Germany’s World War I ends Sunday

Signing of Versailles Treaty in the Hall of Mirrors, June 28, 1919No, you have not fallen through a time warp and woken up in 1919. On Sunday, October 3rd, the 20th anniversary of German reunification, Germany will pay the last of the reparations stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles.

The reason it took 92 years is that there were multiple interruptions, restructurings and reduction of the debt from the initial crippling judgment. The first sum assessed in 1919 was a staggering 269 billion gold marks (around 96,000 tons of gold). John Maynard Keynes, the representative from the British Treasury to the Paris Peace Conference, actually resigned in protest. “Germany will not be able to formulate correct policy if it cannot finance itself,” he said at the time, and boy did he turn out to be right.

German kids playing with worthless cashGermany couldn’t keep up with the payments and in 1923 defaulted. France and Belgium responded by sending troops into the Ruhr River valley, the heartland of German industrial production. Germans passively resisted the occupying forces, stopping coal production and railway transit cold. This impasse was a major factor in the hyperinflation that followed, as seen in pictures of kids using stacks of worthless banknotes to build forts and women burning them for heat.

To try to staunch the wound, the Entente powers hastily threw together the Dawes Plan which reduced Germany’s overall war debt to 132 billion gold marks, guaranteed loans from the US and got the occupying troops out of the Ruhr. Although German business rebounded, the damage had been done and the annual payments were still too enormous for Germany to make good on.

Political cartoon depicting (from the left) Wilson, Clemenceau and Lloyd George guillotining Germany at VersaillesThe debt was reduced again to 112 billion gold marks in the Young Plan in 1929, but then the world economy asploded so at the Lausanne Conference in 1932, the Allies to all intents and purposes suspended the payments. The year after came Hitler and he wasn’t keen on paying reparations. It wasn’t until 1953 when Germany had been divided and West Germany was occupied by Allied forces that the subject of the Versailles reparations was addressed again.

But in 1953, West Germany agreed at an international conference in London to service its international bond obligations from before World War II. In the years that followed it repaid the principal on the bonds, which had been issued to private and institutional investors in countries including the United States.

Under the terms of the London accord, Germany was allowed to wait until it unified before paying some €125 million in outstanding interest that had accrued on its foreign debt in the years 1945 to 1952. After the Berlin Wall fell and West and East Germany united in 1990, the country dutifully paid that interest off in annual installments, the last of which comes due on Oct. 3.

And here we are. If you’re very crazy and/or bored, you can read the entire text of the Versailles Treaty here.

Stonehenge boy was from the Mediterranean

Some of the amber beads buried with the skeletonIn 2005, road workers digging an area about 3 miles southeast of the standing stones uncovered the skeleton of a teenage boy who had been buried with a beautiful necklace of 90 amber beads. The fact that he was buried close to the monument and with such a valuable piece of jewelry indicated that he had been someone of importance in life.

From radiocarbon dating we know the young man died 3,550 years ago, a period when Stonehenge had already been finished over 1500 years. Examination of his bones put his age at death to 14 or 15 years old. Now isotope analysis of a sliver of his tooth enamel indicate that he grew up far from where he died, somewhere in the southern Mediterranean.

Boy with the Amber Necklace skeletonProfessor Jane Evans, Head of Archaeological Science at the British Geological Survey, said that recent scientific analyses of the teeth of a teenager buried at Boscombe Down suggest that he ‘spent his childhood in a warm climate typical of Iberia or the Mediterranean. Such warm oxygen values are theoretically possible in the British Isles but are only found on the extreme west coast of south west England, western Ireland and the Outer Hebrides. These areas can be excluded as likely childhood origins of his on the basis of the strontium isotope composition of his teeth.’

The Boy with the Amber Necklace is not the only non-native to be buried in the area. Isotope analysis done several years ago of the Amesbury Archer, whose grave contains some of the earliest gold and copper objects found in Britain, indicated that he had been raised in a colder climate, probably Alpine Germany. He was visiting Stonehenge 800 years before the Amber youth.

The Boscombe Bowmen, who died in 2300 B.C. and were buried near where the Boy with the Amber Necklace would be found, were most likely from Wales, although they may have come from as far afield as Brittany.

We don’t know what brought these people to Stonehenge, of course. They may have been tourists or pilgrims. They may have been traveling for work purposes, in the case of the Boscombe Bowmen, possibly to work on Stonehenge itself.

Cullinan diamond necklace joins the Hope on display

Cullinan diamond necklaceA 1910 silver necklace with more than 200 diamonds, including 9 beautiful and rare blue diamonds was unveiled Monday at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The Edwardian piece was donated by an anonymous California donor who scheduled it to coincide with the National Museum of Natural History’s 100th anniversary.

The necklace is a stunning example of classic Edwardian style, a period when bow and lace were popular motifs in jewelry design. The double bow is encrusted in diamonds, with two large blue diamonds inside each of the loops. The largest single diamond in the setting is a 2.6 carat blue diamond pendant hanging from the center of the bow, almost half the 5.32 carat total weight of the 9 blue diamonds in the piece.

Cullinan rough diamond, Thomas Cullinan holding it on the leftThe blue diamonds in the necklace have a link to the biggest rough diamond ever discovered. In 1905, workers at the Premier Diamond Mine in South Africa found a monster diamond with a total pre-cut weight of 3,106.75 carats. The owner of the mine, explorer Thomas Cullinan, had promised his wife that he would find and gift her the largest diamond in the world.

Star of Africa in the British Royal ScepterOnce he actually found it, though, he sold it uncut to the Transvaal government for 150,000 pounds. The Prime Minister of Transvaal gave it to King Edward VII as a birthday present in 1907, and the next year renowned diamond cutter Joseph Asscher cut the giant into nine stones. The largest, a 530.2 carat white diamond that would become known as the Star of Africa, is now set in the British Royal Scepter. The second largest, a 317.4 carat diamond known as the Cullinan II, is set front and center on the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain.

So Cullinan had a lot to make up for with the missus, needless to say.

In honor of his own knighthood in 1910, Cullinan commissioned the necklace for his wife, Annie, and the nine blue diamonds represented the nine pieces that were cut from the original stone. Parts of the huge diamond were placed — in various settings (scepters, rings, crowns, what have you) — in the jewelry trove of the British royal family.

The necklace was bequeathed to each first daughter in each generation. “In the early 1980s, the great-granddaughter, Anne Robinson, got in touch with Stephen Silver and sold him the heirloom. Then Silver sold the necklace to another owner, who is donating it to us,” Post said.

The 9 blue diamonds in the necklace are said to represent the 9 diamonds cut from the rough diamond that Mrs. Cullinan only got to see in the Tower of London with all the other tourists.

Ethnic cleansing among 9th c. Anasazi Pueblo tribes?

Anasazi Pueblo ruinsArchaeologists excavating the Anasazi Pueblo site at Sacred Ridge, Colorado, have found an enormous deposit of mutilated human remains. Mass graves have been found before at Ancestral Pueblo sites, some of them showing evidence of horrific violence, cannibalism, deliberate desecration of the dead, probably inflicted to terrify enemies.

The Sacred Ridge charnel pit, however, is the earliest and definitely the largest ever found. It dates to around 800 A.D., a period when the first Ancestral Pueblo villages were forming.

The entire assemblage comprises 14,882 human skeletal fragments, as well as the mutilated remains of dogs and other animals killed at the massacre site — Sacred Ridge, southwest of Durango, Colo.

Based on the archaeological findings, which include two-headed axes that tested positive for human blood, co-authors Jason Chuipka and James Potter believe the genocide occurred as a result of conflict between different Anasazi Ancestral Puebloan ethnic groups.

“It was entirely an inside job,” Chuipka, an archaeologist with Woods Canyon Archaeological Consultants, told Discovery News.

“The type of event at Sacred Ridge is on the far end of the conflict spectrum where social relations completely melt down,” he added, mentioning that the Sacred Ridge “occupants were targeted to take the blame.” […]

The unearthed bones and artifacts indicate that when the violence took place, men, women and children were tortured, disemboweled, killed and often hacked to bits. In some cases, heads, hands and feet appear to have been removed as trophies for the killers. The attackers then removed belongings out of the structures and set the roofs on fire.

Chuipka and Potter think the slaughter was the result of massive social stress possibly coupled with severe environmental hardship like a drought, and that the deceased were targeted as group scapegoats. Biodistance analysis done on the teeth of Sacred Ridge human remains indicate that the dead were genetically connected to each other and distinct from neighboring populations. The extent of the mutilations and their systematic disposal suggest the mass killings were planned as such, not spur of the moment responses to circumstances like the other Ancestral Pueblo mass graves which show evidence of starvation cannibalism, war and witch hunts.

These unique characteristics of the Sacred Ridge mass grave suggest to the authors of the study intentional ethnic cleansing. Click here to read an abstract of the study or the study itself if you have a subscription.

Early Kodachrome color motion pictures

There were color movies from the earliest days of cinema, including Edison’s 1895 short Annabelle’s Dance and George Méliès famous 1902 A Trip to the Moon which he sold in black and white and in color (for an additional fee, of course). They were hand-colored, however, not shot in color. The French film studio Pathé used a stenciling system starting in 1905. The process cut out sections from the film which would then be run through dye rollers of up to 6 different colors. It would remain popular for two and a half decades and would employ hundreds of women as stencilers.

Tinted film was also widely used. It was cheap and easy and filmmakers could match a scene to one of the pre-dyed color reels, so for instance, a fire scene would be shot on red tinted film. Hollywood kept using tinted film for effect well into the 50s.

Eastman Kodak started testing a new method which would bring naturalistic color to film, the Two-Color Kodachrome Process, in 1914. Two-Color Kodachrome was first used in a fiction film in a 1916 short called Concerning One Thousand Dollars. The Pordenone Silent Film Festival presented a restored version of that film in 2000 and here’s a clip of it:


Shot with a dual-lens camera, the process recorded filtered images on black-and-white negative stock, then made black-and-white separation positives. The final prints were actually produced by bleaching and tanning a double-coated duplicate negative (made from the positive separations), then dyeing the emulsion green/blue on one side and red on the other. Combined they created a rather ethereal palette of hues. Kodak introduced Two-Color Kodachrome to the industry in 1922 through a series of private screenings, first in New York City and subsequently at venues across the country. That first test reel contained shots of actress Hope Hampton, but it has not been determined if that reel is still extant.

Earlier this year, the George Eastman House’s Motion Picture Department restored some of those 1922 test films used to pitch the Kodachrome process to the studio bosses.

In these newly preserved tests, made in 1922 at the Paragon Studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey, actress Mae Murray appears almost translucent, her flesh a pale white that is reminiscent of perfectly sculpted marble, enhanced with touches of color to her lips, eyes, and hair. She is joined by actress Hope Hampton modeling costumes from The Light in the Dark (1922), which contained the first commercial use of Two-Color Kodachrome in a feature film. Ziegfeld Follies actress Mary Eaton and an unidentified woman and child also appear. Finally, the film includes panoramic scenes of homes in the Los Angeles area shot by Capstaff in July of the same year.


Fox eventually bought it, but it turned out to be a pig in a poke. In 1930, Fox spent huge amounts on special labs on each coast, plus special tens of 35mm and 70mm cameras for shooting using the Two-Color Kodachrome Process. By then one of Kodak’s competitors Technicolor had become the industry standard and expensive, complicated Kodachrome was over before it really began. Fox never got to use any of those specialty cameras for Kodachrome, although a few of the 35mm would be repurposed over 2 decades later for the widescreen, high resolution VistaVision process.