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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Were the Hyksos Western Europeans?

My previous post, about the possible linkage of the YDNA profiles of the Egyptian Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty to modern Western Europeans, raises an interesting question:

‘Is it totally off the map that there could indeed be a logical explanation – reflecting incursions by proto-Celtic / proto-Teutonic invaders into the Eastern Mediterranean?’

The willingness of many to even consider this hypothesis is a casualty of the general preoccupation of historians with states and boundaries at the expense of a complementary consideration of processes and movements.

Let’s start by arguing that the bounded and exclusive Roman Empire and the accompanying Pax Romana were aberrations - and by noting that this aberrant period was bracketed by aggressive folk wanderings from northern tribes that directly threatened Roman power.

Indeed Rome itself was attacked in 387BC by Gallic tribes from the Danube, and eventually sacked in 410AD by the Visigoths who originated in the Ukraine.

Clearly, many of these migrations had significant push factors like crop failures consequent on abnormal climatic conditions, natural disasters (like earthquakes, floods and tsunamis), overpopulation, and the domino effects stemming from attacks on and the displacement of neighboring tribes.

But there were also the lures of plunder, easy living and glory.

So, setting the Roman Empire aside as a block to what was really a recurrent process of wandering tribal banditry, could invaders from the North have penetrated as far as Egypt?

Well, we have the example of the Vandals who crossed into Africa in 429AD and took control of the Maghreb. They were quite capable of fitting out and operating a fleet to undertake the shift from Spain to North Africa and back-up their conquest of coastal towns.

All that was needed for these kinds of long journey collective pillaging expeditions was a strong tribal political organization and an open pathway, gained through violence, to the granaries and livestock sources of the villages, towns and cities that they looted. Once agriculture had become established, the road was clear.

Clearly though, this strategy was not for the squeamish – the available food resources could not feed both the inhabitants and the intruders – massacre and dispossession were part of the game.

It must have been quite a gamble having to feed a population that was constantly on the move and one can postulate that the possibility of continued success would be a function of the richness of the country ahead, the strength of the opposition, the distances at which foragers could range effectively, and the size of the horde.

Apparently Procopius asserted that the Vandals and Alans numbered 80,000 when they moved to North Africa, which implies fielding an army of around 15,000 – 20,000.

So could the YDNA of grandfather Amenhotep III, father Akenhaten and son Tutankhamen actually have originated in Western Europe?

Well, one can spin a plausible tale that the royal family descended from intruding hordes from the Atlantic Fringe. And we know that there were intruders like the chariot-riding Hyksos who appropriated the Nile Delta around 1700BC and then went on to conquer most of Egypt until they were eventually ‘driven out’ 150 years later.

We also know that politics being politics, the conquerors of a settled state often engage in dynastic marriages. It is perfectly possible then that the rulers of the 18th Dynasty preserved the YDNA of some of the former enemies of the Egyptian population at large – much like the later Ptolemies would have preserved the Greek YDNA of their forefathers.

So could the Hyksos have been proto-Celtic / proto-Teutonic? Surely we have to say ‘Yes, maybe’.

As the maps show, there are plenty of examples from the Dark Ages Volkswanderung of ‘long journeys’, as well as the more isolated example of the Cimbri who marauded south from the Jutland Peninsula and severely threatened Roman hegemony in the period 105-101BC.

As I’ve said, the main requirement was a strong political organization grounded on terror.

Strabo describes the system nicely in his remarks about the Cimbri (shame though that as a ‘Gradualist’ Geographer, he gave little credence to rumors of catastrophes like tsunamis):

‘Their wives, who would accompany them on their expeditions, were attended by priestesses who were seers; these were grey-haired, clad in white, with flaxen cloaks fastened on with clasps, girt with girdles of bronze, and bare-footed; now sword in hand these priestesses would meet with the prisoners of war throughout the camp, and having first crowned them with wreaths would lead them to a brazen vessel of about twenty amphorae.

And they had a raised platform which the priestess would mount, and then, bending over the kettle, would cut the throat of each prisoner after he had been lifted up; and from the blood that poured forth into the vessel some of the priestesses would draw a prophecy, while still others would split open the body and from an inspection of the entrails would utter a prophecy of victory for their own people; and during the battles they would beat on the hides that were stretched over the wicker-bodies of the wagons and in this way produce an unearthly noise.

As for the Cimbri, some things that are told about them are incorrect and others are extremely improbable. For instance, one could not accept such a reason for their having become a wandering and piratical folk as this that while they were dwelling on a Peninsula they were driven out of their habitations by a great flood-tide; for in fact they still hold the country which they held in earlier times; and they sent as a present to Augustus the most sacred kettle in their country, with a plea for his friendship and for an amnesty of their earlier offence.

And when their petition was granted they set sail for home; and it is ridiculous to suppose that they departed from their homes because they were incensed on account of a phenomenon that is natural and eternal, occurring twice every day. And the assertion that an excessive flood-tide once occurred looks like a fabrication, for when the ocean is affected in this way it is subject to increases and diminutions, but these are regulated and periodical.’

Well, it’s no skin of my gums whether or not I and many of my fellow Western Europeans are related more or less directly to a sickly inbred Egyptian boy king from 3,300 years ago – but it is an interesting conjecture!

But (and this will really get some people going) the theory could also be cited to explain the origins of the 10% of Ashkenazi Jews who test R1b - whose 'feet in ancient times walked upon Western Europe's green and pleasant land' - as there have long been conjectural links between the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt and the Exodus led by (Tut)Moses.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Eh Up - Trouble at Pyramid for Tuts


A friend (Tom Roberson) has recently reminded me of the speculation that has resulted from collaboration between Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and the University of Tübingen on exploring the family links between mummified members of the Thutmosid dynasty using YDNA testing – and the apparent finding that the males in the family fell into the R1B class (and possibly even the narrower R1b1b2 sub-class).

As the latter is now common in Western Europe, this has spurred all kinds of theories and fantasies about the racial and cultural antecedents of Egypt’s pharaohs, by commnetators who include racial supremacists, conspiracy theorists and a lady who calls herself Miriam ha Kedosha, Queen of Zion.

By freezing the frames on a video about the scientific research, Robert Tarin and others have deduced the following values for Tutankhamun’s YDNA:

456 (13-18) = 15
389i (9-16) = 13
390 (17-28) = 24
389ii (24-34) = 30
458 (14-20) = 16
19 (10-19) = 8/14 (dual peak)
385a (7-25) = 11
385b (7-25) = 14 (? not clear in video)
393 (8-17) = 13
391 (6-14) = 11
439 (8-15) = 10
635 (19-26) = 23
392 (6-18) = 13
YGATAH4 (8-13) = 11 (10 FtDNA nomenclature)
437 (13-18) = 9/14 (dual peak)
438 (8-13) = 12
448 (16-24) = 19.

Attempted matching of the 3,300-year DNA from the mummies with modern YDNA from males in Tunisia, and the Druze communities of the Levant has not been entirely convincing (if the deduced sequence is to be believed). And there are good historic reasons that could otherwise explain the occurrence of Western European YDNA in North Africa (the Vandal invasion) and the Eastern Mediterranean (Crusader incursions).

As ‘Maciamo’ Satyavrata commented on the Eupedia YDNA Forum, on 19 February, 2010:

‘The results appear to be R1b and indeed the European R1b1b2 rather than the Levantine/Egyptian R1b1a. R1b1b2 is quite rare in modern Egypt (2% of the population) and was assumed to have come mostly through the Greek and Roman occupation. R1b1a makes up 4% of the Egyptian male lineages and dates from the Paleolithic.

The 18th dynasty (starting in 1570 BCE) follows the period of Indo-European expansion to Europe (4300-2000 BCE), India, Persia and the Middle-East (1700-1500 BCE). The Hittites took over central Anatolia from 1750 BCE, and the Mitanni (of Indo-Iranian origin) ruled Syria from circa 1500 BCE.

Egypt's 18th dynasty inaugurated the New Kingdom after the Second Intermediate Period, when the Hyksos ("foreign rulers") took over power between 1650 and 1570 BCE. It is very possible that the 18th Dynasty was of Hyksos origin, which could be Hittite or of other Indo-European origin. The Hyksos were described as bowmen and cavalrymen wearing the cloaks of many colors associated with the mercenary Mitanni.

This strongly suggests an Indo-European origin indeed, as the steppe people were mounted archers, and the Mitanni are of proven Indo-European origin’.

Others have gone so far as to suggest a Scottish YDNA link – one that is closely related to my own ancestors, the descendants of the Brythonic-speaking ‘Owd Lads’ of Yr Hen Ogledd (The ‘Old North’ of England).

As can be seen from the chart below, the Pharaohs had more than a passing genetic resemblance to the McLeods - and similar if slightly lower levels of correspondence to the Shorrocks of Lancashire and the Davenports of Cheshire.


Well, in the light of my previous post which gave some prominence to one of my great heroes, the Lancashire-born comedian Les Dawson, the ‘Blood of the Pharaohs’ mystery has endless potential as a platform for reframing savage and exotic history within the severely ordinary back streets of Lancashire’s mill towns.

And as Les variously claimed at different times that Hitler was his mother-in-law and that he was the orphaned and abandoned heir to the Datsun fortune, it would be surprising if, had he been apprised of the recent scientific findings, he had refrained from claiming a familial link to the rulers of ancient Egypt.

And he would have played on the mutual distrust of mothers-in-law among the Lancastrians and their ancestors, the Egyptians.

Looking back three thousand years or more, Les would have surely sympathized in particular with the Pharaoh Thutmose III who ‘succeeded his mother in law Hatshepsut with her death, and revenged himself by defacing her monuments’.

As he recalled in a famous conversation with the singer Shirley Bassey:

‘I slept badly last night. I suffered from my hideous recurrent nightmare that my mother-in-law is chasing me down the Nile with a crocodile on a lead. I was wearing nothing but a pith helmet and a pair of gannet spats.

I could smell the hot rancid breath on the back of my neck, hear those great jaws snapping in anger, and see those great yellow eyes full of primeval hatred devouring me’.

‘Oh how terrible’, says Shirley.

‘That’s nothing’ says Les. ‘Let me tell you about the crocodile’.


[by Ker Than, Fox News, February 17, 2010]

The face of the linen-wrapped mummy of King Tutankhamun is shown above. It seems that Egypt's famed King Tutankhamun suffered from a cleft palate and club foot, likely forcing him to walk with a cane, and died from complications from a broken leg exacerbated by malaria, according to the most extensive study ever of his mummy.

King Tut may be seen as the golden boy of ancient Egypt today, but during his reign, Tutankhamun wasn't exactly a strapping sun god. Instead, a new DNA study says, King Tut was a frail pharaoh, beset by malaria and a bone disorder—and possibly compromised by his newly discovered incestuous origins.

The report is the first DNA study ever conducted with ancient Egyptian royal mummies. It apparently solves several mysteries surrounding King Tut, including how he died and who his parents were. In conjunction with a press conference in Egypt, many new photographs of the family of mummies have been made available.

"He was not a very strong pharaoh. He was not riding the chariots," said study team member Carsten Pusch, a geneticist at Germany's University of Tübingen. "Picture instead a frail, weak boy who had a bit of a club foot and who needed a cane to walk."

Regarding the revelation that King Tut's mother and father were brother and sister, Pusch said. "Inbreeding is not an advantage for biological or genetic fitness.

Normally the health and immune system are reduced and malformations increase," he said.

DNA testing of the world famous mummy of King Tutankhamun have unlocked the boy-king's secrets.

From tombs more than 4,000 years old to the Great Pyramids of Giza to mummies, the latest archaeology finds from ancient Egypt's vibrant history.

Tutankhamun was a pharaoh during ancient Egypt's New Kingdom era, about 3,300 years ago. He ascended to the throne at the age of 9 but ruled for only ten years before dying at 19. Despite his brief reign, King Tut is perhaps Egypt's best known pharaoh because of the wealth of treasures—including a solid gold death mask—found during the surprise discovery of his intact tomb in 1922.

The new study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, marks the first time the Egyptian government has allowed genetic studies to be performed using royal mummies.

"This will open to us a new era," said project leader Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

"I'm very happy this is an Egyptian project and I'm very proud of the work that we did."


In the new study, the mummies of King Tut and ten other royals that researchers have long suspected were his close relatives were examined. Of these ten, the identities of only three had been known for certain.

Using DNA samples taken from the mummies' bones, the scientists were able to create a five-generation family tree for the boy pharaoh.

The team looked for shared genetic sequences in the Y chromosome—a bundle of DNA passed only from father to son—to identify King Tut's male ancestors. The researchers then determined parentage for the mummies by looking for signs that a mummy's genes are a blend of a specific couple's DNA.

In this way, the team was able to determine that a mummy known until now as KV55 is the "heretic king" Akenhaten—and that he was King Tut's father. Akenhaten was best known for abolishing ancient Egypt's pantheon in favor of worshipping only one god.

Furthermore, the mummy known as KV35 was King Tut's grandfather, the pharaoh Amenhotep III, whose reign was marked by unprecedented prosperity.

Preliminary DNA evidence also indicates that two stillborn fetuses entombed with King Tut when he died were daughters whom he likely fathered with his chief queen Ankhensenamun, whose mummy may also have finally been identified.

Also, a mummy previously known as the Elder Lady is Queen Tiye, King Tut's grandmother and wife of Amenhotep III.

King Tut's mother is a mummy researchers had been calling the Younger Lady.

While the body of King Tut's mother has finally been revealed, her identity remains a mystery. DNA studies show that she was the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye and thus was the full sister of her husband, Akhenaten.

Some Egyptologists have speculated that King Tut's mother was Akenhaten's chief wife, Queen Nefertiti—made famous by an iconic bust. But the new findings seem to challenge this idea, because historical records do not indicate that Nefertiti and Akenhaten were related.

Instead, the sister with whom Akenhaten fathered King Tut may have been a minor wife or concubine, which would not have been unusual. Doing so would not have been unusual, said Willeke Wendrich, a UCLA Egyptologist who was not involved in the study.

"Egyptian pharaohs had multiple wives, and often multiple sons who would potentially compete for the throne after the death of their father," Wendrich said. Inbreeding would also not have been considered unusual among Egyptian royalty of the time.


The team's examination of King Tut's body also revealed previously unknown deformations in the king's left foot caused by the necrosis, or death, of bone tissue.

"Necrosis is always bad because it means you have dying organic matter inside your body," study team member Pusch told National Geographic News.

The affliction would have been painful and forced King Tut to walk with a cane—many of which were found in his tomb—but it would not have been life threatening.
Malaria, however, would have been a serious danger.

The scientists found DNA from the mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria in the young pharaoh's body—the oldest known genetic proof of the disease.

The team found more than one strain of malaria parasite, indicating that King Tut caught multiple malarial infections during his life. The strains belong to the parasite responsible for malaria tropica, the most virulent and deadly form of the disease.

The malaria would have weakened King Tut's immune system and interfered with the healing of his foot. These factors, combined with the fracture in his left thighbone, which scientists had discovered in 2005, may have ultimately been what killed the young king, the authors write.

Until now the best guesses as to how King Tut died have included a hunting accident, a blood infection, a blow to the head, and poisoning.

UCLA's Wendrich said the new finding "lays to rest the completely baseless theories about the murder of Tutankhamun."


Another speculation apparently laid to rest by the new study is that Akhenaten had a genetic disorder that caused him to develop the feminine features seen in his statutes, including wide hips, a potbelly, and the female-like breasts associated with the condition gynecomastia.

When the team analyzed Akenhaten's body using medical scanners, no evidence of such abnormalities were found. Hawass and his team concluded that the feminized features found in the statues of Akenhaten created during his reign were done for religious and political reasons.

In ancient Egypt, Akhenaten was a god, Hawass explained. "The poems said of him, 'you are the man, and you are the woman,' so artists put the picture of a man and a woman in his body."

Egyptologist John Darnell of Yale University called the revelation that Akhenaten's appearance was not due to genetic disorders "the most important result" of the new study.

In his book Tutankhamun's Armies, Darnell proposes that Akhenaten's androgynous appearance in art was an attempt to associate himself with Aten, the original creator god in Egyptian theology, who was neither male nor female.

"Akenhaten is odd in his appearance because he belongs to the time of creation, not because he was physically different," said Darnell, who also did not participate in the DNA research.

"People will now need to consider Akenhaten as a thinker, and not just as an Egyptian Quasimodo."


The generally good condition of the DNA from the royal mummies of King Tut's family surprised many members of the team. Indeed, its quality was better than DNA gathered from nonroyal Egyptian mummies several centuries younger, study co-author Pusch said.

The DNA of the Elder Lady, for example, "was the most beautiful DNA that I've ever seen from an ancient specimen," Pusch said. The team suspects that the embalming method the ancient Egyptians used to preserve the royal mummies inadvertently protected DNA as well as flesh.

"The ingredients used to embalm the royals was completely different in both quantity and quality compared to the normal population in ancient times," Pusch explained. Preserving DNA "was not the aim of the Egyptian priest of course, but the embalming method they used was lucky for us."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Muxt-Up but Disadvantage Persists


Susan Saulny is running an interesting series of articles in the New York Times on the increasing homogenization of the American population through accelerating ethnic mixing (see video above).

The articles so far are:

• ‘Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above’ (30 January)
• ‘Counting by Race Can Throw Off Some Numbers’ (10 February)
• ‘Black and White and Married in the Deep South: A Shifting Image’ (20 March).

And the New York Times is also giving its readers the opportunity to illustrate their multi-ethnic ancestry by providing an interactive plotter – see: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/us/family-trees.html?ref=us#index. You can try this out yourself.

Taken overall though, the process of mixing in the USA (see illustrations) is simply part of a worldwide trend that is quickening exponentially.

With respect to my own family, my step-father once commented around 1960, that even though he had only moved during his lifetime a mere 5 miles from a farm in Church Minshull, Cheshire to a farm in Wettenhall, Cheshire, he was still regarded as a ‘strug’ (i.e. stranger) by the locals after a ten year residency.

He, his mother and father, and their parents (7 in all) were all born and lived within a small group of villages in South Cheshire.

As for me, I was radically unusual in having a father who originated in London (though his father had migrated to London from Lancashire). My mother used to tell the story of my father’s terrible faux pas as an in-comer from the South of England in referring to Shav(v)-ington as Shav(e)-ington.

In fact, my family mix was extremely exotic in comparison to that of my primary school contemporaries, with representatives in my own 14 immediate ancestors from London, Norfolk, Hampshire, Northamptonshire, Lancashire and Cheshire.

And these ancestors were spread across the North-South Divide (see map).

Which again sparks a whimsical comparison with the USA, where the New York Times is running an ever excellent series of articles on ‘Disunion’, noting that, in the country’s most perilous period ‘One hundred and fifty years ago, Americans went to war with themselves’.

In England, a war between the North and the South has never actually broken out, though tensions still simmer.

However, the possibility and evolution of such a conflict has been enshrined in literature – notably Les Dawson’s ‘Come Back with the Wind’ which draws its inspiration from ‘Gone with the Wind’.

The Civil War / War Between the Counties is seen as having resulted from ‘generations of class oppression and impoverishment’, which even bring together arch rivals Yorkshire and Lancashire to take on ‘the warm, unmanly South’.

And as Secession takes hold, Northerners increasingly opt for the new Confederacy, 'from the depressed ghettos of Tyneside and Glasgow to the silent docks of Liverpool and Hull', under a battle standard displaying Yorkshire Pudding and Lancashire Black Pudding on a background of chips (i.e. French Fries).

As in the USA, the North eventually triumphs, with the melodrama focusing on Henley-on-Thames, where as the war draws to a close, the noble Ashley Whelks fights with dubious Albert 'Red' Butler for the hand and more of Carla O'Mara. While a semblance of their old life continues as a backdrop for passion, and mint juleps are sipped on the verandahs of portico-fringed mansions by the Thames, the Northern armies grow ever nearer, bombarding Henley with puddings (of both the Yorkshire and small goods varieties).

As Les says (echoing Abraham Lincoln):

'For years in the South you have allowed the economic conditions of the industrial north to go unchecked. Promises were made and broken. In a country as small as ours it is inconceivable that so little is known about the northern way of life to anyone living south of Watford Gap.'

Judging from the recent article below, not much has changed.


[by Jeremy Laurance, UK Independent, 16 February 2011]

The risk of dying in the North is 22% higher than in the South East of England. The health divide between the North and South of the country is at its widest for 40 years and is claiming the lives of tens of thousands of people before their time, a study has found.

Every year 37,000 people – enough to fill a football stadium – die in the North earlier than their counterparts in the South. But all efforts to narrow the gap have failed. Premature deaths before the age of 75 are a fifth higher in the North, and the gap has changed little since the 1960s. It even widened between 2000 and 2008 despite government expenditure of £20bn on initiatives supposed to close it.

The divide has persisted despite large improvements in health in all regions of the country over the past 40 years. Death rates have fallen by 50 per cent in men and 40 per cent in women since 1965, with both the North and South seeing similar reductions. But the North has never caught up with the South and, in the last decade, seems to be slipping further behind.

Researchers warned yesterday that the excess toll of ill health and disability in the North was "decimating [the region] at the rate of one major city every decade". It is certain to get worse as the effects of the recession are felt disproportionately in the North.

Iain Buchan, professor of public health informatics at the University of Manchester, who led the study, which was published online in the British Medical Journal, said that genetic, climatic and environmental differences could "in no way" account for the gap.

Rather than pinning the blame on differences in lifestyle such as smoking and drinking, the key factor behind the gap was money, he said.

"The counter-intuitive fact is that the behavioural differences we can measure account for just one fifth of the gap. The difference in smoking, for example, accounts for only 14 per cent [of the northern excess deaths]. But there is a large body of evidence that shows that the amount of disposable income has a much greater effect.

"Social and economic factors are extremely reliable predictors of health. If you put more resources into an area, or take them out, its health will improve or decline. It would be unheard of for economic growth not to translate into better health."

The health divide mirrors the income disparity between North and South, the researchers say. The "gross value added per head" – a measure of the state of the local economy – was 40 per cent higher in the South than the North in 2008, having risen from 25 per cent in 1989.

The cash people had to spend – their "disposable income" – was more than 26 per cent higher in the South, up from 21 per cent in 1995, even after allowing for the higher cost of living.

Professor Buchan said the North-South divide had persisted since 1066 and reflected a London-centric nation with power and money concentrated in the South for the last 1,000 years.

Benjamin Disraeli wrote that England was a tale of two countries and William Farr, the 19th-century epidemiologist and founder of medical statistics, blamed the divide on the habit of healthier people in the North migrating to better-off areas in the South, leaving their sickly peers behind.

Migration may still be a factor maintaining the divide but is unlikely to be a major one, the researchers say. Spending on the NHS is inadequate in the North, relative to the high health needs.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee accused the Government of failing to address the shortage of GPs in the North in its report on health inequalities last October. Two-thirds of the areas with the highest deprivation were failing to get the money they were due for dealing with excess ill health, it said.

Professor Buchan said the failure of the huge injection of funds by the previous Labour government to close the health gap demonstrated the difficulty of overcoming the social and economic forces driving North and South apart.

"We have to target business development in the North – the South is overworked. The challenge is to have an investment strategy to make the country less London-centric. If we want better health in the North it has to go hand in hand with social and economic change."


House prices

The value of homes in the South rose last year, led by a 6.3 per cent increase in London. Average prices dipped in the North, with the North-east experiencing a 3.3 per cent fall, according to the Land Registry.

In 2008, average disposable household income was £19,038 in London and £16,792 in the South-east, according to the Office for National Statistics. This was against £12,543 in the North-east. London households earned more than 28 per cent over the national average in 2008.


In the 12 months ending June 2010, the highest unemployment rate in Britain was in Kingston-upon-Hull, East Yorkshire, at 14 .1 per cent, followed by Blaenau Gwent in Wales at 13.8 per cent. The region with the narrowest spread of unemployment rates was the South-west, where the highest rate of unemployment was found in Torbay, at 8.8 per cent.

Shops lying vacant

The Local Data Company described a "large and growing" divide. In 2010, 90 per cent of the top 25 large towns with the highest vacancies were in the Midlands or North, with 28 per cent of stores in Rotherham vacant. Big shopping centres in London and the South-east were said to be "holding up well".

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tūrangawaewae of Lost Content


In a recent article, I touched on the problems that the Ethnic English have to face in re-shaping their identity to the modern world. This is an identity that has for some become stuck in mythical time-warped lands like Heartbeat Country and Midsomer County – places where, once upon a time, either nothing too nasty ever happened, or, if it did, it was at least framed by crunchy, graveled drives, dormer windows and exposed beams.

As Housman so wistfully versified:

‘What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content’.

So, as I am now a member of an at least nominally bi-cultural society, it is interesting to observe how Maori are coping with the need for the next ‘Cultural Refresh’ here in New Zealand.

And they have some great words that bear on the adjustment process, like rangatiratanga (tribal identity), tangata whenuatanga (collective affinity to a locale), mana (pride of stance), taonga (tribal treasures) and turangawaewae.

The latter is particularly interesting as it describes something that Europeans find hard to call:

‘Tūrangawaewae are places where Maori feel especially empowered and connected and that they can call “our foundation, our place in the world, our home”. The word is a compound of tūranga (standing place) and waewae (feet), and it is often translated simply as ‘a place to stand’.

Let’s start then with the haka (see story below and the embedded video).


[by Michelle Duff, Dominion Post, 18/03/2011]

‘Before the first drops of ink had touched the document, the kaumatua (tribal elder) of the Ngati Toa tribe / iwi, Mr Taku Parai gestured to the weapon on the table.

The sleek greenstone mere had belonged to his ancestor, the famed chief Te Rauparaha.

With a grin, Mr Parai told New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew that the weapon would not have to be used on this occasion.

"It does have a few dents, though," he joked, before the pair signed a historic agreement between Ngati Toa and the union, giving the All Blacks the right to continue performing the Ka Mate haka.

The haka, which has been performed with varying degrees of success by All Black teams since 1905, has been widely used since the 1980s and featured heavily in NZRU advertising. It is said to have been first performed by Te Rauparaha.

Ngati Toa has filed an application with the Intellectual Property Office to trademark phrases in Ka Mate, to prevent its misuse.

It has previously been reprised by the Spice Girls, and appeared in a Japanese Coca-Cola advertisement and on tourist merchandise.

It has taken the NZRU and Ngati Toa months to come to the agreement, of which the exact details are still confidential.

At Porirua's Takapuwahia Marae yesterday, Mr Parai said it was a step forward for both parties.

"We look forward to future dialogue we know we've come a long way since 1905 when the haka was first performed, with little Tinkerbell fingers and one foot."

He issued a challenge to the All Blacks to attend Ngati Toa haka training, saying afterwards it would give them a chance to "see what the spirit of the haka means to us as a people, and carry it for the nation".

There was no financial aspect to the contract, but Mr Parai said this would be discussed in the future.

‘Mr Tew said it would be a privilege to perform Ka Mate with Ngati Toa's formal blessing, and did not rule out attending a practice session. "Signing this agreement confirms an understanding that has been in place for some time ... what we've done is captured it in a document that will outlive the people who are standing here now."


Reviewing a new exhibition at the Pataka Museum that covers ‘The Pa [Maori stockade settlements] of Porirua’, (on the western coast of the Wellington conurbation), Dominion journalist Bronwen Torrie reminds us of the end game of ‘The lost world of Te Rauparaha’ (Te Rauparaha is the Maori chief who is the reputed author of the Ka Mate haka).

Te Rauparaha (1760s-1849) was a Maori chief and war leader of the Ngāti Toa tribe who took a leading part in the pre-European Musket Wars in Aotearoa – New Zealand. For the 20 years prior to the onset of European colonization in 1840, his coalition of tribal forces, armed with muskets purchased from British traders, dominated both shores of the Cook Strait. He was known then as the Napoleon of the South Pacific.

However, Te Rauparaha’s political power and influence ebbed away after he was arrested by the British in 1846. His chief settlement the Taupo Pa was then forsaken and its wooden palisades rotted away. It has therefore been entirely appropriate for the agreement between Ngati Toa and the NZ Rugby Union on the future use of Te Rauparaha’s haka to be signed at the modern replacement for the Taupo Pa, the Takapuwahia Marae in Porirua.

But if we want to study cultural change and adjustment, it is hard to find more abrupt shifts than those faced by Maori like Te Rauparaha. What lands of lost content must he have mused of in his confinement?

And there is also an Island Bay connection here (known as Tapu-te-Ranga to Maori).

At some time around 1800, a high-born Maori princess named Tamairangi (reputedly of strong character and great beauty) crossed Cook Strait to marry into the Ngati Ira iwi which then controlled Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) and the Porirua area. There were at least two children from her marriage to the chief Whanake, one of whom was a son Te Kekerengu.

In the early 1800s Tamairangi queened her way around Cook Strait, as a local celebutante. Apparently, when she travelled she was carried on a litter by male attendants and on public occasions she wore the finest of new cloaks and carried a carved taiaha (battle mace).

All this came to an abrupt halt in the 1820s when the area was encroached on by the Ngati Toa from Taranaki and their allies the Ngati Tama and the Ngati Mutunga. Te Rauparaha and his nephew Te Rangihaeata were the master minds of this coercive colonisation.

For the first few years an uneasy peace prevailed, broken by occasional skirmishes and squabbles over food resources and living areas. However, about 1824, the Ngati Mutunga chief Te Poki, uneasy about the future security of his people, put forward the idea of a pre-emptive attack on the Ngati Ira.

Eventually, the Ngati Ira were overwhelmed and Tamairangi, her children, and a remnant of their people took refuge on the small, rocky island called Tapu-te-ranga in present day Island Bay, Wellington. A stone-walled pa had been built on the island, to the east of the main rock.

However, when Ngati Mutunga arrived to attack the pa, Tamairangi's people put her and her children in a canoe, and they escaped westward by way of Rimurapa (Sinclair Head) to Ohariu. There they were captured by a party of Ngati Mutunga.

Thinking that she was about to be killed, Tamairangi asked permission of her captors to make a formal farewell to her lands and her people. She sang a waiata (song, prayer or poem) she had composed, of such beauty and pathos that Te Rangihaeata, who was visiting Ngati Mutunga, was moved to offer Tamairangi and her family his protection. He took them with him to Kapiti Island.

But Tamairangi's handsome and headstrong son Te Kekerengu seduced one of Te Rangihaeata's wives and they had to flee again, crossing Cook Strait to Arapawa Island, Tamairangi's old family home. When rumours reached them of Ngati Toa attacks south of Cook Strait they fled further southwards and took refuge with the large South Island Ngai Tahu iwi.

Tragically for Ngai Tahu, granting asylum to Te Kekerangu's coincided with Te Rauparaha's plans to attack them to wrest away control of the trade in greenstone (used for war clubs and jewellery). In a creative PR exercise, Te Rauparaha was therefore able to claim that avenging the slight to Te Rangihaeata's honour justified his aggression.

Late in the year 1829 a large Ngati Toa war party headed by Te Rauparaha attacked the northern Ngaitahu stronghold at Kaikoura and massacred large numbers of the garrison. It seems that the Ngai Tahu regarded Te Kekerangu as the main cause of their misfortune and subsequently executed him.


Now all these events are not really that distant. New Zealand is a young country.

Earlier in the year, my young son Sam was fossicking in a rock pool along the Island Bay shoreline and he found a piece of stone that looked to my eye to be a Maori club or ‘mere' (see photo below).

I took it dutifully to our national museum Te Papa and had it assessed by the Curator of Maori Taonga. She was unable to confirm that it was man-made and let me keep it.

I do think though that its resting place just across the inlet to Tapu-te-Ranga makes it a possible witness to Tamairangi’s defeat and flight in 1824. And something a woman curator perhaps would not understand so well – it feels just right in balance and weight if you are seeking to use it to break open someone’s skull.

The adjustments then that have been forced on Maori since 1840 have been huge.

Not long after I settled in New Zealand in the early 1990s, my employer, the NZ Ministry of Energy, funded me to undertake a 2-day residential course on Maori culture and the Treaty of Waitangi. This was held at the Raukawa Marae (meeting house)in Otaki. The campus included the adjoining and beautifully crafted Rangiatea Church that had been built in the period 1849-1850, under the direction of an Anglican missionary the Reverend Octavius Hadfield.

And it was the great Te Rauparaha, no less, lately released from his captivity on a British warship, who sponsored the construction of the church, believing that European cultural influences were becoming irresistible - though he himself remained sturdily pagan.

The course that I attended was led by Professor Whatarangi Winiata, who has Ngati Toa affiliations and who subsequently became the founding Tumuaki (Vice-Chancellor) of the Maori university at Otaki, Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa. A kindly and wise man, during his presentation, he made what I thought at the time was a rather too obvious statement.

He pointed out that on a recent visit to England, he had again been struck by the one-to-one correspondences between English culture and New Zealand culture – everything from tea and scones to driving on the left hand side of the road.

But in the tradition of great Maori chiefs he was speaking softly, expecting that those who were prepared to listen would hear beyond the words. In essence, he was drawing attention to European indifference at the degree to which Maori culture had been casually supplanted by banal and mundane Englishness - in essence, a process of Midsomer-ization.

So what of those who complain about the erosion of Englishness in The Shires?

Perhaps they could do worse than recognize the plight and fight-back of indigenous cultures like that of the New Zealand Maori which were initially overwhelmed by colonization and that now face further threats from globalization and the sameness of modernity.

It’s great to see the haka performed at Twickenham – and just maybe we may see a version licensed for use by England one day!

Let’s all get then on with saving the best from the past and making the best of the future.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The boy can grow old but you struggle to take the pastiche out of the country


The old saying about genre de vie nostalgia was that ‘You could take the boy out of the country – but you couldn't take the country out of the boy’. Well nowadays, given the reconstruction and continuity possible on TV soft soaps, the country can be set in amber and the boy can avoid growing up altogether.

Back in 1969, I had a Zen moment that has always stayed with me. I was out riding a stock horse on Montejinni Cattle Station in the Northern Territory of Australia, in a brief foray with the station stockmen and jackeroos to hunt some cattle out of the home bush.

If this sounds impossibly romantic, I have to add that I was a barely competent horseman and that this was a brief interlude, indulged by a kindly station (i.e. ranch) manager, in data gathering for my PhD on the economics of transporting beef cattle by road.

While doing my best not to make a complete fool of myself, I chatted to an aboriginal (or Koori, if that is preferred) stockman as we rode along. ‘What tribe you from boss?” he asked, “New South Wales tribe or Victoria tribe?” “Ah”, I said, “I’m from England – the old tribe”.

His approach to unraveling my background has always stuck with me and I have often described myself half-jokingly in Australia and New Zealand as ‘ethnic English’ or an ‘English aboriginal’.

So I easily warm to evaluate TV dramatizations of my tribe in its native state. And to responding now on the ongoing spate of comments about the soft soap ‘Heartbeat’ (set in the North Yorkshire Moors) and the mock-gothic, mini-film series ‘Midsomer Murders’ (set somewhere rural between Slough and Ipswich).

For starters with respect to Heartbeat, although I am (as Jane Clifton describes below) someone who was ‘a young adult in the 1960s – in other words, at the older end of the baby boomers’, I left rural Cheshire in 1962 and have only lived there subsequently for short periods of time.

I have some sympathy though with the nostalgia invoked and the winning over of the rest of the audience ‘by the inevitably eccentric characters of the inevitably cosy little English village’. And I can answer Jane’s question: ‘Did the 1960s really passed as slowly as this?’ in the affirmative.

Let’s not get too carried away though. There was real poverty among the families of farm workers (with some reputedly reduced to filling their ‘snap tins’ / lunch boxes with Kit-e-Kat sandwiches). There were also higher levels of child mortality with diseases like polio, tetanus and meningitis being much feared.

And the possibility of a ‘4 Minute Warning’ of a nuclear attack on the UK by the Soviet Union was a day-to-day fact of life.

Turning to Midsomer Murders, the rules of the game are interesting:

What's allowed:-
‘Hidden vices provide the opportunity for blackmail and a motive for bumping people off. Simple adultery is too suburban so it must be spiced up with incest and illicit lesbianism. S&M is also practiced behind those generous drives. Drug addiction is acceptable, usually practiced by spoilt little rich girls - Midsomer has also fought off an outbreak of witchcraft, sorcery and pagan rituals’.

What's not:-
‘Swearing is clearly not acceptable along with non-S&M sex scenes – that would be weird. Despite the no-ethnic-minorities rule, Midsomer did once show its contempt for a group of New Age travellers’.

So how does all this stack up with the reality of 1960s rural life?

Apart from the drugs and murders, there is a fairly reasonable fit. There were gruff, tweed-clad ladies of indeterminate sexual preferences, odd male couples who hid together in small cottages behind the smithy, and much feared visits by gypsies who would leave mysterious marks on the farm gate to record their displeasure at harsh words or a refusal to buy their clothes pegs.

As for racial diversity (see second story below) – well there wasn’t any - though one little orphan boy from Liverpool who was adopted by cottagers was held to be somewhat brown-skinned.

However things have changed in the country as a whole over the last 50 years and you can’t have late model cars, cell phones, conservatories and pop stars without widening the overall social context.

Returning to the days when strangers were absent and cars were restricted to the middling sort and above (so that traffic didn’t disturb the scenery) would also mean, among other things, re-winding some important advances in medicine and social tolerance.

And the English are not alone in struggling with modernizing their tribal affinities.

Here in New Zealand, Maori leaders flounder in taking into account the one in five of NZ Maori who have lost their tribal affiliations and who are characterized as urban Maori ‘from the four winds’ (Ngā Hau e Whā) and the tens of thousands of Maori who have crossed The Ditch to settle in Australia as ‘Ngati Kangaru’.

The problem then with associating ‘Englishness’ or another form of romantic nationalism (try the Serbs if you want an eye-opener here) with a particular time and type of place is that nothing is permanent. Those who love the decorative, monochrome misfits who populate Midsomer had better be sure that - if they are not simply seeking evening chuddy for the mind - they haven’t still got some growing up to do.

[For further posts in this Blog on related issues see, for example: 2nd March 2010 'The Anthropology of the Indigenous English', and 11th February 2010 'Heart's Ease and Solastalgia]


[by Jane Clifton, The Dominion Post, 16/03/2011]

‘Nostalgia is all very well but in the UKTV’s “new” Monday series ‘Heartbeat’, it’s been 1965 for 18 years now, which is a long time for frosted, shell-pink lippy and boxy Anglias to endure.

The channel has billed the show as back by popular demand, which suggests there are a lot of ageing baby boomers out there.

The 1960’s-set light police drama is one of Britain’s longest-running TV programmes, having begun in 1992 and being technically still in production – though its maker ITV says it is currently ‘resting’ the last series having finished filming last year. It has toyed with axing it but viewer backlash in Britain would apparently be too strong.

The return of heartbeat here (in NZ) starting this week with its 10th series made in 2001, is a fascinating snapshot of how TV programming has changed. In the 1990’s this was one of TV One’s top shows and got prime time scheduling. In recent years, it’s had a run on Saturday afternoons when one but the beadiest-eyed viewer will have even registered its existence.

So how is it standing up? About as well as a comfy, holey old jersey that you’re fond of but that you wouldn’t be seen wearing other than for gardening.

Its appeal always relied heavily on nostalgia among those who were young adults in the 1960s – in other words, the older end of the baby boomers. The rest of us, if not won over by the inevitably eccentric characters of the inevitably cosy little English village, were tempted to wonder if the 1960s really passed as slowly as this.

It is also startling how many police officers – suspiciously many of them young, male and nice-looking – were deployed in such a peaceful little territory. There seem to be about six, but it’s the wise, old retired copper (Derek Fowlds) who seems to do most of the heavy lifting whenever there’s ‘trubble at t’mill’.

And if there is anything he can’t sort out, the district nurse (Kazia Pelka) generally can, so this is shameful over-manning at the cop shop.

And how, in just a few years from here, we arrived at Gene Hunt in ‘Life on Mars’ or even the ancient Carter and Regan on ‘The Sweeney’, doesn’t bear careful examination.

Perhaps though the show’s innocence and gentleness is the secret of its longevity – the notion that once upon a time, nothing too nasty ever happened. Gangsters, bikies, fraudsters and the like did crop up in the dear old 1960s, but were easily brought to book, and often turned out to be misunderstood / nice underneath / more sinned against than sinning.

They were no match for canny folk in an English village, where assorted busy-body aunts, rascally poachers and keen young coppers were all happy to be part of a caring community, to an eternal sound track of The Hollies, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Petula Clark.


[by Anthony Barnes, Press Association – UK Independent, 16/03/2011]

The producer of long-running TV hit Midsomer Murders, Brian True-May has been suspended by TV production company All3Media, after sparking a row when he claimed part of the show's appeal was an absence of ethnic minorities.

He told Radio Times the ITV1 programmes - which have run for 14 series - "wouldn't work" if there was any racial diversity in the village life.

True-May, the drama's co-creator who has been with it since day one, said: "We just don't have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn't be the English village with them. It just wouldn't work.

"Suddenly we might be in Slough. Ironically, Causton (one of the main centres of population in the show) is supposed to be Slough. And if you went into Slough you wouldn't see a white face there.

"We're the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way," he added.
An ITV spokesman said: "We are shocked and appalled at these personal comments by Brian True-May which are absolutely not shared by anyone at ITV.

"We are in urgent discussions with All3Media, the producer of Midsomer Murders, who have informed us that they have launched an immediate investigation into the matter and have suspended Mr True-May pending the outcome."

Midsomer Murders, based on the books by Caroline Graham, was launched in 1997 and has featured 251 deaths, 222 of which were murders.

But True-May said he has not previously been tackled about the programme's failure to reflect "cosmopolitan" society.

"It's not British, it's very English. We are a cosmopolitan society in this country, but if you watch Midsomer you wouldn't think so.

"I've never been picked up on that, but quite honestly I wouldn't want to change it," he said.

True-May has also banned swearing, violence and sex scenes from the show but his idyllic formula does not stop challenging storylines, or other elements of diversity which do not involve ethnicity.

"If it's incest, blackmail, lesbianism, homosexuality... terrific, put it in, because people can believe that people can murder for any of those reasons," he told Radio Times.

The series returns this week with a new star, Neil Dudgeon, who has joined the cast as DCI John Barnaby, replacing actor John Nettles (DCI Tom Barnaby) as the central character.

Mirroring the way the programme, which is broadcast to 231 territories around the world, avoids portraying racial variation, so ethnic minorities apparently avoid the show. A study in 2006 found to be "strikingly unpopular" with minorities'.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Evolution of Waifs and the Bootylicious


My last Blog post was about hand bags and the reassurance that tastes in accessories have stayed remarkably similar over the last five millennia. A neolithic Trinny and her fellow tribal fashionistas would luck on very agreeable communal gathering in modern retail outlets – setting aside their necessity to pay in pelts and pots.

So what about the women themselves – have they stayed true to form?

If we look back further through prehistory to the palaeolithic era and pure hunter-gatherer societies, there are surviving figurines – like the Venus of Willendorf statuette - that glorify over-indulged and over-endowed women. Does this mean that such women were common or that they were simply more highly valued?

It seems hard to believe that many of the women in hunter-gatherer bands had consistently high access to surplus food, or prolonged absences from strenuous exercise, or the longevity to get fat. I imagine them to be more like Melissa Moon (pictured above) than Oprah.

For non-Kiwi readers Melissa is a New Zealand athlete who won the 33rd Empire State Building Run-Up in 2010, racing up 86 flights — 1,576 steps — to the outdoor observation deck of the landmark New York skyscraper. I am sure that the more curvaceous Oprah Winfrey requires less introduction.

The conventional wisdom has been that – steatopygiac voodoo dolls aside – ancient hunter-gatherer females were like those of contemporary similar societies like the Khoisan of Botswana and the Semang and Sakai of Malaysia. That is that they were small and thin.

Likely, they are typified by the Baka of Cameroon, for example, where few are over 5 feet tall and weigh more than 100 pounds, giving them an average BMI of under 20.


Jeremy Laurance explores the evolution of amplitude in his article ‘In search of the leanest genes’ (UK Independent of 15 March 2011) and in this we can pick up on the insights of current researchers including Professor O’Rahilly of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge:

‘The key question, he says, is not why so many people are fat, but why some remain lean. Most lean people are naturally lean. They do not have to struggle to be that way. That points to a genetic explanation – they naturally have smaller appetites or burn off calories more readily and thus can eat freely without thinking.

“We know for sure that a propensity for obesity or a propensity for leanness is rooted in the genes. Some 70 per cent of the variation between people in terms of their amount of body fat is explained by inherited differences built into our genetic make-up,” he says.

“What our work has shown is that a lot of these genes influence how hungry we get and how satisfied by a particular amount of food we are – rather than how fast or slowly we burn calories.”

‘There are about 32 common genetic variants so far identified that influence whether an individual will be fat or lean. Separately, they have small effects, but when taken together with other genetic factors, the overall effect is large. Some people are born lean.

'How, then, can the obesity explosion in the past 50 years be explained? It is too short a period to be accounted for by genetic selection, which takes place over thousands, or millions, of years.

‘In the 1960s, the American geneticist James Neel developed what became known as the “thrifty gene” theory to explain the increase in obesity. According to his hypothesis, the “thrifty” genotype would have been advantageous for early humans, allowing them to store fat in times of abundance and survive in times of food scarcity.

‘It was thus preferentially selected through millions of years of evolution. But what used to be an advantage – the ability to store fat – has become a disadvantage in modern societies with an abundance of food. This genotype prepares individuals for a famine that never comes.

‘The result is obesity. The “thrifty gene” argument begs the question: why isn’t everyone fat?

If everyone has it, everyone should have the same tendency to put on weight in the presence of an abundance of readily available food.

“One theory is that we do all have it – and it is just our lack of moral fibre and the willpower to control our appetite that makes many of us fat. That doesn’t seem right to me – perhaps because I am chunky myself,” says Professor O’Rahilly.

“The biologist John Speakman from the University of Aberdeen has re-examined the ‘thrifty gene’ theory and suggested that it doesn’t necessarily add up.

“He has suggested that famines weren’t a huge threat before the advent of farming and could not have had sufficient differential impact on survival of the lean and obese as to have had such a powerful selective effect.”

Speakman’s alternative theory – the “drifty gene” hypothesis – is that the modern distribution of obesity stems from a genetic drift in the genes that control the upper limit on our body fatness.

Until about two million years ago, it was important for humans to remain lean in order to have the best chance of escape from predators. But once they started living in groups and discovered fire, they became less vulnerable. So being fat mattered less.

Random mutations in genes that caused weight to drift upwards would then not have been selected against. “It is like having a thermostat in the brain that controls where on the fat spectrum you are going to be,” he explains. “Some would stay the same, some would drift down, but quite a few would drift up.

“The explanation for the modern obesity explosion is that only in the last 50years have humans had enough calories available without expending vast amounts of energy to get them. Obesity used to be a disorder of the rich –now, it affects everybody.

The “drifty gene” theory provides a more satisfying explanation of why a large proportion of the population remains lean. We have all drifted naturally to our set level of obesity. Lean people are mostly naturally lean.”

Genes can still dictate 70 per cent of the variation, even as average weight rises as a result of modern environmental influences. Professor O’Rahilly insists he is not nihilistic about the future. Controlling obesity will, he says, require sustained pressure on the environmental side but may also require intervention on the biological side.

“We study the genetics to understand the wiring under the car bonnet. If we can understand it, maybe we can tweak it.”


I am reasonably happy with the ‘drifty gene’ hypothesis but it does beg some questions. Why, for example, do some hunter-gatherer societies, like the Khoisan of southern Africa contain a significant proportion of women with abnormally large buttocks (steatopygia), and why are the Pacific Islanders as a group marked by both their athleticism in early life and the frequent onset of obesity in later life.

The answer must surely lie in the desirability for societies to contain a mixture of lighter-bodied athletes and fat-storing famine survivors – with the mixes of individuals and genes being decided by natural selection and sexual preference.

This has been suggested as the explanation for widespread obesity in Pacific Island communities with the accompanying medical burdens of high blood pressure and diabetes. The story here goes that the original Islanders were of similar build to their distant cousins the indigenous peoples of Taiwan and the Philippines – fairly slight and short.

But, it is argued, long Pacific voyages favoured those who stored fat most effectively – reserves that could be drawn on as voyages lengthened and landfalls became more chancy. And it seems that there is certainly no sexual discrimination against the large of frame among these societies – in fact probably the reverse.

This is the genetic inheritance of some magnificent Rugby players and shot-putters. But the trait also explains the background to those large ladies who attend Samoan churches in white hats - and the overweight girls who frequent the KFC outlet in the Wellington suburb of Kilbirnie.

Getting back to steatopygia, I was saddened to read about the exploitation of "Saartjie" (Little Sarah) Baartman who was put on show in Europe in the last five years of her life (1810-1815), following her previous enslavement in the Cape Colony, South Africa. Sarah was a Khoisan and she was touted by her show masters as the ‘Hottentot Venus’.

Although I was generally appalled by her treatment during her exhibition in Britain and France, I was touched that she was baptized in Manchester Cathedral in 1811 – the venue that was the scene of the marking of many a hatching, matching and dispatching of the members of my own Shorrocks family from Salford.

The other twist here though is that the Khoisan are being increasingly recognized as the best modern representatives of the ancient lineage of modern man. So if you see a lady with an ample derriere – a feature which is currently undergoing something of a revival with the popularity of bootylicious singers such as Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce – you can celebrate something that sticks out and goes right back.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Prada would have swung it 5,000 years ago

The Bottega Veneta - Prada Red Leather Woven Small Handbag shown in the top illustration is available online from the ‘The Shopping Bowl’. It will set you back US $750.

It is nice to know though that it would also have been fashionable 5,000 years ago – and that it would be a handy accessory for a time-travelling extreme makeover - Gok Wan to note.

I’ll let Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times tell you why.

‘It looks at first like a piece of a rough, greenish mat from a 1970s student flat. In fact it is a 5,000-year-old handbag.

‘Found in a bog in Twyford, Co Westmeath, it was made by coiling long slivers of wood into spirals that were then bound together with lighter grass-like material. Next the two sides were woven together along a seam, and handles of plaited straw were added. This would have made for a circular purse-like bag, about 40cm in diameter, with a narrow opening at the top. It was probably dyed to give it a splash of colour. It gives us a glimpse into the everyday life of early Irish farmers.

‘Though we cannot know for sure, there is every chance that it was made and used by a woman.

‘Similar bags have been found around the world: the technique goes back to the Middle East around 4800 BC and is still used by indigenous cultures. In fact, the best way to get a sense of the Twyford bag is to look at a very similar but intact specimen (right) that is also in the National Museum of Ireland. It comes from 19th-century Aboriginal Australia.

‘The handbag is resonant because it takes us back into the day-to-day world of Irish people in the fourth millennium BC. Most of what survives from this era is made of hard stone and tends to be associated with ritual, death and power. It has the drama of violence and mystery. It is also overwhelmingly male. To look at a simple handbag that might have been purchased at an ethnic market in a modern city and imagine it in the hands of a Neolithic woman gathering plants or nuts is to be reminded that life, then as now, was dominated by ordinary things and tasks.

‘What do we know of those ordinary lives? That they were short by our standards: most people could not expect to live beyond their 30s. That people were probably about the same height as Irish people were in the 1930s: the male skeletons found at Annagh in Co Limerick were about 170cm (5ft 7in) tall. That (again from the Annagh skeletons) they worked hard but not quite as hard as their counterparts in mediaeval Ireland. They probably wore clothes of leather and woven textiles such as flax.

‘We know, too, that they increasingly lived together in relatively substantial settlements of wooden houses, lined with wattle and daub and with thatched roofs. Communities were settling down for the long haul. The Céide Fields, in Co Mayo, for example, were intensively and continuously farmed for the 500 years between 3700 and 3200 BC. By the time this bag was made its owner probably lived in a society that had a sense of itself as being old.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ernest Rutherford – the New Zealander who first described the nub of things on March 7th 1911


Tomorrow will mark the centennial of Ernest Rutherford’s presentation to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society in which the 39-year-old Professor of physics at Manchester University outlined his revolutionary new interpretation of the structure of the atom and the nature of its nucleus.

The UK Independent has already published a formal tribute in the form of an article by Manjit Kumar and I have rounded off this post by repeating it. But there are openings for more personal reflections from a New Zealand perspective.

After all Rutherford is our most distinguished son. He received a Nobel Prize in 1908, was knighted in 1914, decorated with the Order of Merit in 1925, and created Lord Rutherford of Nelson in 1931. As if that wasn’t enough, he also has an element – rutherfordium – named in his honour.

So I have drawn together some material on his family history and upbringing that goes some way to explaining how his extraordinary gifts arose and were fostered. It also complements my earlier post of 16th February: ‘Andrew Baird (1869-1944) - planting Scotland's far-famed tree in Southland, New Zealand', in exploring the contribution that has been made to New Zealand society by Scottish settlers.

Ernest Rutherford was the fourth of the 12 children of James Rutherford and Martha Thompson who had been married in 1866 in the Nelson district of the South Island of New Zealand. He was born in Spring Grove on 30th August, 1871. James was a Scot from Dundee and Martha was an English girl from Hornchurch, Essex.

Arguably, the mixture of sturdy and staunch Scots with staid status-seekers from the semi-feudal society of rural southern England has defined the New Zealand character. Thoroughly admirable in most respects, with a practical, collaborative and acquisitive turn of mind, their weaknesses are perhaps an immunity to irony and a tendency to regard humour as either unnecessary or unseemly.

Well, leaving my own possibly ungenerous footnotes aside, let’s explore Rutherford’s family.


Rutherford is very much a Border Scottish surname, focussing on Roxburgh but Ernest’s antecedents must have made an earlier migration to Dundee at some point prior to 1800. His grandfather George Rutherford married Barbara Adie on the 18th November, 1836. Both George (b 1805) and his wife (b 1807-8) had been born in Dundee.

The Marriage Records show that George was the son of John Rutherford and Jean McCurroch. Barbara was the daughter of Moses Adie who was recorded as a Cow Feeder (i.e. dairying crofter). George was recorded as a Wright (i.e. joiner or carpenter). McCurroch is a Highland (Banffshire) surname and Adie is widespread across the Grampians.

George and Barbara Rutherford travelled to New Zealand on the ‘Phoebe’, leaving London on 16th November 1842 and arriving on the 29th March 1843 in one of the earliest landings of New Zealand Society settlers in the Nelson area. George had been engaged to come to New Zealand to erect a sawmill for Captain Thoms at Motueka. At this time Ernest’s father James was five years old.

The ‘Phoebe’ was a small ship of 471 tons, captained by William Dale. The Rutherfords are recorded as follows in the manifest:

George 34 Wheelwright & Joiner
Barbara 31
Andrew 10
George 7
James 5
John 2

On their voyage out from Britain, the Rutherfords would have had occasion to get to know the Surgeon of the ‘Phoebe’ John Danforth Greenwood. Greenwood’s wife Sarah later established a considerable reputation among the early settlers as an artist, letter-writer and teacher.

The Greenwood family had settled in France prior to their New Zealand adventure and Danforth invested heavily in New Zealand Company sections in Wellington, Nelson and Motueka. Arriving at Nelson on 29 March 1843, the Greenwoods found that their balloted town section was a swamp.

While Sarah and her younger children stayed in Nelson, the three eldest boys went with Danforth to clear and drain 50 acres and build a log house at Motueka, where they would have also been neighbours of the Rutherfords. In early letters Sarah reported her progress in house cleaning and cookery and enclosed her first drawings of Nelson. Later she wrote of moving into the new house (which lacked a staircase, chimney and kitchen stove), of eating home-grown potatoes and eggs and selling their first milk and butter.

As recorded in Sarah’s biography, the directors of the New Zealand Company had hoped that prospective settlers would be 'enlightened capitalists', with a concern for political and civil rights, Christian religion and education.

Like many of their countrymen, the Greenwoods had little capital but brought integrity, energy, an active social conscience and a civilising culture to their new country. For example, Sarah Greenwood made her parlour available for church services and played the piano for worship and social gatherings.

These qualities and her unwavering insistence on 'exact fidelity' in her art would have found resonance with Ernest Rutherford’s family.


Rutherford’s mother Martha (nee Thompson) was the daughter of Charles Edwin Thompson (b 1819) and Caroline Shuttleworth who were married in Islington the later part of 1840. In the 1841 English Census Charles and Caroline are recorded as still being childless, and as living in Butts Green, Hornchurch, Essex, where Charles worked as a machinist.

It is likely that Charles Edwin was the son of the Charles Thompson (b 1796) who was recorded as a Clerk in the 1841 Census - living in Hornchurch, with his wife Ann and six younger children.

The Thompson Family is recorded in the 1851 English Census living at 11 High Street, Hornchurch, Essex, with the head Charles E. Thompson being recorded as a 32 year old Agricultural Machine Maker, wife his wife Caroline (nee Shuttleworth) also 32, and four children, including 8 year old Martha. Caroline’s sister Louisa Shuttleworth (18) was also living with the family.

It seems that Charles was a well-regarded employee of the Fairkytes Foundry in Hornchurch which manufactured agricultural implements. As his career progressed, he was given accounting responsibilities and was said to have been a brilliant mathematician.

Unfortunately, Martha’s father Charles died in 1853 when she was 10 years old. Three years later, she emigrated from Hornchurch, with her mother Caroline and 3 siblings, in the company of her Shuttleworth grandparents and Shuttleworth relatives - arriving in Auckland from London on 28th December 1856 on the ship ‘Bank of England’.

The arrival of the Bank of England, captained by W. Maxton, was recorded with the following notes:

‘At 5 a.m. she made her appearance round the North Head. The water was as smooth as grass and with scarcely an air stirring, the ship drifted slowly to her anchorage, which she fetched about 7 a.m.

‘The ‘Bank of England’ had sailed from Gravesend on the 6th September and from the Downs on the following day, crossing the equator in 31 degrees W on the thirty-first day. She had a very fair run to Van Diemen’s Land, passing without sighting, to the Southward of that island and from which her passage has occupied a period of 18 days.

‘On Christmas Day, at 2 a.m., the crew sighted the Three Kings, experiencing light northerly and north-easterly winds on the coast. A very melancholy accident occurred in 1 degree N. lat., 30 degrees W. longitude. The ship was then going about 7 knots through the water, when William Hawkins, a miner and native of Falmouth, unhappily fell overboard.

‘The ship was immediately hove all aback and, as the poor fellow was swimming light, and strong, there was every prospect of saving him. All at once he gave a piercing shriek and disappeared, having been taken, as is supposed, by a shark. Hawkins had a wife and child on board; the child died about a month since.

‘The ‘Bank of England’ brings 76 passengers and a general cargo of merchandise.

The Shuttleworths and Thompsons then made their way to New Plymouth where they settled initially. They were evacuated to Nelson in 1860 during the Taranaki Land War and had it not been for the war, Ernest’s parents James and Martha would never have met.


James Rutherford and Martha Thompson were married in 1866. James became a wheelwright and engineer, and later a flax-miller. According to family tradition, he maintained that the family had migrated "to raise a little flax and a lot of children". In line with this aphorism, they had, in fairly rapid succession, twelve children, of whom Ernest, afterwards Lord Rutherford, was the fourth.

Ern as he was known led the life typical of a child growing up in rural New Zealand. The family always maintained a small farm to provide basic foodstuffs and augment its income. This meant that all the children shared tasks such as milking and harvesting but the countryside gave ample opportunities for swimming and the use of the catapults and kites that they made.

As a boy Ernest was surrounded by hard-working people with technical skills. At the same time, the family as a whole was regarded as consisting of gifted individuals. Ernest later claimed his inventiveness was honed on the challenges of helping out on his parents' farm, where the motto was ‘We don't have the money, so we have to think’.

And his teacher mother, who believed ‘all knowledge is power’, made sure her children had a good education. Under the influence of their parents it seems that they were a singularly united and happy family.

According to the NZ Dictionary of National Biography:

‘Rutherford's father was a man of great character, of fine, quiet disposition, straight and honourable. His mother was a truly remarkable woman of high education, very musical, a good organiser, thrifty, and hard working. So Ernest Rutherford and his siblings received a good education because of parents who appreciated education: his father because he hadn't had much and his mother because she had.

‘She had a true appreciation of the value of education and had a practical ambition for her children. For instance, she exercised them in the evenings by spelling bees and arithmetical exercises. In common with many of the early pioneers, the parents, even in adversity, denied themselves to give their family a good education.

‘Ernest Rutherford attended the local primary school at Foxhill, and his school record is still available there showing how, at one stage, he passed through two standards in one year. His teacher was Harry Ladley, evidently an inspiring master. It is not improbable that under Ladley, Rutherford's attention was first drawn to the studies in science which he was afterwards to make his life work.

‘There has been preserved by his mother, his first science text book inscribed in his name, at the early age of ten. It was a small text book on physics by Balfour Stewart, Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Manchester, and it is an interesting coincidence that Rutherford was destined afterwards to fill so worthily the same Chair.

‘In the preface to this book, the author stated: “The book has been written, not so much to give information, as to endeavour to discipline the mind by bringing it into immediate contact with Nature herself, for which purpose a series of simple experiments are described, leading up to the chief truths of each science, so that the power of observation in the pupils may be awakened and strengthened.”

‘Later Ernest attended the Havelock primary school where he came under the influence of an enthusiastic teacher, particularly of boys—Mr. Jacob H. Reynolds who, not content with the ordinary syllabus, taught some of his pupils Latin for an hour each morning before school.

‘Here, at the age of 15, Ernest won an Education Board Scholarship, value £52/10/per annum, for two years, obtaining the astonishing total of 580 marks out of a possible 600. Thus he went to Nelson College, and such was his grounding that he was immediately placed in the fifth form and soon justified this classification.

‘It is interesting to realise the energy and ability which James Rutherford put into his flax-milling operations. He harnessed water power to drive his mill. He experimented and developed a method of soaking the fibre after stripping and subsequently a special scraper to remove the vegetable matter so as to minimise the labour and time of paddocking.

‘He looked ahead and planted specially selected native varieties. Nevertheless, he relied most on ready-grown swamp flax, and such was the success of his operations that the flax he produced was reckoned amongst the best in the Dominion, and he was later able to retire to New Plymouth, all his children having married and settled in different parts of the country.

‘Naturally, Ernest always took a part in the family work. Even at Foxhill, he had his share of wood-chopping and earned money in the holidays picking hops. At Havelock he milked his share of the cows each morning, tended the vegetable garden, ran messages to the flax-mill at Ropaka. While on holiday from Nelson College at Pungarehu, he worked in the flax-bleaching paddocks.

‘On one occasion he painted the house; on another, built a tennis-court. During another holiday he built a battery of Grove cells; but this is anticipating. The main thing is that he was not only a diligent and brilliant student, but he took part to the full in the every-day duties of a family engaged in country occupations.

‘He won four scholarships and his crowning achievement was to win a University Entrance Scholarship in 1889 which took him to Canterbury College, where he commenced his University Course the following year, specialising in mathematics and physics. Compared with the numbers of students in these days, the classes were small and the teaching and student relationships were of a much more personal nature.

‘He was fortunate in his Professors, C. H. H. Cook, who gave him a thorough training in mathematics, and A. W. Bickerton, an original and somewhat unorthodox teacher of physics and chemistry. It is perhaps a coincidence that Bickerton had almost an obsession in regard to his theories of the effects of the impact of stars, and that Rutherford, many years later, drew such important and revolutionary conclusions from his own experiments on the impact of what he showed to be miniature stars, i.e., the nuclei of swift moving atoms of matter.

‘Bickerton, and his later disciple, Gifford, held the idea that in stellar encounters a third body would be produced. Rutherford later showed experimentally that such third bodies were produced by atomic impacts resulting in disintegration of one of the atoms concerned.

‘In 1893, Rutherford accomplished what had been done only once previously in the history of the University. He gained a double first-class honours in mathematics and physics. He had already turned his attention to physical research in spite of the paucity of equipment available.

‘In 1887, Professor Heinrich Hertz, of the University of Bonn, had experimentally proved the existence of electric waves, the possibility of which had previously been mathematically foretold by Clerk Maxwell. This discovery was revolutionary and already the best scientific minds of Europe had devoted their whole energy to the study.

‘Nevertheless, with home-made equipment and electric batteries, Rutherford attacked the problem of finding a suitable detector of these radiations so that their nature could be studied. He submitted his investigations as a thesis for the 1851 Exhibition Science Scholarship and also published them in the Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute. The selectors for this Scholarship are always faced with the difficult task of comparing students from various branches of science and, in this case, they actually selected J. C. Maclaurin of Auckland for the Scholarship.

‘Maclaurin was a brilliant chemist who afterwards became the New Zealand Dominion Analyst, and did outstanding work in the development of the cyanide process for separation of gold. At the time, however, Maclaurin was not able to take up the Scholarship which was accordingly awarded to Rutherford, and this enabled him to proceed to a British University and start on a scientific career.

‘He wisely chose to study under Professor J. J. Thomson at Cambridge, and entered Trinity College in 1895. At first he continued his investigations of electric waves, and was the first to signal over any considerable distance. Using his own detector he managed to signal over the space of half a mile, full of intervening streets and houses in Cambridge, but he did not continue these studies, his ideas being taken up and developed by Marconi. His search for scientific truth was uncontaminated by any worldly motive, and he did not concern himself with the economic application of his results.’

Rutherford became Professor of Physics at Manchester University in 1907. During the First World War, he worked on acoustic methods of detecting submarines. He was a promoter and mentor to young scientists, both male and female – and unsuccessfully tried to persuade the United States government to use young scientists for research rather than in the trenches in WWI. He also campaigned for women to share men's privileges at Cambridge University, and spoke up for the freedom of the British Broadcasting Corporation from government censorship.

On his final trip to New Zealand in 1925, Rutherford was received as a national hero and gave talks to packed halls around the country. His call for government to support education and research helped drive the establishment of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) the following year.


[by Manjit Kumar, UK Independent, 3 March 2011]

Did the nuclear age begin in 1942, when Chicago Pile-1, a reactor built in a squash court, went "critical" by achieving self-sustaining chain reaction?

Or was it on 16 July 1945 in the Jemez mountains in New Mexico, when "The Gadget", the first atomic bomb, was successfully tested and Robert Oppenheimer quoted the Bhagavad Gita? Maybe it was June 1954, when the Russian Obninsk nuclear station first generated electricity for the grid.

In reality, it was during a meeting of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society that the nuclear age was announced, on Tuesday, 7 March 1911, by Professor Ernest Rutherford, the 39-year-old head of physics at Manchester University. Rutherford was born in 1871, in Spring Grove, New Zealand.

Descended from Scottish emigrants, it was from this scattered rural community on the north coast of the South Island that Rutherford's aptitude for science and maths led in 1895 to a coveted place at Cambridge. There, under the direction of JJ Thomson, Rutherford established a reputation as a fine experimentalist with a study of X-rays.

Though surrounded at Cambridge by all the excitement generated by Thomson's discovery of the electron in 1897, Rutherford opted to investigate radioactivity and soon found that there were two distinct types of radiation emitted from uranium, which he called alpha and beta, before a third was discovered, called gamma rays.

Aged just 27, in 1898, he was appointed professor of physics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Among his successes over the next nine years the most important was the discovery, with his collaborator Frederick Soddy, that radioactivity was the transformation of one element into another due to the emission of an alpha or beta particle.

Rutherford regarded "all science as either physics or stamp collecting" but saw the funny side when he received the 1908 Nobel prize for (philatelic) chemistry for this seminal work. By then he was in Manchester.

"Youthful, energetic, boisterous, he suggested anything but the scientist," was how Chaim Weizmann, then a chemist but later the first president of Israel, remembered Rutherford in Manchester.

"He talked readily and vigorously on any subject under the sun, often without knowing anything about it.

"Going down to the refectory for lunch, I would hear the loud, friendly voice rolling up the corridor."

At the time Rutherford was busy using the alpha particle to probe and unlock the secrets of the atom. But what exactly is an alpha particle? It was a question that Rutherford and his German colleague Hans Geiger answered. It was a helium ion; that is, a helium atom that had been stripped of its two electrons. Rutherford had noticed, while still in Montreal, that some alpha particles passing through thin sheets of metal were slightly deflected, causing fuzziness on a photographic plate. It was something he asked Geiger to investigate.

As instructed by Rutherford he fired beams of alpha particles at some gold foil and by the tiny flashes of light when they struck a zinc sulphide screen discovered that a few "were deflected through quite an appreciable angle".

Soon afterwards Rutherford assigned a research project to a promising undergraduate called Ernest Marsden: "Why not let him see if any alpha particles can be scattered through a large angle?"

Marsden found some alpha particles bouncing straight back after hitting the gold foil and Rutherford was shocked:

"It was almost as incredible as if you had fired a 15-inch shell at a piece of tissue paper and it came back and hit you."

Marsden and Geiger made comparative measurements using different metals and they discovered exactly the same large angle scattering. In June 1909 they published their extraordinary results, but with Rutherford unable to offer any kind of explanation they attracted little interest.

After decades of intense arguments, by 1910 the reality of atoms was established beyond reasonable doubt. The most widely-accepted atomic model was Thomson's so-called "plum pudding". Its ingredients consisted of a ball of diffuse "positive electricity" in which negatively charged electrons were embedded like plums in a pudding.

But Rutherford knew that the atom of his old mentor couldn't explain alpha particle scattering. The probability that the accumulated effect of a number of tiny ricochets off electrons in Thomson's atom resulted in even one alpha particle being scattered backwards was almost zero.

By December 1910, Rutherford believed that given the mass and energy of an alpha particle the large deflections must be the result of a single collision with an atom. It led him "to devise an atom superior to J.J's" he said at time.

Rutherford's atom consisted of a tiny central core containing virtually all the atomic mass, which he later called the nucleus, but it occupied only a minute volume "like a fly in a cathedral".

Most alpha particles would pass straight through Rutherford's atom in any "collision", since they were too far from the tiny nucleus at its heart to suffer any deflection. But if an alpha particle approached the nucleus head-on, the repulsive force between the two would cause it to recoil straight back like a ball bouncing off a brick wall.

Rutherford said that such direct hits were "like trying to shoot a gnat in the Albert Hall at night". Rutherford's model allowed him to make definite predictions using a simple formula he had derived about the fraction of scattered alpha particles to be found at any angle of deflection.

Experimental checks performed by Geiger and Marsden confirmed the predictions, but few physicists beyond Manchester gave any serious attention to the nuclear atom.

Although Rutherford did not explicitly suggest a planetary model of the atom, there were those who knew that's exactly what it was. For most that settled the matter, Rutherford's atom was fatally flawed.

A model of the atom with electrons moving around the nucleus, like planets orbiting the sun, would collapse. Any object moving in a circle undergoes acceleration, if it happens to be a charged particle, like an electron, as it accelerates it continuously losses energy in the form of radiation.

An electron in orbit around the nucleus would spiral into it. Rutherford's atom was unstable and the existence of the material world was compelling evidence against it.

Enter Niels Bohr.

Arriving in Manchester in March 1912 to learn about radioactivity, it wasn't before long the 27-year-old Dane began thinking about how to prevent Rutherford's nuclear atom from collapsing. His solution employed the quantum – the idea that energy comes in packets. Bohr argued that electrons inside an atom could only move in certain orbits in which they did not radiate energy and therefore couldn't spiral into the nucleus.

Bohr said that each orbit had a certain energy associated with it, so all the allowed orbits were in effect a series of energy levels, like the rungs of a ladder. For an electron to move between levels, the famous quantum leap, required it to absorb or emit a quantum of energy that was equivalent to the difference in energy between the two levels.

"It is difficult to underestimate the scientific importance of the discovery of the nucleus," says Sean Freeman, professor of nuclear physics at Manchester University.

"Rutherford's insight, imagination and attention to detail enabled him to make revolutionary discoveries using rather rudimentary technology by modern standards. He was a true pioneer."

One of his most important achievements was made in his spare time while Rutherford was developing methods for detecting submarines during the First World War – he split the atom. Arriving late for a committee meeting one day, Rutherford didn't apologise, but announced: "I have been engaged in experiments which suggest that the atom can be artificially disintegrated.

"If it is true, it is of far greater importance than a war!"

It was 1919 before he published the results that showed the nucleus contained positively charged particles he called protons by knocking them out of nitrogen nuclei using alpha particles – thereby effectively splitting the nucleus and hence the atom.

It was the last work he did at Manchester before moving to Cambridge to take over from Thomson as head of the Cavendish Laboratory.

It was there that in 1932 his colleagues James Cockcroft and Ernest Walton "split the atom" using the world's first particle accelerator. Also at the Cavendish, James Chadwick used Rutherford's suggestion that there was probably another constituent to heavier nuclei to discover the neutron. The particle plays the central role in establishing a nuclear chain reaction. The three men were among the 11 former students and colleagues of Rutherford who would win the Nobel prize.

Another of those 11 was Niels Bohr, who said that Rutherford never spoke more angrily to him than he did one evening at a Royal Society dinner.

He had overheard Bohr refer to him by his title (Rutherford was awarded a peerage in 1931) and angrily asked the Dane loudly: "Do you Lord me?"

Rutherford never cared for the honours and was indifferent to academic or social standing. What mattered most to him were the results of experiments.

"I was brought up to look at the atom as a nice hard fellow, red or grey in colour, according to taste," he once said. It was a model he replaced with an atom that began the nuclear age.