The Foundation of Carthage

Carthage was initially founded by Phoenicians from the city-state of Tyre in the 800s BCE. They named it Qart-hadasht, which simply means “new town.” Situated in today's Tunisia, the settlement was one of many Tyrian colonies dotted around the Mediterranean basin, which brought new materials and goods back to Phoenicia and strengthened and expanded Phoenicia's trading network. Eventually the new town gained its independence around 650 BCE, and became a prosperous trade-based city-state with colonies of its own.

Prehistoric Neanderthals had high rates of surfer’s ear, or aural exostoses -- a condition caused by repeated exposure to cold water. It is theorized that they may have gathered resources from the sea, such as fishing, or gathering molluscs. Another possibility, of course, is that Neanderthals had a genetic predisposition to bone growths in their ears.

First isolated and named as an element at the end of the 1700s, uranium had actually been used in pigments since at least the first century CE. A piece of glass from a Roman villa was found to be yellow because it was one-percent uranium oxide. And history repeats itself: after its discovery as an element, it was used extensively to make glass, enamel, and ceramics of a range of colors. The most famous use of uranium was in uranium glass, which has a distinct, and slightly unsettling, green tint under UV light.

In 2017, a comprehensive study looked into why eggs are shaped like, well, eggs. Why are eggs ellipses, and not spheres? Why are they often asymmetrical with one pointier end and one rounder end? These were the questions the scientists set out to answer.

The research team gathered together a large dataset of 49,175 images of eggs produced by 1,400 species, both living and extinct, and examined exactly how elliptical and how asymmetrical each egg was (and made a pretty graph, see above). The scientists also paid attention to the parents' nesting behaviors, clutch sizes, diet, and flight ability. Previously, it was suggested that eggs are pointy on one end to prevent them from rolling away from the nest or to make laying easier for females. But the study did not support that.

Instead, they found multiple lines of evidence that the shape evolved to simply fit better inside the parent’s aerodynamic body. The stronger, better fliers had the longest and pointiest eggs. Meanwhile, some flightless birds (like ostriches) hatch from squat orbs.

The Spy Who Slept His Way Out of Work

Jack Barsky, born Albrecht Dittrich, was a former sleeper agent of the KGB who spied on the United States from 1978–88. They ordered him to return to the USSR embassy in Canada to be extracted to East Germany. But Dittrich, now Barsky, had married and there was an infant daughter he did not want to abandon. (He didn't seem as concerned for his German wife and son back home.) Barsky decided he wouldn't leave the US. But the KGB isn't known for letting its employees go. Then he had an ingenious idea.

To stay in the United States, Dittrich told his handlers he had HIV and needed to stay in the United States for treatment. Afraid of it spreading to the USSR, or perhaps simply unable to snatch him, the handlers did not extract him. So HIV saved his life? Barsky was uncovered after the fall of the USSR when a defector to Great Britain listed his name along with many other former KGB agents. The FBI found him, surveilled him, and eventually picked him up. But Barsky was happy to provide information on his training and KGB techniques. In short, he made himself an asset to the FBI, and he was never formally charged. Oh, and he and his American wife ended up getting a divorce.

A Lofty Goal

In 1760, Horace Benedict de Saussure, a naturalist hoping to gain scientific information, offered a reward to anyone who could make the full climb up Mont Blanc, the highest mountain peak in Europe. It was 26 years before Dr. Michel Paccard was able to complete the climb and earn the reward.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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