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Grapes of Wrath: The Fall River/Dighton mystery

Skeleton
© WhoForted?
Original sketch of the Skeleton in Armor republished in 1953 by the Fall River Herald News.
By now, it's a well-accepted fact that the Vikings beat Columbus to the New World (i.e. North America) by a couple hundred years. Settlements have been found in Newfoundland along the Eastern Canadian coast. But exactly how far south they traveled in North America is still a mystery. But could a buried warrior and a strange stone hold the key to the mystery, or is it just the tip of an archaeological iceberg?

Fall River, Massachusetts, is perhaps best known for the violent double homicide leading to the murder trial of Lizzie Borden, but 50 years before that crime, the town was made famous by another shocking headline. Near the present site of New England Gas Company where 5th Street meets Hartwell, workmen excavating a hill uncovered a skeleton in a shallow grave in 1831. According to a contemporary account published in 1839 for American Monthly Magazine, the skeleton was buried in a sitting position encased in coarse bark with its head one foot below ground level. It appears the young man had possibly been mummified either naturally or intentionally ("The preservation of this body may be the result of some embalming process, and this hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that the skin has the appearance of having been tanned...") and wrapped in a coarse cloth resembling burlap. He wore a large brass breastplate across his chest, and around his waist was
"...a belt composed of brass tubes, each four and a half inches in length and three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter... the length of the tube being the width of the belt. The tubes are of thin brass, cast upon hollow reeds, and were fastened together by pieces of sinew... The arrows are of brass, thin, flat, and triangular in shape, with a round hole cut through near the base. The shaft was fastened to the head by inserting the latter in an opening at the end of the wood, and then tying it with a sinew through the round hole, a mode of constructing the weapon never practiced by the Indians..."
There is some historical debate as to the last statement. Brass was not unfamiliar to native tribes who had been known to trade goods for brass kettles which they melted down for arrowheads and adornments in the 1600s. One brass tube was donated to Copenhagen's Peabody Museum in 1887; analysis revealed it was indeed brass. Without modern dating techniques, though, the age of the skeleton couldn't be determined. Some people insisted it was some lost Indian chief. Others suggested it was undoubtedly Phoenician and proved that some forgotten Mediterranean peoples had crossed the Atlantic and formed the mythical Atlantis "beyond the Pillars of Hercules" (or Rock of Gibraltar) as recorded by Plato. Others insisted it was just a hoax.
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Evidence of the Gods - Islands in the Pacific

Moeraki boulders
© New Page Books
Ancient humans had the natural urge to document the world in which they lived, a fact that is evident in the cave paintings from various sites around the world that all seem to depict the same things. Did the peoples of the prehistoric world have contact with each other? Is it possible that some were transported to far-flung locations in what our ancestors could only have described as "flying chariots"? Here is an excerpt from Erich von Däniken's latest book, Evidence of the Gods: A Visual Tour of Alien Influence in the Ancient World.

Boulders on the Beach

North of Dunedin in New Zealand, there are about 100 spherical boulders lying on Moeraki Beach. The largest has a diameter of 3.16 meters. These giant geodes are literally flushed out of the rock, roll a few meters, come to a halt, and are then washed over by the daily tides. Many have broken apart, crumbling away as the result of the action of wind and waves. No one has any idea how many of the boulders have already been swallowed by the surf, worn down over thousands of years. Yet the rock keeps flushing out new boulders from the sediment as if a rock mother were laying eggs.
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Storms turn up lard from WWII shipwreck

WWII Lard
© Scottish Natural Heritage
After storms lashed Scotland over the holidays, decades-old lard from a World War II shipwreck washed up at St. Cyrus, a beach about 100 miles (160 km) north of Edinburgh.
After storms lashed Scotland over the holidays, some strange World War II-era relics turned up on the country's chilly coast, including decades-old lard from a shipwreck and bunker blocks buried on a beach, local officials said.

At St. Cyrus Natural Reserve, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Edinburgh, four large chunks of lard washed up after the storms. Though their wooden containers disintegrated long ago, the lard chunks retained their barrel shape, and they were still bright white under a thick crust of barnacles, local officials said.

"The depth of the swell during the storms we had over the holidays must have broke apart the shipwreck some more and caused the lard to escape," Therese Alampo, manager at the reserve, said in a statement from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

"It's given us some interesting sights recently on the reserve: I'm sure there have been people wondering what on earth has washed up on the beach. The lard was covered in the largest barnacles I've ever seen," Alampo added. "Animals, including my dog, have certainly enjoyed the lard, and it still looks and smells good enough to have a fry-up with!"

Vicki Mowat of SNH explained to LiveScience in an email that scientists haven't examined at the lard and the story of its origins comes from local history and knowledge.
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Gene study hopes to settle debate over origin of European Jews

European Jews
© Agence France-Presse
Jewish Rabbis at cementary.
Jews of European origin are a mix of ancestries, with many hailing from tribes in the Caucasus who converted to Judaism and created an empire that lasted half a millennium, according to a gene study.

The investigation, its author says, should settle a debate that has been roiling for more than two centuries.

Jews of European descent, often called Ashkenazis, account for some 90 percent of the more than 13 million Jews in the world today.

According to the so-called Rhineland Hypothesis, Ashkenazis descended from Jews who progressively fled Palestine after the Moslem conquest of 638 AD.

They settled in southern Europe and then, in the late Middle Ages, about 50,000 of them moved from the Rhineland in Germany into eastern Europe, according to the hypothesis.

But detractors say this idea is implausible.

Barring a miracle - which some supporters of the Rhineland Hypothesis have in fact suggested - the scenario would have been demographically impossible.

It would mean that the population of Eastern European Jews leapt from 50,000 in the 15th century to around eight million at the start of the 20th century.

That birth rate would have been 10 times greater than that of the local non-Jewish population. And it would have occurred despite economic hardship, disease, wars and pogroms that ravaged Jewish communities.
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Shaman stones found in Panama include magnetic rocks, crystals


An archaeologist and her colleagues have identified a cache of 12 unusual rocks and crystals in a cave in western Panama, but just what the stones were used for is unclear.
Forget wands, talismen and cauldrons -- in Pre-Columbian Central America, it was all about magic rocks.

An archaeologist and her colleagues have identified a cache of 12 unusual rocks and crystals in a cave in western Panama, but just what the stones were used for is unclear.

The minerals were found in an archaeological site known as the Casita de Piedra rock-shelter, near the town of Boquete. Analysis of charcoal bits found directly above and below the stones suggest they date back 4,000 to 4,800 years.
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Storms reveal Iron Age skeleton

Skeletal Remains
© Shetland Amenity Trust
Skeletal remains uncovered by storms.
A series of storms that hit Scotland's Shetland Islands over the holidays revealed what archaeologists believe could be 2,000-year-old human remains.

Police were initially called to the scene when storms eroded a cliff at Channerwick and exposed the skeleton, but officials soon determined that they wouldn't have to open a homicide investigation.

Local archaeologist Chris Dyer said the ancient skeleton looked as if it were contemporary with the remains of Iron Age structures revealed nearby. Researchers then identified evidence of one or possibly two more burials at the site, but another storm caused a further chunk of the cliff to crumble, covering up the discovery.
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'Peaceful' Minoans surprisingly warlike

Minotaur
© Public domain
The Greek hero Theseus slays the minotaur in this 6th-century depiction on pottery.
The civilization made famous by the myth of the Minotaur was as warlike as their bull-headed mascot, new research suggests.

The ancient people of Crete, also known as Minoan, were once thought to be a bunch of peaceniks. That view has become more complex in recent years, but now University of Sheffield archaeologist Barry Molloy says that war wasn't just a part of Minoan society - it was a defining part.

"Ideologies of war are shown to have permeated religion, art, industry, politics and trade, and the social practices surrounding martial traditions were demonstrably a structural part of how this society evolved and how they saw themselves," Molloy said in a statement.
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Elgin Marbles and the Parthenon

Elgin Marbles
© Mark Higgins | Shutterstock
A marble frieze from the Parthenon, now displayed in the British Museum, depicts a procession of gods and mortals.
The Elgin Marbles, sometimes referred to as the Parthenon sculptures, are a collection of marble sculptures that originally adorned the top of the exterior of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, and are now in London, England.

They are currently exhibited, free to the public, in the Duveen Gallery in the British Museum. Although today the sculptures appear white, originally they were painted in vivid colors, something that new research is revealing.

The marbles in London were removed from the Parthenon in the first decade of the 19th century under the auspices of Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin, and were first exhibited in London in 1807. Their removal is deeply controversial and the Greek government has requested that they be repatriated, a debate that has garnered extensive media attention. Not all the sculptures from the Parthenon are in the British Museum; another large portion is still in Athens, while a few other sculptures are in different museums throughout the world.
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Genes show Indian influence in Australia

Australia might not have been as isolated for the 40,000 years before European colonisation as once thought.

A new study has found evidence of substantial gene flow between Indian populations and Australia about 4000 years ago.

The researchers also suggest the dingo might have arrived on Australian shores about that time, along with tool technology and food processing.

The study, published in the journal PNAS, says it was commonly assumed that Australia remained largely isolated following initial colonisation some 40,000 years ago - but genetic histories had not been explored in detail.

Irina Pugach, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, joined colleagues in analysing large-scale genotyping data from Aboriginal Australians, New Guineans, island Southeast Asians and Indians that suggest a new possibility.

The authors found a common origin for populations in Australia, New Guinea and the Mamanwa (a Negrito group from the Philippines) and estimated these groups split from each other about 36,000 years ago.
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New fossils help bring hobbit humans to life

© SUSAN HAYES, UNIVERSITY OF WOLLONGONG
A reconstruction of a Hobbit face.
New bones attributed to Homo floresiensis -- aka the "Hobbit Human" -- along with other recent findings, are helping to reveal what members of this species looked like, how they behaved, and their origins.

The latest findings, described in a Journal of Human Evolution paper, are wrist bones unearthed on the Indonesian island of Flores. Since they are nearly identical to other such bones for the Hobbit found at the site, they refute claims that H. floresiensis never existed.

"The tiny people from Flores were not simply diseased modern humans," Caley Orr, lead author of the paper, told Discovery News.

"The new species of human stood approximately 3' 6" tall, giving it its nickname 'The Hobbit,'" continued Orr, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy at Midwestern University.

He said that they were "similar to modern humans in many respects." For example, he explained that they walked on two legs, had small canine teeth, and lived what appears to have been an iconic "cave man'" lifestyle.
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