Yes, this weekend Leive and I were thinking more than once about the bottom of the world. Not only because of the weather; the forecast calls for really cold temperatures tonight, and it reminds me that south of the equator, it is currently summer. When we went to church, the special guest speakers were Martin & Charlotte Jacobsen, missionaries to Patagonia. We got to hear them once before; see my message from August 27, 2007 on that. Because Antarctica has no permanent residents (except penguins), their school is about as far south as you can get, in any business involving people. In addition, they included a couple pictures of penguins and a nearby glacier, to remind us that the south pole isn’t far away.
Then this morning, I visited Bing.com to see what their picture was for today, and it was an animated shot of six penguins sliding on the ice. Why? Well, it turns out that January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day. I don’t know for sure why these funny birds have their own holiday, or why it is celebrated today, but what the heck. It is more interesting than the other event scheduled for today, the beginning of Barack Obama’s second term as president. A lot of folks must agree with me, because crowds are way down, compared with the turnout for the last inauguration. Even the worshipful mainstream media doesn’t have much to say about it this time.
Speaking of terms, I have written about how a president’s second term in office almost never goes as well as the first one. I wonder how Mr. Obama will come to grief in the next four years, there are quite a few possibilities . . .
In other news, every week a blogger named David Meadows sends out a newsletter called Explorator, which is full of links to news stories having to do with archaeology. As an historian, I usually find several interesting stories, especially if they are relevant to my history papers. This time one had so many links that I’m wondering why I did not hear about it sooner; it turns out that according to a DNA study, more than 4,000 years ago some Indians sailed to Australia, and spent enough time with the Aborigines to have some Indo-Australian kids. They probably made the journey across the Indian Ocean to trade; no evidence of Indian colonization has turned up, but northern and western Australia have always been mostly empty, so it is possible that some Harappan-era trading posts may be discovered in the future, like the ones the Carthaginian explorer Hanno reportedly founded when he sailed down the coast of West Africa. Curiously, the same study produced no evidence that those Indian sailors visited the islands to the east (Southeast Asia and New Guinea), though they are a bit closer and easier to reach than Australia. In later eras, the inhabitants of those islands had a more advanced technology, making them better trading partners, while the Aborigines remained in the old stone age until discovered by Europeans. At any rate, I plan to follow this story with great interest.
On the other hand, an article about the Minoan civilization was a disappointment. Excavations on Crete since the beginning of the twentieth century have not found any pictures or statues of warriors or kings, leading us to believe the bronze age inhabitants of that island were not interested in war or politics; if the art is accurate, they would have been the happiest people of their time. Or were they? A professor from the University of Sheffield has proposed that the Minoans had a martial culture, and passed their military tradition on to the Greeks. That would have been fine and dandy, if the article offered any evidence to back up such claims. How about a picture of Minoan warriors from a neighboring civilization, like the Egyptians? As it stands, I won’t have to revise anything I have written on the Minoans just yet.
Finally, here is a story from my former home, central Florida. A museum exhibition in Orlando is currently displaying the jewelry found in the wreck of the Titanic. The place is near the intersection of International Drive and Carrier Drive, putting it in easy reach of both Sea World and Universal Studios. I don’t recognize the building it is in, but I’ve been in the neighborhood often enough that I shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.