Data Helps Descendants of Slaves Reclaim History

Published: July 11, 2009

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The end of slavery meant a kind of beginning for the family histories of many African-Americans: for the first time, the enslaved people’s identities and family connections became part of a public record. And the huge task of recording that data fell to the federal Freedmen’s Bureau.

After collecting dust in government warehouses since the late 1800s, the Virginia portion of the Freedmen’s Bureau records is now available electronically to the public. The online database that lists marriages, birth certificates, contracts and even some personal narratives will offer a trove of detail to historians and to the descendants of slaves, who have struggled to piece together family histories obscured by the institution of slavery.

In celebrating the milestone, Gov. Tim Kaine said on Thursday: “What we have done is helped preserve the legacy” of “those freedmen who at the end of the Civil War stepped out of slavery and into freedom.” The governor spoke outside the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, which recruited hundreds of volunteers to transfer the records from microfilm and digitize them.

The project, which is the first in the nation, (more…)

Published in: on July 13, 2009 at 9:11 am  Leave a Comment  

The Lore of Inca Gold


Lost Inca Gold—Ransom, Riches, and Riddles

By James Owen

Steeped in death, conquest, desire, and mystery, the legend of the lost Inca gold is guarded by remote, mist-veiled mountains in central Ecuador. Somewhere deep inside the unforgiving Llanganates mountain range between the Andes and the Amazon is said to exist a fabulous Inca hoard hidden from Spanish conquistadors.

The legend begins in the 16th century, when the great Inca Empire in western South America was giving way to European invaders. Atahualpa was an Inca king who, after warring with his half-brother, Huáscar, for control of the empire, was captured at his palace in Cajamarca in modern-day Peru by Spanish commander Francisco Pizarro. (more…)

Published in: on July 12, 2009 at 9:05 am  Comments (3)  

PICTURES: Prehistoric European Cave Artists Were Female

June 16, 2009

25,000-year-old Pech Merle cave, hand stencils surround the famed “Spotted Horses” mural.

For about as long as humans have created works of art, they’ve also left behind handprints. People began stenciling, painting, or chipping imprints of their hands onto rock walls at least 30,000 years ago.

Until recently, most scientists assumed these prehistoric handprints were male. But “even a superficial examination of published photos suggested to me that there were lots of female hands there,” Pennsylvania State University archaeologist Dean Snow said of European cave art.

By measuring and analyzing the Pech Merle hand stencils, Snow found that many were indeed female–including those pictured here. Photograph courtesy Dean Snow

Published in: on July 9, 2009 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

The Most Important Year Ever?

Following is a great article from Intelligent Life Magazine (related to the economist) about what a year really means in history. If you would like to see more contenders for the most important year ever, check out the other Intelligent Life staff’s picks.


Human history is full of pivotal years. But which was the most significant? Andrew Marr ponders some contenders.

From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Summer 2009

It is a parlour game but a little more too: what was the most important year in human history? How we answer it says a lot about who we are. Christians might go for the birth of Christ, or his crucifixion (though would have to agree a year for each first) and Muslims, the Prophet’s migration to Medina in 622AD. For English patriots it might be Alfred’s defeat of the Vikings in 878, while Marxists could vote for the publication of “Das Kapital” in 1867.

But my contention would be that we are looking for a universally important year. In the absence of a truly universal religion, that would rule out a religious moment. In almost every case it rules out a national date too. One can argue that the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 was crucial to the world–no independent England, no Britain, no British empire, a world of difference. But that requires too much speculative spooling forward to be convincing. (more…)

Published in: on July 7, 2009 at 10:19 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,