more mysteries

Copy was created as a script for a YouTube channel. All words are original and property of Kate Weaver.

The Ice Fisherman

Imagine waking up on a cold, blustery winter morning in Minnesota and deciding to go ice fishing. The air is crisp and clear, the temperature well below freezing and the nearby lake, Lake Waconia, has just recently frozen over for the winter season. It’s prime time for some Arctic-style angling! This is precisely what one resident of Carver County, Minnesota decided to do on December 20th, 2016. Little did he know, however, that that was the morning that would change his life forever. 

For privacy purposes, we’ll call our ice fisherman…Steve. Steve packed up his gear and set out for a day of ice fishing. He was excited to participate in this Mid-West tradition and had even purchased some fancy new gear to help make his experience all the more immersive. Among his new “toys” was an underwater camera that could be held beneath the ice and scan for nearby fish. As “Steve” set up shop on the ice, he brought out his video camera and dropped it into the fishing hole he had carved into the frosty, fragile ice crust. As he scanned, he saw several varieties of his favorite fish, but the camera also picked up an object that was decidedly larger than any creature that lived under the ice. 

Nearly one month before, Andrew John Stifer, also a Carver County resident, had paddled out onto Lake Waconia before it froze over to indulge in one of his favorite pastimes; nature photography. His wife and two children were expecting him to arrive home that evening, but he never returned. A “Missing Persons” report was filed and an extensive search was launched by the Carver County Sheriff’s office. The search spanned the entire area around the lake and even included a highly trained dive team who were dispatched to search the very bottom of the lake. Andrew John Stifer was never found….

….until that day on the lake, that Steve took out his fancy new camera to scan for fish, only to discover the body of Mr. Stifer, frozen over and stuck beneath the ice. Steve promptly called the Sherriff’s department and notified him of what he had discovered. Divers were again dispatched to recover the body and Lt. Patrick Barry was tasked with the unfortunate job of informing Mrs. Stifer and her two children that their beloved husband and father would not be returning home. 

Dead Sea Scroll’s and World’s Oldest Basket

The importance of the (in)famous Dead Sea Scrolls and their impact on all major Western religions cannot be understated. Found by Bedouin Shepherds between 1946 and 1956, the Dead Sea Scrolls contained long-forgotten biblical texts and statutes pertaining to early Jewish and Hebrew religious practices. “The texts have great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon,” and fundamentally changed the perspective of Judeo-Christian scholars around the world. 

The Scrolls were found in the Qumran Caves in the Judean Desert, just off the northern coast of the Dead Sea in the Jordan Rift Valley. In the time since they were discovered, this sacred land has lain nearly silent. That all changed early last year when a team of Israeli archaeologists decided to take one more look at one cave in particular – the Cave of Horrors. The foreboding cave got its name after archaeologists discovered the skeletons of nearly forty men, women and children who had perished centuries ago, likely as they fled a crusading Roman legion. But the Cave of Horrors’ is also a Cave of Secrets. 

As the archaeologists repelled into the nearly inaccessible cave, they didn’t expect to find anything of great interest beyond the remaining artifacts left behind by the deceased group of people. But instead of clothing, baubles and other bits and pieces, the archaeologists discovered small bits of parchment that lay relatively untouched in a remote area of the cavern. Upon further examination, the bits of parchment were confirmed to be from the Dead Sea Scrolls. This discovery jolted the archaeological and historical communities around the world. New information on the origins of Judaism and Christianity? The find was practically unheard of. According to The Guardian, “The IAA [Israeli Antiquities Authority] said the scrolls it found were Greek translations of the books of Zechariah and Nahum from the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, and were radiocarbon-dated to the 2nd century AD. The name of God is written in Hebrew. One fragment read: “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates.”

Profound words from history indeed! 

Additionally, among the bits of parchment from the Dead Sea Scrolls, another even older artifact was found – a woven basket, now believed to be the oldest woven basket in the world. The basket stood nearly two feet wide and was found in near perfect condition. Carbon-dating places its creation nearly 10,000 years ago – well before the age of pottery and clay earthenware, making the discovery even more important to the overall understanding of human tool-making capabilities. 

So why was this hidden cave so full of history defining secrets? During the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian, war was waged against the Jewish population, forcing many into hiding. Roman legions would stalk and scour the territory north of the Dead Sea to root out any Jewish rebel factions who dared oppose the Emperor. But luckily, many of these rebels were able to escape with the aid of the complex cave systems that surround the Judean Desert. Their families were likely forced into hiding and took their most valuable items (the Jewish Bible!) with them into their secluded refuge to protect them from being destroyed. 

Perhaps what this goes to show is that even if a cave has a scary, stay-away-from-here name, you might just want to go explore it. You never know what you might find! 

3.6 Million Year Old Ancestor

Remember the iconic Beatles tune “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”? Of course you do! Perhaps you heard it on the radio, or listened to it on one of your parents’ old records, but perhaps you learned about it in your high school biology class. Many students across the globe will have heard the tale of the excavation team who first discovered “Lucy” or Australopithecus afarensis (as she’s known to scholars) one of the first “humans” ever discovered. The archaeologists would blast the Beatles tune around their campsite and when the time came to name their discovery, they had a certain song stuck in their head. 

For many years “Lucy” was thought to be the oldest “human” ever found, as she was able to walk upright (bipedal) and more closely resembled modern-day humans than she did modern-day apes. But a recent discovery had shed light on the history of our bipedal ancestors and revealed something quite shocking – we’ve been walking on two legs for a lot longer than we thought.

Described by some as “Lucy’s Great-Grandfather” a new hominid skeleton was recently unearthed during an archaeological dig in Ethiopia. Led by Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, an international team discovered the partial skeleton of an “advanced, human-like” creature than is far, far older than dear old Lucy. Like…400,000 years older. Nicknamed “Kadanuumuu” (meaning “big man” in the local language) the partially intact skeleton is that of a bipedal male who stood roughly five-and-a-half feet tall and had pelvic bones that allowed for an easy two-legged stride. “Lucy” was only three feet tall and likely had a much smaller gait than her newly discovered ancestor. 

So what does this tell us about the whole history of human evolution? Well, much of that answer remains to be analyzed, but what can be definitively stated is that, in terms of direct-ancestors, humanity is far older than previously realized. We were walking upright nearly four million years ago! The discovery of Australopithecus anamensis, as “Kadanuumuu” is scientifically known, has unequivocally changed the established chronology of human history and has given scientists infinitely more data to work with in their quest to understand our origins. 

Copy written by Kate Weaver on 3/22/2021

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