Brit-Am Historical Reports (16 December, 2013, 13 Tevet, 5774)
1. New Zealand. Maungarei Stonefields
2. Early Portuguese or Dutch Ship Found in New Zealand Waters
Mystery 300-year-old shipwreck could rewrite history by IAN STEWARD
3. Australia:Â Early Indonesian or Dutch Visitors to Australia
Cannon found on NT beach 250 years old by Barbara Barkhausen
4. Stephen Phillips: Irish Historical Geneaologies are Unreliable!Â followed by Notes on Descendants of Neal
5. Why do we value gold? by Justin Rowlatt
1. New Zealand. Maungarei Stonefields
Ancient cultivation site in Auckland, New Zealand. Maungarei Stonefields is a new archaeological park at the foot of Mt Wellington. It comprises fields of stones which early Polynesian settlers cleared from the land and then used in the soil to retain heat from the sun.
This was to extend the growing season in this their new homeland after their migration voyages from warmer climes.
2. Early Portuguese or Dutch Ship Found in New Zealand Waters
Mystery 300-year-old shipwreck could rewrite history
Scientists are arguing for the archaeological excavation of a shipwreck lying buried in sand in the Kaipara Harbour after a discovery that could rewrite the history of New Zealand's early European settlement.
Carbon dating of the vessel, completed last week, puts its construction as after Abel Tasman but before James Cook.
The accepted history is Dutch explorer Tasman was the first European to reach New Zealand in 1642 and there was no-one else until Captain Cook's voyage in 1769.
A paper, accepted by the international Journal of Archaeological Science last week, dates the ship buried at Midge Bay, on the north head of the Kaipara Harbour, as being built in 1705, plus or minus nine years.
The mystery ship, which is 25m to 27m long and 6.5m to 7.5m wide, was discovered in five metres of water in 1982 by mussel fisherman Leon Searle. He contacted local man Noel Hilliam, who was part of a crew who dived down in 1983 and salvaged two pieces of wood - a teak plank and a smaller piece identified as the tropical hardwood Lagerstroemia.
The wood was kept by Hilliam and the Dargaville Museum and has recently been radiocarbon-dated and scrutinised by tree-ring experts.
The date of 1705 was calculated after taking into account the age of the timber and the length of time needed to mill and season the wood, which is native to South-east Asia.
Given known issues with deterioration of tropical timbers, the authors suggested a boat with such timber would not last longer than 50 years. The original discoverers noted the wreck had copper sheeting on its hull - a feature of Dutch shipyards by the 1670s.
The paper cited Cook's journals, in which he documented accounts by local Maori of "earlier encounters with Europeans, with the ships having been wrecked and the survivors killed and eaten". Hilliam believes the ship is older than the dates suggested by the journal paper and that it is a Portuguese ship, and all but one of the crew were killed and eaten.
3. Australia: Early Indonesian or Dutch Visitors to Australia
Cannon found on NT beach 250 years old
by Barbara Barkhausen
An old swivel gun found on a remote Northern Territory beach in 2010 had been lying on the seabed for as long as 250 years, new dating tests show.
Christopher Doukas found the 107cm-long gun, an anti-personnel light artillery piece, buried in the sand during an unusually low tide.
Australian scientist Tim Stone says the find will help re-write the nation's history.
Dr Stone is an Australian geomorphologist and member of the Past Masters, a multidisciplinary team that explores historic mysteries.
When first reported, it was speculated the gun might have once belonged to 16th century seafarers from Portugal.
However, the Past Masters think that Macassan or other sailors from Indonesia are likely to have lost the gun as long ago as 250 years.
The likely date of around 1760 places the gun at the start of the Macassan trepang trade, possibly during the days of exploration in search of the sea delicacy.
An Indonesian vessel could have been blown off course and on to Australian shores, and the gun find could represent one such incident.
Until now, Australian historians assumed that the Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon was the first European to have reached Australian shores in 1606, closely followed by his fellow Dutch seafarer Dirk Hartog a few years later.
But several finds in the past years suggest Australia may need to at least add to its history books.
Apart from the swivel gun, five up to 1000-year old coins from the ancient African kingdom of Kilwa found in the Northern Territory in 1944 opened up the possibility that seafarers from distant countries might have landed in Australia much earlier than what is known today.
4. Stephen Phillips: Irish Historical Geneaologies are Unreliable! followed by Notes on Descendants of Neal
Brit-Am Now no. 2178. Ten Tribes Studies.
#3. Letter from Chuck Calahan about Nial, DNA, and Tea Tephi with Brit-Am Reply.
Re: Irish History.
I am glad that Chuck Calahan can be so certain of his roots. Thomas F. O'Rahilly tells us:-
But the pedigrees previous to the fifth century [CE] are quite as untrustworthy as the corresponding "history" and the succession of kings. Indeed the pre-Christian parts of the pedigrees are little more than a conglomeration of the names of mythical or fanciful personages. Both the pedigrees and the regnal lists may fairly be described as a hotch-potch of names thrown together in what appears to be deliberate confusion. (Early Irish History & Mythology p.200, Thomas F. O'Rahilly, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies 1999 (first published 1946)).
He also tells us:-
Such pedigrees, of course, are little more than a hotch-potch of the names of faded deities; and it frequently happens that the same deity appears more than once in a pedigree, under different designations. The paternity assigned to any particular deity in a pedigree is for the most part purely artificial, and rarely preserves the tradition of pagan times. (Ibid. pp.48-9)
He discovered that the Irish were turning Uncle Tom Cobley and all into fictitious kings. This does not mean that the Irish records are to be completely ignored, but it does mean that the Irish historians and pseudo-genealogists have made a mess of things and anyone dealing with the Irish records needs to tread carefully.
The detailed pedigrees may be unreliable but the overall traditions of descent seem to fit historical reality. O'Rahilly himself used them.
Thomas F. O'Rahilly, "Early Irish History and Mythology", Dublin, Ireland, 1946, 1957, did his research before the era of DNA.
Researches in Ireland show that often DNA markers may exist for different family groups.
This is especially true for descendants of Nial and/or the brothers of Nial.
Nial however should not be confused with the O'Neals. At some time in the 1600s an adopted son took over the O'Neal leadership. Consequently very often the O'Neals lack the Nial DNA marker.
The marker however is valid for nearly all other lines associated with Nial.
Descendants of Nial ruled Ireland for centuries. In addition in the northwest there were Tribes free from Tribute.
Families with traditions of being descended from Nial were shown to often bear the Nial DNA marker. Areas in the northwest from Tribes free from tribute also showed a rate of 20% or more of the marker against less than 12% for the rest of Ireland. Scotland shows about 6% concentrated more in Lowland areas than Highland ones.
[Note: The impression is that in the same way as the DNA wonder boys can stretch the dates by a 1000 years or more they could also reduce them by the same. This however would not fit any known historical scenario, so there is a problem??? Nial dates from about 500 CE. Some date the origin of the Nial DNA marker to ca. 10 CE but one placed it at ca. 1500 CE?? Attributing it to Nial himself gives us a nice convenient average and seems to fit known history best. ]
Matching Niall Noigiallach - Niall of the Nine Hostages
A recent study conducted at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, found that a striking percentage of men in Ireland (and quite a few in Scotland) share the same Y chromosome, suggesting that the 5th-century warlord known as "Niall of the Nine Hostages" may be the ancestor of one in 12 Irishmen. Niall established a dynasty of powerful chieftains that dominated the island for six centuries.
In the study scientists found an area in northwest Ireland where they claim 21.5% carry Niall's genetic fingerprint, says Brian McVoy, one of the team at Trinity. The same area of Ireland has previously been the subject of anthropological study, and has shown a strikingly high percentage of men from Haplogroup R-M269 (85.4%). According to McVoy this area was the main powerbase of the Ui Neill kings, which literally translated means "descendants of Niall".
McVoy says the Y chromosome appeared to trace back to one person. Following the genealogists' trail McVoy comments: "There are certain surnames that seem to have come from Ui Neill. We studied if there was any association between those surnames and the genetic profile. It is his (Niall's) family."
5. Why do we value gold? by Justin Rowlatt
One of the "noble" metals that do not oxidise under ordinary conditions. Used in jewellery, electronics, aerospace and medicine.
Most gold in the earth's crust is thought to derive from meteors.
Biggest producers: China, Australia, US, Russia
Mankind's attitude to gold is bizarre. Chemically, it is uninteresting - it barely reacts with any other element. Yet, of all the 118 elements in the periodic table, gold is the one we humans have always tended to choose to use as currency. Why?
I'm not the first to ask the question, but I like to think I'm asking it in one of the most compelling locations possible - the extraordinary exhibition of pre-Columbian gold artefacts at the British Museum?
That's where I meet Andrea Sella, a professor of chemistry at University College London, beside an exquisite breastplate of pure beaten gold.
We've got some very tough and durable elements on the left-hand side - titanium and zirconium, for example.
The problem is they are very hard to smelt. You need to get your furnace up into the region of 1,000C before you can begin to extract these metals from their ores. That kind of specialist equipment wasn't available to ancient man.
Aluminium is also hard to extract, and it's just too flimsy for coinage. Most of the others in the group aren't stable - they corrode if exposed to water or oxidise in the air.
Take iron. In theory it looks quite a good prospect for currency. It is attractive and polishes up to a lovely sheen. The problem is rust: unless you keep it completely dry it is liable to corrode away.
We can rule out lead and copper on the same basis. Both are liable to corrosion. Societies have made both into money but the currencies did not last, literally.
So, what's left?
Of the 118 elements we are now down to just eight contenders: platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium and ruthenium, along with the old familiars, gold and silver.
These are known as the noble metals, "noble" because they stand apart, barely reacting with the other elements.
They are also all pretty rare, another important criterion for a currency.
Even if iron didn't rust, it wouldn't make a good basis for money because there's just too much of it around. You would end up having to carry some very big coins about.
With all the noble metals except silver and gold, you have the opposite problem. They are so rare that you would have to cast some very tiny coins, which you might easily lose.
They are also very hard to extract. The melting point of platinum is 1,768C.
That leaves just two elements - silver and gold.
Both are scarce but not impossibly rare. Both also have a relatively low melting point, and are therefore easy to turn into coins, ingots or jewellery.
Silver tarnishes - it reacts with minute amounts of sulphur in the air. That's why we place particular value on gold.
It turns out then, that the reason gold is precious is precisely that it is so chemically uninteresting.
Gold's relative inertness means you can create an elaborate golden jaguar and be confident that 1,000 years later it can be found in a museum display case in central London, still in pristine condition.
So what does this process of elemental elimination tell us about what makes a good currency?
First off, it doesn't have to have any intrinsic value. A currency only has value because we, as a society, decide that it does.
As we've seen, it also needs to be stable, portable and non-toxic. And it needs to be fairly rare - you might be surprised just how little gold there is in the world.
If you were to collect together every earring, every gold sovereign, the tiny traces gold in every computer chip, every pre-Columbian statuette, every wedding ring and melt it down, it's guesstimated that you'd be left with just one 20-metre cube, or thereabouts.
But scarcity and stability aren't the whole story. Gold has one other quality that makes it the stand-out contender for currency in the periodic table. Gold is... golden.
All the other metals in the periodic table are silvery-coloured except for copper - and as we've already seen, copper corrodes, turning green when exposed to moist air. That makes gold very distinctive.
"That's the other secret of gold's success as a currency," says Sella. "Gold is unbelievably beautiful."
But how come no-one actually uses gold as a currency any more?
The seminal moment came in 1973, when Richard Nixon decided to sever the US dollar's tie to gold.
Since then, every major currency has been backed by no more than legal "fiat" - the law of the land says you must accept it as payment.
Nixon made his decision for the simple reason that the US was running out of the necessary gold to back all the dollars it had printed.
And here lies the problem with gold. Its supply bears no relation to the needs of the economy. The supply of gold depends on what can be mined.
In the 16th Century, the discovery of South America and its vast gold deposits led to an enormous fall in the value of gold - and therefore an enormous increase in the price of everything else.
Since then, the problem has typically been the opposite - the supply of gold has been too rigid. For example, many countries escaped the Great Depression in the 1930s by unhitching their currencies from the Gold Standard. Doing so freed them up to print more money and reflate their economies.
The demand for gold can vary wildly - and with a fixed supply, that can lead to equally wild swings in its price.
Most recently for example, the price has gone from $260 per troy ounce in 2001, to peak at $1,921.15 in September 2011, before falling back to $1,230 currently.
That is hardly the behaviour of a stable store of value.
So, to paraphrase Churchill, out of all the elements, gold makes the worst possible currency.
Apart from all the others.