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The Easter Island "Heads" Have Bodies

Maybe this isn't a newsflash to everyone, but the Moai "heads" on Easter Island have bodies. Because some of the statues are set deep into the ground, and because the heads on the statues are disproportionately large, many people (myself included) tend to think of them as just big heads. But the bodies (generally not including legs, though there is at least one kneeling statue) are there -- in many cases, underground. What's even more interesting -- there are petroglyphs (rock markings) that have been preserved below the soil level, where they have been protected from erosion.

This research report has been making the rounds; it discusses recent progress by The Easter Island Statue Project to uncover, study, and catalogue two statues. It includes (among the dry details of the research) a day-by-day journal of the work, as well as remarkable photographs showing the petroglyphs and team members excavating. Above is an image from a previous excavation (source unknown) that shows you the scale of the statues, and how deep they were buried. (Note: visitors are prohibited from climbing on the Moai; the expedition pictured above appears to predate the EISP and the current practice of conservation.)

For more on the Easter Island statues, read more about the EISP, read their extensive research reports, and check out the Wikipedia page on Moai (which also discusses the fairly well-known fact that many of the statues used to have hats or possibly topknots, known as pukao). Also interesting is the back story of archaeology on Easter Island (also known as Rapa Nui); apparently the island has been the subject of archaeological research for 119 years.

Update: thanks to some footwork by reader algomeysa, we've determined that this photo is from Thor Heyerdahl's book Easter Island: The Mystery Solved.

(Via Jason Scott.)

Follow Chris Higgins on Twitter for more stories like this one. You can also read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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holidays
Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)
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For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, UglyChristmasSweater.com sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.

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