10 Weird Ways Disease Altered The World


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10 Weird Ways Disease Altered The World

SOFIA NOMIS DECEMBER 6, 2016

http://listverse.com/2016/12/06/10-weird-ways-disease-altered-the-world/

Diseases leave obvious imprints on history. A decrease in population size and less genetic diversity are some examples of the impact you’d expect every epidemic to have. However, every once in a while, a disease has a truly remarkable and unusual effect on the world.

10Flu Of 1918 And The Treaty Of Versailles

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Photo credit: Edward N. Jackson

The Flu of 1918 devastated the world and infected one-third of the population. Additionally, it damaged brain cells, affecting the brain’s ability to function and even resulting in psychosis. In April 1919, Woodrow Wilson became infected with the flu. Wilson was president at the time and played an instrumental role in the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles, particularly standing up the France’s prime minister, Georges Clemenceau, who wanted to dismantle Germany.

As Wilson was recovering from the flu, many White House officials noted a change in his demeanor. Wilson was described as slow, tired, and focused on strange notions. After these odd reports, Wilson abandoned many of his ideas about the Treaty, which gave power to Clemenceau. Many argue that the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles resulted in disaster for Germany, the crippling of the German economy, and played a role in Hitler’s ability to gain power. All of this could be the result of Woodrow Wilson’s bout of the flu.

 

9Tuberculosis And Expansion Of Western Frontier

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Photo credit: George Caleb Bingham

During the tuberculosis outbreak of the 1900s, many believed in miasma theory, the belief that sickness is caused by bad air and pollution. The idea was promoted by Edward Trudeau, a doctor from New York who was infected with tuberculosis and, after moving to the Adirondacks, noticed an improvement in his condition. He began spreading the news that fresh air and nature were a cure.

Upon hearing this, thousands of Americans moved west in search of better health, and many campaigns for western expansion were targeted toward “health seekers.” People infected with tuberculosis migrated in large numbers with pioneers and explorers.

8Cholera And The Rise Of Epidemiology

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

In 1854, John Snow removed the handle of a water pump and created an entire branch of medicine.

Snow, a physician during the cholera epidemic in London, was suspicious of the way the disease was spreading. He rejected the miasma theory and observed how clusters of disease were popping up among people who used certain water pumps.

His intervention of removing the infected pump handle helped decrease the rates of infection during the epidemic. Additionally, he was the first to use epidemiological methods to control the spread of disease.

 

7Hookworm And Economic Development In The South

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Photo credit: CDC

Hookworm is a parasite that lives in the human intestine, feeds on human nutrients, and can be transmitted through fecal matter. Hookworm can cause a rash and diarrhea, but hookworm disease can lead to more chronic symptoms. In the South during the early 1900s, hookworm disease slowly rose to epidemic proportions and resulted in lethargy, iron deficiency, and stunted growth.

Over time, symptoms of hookworm helped create stereotypes about Southerners being drawling, unindustrious, or lazy. After the epidemic was identified and efforts were made to prevent infection, the South saw more children enrolling in school, better crop prices, and a rise in income.

6Tuberculosis’s Effect On Fashion

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

In the late 1800s, tuberculosis, an infectious disease of the lungs, had become an epidemic in the US and Europe. Since the disease was around for so long and killed very slowly, its qualities started to be romanticized in the Victorian era. Fashions characterized by being pale and slim became popular, and the disease itself became trendy.

When scientists learned more about the illness in the 1900s, they sparked some of the first major public health campaigns in the US. Hemlines for women’s dresses and skirts became shorter to prevent them from picking up tuberculosis on the street. Beards and mustaches were exchanged for a clean shave because of the possibility that bacteria could be living in facial hair.

5Bubonic Plague And The Catholic Church

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Photo credit: Henri Segur

The bubonic plague devastated Europe in the 14th century. One of the most lasting effects, however, was the plague’s impact on the Catholic Church, which lost significant support as massive numbers of people were dying.

Many citizens looked to the Church for answers about why the plague was killing so vigorously and what could be done to stop it. When the Church was unable to give an explanation or help, many people questioned their faith and lost confidence in God. This resulted in an era where religion became less attached to people’s lives. This also allowed for pioneering work to be done in modern medicine and progress that may not have been possible if people’s faith had been maintained or even strengthened by the plague.

 

4Tuberculosis And Sanatoriums

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

As the tuberculosis epidemic continued in the late 1800s, the theory of fresh air and nature as a cure for spread far and wide. This resulted in the construction of sanatoriums, facilities to give supportive care to TB patients—specifically, rest and fresh air because no other treatment was known. Patients would be sent to live in sanatoriums for years at a time, which created an entire subculture surrounding these facilities. There were many children who spent much of their childhoods there.

Patients would have to surrender their rights to undergo treatment and were forced to lay in reclining chairs, outside, with blankets piled on top of them so they could breathe the fresh air and stay warm. The resort-like characteristics promoted relaxation but was always in the shadow of death and disease.

Once antibiotics were discovered, tuberculosis could be cured almost instantly, and the need for sanatoriums disappeared.

3Smallpox And Columbian Exchange

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Smallpox can be spread by bodily fluids or objects that have been contaminated. To date, it is the only disease that has been eradicated.

In the 1500s, during the Columbian Exchange between Europe and the New World, smallpox devastated Native inhabitants, killing up to 90 percent of the population. This disease was also used as a method for biological warfare by European explorers who were colonizing the Americas. Native populations had no built up immunity to the diseases that Europeans brought over and were torn apart by the virus. Entire civilizations were wiped out, taking with them cultures, forms of art, and languages that are now lost forever.

2Yellow Fever And The Louisiana Purchase

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Photo credit: William Morris

Yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes that live in tropical climates. In the early 1800s, it played a role in the Louisiana Purchase by weakening the French army.

Napoleon, leader at the time, planned to occupy the West and expand France’s influence around the world. French troops were stationed in Haiti when Haitian slaves rebelled successfully, defeating the French military. This was due to high rates of yellow fever among French troops, which weakened them and rendered them unable to fight back. In response to this, Napoleon offered up the whole Louisiana territory.

In the end, the purchase was settled as a treaty, allowing the land to beextremely inexpensive. Without yellow fever and the Haitian Slave Rebellion, The United States may have looked very different.

1Plague Of Athens

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The Plague of Athens is an unidentified disease that struck in 400 BC, killing 25 percent of Athens’s population. While no one has confirmed what the disease was, likely candidates are smallpox and typhoid fever.

The plague took the life of Pericles, a major leader to Athenians, which damaged their ability to fight in the Peloponnesian War. Another damaging factor was the significant decrease in the population, which affected their ability to mobilize militarily. This contributed further to the loss of the Peloponnesian War, which affected the course of history by defining which groups were in power in Ancient Greece.

Sofia is a student on the east coast who is interested in diseases and history. She enjoys reading Listverse and learning new things about history, politics, but mostly just unusual facts.

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Top 10 Mysterious Skeletons Found In Castles


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Top 10 Mysterious Skeletons Found In Castles

JESSICA KENMORE DECEMBER 5, 2016

http://listverse.com/2016/12/05/top-10-mysterious-skeletons-found-in-castles/

Every year, millions of tourists flock to castles in Europe and the United Kingdom to get a glimpse of the history, romance, and decadence of a bygone era. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed that many of these castles have their own mysteries as well. Here are ten excavations that uncovered the remains of a castle’s past resident. Their identities are still a mystery.

10Leine Castle
Germany

count-konigsmarck-princess-sophia

Photo credit: Lund University

In the summer of 2016, construction workers discovered a skeleton hidden in Leine castle. There was no record of a burial, so archaeologists were called to the scene. Experts from Lund University agree that the skeleton is a few centuries old, but its identity is still a mystery. A missing persons case from over 300 years ago could be the missing piece of the puzzle.

Count Philip Christoph Konigsmarck disappeared from the castle 322 years ago. According to love letters that were found, the count was having an affair with Princess Sophia Dorothea.

Unfortunately for the lovers, the princess was already married to Prince Georg Ludwig. According to the letters, the couple planned to elope during the summer of 1694. Before they could run away together, however, the count vanished without a trace. Scientists hope to solve the mystery by comparing DNA from the skeleton to the count’s living relatives.

 

9Hillsborough Castle
Northern Ireland

hillsborough-castle-skeleton

Photo credit: Historical Royal Palaces via the Daily Mail

Hillsborough Castle has had an important role in Irish history. The castle was built in the 18th century by the Hill family, who were involved in politics. At their height, they owned more land than any other family in Ireland. After the Irish Free State Act in 1922, the castle became the official residence of the governor of Northern Ireland. Since then, the castle has seen many renovations and important guests, including Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.

When plans were made for a construction project at Hillsborough Castle, archaeologists got permission from the government to excavate the property before construction began. They were looking for the remains of a 15th- or 16th-century church, so they were very surprised when they found a 1,000-year-old skeleton. With no records going back to that time and no grave markers, there is no way of knowing who the woman was.

8Aberystwyth Castle
Wales

aberystwtyh-castle-skeleton

While excavating Aberystwyth Castle on the coast of Wales, archaeologists found human remains buried in a suspicious way. It was not a traditional burial, since the skeleton was found under the floor of the castle. The cause of death is still a mystery, but it appears that the skeleton belonged to a young man who died around the time of the English Civil War.

During the 17th century, battles between Royalists and Parliamentarians resulted in death and destruction all over England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. Aberystwyth was a battleground from 1645 to 1646, and the castle fell under siege. Archaeologists believe the young man died in the castle and was buried there because of the siege.

 

7Halton Castle
England

halton-castle-skeletons

Halton Castle of Cheshire, England, is one of few Norman castles left in the country. It was built in the 11th century as a defensive post, taking advantage of a hilltop location. The castle was occupied until the English Civil War, when it was besieged twice. In the 17th century, a courthouse was built in the ruins of the castle, which still stands today.

In the summer of 2015, volunteer excavators were shocked to find two skeletons at Halton Castle. The castle’s history is well-documented, but there was no mention of any burials on the grounds. The skeletons are believed to be the remains of a man and woman who lived 400 years ago. While archaeologists have determined that the man’s legs were broken while he was alive, the identities of the skeletons remains a mystery.

6Stirling Castle
Scotland

stirling-castle-skull

Photo credit: Historic Scotland via BBC News

During the late 13th and early 14th centuries, the Scottish Wars of Independence raged between the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England. Famous uprisers like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce emerged during this time and became legendary. The battles and raids were brutal on both fronts, leading to death and destruction in Scotland and Northern England. There were several sieges on Stirling Castle, a stronghold of strategic importance to both English and Scottish forces.

A single unidentified skeleton is shocking enough, but when archaeologists found the remains of nine people in Stirling Castle, they had their work cut out for them. While excavating the oldest part of the castle in 1997, the research team found the remains of seven men, one woman, and one infant. The remains have been radiocarbon dated to the 13th through 16th centuries, which suggests that these people may have died during the sieges. One man’s skeleton has more than 100 fractures, while the woman’s skullwas crushed, possibly with a mace or similar weapon. Researchers have not been able to establish any identities, but it is believed that the people were of a high social status since they were buried inside the castle.

5Nottingham Castle
England

nottingham-castle-skeleton

In 1978, excavations at England’s famous Nottingham Castle uncovered a partial skeleton. Because only part of the skeleton was found, researchers couldn’t determine the sex or precise age of the individual. Sadly, it was confirmed that the skeleton did not belong to Robin Hood. Researchers believe the bones are the remains of an army captain killed in the castle during the English Civil War.

According to a book written by Lucy Hutchinson, whose husband was governor of Nottingham during the war, several Royalists were taken prisoner and beaten. These prisoners of war fought back, ultimately killing a young Parliamentarian captain. The location of the skeleton and limited pathological evidence are consistent with Lucy Hutchinson’s memoirs. Further excavations over the winter of 2016 recovered the rest of the skeleton, which is being analyzed by archaeologists and radiocarbon dating experts at Oxford University.

 

4Kalmar Castle
Sweden

kalmar-castle-skeletons

Photo credit: Magnus Stibeus/Statens Historiska Museum via the Archaeology News Network

Not all people buried in castles died in violent clashes. It is believed that the 12 skeletons discovered at Kalmar Castle in Sweden were probably victims ofinfection or plague. During repairs of the castle walls in March 2015, archaeologists were allowed to search the area. It was during this inspection that these skeletons were found.

Preliminary analysis suggests that three of the skeletons belonged to children and that the remaining nine were adult males. According to tests, these people lived up to 500 years ago, which is consistent with records of a plague in Kalmar. In 1620, Kalmar Castle was supposed to host the royal wedding of Gustav II Adolf to Maria Eleonora. Unfortunately, the plague swept through the town, so the wedding was moved to Stockholm.

3Sverresborg Castle
Norway

sverresborg-castle-well-skeleton

Photo credit: The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research via Past Horizons

There are many outlandish stories included in the Viking sagas, and archaeologists have managed to verify at least one of them. One saga told of how a castle was seized by the Baglers, who were members of the Norwegian aristocracy during the 12th century. According to the saga, the intruders ruined their captives’ water supply by throwing a dead Viking warrior into the castle well.

In 2014, archaeologists located the well described in the saga and retrieved apartial skeleton from the bottom. Radiocarbon dating puts time of death at the end of the 12th century. The siege took place in 1197. More excavations are planned to recover the remaining skeleton and to search for more information.

2Newark Castle
England

newark-castle

Photo credit: David Ingham

Newark Castle was an imposing fortress in its day, perched on the bank of River Trent. It was built in the 1130s by Bishop Alexander, and much of the structure was destroyed during the English Civil War. The western wall still stands three stories high, but the internal structure has long been demolished. The site was settled long before the castle was built, however. Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman artifacts have been recovered from the site.

During the 1990s, archaeologist John Samuels headed an extensive project that unearthed a Saxon cemetery on the castle grounds. With the help of volunteers, the research team was able to locate 53 graves. Radiocarbon dating confirmed the burials to be late Saxon, and researchers believe them to be Christian due to an absence of burial goods.

1Lincoln Castle
England

lincoln-castle-skeleton

Photo credit: Lincolnshire County Council via BBC News

In 2013, archaeologists working at Lincoln Castle made an exciting discovery. While excavating the castle’s foundation, they found the remains of an ancient Saxon church. In the remains of this ancient church, they made an even more exciting find: a limestone sarcophagus that was buried at least 1,000 years ago. An intact sarcophagus from this time period is rare, since they’re usually destroyed or at least damaged by layers of construction over time. A sarcophagus indicates high social status, and this was confirmed by pieces of leather shoes that were still on the skeleton’s feet.

Nine more burials were recovered from the ancient church. These burials were from the same time period as the sarcophagus but were more simple, indicating that these people were not of noble status like man in the sarcophagus.

I am an archaeologist, working my way through the Southwestern United States. I have worked on ancient Maya sites in Central America and prehistoric Native American sites in the US, and I’m just itching to work in Europe.

10 Archaeological Relics From The Life Of Jesus Christ


Post 8110

10 Archaeological Relics From The Life Of Jesus Christ

MARK OLIVER DECEMBER 6, 2016

http://listverse.com/2016/12/06/10-archaeological-relics-from-the-life-of-jesus-christ/

Whether Jesus of Nazareth was the son of God is a question of faith. But there’s almost no dispute that he was a real person who lived through history.

It’s hard to find proof of the real man who lived 2,000 years ago. Every year, though, we slowly unearth bits and pieces of the historical Jesus’s life and get an amazing glimpse into what it would have been like to follow him on his travels.

10Jesus’s Childhood Home

10-jesus-childhood-home

Photo credit: Live Science

Jesus was raised in a mortar-and-stone home cut into a rocky hillside. His hometown was Nazareth, a town where people held tightly to their Jewish faith. Today, their homes are the sites of archaeological digs, which have given us glimpses into how the people in Jesus’s neighborhood lived.

He and his neighbors filled their homes with distinctly Jewish possessions. For example, they had bowls made of limestone and chalk, which were meant to keep food pure to follow Jewish traditions. Most of the neighboring towns had embraced more Roman customs.

During the Byzantine era, one house in the area was turned into a shrine by people who believed that it was Jesus’s childhood home. Although we can’t prove that they were right about the specific house, we do know which type of house and which neighborhood Jesus lived in as a child.

 

9The Ossuary Of James, Brother Of Jesus

9-james-ossuary

Photo credit: The Times Of Israel

Jesus had four younger brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, James met his end when the Jewish high priest sentenced him to be stoned to death. As was the custom for Jews at that time, James’s bones were buried in a stone box called an ossuary.

Following the custom, James’s ossuary was engraved with “James, son of Joseph.” After his father’s name, though, James’s inscription has etched into it an unusual extra point of pride: “brother of Jesus.”

Not everybody agrees that the ossuary is real. Oded Golan, the man who discovered the ossuary, was even brought to court on forgery charges, but he was found innocent. That doesn’t necessarily prove it’s real, but his defense proved that the inscription wasn’t made by Golan and may have been made 2,000 years ago.

8The Bones Of John The Baptist

8-john-the-baptist-remains

Photo credit: National Geographic

After leaving Nazareth, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. It’s a moment in his life that most historians agree really happened. John the Baptist was a real person whose life is corroborated by other sources. In fact, we may even have his remains.

They were uncovered in the ruins of a Bulgarian church on an island called “St. John” in Bulgarian. Beneath a church altar, there was a small marble sarcophagus. Inside were a knuckle, a tooth, and a few scattered bones taken from the body of a Middle Eastern man. Radiocarbon testing shows that he died during the time of Christ.

Bulgaria is a long way for John the Baptist’s bones to travel, but it’s believed that he made his way there in a small box found nearby. Inside is a message mentioning John the Baptist’s name and asking God to “help your servant Thomas” as he carried the bones of the man who baptized Jesus to be displayed across Europe.

 

7The Synagogue In Mary Magdalene’s Hometown

7-altar-stone-early-jewish-synagogue

Photo credit: Smithsonian Magazine

When Jesus started preaching, he talked to people in Jewish synagogues. At least, that’s what the Bible says. But for a long time, historians thought that the word “synagogue” was just a bad word choice. Until recently, they hadn’t found any proof that Jewish synagogues existed in Jesus’s time and figured that Jesus really went into people’s homes.

Now, though, we’ve found a synagogue from Jesus’s time in Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene. It’s a large building built to fit 200 people. It has a mosaic floor, walls decorated in colorful frescoes, and a stone block in the middle with a menorah on it. There is a chamber for public readings of the Torah, another for private study and storage, and bowls outside the building for the ritual washing of hands.

It’s possible that Jesus preached to people in that very synagogue.

6A Pagan Temple In The Hometown Of Five Apostles

6-livia-temple-fragment-bethsaida

Photo credit: unomaha.edu

Not every Jew in Jesus’s time went to synagogue. In a town called Bethsaida, where Jesus is said to have met five of his disciples, archaeologists have found a temple dedicated to the Roman gods which contains a terracotta figurine of Emperor Augustus’s wife Livia.

According to Flavius Josephus, the town was renamed in her honor after her death. Still, it couldn’t have sat well with the Jewish people living there.

Archaeologist Rami Arav believes that this may explain some stories from the Bible. Jesus may have found so many willing apostles in Bethsaida because they were fed up with watching their neighbors embrace the Roman gods.

It may also explain why Jesus cursed the town, saying, “Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”

5A Fishing Boat In Galilee

5a-galilee-jesus-boat

Photo credit: Live Science

After leaving Bethsaida, the Bible says that Jesus went to a town called Dalmanutha. Based on homes and other artifacts found by archaeologists, Dalmanutha seems to have been a wealthy fishing town. Jews and pagans lived side by side there, each following their own beliefs.

The beaches are designed to land fishing boats. According to the Bible, Jesus climbed aboard one of these boats when he left the town. We’ve found one of the boats from Jesus’s time not too far from the town.

The boat is designed for fishing in shallow waters. It has a nearly flat bottom with a net kept on the stern deck. It was pieced together from old junked boats, patched up, and repeatedly repaired before it finally gave in and sank to the bottom of the sea.

 

4Herod’s Palace

4b-site-of-herods-palace

Photo credit: The Washington Post

Jesus’s death sentence was set in a trial held at Herod’s palace, prosecuted by the high priest Caiaphas, and overseen by the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. The group met in the courtyard in an area called “the Pavement,” which archaeologists think they’ve found.

Today, Herod’s palace is covered by the modern Tower of David Museum and a medieval prison. It was found when workers tried to expand the museum and discovered an old abandoned building under the floor.

The palace is a whole complex. One part called Jaffa Gate fits the description of the Pavement where Jesus’s trial was held.

3A Stone Dedicated By Pontius Pilate

3-pilate-stone

Photo credit: BRBurton

Pontius Pilate was a real person. Years after sentencing Jesus to death, he built a sports stadium and dedicated it to Emperor Tiberius. Before the stadium, Pilate placed a stone slab that is shattered today but on which we can still read the words, “To the divine Augusti Tiberieum . . . Pontius Pilate . . . prefect of Judea . . . has dedicated this.”

The slab tells us something about the real Pilate. First, his veneration of Emperor Tiberius is unusually celebratory. Tiberius generally didn’t accept the level of divination that Pilate offers him on this slab.

It also tells us Pilate’s rank and suggests that Pilate viewed himself as a military man. From Flavius Josephus, we know that this became his fate. Pilate led a cavalry against a Samaritan insurrection and put their leaders to death. There, Pilate was violent enough that he was charged with committing a massacre and had to give up his place in Judaea.

2The Caiaphas Tomb

2-caiaphas-ossuary

Photo credit: deror_avi

The Jewish high priest Caiaphas, who presided against Jesus, lived to age 60. When Caiaphas’s time came, his bones were brought out to his family tomb and cached inside a cave on the outskirts of Jerusalem where he was buried with 11 of his family members.

Caiaphas was placed in a lavishly decorated ossuary upon which his full name was inscribed: “Joseph, son of Caiaphas.” Flavius Josephus also uses that name to describe Caiaphas. His tomb was buried and forgotten for centuries until workers widening a road in 1990 broke through by pure chance.

One ironic coincidence was revealed in his tomb. Caiaphas named his son, Yeshua, the Hebrew name for Jesus.

1The Remains Of A Crucified Jew

1a-yehohanan-heel-bone-with-nail

Photo credit: The Times Of Israel

Nobody has ever found Jesus’s body. However, we have found the remains of a Jew named Yehohanan who met the same fate. It’s a rare discovery—fewcrucified remains have been found. Through Yehohanan, we can see how brutal the last moments of a person’s life were when crucified on a cross.

Yehohanan’s heel bone still has the iron stake driven through it. However, his hands are untouched, suggesting that they were tied to the cross instead of nailed. Most importantly, though, he was buried inside an ossuary, proving that victims of crucifixion were allowed to have burials and supporting the biblical story that Jesus was buried after his death.

It’s doubtful that we’ll ever find the body of the historical Jesus. Even if we did, there would be no way to prove that it was really his body. However, we do have bits and pieces from every part of his life—tiny hints that Jesus was really once here.

Stash of Water May Be Lurking Deep Beneath Earth’s Surface


Post 8109

Taylor Kubota Live Science Contributor,LiveScience.com Mon, Dec 5

https://www.yahoo.com/news/stash-water-may-lurking-deep-152000692.html

A trove of water may be hiding more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) beneath your feet.

That’s where the Earth’s mantle meets the crust. Geoscientists had long thought that below this transition zone (starting at 255 miles, or 410 km, deep) a water-filled mineral called brucite was unstable and so decomposed, sending water molecules flowing toward the planet’s surface.

But new research suggests that before brucite — which is 50 percent magnesium oxide and 50 percent water — decomposes, it transforms into another, more stable 3D structure. The finding, detailed online Nov. 21 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, means there’s a stash of water located deeper in Earth than was previously thought. [In Photos: Ocean Hidden Beneath Earth’s Surface]

“[This finding] was not entirely expected,” said study co-author Andreas Hermann, a lecturer in computational physics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. “[That’s] because people have studied this material for decades and nobody ever thought of looking whether there would be another phase before it eventually fell apart.”

Probing deep Earth

Scientists previously believed that brucite remained stable only as far as the transition zone, a 155-mile-deep (250 km) layer just below the upper mantle. In part, the mineral’s structure informed this view. Brucite is a layered material in which the molecules in each layer are strongly bound to each other but weakly connected to other layers. A material like this, if squeezed with enough pressure, must undergo some kind of change. Researchers previously assumed that in response to transition zone pressure, which reaches about 200,000 atmospheres, brucite would crumble. (One atmosphere is approximately is the pressure at sea level).

Unable to probe the deep Earth directly, Hermann and his co-author, Mainak Mookherjee, a professor of geology at Florida State University, used quantum-mechanical calculations, analyzing various possible structures for brucite in deep-Earth conditions.

“This is big-data computing,” said Hermann. “We create thousands of structures, optimize them all and do calculations accurate enough that if something stands out as more stable than something else, we can reliably say that it is so.”

Brucite is a well-studied and relatively simple mineral. Even so, Hermann said that the key to the new calculations was ignoring existing assumptions about brucite. After several months of running various structures through their computer program, the researchers found a previously unknown phase of brucite that would be able to withstand the high pressures found in the lower mantle.

Even with this new phase of brucite, scientists are still unable to directly measure the amount of the substance in the mantle or how much water the mineral holds. However, Hermann and Mookherjee did work out the elastic properties of the new phase of brucite. Knowing this, said Hermann, seismologists may be able to detect how much brucite is in the mantle because the signatures of earthquakes differ based on the elasticity of the rock through which they travel.

Why brucite matters

Current estimates suggest that the deep Earth may hold as much water as all the oceans on the planet’s surface combined. This reservoir of water, and the additional trove brucite may also hold, are vitally important to the movement of materials through the Earth. As water-containing minerals travel down through the Earth’s layers, the materials eventually decompose, releasing the water that makes its way back to the surface, often through volcanic activity. [Infographic: Earth’s Tallest Mountain to Its Deepest Ocean Trench]

Water is essential to the recycling of minerals through volcanism and plate tectonics, because it provides the lubrication needed for the various rock materials to move past each other, as occurs in subduction zones. It also helps some materials dissolve as the move through the rock cycle. Without water, said Hermann, the planet would come to a geologic standstill. This means no new crust or soil, and a halt in volcanism; these changes could have catastrophic effects on the planet’s land and atmosphere.

Aside from potentially changing scientists’ understanding of water reservoirs far below the Earth’s surface, Hermann said this research champions a new way of thinking about the deep Earth in general. The researchers would not have found this new phase if they had favored the accepted version, he said.