Secret History
Map


Heart - Black

Ghost of Christmas Past: 70 years after his execution, 14-year old black boy exonerated for double murder

stinney
© Reuters/South Carolina Department of Archives and History
George Stinney Jr
It took 70 years, but a 14-year-old African American boy from Alcolu, South Carolina who was executed for allegedly killing two white girls has now been exonerated of murder.

In a ruling issued Wednesday by Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen, the murder conviction against George Stinney was vacated over concerns that the young boy's constitutional right to a fair trial was violated to the point that his name should be cleared, WIS TV reported.

Stinney, who was so small at the time of his execution by electric chair that he had to sit on a phone book, is often cited as the youngest American to be put to death by the state in the 20th century.

During his trial in 1944, Stinney's white lawyer did not present witnesses or cross-examine witnesses presented by the prosecution. In 2009, Stinney's sister claimed in an affidavit that her brother could not have killed the two young girls because he was with her at the time their deaths occurred.

"The state, as an entity, has very unclean hands," attorney Miller Shealy argued at a hearing in January, as quoted by the Huffington Post.

Comment: He was 14 years, 6 months and 5 days old - and the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th Century

Music

Earliest known piece of polyphonic music discovered

polyphonic music
© MS Harley 3019. Reproduced with the permission of the British Library Board
The music was written around the year 900, and represents the earliest example of polyphonic music intended for practical use.

New research has uncovered the earliest known practical piece of polyphonic music, an example of the principles that laid the foundations of European musical tradition.


The earliest known practical example of polyphonic music - a piece of choral music written for more than one part - has been found in a British Library manuscript in London.

The inscription is believed to date back to the start of the 10th century and is the setting of a short chant dedicated to Boniface, patron Saint of Germany. It is the earliest practical example of a piece of polyphonic music - the term given to music that combines more than one independent melody - ever discovered.

Written using an early form of notation that predates the invention of the stave, it was inked into the space at the end of a manuscript of the Life of Bishop Maternianus of Reims.

The piece was discovered by Giovanni Varelli, a PhD student from St John's College, University of Cambridge, while he was working on an internship at the British Library. He discovered the manuscript by chance, and was struck by the unusual form of the notation. Varelli specialises in early musical notation, and realised that it consisted of two vocal parts, each complementing the other.

Polyphony defined most European music up until the 20th century, but it is not clear exactly when it emerged. Treatises which lay out the theoretical basis for music with two independent vocal parts survive from the early Middle Ages, but until now the earliest known examples of a practical piece written specifically for more than one voice came from a collection known as The Winchester Troper, which dates back to the year 1000.

Varelli's research suggests that the author of the newly-found piece - a short "antiphon" with a second voice providing a vocal accompaniment - was writing around the year 900.

Arrow Down

Scotish orphans used in 'military experiments'

Lennox Castle Hospital
© The Express, UK
Lennox Castle Hospital is one of four Scottish institutions alleged to have been involved.
The allegations centre on at least four institutions where thousands of children are said to have been experimented upon in conditions described as "like something out of Auschwitz".

It is alleged that Porton Down, the top secret military facility in Wiltshire, was involved in trialling drugs for use in the Cold War on youngsters who were regarded as "feeble-minded".

One survivor told this newspaper he has obtained written and video evidence that he will pass to the public inquiry into historical abuse of children in care when it begins next year.

The man, now in his 50s, has been advised by lawyers to conceal his identity for his own safety until his full submission can be lodged at the inquiry announced by Scottish Education Secretary Angela Constance.

However, he was willing to divulge some of his intended testimony about the treatment he and others suffered.

He said: "Six and seven year olds were tied to racks and given electric shocks.

"I was incarcerated with orderlies armed with rubber coshes.

"We were imprisoned, experimented upon, lobotomies, you name it, they did it.

"I was there, I saw it with my own eyes.
Christmas Tree

The forgotten Christmas truce of 1914 - Psychopaths versus the rest of us

It was exactly 100 years ago this month when the Christmas Truce of 1914 occurred, when Christian soldiers on both sides of the infamous No Man's Land of the Western Front, recognized their common humanity, dropped their guns and fraternized with the so-called enemies that they had been ordered to kill without mercy the day before. As mentioned in last week's column, the truth of that remarkable event has since been effectively covered up by state and military authorities (and the embedded journalists at the time) because they were angered (and embarrassed) by the breakdown of military discipline.

In the annals of war, such "mutinies" are now unheard of. The generals and (as well as the saber-rattling, chest-thumping politicians and war profiteers back home) rapidly developed strategies to prevent such behavior from happening again.

Christmas Eve of 1914 was only 5 months into World War I, and the cold, weary, homesick soldiers found themselves not heroes, as expected, but rather miserable, frightened and disillusioned wretches living in rat- and louse-infested trenches. Most of them had dreamed heroic dreams when they had signed up to kill and die for King and Country a few months earlier, and hey had been fully expecting to be home for the holidays.

Lower echelon officers on both sides of No Man's Land, who were suffering right along with the troops, allowed a lull in the war - just for Christmas Eve. Then they allowed the troops to sing Christmas hymns, and many of the not-yet hardened soldiers started to recognize the humanity of the demonized "other" that had been fingered as sub-humans deserving of death.

Comment: "As tantalizing as is the story of the Christmas Truce, it is also a reminder of what could have happened if there had been less obedience to authority and more organized opposition to senseless war in the families, schools and churches."

Unfortunately, not much has changed since WWI, in fact things have gotten much worse. Control of the press has been massively increased, authoritarianism has been institutionalised into every seam of our society, the citizenry is being relentlessly spied on, and basic human rights have been watered down or abolished.

Would such a Christmas truce still be possible today - probably not!

Meteor

1 million bodies found in Egyptian cemetery - scientists stumped


A mummy of a 18 months old girl was found
An ancient cemetery in Egypt contains 1 million bodies, according to a team of archeologists who discovered the burial ground. What the site represents remains a mystery, as the scientists are still puzzled about where exactly all the people came from.

"We are fairly certain we have over a million burials within this cemetery. It's large, and it's dense," said Project Director Kerry Muhlestein, an associate professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University (BYU). Muhlestein presented his findings at the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Scholars Colloquium, held in Toronto in November, Live Science reported.

Archaeologists from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, have been exploring a mysterious cemetery in Egypt for about 30 years. They excavated about 1,700 mummies within the project in Egypt so far. But there is still much work to do.

The cemetery is now called Fag el-Gamous, which means "Way of the Water Buffalo," a title that comes from the name of a nearby road. Archaeologists from Brigham Young University have been excavating Fag el-Gamous, along with a nearby pyramid, for about 30 years. Many of the mummies date to the time when the Roman or Byzantine Empire ruled Egypt, from the 1st century to the 7th century A.D.cemetery]
Magnify

Cathedral builders reinforced stone with iron

A team of French researchers from the Laboratoire archéomatériaux et prévision de l'altération, the Laboratoire de mesure du carbone 14, and the Université Paris 8, has extracted carbon from the iron used to support Gothic cathedrals, and used radiocarbon dating and archaeological evidence to determine that such reinforcements had been implemented in the initial phase of construction.

© Library of Congress
Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France in late 1800s.
Using radiocarbon dating on metal found in Gothic cathedrals, an interdisciplinary team has shown, for the first time through absolute dating, that iron was used to reinforce stone from the construction phase. This study, the result of a collaboration between the Laboratoire archéomatériaux et prévision de l'altération1 (CNRS/CEA), the Laboratoire de mesure du carbone 14 (CNRS/CEA/IRD/IR SN/French ministry of Culture and Communication) and the team "Histoire des pou voirs, savoirs et sociétés" of Université Paris 8, sheds new light on the technical skill a nd intentions of cathedral builders. It will be published in the January 2015 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

This innovative method could improve understanding of medieval buildings in Europe, such as the Sainte-Chapelle, as well as in Asia, such as the temples of Angkor.
Pharoah

Restored colossal statue of Amenhotep III unveiled in Egypt

© AP
A tourist takes a picture of two colossal statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in Luxor on December 14, 2014.
Archaeologists on Sunday unveiled a restored colossal statue of Amenhotep III that was toppled in an earthquake more than 3,000 years ago at Egypt's famed temple city of Luxor.

The statue showing him in a striding attitude was re-erected at the northern gate of the king's funerary temple on the west bank of the Nile.

The temple is already famous for its existing 3,400-year-old Memnon colossi - twin statues of Amenhotep III whose reign archaeologists say marked the political and cultural zenith of ancient Egyptian civilisation.

The 12.92-metre (43-foot) statue unveiled on Sunday stands west of an existing effigy of the king, also depicting him walking, which was unveiled in March.

"These are up to now the highest standing effigies of an Egyptian king in striding attitude," said German-Armenian archaeologist Hourig Sourouzian, who heads the project to conserve the temple.

The world-famous twin Memnon colossi are 21 metres tall but show the pharaoh seated.

The restored statue now stands again for the first time since its collapse 3,200 years ago, Sourouzian told AFP from Luxor.

Consisting of 89 large pieces and numerous small fragments and reassembled since November, the monolith weighs 110 tonnes.

It had lain broken in pieces after the earthquake in 1200 BC, Sourouzian said.

The statue shows the king wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, and each hand holding a papyrus roll inscribed with his name, like the one standing next to it that was unveiled earlier this year.

His belt, holding a dagger with a falcon-head handle, is fastened with a rectangular clasp bearing the names of the king.

Work to conserve the Amenhotep III temple is entirely funded through private and international donations.

Pharaoh Amenhotep III inherited an empire that stretched from the Euphrates to Sudan, archaeologists say.

The 18th dynasty ruler became king aged around 12, with his mother as regent.

Amenhotep III died in around 1354 BC and was succeeded by his son Amenhotep IV, widely known as Akhenaten.

Luxor, a city of some 500,000 people on the banks of the Nile in southern Egypt, is an open-air museum of intricate temples and pharaonic tombs.
Colosseum

Collection of Roman artifacts found buried in garden of Rome's British embassy

roman funerary relief

An expert has said this funerary relief showing five freed slaves and a child is 'very rare' and unusual
More than 350 ancient Roman statues and artifacts have been found buried in the overgrown garden of the British ambassador in Rome.

The important collection had been hidden for decades in the garden which had been allowed to grow wild after years of neglect.

During a painstaking three-year landscaping project to restore the garden to its former glory, gardeners were astonished to find the statues, each covered in moss, lichen and slime.
Magnify

Rare 520 million year old fossil discovered in China

Nidelric pugio fossil
© Prof Derek J Siveter of Oxford University
Nidelric pugio named in honour of University of Leicester scientist who passed away earlier this year.

Nidelric pugio fossil dates back half a billion years and teaches us about the diversity of life in Earth's ancient seas. In life the animal was a 'balloon' shape, covered in spines but the squashed fossil resembles a bird's nest. The fossil has been named in honour of Professor Richard Aldridge from the University of Leicester.

This rare 520 million year old fossil has been discovered in China by an international research team.

The research team behind the discovery was led by Professor Xianguang Hou from the Yunnan Key Laboratory for Palaeobiology at Yunnan University in China with collaboration from the Universities of Leicester and Oxford.

The fossil, from Chengjiang in southern China, is of a probably 'chancelloriid', a group of bizarre, balloon-shaped animals with an outer skeleton of defensive spines. The animal was flattened during the fossilisation process so that it looks like a squashed bird's nest.

Comment: China has provided a plentiful source of discoveries for archeologists:

Cache in Chinese Mountain Reveals 20,000 Prehistoric Fossils

Rare skull of fossil ape discovered

Fossilized Cells Found in China May Challenge Theory of Evolution

Mysterious Chinese Fossils May Be New Human Species

China: Fossils Show Path of the Dinosaurs in Shaanxi

Palette

Ancient cave art reveals origins of symbolic thought

cave popcorn
© Christopher Brand
Three years ago, on an expedition to Sulawesi, one of the larger islands in the Indonesia archipelago, the archaeologist Adam Brumm visited a cave decorated with ancient art: mulberry-colored hand stencils and paintings of corpulent pig-deer and midget buffalo, complete with hairlike brush strokes. Squeezing past a giant block of limestone at the cave's entrance, Brumm made his way toward a narrow nook and crawled along it. There, on a section of ceiling less than a foot above his head, he saw ghostly silhouettes of human hands speckled with warty growths of calcite known as "cave popcorn."

A year later, Brumm returned with his colleague Maxime Aubert and a diamond-bladed saw. Aubert specializes in using calcite - which contains trace amounts of steadily decaying radioactive uranium - to determine precise dates for ancient rock art. Researchers had long assumed that Sulawesi's cave paintings were less than 10,000 years old; anything older, the thinking went, would have eroded in the island's humid climate. But Brumm and Aubert's analysis, published in October, revealed that one hand stencil is at least 39,900 years old - the oldest hand stencil on record. A nearby painting of a female pig-deer was estimated to be 35,400 years old, making it one of the most ancient examples of figurative art.
Top