World’s Oldest Surviving Junk Food

Quick,  who invented the hot dog?  Was it the sausage-makers of Frankfurt?  The butchers of Vienna ( a city that German-speakers call Wien)?  Or was it Charles Feltman,  an enterprising German immigrant who ran a pie-wagon in Coney Island in 1867? We’ll never know,  but get this.  Construction workers have now excavated the world’s oldest known hot dog frozen in ice below one of Feltman’s buildings on Coney Island.  Mummified and rather revolting looking,  this 140-year old frankfurter is attracting a lot of attention. You can see it for yourself in the CNN video here.   The discoverers  say they want to preserve it,  but they are sure going about it in a weird way–pouring hot water on the ice!

Hot dogs made Feltman a fortune.  In his first year of business,  the young enterpreneur hawked more than 3864 of them to Coney Island visitors,  and he transformed junk food into a small empire of beer gardens,  hotels and the like.

Clearly junk food pays.  Never underestimate the appetite of the public!

The Civil War’s First Scorched Earth

Archaeology magazine has just published a story I wrote on an almost completely forgotten tragedy of the Civil War.  In 1863,  the Union Army razed and laid waste to nearly four counties in Missouri–a year before the better known scorched-earth destruction of Atlanta, Georgia,  by General William Tecumseh Sherman and his forces.  Archaeologist Ann Raab,  a Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas in Lawrence,  and her colleagues are now excavating sites in what is still known as “The Burnt District.”   They are bringing to light a virtually unknown chapter of the Civil War–incredible work. Archaeology has posted an abstract of the article here.  I will have more to say about this story in a future post.

Sailing to Crete More than 130,000 Years Ago?

A few weeks ago,  I posted on intriguing new research from Crete that raises the possibility of ancient human seafarers rafting across  Mediterranean straits more than 130,000 years ago–well before modern humans even left Africa.  I have just written an article on this for National Geographic news,  interviewing several of the team members and obtaining comments from other scientists.  You can find my online article here.