider chivalrous today.

3. The Infamous Vomitoriums

According to popular culture, a vomitorium was a room in Ancient Rome where Romans would go to purge during feasts so as to continue gorging themselves and make room for more. But while the actual Romans did love their food and drink, the purpose of the vomitorium was a completely different one that had nothing to do with vomiting.

For the actual Romans of old, vomitoriums were the entrances and exits to stadiums, arenas, and theaters. They were dubbed as such by the Roman writer and philosopher Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius in his work entitled Saturnalia. He called them this based on how these exits spewed crowds of people onto the streets.

It was sometime during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the term was reintroduced with its wrong connotations. In his 1923 novel Antic Hay, author Aldous Huxley writes about vomitoriums as literal places for people to vomit.

2. Vincent van Gogh Cut off His Own Ear

Many people around the world have seen Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. He painted it shortly after returning from the hospital in 1889. The official version of the story is that, in a fit of madness, the disturbed Dutch painter severed his left earlobe with a razor blade shortly before Christmas 1888. He then wrapped it in a pieced of newspaper or cloth, walked to a nearby brothel and handed it to a prostitute, who immediately fainted.

He then went back home, went to sleep and almost bled to death before the police found him the next morning in a blood-drenched bed. Being unconscious, he was taken to the hospital. When he woke up, van Gogh asked for his friend, the French artist Paul Gauguin, who refused to see him.

Nevertheless, two German historians have proposed a different version of events. The two argued that, after reviewing numerous witness accounts and letters, the official story had plenty of inconsistencies. Their interpretation points to Paul Gauguin, van Gogh’s friend, who was a keen fencer and, during a heated argument, lopped off his earlobe with a sword. The two made a so-called pact of silence where Gauguin was looking to avoid prosecution while van Gogh wanted to keep his friend, with whom he was infatuated.

A somewhat recent discovery, however, seems to disprove (or at least significantly alter) both the original version and the one proposed by the two German historians. A letter written by Dr. Felix Rey explains in full detail the extent of the wounds. As it turns out, the entire left ear was sliced off, not just the earlobe, as it was previously assumed.

1. Emperor Nero Played the Fiddle as Rome Burned

For an entire week in 64 AD, the citizens of Ancient Rome watched helplessly as their city burned to the ground. As with many similar tragedies, ordinary people who’ve lost everything often look for someone to blame. Old stories say that Nero, himself, set fire to the city, after which he climbed on the city walls and began playing the fiddle and reciting long-lost poems about the destruction of Troy. Truth be told, Emperor Nero was not a particularly good man. Going from cruelty to incest, murder, and the like, Nero is considered by many to be the Biblical Antichrist.

But when it comes to the fire of 64 AD, Nero didn’t sit idly by or play his instrument as the city burned. He was actually at his Palace in Antium when the fire began. When news reached him, Nero rushed back to the city where he personally coordinated the firefighting efforts during the first night. He also opened all public buildings and his own private gardens to act as temporary shelters. In addition, Nero imported grain from all nearby cities and offered it to the citizens at only a fraction of the cost.

10 Cases of International Conflict Caused by Petty Revenge

Human nature is defined by both both heartwarming, friendly daily interactions and deeply disturbing incidents where senseless conflicts occur. We all know how ridiculous many “public freakout” videos online can be, where monumental reactions follow very minor slights. But what about when an entire country is involved and revenge and even war breaks out over international slights? We discover the most petty international diplomatic incidents over little more than a spilt drink, or maybe just one severed ear…

10. War of Jenkins’ Ear

The 1739-1748 conflict known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear has to be one of the most disturbing yet ridiculous international conflicts in history. A British official brings up the matter of his ear being cut off by a Spaniard years earlier, and the matter is used to provoke and justify war. Known in Spanish as Guerra del Asiento, the conflict was lengthy despite its petty origin, lasting from October 22, 1739 to October 18, 1748. After the Anglo-Spanish War, the 1729 Treaty of Seville afforded Spanish warship crews the right to inspect British vessels for smuggled goods that would violate a Spanish Crown issued asiento, or monopoly on given trade routes and product categories.

Britain had an unfortunate asiento offering not only the right to transport 500 tons of goods per year to Spanish colonies, but a limitless number of slaves as well. On April 9, 1731, British brig Rebecca was stopped by La Isabela, a Spanish patrol boat. Things went south when guarda costa Juan de León Fandiño cut off Rebecca captain Robert Jenkins’ left ear off the Florida coast. In March 1738, testified in the House of Commons about the incident, allegedly displaying the severed ear. The vicious act was used by members of parliament to drum up support for war, which got started in October 1739.

9. The Football War

Soccer is synonymous with intense international sports competition but hardly the stuff to spark war, right? Wrong! In 1969, the Central American nations of Honduras and El Salvador were competing for a place in the 1970 World Cup taking place in Mexico. Rhetoric turned sour as El Salvador won two of three matches played. Rioting ensued, followed by violence to the point where El Salvador ended diplomatic relations with Honduras.

Soon, the air force of El Salvador was flying attack missions into Honduras. The air raids were quickly followed by a ground force invasion. Four days of fighting totaling around 100 hours passed before pressure from the Organization of American States (OAS) led to a ceasefire. But a steep price had already been paid, with casualties of the conflict numbering at 2,000. Between vigilante attacks, armed forces invasions and rioting, La Guerra del Futbol (The Soccer War) became the flashpoint for growing political tensions between Honduras and El Salvador. Part of the original reason for Honduran hostility against El Salvador was the presence of illegal immigrants from El Salvador in Honduras, while the people of El Salvador felt that their people were being persecuted while trying to pursue opportunities in Honduras.

8. The Pig War

Canada and the United States enjoy excellent diplomatic relations. Yet in 1869, border disputes between British Administration laying claim to what is now British Columbia, which was to become a Canadian province in 1871, and the United States erupted in the Pig War. The dispute centered on the San Juan Islands, which lie between Vancouver Island and the mainland coast of British Columbia, Canada and Washington State, USA. The Oregon Treaty prescribed a mid-water division between Vancouver Island and the North American mainland as continuation of the main division at the 49th parallel. Yet, San Juan Island posed a geographical problem with its identity as American or British territory falling into dispute. Both American and British settlers established residence on San Juan Island.

One pig belonging to British employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company Charles Griffin trespassed on the land of American farmer Lyman Cutlar, who shot the pig after it ate his potatoes on June 15, 1859. The result? Griffin reported Cutlar to British authorities for shooting the pig, who discussed arresting Cutlar. Cutlar panicked, reporting the threat of arrest to locals, which went all the way up to General William S. Harney, Department of Oregon Commander. Harney did not like the British and soon deployed 66 men of the US 9th Infantry Division to San Juan Island on July 27. Three British warships were sent in response, and Admiral Robert L. Baynes, British Pacific Naval Commander-in-Chief was ordered by governor James Douglas to fight the US infantry. Baynes declined, refusing to “involve two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig.” After Washington and London became aware of the conflict, tensions continued, but ceased once an international commission, ironically headed by the notorious Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, laid the matter to rest, awarding San Juan Island to the United States.

7. The Bird Dropping War

War is crappy, but it is not usually considered “for the birds.” But one outrageous war between Spain and Peru spanning 1864-1866 was not only crappy, but involved bird matters. Guano is the traditional Quechua name for “seabird droppings” and the so-called Guano War conflict was fought largely over competing claims to seabird droppings used as fertilizer since ancient times. The First War of the Pacific from 1864 to 1866 involved an effort by Peru, in alliance with Chile, Bolivia, and Ecuador, to kick Spanish interests out of the Chincha Islands, where the colonial powers were removing guano in massive quantities, together with saltpeter.

A second war erupted in 1879 and lasted until 1883, known as the Second War of the Pacific. In this war, loyalties switched and Chili fought against Peru and Bolivia. Peru lost some southern lands to Chili, while most ironically, Bolivia lost access to the sea, but still has a navy. Peruvian guano is considered the best “bird poop fertilizer” in the world, and in the aftermath of the war, a carefully managed industry has developed, subject to stringent regulation to prevent disturbance of the cormorants that produce the guano.

6. The Nika Riot

The Roman Empire was known for being the seat of many great battles. Yet Constantinople also sets the stage for a most petty yet horrific conflict. The Nika Riots of 532 AD were sparked by aggression over murder arrests amongst hooliganism at chariot racing events comparable to scenes from The Hunger Games. In a political landscape that recalled gang color loyalty, the city was divided into four different color quadrants, each supporting their own sports teams, especially those engaged in chariot racing. After a riot over chariot racing, perpetrators had been arrested for murder, with the majority being hanged.

Two escaped, belonging to the blue and green colors, and took refuge in a church. Emperor Justinian, who was allied with the blue color commuted the sentences of the two escapes to imprisonment, but the crowds angrily demanded a pardon. Justinian announced a chariot race for January 13, but soon despaired when crowds stopped supporting any color, but unified against Justinian. Over the next few days, the fighting demolished half of the city of Constantinople. Justinian ordered the violent rebellion to be quelled by force. The violence ultimately caused the death of 30,000 rioters. Despite the aftermath, Justinian was able to rebuild the city and grow the Roman Empire.

5. The War of the Stray Dog

War dogs were a staple of some ancient battles and modern conflicts, but it is less well known that a single stray dog set off a military conflict between Greece and Bulgaria in 1925. Minted from the Ottoman Empire by independence efforts in 1832 and 1908, Greece and Bulgaria, respectively had a lot in common but ended up at odds over border disputes stemming from Balkan League territorial divisions and then the spoils of World War I. As tensions simmered, outbreaks of fighting cumulatively killed several hundred. Soldiers were continually stationed along the border and then a dog belonging to a Greek soldier guarding the border bolted across into Bulgaria.

The soldier pursued his runaway dog, only to be shot at by Bulgarian border guard and killed just for chasing his dog. Fighting ensued between the two armed forces, leaving a Greek captain dead and wounding an assisting soldier. Soon, matters escalated into a second armed conflict when Bulgaria’s apology was rebuffed by the Greek president Theodoros Pangalos, who had seized power in a coup, leading to a Greek invasion of Bulgaria. Eventually the League of Nations stepped in, stopped the conflict and ordering Greece to pay £45,000 compensation to Bulgaria. Fifty people had been killed in the occupation, after all.

4. The First Opium War

The First Opium War, also called the Anglo-Chinese War, was a military conflict that essentially erupted when Britain declared war on China over a Qing Dynasty era Chinese ban on selling opium. Frustrated over the impacts on drug dealers seen as important to British trade advantages in China, Britain took revenge in what is generally now termed “gunboat diplomacy” unleashing naval firepower culminating in the British taking of Hong Kong. The conflict emerged when British trade with China suffered challenges due to a high European demand for Chinese products, such as silk, tea and porcelain, countered by Chinese limitations on British trade.

The sale of opium at a high profit to operators in East Asia by the British East India company was pursued as a trade balancing measure. However, the trade led to a drug addition epidemic in China, and eventually China banned opium, Britain responded with military force that opened up trade and led to British seizure of Hong Kong. There was substantial public opposition to the First Opium War, including a diary entry by William Gladstone stating, “I am in dread of the judgments of God upon England for our national iniquity towards China.” Efforts to stop the war failed in the House of Commons, causing the war to extend until 1842. In 1856 there was a second opium war that lasted until 1860.

3. The Pastry War

A war between Mexico and France seems unlikely due to geography and a lack of reason for conflict between the two cultures in the public mind. Yet Mexico and France were once at odds to the point of battleship deployment and even death and dismemberment over matters of mere pastry in a conflict running from 1838 into 1839. In early 1838, a French pastry shop owner reported that his shop in Tacubaya, Mexico had been ransacked and badly damaged by solders of the Mexican army.

When his demands for compensation from Mexico fell upon deaf ears, the owner took up his cause with France, asking that his country fight for him. To compensate for the damage to the pastry shop, 600,000 pesos were requested, supported by a fleet that arrived in Veracruz. The French forces fired on the fortress at San Juan de Ulúa, then occupied the city. This all took place in April 1838. Once payment was secured with the help of British negotiators, the French fleet withdrew in March of 1939. The intermittently in office Mexican dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna lost his leg in the conflict but gained in political standing through the pastry war, having his lost leg buried with military honors.

2. The Bucket War

Italy was not always the unified European nation it is today. In medieval times, Italy was still comprised of city-states and the rivalry between them was often quite vicious. The year 1323 saw a bizarre conflict where soldiers from Modena stole a bucket out of a well in the city state of Bologna with whom they were vying. While seemingly trivial, the taking of the bucket drew the ire of 30,000 foot soldiers and 2,000 fighters on horseback under the command of Pope John XXII.

In contrast, the bucket thieves were protected by a relatively meager 5,000 foot soldiers despite also having 2,000 combatants on horses. Even though the bucket takers were greatly outnumbered, their forces prevailed throughout the fight. Modena saw victory in the Battle of Zappolino, with the stolen bucket forever staying in Modena. Made of oak, the bucket had drawn the attention of the soldiers as a potential trophy. Once hostilities had come to an official end, no less than 4,000 lives had been sacrificed over the dispute about a bucket. Talk about a strange and literal way to “kick the bucket!”

1. The Cod Wars

England and Iceland, both island based nations of Europe might seem like unlikely candidates for war. Yet nations love fish and it is that interest in common that provoked conflict. In the years between shortly after World War II and the mid 1970s, four significant fights broke out known as “Þorskastríðin” in Icelandic, meaning “the cod strife,” or Landhelgisstríðin, translating to “the wars for the territorial waters. The conflict started when Iceland started reduced British rights to trawl in Icelandic waters, then extending the boundary of Icelandic waters from 3 nautical miles to four nautical miles out to sea.

Iceland then announced an expansion from 4 to 12 nautical miles. Again, Britain reacted but Iceland prevailed through international dispute resolution measures that quelled further armed confrontations at sea. Boundaries were extended again from 12 to 50 nautical miles, which really angered the British but again, Iceland won the dispute. In the end, a 1975 action saw the boundary extended to 200 miles. In the course of the repeat conflicts, matters involved battleship confrontations with the British Royal Navy, including one incident where an Icelandic warship fired at a British vessel. Only one death resulted in the entire span of the cod wars: the electrocution of an Icelandic engineer conducting hull repairs following a collision with a British ship.


10 Horrifying Cults That Committed Mass Suicide

Cult leaders are so charismatic, they have the ability to brainwash people into doing almost anything. They give up their jobs, family ties, and money all to belong to an organization that promises eternal salvation. But a cult goes to a whole other level when people are willing to commit mass suicide for their beliefs.

10. The Burari Family

In 2018, the Chundawat Family of Burari, India committed mass suicide in their home. There were 11 people between the ages of 15 and 77, and they all hung themselves side-by-side. For their friends and extended family members, this came as a complete shock. They seemed like your average happy middle-class family, and no one saw it coming. At first, the police assumed that this was murder, until they searched the home, and found 11 individual journals that said that they planned to kill themselves in order to “attain salvation.” But things get even weirder.

On the side of their house, 11 pipes were jutting out of their walls. Some people theorized that they believed each of their souls needed a portal to escape the home. One of the family members, Lalit Bhatia, took intricate notes in a journal about his plans for their family’s suicide. Police tried to figure out what religion this family believed in, but the only clue was that he was studying Japanese art of Reiki, which is a form of “energy healing.” He claimed that he was speaking to his dead father, and that he demanded the sacrifice. Bhatia could not speak, because of an injury to his throat. So he wrote down all of his instructions; “In your last hours, while your last wish is fulfilled, the sky will open up and the earth will shake, don’t panic but start chanting the mantra louder. I will come to save you and others.”

9. Friend of the Truth Church

In 1986 in Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture, police found the charred bodies of seven women. They were just 500 yards away from their small church, called “The Friends of Truth.” It was obvious what had happened, because there was a gas can near their bodies. Police believe that they were practicing “self immolation.” This was the idea that by killing yourself, you are becoming a martyr and sacrificing yourself for the rest of the world, similar to Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of humanity.

But unlike many of the mass suicides that were ordered by the cult leader, the followers took it upon themselves to do this. It turns out that the founder of the cult had died in the hospital the night before. They had made a suicide pact to all die together. The women left behind notes, saying, “We are only trying to keep our promise. This is not forced upon us.”

8. Heaven’s Gate

In the introduction video of the Heaven’s Gate cult, the founder Marshall Applewhite says, “Planet Earth is about to be recycled. Your only chance to evacuate is to leave with us.” They truly believed that when the Hale-Bopp Comet passed by Earth, it was their one and only chance to be taken up in a spaceship to have their souls rescued by an alien race.

On March 26, 1997, 39 members of Heaven’s Gate committed mass suicide at their compound in San Diego, California. Everyone was neatly tucked away in their bunk beds, as if they were sleeping. One caretaker stayed alive while everyone poisoned and choked themselves by putting a plastic bag over their heads. They were all wearing matching black uniforms and Nike Decades sneakers, and each person had exactly $5.75 in their pocket. Each one of them had a patch on their armbands, which said “Heaven’s Gate Away Team.” The original Heaven’s Gate website is still online, so if you want to know more about the beliefs of this mind-boggling cult, it’s only a few clicks away.

7. “Benevolent Mother”

In a South Korean town called Yongin, a woman named Park Soon Ja was the owner of a factory. She claimed that she was a Christian, and that she was receiving visions from God about the end of the world. She started an orphanage in the center of town, and forced the children to work as free labor in her factory. She demanded that her employees address her  as “Benevolent Mother.”

Over the years, she tricked at least 220 people into giving her money, and accumulated over $8.7 million. In 1987, she gathered her disciples in the attic of the factory, and told them that it was time to ascend to Heaven. They were so loyal to her that they began committing mass murder and suicide. Some of the followers stayed alive to clean up as people died, because the bodies were stacked on top of one another in neat piles. There were 29 women, four men, and many children who were left under Park’s care. The bodies were found by Park’s husband when he went looking for her. He had no idea that his wife was running a cult.

6. The Bride of Christ Church

You may have heard of the phrase “Holy Roller” used to describe an overly enthusiastic Christian person who is overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. But that was an actual nickname of a cult. In 1903, an Oregon man named Edmund Creffield found local Pentecostal Christians to join his own sect of Christianity called The Bride of Christ Church. His followers were mostly women, and they gave up all of their money to be part of the group. Creffield would instruct them to roll around on the floor while they prayed. This would disorient them, and he had sex with many of his female followers, claiming that they would give birth to the second coming of Christ. When the men in town found out what he was doing, Creffield was tarred and feathered, but his followers remained loyal.

Since they didn’t have much money, the followers were forced to steal peaches from a nearby orchard to stay alive. In the end, Creffield served time in jail, but many of the women were still devoted to him. One of the women shot and killed him. After his death, one of the followers committed suicide, and another was sent to an insane asylum, because she was trying to kill herself in a ritualistic suicide, too.

5. The Adam House

In 2007, a family in Mymensingh, Bangladesh walked hand-in-hand towards a train that was speeding toward them. Nine people jumped in front of the train, crushing their bodies on the track. When the police investigated their home, they found that there were nine coffins already purchased, and they had already dug their own graves. They also found nine individual journals.

The family became obsessed with religion after the death of their patriarch, Abdul Adam. When he was dying in the hospital, he wrote strict instructions that told his family to bury his body in the backyard. Based on what they wrote in their journals, the family seemed to had been studying a variety of religions to try to see which one was the best. They did not believe in any particular religion, but they believed that Adam and Eve had the purest connection to God. The family members were between the ages of nine and 60, and they were all convinced that killing himself was the only way to attain salvation. Because of these notes, the family is now known as simply “The Adam House.”

4. The Order of the Solar Temple

A man named Joseph De Mambro founded a group in Geneva, Switzerland called The Order of the Solar Temple in 1984. He claimed that he wanted to revive the Knights Templar, which was a Catholic military order founded in the year 1119. The idea became very popular, and the group even spread to Canada.

The group was relatively small, with just a few hundred members, but they all believed that the world would end sometime in the 1990s. So, in 1994, they were instructed that armageddon had come, so 53 people committed suicide. When the world didn’t actually end, you would think that the remaining members would have realized it was all a sham… But, no. In 1995, 16 more members killed themselves, and in 1997 five more did, bringing the grand total to 74 people.

3. The Branch Davidians

The Branch Davidians was established in 1955, and it went on as a sect of Christianity for years before a man named David Koresh became their new “prophet” in 1990. He told everyone that God chose him to lead them through the end of the world, and prepare their souls for judgement day. His followers lived on a massive compound in Waco, Texas. Koresh believed in polygamy, so he married several underaged women. He was also obsessed with collecting firearms, which he claimed would help them prepare for the upcoming apocalypse.

In 1993, the police heard that Koresh was stockpiling illegal weapons. When they came to investigate with an arrest warrant, it lead to a shootout between the police and the Brand Davidians, leaving several people dead and wounded. The FBI tried various peaceful tactics to get Koresh to leave the compound. They flashed bright lights, and played loud music. A few followers managed to escape into police custody. But after 51 days of waiting, the attorney general gave the go-ahead for the FBI to raid the compound. Four hundred canisters of tear gas were shot into the building. They hoped that the people would leave, but no one did.

Just a few hours later, the building caught fire. Police and FBI rushed in to try to save people, but it was too late. Eighty members of the Branch Davidians died, including David Koresh. While this is considered a mass suicide, some church members claim that the FBI is responsible for their murder.

2. Jonestown

In the 1970s, Jim Jones founded a cult called “The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project.” He adopted several children from different races, calling them his “rainbow family.” He said that he wanted to start a new Utopian society in the South American country Guyana so that people of all races could live together in harmony, free from racism and sexism.

He convinced his followers to build a town in the middle of the jungle called Jonestown. As time went on, Jim Jones became increasingly paranoid, and he wanted to test the loyalty of his followers. So he would pass around fruit punch, saying that it was poisoned, and that they needed to commit “revolutionary suicide.” After they drank the juice, he would say he was just testing their loyalty, and that they were not poisoned at all. Many people were scared, and regretted moving to the jungle. They were made to work very hard without much reward, and it was clear that Jim Jones had manipulated them.

Many people were concerned about the People’s Temple, because their friends and family members were no longer in contact with them. In 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan decided to fly to Guyana to investigate. Journalists from NBC News accompanied Ryan, as well. When the journalists interviewed people, they learned that many of them were being forced to stay, and they wanted to go back to the United States. Fifteen people chose to defect from the People’s Temple, but Jim Jones wasn’t having it. He sent gunmen after the crew, and killed several people. The rest managed to escape with their lives. Jones knew that this was the end of his paradise, so he ordered his followers to drink poisoned grape Flavor Aid. Many others were forcibly injected with poison. Some managed to escape into the jungle, but in the end, 909 people died.

1. The Movement For The Restoration of the Ten Commandments

In Uganda in the 1980s, Catholicism had been established by missionaries in the local area. A former sex worker named Credonia Mwerinde claimed that she had visions from the Virgin Mary, and that it convinced her to change her ways. A local politician named Joseph Kibwetere believed her, and began to say that they needed to start their own religion.

A group of five men became the new leaders of the religion, and they called the sect The Movement For The Restoration of the Ten Commandments. Over 4,000 people were said to have joined the group. They kept almost all of the same traditions as the Catholic church, including priests, nuns, and the iconography. The one major difference was that all of the members were forced to wear uniforms, and they were severely punished if they broke any of the ten commandments.

They were a doomsday cult that believed that the end of the world was coming, and they were taught that Noah’s Ark would save them from the end of the world. In 1998, the BBC reported that cult was forced to shut down, because they were forcing child labor and kidnapping. However, the truth was much darker than that. In the year 2000, they discovered that 923 members of their cult were left in mass graves, making this the largest mass suicide in history. There are those who believe that the religious leaders murdered all of these people, instead, but it is a mystery that will most likely remain unsolved.

10 Foods That (Basically) Never Expire

Before you go through your kitchen pantry and throw away food based on the expiration date, you should know that for certain foods, that is merely a suggestion. Some edible items never expire… or, at least, they can last for years before it’s time to dispose of them. The likelihood that you will actually need to keep food around that long is slim-to-none, unless you’re a doomsday prepper. But, you never know if we’ll have a nuclear holocaust or a zombie apocalypse. If you want to be prepared for anything, here are 10 foods that almost never expire.

10. Hardtack

If you read old stories about pioneers and explorers, you may have already learned about a dried bread called “hardtack.” This food has been given several nicknames over the years, like “sea bread” or “pilot bread,” because of the fact that it was often taken on long journeys. It was also given to soldiers as part of their daily rations across the world. Usually, people would dip their hardtack into their tea or coffee, because with its brick-like consistency, you just might break a tooth trying to eat it.

So… just how long does it last? Some say that they may actually still be edible for hundreds of years. In Denmark, there is a hardtack on display at the Maritime Museum of Kronborg from 1852, and it has yet to go moldy or disintegrate into dust. So you can rest assured that if you add a supply of hardtack to your prepping kit, it will last for the rest of your life. And if you’re stuck in an underground bunker for multiple generations, like the Fallout series, maybe you could even hand it down those rock-hard crackers to your grandkids.

9. White Rice

Ahh, rice. It’s easy to cook, it’s filling, and totally delicious next to some sesame chicken. Everyone knows that brown rice is much more healthy and nutritious, but it will only keeps for 4 to 6 months before it goes bad. So, if your goal is to save money and stock your pantry for decades, you need to skip the brown rice at the grocery store, and go for white.

When white rice is kept in a cool, dry place in an airtight container, it is estimated to stay good for 30 years. Some preppers have speculated that if white rice is kept in the refrigerator or freezer, it can actually stay fresh forever. Rice is easy to find in bulk. It’s available at most grocery stores and big-box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. Of course, in an apocalyptic scenario, you wouldn’t have electricity to keep your rice lasting for multiple generations. But in your standard emergency situation like a blizzard or hurricane, this will come in handy.

8. Twinkies

There is a long-standing rumor that Twinkies are like the cockroaches of the snack food world, in that they will simply never die, even after a nuclear holocaust. Well, it turns out that it’s only half true. According to Hostess Foods, the official shelf life for a Twinkie is 45 days. This is actually longer than any of their other snack foods. However, plenty of people have kept Twinkies in their pantries for years. Brave consumers have reported that they still taste great years after the official expiration date, which make them a good addition to any emergency food ration.

In Blue Hill, Maine, a school called the George Stevens Academy has held on to a Twinkie since 1976. They believe it still looks good enough to eat, even after being removed from its airtight packaging for decades. The outer layer looks a bit grey, but it’s actually because it has been accumulating chalk dust in the classroom.

7. SPAM

Not everyone is a huge fan of the salty canned meat called SPAM, but some people love it enough to eat every single day. In Hawaii, SPAM became a huge part of the culture. It is typically eaten together with fried eggs and rice as a hearty breakfast. During World War II, GI’s who were stationed in Hawaii ate SPAM because it did not require refrigeration, and had such a long shelf life. Between 1941 and 1945, Hormel Foods shipped 15 million cans to Allied troops around the world every single week. For most war veterans, they were happy to go back to eating food that wasn’t from a can. But in Hawaii, many of their food rations came to the islands by boat, so the tradition of eating canned food with a long shelf life stuck long after the war over.

On their official website, Hormel basically insinuates that their canned meat will last forever. They say, “The product is always safe to consume as long as the seal has remained intact, unbroken and securely attached. However, the flavor and freshness of the product gradually begin to decline after three years from the manufacturing date.”

6. Hard Liquor

If the world truly has ended, and you’re stuck in an underground doomsday bunker for the rest of your days, you just might need a drink or two. Lucky for you, hard liquor lasts forever. Distilled spirits like whiskey, gin, rum, tequila, and vodka will last a lifetime if they are still sealed. Just keep in mind that cream liqueurs don’t last very long, since they contain dairy. If there truly was an emergency situation, you need alcohol for more than just a stiff drink. Remember that you will also need alcohol to sanitize objects and clean wounds.

Wine also tends to actually taste better as it ages, as long as it is corked properly and well cared for. Keep in mind that only sealed bottles will last for several years in a cool, dark, dry place. But if it comes with a screw-on-top, wine will eventually turn to vinegar, because oxygen can seep in through the top. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to give older wine a good sniff before you try to drink it.

5. Instant Coffee

At the end of the world, you won’t be able to get your morning Starbucks fix. If you feel grumpy in the morning without your coffee now, just try to imagine what life would be like without it in a doomsday scenario. And if you’re indulging in too much of that hard liquor to ease the pain of spending eternity in a bunker, you’re going to need a pick-me-up.

Caffeine addicts are in luck, because instant coffee can last 2 to 20 years at room temperature. And if you keep it in the fridge or freezer, it can actually last for the rest of your life.

Considering how terrible instant coffee usually tastes, you probably don’t want to drink your coffee black. Never fear, because granulated white sugar keeps for about 2 years at air temperature, and supposedly lasts forever if you keep it airtight, in a cool place. Powdered coffee creamer only lasts for 18-24 months, so you’d eventually have to go without cream in your morning brew at some point.

4. Dry Pasta

Who doesn’t love pasta? Plenty of people already eat some form of pasta multiple times in one week, and they wouldn’t mind continuing that lifestyle in case of an emergency. Dry pasta pops up as a common “forever” food on a lot of doomsday prepper lists on the internet. But before you run out to the grocery store to buy boxes of spaghetti in bulk, keep in mind that will only last 2 to 3 years in your pantry.

Yes, we know: three years is till a very long time to keep food around, especially when it’s something as delicious as penne or macaroni. But it’s still a far cry from forever. The shelf life can be extended to 8 to 10 years if it is vacuum sealed, and kept in a cool, dry place. However, you won’t have as much luck keeping canned tomatoes or sauce. The shelf life of an unopened can of tomato sauce is just 18 to 24 months.

3. Pemmican

So far on this list, we haven’t included any dried meats. Sorry to say, but your beef jerky will only last for about 1 to 2 years. But the Native Americans had meat preservation figured out years ago with their dried meat concoction called “pemmican.” The secret to its longevity is that both fat and dried meat are mixed together into a cake. The name comes from the Cree word pimî, which just means “fat.”

Now, for you health-conscious readers out there, eating a lump of fat doesn’t sound too appealing. But this became very popular among men working in the North American fur trade, as well as Arctic explorers who would go long periods of time without finding any plants or wildlife. Eating fat is important to keeping energy levels high, and in most cases, this became a life-saving food.

Pemmican is said to last 3 to 5 years at room temperature, and up to 20 years if kept in the refrigerator. So, basically, those Arctic explorers traveling in below-freezing temperatures could keep eating their pemmican for as long as they needed.

2. Powdered Milk

If you’re trying to chow down on your hardtack, you just might want a glass of milk to dip it in. But as we all know, real cow’s milk typically only lasts for about two weeks in the refrigerator. So, unless you find a cow, you just might have to live without dairy, unless you stock up on some powdered milk. Full fat dry milk lasts 2 to 5 years, and nonfat dry milk can last up to 25 years.

Just like every other item on this list, its shelf life is extended if you keep it in a cold, dry place — preferably your refrigerator. If you have some sitting around, and you aren’t sure if it has spoiled, you’ll know when it has gone bad, because it will smell of rotting milk. Please do keep in mind that this only counts for powdered milk, not dry baby formula, which only lasts for one year. Do not try to give a baby or young child expired baby formula, because it may have some serious consequences.  

1. Honey

Last and certainly not least on our list of forever-foods is honey, which is the one food that truly may never expire. Pots of honey have been found in clay pots that date back to the ancient Egyptian times, proving that it still tastes great even thousands of years after it was originally sealed. The secret behind honey’s eternal shelf life is its high sugar content. It is also very acidic, so bacteria doesn’t have the chance to grow.

Honey has been known for being a “super food” with loads of health benefits. It’s high in antioxidants, helps to suppress coughs, and it has even been proven to help heal wounds and burns. And, of course, honey is delicious, so it will help make all of your other food more palatable. If you’re going to be in an emergency situation, you might as well enjoy a sweet treat whenever you can.


10 Detectives More Interesting Than Sherlock Holmes

They say that truth is stranger than fiction. While storybook detectives like Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Sam Spade are well-known to the public, few of their real-life counterparts enjoy such fame. That’s a shame since there are plenty of singular sleuths with fascinating careers worthy of mention.

10. Leonard “Nipper” Read

In 1946, Leonard “Nipper” Read tried to join the police force in his hometown of Nottingham, England. Unfortunately for him, the city had a minimum height requirement of six feet and the diminutive Read was rejected. A year later, he moved to London, which was less restrictive, and became an officer with the Metropolitan Police.

Read’s first major case happened in 1963 when he was part of a Scotland Yard team sent to Buckinghamshire to help investigate the Great Train Robbery. Although Bruce Reynolds was considered the mastermind of the operation, Nipper believed the true architect was an Irishman named Mickey who meticulously devised robberies and sold the plans to interested gangs.

Read’s biggest challenge came in 1964 when he was offered a taskforce to “have a go” at taking down The Firm, the East End gang headed by the infamous Kray Twins. Five years later, Ronnie and Reggie Kray were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

9. Charlie Siringo, The Cowboy Detective

Born in 1855 in Matagorda County, Texas, Charlie Siringo spent two decades as a Pinkerton detective. He specialized in working undercover and took part in some of the agency’s most notorious cases.

Siringo had a long and varied career which saw him investigate rustlers, killers, assassination attempts, and labor unions from Alaska to Mexico. He is well-remembered for his role in the Coeur d’Alene labor strike of 1892. It erupted in violence after miners discovered that the Pinkerton had infiltrated their union and was routinely sending back information to the mine owners.

Siringo had mixed feelings about this work. On one hand, he sympathized with the workers but, at the same time, he realized that the leadership of labor unions was in the hands of anarchists like George Pettibone. The latter would be implicated in the assassination of Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg.

Charles Siringo started pursuing Butch Cassidy’s infamous Wild Bunch following the 1899 Wilcox Train Robbery. He spent four years, travelled 25,000 miles and helped capture some of the gang’s most ruthless members such as Kid Curry. He was finally called off the case once Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fled to South America.

Siringo had one more memorable moment in his career when he saved lawyer Clarence Darrow from a lynch mob. Darrow would later defend teacher John T. Scopes in the famous Scopes Monkey Trial.

8. Dave Toschi

San Francisco detective Dave Toschi was instantly recognizable when he walked into a room thanks to the snappy bowties he liked to wear alongside plaid suits and trench coats. He became an inspiration for iconic movie cops of the ’60s and ’70s and, when he was on the clock, also investigated the infamous Zodiac Killer.

Toschi joined the San Francisco Police Department in 1953 after serving in the Korean War. He entered the hunt for the Zodiac in 1969 after the murder of Paul Stine, the killer’s only known victim in San Francisco. The case “gnawed at him” and gave him an ulcer. Toschi would visit the scene of Stine’s murder for many years afterwards hoping he might spot an overlooked clue that might lead to the identity of the notorious serial killer.

Although not as famous as the Zodiac killings, Toschi also investigated and helped solve the Zebra murders. These were a series of racially motivated slayings from the early 70s by a group called the “Death Angels” that claimed, at least, 15 victims.

Toschi’s unique style caught the eye of Hollywood. Clint Eastwood partially based “Dirty” Harry Callahan on him while Steve McQueen borrowed his penchant for wearing a quick-draw holster for his character in Bullitt.

The extra attention went to Toschi’s head a little. In an “ill-advised indulgence,” the detective sent anonymous letters to the San Francisco Chronicle praising his own work. This got him booted off the case nine years after Stine’s murder.

7. Kate Warne

In 1856, Kate Warne was a 23-year-old widow looking for employment. One day, she entered the Chicago office of the Pinkerton Detective Agency and spoke with Allan Pinkerton himself. He was surprised to find out that she wasn’t there for a clerical job, but rather for the position of detective advertised in the newspaper.

At first, Pinkerton didn’t want a female detective, but Warne argued that she could obtain information in ways men could not. She could either befriend the wives and girlfriends of suspects or convince the men themselves to boast of their actions. Pinkerton was swayed and Kate Warne became his first female detective.

Warne’s first big case took place in 1858. Someone was embezzling funds from the Adams Express Company and Pinkerton suspected the Montgomery office manager, Nathan Maroney. Kate went undercover, befriended his wife and got the evidence which led to his conviction.

The female detective was praised for her role in investigating the Baltimore Plot, an alleged conspiracy to assassinate then-President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Warne used her undercover talents to pose as a Southern belle with secessionist sympathies, infiltrate social gatherings and collect information for Pinkerton. We’ll never know if the threat was real or not, but Lincoln made his inauguration thanks to the Pinkertons.

6. Jerome Caminada

Sherlock Holmes is, without a doubt, the world’s most famous detective and there have long been debates over who served as inspirations for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic character. The author typically pointed the finger at Scottish surgeon and lecturer Joseph Bell, as well as his compatriot Sir Henry Littlejohn. Doyle also hailed the few fictional detectives that came before Holmes such as Auguste Dupin and Monsieur Lecoq. But there were also real-life investigators who resembled Sherlock Holmes enough that they came to be regarded as inspirations.

Jerome Caminada was one of them. He worked as a detective in Manchester. He gained national prominence during the mid 1880s, shortly before the first appearance of Doyle’s detective. He wore disguises during cases and employed a network of unofficial informers similar to Holmes’s irregulars. After Caminada retired from the police force in 1899, he became a consulting detective and worked cases all over the country. He even had his own “Moriarty”-style archrival in the form of one Bob Horridge.

Caminada’s finest moment as a detective came in 1889 during a case dubbed the “Manchester Cab Mystery.” Businessman John Fletcher hailed a cab outside Manchester Cathedral and left with an unidentified young man. An hour later when the driver stopped, he found Fletcher dead and his companion gone.

Using clues, deduction, and his knowledge of the criminal underworld, Caminada identified the killer as 18-year-old Charlie Parton. He had a past of using chloral hydrate to rig illegal fights by drugging the fighters. The detective believed Parton also used it to occasionally subdue and rob people. The chloral hydrate combined with Fletcher’s love of gin resulted in a poisonous mixture which caused his death.

5. Chang Apana

Speaking of fictional detectives, there are few more divisive than Charlie Chan. The Chinese-American sleuth appeared in six novels written by American author Earl Derr Biggers, and dozens of movie and TV adaptations. Some regard him as racist and offensive since he was a stereotype and was often portrayed by white actors in yellowface. Others see him in a more positive light since Charlie Chan was one of the first Asian characters in Hollywood who broke away from the “evil Chinaman” trope. What’s relevant to us is that he was inspired by real-life Honolulu detective Chang Apana.

Born Chang Ah Ping, he moved back to China when he was three years old but returned to Hawaii when he was 10. He joined the force in 1898 and became a detective in 1916. He carried a bullwhip instead of a gun. He learned to use it while working as a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) before becoming a cop.

Chang mostly worked Chinatown and dealt with many smuggling and gambling cases. Because he was multilingual, he developed a network of informants inaccessible to other cops. There are many outlandish stories of his adventures on the force. He was once thrown out of a second-story window and landed on his feet. He had a scar above his right eye from a fight with a Japanese leper armed with a sickle. He once arrested 40 gamblers at once, single-handed, wielding only his trusty whip. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction.

4. “Jigsaw” John P. St. John

John P. St. John was one of the most tenacious and prolific officers in American history. He served the Los Angeles Police Department for 51 years, 43 of them as a homicide detective. He investigated around 1,500 murders and solved over 1,000 of them. By the time he retired in 1993, his seniority on the force earned him the privilege of carrying badge No. 1.

St. John gained the nickname “Jigsaw John” early on in his career when he worked a dismemberment case. It stuck for decades because other officers thought St. John had a knack for putting clues together like a puzzle.

One of John’s first cases remains one of the most notorious unsolved crimes in American history – the murder of Elizabeth Short, known posthumously as the “Black Dahlia.” It was the first in a long list of infamous killings that St. John tackled as a homicide detective for the LAPD. He investigated serial killers like Harvey Glatman, the “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez, the Hillside Stranglers, and the Grim Sleeper. In 1982, St. John became only the second recipient of the Police Department’s Distinguished Service Medal for his eight-year investigation that led to the captureof William Bonin, one of the Freeway Killers.  

3. Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith

With the passing of the Volstead Act in 1919, Prohibition came to the United States. A new agency was needed to enforce the law and, thus, the Bureau of Prohibition was born. Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith were its top detectives.

Since the new unit was hiring, Isidor Einstein tried his luck as it paid better than his previous job as a postal clerk. The chief didn’t want him. Einstein was middle-aged, short, and stocky. Not exactly Bureau material. However, Izzy convinced him that that was an asset, not a hindrance, since bootleggers wouldn’t suspect him.

Izzy was right. There were times when he could knock on the door of a speakeasy with his badge on display and say he was a Prohibition agent. People would still let him in and give him a drink because they thought it was a gag. Other times he would carry a prop like a jug of milk or a jar of pickles. As he put it, who would suspect that “a fat man with pickles was an agent?”

Soon after being hired, Izzy convinced his friend Moe Smith to stop selling cigars and join him as an agent. Neither one of them had any law enforcement experience. Yet, they were responsible for almost 5,000 arrests with a 95 percent conviction rate.

Izzy and Moe liked to wear disguises to gain entry to speakeasies. If the bar was near a hospital, they would wear white coats. If it was a lawyer bar, they would come in carrying heavy law texts. Sometimes they dressed as husband and wife.

The duo’s success was their undoing. They were fired after five years with the Bureau because everyone else resented them for their skill and popularity.

2. William J. Burns

Many real-life detectives have been compared to Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation, but William J. Burns was called “America’s Sherlock Holmes” by none other than Doyle himself.

Burns started his law enforcement career as an assistant to a private eye. He then became a Secret Service agent. His success led to him opening the William J. Burns International Detective Agency. Several high-profile cases and a few notable connections led to him becoming Director of the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), the precursor of the FBI, between 1921 and 1924.

Burns investigated two infamous early cases of domestic terrorism. In 1910, his agency looked into the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building which killed 21 people. Burns went undercover with the anarchist movement and arrested brothers John and James McNamara. Ten years later, he investigated the Wall Street Bombing. That case remains unsolved, although not for lack of trying. Burns Agency detectives went undercover all the way to the Soviet Union in an attempt to unearth the culprits.

Burns’s reputation took a severe hit when he was implicated in the Teapot Dome Scandal. Detectives from his agency were hired to investigate the jurors in the trial of oil tycoon Harry Ford Sinclair. He was forced to resign from the BOI and was replaced by J. Edgar Hoover. Burns retired to Florida and took up writing detective stories.

1. Eugène Vidocq

Eugène François Vidocq started out on a life of crime which seemed destined to end with a trip to the gallows. However, he eventually switched sides and used his keen understanding of the criminal mind to combat it.

Vidocq’s crime-fighting career started in 1809, shortly before his 34th birthday. He had, once again, been arrested, except this time he offered his services as an informant. His skill and reputation made him a formidable spy. Less than two years later, he was released and continued to work undercover on the outside.

Vidocq lobbied hard for a plainclothes unit and obtained it in 1812. It was successful and, a year later, Napoleon turned it into a national police force called La Sûreté Nationale under Vidocq’s leadership. The detective opened more branches around the country and kept expanding his underworld network of informants. He also employed innovative techniques such as early ballistics and plaster casts of shoe prints.

Not just an officer of the law, Vidocq was a celebrity in his own right. He befriended writers such as Balzac and Victor Hugo and used a ghostwriter to pen his memoirs. Other policemen were not fans of Vidocq, not only because he always stole the spotlight, but because they believed he always remained a criminal. They thought he not only took bribes from other interlopers, but even “solved” his own crimes.

In 1833, Vidocq left the force and opened the “Office of Information” which came to be regarded as the world’s first known private detective agency.


10 Forgotten Women in American History

American history is full of women who have been long forgotten. Some of these women changed the course of history, some did things that others thought women couldn’t or shouldn’t do, and there were women who simply decided that it was time to take their place in history by doing what the men have been doing all along.

Each story is different, but the majority of these women’s stories begin during a major war when the men needed help and society was low on available workers.

10. Received The Congressional Medal Of Honor

She wore pants, liked to wear a top hat, and kept her hair short. This was scandalous behavior back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but Dr. Mary Edwards Walker did not care. In fact, she had more than earned the right to dress and look however she liked.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Dr. Walker wanted to actively help the Union soldiers. Having graduated medical school, she applied to become a U.S. Army surgeon, but was turned down because she was a woman. Instead, she was offered a volunteer nursing position. She accepted, but hated the work. She wanted to be on the field where she could provide the most help to injured soldiers.

In 1862, Dr. Walker got her wish and was allowed to become a volunteer (unpaid) surgeon. She cared for the wounded on the battle fields, wearing a short-length skirt and pants, until 1864 when she was taken prisoner by the Confederates.

For four months, Dr. Walker was kept imprisoned in Richmond, Virginia, until she was handed back to the Union in exchange for a Confederate surgeon. However, as soon as she was released she went back to work. This time, she was sent to work in a women’s prison and later she worked in an orphanage.

After the Civil War was over, Dr. Mary Walker was awarded the Medal of Honor. In 1917, her Medal of Honor was rescinded because she was not officially military personnel.

Dr. Walker refused to return the medal. Instead, she wore it proudly every day until her death in 1919.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter reinstated her Congressional Medal of Honor and, to this day, she is the only woman to have ever received the honor.

9. Doing Her Bit

It was 1916 and the United States was preparing to join its allies in the Great War (WWI). Uncle Sam needed young, healthy men to enlist, and what better way to get the young men worked up than to bring out a pretty lady?

Edna Payne, who was 20-years-old at the time, volunteered for duty. She rented a desk, put a marine cap on her head, and stood by a recruiting poster. She established her own recruiting office in New York City and was said to have enlisted more men than her male counterparts.

She was labeled the country’s first woman recruiter, although she never received any income for her work.

8. First Woman In Congress

When Jeannette Rankin marched for the Woman’s Cause, wearing her yellow ribbon and chanting “Votes for Women” back in September of 1914, no was thinking that there would be a day when this same woman would become the country’s first female Congress member.

Two years later, in 1916, Rankin, registered Republican, was elected to Congress by the voters of Montana. Her infamous words were, “I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.”

Rankin took her job seriously. She was, first and foremost, a strong supporter of equal rights for women. She was also a pacifist and had voted against the U.S. entering WWI. In her own words, “If they are going to have war, they ought to take the old men and leave the young to propagate the race.”

Described as a Progressive, Rankin faced constant sexism from both the Democrats and the Republicans. In newspapers, she was described as appearing to be a “mature bride” and, when she stood against going to war, she was labeled a “crying schoolgirl.”

During Rankin’s second run in 1918, she decided to run for a Senate seat. There were rumors that Republicans were attempting to bribe her not to run and, without the backing of the Republican Party, she had to run on a third party ticket. While she narrowly lost the race, she was not overlooked. According to Democratic Senator Thomas Walsh, “If Miss R. had any party to back her, she would be dangerous.”

Twenty-two years later, Rankin ran for Congress again and won.

7. What Do You Call A Lady Cop?

As World War I raged on in 1918 and men served their country across the sea, the women stepped up and took their places among society. They stepped into jobs that were normally reserved for men, and discovered that they had as much ability to perform these jobs as their male counterparts.

When Captain E.H. King of the Army Medical Corps. was sent abroad, his wife, Leola N. King, became the first female traffic cop in the United States. She was assigned a busy street corner in Washington, D.C. and was an instant hit across the country.

Newspaper reporters joked about what to call her. Was she a “coppette” or a “copperess?” At least she looked “pretty nifty” in her uniform.

But that is where the jokes ended. After all, the woman wore “one of the biggest revolvers” they ever saw, and no one was prepared to test her aim.

6. Swam The Golden Gate Strait

In 1922, a West Virginia newspaper joked that “pushing a wife into the river to drown your troubles is becoming a lost art” simply because women had proven themselves to be rather good swimmers.

Take, for instance, Hazel Bess Laugenour. On August 19, 1911, she became the first woman to swim across the Golden Gate Strait. Using the left side stroke, she made it across in one hour and twenty-eight minutes.

Even before Laugenour swam across the Strait, men were admitting that women were fairly good swimmers. In a newspaper article from 1890, it was claimed that women were good swimmers because their bones were lighter than mens and they had a natural buoyancy because of their fat.

However, in 1916, women were being told that they should avoid swimming altogether. There was “proof” that swimming made skinny women fat and the stout woman even stouter.

In spite of all the nonsense being published about women swimmers, Laugenour wanted to become the first woman to swim the English Channel. Unfortunately, World War I broke out and she turned, instead, to making movies.

5. A Bitter Divorce

While divorce was rare in the early 1900s, it was also a very public affair. Anyone who appeared before a judge requesting a divorce from his or her spouse could expect to have the news printed in the local newspaper by the next day. There was no such thing as privacy and everyone wanted to know who did what and with whom.

However, in 1914, something rather odd happened in the world of divorce news. Mrs. George Deimer became the first American woman to pay alimony.

As the story goes, Mrs. Deimer was married to an oil operator and contractor. She, too, must have enjoyed a working career because she hired a telegrapher as a business agent.

As the couple worked and accrued wealth, the husband became jealous and thought that his wife was far too intimate with the telegrapher. She, in turn, filed for divorce. In the ugly fashion of divorce, the husband filed a claim for alimony.

When all was said and done, the divorce was granted, Mrs. Deimer was given custody of their two children, and Mr. Deimer was awarded an alimony payment of $3,000.

4. First In The Navy

It was 1917 and the Germans were busy attacking American ships at sea. At home in the United States, young men were enlisting to join the war efforts and defeat Germany. Women also wanted to fulfill their patriotic duty and help the Allies defeat the Kaiser.

The U.S. Navy needed more enlistments and soon became the first branch in the military to allow women to enlist as something other than a nurse. The first woman to enlist was Loretta Walsh, age twenty. She was a yeoman and was given the same pay as her male counterparts.

Sadly enough, Walsh was a victim of the flu pandemic in 1918. While she survived the initial flu, she never fully recovered from its effects on her health and she passed away at the age of 29 in 1925.

3. Ambulance Surgeon

Dr. Mary Crawford began her amazing career in 1908 when she became Brooklyn’s first female ambulance surgeon. At that time, ambulances were drawn by horses and transported patients to the hospital as the ambulance surgeon worked to keep the patient alive.

At the start of World War I, well before the United States joined the war effort, Dr. Mary Crawfordtraveled to France and joined the American Ambulance Hospital. There she became the area’s first female ambulance surgeon, and operated on wounded soldiers wherever she was needed.

After ten months serving in France, she returned to New York where she raised money for French hospitals. According to one report, Dr. Crawford called Paris “one great convalescent hospital congested with wounded men.” She was determined to help the men and victims of the war in any way she could.

From 1919 to 1949, she was the medical director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. She retired and passed away in 1972 at the age of 88.

2. No Side Saddle For Her

There was no doubt in Alberta Claire’s mind that women should have the right to vote. Incidentally, she also believed that women should ride their horses like the men did and not side saddle.

To prove her point, Claire got on her horse, Bud, called to her dog, Mickey, and together they travelled across the U.S., from San Francisco in 1911 to New York in 1912. When she reached New York City, she met with Teddy Roosevelt who lavished praise on her for being the first woman to travel alone on horseback across the U.S.

Claire originally left for her great adventure with just $2 in her pocket, the clothes she wore, and a firearm. Being a cowgirl from Wyoming, she was good with a gun, but was able to rely on her domestic skills when it came to finding odd jobs across the country.

Local newspapers would cover her arrival in each town, reporting on her adventures. Sometimes she was cheered on, but other times the townspeople would jeer at her and tell her that she would never make it to New York City. Not only did she prove the naysayers wrong, but, after reaching New York City, she turned around and rode her horse all the way back to her home in Wyoming.

1. Her Dad Did Not Want Her To Become A Doctor

A doctor in the family? Fay Kellogg’s father would not allow it. He didn’t want a child of his to go into the medical field. Instead, Miss Kellogg’s father offered her drawing lessons.

It might have been a joke on her father’s part, but Kellogg followed his jest and studied drawing in Washington. She then studied for another year at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Afterwards, she found a job, but it only paid her $5 a week.

Not one to give up, she went to Paris to continue her studies and was allowed to work alongside the men. When she applied to the Ecole de Beaux Arts, she was turned down because no woman had ever applied to their school before.

Kellogg returned to the United States and, instead of feeling defeated, she became “the pioneer woman architect” in the country. In 1901, she set up her own office and designed buildings across the U.S., such as the Woman’s Memorial Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.

10 Interesting Facts About the Milky Way Galaxy

When we think of where we are in the entire universe, our planet is just one a small speck. Even our solar system is one of many in the Milky Way Galaxy, and our own galaxy is one of billions in the universe. It’s hard to image how big the universe actually is. But with advanced technology, we have a better understanding of what lies in the deepest parts of space. Just in our own Milky Way Galaxy, we have numerous suns, planets, solar systems, comets, black holes, and so much more. Here are 10 interesting facts about our Milky Way Galaxy…

10. Structure And Size Of The Milky Way Galaxy

The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy with a center bulge that is surrounded by four arms that are wrapped around it. Around two-thirds of all the galaxies in our universe are shaped in a spiral. Our galaxy, as well as our solar system, is always rotating. While our solar system travels around 515,000 miles-per-hour on average, it would still take approximately 230 million years to travel around the Milky Way.

Our galaxy is around 100,000 light-years across and has a mass of between 400 and 780 billion times the mass of our own sun. 90% of its mass is believed to be dark matter.

There is a huge halo of hot gas surrounding our galaxy that stretches for hundreds of thousands of light-years. While it is believed to be as huge as all of the stars put together in the Milky Way, the halo itself only has around 2% of the amount of stars that are found inside of the disk.

And at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy is the galactic bulge which contains gas, stars, and dust that’s so thick you can’t even see into it, let alone to the other side.

9. The Andromeda Galaxy Will Eventually Collide With The Milky Way

The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will eventually collide into each other, but it won’t happen for a very long time. While it was previously thought that it would happen 3.75 billion years from now, newly conducted research from the ESA’s Gaia mission estimates the collision will take place in 4.5 billion years.

And we may not get hit as hard as previously thought. The new research also suggests that it won’t be a full force collision and rather a “tidal interaction,” which means that no planets or stars will collide with each other.

There is a group of more than 54 galaxies that are named the Local Group, of which Andromeda and the Milky Way are a part. These two galaxies, as well as the Triangulum Galaxy, are the three largest in the group. Andromeda is the most massive galaxy, while the Milky Way ranks second, and the Triangulum is third. Andromeda and Triangulum are both spiral galaxies and are situated between 2.5 and 3 million light years away from the Milky Way.

8. Our Galaxy Is Warped And Twisted Instead Of Being Flat

It’s always been said that our galaxy is flat as a pancake, but a recent study revealed that the Milky Way is in fact warped and twisted. The farther away the stars are from the center of the galaxy, the more they become warped and twisted in an S-like appearance.

Over 1,000 Cepheid variable stars (1,339 to be exact) were used in a study conducted by astronomers from Macquarie University as well as the Chinese Academy of Sciences. These stars became bright and dim in a manner that changed according to their luminosity. The data collected from these stars by using the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (or WISE) let astronomers create a 3D map of the true shape of our galaxy.

While the Milky Way is now confirmed to be warped and twisted, it’s not the only one out there that’s like that. While it’s not overly common, astronomers have confirmed that a dozen other galaxies in the universe have twisted spiral patterns in their outer-most areas.

7. There Are Hundreds Of Billions Of Stars In Our Galaxy

It’s tough to know exactly how many stars there are in our galaxy since the halo around the Milky Way also contains many stars. In addition, the center of our galaxy has a galactic bulge that’s filled with dust, stars, and gas, as well as a supermassive black hole which makes that area extremely thick with materials that telescopes are unable to see through it.

While around 90% of our galaxy’s mass is made up of dark matter, the majority of the remaining 10% is dust and gas, it is believe that only about 3% of the Milky Way’s mass is made up of stars. Some researchers believe that there are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy, while others say that there are much more – between 400 and 700 billion.

The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission is mapping out the locations of around 1 billion stars in the Milky Way, so that’s a good start.

6. There’s A Supermassive Black Hole At The Heart Of Our Galaxy

It is believed that most, if not all, galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center and the Milky Way has one that weighs as much as 4 million suns. Sagittarius A*, which is the massive object located at the center of our galaxy, has been observed for the past several years. Although black holes can’t actually be seen, scientists study them by observing the materials that are orbiting around them.

Scientists wanted to measure the effects of gravity near the black hole so they decided to observe a small star called S2 that orbits deep within Sagittarius A*’s gravity well every 16 years. They noticed three bright flares that traveled around the black hole’s event horizon at approximately 216 million miles per hour (or 30% of the speed of light).

Scientists previously believed that there were only small and supermassive black holes, but there are in fact medium-sized (or intermediate) black holes that are rare but they do exist, and we’ll talk about that in the next entry…

5. There’s Also A Jupiter-Sized Black Hole Wandering Around Our Galaxy

New research indicates that a rare Jupiter-sized black hole is wandering around our galaxy. The data came from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (or ALMA) which includes 66 telescopes that are placed across the Atacama Desert located in the northern part of Chile.

The data consisted of the scientists observing two gas clouds, called Balloon and Stream in reference to their shapes, and what they witnessed during their two-day observation period in May 2018 was that the gas clouds were moving in an odd pattern, like they were spinning around an invisible center in a location where no light was coming from.

The team determined that the object was an uncommon medium-sized black hole that has around 30,000 times the mass of our sun and is approximately the size of Jupiter.

4. Earth Is At The Center Of The Habitable Zone In Our Galaxy

For the last two decades, astronomers have modeled the evolution of our galaxy in order to figure out the four essentials needed for complex life – the existence of a host star; a sufficient amount of heavy elements to create terrestrial planets (like Earth); enough time for biological evolution; and an environment without gamma ray bursts or life-threatening supernovae.

Almost 4,000 exoplanets and nearly 3,000 planetary systems have been confirmed to exist in our galaxy. Hundreds of those star systems have more than one planet that is within the Galactic Habitable Zone (or GHZ) and there is no doubt that many more are out there just waiting to be discovered.

And of course Earth is located at a perfect spot near the center of our galaxy’s GHZ. What’s even more interesting is that according to astrophysicists at the Australian National University, the GHZ only has about 10% of all the stars in the Milky Way.

3. There Are Almost 4,000 Exoplanets In Our Galaxy

Planets that are beyond our solar system are called exoplanets and thousands have been discovered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope over the past several years. These exoplanets can be any size, with some being rocky and others having icy surfaces.

The Kepler Space Telescope worked to find these planets from 2009 until 2018. During that time, it discovered 2,682 exoplanets with over 2,900 possible candidates that are still waiting to be confirmed. And according to information found on NASA’s website, a total of 3,916 exoplanets (including the ones found by Kepler) have been confirmed.

Kepler ran out of gas and was officially decommissioned in November 2018. However, a new spacecraft, called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (or TESS) has taken its place to find new planets. It was launched in April of 2018 and is planning to scan around 85% of the sky in its two-year mission.

2. So Far, Almost 3,000 Planetary Systems Have Been Discovered In Our Galaxy

Another important piece of information presented on NASA’s website is that 2,917 planetary systems have already been discovered. One of those planetary systems which is very similar is our own solar system is called Kepler-90 which is located approximately 2,500 light years away from us towards the Draco Constellation.

Kepler-90 has eight planets which is the same number of planets located in our solar system. Other similarities between the two solar systems are that Kepler-90 has a G-type star which is comparable to our own sun; it has rocky planets like ours; and it has other large planets that are similar in size to Saturn and Jupiter.

One major difference between the two solar systems is that Kepler-90’s planets all orbit very close to their sun which would indicate that they may be too hot to sustain any type of life. But with further research, more planets could potentially be discovered that orbit at a further distance.

1. Milky Way Is Only One Of Hundreds Of Billions Of Galaxies In The Universe

According to data collected from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, it was previously thought that there were around 200 billion galaxies in the universe. However, it is now believed that there are at least ten times more galaxies out there in space.

Some experts believe that around 90% of the galaxies in the observable universe are too far away and even too faint to see with our telescopes. Thankfully, the James Webb Space Telescope (or JWST) is scheduled to be launched in early 2021 which will help to see these faint galaxies and perhaps uncover even more.

Some of the tasks the JWST will conduct will be to find out what happened after the first stars were formed following the Big Bang; finding out how galaxies were formed and assembled; the birth of stars and protoplanetary systems; and understanding the atmospheres on distant planets to find out if they are habitable and can sustain life.