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Monday, April 30, 2012

Did you know? Kenya was the home of the real notorious man-eaters as seen in the movie: The Ghost and the Darkness

The Tsavo Man-Eaters were a pair of notorious man-eating lions responsible for the deaths of a number of construction workers on the Kenya-Uganda Railway from March through December 1898.

Lt. Col. John Patterson beside one of the man-eating lions he shot in 1898


In March 1898 the British started building a railway bridge over the Tsavo River in Kenya. The project was led by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson. During the next nine months of construction, two maneless male Tsavo lions stalked the campsite, dragging Indian workers from their tents at night and devouring them. Crews tried to scare off the lions and built campfires and bomas of thorn fences around their camp for protection to keep the man-eaters out, to no avail. The lions crawled through the thorn fences. After the new attacks, hundreds of workers fled from Tsavo, halting construction on the bridge. Patterson set traps and tried several times to ambush the lions at night from a tree. After repeated unsuccessful endeavours, he shot the first lion on December 9, 1898. Three weeks later, the second lion was found and killed. The first lion killed measured nine feet, eight inches (3 m) from nose to tip of tail. It took eight men to carry the carcass back to camp. The construction crew returned and completed the bridge in February 1899. The exact number of people killed by the lions is unclear. Patterson gave several figures, claiming that there were 135 victims.[1][2]

Second Tsavo Lion
Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson
Patterson writes in his account that he wounded the first lion with one bullet from a Martini-Enfield chambered in .303 caliber. This shot struck the lion in the hindquarters, but it escaped. Later, it returned at night and began stalking Patterson as he tried to hunt it. He shot it with a .303 Lee Enfield several times, tracked it the next morning, and found it dead. The second lion was shot five times with a .303 Lee Enfield, but it got up and charged him in severely crippled condition, whereupon he shot it three more times with the Martini-Henry carbine, twice in the chest, and once in the head, which killed it. He claimed it died gnawing on a fallen tree branch, still trying to reach him.[3]

Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson sold
the bodies of the
Tsavo lions to the Field Museum
in Chicago for $5,000
where they were stuffed and put on display
After 25 years as Patterson's floor rugs, the lions' skins were sold to the Chicago Field Museum in 1924 for a sum of US$5,000. The lions' skins arrived at the museum in very poor condition. The lions were then reconstructed and are now on permanent display along with the original skulls.

Patterson's accounts were published in his 1907 book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.

Skulls from a Taita shrine as
photographed by Louis Leakey in 1929

Modern research

Skull of FMNH 23969.
Teeth deformities are visible
The two lion specimens in Chicago's Field Museum are known as FMNH 23970 (killed on December 9, 1898) and FMNH 23969 (killed on December 29, 1898). Recent studies have been made upon the isotopic signature analysis of Δ13C and Nitrogen-15 in their bone collagen and hair keratin and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Using realistic assumptions on the consumable tissue per victim, lion energetic needs, and their assimilation efficiencies, researchers compared the man-eaters' Δ13C signatures to various reference standards: Tsavo lions with normal (wildlife) diets, grazers and browsers from Tsavo East and Tsavo West, and the skeletal remains of Taita people from the early 20th century. This analysis estimated that FMNH 23969 ate the equivalent of 10.5 humans and that FMNH 23970 ate 24.2 humans [4] This leads to the conclusion that the lower number of 35 victims is more likely and that Patterson exaggerated his claims.[5]. It also adds credence to the infirmity theory that the root-tip abscess on the lower right canine of FMNH 23970 (the "first man-eater) triggered the man-eating episode.

However, an earlier (2001) study by Tom Gnoske and Julian Kerbis Peterhans, published in the Journal of the East African Natural History Society, contended that a human toll of 100 or more was possible.[6] The diet of the victims would also affect their isotopic signature. A low meat diet would produce a signature more typical of herbivores in the victims, affecting the outcome of the test.[7] This research also excludes the claims that the lions were not eating the victims they killed but merely killing just to be killing. Similar claims have been made of other wildlife predators.


Possible causes of "man-eating" behaviour

Theories for the "man-eating behaviour" of lions have been reviewed by Kerbis Peterhans and Gnoske (2001) and Patterson (2004). Their discussions include the following:
  • An outbreak of rinderpest disease (cattle plague) in 1898 devastated the lions' usual prey, forcing them to find alternative food sources.
  • The Tsavo lions may have been accustomed to finding dead humans at the Tsavo River crossing. Slave caravans bound for Zanzibar routinely crossed the river there.
  • "Ritual invitation", or abbreviated cremation of Hindu railroad workers, invited scavenging by the lions.
An alternative argument indicates that the first lion had a severely damaged tooth that would have compromised its ability to kill natural prey. Evidence for this is presented in a series of peer-reviewed papers by Neiburger and Patterson (2000, 2001, 2002) and in Bruce Patterson's (2004) book.

Popular culture

Patterson's book was the basis for the movies Bwana Devil in 1952 and The Ghost and the Darkness in 1996, with the incidents also used in 1959's Killers of Kilimanjaro. The names "The Ghost" and "The Darkness" were names given to the two man-eating lions. The lions also appear as a difficulty to be overcome in the "Cape to Cairo" scenario of Railroad Tycoon II.



1.    ^ Patterson, Bruce D. (2004). The Lions of Tsavo: Exploring the Legacy of Africa's Notorious Man-Eaters. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0071363335.
2.    ^ Gnoske, Thomas and Julian Kerbis Peterhans (2003). "Field Museum uncovers evidence behind man-eating; revises legend of its infamous man-eating lions". Journal of East African Natural History.
3.    ^ chapter IX The Death of the Second Lion, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo and other East African Adventures by Lieut.-Col. J. H. Patterson, DSO publication date unknown as recorded on Amazon Kindle
4.    ^ Yeakel JD, Patterson BD, Fox-Dobbs K, Okumura MM, Cerling TE, Moore JW, Koch PL, Dominy NJ. (2009). Cooperation and individuality among man-eating lions. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 106: 19040–19043. doi:10.1073/pnas.0905309106 PMID 19884504
5.    ^ Janssen, Kim (November 2, 2009). "Scientists restate Tsavo lions' taste for human flesh". Chicago Tribune.
6.    ^ Caputo, Philip. Ghosts of Tsavo. Page 274. ISBN 0792263626.
7.    ^ Krueger, H.W.; Sullivan, C.H. (July 9th). "Models for Carbon Isotope Fractionation Between Diet and Bone". ACS Symposium Series. ACS Symposium Series 258: 205–220. doi:10.1021/bk-1984-0258.ch014. ISBN 0-8412-0855-7. Retrieved 5 December 2011.


Further reading

  • Neiburger, E.J. & B.D. Patterson. 2000. Man eating lions…a dental link. Journal of the American Association of Forensic Dentists 24(7-9):1-3.)
  • Neiburger, E.J. & B.D. Patterson. 2000. The man-eaters with bad teeth. New York State Dental Journal 66(10):26-29+cover.
  • Kerbis Peterhans, J.C. and T.P. Gnoske (2001). The science of 'Man-eating' among lions (Panthera leo) with a reconstruction of the natural history of the "Man-eaters of Tsavo, Journal of East African Natural History 90:1-40.
  • Patterson, B.D., E.J. Neiburger & S.M. Kasiki. 2003. Tooth breakage and dental disease as causes of carnivore-human conflicts. Journal of Mammalogy 84(1):190-196.
  • Patterson, B.D. 2004. The lions of Tsavo: exploring the legacy of Africa’s notorious man-eaters. McGraw-Hill, New York, 231 pp.
  • Patterson, B.D., S.M. Kasiki, E. Selempo & R.W. Kays. 2004. Livestock predation by lions (Panthera leo) and other carnivores on ranches neighboring Tsavo National Parks, Kenya. Biological Conservation 119 (4):507-516
  • Patterson, B.D. 2005. Living with lions in Tsavo, or notes on managing man-eaters. Travel News & Lifestyle (East Africa) 129 (Feb 2005):28-31.
  • Dubach, J, B.D. Patterson, M.B. Briggs, K. Venzke, J. Flammand, P. Stander, L. Scheepers & R. Kays. 2005. Molecular genetic variation across the eastern and southern geographic range of the African lion, Panthera leo. Conservation Genetics 7:15-24.
  • Patterson, B.D., R.W. Kays, S.M. Kasiki & V.M. Sebestyen. 2006. Developmental effects of climate on the mane of the lion (Panthera leo). Journal of Mammalogy 87(2):193-200.
  • Gnoske, T.P., G. Celesia, and J.C. Kerbis Peterhans, (2006). Dissociation between mane development and sexual maturity in lions (Panthera leo): Solution to the Tsavo Riddle? J of Zoology (London) 270(4): 1-10.
  • Kerbis Peterhans, J.C., C.M. Kusimba, T.P. Gnoske, S. Andanje & B.D. Patterson (1998). Man-eaters of Tsavo rediscovered after 100 years, an infamous ‘lions den’, rekindles some old questions. Natural History 107(9):12-14.
  • Patterson, B.D. 2004. The lions of Tsavo: exploring the legacy of Africa’s notorious man-eaters. McGraw-Hill, New York, 231 pp.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Did you know? There is a pirate cemetery in Madagascar.

Old Madagascar Map
John Bowen
Christopher Condent
William Kidd
Between 1680 and 1725, Madagascar became a pirate stronghold. Many unfortunate sailors became shipwrecked and stranded on the island. Those who survived settled down with the natives, or more often, found French or English colonies on the island or even pirate havens and thus became pirates themselves. 

Well known pirates such as William Kidd, Henry Every, John Bowen, and Thomas Tew made Antongil Bay and St. Mary’s Island (a small island 12 miles off the north-east coast of Madagascar) their bases of operations. The pirates plundered merchant ships in the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. They deprived Europe-bound ships of their silks, cloth, spices, and jewels. Vessels captured going in the opposite direction (to India) lost their coin, gold, and silver. The pirates robbed the Indian cargo ships that traded between ports in the Indian Ocean as well as ships commissioned by the East India Companies of France, England, and the Netherlands. The pilgrim fleet sailing between Surat in India and Mocha on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula provided a favourite target, because the wealthy Muslim pilgrims often carried jewels and other finery with them to Mecca. Merchants in India, various Ports of Africa, and Réunion Island showed willingness to fence the pirates' stolen goods. The low-paid seamen who manned merchant ships in the Indian Ocean hardly put up a fight, seeing as they had little reason or motivation to risk their lives. The pirates often recruited crewmen from the ships they plundered.

Thomas Tew
Henry Every
This area in Madagascar is also said to be the area in which the pirates founded their own colony called Libertatia, but whether or not Libertatia actually existed is still a mystery.  Libertatia (also known as Libertalia) is said to have been a Resource-Based Economy colony founded in the late 17th century in Madagascar by pirates under the leadership of Captain James Misson. It is described in the book A General History of the Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson, an otherwise unknown individual who may have been a pseudonym of Daniel Defoe. Much of the book is a mixture of fact and fiction, and it is possible the account of Libertatia is entirely fabricated.

Robert Culliford
Olivier Levasseur
Libertatia is said to have lasted for about 25 years. The precise location is not known, however, most sources say it stretched from the Bay of Antongil to Mananjary, including IleSainte Marie and Foulpointe. Thomas Tew, Misson, and an Italian Dominican priest named Caraccioli were involved in founding it.
Today the pirate cemetery is still found on the island of St. Mary Island (Ile Sainte Marie) and can still be visited. Below are a few pictures that was taken in the cemetry:


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mummies Unwrapped: Interesting Mummy facts

Did you know that, prior to the 19th century, ancient mummies got none of the respect they have today? Rather than preserving them in museums, people would unwrap mummies and exploit their various parts. Their bones were ground up into powder and sold as medicine, and their wrappings were used to make paint. Some even say that early American paper manufacturers imported Egyptian mummies and made wrapping paper out of their bindings. Thankfully, these practices died out and mummies came to be seen as precious artifacts, which paved the way for some of the most remarkable discoveries in history.



Nicknamed for its red hair, "Ginger" is the most famous of six naturally mummified bodies excavated in the late 19th century from shallow graves in the Egyptian desert. It went on display at the British Museum in 1901, becoming the first mummy to be exhibited in public, and has stayed there ever since. Ginger and the other bodies found with it are the oldest known mummies in existence, dating back to about 3400 B.C. Artificial mummification was not yet a common practice at the time of their deaths, but their bodies were naturally dried and preserved by the warm sand in which they were buried.


Female pharaoh, Hatshepsut

The most prominent female pharaoh, Hatshepsut reigned over Egypt for roughly two decades, undertaking ambitious building projects and establishing valuable new trade routes until her death in 1458 B.C. The archaeologist Howard Carter discovered her royal tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings in 1902. When he located her sarcophagus some years later, however, it was found to be empty. Carter also unearthed a separate tomb, known as KV60, which contained two coffins: that of Hatshepsut's wet nurse–identified as such by an inscription on its cover–and that of an unknown female. In 2006, a team led by Dr. Zahi Hawass set out to determine whether the anonymous woman in KV60 could be the missing queen herself. The vital piece of evidence was a molar tooth found in a wooden box bearing Hatshepsut's name. When Awass and his colleagues compared the tooth to a gap in the mummy's upper jaw, it was a perfect fit, leading the researchers to conclude that the search for Hatshepsut was finally over.

King Tutankhamen

King Tut

Ancient Egypt's "boy king" became pharaoh at the age of nine and ruled for approximately 10 years (c. 1333-1324 B.C.). Relatively obscure during his lifetime, Tutankhamen–or "King Tut"–became a household name in 1922, when the archaeologist Howard Carter found his remarkable tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. Despite several apparent grave robberies, the tomb was crammed with a wealth of ancient treasures, including jewelry, gilded shrines and a solid gold funerary mask. The discovery prompted a worldwide fascination with Egyptology in general and Tutankhamen in particular. Carter's partner and financier, Lord Carnarvon, died of an infected mosquito bite several months after the pair opened the tomb. His death inspired the myth of the mummy's curse, according to which anyone who dared intrude upon King Tut's grave would suffer his wrath.

Ramesses II

Ramesses II

Regarded by many historians as Egypt's most powerful pharaoh, Ramesses II reigned for six decades (c. 1279-1213 B.C.), lived to be over 90 years old and is said to have fathered upwards of 100 children. His body was originally entombed in the Valley of the Kings, as was customary for a pharaoh, but ancient Egyptian priests later moved it to thwart rampant looters. In 1881, Ramesses II's mummy was discovered in a secret royal cache at Deir el-Bahri, along with those of more than 50 other rulers and nobles. In 1974, archeologists noticed its deteriorating condition and flew it to Paris, where it was treated for a fungal infection. Before the journey, Ramesses II was issued an Egyptian passport, which listed his occupation as "King (deceased)."

Valley of the Golden Mummies

Bahariya Oasis

Located in Egypt's Western Desert, the Bahariya Oasis was a major agricultural center during ancient times and is now home to several archaeological sites, including a Greek temple dedicated to Alexander the Great. In 1996, an antiquities guard was riding his donkey on the temple's grounds. Suddenly, the donkey's leg stumbled into a hole, revealing an opening in the desert floor and the edge of a tomb. A team of archaeologists led by Dr. Zahi Hawass began excavations of the site, known as the Valley of the Golden Mummies. The first few expeditions have uncovered several hundred mummies that date back to Egypt's Greco-Roman period, as well as a treasure trove of artifacts. The diversity of the mummies' adornments suggests that the site served as the final resting place for every level of society, including wealthy merchants, members of the middle class and poorer inhabitants. Hawass estimates that as many as 10,000 additional mummies may be lying under the sand.

Taken From: http://www.history.com/shows/chasing-mummies/interactives/mummies-facts-infographic [18.04.12]

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Did you know? The Anglo-Zanzibar War was the shortest war ever.

The Sultan's harem after the bombardment.
Khalid bin Bargash
Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini
The Anglo-Zanzibar War was fought between the United Kingdom and Zanzibar on 27 August 1896. With a duration of only 45 minutes, it holds the record of being the shortest war in recorded history. The war broke out after Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini, who had willingly co-operated with the British colonial administration, died on 25 August 1896, and his nephew, Khalid bin Bargash, seized power in what amounted to a coup d’état. The British favoured another candidate, Hamud bin Muhammed, whom they believed would be easier to work with, and delivered an ultimatum ordering Bargash to abdicate. 

Hamud bin Muhammed
British sailors pose with a captured
cannon outside the sultan's palace
Bargash refused. While Bargash’s troops set to fortifying the palace, the Royal Navy assembled five warships in the harbour in front of the palace. The British also landed parties of Royal Marines to support the “loyalist” regular army of Zanzibar. Despite the Sultan’s last-minute efforts to negotiate for peace via the U.S. representative on the island, the Royal Navy ships opened fire on the palace at 9 am on 27 August 1896 as soon as the ultimatum ran out. With the palace falling down around him and escalating casualties, Bargash beat a hasty retreat to the German consulate where he was granted asylum. 

The palace complex following the
The shelling stopped after 45 minutes. The British demanded that the Germans surrender the erstwhile Sultan to them, but he escaped to sea on 2 October 1896. He lived in exile in Dar es Salaam until captured by the British in 1916. He was later allowed to live in Mombasa where he died in 1927.

Zanzibar Town under "Attack", 27 August 1896

Around 500 Zanzibari men and women were killed or wounded during the bombardment, most of the dead a result of the fire that engulfed the palace. As a final act, Britain demanded payment from the Zanzibar government to pay for the shells fired on the country.

Sources: Wikipedia
Taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Zanzibar_War [16.04.12]