Finding Richard III

Richard III was the last Plantagenet king of England.  In Shakespeare’s telling, in the play of that name, Richard was a hunchbacked villain, who murdered his way to the crown, had the child princes in the Tower of London killed, and met his rightful death at the Battle of Bosworth Field at the hands of Henry Tudor, the founder of the dynasty that would culminate in Shakespeare’s Queen.

Archaeologists have dug in the place where King Richard was supposed to have been buried.  They found the bones of a hunchbacked man, shot with an arrow, whose head had been sliced with a sword.

The body of an adult male has been excavated from what is believed to be ruins of the choir area of the Grey Friars church in Leicester. It’s now a car park in the city centre, but was used as a church in the late 15th century. Some records suggest that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, was buried here.

So how do we know it’s him? Has the body got a hunched back?

We don’t know it’s him – yet – but yes, the skeleton does show signs of spinal curvature. Contemporary accounts, reinforced later by Shakespeare, described Richard III as being “hunchbacked”. The newly found body appears to have scoliosis, a form of spinal curvature that would have made the man’s right shoulder appear higher than the left shoulder. The classic “hunchback” is caused by kyphosis but there is no evidence of this in the Leicester skeleton.

Any other evidence?

Yes. The man who became this skeleton took a beating. He has a small penetrating wound to the top of the head, and a much larger wound where a slice has been cut off the skull at the side and back – consistent with the swing of a blade. On 22 August 1485, Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field by blows that some accounts describe as being so violent they drove his helmet into his head.

The Leicester skeleton also has a barbed iron arrowhead stuck in its upper back. But the middle ages were violent times, so again this is only supporting evidence.

Can DNA testing determine if the body is Richard III?

Perhaps. The Richard III Society says it has located someone – Londoner Michael Ibsen – who is apparently the 17th great grand-nephew of Richard III, in the female line. Ibsen’s late mother Joy Ibsen is purportedly a direct descendent of the King’s eldest sister, Anne. Richard’s male relatives were executed.

Leicester University geneticists hope to extract mitochondrial DNA taken from the skeleton’s teeth and compare it with DNA from Ibsen. Mitochondrial DNA is transmitted only through the female line, so if Ibsen really is a direct descendent, his mtDNA can be compared with that from the skeleton.

via Is this Richard III, England’s last Plantagenet king? – life – 13 September 2012 – New Scientist.

For more details and pictures, read this.   Here is a photo of the excavation site, with the location of the body, wrapped in a shroud, circled.  (Read what I just linked for why this is thought to have been Richard’s burial site.)

The spot (circled in red) where archaeologists believe they may have found the remains of King Richard III. The remains were found under a council car park of New St in the centre of Leicester.

HT:  Anthony Sacramone

A powder keg

Tensions in Israel are building over Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  The USA has been trying to get Israel to stand down.  Meanwhile, a big fleet comprised of American, British, and other allied naval forces is assembling in the Straits of Hormuz for war games and to be there just in case war breaks out and Iran tries to shut off a major oil route:

Battleships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers and submarines from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war.

Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world’s petroleum traded by sea.

A blockade would have a catastrophic effect on the fragile economies of Britain, Europe the United States and Japan, all of which rely heavily on oil and gas supplies from the Gulf.

The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most congested international waterways. It is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point and is bordered by the Iranian coast to the north and the United Arab Emirates to the south.

In preparation for any pre-emptive or retaliatory action by Iran, warships from more than 25 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will today begin an annual 12-day exercise.

They will practise tactics in how to breach an Iranian blockade of the strait and the force will also undertake counter-mining drills.

The multi-national naval force in the Gulf includes three US Nimitz class carrier groups, each of which has more aircraft than the entire complement of the Iranian air force.

via Armada of British naval power massing in the Gulf as Israel prepares an Iran strike – Telegraph.

Should Israel strike at Iran’s nuclear sites?  If they do, won’t that spark a bigger war?  Should the United States try to prevent Israel from taking that step or just stay 0ut of it?  And, to consider another flashpoint, what should America do, if anything, while Syria’s government is slaughtering its citizens who are trying to over the Baathist regime?

Google reposts anti-Islam video

The White House asked Google, which owns YouTube, to take down the 14-minute “trailer”–some people are doubting whether there even is a full movie–of The Innocence of Muslims, which has sparked anti-American riots throughout the Muslim world.  Google did take down the video temporarily, but then decided that it does not violate YouTube’s terms of use and put it up again.  See Google Won’t Rethink Anti-Islam Video’s Status – NYTimes.com.

The role of the video in the murder of the Americans in Libya has been challenged by evidence that the attacks were pre-meditated before the protests.  But see this for the eruptions in “Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Britain, East Jerusalem, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, the West Bank and Yemen.”

Google is still blocking the video in Muslim areas–so the rioters have likely not seen the thing–but it is available elsewhere.

As this article points out, websites and internet companies–as opposed to nations, courts, and governments–have now become the arbiters, the gatekeepers, the potential censors, and the enablers of free speech.

Hobbes vs. Burke

Catholic author George Weigel says that the current election amounts to a choice between Hobbes and Burke:

This is a contest, to take symbolic reference points, between Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and Edmund Burke (1729-1797).

Both were British subjects. Both had a profound impact on modern political theory. Both knew that religion and politics—Church and state—had been thickly interwoven into the history of the West, although here the deep differences between these two paradigmatic figures begin to sharpen: Hobbes tried to drive religious conviction out of the modern public square, while Burke fashioned a vision of political modernity that drew in part on the rich social pluralism of the Catholic Middle Ages.

In a Hobbesian world, the only actors of consequence are the state and the individual. In a Burkean world, the institutions of civil society—family, religious congregation, voluntary association, business, trade union and so forth—”mediate” between the individual and the state, and the just state takes care to provide an appropriate legal framework in which those civil-society institutions can flourish.

In a Hobbesian world, the state—”Leviathan,” in the title of Hobbes’s most famous and influential work—monopolizes power for the sake of protecting individuals from the vicissitudes of a life that is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” In a Burkean world, civil society provides a thick layer of mediation-protection, if you will-that cushions the interactions between individuals and life’s challenges.

A Hobbesian world is a world of contracts and legal relationships, period. A Burkean world is a world in which there are both contracts—the rule of law—and covenants: those more subtly textured human associations (beginning with marriage) by which men and women form bonds of affection, allegiance and mutual responsibility. . . .

Along one path, there is, finally, room for only the individual and the state. Along the other path, the flourishing institutions of civil society empower individuals and contribute to real problem-solving. In the former, the state defines responsibilities and awards benefits (and penalties). In the latter, individuals and free, voluntary associations assume responsibility and thereby thus make their contribution to the common good.Hobbes vs. Burke. It’s an old argument. It’s also the argument we shall have between now and Nov. 6.

via Home > Publications >.

Trash talk

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler illustrates why talking trash against an opponent is not wise.  Before his team played the Packers, he preened, he bragged, he taunted.  And then he got sacked 7 times and threw 4 interceptions:

When you talk trash to the opposing team before the game, and then throw a bunch of even more odiferous garbage around the field in a loss … well, you have what amounted to a very bad week for quarterback Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears. Not to mention, the other team has every right to talk right back at you.

Packers defensive back Charles Woodson put it best after the game. “Same old Jay. We don’t need luck — we just need to be in position. Jay will throw us the ball.”

Clay Matthews spent more time in Chicago’s backfield than Matt Forte did. (Getty Images)It started on Tuesday, when Cutler, fresh off an impressive Sunday outing against the Indianapolis Colts, stirred things up by saying that the Packers’ defense could bring whatever it wanted.

“Good luck,” Cutler said to his future tormentors. “Our speed guys are going to get around them and our big guys are going to throw and go … We invite press coverage. We invite man. And if we get in that type of game, our guys outside have to make some plays for us.”

“It’s all about matchups,” receiver Brandon Marshall said on the same day. “I’m 6-5, 230 pounds and there’s not too many DB’s walking around that big. If they want to get physical, I do welcome that.”

The Bears did not make plays, nor did they win any matchups, in a 23-10 disaster that was nowhere near as competitive as the score indicated — the Bears had zero net yards at the end of the first quarter, and Cutler was 7 of 18 for 70 yards and two interceptions after three quarters were done. He finished the game with 11 completions in 27 attempts for 126 yards, one touchdown, and four picks.

via Jay Cutler talks trash, throws picks, gets sacked in embarrassing loss to Packers | Shutdown Corner – Yahoo! Sports.

Here is the lesson in life, boys and girls and student athletes:  If you diminish your opponent, that diminishes your victory if you win.  And if you lose, you look oh, so foolish and pathetic.

Far better, even if you are playing a weak team, is to build them up and say how good they are and how you hardly have a chance.  Then if you beat them, you come across not only as a good sport but as a team that has accomplished something significant.  And if you lose, well, that’s understandable.

Also, you wouldn’t have fired up your opposing team and inspired them to wipe you off the field.

The faith of infants

A key Lutheran teaching is that infants can have faith.  This is why Lutherans see no contradiction between infant baptism and justification by faith.  Lutherans see faith not just in terms of intellectual knowledge or conscious volition, but as trust, dependence, and relationship with a Person.  Infants can trust, depend on, and have a relationship with their parents and also with their Heavenly Father.  The faith that begins with baptism then grows and matures, fed by the “milk” of God’s Word, as the child grows into adulthood, and continuing thereafter.  (That faith can also die if it is not nourished, which is why someone can have been baptized as an infant but then reject the faith and become an unbeliever in need of conversion.)

Anyway, a new book explores, from the vantage point of scientific research, the way infants and extremely young children seemed to be wired for religious belief.

Wheaton provost Stanton L. Jones reviews Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief by psychologist Justin L. Barrett:

He summarizes creative, sophisticated research establishing that in infancy, babies understand distinctions between mere objects and agents (human and non-human, visible and invisible) which initiate actions that are not predictable and yet are goal-directed or purposeful. Only agents act to bring order out of disorder.

Children over three begin to discern and attribute purpose to much of what happens around them, which they in turn are inclined to attribute to human and superhuman agents. When children are old enough to actually discuss their intuitive concepts of god(s), they seem normatively disposed to believe in a (or many) divine agent(s) possessing “superknowledge, superperception, creative power, and immortality,” as well as to believe in a purposeful design to creation, in some sort of basic universal morality, and in the persistence of human identity after death.

Roughly the first 40 percent of Born Believers summarizes this research, while the remaining portion fleshes out its implications. Barrett’s view of religious development is that “children are naturally drawn to some basic religious ideas and related practices (natural religion), and then the meat of a religious and theological tradition as taught by parents grows on this skeleton.” He discusses trends in the research that might foster effective religious education.

via Born Believers, Part 1 | Books and Culture.


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