7 Lost Burial Sites

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Updated:Aug 31, 2018Original:Jul 22, 2015

7 Lost Burial Sites


From Genghis Khan to Alexander the Great, get the facts on seven historical titans whose final resting places are unaccounted for.

1. Genghis Khan

The Mongol leader conquered more territory than any person in history, yet very little is known about what he looked like, how he died or even where he is buried. Legend has it that upon his death in 1227, the Great Khan’s soldiers honored his request to keep his gravesite a secret by butchering anyone who saw his funeral procession. They then ensured their own silence by killing themselves. Another account has the men concealing the grave by trampling it with 10,000 horses, and still another claims they diverted a river over it to protect it from robbery and desecration. Genghis Khan’s final resting place has since become one of the most sought after prizes in archaeology. Researchers suspect it may be located in Mongolia’s Khentii Province, but despite looking for it with everything from ground penetrating radar to satellite images, no team has yet to strike pay dirt.

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2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

wolfgang amadeus mozart

A portrait of Mozart shortly before his death. (Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

When the wunderkind composer died from a mysterious illness in 1791, his body was placed in a wooden coffin and interred in an unmarked common grave in Vienna’s St. Marx cemetery. There it lay for several years until the early 19th century, when—in accordance with the practices of the time—it was dug up and most likely dispersed or crushed to make room for new burials. Its location in the cemetery has since been lost. A potential piece of Mozart’s body later resurfaced courtesy of a St. Marx gravedigger, who claimed he recovered the composer’s skull in 1801 after marking it with metal wire when it was first buried. The skull was given to Salzburg’s International Mozarteum Foundation in 1902, but DNA analyses have thus far been unable to prove whether it actually belonged to Mozart.

3. Cleopatra

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Shortly after Augustus and his Roman legions invaded Egypt in 30 B.C., the enigmatic Queen of the Nile is said to have taken her own life by poisoning—possibly with a bite from an asp. Her suicide closely followed that of her paramour, Mark Antony, and the ancient chronicler Plutarch writes that the two star crossed lovers were then laid to rest “in splendid and regal fashion” in a tomb near Alexandria. The story trails off from there, however, leaving archeologists with a Sphinx-sized riddle. Some believe the mausoleum ended up at the bottom of the sea after fourth and eighth century earthquakes changed the topography of Alexandria, while others claim the couple may be buried near Taposiris Magna, an ancient temple that has yielded dozens of tombs and mummies.

4. Thomas Paine

thomas paine

Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images
During the heady days of the 1770s, writer and pamphleteer Thomas Paine helped sound the call to arms for the American Revolution in such works as “Common Sense” and “The American Crisis.” Though once considered a hero, he was later denounced for attacking the church in his book “The Age of Reason,” and only a handful of people attended his burial when died in 1809. The indignities only mounted a decade later, when a man named William Cobbett exhumed Paine’s corpse and shipped it to his native England, where it was believed it would be honored with a memorial. Cobbett was unable to drum up interest in a Paine monument, however, and the remains supposedly spent the next several years gathering dust in his attic. Some accounts say the great thinker’s bones were later thrown in the garbage or even recycled into buttons, but they may have also been auctioned off piecemeal. Since the 19th century, different collectors have claimed to possess Paine’s skull, his hand and his jawbone.

5. Attila the Hun

attila the hun

Credit: Palais Bourbon/Wikimedia Commons

The Hunnic raider known as the “Scourge of God” suffered a famously anticlimactic death in 453 A.D., when he supposedly passed out drunk on his wedding night—one of many that he enjoyed—and choked from a nosebleed. Attila’s warriors honored their barbarian chief with a day of grief and funeral games before burying him in a trio of coffins—one of gold, one of silver and one of iron. As in the case of Genghis Khan, the ceremony was conducted in secret, and the unfortunate prisoners who dug the plot were killed to deter grave robbery. Whether the safety measures actually worked is a matter of debate. While the grave is widely believed to be located somewhere in Hungary, no trace of Attila or his priceless triple coffin has ever been found, suggesting the site may have been looted in the years after his death.

6. Sir Francis Drake

Plaque depicting Drake being buried at sea.

Plaque depicting Drake being buried at sea.
Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite privateer met his end in Panama in 1596, having spent the previous two decades harassing Spanish holdings in the New World and undertaking a circumnavigation of the globe. After his death, Drake was dressed in his armor, sealed inside a lead coffin and given a traditional burial at sea some 14 miles off the coast of Portobelo. His remains have since been lost in the Caribbean, but that hasn’t stopped scores of divers, archaeologists and treasure hunters from seeking them out. A rare breakthrough came in 2011, when a mission financed by American entrepreneur Pat Croce found what is believed to be the wreck of two of Drake’s scuttled ships. The team also searched in vain for the navigator’s coffin, but the precise location of his 400-year-old watery grave remains a mystery.

7. Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Credit: DEA/G Nimattallah/De Agostini/Getty Images
Alexander died in Babylon in 323 B.C., having led his Macedonian armies on a decade-long campaign of conquest from Greece to India. In keeping with his famously immodest moniker, the deceased warrior-king was placed in a gold sarcophagus and coffin and eventually taken to a tomb in Alexandria. His body was moved to a mausoleum a few years later, where it became something of an ancient tourist attraction. Julius Caesar and Augustus both paid their respects, and Caligula supposedly looted Alexander’s armored breastplate during a visit in the 1st century A.D. The Roman Emperor Septimus Severus finally had the tomb sealed off for good sometime around the year 199. The trail goes cold from there, and some 150 search expeditions have failed to pick it up. Most researchers believe Alexander’s grave is still lurking somewhere in Alexandria, but others argue that it may have been moved to Venice, Greece or some other location in Egypt.

By Evan Andrews



Why Do We Have Fingerprints?

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Why Do We Have Fingerprints?

By Emma Bryce – Live Science Contributor 22 days ago



(Image: © Shutterstock)

In 1910, Thomas Jennings fled a murder scene, but he left behind a clue that would seal his fate: a perfect impression of his fingerprints in the drying paint of a railing, outside the house where he’d committed the crime. Jennings’ fingerprints were the first ever to be used as evidence in a criminal investigation, and they led to his conviction for murder in 1911.
Since then, fingerprints have continued to feature as crucial evidence in forensic investigations. These unique identity markers are so ideally suited to the task of busting a crime, that it’s almost as if that’s why they exist.

But of course, this isn’t the case. Which brings us to the question: Why do we have fingerprints, and what biological purpose do they serve?
Related: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About You
Fingers and friction
It turns out, scientists have historically disagreed on the answer.
“People have had two ideas about fingerprints: that they help improve grip, and that they help improve touch perception,” said Roland Ennos, a biomechanics researcher and visiting professor of biology at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom.
Ennos has spent part of his career investigating the first idea — that fingerprints give us grip. For a long time, this has been the guiding theory, that fingerprints’ miniscule troughs and peaks create friction between our hands and the surfaces we touch.
One piece of evidence to support this theory is that fingertips might work like the rubber tires on cars, whose pliable nature allows them to conform to the surface they’re traveling across. In tires, this pliability is paired with trough-like treads that decorate their surface — and this enlarges the tire’s surface area, therefore increasing friction and traction, too. Ennos wanted to investigate how well this idea would hold up in a laboratory experiment.
“We wanted to see if finger friction goes up with the contact area like it does in tires,” Ennos told Live Science. To find out, the researchers dragged a perspex plate across a person’s finger pads, varying the force over different attempts and using fingerprint ink to determine how much of the flesh area was touching the glass.
Surprisingly, these experiments revealed that “the actual area of contact was reduced by the fingerprints, because the valleys didn’t make contact,” Ennos told Live Science. In other words, compared with the smooth skin that covers the rest of the body, “fingerprints should reduce friction, at least on smooth surfaces.”
This doesn’t completely debunk the idea that fingerprints aid grip, said Ennos. It’s thought that fingerprints might help us grip surfaces in wet conditions, for instance — the channels wicking away water much like the treads on car tires do — to stop our hands from slipping across a surface. Yet, this idea is harder to test because it’s difficult to perfectly mimic the behaviour of human fingerprints under these conditions, Ennos said.
But there is the other theory, which might hold more water: the role of fingerprints in aiding touch.

Masterful touch
A few years ago, Georges Debrégeas, a physicist-turned-biologist at Sorbonne University in Paris, was pondering the lack of a conclusive theory on why we have fingerprints, when he became curious about the potential role of touch. Our fingers contain four types of mechanoreceptors, or cells that respond to mechanical stimulation like touch. Debrégeas was especially curious about one particular type of mechanoreceptor — Pacinian corpuscles — which occur about 0.08 inches (2 millimeters) below the surface of the skin in fingertips. “I was interested in Pacinian corpuscles because we knew, from previous experiments, that these specific receptors mediate the perception of fine texture,” Debrégeas told Live Science.
These mechanoreceptors are particularly sensitive to tiny vibrations of a precise frequency — 200 hertz — and thus help to give our fingertips their extreme sensitivity. Debrégeas wondered whether fingerprints enhanced this sensitivity.
To find out, he and his colleagues designed a biomimetic tactile sensor, a contraption that resembles the structure of a human finger,, with sensors that would detect vibrations similarly to the way that Pacinian corpuscles do. One version of this device was smooth, and another had a ridged pattern on the surface that mimicked a human fingerprint. When moved over a surface, the ridged one yielded a fascinating discovery: the ridges on the sensor amplified the exact frequency of vibrations that Pacinian corpuscles are so sensitive to.
Acting as a proxy for human fingertips, the contraption suggested that our fingerprints would similarly channel these precise vibrations to sensors beneath the skin. . By amplifying this fine and detailed sensory information, the theory is that fingerprints therefore increase our tactile sensitivity severalfold. “The fact that you put fingerprints on the skin completely changes the nature of the signals,” Debrégeas said.
But what’s the benefit of having such hypersensitive fingertips?
For millennia, our hands have been crucial tools for finding and eating food, and helping us navigate the world. Those tasks are mediated by touch. Sensitivity to textures, in particular, might be evolutionarily beneficial because it has helped us detect the right kind of food: “The reason why we need to detect and separate textures is that we want to separate the good food from the bad food,” Debrégeas explained. A fine sense of touch might help us to avoid rotting or infected items.
Adding weight to the idea, Debregéas noted that the pairing of fingerprints and Pacinian corpuscles also exists in other animals like chimpanzees and koalas, which partially rely on tactile sensitivity to help them find their food.
Debregéas emphasised, however, that his experiment isn’t proof that fingerprints evolved for this purpose. But it’s a compelling and elegant thesis, nevertheless. “It seems like everything matches,” he said.
Loose ends and new questions
Even so, Debrégeas actually thinks that fingerprints might serve the goals of both touch and grip. “The reason we are so good at manipulating and handling things is because we have this exquisite sense of touch – a constant feedback loop between what we touch and what we feel,” he explained. That “allows us to correct in real time the force with which we’re going to grip the object.”

For instance, if something slips while you’re holding it, you need to be able to detect the change in its surface with sensitive fingertips, in order to maintain your grip. So Debrégeas thinks it’s possible that our fine sense of touch and precise grip actually co-evolved

Ennos ponders yet another possible explanation: Fingerprints might prevent blisters, he believes. “A final idea I favor is that the ridges reinforce skin in some directions and help it resist blistering, while still allowing it to stretch at right angles, so the skin maintains contact,” he said. “This is a bit like the reinforcements in tires.”
To Ennos, these many possibilities intrigue him.
So, where does this leave us? It seems that despite offering irrefutable forensic evidence to detectives and police, for now, our fingerprints remain something of an enigma.

5-Inch-Long ‘Dragon’s Horn’ Grows from Man’s Back

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5-Inch-Long ‘Dragon’s Horn’ Grows from Man’s Back

By Mindy Weisberger – Senior Writer 4 days ago


The enormous growth began as a lesion that steadily expanded over several years.

A hardened skin growth on a man's back

After doctors removed the horny growth, they found that it was cancerous.
(Image: © BMJ Case Reports 2019)

A brownish-yellow, hardened skin growth on a man’s back grew to such massive proportions that it resembled a giant dragon’s horn by the time surgeons finally removed it.
The so-called horn started out humbly as a rough, scaly lesion that first appeared in the middle of a 50-year-old man’s back years ago, according to findings published online in the December 2019 issue of the journal BMJ Case Reports.

Over the next three years, the patch of toughened skin grew progressively bigger. Eventually, it formed a thick, curved, horn-like structure that extended nearly to the man’s waist; at the time of its removal, the growth measured 5.5 inches (140 millimeters) long and over 2 inches (60 mm) wide, reaching just over 2 inches (55 mm) thick.

Conical “horns” such as these, also known as cutaneous horns, consist of compacted keratin and are most commonly found in patients from the ages of 60 to 70 years old, according to the dermatology website DermNet NZ. While cutaneous horns can form anywhere on the body, they typically appear in places that are exposed to the sun, such as the head and ears, the backs of hands, and the forearms.
Cutaneous horns are generally small, but some — such as the recently excised back horn — can reach astonishing proportions. One famous example, preserved and exhibited in The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, measures approximately 8 inches (20 centimeters) long and was removed from a 70-year-old woman and donated to the museum in the 1940s.
Another human horn in The Mütter Museum’s collection is displayed on a wax figure that was sculpted from a living model. This horn belonged to a 19th-century French woman known as Madame Dimanche, and the structure measured nearly 10 inches (25 cm) long.

Cancer link
Horn-like growths are often associated with skin cancer, and in nearly 16% of those cases, the cancer is malignant, according to the case report. In the current case, after surgeons removed the growth, they closed the wound with a skin graft from the man’s thigh. When they examined the mass, they identified squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer caused by the runaway growth of cells that make up the epidermis, the skin’s outermost layer.
While the patient didn’t have a family history of skin cancer or a personal history of excessive sun exposure, he had fair skin and was a smoker, placing him in a higher-risk group for developing a malignant growth, according to the report.
The horn likely grew to be as big as it did only because its owner neglected to treat it for several years, even though he lived “in a developed country with access to free health care,” the authors remarked. The surgery to remove the man’s horn took place in the United Kingdom.
“This highlights that, despite current public skin-cancer awareness and rigorous health care measures, cases like this can still arise and slip through the net,” the authors wrote.


A Man Developed an ‘Eggshell’ in His Testicle Due to Parasitic Worms

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A Man Developed an ‘Eggshell’ in His Testicle Due to Parasitic Worms

By Yasemin Saplakoglu – Staff Writer a day ago


A CT scan showed that the man had calcification in his right scrotum.

A CT scan showed that the man had calcification in his right scrotum.
(Image: © BMJ Case Reports 2020)

An 80-year-old man in India developed a bizarre, eggshell-like material around his testicle — the result of a rare reaction to a chronic infection, according to a new report of the case.
The man first went to the doctor because he was experiencing symptoms of a urinary tract infection, including blood in his urine, according to the report, which was published Jan. 6 in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

That’s when doctors discovered that he had an enlarged and “stony hard” right testicle. CT scans then revealed that the man had a fluid-filled sac around his testicle that had begun to calcify, or harden with deposits of calcium.

The fluid-filled sac, called a hydrocele, isn’t part of the typical anatomy of the scrotum, but it can develop in response to an infection. The development of a hydrocele is common, especially in newborns, and it typically disappears without treatment within a year. But it can also occur in older men in response to inflammation or injury.
The most common cause of this fluid-filled sac is lymphatic filariasis, an infection caused by certain species of parasitic worms. The larvae of these parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquito bites, and they usually develop into adults in human lymphatic vessels. The worms are typically found in tropical regions, including India, where 40% of the world’s cases of lymphatic filariasis occur.
Globally, 25 million men who were affected by lymphatic filariasis had hydroceles, and 15 million men affected by lymphatic filariasis had lymphedema, or swelling in the arms or legs, according to a 2019 update from the World Health Organization.
But it’s very uncommon for the sac to start to harden like an eggshell — a complication of the sac that was first described in a case report published in 1935. This “eggshell calcification” of the scrotum indicates that there’s some sort of chronic infection within the hydrocele, according to the report.
The infection usually can be treated with anti-filarial drugs, but sometimes, it may require surgery or other measures, such as specialized skin care and exercises, according to the report. The authors did not elaborate on the specific treatment their patient received. They recommended that people living in areas with a high risk of these infections be treated annually with anti-filarial drugs.

Originally published on Live Science.