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Ancient 'Red Deer Cave' People Discovered in Yunnan

Red Deer Cave Skull
© GoKunming
Anatomically unique fossils unearthed in Yunnan could be those of a previously unknown species of human. The remains were first discovered in 1989 inside of southern Yunnan's Maludong cave (马鹿洞), near the city of Jianshui (建水). Until this year the fossils had yet to be studied.

The three specimens have been dubbed Red Deer Cave people after the cave where they were found and the large collection of deer bones located inside it. Radiocarbon dating of ashes found alongside the fossils revealed that they are between 11,500 and 14,300 years old.

Those dates place the find in the Pleistocene era when humans are thought to have evolved into their present form. The specimens from Maludong have traits unique from modern people, yet lived at a time when all other species of human beings were thought by scientists to be extinct.

A team of anthropologists from China and Australia first published their results in the peer-edited journal PlosOne. The group was led by Darren Cunroe, a professor at the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Ji Xueping of the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology.
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Rare Ancient Statue Depicts Topless Female Gladiator

Female Gladiator
© Alfonso Manas, University of Granada
The newly identified bronze statue reveals what may be a female gladiator standing in a victory pose, while looking down at what is presumably her fallen opponent.
A small bronze statue dating back nearly 2,000 years may be that of a female gladiator, a victorious one at that, suggests a new study.

If confirmed the statue would represent only the second depiction of a woman gladiator known to exist.

The gladiator statue shows a topless woman, wearing only a loincloth and a bandage around her left knee. Her hair is long, although neat, and in the air she raises what the researcher, Alfonso Manas of the University of Granada, believes is a sica, a short curved sword used by gladiators. The gesture she gives is a "salute to the people, to the crowd," Manas said, an action done by victorious gladiators at the end of a fight.

The female fighter is looking down at the ground, presumably at her fallen opponent.

The "precise real-life" details of the statue suggest the depiction was inspired by an actual person, a real woman who fought, Manas told LiveScience in an interview.

It's not known where the statue was originally found, though it is currently in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbein Hamburg, Germany.

The rarity of such statues likely reflects the idea that female gladiators in ancient Rome were scarce. They were banned by Emperor Septimius Severus in A.D. 200 with only about a dozen references to them in ancient writing surviving to present day.

The only other known depiction of them is a carved relief from the site of Halicarnassus (now in the British Museum) that shows two female gladiators fighting. There have been claims made in the past of burials of female gladiators being uncovered, but none has attracted widespread support among scholars.
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What's in a Surname? New Study Explores What the Evolution of Names Reveals About China

Chinese Surnames
© China Ancient.com
What can surnames tell us about the culture, genetics and history of our society? That is the question being answered by Chinese researchers who have traced the evolution of surnames across China. The research, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, reveals how surnames can act as a genetic stamp, allowing scientists to trace lineage and understand the migrations and historical events which shaped modern China.

The research was led by Dr. Jaiwei Chen, from Beijing Normal University, and Professor Yida Yuan from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"When it comes to surnames the Chinese people are unique. 1.28 billion people share 7,327surnames. In fact the 100 most common names account for 85% of the population," said Dr Chen. "This means Chinese surnames include more cultural and genetic information than in most other countries."

Dr Chen and the team analysed data from China's National Citizen Identity Information, using isonymy theory which provides a method of exploring population structure by studying the distribution of surnames. This included measuring Genetic distance, the genetic divergence between populations within a species."

"Surnames are inherited through the male line which means they can be considered markers for the Y chromosome genes," said Dr. Chen. "This means a study of surname distribution can help us understand genetic structures and historical social behavior, such as the role of migrations."
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Research Reveals Ancient Struggle over Holy Land Supremacy

The Jews had significant competition in antiquity when it came to worshipping Yahweh. Archeologists have discovered a second great temple not far from Jerusalem that predates its better known cousin. It belonged to the Samaritans, and may have been edited out of the Bible once the rivalry had been decided.
Mount Gerizim
© picture-alliance
Archeological remains on the top of Mount Gerizim, the Samaritans' holy mountain. New evidence unearthed by archeologist Yitzhak Magen indicates that an elaborate temple stood here as early as 2,500 years ago, a time when the Temple of Jerusalem was, at most, a simple wooden structure.
Clad in gray coat, Aharon ben Ab-Chisda ben Yaacob, 85, is sitting in the dim light of his house. He strikes up a throaty chant, a litany in ancient Hebrew. He has a full beard and is wearing a red kippah on his head.

The man is a high priest -- and his family tree goes back 132 generations. He says: "I am a direct descendent of Aaron, the brother of the prophet Moses" -- who lived perhaps over 3,000 years ago.

 High Priest Aharon ben Ab-Chisda ben Yaacob
© Amit Shabi/ Laif/ Der Spiegel
Samaritan High Priest Aharon ben Ab-Chisda ben Yaacob. He says his family tree goes back 132 generations and that he is a direct descendent of Aaron, brother of Moses.
Ab-Chisda is the spiritual leader of the Samaritans, a sect that is so strict that its members are not even allowed to turn on the heat on the Sabbath. They never eat shrimp and only marry among themselves. Their women are said to be so impure during menstruation that they are secluded in special rooms for seven days.

Outside, on the streets of Kiryat Luza, near Nablus, a cold wind is blowing. The village lies just below the summit of Mount Gerizim. There's a school, two shops and a site for sacrifices. This is home to 367 Samaritans. It's a small community.

Everyone here is required to attend religious services in the synagogue on Saturdays. "Every baby boy has to be circumcised precisely on the eighth day," says the high priest -- not beforehand, and not afterwards.

Most important of all: the sect only believes in the written legacy of Moses, the five books of the Pentateuch, also commonly known as the Torah. They reject all other scripture from the Bible.

Once in the Majority

From a historical perspective, the Samaritans and the Jews have a common lineage. The Old Testament recounts that 10 of the 12 tribes in the region of Samaria founded the state of Israel in the year 926 BC. The two other clans lived farther south, in the mountainous region of Judah, with its capital Jerusalem (see map).

In other words, the Samaritans were once in the majority. In ancient times, there were 300,000 of them -- perhaps even over a million. But their strictest law almost led to their downfall. It states: "None of you may settle outside the promised land."

Samaritans_1
© Agence France-Presse
Despite having been nearly wiped out, Samaritans have been living in Israel for over 3,000 years. New evidence indicates that their temple on Mount Gerizim predates the temple in Jerusalem.
As a result, while the Jews fled across the globe to escape the cruelty of foreign rulers, their relatives persevered in the land of their forefathers and suffered under Byzantine tyrants and merciless sultans. At the end of World War I, there were only 146 of them.

"Today we are doing better," says Ab-Chisda cheerily, as he gazes out the window. Now, together with another group in Holon near Tel Aviv, this religious community consists of 751 individuals.

But this population increase only took place because they broke with age-old traditions and rescinded the ban against mixed marriages. In 2004, five Jewish women from Ukraine and one from Siberia, all of them ready and willing to get married, were accepted into the community.

Nevertheless, due to inbreeding, they have a wide range of genetic defects. Trade journals have published studies on the forgotten children of God. They often suffer from muscle weakness and Usher syndrome, also known as deafblindness.
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Early Britons May Be Hidden in 5,000-Year-Old Tomb

Early Tomb
© Sci-Tech Today
An archaeological excavation in Wales may give new insight into ancient British farmers. A Neolithic portal dolmen holds rare remains of human bones and shards of decorated pottery. Experts say it's rare to discover such a site of this age, as intense farming practices since the 1600s meant a lot of ancient sites were destroyed.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Neolithic portal dolmen, one of Western Europe's oldest ritual burial chambered monuments, in an isolated field in Wales.

It is thought the tomb was built from giant boulders about 5,500 years ago. Its capstone bears a seemingly random pattern of dozens of circular holes gouged into its surface -- symbols of Neolithic or Bronze Age ritual burial activity.

What makes it particularly interesting is that the site has rare remains of human bones and shards of decorated pottery. An official burial licence must now be sought before the bones can be removed, but eventually radiocarbon-dating and other tests planned for the remains may give new insight into our early farming ancestors.

The archaeological excavation near Newport in Pembrokeshire has been led by George Nash, Thomas Wellicome and Adam Stanford, who plan to resume work in September.
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Urn burial site discovered near Kancheepuram

Urn site in India
© The Hindu
Pottery and iron age megaliths identified from a structure at Aarpakkam village in Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam
Dated to the pre-Megalithic/Iron Age period in T.N. - 1,800 BC-1,500 BC

A vast urn-burial site has been found at Mandapam village, near Aarpakkam intersection, about 14 km from Kancheepuram.

The importance of the site, archaeologists say, is that it belongs to a period earlier than the Megalithic Age or Iron Age in Tamil Nadu.

They estimate that the site is datable to 1,800 BCE to 1,500 BCE, that is, 3,800 to 3,500 years before the present.

The site, however, has been ravaged by quarrying for blue-metal. Earth-movers have sliced the big urns and smashed into pieces ritual pottery, bowls and terracotta plates inside the urns.

Quarrying has reduced the site to small lakes with deposits of blue metal jutting out and broken urns protruding in places. A stone-crushing machine is filling the air with dust.
Bacon

The pagan roots of Easter


Figurine of the Goddess Astarte in the Louvre, Paris.
Easter is a pagan festival. If Easter isn't really about Jesus, then what is it about? Today, we see a secular culture celebrating the spring equinox, whilst religious culture celebrates the resurrection. However, early Christianity made a pragmatic acceptance of ancient pagan practises, most of which we enjoy today at Easter. The general symbolic story of the death of the son (sun) on a cross (the constellation of the Southern Cross) and his rebirth, overcoming the powers of darkness, was a well worn story in the ancient world. There were plenty of parallel, rival resurrected saviours too.

The Sumerian goddess Inanna, or Ishtar, was hung naked on a stake, and was subsequently resurrected and ascended from the underworld. One of the oldest resurrection myths is Egyptian Horus. Born on 25 December, Horus and his damaged eye became symbols of life and rebirth. Mithras was born on what we now call Christmas day, and his followers celebrated the spring equinox. Even as late as the 4th century AD, the sol invictus, associated with Mithras, was the last great pagan cult the church had to overcome. Dionysus was a divine child, resurrected by his grandmother. Dionysus also brought his mum, Semele, back to life.
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Did Shroud of Turin Inspire Spread of Christianity?

Shroud of Turin
© Public domain
Full-length negative photograph of the Shroud of Turin.


A hoax or a miracle? The Shroud of Turin has inspired this question for centuries. Now, an art historian says this piece of cloth, said to bear the imprint of the crucified body of Jesus Christ, may be something in between.

According to Thomas de Wesselow, formerly of Cambridge University, the controversial shroud is no medieval forgery, as a 1989 attempt at radiocarbon dating suggests. Nor is the strange outline of the body on the fabric a miracle, de Wesselow writes in his new book, The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection (Dutton Adult, 2012). Instead, de Wesselow suggests, the shroud was created by natural chemical processes - and then interpreted by Jesus' followers as a sign of his resurrection.

"People in the past did not view images as just the mundane things that we see them as today. They were potentially alive. They were seen as sources of power," de Wesselow told LiveScience. The image of Jesus found on the shroud would have been seen as a "living double," he said. "It seemed like they had a living double after his death and therefore it was seen as Jesus resurrected."
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Hot Find! Humans Used Fire 1 Million Years Ago

Wonderwerk Cave
© M. Chazan
Researchers found evidence of human fire use in South Africa's Wonderwerk Cave (shown here), a massive cavern located near the edge of the Kalahari Desert.

Ash and charred bone, the earliest known evidence of controlled use of fire, reveal that human ancestors may have used fire a million years ago, a discovery that researchers say will shed light on this major turning point in human evolution.

Scientists analyzed material from Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa, a massive cavern located near the edge of the Kalahari Desert. Previous excavations there had uncovered an extensive record of human occupation.

Microscopic analysis revealed clear evidence of burning, such as plant ash and charred bone fragments. These materials were apparently burned in the cave, as opposed to being carried in there by wind or water, and were found alongside stone tools in a layer dating back about 1 million years. Surface fracturing of ironstone, the kind expected from fires, was also seen.

Although modern humans are the only human species alive today, originating about 200,000 years ago, other human species once roamed the Earth, such as Homo erectus, which arose about 1.9 million years ago.

"The analysis pushes the timing for the human use of fire back by 300,000 years, suggesting that human ancestors as early as Homo erectus may have begun using fire as part of their way of life," said researcher Michael Chazan, a paleolithic archaeologist at the University of Toronto and director of the university's archaeology center.
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"Lucy" had prehuman company, fossil shows

Lucy and friends
© Yohannes Haile-Selassie/The Cleveland Museum of Natural History
The first element of the Burtele partial foot, fourth metatarsal, as it was found on the ground in the Woranso-Mille area of the Afar region of Ethiopia.

Lucy, it turns out, had company - another prehuman that also walked but spent more of its time in trees.

Until now, there was no proof of another human relative living around the same time as the species made famous by the Lucy skeleton. But a fossil discovery reveals there was another creature around 3 million years ago and it gives new insight into the evolution of a key human trait - walking on two legs.

The creature came to light when an international team of researchers unearthed a partial foot in eastern Africa. Like Lucy, it walked upright, but had a grasping foot that it used to climb tree branches. Scientists said it's now clear that various human relatives experimented with upright walking.

"This is just another window into solving the problem of how we got from a primitive foot to the modern human foot," said Bruce Latimer of Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University, who helped discover the fossil remains.

Various hominin species have co-existed throughout human evolutionary history, but this is the first sign of another during Lucy's time.

So what was this tree-climbing and ground-dwelling creature?
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