Triumph Of Death — Fresco In Palermo, The Dance Of Death, & The Aragonese Kings Of Naples

February 5, 2015 in Humans

The “Triumph of Death” is a wall-fresco that was originally painted in/for the Palazzo Sclafani, in what is now southern Italy, in 1446. A couple of centuries after that, the fresco was stripped, divided into four separate parts, and put on display the Regional Gallery of Palazzo Abatellis in Palermo.

It’s currently thought that the work is likely to have been commissioned directly by the Aragonese Kings of Naples — most likely to a (now unknown) Catalan (or maybe Provençal) painter. While the overall themes are typical for the time, the work is notable for its stressing of the macabre, cruel, and grotesque. Perhaps at the request of the commissioner?

Triumph of Death fresco Palermo
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Extreme Weather Events Of 535-536 — Snow In Summer, Widespread Crop-Failures, Famine, Flooding, & A Year Without Sun

January 29, 2015 in Geology & Climate, Humans

The extreme weather events of the years 535-536 — encompassing strangely low-temperatures, with snow even falling during the summer months in some locations; widespread crop-failures and famine; greatly diminished levels of sunlight; and accompanying geopolitical problems — were the most severe and long-lasting such occurrence of the last 2000 or so years in the Northern Hemisphere.

While it’s currently thought that the event was caused by an extensive atmospheric dust veil formed either, via a large volcanic eruption in the tropics, or the disintegration of a large amount of space-debris in the upper atmosphere, nothing is known for sure.

Volcano eruption aerosols

Evidence does point towards the volcanic explanation though — owing to the presence of substantial sulfate deposits in glaciers around the world corresponding to the years in question.
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Soil Erosion Rates Rose More Than 100-Fold In The US Following Colonization Via Deforestation & Industrial Agriculture, Research Finds (+American Indian Forest Management Practices Explained)

January 21, 2015 in Geology & Climate, Humans, Plants

Soil erosion rates increased more than a 100-fold in the southeastern US after European colonization via the large-scale deforestation and industrial agriculture that accompanied it, according to new research from the University of Vermont.

Previous to European colonization, the region had seen rates of hill-slope erosion of around an inch every 2500-years — after colonization these rates skyrocketed to an inch every 25-years (with a peak in the late-1800s/early-1900s).

Soil erosion deforestation
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The Triumph Of Death — Pieter Bruegel The Elder, The Black Death, Two Monkeys, & The Eighty Years War

January 19, 2015 in Humans

This is a bit of a detour from what we normally post about here, but it’s a worthwhile one — The Triumph of Death, painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder back in c.1562. Given that “peasant Bruegel” was born in 1525, and died in 1569, the creation of this painting dates to only a few years before his death.

The painting dates to a very tumultuous period of time for the region where Brueghel lived — at the time part of the Habsburg Netherlands, now part of Belgium. The creation of the painting predates the start of the Eighty Years War (1568-1648) by only a couple of years — and really seems to capture something of the spirit of the times.
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Bili Apes — Giant Lion-Eating Chimp (Chimpanzee) Subspecies

January 11, 2015 in Animals & Insects, Humans

Off in one of the few remaining relatively primeval natural environments of the world — the Bili Forest of the far-northern portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo — lives a band of very large chimpanzees that possess a number of very strange qualities and behaviors.

The local folk-stories of the surrounding region make note of massive ape-like creatures that kill and hunt lions, catch fish, and — the stories go — howl at the moon. With many local hunters mentioning an animal that looks something like a cross between a chimpanzee and a gorilla — an animal that apparently, according to the stories, is unaffected by poison darts, as the other apes are.

While you may be now making the assumption that such stories can’t possibly be true, you’d actually be wrong — a fair amount of research has gone into this subspecies of chimpanzee over the last few decades, and there is apparently quite a lot of truth to the stories.

Bili apes
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