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North America's oldest skeleton: 13,000-years-old

© Daniel Riordan Araujo
A cave diver inspects the newly-discovered skull of Naia in a submerged cave on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.
One of the oldest human skeletons in North America has been discovered by a team of international scientists in an underwater Yucatán Peninsula cave.

Named "Naia", the teenager fell to her death in a large pit called Hoyo Nego, meaning "black hole" in Spanish.

Patricia Beddows, a cave-diving researcher from Northwestern University, said: "The preservation of all the bones in this deep water-filled cave is amazing - the bones are beautifully laid out."

"The girl's skeleton is exceptionally complete because of the environment in which she died -- she ended up in the right water and in a quiet place without any soil. Her pristine preservation enabled our team to extract enough DNA to determine her shared genetic code with modern Native Americans," she added.

The skeleton, which is now covered in water, is estimated to be between 12,000 and 13,000 years old, suggesting Naia lived in the late Pleistocene or last ice age.
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US-Russian alliance saved the Union during the US civil war, ending the threat of Anglo-French intervention

Lincoln and Alexander II
© Punch, October 24, 1863
At the point of maximum war danger between Great Britain and the United States, the London satirical publication Punch published a vicious caricature of US President Abraham Lincoln and Russian Tsar Alexander II, demonizing the two friends as bloody oppressors.
April 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War, which began when Confederate forces opened fire upon Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The following essay by Webster Tarpley, tells about the largely untold alliance between President Abraham Lincoln and Russian Tsar Alexander II, which by many accounts was key to the North winning the U.S. Civil War, sealing the defeat of the British strategic design.

Who was our friend when the world was our foe." -
Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1871

One hundred fifty years after the attack on Fort Sumter, the international strategic dimension of the American Civil War represents a much-neglected aspect of Civil War studies. In offering a survey of some of the main issues involved, one feels required to justify the importance of the topic. It is indeed true that, as things turned out, the international strategic dimension of the 1861-65 conflict was of secondary importance. However, it was an aspect that repeatedly threatened to thrust itself into the center of the war, transforming the entire nature of the conflict and indeed threatening to overturn the entire existing world system. The big issue was always a British-French attack on the United States to preserve the Confederate States of America. This is certainly how Union and Confederate leaders viewed the matter, and how some important people in London, St. Petersburg, Paris, and Berlin did as well.

The result is that today, the international dimension is consistently underestimated: even a writer as sophisticated as Richard Franklin Bensel can repeatedly insist in his recent Yankee Leviathan that the US development over the decade before the Civil War was "acted out in a vacuum," while asserting that "the relative isolation of the United States on the North American continent contributed to the comparative unimportance of nationalism in American life prior to secession." [1] Reports of American isolation, however, were already exaggerated in the era of a British fleet that could summer in the Baltic and winter in the Caribbean.

Views of the domestic side of the Civil War have often been colored by the sectional loyalties of the authors. In the diplomatic sphere, the international alignments of 1861-65 have been experienced as something of an embarrassment or aberration by American scholars of the twentieth century, at least partly because they inverted the alliance patterns that emerged after 1900. In 1865, the United States was friendly to Russia and Prussia, and resentful and suspicious in regard to Britain and France, whose governments had sympathized with and supported the Confederacy. The general tendency of US historians in 1915 or 1945 or 1952 seems to have been to put the best possible face on things, or, better yet, turn to another area of inquiry. As the Civil War centennial approached, the historian Allan Nevins addressed this issue rather directly in a chapter of his 1960 "War for the Union". Here he dramatically evoked the immense worldwide significance of Civil War diplomacy in a fascinating paragraph to which Howard Jones calls attention. Nevins, horrified by the idea of US war with Britain, wrote:
It is hardly too much to say that the future of the world as we know it was at stake. A conflict between Great Britain and America would have crushed all hope of the mutual understanding and growing collaboration which led up to the practical alliance of 1917-18, and the outright alliance which began in 1941. It would have made vastly more difficult if not impossible the coalition which defeated the Central Powers in the First World War, struck down Nazi tyranny in the Second World War, and established the unbreakable front of Western freedom against Communism. Anglo-French intervention in the American conflict would probably have confirmed the splitting and consequent weakening of the United States; might have given French power in Mexico a long lease, with the ruin of the Monroe Doctrine; and would perhaps have led to the Northern conquest of Canada. The forces of political liberalism in the modern world would have received a disastrous setback. No battle, not Gettysburg, not the Wilderness, was more important than the context waged in the diplomatic arena and the forum of public opinion. The popular conception of this contest is at some points erroneous, and at a few grossly fallacious.... (Nevins II, 242)
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Archaeologists find Wari culture artifacts in Ayacucho, Peru

Ancient Artifacts
© Andina
Archaeologists working at the Wari archaeological complex in the Vegachayoq Moqo sector have made new discoveries that promise to illuminate the mysterious pre-Inca society.

Mario Cueto Cardenas from the Ayacucho Culture Board told Andina that "Archaeologist [José Ochatoma Paravicino of the Universidad San Cristobal de Huamanga] presented a report and is preparing an exposition for the new Wari finds, which will allow us to explore unknown spaces, because [at the Wari site], we're just getting familiar with the citadel, there are more mysteries that will allow us to better understand their economic and cultural system."

Juan Arango Claudio, local tourism official, told Andina that "In spite of all the effort that has been expended, we only know a small percentage, that can't be more than 10%, about the Wari, but we're hoping that these advances will allow us more tourism flow, because these historical spaces are being evaluated."

Specifics about the new findings are expected to be announced in coming weeks, Andina reports.

The Wari were an expansive civilization that lived in Peru from around 500 AD to 1000 AD. Their capital city, also called Wari, was located near the city of Ayacucho, in inland Peru.
Boat

'Byzantine iPad' found in ancient shipwreck

Byzantine notebook
© Ufuk Kocabaş
The Byzantine notebook.
Turkish archaeologists excavating a harbor site on the European side of the Bosphorus have unearthed a 1,200-year-old wooden object which they claim is the ancient equivalent of a tablet computer. The device was a notebook and tool - in one.

The Byzantine invention was found within the remains of one of the 37 ships unearthed in the Yenikapi area of Istanbul, a site which has been at the center of excavations for the past 10 years.

Also known as Theodosius Port, it was built in the late 4th century during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I and become the city's most important commercial port.

Probably belonging to the ship's captain, the wooden object, whose cover is finely carved with decorations, is the size of a modern seven-inch tablet, but it's much thicker.
Cow Skull

Bones of 'largest dinosaur ever' unearthed in Argentina

dino bone
© i.kinja / gawker
Paleontologists have just unearthed the fossilized bones of a gigantic dinosaur that's never been seen before. They believe it's an entirely new species - and based on the size of its bones, it's way bigger than what we thought was the biggest dinosaur ever. Meet the new number one among earthly creatures.

Based on the size of the thigh bone found at the dig site in Argentina, paleontologists estimate this dinosaur stood 130 feet long and 65 feet tall, and weighed in at a whopping 77 tons. That's seven tons heavier than what we used to think was the biggest dinosaur, Argentinosaurus. In other words, this jumbo-dino weighed as much as 14 African elephants, and with its neck held high the herbivore was seven stories tall. That's positively massive.

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New forms of earliest known Chinese characters discovered

Ancient Chinese characters
© AbsoluteChinaTours
Ancient Chinese characters seen on an oracle bone.
Archaeologists have discovered new forms of the first known Chinese characters including an unusual human skull.

The discovery was part of the latest research on a number of ancient tortoise shells as well as inscribed animal bones. Archaeologists announced the discovery on Thursday, reported state news agency Xinhua.

Archaeologists found two Chinese characters, Gou and Shou, in their earliest forms. They also unearthed extraordinary tortoise shells with military tokens. This was according to Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcher, Song Zhenhao.
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Skeleton may solve mystery of first Americans

Human Skull
© Paul Nicklen/National Geographic
Diver Susan Bird working at the bottom of Hoyo Negro, a large dome-shaped underwater cave on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. She carefully brushes the human skull found at the site while her team members take detailed photographs.
The ancient skeleton of a teenage girl found in an underwater cave in Mexico may be the missing link that solves the long-standing mystery behind the identity of the first Americans, researchers say.

These findings, the first time researchers have been able to connect an early American skeleton with modern Native American DNA, suggest the earliest Americans are indeed close relatives of modern Native Americans, scientists added.

The newfound skeleton was named "Naia," after Greek water spirits known as naiads. The bones are the nearly intact remains of a small, delicately built teenage girl who stood about 4 feet 10 inches (149 centimeters) tall and was about 15 or 16 years old at the time of her death, based on the development of her skeleton and teeth.

Naia reveals that despite any differences in the face and skull between the earliest Americans and modern Native Americans, they were, in fact, significantly related, probably deriving from the same gene pool.

"Naia is a missing link filling in a gap of knowledge we had about the earliest Americans and modern Native Americans,"lead study author James Chatters, owner of Applied Paleoscience, an archaeological and paleontological consulting firm in Bothell, Washington, told Live Science. Chatters is best known for his work on Kennewick Man, an ancient skeleton found in Kennewick, Washington, in 1996, whose origins were debated, because his skull was markedly different from those of modern Native Americans.
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Mind-altering substances not just a modern thing: They have been used for centuries

Substances
© Thinkstock
In our current society, alcohol and drug use have become almost ubiquitous. We have declared a War on Drugs, we have movies and TV shows glorifying Prohibition and the outlaws who evaded it, and we have more references to alcohol and drugs in our music than could ever be counted.

This all-pervading presence - and our tendency as a society to romanticize the past - makes us think that these are modern problems.

Perhaps the hedonistic manner in which we use them today is a modern problem, but according to a study from the Universidad de Valladolid (UVA) in Spain, the use of mind-altering substances is an ancient practice.

UVA Professor of Archaeology Elisa Guerra-Doce reports that the use of alcohol and plant-based drugs such as opium poppies and hallucinogenic mushrooms was a highly regulated part of the belief system and sacred burial rites of many preindustrial societies. Her findings, published in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, suggest such substances were believed to aid in communication with the spiritual world.

It has been known for quite some time that humans have consumed such mind-altering substances for nearly as long as there has been human society. Only recently, however, have scientists started to investigate the historical and cultural contexts in which such products were used in ancient Europe.

Guerra-Doce used a systematic approach to document the cultural significance of drug and alcohol consumption in these cultures to increase the anthropological knowledge of intoxication in prehistoric European societies.
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Letters to priest provide rare insight into life of Jackie Kennedy

Jackie's Letters
© Courtesy of Sheppard’s Irish Auction House
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s correspondence with Father Joseph Leonard.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy's thoughts about her marriage to President John F Kennedy, their life in the White House and her reaction to his assassination are revealed in newly discovered letters she wrote to an Irish priest before and after she became first lady of the United States.

The archive of her 14-year-long correspondence with Fr Joseph Leonard - a Vincentian priest who lived in All Hallows in Drumcondra in Dublin - will be sold at an auction in Ireland next month.

In the previously unpublished letters, Jackie tells Fr Leonard how Kennedy, who was then a rising star in American politics, was consumed by ambition "like Macbeth".

In a letter sent in July 1952, she said her time with him had given her "an amazing insight on politicians - they really are a breed apart".

She described with great excitement how she was in love with "the son of the ambassador to England", but expressed concern he might prove to be like her father, John Vernou Bouvier.

"He's like my father in a way - loves the chase and is bored with the conquest - and once married needs proof he's still attractive, so flirts with other women and resents you. I saw how that nearly killed Mummy."
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Ancient Roman military camp unearthed in Eastern Germany

Ancient Roman Camp
© TLDA
Ancient camp. Boot nails and other objects were found at the Hachelbich site, along with soil marks where Roman soldiers once dug a trench to defend their temporary camp.
Archaeologists have confirmed the presence of a long-lost Roman military camp deep in eastern Germany. The 18-hectare site, found near the town of Hachelbich in Thuringia, would have sheltered a Roman legion of up to 5000 troops. Its location in a broad valley with few impediments suggests it was a stopover on the way to invade territory further east.

"People have been searching for evidence of the Romans in this part of Germany for 200 years," says team leader Mario Kuessner, an archaeologist working for the state of Thuringia. "It took a long time before we realized what we had, and we wanted to be sure."

After a stinging defeat in 9 C.E., Rome largely abandoned hope of conquering the fractious German tribes north of the Rhine River. Yet written sources suggest that the Romans occasionally campaigned in Germany, probably to punish German tribes for raids on Roman territory. Until recently, the reports have been largely dismissed as braggadocio. The Hachelbich site, along with a battlefield near Hannover uncovered in 2008, show that the reports had more than a kernel of truth to them - and that the Romans were willing to cross their frontier when it suited their political or military needs.
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