Friday, June 15, 2007

Heading to the Past!

Hello All,
I am going on an archaeological dig in England, and will be gone until July 5. It is at a Roman Fort in South Shields, and should be "brilliant" as they say. I can't think of a better way to spend two weeks than digging in ancient strata! Fun, Fun! I am looking forward to lots of history, working with the fellows over there, exploring, and maybe a ghost legion or two marching around at night. I will be sort of lost in time for a while, so see you when I get back. Urbem latericium invenit, marmoream reliquit!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Continental Army: Don't Forget your Toothbrush!

On June 14th, 1775, the Continental Army was created by the Second Continental Congress to form a unified force against the British. The British, for their part, generally reacted with full belly laughs and extra rounds of tea. You see, up until that point, the Patriots' military capability had generally been militia, which according to Mel Gibson had lots of guys with bad teeth and penchants for eating dogs. To be sure, there was no unified army to back up the will of the Patriots until the Continental Army was formed. This could have been quite embarrassing - showing up to battle with no color coordination (imagine a line of British Officers simultaneously humphing).

So what happened exactly during those couple months? Well, in keeping with the spirit of the make-shift army, here is a make-shift timeline:

- April 19th, 1775: Massachusetts Militia face off with British forces at Lexington. The British were attempting to destroy a weapons depot gathered by the colonists, which, as anyone who has tried to take a gun away from an American, is a "no-no". Before this, of course, there were a bunch of acts passed by the British Parliament, "outrages", people dressed as Indians, soldiers in homes, etc etc. I won't get into it, but suffice to say people were a little "put out."

- At Lexington someone fires an unordered shot (shot heard around the world). The British fire back, charge, regroup. Later, Militia attack the British force at Concord. Word gets out, all hell breaks loose.

- May 10, 1775 American forces led by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen capture Fort Ticonderoga in NY. Note that at this point there was still no official army.

- May 10, 1775 Second Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia. John Hancock elected president with his giant, raving pen.

- June 14th, 1775 Congress establishes an official Continental Army. "Be all that thou can Be," as it were.

- June 15th, 1775 Congress unanimously votes to establish George Washington as commander-in-chief of the army. Washington accepts no payment other than expense compensation - take that, modern Congress!

- June 17th, 1775 The Battle of Bunker Hill - first major battle of the war. To make a long story short: British take the hill, but on the way lose over 1000 men. Continentals lose about 400.

- July 3rd 1775 Washington takes command of the Continental Army gathered at Cambridge, Massachusetts. He describes it as a "Mixed multitude of people...under very little discipline, order or government." But eventually, ol' Washington whips them into shape.

Well, the rest, as they say, is history. It is interesting to note that two days after Washington took command, Congress passed the "Olive Branch Petition," which was a direct appeal to the British for peace - so even then there was hope for a resolution. This was not to be however, as George III rejected the petition and claimed the colonies in "open rebellion."

Big mistake.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Today's Random Artifact Trivia: Now with Exploding Cannonballs!

If you are like me, you spent weekends as a kid looking for ancient treasure, fighting dragons, and generally exploring - possibly with a phaser blaster. Also, if you are like me, you do this well into your thirties (except now dragons are on the protected list). At any rate, whatever your means of enjoyment, there is one thing we can all agree on - a 50-55% RH level is decent for mixed collections. I know, I don't have to tell you - you are reading your HOBO environmental monitoring equipment in your home closet as we speak - checking the list, adjusting the HVAC (which you installed in your house instead of going to Fiji). So in that spirit, here is some artifact trivia to discuss on your next first date (if you really want to impress, wear white curator gloves and ask your date not to touch the good china).

- Nails did exist in ancient times. The idea that nails didn't exist may come from the fact that nails were expensive (try making them sometime) and pegs were often used.

- Native Americans have been on this continent for over 11,000 years, possibly longer. Some archaeologists claim to have found tools dating to 50,000 years ago, although this has been highly debated. In general, the earliest culture is referred to as "Clovis", and the spear/knife points have a distinctive "Gothic arch" look to them - check it out:

- The great cannonball question - Do they explode? Well, the answer is some of them do, some don't. Many cannonballs (or "roundshot" for the nerds) were hollow on the inside with a fuse/plug that was ignited when the cannon fired, this would burn and eventually ignited the charge inside. Think "Bombs bursting in air". Some cannonballs, however, were solid and used to batter ship hulls or take out fortification walls. It's a matter of taste, really - do you prefer pretty explosions or splintering wood?

- Lincoln Logs were invented by Frank Lloyd Wright's son, John Lloyd Wright in 1916...."So, your father was a famous architect. What have you ever done?"...."I invented Lincoln logs. Ever heard of them?"

That's all for now. I'm sure you have written all this down and stored the paper in proper archival sleeves. Someday, centuries from now, they will find your notes and store them in even more proper archival sleeves. With full humidity control, of course.