Dead Men’s Bones


One of the more fascinating things throughout history is the burial customs of various peoples. The ancient Egyptians captivated us with the idea of embalming. The ancient inhabitants of Ireland had their own customs as evidenced by the dolmens that have ben left behind, and by the amazing New Grange.

I took today’s photo in Israel recently. What you see here is a burial complex. See the flat “benches” that are out front of the rock wall areas? That’s where the people would bring the dead bodies. They would anoint them with spices and such (probably to help keep the smell down) and lay the bodies on the benches. Then, they’d leave them there for a year while the flesh and organs deteriorated. After one year, they’d come back and collect the bones, put them into an ossuary (think of a box, often made of stone or ceramic, that holds bones) and place them into one of the niches carved into the walls.

Aren’t you glad you didn’t live then?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1968, the Israeli submarine Dakar, carrying 69 sailors, disappeared and was never seen again. The exact fate of this vessel remains a mystery to this day.

The Dakar was built at the height of World War II by H.M. Dockyard in Great Britain and commissioned as the HMS Totem by the British navy in 1943. Following the war, the submarine was modified, adding 12 feet to its length and removing some of its gun decks. Israel bought the sub, along with two other similar ones, from Great Britain in 1965. On November 10, 1967, the Israeli navy officially launched it as the Dakar. Following tests near Scotland, the Dakar was scheduled to journey to Haifa in Israel for an official ceremony in early February.

As the Dakar moved toward Haifa, it was supposed to radio its position to the command center in Israel every day. As it passed Gibraltar and moved into the Mediterranean Sea, Lieutenant Commander Ya’acov Ra’anan, in charge of the Dakar, requested permission to arrive in Haifa early on January 28. On January 24, though, the Dakar passed the island of Crete and radioed its position for the last time.

There was an additional signal from the Dakar just after midnight on January 25 and then–nothing. After the sub missed its scheduled signaling, unsuccessful attempts were made to contact the Dakar throughout the day. The following day, an international search-and-rescue operation began. Forces from the United States, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon all tried to find the Dakar for five days before giving up. Israel continued the search on its own until February 4. Despite some speculation that the submarine was deliberately sunk, the Dakar‘s whereabouts remain a mystery.

Israel proclaimed March 4 a national day of mourning and it was declared that all 69 sailors on board the Dakar were considered dead under Jewish religious law. A monument to the crew was later built on Mount Herzel in Jerusalem.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Calvin Graham was only 12 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He won a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart before the Navy found out how old he was.




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