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Wednesday Watercooler


The remains of a shipwreck rotting on a beach.

Unfortunately, the ancient wooden iPad didn’t have ancient wooden GPS.

Tonight’s music video is “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers from the 1985 album Southern Accents.

Archaeologists have found what they are calling a “Byzantine iPad” — an unusual wooden multi-tool and notebook recovered from a shipwreck.

Turkish archaeologists excavating a harbor site on the European side of the Bosphorus have unearthed a 1,200-year-old wooden object which they claim is the ancient equivalent of a tablet computer. The device was a notebook and tool — in one. The Byzantine invention was found within the remains of one of the 37 ships unearthed in the Yenikapi area of Istanbul, a site which has been at the center of excavations for the past 10 years. Also known as Theodosius Port, it was built in the late 4th century during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I and become the city’s most important commercial port.

Probably belonging to the ship’s captain, the wooden object, whose cover is finely carved with decorations, is the size of a modern seven-inch tablet, but it’s much thicker. It consists of a set of five overlaid rectangular panels carved with frames and covered with wax. Notes could be taken on those panels, as shown by writing in Greek which is still visible on the wax.

A primitive ‘app’ is hidden on the bottom panel: a sliding lid revealing a hidden plate with carved spaces. ‘When you draw the sliding part, there are small weights used as an assay balance,’ Ufuk Kocaba?, director of Istanbul University’s department of marine archeology and the Yenikapi Shipwrecks Project, told Hurriyet Daily News. Since it was a merchant ship, the tool was likely used to assess the value of some items. Assay balances were used to determine the metal content in ore or the kind of precious metal in an alloy.

Bonus: Mental Floss reports that a technology called Eyelink can be used to record where people look when watching movies and other media.

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Photo by Scotty Delmonte released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and