WTF Fun Fact 13110 – Jonathan the Tortoise’s Birthday

Jonathan the Tortoise has seen some things. More than any of us. And that’s because the big guy just celebrated his 190th birthday!

Jonathan the Tortoise’s birthday

A while back we told you about Jonathan, and at that time, no one really seemed to know precisely how old he was since he was brought to – a sanctuary in Saint Helena, a British territory in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Angola and Namibia – at an unverifiable age.

Take a look:

Since then, it looks like it’s been decided that Jonathan is 190 as of this year. We can’t begrudge the guy a party, so we’ll go with it.

Jonathan’s party

CBS News reports that Jonathan the tortoise’s birthday party was quite a bash when it was held in early December 2022.

“The island held an official birthday bash over the weekend, celebrating the longest-living chelonian at the island’s governor’s residence. Along with hosting broadcasts about Jonathan’s significance, the island also held a ‘main event’ in his honor on Sunday [the 4th], where people could get Jonathan stamps and other Jonathan-themed souvenirs.”

Throughout the weekend, the world’s oldest land creature was hailed as a “national treasure” and indulged in a cake made of his favorite vegetables.

According to CBS News (cited below) “Jonathan’s long life has earned him two Guinness World Records – one in 2019 for becoming the world’s oldest land animal and another this January for becoming the oldest living chelonian, a term encompassing turtles, terrapins and tortoises.”

While the sanctuary where he lives lists his birth year as 1832, Guinness believes he could be older. That’s because he wasn’t discovered until 1882, when he was already fully mature. Clearly, some significant years had already passed. We just don’t know how many.

Regardless, Jonathan has survived two World Wars and was even alive when the first telephone call was made in 1876. We feel wiser just looking at him.  WTF fun facts

Source: “World’s oldest land animal, Jonathan the tortoise, celebrates 190th birthday” — CBS News

WTF Fun Fact 12983 – The History of Birthstones

You probably know your birthstone, but do you know why we have them? If your answer is “because someone wants to make us feel sentimental about something in an effort to sell us more stuff,” you’re pretty much right. But there’s also an interesting history of birthstones that helps tell the story of how they came to be part of our cultures.

Where does the history of birthstones begin?

Nowadays there are one to three gemstones for every month/zodiac sign. But a birthstone for each month is a later development. Originally, the idea of 12 gemstones goes back to the story of Aaron, the brother of Moses in the Old Testament.

In the Book of Exodus, Aaron wears a breastplate adorned with 12 stones. Each stone represents one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Aaron was the first high priest of the Israelites to wear it. All those who come after him wore it too since it is said to have special powers to reveal the fate of the tribes. (That’s the short story,

First-century translations of the Old Testament texts reveal that “the first row contained carnelian, chrysolite, and beryl. The second row contained jacinth, agate, and amethyst, and the third row contained topaz, onyx, and jasper.”

According to the International Gem Society (IGS) (cited below):

“The naming of minerals at the time were dependent on color rather than chemical composition, so it is difficult to determine which gems were actually used. For example, chrysolite was used to describe gems with flecks of gold, which could have included topaz or peridot.”

From sacred gemstones to birthstones

In the late 1st century AD, the historian Josephus mentions the breastplate in his 20-volume work on Jewish customs. He also calls attention to its connection to the 12 months of the year and the 12 zodiac signs. He was one of the few Jewish writers that early Christian authors referenced. So it’s no surprise that Josephus’ ideas were picked up by St. Jerome in the 5th century AD. Jerome encouraged the use of the stones to represent months

According to the IGS “This established a tradition that would last for centuries, in which people would collect all of the 12 stones to wear at one time in extravagant belts, bracelets, and other ornaments. By the 8th and 9th centuries, this trend evolved to where people would own a collection of all of the jewels but only wear a single stone during a given month, where it was believed to have heightened powers. This most likely came from eastern traditions believing that birthstones can provide the wearer with protection and powers, as trade between the east and west began to surge during this time period. The modern tradition of wearing one stone for their month of birth did not begin until the 16th century and originated in either Germany or Poland.  This was the start of the birthstone trend we are familiar with today.”

Other cultural influences

Eastern cultures also associated gemstones, though it’s more often 9 stones than 12. Still, the idea of associating stones with astrological signs would have resonated around the world early on.

That made it much easier for someone (the gemstone industry) to eventually capitalize on it further.

In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers decided to standardize the list of American birthstones and the months they represented. This allowed them to promote the purchase of specific stones in large quantities at different times of the year.

In 1952, the list was modified as stones were harder to come by and became too expensive.

Now, you’ll see up to three stones associated with any single month or zodiac sign. This has a lot to do with what sorts of stones the industry is capable of selling.  WTF fun facts

Source: “History of Birthstones” — International Gem Society