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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (07/2004) Headlines (06/2004) Headlines (08/2004)   Vol. 38 July 2004 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the July 2004 edition of W&ET Magazine


The crew of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley was laid to rest in Charleston, S.C., more than 140 years after the vessel became the first sub to sink a warship. Thousands of Civil War re-enactors marched in a funeral cortege of more than a mile that drew about 40 descendents of the crew. The crewmen were in coffins draped with Confederate flags and pulled on horse-drawn caissons.

On Feb. 17, 1864, the Hunley rammed a spar with a black-powder charge into the Union blockade ship Housatonic off Charleston. The Housatonic sank, and the Hunley never returned. It was found nine years ago, the bodies of its sailors still at their posts. The sub was raised in 2000.

From USA Today, and many readers.


Snail shell beads unearthed in a South African cave may be the oldest known jewelry, researchers of human origins say.

The find pushes back to about 75,000 years ago the time scientists say marked the dawn of human symbolic thought. Exactly when people began to have complex cultures that involved more than survival and tool-making skills is hotly debated among researchers.

The discovery is reported in the current edition of the journal Science.

"All 41 of the beads show the same wear patterns, and in all cases the keyholes are made in the same place," says lead researcher Christopher Henshilwood of Norway's University of Bergen. The beads, about one-fifth of an inch in diameter, were strung together or worn on cloth, he says, and differ from other shells deposited naturally in ancient layers of soil at the site in South Africa's Blombos Cave on the shore on the Indian Ocean.

Paleontologists have uncovered in Africa the fossil remains of modern-looking humans that date back more than 100,000 years. But rock art and ornamentation first appear only about 40,000 years ago, most famously in European cave paintings. The Blombos beads, if genuine, add support to a theory that human culture originated and developed gradually in Africa with the appearance of modern-looking humans over the past 200,000 years.

Not everyone agrees. Stanford anthropologist Richard Klein suggests that the holes and wear on the beads could have been caused by soil compacting over time. He is a co-author of 2002's The Dawn of Human Culture, which contends that sudden genetic changes 50,000 years ago led to language and complex thought in people.

Supporters of this idea believe symbolic culture did not flourish in people until they began to migrate out of Africa at about that time. The lack of beads in other caves near Blombos casts doubt on symbolic culture being widespread in Africa 75,000 years ago, Klein says. "Anyone can make a claim, but I don't think they've begun to substantiate this one."

Henshilwood counters that recent, but still unpublished, finds of two ostrich shell beads in Tanzania, perhaps more than 45,000 years old, and other finds of decorated items dating to about 65,000 years ago are rapidly changing the notion that Blombos Cave is unusual.

Two years ago, Henshilwood's team reported finding stone tools in the cave and two pieces of ochre stone with cross-hatched incisions that perhaps also were decoration.

The ostrich shell beads were discovered four years ago at Tanzania's Serengeti National Park. Their discoverers, led by John Bower of Iowa State University, are awaiting a better analysis of the beads' age.

From USA Today, and many readers.


French doctors were taken aback when they discovered the reason for a patient's swollen belly: He had swallowed about 350 coins— $650 worth— along with assorted necklaces and needles. The 62-year-old man went to Cholet General Hospital in western France in 2002 with a history of psychiatric illness and suffering from severe stomach pain. Doctors operated, but the patient later died. One of his doctors said the patient had swallowed the coins— French currency and later euros— over about a decade. The case history of the patient, whose name was withheld, was reported in today's New England Journal of Medicine. His rare condition is called pica, a compulsion to eat things not usually consumed as food. Its name comes from the Latin word for magpie, a bird thought to eat just about anything.

From USA Today, submitted by Donald Haberman, Brownsburg, IN.


When Virginia Moore's husband was killed in battle during World War II, an identification bracelet she gave him was lost in a foxhole for almost 60 years.

Moore was tearfully reunited with the token recently when a Belgian police officer gave her the silver piece her husband, Marcus Comer, was wearing when he left to fight in 1944.

"I was speechless," Moore said. "I kissed it. It was wonderful."

Lorenzo Maierna said he found the bracelet inside a foxhole in a forest near Villers-la-Bonne-Eau, Belgium, while searching for World War II artifacts.

The history buff hopes to open a World War II museum in Belgium to commemorate American veterans.

Maierna and his wife traveled to give Moore the bracelet in person. Moore agreed to have the bracelet returned after her death, for possible inclusion in the museum.

Comer was killed January 14, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge. His name and Army serial number were engraved on one side of the bracelet. The words "Love, Ginny" graced the other.

From AOL News, submitted by Jay Toser, Fall River, WI.


A federal judge has given full ownership of a Civil War-era shipwreck to Florida explorers who say the site may yield one of the richest sunken cargoes in history.

Odyssey Marine Exploration of Tampa discovered the wreck of the SS Republic last summer and has already plucked 52,000 gold and silver coins from the site in the Atlantic about 100 miles southeast of Savannah, GA.

Early estimates put the collectors' value of the coins at $120 million to $180 million. Discovery of more coins is expected to push the amount even higher.

Odyssey, which already held salvage rights, petitioned for title to the wreck after reaching a $1.6 million settlement with a company that had insured the paddlewheel steamer and its cargo and paid claims after it sank in a hurricane in October 1865.

Besides the coins, the SS Republic was carrying 59 passengers, thousands of bottles of everything from pickled fruit to stomach bitters, and various other cargo. The 210-foot ship, once part of the Union fleet, was taking the money and supplies from New York to New Orleans to aid post-Civil War reconstruction of the South.

All passengers got off alive, but the ship and its cargo settled on the sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, lost until Odyssey explorers detected it last summer after searching 1,500 square miles of ocean.

The wreck is scattered across a 40-by-120-foot area in 1,700 feet of water. The company is using a remote-controlled robotic apparatus to excavate the site and remove coins and other items.

From The Courier, submitted by Jeff Hauenstein, Findlay, OH.


A Civil War re-enactment group from the Roanoke Valley has enlisted some powerful help in its quest to get back a flag lost at the Battle of Gettysburg.

U.S. Senator George Allen, U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte, and Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore wrote a letter recently to the U.S. Army's chief of military history, reiterating their interest in seeing the flag returned to Virginia. A private from Minnesota captured the battle flag from the Salem regiment during Pickett's Charge. Today it is housed at the Minnesota Historical Society.

"We know where it is, and we'd just like it back in Virginia, in a museum in Virginia," said Carrie Cantrell, a spokeswoman for Kilgore.

The letter is the latest development in the dispute, which arguably began in 1863 and wound up on the CBS Evening news late last summer, with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's unequivocal declaration that Virginia wasn't getting the flag back.

In their letter, Allen, Goodlatte and Kilgore— all Republicans— have renewed their request to the U.S. Army to prompt the federal government to take whatever steps are necessary to secure the return of the flag, said Chris Caveness. He is executive director of the 28th Virginia Infantry Regiment, a group of re-enactors who have worked to get the flag back.

"They've tried to work this out amicably, and that has not worked," Caveness said.

"We're armed legitimately with what we need if we have to take civil action," Caveness added. The flag is the only known captured battle flag that has not been returned to its state of origin, he said.

But it would be the federal government's responsibility to take that step, Caveness said. A congressional resolution and executive order from 1905 ordered the War Department to return all Civil War flags to their original states. That makes the return of the flag a federal issue, Caveness said.

The flag was one of 12 captured during Pickett's Charge. Soldiers from Roanoke, Botetourt, Bedford, Craig and Montgomery counties made up the 28th Virginia Infantry, which sustained casualties of 80 percent in the battle, Caveness said.

Caveness said he brought the issue up again when he found himself in the same suite as Kilgore during the Virginia Tech/Miami game last fall.

Pawlenty could not be reached for comment.

But Caveness said Pawlenty did not agree to meet with Brig. Gen. John Brown about the issue. Brown sent several colonels instead, but nothing really materialized from the meeting.

Brown could not be reached for comment.

Pawlenty's chief of staff, Dan McElroy, said that as far as he knew, there hadn't been any new developments in the dispute. And he said the decision to keep the flag in Minnesota was made not by state government officials, but by the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.

From The Roanoke Times, submitted by Chadwic T. Anderson, Bedford, VA.

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