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Ground to Dust Beneath the Ice

By 21 marca 2020No Comments

As the ice sheets advanced, the plant life changed. The most tender died out first, or were driven southward, and then the more and more hardy, until finally their remains were ground to dust beneath the ice. Then, centuries later, the ice receded and the plants moved northward again in a slow but steady advance to reclaim the land. Animal life, including man. also retreated before the glaciers, making certain adjustments to the changing environment. Some species, unable to make the necessary changes, died out and were lost completely. Others modified their habits and survived. In a few cases the great ice sheets swallowed up individuals, freezing and preserving them for ages. Occasionally one of these naturally refrigerated relics has come to light, mammoths being the ones that have been given the most publicity. These finds are awe-inspiring because of their great age and extraordinary state of preservation, but, thanks to modern science, there is no mystery about them.

In bygone days, when one of these animals escaped from its age-old cold storage chamber, it was the source of many legends. Its bones became those of saints and heroes, of super-beings and demigods. They were sold as holy relics or powerful charms to credulous persons who believed the tales told by canny and perhaps only slightly less credulous salesmen of an earlier day. Since the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans knew only lands that were warm, or where the snow and ice of winter were sure to give way each year to the warmth of summer, ice played little part in their mythology.

But the Norsemen, who knew about ice from everyday experience, thought the whole universe had once been ice, that the first god had been licked from a block of ice by a celestial cow, and that the frost giants were the main enemies of gods and men. Eventually, so the northern stories went, the frost giants and their allies would be victorious, and, in the twilight of the gods, the whole world would sink into a chaos of ice and snow, flame and destruction. But sometime, long before the days of the mythmakers, man first realized that ice and cold were not complete enemies. By making use of them, he could preserve part of his scanty food supply, saving it in times when hunting was good for use later. Nobody kept records in those days.

No one knows who kindled the first fire, chipped the first arrowhead, molded the first pot. No one knows who made the first halting discovery of refrigeration. Maybe it was a hunter who noticed that meat stayed fresh longer when stored in the coolest part of his cave. Maybe it was a hunter’s wife. At any rate, someone made the discovery, and then refrigeration stood still

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