My Story, Mystery: A Letter to Hild of Whitby by Nicola Griffith "DEAR HILD, You were magnificent, I think, but hidden: a black hole at the heart of history. We can trace you only by your gravitational pull. We know, for example, that the very first piece of English literature — Cædmon’s Hymn, certainly the earliest extant example of Old English vernacular and very possibly the first created — was forged in the fire of your influence; that in the so-called Dark Ages you built and ran Whitby Abbey, the foundation at the center of what became Northumbria’s Golden Age. There you hosted and facilitated the meeting of kings, princes, and bishops that changed Britain. But we have no account of you beyond a five-page sketch in a 1300-year-old history, most of which recites the standard hagiographic miracles and visions of the time. We have no gossipy Life, no scholarly monograph, no racy romance cycle. There isn’t even a grave."
Chai Why? The Triumph of Tea in India : "But whereas I initially supposed tea-drinking to be as Indian, and perhaps as old, as the Vedas, I have come to know that it is, in the longue durée of Indian history, a very recent development; one that (in many parts of the country) did not much precede my first visit, or that even followed it."
State of decay :"Over the years, Boston artist Rosamond Purcell has photographed goliath beetles and translucent bats culled from the backrooms of natural history museums; a collection of teeth pulled by Peter the Great; moles flayed by naturalist Willem Cornelis van Heurn; and scores of worn and weathered objects, like termite-eaten books and fish skeletons."
The Mexican kitchen's Islamic connection :"When Mexico’s leading writer, Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz, arrived in New Delhi in 1962 to take up his post as ambassador to India, he quickly ran across a culinary puzzle. Although Mexico and India were on opposite sides of the globe, the brown, spicy, aromatic curries that he was offered in India sparked memories of Mexico’s national dish, mole (pronounced MO-lay). Is mole, he wondered, “an ingenious Mexican version of curry, or is curry a Hindu adaptation of a Mexican sauce ?” How could this seeming coincidence of “gastronomic geography” be explained ?"
Seeing is believing : Illustrations were essential in spreading new scientific and medical ideas and it was often the case that new developments in the sciences were accompanied by corresponding developments in illustrative techniques.
Under Foot and Between the Boards in the Laurential Library "Within the Laurentian Library, the enigmatic masterwork of Michelangelo, there exists a complex geometric pavement that is hidden from view, little known about and shrouded with mystery...Why had an immensely complicated pavement been constructed, only to be covered over?"
Concrete Ships Toward the end of the First World War, and during the Second World War, the United States commisioned the construction of experimental concrete ships.
The Art of the First Fleet : On 13 May 1787, eleven ships, now commonly referred to as The First Fleet, set sail from Portsmouth to establish a colony in New South Wales, Australia. One of the unplanned but long-lasting outcomes of this event was the large number of outstanding drawings of aboriginal people, the environment and wildlife found on arrival as well as of the early foundation of the colony.
The Williamson Tunnels "The explanation most commonly offered [for the construction of the tunnels] is that having risen from humble beginnings, the rich retired merchant was touched by the poverty which pervaded the Edge Hill district and offered construction labour to the unemployed as a gesture of generosity"
The Maunsell Sea Forts: During the Second World War, three anti-aircraft forts were built in 1941-42 to protect the Thames Estuary, designed by Mr. G. A. Maunsell.
Scattered Leaves In the early decades of the 20th century, a Cleveland book collector named Otto Ege removed the pages from 50 medieval manuscript books, divided the pages among 40 boxes, and sold the boxes around the world. Now the University of Saskatchewan plans to digitally remake the book.
The women's petition against coffee "the Excessive use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE, which Riffling Nature of her Choicest Treasures, and Drying up the Radical Moisture, has so Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age, and as unfruitful as those Desarts whence that unhappy Berry is said to be brought." (via)
The Amber Room : [flash] Stolen by the Nazis in WWII from the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Amber Room remains one of the greatest missing treasures of Europe. The room has now been reconstructed, and the search for the original may have come to an unhappy end.
No time for Idle Hands :25 original paintings and drawings commemorating 19th-Century Women of the Plains & Prairies. (via)
Hero stones are carved stones (found all over India) erected in the honor of a brave man or woman who perished while defending the interests of the village. Image search.
The map of Madaba: The discovery in a sixth century church, and the publication of the mosaic Map of the biblical lands in 1896/7, brought Madaba, at the time a small dusty village in Jordan, to international fame.