Blood on the Sand: Genghis Khan vs. Hannibal

August 8, 2011

Fig 2: Likeness of the coin Dr. Hunt wears around his neck during this week's show as a result of him archaeologically following Hannibal through the Alps.

In an article in the Journal of Archaeology (Volume 60 Number 1, January/February 2007), Dr. Hunt reveals that Hannibal is likely to have brought over 25,000 men, 37 elephants, and scores of pack animals through the Alps via Col de Clapier Pass in Southern France. This is regarded as not just one of the boldest military maneuvers in history, but also a physiologically amazing feat considering the peak of this pass measures 8,200 ft above sea level (not to mention the rock slides, snow storms, and warring tribes Hannibal had to ward off). At that elevation only 75% of the oxygen is present when comparing to sea level (based on partial pressures rather than % present). Here is an interactive website that you can use to delve deeper into the effects of this altitude on the warriors and animals that Hannibal was leading.

Geographically speaking, the Col de Clapier Pass lies directly over the plains of northern Italy and Hannibal used that to his advantage as the views would have motivated even the most exhausted of his men. It was well-timed as the grades of the descent exceeded 70% and hence led to hundreds of Hannibal's men slipping and falling to their death. Dr. Hunt himself also slipped and fell during this descent but managed to survive with only a broken leg. The thought whirling in my head as he told me this story, I'm proud to have worked with this fellow scientist as he demonstrates the dedication that all scientists have to discovering the truth of our physical world.

Genghis Khan Expert

Timothy May, PhD: This man literally wrote the book on Genghis Khan when he published the book entitled The Mongol Art of War. In this book Dr. May describes how during the 13th century the Mongol Army led by Genghis Khan initiated (and eventually established by his successors) the largest land empire in history - a land mass that engulfed most of Asia into eastern Europe. Dr. May quells modern views of the Mongol Army as being undisciplined, barbarian-like horsemen by detailing historical examples of the high level of training Khan's regiments received and how they were led by superior tacticians. Dr. May continues by discussing how the Mongol success was largely due to planned, practiced, and perfectly executed tactics rather than due to brute force or sheer numbers. You will be impressed at Dr. May's ability to translate the technical details from the book on the weapons and tactics of Genghis Khan to your television screen in this week's epic match-up.

Addition to this week's Fabrication Laboratory

I get yet another Fabrication Laboratory this week and will fill you in on some details that did not air right here. The elephant skin that was developed on the show was based on legally-obtained cadaver photos of elephants and examination of the skin of our live elephant on set. The cadaver photos were taken by biologists in the field and they provided a forensic ruler in the photo frame so that respective skin layer thicknesses could be accurately determined. Using the photos and the examination in combination we could accurately determine epidermis (outer skin layer), dermis (just under outer skin), and the hypodermis/subcutaneous (deep skin layer and fatty tissue before muscle) layers thickness and consistency. While the epidermis required leather to properly mimic its properties, the dermis layer was estimated to be the same consistency of 3/4in closed cell foam and all subcutaneous tissue was assumed to have the density and viscosity of that of humans. Therefore, we used our trusty recipe for ballistics gel (10-20% 250 bloom gelatin mixed with boiling water and allowed to cure at 4°C).

While it's difficult to say what electronic equipment we'll have available to us during the course of airing of any showing of Deadliest Warrior, the show's hosts are typically available for live tweeting during every week's show so please send in your questions during the show via twitter to our own former U.S. Navy SEAL, the good Doctor, and your Scientist to have them answered LIVE, in real time on August 10 at 10/9c.

That's it for this week's "Blood on the Sand" Blog I hope your enjoying the more of everything that we are brining you this Season 3 of Deadliest Warrior!

New Episodes of Deadliest Warrior air on Spike Wednesdays at 10/9c and are posted on three days later.

Geoff Desmoulin