WW1 Fun Fact of the Day

On the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1st 1916, about 58,000 British soldiers were wounded or killed. On that same day, the US army had less than 58,000 soldiers.

Angola's flag features a machete and a star and...half-circle of a gear? The gear represents industrial workers, and the machete represents agricultural workers. The star represents socialism. Adopted in 1975, it was apparently a deliberate reference to the hammer and sickle on the Soviet Union's flag.

The Hitachi Tree

This is a beautiful, large monkeypod, with a distinctive umbrella-shaped canopy, growing in the middle of a grassy area in the middle of the Moanalua Gardens on Hawaii's Oahu island. The Moanalua Gardens are the childhood home of King Kamehameha V (ruled 1863 - 1872). Today, the gardens are home to a number of historic structures, such as the King’s cottage, a temple, a koi pond and many rare plants and trees. The Moanalua Gardens charge visitors a modest entrance fee which goes towards maintenance. But most of the garden's costs are paid for by the Japanese Hitachi corporation. Because of that beautiful monkeypod tree.

Since 1973, Hitachi Corporation has been using images and footage of this tree—now known as “Hitachi Tree”—as their corporate symbol. According to their website, the tree symbolizes the “comprehensive drive” and the “wide business range” of the Hitachi Group.

Did You Know Tibet Has A Sacred Skeleton Dance?

It a sacred Tibetan dance ritual, coming from Himalayan Buddhist traditions. It reflects how everything is transitory including one’s body. The monk pictured in the above photo seems to be performing the dance known as Durdak Garcham, or “Dance of the Lords of the Cemetery.” Durdak Garcham celebrates the liberation that comes from acceptance of our impermanence. Traditionally danced by a couple, the Lord and Lady of the Charnel Ground, they dance the eternal dance of death. And, it is hoped, their dance ends with the attainment of perfect consciousness which frees one from the dance forever.

Taken in 1925, these two photographs were published in National Geographic in its November 1928 issue.

The Cherokee May Soon Get Back Half Of Oklahoma Thanks To The Supreme Court

A murder case from 2004 has ended up in the US Supreme Court. And with it, the fate of Oklahoma, which may have to return a significant amount of the state to the sovereign Cherokee Nation. Read more.

When the Chiricahua Apaches of what is today southern Arizona went on a raiding party, they adopted a special speech. One informant told anthropologists Morris Edward Opler and Harry Hoijer:

I used to know many words, but I have forgotten just about all of them. Only one sticks in my mind, and that is the ceremonial way of asking for a drink of water. Instead of saying, ‘I want to drink some water,’ we had to say, ‘I begin to swim the specular iron ore.’

This formal, alternative way of talking had to be maintained as long as the raiding party was away from home. As soon as they were back in camp, they could switch to everyday language.

The Chinese New Year Is Anti-Revolutionary?

Under the rule of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong, the Chinese government forbade celebration of the traditional Chinese New Year. It was considered un-communist, because it was a religious celebration, and Marx believed religion to be an "opiate of the masses." Red banners, which for 1,000 years had featured couplets about springtime and prosperity, now had to have revolutionary slogans lauding Chairman Mao. Temple fairs vanished. Lion and dragon dances were scorned. Teachers told students to reject traditional gifts of money in red packets from their parents -- true communists only took money they earned through the sweat of the brow.

Perhaps the most long-lasting cultural effect was the banning the Kitchen God. Traditionally, a paper effigy of the Kitchen God watches the family all year, from his perch above the stove. During Chinese New Year's he travels to heaven and reports on whether the family has been good or bad. Families would bribe their picture of the Kitchen God, to encourage a good report. But printing images of the Kitchen God was banned by Mao. Today many urban Chinese do not even know who he is. It was only in 2008 that the ban on the Kitchen God's image was lifted.

The First "Britons" Were Black

Genetic studies of 10,000-year-old Cheddar Man recently revealed that he had black hair, and dark brown to black skin. Not what many people expected. Cheddar Man was discovered in 1903 at the entrance to Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge, in Somerset, England. He is the most complete skeleton to survive from the period when hunter-gatherers were starting to migrate to Britain at a time when it was still connected to the Eurasian landmass. Meaning Cheddar Man suggests that ancient hunter-gatherers in Europe were darker, too.

How, then, did northern Europeans end up with pale skin? It has been suggested that it was the switch from hunter-gatherer to farmer. The Mesolithic diet, rich in fish and meat, provides adequate amounts of vitamin D to live; when prehistoric Europeans switched to a Neolithic, farmer's diet based on one or two cereals, they lost all that dietary vitamin D. Why is this related to skin pigmentation? Vitamin D can also be produced by the reaction of pheomelanin in the skin with sunlight. People can manufacture their own vitamin D! People with fairer skin have the highest levels of pheomelanin, whereas darker-skinned people have higher levels of eumelanin pigment, which acts as a natural sunblock. Natural selection on hunter-gatherers favored darker skin. Natural selection on farmers favored lighter skin.

Two Gentlemen in a Biplane over the Los Angeles Beach, May 1911

Or...are they? This is actually a faked picture! Notice how no one on the beach are looking at the plane flying just above them. The gentlemen are also slightly too large compared to the people on the beach, and they do not have a motorway to take off from.

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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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