Thursday, May 26, 2016

Death by Thousand Cuts


Death by Thousand Cuts – Lingering Death/Slow Slicing

Lingchi translated as death by a thousand cuts the slow process, the lingering death or slow slicing which was a kind of torture and execution utilised in China from around AD 900 till it was banned in 1905. Lingchi involved amputation from the living torso and the executioner ensured not to bleed the victim too much so as to prolong death till the final cuts to the throat or heart was made. It was a brutal and a slow process, a punishment which was carried on into the afterlife which was considered that a person killed by lingchi would not be whole after death.

It had also been used in Vietnam and in this form of execution; a knife was used to systematically remove sections of the body over an extended period of time which ultimately lead to death. Lingchi had been kept for crimes and regarded as severe like high betrayal, or murder, where some westerners had been executed in this way. Even when the practice had been banned the idea still remained across several kinds of media. The process would involve tying the condemned criminal to a wooden frame generally in a public place. The flesh would then be cut from the body in various slices.

Punishment Worked on Three Levels

The punishment worked on three levels – as a form of public humiliation, as a slow and lingering death and as a punishment after death.As per the Confucian principle of filial piety, to change one’s body or to cut the body was said to be unfilial practices and Lingchi thus breaks the demands of filial piety. Besides this, to be cut to pieces would mean that the body of the victim would not be complete in spiritual life after death and this system of execution became a feature in the image of China as well as among some of the westerners.

Lingchi was used as a form of torture and execution for a living person or was applied as an act of humiliation after death and was inflicted for major offences like mass murder, high disloyalty. The Emperors utilised it to threaten people and at times ordered for minor crimes. At times there were forced convictions as well as wrongful executions. Some of the emperors also carried out this means of punishment to the family members of their enemies.

Lingchi – Most Brutal Torture System

As per the book of Sir Henry Norman – The People and Politics of the Far East, it is said that the executioner sliced off the pieces by grasping handfuls from the fleshy parts of the body, like the thighs and the breast and then the limbs were cut off fragmentary at the wrist and the ankles, the elbows and the knees, the shoulders and the hip. Eventually the victim would be stabbed in the heart and have his head cut off.

Lingchi is said to be one of the most brutal torture system which had been photographed in the 1800s with the arrival of the camera which seems to be very scary photos of slow process, lingering death or slow slicing, the most gruesome torture to a condemned victim.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Tarim Mummies

Tarim Mummies

Tarim Mummies – Discovered in Tarim Basin

The Tarim mummies, a series of mummies were discovered in Tarim Basin, present day Xinjiang, China and are believed to date from 1800 BCE to 200 CE. The Tarim Mummies have been constantly debated since their discovery due to fear that the DNA of the Tarim Mummies would disprove the claims of the nationalist Uyghur of being indigenous to the region and different studies of the mummies have resulted in conflicting theories. Some scientists are of the belief that they have the appearances of western Eurasia while others believe that they are exclusively Caucasoid or Europoid.

The mummies mostly the early ones are often connected with the presence of the Indo-European Tocharian language in the Tarim Basin but the evidence is not completely convincing and many centuries tend to separate the mummies from the first attestation of the Tocharian languages in writing. The team of Victor H, Mair, a professor from University of Pennsylvania and project leader, was of the conclusion that the mummies were Europoid, the likely speakers of Indo-European language. The likely presence of speakers of Indo-European languages in the Tarim Basin towards 2000 BCE, if confirmed could be interpreted as evidence that the cultural exchange had taken place between the Indo-European and Chinese population at an early date.

Beauty of Loulan – Nordic in Appearance

It had been proposed that such activities such as chariot warfare as well as bronze-making could have been transmitted to the east by these Indo-European wanderers. The DNA data sequence portrayed that the mummies had Haplogroup R 1a – Y-DNA typical of western Eurasia in the region of East-Central Europe, Central Asia and Indus Valley.

Chinese and American researcher team working in Sweden had tested DNA from 52 different mummies inclusive of the mummy designated `Beauty of Loulan’, wherein her features had been described as Nordic in appearance. She was around 45 years old when she died and genetically mapping the origins of the mummies, the researchers confirmed that the mummies were of West Eurasian decent. Victor Mair has commented that these studies were very important since they link up eastern and western Eurasia at a formative stage of civilization in a much closer way than has ever been done before.

Textile Easternmost Known Example of Weaving Technique

An earlier study by Jilin University had observed an mtDNA haplotype characteristic of Western Eurasian population with Europoid genes. The Chinese government, in 2007 had allowed a National Geographic Society team lead by Spencer Wells to examine the DNA of the mummies. Wells could extract undegraded DNA from the internal tissues. The scientist had extracted adequate material to recommend the Tarim Basin was constantly inhabited from 2000 BCE to 300 BCE and initial results showed that the people instead of having a single origin, had originated from Europe, Mesopotamia, Indus Valley and other areas which are yet to be determined.

It has been affirmed that the textiles found with the mummies are of early European textile type based on close resemblances to fragmentary textiles found in salt mines in Austria, dating from the second millennium BCE. Anthropologist Irene Good, specialist in early Eurasian textiles, noted the woven diagonal twill pattern specified the use of a sophisticated loom and she states that the textile is the easternmost known example of this type of weaving technique.

Cinque Ports

Cinque Ports

Cinque Ports – Historic Series of Coastal Towns – Kent/Sussex

Cinque Ports is said to be a historic series of coastal towns in Kent and Sussex. It is an association of ports which was formed in 1155 and was originally formed for the military and trade purposes but for several generations, was a real force at sea and on land. It lost its main functions, though presently is entirely ceremonial.The word Cinque is pronounced as `sink’ inspite of its derivation from the French word `cinq’ which is pronounced as `sank’. It is situated at the eastern end of the English Channel where the crossing is the narrowest to the continent. It is called the Norman French which means `five ports’ namely
  • Hastings 
  • New Romney 
  • Hythe 
  • Dover 
  • Sandwich

Provided Permanent Nucleus of the Royal Fleet

But Rye, which was earlier a subsidiary of New Romney, had changed to become one of the Cinque Ports when Romney had been damaged by storms and silted up. The other towns had also made their contribution to the confederation comprising of two Antient Towns and seven Limbs. Cinque Ports, the medieval confederation of English Channel ports in south eastern England, had been formed to furnish ships and men for the service of the king. To the original five ports, ancient towns of Winchelsea and Rye were later added, with the privileges of head ports. Over 30 other towns were also attached in the counties of Kent and Sussex and till the 14th century, the Cinque Ports provided permanent nucleus of the royal fleet. They were first possibly connected in the reign of Edward the Confessor for the defense of the coast as well and cross channel passage. The importance mounted after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and in return for ship service, their privileges had been increased to reach their summit in the 13th and the 14th centuries. The Royal Charter which was issued by King Henry II in 1155, granted significant privileges to the earlier five posts and were permitted powers of self-government over tolls, lost goods, criminal damage, wreckage together with debris and were freed from royal tolls on imports and exports.

Smaller Ports Decline – By Silting/Erosion

In return they had to offer 57 ships for the use of the king for 15 days every year. The benefits which accumulated to the Cinque Ports due to this arrangement were immense. Within a few decades, Rye and Winchelsea joined the association as `antient towns’. Towards the end of the 15th century, Lydd Faversham Folkestone, Deal, Tenterden Margate and Ramsgate had also joined in though they had a lesser status.After around 1550, changes in shipbuilding meant that huge vessels would conduct the trade with the continent and the smaller ports decline where in some cases were hastened by silting or erosion of the coastline. By 1700 only Dover remained to be an important port. The association adopted a more social and ceremonial feature wherein the post of warden of the Cinque Ports became an easy ride which brought with it a relaxed dwelling in Walmer Castle. Inspite of this shift in character, Cinque Ports maintain a link to the Royal Navy as a warship, at all times is affiliated to the association and that honour, presently is held by HMS Kent, a Type 23 Duke class frigate.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Tutankhamun – Egyptian Pharaoh of 18th Dynasty

The discovery of 1922 by Howard Carter and George Herbert of Tutankhamum, the Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty received worldwide coverage due to his nearly intact tomb. It 'had ignited public interest in ancient Egypt wherein Tutankhamum’s facade is now on display in the Egyptian Museum tends to be the popular symbol. Exhibits of artifacts recovered from his tomb have been touring the world. The results of DNA tests done in February 2010 have indicated that he was the son of Akhenaten – mummy KV55 and his mother was the sister of Akhenaten and wife whose name is not known though whose remains seemed to be identified as `The Younger Lady’ mummy found in KV35.

 The mysterious death of some of those involved in unearthing the tomb of Tutankhamum had been attributed to the spell of the pharaohs. Archaeologist were of the opinion that the last burial chamber in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt was discovered much before Howard Carter had opened the faultless tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamum in 1922. Tut had ruled for only a decade in Egypt from 1332 to 1322 BC and had died at the age of 19. The tomb’s amazing golden artifacts, untouched by looters before its discovery, drewt he attention of the people making him one of the most famous and intensively studied mummies of Egypt.

Storage Space for Coffin/Burial Provision

However, Tut was not the last secret that the valley had. In the past there were two additional chambers which had been located wherein one was a storage space for coffins and burial provisions, while the other had the mummy of a woman who was a singer at the Temple of Karnak. A radar specialist Hirokatsu Watanabe had conducted a series of ground penetrating radar scans in November 2015.

The study of those scans has been done and it has been suggested that there could be more chambers probably comprising of burials, hidden behind walls of the king’s tomb. Ground penetrating radar seems difficult to be used on the rocks in the Valley of the Kings. As per Zahi Hawass, who was the former Minister of State for Antiquities, the natural cracks in the rock could reflect heat waves which could make them seem like man-made chambers and hence another round of scan has been scheduled to confirm that chambers tend to exist.

Forty Scans of Five Various Levels

Khaled el-Anani, Antiquities Minister had informed reporters that had gathered opposite the southern city of Luxor, the popular site on the western bank of the Nile River, that experts had worked for 11 hours all through the night to retrieve 40 scans of five various levels of the area behind the burial chamber of Tut. He had mentioned that additional scans would be following and had invited archaeologists from various parts of the world to come to Cairo in May to inspect the discoveries.

The scans are part of a search for the remains of Queen Nefertiti and would answer the queries on whether her mummy remains behind the false walls of the Luxur complex. Nicholas Reeves, British Egyptologist had stated that he is of the belief that Tut’s tomb is `simply the outer element of a larger tomb that belongs to Nefertiti.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Some Unknown Facts about John F. Kennedy


Surprising Facts of JFK

John Fitzgerald `Jack’ Kennedy, commonly referred by his initials JFK was an American politician who had served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 till his assassination in November 1963 and was the youngest man elected to the office. When he had hardly completed his first thousand days in office, he had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas thus becoming the youngest President to die. There are some surprising facts regarding JFK that is not known to many.

JFK & Jackie Kennedy had four children

Besides Caroline and John Jr., the Ke nnedys had two other children. Jackie had given birth to a stillborn girl in 1956 whom the couple decided to name Arabella and Patrick Bouvier Kenned was born five and a half week early on August 7, 1963. The baby had weighed below five pounds and died two days later due to pulmonary disease. The bodies of the two children had been removed from Massachusetts in 1963 to be placed next to their father in Arlington National Cemetery.

Kennedy received last rites three times before his presidency

Kennedy had been suffering from poor health all through his life and fearing imminent death, America’s first Catholic president had received the sacramental last rites of the church on three occasions. In 1947, on a trip to England, Kennedy fell ill and was given possibly a year to live after he was diagnosed with Addison’s disease which was a rare disorder of the adrenal glands. While returning to America aboard the Queen Mary, he had been so ill that a priest had to be summoned to administer the last rites. He once again received the sacrament again in 1951 after suffering from a very high fever while traveling in Asia and in 1954, after he had slipped into a coma from an infection after a surgery to treat his chronic back problems.

Medically disqualified from service by the army

In the months earlier to the United States had entered World War II, Kennedy tried to register in the military but due to his intestinal and back problems, had failed the physical examination for the Army’s as well as the Navy’s officer candidate schools. With the help of his father’s influence, however, the future president got admitted in October 1941 to the Navy. He became a wartime hero after helping his crewmates survive the gunboats’ 1943 sinking, as a commanding officer of PT-109.

He won a Pulitzer Prize

At the age of 22, Kennedy authored his first book - `Why England Slept’ and in 1945, he spent some months as a newspaper correspondent for William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper covering the United Nations conference in San Francisco and the repercussion of World War II in Europe. A Pulitzer Prize in biography had been awarded to Kennedy in 1957, for `Profiles in Courage’, though there had been controversy since then as to how much of the book was ghost-written by his aide Theodore Sorensen.

Kennedy installed a secret taping system in the White House

Richard Nixon had not been the first president to record his private White House conversation.Kennedy had secretly installed a taping system in the Oval Office and Cabinet Room which transmitted recording to a reel-to-reel tape recorder in the White House basement, in the summer of 1962. The president probably installed the system to help him in writing his future memoir which captured several historical discussions between Kennedy and his staff, comprising of discussion during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Kennedy proposed a joint Soviet mission to the moon

Kennedy, though had notably challenged the country during his first month of presidency to land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, by September 1963 he had so much concern regarding the space program’s high cost that he planned partnering with the Soviet Union on a joint expedition to the moon. In an address to the United Nations General Assembly, he had asked `Why, should man’s first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition? Why should the United States and the Soviet Union, in preparing for such expeditions, become involved in immense duplication of research, construction and expenditure?’

Rumours that he considered dropping Lyndon Johnson from the 1964 ticket

Having over a year before the 1964 presidential election, there were rumours circulating that Kennedy had been considering replacing Johnson as his running mate with Florida Senator George Smathers, North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford or another Democrat. Evelyn Lincoln, Secretary of Kennedy had written in her 1968 memoir that the president had mentioned a possible switch to her three day before his death and hours before the assassination. The November 22, 1963 edition of the Dallas Morning News had printed an interview with Nixon who had been in the city on business, with the headlines – Nixon Predicts JFK May Drop Johnson.

Kennedy feared running for re-election against Mitt Romney’s father

Kennedy welcomed the prospect of running against Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater who had eventually received his party’s nomination, while evaluating prospective Republican candidates for the 1964 presidential campaign, but was apprehensive regarding the prospect of facing more moderate Michigan governor George Romney, father of the Republican presidential nominee of 2012. He had privately confided with a friend in 1963, that the one fellow he did not want to run against was Romney and that guy could be tough.