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Samson Legend Gains Substance with New Find

Ancient Seal
© Zvi Lederman
The seal depicts a man with long hair fighting a large animal with a feline tail.
A small stone seal found in Israel could be the first archaeological evidence of the story of Samson, the Bible's most famous strongman.

Less than an inch in diameter, the seal depicts a man with long hair fighting a large animal with a feline tail.

The seal was excavated at the Tell Beit Shemesh site in the Judaean Hills near Jerusalem at a level that dates to roughly the 11th century BC.

Biblically speaking, this was during the time when the Jews were led by leaders known as Judges, one of whom was Samson.

The location where the stone seal was unearthed, close to the Sorek river that marked the ancient border between Israelite and Philistine territories, suggests the figure could represent the Biblical slayer of Philistines.

A character that jumped from the Old Testament into legend, Samson was given supernatural strength by God to overcome his enemies.

The strength, which Samson discovered after encountering a lion and ripping it apart with his bare hands, was contained in his long hair.
Sherlock

Changing views: Stone age man had 'feminine side'

neolithic skull
© Unknown
Dr. Karina Croucher, who has studied buried remains of people living between 7,500 and 10,000 years ago across the Middle East, says the stereotypical view of how Neolithic men and women lived is wrong.

Unlike today, she argues, it was normal for men and women to show compassion for each other- and gender was not so clearly defined.

The researcher argues male bias in archaeology has distorted our understanding of how ancient peoples lived, in a new book published by Oxford University Press.

Of the 40 people buried in a "death pit" in South Eastern Turkey where she was part of an excavation team, there were equal numbers of men and women.

Her theory is also based, in part, by the find of a teenage girl's skull buried carefully by the pit, called Kim by the team.

The girl - between 15 and 17 years old - whose face has been reconstructed by Chris Rynn and Caroline Wilkinson, now at Dundee University with Stuart Campbell from The University of Manchester, was deeply cared for by the men and women who tended the site. The facial reconstruction creates an emotive picture of the girl who lived 7,500 years ago.

Kim was carefully placed next to the death pit. The pit contained the fragmented remains of around 40 people, along with animal remains, pottery, flint, obsidian, and other material culture. It also displays signs of cannibalism.

Though the finds to modern eyes are gruesome, Dr. Croucher says, they show a compassionate side to both Neolithic men and women.
Sherlock

Archaeologists find 2,500-year-old chocolate spread on a plate

© Unknown
Yucatan: The peninsula is a rich source of Mayan artefacts
It's a discovery to challenge even the most ardent cocoa addict: Archaeologists have found traces of chocolate thought to be 2,500 years old. The choc of ages was discovered on a plate in the Yucatan peninsula, the first time chocolate residue has been found on a plate rather than a cup. The find suggests chocolate may have been used as a condiment or sauce with solid food, as well as for drinking.

Experts have long thought cacao beans and pods were mainly used in pre-Hispanic cultures as a beverage, made either by crushing the beans and mixing them with liquids or by fermenting the pulp that surrounds the beans in the pod. Such a drink was believed to have been reserved for the tribal elite.

But the discovery announced this week by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History expands the conception of how chocolate may have been used in ancient Mexico. It would also suggest that there may be ancient roots for traditional dishes eaten in Mexico today, such as mole, the chocolate-based sauce often served with meats.
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Oldest Poison Pushes Back Ancient Civilization 20,000 Years

Border Cave
© Courtesy Paola Villa, University of Colorado
Border Cave in South Africa was occupied by humans for tens of thousands of years.
The late Stone Age may have had an earlier start in Africa than previously thought - by some 20,000 years.

A new analysis of artifacts from a cave in South Africa reveals that the residents were carving bone tools, using pigments, making beads and even using poison 44,000 years ago. These sorts of artifacts had previously been linked to the San culture, which was thought to have emerged around 20,000 years ago.

"Our research proves that the Later Stone Age emerged in South Africa far earlier than has been believed and occurred at about the same time as the arrival of modern humans in Europe," study researcher Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, said in a statement.

The Later Stone Age in Africa occurred at the same time as Europe's Upper Paleolithic Period, when modern humans moved into Europe from Africa and met the Neanderthals about 45,000 years ago.

"[T]he differences in technology and culture between the two areas are very strong, showing the people of the two regions chose very different paths to the evolution of technology and society," Villa said.
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Tomb of Mayan Prince Discovered in Jungle Ruins

Mayan Tomb Artifact
© Uxul Archaeological Project/University of Bonn
In the ruins of a royal complex in the Mayan city of Uxul, archaeologists found a tomb they believe belonged to a prince, who died 1,300 years ago. Here's one of the ceramic vessels they found buried with him.
Excavators have uncovered what they believe to be the 1,300-year-old remains of a Mayan prince entombed within a royal complex of the ancient city of Uxul, located in Mexico near the Guatemalan border.

The fossilized man, who researchers estimate was between 20 and 25 when he died, was found lying on his back, with his arms folded inside a tomb 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) below the floor in a building within the city's royal complex.

When the researchers first slipped a camera into the tomb to peek at what was inside they saw ceramics at the feet of the skeleton, said Kai Delvendahl, field director for the project with the University of Bonn.

They found a total of nine pieces of ceramics, including a plate painted in the distinctively black-lined Mayan Codex-Style covering the man's skull. At Mayan sites, it is not uncommon to find plates placed over the skulls of the deceased, Delvendahl, said. [See Photos of Mayan Prince's Tomb]

The other ceramics offered additional clues. One bore hieroglyphics reading: "[This is] the drinking vessel of the young man/prince." A second vessel also bore a mention of a young man or prince.

However, if this young man had been a prince, he did not appear to be in line for the throne, the researchers believe, since certain status markers, such as jade jewelry, were not found.
Magnify

Archeologists Unearth Extraordinary Human Sculpture in Turkey

© Jennifer Jackson
Front view of the Suppiluliuma statue.
A beautiful and colossal human sculpture is one of the latest cultural treasures unearthed by an international team at the Tayinat Archaeological Project (TAP) excavation site in southeastern Turkey. A large semi-circular column base, ornately decorated on one side, was also discovered. Both pieces are from a monumental gate complex that provided access to the upper citadel of Kunulua, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina (ca. 1000-738 BC).

"These newly discovered Tayinat sculptures are the product of a vibrant local Neo-Hittite sculptural tradition," said Professor Tim Harrison, the Tayinat Project director and professor of Near Eastern Archaeology in the University of Toronto's Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. "They provide a vivid glimpse into the innovative character and sophistication of the Iron Age cultures that emerged in the eastern Mediterranean following the collapse of the great imperial powers of the Bronze Age at the end of the second millennium BC."
Arrow Down

Remains Recovered from WWII Seaplane in Quebec

© Parks Canada
Marc-André Bernier, Chief of the Underwater Archaeological Service at Parks Canada, studies the wreck of a Catalina American World War II Plane which went down in November 1942 off the coast of Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan.
Canada - A special U.S. military team has almost finished its month-long mission off Quebec's north shore to recover the bodies of five crew who drowned 70 years ago when their U.S. Army seaplane slid into the waters.

The wind was fierce and the waves were surging on that day 70 years ago in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, a small fishing village.

In 1942, the village became the site of an emergency airstrip on the U.S. military's so-called "Crimson Route," a strategic air corridor to Europe through Maine and Newfoundland.

Late in the afternoon on Nov. 2, 1942, most of the village stopped to watch a U.S. Army seaplane taxi from the harbour.

But the plane - a PBY Catalina - struggled to clear the water. Vibert recalls the towering waves of the Gulf lashing at the cockpit during its second take-off attempt.

"I counted five waves, but there may have been more," recalls Josephine Vibert, who was getting married that very day and still lives in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan. "After the last one, water started entering their plane."

The town's fishermen braved the frothing waters to find four crew members clinging to the fuselage.

Just moments after the survivors were hauled aboard the local fishing boats, the plane, along with the five remaining crew members, slipped beneath waves, never to be seen again.
Chess

Archaeologists discover Paleolithic Ice Age culture that flourished in Balkans 17,500 years ago

© Rebecca Farbstein
The leg and torso from the model of a four-legged animal, possibly a deer or horse. It is one of 36 ceramic items recovered from Vela Spila, Croatia.
Ceramics found on the coast of the Adriatic attest to a previously unknown artistic culture which flourished during the last Ice Age, thousands of years before pottery was commonly used.

One of the better-preserved items among the 36 recovered fragments seems to be the torso and foreleg of a horse or deer. Its creator deliberately minimised the number of joins in the model, perhaps to give it structural strength.

The evidence unearthed in modern-day Croatia points to the existence of a community of prehistoric artists and craftspeople who made ceramics during the last Ice Age - thousands of years before pottery became commonplace.

The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modelled animals. They come from a site called Vela Spila on the Adriatic coast.

Comment: Again we see that history is far from being a straight upward trend of 'progress'. What if the reason why artistic traditions can spring up, become lost, then re-emerge is because cyclical cataclysms periodically intervene?

The Golden Age, Psychopathy and the Sixth Extinction

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Genetic Data and Fossil Evidence Tell Differing Tales of Human Origins

Hadza Men
© Sarah Tishkoff
A group of Hadza men.

After decades of digging, paleoanthropologists looking for fossilized human bones have established a reasonably clear picture: Modern humans arose in Africa some 200,000 years ago and all archaic species of humans then disappeared, surviving only outside Africa, as did the Neanderthals in Europe.

Geneticists studying DNA now say that, to the contrary, a previously unknown archaic species of human, a cousin of the Neanderthals, may have lingered in Africa until perhaps 25,000 years ago, coexisting with the modern humans and on occasion interbreeding with them.

The geneticists reached this conclusion, reported on Thursday in the journal Cell, after decoding the entire genome of three isolated hunter-gatherer peoples in Africa, hoping to cast light on the origins of modern human evolution. But the finding is regarded skeptically by some paleoanthropologists because of the absence in the fossil record of anything that would support the geneticists' statistical calculations.

Two of the hunter-gatherers in the study, the Hadza and Sandawe of Tanzania, speak click languages and carry ancient DNA lineages that trace to the earliest branchings of the human family tree. The third group is that of the forest-dwelling pygmies of Cameroon, who also have ancient lineages and unusual blood types.

The geneticists, led by Joseph Lachance and Sarah A. Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, decoded the entire genomes of five men from each of these groups. The costs of whole-genome sequencing have fallen so much that the technique can now be applied to populations for the first time, said Dr. Tishkoff, who paid the company Complete Genomics around $10,000 for each of the 15 genomes.
Question

Mysterious disappearances of 10 civilizations

For almost as long as we've had civilization, we've lost it. There are records going back hundreds of years of explorers discovering huge temples encrusted with jungle, or giant pits full of treasure that were once grand palaces. Why did people abandon these once-thriving cities, agricultural centers, and trade routes? Often, the answer is unknown. Here are ten great civilizations whose demise remains a mystery.

Mayan temple
© Unknown
1. The Maya
The Maya are perhaps the classic example of a civilization that was completely lost, its great monuments, cities and roads swallowed up by the central American jungles, and its peoples scattered to small villages. Though the languages and traditions of the Maya still survive up to the present day, the civilization's peak was during the first millennium AD, when their greatest architectural feats and massive agricultural projects covered a vast region in the Yucatán - today, an area stretching from Mexico to Guatemala and Belize. One of the largest Mesoamerican civilizations, the Maya made extensive use of writing, math, an elaborate calendar, and sophisticated engineering to build their pyramids and terraced farms. Though it's often said that the Maya civilization began a mysterious decline in roughly the year 900, a great deal of evidence points to climate change in the Yucatán combined with internecine warfare, which resulted in famine and abandonment of the city centers.
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