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.
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.
Hurricane Dorian skimmed the United States' East Coast last week, creating a trail of damage residents are still dealing with. But it wasn't just trash and debris the storm surges left behind: As WCSC reports, two cannonballs dating back to the Civil War were discovered on Folly Beach in South Carolina in the aftermath of the storm.
Aaron Lattin and his girlfriend Alba were walking on the beach on September 6 when they saw what looked like rocks nestled in the sand. As they examined them more closely, they realized they had found something much more special. The weathered objects were actually cannonballs that have likely been buried in the area for more than 150 years.
Incredibly, this isn't the first time Civil War cannonballs have been discovered on Folly Beach following a hurricane: In 2016, Hurricane Matthew unearthed 16 of them. Folly Island was used as a Union base a century and a half ago, and items leftover from the artillery battery built there are still scattered around the shoreline. The couple behind this latest discovery believes there are more waiting to be found.
Old cannonballs may look like cool artifacts to treasure hunters, but they should still be treated with caution. Police and bombs disposal technicians were called to the scene at Folly Beach to confirm the cannonballs were no longer functional.
In 2004, a retired forester reached out to Capilano University archaeology professor Bob Muckle about investigating what looked like the remnants of an old logging camp in the forests of British Columbia, Canada. North Shore Newsreports that each spring for the next 14 years, Muckle took his students there to help him excavate what he now believes was a sort-of-secret Japanese settlement.
The site is located on the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, about 12 miles northeast of Vancouver. It’s approximately the size of a football field and contains the remains of more than a dozen cabins, a bathhouse, a road made of cedar planks, and a cedar platform that may have been a shrine. Muckle and his students have also unearthed more than 1000 items, including sake and beer bottles from Japan, teapots, game pieces, medicine bottles, clocks, pocket watches, clothing buttons, coins, and hoards of ceramics.
Yet another media outlet is reporting on my archaeology project on a Japanese camp in Canada. This time its 'Smithsonian Magazine,' based on some communication with me last week and earlier reporting by @BrentRichter and @CBCNewshttps://t.co/KY6UUkp7gN
Japanese businessman Eikichi Kagetsu secured logging rights to the area near the camp around 1918, so it’s likely that the settlers were originally loggers and their families. Though the trees were cleared out by 1924 and Kagetsu continued his business ventures on Vancouver Island, there's evidence to suggest that some members of the logging community didn't leave right away.
Muckle believes that at least some of the 40 to 50 camp inhabitants chose to remain there, protected from rising racism in Canadian society, until 1942, when the Canadian government started moving Japanese immigrants to internment camps in the wake of the outbreak of World War II.
Muckle thinks the residents must have evacuated in a hurry since they left so many precious and personal items behind. “When people leave, usually they take all the good stuff with them,” he told North Shore News. His team even uncovered parts of an Eastman Kodak Bulls-Eye camera, a house key, and an expensive cook stove that someone had hidden behind a stump on the edge of the village. “They were probably smart enough to realize people might loot the site,” he added.
According to Smithsonian.com, Japanese immigrants had been victims of racism and discrimination in Canada since the first wave of immigration from Japan in 1877. They were generally met with hostility across the country, and kept from voting, entering the civil service, and working in law and other professions. Anti-Japan sentiment dramatically worsened after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, and The Canadian Encyclopediaestimates that more than 90 percent of Japanese Canadians—many of them citizens by birth—were displaced during the war.
To Muckle, this all contributes to the likelihood that villagers would have chosen to stay insulated by the forest for as long as they could. “The impression that I get, generally speaking, is it would have been a nice life for these people,” he said. It wouldn't be the first time a remote, wild area served as a refuge for a persecuted community—farther south and east, escaped enslaved people settled in the swamplands bordering North Carolina and Virginia for the century leading up to the Civil War.
While Muckle believes people stayed in the Canadian camp until the 1940s, it's hard to prove—there are no records for the inhabitants of the camp or where they might have gone. If there’s evidence in the village that can prove residents did stay until the 1940s, it will soon fall to other curious archaeologists to find it: Muckle thinks this will be his last season at the site.
Or, maybe the smoking gun will be discovered by someone who isn’t an archaeologist at all. Here are 10 times ordinary people (and one badger) unearthed amazing archaeological finds.