Friday, August 30, 2013

A826 progress w/c 26/08/13

I'll admit it, i didn't do anything this week. We all need a break now and then, back on the wagon next week!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Is ostrich egg globe oldest known map of New World?

A 509 year old ostrich egg which has a map drawn on it is thought to be the oldest known depiction of the New World. The ostrich egg map, made from two lower-halves joined together in fact, is thought to pre-date the Hunt-Lenox Globe and may have been used as a model for the copper globe.

On the ostrich egg map is an unnamed island to the far north of the western hemisphere, this is thought to be depict Newfoundland or parts of Canada. The ostrich egg globe has been tested and verified as being from the 16th century. An image of a ship on the globe is thought to link it to Portugese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real who is thought to have reached Canada's Atlantic coast in 1501.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A826 progress w/c 19/08/13

An uneven week, i was unmotivated at the start of the week but the end of the week saw my first visit to the National Archives at Kew in West London. Now i have been to archives and record offices before of course (Stratford mainly but also Warwick and Birmingham) but Kew is a whole other kettle of fish (whatever that means?)

I was a little bewildered on Thursday evening when i got my reader ticket, Kew's system is a lot more advanced and complicated than the other offices i have been to, but this morning i started to get the hang of it and had a look at some of the records and accounts from the Stratford & Moreton Railway Company (central to my thesis). Some useful stuff but i need to process it to get the full value.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sirius object of worship in oldest known temple?

Its thought the oldest known temple in Göbekli Tepe, in Turkey, may have been dedicated to the Dog Star (Sirius). The site is 11,000 years old and consists of 20 enclosures though only a few have yet been excavated. Each enclosure is circular and surrounded by stone pillars on which are carved animals.

If the pillars were arranged as an astronomical observatory like Stonehenge may have been then by simulating the position of the stars at the time the temple was being used then Sirius may have been the object of worship. It is one of the brightest stars in the sky and would have started appearing on the horizon after 9300 BCE. Archaeoastronomer Giulio Magli believes the appearance of this new bright star may have sparked a new religion which the temple was built to serve.

The site in southern Turkey is also fascinating for how it goes against the idea of agriculture sparking human settlements and civilisation. There is no evidence of contemporary agriculture meaning the temple could have come first.

Travelling the Grand Union Canal in the 1930s

An amazing video following showing canal boats travelling from London up to Birmingham. Showing inland waterway traffic on the Thames, Regent's Canal and Grand Union Canal. Some of the places shown like Hatton Locks i have visited myself over the last couple of years, some things of course look very different now but some things are unchanged, though you may need to look closely sometimes!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Walsall trolleybuses

A lovely film showing footage of Walsall's trolleybuses in the late 1960s in the last few years of their service before finally being withdrawn in 1970. It was one of the last UK trolleybus networks to be closed and i've never seen a working one in this country (i have seen one in Spain).

Of course in hindsight losing such a network (and the tram networks) was a mistake which is slowly being rectified via various costly new tram schemes... Anyway apart from the vehicles themselves it is an interesting look at Walsall the place too.

AMRTM used to have one of these trolleybuses (they may still do but haven't been to the museum for awhile).

A826 progress w/c 12/08/13

A quieter week, the end has been lightened by the return of my thesis sample chapter and the feedback was generally good and encouraging.

I haven't done too much in the way of new research this week, what i have been doing is collating the research i have made (including from last year when i was seeing how feasible my thesis idea was) to see whats i've got and where there are gaps. One gap for example i identified was that i was recording the number of "malters" in Stratford but wasn't 100% sure what they were and what they did. A couple of journal articles later i am slightly clearer.

Next week should see my first trip to the National Archives at Kew, exciting!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Crypta Balbi

An interesting video on the Crypta Balbi in Rome. A site in the centre of the old city whose purpose changed many times throughout the history of Rome, from community centre to even a glass furnace. Perhaps it can give us an idea of the everyday Rome of the normal citizen.

A level result day

A level result day (a.k.a. girls being photographed jumping in the air day), and on this day i always remember when i got my results. This was back in 1990 which was about 5 ice ages ago in the early Holocene. I turned up at my awful 6th form college (since closed down) to confirm what i already expected that i had failed my Maths and Physics A levels. I got U and N respectively.

More importantly however was my Computer Studies A Level. I needed an E to get into Birmingham Polytechnic to start a HND in Computer Science, in the end i got a D and my polytechnic/university career began at the end of the next month. In hindsight i could have got straight onto a degree course if i had gone through clearing but i always prefer to stick to plan A and that was to do the HND first then do a degree, and 5 years later i had achieved both.

Midlands Today filmed a report from my college though i was not asked by the reporter (David Davies in fact in his pre-FA days) about my results probably because i was not blonde or female. However it probably would have been a bit embarrassing to tell the nation (or the West Midlands at least) how my results read D U N. Incidentally one of my friends got E N D which was mildly amusing.

That was 23 years ago, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. 18 years working in web development and a second academic career with the Open University. Actually thinking about it i should have chosen history for my A levels all of those years ago, i probably would have got to university to study history back in 1990. I could have my own Channel 5 or BBC4 TV career by now...

What's killing the world's amphibians?

A third of all known amphibian species are threatened with extinction, why is this? This well-made video explains why and what can be done to help.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A826 progress w/c 05/08/13

August has to be archive month when i do the bulk of my primary source research, a visit to Kew is planned for later in the month but on Wednesday i went to Stratford's archives as i have already mentioned.

I'm starting to amass some economic data on the town's economy in the 19th century but how to visualise it? One thing i have tried is to create a map of the town using a lovely little app called MapEditor and then (in Photoshop) populating the map with industries to see how the town's economy changed between 1830 and 1850 using lists of trades in the Pigot's 1830 and White's 1850 trade directoies. Below is something i created yesterday (yes i know about the spelling mistake!)

I'm not necessarily going to include this in my thesis but its useful to help interpret the data, notice the much greater number of coal merchants in 1850.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Back to the archives!

August has to be archives month, i need to get my primary source research done this month as much as i can. Later in the month i plan to visit the National Archives in London but today i returned to Stratford's archives to do some deep analysis of trade directories. I am using this as a main data source to see how the economy in the town changed from 1820 to 1860 and have got some good finding now. Coal merchants doubled between 1830 and 1840 for example. I need to expand on this and try and find out why of course.

While i was in the town i took some photos of course (which you can see on my Flickr), i even saw Rosie and Jim...

Monday, August 5, 2013

The milk revolution

An interesting article in Nature magazine on how Europeans around 7500 years ago developed a mutation that allowed them to drink milk and consume other dairy produce including early cheese, evidence of cheese making has been found in fragments of pottery with tiny holes in it. The ability to drink milk up until then was lost in adulthood and lactose intolerance remains true for many people around the world.

Early farmers learnt how to reduce the lactose in dairy produce so it was not hazardous to adult health but the main breakthrough came when a genetic mutation called LP allele allowed adults to drink milk without ill-effect. The mutation is thought to have happened around 7500 years ago in what is now Hungary.

Those with the mutation had an advantage over those who remained intolerant, milk was a vital source of nutrition when harvests were poor. Those with the mutation were also more fertile. Most people who can drink milk now can trace their ancestry to Europe though in a few other areas similar mutations occurred such as in West Africa.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Shakespeare lived here n.b. horse and cart to let

While researching Stratford-upon-Avon's economy for my thesis i did a search of the British Library's 19th Century Newspaper Archive and came up with some interesting matches, plus a rather amusing snippet from the Morning Post of Thursday November 6th 1821.

We are told that the house Shakespeare lived in, in Stratford (perhaps the birthplace?) is currently owned by a butcher. The owner has put a sign up on the house over the door that says
"Shakepear lived here
N.B. horse and cart to let"

Friday, August 2, 2013

A826 progress w/c 29/07/13

A week spent mostly writing. I had to submit my sample chapter this week so i did that on Wednesday. I'm not that happy with it to be honest but it will likely change quite a bit once the rest of the thesis slots into place. The sample chapter is submitted as a TMA (though its doesn't count towards my final marks) and will likely be the last TMA i do as an Open University student (which i have been since 2005).

Next step might be a PhD... or i might learn a language... but lets get this thesis done first. August will be spent with primary sources.

Tucano done

The latest model project, a Shorts Tucano, has now finally been completed (apart from a varnishing). Its taken longer than usual to complete this one, mostly due to the heat! I wonder if i should have found a better and less temperature vulnerable place to build my models...