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Divers Find 400-Year-Old Silk Dress in Dutch Shipwreck

For those of you who don’t speak Dutch, here’s the deal: Divers in the Wadden Sea found a fancy 17th-century gown partially buried in the sand. The gown is astonishingly well-preserved, given the circumstances, and may be one of the most important artifacts ever brought up from the sea floor.

The dress was recovered off the Dutch island of Texel, which was, for a time, an important center of trade. Unfortunately for traders, Texel’s location also made it a prime site for shipwrecks. As Livius at The History Blog explains, “Ships anchored in the Texel roadstead, a sheltered area in the lee of the island, waiting for propitious winds, waiting out bad weather or taking on crew and cargo, only to be wrecked in sudden unexpected storms.”

Many of those wrecks have since been washed further out to sea, but some remain in the relative shallows surrounding the island. Divers generally avoid disturbing them, instead waiting for the ocean to reveal the rotting wrecks. Two years ago, the currents uncovered a historical (not literal) gold mine: the remains of a well appointed merchant vessel from the 1600s. The ship had shed a mysterious bundle, which the divers ferried back to the surface.

Once in open air, they opened the package and realized they’d found the contents of someone’s wardrobe, and that someone must have been pretty well off. There were silk knee socks and a jacket, as well as a silk bodice embroidered in silver and gold.

But the most impressive piece was a damask gown with a high collar and ruffled sleeves—the kind of thing noblewomen or royalty might wear around the house. For the gown, anyway, the shipwreck had been a blessing; on land, exposed to air and moths, it would be in much worse shape than it is today. Professor Emmy de Groot of the University of Amsterdam called it “the Night Watch of the costume world.”

The wreck site also disgorged a variety of fancy-people artifacts, including pomander balls, a silver vessel, Italian pottery, spices, and leather-bound books. One of those books bears the coat of arms of King Charles I, which suggests that the ship’s passengers may have belonged to the royal house of Stuart.

The gown and other finds from the shipwreck are currently on display at Texel’s delightful Kaap Skil Maritime and Beachcombers’ Museum, and will return there permanently after they’re examined and treated by conservators.

Images from YouTube // Museum Kaap Skil Oudeschild, Texel

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26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

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