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Saturday, 4 October 2014

Quinhagak residents hopeful hair samples will unlock more mysteries about ancient Alaska Native ancestors

© Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel

The Nunalleq archeological dig near Quinhagak in August, 2014.

The study answers longstanding questions about migrations of the ancient Alaska Native people, on the state's west coast and the local people hope to learn even more about their own ancestors.

"Now our future kids, grandkids, they'll be able to see what our ancestors lived, how they lived, what they used, the tools they made. All the little stories are coming alive."

The project, called Nunalleq, meaning 'old village', is located five miles outside Quinhagak. Dr. Rick Knecht is an ararchaeologist with the University of Aberdeen in Scotland who manages the dig. He says permafrost at the ancient Yup'ik village of Araliq, preserved artifacts up to 700-years-old made of wood and leather that normally would have disintegrated.

Knecht says that most sites in the Lower 48 provide just 'stones and bones', but at the Araliq site they get, "Things like utensils that people used in their daily lives. We get bentwood bowls and scoops. We get ul'us with the handles still on them. We get grass baskets for example, complete grass baskets and woven mats. We're getting things like weapons and kayak parts, masks and artwork, things that you normally just see in museums. And these all date from between about 1400 and 1600 AD."

And hundreds of hair samples Knecht says, likely clippings from haircuts were also preserved at the site. Some of those clippings contributed to the study of indigenous Alaskans that was featured in the journal, Science, this summer.

"We contributed about 33 hair samples to the study and I think that's more than any of the sites were able to produce. Just because of the extraordinary preservation here," Knecht said.

There were 169 samples analyzed in the study. The study, led by a group of Danish researchers revealed that the modern Inuit people, including those in Alaska are descended from the Thule, who developed around 700-hundred years ago, replacing an earlier population, the Paleo-Eskimos. The genetic evidence shows there was very little interbreeding, and that the Thule are the ancestors of the Yup'ik and Inupiat people living on Alaska's west coast today.

"We might get to see who was related to the people of Araliq, that's pretty cool."

"We don't know the origins of that, of what we call the Thule population or the Neo-Eskimos. But we do know that both in the archaeological evidence, both the artifacts and the genetics look very much alike, surprisingly so, on the two ends of the Arctic, which is the largest indigenous territory of any group in the world," Knecht said.

Knecht says the donation of the hair clippings from the Araliq site was the sole contribution for the study from Alaska.

Warren Jones is the President of the village corporation in Quinhagak, Qanirtuuq Inc. He says they agreed to work with the archaeologists because they want to learn more about the people who they believe may be their ancestors.

"The archaeologists know what they're doing. And everything they dig out is going to be brought back to us. So it will be back here for our future, children, generations. Now our future kids, grandkids they'll be able to see what our ancestors lived, how they lived, what they used, the tools they made. All the little stories are coming alive," said Jones.

Jones says the corporation is interested in comparing the DNA of the ancient people of Araliq with the modern residents of Quinhagak.

"We might get to see who was related to the people of Araliq, that's pretty cool," said Jones.

Jones says the corporation in Quinhagak eventually wants to develop ecotourism around the archaeological site, but rapid erosion at the site has made getting artifacts out a priority.

Knecht says it requires a certain level of trust for Native people to allow genetic material to be released for studies, and the over the past five years of the project researchers from the University of Aberdeen and Native people in Quinhagak have built that trust.

The project is funded by Qanirtuuq Inc. and through a $1.8 million grant from the UK-based Arts and Humanities Research Council.

One foggy day on St. Paul Island, a woolly mammoth stepped onto a trapdoor of greenery...

© Ned Rozell

St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea.

One foggy day on St. Paul Island, a woolly mammoth stepped onto a trapdoor of greenery. It plunged thirty feet to the floor of a cave. There was no exit.

A few thousand years later, a scientist who descended by ladder found the mammoth's tooth amid the bones of other mammoths, polar bears, caribou, reindeer and arctic foxes. Radiocarbon dating showed the mammoth died about 6,500 years ago. Here was proof that mammoths lived on the Bering Sea island thousands of years after the creatures vanished from mainland Alaska

There began a detective story that attracted a widespread team of scientists. They were curious about what finished off the resilient St. Paul mammoth: People with spears and clubs? Polar bears? Disease? Starvation? A volcanic eruption?

Mat Wooller was part of a group that visited the island a few years ago to pull a core from a crater lake. In the cylinder of mud, which dust and pollen from thousands of years ago, the scientists hoped to find evidence of mammoths, the environment in which they lived, and when they might have vanished. Their clues included the presence of pollen grains and a fungus that lived on animal dung like that dropped by mammoths. Beth Shapiro and her colleagues from UCLA are part of the team looking for DNA the mammoths shed in or around the lake.

Wooller is a scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who uses mass spectrometers at the Alaska Stable Isotope Facility. By vaporizing a minute sample, he and his coworkers can find the when the tiny core creatures were alive. Using the same instruments, Wooller and his team have traced marijuana back to the water that nourished the plants (a test to see if they could help law-enforcement officers know where a baggie-full was grown) and found the birth streams of sockeye salmon (by comparing the isotope signatures of different waterways with salmon body parts).

Wooller visited St. Paul Island in spring of 2013. From a platform of lake ice, he and others pulled up a plug of core that represented the last 10,000 years of the island's history.

St. Paul, which could fit inside the Anchorage bowl, was different at the height of the last ice age. Back then, St. Paul was shorefront property on the Bering Land Bridge, which extended northward to the Arctic Ocean. As ice sheets melted and sea level rose, St. Paul became one of the most remote islands in the world. Island living somehow suited the mammoths, which persisted on St. Paul more than 5,000 years longer than on mainland Alaska.

People, blamed by some for the demise of mainland mammoths, probably didn't wipe out the St. Paul mammoth. Humans don't seem to have appeared on the island until seafaring Russians transported Aleut people there in the late 1700s. Descendants of those Aleuts live in the village today.

"Here you have an odd outlier like Wrangel Island," Wooller said, referring to the island north of Siberia where recent mammoths were also discovered. "It lets you do the experiment in the absence of humans."

Mammoths probably enjoyed eating the same type of vegetation that grows on the island today, Wooller said.

"The modern summer vegetation is lush," he said. "Things have remained fairly as they were in terms of vegetation. If I were a mammoth, I'd be happy with that."

Offering up those two hints, Wooller then turned apologetic during an interview at his office on the UAF campus. That morning, he explained, he and his colleagues from across the country - including paleontologist Russ Graham of Pennsylvania State University - had gone over their varied analyses. Following different mental pathways, each met at the same answer for what killed the mammoths of St. Paul.

"I think we have a smoking gun," Wooller said.

He could not, alas, give up that answer. He and other team members will tell the world in the form of a journal paper. He guessed the article would be ready soon, and promised the saga of the St. Paul mammoths would be worth the wait.

"It's a neat story," he said.

Surprise! U.S. Department of Agriculture continues secret process of appointing Corporate factory farm executives to Organic Standards Board

Passed in 1990, the Farm Bill's intent was to set regulations for the agricultural sector, implementing provisions for food, nutrition, forestry, natural resource conservation, environmental protection and rural development, among other facets.

Also referred to as FACT-90 (Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990), the law was designed to make agricultural policy more green, including keeping mandatory records on pesticide use and maintaining national standards for products labeled "organic," according to the University of California.

Under the Farm Bill, the Organic Foods Production Act was established to uniform national organic food standards through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP).

Agribusiness employees holding NOSB seats jeopardize the quality of organic food

The NOP is responsible for setting standards for production, handling and processing of organically grown food, a program from which the National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) was derived. The NOSB is a 15-member board that advises the Secretary of Agriculture on maintaining quality organic standards.

The NOSB is supposed to be comprised of individuals representing farmers, environmentalists, public interest advocates, handlers, retailers, scientists and a USDA certifying agent, as reported by . However, one of the nation's leading organic industry watchdog groups has persistently criticized the selection of four NOSB board appointees and the secrecy surrounding their nominations.

"The selection process was conducted in secrecy despite requests to cast sunlight on the decision making and solicit input from a very engaged community of organic farmers, businesses, and consumers," said Will Fantle, the co-director for .

"We think a more transparent process would ensure the selection of the best and brightest for the various vacancies on the board - instead of, once again, appeasing the organic corporate lobby."

While four of the board's seats are designated for "farmers" and "growers" in the organic industry (people who own or operate an organic farm), large agribusiness employees occupy two of the seats instead.

"Congress deliberately set aside the majority of seats for independent organic stakeholders as a way to prevent the kind of unseemly corporate influence we have witnessed in recent years on the NOSB," Fantle stressed.

Cornucopia warns that allowing agribusiness employees to replace seats intended for farmers jeopardizes the integrity of organic food. Powerful food processors do not have the same interests as small-organic farmers, nor do their interests meet the NOSB's intent under the law.

One of the new farmer-appointees is Ashley Swaffer, an employee of Arkansas Egg Company, a large, industrial-sized egg company that turned organic about five years ago. Last year, the company signed a consent decree with state officials "related to remediating problems concerning manure and liquid waste," wrote Cornucopia.

"Maybe it's a general conflict of interest to have companies that are primarily involved in non-certified organic manufacturing, sitting on the National Organic Standards Board."
- Mark Kastel

Meanwhile, Rebecca Goodman, a "hands-on" Wisconsin organic dairy farmer, was passed up after applying three times for the board. "I guess I am not suave enough to serve my fellow organic farmers. After three attempts, I will not be applying again," she said.

Watchdog groups are also disappointed by the appointment of Tom Chapman, a Clif Bar employee selected for one of the "handler" seats.

"The USDA Secretary could have chosen a representative of a company that sells 100% organic products, rather than a company that offers manufacturers less than 20% of their product line in a certified organic form," said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for Cornucopia.

While some of Clif Bar's products use organic materials, other ingredients are synthetic. Part of the board's responsibility is to make decisions regarding allowing synthetic materials into organic food production.

"Clif Bar's product line is basically competing with companies, at a higher price point, that are truly organic," Kastel said. "If they are using lots of ingredients that are not presently approved for organics, will they be predisposed to open up organic production for increased use of synthetics?"

And the Blood moon returns: Another total lunar eclipse will color the moon blood red

The second blood moon of 2014 is approaching. The first appeared April 14-15, and this week's is the second in a 'tetrad,' or series of four.Skywatchers across much of the world will have the chance to see the moon glowing with an eerie red pallor during a pre-Halloween total lunar eclipse next week.


A visibility map of the total lunar eclipse rising on Oct. 8, 2014. Stargazers in Africa and Europe will miss the 'blood moon,' but most of North America and Asia will get a good show of this long-lasting event.

The "blood moon" total lunar eclipse will rise during the full moon of Oct. 8 just before sunrise in North America, but red might not be the only color people see during the total eclipse. Weather permitting, it's possible that some sharp-eyed observers might be able to see some blue in the moon's glow. The event will be the second of four consecutive total lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015, according to NASA officials.

Mayon's volcano's sustained reduction in sulfur dioxide emission, continuous surface inflation may lead to violent eruption

Mayon volcano

A sustained reduction in sulfur dioxide emission and continuous surface inflation of Mayon Volcano may lead to a violent eruption, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned yesterday. Phivolcs-Bicol chief volcanologist Ed Laguerta issued the warning after Mayon's gas emission dropped to 308 tons last Thursday, way below the normal 500 tons per day in the past 48-hour monitoring period.

He said the reduction in sulfur dioxide emission could mean that the lava dome protruding at the summit of the volcano is gradually blocking the crater. "If Mayon's crater is clogged by lava dome, a violent eruption is very likely to happen," Laguerta told .

He said they are closely monitoring Mayon's gas emission to determine if the drop would be a prelude to a small or big eruption. But Laguerta noted that even a phreatic or ash explosion may be followed by bigger eruption once the deep-seated magma deposit is depressurized.

He added that the absence of volcanic quakes in the past three days is not an indication that Mayon has calmed down.

Laguerta dismissed the idea of lowering Mayon's alert level, saying that the 8,077-foot volcano's activity might only be in a lull and that a hazardous eruption is highly possible. Meanwhile, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda urged the Army teams to strictly enforce the no man's land policy within the six-kilometer and seven-kilometer extended danger zones around Mayon.

"With the recent developments in the abnormal behavior of Mayon, we really could not take chances," Salceda told . He said relief goods from the national government and some foreign donors continued to arrive in the province. Albay is spending at least P1.5 million a day to feed the over 12,000 families or 56,000 individuals housed in 40 evacuation centers in the province.

Phivolcs raised Mayon's Alert Level to 3 last Sept. 15. Earlier, Phivolcs director Renato Solidum advised the local government to prepare for a massive evacuation when Alert Level 4 is raised. "We cannot stop this because this will go up to Alert Level 4," he said.

Fire burns 3 buildings at Flight 93 National Memorial - flag that flew over White House on 9/11 destroyed

© National Park Foundation

The fire began about 3 p.m. and grew to include both the Flight 93 park office and park headquarters, according to a Somerset County emergency dispatcher.

Fire burned through an area of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Somerset County, on Friday, destroying three administrative buildings that housed a portion of the memorial's prized artifacts.

The collection, which includes the American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and that was presented to the park just last month, was kept in fireproof safes, according to National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst. The collection's condition, however, cannot be assessed until investigators are able to enter the memorial site sometime this morning, he said.

The affected buildings served as the park's headquarters and included the superintendent's office on Park Headquarters Road, Mr. Litterst said. A fourth building was damaged but saved, local fire officials said.

Local fire officials will hand off investigation of the fire to a team of National Park Service investigators today, Mr. Litterst said. No estimate has been made yet of the buildings' replacement and repair cost.

A Congressional gold medal awarded to the memorial was kept offsite and was not damaged, according to Mr. Litterst. Neither were the portions of the park that visitors see, which are approximately 2 miles from the administrative buildings that were destroyed.

"The sacred ground, the wall of names, the construction of the visitors center, the educational center have not been affected in any manner," said Gordon Felt, president of Families of Flight 93 and brother of Edward Felt, who died on-board the flight. "[Memorial superintendent] Jeff Reinbold has assured me the memorial will be open first thing in the morning to accept visitors, and the experience that guests have who come to pay their respects won't be changed at all."

© National Park Foundation

The fire, which began at approximately 3:10 p.m. outside what would have been a break room, was quickly fanned by the site's usual gusty winds into a blaze that neither park employees nor firefighters could contain, according to Mr. Litterst. The seven employees inside the buildings were able to evacuate without injury -- but not before they rescued an oral history taken from Sept. 11 first responders as well as a photograph album, he said.

The fire was underway when it first was noticed by an employee, he said. Mr. Litterst said he was not sure if the fire started in the park's long, naturalized meadow grass and also said he did not know if any of the employees smoked.

Firefighters from seven companies responded to the scene. Stoystown Volunteer Fire Company led the effort and was aided by companies from Shanksville, Friedens, Berlin, Central City, Hooversville and Sykesville.

As of about 9:15 p.m., Stoystown fire Chief David Johnson said there was still no word on exactly where the fire started or what might have caused it. The fire was "fully involved" when first responders arrived, he said, so the emphasis was placed on saving the fourth building.

The fire was under control within 45 minutes to an hour, he said, but an excavator continued unearthing hot spots through approximately 7 p.m.

"It's just a pile of rubble, except the one building they saved," Mr. Johnson said of the administrative offices.

Two fire marshals are investigating, with a third expected to join in overnight, he said.

The memorial in Shanksville marks the spot where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed during the terrorist attacks in 2001. The plane, which was traveling from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, went down in a reclaimed strip mine after passengers fought back against its hijackers. All 33 passengers and seven crew members were killed along with the hijackers.

A memorial plaza was completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the attacks in 2011. It features a white stone wall with separate panels for each victim, with one name engraved on each.

The wall traces the path of the doomed flight. The wall and 40 groves of 40 trees are ways to focus attention on the crash site and the victims' memories.

Officials have said they hope construction of the visitors center will be finished by June. That would give park officials three months to install exhibits in time to open for the 14th anniversary of the crash.

Mr. Felt said that despite the setback, families of the crash victims and the memorial's many other supporters will continue working to finish the site. The destruction of the buildings was "tragic," he said, but fortunately no one was hurt.

He hopes, the memorial's collection of artifacts will be as fortunate.

"We'll keep a prayer through the night and hope most of it comes out safe and secure," Mr. Felt said.

Locals report 'fireball' over northern Arizona skies


© NWS Flagstaff

The National Weather Service in Flagstaff said it has had several reports of a meteor streaking across the northern Arizona skies Saturday morning. The incident occurred between 8:55 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Meteorologist Mark Stubblefield with the National Weather Service said the fact that it was visible during the daytime indicates it was quite bright as it entered the atmosphere and was burning up over parts of Arizona.

One person told the Weather Service the object "looked like a flare," Stubblefield said.

Stubblefield said there was some smoke visible for 10 to 15 minutes after the initial calls.

Witnesses in Holbrook saw the meteor to the northwest, and other reports had it north of Winslow.

There were no reports the object was seen in any state but Arizona.

Smoke from the fireball is visible near the top of the picture directly over Fremont Peak. http://ift.tt/Z2Cm9t

- NWS Flagstaff (@NWSFlagstaff) October 4, 2014

Maj. Beth Smith, a spokeswoman with the North American Aerospace Defense, said the command center "did not detect any anomalies" in northern Arizona.

U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska also reported no incidents in that area.

"I have received no reports that would indicate any event like that happening," said Col. Robert Cote, a battle watch commander.

Eric Fernandez said he and his friends Danny Mercado and Matt Llano were on a morning jog on Waterline Road on Mount Elden when they saw what Fernandez described as a "fireball."

"It was completely silent," he said.

The three friends soon started joking about being abducted by extraterrestrials.

"Honestly, we didn't think anything of it until we saw social media was blowing up about it," he said.

This cop oversaw the torture of more than 100 black men, now he's out after less than 4 years in jail

An ex-police commander who oversaw the torture of more than 100 black men in Chicago police custody walked out of federal prison Thursday, after serving just three and a half years of his sentence.

Jon Burge left the minimum-security prison in North Carolina to report to a halfway house in Florida until his sentence officially runs out in February of 2015, the reports.

After the 66-year-old was convicted in 2011 of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about police torture, several members of the Chicago City Council called for a reparations fund of $20 million -- roughly the amount Burge and his "midnight crew" of detectives have cost Chicago taxpayers over the years in legal defense fees and settlements alone. Aldermen renewed those calls on Thursday, saying it's time for the city to "make amends."

Anthony Holmes was one of the victims Burge personally tortured -- with methods including electric shock -- into giving a confession to a murder he says he didn't commit. Holmes, who is now pushing 70, spent 30 years behind bars as a result and has yet to see any compensation because the statute of limitations on the torture has run out.

"At least he's got a pension," Holmes said of Burge, according to DNAinfo Chicago. "We came out of there with nothing."

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan tried to strip Burge of his $4,000-a-month police pension, but couldn't overrule a police pension board vote.

As Burge prepares to start his life again as a free man, In These Times took a look at how much the disgraced commander has cost taxpayers through the years:

Scientists find elusive particle that is both matter and antimatter

Majorana fermion

© Ali Yazdani Lab

The experiment revealed the atomic structure of the iron wire on a lead surface. The zoomed-in portion of the image depicts the probability of the wire containing the Majorana fermion. Importantly, the image pinpoints the particle to the end of the wire, which is where it had been predicted to be over years of theoretical calculations.

Scientists from Princeton University have discovered an unusual new type of particle that is essentially its own antiparticle - behaving simultaneously like matter and antimatter, according to a new study currently appearing in the online edition of the journal .

The particle, which is known as a Majorana fermion, was detected and imaged using a two-story-tall microscope floating in an ultralow-vibration lab, the researchers explained. Not only is the discovery "an exciting step forward for particle physics, explained Macrina Cooper-White of The Huffington Post, but it could also impact quantum computer development.

"This is the most direct way of looking for the Majorana fermion since it is expected to emerge at the edge of certain materials," Princeton physics professor and lead investigator Ali Yazdani said in a statement Thursday. "If you want to find this particle within a material you have to use such a microscope, which allows you to see where it actually is."

Using the massive microscope, Yazdani and his colleagues were able to capture a glowing image of the Majorana fermion perched at the end of an atomically thin wire - exactly where scientists have long predicted it would be. In fact, Cooper-White said the existence of a particle that could serve as its own antimatter counterpart was first hypothesized by Italian physicist Ettore Majorana in 1937, and experts have been searching for it ever since.

Majorana fermion
© Ilya Dorzdov, Ali Yazdani Lab

Video screenshot. This video shows how the researchers first deposited iron atoms onto a lead surface to create an atomically thin wire. They then used their microscope to create a magnetic field and to map a signal that indicates the presence of the particle, called a Majorana fermion. The signal appeared at the ends of the wire.

In addition to the implications this has in the realm of fundamental physics, the researchers said the discovery could lead to a major advance in the development of computers based on quantum mechanics. In quantum computing, electrons are coaxed into representing both the ones and zeros of conventional computers, as well as a unique state in which they exist as both a one and a zero (a property known as quantum superposition).

Quantum superposition "offers vast opportunities for solving previously incalculable systems, but is notoriously prone to collapsing into conventional behavior due to interactions with nearby material," the university explained. Since the Majorana fermion is surprisingly stable, even though it contains qualities of both matter and antimatter, scientists believe it could be engineered into materials that provide a more stable way to encode quantum information.

As part of their research, Yazdani's team placed a long chain of magnetic iron atoms on top of a superconductor made out of lead, said writer Clara Moskowitz. Typically, magnetism disrupts superconductors, which rely on the absence of magnetic fields to allow electrons to flow unimpeded. However, in this instance, they had a different effect.

During the experiment, the magnetic chain turned into a special type of superconductor that caused each electron to coordinate their spins so that they simultaneously satisfied the requirements of magnetism and superconductivity. Each pair could be viewed as both an electron and an antielectron, possessing a negative charge and a positive one, respectively. The arrangement left one electron at each end of the chain with no partner.

As a result, the electrons at the end had an electrically neutral signal and assumed the properties of both electrons and antielectrons, making them Majorana particles, Moskowitz said. The researchers explained that their experiment allowed them to directly visualize how the signal changed along the wire, essentially mapping the quantum probability of finding the Majorana fermion along the wire and ultimately pinpointing its locations at the ends of the wire.

Yazdani said the research was "exciting" and could be "practically beneficial, because it allows scientists to manipulate exotic particles for potential applications, such as quantum computing." He added that, even though the setup for the experiment was complex in nature, the new approach did not require the use of exotic materials (using only lead and iron) and would be easy for other scientists to reproduce and build upon.

California Institute of Technology physicist Jason Alicea, who did not participate in the research, told Moskowitz that while the Princeton paper offered "compelling evidence" for the Majorana fermion, it was important to consider "alternative explanations - even if there are no immediately obvious candidates." He also praised the experimental setup, and in particular the way in which it made it possible to easily produce the new particle.

Mystery of Agatha Christie's lost diamonds is solved

© Bonhams, EPA

Jennifer Grant next to trunk she bought in estate sale at Agatha Christie's home. Diamond jewelry belonging to the crime novelist was discovered inside.

Another Agatha Christie mystery is solved: Now we know what happened to her lost diamonds, and the lucky finder gets to keep the riches.

Fans of the best-selling novelist of all time - 2 billion books sold and counting, according to - are agog Friday about news that her pricey baubles, discovered in one of her antique trunks, are up for auction in London.

On Oct. 8, Bonhams will sell some $22,000 worth of Christie's jewelry, including a diamond brooch and a three-stone diamond ring dating from the 19th century.

Long thought to be lost, the story of how the jewels were found is as twisty as some of Christie's addictive crime novels.

An Englishwoman and devoted Christie fan, Jennifer Grant, who will be the recipient of at least a portion of the proceeds from the sale, went to Greenway, Christie's beloved home in Devon, for an estate sale in 2006. There, she paid about $170 for an old travelling trunk that had belonged to Christie's mother. When she got it home, she found it contained a locked strongbox bolted to the base of the trunk.

But there was no key and no way to open it, so it sat at the bottom of her stairs for years. Every so often she and her friends would tip the trunk from side to side and hear something rattling faintly in the strongbox.

"I almost didn't want to open it because then the mystery would be over," she told Bonhams.

But years later, she was having some work done on the house and thought a crowbar might wrench open the box. Voila: Inside were a purse of gold coins, the brooch and the ring, which Christie had described in her autobiography as inheritances from her mother, to whom she was very close.

© Bonhams, EPA

Diamond jewelry, including a brooch and a ring, belonging to Agatha Christie, were found in an antique trunk. They will be auctioned in London on Oct. 8.

"I had read (the) biography and so I knew exactly what I was looking at," Grant said. "They matched the description exactly. I was nearly hyperventilating!"

Now we'll see whether any of Christie's zillions of fans around the world will hyperventilate enough to pay about $10,000 to $14,000 for the brooch, and about $5,000 to $8,500 for the ring.

Not a bad return on $170.