Wider wale beneath WalesFeb 4th, 2011 | By Signor Blaine | Category: Science and Technology
An archeologist on a dig in a 70,000 year old latrine at Nun Monkton, England, has unwittingly solved a long-running geological mystery. Finn Kincaid took a closer look at the strata of dirt behind a latrine wall and discovered what appears to be some clothing stuck in the layers of sandstone. “It's corduroy. Ancient corduroy. About a quarter of an inch thick. England was once covered in corduroy,” Mr Kincaid joked.
He was right.
Odd journal entries, referencing an inexplicable layer of material in the geological record, have long bewildered scholars.
“Humph has again lost his trousers.” While on a dig on the Isle of Man in 1720, James Skanes wrote regularly not only about his colleague Humphrey Dunscomb's inability to “keeps his pants on” but also about Dunscomb's “luck in fashioning breeches”.
This is not the only incidence.
“Found a tartan jacket! Rumpled and dirty, atop fossils,” Walter 'Smuts” Donlinson noted in 1862 while hiking near Inverstrathgordon, Caledonia.
In 1903, while investigating the Friar's Heel at Stonehenge, Cecil Hutton came across “a vast layer of some cloth, or rag, or fabric, or material, or … that covered a league, or a furlong, or several chains, or arpents, or … at a depth of several inches, or centimetres, or fingers, or …,” he noted in his monograph, Stonehenge: A Pondering on its Glorious Past, or at least, Its Reasons or Uses; An Educated Guess. “This material, or fabric, or rag, or … though ancient and corrupted, can be discerned for some distance east and west, north and south, from the Giant Stones That Do Not Speak.”
For some time, the geological wisdom had it that a quarter-inch thick sooty layer dated about 120,000 years ago was the result of ash settled on the land from a massive Icelandic pre-historic eruption.
The layer is, in fact, the remains of a once-smouldering velvety blanket which covered the islands of the United Kingdom.
“Coal seams have been burning in Virginia for over a hundred years” explained the head of the Royal Geological Society, Geo. R. Sands. “The Velveteen, as we are calling it, was there before the volcanic eruption. Sparks from the eruption ignited the Velveteen and it probably burned for five hundred years or more, wiping out most of the evidence it ever existed. Kincaid's pissy latrine probably preserved and saved a rare patch of the original blanket,” Mr. Sands postulates.
There are several speculations how such a large piece of material could have been produced by ancient peoples and why they would go through such effort. None are convincing. The Velveteen makes Stonehenge itself seem absolutely childish and St Paul's mildly irrelevant. The French are claiming the Normans did it as a cruel practical joke – William, Duke of Burgundy celebrating his conquest of England by draping the land in his “Corde du Roi”. The Spanish abandoned their claim after trying it on.
– with files by Paul Moth and Heber Dolphy