Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cabinet of Curiosities

I've been reading a book called Cabinet of Curiosities: A Delectable Assortment of Remarkable Tales and Outrageous Stories from All Over the World, by Simon Welfare and John Fairley.

Lots of interesting things within, and I just mention a few of them here. If I ever get the time to research them more fully, I will do so...

1) Two turtle experts tried to visit Maziwi Ialand off Tasmania, only to find that it had vanished.

2) Francis Scott Key, who in 1814 wrote the poem that would become the Star Spangled Banner, had a house in Washington, DC. In 1947, a highway was routed through it. The US National Parks Department was ordered to move it. To do so, they took apart the entire house, and stored the pieces. As of 1991 (the year of this book) the house had yet to be found.

3) The Dorak Treasure is "one of the enigmas of modern archaeology. It's discovery, announced in 1959 in the Illlustrated London News, caused excitement not simply beause the hoard apparently came from ancient royal tombs unearthed near the village of Dorak, in Turkey and contained rare figurines, ceremonial battle-axes, fine jewelry, swords, daggers, a magnificent gold cup, and a throne covered with a layer of gold and hierogylphs, apparently a gift from an Egyptian king.

The find was reported by James Mellaart, then Assistant Director of the Britisjh Institute of Archaeology in Ankara. He said that while travelling through Turkey in the summer of 1958 he met a pretty girl on a train. Even more stroiking than her looks was the gold bracelet she wore on her wrist. It looked very old.

The girl confirmed Mellaart's hunch. The bracelet was indeed ancient, part of a treasure trove. She had the rest at home. He was welcome to see it. So when they reached Izmir, Mellaart left the train and went to the girl's hose where she showed him not only other artefacts but lso photographs of the tombs, complete with skeletons. As so often happens when mysteries are under investigation, there was no opportunity to take photographs: his camera was broken. Instead, the archaeologist stayed on for 3 or 4 days, recording as much detail as possible in his notebooks.

Those sketches and Mellaart's testimony are the only evidence that the Dorak treasure ever existed. All efforts to trace the girl later - she said her name was Anna Papastrati - came to nothing. Even the huse which Mellaart claimed to have visited could not be identified.

Missing manuscripts:
(Perfect ideas for plots)
1) Lawrence of Arabia "claimed" that he lost his only copy of the first eight 'books' of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom in a railway refreshment room in Reading in December, 1919.

2) British writer Jilly Cooper put down the first draft of her novel Riders in a London store in 1971, and that was the last she saw of it. (Took her 14 years to rewrite it).

In the early 1980s, a gigantic Egyptian metropolis, the City of Rameses, containing the Pharoah's palace, a ceremonial avenue, rows of sphinxes and four huge statues of Rameses the Magnificent.

This city was buried in the sand dunes at Guadalupe, California, a small town north of Los Angeles. They formed part of a spectacular set built, in 1923, by Cecil B. DeMille for the first version of his epic, The Ten Commandments. When shooting of the film finished, DeMille decided it would be cheaper to bury the set rather than deconstruct it.

DeMille had expected it to be buruied for a thousand years, but it was dug up in 1983. (And a movie has been made about it! A horror movie!)

6. Giant squid have been known to leap out of the water and get caught in the rigging of ships. (Perhaps jumping out of the water in order to escape attack by a sperm whale?)

7. Why is Mt Rushmore called Mt Rushmore, instead of The President's Mountain, for example? Rushmore was a lawyer. According to the story, "a gold miner was riding past the mountain with his attorney, whose name was Rushmore. "What's the name of this mountain?" asked Rushmore. "Why, Mount Rushmore, of course," the miner replied. The name stuck, and in 1930 it was officially given that name.

There are a few "lost villages": Semerwater in Yorkshire, Dunwich, Wharram Percy in Yorkshir, and Cheesewring in Cornwall. Although they're all interesting, the one I find most interesting is POLPHAIL, in Argylshlshire, Scotland. A town, it was built in 1976 for workers constructing the North sea oil platforms. By the time it was ready, the work had gone away. Also of interest are the villages of St. Kilda, and Samson in the Scillies.

8. And the Mona Lisa in the Louvre the "real" Mona Lisa? Apparently, Rembrandt painted several versions.

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