Category Archives: History

Winter Solstice in Ancient Ireland

Meet Newgrange, an architectural, archaeological, and spiritual wonder of Neolithic Ireland:

Newgrange predates the great pyramids at Giza in Egypt by some 500 years and Stonehenge by about 1,000 years. When it was built, sunrise on the shortest day of the year, what we now call December 21, entered the main chamber precisely at sunrise. Experts say it is not by chance that the sun shines there.

The structure of the passage tomb was buried in earth for many centuries, until archaeologist M.J. O’Kelly began excavating it in 1962. He worked there until 1975. In 1967, he saw for the first time in thousands of years the dawn sunlight striking into the chamber on December 21. The light enters a perfectly placed window and hits deep in the tomb where the human remains were found.

O’Kelly wrote in his notes: “The effect is very dramatic as the direct light of the sun brightens and casts a glow of light all over the chamber. I can see parts of the roof and a reflected light shines right back into the back of the end chamber.”

One thing the ancients had that we have in such short supply was a sense of connectedness, an emotional bond with our fellows and the great yonder. Imagine the thrill the ancient Irish felt when that beam of sunlight shot through the window into the main chamber where the remains of their dead resided. In that moment, the Irish worshipers felt powerfully linked to both the distant sun and long lost ancestors. The Winter Solstice sunrise merged the believer, time, and space.

That’s even more exciting than a Playstation for Christmas …

Apollo 11

Apollo11

Where were you when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon?

I remember that night well. I was in my second week working at my first job as a projectionist at WGHP-TV in High Point, North Carolina. Since we were on network feed all night, all I had to do was load our station ID slides and run a few commercials. In addition to me, there was the director and an engineer. That was the skeleton crew, and we were pretty well psyched all night. Nothing could have torn me away from the video monitor when Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar lander. The three of us stood motionless in that cramped control room full of racks of electronics and stared in total awe.

So — when’s the next bold adventure in space?

Battered remains of medieval knight discovered in UK cathedral

Castle

If you get a kick out of medieval combat — and who doesn’t? — this is cool:

The battered remains of a medieval man uncovered at a famous cathedral hint that he may have been a Norman knight with a proclivity for jousting.

The man may have participated in a form of jousting called tourney, in which men rode atop their horses and attacked one another, in large groups, with blunted weapons.

Archaeologists uncovered the man’s skeleton, along with about 2,500 others — including a person who had leprosy and a woman with a severed hand — buried at Hereford Cathedral in the United Kingdom. The cathedral was built in the 12th century and served as a place of worship and a burial ground in the following centuries, said Andy Boucher, a regional manager at Headland Archaeology, a commercial archaeology company that works with construction companies in the United Kingdom.

Turns out the dude was about 45 when he died. Though it’s impossible to tell for sure, forensics suggest he was recuperating from fractured ribs he may have received in a tourney, which was pretty much the hockey of its age. One gang would go against another with blunt weapons rather than pointy ones. Just because there were no sharp objects doesn’t mean it was a harmless pastime. I can tell you that blunt force trauma really, really hurts.

Science Fiction for the Fourth Generation

There will be no more Gettysburgs; there will be no more Stalingrads. Gettysburg, the biggest battle to take place in North America, pitted the largest army in the world at that time against the world’s second largest. A massive and prolonged artillery bombardment — what Robert E. Lee hoped would create a Napoleonic “feu d’enfer” or “Hell’s Fire”– combined with a direct charge at entrenched infantry (Pickett’s Charge), and a total lack of appreciation for the implications of the rifled Minie ball made horrendous casualties inevitable. 50,000 soldiers would be killed or wounded.

And despite all that, the rules of engagement limited civilian casualties to one. Yes, you read that right — only one civilian died at Gettysburg.

Nor will there be another Stalingrad. The era of industrialized armies trying to grind each other into submission, resulting in a clear winner and loser, is also a thing of the past. We are now in the age of Fourth-Generation Warfare (4GW), characterized by non-State combatants fighting as much for hearts and minds as for battlefields — and “battlefields” are no longer places where tanks can maneuver; instead, they are chosen more for their public relations significance than military expedience. There will be no innocent bystanders in a guerilla/public relations battle for hearts and minds. Understanding the new way of war will be essential for policy planners, military strategists, and, yes, for writers.

So Vox Day’s latest venture, Riding the Red Horse, guarantees to be fascination reading. It combines sci-fi tales of future warfare with non-fiction essays on emerging trends in warfare, including work by William Lind, a leading scholar on 4GW. This review in TakiMag provides a good introduction:

Riding the Red Horse, edited by fantasy star Vox Day and Army Ranger vet Tom Kratman for Castalia House, is a tailor-made compromise for those time-pressed souls who find the consumption of unalloyed fiction to be too useless a practice in which to indulge. It’s also a treat for sci-fi readers who retain an interest in the world around them—and the two groups’ overlap is large enough to make it a very good idea indeed.

If you want to write realistic future battle scenes, this volume will be essential. I know what I want for my birthday.