2000 year old date palm sprouts

Amazingly, botanist Elaine Solowey coaxed a seed of extinct date palm to sprout after 2,000 years.

The seed that was discovered during archaeological excavations at King Herod’s palace on Mount Masada, near the Dead Sea. The Judean date is chronicled in the Bible, Quran and ancient literature for its diverse powers — from an aphrodisiac to a contraceptive — and as a cure for a wide range of diseases including cancer, malaria and toothache. For Christians, the palm is a symbol of peace associated with the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The ancient Hebrews called the date palm the “tree of life” because of the protein in its fruit and the shade given by its long leafy branches.

The three seeds were long and thin, grayish-brown in color. Solowey soaked them in warm water, and then added gibberellic acid, a potent growth hormone used to induce germination in reluctant seeds. Next, she added a special rooting hormone for woody plants called T8 and an enzyme-rich fertilizer to supplement the natural food inside it. She then planted it in sterile potting soil on the Jewish festival of trees.

“It’s certainly the oldest tree seed that’s ever been sprouted. Wheat seeds from pharaohs’ tombs have been sprouted, but none of the plants have survived for very long. Before this, the oldest seed grown was a lotus from China, which was 1,200 years old,” she said. “I’m very excited. I wasn’t expecting anything to happen. I’m really interested in finding out what the DNA testing is going to show. I know that date seeds can stay alive for several decades. To find out that they can stay alive for millennia is astonishing.”

“Perhaps one of our ancestors was sitting there on the battlements of Masada eating his dates while the Roman armies were preparing for the final siege and perhaps nonchalantly spitting out a pip,” said Sallon. “Two thousand years later, here I am at Kibbutz Ketura and it’s grown.”


NPR : the Pledge of Allegiance

I caught part of NPR’s Fresh Air tonight driving to the meeting, the show was Richard J. Ellis and the Pledge of Allegiance. Intersting was the featured bit on the Jehovah’s Witnesses fight to not be required to say the Pledge of Allgiance.

In 1940 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 8 to 1 that states could require the flag salute in schools. Consider the historical perspective, Nazi Germany was rolling over Europe and America was divided over how much involvement in the war was necessary. Nationalism and Patriotism were two big issues and the Pledge of Allgiance was ruled to help “to evoke that unifying element without which there can ultimately be no liberties, civil or religious.”

This decision unleashed nationwide public violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mob violence occurred in 44 states, with individuals being castrated, tarred and feathered and uprooted from their homes. The Supreme Court revisited this issue in 1943 and issued a rare reversal of their earlier decision.

Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote “Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.” Jackson further wrote, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Rather interesting was the part at about 23:30 into the interview, Richard J. Ellis on Francis Bellamy’s (the original author of our Pledge of Allegiance) intentions:

“He thought of the pledge as something that touched kids feelings, that it was not about thinking, it was about attaching the heart to the nation, so its a pre-rational attachment. Later on, when they were called upon to explain what their country was about, they would then go back to those words, they would be a part of their memory, it would do their thinking for them, it would be the way they understood who they were when they were older.”

I also find this a compelling example of how the Supreme Court of the United States can change its opinion on important First Amendment matters so quickly in the face of public opinion and public action.


Summary of the First Amendment cases that outline the free speech and press rights of students in public schools

From School to Supreme Court

Minersville had role in high court’s Pledge ruling