The Iceman’s high-drama last days

Otzi, the mummy found frozen in the Tirolean alps, continues to reveal new and exciting things about how he lived and died. The latest research suggests that he was cut in a fight a few days before he died, and that he might have fought his assassins like a badger before he died.

A fresh examination on the Iceman’s body shows a hand injury that ”may have been the result of a brawl,” says the study by Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University and Italy’s Oetzi experts.

The researchers also took another look at the arrows found with the Iceman’s body and saw that they hadn’t been sharpened properly, ”a likely sign that he had to leave his village in a hurry and was unable to defend himself”.

After he climbed up to the 3,200m spot where his frozen and mummified body was found, they said, he received a mortal arrow shot in the back before being hit ”with a blunt object, probably a rock or a stick”.

The final blow left a bruise which has only now been found not far from the arrow wound, they said.

It seems he died quickly after the arrow hit an artery, so the previous theory that he was shot in the valley and then fled up the glacier is no longer the likeliest scenario.

One possibility is that he was a tribal chieftain set upon by multiple assassins.

Evidence indicates that he flailed around in his death throes and even managed to wound his assailants, Austrian scientists have claimed.

After the ambush, the conspirators left his distinctive weapons with his body so that they would not be found out when they returned to the Iceman’s home village.

There might have been a ritual component to his death, or he may have been banished for having a low sperm count. That last one seems a tad contrived to me, like they found his swimmers lacking and thought of a way that could be linked to his death.

Anyway, it’s neat that they keep finding new pieces of the puzzle even after studying him so closely for almost 20 years.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Jane Austen was a great writer, sure, but I think we can all agree there was a severe paucity of zombies in her oeuvre.

Now, thanks to Quirk Books and author Seth Grahame-Smith, this historic injustice will finally be redressed.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen’s beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead.

The edition will also include zombified illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock, the illustrator of Austen’s original editions.

Yes, of course I have pre-ordered it. And now so will you, don’t deny it.

Hemingway’s Cuba letters available in the US

Ernest Hemingway lived in Finca Vigia, Cuba, for 21 years. Until now, all two decades of his correspondence and writings were unavailable to US researchers because of the whole embargo situation.

Thanks to the efforts of Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) and the Cuban government, replicas of the 3000+ Finca Vigia documents are now in the JFK library along with the gigantic Hemingway collection of 100,000 writings, 10,000 pictures and all sorts of personal items that his 4th wife, Mary, had donated after his death.

The archival replicas include corrected proofs of “The Old Man and the Sea,” a movie script based on the novel, an alternate ending to “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and thousands of letters, with correspondence from authors Sinclair Lewis and John Dos Passos and actress Ingrid Bergman. The documents were previewed Thursday and will likely be available to researchers in late spring. […]

The microfilm copies at the JFK Library provide scholars a window into the period that occupied half of Hemingway’s writing life, which before left a “black hole” in Hemingway studies because the material was off-limits to biographers, Spanier said.

Rep. McGovern is an advocate of normalization of US-Cuba relations, so he hopes this is just the first step in that direction.

Some snippets of the correspondence and writings from Finca Vigia:

Druids want Charlie reburied

The prehistorican skeleton of a boy known as “Charlie” was discovered near the Avebury standing stones back in 1929. Since then it’s been studied and displayed at the Alexander Keiller museum.

Now the Council of British Druid Orders has asked for Charlie and several other similar human remains to be reinterred.

Rollo Maughfling, the archdruid of Stonehenge and Glastonbury, said: “Beyond all the other philosophical, scientific and religious arguments, in the end it comes down to something called common human decency.”

Fellow pagan Arthur Pendragon added: “These are human remains – you wouldn’t dig your grandmother up from a churchyard.”

Okay, first of all, major :rolleyes: @ “Arthur Pendragon”. You wish, buddeh. Secondly, archaeologists are not at all pleased that this petition is actually being taken seriously by English Heritage.

They think — correctly, I’m sure — that it would create a scary precedent. However, there is something of a parallel with Native American tribes in the US and Aborigines in Australia reclaiming the remains of their ancestors for reburial.

The difference here being that “Arthur Pendragon” is descended from “Charlie” only in a self-conscious, contrived way. He chooses to identify as a Druid, yes, but I’m not sure that entitles them to the same consideration as tribal authorities.

On the other hand, some of the controversies over remains in the States involve tribes that have no specific evidence that they are descended from the skeletons, so who’s to say, really.

Auschwitz in desperate need of renovation

Today is International Holocaust Memorial Day, the 63rd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz death camp by the Soviet army, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum is in desperate need of renovation.

The museum doesn’t have anything like the 120 million dollars needed to restore the rickety barracks and cracked cell walls.

The main goals of conservation works will be determined by the Museum’s conservation department under close supervision of the International Auschwitz Council. Rafał Pióro, the department’s head, mentions the following as the most urgent works:

  • conservation of brick and wooden barracks and remnants of wooden barracks at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, which are in a poor condition;
  • conservation of eleven blocks at Auschwitz I, where the Museum’s new main exhibition is to be located;
  • conservation of the former camp kitchen building at Auschwitz I and its conversion for the purpose of housing an exhibition of works of art created at the camp during the war;
  • conversion of the so called Old Theatre building, which is to house the International Auschwitz and Holocaust Education Centre.
  • Up until the museum has been funded almost entirely by the Polish government, with some revenue from visitors and donors.

    As of mid-January, however, the International Auschwitz Council has opened a Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation with the express goal of getting not just the funds necessary for immediate restoration, but also an endowment which would provide income for regular upkeep and improvements.

    The grounds are most urgently in need of funds, but the museum also supports extensive archives and permanent exhibitions, so there’s much more that could be done with the foundation money.

    To donate to the conservation fund with an easy online PayPal payment, click here.