Oman, St Bartholomew, Buchinger, Species Guilt, Scientists

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

The Lost Tombs Of Oman

Oriol Alamany | Maptia | 23rd February 2016

Locals say the dozens of conical stone towers in the highlands of Oman were built by an ancient giant called Estemsah who ate the people of the valleys. More probably the towers are tombs, but no less wonderous for that. Re-discovered 20 years by an overflying helicopter pilot, they are all that remains of Magan, a Bronze Age civilisation which grew rich selling copper to Mesopotamia, desolated the landscape, and vanished (2,000 words)

A Most Violent Martyrdom

Tom Bissell | Lapham's Quarterly | 1st March 2016

"All apocryphal writing has its oddities, but the literature involving Bartholomew is highly peculiar. One episode involves the apostle learning secret cosmic knowledge from Mary the mother of Jesus, despite her warning that this information will destroy the world. Another has Jesus battling the six serpent sons of Death. In The Acts of Philip the apostles come across a talking baby goat and leopard who take Communion together" (2,450 words)

Mystery In Miniature

Christopher Benfey | New York Review of Books | 3rd March 2016

Born without hands or feet in Nuremberg in 1674, Matthias Buchinger engraved seemingly miraculous works of micrography and trompe l'oeil, including a self-portrait in which the curls of his wig comprised the tiny text of seven complete Psalms. An itinerant magician, he "never grew beyond the height of twenty-nine inches", and died at sixty-five, "having outlived three of his four wives and fathered fourteen children" (1,500 words)

Spirit Animals

Darrell Hartman | Granta | 11th February 2016

We feel "species guilt" about our triumph over nature. "We crave punishment." We want the big dangerous animals back. But we don't much want to get disembowelled in real life; much better to do our apologising and expiation through films — The Revenant, Jurassic Park, Godzilla. "Much of the pleasure we take in watching a juiced-up apex predator exterminate humans by the dozen is a creeping modern sense that we deserve it" (3,200 words)

Ingenious: Hope Jahren

Michael Segal | Nautilus | 3rd March 2016

Wonderfully intelligent and illuminating interview with geobiologist Hope Jahren about her life in science. Topics include the teaching of science, women in science, the language of science, the joy of the laboratory, conceptualising nature, and the love of trees. "The fundamental difference between a plant and an animal, is that if an animal doesn’t like where it is, it can get up and move away. Plants have to stay there and take it" (5,900 words)

Video of the day: Honda On Paper

What to expect: Stop-motion by PES for Honda. Everything done by hand and shot in camera (2'00")

Thought for the day

The more a person knows, the more things have gone wrong
Umberto Eco

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