10 Misconceptions About Military Drones


Post 7897

10 Misconceptions About Military Drones

JONATHAN H. KANTOR AUGUST 27, 2016

10 Misconceptions About Military Drones

Military drones have garnered a great deal of attention over the years since the 9/11 bombings, but they’re very misunderstood. While some reports accurately describe how they’re used in combat, many stories portray misconceptions that are outlandish and not supported by facts. Here are ten of the most common misconceptions about military drones.

Featured image credit: Lance Cheung, US Air Force

10They’re Called ‘Drones’

Reaper UAV Flight

Almost everyone refers to a military Unmanned Aerial Vehicle/System (UAV/S) as a drone, but that is a misnomer which is insulting to their pilots. (Yes, they have pilots.) The word “drone” is most often associated with a low humming sound, which is one of the reasons that male bees are called drones. Using the word “drone” to describe the complex systems put in place on today’s battlefields can be incongruous with military jargon and insulting to the operators.

“Drone” implies a lack of involvement by an expert operator, so the term isn’t widely used in the military. Outside the military, the word “drone” is most often associated with quadcopters, remote-controlled small aircraft used by hobbyists for various activities, including racing, aerial photography, and general fun.

 

9They’re New To Warfare

Venice Balloon Bombs

Photo credit: Prof. Jurij Drushnin via Monash University

UAVs aren’t new to warfare, but it might surprise you to learn that they were first used in the 19th century! Austrian forces attacking Italy in 1849 approached the city of Venice armed with 200 balloons. These balloons were armed with bombs controlled by timed fuses. They weren’t entirely successful, as many of them were blown by the wind back over the Austrian lines before they exploded, but several did explode over their targets. This is the first instance of pilotless aircraft being used in warfare.

Since that time, remotely operated aircraft have been developed and used throughout warfare. Until GPS became a widespread technology, allowing for satellite-controlled aircraft anywhere in the world, most were operated remotely via radio. This included radio-guided bombs among other types of weapon systems.

8They Require Few People To Operate Them

Reaper Maintenance

Photo credit: US Air Force

One of the biggest downsides to manned aircraft is the total number of people required to operate them. You have pilots, copilots, and onboard crew, depending on the type of vehicle. You also have the people required to fuel the vehicle, move it, maintain and repair it, and even store it when not in use.

UAVs are no different. In fact, they require more people to operate them than most manned vehicles. In addition to the people needed to maintain the aircraft and fly it, there are operators for each of the sensors and cameras onboard. To compare, an F-16 requires approximately 100 people for it to operate, while a Predator requires 168 and a Reaper requires 180.

 

7They Rarely Crash And Require Minimal Upkeep

Crashed UAV

Photo credit: US Air Force via The Washington Post

Upkeep of any military aircraft is expensive, and UAVs are no different in this regard. One major problem UAVs have is that they tend to crash . . . a lot. This is certainly preferable to losing a manned aircraft, since that requires a search and rescue operation to recover the pilot(s), while a crashed UAV doesn’t. Of course, the military isn’t generally satisfied with letting their technology fall into their enemy’s hands, so a crashed UAV often still requires a mission to recover or destroy the downed vehicle.

UAV crashes have been on the rise since 2004, possibly due to the increase in operational hours and an overtaxing of the available systems being used in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2004, there were only nine crashes, while the number jumped to 26 in 2012. Very few crashes are the result of hostile action against the vehicle and most drop out of the sky for unknown (or unreleased) reasons.

6Jamming Their Communications Will Bring Them Down

iStock_39732518_SMALL
Most UAVs use a satellite uplink, which is very difficult to jam. The waves are a very narrow beam pointing up toward the satellites, so jamming them from the ground is very difficult, though not impossible. If a drone’s communication is jammed, it switches to autopilot until it can regain communications with its host.

Commercial drones are much easier to jam, since they tend to work via radio communications, so an increase of energy on their operating frequency tends to take them out. When it comes to military UAVs, jamming is much less common.

Communications jamming is a dangerous enterprise due to the high amount of power needed to operate the equipment. There are several products and DIY projects people can find on the Internet to build “jamming rifles” if they feel that they need or want to jam a commercial drone, though we do not advise doing this.

5They Can Only Remain Airborne For A Short Period Of Time

Predator UAV Flight

This misconception might be due to the comparatively short-duration flights that commercial drones are capable of maintaining. Most commercial quadcopters can remain airborne for 15 minutes, with very few topping at twice that time. The main reason for this is simply energy storage and consumption. Most commercial drones are small and powered via an onboard battery. Almost all UAVs, however, carry fuel like any aircraft. Because of this, they can remain airborne and operational for much longer than their commercial counterparts.

The Predator, which is one of the most utilized UAVs in combat, has a flight time of approximately 27 hours, with a future upgrade with a cap of 40 hours projected to hit the battlefield in 2018. Another recently designed aircraft called the Global Observer Stratospheric Persistent UAS is able to fly for a period of 168 hours due to its high operating altitude of 20,000 meters (65,000 ft) and its use of liquid hydrogen for fuel.

 

4Anyone Can Operate A Drone (Like A Video Game)

UAV Piloting

While it might be true that a good video game player could make a good UAV operator, that doesn’t necessarily work in reverse. Most UAV pilots would resent this notion, and many have gone on record detailing how it is not at all like a video game. Most UAVs in operation in the military are as complicated to fly as any other aircraft and require a highly trained and skilled pilot to fly them. While some games can duplicate this to some degree, very few people who are good at playing Microsoft Flight Simulator can sit in a cockpit for eight hours without a break.

Another comparison that separates the two is that a UAV pilot may be called on to attack and destroy a target, which might very well be a living, breathing person. No video game can approximate what a person has to go through to accomplish that mission.

3They Have ‘Kill Lists’

Predator Sensor

Photo credit: Michael Pereckas

The primary mission for nearly all UAVs is reconnaissance and force protection. When in operation, they essentially amount to “eyes in the sky” and are used to ensure the safety of personnel operating on the ground. That isn’t to say that drones aren’t armed and used to engage targets; they do, but that’s not their primary mission. As such, they do not operate with “kill lists” naming targets that are to be engaged if found.

In order for a UAV to fire on any target, it first has to be identified and vetted, and then a decision is made by the ground commander whether or not to fire. Unfortunately, mistakes can be made as with piloted aircraft, and civilian targets have been engaged by mistake. This has led many to believe that UAVs have “kill lists” that allow them to engage a target whenever identified, regardless of the situation.

The military does maintain lists of High-Value Targets, but these are not loaded onto aircraft and seen as targets of opportunity. Rather, the lists drive mission planning in operational pursuit of a target, which may or may not involve a UAV.

2They’re Autonomous

Predator Pilots

As detailed above, almost all UAVs require highly skilled operators to pilot and utilize their various systems. Because of this, they cannot be considered autonomous, though some flight operations are handled by computers much like autopilot operations on a commercial aircraft.

While it can be said that the military does not operate autonomous killing robots as many may believe, that isn’t to say that they aren’t developing exactly that for future operations. Currently, the US Navy and Army areresearching autonomous drones due to a lack of pilots, and DARPA has commissioned a study to try to develop packs of six aircraft that would “Collaborate to find, track, identify, and engage targets.” Perhaps Sarah Connor was right . . .

1They’re All Armed And Designed To Kill

Pioneer UAV

Most UAVs operated by the US Military, which has more than 7,000, are designed and used for some form of aerial reconnaissance or surveillance. The Predator was designed for this and wasn’t armed until well into the conflict with Iraq. Fleets of smaller aircraft have never been and likely will never be armed due to their size and other uses.

While this remains a common misconception today, the future is less certain. Most countries are developing UAVs specifically for combat roles. In 2013, Boeing was able to retrofit an F-16, which normally requires two people to operate, to fly completely unmanned. Removing personnel from the cockpit allows the vehicle to achieve up to 9Gs, which would be incredibly dangerous for a person.

Beyond this, UAV helicopters with mounted miniguns have been in development as well as stealth aircraft and all sorts of weapon systems. The future of UAV warfare seems to be leaning toward making this misconception a reality.

10 Horrifying Future Wars We Will Live To See


Post 7896

10 Horrifying Future Wars We Will Live To See

MORRIS M. AUGUST 26, 2016

10 Horrifying Future Wars We Will Live To See

War is one of humanity’s constants. No matter how enlightened we become or how much our technology changes, we’ll still spend our time killing one another. As such, it is inevitable that today’s younger generation will experience war. The only question is when.

These 10 examples of war could well blow up within the next few years. Some are regional, some are global. Some are small, some are big. The only constant is how horrifying these conflicts could potentially be.

Featured image credit: Socio-Economics History Blog

10The China-Russo Siberian War

10a-siberia-changing-borders

Photo credit: The New York Times

One superpower in its twilight years. One new upstart ready to take on the world. At the moment, China and Russia are the big beasts east of the Ural Mountains. Both have vast armies. Both are nuclear-armed. Both are expansionist. And both have a claim on Siberia.

A sparsely populated, resource-rich sweep of land bigger than Canada, Siberia has long been in China’s sights. Recently, the Middle Kingdom caused outrage in Russia by trying to buy up tracts of Siberian land. Beijing considers itself to have a historic claim to at least the eastern part of Siberia, and many ethnic Chinese are settling over the Russian border. For the Kremlin, this spells trouble.

A China-Russo war over Siberia would be devastating and have only two possible outcomes. Either the Chinese army would decimate Russia or Moscow would unleash nuclear war. Either way, the death toll would be catastrophic.

 

9The War For The Baltics

9b-tank-battle_10880413_SMALL

After Putin’s annexation of Crimea, Europe has been jumpy about the possibility of war with Russia. According to the former deputy NATO commander, Sir Alexander Richard Shirreff, it’s a virtual certainty.

Shirreff points to Russia’s fear of encirclement by NATO as the spark that will ignite the region’s tensions. As early as May 2017, the decorated British general expects Moscow to drive a land corridor through Ukraine, connecting the Crimea to Russia, and then invade one or more of the Baltic states. Since Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are all NATO members, this could result in aninsane Western war with Russia.

The initial battle for the Baltics alone could kill tens of thousands. Chillingly, Shirreff believes Russia would threaten to launch nukes if NATO tried to intervene, threatening millions of lives.

8The North Korean Spring

8a-kim-jong-un-regime-collapse

This summer, a high-ranking North Korean diplomat in London defected to South Korea. It was just the latest in a string of incidents that point to the imminent collapse of the Kim Jong Un regime.

Kim has alienated powerful allies such as China. He’s no longer able to keep his elite in luxury. Cheap smartphone technology has allowed his people to see life on the outside for the first time. Meanwhile, the country is preparing for shortages that could make the 1994 famine look like a stroll in the park.

The result could be a revolution unlike anything the DPRK has seen. People could take to the streets, the army could split into warring factions, and all hell could be unleashed. The last time a communist dictatorship imploded violently was in Romania, where a popular revolt killed over 1,100 in less than 10 days. Deposing Kim could be even bloodier.

 

7Europe’s Urban Guerrilla War With ISIS

7-isis-in-europe_79380727_SMALL

Faced with air strikes, economic turmoil, and advancing armies, ISIS is on the verge of collapse. Don’t expect them to go quietly, though. When their actual state collapses, chances are the jihadists will take the fight directly to Europe.

Returning fighters could devastate the Continent with a low-intensity yet deadly urban guerrilla war. Europe’s great cities would become charnel houses. You’d see frequent gun and bomb attacks on civilians and pitched battles between police and gun-toting jihadists in the streets.

France and Belgium would be the main targets, followed by Germany and the UK. No city would be safe. Politicians would be paralyzed. There would be bloodshed and mayhem. And this grim urban war would grind on until every last ISIS stooge was dead.

6Venezuela’s Civil War

6-venezuela-riots

Photo credit: The Daily Beast

The streets of Caracas are lawless. Staple items are impossible to buy. Inflation is over 500 percent and could hit 1,600 percent. There are protests, violence, rampant corruption, police brutality, and a paranoid government that refuses to read the writing on the wall.

The potential end result of this anarchy? Civil war.

With Maduro unwilling to step aside, the hungry, embattled residents of Venezuela could well take up arms. Mass defections from the police and military are possible. Neighboring right-wing governments may stick their oar in, as might left-wing groups like Colombia’s ELN. Such a toxic mix could quickly spiral into utter chaos.

Even foregoing a full-on war, a coup might be Venezuela’s best-case scenario. If Latin American history is anything to go by, such a move would likely lead to repression and bloodshed on a horrifying scale.

5China’s Second Cultural Revolution

5-cultural-revolution_6951154_SMALL

The Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao was eye-wateringly brutal. Approximately 1.5 million people died. Millions more were tortured and mutilated. Massive corruption, popular discontent, and a sense of betrayal boiled over into a killing spree. Fast-forward to 2016, and all those ingredients are back in place for a blood-soaked reprise.

China has a long history of peasant rebellions. Mao himself was brought to power in one which killed eight million. A few decades earlier, the Boxer Rebellion led to more than 100,000 deaths. A few decades before that, the Taiping Rebellion killed 20–30 million and possibly as many as 70 million.

In historical context, a new Cultural Revolution isn’t implausible. China is already wracked with 500 protests every day. Every year, around 100,000 riots break out. Leaders are corrupt. The young talk of a new uprising. If the next financial crisis devastates their living standards, we could see another orgy of cataclysmic bloodletting.

 

4Bosnia Mark II

4-vitez-massacre

Photo credit: ICTY

In the 1990s, the world watched in horror as Bosnia disintegrated. Around 100,000 died as civilians were ethnically cleansed from their homelands. The 1995 Dayton Accords stopped the bloodshed by creating two “states within a state”: Bosnia and Herzegovina for the Bosniaks and Croats, Republika Srpska for the Serbs.

The trouble is the new state was inherently unstable. Divided along ethnic lines, it created a world of increasing tensions, bitter grievances, and desire for vengeance. Today, everyone is poor. Youth unemployment is over 60 percent, the highest on Earth. The Serbs and Croats still want to split off. The Bosniaks still want to hold their state together.

The leader of Republika Srpska recently chucked a flaming match into this powder keg. Ethnic Serbs will hold a referendum on whether to secede from Bosnia. The result of a probable “yes” vote? An unwanted sequel to Bosnia’s horrifying civil war.

3The Saudi Arabian Revolution

3-saudi-revolution

Saudi Arabia got off lightly in the Arab Spring. As dictators fell in Tunisia and Egypt, as Syria burned and Libya imploded, Saudi Arabia’s royals managed to cling to power.

Or did they? According to the US-based Washington Institute, conditions in Saudi Arabia are now similar to those preceding the Egyptian revolution. The nation is ready to explode.

The oil price crash has brought the high-spending kingdom to the brink of bankruptcy. Youth unemployment is out of control in a country that’s predominantly young. The anger of educated twentysomethings is overflowing. The House of Saud is pushing through unpopular privatizations, just as Mubarak did. The minority Shia population is rioting. ISIS is attacking. The war in Yemen is going badly.

It’s easy to imagine a revolution springing from this discontent. If it does, it could be another Egypt, another Libya, or another Syria. Only time will tell.

2The Indo-Pak Nuclear War

2-indo-pak-nuclear-war

Photo credit: india.com

In winter 2008, the world nearly ended.

That year, a standoff between Pakistan and India over state-sponsored terrorism nearly escalated into nuclear war. In the end, urgent global diplomacy cooled things down. But the two countries have been here before and will reach this point again. If things go differently next time, we could see the end of the world.

An Indo-Pak nuclear war would see Delhi, Mumbai, Karachi, and Islamabad go up in flames. Tens of millions would perish in an inferno. The nuclear winter would destroy crops across Asia, leading to mass famines. An estimated two billion people could die.

So what could trigger such a terrifying conflict? The disputed region of Kashmir, unstable Pakistan becoming a failed state, or Pakistan-linked terror attacks on India. In short, there are too many potential triggers for comfort.

1The South China Sea/World War III

1a-south-china-sea-territorial-claims

Photo credit: CNN

The only thing scarier than Pakistan and India going toe to toe would be China and the US doing the same. Especially if it was in a conflict that pulled in countries like the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, and more.

Welcome to the South China Sea, the region most likely to trigger World War III.

For the past few years, China has been aggressively expanding in the sea. It has done so at the expense of smaller countries that the US just happens to be allied with. The US has responded with warnings. China has returned with threats. Neither side is backing down.

If this does escalate into a war, all bets are off. The whole world would get involved, and millions would die. It’d be like World War II on steroids—the deadliest conflict in human history.

10 Bizarre Antique Prostheses


Post 7895

10 Bizarre Antique Prostheses

GARY PULLMAN AUGUST 27, 2016

 

The earliest prostheses were crude. Whether peg legs or hand hooks, they helped the men and women who wore them to perform the everyday tasks associated with their vocations. Over the thousands of years since prostheses first appeared, many improvements have been made regarding their materials and design. This may make the 10 antique body parts in our list seem even more bizarre than they might appear otherwise.

10Eyeball

10-egyptian-eyeball

Photo credit: Payvand

Shahr-e Sukhteh, a Bronze Age settlement in southeastern Iran, yielded a lightweight, 2.5-centimeter (1 in) prosthetic eyeball made of bitumen paste over which was laid a thin layer of gold. Hemispherical, it bore a hole through each side, which enabled it to be secured to the eye orbit with gold wire.

The center of the eyeball was “engraved” with an iris and the golden rays of the Sun. The remains with which the prosthetic eye was found date from 2900 to 2800 BC. At a height of 1.8 meters (6 ft), the unusually tall woman was likely to have been of royal or noble blood.

In the fifth century BC, Egyptian priests also fashioned early prosthetic eyes known as ectblepharons. Constructed of painted clay or enameled metal that was attached to cloth, these prostheses were worn outside the socket.

 

9Toes

9-greville-chester-toe

Photo credit: NBC News

Archaeologists have unearthed two prosthetic toes. One, known as the Greville Chester toe, dates to 600 BC and is displayed in the British Museum. Made of cartonnage (ancient papier-mache) mixed with linen, “animal glue, [and] tinted plaster,” the big toe assisted its wearer in walking.

An older prosthetic big toe, the Cairo toe, found near Luxor, Egypt, and currently exhibited in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, dates from 950 to 710 BC. Made of wood and leather, the prosthesis is shaped somewhat like a gaiter but covers only the instep. Research shows that its use with sandals provided the wearer with 60–87 percent “of the flexion of the intact left toe.”

8Leg

8-fake-leg

Photo credit: Chinese Archaeology via Live Science

Discovered in 2016 in a grave in Turpan, China, the 2,200-year-old remains of a 50- to 65-year-old Gushi man 170 centimeters (5’7″) tall included his prosthetic leg. Made of poplar, the leg features holes along two sides that allowed the prosthesis to be secured to the deformed leg with leather straps.

He was fitted with the artificial limb, which was equipped with a horse’s hoofrather than a foot. His kneecap, thighbone, and tibia had fused together at an 80-degree angle, possibly because of joint inflammation, rheumatism, or trauma. However, it is likely that tuberculosis caused the deformity when a “bony growth” fused the joint.

An older prosthetic limb, dating to 300 BC, was found in 1858 in Capua, Italy. The leg was made of bronze and iron surrounding a wooden core, but it was destroyed in 1941 “during an air raid on London.”

 

7Lip And Palate

7-fauchard-palatal-obdurators

Photo credit: fauchard.org

It appears that the famous Greek orator Demosthenes (384–322 BC) “may have used pebbles to obturate [fill in] a congenital cleft lip and palate.” Since then, other obturators have been designed for a variety of uses. In the mid-18th century, such a device “was inserted into the palatal defect [followed by a] pair of mechanical wings [that] were made to contact the superior surface of the palate through a turnkey mechanism operated by the patient.”

The late 18th century introduced obturators similar to those used today. One such device was inflated with water to fill the maxillary defect. In 1893, President Grover Cleveland (1837–1908) was fitted with “a vulcanite obturator to close a defect resulting from surgical resection of a malignant maxillary tumor.”

6Arm

6-gotz-iron-arm-hand

Photo credit: io9.gizmodo.com

Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) wrote of a prosthetic right arm made for a general so that he could hold his shield in battle during the Second Punic War (218–200 BC). However, it wasn’t until the early 1500s that the art of making artificial arms began to reflect details such as the “nail beds and knuckles of [the] hand.” This was the case when an artificial arm of iron was fashioned for 24-year-old Gottfried von Berlichingen (1480–1562), who lost his arm to a cannonball in the siege of Landshut in 1504.

Gottfried’s artificial arm was secured by leather straps fixed to the end. Articulated fingers could move and spread apart. The hand could close in a fist. Although the limb must have been heavy, the increased mobility of its joints was an improvement over earlier prosthetic arms.

5Tooth

5-serpentine-tooth

Photo credit: phys.org

The 1,600-year-old skull of a 30- to 45-year-old, upper-class woman found in Teotihuacan (50 kilometers (30 mi) north of Mexico City) shows prosthetic dental work. Her upper front teeth are surfaced with “two round pyrite stones” indicative of the Mayan regions of southern Mexico and Central America. This shows that she was a foreigner rather than a Mexican native. Her lower jaw also sports an artificial tooth made of serpentine.

 

4Foot

4-prosthetic-legs-feet

Photo credit: amputee-coalition.org

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus (484–425 BC) wrote of one of the world’s first prosthetic feet. Sentenced to death, a “Persian seer” escaped by cutting off his own foot and replacing it with “a wooden filler” that allowed him to walk 50 kilometers (30 mi) to the next town.

Usually, prosthetic feet were included as parts of artificial legs, largely because amputations were too crude to allow the replacement of only a foot. In 1843, this situation changed. Sir James Syme (1799–1870) “discovered a new method of ankle amputation that did not involve amputation at the thigh.” As a result, an amputee required only a prosthetic foot, rather than an artificial leg, to recover the ability to walk.

3Hand

3a-iron-hand

Photo credit: My Armoury

Several bizarre antique prosthetic hands of various designs were made in medieval and early modern times. In about 1580, a German prosthetic hand made of iron featured distinct fingernails and wrinkles over its knuckles. It fit like a glove over a metal framework that slipped over the forearm.

In the latter half of the 19th century, artificial Victorian hands were made of metal. They were relatively flat and decorative, but the joints of the thumbs and fingers were articulated so they could be moved. In at least one prosthetic hand, the wrist could be moved up and down to some extent.

Often, the hands attached to an armature which was connected to a sort of sleeve that slid over the arm or the remaining stub. The hand of a 16-year-old girl was made of “wood, leather, and textile” and was equipped with wooden joints that allowed the fingers to curl or extend.

2Nose

2a-artificial-nose

Photo credit: Science Museum London

A brass nose attached to a pair of eyeglasses mounted to a metal loop that fit over the top of the head was a prosthesis for a mid-19th century syphilitic woman who lost her nose to the ravages of the disease.

A little over 300 years earlier, Tycho Brahe (1546–1601), the Dutch astronomer, lost his nose in a duel in 1566. As a result, he “wore a brass prosthesis” for the remainder of his days. Although it was noticeable up close, it covered a gap in the bridge of his nose.

1Face (1916)

1-prosthetic-faces

Photo credit: Smithsonian Magazine

Prosthetic faces appeared after World War I when artists and sculptors working for the 3rd London General Hospital’s Masks for Facial Disfigurement Department “designed lifelike masks” for soldiers disfigured or otherwise “gravely wounded” in combat.

Program founder Francis Derwent Wood (1871–1926) used his artistic ability to create lightweight masks that bore customized prewar portraits of the wounded soldiers. Although they had aesthetic value, the prosthetic masks also benefited the men psychologically by restoring their self-reliance, self-respect, confidence, and pride in their appearance.

10 Shocking Events From The Missouri Mormon War


Post 7894

10 Shocking Events From The Missouri Mormon War

MARK OLIVER AUGUST 29, 2016

10 Shocking Events From The Missouri Mormon War

Today, Mormonism is one of the most widely accepted religions in the US. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints live freely and happily among their neighbors, sharing smiles and goodwill with everyone they see.

In 1838, however, the state of Missouri entered into a full-scale war against the Mormons. People were slaughtered. Whole villages were razed. It’s the last thing you’d ever imagine to be part of the history of those nice men who go door-to-door in white shirts.

10Joseph Smith Was Tarred, Feathered, And Nearly Castrated

10-smith-tarred-feathered

Photo credit: lds.org

Before Missouri, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, lived in Ohio. The story starts with him getting chased out of the state in 1832. Smith and his family were living in the home of a man named John Johnson, enjoying all the hospitality his family had to offer.

Apparently, Smith thought that Johnson’s 16-year-old daughter was part of that hospitality because he enjoyed her, too. Smith allegedly had an affair with the young girl, and when word got out, the town was furious.

The town organized a mob that broke into Smith’s room, stripped off his clothes, beat him, and tarred and feathered him. Johnson’s son, Eli, was in the mob and wanted to castrate Joseph Smith. But a doctor in the crowd managed to calm them down before they went that far.

 

9The Mormon Church Threatened To Murder Members Who Dissented

9a-kill-with-hunting-knife

Photo credit: Wikia

The Mormon Church once had its own bank. Technically, they weren’t allowed to get a bank charter, but they found a loophole that made it work. They set up an “anti-banking company”—a company that did everything a bank did except call itself a bank.

The problem was that nobody there really knew how to run a bank. Documentation wasn’t filed properly, and the bank tried to apply far more resources than it had. Members of the church who had invested in it starting going broke. Soon, Smith was hit with 17 lawsuits and members started storming out.

The church didn’t take it well. They purged the church members who complained, forcing them to leave the county—or pay the price. In one letter, called the “Danite Manifesto,” the church threatened members who did not leave the county within three days with a “more fatal calamity [that] shall befall” them. This threat was typically understood to mean that they would be killed.

8Mormons And Missourians Beat Each Other To Death With Logs

8-gallatin-fight

Photo credit: Mormonite Musings

The dissenters left, but they weren’t happy about it. They went to neighboring towns, complaining that their property had been stolen by the Mormons and that they had been cast out of their homes—all of which got the people of Missouri worried. The Mormon population was getting big enough that they had political power, and this seemed like proof that they were dangerous.

The first real violence came on election day in the town of Gallatin. When Mormons came out to vote, the populace got worried. One person called out that Mormons shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Soon, the town erupted into a fistfight.

It got worse. A group of Mormons found a stack of logs, picked them up, and started beating people to death. The Missourians fled, but they swore that they would kill every Mormon in the county before the week ended.

 

7A Missouri Mob Tried To Starve A Town Of Mormons Out

7-dewitt-marker

Photo credit: waymarking.com

At first, the government just tried to keep the peace. In some places, it even worked. The Missouri government was able to convince an anti-Mormon vigilante group in Daviess to stand down and try to make peace with the Mormons there.

It didn’t work everywhere, though. Another Missouri mob set up a siege on a Mormon town called DeWitt, blocking all food from getting into the town in hopes of starving the Mormons out. The state sent a man to calm the mob down, but the mob scared him so much that he didn’t even try to get them to leave.

With nobody stopping it, the siege worked. The Mormons surrendered the town and fled to an outpost called Far West.

6A Mormon Army Burned Two Towns To The Ground

6-mormons-burn-gallatin

Photo credit: blog.mrm.org

The Mormons didn’t take losing DeWitt lying down. The next day, 100 Mormons marched back into the town of Gallatin and told the people to leave. First, they robbed the stores, and then they set the town on fire. Another group went on to Millport, where they again looted the buildings. Then they burned down 12 businesses and a number of farms.

The Mormon army intended to keep their warpath going, too. They announced plans to burn down the towns of Elkhorn and Buncombe as well.

At this point, though, the government had to get more involved. A Missouri militia moved in, blocking the path to the towns in a place called Crooked River Valley, intent on stopping the Mormon army from doing any further damage.

5Mormons Ambushed A US Militia

5-battle-of-crooked-river

The Mormon army, called the Danites, didn’t let the Missouri militia stop them. The Danites organized a party and ambushed the militia at Crooked River. The Danites sneaked out of the woods, fired volleys of gunfire at the militia, and then charged them with knives.

The militia was caught off guard. They panicked, and most of the troops fled before they were given the command. The few that stayed behind to fight were drastically outnumbered and didn’t have a chance. Soon, they also fled, leaving their supplies behind.

Four men died in the battle, three of whom were Mormons. However, the Mormons did manage to steal the army’s horses and supplies. The most important change, though, was that the Mormons weren’t just fighting mobs anymore. They had attacked members of the US National Guard.

 

4The Missouri Governor Issued An Order To Exterminate All Mormons

4-boggs-executive-order-44

Photo credit: Lilburn Boggs, Wikimedia

The Battle at Crooked River changed things. Peacekeeping was over. Now it was war.

Lilburn Boggs, the governor of Missouri, issued an order called “Executive Order 44,” which labeled all Mormons as “enemy combatants.” All Mormons were to leave, “peaceable if we can, forcibly if we must.”

After the order was issued, it became legal to murder a Mormon. In the writing, it was even encouraged. Governor Boggs included a caveat that the Mormons could be simply driven out of state but only if it was “necessary for the public peace.”

Executive Order 44 and the legal right to murder a Mormon wasn’t taken out of the Missouri law books until 1976.

3A Missouri Militia Slaughtered A Mormon Town

3-hauns-mill-massacre

Photo credit: BYU

The order had a major impact within three days. A Missouri militia moved on a town called Haun’s Mill, acting on a tip that the Mormon’s Danite army was planning an assault from there.

There’s no proof that they were. Even government sources suggested that the town was full of nothing but innocent civilians. The militia charged in anyway, slaughtering as many as they could. Nineteen Mormon civilians were killed, and almost every person in the village was at least injured.

Another militia laid siege on a Mormon outpost called Far West. At first, the Mormons tried to resist it. But after learning about Haun’s Mill, they gave up. The Mormons left Missouri. Joseph Smith, along with most of the religion’s major leaders, was arrested for treason, murder, and arson.

2Joseph Smith Staged A Jailbreak

2-liberty-jail

Smith and the major leaders of the church were sent to Liberty Jail, awaiting trial for a list of crimes that would have guaranteed their execution. They never spent a day in court, however, because they broke out of jail.

On April 16, 1839, the prisoners were moved to another county. En route, the guards and the sheriff found their way into the whiskey, got too drunk, and passed out. Smith and his friends seized on the opportunity. The five men in chains stole two horses and rode off into the night.

1Mormons Vowed An Oath Of Vengeance Against The US

1-joseph-smith-killed

Photo credit: G.W. Fasel

Things didn’t get much more peaceful for the Mormons after they left Missouri. Treason charges continued to hound them. In 1844, Joseph Smith agreed to go to trial in Carthage under a promise of protection from the governor of Illinois. Once there, he was attacked and killed by a mob of over 100 men.

After Smith’s death, his successor, Brigham Young, introduced an oath that required all Mormons to swear vengeance upon the United States.

They did it, too. Mormons went on to fight two more wars against the US, and members of the religion continued to pray that God would “avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation” for the next 82 years.

10 Fascinating New Discoveries Involving The Vikings


Post 7893

10 Fascinating New Discoveries Involving The Vikings

PAUL JONGKO AUGUST 29, 2016

 

Recent archaeological finds reveal that the Vikings were not only fierce, bloodthirsty warriors but also farmers, skilled craftsmen, impressive mariners, and expert traders as well. As more discoveries are made, our knowledge of the Vikings will widen even more—dispelling many myths surrounding this fascinating group of people.

10Tomb Of Viking Power Couple

1

Photo credit: History Channel

In 2012, engineers building a highway in Harup, Denmark, discovered a wooden building. Later on, the discovery was identified as a Viking tomb. Also known as dodehus or death house, the tomb contained the remains of a couple archaeologists believed held a high social status in Viking society.

Experts discovered two interesting items buried alongside the couple: a large battle axe and two keys. The axe, which was found together with the man, was considered to be the “machine gun” of the Viking era. Europeans back then trembled at the sight of this battle axe. The keys, on the other hand, were “a symbol of [the woman’s] power and status as a great lady.”

The researchers also discovered a third body buried alongside the couple. They surmised that the man was added at a later date, and he might have been the couple’s successor.

 

9Viking Women Colonized New Lands Too

2

A new study involving ancient Viking DNA suggested that Viking women played a significant role in the colonization of overseas lands. Experts arrived at this conclusion after discovering that the maternal DNA of the Vikings “closely matches that of modern-day people in the North Atlantic isles,” especially that of Shetland and Orkney Islands in the United Kingdom.

This discovery also debunked the widely held assumption that the Vikings were merely pillagers and raiders. They were family-oriented people as well who “established settlements and grew crops” and even engaged in trade. In addition, this recent finding challenged a study published in 2001 that suggested that Viking men would travel alone and then bring local female captives when they colonized new territories.

8Viking Fortress

3

Photo credit: Danish Castle Centre

In 2014, a team of archaeologists discovered a Viking fortress in the Danish island of Zealand. They believed that the structure dated back to the 10th century. Before the discovery of this specific fortress, three others were unearthed in Denmark: Aggersborg, Trelleborg, and Fyrkat. These structures are collectively known as the “Trelleborg” fortresses.

The newly discovered fortress, which is located south of Copenhagen, is quite huge, spanning 165 meters (476 ft) across.

This discovery showed that the Vikings were not only a “fierce band of warriors with cool headgear” but were also decent architects, capable of building magnificent fortresses. In addition, this discovery gave archaeologists the opportunity to better understand Viking conflicts and wars.

 

7North America’s Second Viking Site

4

Known for using satellite technology in her excavations, “space archaeologist” Sarah Parcak, together with her team, discovered a second possible Viking settlement in North America. They arrived at this conclusion after finding the remains of turf walls and an iron-working hearth in Point Rosee in Newfoundland, Canada.

The presence of an iron-working hearth at the site is a strong evidence of a Viking settlement since they used iron nails to build their ships. It also eliminated the possibility of the site belonging to Native Americans or Basque fisherman. In addition, after doing radiocarbon testing, Parcak and her team were able to date the site back to 800 and 1300 AD—the same time the Vikings were at their peak.

This discovery is monumental since it can potentially dethrone Christopher Columbus as the discoverer of the New World.

6Viking Treasure Trove

5

Photo credit: Derek McLennan/PA

In September 2014, metal-detecting enthusiast Derek McLennan discovered one of the biggest Viking treasure troves in Scotland. The trove, which consisted of more than 100 precious artifacts including solid gold jewelry, was unearthed on church land.

Stuart Campbell of Scotland’s treasure trove unit considered this discovery historically significant since it could potentially alter the way Scots view “their historic relationship with the Vikings.” Contrary to popular belief, the Vikings didn’t only carry out raids in Scotland. They also settled and traded in some parts of the country, including the area where the treasure trove was discovered.

5Climate Change Didn’t Kill The Greenland Viking Settlement

6

Photo credit: C. K. Madsen

For years, it has been widely believed within the scientific community that climate change killed the Viking settlement in Greenland. Specifically, it was assumed that the Greenland Vikings died within a 200-year period of worsening climate known as the Little Ice Age. However, a new study suggested that this might not have been the case.

It’s true, the Vikings experienced “years of harsh and cold winters and summers,” they were cut off from their homelands in Europe due to lack of timber for building ships, and they were left entirely on their own when Scandinavian traders stopped passing by Greenland, but these challenges “didn’t knock them out.” They were good at adapting and were able to outlive climate change and its devastating effects for centuries.

So why did they disappear? Experts still do not know, but one thing’s for sure. Climate change has been eliminated from the list.

 

4Viking Parliament

7

For years, the exact location of a Viking Parliament in Dingwall, Scotland, have eluded archaeologists and historians alike. It was only in 2013 when it was finally located. After excavating for more than a year, archaeologists hit the jackpot—they unearthed the remains of the lost Viking parliament at a parking lot known as the Cromartie Memorial car park.

More popularly known as a “Thing,” the Viking parliament was built on the instructions of a powerful Viking earl named Thorfinn the Mighty. Aside from the Thing, Thorfinn also commissioned the construction of a ditch, an aqueduct, and a road.

This discovery has elicited excitement among historians in the United Kingdom since it could “help them learn more about the Norse Vikings, who battled for control of land across the north of Scotland.”

3Denmark’s Oldest Viking Crucifix

8

Photo credit: Viking Museum Ladby

In 2016, a metal enthusiast named Dennis Fabricius Holm discovered what experts dubbed as “Denmark’s oldest Viking crucifix.” The pendant, which was found on the Danish island of Fune, measures 4.06 centimeters (1.6 in) in height and weighs 12.76 grams (0.45 oz).

Archaeologists estimated that the rare Viking crucifix dated back to the half of the 900s, making it much older than “Harald Bluetooth’s runic stone in Jelling.” Up until the discovery of the crucifix, Harald’s massive runestoneswere considered to be the earliest representation of Jesus Christ on a cross in Denmark. This discovery suggested that the Vikings converted to Christianity much earlier than previously thought.

2Hammer Of Thor

9

Since the first millennium, more than 1,000 hammer-shaped pendants have been unearthed across Northern Europe. For years, experts have debated over the true significance of these amulets. It was only recently when the mystery was finally solved—the pendants represented the Mjolnir, Thor’s powerful hammer.

This breakthrough was made when a team of Danish researchers unearthed a 10th-century Viking amulet on the island of Lolland in Denmark. This particular amulet was the only one with a runic inscription. The words “Hmar x is” was inscribed on the pendant, and when translated to modern English, it meant “This is a hammer.”

Basing on this discovery, the researchers concluded that the hammer-shaped pendants found across Northern Europe were Thor’s mini-hammers, and Vikings wore them for protection.

1‘For Allah’ Inscription

10

In the late 1800s, a team of archaeologists unearthed a ring with a pink-violet colored stone at Birka, Sweden. During the Viking era, Birka was an important trading center. The mysterious object was discovered inside a rectangular wooden coffin containing the remains of a female Viking. Intriguingly, the ring contained an Arabic inscription.

Being the only ring with an Arabic inscription ever discovered in Scandinavia, the object caught the interest of an international team of researchers. They analyzed the ring, and in 2015 they announced that the inscription meant “For Allah” or “To Allah.”

The researchers suggested that the woman who wore the ring could have been from the Islamic world or that “a Swedish Viking got [it], by trade or robbery, while visiting the Islamic Caliphate.” Regardless of how the ring ended up in Birka, this monumental discovery proved that the Scandinavian Vikings did come in contact with Islamic kingdoms.

10 Brutal Moments In The Conquests Of Genghis Khan


Post 7891

10 Brutal Moments In The Conquests Of Genghis Khan

MARK OLIVER AUGUST 27, 2016

 

For 30 years, Genghis Khan and his Mongolian horde swept through Asia, slaughtering over one-tenth of the people on Earth and conquering nearly one-quarter of the land. His was the most violent reign in all of human history.

Most people know Genghis Khan through the statistics, but the details are just as mind-boggling. Some stories from his life and his battles are outright unbelievable—and among the most brutal stories you will ever hear.

Featured image credit: Taringa

10He Killed His Brother For Not Sharing His Food

10-young-genghis-bow-and-arrow

Photo credit: World History

Genghis Khan was born the son of a powerful chieftain, but his situation changed when his father was poisoned by an enemy tribe. The young boy and his family were cast out of their home and forced to scavenge for food, mostly eating plants and discarded carcasses they found on the roads.

When he was 14, Genghis Khan found a fish and brought it back to his family, only to have his half brother Behter snatch it from his hands and refuse to share a bite with anyone else. Furious, Genghis Khan stalked his brother until he was alone—and murdered him with a bow and arrow.

Genghis Khan didn’t get away with his first murder completely, though. History reports that his mother “scolded” him, so he at least got a good talking-to about how, in this family, we don’t murder our siblings.

 

9He Beheaded People For Being Over 90 Centimeters (3′) Tall

9c-linchpin_77339015_SMALL

When Genghis Khan was 20, he led an army against the tribe that killed his father and got his revenge. The Tatar army was crushed, and Genghis Khan set about exterminating the people in an incredibly unusual way.

Every Tatar man was lined up and measured against “the linchpin of a wagon,” which is the axle pin in the middle of the wheel. Anyone who was taller than these pins—which were 90 centimeters (3′) high—was to be beheaded.

In effect, Genghis Khan’s order slaughtered every male Tatar but the infants.

8His Victims’ Bones Were Mistaken For Mountains

8d-mountain-of-bones

In 1211, Genghis Khan turned his focus to modern-day China and attacked the Jin Empire. It was a reckless decision. The Jin Empire controlled 53 million people, and the Mongols had one million. Still, Genghis Khan won.

Within three years, the Mongols had made their way to Zhongdu (now Beijing). The city walls were 12 meters (39 ft) high and stretched 29 kilometers (18 mi) around the city. It seemed impossible to get in, so they didn’t try.

Instead, the Mongols starved Zhongdu out. By summer 1215, the people there were so hungry that cannibalism was running rampant inside its walls. Finally, they surrendered, and the Mongols sacked and burned the city.

The massacre was horrific. Months later, a passing eyewitness wrote that “the bones of the slaughtered formed white mountains and that the soil was still greasy with human fat.”

 

7An Enemy Archer Shot Genghis Khan, So He Made The Archer A General

7-enemy-archer

Photo credit: World History

While at war with the Mongolian Tayichigud clan, Genghis Khan’s horse was hit. An arrow sailed into the animal’s spine, and the horse fell beneath the warlord’s legs, nearly killing him in the process.

His army marched on and won the battle, and Genghis Khan went out for revenge. He demanded to know who had fired the arrow. He didn’t expect anyone to confess, so he was probably looking for an excuse for another genocide.

But the archer Jebe stepped forward, confessed to the deed, and told Genghis Khan to kill him if he wanted to. Genghis Khan was impressed, so he made Jebe a commander in his army.

Jebe later rose to be a general and one of the Genghis Khan’s most trusted friends—all as a reward for nearly killing him.

6He Made His Allies Marry His Daughters And Then Got Them Killed

6a-altani-khan-daughter

Photo credit: Polyvore

One of the biggest ways Genghis Khan seized power was by marrying off his daughters to the kings of his allies. When Genghis Khan was behind it, though, even marriage was a death sentence.

For the privilege of marrying one of Genghis Khan’s daughters, the kings were required to cast out every other wife they had. This wasn’t because he was dedicated to monogamy. It was to make sure that his daughters were the only people in line for the throne.

The kings were then sent to the front lines of the Mongolian army. Almost every one died in combat, and his daughters took over their kingdoms. By the time of Genghis Khan’s death, his daughters ruled an area stretching from China’s Yellow Sea to Iran’s Caspian Sea.

5He Exterminated 1.7 Million People To Avenge One Person

5-siege-nishapur

Photo credit: Bill Taroli

The marriages might have been strategic alliances, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any love involved. One of Genghis Khan’s daughters loved her husband, a man name Toquchar. Genghis Khan loved him, too, as his favorite son-in-law.

When Toquchar was killed by an archer from Nishapur, his wife demanded vengeance. Genghis Khan’s troops attacked Nishapur and slaughtered every person there. By some estimates, 1,748,000 people were killed. Other historians dispute that number, but there’s no doubt that his armies killed everyone they found.

Women, children, babies, and even dogs and cats were tracked down and murdered. Then they were beheaded, and their skulls were piled into pyramids—a request by Genghis Khan’s daughter to ensure that no one got away with a simple wounding.

 

4The Mongols Had A Victory Feast On Top Of The Russian Nobility

4-banquet-on-russian-nobility

Photo credit: mongolcom.mn

In 1223, the Mongolian army was making its way through Russia and had just won the Battle of the Kalka River. The Russian army had surrendered, their towns had been captured, and the Mongolians decided to celebrate.

The generals and nobility of the Russian army were forced to lie down on the ground. Then a heavy wooden gate was thrown on top of them, chairs and tables were set on top of the gate, and the army sat down for a feast.

They held their victory celebration on top of the still-living bodies of their enemies, eating and drinking while Russian princes were crushed to deathbeneath their feet.

3He Diverted A River Through An Enemy’s Birthplace To Erase It Off The Map

3-khan-diverted-river

When Genghis Khan found the Muslim kingdom of Khwarezmia, he did something unusual: He took the peaceful route. A group of diplomats were sent to the city, hoping to establish a trade route and diplomatic ties.

The governor of Khwarezmia, though, didn’t trust them. He thought the diplomats were part of a Mongolian conspiracy and had them executed. He killed the next group they sent, too.

Genghis Khan was furious. He had tried to be nice, and he’d been repaid with dead diplomats. He set up an army of 200,000 soldiers, attacked, andcompletely destroyed Khwarezmia.

Even after he’d won, Khan sent two armies to burn down every castle, town, and farm they found to make sure that no hint of Khwarezmia survived. According to one story, he even diverted a river to run through the emperor’s birthplace, just to make sure it would never appear on a map again.

2He Nearly Erased A Kingdom From History For Not Sending Troops

2-xi-xia-mausoleum

Photo credit: Epic World History

When Genghis Khan attacked Khwarezmia, he asked the conquered kingdom of Xi Xia to send him troops. They refused. Xi Xia tried to take a bold stand against their oppressor, and they quickly regretted it. The Mongolian army swarmed through Xi Xia, destroying everything that they found. They systematically exterminated every member of the population.

By the end, Xi Xia was erased from history. They hadn’t written down their own stories, so the only records of their existence came from neighboring countries. Their language wasn’t recovered for more than 700 years. It took until the mid-20th century for archaeologists to unearth stones that had their writing on them. In the meantime, every word they had spoken was forgotten.

Genghis Khan died during the battle, most likely from being thrown from his horse. Still, the Mongolian army carried out his work. They slaughtered every person they found, even after their leader was dead and their enemy had surrendered.

1Everyone Involved In Burying Him Was Killed

1-genghis-khan

Photo credit: deadline.com

When Genghis Khan died, he wanted to be buried where no one could find his corpse. In honor of his wishes, his body was carried miles into the wilderness by a group of slaves escorted by soldiers.

The slaves buried Genghis Khan in a place no one would ever find. To make sure the slaves would never divulge the secret, the warriors massacred them and threw them into the grave. Then the soldiers rode their horses over it and planted trees on top of it to hide the spot.

When the warriors who buried him made their way back to camp, they were promptly slaughtered as well, just to make sure they would never talk. And so Genghis Khan died in a massacre like the ones that pervaded his life,hidden away in a tomb that has yet to be found.

10 Facts About The Talking Knots Of Ancient Peru


Post 7890

10 Facts About The Talking Knots Of Ancient Peru

ALEX HANTON JULY 8, 2016

 

When the Spanish arrived in Peru, they discovered the greatest Native American empire in history, stretching from the mountains of Ecuador to the deserts of Chile and the jungles of Brazil. But, alone among history’s great empires, the Inca had no written language. Instead, they administered the empire using bundles of knotted cords known as quipus. Long dismissed as mere mnemonic aids, it’s now becoming clear that the “talking knots” were a far stranger and more advanced technology than we ever suspected.

10They’re Incredibly Rare (But Still Respected)

01

The Spanish recognized that the quipu were more formidable and accurate than their own system of record-keeping. They also realized that they were extremely important to the prestige and history of the local people. They didn’t care for either fact and declared quipu satanic in 1583, burning every example they could find. At the time, quipu were extremely common, with every village in the empire using them. Today, only around 750 examples remain.

Despite their virtual eradication, many Andean people retained an enormous respect for quipu, although they lost the ability to truly read them over time. In the Peruvian village of San Cristobal de Rapaz, the locals carefully preserve a quipu in a ceremonial “quipu house” that must be approached with offerings and invocations. They regard the ancient record as a holy object that allows them to communicate with the nearby mountains, which allow the rain to come in their time of need.

 

9They Might Be Writing

02

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Until recently, Western historians dismissed the quipu as numerical records, barely more advanced than abacuses. But early Spanish chroniclers frequently referred to the quipu as containing words as well.

The Jesuit missionary Jose de Acosta specifically recorded that the native Peruvians considered the quipu “authentic writing,” adding that “I saw a bundle of these strings on which a woman had brought a written confession of her whole life and used it to confess just as I would have done with words written on paper.” Others came across an old man who treasured a quipu recording “all [the Spanish] had done, both the good and the bad.” (Naturally, they seized and burned it.)

It took an unusual combination to overturn the consensus. Robert and Marcia Ascher were a married couple who also happened to be an archaeologist and a distinguished mathematician. In the 1980s, they teamed up to analyze the quipu and confirmed that at least a fifth of them had “non-arithmetical” elements.

This was huge, because if quipus are hiding a writing system, then it’s one like no other in the history of the world. For one thing, it’s three-dimensional. For another, the quipus don’t seem to represent sounds, so the Inca developed a notation system entirely separate from their spoken language, perhaps like computer binary (more on that later).

But before all of that, let’s get down to basics. How did the quipu work?

8They Used A Base-10 System

03

Photo credit: kairotic.org

The most straightforward use of the quipu was to record numbers using clusters of knots. These are relatively easy to decipher, since the Inca used a base-10 positional number system much like the one we use today.

In our system, the symbol “5” can represent the number five or 50 or 5,000 depending on its position. In the number “555,” the digit 5 stands for the number five in the first column, the number 50 in the second column, and the number 500 in the third column. In this way, we can represent very large numbers using only 10 symbols (0 to 9).

The Inca had a similar system, in which the value of a cluster of knots changed depending on its position on the cord. So a tight cluster of three knots by itself represented the number three. But a cluster of three knots followed by a second cluster of three knots represented the number 33 (rather than simply adding up to 6). So the number 431 would be recorded on a quipu as four knots pressed together, followed by three knots clustered together, followed by a single knot at the end.

 

7They Understood Zero

04

All cultures have the concept of nothing, but the actual use of zero as a number was one of the most important breakthroughs in mathematics. The concept was considered so startling that in 1299, the Italian city of Florence banned Hindu-Arabic numerals such as zero entirely.

Most importantly, zero is used as a placeholder number. For example, in the number 2099, the zero indicates that there is a “hundreds” column, but that it has no value. Without zero, writing the number 2099 would require all sorts of convoluted symbols. We couldn’t write the number 20 at all, except by giving it a symbol of its own or writing “19 plus 1.”

The Romans lacked zero and consequently had to use a complicated system with symbols for 10, 50, 100, and so on. So in Roman numerals, 70 was written as LXX (50 plus 10 plus 10). The number 1939 had to be written as the deranged MCMXXXIX, which works out to 1,000 plus [1,000 minus 100] plus 10 plus 10 plus 10 plus [10 minus 1]. This made basic math ridiculously hard—-compare teaching a child to add LXXXI to XL to teaching 40 plus 81.

Inca math was advanced enough to include placeholder zero, which they represented as a space with no knots. So 209 would be indicated by two knots, followed by a space (0), followed by a clump of nine knots. This meant that the knots had to be exactly spaced so that it was easy to see when a space stood for zero.

6They Had Multiple Levels

05

In fact, the knots in a quipu were so perfectly spaced that the half-Inca chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega made them sound something like a spreadsheet: “According to their position, the knots signified units, tens, hundreds, thousands, ten thousands and, exceptionally, hundred thousands, and they were all as well aligned on their different cords as the figures that an accountant sets down, column by column, in his ledger.”

Quipus also had multiple levels. The basic design of a quipu was a thick horizontal rope with smaller strings hanging from it. These are known as pendant cords. However, some cords were attached on the opposite side of the central rope. These are known as top cords and often seem to contain the sum totals of the numbers being collected on the pendant cords below. Top cords and pendant cords can be seen clearly in the image above.

Additionally, smaller strings could be tied to top cords and pendant cords. These are known as subsidiary cords and contained supplementary information to the main cord. If you scroll back up to the previous entry, you can see subsidiary cords in the top right of the image. Between pendant cords, top cords, and subsidiary cords, quipus were extremely complicated devices. And we’re only just getting started.

5Color And Space

06

Color also helped to give the quipu meaning. According to the half-Inca Garcilaso de la Vega in 1609, quipu knots were “tied in several cords of different thicknesses and colors, each one of which had a special significance. Thus, gold was represented by a gold cord, silver by a white one, and fighting men by a red cord.”

Space was also used, with groups of cords representing a particular location or category. In the image above, you can clearly see that the pendant cords are separated into groups with spaces in between them. If the Inca wanted to know how many weapons their army had, then each group of cords mightrepresent a regiment, with a different color of cord for every type of weapon.

Or let’s say the Inca wanted to know how many animals had been born in a village that year. Each group of cords would represent the animals owned by one particular family. Red cords would represent llamas, green cords alpacas, and brown cords guinea pigs. The knots on each cord would be the number of animals born that year. If there was no red cord in a group, it would mean that family didn’t own llamas. If there was a red cord, but it had no knots, it would mean the family had llamas, but they didn’t give birth that year.

 

4They Did Contain Words

07

Photo credit: AgainErick/Wikimedia

Think back to the examples from the last entry. We have seen how the quipu could be used to record complex numerical information, but surely it’s not much use to record that a regiment is low on javelins without recording the name of the regiment? Traditionally, it was assumed that the Inca simply had to remember that information, since the quipu could only record numbers. But it’s now all but certain that the quipu could record at least some non-numerical information.

As well as colors and space, the Inca used at least three different types of knots to encode data. A figure eight knot was used to indicate that it was the last digit in a number, a bit like a numerical full stop. In the 1950s, a treasure trove of preserved quipus was found at an Inca administrative center called Puruchuco. Some of the quipus clearly summarize the numbers found on other, larger quipus. It’s likely that these summary quipus were intended as reports to be sent to the Inca capital at Cuzco.

Interestingly, the summary quipus always start with a single cord containing three figure eight knots. Since figure eight knots indicate the last digit, three figure eights in a row don’t make sense as a number. Quipu researchers like Gary Urton now believe that the three knots represent the place name “Puruchuco.” This is the first non-numerical information decoded from quipus. It is likely that other such “zip codes” exist for locations throughout the empire, but they are likely less easy to detect than Puruchuco’s clearly non-numeric figure eight knots.

3They Might Be Binary

08

Photo credit: mobebu/Wikimedia

Quipus had other elements that probably helped give them meaning. Garcilaso de la Vega specifically mentions the thickness of the cords, but we don’t know exactly what that meant. Additionally, researchers have focused on the material used (cotton or wool) and the style of weaving the cords (two distinct patterns known as S-spun and Z-spun). These might be meaningless, but the distribution of S-spun and Z-spun cords does seem unusual enough that it might not be random.

Gary Urton, a leading quipu researcher, has suggested that the Inca used a binary code similar to modern computer binary. According to Urton, each quipu represents a series of seven binary choices (for example, cotton vs wool and S-spun thread vs Z-spun thread). Combined with color, Urton argues that this allows quipus to indicate up to 1,500 distinct arrays—-far more than Egyptian hieroglyphs—-and therefore contain lengthy narratives, much in the same way that computers can encode whole books in a series of zeroes and ones.

Urton is at pains to emphasize that the binary code is just a theory and it hasn’t gained wide acceptance among his peers. Notably, it’s not clear how the binary code reconciles with the decimal numbers we know are definitely recorded by the quipus.

2The Royal Quipu Theory

09

Photo credit: incaglossary.org

In 1996, an Italian historian named Clara Miccinelli claimed to have made an amazing discovery in the archives of her noble Neapolitan ancestors. A book written by 17th century Jesuits made several startling revelations about the conquest of Peru. Among other things, the book claimed that several “royal quipus” were actually written in a forgotten syllabic language.

According to the book, each thread on a royal quipu began with a knot or symbol indicating a particular deity. The thread then contained a number indicating a syllable in the god’s name. It specifically cites the god Pachacamac, saying that his symbol followed by one knot is the syllable “pa,” while two knots is the syllable “cha” and three knots would be “ca.” In this way, it would have been possible to write a short story or song across a full quipu.

Unfortunately, most mainstream historians suspect that the book is aforgery, since it makes several outlandish claims, including that Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca via some nefariously poisoned wine. It also uses the term “genocide” to describe the conquest, even though that word wasn’t invented until several hundred years later. Clara Miccinelli, who was known for somewhat eccentric scholarly interests, has largely refused to release her documents for careful study and testing, leaving the royal quipu theory unsubstantiated.

1They’re Completely Alien To Us

10

Photo credit: Craig Cutler

In days gone by, historians used to refer to the “paradox” that the Inca alone managed to build a giant empire without any form of writing to administer it. But it’s now clear that the quipu were more than up to the task. Whatever else they were, the quipu were a terrifyingly complex apparatus: pendant threads, top threads, subsidiary threads, knot styles, weaving style, cord thickness, color, spaces, and unknowable other factors combined to create a strange nexus of information which we may not even have the tools to understand.

The Inca were an empire built on textiles and the quipu were arguably their finest work. We know from the Puruchuco quipu that they contained at least a few words. But even if that was as far as it went, they were still incredible devices, allowing for complicated arithmetic and a system of record keeping that rivaled any in the world.

In 2007, a Wired Magazine profile praised Gary Urton as the first to treat the quipu as “advanced, alien technology.” Urton himself recounted a key trip he made to work with traditional Bolivian weavers: “For an expert weaver, fabric is a record of many choices, a dance of twists, turns, and pulls that leads to the final product. They would have seen a fabric—-be it cloth or knotted strings—-a bit like a chess master views a game in progress. Yes, they see a pattern of pieces on a board, but they also have a feel for the moves that led there.”