A Pocket Watch From the Titanic Surfaces and Sells for $57,500

Heritage Auctions, HA.com
Heritage Auctions, HA.com

Married couple Sinai and Miriam Kantor boarded the R.M.S. Titanic in Southampton, England on April 10, 1912. The Russian immigrants planned to study dentistry and medicine in the Bronx. Just five days later, Miriam was being ushered on a lifeboat, prioritized in the ship's women and children first mandate as it began to sink into the ocean. She survived. Sinai's body was recovered later.

Like all of the casualties retrieved by ships, Sinai's was taken in and his personal effects recorded. In addition to money, a passport, a notebook, a telescope, and a corkscrew, there was a pocket watch. Over 100 years later, the timepiece has now become part of a Titanic collector's assortment of watches from the doomed ship's excursion.

The inside of the timepiece recovered from the 'Titanic' and put up for auction
Heritage Auctions, HA.com

Heritage Auctions recently held a memorabilia auction, with Sinai's watch among the offerings. John Miottel, owner of Miottel Museum, made the winning bid of $57,500 for the item, which measures three inches in diameter and features Hebrew letters to represent numerals. A back etching depicts Moses holding the Ten Commandments.

The watch, which was handed over to Miriam along with Sinai's other personal effects, remained in the family throughout the 20th century before being put up for auction by a descendant. Miottel plans on adding it to a timepiece collection on display at the San Francisco Bay Area museum's Ocean Liner section. Miottel also owns three other watches recovered from the disaster.

While expensive, it's by no means the most valuable item to be retrieved from the waters surrounding the sunken ship. In 2017, a violin owned by bandleader Wallace Hartley sold for $1.7 million.

[h/t Economic Times]

15th-Century Cannonballs Likely Used by Vlad the Impaler Discovered in Bulgaria

By Anonymous, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Anonymous, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Dracula was known for using his fangs and supernatural powers to dispatch his victims. But he apparently liked to have a few cannonballs by his side as well (just in case).

No, there’s no secret passage from Bram Stoker’s novel involving a battle where the vampire count displays his firepower. Rather, according to the website Archaeology in Bulgaria, cannonballs were recently excavated from the Bulgarian town of Svishtov, the site of a military conquest made by the Romanian prince Vlad III. Known more popularly as “Vlad the Impaler,” he likely served as the inspiration behind Stoker's bloodthirsty antagonist.

During his reign as one of most ruthless rulers in history, Vlad III frequently butted heads with the Ottoman Turks. The conflict came to a violent head in 1461, when Vlad and his army fought for control over Svishtov’s Zishtova Fortress. Now, as Gizmodo reports, archaeologists say they've uncovered a collection of centuries-old cannonballs that may have belonged to Vlad and were most likely linked to the event.

The cannonballs themselves were shot from culverins, medieval cannons that fired missiles weighing up to 16 pounds, which were relatively light compared to later models. Lead archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia said that's what makes these artifacts particularly exciting.

“We rejoice at those small cannonballs because they are from culverins," Ovcharov told Fox News. "These were the earliest cannons which were for the 15th century, up until the 16th century, [and] they weren’t in use after that.”

That battle occurred as an attempt to reclaim the region from the occupying Turks. The region was occupied as far back as the Roman Empire and was abandoned after barbarian invasions. The Zishtova Fortress was built much later, and Vlad III made it his home—after he reclaimed it from his enemies.

But just because Vlad may have had cannonballs at his disposal doesn't mean that some of the battle's victims weren't impaled.

"[We] have a letter by Vlad Dracula to the king of Hungary in which he boasted that he had taken [the fort] after a fierce battle, and that about 410 Turks were killed during the siege," Ovcharov said. "Some of them were probably impaled, in his style."

Easter Island Statues Are Being Threatened By Nose-Picking Selfie-Seekers

iStock/filipefrazao
iStock/filipefrazao

Though geographically tiny at just 64 square miles, Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is home to a rich a history that's been attracting visitors for centuries. Now, one of the top experts on the island warns that inappropriate behavior from tourists could harm the ancient site, HuffPost reports.

Jo Anne Van Tilburg is an archaeologist who first visited Rapa Nui in the early 1980s. Her team has studied the Easter Island heads (known as moaiup close and uncovered the bodies buried beneath them, revealing that the full moai statues are actually up to 33 feet tall.

As Van Tilburg shared in a recent interview on 60 Minutes, a lot has changed since she first set foot on the island. In the early 1980s, Easter Island received about 2500 visitors a year; in 2018, 150,000 tourists flocked there to see the mysterious artifacts. That many annual visitors wouldn't be a lot for some destinations, but on Rapa Nui, an island with a permanent population of 5700 that relies on a generator for power and a limited water supply, those numbers can be devastating.

To make matters worse, many guests act in disrespectful ways when they arrive. According to Van Tilburg, it's not unusual to see tourists illegally climbing on top of the statues and pretending to pick their noses for selfies. "I am troubled by the lack of genuine tourist interest in the island and its people," Van Tillburg said. "There is a lack of genuine appreciation for the Rapa Nui past.”

The island's scarce resources and delicate ecosystem have long been a problem for the people who live there. This may have even led to the site's iconic statues: A recently published study posits that the moai were positioned in certain spots to mark precious sources of fresh water.

[h/t HuffPost]

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