Monday, December 10, 2012

The Trees

There are several posts that have lived in my word doc all year, and my goal is to post them before 2012 is up. This is no exception.

2012 hasn’t been the best year for Colorado. The wild firers this summer, the movie theatre shooting this summer, recently the brutal murder of Jessica Ridgeway. I’m hoping 2013 is a better year for my lovely state. I’ve called Colorado home since I was six, and it breaks my heart to see so many people in the state that have lost so much. And are still losing- there is a fire burning in Rocky Mountain National Park as I type tonight in December.

When I was a freshmen in college I was talked into taking a class called environmental conservation. It is one of those classes that I have gotten more out of it after taking the class than I really did sitting through it. Unfortunately, the wild fires are another case of forgetting history.

Since the age of six I have called Colorado home. I love my state, and am proud to call myself a Coloradoan. Sometimes we make headlines, and this summer is no exception. Imagine my personal grief as I watch my beautiful state be consumed by fire, the landscape disappear, and hear the stories of loss coming out of Colorado Springs. It is hard.

Ten years ago, the worst fire Colorado had ever seen consumed 147,000 acres and burned for six weeks. The Haymen fire is the worst fire this state has ever seen. Ten years and one day later, the second worst fire Colorado has ever seen started just west of Fort Collins. It raged for 23 days and has consumed 87,250 of acres. I am talking about the High Park Fire.

Does anyone else find this ironic? That the newspaper one day reminds us of the Haymen Fire, and then two days later starts covering this new large fire? I surely do, and watching something simply consume an area I am intimately familiar with (I went to school in Fort Collins) while knowing this would inevitably happen sometime, is just disgusting.

One part of Environmental Conservation was about forests, and forest health. Information has been gathered from trees across the country, and what they showed is something remarkable. In Colorado, tree evidence showed that about every year, there would be fires that would burn through the forests.

But unlike what you are seeing in images today, these fires were quite the opposite. Since the fires raged often they were small, and were used as a sort of cleansing process to help kill off some trees and shrubs on the forest floor. But some trees would survive and grow larger. These fires reduced the number of trees in the forest, and actually helped the already existing trees since the forests were not overgrown.

Native Americans also used fire to help encourage diversity in the eco system. Despite common belief, these fired did help purge undergrowth.

In conclusion (what a tacky phrase… but it seems to be appropriate here) since we decided to fight fires completely, we have overgrown forests with trees that are really unhealthy since there are too many of them. We also have a really bad invasion of Mountain pine beetle that is killing off trees. And instead of removing the dead trees, we’re ignoring the problem entirely.

So it makes sense why the fires are so large: with little rain this year, unhealthy trees, and a lot of dead dry trees lying around to act as kindling, it does not take much to start a fire. And with the awful winds that sweep through this area, a bad situation turns nasty in a matter of minutes.

Like what happened June 26, 2012, when the fire in Colorado Springs essentially blew up, and swept through the town.

The problems of 2012 are no different than 2002; we had Beetle kill trees then, we have them now. We had overgrown forests then, we have them now. So why, if we know there is a problem, are we failing to solve the problem? Why if we know what can happen, what has HISTORICALLY happened, have we not tried to take that knowledge and change our future?

I don’t have these answers; I don’t think anyone does. But I can only hope that we can learn from our history to change what can happen in the future. What I do know is I drove by the High Park burn site in August, only two months after the fire swept through. There was a lot of dead trees, but there was also a little growth returning. Thankfully, nature can revive itself. However, I hope we can learn from these events to help keep our forests healthy.

~All of these were taking in August when I drove past the burn area. It broke my heart. It also broke my heart when I learned a friend's parents house burned during the fire in Colorado Springs. I really hope we learn our lesson, and fast.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


When I took my Ancient Women history class I got to learn about some real awesome ladies. And when I realized how amazing they were, I knew that I wanted to name someone in their honor. Since I am not a cruel person, I recognized that a name like Enheduana or Sappho was not appropriate for any child.

My back up plan? Name any future animals after these awesome historical figures. So it begins with my new cat who I have named Sappho, after one of the nine great Greek poets. Why did I name my cat Sappho? I like the name, and I think she kinda looks like a Sappho.

Sappho (the poet, not my cat) was born on the island of Lesbos sometime around 625 B.C.E. She married a wealthy merchant, giving her the life of freedom. She chose to spend her time writing poetry.

Her style was melodic and sensual, primarily songs of love, yearning, and reflection. She was also the first poet to write in the first person. Another interesting fact I did not know (I have a friend of mine to thank for bringing it to my attention) is that Sappho mentored young women living on the island. When they were eventually married, she wrote their wedding poetry. Sappho became synonymous with woman-love for this reason.

Sappho was well regarded during her life, and through today we still have fragments of her poetry today.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Standing Trial

You "stand trial" because back in the day you literally stood trial. This lovely platform (ok, cage... there is no other way to put it) was where the defendant stood during trial during early American history.

Not the most comfortable situation I must add.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gouveneur of the Constitution

Everyone knows who wrote the Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson. But does anyone know who wrote much of the United States Constitution? I certainly didn’t know who this was before I visited Independence Hall.

Gouveneur Morris.

Gouveneur Morris was born January 31, 1752, and represented Pennsylvania at the Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. He was also the author of most of the Constitution; it is believed the phrase “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union” came from him.

His role at the convention was a high point for Morris. He avoided being blunt and sarcastic, and instead employed his considerable social and verbal skills to smooth over issues that threatened to divide the delegates. He then used his position as primary draftsman to strengthen the final version of the Constitution much as Jefferson did with the Declaration of Independence. He defended the positions he took when drafting the New York constitution: religious liberty, opposition to slavery, the right of property as the foundation of society, the rule of law and the consent of the governed as the basis of government.

Check out this link to read more about him. Honestly, Gouveneur was a fun man to learn about, and it was exciting to learn something new while visiting Independence Hall.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Chair

In the entire room filled with furniture, this chair is the only original piece of furniture remaining from the Founding Fathers. In fact, the ink well in front isn’t even original; that original is actually in a display case pictured below.

Think about who could have sat in this chair… it’s a pretty amazing thought really. And while you’re at it, think about this most important room where the Founding Fathers met twice, the first to declare independence from England, the then world power, and a second time to create a second government for the newly formed country.

And with an upcoming election, and already heightened political coverage on TV, I think we need to remember what those Founding Fathers did when they created the government we now have as a country, and just how amazing that country is.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Independence Hall

I have the greatest job; I work for Interweave and am a Marketing Assistant for the Jewelry Group. This is awesome because I do make jewelry, so I’ve been looking at this company for several years. It is also perfect because I still work with the magazines.

Regardless, I got to go on my first business trip, and that was to Philadelphia. When I heard about the location of this trip, I kept thinking about the Founding Fathers, and History!!!! I knew I wanted to try and make it to Independence Hall, and we did.

As the park ranger said, this is the most important room, in the most important building, in the most important square mile in America.

The Founding Fathers stood in Independence Hall twice. First to declare independence from England, and then to write the U.S. Constitution; they debated, they argued, they compromised, and ultimately the succeeded in creating a country that was the first democratic country in history.

We all know the story; in the coming weeks I’m going to tell of some facts I did not know.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Olympic Glory

I don’t think there is any doubt that Michael Phelps is a truly great athlete. With his metal wins in London this year, he has become the most decorated Olympian in history to date. This title has been unchallenged for over 48 years.

With this great honor, the name Larisa Latynina was mentioned often. She, until this summer, she was the most decorated Olympian in history. This made me wonder, who is Larisa Latynia, and what were her medals in?

Latynina was a gymnast for the Soviet Union, which makes this metal count even more impressive in my mind. I couldn’t even get past the first year in gymnastics; something about swinging on bars didn’t really sit well with 5-year-old me. But I digress... Born in Ukraine, Laynia began her career in ballet. At the age of 19 she moved to Kiev for college and continue her training. After debuting in 1954, she went to the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne to win gold in all around, team, floor and vault, a silver on uneven bars and bronze in the now discontinued portable apparatus.

At the 1960 World Championships, Latynina was four months pregnant. But she still won five out of six titles which is really impressive. In the 1960 Olympics in Rome, she won gold in all around, team, and floor, took silver in balance beam and uneven bars, and bronze in vault.

In the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Latynina won gold in the team event and floor event, silver in all around and vault, and two bronze metals in bars and balance beam. There is the tally to 18 – unbelievable, especially in gymnastics!

Asked what she thought of Michael Phelps winning more metals, she commented that the metals she won for the Soviet Union also should count. She did coach for the Soviet Union gymnastics teams from her retirement in 1966 through 1977, and the team won gold in 1968, 1972 and 1976. This woman was another truly gifted athlete.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Five Strange Olympic Sports

I found the best article last week about the Olympics. This article picked up on five strange Olympic sports that have been held in previous games. Not only is this article a fun one to read, but it is history!

“5 Strange Olympic Sports You Won’t See at the 2012 London Games”

Personally, I would not mind turning on my TV and seeing the 200-meter swimming obstacle race held in Paris at 1900 games. How cool would that be? Or the tug-of-war, that would also be fun.

Thanks to the History Channel for both the article, and the image above.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

London Olympics

I love the Olympics! Having no athletic abilities myself, I respect and enjoy watching individuals who are driven and passionate about sports. And I love the celebration of world athletes. “Go World,” as one of my friends said.

My favorite sport to watch is actually rowing. I discovered it during the Olympics in Athens. I actually channel those rowers when I’m at the gym on the rowing machine. But I digress.

London is currently hosing its third Olympic games, the only city to have hosted this many times in history. The last time they hosted was in 1948, right after the conclusion of WWII. We are going to be hearing a lot about the 2012 London Olympics in the coming days, so I thought I would focus on those 1948 Olympics for this post.

London was originally selected as the host city for the 1944 Olympics, however the games were cancelled due to WWII. After the war, London was awarded the 1948 games, and while the country almost handed the games to the United States, decided they would use the game to restore the country.

This Olympics came to be known as the Austerity Games for many reasons. Food was still rationed from the war, and the athletes received the same rations the miners received. No new structures were built for these games; Wembley Stadium was not damaged during the war, and it was the main stadium for the games. There was also no Olympic Village, and the athletes stayed in canvas tents and structures used to house the prisoners of war.

Remarkably, 59 nations were represented with 4,104 athletes. Neither Germany nor Japan was invited to participate because of their role as aggressors in the war, and while the USSR was invited, it chose not to participate. United States won the most metals, with the United Kingdom winning the second most.

Sports at this Olympics included: basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, diving, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, lacrosse, modern pentathlon, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, water polo, weightlifting and wrestling.

I am so excited for the Olympic games this year. Each games I discover a new sport I didn’t know of before. This year, archery and badminton have caught my attention. Happy Olympics, and as always Happy History!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Growing up, July 4 is explained as the day America gained its independence from England. We celebrated in my neighborhood with a water fight, cult-d-sac BBQ and in the old days, fireworks and a bon fire. But it was not until much later that I started questioning what July 4 was. It was also a day that happened 442 days into the Revolutionary War. As a child learning this from my father (who himself is not a great teacher, but I digress) I was confused. Why would the Constitutional Convention wait until the middle of the war to declare independence? And why as Americans do we celebrate July 4, and not August 9, the day the Declaration was actually signed, or September 3, the day the Treaty of Paris was signed as our day of independence? It didn’t quite make sense.

And I still don’t really have these answers. So it is time that I answer them. It is my way of celebrating America since every firework show in Colorado has been cancelled because of the fires.

The first shots of the Revolutionary war were fired in Concord Massachusetts on April 19, 1775. It wasn’t until the spring of 1776 that support for independence swept through the colonies. A five-person committee was established to write the declaration, although Thomas Jefferson wrote a majority of the document, drawing heavily from the philosophy of John Locke.

July 2, 1776 the Constitutional Convention voted to support Virginiaian motion for independence. On July 4, 1776, 12 of the colonies officially supported the Declaration, and after some rewording New York approved on July 19, 1776. But the Declaration was not even signed until August 9, 1776.

After I researched the history of the federal holiday, I realized that it has been celebrated in a way since 1777 when thirteen gunshots were fired in salute. In 1781, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize July 4 as a state celebration. In 1791, the first record of July 4 as Independence Day occurred. In 1870, Congress made Independence Day the day became a federal unpaid holiday, and in 1938, the day became a paid federal holiday.

After all this research I realized I don’t have an answer for why we celebrate July 4 as Independence Day. What I do know is that today is the day the Declaration of Independence was voted on, and that document serves as one of the greatest documents ever written. And, according to this article by the Wall Street Journal, in the next 100 years, other nations and people would issue 200 similar documents to the American Declaration of Independence. That is certainly something worth celebrating.

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Friday, June 15, 2012


I don’t think it comes as a surprise when I say that I love Monty Python. My highest viewed blog post was actually the one about the Spanish Inquisition, no doubt because I mentioned Monty Python and used one of their images (the power of SEO at work).

However, I know that when a joke is overdone it can lose its charm, so I was not looking for another way to incorporate the British comedy into my blog. But last week, SPAM® and Monty Python both found me, and I learned something I just could not resist sharing.

While I was reading the book Digital Advertising by Andrew McStay last week and McStay claims the unwanted email messages were dubbed “spam” because of the Monty Python SPAM® sketch.

“Although most commonly associated with email, the expression spam also applies to internet forums, mobile, instant messaging, posting within blogs and unwanted advertisements within newsgroups. The term probably derives from a Monty Python comedy sketch where every item in a cafĂ© comes with spam (a type of tinned meat).” (McStay, Digital Advertising (England, 2010), 47.)

I have quoted Monty Python before, I have had professors who referenced Monty Python in class lectures, but I have never read someone who linked Monty Python to a term that we use daily. It was just too good not to comment further on. If you have not seen the sketch, click this link to view the short sketch yourself.

My interest was peaked so I decided to see what I could find about the history of the lunchmeat SPAM®. In all honesty I didn’t find much, which was a little disappointing. If I’ve gained anything from this post, other than an awesome random fact, it's a pressing desire to actually try SPAM®.

According to McStay, SPAM® was one of the few meats excluded from the UK food rationing policy during World War II and the years beyond. For this reason, the British people grew heartily tired of it, which is where the humor of the Monty Python sketch came from.

SPAM® was first sold in 1937 as a quality canned lunchmeat. It was the first of its kind, and by 1940, 40 million pounds of SPAM® had been sold. During WWII Hormel Foods provided 15 million cans of the luncheon meat to the troops every week and over time SPAM® lunchmeat became an essential item in the soldiers’ diets.

As marketers began exploiting email and the Internet, the word spam became synonymous with unwanted advertising messages. SPAM® fought the use of its name, but eventually dismissed the trademark hearing and required that writers simply use their trademark when referring to their lunchmeat so readers could tell the difference.

Who would have thought Monty Python would play such an important role in our everyday vocabulary? As always, happy history!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 15 - Titanic and the Unsinkable

I think I would be the worst historical blogger if I forgot to blog about the R.M.S. Titanic today. This morning at 2 a.m. marked the 100 anniversary of the disaster, and besides the movie coming back to theatres in 3D, there have been a plethora of articles already written on the subject this year to get people ready for the event.

I feel most people know about the Titanic, the mistakes that led to the sinking and loss of life. So instead, I’m going to bring the event back to one person who happened to survive the Titanic, a person with local Denver ties.

I am talking about the iconic Mrs. Margaret (Maggie) Brown.

I took two hours today to make the trip to see the Molly Brown House museum. Her old house has been restored to the way it looked during the time Margaret was living there. Because I am me, and I love history, my friends and I went on the Titanic tour, a tour that incorporated Margaret’s life in Denver in with the story of Titanic. It was absolutely fantastic, and it was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday. It also accomplished exactly what I wanted: it forced me to think about Titanic.

Margaret Brown was born in 1867 to Irish immigrants in Missouri, and was not born wealthy. When she was a teenager, she moved to Leadville, Colorado, and it was here she met her future husband James Joseph Brown. Nicknamed J.J. he was a self-educated, and after a brief courtship they married. Margaret was 19 and J.J. was 32. Margaret always said she would marry for money, but she married J.J. for love.

The Browns were married in 1886 and had two children. It wasn’t until later when J.J. was able to use his engineering skills to a benefit. He was responsible for finding the ore in the Liggle Jonny Mine, and was awarded 12,500 shares of stock.

The family relocated to Denver where they were able to buy a new house, which is now the Molly Brown House Museum. It was one of the first in Denver to have electricity, central heating and water through the house. Unfortunately, Margaret and J.J.’s marriage did not withstand time, and the couple was separated shortly after they moved. Margaret and J.J. had two children, Lawrence Palmer Brown and Catherine Ellen Brown.

Margaret took her new wealth and used it to try and benefit society. She was fluent in Russian, Italian, Spanish and French, and traveled through Europe.

Margaret was traveling in Egypt before she broke from her party to return to France. It was there that she heard her son’s child was ill. She booked immediate passage on the Titanic, and boarded the ship with two crates filled with Egyptian artifacts she planned to give to the Denver Museum.

In Egypt, Margaret heard from a fortuneteller that she would have a mishap at sea. While she took the warning with a grain of salt, it is amazing to realize how right the psychic was. It was not so much her actions while aboard the ship that made Margaret iconic with the Titanic, but rather her actions after. Because Margaret was schooled in so many languages, she went immediately to the surviving women from steerage to help translate for them. Margaret was responsible for helping change laws on ships, including the necessity to have enough lifeboats for every passenger, and to fill the boats completely. Margaret awarded the crew of the Carpathia special awards for the courage the had during their rescue.

Also worth mentioning is that Margaret helped establish the dumb friends league in Denver and ran for Colorado senate three times.

It was fantastic to visit the museum today, and I thoroughly enjoyed the information I received on Margaret and the Titanic. I was not allowed to take pictures inside, but I did sneak a few at the back of the house.

If you’re especially interested in the Titanic, I did find this great map of the people on the ship.

Enjoy, and as always, happy history!

This is one of the actual medals Margaret presented to the crew of the Carpathia.

This is a replica of the small Egyptian statue she was able to take in her pocket the night the Titanic sank. She later presented this to the Captain Rostron of the Carpathia.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

March 25, 1911

There are times as a history lover that I am reminded that very few people care about history. And honestly, it’s a bit lonely.

While I doubt all of my history knowledge will be interesting to everyone, I usually only nerd out when I know the information is pertinent to a conversation, or will enlighten the person I am telling the fact to.

Of all my random facts, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire fact is my personal favorite random fact. I told two co-workers about the event recently, and had two totally different reactions: one was interested, the other… seemed to fake interest.

High school is really when I discovered my passion for history. Junior year of high school I learned about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and what it really meant for our country. I remember the day really vividly: My teacher was being critiqued, and so he was a little more rigid than usual. But he had spoken with such passion, and tied together the ideals so beautifully, I felt that at the end of the lecture I really understood this event.

What many probably don’t know is this event was crucial for our country, and the way people approached public safety. It was also a turning point in ideology.

The beginning of the Twentieth Century was termed “The Gilded Age” because while it was the Golden Age for immigration, the country was really not as golden as it seamed from far away. Three prominent mentalities were creating harsh and cruel working conditions for the newly industrialized country:

• Social Darwinism was the idea reflecting Darwin’s theory: survival of the fittest. If someone was weak, they should not be helped, but weeded out of society;

• Popular Calvinism was the religious ideology of the time, focused on the idea of predestination. Every person’s actions were pre destined by a higher being, meaning intervention was useless; and

• Constitutional conservatism was the idea of “liberty of contract” or the 14th Amendment. You work because you choose to work, but must maintain the contract at all costs.

The working class in America felt the full brunt of these ideologies. They lived in poor living conditions, working factory jobs that exploited them in wages, hours and in safety. The worst part of this is because of these ideologies, the elite in America felt that it was the fault of these people that they lived and worked in these conditions. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire changed all of these mentalities. Basically, the factory housing hundreds of young women caught fire. Keep in mind this was before labor laws regulating working hours, working conditions, or minimum wage.

Women who were unable to escape the building simply jumped from the burning building, dying from the fall.

The inside of the factory after the fire.

Next time you are in a public place, notice the doors open out. It is a small detail people rarely notice, but it is a fire code so that if a fire were to break out, people could easily push the doors open and flood out. In the time of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, the doors did not open out, the opened into the room, and hundreds of women were flooding against the doors, making it impossible to open the door to escape. Hundreds of women died in this fire, trapped inside the factory. The sheer magnitude of this disaster helped change the way society thought about working conditions, and about the working individuals as well. The Gilded Age gave way to the Progressive Era, dominated by three different ideals:

• Social gospel was the idea of a social response and socialized permeating society. The main idea was to bring Heaven to Earth;

• Reform Darwinism where man does not live in a state of nature, but rather in an artificial nature where natural law does not apply; and

• Legal Pragmatism where it was the idea of promoting the Great American Ideas. Balance principle and value vs. the common god and impact on society.

This is one of those facts that I think a lot of people rarely think of. Changes across other industries slowly began to happen after this point. And every time I notice a door opening in, which does happen in historic buildings, I think of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

As always, Happy History!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I have found that sometimes it is not what you know, but who you know that will get you places in this world. Sherry was in charge of the lab on our site, and she processed everything we found on the site, whether it was a large mortar stone, or a small shurd of pottery. Not only was she fantastic in the lab, and had a wealth of knowledge at her disposal, she is one of the nicest people I have ever had the fortune of knowing.

When we visited Maresha we had the pleasure of having Sherry take us on a tour of the site. Maybe that is what helped add to the appeal of the site, the personal connection I had because I was given a tour by someone who was passionate about the place, who dedicated years to excavating there, who loved learning about it, and who shared that passion with all of us.

In addition to seeing the main part of Maresha, Sherry also took us to visit a place dubbed the Horse Cave. This cave held a special meaning to Sherry, who overlooked the excavations that went on in the cave, and who wrote her graduate thesis about the cave.

Although called the horse cave, Sherry’s argument was it was a place of worship for those who were part of the religion Mithraism, a growing religion at the turn of the century. Mithraism should ring a bell, because I mentioned it in my winter solstice post; I think it was interesting for me to see it pop up there, after touching the surface of the religion when Sherry showed us her cave.

That got me thinking about what the religion actually involved. It was limited to men, and during the Roman rule it spread to, first to the men in the army, than to others in the Roman Empire.

As previously stated, Mithraism derives from the Persian religion Zoroastrianism. (I honestly have no idea how Zoroastrianism works, but one of my professors compared it to Lord of the Rings, with good and evil influences... take that description as you will.) Mithraism is a religion dedicated to Mithra, God of light and wisdom for Romans, and contracts and oaths for Persians. The slaying of a bull is also central to Mithra.

Mithraism rapidly spread through the Roman Empire during the Second Century C.E. About 400 different sites have been found across the empire, extending from Turkey to Britain, most concentrated in Rome.

The religion is one of contracts and loyalty between men. There were no known women followers, and the religion was immensely popular. Members met in small caves for worship. While not all were caves, these temples were dug into the earth, and lacked exterior decoration. A communal meal was important to the religion, with all caves finding evidence of large dining quarters. There was an initiation into seven successive levels of the religion, some including ablutions (baptism), purifications and ceremonial passwords. A simulated death and resurrection was probably part of the ceremony. The levels were:

Raven (Murcury)
Nymphus (Venus)
Soldier (Mars)
Lion (Jupiter)
Persian (Moon)
Heliodromus (Sun)
Father (Saturn)

There are several similarities between Mithraism and Christianity, one being the celebration of Christmas on December 25. The idea of resurrection is also central to Mithraism.

Having Sherry there to give background on the site really made it one of my favorites to visit. Even now, thinking back to the site I still think fondly of that day, and having Sherry as our tour guide.

My camera died (shock!) so thanks to Kendra Day for the photos. Not as good as I would have liked, but you can see a bit of this temple and some of the structures there.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year

Every four years we have an extra day in February. The reason, scientifically, is because the earth takes longer than 365 days to go around the sun- 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds to be exact.

Historically it was the Egyptians who were the first to figure out the solar year and the man made calendar didn’t always match up. Therefore, an extra day was added to compensate for the extra time.

The Romans were the first to designate February 29 as leap day. The first leap day was celebrated in 40 B.C.E. thanks to Mr. Julius Caesar.

Some other interesting leap year historical facts:

In 1288 Scotland established this day as one when a woman could propose to a man!

In 1940 Hattie McDaniel became the first black person to win an Oscar for her performance in Gone with the Wind. A random fact about McDaniel is she lived for a time in Fort Collins, Colorado! Her house still stands today.

In 1952 the first pedestrian regulation signs were installed in New York City.

Happy Leap Day everyone! Enjoy the day, since it won’t come back around until 2016!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


A Cave

When we went to visit Maresha I had the distinct pleasure of having Sherry Whetstone act as tour guide. Sherry worked in our lab, and dealt with all the filing and logging of our finds at the tel. She basically ran the office.

The nice thing about our group at the dig was how wonderfully nice they all were, and how interested in sharing information they knew about their specialties. Sherry was no exception, and she had some great experiences working at Tel Dan and helping excavate Maresha.

Maresha was a city built by the Idumeans around the time of the Babylonian exile, and existed until after the Helenistic period. The Idumeans were descendants of the Edomites, who moved into Israel during the Babylonian exile. Maresha itself was no more than a 10-minute drive from my dig site, and was clearly seen from both Gath and Lakish.

The Idumeans had similarities to the Jews, including evidence of mikvah, and similar prayers. There have also been differences; a tomb was found at the site dating from the Hellenistic period.

Maresha was one of my favorite places to visit. I don’t think I expected that. The site itself is not flashy; as with most sites it was destroyed, so there really isn’t much left above ground of the city that once existed at the location.

So then why was it so enjoyable? Many who had been there before mentioned caves below ground, and at first I was under whelmed with the idea. But these caves are unlike any caves I had seen before, or could have imagined.

Man made and ranging in size, the caves acted more as basements than caves. The city sits on chalky limestone, so the basements were carved into the ground and were used for storage of as a site where the occupants could engage in trade. We saw a cave with an olive press, and another where pigeons lived. It was simply fascinating.

It is hard to tell, but this is the pigeon basement, and it is actually quite large, in depth and in size. All the cubbies are where the pigeons lived.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. The olive press.
Dating from a later period was a Hellenistic burial chamber, and even later were the Bell Caves, a quarry carved out by prisoners for the chalky stone.
The Bell Caves

Simply spectacular

I don’t think I expected to like Maresha as much as I did. The fascinating difference of this site, coupled with Sherry as a tour guide made the experience enjoyable and memorable.

Sherry explaining how she stumbled upon this particular cave. The light behind her is how they initially entered.

The first day we got to Israel I wanted to pull out my camera and begin taking photos. Well, my camera broke, so I fortunately used my fathers spare on loan through the trip. It had some fantastic zoom, but really had other weird quirks that made it more of a hassle that a pleasure. One was how often the battery died, as has been the case before. Thank you to Kendra Dye for the photos of the Bell caves, and parts of the burial chamber.

A cistern, complete with stairs along the side so the citizens could easily get to their water.

These are the chisel marks along the wall from those who initially carved the cistern.

The Hellenistic burial chamber. These are not the original images; the site was originally on the land of a sheik. When he heard of the finding, he went and had the original destroyed to keep it in accordance with Islam's teachings. Thankfully someone had made detailed drawings of the images, so they were able to be recreated.