Secret History


Rare 520 million year old fossil discovered in China

© 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


Ancient cave art reveals origins of symbolic thought

© 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.


Einstein's letter defending Marie Curie shows just how long trolls and 'reptiles' have been slut-shaming women

© Wikimedia Commons
In 1911, nearly a decade after winning a Nobel Prize for her pioneering work on radiation, Marie Curie received a letter from Albert Einstein in which he urged her not to be beaten down by people who would, today, be called trolls.

The letter is among the thousand of Einstein's documents released last week - which are being called "the Dead Sea Scrolls of physics" - and it begins by Einstein asking Curie "not [to] laugh at me for writing you without having anything sensible to say."

"But I am so enraged by the base manner in which the public is presently daring to concern itself with you," he continued, "that I absolutely must give vent to this feeling."

The treatment to which Einstein referred included the fact that the French Academy of Sciences denied her application for a seat, possibly because of rumors that she was Jewish - or because she was having an affair with a married man, the physicist Paul Langevin.

"I am convinced that you consistently despise this rabble," Einstein wrote, "whether it obsequiously lavishes respect on you or whether it attempts to satiate its lust for sensationalism!"

"Anyone who does not number among this reptiles," he said of her critics, "is certainly happy, now as before, that we have such personages among us as you, and Langevin too, real people with whom one feels privileged to be in contact."

Einstein concluded that "[i]f the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don't read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptiles for whom it has been fabricated."

Comment: Interesting choice of the word "reptiles". Einstein's letter was absolutely correct in pointing out the state of science then and still goes on today.


Ghost ship lost for over 60 years discovered in Hawaiian ocean

The U.S.S. Kailua, a sunken cable repair ship that was torpedoed in 1946, was recently rediscovered off the shores of Oahu, Hawaii. The ship's wheel, shown here, was still in its original location.
A "ghost ship" that has been lost beneath the waves for more than 60 years has been discovered nearly a half-mile below the ocean surface off the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

A small submersible vehicle came upon the shipwreck last year, researchers at the University of Hawaii announced today (Dec. 5). Despite being torpedoed after World War II, many parts of the ship, including the ship's wheel, are still in their original locations.

"The upper deck structures from the bow to the stern were well-preserved and showed no sign of torpedo damage," Terry Kerby, a submersible pilot with the university's Hawai'i Undersea Research Laboratory, said in a statement.

Comment: See also:

Shipwrecks Gallery: Secrets of the Deep

Six haunting tales of ghost ships throughout history


Archeologists discover first century farm and artifacts in center of Rome during subway construction

© AP Photo/Cooperativa Archeologia
Lined up amphoras were discovered during a subway construction in Rome. Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient commercial farm in the heart of modern Rome.
Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient commercial farm in the heart of modern Rome, taking advantage of subway construction to explore deeply in urban settings.

They worked some 20 meters down (some six stories deep) near St. John in Lateran Basilica. Today's Rome rests upon medieval layers and, under those, more ancient strata of life.

Rossella Rea, the dig's leader and a culture ministry official, said Wednesday that archaeologists discovered a first-century agricultural business, the closest to Rome's ancient center ever found, an irrigation basin measuring 35 by 70 meters (115 feet by 230 feet), and an extensive drainage system near the ancient Aqua Crabra water source.

Notable finds included a three-pronged iron pitchfork, storage baskets, leather fragments possibly from a farmhand's glove or shoe, and traces carved into stone by a waterwheel's repeated turning. Also extraordinary are well-preserved vestiges of willow and other tree roots and stumps.

Comment: Archeologists are continually finding artifacts from Rome's vast civilization:

'Entire streets' of Roman London uncovered in the City

Magnificent ancient Roman silver treasure revealed

Finest Roman-British Sculpture Found in London

Latrines, sewers show varied ancient Roman diet


Oldest engravings to date discovered on 500,000-year-old shells

Homo erectus living in Java, Indonesia, half a million years ago used freshwater shellfish for the production of tools and what appears to be art. These newly discovered engravings, described in Nature this week, are the oldest ever found.
© Henk Caspers, Naturalis, Leiden, The Netherlands
Inside of the fossil Pseudodon shell (DUB7923-bL) showing that the hole made by Homo erectus is exactly at the spot where the adductor muscle is attached to the shell
We used to think that geometric engravings were a sure sign of modern cognitive abilities, and experts have long debated over the origins of these behaviors. "Until this discovery, it was assumed that comparable engravings were only made by modern humans - Homo sapiens - in Africa, starting about 100,000 years ago," Josephine Joordens of Leiden University says in a news release. Not so, Asian Homo erectus appears to be fully capable of this "modern" behavior as well.

Comment: The origins of man keep getting pushed further and further back into time. Plus the discovery of sophisticated mechanisms like the Greek Antikythera continue to confound mainstream archeologists and historians. Maybe we aren't getting the whole story?

Eye 1

Athens 1944: When the British collaborated with Nazis and turned their guns against their allies

When 28 civilians were killed in Athens, it wasn't the Nazis who were to blame, it was the British. Ed Vulliamy and Helena Smith reveal how Churchill's shameful decision to turn on the partisans who had fought on our side in the war sowed the seeds for the rise of the far right in Greece today
© Dmitri Kessel/Time & Life Pictures
A day that changed history: the bodies of unarmed protestors shot by the police and the British army in Athens on 3 December 1944
"I can still see it very clearly, I have not forgotten," says Títos Patríkios. "The Athens police firing on the crowd from the roof of the parliament in Syntagma Square. The young men and women lying in pools of blood, everyone rushing down the stairs in total shock, total panic."

And then came the defining moment: the recklessness of youth, the passion of belief in a justice burning bright: "I jumped up on the fountain in the middle of the square, the one that is still there, and I began to shout: "Comrades, don't disperse! Victory will be ours! Don't leave. The time has come. We will win!"

"I was," he says now, "profoundly sure, that we would win." But there was no winning that day; just as there was no pretending that what had happened would not change the history of a country that, liberated from Adolf Hitler's Reich barely six weeks earlier, was now surging headlong towards bloody civil war.

Even now, at 86, when Patríkios "laughs at and with myself that I have reached such an age", the poet can remember, scene-for-scene, shot for shot, what happened in the central square of Greek political life on the morning of 3 December 1944.

This was the day, those 70 years ago this week, when the British army, still at war with Germany, opened fire upon - and gave locals who had collaborated with the Nazis the guns to fire upon - a civilian crowd demonstrating in support of the partisans with whom Britain had been allied for three years.

Comment: History repeats itself, and the Dekemvriana of Athens in 1944 becomes Kiev's Maidan in 2014. And the same state terrorism that the British empire spread around the world in its days of "imperial glory", we see now repeating globally and domestically by the American empire.

Read also: The British Empire - A Lesson In State Terrorism


Richard III DNA shows British Royal family may not have royal bloodline

The University of Leicester has studied the DNA of Richard III and found that there could be a break in the royal bloodline.

© The Society of Antiquities.
The portrait of Richard from The Society of Antiquities
When the body of Richard III was discovered in a car park in Leicester in 2012 archaeologists knew it was a momentous find.

But little did they realise that it might expose the skeletons in the cupboard of the British aristocracy, and even call into question the bloodline of the Royal family.

In order to prove that the skeleton really was Richard III, scientists needed to take a DNA sample and match it to his descendants.

Genetic testing through his maternal DNA proved conclusively that the body was the King. However, when they checked the male line they discovered something odd. The DNA did not match showing that at some point in history an adulterous affair had broken the paternal chain.

Although it is impossible to say when the affair happened, if it occurred around the time of Edward III (1312- 1377) it could call into question whether kings like Henry VI, Henry VII and Henry VIII had royal blood, and therefore the right to rule.

Red Flag

Later Communism totalitarian and oppressive? 'It was best time of my life' says Hungarian


The golden years before Anglo-American 'free trade' (debt-slavery) devoured the world: Zsuzsanna, right, aged 14 with a friend
When people ask me what it was like growing up behind the Iron Curtain in Hungary in the Seventies and Eighties, most expect to hear tales of secret police, bread queues and other nasty manifestations of life in a one-party state.

They are invariably disappointed when I explain that the reality was quite different, and communist Hungary, far from being hell on earth, was in fact, rather a fun place to live.

The communists provided everyone with guaranteed employment, good education and free healthcare. Violent crime was virtually non-existent.

But perhaps the best thing of all was the overriding sense of camaraderie, a spirit lacking in my adopted Britain and, indeed, whenever I go back to Hungary today. People trusted one another, and what we had we shared.

I was born into a working-class family in Esztergom, a town in the north of Hungary, in 1968. My mother, Julianna, came from the east of the country, the poorest part. Born in 1939, she had a harsh childhood.

Comment: Whew, living under later Communism sounded truly horrid. Thank goodness the US and British governments saw to it that it was destroyed.

Now we can all be free and happy... together... in the gutter... as atomized automatons... with the NSA watching over us all... as the endless War on Terror... grinds on into infinity.


Largest stone block from antiquity found at Baalbek, Lebanon

© Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
The largest stone block, partially buried. To the left is the Hajjar al-Hibla stone.
German archaeologists have discovered the largest stone ever carved by human hands, possibly dating to more than 2,000 years ago.

Still partially buried, the monolith measures 19.6 meters (64 feet) in length, 6 meters (19.6 feet) wide, and is at least 5.5 meters (18 feet) high. Its weight is estimated at a bulky 1,650 tons, making it biggest stone block from antiquity.

It was found by a team from the German Archaeological Institute in a stone quarry at Baalbek in Lebanon. Known as Heliopolis, "the city of the sun," during the Roman rule, Baalbek housed one of the grandest sanctuaries in the empire.