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When Histories Collide

When Histories Collide

I was reading a blog this morning and one thing led to another – as it often does. I was soon on a research page reading about the Holodomor.

If you’re like me, you’re going what? What’s the Holodomor?

The word means to kill by starvation. Holodomor was a famine that killed between 7 – 12 million people in the Ukraine region of what was then Soviet Russia.

The famine could have been brought about because of incompetent bureaucracy: at the time Ukranian farmers were forced to abandon their farms or give them back to a collective that would manage all the farms. The farmers would then be paid wages. Unfortunately, for all those millions of people, the collective was so badly managed that only half of the expected crop was harvested. Some people believe that the famine was deliberately orchestrated to crush any hint of Ukranian independence.

I knew about the horrors of World War II and how, during the siege of Leningrad, a million people starved. Nazi Germany also had something called a “Hunger Plan” by which people would be starved into submission. All in all, between the Germans and the Japanese, 20 million people starved during World War II.

But the Holodomor occurred during 1932-1933, a decade before the war.

My first husband’s family was Ukranian. Very proudly Ukranian. My mother-in-law only spoke Ukranian. All her children spoke it as well.

They would freeze you out in a millisecond if you ever called them Russian. At the time I thought it was a pride of place thing. Sort of like me saying, “Hey, I’m a Texan. I’m not from New Mexico.” 

Uh, no.  

Today the Ukraine is a sovereign state, but the discord between them and Russia continues. Memories are long. Twelve million souls long.

 (If you’re wondering why this post appeared then disappeared, it’s user error. I had edited the post, but when I published it, the previous version appeared. I’m still learning this new theme and all its wonkiness.)


A Message in a Bottle

A Message in a Bottle

The Met has a great article about a woman finding the world’s oldest message in a bottle while strolling an Australian beach. It turns out it was part of a German ship’s drift experiment and was found 132 years after it was thrown overboard.

The message was a record of the bottle’s origins.

I couldn’t help but wonder, however, what it would have been like to have picked up a bottle with a personal message. Something like, “Help! I’m a prisoner of the Xubutu Tribe.” Or: “If you get this, I’m being held on the HMS Bounty. Send help!”

Have you ever picked up a bottle on the beach? I would almost be tempted to leave it in place.

Archeological Wonders

Archeological Wonders

Isn’t this amazing? It’s the picture of a Greek trading vessel thought to be the oldest intact shipwreck in the world. It’s at the bottom of the Black Sea and will be left where it is. Here’s the article from The Guardian.

This cuneiform tablet is thought to be a 4,000 year old customer service complaint. Here’s the article. (It’s worth reading the whole complaint in its entirety.)

Cheese found in an Egyptian tomb. Seriously, isn’t that amazing? Crackers anyone? Here’s the BBC article. (It’s the first time they’ve found cheese.)

Thoughts of the Yucatan

Thoughts of the Yucatan

I found this story on the discovery of human skulls dating back to the Mexica civilization, which comprised the Aztecs.  Archeologists – and the field had previously considered the conquistadors’ recounting of the barbarism of the Aztecs as hyperbole – now think that hundreds of thousands of people were sacrificed. Some of them went willingly – and joyfully – to their deaths.

Now for my little contribution to the Yucatan story.

My stepfather owned an airplane company in Managua, Nicaragua, but he also thought he was Indiana Jones. My mother, in the first throes of hero worship, accompanied him everywhere. (I once went to Ciudad Victoria with both of them and was so deathly sick that I decided I wasn’t going into the interior of Mexico again.)

I heard about the story in a very vague way from my mother (after she was no longer in the throes of hero worship). Evidently, he was determined to plod through the Yucatan peninsula in search of a tomb he’d found earlier and that’s what they did. A mountain of vegetation covered the pyramid. The stepfather insisted on exploring further rather than simply informing the authorities. Hey, we found a tomb here. It might be of archeological significance.

When my mother died I became the recipient of some stuff from my stepfather’s estate. I found a half dozen funereal jars, some of them still sealed. I pieced together what I knew of that jungle expedition and contacted the Mexican consulate here in San Antonio. Did they want the jars? They did, but they allowed me to keep some broken shards that were estimated to be more than 2000 years old. I have them mounted in a frame in one hallway and that’s a picture of them. (Complete with the shadow of my finger.)

I never look at those shards without thinking of the people who made them, who they represented, and the culture that produced them. I can’t help but wonder, now, if those funereal jars had anything to do with sacrificial victims.


A Mystery in Alexandria

A Mystery in Alexandria

Archeologists discovered a black granite sarcophagus in Alexandria, Egypt that hasn’t been opened in 2000 years. Nobody knows what could be inside, from a mummy to artifacts.

The sarcophagus is currently being guarded while plans are being made to open it. Regardless of what’s inside I hope they publicize the results.

Here’s a link to read about the discovery.

I think I’m a frustrated archeologist because I love stories like this.