Today marks the 100th anniversary one of the most important dates in modern European history. On the Monday after Easter in 1916, a group of young heavily-armed men dressed in military uniforms stood outside the front doors of the General Post Office in central Dublin. There, one of their number, a young poet named Podraigh Pearse (the name is often Anglicized as Patrick Pearse), read a document called “The Proclamation of the Irish Republic”. In front of a curious and ever-growing crowd, he called for full and complete independence from British rule, which had existed in Ireland since the Middle Ages. Then, taking up defensive positions within the post office and elsewhere in the city, Pearse and his fellow rebels awaited the inevitable British military response. What happened next has become a core part of Irish history and cultural legend.
In its immediate sense, the Easter Rising was a failure – all of the defensive positions were taken by British forces and the ringleaders were executed. However, it marked a sea change in Irish nationalism. Previous Irish rebellions had been essentially one-offs, flaring up and then being supressed, with many decades of down-time taking place between each independence attempt. In one circumstance, a whole century went by without any hostilities. However, after 1916, many Irish now made a concerted effort to drive the British out of Ireland for good. This resulted in the rebellion which finally culminated in Irish independence in 1922. I’m certain that the 100th anniversary of Irish independence in 2022 will result in massive celebrations seen throughout the country.
Since the Easter Rising of 1916 is clearly seen by many as the initial spark that led to Ireland becoming free after nearly 800 years of British rule, the 100th anniversary of this event is being marked with great celebration within Ireland itself and amongst Irish populations elsewhere. PBS has regularly been airing programs about this event, a play was created commemorating it, and Irish and British news media have been crackling with item pieces on this event and how it has effected modern Anglo-Irish politics. Both the Easter Rising and its anniversary are important historical and cultural milestones, especially for the people of the British Isles, and I’m happy to see that there has been a lot of conscious media attention on it.
I wish that I could say that there was more, especially in the United States, where the mainstream media don’t seem all that interested in such things. I remember that the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 2013 received minimal media attention. The 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War in 2015 received hardly any attention at all, and the 250th anniversary of the passing of the Stamp Act of 1765, also in 2015, which many people see as one of the defining moments in the move towards American independence from Britain, received absolutely NO RECOGNITION WHATSOEVER! To a historian like myself, this is nothing short of deliberate historical and cultural extermination, a detestable process in which the hallmarks of people’s history are ignored or discarded in favor of other things which we are brainwashed into thinking are more important. The reason for this is disturbingly simple – nobody in the US really gives a damn about such things anymore. In today’s fast-paced tech-obsessed reality TV-obsessed society, things like history are seen as boring and irrelevant. I once worked with someone who hated history because, in her words, “it’s of no use to me now”. I can’t stand it when people have this mindset of “if it doesn’t benefit me personally, I don’t need it”. In a way, I can understand this way of thinking. Really, are all of those names and dates really important to your normal day-to-day affairs? Probably not. However, as the old saying goes, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. When people lose sight of their own cultural heritage, it makes it all the easier for them to be manipulated and molded by those who are in power, either at home or abroad. I’ve been seeing this for years with the emergence of so-called “sheeple”.
In Europe, including Britain and Ireland, history is a living breathing thing. It’s a palatable thing in the air and earth. In America, I don’t see this. I see people who are only concerned with the present and the future, and give little to no thought about the past. No wonder that college and university history programs are dying all across this country. No wonder that having a history degree is considered useless when looking for a job. What will happen in 2025 when America has the 250th anniversary of the beginning of the Revolutionary War? Or in 2041 with the 100th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor? Sure, there will probably be a handful of quick news items on it, and maybe a few special edition magazines seen on news stands, but aside from that, I dare say that these upcoming important anniversaries will be acknowledged by a collective shrug. People in the US will take a quick note of this, say something like “Oh, that’s interesting”, and then move on to what they were doing before and give no thought to it for the rest of the day.
For me, this is sad. I place great value on history and historical memory. I’m sure a lot of other people in the United States do too, but for the most part, I don’t see it. I see people who are losing sight of their historical heritage more and more with every passing year. Is it any wonder why we’ve been seeing platitude-spouting demagogues taking center stage in American politics? When history is forgotten, history can get twisted around to suit other people’s ends. American historical memory is being constantly re-written so that people here imagine that things played out differently than they actually did. Incorrect facts are being constantly touted as cold hard truth. Historical characters are cast in exclusive good/bad, black/white relationships to each other with no gray area in between. TV channels, such as “The History Channel” of all things, have replaced informative programming with, well let’s be frank, bullshit. The History Channel, which by the way is no longer called that, is now dominated with programs on aliens, rednecks, Alaska, the Bible, doomsday, and Nostra-fucking-damus.
I look at all of this for what it is – the gradual eroding of history, the altering of historical memory, and by extension the manipulation of culture. In Europe, history is alive and well. In America, it’s dying.
Two weeks ago (though I’ve just heard about it today), paleontologists published a report that they had discovered a new species of dinosaur which inhabited eastern North America during the late Cretaceous Period. Dinosaur fossils from this region are extremely rare, and so any discovery is bound to generate excitement. I’m certain that paleontologist and fello paleo-blogger Chase Brownstein, who is a specialist in eastern North America during the Mesozoic Era, will be geeking out about this discovery very shortly, if he hasn’t been already.
The creature was named Eotrachodon orientalis, “the dawn Trachodon of the East”. It lived in Alabama 83 million years ago, and measured about 25 feet long. Hadrosaurs had only appeared a few million years earlier, so Eotrachodon would have been one of the earliest hadrosaurs not only in North America but globally. Phylogenics suggest that it was a sister taxon of the family Saurolophidae, meaning that it was only slightly more evolved than the most basic hadrosaurs. It is also noteworthy for being found with a mostly intact skull, which gives us a good look as to how an early hadrosaur would have appeared. Contrary to the name “duck bill”, Eotrachodon did not have a broad flat duck-like skull. Instead, its skull was deep with a rounded nose. The fossilized remains, consisting of a partial skeleton and most of the skull, were discovered in 2014 in a creek not far from the city of Montgomery, Alabama.
That fact in itself explains much of why so few dinosaur bones have been found east of the Mississippi River – so much land is covered with cities, farms, highways, and other forms of human development. This significantly limits where a person can dig, and often, the places where you CAN dig don’t contain dinosaur fossils.
For more info, see here:
Albert Prieto-Marquez, et al (2016). “A primitive hadrosaurid from southeastern North America and the origin and early evolution of ‘duck-billed’ dinosaurs”. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, published online January 13, 2016; doi: 10.1080/02724634.2015.1054495. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2015.1054495?journalCode=ujvp20.
This post is a couple of days late, but I hope you’ll forgive me. A few days ago, University of Bologna paleontologist Federico Fanti and his colleagues announced that they had discovered the fossilized remains of a thirty-foot crocodile in southern Tunisia within rocks dated to the early Cretaceous Period, about 130 million years ago. The skull alone was five feet long. The fossils had been found in December 2014, and the skeleton, remarkably, was associated (meaning that all of the bones came from one individual, and were not the jumbled remains of multiple individuals) and the skeleton was articulated (all of the bones were in their proper anatomical placement).
Machimosaurus rex, as it has been named, belonged to a group of oceanic crocodilians called the teleosaurids, which was thought to have gone extinct at the end of the Jurassic Period. The genus Machimosaurus had first been described in 1837 by the German paleontologist Christian von Meyer. Prior to the discovery of M. rex, there were four other species known to science, most of which lived in Europe during the Jurassic Period.
Although certainly large, Machimosaurus is still not as big as the two tie-winners for “largest crocodile ever”: Sarcosuchus and Deinosuchus, both of which measured forty feet long.
The discovery and naming of this crocodile was published in the journal Cretaceous Research.
Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an ancient village in Britain dated to about 1,300-8,000 BC. The quality of the preservation have led some to equate it with the well-preserved ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 AD.
Based upon what has been uncovered so far, it seems that the village was a “crannog” – a village that is built upon either an artificial island or one that is elevated above a water body through the use of wooden piles and a platform. This village is in the second category.
The site, known as Must Farm, is located just outside a quarry at Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, England. It was discovered in 1999 by a local archaeologist, but excavation didn’t get underway until five years later in 2004. A more thorough examination of the site occured two years afterwards in 2006. Archaeologists determined that the village was built sometime between 1,300-1,000 BC. A wooden palisade fence which surrounded the village was added later, dated fom 1,000-800 BC. At some time, the village suffered from a fire, and the damaged builginds dropped into the river below. gradually, they were covered over with river silt, preserving them. The timeframe of this site places it within Britain’s late Bronze Age. The use of iron had not yet arrived in the British Isles, and it would not until about about 800 BC.
The Cambridge University Archaeological Unit, working in association with Historic England and Forterra, have been conducting an eight-month-long excavation of the site, beginning in September 2015. The houses that have been uncovered here are of a typical northwestern European “round house” design common among the Celtic people. In addition to the remains of the buildings, they have uncovered a wealth of Bronze Age artifacts, ranging from wooden eating utensils to pottery to textiles. Regrettably, half of the settlement has been damaged or destroyed due to the quarrying operations at the site.
For more information, see the following:
This is an idea that I’ve had knocking around in my head for a while. A recent post by fellow paleo-blogger Chase (who has a special interest in eastern North American Mesozoic life) on Dryptosaurus has spurred me to action in terms of writing a short article as well as doing some much delayed artwork.
For those of you who are too lazy to read Chase’s excellent article about this animal, Dryptosaurus was a medium-sized theropod dinosaur, approximately 20-25 feet long which lived in eastern North America during the late Cretaceous Period. Unfortunately, our total knowledge of this dinosaur is known from only a few fragmentary remains, including a hand claw that seems way too big in proportion with the rest of this animal’s body.
For as far back as I can remember, Dryptosaurus was classified as a tyrannosaur. But recently, I have my doubts about this classification. Even very primitive tyrannosaurs such as Guanlong and Proceratosaurus don’t have some of the anatomical features that Dryptosaurus appears to possess.
My curiosity centered around that claw. It didn’t look like a tyrannosaur claw – to me, it looked more like an allosaur claw. An unusually large hand claw also reminded me of another animal – Megaraptor, from South America. Originally, this was thought to be a gigantic dromaeosaur, but then it was hypothesized to be more closely related to the allosauroids, like Neovenator, Giganotosaurus, and Carcharodontosaurus. The allosaur-like claw would make this classification a good fit. Then I saw a picture of the skeletal remains of Australovenator, a megaraptorid that was discovered in (you guessed it) Australia. I immediately noticed similarities in the hand and body structure between Australovenator and Dryptosaurus.
- Massive thumb claws in comparison with the other finger claws.
- Short muscular arms and huge hands
- Slender lower jaws with small closely-packed hook-shaped teeth.
What I find really interesting is that in 2012, a hypothesis was put forward by Fernando Novas and other paleontologists that the megaraptorids might actually be extremely primitive members of the tyrannosaur family. In 2014, fragments from a juvenile Megaraptor were discovered, including part of the upper jaw. The structure of the juvenile Megaraptor’s maxilla was very similar to the structure of the dentary from Australovenator. That year, Juan Porfiri re-iterated Novas’ hypothesis that the megaraptorids might be primitive tyrannosaurs.
So, with all of that being said, I hypothesize that Dryptosaurus was a member of Megaraptora, which would make it the first of its kind found within North America.
How did Dryptosaurus feed? The large hook-shaped claws and the small hook-shaped closely-packed teeth seem to indicate that Dryptosaurus and other megaraptorids were fish-eaters. The fossils of Dryptosaurus were discovered in the New Egypt Formation and the Navesink Formation, the later of which is known for both dinosaur fossils as well as fossilized shells. Also, Australovenator was found in deposits that indicate a swampy still wetlands environment, full of bivalves, fish, and turtles. The fact that this megaraptorid was found in a water-rich environment full of aquatic life leads me to suspect that Dryptosaurus might have had a similar lifestyle.
To conclude this short article, I have a drawing of the enigmatic Dryptosaurus portrayed as a megaraptorid rather than as a typical often-illustrated tyrannosaurid. Who knows – maybe my less-than-scholarly idea about Dryptosaurus being a fish-eating megaraptorid will prove out to be right. Only time and the discovery of more specimens will tell.
Keep your pencils (and minds) sharp, everybody.
Today is New Year’s Eve, December 31. The year 2015 has been a rough year for me and for a lot of the people in my life. It has certainly been the worst year for me from a financial and relationship viewpoint. I realize that I haven’t put as many drawings or articles up as I should have, and as a result my views have sharply declined. The reason for my shrinking artistic work ethic is down to concentrating on my job, doing researching and writing for my second book which will get published God-knows-when, and conducting an increasingly frustrating and depressing job hunt. So far, things aren’t looking good.
All that being said, I hope that 2016 will be better for myself as well as for a lot of the people that I know. Best wishes for the new year.
In May 2013, my first book Four Days in September: The Battle of Teutoburg was published by Trafford Publishing, based in Indiana, USA. I’m happy to say that my book has been taken up by a British publishing company specializing in military history called Pen & Sword Books. My book will be re-published as a new and improved updated 2nd Edition sometime around late March 2016. I should state that this is a provisional date – the actual date of publishing could be earlier or later depending on how smoothly the publishing process goes.
I’ve heard it said that authors should never read reviews of their work to avoid hurting their feelings in case the reviews are bad, but I avidly read my reviews. I got a lot of feedback from people who read my book, including ordinary history buffs and professional historians, and I listened to what they liked and didn’t like about it. So, I revised my manuscript based upon their suggestions. I corrected mistakes that I made (both in terms of incorrect info as well as the mountain of spelling errors that slipped through the editing process), and I added in new information which I did not have at the time. The new edition will be the most accurate account to date about that fateful battle in the year 9 AD.
Granted, the publishing process is still going on, and there are lots of matters that need to be addressed. The cover design still has not been finalized although the publishing staff has a rough idea about how it will look, we haven’t even started the editing process yet, and the index hasn’t been made. Hopefully, things will be concluded on schedule.
That’s all that I have to say for now on this matter.