Nine-year-old finds buried treasure

Alexander Granhof and his grandfather Jens were puttering around the site of the Battle of Lund after a recent ploughing when Alexander stumbled on some silver coins

They called the National Heritage Board, and the next day archaeologists confirmed that the coins were part of a huge buried treasure trove of over 7,000 14th c. silver coins from Denmark, England, Germany and the Netherlands.

“I suspect we may have doubled the number of English coins from the Middle Ages ever found in Sweden,” said Anglert, who estimated that 1,200 of the coins had come from across the North Sea.

English sterling coins were used as something of a global currency at the time, said the archaeologist.

“The ones we found were in their own separate container,” said Anglert.

They don’t know why the treasure was buried, but it probably wasn’t a religious sacrifice because even the most pious medieval Swedes weren’t quite that generous with their offerings.

Here’s Alexander with his find looking the cat who swallowed the canary:

The Golden Flower of Prosperity Company

In the eastern corner of Oregon, in the Gold Rush town of John Day, lies a building completely unique in the annals of American history: the Kam Wah Chung & Company museum.

Constructed as a trading post in 1876, the Kam Wah Chung building was bought in 1888 by two Chinese immigrants, Lung On and Ing “Doc” Hay, who transformed it into a social, medical, recreational, religious, retail center. The company offered everything from pulsology consults and herbal medicine courtesy of Doc Hay, to labour contracting courtesy of Lung On, to Chinese newspapers, dry goods, a hot meal and a bed, games of Go, an unofficial post office for communications with China, and an opium den in the kitchen.

A description of the invaluable work Long On and Ing Hay did for the community from the Kam Wah Chung National Historic Landmark registration form (pdf):

Ing Hay’s practice covered wide areas of Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and Nevada and through his mail order service, even more distant places. He saw patients in person either through office visits or house calls. Patients also wrote to him describing their symptoms and he diagnosed the illness, sent the herbal remedy with detailed instructions on what to do, and continued the correspondence until the patient was cured. Once he concocted a brew with over 83 different herbs to cure a man suffering from swollen feet. He probably inherited a customer list from the previous herbal doctor known as Kam Wah Chung. Newspaper articles, diaries, and letters testified to his success. He saved the lives of all his patients in the 1915 and 1919 flu epidemics in eastern Oregon, allegedly cured cases of meningitis, and saved a person’s limb from being amputated by a western physician.

In John Day, Lung On served as the primary labor contractor from the late 1890s to the early 1900s. Lung On, with his English-language and business skills, helped many Chinese obtain jobs in mines, logging camps, ranches, and restaurants. When a dispute arose, Lung On often stepped in to help find a solution to the problem. Furthermore, when Chinese were not paid due compensation for their labor, Lung On served as a surety in court cases; he supported fellow Chinese in such cases both financially and with his spoken testimony when he vouched for fellow immigrants in court. Although many labor contractors charged fees for their services, it is not clear if Lung On did. In fact, like many businesses in company towns in the West, Lung On would have profited from supplying the new laborers, thus recovering his costs indirectly

There were many such centers in the American West, thanks to the 19th c. influx of Chinese immigrants, but what makes Kam Wah Chung unique is that it is a virtual time capsule.

When Doc Hay became ill and left the premises in 1948, the building was boarded up and left completely alone — no vandals, no treasure hunters, not even any teenagers making out — until it was rediscovered in 1967, restored and opened as a museum in 1976.

Everything that was in that building in 1948 is still there. Every herb, every tin of morphine sulfate, every altar to the gods, every book, every business invoice, every love letter.

A high wood counter with metal boxes and shelves below is along the south wall, and shelving containing cigar and metal boxes, and bags of herbs line the entire north wall. Each box or tin is labeled in Chinese characters. A high shelf above the exterior window on the east side is lined with bags of herbs. Several items are on the counter: vials with remedies, a mortar and pestle for crushing and mixing, scales and weights used to measure the herbs, a Chinese abacus, and a coffee grinder to grind the herbs. Jars and vials on the counter contain items such as a rattlesnake, turtle, and powdered morphine. A bear paw also sits on the counter top. There are approximately 500 herbs and medications found in this room; to date about 250 have been identified and recorded. A small sampling of the medicines and herbs (common names) include wild asparagus, cocklebur, dwarf flowering cherry, clove, chicken gizzards, cardamon, citrus (orange), red pepper, tortoise shell, tiger bone, croton, caladium, summer cypress, onion, astor bean, bamboo, ginger, and pomegranate bark.

Again, this collection is completely unique in the United States, and judging from the Chinese visitors who have commented on it, there’s no historical collection like this to be found in China itself either.

I could quote the whole pdf because really every nook and cranny of this building is crammed with amazing stuff, but I’ll stop here and just suggest that y’all take a look at the document yourselves to get a full sense of what a treasure trove Lung On and Doc Hay left us.

To visit the Kam Wah Chung & Co museum is to step back in time and immerse yourself into the lives of Chinese immigrants in turn of the century America. It’s a one of a kind opportunity, one which I will most certainly avail myself of should I find myself Oregon way.

Deadwood archaeology summer camp

If you have (or are) a kid between the ages of 9 and 12, run, don’t walk, to the Black Hills of South Dakota to sign up for a week-long archaeology summer camp.

During the week-long camp, kids will get the chance to participate in a real archaeological dig in Deadwood led by real, live, honest-to-goodness archaeologists. Many of Deadwood’s archaeological digs in recent years have been in the old Chinatown district, where the Fee Lee Wong family (pictured above) lived and worked. There hasn’t been any official word yet, but the children in the summer camp may get to learn in this area.

The curriculum includes a crash-course in the archaeological process, as well as hikes from the excavation site to related locations, a visit the State Archaeological Research Center in Rapid City and daily lessons from professionals ranging from general historic preservation to mapping techniques and – perhaps most thrilling of all to a third-grader – how to use a compass!

“But, liv,” I can hear you ask, “how could I afford to send my kids to such an incredible summer camp?” My reply? A quick excavation between the cushions of your couch should do the trick because the total cost for the whole week is $25.

Even if you don’t live in the area, you should seriously consider taking the week of June 23rd for vacation, and hightail it to Deadwood like it’s the Gold Rush all over again. An opportunity like this is just too good to miss, and there are only 20 spots in the camp so the clock is ticking.

Mmm… Futuricious…

Fair warning: this is going to be a long entry.

My man Illusory Tenant introduced me to the Futurists a hundred years and four discussion boards ago. Among his many talents, IT is immensely knowledgeable about music, and Futurism played a raucously innovative role in early 20th century music.

Futurism celebrated the speed, force, and aggressive advancement of technology. Anything traditional, melodic, respectful of the past was anathema. From Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s 1909 Manifesto of Futurism:

Museums, cemeteries! Truly identical in their sinister juxtaposition of bodies that do not know each other. Public dormitories where you sleep side by side for ever with beings you hate or do not know. Reciprocal ferocity of the painters and sculptors who murder each other in the same museum with blows of line and color. To make a visit once a year, as one goes to see the graves of our dead once a year, that we could allow! We can even imagine placing flowers once a year at the feet of the Gioconda! But to take our sadness, our fragile courage and our anxiety to the museum every day, that we cannot admit! Do you want to poison yourselves? Do you want to rot?

(Poor Marinetti would leap out of his grave beat me senseless if he knew he and his movement would be lovingly featured in this obsequiously backward-looking digital cemetery.)

The Futurist CookbookBut what inspired this entry is that I just found out that Futurism didn’t limit itself to art and politics. Oh no. Marinetti wrote a cookbook, and what a cookbook it is.

It commands a dramatic combination of flavors, textures and scents, all of them not so much a meal as an experience, to put it mildly. Chemistry is king — eat your derivative hearts out, molecular gastronomists — and the meal itself is performance art as well as nutritional patriotism.

Needless to say, pasta gets the same treatment as museums. From the 1930 Manifesto of Futurist Cooking:

It may be that a diet of cod, roast beef and steamed pudding is beneficial to the English, cold cuts and cheese to the Dutch and sauerkraut, smoked [salt] pork and sausage to the Germans, but pasta is not beneficial to the Italians. For example it is completely hostile to the vivacious spirit and passionate, generous, intuitive soul of the Neapolitans. If these people have been heroic fighters, inspired artists, awe-inspiring orators, shrewd lawyers, tenacious farmers it was in spite of their voluminous daily plate of pasta. When they eat it they develop that typical ironic and sentimental scepticism which can often cut short their enthusiasm.

It’s like looking in a mirror, man.

Unfortunately, the following picture of Marinetti made the press right about that time, slightly undercutting the power of his patriotic appeal:

Marinetti claimed in the later Cookbook that this picture was a montage spread by the foes of Futurism to discredit him, the 1930’s equivalent of “That’s not me! My enemies Photoshopped my head on someone else’s naked, prone body!”

The manifesto only listed 4 specific recipes: Alaskan Salmon in the rays of the sun with Mars sauce, Woodcock Mount Rosa with Venus sauce, a sculpted meat cylinder, and the non-meat sculpture Equator + North Pole.

Marinetti was big on the sculpted meat. In fact, the rallying cry of Futurist cookery was “Pasta is dead. Long live sculpted meat!”

In 1931, the manifesto was made (sculpted) flesh in the form of the one and only Futurist restaurant: The Tavern of the Holy Palate in Turin.

Decorated in aluminum, The Holy Palate served Futurist delicacies against a backdrop of poetry readings, perfume sprayed by the waiters over diners and fanned about by an airplane propeller, and in the unkindest cut of all, Wagner operas.

Aerofood: A signature Futurist dish, with a strong tactile element. Pieces of olive, fennel, and kumquat are eaten with the right hand while the left hand caresses various swatches of sandpaper, velvet, and silk. At the same time, the diner is blasted with a giant fan (preferable an airplane propeller) and nimble waiters spray him with the scent of carnation, all to the strains of a Wagner opera.

Chicken Fiat doesn’t have all the accessories, but it’s probably my favorite Futurist abomination. Chicken Fiat (named after the Italian industrial dynamo, natch) is chicken roasted with ball bearings inside until the meat has absorbed the metallic taste, then served on pillows of whipped cream.

But these dishes only scratch the surface of the full multimedia experience that was dinner at The Holy Palate. They enlisted every sense to keep people’s tastebuds in high gear, so to speak.

Smell and taste, unlike sight, hearing, and touch, are chemical senses. As such, they are subject to relatively rapid sensory fatigue. A Futurist cuisine had therefore to find ways of reestablishing “gustatory virginity.” To annul one set of tastes and smells before presenting the next set, a suction fan would draw scents out of the room. To intensify sensory acuity, they
periodically changed the lighting and room temperature, suddenly instructed the diners to quickly move themselves and their dinners two places to the right, released a live turkey into a room where diners had just eaten the bird, and presented blue wine, orange milk, and red mineral water.

Marinetti published The Futurist Cookbook the next year. It elaborated on the principles so concisely stated in the manifesto and included all the recipes from The Holy Palate.

Sadly, it’s long out of print and terribly expensive, so I haven’t had the chance to read it yet. For some reason, it’s not available at my local public library. Damn pasta-eating Communists.

I did find a great description of one recipe in the book that sounds both somewhat palatable and awesome as opposed to just awesome:

Marinetti was not entirely indifferent to the romance of fine dining, and does include a “Nocturnal Love Feast” in his cookbook. The meal, which should be eaten at midnight on the island of Capri, climaxes with a cocktail called the War-in-Bed — a relatively appetizing blend of pineapple juice, egg, cocoa, caviar, red pepper, almond paste, nutmeg, and a whole clove, all mixed in the yellow Strega liqueur. He declares that modern women (preferably sheathed in dresses made of gold graphic patterns) will inevitably be won over by the intellectual rigor of Futurist cooking, describing one beautiful donna’s wide-eyed response: “I’m dazzled! Your genius frightens me!”

The sexy cannot be denied.

The oldest temple in the world

Stone circle at Gobekli TepeSeven thousand years older than Stonehenge, Gobekli Tepe is a ring of standing stones built by hunter-gatherers in what is now Turkey.

This is a huge deal because before it was discovered in 1993, archaeologists thought that temple complexes came after agriculture.

Compared with Stonehenge, they are humble affairs. None of the circles excavated (four out of an estimated 20) are more than 30 metres across. T-shaped pillars like the rest, two five-metre stones tower at least a metre above their peers. What makes them remarkable are their carved reliefs of boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions, and their age. Dated at around 9,500BC, these stones are 5,500 years older than the first cities of Mesopotamia, and 7,000 years older than Stonehenge.

Lion relief carving on standing stoneNever mind wheels or writing, the people who erected them did not even have pottery or domesticated wheat. They lived in villages. But they were hunters, not farmers.

What’s even more remarkable is that the temple is in fantastic condition. The builders seem to have covered it completely in tons of soil soon after they built it.

For more information on the excavation, see the Gobekli Tepe page on the German Archaeological Institute website.