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Evidence shows prehistoric humans used fire 300,000 years ago

Fire
© Dimos/Shutterstock
New findings reported in the Journal of Archaeological Science suggest that prehistoric humans were able to control and use fire at their will.

A team of Israeli scientists discovered the earliest evidence of unequivocal repeated fire building over a continuous period in the Qesem Cave. This evidence, found at an archaeological site near present-day Rosh Ha'ayin, dates back to around 300,000 years ago.

The researchers identified thick deposits of wood ash in the center of the cave, and infrared spectroscopy helped determine that there were bits of bone and soil that had been heated to very high temperatures mixed in with the ash. This evidence provides conclusive proof that this had been the site of a large hearth.

Dr. Ruth Shahack-Gross of the Kimmel Center for Archeological Science at the Weizmann Institute tested the micromorphology of the ash by using a microscope, helping her and her colleagues see the composition of the materials in the deposit and reveal how they were formed. This method helped the team find the evidence for a hearth that was used repeatedly over time.
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300,000-year-old caveman 'campfire' found in Israel


An arrow points to the Qesem Cave hearth, where hominins may have tended to fires as early as 300,000 years ago.
A newly discovered hearth full of ash and charred bone in a cave in modern-day Israel hints that early humans sat around fires as early as 300,000 years ago - before Homo sapiens arose in Africa. In and around the hearth, archaeologists say they also found bits of stone tools that were likely used for butchering and cutting animals.

The finds could shed light on a turning point in the development of culture "in which humans first began to regularly use fire both for cooking meat and as a focal point - a sort of campfire - for social gatherings," said archaeologist Ruth Shahack-Gross of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. "They also tell us something about the impressive levels of social and cognitive development of humans living some 300,000 years ago," Shahack-Gross added in a statement.

The centrally located fire pit is about 6.5 feet (2 meters) in diameter at its widest point, and its ash layers suggest the hearth was used repeatedly over time, according to the study, which was detailed in the Journal of Archaeological Science on Jan. 25. Shahack-Gross and colleagues think these features indicate the hearth may have been used by large groups of cave dwellers. What's more, its position implies some planning went into deciding where to put the fire pit, suggesting whoever built it must have had a certain level of intelligence.
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Risible 'Hitler fled to Brazil' book makes headlines

Hitler
© Screen Capture/YouTube
Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, as seen in 'Hitler's Reign of Terror.'
Adolf Hitler didn't commit suicide in a Berlin bunker in 1945. He escaped to South America, where he lived with his black lover to the age of 95 as a treasure hunter. That's the risible claim in a new book by a Brazilian Jewish journalism student.

The conspiracy theory premise of Simoni Renee Guerreiro Dias's book Hitler in Brazil - His Life and His Death has grabbed international headlines in recent days, and never mind the fact that it's ridiculous.

Hitler shot himself in his Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945, as the Red Army was advancing into the German capital. His body and that of his mistress, Eva Braun, were placed in a bomb crater outside the Reich Chancellory and doused with petrol.

The way Dias tells it, however, Hitler fled to Brazil and lived under the name Adolf Leipzig until he died in 1984. She claims Hitler lived in the small town of Nossa Senhora do Livramento, 30 miles from the Brazilian state capital Cuiaba, and hunted for buried Jesuit gold.

Her "proof"? A blurry photograph of the man she claims is Hitler with his black girlfriend - with whom he shacked up to allay suspicions that he might be the propagator of a racist ideology.
Cow Skull

Australia Day or Invasion Day?

Aborigines in Chains
© Unknown
Australian aborigines in chains.
As an Australian, I have fond memories of Australia Day celebrations. I would sit on my father's shoulders waving my Australian flag as we watched hundreds of boats crowd the harbour. I was always taught that Australia Day was a day to celebrate the beginning of a great country. At school it was the same - I recall colouring pictures of a heroic captain proudly planting a flag in Australian soil. Little did I know at the time, that the beginning of this 'great nation' was the end of another.

26th January - A day to celebrate?

Australia Day is celebrated on 26th January because it is the day that Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet, made up of eleven convict ships, landed at Sydney Cove in Australia and raised the British Flag, marking the beginning of British sovereignty over Australia. Phillip took possession of the land in the name of King George III, a land that had been declared terra nullius (uninhabited by humans).
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Renaissance art of the End Times revealed in rediscovered apocalyptic book

© all images from “The Book of Miracles,” courtesy Taschen
“1533 – Dragons over Bohemia”
In 1533, hundreds of dragons were reported to darken the skies over Bohemia, following a 1506 sighting of a blinding bright comet slicing over the sky. Were these foreboding occurrences signs of the apocalypse, or just a lot of Renaissance hearsay? In the 16th century a diligent scribe and artist chronicled these and other portents of woe in a book that was only rediscovered a few years ago.

The book with its 169 pages and vibrant illustrations was surprisingly intact when it went to auction in 2007 in Munich, and after it was sold to James Faber, a London-based dealer, it was revealed to be even more mysterious than previously believed, and about a century older. Now Taschen has recently published an edition of The Book of Miracles, so anyone can brood over its strange contents.
Eye 1

Blue eyes and dark skin, that's how the European hunter-gatherer looked

The genome of a 7,000-year-old individual from the Mesolithic site of La Brana-Arintero (Leon, Spain) has been recovered.
© Pelopanton / CSIC
La Braña 1, the name used to baptize a 7,000-year-old individual from the Mesolithic Period, had blue eyes and dark skin.
La Braña 1, name used to baptize a 7,000 years old individual from the Mesolithic Period, whose remains were recovered at La Braña-Arintero site in Valdelugueros (León, Spain) had blue eyes and dark skin. These details are the result of a study conducted by Carles Lalueza-Fox, researcher from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), in collaboration with the Centre for GeoGenetics (Denmark). La Braña 1 represents the first recovered genome of an European hunter-gatherer. The research is published in Nature.

The Mesolithic, a period that lasted from 10,000 to 5,000 years ago (between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic), ends with the advent of agriculture and livestock farming, coming from the Middle-East. The arrival of the Neolithic, with a carbohydrate-based diet and new pathogens transmitted by domesticated animals, entailed metabolic and immunological challenges that were reflected in genetic adaptations of post-Mesolithic populations. Among these is the ability to digest lactose, which La Braña individual could not do.
Document

The personal life of a Nazi: New trove of Himmler documents published

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the wife of Heinrich Himmler, chief of the Nazi Gestapo and the SS and one of the main orchestrators of the Holocaust, sent him a message: "There is a can of caviar in the ice box. Take it."

On another occasion Himmler's wife, Margarete, received a note: "I am off to Auschwitz. Kisses, Your Heini."

Excerpts from a private collection of hundreds of the Himmlers' personal letters, diaries and photographs were published for the first time this weekend by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot and the German paper Die Welt, providing a rare, if jarring, glimpse into the family life of one of Hitler's top lieutenants while he was busy organizing the mass extermination of Jews.
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The mystery of the Peterborough petroglyphs


They could be thousands of years older than experts allow, if only because the extensive weathering of some of the glyphs implies more than 1,000 years of exposure.
The Peterborough Petroglyphs are the largest collection of ancient rock carvings (petroglyphs) in all of North America, made up of over 900 images carved into crystalline limestone located near Peterborough in Ontario, Canada.

Proclaimed a National Historic Site of Canada in 1976, local indigenous people believe that this is an entrance into the spirit world and that the Spirits actually speak to them from this location. They call it Kinoomaagewaapkong, which translates to "the rocks that teach".
The petroglyphs are carved into a single slab of crystalline limestone which is 55 metres long and 30 metres wide. About 300 of the images are decipherable shapes, including humans, shamans, animals, solar symbols, geometric shapes and boats.

It is generally believed that the indigenous Algonkian people carved the petroglyphs between 900 and 1400 AD. But rock art is usually impossible to date accurately for lack of any carbon material and dating artefacts or relics found in proximity to the site only reveals information about the last people to be there. They could be thousands of years older than experts allow, if only because the extensive weathering of some of the glyphs implies more than 1,000 years of exposure.
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Archaeologists find cultural connections with Europe in ancient Jordanian settlement

Ancient Pottery
© University of Gothenburg
Pottery from one of the rooms from 1100 B.C.
Swedish archaeologists in Jordan led by Professor Peter M. Fischer from the University of Gothenburg have excavated a nearly 60-metre long well-preserved building from 1100 B.C. in the ancient settlement Tell Abu al-Kharaz. The building is from an era characterized by major migration.

New finds support the theory that groups of the so-called Sea Peoples emigrated to Tell Abu al-Kharaz. They derive from Southern or Eastern Europe and settled in the Eastern Mediterranean region all the way to the Jordan Valley.

"We have evidence that culture from present Europe is represented in Tell Abu al-Kharaz. A group of the Sea Peoples of European descent, Philistines, settled down in the city," says Peter Fischer. "We have, for instance, found pottery resembling corresponding items from Greece and Cyprus in terms of form and decoration, and also cylindrical loom weights for textile production that could be found in central and south-east Europe around the same time."

Tell Abu al-Kharaz is located in the Jordan Valley close to the border to Israel and the West Bank. It most likely corresponds to the biblical city of Jabesh Gilead. The Swedish Jordan Expedition has explored the city, which was founded 3200 B.C. and lasted for almost 5 000 years. The first excavation took place in 1989 and the most recent in autumn 2013. All in all, 16 excavations have been completed.
Blackbox

The Baghdad battery

One of the most interesting and highly debated artefacts of the Baghdad Museum in Iraq is a clay pot. It is 5-6 inches high and encapsulates a copper cylinder. Suspended in the center of this cylinder - but not touching it - is an iron rod. Both the copper cylinder and the iron rod are held in place with an asphalt plug. The rod shows evidence of corrosion, probably due to the use of an acidic liquid like vinegar or wine.

These artefacts (more than one was found) were discovered during the 1936 excavations of the old village Khujut Rabu, near Baghdad. The village is considered to be about 2000 years old, and was built during the Parthian period (250BCE to 224 CE).

Although it is not known exactly what the use of such a device would have been, the name 'Baghdad Battery', or 'Parthian Battery', comes from one of the prevailing theories established in 1938 when Wilhelm Konig, the German archaeologist who performed the excavations, examined the battery and concluded that this device was an ancient electric battery. Another theory suggests that they were containers to hold papyrus.

After the Second World War, Willard Gray, an American working at the General Electric High Voltage Laboratory in Pittsfield, built replicas and, filling them with an electrolyte, found that the devices could produce 2 volts of electricity.
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