Blue Pigment In A Fossilized Tooth Traced To Medieval Woman’s Work : Shots – Health News
Enlarge this image A bit of lapis lazuli — a rich blue pigment — is trapped within a central tooth’s dental tartar on this lower jaw of a European woman who died sometime between A.D. 997 and 1162. Christina Warinner/Science Advances hide caption
toggle caption Christina Warinner/Science Advances A bit of lapis lazuli — a rich blue pigment — is trapped within a central tooth’s dental tartar on this lower jaw of a European woman who died sometime between A.D. 997 and 1162.
Christina Warinner/Science Advances Tiny bits of blue pigment found in the teeth of a medieval skeleton reveal that more than 850 years ago, this seemingly ordinary woman was very likely involved in the production of lavishly illustrated sacred texts.
The unexpected discovery, described in the journal Science Advances, astonished scientists who weren’t setting out to study female artists in the Middle Ages. It adds to a growing recognition that women, and not just monks, labored as the anonymous scribes who painstakingly copied manuscripts and decorated the pages to dazzle the eye.
This particular woman lived in a small religious community at Dalheim, Germany. Little is known about life there, says Christina Warinner of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany.
“Basically all that remains are the stone foundations. A broken comb was found, but almost nothing else,” Warinner says. “There are no books that survived. There’s no art that survives. It’s known only from a handful of scraps of text that mention it in passing.”
Shots – Health News How Animals Hacked The Rainbow And Got Stumped On Blue She and a colleague were examining the teeth of skeletons from this community’s cemetery to see what had been preserved in the dental calculus, or tartar. Tartar forms from sticky plaque that traps remnants of food, bacteria and even pollen and then hardens over time.
“It’s really an extraordinary material,” Warinner says. “It’s actually the only part of your body that fossilizes while you’re still alive.”
Enlarge this image During the European Middle Ages, Afghanistan was the only known source of the rare blue stone lapis lazuli. Lapis lazuli contains different minerals that contribute to its unique appearance, including lazurite (blue), phlogopite (white) and pyrite (gold). Christina Warinner/Science Advances hide caption
toggle caption Christina Warinner/Science Advances During the European Middle Ages, Afghanistan was the only known source of the rare blue stone lapis lazuli. Lapis lazuli contains different minerals that contribute to its unique appearance, including lazurite (blue), phlogopite (white) and pyrite (gold).
Christina Warinner/Science Advances Her colleague Anita Radini , of the University of York in the United Kingdom, spotted something bright blue in the dental sample from this woman.
“It was absolutely unbelievable. It almost looked like there were robins’ eggs on the microscope slide — they were such vibrant blue particles,” Warinner recalls. “I remember joking around at the time that maybe we discovered an artist painting with lapis lazuli.”
The idea seemed absurd. After all, lapis lazuli was one of the most expensive pigments known in the Middle Ages. At the time, it came from just one source — a region of Afghanistan — and was used only by artists of exceptional skill.
“It was rare,” Warinner says. “It’s really iconic. It’s kind of the blue that we associate with the Middles Ages that’s absent in Roman art.”
Science A Chemist Accidentally Creates A New Blue. Then What? The researchers turned to technologies that could analyze the elemental composition of the microscopic particles as well as the mineral structure. “And ultimately we did find that it was indeed lapis lazuli, which was really, really surprising,” Warinner says. “Once it all came together that this was lapis lazuli, and this was a woman, and she was in this kind of small, remote place, really far away from where this lapis lazuli would have come from or been traded from, it was pretty extraordinary.”
Enlarge this image This image shows Guda, a 12th century nun, and the inscription reads, “Guda, a sinful woman, wrote and painted this book.” It’s a rare example of a manuscript signed by a female scribe. Frankfurt University Library hide caption
toggle caption Frankfurt University Library This image shows Guda, a 12th century nun, and the inscription reads, “Guda, a sinful woman, wrote and painted this book.” It’s a rare example of a manuscript signed by a female scribe.
Frankfurt University Library Warinner reached out to Alison Beach , a professor of medieval history at Ohio State University in Columbus. “I realized this is a really sensational find,” Beach says.
“There’s quite a bit of evidence of female contributions to book production. And it’s gotten more attention in the past 20 years,” Beach says. “But I still think that image of the monk as the producer of books is very central and very resilient.”
Of those books that were signed with the name of the scribe before the 12th century, less than 1 percent can be attributed to women, the researchers write in their report. But Beach says it’s just impossible to know how widespread women’s participation was, because many libraries of medieval books have been lost to history. What’s more, most of the surviving books from this period were produced by scribes who did not sign their work.
“I’m still trying to convince colleagues that they should immediately consider female book production or ownership or use when they encounter an anonymous manuscript in the Middles Ages,” Beach says. “Was ‘anonymous’ a man or a woman? We really just don’t know for most of them.”
Fine Art With Chemistry And Care, Conservators Keep Masterpieces Looking Their Best The researchers considered various explanations for how the blue pigment ended up in the woman’s teeth. One possibility is that she wasn’t an artist but rather engaged in devotional kissing of a decorated text. “You’d have to be doing a lot of kissing of a book over a lot of time to get that much lapis lazuli pigment,” Beach says. “That one seemed, to me, to be the least plausible.”
Another possibility was that the woman consumed the pigment as a kind of medicine. That also seems unlikely, given the lack of evidence that this was common in Germany in the 11th and 12th centuries. What’s more, the lapis lazuli residue was found more toward the front of the mouth than the back.
“I thought they made a nice case that because it is up near the lips, that it was most likely related to the notion of moistening the brush,” says Cynthia Cyrus of Vanderbilt University, who has studied medieval scribes associated with women’s convents but was not part of the research team. “As you put the tip of the brush into your mouth to bring it to a point, a little bit of the pigment residue then makes its way into the dental structure. That would explain the differential between back of mouth and front of mouth.”
It is true that simply grinding lapis lazuli can produce fine, airborne dust that ends up on the lips and in the saliva, the researchers found — because Radini tried it herself.
However, given the small size of this religious community — only around 15 people — it’s likely that this artist produced her own materials rather than making them for sale or for someone else.
“You’re going to be creating your own pigments and using your pigments,” Cyrus says. “This individual may, in fact, have been doing both of those activities.”
In Cyrus’ view, this finding is extraordinary.
“It is a brand-new kind of evidence for scribal activity, and one that we haven’t been on the alert for,” she says. “We now know that evidence from teeth, and other skeletal remains, can really point towards what the daily life of a particular monastery was like. That will lead us to ask different questions when we’re doing excavations and combine different kinds of evidence to get a better understanding.”
People over 65 are the most likely to share fake news on Facebook, study finds
A protester wears a model head of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in London in November 2018. Jack Taylor/Getty Images If it feels like your Great Aunt Susan was sharing more fake news on Facebook during the 2016 election than any of your other friends, it’s because she probably was, according to a new study. Conservatives and people over the age of 65 were disproportionately likely to share articles from fake news domains during the last presidential election, researchers from Princeton University and New York University found in a recent study, the results of which were published in Science Advances this week. The conservative part is perhaps unsurprising, given that so many fake news sites were pro-Donald Trump. But the age part, not so much: Researchers found that regardless of ideology, Facebook users age 65 and older shared almost seven times as many fake news articles as younger users. In other words, blame the baby boomers. “The striking thing for us was that the association with age holds even when accounting for ideology or party. It seemed to be independent of political affiliation or political lean,” Andrew Guess, a professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton and one of the researchers behind the study, told me. Fake news wasn’t all over Facebook in 2016. But when it was, it was likely to be baby boomers spreading it. The researchers found that the vast majority of users didn’t share fake news during the 2016 election — only 8.5 percent of the users studied shared at least one link from a fake news site. But 18 percent of Republicans shared fake news, compared to under 4 percent of Democrats. Independents shared about as much fake news as Republicans, and users who identified themselves as “very conservative” shared the most fake news. When ideology was scrapped and the study just focused on age, they found that older users were much likelier to share fake news. The over-65 group shared almost seven times as many fake news articles on Facebook than users ages 30 to 44, and more than two times as much as users ages 45 to 65. “Until now, it’s been an anecdotal series of observations about your crazy aunt, and this is one of those cases where the data actually do back up what people suspect,” Guess said. Fake news stories shared around the 2016 election. Less than you think: Prevalence and predictors of fake news dissemination on Facebook — Sciences Magazine What the study doesn’t identify is why older people, in particular, seemed more susceptible to fake news. People who shared the most content on Facebook were actually less likely to share fake news than their friends, suggesting those people were more familiar with what they were looking at on Facebook and therefore had an easier time distinguishing fake and real news. The researchers suggested that there might be an issue with media literacy, though more investigation is needed. But basically, it could be the case that older Americans don’t have the digital media savvy necessary to critically view and determine the trustworthiness of the content they see on social media platforms. And as more Americans age, and older people get online, the problem could get worse. According to Pew Research Center , 41 percent of Americans age 65 and older are on Facebook. That proportion is growing and is likely to keep doing so — meaning the fake news problem among older users could get worse. “There’s an intersection between a huge cohort of people entering retirement at a time when there’s massive technological change in the media landscape, and we don’t know what that’s going to produce,” Guess said. Older people are often the target of scams, whether by mail, telemarketing, phone, or a variety of other means. Technology has exacerbated the problem , with the Department of Justice in 2017 tallying up scams that cost seniors more than $500 million. There’s still a ton we don’t know about fake news on Facebook Facebook is far from having a complete solution to its fake news problem, and while it has made efforts to improve its vetting processes and shut down dozens of accounts , it still has quite a way to go. Just last week, an article claiming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had agreed to build Trump’s border wall in exchange for a gun ban swept across Facebook, getting much more engagement than an article debunking the story. A fake news story claiming Pelosi agreed to a border wall in exchange for a gun ban got nearly 20x more Facebook engagements than this Snopes debunk https://t.co/ZwLTdL2wQp pic.twitter.com/kTF41eK7PN — Daniel Funke (@dpfunke) January 4, 2019 It’s also still unclear how big a role fake news played in swaying the 2016 election. At least one study last year suggested that fake news played a role in depressing support for Hillary Clinton. There is also the question of how much of an incentive there is for Facebook to seriously address its fake news problem. Facebook wants engagement, and fake news, like it or not, can help drive it — according to this latest study, perhaps especially among an age demographic where it has a lot of room for growth.
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