Friday, December 18, 2009

Candid Conversation About The Hitler Skull With Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni

Cliff T.: While listening to a recent Podcast of CBC's As It Happens I heard a real interesting interview with Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni. He is a state Archaeologist and he works out of the CT State Museum of Natural History and Archaeology Center. Back in the dying days of world war II Hitler committed suicide, the Russians for years claimed to have the skull of the Nazi leader. However after examining the skull Dr. Bellantoni found that the skull was not that of Hitler but of a woman, possibly Eva Braun, Dr Bellantoni thanks for taking time to speak about this subject.

Cliff T.: Can you explain what it is you do at the museum and how long you have been doing it?

Dr. Bellantoni: My job as state archaeologist has many roles and responsibilities, but, primarily I work toward preservation of archaeological sites in Connecticut. I review subdivisions, shopping malls, golf courses – any economic development project that might have an impact on below-ground archaeological resources. I work with local municipalities in preserving their history. Also, public education about the importance of archaeological sites is another role I take seriously.

Cliff T.: What drew you to Archeology and was that a boyhood interest or something you decided to do as you got older?

Dr. Bellantoni: I was a rather poor student in high school and when I graduated I went into the military and served 4 years in the US Navy. When I returned to civilian life I had matured a great deal and realized I needed to go to college and start a career. Well, no college would take me due to my poor performance in high school. Finally, a community college took me as a returning veteran on probation. I took a course in introductory anthropology and that got me going. I didn’t think to become an archaeologist until I was 24 years ago. Late bloomer!

Cliff T.: Is this the biggest archaeological challenge you have faced?

Dr. Bellantoni: No, the biggest challenge I had was the archaeological excavation and forensic study of the Bulkeley Family Tomb in Colchester, CT. The Bulkeley’s are one of the most prominent New England families, coming to the colony in the 1630s. In 2002, they discovered a family tomb that had been covered with earth and forgotten. The tomb dated form 1770s to 1830s. The family asked if I would do a forensic analysis of the skeletal remains to identify them in history. Turns out there were 30 burials in the tomb, and, between forensic science and genealogical data we were able to identify all of them in the family’s history.

Cliff T.: What drew you to decide to investigate the skull the Russians had?

Dr. Bellantoni: Producers for The History Channel asked if I would assist in a program they were doing on the death and remains of Adolf Hitler, and asked if I would go along as their scientist.

Cliff T.: Certainly Hitler is an interesting/infamous character, however what would be the purpose in finding and examining his skull?

Dr. Bellantoni: The project entailed trying to understand what happened in April and May of 1945 in Berlin. Much of what really happened has been kept secret, so we had an opportunity to investigate a small part of the story. It is important to know and understand a most significant part of world history.

Cliff T.: In your interview with CBC you mentioned that you had heard that the Russians had Hitler's dental records. Have you made progress in getting them along with other data that might help you locate the skull?

Dr. Bellantoni: I have not seen the actual dental x-rays that the Russian have. Hitler had bad teeth and needed bridge work. When the Russians found the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun, they did an autopsy and identified them through their dental work. That was the best you could do in 1945 and I believe that they did properly identify the bodies. The autopsy report, dental records and a part of the jaw bone (mandible) were sent to Moscow to convince Stalin that Hitler was dead.

Cliff T.: What was it like to hold what you thought was Hitler's skull, how did you feel when you got it? And what was the feeling you had when you realized that it was not his skull?

Dr. Bellantoni: Well, at first it was rather emotional to think that I held the remains of the most infamous person in world history. However, in examination of the cranial vault fragment, I quickly realized that my expectations of what Hitler’s skull cap should look like were not met. The vault fragment appeared to me to be too small (gracile) for an adult male, and too young (sutures were still wide open) for someone who died at 56 years of age.

Cliff T.: Do you still have the skull?

Dr. Bellantoni: No, the cranial vault fragment and the mandible that the Russians sent back to Moscow to demonstrate to Stalin that Hitler died still resides there.

Cliff T.: What kinds of tests did you use to determine the identity of the skull and was this process long or short?

Dr. Bellantoni: As mentioned, I conducted a general examination of gross morphology – that is, observations made by looking for identifiable characteristics, and noted some problems with the bone being that of Adolf Hitler. However, in the range of biological variation, it could still be him. It was really the DNA sample that showed the cranial vault was a woman.

Cliff T.: What will you do if you ever find the skull of Hitler?

Dr. Bellantoni: We will never find the skull of Hitler. In 1970, the Russians excavated his remains for the last time and conducted a full cremation. The ashes were they dumped into a brook that flowed into the Elbe River. His only extant remains are the mandible that was sent to Russia.

Cliff T.: Are there any other archaeological projects or mysteries that you plan to try and unravel in the near or distant future?

Dr. Bellantoni: Oh yes, I have two most interesting projects this year – one involving the identification of Old Leatherman; and one identifying the remains of an old English family of nobility. Anyhow, long stories but I am most interested in the archaeological and forensic potentials of these projects.

Cliff T: Dr. Bellantoni, thanks again for having a candid conversation with me and my readers.

Dr. Bellantoni: Thank you

Cliff T.: Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni has a PhD in Archeology and and works for CT State Museum of Natural History and Archaeology Center, University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. For more information on the Hitler Skull check out the following links listed below.

CBC Reports on the findings made by Dr. Bellantoni others who worked with him.

As It Happens October 2nd edition part II with Dr. Bellantoni's interview.

The Musem's website.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Candid Conersations Going A Few Rounds In The Interview Ring With Paul B

Cliff T.: Back in the 90's I met a fellow by the name of Paul. He was in the TV Broadcasting course at Mohawk College in Hamilton and I was in the Radio course. Besides an interest in television Paul also has developed skills in the computer world most notably helping Blackberry owners fix the technical problems they face. But this is not why I decided to do a Candid Conversation with Paul. What has garnered my attention is his sport of choice boxing. As a teen in high school Paul boxed but after leaving school he also left the ring until about a year or two ago. That is when he decided to get back into the ring. Paul thanks for speaking with me today on this subject.

Paul B: Well, I am always willing to help a friend. I appreciate your interest. Thanks for having me.

Cliff T.: Paul most people in their 40's probably don't think about getting into a boxing ring for the first never mind the second time what prompted the return to the ring?

Paul B: I love the sport. It is one of the best things for your body. There is cardio and strength training, and of course there is also the self defense aspect as well. However, it does not matter. Age is only a number, and anyone of any age should be physically active.

Cliff T.: What kind of reaction did you get when you told people you were going to box again?

Paul B: People were very supportive.

Cliff T.: Did you do anything before approaching a boxing coach?

Paul B: Well, I had to make sure I was in shape. For a few years without exercise, I did not exactly have a boxer's body. I spent a year at Goodlife Fitness, and a proper diet, to get myself back into boxing shape.

Cliff T.: What was the reaction you got when you approached a coach?

Paul B: Nothing unusual. I look younger than I really am, and age is not something that comes up when you apply at a boxing gym. The coach thought I was in my lower 30's.

Cliff T.: Do you have a boxing role model and if you do who and why?

Paul B: I do not have a specific role model. I do look at some professional boxers for insight. We have a couple at my gym. I will often go to them for advise, and have even sparred with them.

Cliff T.: I can assume that you did not just get into the ring and box, what did you have to do before you got into the ring for your first bout?

Paul B: Training, training, training. As I mentioned before, I lost my boxer's body, and I had to get it back. Stamina is very important. There are no time-outs in boxing. You are in there for 2 or 3 minutes, and there is no stopping until the intermission period. If you stop for a second, you are finished.

Cliff T.: I am also assuming that you still train, what is involved in the training?

Paul B: I generally train 7 days a week with a very specific training schedule. These combine different types of exercise at different times. These include strength training, cardio, and technical boxing which includes sparring and shadow boxing with footwork. There is also jumping rope, ab strengthening and good old fashioned push-ups. The training schedule is designed to reduce the plateau effect, and give the most effective workout.

Cliff T.: What is the plateau effect?

Paul B: The Plateau Effect is caused by doing the exact same exercise routine all the time. Your muscles get used to it. This is called a Plateau. Your muscles will no longer build beyond that point, regardless of how much you work them. Mixing your routine, and creating a different exercise environment for you muscles eliminates this effect.

Cliff T.: How many bouts have you been in since your return to the ring?

Paul B: I have not had any competition bouts yet, I am hoping to start next season. I do have exhibition matches approximately once per month.

Cliff T.: Besides the physical training that you do is there any kind of theory that you have to study? Do you also have to be on sort of diet as well?

Paul B: Let me start on theory. It is called Technical Boxing. Just like with every sport, there is a "right way" to box. Beginner boxers learn the basics of boxing and the rules of the sport. However, when you get to my level, you create your own style. Every boxer has his own style, but that style can be traced back to the basics. As for what I eat, a boxer's diet generally consists of low-carbs and high protein. Lots of meats and veggies, juices and water. I also take a protein supplement right after training. Interestingly enough, a meal at McDonald's, with salad and juice or milk, is common for athletes because of the high protein content.

Cliff T.: Beside the physical element is there any psychology that factors into what you do in the ring?

Paul B: Well, boxing is actually more skill than physical. Boxing is one of few sports where you are offense and defense at the same time. You study your opponent, and find his weak spot, then use that to your advantage. If you can move in with a good-powerful right, then you do.

Cliff T.:Many sports figures are superstitious are you and if so what do you do if anything before a bout, example do you rub a rabbits foot?

Paul B: I am not superstitious. I don't do anything special before a bout. If I have trained better than my opponent, I will win.

Cliff T.: For the most part in the ring there seems from what I have seen a form of discipline, what are the basic rules in boxing? Have you ever come across an opponent who has broken these rules? And have you ever had to say to to a referee sorry I am not boxing this opponent any longer as he is not fighting within the confines of the rules?

Paul B: That is why there is a referee. Because of the nature of the sport, the rules are more for safety than anything else. However, the rules vary depending on the area. Ontario has very strict rules and these rules are heavily enforced. There are other places, such as the state of Florida, with fewer rules that are not very well enforced. Basically, boxers may only attack their opponent within the target area. That is from the forehead to the abdomen, and in front and below the ears to the lower ribcage. Striking outside these areas is illegal. Hitting behind the ears, below the belt, or the kidneys is not allowed. Holding your opponent is not allowed, and you may only attack during the round. Throwing a punch after the bell is an illegal move. Of course, just like any sport, the referee is the boss. He always has the final say. Neither, myself or my seconds have never complained about another boxer. Boxing refs are good at noticing problems. I remember a friend from my gym boxing against a guy from Rochester, NY. The Rochester guy gave my buddy a flick to the ribs after the bell, and was instantly disqualified, because the bout was held in Ontario. As I said before, you can't get away with cheating in Ontario, so don't bother. To give you an example of the differences in various areas: Boxers in Ontario are required to wear full safety gear; 12 oz. Gloves, groin protector, mouth guard, hand protection (wraps/gauze), and headgear. In Florida, headgear and groin protection are not required, and they only use 10 oz. gloves.

Cliff T.: Besides the physical workout Paul does boxing give you anything else? What kind of things can a person learn about himself while In and out of the ring?

Paul B: Boxing gives you a sense of pride, responsibly and respect. You respect you coaches and trainers, they teach you. You are responsible to yourself to listen and learn. Then you will win. Winning gives you pride, because it is something you have earned.

Cliff T.: What are the 3 things anyone should consider before taking up boxing?

Paul B: 1: Prepare to train very hard and take your body to the limit and beyond. 2: You will have to give 110% to the sport in order to succeed. 3:Boxing is a sport. It is not about being a tough guy or showing off. Be respectful.

Cliff T.: Paul thanks so much for taking the time to do this. I think our readers will really enjoy your insights.

Paul B: Thanks for allowing my input.

Cliff T.:Paul B. is a Toronto based amateur exhibition boxer. His next bout is January 17.