Category Archeology

Justinianic Plague

I have always had a certain morbid fascination with plagues. For example:

Plagues and Peoples | Mystics & Statistics (

The London Plague of 1665 | Mystics & Statistics (

And of course:

Plague? | Mystics & Statistics (

Coronavirus – One year later | Mystics & Statistics (

Anyhow, saw the following article yesterday and felt it was worth re-posting: We May Have Underestimated the First Known Outbreak of Bubonic Plague


  1. May have killed up to half the population of the Mediterranean region at the time.
  2. “Some historians remain deeply hostile to regarding external factors such as disease as having a major impact on the development of human society…”

St. Mary’s Fort found

News article this morning that caught my attention. They have finally found the location of St. Mary’s Fort, near St. Mary’s City in Maryland.

This was the fourth English colony consisting of around 150 people and established in 1634, in what became the United States of America. It was a Catholic colony (which is not mentioned in the article). I have referenced the Battle of Severn (1655) before in recent posts: Baltimore was the seat of the first Catholic bishop in the U.S. in 1789. Georgetown University was the first Catholic University in the United States, founded in 1789 in what was then Maryland (now Washington, D.C.). Today (2014 survey) Maryland is 15% Catholic.

Religion in the U.S. over Time | Mystics & Statistics (

Chinese “Pirates” Accused Of Plundering WWII-Era Shipwrecks

A crane barge allegedly pulling up scrap metal from a World War II wreck in the Java Sea. [The Daily Mail]

An investigation by the British newspaper The Daily Mail has alleged that 10 British shipwrecks from World War II lying of the coasts of Malaysia and Indonesia have been illegally salvaged for scrap by “pirates,” including Chinese, Mongolian, and Cambodian-flagged vessels. The shipwrecks have been designated war graves and are protected from looting by the U.N. International Salvaging Convention and British, Indonesian and Malaysian law.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson has demanded an immediate investigation into allegations that dozens of barges with cranes have been plundering the wrecks for many years.

One Chinese shipping giant, Fujian Jiada, which owns five of eight barges alleged to be recently actively salvaging, has denied any involvement. The Malaysian Navy impounded the Fujian Jiada-owned Hai Wei Gong 889 in 2014 on charges of illegally salvaging Japanese and Dutch shipwrecks, and detained another Vietnamese-crewed barge in 2015 for doing the same.

Both vessels were also accused of looting the wrecks of the battleship H.M.S. Prince of Wales and battlecruiser H.M.S. Repulse, sunk by Japanese aircraft off the coast of Malaysia in 1941. Marine experts estimate half of the remains of the two ships have disappeared and stolen artifacts have been discovered being offered for auction.

In 2016, the British and Dutch Defense Ministries revealed the discovery that the wrecks of three Dutch Navy, three British Navy, and one U.S. Navy ships sunk off the coast of Indonesia during World War II had disappeared from the seabed.

Sonar image of the Java Sea bed location where the wreck of the HMS Exeter used to be. [BBC]

Metals salvaged from the wrecks can be quite lucrative, each vessel yielding up to ₤1 million, and brass propellers and fixtures selling for ₤2,000 per metric ton. Metals fabricated before post-World War II atmospheric nuclear testing are particularly useful for medical devices. The Daily Mail found that the barges drop the cranes on to the wrecks to break off large pieces. These are then taken to scrapyards in Indonesia to be cut into smaller pieces, which are then shipped to China and sold into the global steel markets.

And earlier TDI post on the this subject can be found here:

The Curious Case of the Missing WWII Shipwrecks

Benedict Arnold’s Galleys

Spotted this article today:

Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, before he became infamous, almost became famous for building a fleet of gondolas on Lake Champlain in 1776 and actually fighting a British fleet with these row boats. Didn’t win the battle, but the process of dealing with the Arnold’s fleet delayed the British offensive until 1777….and that offensive didn’t go very well for the British (Battle of Saratoga). Anyhow, they are talking about raising another one of the gunboats (the Spitfire).

The USS Philadelphia was raised back in the 1930s and can be seen at National Museum of American History. It is my favorite exhibit there. I have also taken the time to visit the site of the Battle of Valcour Island (1776), Fort Ticonderoga, Battle of Saratoga (1777), the Battle of Lake Champlain (1814) and the Battle of Plattsburg (1814). It is a great drive, beautiful area, and good excuse to go to Montreal, which is a great city (and they have a grand prix there next weekend). Link to Philadelphia:

The Curious Case of the Missing WWII Shipwrecks

Sonar image of the Java Sea bed location where the wreck of the HMS Exeter used to be.
Sonar image of the Java Sea bed location where the wreck of the HMS Exeter used to be. [BBC]

The Netherlands and British Ministries of Defense recently announced that the wrecks of three Dutch Navy, three British Navy, and one U.S. Navy ships sunk off the coast of Indonesia during World War II have disappeared. Divers intending to photograph the Dutch ships for a 75th year commemoration of the 1942 Battle of the Java Sea discovered the wrecks were missing. After three dimensional sonar imagery revealed only sea bed indentations where the light cruisers HNLMS De Ruyter and HNLMS Java had been discovered in 2002, and partial remains of the destroyer HNLMS Kortenaer, the diving crew surveyed the other battle wrecks in the Java Sea area and discovered them mostly missing as well.


The British government has condemned what it believes is the result of illegal salvaging of the wrecks of the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter and destroyers HMS Encounter and Electra, and has asked the government of Indonesia to investigate and take “appropriate actions.”

Although some experts expressed skepticism that the Dutch ships had been salvaged from under 70 meters of water, 60 miles off the Indonesian coast, other World War II Pacific naval wrecks have been victims of scavenging in the past. According to the Guardian,

Crews posing as fishermen and using long rubber hoses to stay underwater for hours have scavenged the waters around Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, locating the wrecks and stealing parts, including steel, aluminium and brass.

The potential worth of metal-built shipwrecks is estimated at hundreds of thousands of pounds. Some of the propellors, often the first items to be stolen, are made of phosphor bronze scrap metal, valued at over £2,000 per tonne.

The British Ministry of Defense has also been accused of not doing enough to prevent looting of British and German ships sunk in the North Sea during the World War I Battle of Jutland in 1916.

The London Plague of 1665

Completely irrelevant to modern warfare (we hope), but they have confirmed that the plague that hit London in 1664 was the bubonic plague. I was not aware that there was much question about this. Still interesting stuff based upon DNA:

DNA Confirms Cause of 1665 London’s Great Plague

DNA from Ancient Skeletons Reveals Cause of London’s Great Plague

A few notes:

  1. Plague killed nearly a quarter of the city.
  2. Killed more than 75,000 people in the space of a year.
  3. Caused 8,000 deaths were week at its peak in September 1665.
  4. Black Death killed an estimated 50 million people during the 14th century.
  5. More than 780 cases of the plague were reported in 2013, including 126 deaths (mainly in Africa).
  6. They are still examining to the DNA to see if the disease has changed over time.

Also related (but older articles):

Scientists fine DNA of first-ever bubonic plague, warn of new outbreaks

  1. Justinian’s plague (541-542 AD) was bubonic plague.
  2. Around 2,000 people a year get affected globally.
  3. When rapidly diagnosed and treated, it reduces mortality rate from 60 percent to less than 15 percent.
  4. Strains of the Yersina pestis bacterium in the first plague are different than later plagues.
  5. “These results show that rodent species worldwide represent important reservoirs for the repeated emergence of diverse lineages of Y pestis into human populations”
  6. “New sophisticated strains of the disease…could break out in the future.”

In Ancient DNA, Evidence of Plague Much Earlier than Previously Known

  1. The bacterium was infecting people as long as 5,000 years ago.




This is not related to anything we are doing, although I found it interesting:  Vikings Possibly Spread Smooth-Riding Horses Around the World

  1. Apparently the ability of a horse to “amble” (as opposed to walk, trot, canter or gallop) is limited to certain breeds of horses and is tied to a single gene mutation.
  2. These “mutated horses” existed in the Danelaw area of England in the 9th century.
  3. Therefore (and this is the weak link in their argument), they may have been spread by Vikings across the world (or maybe they were transported by Vikings to England from another place in the world).

Anyhow, I have not figured out how this is relevant to modern combat, but I still find it interesting.