The ancient, the dead and the possibly metrosexual

"As if he had been poured in tar, he lies on a pillow of turf and seems to weep the black river of himself. The grain of his wrists is like bog oak, the ball of his heel like a basalt egg."

So says the great Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney of the Grauballe Man, one of more than a thousand well-preserved, ancient corpses found in peat bogs throughout Northern Europe over the past two hundred years or so. It's the bogs' unique conditions and chemical composition -- the acidity of the water, cold temperature and the lack of oxygen "“- that tends to preserve the skin and organs of those interred in them, sometimes for as long as 10,000 years. There are lots of things experts can divine from studying these strange biological "“ and sociological "“ time capsules, from the diet of the deceased (by studying the contents of the stomach) to the way that they died (many were violently killed: stabbed, bludgeoned or strangled; the remarkable Tollund Man was found with a noose still wrapped around his neck).

However, there's one thing in particular experts find puzzling: many of the bog people appear to have groomed themselves with great care. It's not uncommon for the boggies to have nicely-manicured fingers (pictured), artfully placed tattoos or even trendy hairdos. The 2300-year-old Clonycavan Man, discovered in an Irish peat bog in 2003, sports a well-coiffed mohawk held in place by a gel made from plant derivatives from southern France "“ ie, imported hair product.

From this, experts have deduced that either 1) Northern European Iron Agers were of a more, shall we say, metrosexual bent than other civilizations, or 2) the fact that all these well-groomed ladies and fellows were murdered ritualistically means that the bog people were either criminals who were allowed to get fancied up before their deaths, or more likely they were of high social standing, and bumped off for political reasons. Either way, it's fascinatingly weird.

Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London

Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

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