The Kingoodie Hammer

In 1844, Sir David Brewster discovered an iron nail in a block of stone in Scotland’s Kingoodie Quarry. The nail was embedded in a Cretaceous block from the Mesozoic era; in 1985, the British Geological Survey dated the bed at between 360 and 408 million years old.

An iron nail has no business in the Mesozoic era, and no ordinary nail could avoid oxidation for more than 400 million years.

So how’d it get there? No one knows.

Always Hire a Good Real Estate Agent

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Dioniso Pulido must have angered the gods.

On Feb. 20, 1943, the Mexican farmer watched a volcanic fissure open in the middle of his cornfield. Within 24 hours the cone was 50 meters high; within a week it was twice that. By August his whole town was buried in lava and ash.

The new volcano, called Paricutin, eventually grew to be 10,000 feet high, and it didn’t go quiet until 1952.

And the gods got their due. No one died in the eruption — but three people were killed by associated lightning strikes.

An Ancient Computer

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Meccanismo_di_Antikytera.jpg

In 1900, sponge divers were retrieving relics from an ancient Greek shipwreck when archaeologist Spyridon Stais noticed a rock with a gear wheel in it. He had discovered the Antikythera mechanism, a remarkable clockwork computer that modeled the movements of heavenly objects as early as 87 B.C.

Using x-ray analysis, historians of science and technology have studied the mechanism closely and devised several working reconstructions. British orrery maker John Gleave believes the front dial tracked the sun and moon through the zodiac year against the Egyptian calendar. Others believe it modeled the motions of the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn — every celestial body known to the ancient Greeks.

That last interpretation is significant: In the first century B.C. Cicero had written of an instrument “recently constructed by our friend Poseidonius, which at each revolution reproduces the same motions of the sun, the moon and the five planets.” It may have been used to calculate celestial positions at the times of certain events or births.

Whatever the details, the device was remarkably sophisticated for its day: Among other things, it uses a differential gear, which historians had previously thought was invented in the 16th century. Complex Greek creations like this may have passed through the Arab world and eventually informed European clockmaking. What other ancient technology has been lost?

“Remarkable Inscription”

“The following singular inscription is to be seen carved on a tomb situated at the entrance of the church of San Salvador, in the city of Oviedo. The explanation is that the tomb was erected by a king named Silo, and the inscription is so written that it can be read 270 ways by beginning with the large S in the center. The words are Latin, SILO PRINCEPS FECIT.”

T I C E F S P E C N C E P S F E C I T
I C E F S P E C N I N C E P S F E C I
C E F S P E C N I R I N C E P S F E C
E F S P E C N I R P R I N C E P S F E
F S P E C N I R P O P R I N C E P S F
S P E C N I R P O L O P R I N C E P S
P C C N I R P O L I L O P R I N C E P
E E N I R P O L I S I L O P R I N C E
P E C N I R P O L I L O P R I N C E P
S P E C N I R P O L O P R I N C E P S
F S P E C N I R P O P R I N C E P S F
E F S P E C N I R P R I N C E P S F E
C E F S P E C N I R I N C E P S P E C
I C E F S P E C N I N C E P S F E C I
T I C E F S P E C N C E P S F E C I T

“Besides this singular inscription, the letters H. S. E. S. S. T. T. L. are also carved on the tomb, but of these no explanation is given. Silo, Prince of Oviedo, or King of the Asturias, succeeded Aurelius in 774, and died in 785. He was, therefore, a contemporary of Charlemagne. No doubt the above inscription was the composition of some ingenious and learned Spanish monk.”

Barkham Burroughs’ Encyclopaedia of Astounding Facts and Useful Information, 1889

11/02/2014 UPDATE: A reader points out that S.T.T.L. is the Roman equivalent of R.I.P.: Sit tibi terra levis means “may the earth rest lightly upon you.” “H.S.E.S. is a little less clear, but my conjecture is it stands for Hic Sepultus Est Silo = here Silo has been buried. H.S.E. is a not-uncommon abbreviation on tombstones.” (Thanks, Noah.)

How to Treat Tuberculosis

In January 1892, Rhode Island farmer George Brown buried his daughter Mercy. She had died of consumption, as had her mother and sister.

Two months later George’s son, Edwin, also became sick, and the farmer decided that one of his dead family members was returning from the grave as a vampire to cause his son’s illness.

So he dug up his daughter’s body, cut out her heart, mixed it into a potion, and told his son to drink it.

Edwin died two months later.

Dorchester Pot

The June 1851 issue of Scientific American reported that a zinc and silver vase had been blasted from solid rock 15 feet below the surface of Meeting House Hill in Dorchester, Mass. The bell-shaped vessel had floral designs inlaid with silver.

Experts at the time estimated it to be about 100,000 years old, which would obviously throw everything we know out the window.

Unfortunately, it disappeared after circulating through several museums. What’s the real story? Who knows?

Synchronicity

In 1805, the French writer Émile Deschamps was treated to some plum pudding by a stranger, Monsieur de Fontgibu.

Ten years later, Deschamps ordered plum pudding at a Paris restaurant, but the waiter told him the last dish had already been served to another customer — to M. de Fontgibu, as it turned out.

Seventeen years after that, in 1832, Deschamps was once again offered plum pudding, and he told his friends about the strange coincidence. At that moment, M. de Fontgibu entered the room by mistake.

“Three times in my life have I eaten plum pudding, and three times have I seen M. de Fortgibu!” Deschamps exclaimed. “A fourth time I should feel capable of anything … or capable of nothing!”

A Field of Flames

Here’s one explanation for crop circles:

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This English woodcut pamphlet was published in 1678. It tells of a farmer who swore he would rather have the devil mow his field than pay the high price demanded by a laborer.

According to the pamphlet, that night his field appeared to be in flames, and the next morning it was found to be mowed to supernatural perfection.

Maybe so, but if that’s what causes these things, the devil’s been getting awfully fancy lately:

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