Were Medieval (European) Thieves or Assassins Guilds Real?

Historical-nonfiction only asks the real questions. Like did well-organized crime groups exist in medieval Europe?

The hermitage of San Bartolomé, chapel in the Rio dos Lobos Canyon of Spain dating to the 1100s CE, was built by the religious order the Templars in a very specific spot. It's a pretty special location because, among other things, it is exactly the same distance from San Bartolomé to two peninsulas on the eastern and western coasts of the Iberian peninsula.

The Arctic Lighthouses Run By Nuclear Power

Starting in the 1930s the Soviet Union built a chain of remote lighthouses along its arctic coastline. This waterway, called the arctic route, was used by boats to travel from western Russia to its less-populated eastern territories. Because of their remoteness, and Soviet policies supporting nuclear energy, the lighthouses were powered by a type of nuclear battery. This meant the lighthouses were autonomous and did not require humans living in the remote and cold locations. New nuclear batteries were being placed along the arctic route up to 1990.

Then the Soviet Union fell. For about a decade the arctic route lighthouses were neglected. During this time, a number of nuclear batteries went missing, either getting lost to the sea, or scavenged by humans probably wanting to sell their metal for scrap. In 1996, the new Russian government started to properly and safely decommission the batteries. As of 2021, all the lighthouse nuclear batteries have officially been removed.

Russian nobleman Georgy Gruzinsky faked his death in 1798 after he fell afoul of Tzar Paul I. He even staged his own funeral by bribing local officials! Gruzinsky stayed out of sight until 1802 when Tzar Alexander took the throne,  and returned to government, even raising a militia to fight Napoleon during the invasion. Gruzinsky finally died (we think) at age 89 in 1852.

First Swim Lesson

  At Hungary's Császár Bath, a large and beautiful thermal bath in Buda. The person in the photograph is Éva Keleti. 1958.

Cotard's Delusion is a rare delusion where a person believe they are dead, don't exist, are putrefying, or have lost their blood or internal organs. The delusion was first described in 1880 by French neurologist Jules Cotard (who humbly named it "The Delirium of Negation").

He described the case of “Mademoiselle X” who denied the existence of parts of her body and denied that she needed to eat. She said that she was condemned to eternal damnation, and therefore, could not die a natural death. As a result of her beliefs Mademoiselle X died of starvation.

What Makes This Train Turn Special?

South of Brusio, in the Swiss Canton of Graubünden, the Bernina railway's track must change elevation without exceeding its specified maximum gradient of 7 percent. Engineers figured out that by building a viaduct in 360 degrees, the train could gently go upwards at a gentle grade, and the arch bridge would make the solution artistically pleasing, too. Opened in 1908 it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Sadly the original engineers probably did not live that long.

The Swiss Army was the last country to disband its bicycle infantry regiment, making it just into the 21st century to 2003.

New Study of Neanderthal Hearing

A new study of Neanderthal ear bones suggests that the hominins were capable of hearing sounds similar to modern human speech. CT scans were used to produce 3-D models of fossilized ear bones of Neanderthals, modern humans, and early hominins thought to be Neanderthal ancestors. The researchers then measured how sound traveled through the ear canal, to the ear drum, through the middle ear bones, and into the inner ear. They determined that Neanderthals could hear a wider range of sounds than their ancestors, and had the capability to distinguish between consonant sounds. And like modern humans, Neanderthals could produce all the sounds in the frequency range they could hear.

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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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